Not picture perfect, but real

LogoOur culture has long bombarded us with unrealistic, unattainable and deeply problematic images of women. Pornography objectifies women and gives men a warped idea of love, sex, and relationship while advertising aimed at women creates poor self-image and leads to unhealthy behaviours including eating disorders. Sadly, social media has followed suit with online lives portraying unrealistic perfection in all walks of life including body image.

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Last week as I sat in my doctor’s waiting room, I picked up a magazine that reminded me of a post I wrote last year about a company that chose to use real women with “imperfect” bodies, women with visible stretch marks and cellulite, as models. The current issue of popular Canadian women’s magazine, Chatelaine, is a swimsuit edition with a difference. Unlike the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, which could legitimately be classified as soft porn, Chatelaine chose to use only unretouched photos of all the women who appeared in the latest issue, including those shown in the swimsuit feature. I admire the seven “Everywoman” models who were willing to be photographed in swimwear knowing that they would appear in print exactly as they really are.

Unfortunately, there are other women who are part of the problem. I realize that many of those who appear in porn are not there by choice. In fact, many of them are the victims of human trafficking, but that’s not true of those, including supermodels and female athletes, who have appeared in Sports Illustrated. When a male athlete appears on the cover, he’s dressed in performance gear, but a female athlete appears scantily clad. Why is that? Simply because, unlike the other issues of the magazine, the Swimsuit Edition isn’t about celebrating sport and it certainly isn’t about honouring women. It’s about making money. Plain and simple. That issue alone accounts for 10% of Sports Illustrated’s overall revenue. One out of every ten dollars comes from people paying to see nearly naked women. Are their bodies beautiful? Of course, they appear to be, but they aren’t genuine. Just like most of what we see in magazines, they’re taken by professional photographers using strategic lighting and filters and then edited to remove every imperfection. That’s why, according to the Dove Project #ShowUs, 70% of women don’t feel represented in the images that they see every day in media and advertising.

I truly appreciate the fashion bloggers that I follow who take their own photos or recruit friends or husbands to act as their photographers and who don’t then retouch the photos before publishing them. I’m committed to doing the same; to being authentic.

So, here are a couple of my own makeup free and totally unretouched swimsuit photos taken at Banff Upper Hot Springs earlier this week on a special outing with our oldest grandson.

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I know I’m pale, but that’s the real me, especially this summer when we’ve had so little sun!

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Too busy for fashion!

LogoI haven’t had much time to think about fashion this week. In fact, I wore the same bright blue t-shirt every morning. It identified me as one of the volunteer staff at Vacation Bible School at our church. Every morning I’ve taken kids from kindergarten to grade 6 on Wild Bible Adventures, telling them the Old Testament Exodus story and teaching them about God’s goodness through interactive, experiential storytelling. I made 24 pounds of playdoh. I created the Red Sea and the Jordan River with sheets of blue plastic and other bits and pieces. I converted the kitchen door into the entrance to Pharoah’s palace and one of the church teens into Pharoah. I scrunched up bits of paper until my hands hurt making hail for the kids to throw at Pharoah. You can bet that they loved that part! It’s been fun and it’s been tiring and it reminded me that even after twelve years of retirement I still love teaching!

Yesterday was a particularly long day. Richard and I snuck out of VBS a bit early and drove two hours to the city to meet with my doctor and discuss possible options for dealing with Cancer #3. Once again, Dr W assured me that papillary thyroid cancer is usually slow-growing and non aggressive. After using ultrasound to determine that mine has not changed noticeably since he last looked at it three months ago, he suggested that simply monitoring it might be the best direction to go. I love the fact that he sees me as a whole person though and that he wanted me to have a part in the decision making process. He was perfectly willing to go ahead and schedule surgery if living with another, different cancerous growth was going to freak me out too much. Since I assured him that it wasn’t and that I trust his judgement, we’ve decided to leave it for the time being and look at it again in three months.

After running a few other errands in the city and stopping for supper on the way home, we were back at the church later in the evening setting up for our final day of VBS today.

So, since I really haven’t had time to write a proper fashion post this week, I’ll simply leave you with a thought provoking quote from French fashion designer, Coco Chanel, who passed away in 1971 at the age of 87, and next week I’ll do my best to get back to writing something more substantial!

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Do you agree? I’d love to know what you think.

Wardrobe building with neutrals

LogoTo an interior designer, neutral means without colour and is used to refer to shades of beige, ivory, and taupe as well as black, white, and grey. In fashion, we expand this list to include all those great colours that don’t compete with anything else; colours that can be worn with pretty much anything in the closet. No wardrobe is complete without them.

Earth tones including shades of brown, tan, olive and khaki can be added to our list of fashion neutrals as can navy blue. If you’re not sure about navy being a neutral, just ask yourself where most of us would be without blue jeans. One of the reasons for their popularity is the fact that a dark jean goes with absolutely everything. Like the other neutrals, they make getting dressed easy.

