WoW! Life Drawing for the Terrified

Thursday, 1 November 2018

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to visit the Women of the World festival as it made its way through Exeter. 

The festival, which took place over two days, was focussed on celebrating all that it is to be a woman, and the achievements and struggles of women around the world. The festival asked why gender equality is taking so long to achieve, and what may we do to better the situation for people of all genders; providing a platform for celebrating what has already been achieved, and an opportunity for those attending to learn more.

There was a series of life-affirming workshops and talks from extremely inspiring women, such as how to challenge misogyny in your day-to-day life - but the workshop that sticks most clearly in my mind is Life Drawing for the Terrified.

I was a complete stranger to life drawing before the WoW festival, so I had no idea what to expect. What I was greeted by was a group of 10 empathetic, generous women, all keen to learn more about life drawing, and two excellent group leaders there to make sure everyone was feeling comfortable and getting the most out of the experience. Those of us attending were welcome to involve ourselves as much or as little as we were comfortable with in the 'life' aspect of the class, and the confidence of the women willing to model was so inspiring.

The workshop was a very interesting experiment in what it means to be seen, and to see others. Walking away, we all talked of feeling empowered, of renewed confidence and spirit through a shared experience with like-minded women.

To be seen so neutrally, in such a warm and giving environment was an incredibly valuable experience. Entering the class, everyone was visibly nervous, but all nerves melted away when we began drawing, and realised we were all far too focussed on getting our sketch just right to think about anything else too much!

The workshop was also fascinating from a fashion point of view. The group was, overall, extremely diverse, and this was no truer than in the clothes people were wearing when we entered the class. For me, it was extremely interesting to see the way in which this diverse group of women presented themselves to the outside world, through the clothes they wore, the tattoos they adorned their body with, and the way they styled their hair.

From what is, essentially, the same blank canvas we all have, all the members of the group had carved out their own unique identity through the means of fashion. This really inspired me to look at my own wardrobe and think more carefully about the way it represents me and how I want to be seen. For a class with very few clothes, it made me think an awful lot about what to wear! The way clothes allow you to present facets of your personality, to express to the outside world who you are inside, make fashion truly exciting.

If you have never attended a life drawing class, either as an artist or a model, I would really encourage you to do so. It was such a new and thought-provoking experience which I’m sure will stick with all of us for years to come. Whether it be through a new jacket, some funky shoes, or a fresh tattoo, fashion really allows you to make you, you! Underneath it all, we’ve all got the same lumps and bumps and little insecurities, but if you can begin to see yourself as a work of art, the rest will follow!

What does being seen 
mean to you?

Find some Frida in your Wardrobe

Sunday, 21 October 2018

As the days get shorter and the nights colder, I always like to spruce up my wardrobe with something fun and a little different. What better way to add a twist to your fashion this autumn than with a little inspiration from the Queen of style herself: Frida Kahlo. Kahlo, for better or worse, has assumed the legendary status of artist like no other. You might not know her name, you might not know her work, but everyone knows those eyebrows- or should I say eyebrow? 

I recently had the opportunity to visit the V&A’s new exhibition: ‘Frida Kahlo, Making her Self Up’, which displays for the first time ever ‘a collection of personal artifacts and clothing’ that were previously locked away for fifty years! Although the reaction to this exhibition has been mixed and there was discussion of too much focus on her personal story over her art, as an exhibition of fashion it was remarkable. Inspired by my favourite bi-sexual, Latin American, feminist, left-wing artist (that’s a lot of labels). I started to think about my own dull fashion and…

What would Frida do? 

Here are my three top tips for finding some Frida in your wardrobe:


Just because it’s Autumn doesn’t mean we should shy away from colour, try colour blocking an outfit or just adding a pop to your outfit with a scarf or jacket.


Looking at Frida’s fashion collection its wonderful to see the elaborate, detailed array of patterns and influences. As well as a deep love for her own culture, she was particularly fascinated by aspects of Chinese culture. Make sure to recognise and respect any cultural influences in your fashion and don't appropriate or buy from places that exploit other cultures for profit or gain. 


