Monday, 30 November 2015

A Style Manifesto for the Awkward and Confused

  • Stay in bed too late and leave yourself half an hour of getting-ready time. If you like, follow this up by staring into your wardrobe in abject terror for fifteen minutes before grabbing yesterday's clean-ish clothes off the floor. Don't forget to pull on a bobble hat in an attempt to disguise your still-wet hair.
  • Wear the same seven items over and over, because every time you experiment with anything else it seems to go horribly wrong and you look like a mad bag lady. Not in a cool Tavi Gevinson way or a rock'n'roll misfit way. Just someone people wouldn't sit next to on the bus.
  • Is your predilection for comfy clothes because of your punk rock middle finger up to beauty standards, or because you couldn't be arsed to shave your legs? (Again.) It's a chicken and egg kind of deal, right? Feel quite smug that being a lazy bastard helps reflect your body positive values. 
  • Read fashion blogs and feel even more confused than you were to begin with. Ditto 'street style' websites. Become convinced that 'high fashion' seems to mean 'buying clothes that don't match each other or fit properly' and wonder why it only looks socially acceptable when someone else does it.
  • Make Pinterest boards and take online style quizzes in an attempt to define your personal style. Stare at them for hours in the hopes of discovering their deeper meaning. 
  • Overthink dressing for every social occasion so that you always end up over- or under-dressed and feeling vaguely uncomfortable.
  • Decide you don't care at all about how you look. Live in oversized men's T-shirts and baggy jeans for a month and then realise you are horribly bored.
  • Rectify this by veering to the other extreme! Throw on fifteen clashing items and hot pink lipstick in an attempt to express your inner self. Realise you look insane.
  • Try minimalism, and end up looking as though you're going to a board meeting when actually you have a movie night with friends.
  • Stare creepily at passers-by in bewildered attempts to 'get inspiration'. Stare until you make them nervous. Maybe take notes.
  • Trawl around shopping centres to try and discover what you are 'drawn to'. Come home with Harry Potter knickers, another bobble hat, a grey jumper identical to your ten other grey jumpers, and seven books. 
  • Talk your loved ones' ears off about your crisis of identity. Force them to fill in quizzes about your best features and when they last saw you 'looking fabulous'. 
  • Continue to wear your same seven items (and Harry Potter knickers). Pat yourself on the back for being able to decide that you LIKE these seven things (sorry, 'pieces'). You've come such a long way.
Or is this just me?

On a more positive note, these are some things I wore lately that I was OK with, even if they are largely variations on the same outfit:

Slightly too grown-up for me really. I prefer this trench undone with an unravelling scarf and my hair a mess so I can pretend that I look like a harried academic.
I was running wayyyy late for brunch and grabbed a random selection of items off the floor, which is why nothing matches. I'm OK with that.
This is a men's hat that I bought in Paris. I wear it A LOT. I'm wearing it now.
Really must start taking decent photos. Or get an editing program of some kind. Before you guys all get a crick in your neck from my camera angles. Sorry about that.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

TILT: November

EDIT: Look who posted a Things I Love Thursday on a Tuesday... d'oh. *headdesk*

I have been enjoying myself immensely during the autumn months, wrapping myself up in 1,000 layers and busting out my collection of increasingly improbable winter hats. I love this time of the year so fricking much. Grey skies! Rain! Leaves everywhere! Scarves! Sweaters! Fuzzy socks! Fairy lights! NaNoWriMo! Gahhhh! *combusts*

Meanwhile, everyone else of my acquaintance is complaining about the weather and wishing it was warmer. So, since I am being rather a smug bastard about the whole thing, I thought there was probably no better time to write a Things I Love Thursday post.

  • wine and Tarot evenings with one of my best friends. We both want to get better at reading the cards so we have been setting time aside every week to get together, have a little practice, drink some wine and watch a movie (or some Supernatural). I enjoy this very much and am happy to know someone who likes to do these things too. ^^
  • being given a Topshop voucher to make merry with. I ordered a rust-coloured bobble hat (with oversized bobble, natch), a nude eye contour pot in 'Bare' (because I love wearing a brown eyeshadow but they tend to crease even with primer which is a pain; I'm hoping that a cream product might have more staying power and the reviews were pretty positive), and the piece de resistance, a pair of high-waisted teal crushed velvet knickers. Because I needed them, obviously.
  • my new tattoo. Words can't express how happy I am with it. 
  • the new David Wong book, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits. I bloody love David Wong's books and this one is no exception. I especially love the protagonist, Zoey Ashe, because you can't not love a protag who is a massive scruff, has blue streaks in her hair and goes around sassing everyone whilst eating pizza and being covered in cat hair. (Her cat's name is Stench Machine.)
  • Lush's Big shampoo. Smells lovely, the sea salt feels great on my scalp and I honestly don't think my hair ever looked better. Wish I'd discovered it years ago. In fact, on the subject of Lush, I also recently bought their perfume The Smell of Weather Turning, it's minty and smoky and strange, I really like it!
  • being able to butcher half of Teenage Kicks on my guitar. Feels like a huge achievement.
  • Sorry Mom Tattoo Balm. My tattooist gave me a free sample and after a couple of days using it I ordered a full-size tube from Asos. On all my other tattoos, I've used Bepanthen to keep them moist whilst they heal but Sorry Mom is so much better. For starters it's not so sticky or greasy and doesn't leave oily stains on my clothes. Also unlike Bepanthen, it doesn't make me break out. My tattoo is healing nicely and looking great!
  • Christmas coffees! It's never too early for highly calorific caffeine goodness. ;)
What are you guys loving in November? :)

