Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Shopaholic Student... can such a thing really exist?

Perched on a fluroescent pink sofa in the front of a pint-sized beauty salon, I patiently await my prebooked appointment, which was meant to be about twenty minutes ago now. This is why I make an effort not to be punctual. I find myself resigned to watching some Gaga booty shakin on the TV they have above the reception till, until I find a scattering of magazines to the left of me. Oh I do love a trashy magazine. Along with Penguin bars, Don't Tell the Bride and Gary Lineker, they're one of my many many vices. Then I recognise the cover of one I've seen around campus but have been too lazy/busy to go over and pick up. Cosmo on Campus. It's not bad at all, actually. It's got a little bitesize snippet of everything, from fashion, relationships to politics and is ridden with useful websites for the confused student who hasn't a clue regarding their future. And it's free. Great success. It's good at getting students involved with writing for it as well it seems, something I might look further into at a later date.

There was one section, where you could write in and maybe get your thoughts published, regarding a debate on whether it was possible to be a shopaholic on a student loan. One girl in the article argues that you can and the other argues you can't. Interesting. I might send in my (within the 150 word limit) thoughts, but the more I've been thinking about it, the more I have less of a definitive stance on either side of the arguement.

I guess, like any essay due in the following day, we should begin with defining the term 'shopaholic'. explains it as 'a compulsive shopper.' What constitutes as compulsive? A new item every month? every week? every day? Personally I don't think I accurately reflect the typical university student's retail behavioural traits, but on average I would say I purchase a new item every couple of months. Which ultimately amounts to quite a lot. When you have to start piling clothes on top of your wardrobe, that's saying something, right?

I would, without a shadow of a doubt, regard myself as being addicted to retail and therefore, being a fully fledged shopaholic. As would my friends and family. Definitely the most notorious of my many many vices. I'm a bit of weirdo, just looking at clothes makes me feel relaxed and excited all at the same time. Strolling around a clothes store after a stressful exam, the calmness it induces in me would rival that of the Dalai Lama's. All the varying colours, texutres and shapes... I must have been a bumble bee in a past life. Often though, unlike the Dalai Lama, I am sinful and give into the temptation of the 10% discount with a student card and end up buying something. Dahh. So close.

Right now, as I near the end of my four year university extravaganza, my financial status is ok, but by far not the best. It's not always been like that though. Looking back with a nostalgic tear in my eye to my days of being a fresher, I was flippin loaded. There were, however, a number of sneaky reasons behind this. A big factor was that I didn't touch alcohol. First year is about going out four nights a week at least with the aim of getting as merry as possible. Imagine how much money that burns up. Only after February of first year, were my alcohol princliples lost and my teetotal status eviscerated. My rent included bills and the only other thing I spent my money on was food. And then I realised I had all of this money in my bank. And I could do whatever I wanted with it... if only I could go back in time and prevent that beguiling thought from ever slithering into my head.

My next year was spent in Morocco, so the spenditure on clothes was put on hold for a little longer. Then third year rolls along and I'm back in Leeds. Back with Topshop. And H&M. And Zara. And American Apparel... heaven for my wardrobe, but absolute hell for my bank balance. At this time I am also a converted alcohol consumer, I no longer live in halls and therefore have to pay bills on top of rent and also purchase a ridiculous number of books for my English modules. With the obvious necessity to buy food, the student loan begins to look a bit shaky. I know the key is to budget and not go crazy, but is it really sufficient enough? Does it leave you with enough after paying for all the boring things like rent, to be able to live a little and have some fun at the weekends? It probably does, and I'm just being spoilt and very unwise with my money. But even grocery shopping takes a hearty munch out of the funds these days. Morrisons isn't too bad, but go to the Co-op, (in particular the 24 hours one cleverly situated in a densely student populated area in Headingly, Leeds) and the prices are a bit on the Mad Hatter side.

Actually wait. Let's be brave and attempt some mathematics. My maitenance loan is £3293 to cover all my living costs. My rent is approximately £280 a month - and this number would vary up and down the country. Most student rent contracts are from July-July. So 12 x 280 = 3,360. £3,360 - which is more than the maitenance loan gives me. Is it just me or does this not add up?

Truth be told, without the help of those wonderous but often underappreciated creatures called parents - to help me out when I've most needed it, I think I would've found it pretty difficult to be able to afford such luxuries as clothes shopping whilst at uni. Knowing this is not the case for everybody, makes me feel extremely fortunate, but also makes me realise that it probably isn't wise to view your loan as something to whittle away. I've always seen university years as the time to work towards your future, but also a time to make the most of it before getting tied down with a job, and life becomes all about living for the weekend. It's a time to be carefree and frivolous and experience all aspects of life, but in a world where pennies equal almost everything, and when our generation is facing a bottomless pit of debt once we graduate, it's probably better to choose which of those experiences is worth doling out the cash for. Would I rather get that £45 dress, to add to the mass of clothes I already have, or save up for a holiday this summer? I would imagine, for the majority of us, it'd be the latter that wins.