Flowers were a key symbol that appeared throughout Frida’s work and in real life as she wore them in her hair plucked straight from the garden! If you’re not feeling the flowers, why not try a headband instead?

If all else fails, remember the title of the V&A’s exhibition and make it up!


Friday, 19 October 2018

The sun is gone now, or… almost.

Summer is away and lectures are back! Not really cheerful if you consider that our study sessions start again. Thankfully, this also mean that fall and winter are back, and yes, it will be the perfect excuse to renew your wardrobe.

Having followed the NY fashion week quite carefully, I found many trends that would seem to be distinguishable from the rest this fall / winter.

First of all let’s talk about tiles. Once really appreciated, tiles are coming back pretty easily in all forms and colors for the cold seasons. Subsequently, everyone one can choose their own form to make the product fit their style. Pants, jackets, coats, skirts or even accessories, you can be sure you will find tiles everywhere. 

Styling them in an extravagant or a neutral way will be perfectly adequate in many life situations. I personally opted for a more neutral way with this jacket and tee-shirt from Mango, which fits into my chic casual every day style.


Faux fur is another trend which is rising this year. If we might remember it from past fall / winter, it has grown even more and had a major impact on catwalks this year as they are at the heart of almost every designer’s collection. I am currently trying to find the “best” faux fur coat and that is how I discovered that there is a LOT of choice. 

You can find faux fur articles on every clothing website or shops (if you are more of a “going out” shopping type of person). As I am still waiting for the perfect coat, I decided to buy this kind of “sheep” top from Zara and styled it with a pair of black jeans and black boots. 

Izzy Hyatt
A well-known 90’s trend is also brought back to the forefront this fall / winter and is very adaptable. Your guess was right, we are talking about animal prints! Leopard, snakes or zebra everyone can find the right piece. Indeed, if you’re a fan of vintage clothes, animal prints will be perfect for you as it comes from what the French call our “mum’s wardrobe”. 

If vintage is not your cup of tea and you would rather dress in a classic or casual way, no worries, many designers thought about you. After a really long search, I finally choose to get a central and versatile piece of clothing and bought this leopard coat from Zara. Is also a good match to my personal style and life as black is one of my favourite clothing colour. 

 What would trend would you embrace this fall?

Budget-friendly beginners gym kit

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

I recently made what is (for me) a huge and uncharacteristic move - I joined the gym! 

At the beginning of a new Uni year it is a lot easier to feel motivated to get fit than later on  when we're bogged down with essays. Having never set foot in a gym before, I didn't have a gym kit, but didn't want to spend a fortune when I couldn't be sure I'd commit to going regularly. Where better, then, to head than Primark. I knew there I would be able to find some affordable, quality clothes, and I wasn't disappointed!

Of course, what you wear to the gym is not the most important thing, the fact that you're there is amazing! However, feeling comfortable and confident in the clothes you're in is a big help when getting over your initial nerves, and having lovely new gym clothes is good motivation to get yourself exercising.

With that in mind, here is the selection of Primark's 'Workout' range that I chose.

The sports leggings - £8

First, I picked up these burgundy (you will notice a theme here) and grey ombre sports leggings. As with most of the things I show here, they are from Primark's special 'Workout' range. I found all this range, especially these trousers, to be SO comfortable, and at the gym, comfort is top priority.

Primark have recently updated their sizing, now with sizes from 4-20, so you're bound to find something to fit and flatter your shape. I chose full length leggings, but there are also cropped leggings from £5 if you prefer this style. If you don't feel comfortable in leggings, there are also joggers in a huge range of colours, again, from as little as £5.

The top - £2

The 'Workout' range has a lot of tops on offer, both tank tops and t-shirts.

