Link Love: Creative Tips, Old Tattoos and Inspiring Reading

Stylish, creative and inspiring links for your reading pleasure…

Link Love

33 tips for creative people
A whole heap of handy advice and creative inspiration, from finding new ideas to believing in yourself. 

This jewellery made from decayed graffiti found in Detroit is amazing
I love the concept, seeing how it is created and the whole ethos behind this creative company. Check out http://www.rebelnell.com 

Springsteen’s Reading List
The Boss has read some great books, although I am not enthused about all of them. I studied Moby Dick and it almost bored me to death (ok I may be exaggerating… it definitely sent me to sleep though). However I will add some of these texts to my own reading list, basically because Bruce has read them! 

Let’s make plink-y music together
This is a rather nifty site which allows you to make twinkly winkly, plinky plonky music with other users. So simple I can use it, even if I don’t understand what I am doing, and it is kind of hypnotic.  

How will your ink look as you age? Pretty awesome actually
If you have a tattoo (and I got a new one this month – post about that coming soon!), then you will have been asked by someone “aren’t you worried about what it will look like when you’re old?”, answer: no. But if you’re curious, it is going to look amazing. 

These ’10 Things I’m Afraid To Tell You’ posts are catching
I love it when something I post encourages someone else to try something new, even more so when they are already someone I admire. Make sure you check out Sarah’s blog – she is all kinds of brilliant.

I love this new feature on Beak Up Crafts
Spend 5 minutes with visual artist and designer Ima Pico.

So happy to be included in this list of ‘Bloggers Who Inspired Me to Blog’
And new blogger on the block, Clover included me in this fab line up of bloggers that inspired her to start blogging. She only started hers this month and it is off to a promising start with lots of lovely stylish, cultural stuff! One to watch…

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You Must Meet… Esa Evans, Lady Muck

You Must Meet… is a series of blog posts introducing you to stylish and creative people that you simply just have to know about.

Lady_Muck_Samuel_Wiles_Media

Even though we live just 5 miles apart, I discovered Lady Muck of Whitstable on line back in 2012. Of course, as soon as I found out about Lady Muck, I noticed her jewellery everywhere. Many of my favourite boutiques, galleries and gift shops stock her designs, so I regularly find myself saying “ooh that’s lovely, oh of course, it’s by Lady Muck”.

I love supporting creative people; the best bit about shopping with small businesses is that you get to invest in and make a connection with an artist, designer and all-round inspiring person, as well as getting something super stylish for yourself or loved ones. 

Esa Evans is the talent behind Lady Muck, designing and making contemporary jewellery for interesting people. Her laser cut designs are brought to life in gold-plated or powder coated stainless steel, colourful acrylics or cherrywood. Her work is beautiful, classic yet quirky and inspired by myth, nature and art. It’s no surprise that it seems to resonate well with her customers, who she described as a cultured artistic crowd who appreciate good design (more than happy to be included in that group, especially as Lauren Laverne is in there too!). 

I like to think they’re miniature pieces of art to be worn and enjoyed by all – Esa Evans, Lady Muck

It’s not all just for the girls either. Esa designs cuff-links inspired by the men in her life (so they will always be witty, good-looking and strong!)

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Esa still gets a buzz from seeing people wear her jewellery (and not just the bees!) and being asked to create bespoke collections. She has designed collections for the National Museum of Wales, The Pier Arts Centre in Orkney, the Turner Contemporary in Margate and the National Theatre in London and she is currently working on a very exciting project with Horace Panter Art.

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But like most creative people, Esa didn’t originally imagine herself making jewellery when she studied Fine Art. Her practice has developed over time. She actually worked in Social Services for some years, where her creative skills were put to good use working with children and young people. After having her own children, she discovered those skills extended to jewellery making and using laser cut acrylic and wood gave her a unique way to show her ideas.    

Now she is developing a metals collection and has launched a Kickstarter campaign to support it (there is 12 days left at the time of typing, so get over there and pledge – I picked the rose gold ants as my reward, but I only get them if she reaches her target and gets funded!). I’m really excited about this latest collection, I love seeing how Esa’s work has evolved and look forward to growing my Lady Muck collection. 

Lady_Muck_Samuel_Wiles_Media

You can shop for Lady Muck loveliness on http://www.ladymuck.org.uk or find it in Turner Contemporary Margate, Taking the Plunge Whitstable, The Wellcome Trust London and many other stockists across the UK and on line platforms.

