Dressing UP

Today’s the day I’ve been waiting for to share something very exciting with you!  My friend wrote a book. And it is a goodie!

This post is a shamelessly enthusiastic plug*  for it. It’s an e-book and it’s packed FULL of stuff you thought you already knew, but then realise you had no idea about. See, she’s that girl who knows her stuff when it comes to organising your wardrobe and your personal style at the same time. And she has put it together in a big bundle of colourful info and useful printables, just for girls like us!

I’m telling you about it because when you find a good thing, woman-code demands it is only right to share it with your friends.
This may just be exactly what you need to inject some calm into your New Year.
I know it has already changed mine.

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of this before it went on sale. It got me from the morning ‘what do I wear?’ sigh …to a wardrobe high!   If you need some clever ideas on how to make your clothes work for you, this book may well become your new best friend (it even ‘reads’ like your good friend, the one who is practical but savvy, kind and smart).  If you need to know how to sort your wardrobe or even discover what your style is, in the first place, then it’s for you, too!

For years, my ‘style’ was all about dressing down. Trying to make myself invisible with various combinations of black or, on a daring day, neutrals.  I’d cover it all with a voluminous scarf and hope that no-one noticed me. Have you ever dressed like this?  Back then, my sense of self and fashion had been significantly de-railed by Pandysautonomia; six years of struggling to deal with nasty symptoms and the search for answers and treatment. I spent a lot of time in my pyjamas, or if I was going out, in jeans and t-shirts. I dressed up only occasionally.

Maybe you’re also unwell, or a busy mum (also challenging!) or uninspired. I can’t be the only one who has ever surveyed their wardrobe and lost the will to make an effort.  Over time I forgot how much I used to love fashion.  Forgot that colour makes me happy.

Since going into remission and discovering modelling, I’ve been converted into dressing UP; maybe it is all that trying on of things I would never necessarily pick up in a shop. It broke me out of my old habits. It makes me feel good now, to dress up. Better about myself. More put together. Stronger, more confident. To say that my wardrobe is fit to busting with the most ridiculous array of items now is an understatement because when I got well, I hit the shops running.

But could I find all this loveliness when I needed it? No. My wardrobe itself is sooo small, that’s an issue for sure, but there was no organisation or system going on in there. It was a scary place where all my fashion dreams went to die. I hated trying to come up with outfits I was happy with.

That’s why, when I heard that Monique would be sharing her wardrobe expertise via an e-book, I eagerly waved my hand and asked if I could preview it!  If you haven’t come across her before (she’s the boss lady who convinced me to do that swimsuit shoot), you can check out her style on her instagram feed or her blog. She’s got skills and she is a genuinely lovely person! You’ll like her, I promise.

 

But back to the issue at hand. You see my problem is,

I don’t like people seeing my bedroom.

Even my closest friends. It’s the bottom of my priority list in our home …and looks it, mostly because I can shut the door on it. The shortage of decent clothing storage has meant piles of things overflow from our tiny wardrobe into various stacks and baskets that litter the floor. The ironing table is permanently up, and serves as another place to ‘store’ things.  Argh! It’s a big mess.

I realise I have basically let you all see it, now I have described it!

I’ve dreamed about getting Monique over in her stylist capacity to do a ‘wardrobe edit’ but I can’t bear her seeing the way things are in here! The shame!

Well, Monique doesn’t want any of us to miss out on fashion freedom because of silly reasons like that! So she wrote her book for all of us. People who want to feel in control of their style, their wardrobe and their mornings but might feel embarrassed about their ‘before’ state. Her e-book is a kind, reassuring friendly voice full of practical and fascinating insight. You will thank yourself for getting into it.  I learned so much! I started clearing out that overwhelming fashion wilderness and I’m excited again about dressing up.  So many options I forgot were mine! Are you keen to fall in love with forgotten favourites again, too?

If you’d like to buy Monique’s e-book, there is an early bird special running for this week, where you can buy it for $20. That’s only like five coffees …or three smoothies. And it is worth every cent!  It has already saved me from buying more clothes.  The hubster is ecstatic!!

After the first week it will cost $24 (and is still totally worth it) but get in on the advance price and then you’ll have spare cash to buy me a thank you coffee later (!) Better make it takeaway so we can drink it while we take a tour through the wardrobe in my bedroom. Because now, you can come on in!

click here to check it out!

 

*full disclosure: if you make that (excellent) decision to click through from my blog and buy Monique’s e-book, I will receive an affiliate commission on the sale. I like to know these things when I am reading posts on other people’s blogs, so I’m telling you in case you do too.

Nodel Life

No, it’s not a typo.

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…am I a nodel?

Yesterday, waiting for a coffee-to-go in busy Gisborne, I flicked through the local rag.  I saw an article ‘Brands Waking to the Appeal of Real Women’ about recent research into fashion marketing.

[I don’t use the word ‘real’ myself, because all women are real women, regardless of size. I prefer the term ‘regular’].

The studies focused on the relationship between the type of models brands employ and people’s buying behaviour. The specific focus of the research was the use of diverse models. The article referred to these recent entrants into fashion circles with the slang term ‘nodels’  as in, ‘not-models’.  Pictured was one of the most iconic plus size models in recent years, Tess Holliday.

Research uncovered a desire for brands to promote images that reflected greater diversity and signalled that they felt this would lead to greater brand trust and longer-lasting consumer relationships. The media and brands are waking up to this…
from Suzanne Winfield, New Zealand Herald 26th December, 2016

‘NODEL’ stuck in my brain. I didn’t consider the ‘nodel’ label offensive; it’s just another nonsense word. But I mused for a bit about how I must be a nodel, and about how close the word nodel is to nodule, a very unattractive thing, or to noddy, something I am, often!

