Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Hot Pink by The Pool and a Swimwear Giveaway

Welcome to the village pool in Alet! This wonderful retro looking swimming pool is set at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains and filled with natural spring water. I especially love coming to this pool because swimming in fresh spring water feels like swimming in silk. I like the whitewashed changing rooms and diving boards with their cheerful bright blue railings.  Behind you can see the surrounding mountainside covered in thick green forest.  If you look underneath the diving boards along the pool edge, you will also see the little terracotta pink diving blocks lined up for anyone who is feeling energetic enough for a swimming race.

In light of my previous post on bikinis, body image and age, I thought I'd try to encourage more people into skimpy swimwear! So as a way of thanking my wonderful readers, I am hosting a giveaway here for the nice people at Simply Beach, who are offering a £50 gift voucher to Taxonomy of Wardrobe readers to spend at their online shop.  Fret not if you are based in the United States - they ship to the US as well!

Be sure to check out the Simply Beach website.  They carry an impressive number of swimwear brands all year round so regardless of the time of year your beach holiday requirements can be met. There are styles catering for all body types with a plus size section.  They even feature some mastectomy swimwear.  An added bonus - they currently have a sale on with up to 50% off swimwear!

If swimwear is not on your shopping list then you can choose to spend your winnings on the wonderful selection of lingerie instead.  Failing that perhaps you could get a little something for the man in your life and there are even swimwear ranges for girls and boys.  For news and updates you can follow Simply Beach on twitter at @simplybeach and they are on Facebook too.

If you are a follower of this blog all you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post.  If you retweet this post I'll stick an extra entry in for you, make sure you add @simplybeach and @taxnomywardrobe (Note the unusual letter limited spelling!) in there somewhere so we can trace it.  To follow there is the usual Google Friend Connect on my sidebar, but if you do so via Bloglovin' then please let me know in your comment.

You have until Saturday midnight to enter and the winner will be announced on Sunday when I'll pull names out of a hat.

Bikini: DVF; Hat: Borrowed.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Leopard D&G Bikini

Watch out Fashion Police, there's a forty year old woman in a string bikini on the loose! Recently the British newspaper the Telegraph ran a couple of articles declaring seven out of ten British people think that women over the age of thirty nine should stop wearing bikinis.  To add insult to injury there was a follow up article by journalist Judith Woods shrilly declaring that there should be a dress code and systematic fashion policing for the beach and asking women to "cover up that yard of lard".  Charming!  I can just hear those Fashion Police sirens coming for me right now.

Luckily, I've been holidaying in Spain and France where I've had the more pleasant and liberal company of European women of all ages, shapes and sizes, happily wearing bikinis of every description.  Never mind past thirty nine, there were bikini clad women well into their fifties and sixties, some of whom were clearly grandmothers, wrinkly knees and all, enjoying a relaxing day out at the beach with the entire family.

Recently there was a heated debate about bloggers and body image and the lack of diversity in top tier blogs over at IFB.  While the focus was mainly on the lack of visibility of different races and curvy bloggers in the top tier fashion blogs, it has always been clear (at least to me) that there were no older bloggers either.  And I am not talking about bloggers who are in their early thirties as "older".

In light of the IFB post, I wanted how to highlight how mainstream media works to exacerbate the invisibility of older women in society.  So much so that the IFB post didn't even mention the lack of representation of plus forty bloggers as an issue (I guess we're all presumed dead by then!).  If widely read newspapers are printing statistics and articles such as those in the Telegraph you can quickly see why thirty nine becomes a dirty word for any woman, an arbritrary cut off by which your body is deemed unacceptable to be shown in public, a use by date past which you should be obliged to make yourself invisible for the good of society.  It's hardly surprising that the public image of older women is not often supported in the media, let alone in the supposedly more diverse blogosphere.

With regards to the Telegraph article, I'm not sure why unsightly scars and "yards of lard" are specifically singled out by the journalist as characteristics of the over thirty-nine that require coverage, or as only applying to bits of our bodies that would be covered by a one piece bathing suit.  I'm sure such exclusion from bikini wearing on these physical attributes alone would be equally demeaning to plenty of women under thirty nine who are not slim, or who have cellulite or scars.  Woods tries to qualify that bikini's can look great on curvy bodies, but where does the definition of curvy end and "yards of lard" begin?  This is also quite an arbritrary line between acceptable and downright insulting.

Woods also purports that the guilty must have sarongs (and thus dignity) thrust upon them  - implying that even a one piece bathing suit just doesn't go far enough to hide us from public view in her books.  She might as well just say to us "get thee to a bhurkini".