Friday, 20 November 2015


Last week I got a new tattoo. :)
Blood, ink and clingfilm - not my usual accessories.
I had wanted a Neil Gaiman-related piece for a very long time so I was happy to have finally settled on a quote.

The lady who did my other tattoos (a bat on my left shoulder and a Lost Souls quote on my wrists) has moved out of the area, to the best of my knowledge, so I was excited to have found a local artist whose style I like. Not that this was a particularly challenging design, as you can see - I'm just a massive fusspot, and also incredibly anxious and awkward, so I like finding people I can get on with. This new piece was done by a lovely chap called Alex at Inkwell Studios, who is the youngest guy I have ever met to own his own tattoo studio, and an incredibly talented artist.

It's a quote from Neil Gaiman's poem Instructions. Or, more accurately, it's a compilation of my favourite lines from the poem. It's a combination of fairytale themes and good advice, and I couldn't be happier with it.

"Trust the wolves, but do not tell them where you are going. Remember: that giants sleep too soundly; that witches are betrayed by their appetites; that dragons have one soft spot, somewhere, always. Trust ghosts. Trust dreams. Trust your heart and trust your story."

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Comfort Zones

"People say that you should really do something out of your comfort zone. Why? I worked very hard to find my comfort zone. It was really rough and I can’t even get there that often. Takes all day and I gotta get off to a good start and do all the right things and avoid the right people and find all the right people and do all of these things to find my comfort zone. And then I’m supposed to do something outside of my - Fuck you! You do something outside your comfort zone. My comfort zone is hard-won….

"But then, that’s where popular culture and pop psych comes in and wants – and the shtick I was looking at last night was that like, so, if it’s ‘afraid’, then, 'You should do the things you’re afraid of’. Why? Why? I have felt quite enough fear. I don’t think I will benefit from more fear. I don’t think it’s the missing element in my life. I don’t think that’s the thing I need to be seeking out. 'Go to the places that scare you.’ No! I have carved out an awesome space in which I don’t have to visit the places that scare me. I don’t like them there. I’ve been there. I know more about them than you, person telling me to go to the places that scare me."

- John Darnielle, 2014-04-19 and 2014-04-20 at the Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago.

I am not in my comfort zone.

I previously hinted that I have big scary changes coming up in my life. Let me state that I have very little sense of perspective, so it may be that what seems big and scary to me will seem like cake to you guys, but the fact is that I have handed my notice in at my main-earning job, working in a charity shop, to go back into education.

I worked at the charity shop for nearly five and a half years. I started as a volunteer, and it gave me confidence when I needed it. I'd been taken out of school and had been trying to educate myself at home for the previous five years, so I was very isolated and even more socially awkward than I am now. I have made some great friends through working there, and whilst I fully intend to keep in touch with everyone it makes me a little sad to be going. It's the end of an era in my life.

So I'm sad. And scared, because whilst I still have a part-time job at the local alt shop, I'm nonetheless going to be losing a large chunk of my income. Both my family and my boyfriend's family are planning to move house in the new year and I still don't know where I am actually going to live (although if I don't end up with a workable action plan a few friends have offered to let me couchsurf and mooch their shower and WiFi, which is nice). And I have to do awful things like speak to course co-ordinators and schedule exams and all sorts of alarming studenty thingamabobs.

The quote that I started this post with is something I bookmarked a while ago, when I was intending for this post to be more about why you shouldn't feel bad if you don't want to come out of your comfort zone, and that (as my own bucket list proves, I like to think) you can expand your range of experience with small, joyful, meaningful things instead of scaring yourself half to death by feeling the only way to give yourself a boost is to do something cray-cray and totally out of character.

Then I ended up cast adrift out of my own comfort zone, and feeling a bit butthurt about it. Now I have to start building a new comfort zone, which is annoying. Going back into education was a choice. (I first have to get my GCSEs, then I want to start training to become a library assistant.) The whole moving thing has been kind of thrust upon me by circumstances. I could deal with one scary thing. I was kind of excited about it, even. Two scary things has me stressing like a mo-fo.

