What I might wear…

…if I were a Gryffindor student.

Lately I’ve been really getting back into Harry Potter fandom, and one of the things I like to do is plan outfits around the different houses in Hogwarts. Gryffindor’s colours are obviously red and gold, and I tried to pull together a few pieces a student might conceivably wear (under their robes, of course!). I tried to avoid the TOO obvious choices (although I couldn’t resist some lion head earrings!), and rather than going for a bright red, I chose more burgundy shades.

Let me know what you think!

groutfit

 

 

 

Oh, for anyone wondering, when I do these types of posts, I mostly look at brands I would find accessible – so UK based shops, for the most part. If I ever get a little bit less lazy, I’ll try to broaden my approach!

What would you wear, if you were a Gryffindor?

What I might wear…

…if I ever decided to dress a little more masculine.

I actually wish I were able to wear more masculine type of fashion, since it looks so effortlessly cool on so many people, however I find my body shape and personality makes any masculine outfit I put on loose the edge that makes those outfits so much fun. I think my overall look just isn’t badass enough to carry off the simpler shapes of dudes fashion in a way that I like, alas! This is not to say that curvy people can’t look fucking hardcore in a more androgynous style – it just so happens that I know, deep down in my core, I am essentially a soft person who likes cake and afternoon tea and pink things, which, in my case, does not lead to an appearance that makes you swoon at twenty paces (rather, I’ve got that kind of face – y’know, the one you talk to. About everything.)  Although it is a terrible pain to me, deep in my heart, that I’m never going to look like a 50’s greaser on the wrong side of the law, I figured I could at least find an outfit online that might look pretty babely.

if i were a dude

 

So that’s the look I’d probably go for. As you can see, it’s really very simple and tends towards dark/neutral colours.

There seem to be three things that really stop me going for this kind of look, one is the simplicity – I would feel under-dressed and like the outfit I’ve put on doesn’t reflect the thought that’s gone into it, so instead of making a statement, I’m simply throwing on some comfortable clothes. This probably also ties into the fact that a few years ago, I gave up entirely on wearing jeans or trousers, as I could never find any that fit, so my wardrobe has far more skirts and dresses than it does jeans (although since I started a job that has them as part of the uniform, I have gained  a few pairs!), so jeans to me aren’t as natural as they are to some other people. And finally,  I’ve never really examined the style and built up a selection of clothes that really suit it, so unlike my normal fashion, I don’t have a group of clothes I can throw on to make an outfit.

 

If you want a really good example of a hottie in androgynous style, check out Bettie Riot at Manufacturing Hearts, although unfortunately all the photos are gone from her blog (damn you, Google!). She still has some really good posts on being fat and presenting androgynously, which are fascinating and really highlight how shitty the fatshion retailers are at supplying clothes that aren’t frumpy or very femme. It’s something I noticed when browsing sites looking for clothes for this – so many clothes are very feminine, especially when you look at the details (cuts, pockets, decoration, material), so anyone wanting to dress fashionably, but not femininely yet still in clothes that fit properly, is going to have a pretty hard time doing so.

 

 

Review: Three #1

I know, two posts within hours of each other?  What did you do to deserve such a bounty?

Anyway, I’ve just finished reading Three #1, written by Kieron Gillen, art by Ryan Kelly, colours by Jordie Bellaire, lettering by Clayton Cowles, published by Image Comics.

Spoilers ahead! Also trigger warnings for violence, blood and ableism!

THREE.cover

Continue reading

Reading Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle In The Air

Recently I finished a module I’m doing with the Open University, so to reward myself I decided to sit down and reread Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.

I’ve loved HMC for many years – in fact my copy is pretty tatty!  I think it’s beautifully written, very clever, very funny and as downright near to perfect as a book can get. It’s a children’s book, but I honestly think everyone should give this book a chance, it’s the kind of warm-hearted book that leaves you smiling no matter how you initially felt when you picked it up.

I’ve also had the time to reread the sequel, which is called Castle In The Air. This is also a good book – the characters are fantastically observed, and there are some sections that had me chortling out loud.

