A Sporting Chance

A Sporting Chance

Very expensive, very white trainers!

Last week MP Helen Grant (supposed She Warrior of Sports and Equality) made some pretty laughable comments about women and ‘feminine sports’…the like of which barely merit any comment at all other than a derisory shrug. For those of you who missed it though, she dared to suggest we women folk who have shunned sport in our droves,  should merely take up less aggressive sports; those in which we can remain graceful, probably un-sweat-drenched instead.

Now, admittedly, I’m a bit of a slob most of the time. I can count on no hands the number of sporting activities I’ve attempted in the last year. In fact, my idea of a real workout is to carry my 10 month old up the stairs…with the occasional ‘zoom, zoom, zoom’ game thrown in for good measure. But it wasn’t always that way. And, Ms Grant, I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with femininity and EVERYTHING to do with equality. Sadly, you seem to have got the wrong end of the right stick.

You see, for women as well as men, I’m pretty sure all people weren’t created equal when it comes to sport. Natural selection and all that. This fact is incontrovertible. I can’t and won’t seek to argue with it. But therein lies the rub, my friends. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of the anti-competition, anti-winner, anti-loser mob but until our culture recognises effort in sport as well as simple achievement, we are always going to engender a deep hatred of sport in huge masses of folk. Menfolk too.

Why? Well, I’m almost too sad to say it. As a teacher, I can’t abide finger-pointing at the profession but, with a heart of lead, I have to admit that school is where my unswerving dislike of sport came from. Sir and Miss P.E., I’m sorry to say it but – for me, at least – it is your fault and your fault alone that I hate sport (yes – even the feminine ones!) Okay, I have to take the blame for my own apathy too and I’m a lazy arse in my old age but I’m pretty sure you could have got me hooked if you’d only tried. You see, as a pretty small, pretty average girl, I was terrified of a hockey ball and allergic to cross-country and my eagle-eyed P.E. teachers spotted this instantly but if I concentrate very hard, I can envisage a time when that wasn’t the case.

I have an image of myself at primary school that remains pretty vivid even now, (well) into my thirties. There I am, flying across the sports field, wind whipping back my hair,  huge smile on my face as I speed past the boys and sprint my way to glory. That was me, that was. A tiny streak of thunder. Trying very hard. But that trying soon ceased when I learned I was a hopeless…worse than hopeless…case.

But I have to wonder about the chicken and the egg. Was I rubbish at sport because I was rubbish at sport or was I simply demotivated by teachers who’d labelled me lame? That was me, wasn’t it, blazing across the school field? That small girl, loving the feel of her feet pounding the clods of earth…she wasn’t an apparition?

There’s another image alongside this first one. This time at secondary school…I suppose I’m about fourteen. Standing in a line of ‘sporty’ girls on a windy day…you know the girls, the ‘naturals’…the ones who, if you’re honest, you’d really like to be. Standing beside them, I wait to hit the tennis ball over a distant net, aiming for a seemingly miniscule box on the other side. When I’m the only girl in the line to hit the ball over the net and land it in first time, and with some accuracy into the bargain, the look on Miss P.E’s face is inexplicable. She doesn’t know what to say. She can’t bring the usual gleeful war cry of champions to her lips. But it’s clear; it’s obvious. She’s impressed, in spite of herself. And after a long pause in which she looks at the better girls as if they’ve let her down, she does find the words: “That was good,” she says and it’s almost a whisper. A stunned question. But it was too little, too late. My attitude was already formed. You don’t care about me and I don’t care about your stupid sport. So I shrug and go to the back of the line as if I’m not back on that field of glory again. As if I haven’t just won a grand-slam.

I know I don’t want this for my daughter. I’d like her to be one of the ‘naturals’ but, if not, I don’t want her to dig her heels in like her stubborn mother, either. How do I change her habits when mine are so fully formed? Well, I’ll need to work that out as I go along but maybe we shouldn’t be looking at the gender of sport but the equality of it…in schools at least. Yes, there will be winners – there should be winners, and with that comes losers but there must be some way of celebrating sport just for fun as well. A way of capturing that young hunger to burn across the field in the sunshine. Just for the sake of it. Just for the thumping blood in our ears. In that love, at least, we ARE all created equal…

Liebster Love

Aside

Image

With a very red face, I have to admit to being very tardy. And, as a woman who’s habitually over-prepared and compulsively over-punctual, this is not something I’m proud of! No. Not at all.