Just because neutrals can go with any other colours doesn’t mean that every fashion neutral looks good on every woman. It’s important to identify which ones work best with your colouring. For most of my life I hesitated to wear black or white, especially close to my face, because they washed me out. Instead, I gravitated toward the warmer earth tones. As I’ve aged and my hair has greyed, I can get away with wearing black and white, but when I do I still need to add a bit of colour near my face or amp up my makeup a bit. A bright lip helps a lot.

Metals including gold, silver, pewter, copper, and bronze are also considered fashion neutrals. They most often appear as jewelry, but they can also work their way into our wardrobes as other accessories such as shoes and handbags, and sometimes even as clothing for special occasions or holiday dressing.

Patterns that are made up of neutral colours are also considered neutrals in the fashion world. Animal prints in black, white, grey, brown, gold, or tan are a good example of this, but stripes, plaids, and geometric patterns can also work as neutrals.

Neutrals can be worn year round, though the lighter shades tend to be more common in summer and the darker ones in winter. Off-white, tan, beige, brown, olive or moss green, and dark navy are particularly on trend this season, but you can never go completely wrong with any neutral. They have the advantage of being timeless colours. Because they go so well with everything, they’re also great wardrobe multipliers allowing you to create many different outfit combinations. This makes them especially valuable for building a small but versatile travel wardrobe.

A good wardrobe building tip is to choose two or three neutral colours that you like and that look good on you and begin by collecting fashion basics in these colours. Wearing only neutrals is very conservative, perhaps even boring, so you’ll probably want to add some brighter colours to wear with them. Unless you have an unlimited clothing budget, though, it’s a good idea to spend the bulk of it on neutrals.

The China conundrum

LogoIf I was to empty my closet of every item that was made in China, there wouldn’t be much left. 70% of the clothing, shoes, and accessories that I’ve purchased in the last year and a half (since I started keeping track) were made in China. None were made here in Canada. Why is this a problem, or is it?

As I’ve mentioned before, I want to be an ethical shopper, but it isn’t easy. Until now, my concern with purchasing items that were made in China has been the fact that it’s very difficult, often impossible, to determine whether or not they were manufactured in factories that are socially and environmentally responsible or sweatshops where workers are exploited and forced to work in unsafe conditions. Quite a few of my clothes are purchased through direct sales as opposed to retail environments. In those cases, the stylists or vendors have assured me that they sell only ethically produced garments. I hope they’re right, but I haven’t found any way to verify that and having lived in China for a short while, I know that you can’t always believe what they tell the rest of the world.

Now I have another concern. Following Augustine isn’t meant to be a political blog, but Canada is increasingly at odds with China and I have to ask myself, should that affect my spending habits? Should I avoid purchasing more items that are made in China?

For those of you who are not Canadian or who haven’t been following the news, here’s a bit of background information. On December 1, Meng Wanzhou, an executive with the giant tech company, Huawei, was arrested in Canada at the request of U.S. authorities who want to try her on fraud charges. She’s currently under house arrest in one of her mansions in Vancouver awaiting extradition to the U.S. China immediately warned of repercussions and there have been a number of those. Days after Meng’s arrest China responded by detaining two Canadians and sentencing another to death. The men have not been allowed access to family members or lawyers while in custody. Since then, China has placed trade bans on key Canadian products including canola. On Tuesday of this week, the country announced that it would halt all meat exports from Canada. Our country is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers and our farmers depend on exports. Needless to say they are hit hard by these developments and some are urging Canadians to stop purchasing Chinese goods.

So, back to fashion. Obviously, I’m not going to stop wearing the items that I already have, but should I refuse to buy anything else that’s made in China? I’m sure that I, one lone Canadian, won’t make any difference in the big political picture, but should I support a country like China with my clothing dollars? That’s a very tough question!

What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion.

How should I wear it?

LogoI’ve written about some pretty serious stuff this week and I really appreciate the many supportive comments both here and on Facebook. Today, however, I’m looking forward to getting back to something more fun… Fashion Friday! In this post I want to share an item that I recently purchased at our local thrift store and solicit your advice on how you think I should wear it. I was hoping to shoot the photos outdoors, but it was pouring rain, so that didn’t happen.

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Other than the $1.50 price tag, what else do I like about this shirt? Almost everything! The dark moss colour is one of my favourite neutrals and is also very popular this season. I love the length, the shirttail hem, and the three-quarter sleeves. The brushed cotton/polyester fabric with just a touch of spandex is comfortable and easy to care for. The epaulettes, the small chest pockets, and the split cuffs add a bit of interest.

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The shirt is also versatile. I can wear it with tons of things in my closet and use it as a topper or on it’s own. I love it over the Breton striped t-shirt shown above, but it would also work well over a plain white tee.