Esa is also a fellow cat lady of Instagram, which means she is one of my favourite insta-people, you’ll find her @ladymuckstuff there, as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

Don’t forget to pledge your support for her Kickstarter and if you haven’t already, you have until 31 March 2015 to enter my Pineapple Pendant giveaway!

Copyright of the photographs and art works included in this post belongs to Esa Evans, please do not reproduce without permission. 

Theatre Review: Standby For Tape Back-up at The Marlowe Studio

Standby For Tape Back-up

I read one sentence of marketing material and knew this was going to be my kind of show. Of course. there were some attractive adjectives deployed, but the clause that clinched it was… “one man tries to draw his entire life story out of the images on a singular video tape”.  

Obviously the video tape appealed to my retro sensibilities and I’m also a sucker for a one man or one woman show. But creating a complex narrative, telling a life story from one videotape? Well, that got me seriously intrigued. I love a good story. I look for them everywhere and when you look, you will usually find. And I found a good one on my visit to the Marlowe Studio last week to see Ross Sutherland‘s Standby For Tape Back-up.

As I took my seat, Sutherland was on the left side of the stage and there was a TV and video on the right. On screen and on a larger projection behind was The Wizard Of Oz (one of my favourite films – I was delighted!). The opening sequence was playing, but it was muted and instead, we heard Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon played over the sepia scenes; the synchronicity was stunning and slightly spooky). It was enchanting seeing the familiar film footage in a new light. It set the perfect tone for Ross’s life story, the search for significance and a performance of patterns, repetition and coincidence.  

If you’re anything like me, at this point you are wondering what on earth was on that video tape and how it could possibly contain his life story. The footage included some 80s and 90s gems – one and a half films, one quiz show, two sit-coms and an old bank ad – we were treated to some ghostbusting, zombie dancing and crystal hunting. Plenty of material to inspire a nostalgic and entertaining show, but more significantly, the tape had belonged to his late Grandfather. After his death, the tape found its way into Sutherland’s loft, where it stayed until a series of events led him to watch it repeatedly. It was Ross’s last connection to his Grandad, and these programmes were things they had watched together. Viewing them in this new light, they seemed to be steeped in uncharacteristic existential angst – I’ll certainly never think of the Fresh Prince in the same way again. 

Part storytelling, part poetry, a bit dark, but never morbid; this show is seriously clever and funny, layered with meanings and memories. The spoken word captures the circling of the human mind, always analysing and processing patterns. Sutherland’s timing with the tech was spot on, he coolly and repeatedly made the basket, in a way that the Fresh Prince can only dream about. The tech all worked perfectly and I am assuming some considerable effort went into this as I can’t remember a time when we watched a video at school without some awkward ‘teacher versus tech’ moment. 

The show left me moved, but more disturbingly, as I walked to the car park I noticed I was humming Crockett’s Theme. It has been on a loop in my head for a week now and is driving me slowly insane! Originally an 80s hit from Miami Vice, it was re-appropriated for full yuppie potential in the early 90s NatWest adverts. Sutherland’s poetic treatment of the ad was actually one of my favourite parts of the show. At first glimpse I was delighted to see the ad, excited just because I remembered it. Then, as it repeated, overlaid with new words, I began to see it in it’s cultural context, then heard how it related to Ross’s experience of working in a bank and finally I added my own experience and memories on top and it spun through my mind as if it was part of me. 

Maybe it resonated because I worked in a bank once (or actually twice), in what is surely the most middle class student summer job ever. Being a bank clerk wasn’t for me though and after two stints behind the counter, the next job I opted for was cleaning trains, much more enjoyable and rewarding. 

There were plenty of moments in the show that chimed with my own life – in part maybe because we are the same age and nationality, but ultimately, this is a tale of connections, not just between Ross and his Grandad, but between all of us. The pop culture we all consume. but also the stories we seek and the meanings we place on the world. Because although each life has it’s unique layering of narrative, but there is a finite amount of plot developments and twists to go round and we are all looking for answers to the same anxieties and human dilemmas.

It is fantastic to see this kind of writing programmed at the Marlowe. Obviously, I recommend that, if you can, you go see this wonderful show, it’s on tour now.