A few weeks ago, I was nominated for a Liebster Award by Khoa Sinclair who blogs about art, fashion, love and life (by the way, I really like this post: The Five Positives of Being Single). And, even though I was really touched to be thought of, it’s taken me all this time to post about it. Why? Because I’m a little stuck for what to say! As a total novice blogger, I’d never heard of a Liebster so I did a bit of research…safe to say I’ve got with the programme now and I know my duty. But that’s where I get a bit stuck. Saying thank you is easy – thank you, thank you, thank you – there, see? Hugely humbled and grateful. That bit, I can do.

It’s the next bit I get stuck with. I follow dozens of blogs (quite a few about sewing these days) but most have oodles of followers and when I started going back through their history, most have received the Liebster before. Hmm…what to do? Well, the search will have to go on. In the meantime, below are the last five blogs I read…and that will have to do! If you can direct me to any ‘new blogs’, I’d love to follow some links and share the Liebster love! I hope the Liebster monster doesn’t come and eat up my blog for breaking the rules.

  1. Dolly Clackett (blogs about dressmaking…awesome skills!)
  2. Delightfully Tacky (amazing photography…seriously enviable style).
  3. The Bookshelf of Emily J (it is what it says on the tin…and what a shelf it is!)
  4. Miss Informed Mummy (thoughtful posts about family life)
  5. Almond Rock (pretty cool sewing blog)

So, the Liebster comes with a list of questions from the nominator to the nominee. Here are my answers, Khoa!

1. What is/was your favorite subject in school?

I was a bit of a super-geek for all things English and drama ( but, in general, I was one of those kids who just fades into the wallpaper).

2. Is your closet organized? If so, what is the system?

Two closets…an occasional system. The system never sticks, unfortunately!

3. What is your song of the week?

Loving all things Jake Bugg at the moment. This kid is the only thing (apart from me obviously) putting my home town on the map. And he’s doing it flipping well!

4. Even if you’re bad at cooking (like I am) what is your favorite dish to make?

I cook because if I didn’t, I’d die. And so would my family! Not a single thing…apart from the archetypal English Victoria sponge cake.

5. What creams or face washes do you swear by?

I’m so disloyal in this area…although I love me a little Lancôme.

6. Describe your go to outfit for a bad day?

Dress. Dress. Dress. And then another dress.

7. Are you a Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, or Miranda? Why?

I’d like to think a good mix of all…although other people would say Charlotte (because they tend to think I’m ‘prim’).

8. Where do you want to spend the rest of your life (city wise that is)?

Wherever life takes me, I’m happy to go.

9. Your favorite fashion show of all time? Mine would have to be the Versace S/S 08.

Err…

10. What is your dream job?

1940s Hollywood siren? Is that available?

11. Dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who do you choose?

You know what? Sometimes I really like to eat alone…and very slowly. But that’s just the harassed Mummy speaking.

In defence of…my wardrobe! Day 30

Skirt Split

Today’s teaser

Phew. Made it. And so, it seems, did a few of you.There were times during this month when I wanted to lock myself in my wardrobe and never come out. And I bet more than a few of you would have gladly bolted the door. But, at last, we have reached the end of our intrepid adventure together. You are all hereby freed of your shackles!

The last post just wouldn’t be right without some form of review. We teachers know the formula to a great essay: say what you’re going to say, say it, say what you said. And old habits die hard.

So, what kernels has the last month reaped? Well, I’ve spent the last hour figuring that out: scrolling shamefacedly through a month’s worth of impossibly vain selfies and tallying up the vast stockpile of unworn, unloved or simply forgotten. In the pack were 12 dresses, 9 tops, 5 skirts, 2 pashminas, 7 pairs of shoes, 3 necklaces, 4 bracelets, 5 vintage brooches, 1 bag, 1 pair of earrings…and 1 pair of hideously-patterned trousers. And seriously, I only counted the unworn, unloved or simply forgotten. The loved stuff that just came to help out along the way hasn’t been included in the final count.