The word also made me think about the modelling work I have done.  Was I ‘not-modelling’ during those shoots?  Was the photographer ‘not-shooting’ and the makeup artist ‘not-making-up’? Was the job ‘not-selling’ clothes? No.
So the ‘not’ part must refer to the industry aesthetic attached to the word ‘model’.  To how I look, not what I do.

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I don’t look like a typical straight-sized (ie. size 6-8) model, I look like a regular woman.  I’m grateful to, and I don’t think nodels like me need a different label. Can we not all be models if we do modelling work? A simple thought to thunk, as my friend Pooh would say.  A mannequin is a mannequin regardless of it’s size. Come on fashion aesthetists, get with the program.  We all buy fashion, all sorts of bodies, it makes perfect sense that we want to see fashion modelled on bodies like our own.

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Today when I got home from our long Christmas road trip I was greeted by a package from Euphoria Design (thank you Monique and crew).
This beautiful New Zealand fashion label design clothes for women size 10-24.
Earlier this year they ran a model search called ‘Confidence is Beautiful’. You may have seen my post all about it. The shoot was about showing the relationship between inner confidence and beauty. It was about people like you and me. It was such a great concept! I was lucky enough to be selected along with nine other gorgeous kiwi women. We were from all over the country and all walks of life, we were many variations of ‘woman’. I made some wonderful friends that day, was spoilt rotten and enjoyed a glamorous shoot in a new season Euphoria Design dress.

Today, in that parcel was a cute framed shot from that day and a memory stick with all my photos, I’ve been waiting for them since our shoot and it is so cool to be able to at last share them properly on here! My Nodel Life! Haha! Seeing the pictures again brought back all the fun of the day and made me feel proud to be a nodel/model (whatever!) and a regular female of the human species.  I couldn’t be happier about being part of the movement for greater visibility in fashion media. We need to see more regular bodies. Our daughters need to, too. Desperately.

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PS. How gorgeous is this print?  The photos are black and white and don’t show the Navy and Milk white print in it’s true form, but it is such a fresh summer print. I love it, and unlike most ‘nodelling’ jobs, this time I got to keep the dress! I know!  Lucky!

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Do you like seeing bodies like yours in fashion media?
If you do, let your favourite brands know!

Undressing for ‘Dressing Up’

Finding summer swimsuits when you are a curvy girl is all kinds of challenging. Here is my selfie from the Ezibuy fitting room when the togs first hit the shops. I thought if I was prepared and did my research I would surely crack the code for this summer!  As it happened, I didn’t need to because Monique, on her blog, Dressing Up has done the legwork for me and all of us ‘inbetweenie’ and curvy girls. Monique is a friend of mine, and so when she enthused about the vision for her swimsuit edit, I put my hand up. Quickly, before I could change my mind. I know, it surprised even me. These thighs don’t see the light of day very often!

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gimme all the supports please

The location was a sophisticated poolside in Greenhithe, nestled in native forest, bathed in sunlight. I was waddling my way around the location, adjusting my ample thighs, trying to find a position that was most ‘kind’ to my cellulite. But that cellulite was irrepressible.  No matter how much thought-control I used to will it away: it persisted.

I gave up trying.

And that is how, in the harsh light of day, the reality of every dimple of my legs got translated through a lens onto the screens of more than 30,000 people (at last count).  It’s been a freaky few days.

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But how could I let this happen?  You ask.  Do I really want my flaws out there for the whole world to see?  Well, um, yes… kind of!

See, I’ve been on a mission, not exactly to get my kit off, but to accept myself just as I am and to help other women do that, too. To recognise that all of me is okay, not just the bits I think other people will find acceptable.  I am just so tired of trying to live life with the brakes on. It just wears a soul down, living like that.

I’m tired of seeing other women limit themselves too, just because they are ashamed of their ample arms, rumptious bumps, mummy tummies or thunderous thighs.  It feels to me that if I am serious about self acceptance, I will be serious about helping other Curvy Queens to feel more normal about their bodies. That’s why I get in front of a camera so often these days, so girls like us can feel they are not the only one.

Our bodies deserve more credit for what they have brought us through.

Since going into remission I have been busy, and one of the things I have been doing is plus-size modelling. It’s been fun! It’s been mostly rather ‘safe’ in the way mature plus size fashion always is; most places don’t like to show too much of this old girl… so I’ve been modelling sedate numbers like this one:

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‘Yourself’ brand from Farmers, now sold out

Until I met Monique. She is a dynamo woman. A Girl Boss.  She told me about her vision for the ‘inbetweenie’ and plus sized women of New Zealand and I was sold; she’s awesome, highly professional and one of the most enthusiastic people I have ever met. I love her story, I love her methods.

It was to be for this post, it’s been doing really well because it shines with relate-ability. She wanted to show suits on a range different body types.  Her post was all about how everybody already has a swimsuit body, we just need to put the swimsuit on! Is it any wonder we feel shy, when most retailers show their suits only on size 8 girls? It needs to change. Even some of the plus size brands still showcase their suits on size 12 women. They are beautiful women, but size 12 is not plus size. We’ve been labouring under the notion that swimsuit bodies are the ones mainstream media feeds us. Nu-uh. We can wear togs too.

Are you going to join me? This summer: we swim!