However, I simply opted for Primark's 'slouchy tee,' which you'll find folded on the stands. The 'slouchy tees' come in a large variety of colours, and the material is soft and comfy when working out. At just £2 each - where can you go wrong! I like to tie it at the waist so it sits at the top of my leggings, but they're long enough to cover your hips if you leave them untied.

The sports bra - £5

Next, I picked up the burgundy and grey sports bra to match my leggings. This is perhaps one of the most important pieces. You need your sports bra to be tight, which might feel a bit unnatural at first, but if it is too loose it won't do its job in supporting you.

 I have found this sports bra comfortable and supportive, and it looks great with the matching leggings. When you're looking for a sports bra, try on a couple of different sizes to make sure you find the most supportive one. Also, don't just stick to the 'Workout' area of Primark, there are lots of lovely sports bras in the general underwear section too.

The trainers - £10 
These trainers were the first thing I found, and the reason I ended up choosing all of the other burgundy. They're super lightweight and breathable, which makes them ideal for the gym. Not to mention, they're so comfortable.

Primark sells a lot of 'fashion' trainers, so make sure to look for the ones labelled 'Workout,' as these have memory foam cushioning inside, making them more comfortable and supportive for exercising.

So there we have it, the 4 pieces you need to get started at the gym. Good luck!

What makes you feel most confident?

The Covering - wearing headscarves

Thursday, 11 October 2018

There is one thing that I wear almost every single day of my life. I feel naked walking out of the house without it. Underwear? Not that.

A headscarf. A doek. Tukwi.

 The varied cultural and religious histories surrounding headscarves mean that people are quick to dismiss personal choice as the reason for draping cloth over our heads. They can’t see that the freedom given to us by this meter-long cloth stretches from centuries past to present times. The rebellion of our ancestors, they can’t see. The skills passed to us with a few words, ‘Just do it’, if you can tie your shoe laces, you have all it takes to create art on your head. Grandmothers tying triangular pastel coloured headscarves on our little heads, these are memories that unravel every morning with every flick.

The strength, the boldness, the creativity, the gentleness, the hopes, the joys, the sorrows of our great -great grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, all wrapped up on our heads. We face the world confident and free.

A one off, never to be repeated piece of art. You will never be able to fully recreate your look. Each wrap, tuck, knot has a life of its own. A short life. Throughout the day, your scarf undergoes many reincarnations. If you are lucky or have pins at hand or tied your headgear tight enough to be rewarded with a headache, then your creation will last until evening. There isn’t any right way to cover your head. There aren’t any tricks to wrap your head around. The doke doesn’t require perfection from us. Its whisper is that you should trust your hands.

You can choose to have  neon orange on your head, you can find freedom in mutes and neutrals. The colours can be an unspoken way of connecting with those around us, of saying that we are in a good place (blues for me), of communicating our grief to others (culturally that is black for me). Vibrant colours are for days when I am tired of my quiet-ever hiding-always passive self.

With the current movement with natural hair among black women, tukwi simplifies my life. No perfect curls and twists to worry about. No obsession on length checks. Feels a bit like freedom. With different textures -silky, pleated, sequined, varying lengths and widths, different shapes -rectangles, squares, triangles …I see no limitations. No boredom. A thousand permutations and combinations to create – I still don’t understand anything about permutations and combinations but seems fitting, so there you go.

Are you going to stock up headscarves for the winter, why or why not? Let me know in the comments.


Tuesday, 9 October 2018

In the age of inclusivity, where do plus-size men stand in the fashion world?

I was born with the gift of high metabolism and the frame of a coat rack. Because of this, I have the luxury of being able to try and ruin any fashion trend I so please. This luxury is not so available to my larger bros. Fashion is much less diverse, well-fitted, and accessible for overweight men. That’s a trend that needs to change.

 My focus on male fashion isn’t to minimize the experience of plus-size women in fashion. Rather to emphasise that while women’s fashion has a long way to go on the same issue, the leaps and strides that have been made in recent years because of mostly female-oriented body positivity campaigning have – from my perspective – been much greater than the progress made in men’s fashion.