Worse than this, with sweaty palms, I calculated the approximate wealth that’s been cloistered in the darkness of my closets all this time. Brace yourself. £2188…that’s the approximate value of all this unworn treasure. And, I have to admit that’s an understimation, if anything. But if you think that’s ludicrous, disgusting, obscene, I invite you to spend a month doing the same. I’m pretty certain, like me, you’ll be shocked by the final report.

In amongst the loot was £350 worth of virtually brand new shoes, £390 worth of Whistles dresses, £220 worth of NW3 by Hobbs dresses. And yes, I might have over-indulged on my cherished brands over the years but I wonder how many of you have more than 7 pairs of shoes lurking in your wardrobe that have barely trodden a step? Shoes aren’t my indulgence; dresses are. But, whatever your indulgence of choice, you might find your unloved booty adds up to a similar eye-watering conclusion.

What have I learned then from my month of styling it out? Well, I don’t need any more dresses, that’s for sure. Layers are my friend…as is a good belt. I could, in all honesty, benefit from a few more ‘relaxed’ t-shirts, everyday jumpers, throw-it-on cardis. And, I’m fairly confident in my style.

But that’s not the most import vignette of wisdom I’ve gained from my pet project. Putting in the effort makes a real difference. That’s the main epiphany. And I don’t just mean with clothes. It’s challenging to have a project…even if it is a royal pain in the arse at times. It’s made me engage with everything and everyone with much more vim and vigour. My thoughts have been more defined, clearer, better.

Today's Outfit

Warehouse/Oasis? Who cares, it’s day 30!

So, I’m going to continue blogging…but maybe not about fashion. And, in theory, you can expect to hear from me once a month as I spend this year attempting to improve my lifestyle in all sorts of little ways: baking maybe, fitness for sure, sewing perhaps.

Here’s the final outfit then. It’s a maxi-skirt – either from Oasis or Warehouse. I can’t really separate these two brands in my mind. To me, their style is pretty homogenous…but wait, isn’t one just a little more mumsy than the other? One slightly more edgy? Which one is anybody’s guess. But this is from the less mumsy store. I think.

It’s one of those things you buy because you love it, even though you’ve tried it on and concluded that a: it doesn’t really suit your style and b: it’s not the most flattering fit. Every girl has done this at some time or other. I guarantee it.

Today's Vintage Brooch

Another vintage gem

I bought it because I thought it was cool…and a cheap version of a Reiss skirt I’d seen but couldn’t really afford. The difference? Oh. Everything. But mainly, this skirt is only lined part the way down. To put a rather fine point on it, the lining just about skims the bulge of my bum. And it wriggles (the lining, not the bum. Okay, maybe the bum does too). So, I’ve never been confident wearing it as a summer skirt but with woolly tights it suddenly feels a bit safer!

Belt and Skirt

The belt…this girl’s best friend

Styled with another belt and (yet another) vintage brooch, it is my best effort for the last day. Quite frankly, I’m too knackered to care! And tomorrow? Well, I’ve got my eye on one of those ‘easy’ dresses I told you about early doors. It’s one of the precious 30%…the well-worn. Does that mean I’ve had enough? Nope. I’ll be styling it as I never have before: braver, bolder, cooler.

As a last, lingering goodbye, here are my top five outfits from the last month. I’d love you to leave your comments on your favourite below. Or are you all too polite to tell me the truth?!

Thanks for reading. See you next month…in theory!

1.

Long shot of outfit

2.

The Phase Eight Cardigan

3.

Today's Outfit

4.

Today's Outfit

5.

Today's Outfit

In defence of…my wardrobe! Day 28 and 29

Day 28 Belt

Sneak preview: day 28

I am a stickler for the rules in my old age. Boringly so. The use of the ‘p’ word on saturday morning television once sent me into a seething monologue: blatant contempt for the watershed…common civility in tatters. The errant apostrophe results in a convulsing fury.