It’s time to release ourselves from all the things that hold us back and finally get into the ocean with our families. The idea of wearing the swimsuit anyway, aligns with my feelings about living this life to the fullest. Not walking away from the things that light you up.  Freedom for women, especially from the shackles of our own minds; lights me up.  And so, even though it terrified me, I did it, anyway. I got my kit off in front of the camera.  I’m a size 18-20. My boobs are 18DD/E. And I wore togs in front of the whole crew… and all of you. Eeep.

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Our clever photographer, Nykie Grove-Eades made me feel completely fine about being in a state of undress in front of the lens! When I put the first suit on, I threw my cover-up on top. Then I looked around at all the women, everyone so different. And I thought how ridiculous I was being. I took it off and wandered around just in my cossie. It was the culmination for me, of all the past months of working as a model. Learning to move my thoughts out beyond my own self.

I will however, leave the nudie shots to Taryn Brumfitt (!)  Her documentary, Embrace (have you seen it?) is partly responsible for the new, emboldened me. Thousands of women all over the world are baring all in bold new selfies, but I am more of a keep-the-lady-bits-covered girl. And not just for my sake!

The thing I am burning to address today, is that every single time I do a shoot, no matter what I will be wearing, my brain goes through the same tiring dramas. I wanted to share that with you because I think many of us go through this cycle. The same statements, on repeat. They used to be really loud and sounded compelling, like a ‘truthful’ person, doing you a ‘favour’ by telling you that you are not enough somehow.

The words in my head would be horrible to me about my worth and how pathetic I am. They would tell me that no one wanted to see me. That how I look, who I am, is completely insignificant and irrelevant to everyone. That I was disgusting, gross, obscene. Unlovable.  Laughable.  And exactly who did I think I was?

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One of you. With my lumpy bits and my lopsided tits (!) Realistic. Woman. Roundy and Rumptious. At your service.

What a counterproductive script! I am flipping that script. Slowly but surely, I am standing up to the girl in my head who loves to hate me. She’s shrinking a bit, every day, her voice grows less insistent. She’s learning that she’s not the boss of me anymore.  And oh my goodness, I like it. Why did I let that voice become so powerful?

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When I can make my thoughts shut up, I feel so free!

Have you got a loud, rude voice in your head, too?  Like any bully, that voice is like that because of insecurity.  So if you want to flip the script too, start by saying something reassuring to that inner-child of your soul. Something kind. Offer that anxious creature some evidence to knock down some of that nasty bully bravado. I start with looking at myself square in the mirror and saying “There are millions of other women just like me”.  And then “Every person has beauty”. Those things are facts. Sometimes, I remind myself that thinness is not a virtue, or that fat is not anything to do with my character. My fat is just a fact about me, it is not all of me, nor is it a catastrophic disaster. It’s just fat.

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My dear friend Jo recently told me something her grandmother told her. She said, “Each morning, when you face yourself in the mirror, simply make the best of what you have. Then go out and forget about yourself“. I love that wise advice.
Feeling self conscious? Concentrate on others, listen to them, be present to the people in your life. Because that is the key to true beauty, an outward focus. Connection. Genuine joy is out there, not inside your head, locked up with that aggravating voice of self castigation.

I think Roald Dahl understands beauty best:

“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

I want to say thank you to Monique Doy from Dressing Up, for the vision and radness she brings to the NZ online world of inbetweenies and plus-size girls. For asking me to be part of this shoot and seeing something in me I did not see. And to Nykie (camera), Natalya (face) and Alice (hair) for making the best of what I’ve got, so I could step out and forget about myself; being truly present to a beautiful experience. Thank you so much. I also want to thank Farmers, KMart, Beyond the Sea, Thunderpants and K&K Fashions. I loved wearing your swimsuits and hat; in them I am going to feel a million bucks doing the towel-to-surf dash this summer!

If you haven’t already, head on over to Monique’s blog, Dressing Up. If you are into instagram you’ll find her here. You’ll love her as much as me. She’s the kind of girl Roald Dahl was talking about, she always looks lovely, for all the right reasons.

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NB:  All photographs (unless stated) in this post are copyright to Nykie Grove-Eades and Dressing Up NZ. They have been used with permission.

A Day at the Races

I got to be a lay-dee yesterday.  Tra-la!

This is my oldest brother, Shaun. He took me with him to a corporate function at the races. It was lavish and lovely. The people were so nice and I chatted away until my voice was completely gone.  So today I am ordering lemon and ginger tea via sign language!

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We were hosted by Swire Shipping, with whom my brother does a lot of work. He ships modular hotels around the place on their ships. Swire Shipping is over 200 years old, and have had an enormous impact on the development of Australasia and the Pacific. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with people about my childhood home of Papua New Guinea. Swire and their affiliate businesses are heavily involved in that region, and many of them know my hometown, Lae, because they have lived there too.

The Grand Hyatt in Melbourne was our base.  I loved the marble bathroom, what a beautiful stone to walk on! So soft and satiny. I felt like Queen Rach just going to the bathroom!  The day started very early for me, with rollers in the hair, scarf on top and down to their award winning buffet breakfast. I felt a little conspicuous in my rollers and scarf, but nobody batted an eyelid.  The service and food at the Grand Hyatt were incomparable. I thought the breakfast smoothie bar was super cute!