The girl writing against the idea, made a very poigniant observation in regards to student discounts that encourage such spending, 'After all, 10% is just a lovely way of saying 90% on.' An insightful yet completely obvious thought that a lot of us disregard right?
So, does this mean I don't think you can be a shopaholic and a student simultaneously? It's that age old saying isn't it: Everything in moderation. I would be last in the line to act as a good role model for this motto, but as my time being a student draws closer to an end, and the fear of having to be a grown up and somehow trying to break it into the working world lurks ever more prominently in the crevices of my mind, the realisation is becoming more vivid every day. Being a shopaholic probably shouldn't be encouraged, but just being able to afford a few frivolities and luxuries is something that affects - unless you're rich and famous - everybody, not just students.

...Now to fit that all into 150 words...

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Spitalfields & Brick Lane

Warning: the contents of this blogpost are over two months old now. Do not attempt to eat, drink or poke the blogpost. Recommended ways for consumption are: to read with great enthusiasm and zeal and to forgive the writer for her lack of inactivity about getting it all on here.

...So, over the Christmas holidays, myself and the famlay cavorted our way down to the Big Smoke that is London city to celebrate my brothers twentieth. The trip consisted of loitering around Leicester Square where we were staying, exploring Covent Garden and rummaging through the stalls and rails and vintage shops that make up Brick Lane and Spitalfields Market spritely heartbeats.
Now, turn off that brain of yours that I inundate with so much wordiness, sit back and relax and have a gander at my weekend in the capital, in picture form.

The dazzling Christmas decorations in Covent Garden
Dessert at Haagen Dazs Restaurant
Graffiti by street artist Space Invader popping up all around Brick Lane

Delving into vintage shops

...Ahh wasn't that nice. I do love London. For its vastness, for how cosmopolitan it is and without question, for its shopping. I only realised this year how many different markets - both big and small, both touristic and obscure - are scattered around the city, harbouring vibrant little quirky boutiques and shops where one can discover a little one of a kind treasure hanging off a coathanger, often with a very eye pleasing, smile inducing, handwritten price tag.

Our first shopping pitstop was Spitalfields Market in East London and then after a suggestion from my London residing cousin, we paid the stylish Brick Lane a visit.
Here are a few of the the purchases I clocked up on this shopping trip.

Coat from Traffic People in Spitalfields Market, Alexander McQueen Bag and Owl Necklace from Spitalfields Market, Jumper from Urban Outfitters
The very first thing to appeal to my greedy shopper eyes whilst traipsing throught the stalls of Spitalfields market was the Alexander McQueen bag shown above. I'm pretty sure Mr McQueen's very own eyes lured me towards the bag, how could I turn down a bag printed with such a statment image of such a fashion legend? Also, the ridiculously abundant size of the bag makes it perrrrfect for being a swag bag for future shopping trips.
The next object to make my eyes sparkle with giddy delight was the owl necklace, also shown above. Dangling delicately off from a railing in a jewellery stall, its ruby and sapphire coloured gems drew me in and I found myself unable to leave the stall without it. And at £6 it was quite a steal, considering it's size (the owl is the size of my palm) something like that in Topshop would easily go for at least double the price. So, influenced by the owls innate wisdom, I very wisely flapped my wings and snapped it up.
The cream jumper, I will admit, was not from any of the markets but from Urban Outfitters. But who can resist a peruse around Urban Outfitters eh? It's not a particularly exciting buy, but I love the versatility of this jumper. With its go-with-everything colour and fit, I've worn it copious amounts, with everything from brightly coloured shorts, floaty skirts and over dress with a belt - it's basically become my new best friend.

And last but certainly not least... my new coat. A few posts back I wrote about my Christmas Wishlist and posted this picture of a coat from Topshop, costing £350.

...And check out what I got...

...Go on, guess how much? How much did I get this for? £49.99 - yes that's right, fifty quid - a fraction of the price of the Topshop coat and almost identical. Mwahahaha. This absolute b-e-a-uuuty of a coat was found in a shop inside Spitalfields Market called Traffic People. I'd heard of Traffic People before and knew it was a shop not to miss, especially as they have a car parked outside their shop driven by some swankily dressed mannequins, their name emblazoned on the cars bonnet. I love this coat, I feel like a French woman running for the train everytime I wear it - and even though it doesn't have the same suade exterior like the Topshop coat, the deliciously soft faux fur interior more than compensates, and keeps me warm during even the most turbulent of Leeds' weather.

