Fashion Revolution Day: My Self-Imposed Primark Ban

Primark labelsIt’s been over a year since I bought anything from Primark.

It wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution or a spending-ban challenge, but a decision that I’ve flirted with for many years. As today marks the first international Fashion Revolution Day, I thought it was time to open up and talk about this self-imposed ban, and publish a post I began writing over three months ago.

I first started shopping at Primark when I left home for university. I’d never heard of the fast-fashion budget chain before, but with a dwindling bank account – a student loan can only pay for so many haircuts and trips to the pub – I ventured in, guided by my new flatmates.

Seven years later and I found myself relying on Primark to get my fashion fix whenever I needed a new pair of jeans or a summer dress. I watched programmes highlighting the shocking working conditions enforced by supply chain manufacturers and would swear off shopping there for a few weeks, but I’d always come back.

After Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza disaster (a year ago today) that saw over a thousand labourers die when the factory collapsed, I knew something in my shopping habits had to change. This, compounded with blogging for Oxfam Fashion and feeling overwhelmed by the amount of clothes I own (two wardrobes, one rail, a chest of drawers and counting…) led me to cutting Primark out of my life for good.

I thought I would miss the thrill that only finding a bargain can bring – be it a cheap t-shirt or scouring the reduced shelf in the supermarket and finding the exact ingredient you need at half the price. As it happens, I don’t miss it at all. Buying something that has a history or where the design and production of which has been clearly thought out is far more rewarding than any pair of £4 sandals.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love shopping on the high street, in addition to rummaging through charity shops and vintage boutiques, but I feel so much better knowing that I’m slowly withdrawing from brands that offer clothing at prices that are simply too good to be true.

There is a long way to go before I can honestly say that my shopping habits aren’t hurting anyone else, but this sense of mindfulness towards the fast-fashion feeding chain keeps me from absconding whenever I go looking for a bargain.

This is a topic I’ve shied away from talking about but I’d love to hear your thoughts – how do you feel about buying fast fashion, and would you ever consider a similar clothing ban?

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Riding in cable cars with boys

Fifties dress and white plimsolesAhh, my final outfit post from San Francisco and I’ve saved my favourite get-up till last. On our last full day in the city, we hopped on one of San Francisco’s famous wooden cable cars, taking us from the waterfront near Fisherman’s Wharf up and over the hilly streets to the other side, near Union Square.

The car was packed with other tourists so Mr Ship-Shape and I ended up standing on the outer edge, with just inches between us and the passengers on cable cars travelling in the opposite direction. When I got dressed that morning I thought this dress would look amazing against the backdrop of a cable car, but I underestimated how fast these glorified trams go, so most of these photos were taken after the ride!

San Francisco cable car interiorWhen I spotted this 1950s dress at the Bristol Vintage Fair a few months ago, I knew I was in love. It was the first thing I picked up, though this yellow blouse followed soon after. Usually I’m pretty good about walking around the whole fair before trying anything on, but I just couldn’t let this one go and ended up buying it within minutes of arriving.

An original 1950s day dress, the print is a mix of wood grain and rings of peachy orange flowers – sounds odd but I think it works. Scaling San Francisco’s numerous hills required flat shoes, and these white plimsoles from Toast fit the bill nicely.

As with all holidays, I wish we were still there, and I really hope this isn’t my last visit!

Printed fifties day dress – vintage / White socks – H&M / White plimsoles – c/o Toast

Red lipstick and pearl earingsFloral prom dress and plimsolesRiding on the cable car.jpgFifties dress with peach flowers around hem.jpgSan Francisco cable car.jpgFifties day dress with peach flowers.jpgDelicate bow on the back of the dress.jpg

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Everyday Sexism book review

Everyday Sexism book review.jpgNot my usual type of Thursday post today, but one that I’m very much looking forward to sharing with you, and it’s a review of Everyday Sexism, the book that accompanies the online project of the same name by Laura Bates.

If you haven’t heard of the project, or don’t follow the Everyday Sexism Twitter account, let me fill you in. Laura Bates started the website in 2012 after experiencing several forms of sexist harassment in a short space of time. Wanting to catalog others’ experiences, Bates was shocked when entries started coming in in their hundreds. Within a couple of months there were thousands of stories shared, and now there are now over 60,000 entries from across the world.

Everyday Sexism book quoteI was lucky enough to see Laura Bates in conversation last month at the Bristol Festival of Ideas and the hour-long talk was inspiring, humorous but essentially unsettling, so when I heard that the book was available to buy on the night, I couldn’t resist.

As well as project entries and tweets, the book features interviews with school girls, politicians and fellow journalists. Each chapter starts with a list of statistics which range from the well publicised (women working full time in the UK in 2012 49% less than men) to the downright shocking (over 20,000 girls under 15 are at high risk of female genital mutilation in England and Wales each year).

Bates recognises that sexism is suffered by both men and women, and includes a chapter on the ways in which men have been and continue to be discriminated against becuase of their gender.