Which I guess, if anything, kind of proves the point I was originally going to make. Comfort zones can actually be great. There's a difference, I feel, between being stuck in a rut (which I would have been, if I hadn't decided to try to get some qualifications and aim for a job that I feel suits who I am) and creating a space, an environment, a set of circumstances in which you feel nurtured and safe and happy. I'm not saying don't do anything with your life - gosh, no! Don't stagnate!

But don't feel bad if you don't want to swim with sharks or jump out of a plane or some shit like that, either. We all have different boundaries. You can expand your zone just as easily by trying a new flavour of coffee or going to a new bookshop, or getting a train to visit a museum in another city. What's the point in forcing yourself to do things you don't like? I've tried that. I've tried forcing myself to socialise when I didn't want to, and so on and so forth. It was just unpleasant and uncomfortable. I didn't feel I'd gained or learned.

I guess that as with most things, it all comes down to finding what works best for you. Some of you want to jump out of planes. Have fun with that. I'll be snuggling up on my giant fluffy beanbag, reading fantasy novels and ignoring my problems. :)

Monday, 9 November 2015

Why I'm an Ex-Goth

This subject is something I keep coming back to, I suppose mainly because it's hard to sit down at my computer and start blogging without recalling the years I spent as a 'Goth blogger'. At the time, I was 100% sure that I would be a black-clad darksider for the rest of my natural life, but now when I look back I feel almost as though I was a different person. Reading back through posts on my old blog (which I have left up by request) makes me cringe occasionally - I am eighteen-nineteen-twenty and so convinced that I know it all, with my skinny eyebrows, stompy boots and overeager verbosity.

Now I'm twenty-four and in a state of near-constant neurotic paralysis due to my utter conviction that I know precisely nothing. I'm OK with that. In fact I'm kind of enjoying it. (The person I am now is a person who didn't exist five years ago. That's terrifying and liberating all in one hit. Who will I be in another five years? No one knows. How exciting.)

I know a lot of the people who come to this blog now come from a link on one of my old sites (hello there). I am also still friends or fond acquaintances with a lot of people I met through the blogging community back in the day, and it's fantastic to see the achingly cool people they have grown into (Sary. Allison. Just to name two incredibly awesome people). I look back with a slightly creeper-ish sense of pride on the days when we were all strange teenage bloggers together.

OK. Fangirl moment over. *pulls self together with great effort* What was I saying? Ah yes. I know a lot of you reading this right now are here because of Ye Olde Goth Blogging Days, and I almost feel as though I owe you some sort of explanation as to why this:
became that:

A photo posted by Amy Townsend (@wildlavendergirl) on
I'm not going to lie, I do look back at old photos of myself and think dang, I used to look so much cooler, but the thing is, I do so with a little smile and the quiet knowledge that, well, that was then. And whilst I'm glad I did it, it's not a reflection of who I am any more. I still think of myself as 'alternative', just in a gentler, nerdier sort of way. I no longer feel like I need my appearance to shout, "I AM DIFFERENT." I suppose because I no longer need my appearance to say anything at all to other people. It's just me. I just am.

[Hopefully unnecessary disclaimer: I don't speak for other alt people! I'm not saying that people dress up in their various subcultural ways to proclaim how different they are. I'm saying that, in part, I did. This post explains and expresses no one's thoughts or motivations other than my own.]

As I've recently mentioned, being an 'ex-Goth' is something I consider an important part of my identity. After all, Goth culture was something that consumed me for a six-year period of my life. It played a large part in shaping who I am and how I look at things today; it's not something to be shrugged off. I find it strange now when I realise that I actually have friends who never saw me with long black hair and a multitude of facial piercings, as though I'm a puzzle and they haven't got all the pieces. (But of course, I didn't witness their developmental years either, so I guess it works both ways.)