If you ever wake up and by chance find yourself in London, or, even more bizarrely, book a train down to the capital (unless you're an actual real life lucky Londoner) I would highly recommend Brick Lane and Spitalfields Market. If you're looking for a bit of an alternative scene to the overly commercial and exceedingly expensive side to London, make you're way down to East London's shopping district and immerse yourself in all that is vintage, vivacious and buzzing.

I couldn't think of another v-word.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Fashion Ubiquity - The Varsity Jacket

You know when you've just discovered some brilliant unknown band and love namedropping it around people just to show how cool and current you are? And then all of a sudden one day your favourite song of theirs shoots straight to number one in the charts, everybody knows their name and they've become the new mainstream mammoths to enter the music scene. You can't seem to escape what was once your favourite song and you resent everybody for catching on to your discovery.

I don't like people like this (well, that particular aspect of them anyway, they might be and generally are very lovely otherwise). Ususally with me, I'm happy when a relatively unknown band I like hits the bigtime because I often think they deserve the recognition. But I was feeling the complete opposite of this notion during my trip to town today and found myself harbouring feelings of resentment towards something which is currently enjoying a mainstream moment of - not the world of music, but the world of fashion. Think of American Football, think of cheerleading, think of good old team spirit and that star spangled banner - and Ra Ra Siss Boom Ba - what have you got? The Varsity Jacket.

Varsity Jackets, Baseball Jackets, American College Jackets - or as I like to call them, Jock Jackets - call them what you like, there is no denying they are a massive trend right now. Now, I'm going to apologise for the following, as I am going to unashamedly blow my own trumpet and show off how fashion forward I am, as I in fact have owned a Jock Jacket since almost this time last year. One day the idea of owning a Jock Jacket hurtled towards me and smacked me in the brain and it became what I desired the most at that very moment in time. I remember vividly that despite having a sprained ankle, I, along with my very patient and obliging boyfriend, trekked off to town in search of the perfect Jock Jacket. I found it in the mens section of River Island, a beautiful cream and blue jacket, size XS, stitched on badges and numbers - and I have worn it in abundance ever since. My mother also bought me one not too long ago, a beautifully understated, soft, burgundy jacket from Topshop that fits like a glove.

So imagine my annoyance when today I counted no less that fourteen - FOURTEEN - other individuals wearing some form of Jock Jacket. Grrrr. Eventually I overcame my childish thoughts of how I and actual American sportspeople should be the only ones allowed to wear these jackets -and accepted their popularity, partly because I can be smug and say I got mine last year. Mwahaha.

Despite them being as ubiquitous as Starbucks at the moment, I fully endorse the Jacket of the Jock. They're a useful little cover up, they're something that looks good on both guys and girls, they add a little twist to a girly outfit and good quality ones are surprisingly warm. So, if you fancy yourself a little slice of American pie, or worship the Jerry curled Adonis that was AC Slater from Saved By The Bell (like I did) pretend you're part of the team, save up on those dollars and star jump your way into almost any shop on your local highstreet and make that purchase.

Just make sure you don't wear it in front of me.

Burgundy is having a shining moment right now and makes a good choice as it goes with a lot more colours than you'd think. Urban Outfitters, £35

Stand out from the crowd with this vibrant red number. Team with other bold block colours for to create visual impact.
Topshop, £40

The hoodie on this jacket creates a much more casual, laid back feel to this look and looks very apt for when one frequents the gym.
New Look, £ 34.99

Fancy something a little cosier? Try a Varsity Cardigan instead.
Asos, £24

...and for the boys, Brit it up a bit with this beautifully coloured hoodied jacket.
Asos, £55

Splash out and go for classic colours and patterns and keep warm all at the same time with this woolley creation.
Urban Outfitters, £100

Thursday, 27 January 2011

As Solitary as an Oyster

Look, it's a picture of meeee. This is my most recent post for Lookbook accompanied by my regular appeal for hypes. I was messing about (most likely procrastinating) in my room one day was going through clothes I don't wear as often as I should (this is one of my new resolutions, to actually wear all the items of clothes I have stashed away in the depths of my cupboard) and thinking of ways to make them a little more interesting. I bought this long white shirt what seems like an age ago, at a time when the plain white shirt was making a comeback. I wore it a few times but it after a while it unfortunately found itself being pushed to the precipes of my wardrobe. A brainwave struck and I rummaged around the chaos that is my wardrobe and retrieved the lace overlay to my black lace dress and voila - an outfit I'd deem suitable for prancing around during the day, for being sophisticated at work and something that's alluring enough for the evening. If you like this concoction of monochrome, click on the hype button on the previous post below and give us a hype will ya.