Get Creative in #InspirApril with an Instagram Photo Challenge

#InspirApril

I love a good Insta-challenge, it is a fun way to boost creativity, find inspiration and connect with other people all across the world. It was probably only a matter of time before I created my own. Actually I started work on a list of prompts last year, but I put it off until I had more followers. So when fellow blogger Jen suggested we collaborate on an Instagram Photo Challenge, it was a “hell yes! Let’s do it!”

After sharing our 10 things I’m afraid to tell you posts simultaneously, me, Jen, Nikki, Helen and Amy were all keen to collaborate, and on something more fun than sharing our inner-most fears and insecurities! It wasn’t long before #InspirApril took shape, we each contributed six prompts, and we are all doing the challenge together. And we want you to join us because it is going to be fun, also you’re awesome and we want you in our creative club!

Here are the prompts (so you can get planning or still leave it to the last spontaneous minute like I probably will!), just use the hashtag #InspirApril so we can see your posts and follow us on Instagram to see what we post! There may be some surprises in store for our favourite photographic interpretations…

Days 1-6 These are mine so get creative and super stylish! (I’m @CassyFry on Instagram)

1. Your Style – Show us something that sums up your personal style. It could be your favourite outfit, accessory, a print or pattern, or an entire sartorial collection.  
2. Favourite Lyrics – Share lyrics from music that moves you or take a photo inspired by a line from a song.
3. Daring Design – We’re talking amazing architecture, cutting edge furniture, high fashion or innovative inventions.
4. Write a Poem – Get creative with language, write a haiku, pen some free verse, mix your metaphors, scribble some sentences, rhyme or don’t rhyme, or just play with random words.
5. Art You Own – Show us the art you surround yourself with, whether paintings, prints, sculpture, ceramics or a beautiful bespoke piece of jewellery.
6. Stylish Creative Selfie – Take a picture of a stylish, creative person. That’s you! (also it is my birthday, so feel free to dress up and party!)

Days 7-12 Next up is magical music maker Nikki Loy (@nikkiloymusic on Instagram)

7. Favourite Place – Show us your favourite place! Is it a chair by the window, a beach on holiday, a mountain top retreat or your creative zone?
8. I feel good when… – What makes you feel good?
9. Music – What does it mean to you? Do you play an
instrument? Do you love listening to vinyl or do is silence music to your ears?
10. Gratitude – What are you grateful for today?
11. Making Magic – Show us what makes you feel magical
12. Boss Up – What makes you feel like The Boss, like you can take on the world! Like you got this?! An outfit? A car? A posture? An inspiring person?

Days 13-18 Helen of The Time To Be Happy Project brings the focus and ramps up the Insta-joy (@helenthornber on Instagram)

13. Dream Big – What does your heart & soul desire? What would you do if there were no barriers or limits? What does that look like to you?
14. Opportunity – What opportunities have come your way today to take you one step closer to your dream? It doesn’t ma
tter how tiny or big it is, every opportunity is worth celebrating.
15. Energy – Our energy levels change throughout every month, whether you’re on top of the world or under the duvet embrace your energy levels today and go with the flow. Share what that means to you.
16. My Goal – What are you working towards right now? Share an image of your progress or something that represents your goal.
17. Time – To achieve our goals and make our dreams come true we have to make time to work towards them and sometimes that’s the biggest challenge of all! Celebrate the time you’ve taken to work towards your dreams and goals today by sharing a picture of what you got up to.
18. Taking Action – It’s so easy to over think and be indecisive when you need to take a step forward. Today I challenge you to take action in an area you’ve been procrastinating on. Share it with us so we can celebrate with you!

Days 19-24 feel the wellness and get beautiful with the gorgeous Amy of Amy Loves (@amylovesblog on Instagram)

19. Inspiration – What, where or who inspires you?
20. Self Care – What does self care mean to you? Do you have a self care ritual?
21. Happy Place – What does your happy place look like? Where do you feel most happy? It could be your house, your yoga mat, you
r grandparents, your favourite holiday destination.
22. Skincare Favourites –  What are your favourite products to use on your skin? Snap a picture of your holy grail products and tell us why you love them?