But.

As I’ve grown older and come to have a deeper understanding of feminism and social justice, I’ve started noticing things in both books that have never occurred to me before.

HMC is told from the perspective of Sophie, the eldest of three daughters and doomed  (so she insists) to failure because of it. The POV Sophie offers on other women can occasionally be tinged with some gender essentialism, but then I think it’s in some ways very cleverly subverted. Perhaps it’s due to the age of the book, but it is striking that it ends with nearly all the women nicely in relationships (with men) and many of them married or planning to be. I don’t think that this reduces the fact that every single woman that we meet through Sophie is strong, well-rounded and individual – it’s a very true reflection of the variety of women that I’ve met in my life, no one reads as false or artificial and Diana Wynne Jones is incredible at observing characters. But still, they ALL had to be in love (all aside from one is motivated in some part by loving a guy)?

 

Still, that doesn’t detract too much from the book, and I still love it as fiercely and passionately as I always have.

 

Castle In The Air is a hint more problematic though. Again, Diana Wynne Jones observes every character beautifully, each person we meet has a distinctive personality and style of their own and the storyline is fun and rolls along well enough.

 

But.

 

Our narrator this time is Abdullah, a carpet merchant whose family is hounding him to take on some wives and finally become respectable. He falls in love with a Sultan’s daughter, Flower In The Night (who’s never seen a man other than her father, is about to be married off to a far-off prince and is, naturally, stunningly beautiful) …yeah. I’m not trying to suggest that DWJ writes in an overtly racist way – there’s no “And isn’t this WEIRD and WRONG, dear reader! How barbaric!” but there’s still a distinct air of exoticism going on. It’s uncomfortable to read, even if it’s not malicious or moralising.

It’s surprising how much this stands out to me – DWJ’s writing is still witty, her characters are compelling, lots of tropes are subverted, the plot rollicks along nicely, but. It’s so clear that DWJ is an outsider to the culture she was writing and it may not snap your suspension of disbelief but it can come very close.

I’d still recommend the book – it’s not quite up there with Howl’s Moving Castle, but it’s a fun return to the universe, and there’s a cast of princesses that I adore. However, as an adult, with a more complete awareness of the issues surrounding exoticism and feminism, I find myself noticing problematic aspects that would never have occurred to me when I was younger.

 

I’m yet to reread House Of Many Ways, the final in the trilogy, but I wonder how I’ll find it? It was written a lot more recently than the other two and I didn’t read it with the childish wonder I first had when I read HMC and CITA. We’ll see! If I enjoy it as much as I did HMC and CITA on this latest reread, then I’ll be very happy I dug it out!

 

Are there any books or films you’ve read lately that have aspects or issues that you’re aware of now you’re older? Does it reduce your enjoyment of them?

She-Hulk was going to pitch woo in WHAT??

Lately I’ve been catching up on the Marvel title FF – the Fantastic Four have gone off adventuring, leaving an interim team of Ant-Man, She-Hulk, Medusa and Darla Deering to look after the Fantastic Four’s HQ and the Future Foundation kids that live there. It is an excellent title, and I recommend it if you want some really cute and fun comics!

In one issue, Jen goes on a date (or to pitch woo, as the moloids put it!) and she turns up wearing this outfit:

ruleofthree

Oh dear! I know this comic has a certain retro kind of style, but that dress and those shoes are the wrong kind of retro!

My issues with the dress:

1) The low-scoop neckline with no sleeves is a very iffy look, for it to work here, I think there needs to be a necklace.

2) It’s too short! A maxi-dress like that shouldn’t end above her ankles, by doing so it cuts her off and makes her look like she can’t shop for herself.

3) Those shoes are so, SO ugly! They’re 90’s in a very bad way. Platforms are ok. Open toe sandals are ok. Bows are iffy but can be ok. All three together? Well, those shoes are NOT ok! Although I love that Jen is the kind of woman who’s like 7’11 and still wears heels.

3) An envelope clutch can work? But not when it doesn’t match anything else.