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Back in the bathroom I tackled the face thing. I was worried that my makeup wouldn’t last the distance of a whole day at the races, in the 25 degree heat. Melbourne really put on a cracker day for it! But I needn’t have been concerned. Our venue had a ‘pamper room’ where we could go for perfume spritzing, hair and makeup touch-ups. It was so lah-dee-dah!  The area where our function room was located was lined with the most incredible gardens. It was a riot of overblown blooms and colour, colour, colour. Beautiful women sashaying around everywhere in the most incredible fascinators and dresses.  Just breathtaking, really. What an event the Victorian Derby is!  Like nothing I have ever experienced.

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My beautiful jacket and dress (by Chocolat) made me feel elegant without sacrificing comfort. It was the perfect thing, so breezy and pretty!

I’ve never been to the races before, so I had to learn about betting and sweeps. Our venue had a great view across the track and we had a bookie in the area with us for last minute bets. My brother, who has good instincts, did well with his betting, finishing far better off than his outlay. I bet the princely sum of $10 each way on Highlad. He came in last, of course. But I didn’t feel at all unlucky, waiters and waitresses swished around with trays of finger food and replenished my PIMMS whenever I needed them to. Then it was sweepstake time and one of my horses came in!  That won me a ticket for the major sweepstake, and I won a very cool prize!  One of those action camera thingies that you attach to your head and video stuff. It even works under water!  I was so chuffed! And slightly tiddly by then… so you know, effusive in my joy!

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The horses were so magnificent. I can finally see why horse racing is the thing it is all over the world. It is a celebration of the extreme beauty and power of these extraordinary animals. I can see how they have come to represent so much in powerful circles. It’s not just the money they make for their owners and trainers, it is who they are. They are elite athletes and the sight of them, in person, thundering down that track is exhilarating! It was nothing like the TAB TV’s blaring out of dingy shops on the street, it was classy, compelling action.

My little pair of flats in my handbag were complete genius.  I walked back in comfort to our coach, feeling terribly sorry for all the ladies inching their way painfully along the track in their stilettos. It was a brilliant day and I loved it so much. Thanks so much bro, for flying me over to be your plus-one. Thanks Swire Shipping, for a beautiful couple of days in the big smoke. It was great to meet you all!

Event in Australia? 10 Packing Hacks

I love noise cancelling headphones!

I am flying Virgin Australia over to Melbourne and my hubster lent me his pair. They actually do completely, remove all the noise! No engine noise/ air conditioner/ people. I’m plugged into the inflight sound system, so I can still hear announcements, but most of the time I am listening to Gordi. Have you heard this beautiful song? I usually dread the feeling of being stuck in a tin can hurtling through the sky with hundreds of strangers. But today I am cocooned in my own little audio bubble. It’s beautiful.

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now someone just needs to invent smell-cancelling nose plugs!

My brother rang last week to see if I might be interested in going to the races with him. It’s a two day corporate thing and his lovely wife couldn’t attend with him. Lucky me, I’m going in her place!

I get to attend the races for the first time ever!  Derby Day is an important part of the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne and the theme is Black and White. I am all set; my hatbox stashed in the overhead locker.  Sacred Elixir and Highlad, GO you good things!

I’ll be away for four days, just a wee trip across the ditch.
We kiwis travel across to Australia a lot, and many of us have family there. At some stage, you may find yourself heading off for an event too.  Weddings, funerals, parties, conferences, concerts.
Here are my packing tips for a weekend event across the ditch:

1. Curate your outfits so that you are not taking unnecessary items. A lot of people don’t like to decide ahead of time what they are going to wear, but for any international trip (and with luggage allowances what they are)  it really matters that you don’t overpack. Pare down to one outfit per activity and one extra for flexibility.  Choose a jacket that can do double duty with more than one outfit.

2. Plan your wardrobe. I often draw a little sketch of each days outfits because my brain works better that way. This time though, I took photos because I wanted them for this post… then it was easy to stitch them together into one image on my phone.  I reckon not having to think about what to wear is a holiday in itself… almost as good as not having to think about what to cook for dinner!

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3. Coordinate your packlist. It helps me when everything is matchy-matchy. Less variety, sure, but it means that I can change things up easily with less items and limits the number of shoes I need.  This weekend, I’m following the Derby Day theme and packing mostly black-and-white with a few splashes of green..

4. Predict the inevitable. If you have one, use a wheely cabin bag. Mine was just about empty on the way over, in fact, I carried my handbag in it. The cabin bag gives you extra space beyond your suitcase, just in case you (oops!) slip into the shops accidentally and need to bring things home. It would be rude not to…

5. Hydrate on the plane. For some reason, airplane air systems desire to suck all the moisture from my hair and face. I usually arrive looking more like a sultana than myself.  I first found 1 Above flight water on my way over to Sydney for a shoot last year. It’s incredible stuff. I buy the tablets rather than the bottles so I have enough for the return trip.  One turns 500ml of water into the smartest hydration juice for travellers. One tablet’s worth should be consumed over 2.5 hours, so I needed two for my flight.  They come in packs of 4 or 10. Incidentally, it also makes for outstanding hangover juice.  Just in case your event includes merrymaking!

6. Unpack as soon as you arrive. Hang everything in the wardrobe, arrange your toiletries where they need to be. Plug in your chargers.  Pop your PJs on the pillow. There. It’s much easier to relax when everything has its place.

7. Take a mesh laundry bag. I pop all my worn things in there as they come off which keeps the hotel room tidy and makes unpacking once I am home super easy.  Straight to my little laundry back home!