I was (and am still, really) a teacher so yesterday’s truancy offends me…even though it was my own. Unlike the students I used to teach, I don’t have any tall tales, just the truth: life got in the way. I was on location with the family…and assisting in my nephew’s PowerPoint on Minecraft. Task one: google Minecraft.

I will think long and hard about what my punishment should be…perhaps a detention at Hobbs with no pocket money to spend. Or maybe I should give away some more of my back catalogue. For anyone following, the Kookai dress will be winging its way to a very good home very soon.

Today's Outfit Day 28

Déjà vu?

But enough of the self-flagalation. To the nitty gritty. I am hoping the quality of my homework will get me off the hook but, as every teacher knows, late homework hardly ever results in anything but bitter disappointment. Sorry, Miss. Sorry, Sir.

On day 28 I revisited a couple of pieces I’ve already paraded out for you…but that’s a victory in itself. I am, as a perennial rule follower, the kind of person who always wears her outfits the exact same way. Every time. Perhaps because I never had one of those toys where you mix and match cutesy little dolls’ outfits as a child. Do you know the ones? Those cut-out and stick-on thingamees with little glue tabs at the side.

To remind you: this is an Isabella Oliver (maternity) dress. The model in the catalogue was wearing the Japanese belt so, of course, I had to buy it too. Rules, dontcha know. But the NW3 by Hobbs blouse is my little rule-breaking twist. You might remember this blouse if you’ve been following…the one that previously made me look like Les Dawson!

The Topshop (possibly) belt

The belt: so old it’s almost vintage

Today, I wore a pleated ASOS maxi-skirt I thought was beyond all help. It’s got so much fabric, I could wrap it round me and a gaggle of oompa loompas…if the mood took me.

But it turns out that two other forlorn items were waiting for their moment of heroism. The top is from Oasis and hasn’t been worn for at least two years because it’s a little form-fitting and, for some bizarre reason, I couldn’t think how to wear it if not with jeans. All kinds of muffin-top-itus ensued, of course. But somehow, it works with the skirt and a 1970s throwback belt (I might have bought this from Topshop but I had to dig it out of a time capsule to rescue it and my memory really isn’t that long).

Todays outfit day 29 2

A trio of resurrections

I styled the skirt two ways. Do I get extra credit for that, at least? First, I put it with an NW3 by Hobbs blouse (another reappearance), and then a River Island shirt I bought so I could look the part on a Canadian ranch. When the ranch was gone, the shirt’s reason for living went right along with it. Perhaps this will keep it from the brink, though.

So…I’m off to write some lines. I will not shirk. I will not shirk. I will not shirk. Perhaps followed by: I must obey my own rules. I must obey my own rules. I must obey my own rules.

Today's Outfit Day 29 (Version 2)

Extra credit?

In defence of…my wardrobe! Day 27

The Kookai Dress

Up for grabs

When I started this project, I wasn’t naive enough to think every day would be a winner. In fact, I’m amazed at how many outfits I’ve managed to successfully resurrect. But today, alas, I finally came up short. And I can’t lie. The dress is not to blame. It’s actually the Honey Monster’s fault. Why? Because I seem to have developed his upper body and the zip only fastens to my waist.

Today's Outfit

A fond farewell

So, very sadly, this worn-around-three-times Kookai dress cannot be redeemed. I’m bidding au revoir to my little French friend: to the adorable pockets; the sweet cap-sleeves and the charming bow waist.

In the face of her demise, I couldn’t do anything other than don a pair of jeans. I couldn’t face digging out a new outfit. I needed time to mourn.

And now? Well, the way I see it, I have three choices. One: leave the dress hanging ruefully in my closet in the misguided hope that one day I will fit into it again (highly unlikely). Two: give it to charity (noble but a bit of a shame as I intend to do a big clear out at the end of this project anyway) or three: donate it to one of you fine readers.

The Waist Detail

The Waist Detail

I’m opting for number three. Well, it’s the least I could do after all the support you’ve given me over the past month. So, the choice is yours. It’s a European size 40 (a fairly unforgiving UK size 12…more like an 11 if you ask me). First person past the post wins (email only). I will even dry-clean it and mail it to you! If there are no takers in 24 hours from publishing this post, it’s off to the nearest thrift shop.