What if I wish to swim?  Am I to wear the sarong into the sea to spare the public the view of my aged legs on route to the shore?  And why shouldn't I sunbathe on my terms if I feel like it?  I don't like wearing one pieces.  Ever seen your man with a tee shirt tan and had a giggle?  Well a one-sie tan is the female equivalent of the male tee shirt tan for me.  I prefer my tan all over and all I need between me and the sun is generous lashings of sun protection factor and a bikini.  And speaking of men - when does anyone impose dress codes on their beer bellies at the beach, or demand those past a certain age to wear this or that type of swimming trunks?

Quite frankly each to their own.  Fashion policing and an imposed dress code on the beach removes all the beauty of being on the beach in the first place.  What a horrific idea!  This is the one place where everyone should be free to leave all their body issues behind.  If anything it's the body fascists that we should keep off the beaches with their judgemental sneering and let everybody else get on with enjoying their holiday.

On a previous post on this blog about beachwear I said the following:
"at the beach at least one can shrug off any preconceptions of what age appropriate clothing is. All are welcome here and there is only so much variation on the theme of what we can wear swimming and sunbathing, whatever our age.  That's why I love the coast so much.  The beach is a great levelling plain on fashion, age and body image related matters."
I still stand by that belief.  No rules at the beach please, leave that kind of rubbish for Ascot.

Contrary to what the Telegraph article claims I don't think that more collagen necessarily equals more confidence to pull off a bikini.  Up until my late teens and early twenties I was too scared to wear a bikini precisely because I had zero body confidence.  As someone who spent their early to late teens being told by the media that Kate Moss and heroin chic were the body types to aspire it's hardly surprising.  The only time in my life when it would have been "acceptable" to wear a bikini in public was spent hiding myself away under baggy tees and dowdy one piece bathing suits at the beach lest anyone saw the imperfections beneath.  I'm sure there remain many young women today who have been fed a diet of size zero models and celebrities suffering similar reservations about wearing a bikini.

It was actually only after reading a particular self help book about body insecurities that I let all that angst go.  The author implored anyone who thought they were somehow abnormal for having a less than perfect body to go to a beach or pool and take a look at everybody else around them.  Not as an exercise to laugh, or judge, or point score against others, but as an exercise to aid self acceptance.  To help realise that the human body comes in all shapes, sizes and ages, that scars are just scars, that ageing is a natural and inevitable process, that we all live in a reality that is a million miles away from the airbrushed world of media and advertising that we are routinely brainwashed as being perfection, and that it is okay, that your own body is just fine the way it is.

Since then the beach for me has always been a place of liberation, somewhere to let go of all those concerns about your body's flaws.  As many an older woman knows, with age comes more confidence in your own skin because you've gained the wisdom that you shouldn't live your life worrying about what other people think.  Older women don't need saving from themselves by having style rules imposed on them or any such rot, just less of this sort of tiresome body image bashing articles and a bit of respect for what we know now about ourselves that we didn't know when we were younger.  If I knew what I know now at the age of nineteen I'd have burnt my one piece bathing suit and gone skinny dipping instead.

I'm not a size zero, I don't have a six pack stomach or twiglet thighs and I have the collagen depletion, broken veins, stretch marks and cellulite that comes with getting older.  But I'm sure as hell not going to feel bad about going to the beach in a bikini because of that.  No amount of lard or scars I accumulate through the coming years is going to make me don a bathing suit or conform to someone else's idea of what I should wear on a beach.

Do I want feel sweat building up under the lycra around my middle rather than direct sunshine on my skin?  No thanks.  Do I want to deny myself the sensual pleasure of cold seawater hitting my belly when I plunge beneath the waves.  To what purpose?  To make some body and age fascist's life a little less unpleasant by hiding my offending bits from him or her?  No thanks.  The Brits could do themselves a favour, stop tutting at each other and take a few pages out of the more relaxed and inclusive attitude to the seaside and ageing in Spain and France.  These remain countries where grandchildren and youngsters can go to the beach seeing what old age really looks like, thereby learning to accept it instead of turning it into a taboo.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm off for another bikini-clad dip and to the likes of Judith Woods who take issue with that - you can kiss my yard of lardy ass for all I care.

This post is part of Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style.

Bikini: D&G

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Links à la Mode

My post on Summer Whites made this week's Links à la Mode! Many thanks to the lovely Emily of Sugar & Spice for selecting it.  Do check out the other posts in this week's round up.

