Saturday, 23 September 2017

night time, my time

How we look back at the fashions of an era is principally defined by its nightlife. From the tassled flapper dresses of the ‘20s to the sportswear of ‘90s ravers, what we wear after dark shapes the way we are perceived. It tracks the social change of the 20th century, where, in the 1920s, nightlife was democratised by shorter hemlines and the little black dress. Low lit jazz bars were filled with flappers clasping onto cigarette holders and embracing the freedoms of first wave feminism. The 1960s saw the invention of nightlife as we know it today. The sexual revolution caused hemlines to rise even higher and psychedelic prints ruled as hallucinogenic substances bled into the mainstream. As we move forward to the end of the century, rave culture reigned supreme and it was saturated with sports jackets and rainbow colours. From the ‘60s onwards, nightlife has become more diverse and vital than ever, but with more than half of London’s clubs closing in the past five years where does this place the cultural landmark that is Britain’s clubbing scene? One that is critically important to the nation’s fashion history.

In the ‘70s and ‘80s subcultures gained definition as London saw a rise of eccentric dress codes in now iconic, but largely closed down, venues. Nightclubs like Madame Jojo’s and club nights like Kinky Gerlinky combined daring fashion with music, and provided a haven for kooky outsiders. Madame Jojo’s hosted gigs from Lorde and The xx, whilst Kinky Gerlinky was a favourite haunt of young Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell in the ‘90s. Both have since closed, leaving a gaping hole in London’s nightlife.

Molly Goddard’s Spring 2017 show took place just weeks after the announcement of the closure of Fabric. Against this context, the upbeat collection took on an added poignancy. Goddard is leading the charge celebrating British youth culture and this collection was an ode to the disenfranchised youth of London, following the summer of Brexit. The show was set to the backdrop of a rave, with disco music, spotlights and a bright abundance of neon. Though Fabric has since reopened, its reopening is not representative of the current attitude towards nightlife in the UK. Many of the capital’s most diverse and creative venues have been redeveloped, meaning that it might not be long before runways are the only places we see avant garde style paired with partying.

High fashion and nightlife trends do not always go hand in hand. Runway designs are more suited to the red carpet than sweaty warehouse raves, but the trickle-down effect from the runways is increasingly interchangeable as more and more designers take inspiration from street style. Partywear electrified the runway yet again in the Fall 2017 collections. Adam Selman sent glittering lurex pieces perfect for a disco shimmying down the runway. Anthony Vacarello followed suit with his second collection for Saint Laurent which injected sex appeal into clothes worth dancing ‘til dawn in. Other designers took on a similar approach: Carmen March, Lanvin, Alexandre Vaulthier and Area used velvet, leather and glitter to represent the sensuality of night time.

Today, subcultures have diffused and most people are willing to dip their toes into a myriad of club nights. However, they are still at their most defined after hours and we continue to define them by their dress code. We navigate the bathrooms and smoking areas of clubs, either feeling at home or horrifically out of place. Nightlife is not immune to fashion’s obsession with reworked vintage. Today, young clubbers are clinging onto the back of ‘90s rave culture with a resurgence of sports jackets, trainers and serotonin. You can still spot smaller subcultures sporting mohawks and capes, dressed head to toe in black. Whereas pop princesses head into the night looking as though they have bathed in glitter. The night allows you to be a chameleon, flitting from one persona to the next.

Gentrification has a lot to answer for for the demise of London clubs. Rising prices are making some venues seem more and more elite. Nightlife should create an inclusive space for the kooks and the creatives. The right nightclub makes everyone feel like an insider. This is why the LGBT clubbing scene is so vital. The night is a time to celebrate youth and individuality, and to drunkenly compliment strangers’ outfits. It offers a level of sartorial freedom that the day is devoid of; allowing a creativity that fashion thrives off. Each era and subculture has its own uniform, but generally the rules are that there are no rules. We should not be treating clubs as disposable. Today, the UK is still clinging onto a diverse and active nightlife, but for this to continue it is essential that we do not take nightlife for granted.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

why i support body neutrality

(originally published on babe)

Loving yourself can be hard. We are all constantly learning how to love ourselves and our bodies and the widespread body positivity movement preaches the nth degree of that journey – unconditional self-love. It’s a lovely message, but it is not always possible. Everyone has bad days, days where we feel ugly, or when we look in the mirror and think unkind things about our bodies.

Body positivity may have come from a place of goodness, but in reality it puts a huge amount of pressure on us to love our bodies and at times, it can feel as though it is trying to guilt us for not loving our body 24/7. For people who suffer from body dysmorphia and the eating disorders that can come along with it, it is difficult to always love your body. Body neutrality can be a stepping stone to body positivity – and sometimes that neutrality itself is enough.
Loving your body still assumes that you should spend a lot of time thinking about your body, particularly in relation to what it looks like. The media scrutinises women’s bodies so much. Why should we have to scrutinise our own? They’re just bodies. There is no need to love or hate your body. How about being neutral towards it instead? The purpose of our body is to protect our organs and keep us alive. Your body is not a machine, nor is it a temple. It is a body. Appreciate it and nourish it. Don’t let it limit you.