White Shirt - Ark
Lace Overlay - Asos
Black Slip - Asos
Shoes - Office

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Gok's Clothes Roadshow

Whilst sitting in a cafe with the boy a few weeks ago we noticed a flyer through the window advertising the fairy gokmother himself, Gok Wan's mighty arrival to Leeds to film the catwalk show section of his new TV programme Gok's Clothes Roadshow. Filled with vivacious delight I made my way down making sure to defy my usual lack of punctuality to the Leeds Corn Exchange (a most resplendent piece of architecture if you ever get the chance to visit it) with a couple of friends ready to see the genius of Mr Wan flaunt itself before me. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Half an hour. Forty-five minutes. Just over an hour later than the specified time, Gok graced us with his presence, donning his trademark black suit. I'm usually one of these annoying fashionably late people myself, so combined with his winning charm and humour, our Gok appeased the increasingly impatient crowds and commenced his fashion fix.

The premise of his new show was very similar to a previous series of his called Gok's Fashion Fix. If you're unfamiliar with the basis of Gok's Fashion Fix, it's basically a fashion showdown between Gok and his arch rival fashionista Brix Smith-Start, with Gok backing the high street and Brix supporting the designer labels. They're both given the same seasonal trends to work with to create an appropriate outfit, which they then showcase down the catwalk. The twist is is that the audience watching the fashion show has no idea which outfit belongs to the high street or which is designer. The audience then votes at the end which lot of outfits they liked most and either Gok or Brix wins the show.

Unfortunately, photographs were forbidden from being taken during filming. Gok kindly allowed us to go snap happy with photos of him at the beginning but after that it was nada. I sneakily tried to take a few on my camera, craftily putting it on it's ISO setting where it would take a good enough picture without the flash - but I must have been a lot more conspicuous than I thought when one of the security guards lumbered over and rumbled, 'No pictures, love.' Ah well. Anyway that's my excuse for the lack of photos and the poor quality of the few I have.

Taking into consideration that the show will air sometime mid January, the styles that were sauntering down the catwalk were a fleeting forecast for what will be big next year.

Trend Number One: Bold Clashing Colours

The models that walked down the catwalk wore bright, block, clashing colours. One wore a combination of pink and red whereas the other (shown above) united green, red and blue in a uniform that surprisingly exuded a quirky sophistication. A trend not for the faint hearted, I'd say. Execution would have to be spot on to get away with this look but I would encourage a few bold flashes of colour to brighten up any day-to-day wear or that little black dress, like these little gems:

Asos Leather Satchel £60

Waterfall Drape Shorts, Topshop, £34

Sash, American Apparel, £6 (in sale)

Trend Number Two: Monochrome

Firstly, let me apologise for the quality of the above picture - and secondly, let me tell you that the timeless combination of black and white will apparently be your best friend this new year. Both Gok and Brix took an alpine approach to it, which knowing British weather will be very apt during January and February. Luckily this is a look that requires minimum effort and will have maximum impact.

Animal Print Maxi Skirt, New Look, £8 (in the sale)

Black Diagonal Stripe Tights, Topshop, £8.50
Heart Knitted Skirt, ASOS, £30

Trend Number Three: Ethereal

I wish I had gotten some pictures of the models for this trend as the dresses they were adorned in were phenomenal. I'll be making sure that I tune in January to find out where they were from as my memory of the event seems to have deteriorated a bit. The dresses were floor length, flowing and subtley jewelled and sequinned. The models looked like veritable Lord of the Rings style Elves, as if they'd just stepped out of the fairy world of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Opt for chiffon, lace, pale colours and dainty embroidery to channel the Queen Titania look.

Victoriana Lace Dress, Oasis, £60
Fringe Dress, Topshop, £150 (in the sale)
Pleated Goddess Maxi Dress, Love Label, £32.50 (in the sale)

Trend Number Four: Oriental

One trend that is already visible in the shops is the oriental theme. Gok and Brix went all out - chopsticks in hair, the whole lot. A more toned down way to embrace the Far East is to swap your cardigan for a very now printed kimono, dare to wear a thigh high slit skirt or dress, don an appleblossom print top or even experiment with some Geisha style make up.

Kimono, Topshop, £28
Floral Print Vest, Topshop £33
Silk Snake Print Kimono, Topshop, £100

I stayed to see the whole of the catwalk show and quickly tried to deduce from the number of pink and black paddle boards the crowd were waving in the air (despite me and my friends' attempts to get Gok's paddle giver outer's attention, we were not lucky enough to gain a paddle and were refused our right to vote) as to who had won out of Gok and Brix. Unfortunately I didn't stay to find out who was the winner, but from my quick deduction I'm pretty confident it was Mr. Gok Wan who came out victorious - but I'll have to wait til sometime in January and become an avid Gok fan once again to find out if I'm right.