Size Matters

Edited by: Emily of Sugar & Spice
Well, IFB have certainly started something: a debate on the internetz about size and how it matters – or not – in blogging and, more importantly, whether it should matter. This week’s post reflect this discussion and put forward some compelling and eloquently written arguments. Make sure to read and digest these posts and hopefully come back next week with your own responses and contributions? Here in the UK it’s nearly the last Bank Holiday weekend of the summer which can only mean one thing: Autumn’s around the corner – and the IFB Conference. Clearly a lot of this week’s bloggers have next season on their mind as they have been writing about their favourite trends for the new season. And if you’re attending the IFBCon next month, make sure to check out the packing guides below:


Sponsor: New Dresses at Shopbop Milly, Rodriguez, Theyskens, Deane, tba, Malandrino, Issa, Rachel Roy, ALC, Herve Leger & James Perse

If you would like to submit your link for next week’s Links à la Mode, please register first, then post your links HERE. The HTML code for this week will be found in the Links a la Mode widget on the right side of the blog, and will be published later today. ~ Jennine

Friday, 24 August 2012

Market Day

I could clearly do with ironing a bit more while I'm on holiday, but then I'm usually too busy enjoying being on holiday to worry about things like that, so pardon my slovenly appearance. I am and always have been a big fan of the peasant blouse, especially ones made in a romantic fabric like broderie anglaise.  Since my late teens I've always worn a version of this combination of peasant blouse and gypsy skirt during the summer, with scant regard for whether it happens to be in fashion or not.

Way back then, as a young woman growing up in suburbia, period dress had a kind of romance that was largely absent from my surroundings.  My like-minded friends and I embraced dressing in clothes from eras gone by in an attempt to be different and to inject some sartorial poetry into our otherwise pedestrian lives.  In the fanciful imagination of my youth I felt I should have been born a couple of centuries earlier so I could wrestle with corsets and cocoon my limbs in long voluminous petticoats and billowing sleeves.  Clothes hunting would often involve looking for something to fulfil that yearning.

One favourite outfit was a long full skirt with a drawstring waist and a matching peasant blouse with a drawstring neck, both fashioned from an intricate white embroidered cotton eyelet which I bought from an Australian market as a hard up student.  It was made in India, very pretty, yet inexpensive and it made me feel like a carefree gypsy girl in some romantic adventure story in my head rather than an ordinary suburb dweller.  The drawstrings had little dark metal bells on the end, which tinkled when I walked and I wore the outfit so much that my fellow students in my University course began to associate the sound of them as announcing my arrival.

Maybe it was because my own grandmother used to sell fruit and tobacco at a market, but I also adore markets.  So it seems apt that through a market purchase that I discovered my fashion DNA.   I would wear my white skirt and blouse to the urban markets, all the while pretending that I was off to a medieval market instead.  I would hunt through the racks of cheap Indian imported clothing for the next boho gypsy skirt and billowing peasant blouse my student budget could afford and wonder what a real market would be like to visit.

Of course one grows up, grows out of one's old clothes, one starts to expand and experiment with style.  In my case one I also ended up travelling to see some "real" markets in far flung destinations.  They were not all that different to the ones at home.  Although the language spoken may be different there are usually food stalls, fresh produce, buskers, artisan products and racks of cheap and second hand clothing to rifle through for bargains.  However I do find that the atmosphere in each market is always unique.

So let's take a trip to one of my favourite markets, the Sunday market in Esperaza.  Esperaza is a medieval village in the Languedoc region of France and its Sunday market is very popular and always very busy with people shopping for food.

Esperaza has some of the most amazing fresh fruit and vegetables.  There is an amazing selection of French cheeses and preserved meats.  Apart from cured pork sausages you can find boar, venison and duck sausages as well.

There are stalls selling fragrant aromatic soaps.  I love the ones scented with lavender, lemon verbena, rose or rosemary.  There are macaroons available by the bucket loads.  And my favourite stall is the honey lady's.  She sells several types of home made honey, including from rosemary, lavender, acacia and chestnut flowers, as well as honey soaps, wax candles, and jars of golden pollen granules and honey flavoured boiled sweets.

The one essential thing you have to do here after you've done all your shopping is to have a couple of big cups of cafe au lait at the Cafe du Pont.

You usually have to wait for a table but it's worth it just to sit back with a coffee and soak up the atmosphere of the market and watch the people go by.  There are a fair few characters that frequent the bar, some of the locals are quite colourful personalities, and a few of the truckies and bikies get their caffeine fix here after a day at the market.