23. Freedom – What does freedom look like to you?
24. Pamper Me – How do you plan to pamper yourself today?

Days 25-30 fashion entrepreneur and handbag heroine, Jennifer Hamley brings us to an inspiring finale (@jenniferhamley on Instagram)

25. Crystal Clear – Had a revelation? Seeing things more clearly now?  Do you have a collection of crystals?  Or is there a beautiful body of clear water nearby…?
26. My Super Hero – Maybe a fantasy figure, a member of your family, a celebrity or a pet?  Hero’s inspire us and are everywhere, who is yours today?
27. Work – Employed, self employed, working on yourself, full time mum, student, party animal or…? – it’s all YOUR work, show us what work means to you.
28. Upside Down – Flip it.
29. Big Leap – Have you taken on a big change in your life? Or do you just want to take flight on camera – I’ll never grow bored of jumping photos!
30. Love is... – What is love?  Beautiful and messy?  Science and magic?  Powerful and…?  What love is to you is what LOVE IS – please show us.

So, are you in? C’mon, help us make the next month inspirApril-nal! 

Revelation Review: Fireside – Life Is A Cabaret

Fireside at Revelation St Mary's

Revelation St Mary’s have introduced a new Sunday series called Fireside, it is the same world class classical music you can expect from any Revelation concert, only in the afternoon, and with a cuppa and a cake

I went along to the first performance, a classical cabaret that opened with a version of Mack the Knife which absolutely delighted me (if that isn’t too weird to say about a song about such a shady character!). Then we enjoyed two preludes by George Gerswin, before we were transported from 1930s New York to Russia, with a wonderfully whimsical polka by Shostakovich. 

At this point you might think, ‘wow she sure knows her 20th century classics’. I don’t, actually I’m classically clueless. Luckily, cellist Matthew Sharp introduced them. With the exception of Mack the Knife, I wouldn’t have known what I was listening to. Sometimes it is ok to listen in abstract, but I love hearing the musicians share a bit about the composers, the pieces and the history. It made listening a lot more interesting, both for me and the more musically knowledgeable. It has also spared you from an abstract review, a written equivalent of an interpretative dance in response to classical music in a church.

The piece this made a massive difference to my enjoyment of was Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night). A work inspired by a poem of the same name by Richard Dehmel. We heard the English translation of the poem which begins “Two people walk through a bare, cold grove; The moon races along with them, they look into it” (you can read here), It is stunningly beautiful. Hearing the poem made me listen and appreciate the music in a completely different way.  

So if you are curious about classical music, I’d definitely recommend the Fireside series, regardless of how much you already know. There is something rejuvenating about the friendly informal gathering, as if by the Fireside, on a Sunday afternoon to listen to an inspiring and eclectic selection of music, delivered with warmth, crackle and cake.

The Fireside series continues with English Eccentric on Sunday 29th March, then American Beauty on the 26th April. 

Adorn Yourself With Words! A Wearable Wordy Wishlist

Custom Ring from The Vagabond Studio

Being a writer and a reader, I really like words. I read and write every day. I pin notes and quotes around my home to inspire or amuse me. I like photographs of words and text-based art. I’ll happily eat my words (if in the form of retro alphabet letter candy that nearly breaks your teeth) and I like to wear my words too. 

My latest lettered purchase (pictured above) is a custom ring from The Vagabond Studio. If you read the 10 things I am afraid to tell you, you’ll know I am recently separated. I wasn’t sad when I decided to stop wearing my wedding ring, but after 12 years of having a piece of jewellery on that finger, it felt naked. I instantly started wearing other rings, but none felt quite right. So I decided to treat myself to a new ring to mark the start of my new chapter and celebrate being my very own loved one. Inspired by an interview with super sacred seductress Kitty Cavalier on Gala Darling‘s Radical Self Love Bootcamp, I decided to wear the words “my own beloved” wrapped around my finger. It is a daily reminder to choose and treasure myself. I love it! 

Not all the items on my wearable wordy wishlist are quite as poignant, but they all inspire me and make me smile. Some are fun, like The Trendy Sparrow’s Bloggers Gonna Blog t-shirt (need this so bad!), KawaiiLNDN’s Art or Die crop top (really really want!) or some supercalifragilisticexpialidocious legwear from the Tight Shop (which just made my spell check go crazy!)

Wear Words - Etsy Loveliness

Then there are conversation starters, like the subtle I Like Cats necklace from the IlikeCATSShop (I like cats, a lot, always happy to talk about cats) or Storiart’s Poe-inspired The Raven writing gloves (I like gothic literature too, although not as much as I like cats). The darling Rocky Horror quote bracelet from the Vagabond Studio will not only attract like-minded misfits, but will inspire you to be your dream (in the way only Tim Curry swimming in stockings can).