Love what your body can do. It can keep you alive. It can run. It can feel. The basis of body neutrality is that we should not care what it looks like. Of course, this is easier said than done. Not caring what your body looks like is just as difficult as loving it for many.
Body neutrality is a form of self-care. It is about recognising that there will be days when you don’t love your body, but instead of viewing that as a negative that leads you into a spiral of self-hate, acknowledge how you are feeling and just let it go. Young women are constantly objectified. Recognise that you are so much more than your body.

Body neutrality doesn’t make for such cute Instagram posts, but it is just as important as the body posi movement. If body neutrality was turned into an image, it would be you just living your life; drinking at parties, eating pizza with friends and not thinking about your body.
Thin women do not face the same discrimination that larger women face. However, the body positivity movement often excludes them. This can be particularly damaging to women with eating disorders, when it is especially hard to love your body.
The most useful thing about the body positivity movement is how it calls out unfair representation of women’s bodies. Now, however, the same companies that have been called out are trying to reappropriate the movement for profit. Remember Zara’s “Love your curves” poster?The body positivity movement has become so mainstream and commodified that, in many ways, it has lost its true meaning.

It has become focused on cis white women, many of whom fit society’s beauty standards already. We cannot let the companies that the movement was started in order to combat sell us a whitewashed, thin version of body positivity. It is time to start a new movement, focused on moving away from the scrutiny of women’s bodies.
Body positivity subscribes to an individualism that can be harmful to a movement. Individual self-esteem is important, but that alone does not change society. Women of all sizes need to unite against society’s obsession with criticising women’s bodies and trying to fit us into a narrow confine of conventional beauty standards.
Of course there are issues with body neutrality as well. In theory, it is a wonderful idea, but as long as people still feel the need to comment on women’s bodies, be it via Instagram comments or the Daily Mail, we cannot completely escape this obsession with body shape. When someone is actually telling you that you are too fat or too thin, it is incredibly difficult not to take it to heart.
From a body neutrality perspective, the best way to respond to comments about your body is to just keep on living your life and show that you can be awesome no matter what your body looks like.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

my writing process

I start my final year of uni in one week. The realisation that I only have eight months of education left has snuck up on me quickly.

I have been thinking a lot about how I am going to move forward in life with no educational authority telling me where I need to be and when. Of course, uni is way more relaxed than school, and it requires a great deal of self-motivation, but next June will still be the first time in 17 years that I haven't had lessons/lectures to attend.

I recently wrote about how to plan your days when you have anxiety because it was something I had been struggling with on days where I had nothing to do over summer. Like that post, I am writing this to help me make sense of life outside of education.

I have written creatively through some medium or other pretty much since I learnt the alphabet and how to use a pen, but I have never dissected my process. Teachers will show you model essay answers and spend hours pulling apart mark schemes. Tutors will tell you to attend lectures on how to write a first-class essay.

Each week for creative writing we were given different prompts and techniques to try out. Some of these worked. Some of them felt stilted and uncreative. I’m not studying creative writing this year, so it is down to me to find my own prompts and inspirations.

For me, one of the most important things is to strike the right balance between the romantic notion of being A Writer, and actually getting work done. This list is not conclusive and has taken a decade of trial and error, but I enjoy reading about the way other people work, so here's what I do: 

Make notes 

This one is obvious. Few people have the imagination to sit down and write piece after piece without referring back to something. I make notes in my journal and on my phone, depending on the situation.

If I ever lost my phone, the thing I would be most sad about losing are my notes. I have so many half-formed poems, snapshot descriptions and drunken epiphanies written in there. I use them as prompts and take phrases directly from them.

My journal tends to be a little more cohesive. I write about specific events that have happened and I write all my strongest thoughts and feelings in there. No one reads it, but it forms a large part of my writing in general, especially my poetry. 

Research as you go

With uni essay writing, I spend hours researching before I sit down to write any of the actual essay. However, with articles and fiction, I am lazier. However, this does have its perks.

If I read something similar to what I am writing then it can end up shaping my writing and then the piece doesn't feel like mine anymore. Avoiding research until you need to forces you to draw from information you already know. You can also fact check when you are redrafting. It also avoids comparing your work to others and can lead to more unique work overall.

Free writing

When I start writing I try to get as many ideas on the page as possible. I don't believe that quality over quantity applies to first drafts. This works under the same principle as drawing from notes you have already made. At the end of this part of the process, you have a lot to work with. You then only have to go through and pick the best bits, and get rid of the parts that don't work.

Free writing is particularly useful for writing poetry. Write down any and every image that comes to mind then give it a rhythm. Redraft by removing unnecessary words.

Write or die

If I am trying to free write but keep getting distracted, I sometimes use Write or Die. If you select the Kamikaze setting then your words will start to be deleted if you stop writing.

You can set a word target and you must keep writing until you meet the target. I usually do it in 100-word bursts so that I don't waffle too much. 

Be a poser sometimes

I have adopted this one recently, as I have taken up the task of rewriting the novel I wrote as a teenager. When I have really bad writer's block, I dress in black, make a cup of coffee and go outside for a cigarette because that seems like the sort of thing a writer would do. Then feel like I have to write because otherwise I'm just acting like a pretentious cliche for no reason.