 Taking the New Look website for example, the options for women include sections for curvy and plus size, petite, tall and maternity whereas the men’s section has no such options. Though many women’s retailers are not as diverse in their sizing options but the trend is growing, whereas the lack of such momentum in expanding sizing options for men’s clothing is a real concern.

However, online clothes shopping for plus-sized individuals across the gender spectrum is made immensely more difficult by the lack of larger models on many online retailers. If you want to buy a new t-shirt in XXL, but the only pictures of it on Urban Outfitters are on a model with a shoulder span of five centimeters, you aren’t getting a very accurate representation of what it might look like on you (if you’re lucky enough that they even sell it in an XXL). The solution then is obviously to go to a physical outlet of the store, but then your choice is limited even further by their stocking of different sizes. To continue railing on Urban Outfitters, I was browsing their selection of ‘dad jeans’ in store the other day and the largest size they had available was a 28 waist. That being the largest size for a style inspired by the baggy jeans of beer-bellied papas everywhere is a little ironic in my opinion. And if you do actually manage to get the clothes you desire in your size, many retailers’ idea of ‘sizing-up’ just means making the garment bigger in all directions, leading to plus-sized guys everywhere wearing shirts that fit their shoulders perfectly but go down to their knees. Thankfully there are retailers that do better with larger sizes, such as Jacamo, Asos and River Island which have well-fitting larger sized clothes, but also employ plus-size models. However, this is not commonplace, especially not amongst high fashion outlets.

The lack of body diversity amongst models is not only problematic in trying to judge whether clothes will fit properly. A lack of plus-size models contributes to a societal norm for body image that leaves many men that have non-conforming body types with self-esteem and alienation issues. This is made worse if your clothes don’t fit you well and if you don’t have a wide variety of choice. Personally, I get a lot of my confidence from my clothes – if I’m having a bad hair day or feeling a bit down on myself I can usually at least depend on myself to put together a good outfit that boosts my self-esteem a bit. If I didn’t have that option AND had the knowledge that my body didn’t fit into what society deems ‘good’, I’d be a lot less confident than I am. Having limited fashion options also stifles a diverse and interesting creative outlet –an entire art form being much less available to people with certain body types seems almost discriminatory if not at the very least unfortunate for the individuals and the art form.

Despite societal norms working against you and clothes shopping being a bit of a pain, it’s still possible to be a style icon in an XXL. Well-fitted clothes are very flattering on a larger figure (and on anyone else really, I just don’t want to face the reality that I look goofy as hell in all my oversized threads). Layering can help to narrow your silhouette if done right, but make you aren’t layering up with heavy clothes as they’ll give you a bulky outline. Apart from that just dress in the way that makes you feel most comfortable, and if you need some #inspo there are plenty of high profile plus-size men making fashionable moves lately like Jonah Hill and Rag’N’Bone Man.

Although it is possible to look absolutely fly with a size 42 waist, it is clear there is a problem with inclusivity in the male fashion world that makes it harder than it needs to be. 

However, it is the age of inclusivity – companies want to increase their public image more and more and are often giving into the demands of social justice movements to do so. Campaigning on social media to compel retailers to offer a wider range of well-fitting sizes and employ plus-size models is a realistic solution that has worked exceedingly well with many women’s retailers and some men’s ones. There’s a ways to go in making our reality a loving and inclusive one, but it’s certainly within reach.

The Rise of Eyeshadow: Does Norvina Make the Cut?

Saturday, 6 October 2018

How does one get ‘good at makeup?’ I don’t mean make-up artist level talented, but good enough that every now and then you may get an approving glance at being able to dust some pigment on the lids of your eyes. Now I’m not complaining, I do still crave validation, so keep those compliments coming. But looking back at what I’m sure was a lot of people’s journeys from clear mascara to Winehouse eyeliner and finally a half good cut crease, it strikes me not only how much the beauty industry has changed, but also our approach to makeup.