8. Be smart. Make sure you have comfortable shoes as well as those killer heels for the event. I’ve packed a wee pair of $7 canvas flats from the Warehouse, they’ll be in my handbag for race day so I can switch into them for the journey back from the track. Nothing worse than reaching that point (you know the one) where you cannot bear one more second in heels.  I intend to avoid that ol’ barefoot stumble back into the hotel.

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9. DIYH. Finding a hairdresser for race day is nigh on impossible. So I’ve packed my trusty hot rollers and some bobby pins and I am going to DIY my own hair.  Hot rollers are so much easier than curling with an iron; once they’re in, I do my makeup and once that’s done, so is my hair. Love them. I use Vidal Sassoon hot rollers from Farmers.  This is what they do…

 

10. Be prepared. Just in case, pack some panadol.  If you’ve had a little more champagne than you would in your regular life, a couple of panadol and a big glass of water before bed will pay dividends next morning!  And if you are sharing accommodation with family like I am… those noise cancelling headphones may just save your sanity. Tee hee!

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This weekend, I am wearing:
The Chocolat Otto Jacket (gifted)
The Chocolat Printed Drape Tunic
The Chocolat Sydney Crop Top layer in milk
The Chocolat Defender Jacket
The Chocolat Anthem Singlet Dress in paint print
CM stretch satin skinnies (available from TCD)
TCD green boxy crop (four years old)
Taking Shape ponti pencil skirts (from last season, I bought these at the airport clearance store)
Millers comfort shorts (size up in this style).

Dressing Dolly :: Obi and Chocolat

 

I am about seven years old, standing in a suburban Christchurch store gazing at a selection of Sindy doll clothes. All of the narrow boxes contain a few items of clothing, stitched into a flatlay behind the cellophane.  I’m deeply impressed, ’cause you can mix and match different things together and everything goes with everything else!  I can’t wait to try every possible combination!

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This inspired moment must surely be the origins of my love for fashion and all things coordinated! I’m a girl who likes to get up and know that she has at least five outfit options to choose from, all of which have matchy-matchy potential.  I think this is why I love wearing black, or mixing it up with variations of colour or print. It truly does make dressing so much easier. It makes me calm.  When my first baby was born, I used to lay out the whole weeks worth of tiny little pink outfits in readiness. Ah Sindy. You were onto it.  Mix and match is a phenomenon designed for girls like me.

 

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Yesterday I had one of those very cool “is this my life?” moments.  I was at a bloggers event run by High Society, one of New Zealand’s biggest NZ made fashion houses.

The room we were ushered into had been decorated by the very clever Xanthe, with spools of thread and ribbons, the table runner hand-drawn as an oversized measuring tape. Along the table were little beribboned boxes, one for me (!) and one for each of the bloggers sitting beside me.  We were there to meet the designers of High Society’s fashion labels, Chocolat and Obi.  I could see the new summer ranges hanging on the wall beyond them.

 

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Kylie Niovara-Dave and Jon Dyball took us on a tour of their design studios, their cutting rooms and machining floor. I met Dolly, the clothes horse with the extra added boobage, who helps Kylie and John with their plus sized pieces. She made me think of my Sindy dolls all those years ago! I could imagine how dressing dolls could evolve into dressing people. Of course, both designers use real-life fit models also and are passionate about creating clothes that truly work for their customers.

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John spoke first, with great enthusiasm, about his creative process and the influences on his summer collection. You can expect from his label Obi, an attention to luxe prints, luscious fabrics and pieces that will work for their pricetag. I loved his passion for all things Japanese, the variations in texture and interesting juxtapositions. John has a gift for finding beautiful lines, colours and textures and weaving them together into a soulful, interesting collection.  I loved all of the pieces he showcased, here is a small selection, just look!

 

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Avise, Vigeur, Joliesse. We bloggers sat transfixed as he talked us through the ins and outs of each piece and how he makes sure his customers are catered for. I was particularly delighted that he understood the issues we (ahem) over forty ladies have with hot flushes!  Many of his items are sleeveless but with coordinating throw over options for coverage. There is a focus on the comfort + style equation, with flat fronted side elasticated waist bands. As he said “we’re over being fashion victims”. Yes, John, we are! I’m all for fashion that I can feel at ease in.  In trademark Rachie style, I did gush a bit (sorry fellow bloggers, I’m working on cooling that down!)  It’s just so hard to shut myself up when I am excited about something!  See? All these exclamation marks… oh my life.

 

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Nicky, Monique, Taylor and Becca; fashion bloggers.

Then it was Kylie’s turn.  Kylie is just how you imagine a clothing designer to be, she is wearing layers of edgy black mesh and her hair is a razor cut work of art. When she begins to talk about her collection, I am impressed with the confidence she has in knowing what her customers want; she listens closely to the feedback that comes directly from their retailers. She is loving the sense of ownership that is developing in this, her second year with the brand. Chocolat caters more exclusively to the Plus Size body and it shows in her cleverly constructed garments. I listen to her intently.  She is a creative powerhouse who thinks deeply about detail, drape, line and print and colour. Her collection speaks my language.  There is (happy sigh) lots of black, with a painterly print I just can’t get enough of, and a marimekko-ish finer print in the more structured corporate styles. Her colours are ‘lickable’ brights, orange tang, slushy blue, k-bar green (those are my names for them, because they speak to my eighties inner child)!  My eye is drawn to a super cute black and white spot jacket. It is adorable and I think it will do happy things for my waist. Kylie took me down to the factory floor to try some of her pieces. It was, dear reader, a little bit of fashion heaven!