4) That shawl, whilst matching her nails, shoe-bows and lipstick is just kind of… there. It’s pretty sad.

 

SO rather than JUST complain, I tried to give Jen some different dresses that might suit her better! (Forgive my so-so drawing skills!)

datenight1

1) Still a black maxi-dress, still a split in the front. However, it’s longer and it’s more up-to-date with a chiffon overlay + sleeves. I also chose a pill-shaped gold clutch and gold necklace. I tried to keep the sandal look going, but with t-bars rather than bows…

datenight2

2) Something a little different! She-Hulk always makes me think of purple, so natch her dress had to be a dark purple colour. The top was meant to look a bit like some of the embroidery that’s been popular recently. I thought the cut was a little more mature and suited the stylish lawyer that Jen is during the day. Blue booties, an envelope clutch that isn’t QUITE so out of place, and a big statement bangle are the accessories for this one.

datenight3

3) I don’t know if this isn’t a little too corporate-goth? But I wanted a evening dress that wasn’t black, didn’t have a flowing skirt, and echoed the thigh-high split in the original. So this military, asymetric pencil dress was what I came up with. I hoped the shawl-collar would be reminiscent of the retro style of the comics. Some red ankle boots and a clutch with her new team’s logo on, plus some darker hair and make up finish up this third date outfit 🙂

Uh, and I can’t draw shoes for toffee, but this was fun! Anyone else have any other ideas for what she could have chosen? What might you wear on a date if you were a super-powered lawyer?

Skiving and Whining on the government’s dime

So this post is about unemployment, my experience of it and my little brother’s.

There’s been plenty of talk about the unemployed in the news lately, I wanted to talk a bit about it, but I’ve found it’s really hard to organise my thoughts into anything coherent. So if this post is a little jumbled, do forgive me. I feel very strongly about the subject, and strongly about reactions to it as well!

I guess a little background is useful first of all – I have been what you would call ‘long term unemployed’ (which is a period of unemployment of 27 weeks – even if it’s broken up by short periods of employment). For a year after college I was unemployed until the summer before I left for university, and then after uni, I was unemployed from 2010 until December 2011 when I finally secured a short-term Christmas contract with Sainsbury’s. After that ended at the start of January ’12, I was unemployed for about a month – then I got a job in a call centre, but jacked it in after a month. Unemployed again from April ’12 to May ’12, when I became a ‘Room Attendant’ at a hotel (what a pretty name for a cleaner!) and my contract finished there, so I was unemployed from August ’12 until November ’12 when I finally got a job as a Customer Service Assistant which is the job I still have today.

I know, that’s a pretty boring paragraph, right? But I hope that it highlights – I obviously do know what it’s like to be unemployed, both long and short term. I also know what it’s like to work shitty jobs for even shittier pay. The Room Attendant job? I didn’t even get minimum wage, because unfortunately I was too slow (we were paid by room, not by hour) – whether that was because I actually cleaned the room, or because I’m the slowest snail in the race, I’ll leave up to you.

So I think I’m in a pretty good position when I say – anyone who calls Jobseekers skivers or whiners is a fucking liar, and maybe they should try the soul shattering existence of being a young person looking for a job. I am an incredibly lucky person – I live at home with my parents and we get along really well. I’m allowed to use the family car as suits my whim. I can depend on their support and good will whether or not I’m employed. So even though I am that lucky and I know I am that lucky, I still find searching for a job deeply depressing.

Perhaps it’s living in an area with roughly 10% unemployment – but it is not easy to find a job. Firstly, there has to be something suitable – frequently that’s only cleaning jobs. Secondly, there has to be something worth signing off for – a job that nets me over £50 a week, but without transport  costs – so within walking distance. If it’s further away, it has to be a job where my transport is covered and where I can actually get to (bearing in mind the car is shared between 4 people and public transport is not always reliable). Thirdly, my CV has to somehow stand out against the hundreds of other people going for this job. Fourthly, if  anyone contacts me back and if they want to interview me, I have to have suitable clothes/appearance for an interview. Finally, I have to be better than everyone else they’ve got for interview – when I don’t even know what those other people have as qualifications or experience.

