Saturday, 17 March 2018

How I Practise Self-Care...

Self care can be difficult at the best of times, but sometimes when you're away from home at uni living a hectic student life, it can feel pretty much impossible to truly take time for yourself. With housemates, flatmates, and endless work figuring out little things you can do to properly relax is essential, trust me. In first year I went too long without learning how to practise self care at uni, so now I consciously dedicate time to myself whenever I start to feel myself slipping. Lately, that's how I've been feeling at the end of a long term of strikes and stress, spring semester is always hardest. So I thought I'd share my self care routine for when I just need a day to rejuvenate.

First, and this is important, I don't set an alarm. I'm constantly thinking about work and being productive, so I pretty much always have an alarm on to get me up and going. But when I know I need some time to ground myself, I let myself sleep until my body wakes up, I don't plan anything for the morning and give myself that time to be slow and get ready for the day at my own pace.

When I do get up, I don't scrimp on my skin care and I make myself a morning coffee to sip on while I do my makeup. I know some people couldn't thing of anything worse than putting makeup on when they're down and struggling, but I find the whole process so grounding and going through my set routine is such a mindful activity for me. I like to take my time, sip my coffee, watch some Netflix, and do any kind of makeup that takes my fancy. I know looking good makes me feel good, so on my worst days I normal do some of my best makeup as I'm in no rush and I have no motivation but to make myself feel 10/10.

My relationship with cooking and food isn't a calm one, but when I'm sad there's something indescribably healing about a home cooked meal. Yeah some days I just want to go out and get food brought to me without the faff, but when I'm focusing all my energy on feeling good, I try to force myself into the kitchen. On this day, I re-created my fave meal from my fave cafe in Sheffield; pho. Simply fry up some tofu, and cook a packet of noodles in veg stock with spring onions, mushrooms, and chilli. Season with anything you can find and a splash of soy sauce. Enjoy. The most warming, comforting meal you could ask for and full of goodness. When you're feeling down, you'll won't regret the time spent making yourself a meal like this.

After fuelling myself, I try to get on with my day and go out. Whether that be heading to a lecture, seeing friends, going to the library, or just walking to the shop, I always try to go out and do something that will make me feel productive. But no matter what, I always come back and have a bath. A Lush bubble bar, some candles, music and a book are musts for this step. I take as much time as I want and soak all my troubles away with a good book. At the moment I'm reading Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh and it's amazing, I'm only half way through by already I see my perspectives of my food issues being challenged. I recommend, go and grab a copy if you want a self help book that isn't boring and whiny like most are.

After washing away my woes, I settle down for the evening. When I'm feeling down I like to buy myself a small treat for the night, just a simple pleasure like a cake or a drink. So on the night I take time totally to myself and reject the guilt that often comes from not hanging out with friends. I like to just sit and watch netflix, or watch a film for my course so I can still feel a little productive even while I relax. I make my room vibey with plenty of lights and candles and just zen out, heavenly.

It's so simple but so effective and so necessary. Self care doesn't have to be expensive face masks and yoga, it can be as simple as a bath and a scone bought especially for you and only you, doing all the small things that make you feel your best and give you space to be fully grounded. Work out what makes you feel best, and regularly give yourself time to do nothing but that.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Burlesque Is Feminist...

Photographs by James Reilly

When you think burlesque you probably think Dita Von Teese, that film with Christina Aguilera, pin ups and stripping. And honestly I thought that too until I starting doing it, so it's no surprise I get so many questions about it. Whenever I post anything I get so many questions asking what I'm doing, and even more messages complimenting my confidence and girls wishing they could try it out. So lets talk about it today.

My uni has a burlesque society and after wanting to join all through first year, I finally went along at the start of this year and fell instantly head over heels in love. I knew it'd like it the second we started when we were all asked to introduce ourselves and say the thing we like best about your body. The dance studio was bursting with support and love, and I'd been craving that environment for a long time. And now about 5 months on, I look forward to classes each week, feel 10x more body confident and I've made the most loving group of friends.

Burlesque is feminist. Our rehearsal room is full of empowerment, both of ourselves and each other. Our focus is on ourselves, fulfilling our ideas and fantasies, ensuring we all feel completely comfortable and safe, boosting ourselves, and doing what ever we want to do. We choose our own names, we plan our outfits, our routines, we choose our songs, we decide if or when we remove clothing in our routines. We set the tone, we are in charge and in control of everything. We talk a lot about the male gaze and where we fit into the sexualisation of women, and Poison defined it perfectly; "We capitalise off the so-called 'sexual' nature of our bodies, we charge weak men to come and gawk at us all the while they shift in their chairs, wishing they could look such a strong and self-assured woman in the eye." Burlesque is about power, doing what you want, and celebrating your body. It's the female gaze.