 

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When I have been browsing stores before, I can find it hard to get a good grasp on a whole collection. Lookbooks help, so I do sometimes scroll through those online before shopping, just to get the gist. But yesterday, seeing whole collections displayed on the rails really captured me. I could see Kylie’s collection as an entire work of art, how each piece works with the others. It inspired me to find a way to shop more items in a collection than I ever have before.  In fact, 5 awesome pieces came home with me yesterday. Is it possible to have more than one ‘favourite’?!

 

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I’m off to the Victorian Derby Day with my brother next weekend and the theme is black and white. The short jump across the ditch isn’t a big packing challenge, but I like to be organised. I’ll be away in Melbourne for two nights and three days. Stay tuned for the outfits I have picked out from this beautiful Chocolat summer range, mixed in with a few other faves. I know I’ll be able to wear and wear every piece, and like my old muse, Sindy, mix and match to my heart’s content!

You can buy Chocolat and Obi’s new collections online or in store at Magazine or Zebrano. So gorgeous. Every single item.

Wanna play?

 

pssst…. check out these bloggers…

Oh She Writes :: Taylor

Dressing Up :: Monique

This is Jolie :: Beth

This is Meagan Kerr :: Meagan

The Style High Club :: Nicky

 

The Embrace

 

Some years ago I came across a seminal video clip that was going gangbusters on social media. I think my cousin, Kylie in Australia posted it. It was made by Taryn Brumfitt. I remember most the way she looked at herself in the mirror. The things she said out loud that sounded like the script I’d had swirling around my own head about my body.  She was talking about the shocking way we look at ourselves as women, and why that has to change. As I watched her clip, the tears began to run down my cheeks. I felt that old familiar despair about my body. I felt shame. That tired dirge within my heart, a deep disappointment weighing down my soul. It had to change.  I added Taryn’s clip to the arsenal of information I had begun to gather around my fledgling body positivity. I’ve thought a lot about this body of mine since then, all the things it has endured. I thought about how truly wonderful it is to be here, in it. This vessel deserves thanks. Not deprecation.  I hugged myself in a long, forgiving, kind-hearted embrace. It was the beginning of this new phase in my life, the start of something brand new. Liking myself exactly as I am (how sad that liking ourselves is almost revolutionary). It’s been liberating!
Thanks Taryn for your part in this shift for me!

 

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A little drawing from my sketchbook of me, embracing myself.

 

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Taryn Brumfitt’s viral social media post.

 

Taryn has since made a full length documentary, EMBRACE, exploring the potent body-ideal saturation of our media and the various ways that affects self image. She discusses the powerful, soul destroying ways we fight the unattainable fight and why we do. Sharing perspectives from a cosmetic surgeon, an anorexic girl, a plus size model, photographers, campaigners, educators, an actor, a public figure, and the general public. The themes and message in her documentary are world-changing.  I urge you to find a screening near you. I hope it will be available soon on DVD. It’s incredible. Last night, I took my daughter and my Aunty to see that documentary. It was a special screening hosted by Meagan Kerr and Monique Doy.  At the end of it, my eleven year old girl hugged me and said “Mummy, everybody needs to see this”.  She’s smart, my girl. She’s right.

 

The documentary was hit by controversy when it was first screened here for the Film Festival. Due to the images of female genitals during one part of the film, it was considered to be sexually graphic and had to be reviewed by the censorship board. The purpose of showing those private parts, was to address a very real problem for young women; asking crucial questions about the rise of labiaplasty among young women. Labiaplasty is surgery to removed the inner labia and create a more ‘streamlined downstairs’ sometimes known as the ‘designer vagina’. Women, especially young women, are clamouring for this surgery because their vulvas don’t look like the ones in pornography. They may not know this is the standard to which they are altering their bodies, but pornography and soft-porn magazines are often the only place women see other women’s vaginas. The proliferation of porn across our internet means young people encounter multiple images of one particular type of vagina (to be technically correct, vulvas). The type fashionable in the porn industry. Waxed or shaven, minimal labial folds. A vagina more stylistically akin to that of a pre-pubescent girl. It’s a sick world, and we wonder why?  Taryn shows a  range of female genitalia to shine a light on the fact we are meant to be unique. In showing realistic, post-puberty vulvas she valiantly attempts damage control. Thankfully, our censorship board watched the film and approved it’s screening. I actually dearly wish that we could make it compulsory in all schools, for girls and boys. But there are some themes that are significant triggers for our youth and it needs to be approached with care.  NB. Suicide, self harm, eating disorders, cosmetic surgery.

 

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Photographer B Jeffrey Madoff

My favourite part of the doco was when Taryn was shooting a special diversity project with New York photographer Bernie Madoff. I’ve been involved with a few diversity shoots, bringing up the rear (pun intended) and representing women over 40 and over size 18. I adore shoots with other women where encouragement and acceptance are part of the scene. It’s a rare thing in this world, for women to accept and encourage other women, just as they are, for being who they are, not just what they look like. It’s intoxicating. It’s a force I want to see more of in this world. Not just for me, but for the generations coming through. Empowered women empower women and when they do, happiness… wholeness, happens.  I’ve been involved in education, the disability sector, and now the plus size fashion world. Advocacy seems to be part of my purpose. But I can’t help wondering if all of the disparate sectors of my life, of my society, are together the thing that lights my fire. Diversity.

 

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Shoot for Euphoria Design’s “Confidence is Beautiful” campaign. 2016.