I recall a lyric from the Beatles’ song Eleanor Rigby:‘wearing the face// That she keeps in a jar by the door.’ Ignoring for a moment other meanings and connotations, I think this lyric nicely demonstrates how the way we use makeup has changed. Eleanor Rigby has a face, singular, it is a set piece of her every day routine and is more or less fixed. However, more and more the identity and place of make up in modern day society is shifting greatly and not only that, but it has become more mutable: its meaning, its importance, its role in culture. This is mainly due to the rise in influencers and the development of an online beauty community creating more demand for new, diverse and experimental looks. There’s even developed a new sub-genre of holiday makeup, be it ‘Halloween full face transformations’ or ‘Valentines and Christmas glam’. People no longer have not one face, but many. 

In my opinion, it is therefore natural that the humble eyeshadow should emerge as the go-to trend for this new direction in make-up. The sheer variety of designs, colours and possibilities that eyeshadow offers exemplifies the move towards more creativity and freedom. One brand that characterises this inspired approach is Anastasia Beverly Hills. In Summer 2016, Modern Renaissance changed the game for eyeshadow and became an essential for many make-up enthusiasts. Its complete colour story, high pigmentation and easy blending meant that it was the perfect buy for experts or beginners alike. But, does the company’s latest release: Norvina, continue on the Anastasia legacy or is it a victim of the brand’s own success?

As always, the packaging of Norvina is of the same luxurious quality as all the other ABH eyeshadow palettes, with its pastel purple covers, block graphic logo, complete with mirror and brush. Never underestimate the importance of a mirror! The amount of times I’ve had to open countless products and palettes, be it camping, or at a friends’ when mirror space is few and far between, that mirror can be a lifesaver! Well not really, but that sigh of relief is pretty good too. 

Norvina marks the shift towards a more daring approach to makeup, departing from the familiar, easy to use rouges, browns and oranges, this palette even makes blue look effortlessly cool! Also different from the original is the addition of more glitter and shimmer shades, with the palette now being aesthetically divided into half shimmer/half matte. Unlike the majority of eyeshadow palettes on the market now, Norvina boasts a variety of interesting and exciting colours, allowing for more experimentation. A little more exciting than your average nude palette; easy blending helps avoid patchiness and the design of a complete colour story means that almost all colours can be used together. After the disappointment of Subculture (also by ABH), the formula of the eyeshadows is back to its best and just in time!  

Now about the price. Coming from someone who hesitates spending more than £5 on anything (love student life) the price tag of £43 may understandably sound outrageous. But, take into account the quality, the length of use and compare it to the cost of other high-end palettes, you’ll realise Norvina is a worthwhile makeup investment. I brought Modern Renaissance two years ago and despite what it may look like, I’ve used it religiously and am only now starting to ‘hit the pan.’ 
Ultimately, Norvina not only makes the cut, but raises the expectation for more innovative and inspiring direction for makeup in a culture that uses it in a more creative and expressive way than ever before.

Like the idea of eyeshadow, but don’t know where to start? Try my 3 top tips:

·     Buy a palette! (Rather than individual shadows)
It doesn’t have to be £50, there are plenty of affordable drugstore options. Palettes can offer some inspiration on what shades work well together, giving you some safety and guidance when it comes to colour and application. It can also be more cost effective in the long run!

·     Blend, blend, blend!
It’s my mantra with eyeshadow that nothing can’t be fixed without a little (or a lot) of blending, even if it means blending till there’s no pigment left- you can always start again, right?

·     If in doubt: light to dark
When applying eyeshadow, imagine your eyelid crease like a semi-circle beginning from the inner corner of your eye to the outer edge of your crease. First, start with a transition colour (similar to your base skin tone) and blend all around the crease to make your final look more seamless. Then
gradually build up colours from the inside of your eye outwards, getting darker as you go, so that the boldest shade sits just above the outer corner of your eye. To finish it off, try the signature Nat and dab some light gold shimmer in the inner corner for a bit of pizzazz. 

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