I've never felt empowerment and support quite like that I get from my burlesque troupe. I honestly feel like there's a level of closeness that can only be achieved by constantly seeing each other pretty much naked, you can't be shy or reserved once someones helped you stick things to your nipples. Obviously there's a lot of vulnerability in burlesque, and coming from someone with a lot of body issues, there's some serious hurdles to get over. But the team makes it easy and fun. When I first joined I wanted to be like them, I was in awe of their confidence and their bond, and now within only a short amount of time I feel so integrated and comfortable around them, and they're my sisters in confidence building. Need someone to moan to about the patriarchy? Want to talk through your body problems with people guaranteed to empower you? Looking for female friendship and support like no where else? Join a burlesque club.

I am not a very confident person, I can hardly even answer my phone. But the other week I got on stage alone and performed. Admittedly I've always loved lingerie, but that's all. In all honesty I find my body super confusing, like I don't really know it or what I actually really look like. I couldn't tell you how many hours I've spent in front of a mirror trying to decide whether I look good or bad, or stressing over imagined weight gain. One day I'll worship myself, I'll love all photos of myself, I'll think I look amazing and strong and beautiful, then the next I'll actively avoid looking at myself or I'll sit and tear myself apart finding flaws in everything. So really it's quite strange that I love burlesque so much. Although nudity is a part of burlesque, I don't see it as the focus as you can't actually see yourself. It's all above movement, doing things that make you feel beautiful and sexy, and taking on a persona that's a hyper-confident version of yourself and allowing that to take over. You can't see yourself to criticise anything about your body, you can only feel your body moving, move to the music and hear the crowd screaming in support. I think I love it because surprisingly there's no space for you to self-criticise, in our rehearsal room there are no mirrors there's only each others support. Since doing burlesque I'd say that I've actually started to care less about my body image and I'm gradually learning to not let it other me so much and to accept myself. I've been realising that I've never looked at another woman and immediately criticised her, I've never found anything about another woman ugly or noticed the things that I hate about myself on anyone else. I think every other woman is beautiful and ethereal and magic, so I'm slowly realising that being so cruel to myself isn't fair, and chances are no one else has ever noticed the things I dislike about myself. And being constantly surrounded by beautiful women telling me I'm amazing has definitely helped that.

All in all, I love burlesque. It's feminist, it's confidence building, it's fun, it's freeing. It's about control, and vulnerability, and friendship, and support. And you might think I must be super confident and self-assured to be able to do what I do, but it's a product of my environment; girls supporting girls.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Vintage Leather Dreams...

Jeans - Next
Jumper - Primark
Earrings - Miss Selfridge
Boots & Jacket - Vintage
All of my dreams have come true after discovering this perfect, genuine leather jacket for £10 in a vintage shop. I've been longing for a classic leather jacket for ages but I'm very picky about the styles and didn't want to contribute to cruelty by buying a new jacket, so finding this one in exactly the style I wanted and amazing quality was a stroke of luck.

I don't remember the last time an item of clothing made me feel so confident. I wore this outfit on just a normal day; uni, lunch with a friend, a life drawing class, then to drinks with my boyfriend, but I felt incredible all day. I felt totally comfortable and also sassy af strutting around the city in my vintage leather. And like this outfit isn't anything special, I'm not breaking new fashion ground or revolutionising anything, but I felt beautiful. I talk a lot about confidence and body positivity, and I think a lot of people assume that always relates to lingerie or being confident naked, but this simple jeans and jacket combo made me feel body confident. My legs looked slim, my boots made me look tall, I love this jumper on me etc etc. After wanting a leather jacket for so long, I finally got to fulfil my HAIM sister, 50s rocker cry-baby daydreams, and I felt amazing.

Put down retail therapy and consumerism all you want, but you can't deny how good something new can make you feel.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Stars In A Teahouse...