As you can see I hang out with some other photography enthusiasts!

And I just had to get a photo of this little guy!

So the moral to this story, if there is one, is that I grew up and ended up visiting a medieval market and found it wasn't so different from the markets I first knew.  I also traded in the Indian gypsy boho outfit of my youth for a more grown up version.  Although the fabric of my style has evolved in the intervening years there are certain threads of it like this that, although the surrounding embellishment may change a little, will always remain the same.  Essential threads of my personal style that feel very much a part of who I am rather than just a passing trend or a look.

Over to you! Share the threads of your style DNA in the comments!

Skirt: Chine; Top: Marc by Marc Jacobs; Sandals: Zara; Bag: Michael by Michael Kors

Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Ghosts of Owners Past

These strangely ghostly apparitions were the fruits of my rummaging through the village Vide Grenier in the South of France.  A couple of unusual and very pretty vintage pieces to add to my collection of summer whites, both of which are fashioned in a heavy cotton linen mix jacquard. The stall owner I bought them from believed them to be from the nineteen fifties.

I'm not sure if any other vintage lovers ever wonder briefly on the lives of the people who wore their new preloved purchases before them, but I always do. I let my imagination conjure up a previous owner, in this case an elegant French village woman who took pride in her appearance, treasured her clothing and who took great care to keep her garments pristine and in perfect condition.  Despite their age there is not a single stain on either of these pieces.  There are no tears, nicks or pulled threads, nor is there any yellowing of the fabric as is so often the case with whites.  Like a phantom still inhabiting her clothing, you could almost imagine that she is there in the room, with her dignified form proudly illuminating the cavities where her body once was, rather than the sunlight that now streams through them.

I tried the jacket on which is a very close, cropped fit on me and flares gently out at the hem.  Left unbuttoned it looks fresh and modern.  The stall owner declared I was "impeccable" and an image of the "impeccable" Frenchwoman, perfectly turned out and with exquisite taste in clothing, came to mind.

There has been a resurgence in fashion lately of the use of jacquard so it was quite exciting to find some vintage versions.  I love textural effects in fabric and tend to gravitate towards clothes made from cloth with an interesting texture or finish.  Below is a close up to show in more detail the variegated woven pattern of the fabric.  The jacket has raised diamonds and leaves while the skirt is covered in a tessellation of raised diamonds grouped within diamonds.

The voluminous bell shaped skirt was actually once a petticoat and fastens with stays that tie at the back.  I think it is far too lovely to stay as an undergarment and I have plans to wear it as outerwear.  When I tried it on Mr V helpfully said I looked like a milkmaid in it!  Men!  I bought it anyway and am happy to say, when showing what I'd bought to our friends later, that it got the seal of approval from my similiarly-minded, vintage-hunting girlfriend who, as I did on first seeing it, immediately appreciated its romance!

Cotton linen mix jacket and petticoat: Vintage
Print skirt: Mango; Lace T shirt: Zara

Friday, 17 August 2012

Vide Grenier

While we were in South of France we had the opportunity to join in the local Vide Grenier.  Sounds so much more exotic than "Garage Sale" or "Car Boot Sale" non? Grenier would have referred to the granary in old European houses where grain was once stored.  In modern times has become the attic or loft where most people end up storing their old stuff rather than wheat.

The local village car park was cleared for numerous stalls where people could sell their old unwanted goods all afternoon.  To help things along the locals set up a large barbecue and there were plenty of refreshments on sale - beer, wine and some very tasty pork sandwiches.  Several locals turned up hoping to exchange trash for cash, however there were also some professional vintage goods sellers with an eclectic selection of vintage goodies.

For such a small number of stalls there was an amazing variety of weird and wonderful bric a brac and quaint knicks and knacks that would no doubt have sent some of my vintage and car boot sale loving blogging friends into a feeding frenzy.  Happily for my wallet I was held back from a major shopping spree by Ryanair's measly fifteen kilo weight limit on our suitcase.

I was sorely tempted by these vintage steel shoe inserts nestled amongst the knives, clocks and teapots. The stall owner had also managed to collect an impressive array of antique lemonade bottles, old hand written love letters, antiquated mathematical instruments like slide rules and set squares, exquisite blue glass Hermes perfume bottles, old chemistry sets and those freaky doll heads which we used to style the hair and makeup on when we were kids. Does anyone remember those? I had a Barbie one!

Other things on offer included collectibles such as this adorable vintage toy car, an old metal coffee grinder, old bar stools and an original spinning wheel.