I’ve left the pictures unadulterated. Wet hair, no make-up, no shoes. A trilogy of sorrow.

In defence of…my wardrobe! Day 26

Today's Outfit

Moody in Monochrome

Surely there’s something in the marital vows that covers dedication to your wife’s internet musings: love, honour, comfort, cherish…pay attention to inane ramblings? Forsake all others but – for God’s sake – do not forsake the blog! It doesn’t bode well that even my husband is now shunning me in internet form.

And as if this betrayal (yes, betrayal) wasn’t enough, today was one of those days when nothing seemed to go to plan. Histrionics of the Little G kind before breakfast, close encounters of the dentist kind before lunch and career mishaps of the monumental kind before dinner. I won’t go into the details; enough to say I might be being just a tad melodramatic. But the sooner tomorrow comes, the better.

Bracelet

Necklace becomes a bracelet

It is some consolation – although not much – that I was able to dredge up another successful outfit from the sin bin that is my wardrobe. My day may have been drenched in failure but at least my clothes were not.

The Stolen Dress Socks

A little bit of winter warmth

Reinventing summer clothes for winter is my new favourite fashion trick. I dragged out this Warehouse maxi-dress to layer with an ASOS blouse that’s too big for me. In the name of a little hard-won success, however, let’s call it ‘over-sized’. Ideally, I’d cap it all off with a raggedy-Anne-style cable-knit cardi but, since I don’t have one, I’m shoe-horning this outfit into winter with a pair of my husband’s dress socks instead (well, he’ll never know since he’s not reading!) Perfect.

Monochrome is the thing for spring, apparently, but I’ll ignore the fact that I’m a few months too early and stay calm. No more melodramatic meltdowns here.

Sitting Pretty

It was all downhill from there!

In defence of…my wardrobe! Day 24

Today's Outfit

London Baby!

They say great minds think alike. Well, today, I’m getting involved with the #NYNYStyleProject – the brainchild of Alice Langley and Katy Dial. When I read about their idea, I knew instantly they were kindred spirits.

The idea of the project is to get women everywhere to change up their look and experiment with style – exactly my mission statement in my New Year’s resolution to reinvent my post-baby look and wear more of my neglected wardrobe.

The difference is, Alice and Katy have come up with a novel…and very exciting idea. Each month, they’re releasing a list of daily prompts to inspire your early morning dress-up session. Today’s prompt is ‘London’. So here we go…

This outfit, at first glance, might look more Parisian than London but let me explain why this screams London to me. I was wearing this Hilfiger t-shirt the day I climbed the O2…which, incidentally, was also the day I found out I was going to be a mum. So, a fairly momentous occasion for a woman who hates heights, but conquered her fear, and got a very special trophy into the bargain. Also a pretty natural choice for reinventing my post-mummy style…to go back to the very day I became a mum. It was also 2012, and Olympic frenzy was everywhere so there can be no clearer connection to the big smoke – and all its pomp and ceremony – for me.

Pearly King Bracelet

Pukka pearly bracelet

The belt is from the Pied A Terre dress that I blogged about a few days ago. This is the genius of my little voyage through my wardrobe (and the #NYNYStyleProject). It makes you see things in a different way. It sounds simple but, why should the belt stay glued to its parent garment? It won’t suffer separation anxiety.

The skirt is from Next and, even though I’m a bit more shapely than the average stick of celery, I love the form-fitting shape. Curves, I think, do tend to look better the more you show them off…rather than smothering them in a blanket of layers. Though I’m thinking figure hugging, not flesh flashing.

Today's Shoes

My ‘defying gravity’ Aldo shoes

Just to add a little more of London’s legend to the outfit, I went for a bracelet that is reminiscent of pearly Kings and Queens. Subtle? The shoes are also London spoils – I bought them from the Aldo store on Oxford Street and wore them ‘up West’ to see Wicked. Bingo. Direct hit, I think.

Tomorrow’s #NYNYStyleProject prompt is ‘fresh’ but, as you know if you’ve been reading, I just don’t do style on Sundays…but why don’t some of you have a go?

Top of the O2

Clinging on at the top of the O2