There is more inspirational quoteage below, courtesy of a Coco Chanel t-shirt from Everfitte telling you “Don’t be like the rest of them, darling” (surely the ultimate in casual chic), a Lana Del Ray quote t-shirt by Hands in the Sky and even a pair of Little Prince panties (still undecided on how I feel about these, but had to share them!). 

Continuing the literary theme, I must get me a book scarf, I quite like this Alice in Wonderland one from Storiarts, because it’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND! And as a Wonderland lover, I of course believe impossible things, but if you find that hard try wearing this necklace from LadybirdLikes to remind you. Finally if in doubt, turn to The Current Moment for a t-shirt and wear some fearlessness

Adorn yourself with words The photo at the top is mine, but all images of products featured belong to the Etsy shops credited. This post contains some affiliate links – see my disclaimer for info about these. 

Revelation Review: The Unthanks

The Unthanks at Revelation St Mary'sThe last evening I spent at Revelation St Mary’s, it was packed full of music lovers as The Unthanks performed to a sold out crowd.  I’m not surprised, this was one of the more intimate venues on their current tour and the band are getting a lot of attention right now. They are a tricky band to pigeonhole; they are firmly rooted in folk, but give traditional songs the orchestral treatment, and still appeal to indie kids like me. 

Things kicked off to a surprisingly comedic start with a couple of jovial numbers by Tim Dalling on his accordian, who was an unexpected and entertaining choice for support act.  

Then The Unthanks took to the stage, opening with Hawthorn, based on the poem by Charles Causley. It set a poetic tone to the evening. I was captivated by the ethereal vocals of the Unthank sisters Rachel and Becky, and the lyrical loveliness they sang enchanted. 

First half highlights included Madam (because handsome men should never be out of fashion) and the ten minute version of Mount the Air, a track that invokes weirdly wonderful images of swallow’s wings, becoming a fish and surreal natural landscapes and has some seriously tremendous trumpet. If that wasn’t enough, add clog-dancing.  

After the interval we were treated to more from Tim Dalling, before pianist/producer Adrian McNally announced that we were going “back to the misery”. I had to smile, (who can resist a little self-depreciation?) but misery is far too flat a description for what we heard next.

Their rendition of Robert Wyatt’s, Out of the Blue was really moving, in the way only meaningful melancholy can be; a song about his bombed home, performed with a strikingly beautiful string arrangement. This was a stand-out moment for me.

Then came Flutter, the lovely song that got them playlisted on BBC 6Music and to ears like mine. Amazingly it was Becky’s first songwriting attempt (bravo!). It sounded softly sad and soothing in the acoustics of the church.  

Back to the misery then, but actually The Unthanks offer a more gentle kind of sorrow, a tender type of melancholy, of angelic voices, layered with lovely strings, piano and trumpet and topped with clogs. How could a band that clog dance ever leave you miserable?! 

Gorgeous Giveaway! Win A Gold Plated Pineapple Pendant by Lady Muck

Lady Muck Pineapple PendantThe very lovely Esa Evans, better known as Lady Muck, makes beautiful jewellery just up the road from me in the Kentish harbour town of Whitstable. Lady Muck is all about the love of fun, interesting jewellery. Her accessories are the perfect balance of classic and quirky, adding a stylish edge to every outfit. So I was excited to visit Esa’s studio last week to catch up over a cuppa, make a fuss of her cute cat and find out about her Kickstarter campaign, which launches today!

I think crowd-funding is a fabulous thing as it means I get to bag exclusive rewards for myself and support small independent businesses and cool creative things (like my yurt experience!). At the most basic level it is just like online shopping, but when done well, you can make a meaningful connection with the creator. Also, I can dress it up as being altruistic! Being a babe on a budget limits how wildly generous I can be donating or sponsoring awesome creative things, but backing a Kickstarter campaign makes me feel like a VIP patron of the arts even if I can only spend a few coins.

Lady Muck’s Kickstarter campaign will bring her work to even more people with a range of gorgeous laser cut metal collections and of course, there are some fantastic rewards on offer. 