But it was in this rack of starched white vintage clothing that I found a couple of real beauties that did end up coming home with me.  Details in next post!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Laundry Day

From Spain to July we spent a few days with friends in a small medieval village called Alet les Bains in the Langue D'Oc region of France for Mr V's fortieth birthday celebrations. It's a tiny village situated on the River Aude which is charged with icy cold melt water from the surrounding Pyrenees. The water was so cold in fact that I didn't dare wade in it!  Though my English friend was clearly made of sturdier stuff...

As is so often the case in ancient times people settled by a river to use it both as a source of water and a sink into which they could dump their waste. Here the lack of population throughout the ages means the river is still clean enough to swim in without the health concerns that plague water bodies in more urban environments. These days it's easy to take clean water for granted and forget that often the source is still rivers like these and their fragile environments.

Have you ever done your laundry in a river?  This is where people would have washed their clothing in the days before washing machines.  I try to imagine the first women who settled here in the medieval ages coming down to the river side, perhaps using these large flat stones exposed near the banks to scrub their dirty clothing and linen clean. It has a certain romance to it but I'm sure it was pretty hard graft! That surely would have been motivation enough to keep your wardrobe down to a bare minimum.  If I try to imagine getting through the laundry loads I typically generate by the river water and river stone method, I expect I would be here for all eternity!

As time went by the villagers here were able to upgrade their laundry facilities.  Alet les Bains is named as such because it enjoys an alternative source of water to the Aude - natural springs provide a constant supply of spring water which the villagers use as drinking water, to fill the village pool and even to wash their clothes in.

This building below was the village laundry house where villagers would come to do their laundry in a reservoir of cool mountain spring water.  Can you imagine having your clothes washed in spring water?

And here you see they built two rows of stone plinths with flat surfaces to provide an alternative scrubbing surface to riverside stones and to accommodate numerous people.  Mr V believes it to have been built in the nineteenth century.  Compared to the laundry facilities available to us today it seems quaint and primitive, but it must have once seemed like a big step up from having to go down to the river side and find a suitable rock.  You can also imagine the echos bouncing off the walls of village chatter, gossip and laughter of women doing their laundry together (and lets not kid ourselves, it would have been the women).

The laundry house is no longer in use of course. In these days of electric washing machines it is nothing but a curiosity for the tourists, doubling perhaps as a paddling pool for those seeking relief from the mid-day heat and also as a drinking pool for some dazzling black and yellow dragonflies.

Performing a mental comparison of what my laundry day might have been like in days gone by with today by really hit home when I considered the volume of clothing we can now process in far less time.  In a perverse way the trajectory of technological development has enabled us to consume, accumulate and wear clothing in a way that would have been inconceivable to our predecessors, as the time we have to invest washing and drying it on laundry days is a fraction of what they would have spent. 

Although the cost in time to us may be low the cost to the environment is undoubtedly hefty.  I try to do my bit, I use eco-friendly washing products, I always wash on a full load and use cold to warm water rather than hot, I hang dry rather than tumble dry and I limit my dry cleaning to when absolutely necessary.  But after mentally extrapolating what laundering my entire wardrobe would involve and digesting the resulting guilt, I think that I just really need to bite the bullet and cut back on consumption.  Something is wrong if I own more clothes than I can reasonably launder in a reasonable amount of time.

I do love clothes, but though I don't usually discuss it, I do also think about what effects my consumption, use and disposal of them might have on the world at large, and lately I've been giving it more thought.  I'm not sure yet what the end result of the thought process will be but I may well be assigning myself a few wardrobe challenges in the near future.  Suggestions welcome!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Summer Whites

Whitewashed walls blistering in the blind heat of day
Weathered paint peeling revealing aged plaster
Sea foam and beach sand shining white
Tungsten filaments burning bright
Silent streets bathed in the soft glow of lanterns
The full moon a bright pearl in a cloudless sky
Crisp cottons sun bleached and starched stiff
The fine texture of the lightest of linens
Delicate lace trims and broderie anglaise
Soft folds of cheesecloth and whisper thin muslin
Freshly laundered sheets billowing in the late afternoon breeze
Lace curtains drawn across windows at night
What do you think of when you think of white?

This post is part of Visible Monday at Not Yet Dead Style
Everybody Everywhere

White dress with frills and drawstring: very old Topshop; White jacket with lace trim: very old Warehouse; White Broderie Anglaise halterneck top: very old Warehouse; White maxi-skirt with godets: Chine; Sandals with white gems: Zara


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