I want to see more fully grown women fronting women’s fashion brands and having a stronger presence in the media. Women of various ages, various stages, body types, abilities, ethnicities, backgrounds and gender histories. I want the fashion world to give us all credit for wanting more than the one type of ‘woman’ (girl) we see everywhere. I want more representation, not just because I love modelling and I am not a typical model, but because it matters for our young ones coming up. It matters for them to see that women are diverse. It matters for them to see that they have a place.  Here, with us. The women of the village. If we don’t show them they have value, that their image is beautiful, how will they ever embrace the realities of growing upward, outward, and older?

 

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Shoot for Autograph Curvy Model Search. 2015.

 

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Backyard shoot for Sera Lilly jeans. 2015.

Taryn Brumfitt makes room for us all with this documentary. With her wonderful fun loving sparky approach, she elbows the status quo out of the way and asks finally, and loudly, REALLY?  Is this what we want for our gender moving forward?  She calls us to wake up and begin the revolution in our own mirrors. She’s a rockstar, and I wholeheartedly embrace her movement.

#Ihaveembraced #TheBodyPositiveMovement

 

Jane Makes Hats

Remember when I said I’d be sharing with you, my favourite creative people?  Here’s the first!

I met Jane when I did the ‘Confidence is Beautiful’ shoot for Euphoria Design. She works for the marketing company who devised that project; Identify Marketing. In her own time, she is Jane of Jane Makes Hats. She and I bonded quickly over our physical similarities, it’s not every day I come across someone tall like me, same age, same shoe size, same colouring!  But we differ greatly when it comes to knitting talent!  It’s been lovely getting to know her. One day, I told her I had been oogling her amazing hats on instagram. We we got talking about them. I told her how long I have been looking for the perfect Rachie hat, eye-colour-green, soft and slouchy. She said, let me knit it for you! And she did. I adore it so much!  Here it is. And here she is, because keeping Jane a secret would be too mean. You are welcome!

 

Q: Jane; your hats! Every one is a work of art. As a beginner knitter I have enormous respect for your skill, before we even talk about your talent!
Please tell us how it all began?

Well thanks! It’s a subject dear to my heart – my skills were passed to me via a very patient Nana and Mother. My Nana was an amazing knitter, her tension was so tight she often bent the needles (I still have some of her wonky needles in my collection to prove it). My sister and I had matching knitted poncho’s we would wear with pride and we always received compliments on them. My Mum still knits and donates loads of wee teddy bears to charities all around the World and NZ (St Johns in Pirongia just received a bunch for the sick kids who ride in the ambulance).

 

Q: Tell us about what inspires your projects?

Each person I knit for inspires me. I hear their story, I find out what they want, and I get so excited about each project. I loved creating your hat Rachel, you wanted a hat that matched your eyes (and personality). I still get nervous when I deliver the finished project – I want people to love them!

 

Q: What is your creative process?

I find out what the recipient wants, I go through my massive stash of donated wool (given to me from Mum’s, Nana’s and Great Grandma’s), and scour the shops for the perfect yarn. I usually create a pattern from scratch, so the maths skills come into play. I knit at night to wind down from the day.

 

Q: What would you like to try next?

I like small projects as my attention span is a wee short, I have 5 projects to complete then I want to make a few squares for my blanket. I like to make squares from the wool of hats I have created for people, it’s like a happy memory blanket.

 

Patchworking. Using up my scraps on a blanket for my boy. It will grow as he does.

A photo posted by Jane (@janemakeshats) on

Q: You once told me, when talking about Moss stitch, that it was “fun”! Is challenge or difficulty a motivating factor in your knitting? How important is the fun factor for you?

I do like nutting out a pattern, This week – for a new challenge – I offered myself up to be a test knitter for a talented knitter in the States. It was for this amazing pair of cable gloves, I re-did that first glove about 10 times because I couldn’t figure out the pattern (I usually just create cable without a pattern). I eventually googled it, slapped my forehead at how easy it was, and made a fab pair of gloves.

 

Q: What has been your favourite project?

The Dinosaur Hats, they take a long time but are so exciting when they are finished. So far I have made 3 for boys, one for a baby girl (not yet born) and one for a cool lady in Wellington (I just loved that she saw the baby hat and said “I can rock a hot pink dinosaur hat with multi-coloured spikes”).

 

#regram @_cubaka_ getting all growly in his fab #dinosaur #hat. #knittingforkids #knittersofinstagram #grr

A photo posted by Jane (@janemakeshats) on

Q: How important is having a creative outlet for you and why?

My job is creative and I love it, but I think doing something with my hands and producing something with love is so important. I like to give every baby born in my circle, a new hat as a gift – I really can’t explain why, but I have done it for around 10 years. I really want to pass my skills onto the next generation and love the craft movement. These skills are not lost, they are being used and re-invented and cherished – it makes me smile and think of my Nana and her wonky needles.

 

Ah, Jane, thank you so much for sharing your creativity with us. If you want to follow Jane, you can find her here, on instagram.

  • Are you a knitter?
  • Have you been taught a special craft that you plan to hand down to the next generation?
  • What kind of creativity floats your boat?

Confidence is Beautiful

 

At thirteen years of age, I thought confidence could be bought and worn.

It was a black dress with an attached tartan ra-ra skirt that held all the power.
I knew it was the key to social glory at the upcoming school social. I knew that if I could just wear that dress, accessorised with carefully scrunched long socks and black karate shoes (de rigeur in 1987) …every person in the room would sigh with envy. Marvel at my meteoric rise to uber-coolness. Like in the movies. I knew that in that dress, all my adolescent problems would be solved.