Fur Coat - Vintage
Denim Jacket - ASOS
Jumper - Primark
Leather Skirt - H&M
Boots - Vintage
I feel like my style has changed in parallel with a change in my attitude towards how I look and dress. Lately I've been leaning more towards simple pieces with extras, like textures or patterns that put a twist on classics. I crave the simplicity of a classic outfit. I love my black high necks, mom jeans, chunky knit jumpers and tailored trousers, but sometimes I feel a weird kind of guilt for not dressing how I feel, for not pushing my boundaries and being bolder in my choices when I feel confident and good.

At uni there can sometimes feel like there's a lot of pressure to be a character, to be cool and express yourself loud and clear. So I've fallen head over heels for pieces that allow me to hold tight to my beloved simplicity while also feeling a little funky. The epiphany came when I walked into H&M to find a star print knit jumper and a star print A-line leather skirt in the sale, hallelujah. Incorporating two of my favourite and most trusted pieces made patterns less scary and got me feeling cool and comfy. Yaaaas.

As ever, I'm pairing a black high neck jumper with an all black ensemble as a nod to my everlasting style icon Aubrey Hepburn (more specifically Hepburn in Sabrina, swoon). Then adding a denim jacket layered under my regular teddy bear coat to add a casual texture, colour, and added warmth cause the weather is awful. My Mum's old block heel boots are the cherry on top, they make me feel like Rachel from Friends and look amazing with jeans, dresses, everything.

As you can tell by the photos above, I'm absolutely overjoyed about the addition of star print in my life, and also the tea that was coming my way. Three cheers for taking a classic pairing and making it a little extra, hip hip hooray!

Sunday, 14 January 2018


Sunday morning;
I put my small hand into a jar and pick out a task,
my soft skin touches dark wood,
warm carpet, and everything smell of my mother
and her refusal of help in the kitchen.
We sit at the table, we all have room for pudding,
we gather again in the evening.

Sunday morning;
I make an effort, wrote a list ahead of time
so I cannot ignore the care I need.
Early dawning, no tears in the morning,
feelings cold as ice cream, but still as sweet;
walk to the gardens, eat fruit,
paint nails, face-mask, sleep.
There’s always someone around you,
pointing out soft blues that are natural and true,
everything is calmer now.

Sunday morning;
I don’t set an alarm, assured I will always wake first,
always in time to roll over,
close my eyes again so we can pretend to open them in sync.
10am, 11am, stay still, still soft,
oh to be in love on a Sunday,
oh to walk hand in hand with no deadline,
oh to feel just the same on Monday.

Sunday girl on a Sunday morning,
my mother, my lover, 
Loved, cared for and comforted,
learning to feel everything like I feel on Sunday,
learning to expect no less than Sunday morning, dinner table, evening talks love.

Sundays have always been a special day for me. I was born on a Sunday, and in my family, Sunday is a day of tidying up, reorganising and gathering yourself up to prepare for a new week. Each Sunday we would tidy the house then have a proper Sunday roast, and that's my favourite tradition. Since moving to University I've tried my hardest to keep a small part of that tradition going, I try to keep my Sundays free of work, I keep them as a day to look after myself, do small acts of self-care like paint my nails and treat my skin, it's always a day I treasure with friends and my boyfriend. And at some of the harder times, Sundays are a goal, just get through to Sunday and take the offering of the new week as a new start, fresh and free.

Sunday also reminds me of two of my favourite songs; Sunday Girl by Blondie, and Sunday Morning by The Velvet Underground. Sunday Girl is my burlesque stage name, something that makes me feel really confident and empowered,and has introduced me to an amazing group of women.

Sunday also featured heavily in my book Chrysalism. I recently talked about my relationship with some of the poems in my book, one of which being All Week Sundays, which were 'love' poems written about a relationship and a situation that in actuality was extremely toxic. I always loved the line in that poems; 'Learning to feel everything like I feel on Sunday', but I deserve to feel better than how I felt on Sundays spent within that relationship, when I felt small or not good enough. I deserve to feel how I feel on Sundays with my family, on Sundays I spend purposefully looking after myself, on Sundays I spend getting breakfast with friends, or on a walk with my boyfriend who loves and respects me and admires me like no one else ever has. 

I got this tattoo, in the font used in my book, to remind myself of all these things. Of my family, of my favourite songs, of my friends and loved ones, of myself and the self-care I practice and the kind of love I deserve, and of all the things I treasure and everything that makes me feel confident. Self-care and self-love can be as simple as having a day to remind you of the love you have in your life, and the type of love you deserve, both of which are honest and kind and make you feel like the best version of yourself. And that's how I feel on a Sunday, and how I deserve to feel all the time.