So. What changed?
  • I'm lazy. Not only that, but I don't want to put so much effort into thinking about my appearance. My version of Goth culture centred heavily on fashion and make-up, and I found I was no longer enjoying anything - I was outside myself, watching myself take part, monitoring how I looked at all times, and it wasn't good for me. I needed desperately to take a step back and evaluate what I wanted to be doing with my time, where I wanted my energy to go. And once I'd taken that step, I couldn't - and still can't - bring myself to focus so heavily on my looks again.
  • It wasn't fun any more. Blogging and being a Goth went hand in hand for me, and when one took a hit the other did too. On the one hand, I got some criticism. This is par for the course as a blogger - people are not always going to agree with you, and had I been thicker-skinned I could potentially have a) continued regardless or b) learned something, but my self-image was so tied up with blogging that I felt under attack. On the other hand, people were recognising me out and about at clubs and festivals, and whilst this was incredibly exciting at the time, I did come to realise that I'd rather be under the radar.
  • I wanted to be able to develop as a person. For example, one thing I was heavily criticised for was my music taste. That's fine - my music taste is pretty awful and I won't deny it, but because I was so obsessed with being a Goth, I felt like I had to start listening to the 'right' music. Obviously, this then led to me feeling like I was squashing my own personality. (I might have stayed a Goth longer if I hadn't become so obsessed with the culture. It was my entire identity. It was all I wanted to be. If parts of me didn't fit, I squashed them, stomped them or simply made excuses for them, and in the long run that doesn't work. You can't just cut off bits of yourself like an ugly sister hacking off toes to fit into a glass shoe.)
  • As soon as I started to look outside Goth for clues as to who I was and where I fit, I found myself dredging up more and more things from my pre-Goth past and from the world around me that were more 'me' than the narrow self-definition I had tried so hard to shoehorn myself into. So once I was out, as it were, I couldn't squeeze myself back in. It just wasn't 'me' any more. For some people, there's no squeezing and no squashing - which was how I knew that for me, it was time to move on. You can't force yourself to be a Goth once it stops being something that speaks to you!
  • I stopped being able to pretend that the things that annoyed me in mainstream culture (drug use, body shaming, bullying) didn't happen in the Goth scene. I had thought of Goth as some sort of perfect haven and when I realised it wasn't I felt disillusioned. Again, my own fault.
To be shameless and quote myself, from a previous blogging incarnation, "Of course, those aspects of me that drew me to dark culture still remain and are still celebrated - I am an avid bookworm with a particular fondness for dark faerie tales; I adore dark fashion; I have an enduring fondness for fantasy art, particularly with darker aspects... etc, etc, etc. 

"For me, the trouble with belonging to a specific subculture is that I felt I had to live up to other people's expectations of what a proper Goth should be if I wanted to 'earn' the label, which after a while felt limiting and uncomfortable. I learned that I prefer a more fluid, general descriptor like 'alternative', because there were things outside even the most vague boundaries of dark fashion drawing my attention, and I didn't want to just shut off the side of myself that wanted to (for example) wear florals and no make-up. 

"Long-time readers will know that crimping personal tastes to fit labels is certainly not what I'm about and never will be. I was reminded of those slightly awkward adolescent years when I tried to buy the 'right' clothes to impress the 'right' people, and something inside me rebelled against the idea of reliving a time when I didn't feel good enough to be accepted for who I was. I liked having the freedom to experiment with fashion, the quirkier the better, and experience different styles and genres of music without feeling like a fraud for calling myself a Goth."

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Style Concept: Storybook Girl

She's the girl who stumbled into a fairytale and never found her way out.
She's the smell of books, dust and sunlight.

The storybook girl needs comfortable clothes, because there's another world in the back of her wardrobe and there might be lions around the corner and you can't run away from witches if your shoes don't fit.

She's the queen of cable knit, pensive expressions and steaming coffee. There are ink stains on her cuffs and she doesn't read Vogue and she has non-fictional feelings for fictional characters*. She spends her life looking for magic, both inside her books and in the world around her.

Storybook Girl

The storybook girl doesn't care much about her make-up or nails. Her hair is messy from running through the forest, her cheeks are flushed from the fresh air and she's half-mad from living in the world inside her head. She's scuffed Doc Martens and chunky scarves, mustard and beige, cranberry and cream, moss and autumn rain and fallen leaves. A wildflower wanderess with freckles and a ready laugh.

She likes things cozy and quiet inside and wild on the outside. She lives for a mug of cocoa by the fireside and a howling wind. She dreams of moonlight and mountains, becoming a lighthouse keeper or a mapmaker or a professor of folklore. She slips away from parties to read and look at the stars. She's not a manic pixie creampuff, just an intense bookish girl who's more into Tolkien than Twitter.

She sees the wonder in the everyday. She owns legwarmers, fingerless gloves and a bobble hat. She knows her own mind and doesn't mince her words. She's not minimalist because it looks good on Instagram but because the time it takes to put on jewellery and lipstick is time that could be spent reading or wandering in the fields. She's a nerd and a bird-mad girl, both at once.

The storybook girl is free and wild, unconstrained, unconventional, and quietly, gently feral. Fisherman's jumpers, baggy jeans, men's belts, scruffy boots, undone shoelaces, patched-up backpacks, elbow patches, cat hair on her blazer, the smell of bonfires, road trips, grass stains, muddy Converse, unraveling cuffs, long hair, flannel shirts, vintage sweaters, drunk on fresh air, daydreams, wanderlust and sweet tea.

Story Seeker

*I borrowed that from Bookworm Boutique.

Storybook Girl Pinterest board
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