I think the main problem with getting a job, right now at least, is that there are so few worthwhile ones and so many people going for very few positions. Why would you choose someone without experience when you have 20 other people with proven track records? Why would you choose a young person – someone with no guaranteed loyalty to your company when you can choose someone who’s slightly older and more likely to stick around?

For example, in my store, there is an 8-hour a week contract going, the CV’s have come in and we have around 20 people applying for one 8-hour position. These people aren’t even school-kids looking to make a bit of extra cash, they’re young adults looking for a job, not pocket money. A few are still studying – but not as many as you might assume. Many of the CV’s I’ve looked at have experience, they mostly seem pleasant enough, and there are lots that I’d be happy to have in for an interview – but how do you choose between them? Obviously the interview will help, but I’m still glad it’s not up to me to choose.

As it happens, my little brother has put his CV in for consideration. I hope he gets an interview, at least, because I doubt the contract will go to him as I’m already working in the store.

But if he does get an interview, it will be one of very few.

You see, he has slightly less education than I do, and had his first job at age 22 – a delivery job for a local Chinese restaurant (which he had to give up due to insurance issues on the car, ugh). He’s been volunteering for at least three years at a local charity shop, and has progressed within it enough to comfortably say he can act as Assistant Manager when needed. That’s impressive, right? That shows that he’s reliable, trustworthy and hardworking.

And it doesn’t seem to count for shit – no one wants to employ my brother. I cannot figure out why – he has experience, he has references, he’s polite and has a professional demeanour, he has some recent training and is now undertaking even more training. He’s applying for jobs nearly every day – much more faithfully than I did when I was unemployed – his CV is pretty good, he has access to transport, he will work any job you give him.

The only conclusion I can draw – and maybe I’m biased – is that he is incredibly unlucky. Maybe everyone else who applies for the jobs he goes for is super-duper talented, maybe they’ve all the experience in the world, maybe they’re the managers secret lover.

One of the worst things – other than depending on benefits and our parents, other than having very little money, other than being at the whim of the Jobcentre, other than thousands of hours sending out applications and hearing nothing, of hoping and trying and failing, consistently and repeatedly. One of the worst things is that everyone else seems to think someone on JSA is a skiver. Why should we receive benefits when we’re under 25? Shouldn’t we work for free? Shouldn’t we all be treated as liars, thieves, layabouts? Shouldn’t we all acknowledge just how much of a burden we are?

 

whyeeeeeven

 

Yes, of course, the ultimate answer to our unemployment problem! Training! Only – 1 in 10 graduates are unemployed, so I guess that can’t be quite true, right? The Jobcentre doesn’t offer the kind of training that would be useful (what good is a Level 1 qualification in customer service to anyone???), and if your education takes up too much time, your benefits will be docked! Because you’re meant to be looking for a job! And if you can’t get a job without further training – well. Good luck trying to work out Student Finance!

I actually agree to some extent – training and experience are key to getting better jobs – but the Jobcentre doesn’t provide worthwhile training or experience! They have 3 minutes to see you every two weeks, and if you end up on the Work Programme – well, it definitely depends on which provider you end up with. I was with Ingeus, who didn’t provide me with any jobs or training that were worth my time, but they did get the call centre and cleaning job. My little brother was with Avanta – they dragged him in to Newcastle (15 miles away), didn’t give him his travel expenses (he had to go to Ashington? But why couldn’t he go there in the first place?), didn’t give him any training, didn’t even see him once a month and certainly never even managed to score him an interview.

So yeah. Being unemployed is difficult, depressing and leaves you a target for mockery and hate – from the people around you, from the papers and, happily enough, even from the government!

It was bad enough for me, it is bad enough for my brother, but I cannot imagine how hard, stressful and dispiriting it must be to be unemployed, with dependants, and without the support my parents give me.

Does anyone else have any experience with unemployment? Do you agree the unemployed get a hard time from the press and government?