To celebrate I have a super summery gold plated pineapple pendant to give away to one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter is check out Lady Muck’s Kickstarter and let us know what you think is the most irresistible reward using the online form below (my technical support kitty has purromised me this will work like magic!). And you can get extra entries by tweeting about the giveaway, following us on Twitter and visiting us on Facebook. Yay! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ts&Cs

  • One winner will receive Gold Plated Pineapple Pendant by Lady Muck of Whitstable.
  • Contest is open to all readers of cassyfry.com, wherever you are in the world. However delivery costs must be covered by the winner if they are outside of the UK.
  • Closing date for entries is 31st March 2015 (12am London GMT).
  • The winner will be randomly selected and will be notified via their email address within a week of the the competition draw date. We will not amend contact information provided.
  • The prize cannot be exchanged or transferred and no cash alternative will be offered.
  • By entering the draw, you hereby warrant that all information submitted by you is true, current and complete.
  • Liability cannot be accepted for entries which are lost in transit or not received due to technical difficulties.
  • Any decision taken by the promoter is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  • No purchase necessary.

Technical support kitty will make sure everything runs purrfectly (techonology and cats, what could go wrong?!)

Technical support kitty will make sure everything runs purrfectly.

Book Review: Witchcraft Couture by Katarina West

Review of Witchcraft Couture by Katarina WestI knew immediately that I had to read this book: it is magic realism about fashion! Magic realism is my favourite fictional genre. For the uninitiated, it is basically what it sounds like, a touch of magic and fantasy in a real life or rational context. Obviously, I like writing about clothes and design, so it’s probably no surprise that I like to read about them too. 

Witchcraft Couture is the story of struggling Italian fashion designer, Oscar Pellegrini who goes from a creative crisis in obscurity to international acclaim, artistic notoriety and an entirely different sort of crisis, involving a magic machine that makes clothes shine.

I was entranced by Oscar, who in many ways conforms to the stereotypes of creative genius – enigmatic, obsessive, reclusive, preoccupied with beauty, a procrastinator, lacking in social skills yet still creatively charismatic, full of artistic energy, but self-critical to the point of destruction and turning to alcohol or disappearing in times of despair. As his story is told in the first person, through his diary entries, you really get inside his head… and he certainly got inside mine.

Sometimes I liked him, sometimes I didn’t, I would empathise then he’d do something seriously weird, but throughout the book, I wanted him to be ok, to work it all out and to somehow succeed. Oh, I should add that as Oscar procrastinates, it takes him ages to try out the machine, I was practically yelling at him impatiently to try the magic! 

There are some dark twists and turns in this modern day fairytale come psychological thriller. While the plot is steadily paced, there is so much going on just beneath the surface. The sophisticated and unsettling atmosphere of Witchcraft Couture reminded me of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (two of my favourite dark reads) only with the added allure and glamour of the fashion world. Like those two texts, I know when I return to re-read Oscar’s story, I will find different nuances presenting themselves and discover things I overlooked first time round.

On my first reading of this wonderful novel, I was taken with theme of creative talent and have questions buzzing round my mind. What does it really mean to be talented? Is it ability, skills, experience, opportunity or all of them? How much is passion or hard work and how much is just magic? If we believe in magic, can it allow us to do amazing things or will it haunt us forever?

Why I liked it

  • It is written from the perspective of an artist, so there are wonderfully sumptuous descriptions of clothes and colour.
  • Oscar can’t remember names and comes up with colourful nicknames for people instead. My favourites were ‘Red Heartache’, ‘Primrose Paradise’ and ‘Macho Bronze’. I am currently coming up with my own versions for people I know and wondering what Oscar might come up with for me! 
  • I loved Oscar’s outburst in the boardroom about luxury versus consumerism and rich bitches that have it all. It surprised me and made me laugh.
  • It is dense with psychological and philosophical meaning, perfect for over-thinkers like me. It will have you pondering the nature of art and fashion, consumerism, mother-son relationships, mental health, creative talent, fame and the media.
  • That I got to spend time in Italy, with a short trip to Russia and Finland (even if it was all in my head!). 
  • Dante’s take on talent “They’re exceptional, Oscar, because they work hard to be exceptional. We all dream of greatness, but the difference between us and them is that they go after their dreams. And even if nobody believes in them, they won’t stop trying. They believe in themselves, and they love what they are doing, and that’s what makes them special. So talent is not a skill but a state of mind”. 