So, what’s not to like? It’s the 15 cm zipper to nowhere in the middle of the back that has me confused. Yup, that’s right. A two way zipper that doesn’t zip anything!

 

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I’m trying to figure out whether to wear it zipped, partially zipped, or not zipped at all.

In these two photos, the zipper is fully closed.

 

With the zipper undone, it’s a more relaxed fit.

 

Now that you’ve seen the possibilities, it’s your turn. How do you suggest I wear it?

PS. The bracelet that you see on my right wrist is not a new accessory. It’s a plastic hospital band that I have to wear for the first week following a treatment to alert emergency workers to the fact that I’m highly radioactive. It provides them with phone numbers to call in order to access information about how to deal with me in an emergency situation. Thankfully, it’s never been needed!

Travel hands-free and safe

LogoEuropean cities are well known for pickpockets. They aren’t a new phenomenon. Charles Dickens wrote about them in Oliver Twist in the mid 1800s. Every year, thousands of tourists are victims of pickpockets. In the mind of a pickpocket, tourist equals money.

So, how did we protect ourselves on our recent trip to Europe? Richard has always carried his wallet in his front pocket which is one of the recommended strategies. This was a habit that his dad picked up while serving in Europe in WWII and taught his boys.

Before our trip, I decided to purchase a lightweight crossbody bag to allow for hands-free travel. That’s when I came across Pacsafe Anti-Theft Technology and purchased the Daysafe Anti-Theft Crossbody Bag. It isn’t glamorous, but it served its purpose very well.

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Though it comes in several other colours, I chose basic black because it looks good with everything.

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The main body of the Daysafe bag has pockets and dividers for easy organization. A secure zip clip essentially locks this compartment making it virtually impossible for a pickpocket to open it surreptitiously. There are outer pockets on both sides of the bag. One is open; easy to reach into but less secure than the rest of the purse. I used it for maps and brochures that I wanted easy access to while we were out and about. The other has a zipper that can be secured by slipping the zipper pull under and through a tab. That one was perfect for our travel documents when I needed to be able to access them at airports and train stations. In addition, there’s an elasticized pocket on one end of the bag for a water bottle, an essential travel companion. Though I didn’t worry about securing the zippers all the time, I made sure that they were safely fastened whenever we were in crowded situations whether on buses and subways or in busy tourist spots.

In addition, Pacsafe bags have a number of other safety features. Some pickpockets don’t bother trying to get into your bag. Instead, they’ll just slash it open. Pacsafe bags are made of a slashproof fabric that contains stainless steel mesh. Straps are also slashproof. In addition, the strap on the Daysafe bag has a turn and lock security hook that allows you to secure the bag to an immovable object such as your chair while sitting in a restaurant or your seat on a train.

High tech thieves don’t actually have to pick your pockets or steal your handbags anymore. With the right technology they can access credit card information wirelessly through radio frequency identification, or RFID. The research that I did seems to indicate that the likelihood of this actually happening is extremely slim, but like many crimes, it’s virtually impossible to track and a range of RFID blocking products such as credit card sleeves and travel bags are available on the market. The Daysafe bag includes a RFID safe inner pocket large enough to hold passports and credit cards.

Amazingly, all this extra security doesn’t add up to a lot of weight. In fact, the Daysafe bag weighs only about 11 ounces (320 grams). It’s slim shape rests comfortably against the body and yet I found it big enough to hold everything I needed including my camera.

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Considering the fact that all I was originally shopping for was a lightweight crossbody bag that would allow for hands-free traveling, I got much more than I was looking for and I definitely look forward to using it again on future trips.

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Sometimes a girl need her hands free. If you want to know why, check out this post.

Best pants for travel

LogoPrior to our Europe trip, I was looking for a pair of comfortable, lightweight black pants that would pack well, wash easily, and look good for any occasion. I almost despaired of finding what I was looking for, but then I discovered the Eddie Bauer Incline Collection made especially for hiking and travel.

Made of polyester/spandex with a comfortable 2-way stretch, the ladies Incline pant has a moisture shedding StormRepel DWR finish. Water literally beads up on them! In addition, the fabric provides UPF 50+ sun protection. These pull-on pants have a flattering athletic fit; close to the body without being too tight. They weigh almost nothing, took up very little space in my teeny tiny carry-on suitcase, and looked as good in a nice restaurant as they did on this windy beach near Zeebrugge, Belgium.

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They have cargo pockets and zippered slash pockets on both sides. All four pockets have overlapping flaps to discourage pickpockets and keep items secure and they add virtually no bulk.

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I washed the pants twice in hotel sinks and in both cases they dried overnight without a wrinkle. Without question, they quickly became my favourite travel pants ever and will continue to have a place in my suitcase wherever I go.

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In addition to black, the ladies Incline pants come in dark smoke and midnight (navy). I’m seriously considering ordering a second pair!