Everyday Sexism girls chapterSince starting to read the book last week, I’ve felt compelled to revisit it every evening, and without fail with each page leaves me stunned at how sexism has become so normalised that it doesn’t even make me flinch. Being shouted at from passing cars shouldn’t happen, being groped in clubs shouldn’t happen, and yet it does. Reading Everyday Sexism proves that in abundance and it’s galvanised my feelings that this normalisation isn’t ok.

The chapter that resonated with me the most was ‘Girls’ – the accounts of teens and pre-teens discussing the career paths they didn’t think they could follow becuase ‘they’re for men’ and worse, that their own parents and teachers have dissuaded them from subjects and vocations because of their gender. This is mirrored in the ‘Young Women Learning’ chapter, which also includes stories of sexual harassment (and worse) experienced by university students.

Just like Caitlin Moran’s semi-autobiographical How to Be a Woman, this book needs to read and shared and bought for friends and family, men and women. This isn’t fiction. This is a real account of the prejudiced attitudes girls and women are confronted with every day.

Have you heard of the Everyday Sexism project? And is this book on your reading list? Let me know in the comments below.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates, available to buy online and in all good bookshops for £12.99 from today.

Everyday Sexism vital statistics

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San Francisco: Biking, Bridges and Blouses

Posing in front of the Golden Gate BridgeIt’s time for another San Francisco post! This time the backdrop for my posing shenanigans was the infamous Golden Gate Bridge – one of the most iconic man-made structures in the world.

On day four of our week-long holiday, we decided to see the bridge like true tourists – by bike. We took a bus from our apartment into the city and walked along the Embarcadero in the scorching hot sun until we reached Blazing Saddles, the bike rental company our guidebook had recommended. For around $40 each, Mr Ship-Shape and I rented hybrid bikes to take us across the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge, which I cannot recommend enough. The route to the bridge takes you around the coastline of the city and the views get better and better.

San Francico Bay It was hard work getting our bikes up the hill near the foot of the bridge, but I’m so pleased we did it, if only because it helped to work off the morning’s breakfast! For the five hour trip, which included a well earned scoop of ice cream and catching a ferry back from the port in Sausalito, I picked my favourite new purchase – this mustard polka dot blouse, complete with dinky gold buttons and a huge sailor collar.

I found it a couple of months ago at the Bristol Vintage Fair and, judging by the billowing sleeves and oversized colour, I think it’s either late 80s or early 90s. I couldn’t wait to bring it along to San Francisco with me, as sometimes it can be easer to road-test a new look or outfit on holiday, don’t you think?

Mustard blouse – vintage / ‘Boyfriend’ shorts – c/o New Look, Cabot Circus / Paisley scarf – vintage / White plimsoles – c/o Toast / Sunglasses – Primark

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco.jpgPosing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.jpgBiking around San Francisco.jpgMustard polka dots and sailor collars.jpgGolden Gate Bridge turretManicured nails and sailor blouse

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I Don’t Get It: Scented Candles

Yankee Candle image by Helen.jpgA recent #lblogger Twitter chat inspired me to publish this post, which has been sat languishing in a drafts folder for months now, and it’s a little different from my usual posts, so bear with me…

As a blogger, particularly one of the ‘FBL’ variety, there are certain cliches that you and I probably fall foul of: spending hours in Zara, having at least one pastel-perfect photo of a macaroon on your Instagram feed, using hashtags to punctuate your make-up routine… do any of these things ring a bell?

I’m all for a spree in Zara, and I’m working on adding some macaroons to my Insta feed, but there is one trend I just can’t get on board with, and that’s scented candles, or more specifically, Yankee Candles.

From Christmas and birthday wishlist posts to monthly favourites videos on YouTube, Yankee Candles have been cropping up on my reading list every week for months. Before I’m banished from the blogging kingdom (when I use words like ‘kingdom’ you can bet I’ve been listening to too much Disney), hear me out. First up, let’s start with the names; ‘Fluffy Towels’, ‘Walk Along The Bay’, ‘A Child’s Wish’… what kind of ludicrous titles are these? And don’t get me started on the aesthetics – dated illustrations stuck across the front of a glass jar that would be better suited to cookies than candles, and this level of ugly doesn’t come cheap.

During the Bristol Blog Meet at the start of the year I decided to check out the Yankee Candle shop in Cabot Circus to see if I was wrong, and that all the blogger hype I’d noticed was actually worth it. Lily and Louisa were entertained by my rants but a tour of the shop did nothing to persuade me to part with my cash. Most of the smells were overly artificial, and any that I didn’t completely dislike had utterly ridiculous names. Don’t get me wrong, I like burning candles as much as the next girl, but I just don’t see the obsession with Yankee Candles.

That’s enough ranting from me, now it’s over to you – am I the only blogger out there that doesn’t feel the Yankee Candle love?

Image by Helen

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