Read this if
…you like magic to take you to strange dark places
…you’re a bit philosophical and like to muse on the nature of art, beauty, creativity, fashion and fame
…you are a creative person prone to procrastination and self-doubt (read this and take heed, I know I have!)

Thanks to Katarina for sending me a copy of the book to review. Get your copy here. Katarina West is a novelist and journalist, born in Helsinki and living in Chianti, she prays in Italian, dreams in Finnish and writes in English. To find out more about Katarina, visit her website and follow her on Twitter

Style Shortcut – The Ultimate Clothes Shopping and Fitting Room Tests

My Ultimate Fitting Room Tests - Cassy FryDo you have any ill-fitting clothes? Did you try them on?

  • If you answer yes to both questions, this blog post is dedicated to you!
  • If it is a yes and a no, maybe start trying stuff on before you buy.
  • If you answer no, then yes, I want to know your fitting room secrets!
  • If is a no to both questions, you are obviously magic (or in denial, but we’ll go with magic!) Read on to laugh at the weird stuff a mere mortal does to look ok. 

Let’s start with the premise that trying on clothes is a necessary evil (unless you like it of course, then it is a necessary joy!). I know clothes shopping and fitting rooms can be treacherous and traumatic. I am guilty of having brought things that don’t fit, which is why I started taking my sartorial investments more seriously. If I am not prepared to queue for a fitting room, then the garment isn’t worth it. If I buy online, I check all the measurements and order prepared for the hassle of returns. And without thinking about it, I started taking my fitting room rituals to a whole new level of serious (and seriously fun!). 

Here are some of my fitting room tests for your own use or personal amusement. If you have any of your own to share, please comment! I’d love to add more purposeful wackiness to my changing room antics.

Try on all the accessories – Enjoy it, try stuff on just for fun! I cannot walk past a display of hats without trying some on! Accessories are a great warm up to the fitting room. Strike a silly pose, adopt a character, make believe you are a superstar or a spy, stop for photos, make it playful and painless.  

Bounce in your bra – There is much guidance on bra shopping already – it shouldn’t ride up at the back, the straps shouldn’t dig in and your girls shouldn’t spill out of the cups. In addition to this I always jump up and down, y’know to make sure it’s supportive when out dancing, running up and down stairs, and just in case there are any everyday bouncy castle opportunities to be seized. Then put on your t-shirt, does it show through in unslightly lumps and bumps, do your boobs look fantastic. Bend forward, wiggle and shake, do your boobs fall out? Move as much and as vigorously as possible!

Party hard in that dress – The perfect time to have a little dance, surely this is why so many clothes shops play pop music?! Angle the mirrors so you can see yourself from from the side or behind, maybe do a fake laugh (or even better, if you feel a bit crazy, and you probably will, laugh at yourself!) do you look fabulous and fun? Don’t bet you’ll look good on dance floor, be a dead cert. 

Bend over - Drop something, bend over and pick it up, drop it again and then crouch down to get it. Do your knickers show, do trousers fall down? If so, can you wear a belt with them? When trying on a skirt, know how much movement you can get away with before you flash your knickers. Check your panty line too, don’t buy anything that requires special underwear unless you are committed to buying and wearing that too. 

Oh sit down, oh sit down, sit down next to me - How far does a skirt ride up? How far do trousers ride down? How short do the legs become? Does it dig in uncomfortably? This is an essential test if you are looking for office wear or job interview outfits!

Stretch and mime – Can you move your arms, stretch up and reach to the sides? You need to be able to move freely enough for whatever activities you might do in the outfit. I like to imagine where I might wear it and what I might be doing and then sometimes do a little mime!

Use your smartphone to check out your bum Most fitting rooms will have ample mirrors, but if you’re in a charity shop (yes I try stuff on there too!) or at home, you might need to deploy some selfie action to check out what is going on at the rear.

Strut your stuff – Take a walk (an absolute must if trying on shoes), role play your big entrance or dramatic exit. I’d actually quite like to run or hop, but usually there isn’t space for such antics.

Leave the fitting room and get a opinion – Ask a friend, or just show them and their eyes will tell you everything you need to know! Similarly, if you pop out to use the mirror, see if you draw the envious gaze of other shoppers. I don’t tend to ask strangers what they think, but I love being asked. And if you see someone else looking amazing, just tell them that it looks fab on them, it’ll help your fitting room karma. 

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