My mother hated it. She thought the dress was cheap and nasty, too short, altogether wrong on every level. Somehow, I convinced her. The dress was bought. My social success was assured.

Sure.

School socials were hot and steamy affairs in the tropics. The air was thick with the smell of Impulse body spray and teen sweat. Palm fronds decorated the breezeway under the stilted classrooms; our makeshift dance hall. Beats and synthesized riffs pumped out of the speakers. A swarm of coral colours and pimply faces hovered around the sound system. It was high excitement. I could feel my pulse fluttering in my neck as I walked into the crowd of teenage energy.

“Carrot!” rang out from the cool girl huddle as I walked past. Laughter from the gaggle of girls buzzing around the Queen Bee.
“Carrot!” she hooted, staring straight at me. I was confused. I leaned in,
“Are you talking to me?” I asked loudly, over the music, my smile hovering. I was unsure but a little eager to even have airtime with Her Social Highness.  I didn’t know what she meant by ‘carrot’. She laughed like I was the stupidest creature ever born.
“I’m going to call you Carrot from now on, because you always look like you’ve got a carrot RIGHT UP YOUR ARSE!”.  She and her friends fell about laughing. One mimicked my walk. I tried to evaporate away into the shadows of the palm leaves. Suddenly ridiculous in my dress, my socks, my attempts to fit in. And conscious for the first time of the way that I walk. Wishing I could stand stock still until they were all gone. Knowing I couldn’t enjoy the dance floor, or life itself, with a theoretical carrot up my arse.  It didn’t matter what I wore. A dress wasn’t enough.

 

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By my forties, I’d discovered that confidence is a choice.  Yes, it took me that long.
I discovered it when I did something well out of my comfort zone. I entered an Australian plus size modelling competition. The prize was a contract with Vivien’s Model Management. I didn’t win that competition, but I did win a contract; it was the start (or perhaps just a part) of the life-long process toward feeling confident in my own skin. It seems that mature, curvaceous, giraffe-ish ladies are needed in the fashion world. My speciality seems to be showcasing clothing for mid-life women with a bit of hip and sass. And doing that has built something beautiful in me. I am confident in who I am. Confident that I can be beautiful; me. With all of my flaws and all of my failings.

Working as a model has taught me so many things. But above all, I have learned that feeling beautiful is an inside job. It’s just a choice we make. A decision to believe that everyone can see the best of us, to let it shine even when we feel insecure.  So, for me, confidence is just self-belief in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In the face of those millions of reasons why I feel unworthy about calling myself beautiful, the same reasons that cripple so many women. It’s listening instead to that small, insistent and compelling voice that tells me we all are beautiful. And that means, me too.  If I could go back in time to my thirteen year old self on that night of adolescent embarassment, I’d whisper to her:

“-fake it, baby.  Stand up tall, flash that mean girl a brilliant, dismissive, smile. Stride away, don’t skulk in the shadows. Just fake it til you make it, until the only person you need to impress, is you. Because one day, you will make it to that place. And it is going to feel amazing’.

On Saturday, I spent the day in that place. We were in the studio and design space of a renowned New Zealand fashion label, Euphoria Designs. We were shooting beautiful clothes from the new summer range, in a campaign that has me all excited about the future.  Euphoria Design’s campaign selected ten ladies from their competition, ‘Confidence is Beautiful’. The entries were put to public votes, and between those (thank you if you voted for me!) and the judges deliberations, we were chosen. They were looking for a diverse group who would represent their customers, their world of wearable design. Our world, as fashion consumers.  It is rare to see ourselves reflected in fashion media, regular & irregular women, diverse women. Women of various ethnicities, ages, heights, sizes, social status, health. Some fashion houses are ahead of others. Some fashion houses get it.

Monique Angus (designer of Euphoria clothing) is a woman who understands how important it is to show it. She herself is effortlessly elegant. The archetype of a classical beauty. And yet she comprehends the significance of diversity in fashion media. On Saturday she swished about the studio, quietly supporting all the girls, explaining her pieces, listening …and even clearing away our dishes. She is a thoughtful soul, with an eye for detail and a commitment to all the things that make New Zealand fashion great; quality, superb cut, beautiful construction and unique prints. Her clothes are simply gorgeous: drapey, elegant, quirky, interesting. And her campaign was simply lovely: inclusive, affirming, generous and encouraging. She made us all feel so special, so much a part of the Euphoria philosophy. I hope our pictures might encourage others to explore Euphoria, too. Monique has something for everyone, even when the budget is tight. I found such treasures in her outlet racks!

It was a very special day for me.

It’s a while since I’ve been booked for any commercial modelling, and my day with this campaign felt like a quiet confirmation. Whether it is over, or still beginning, I can do this. I love to do this.
Representing women of a certain age, women with curvier form, women who have taken a long time to discover their own beauty, women for whom confidence has not come easy… that lights me up.
(And if you, too, would like to see more diversity in fashion media, more women like the ones above modelling clothes on websites and in magazines; let your favourite brands know!)

A dress isn’t enough. Confidence comes from an active choice.  And when you choose to step into your own kind of beauty, to own it, well then… that’s when a dress can truly do magic.

Recently a dear friend of mine told me her favourite quote. It is now one of mine.  I hope it will resonate with you, too.

“We are not meant to be perfect, we are meant to be whole”
-Jane Fonda.

Let’s not waste a moment more on self-doubt. Whoever you are and whatever your story, you are beautiful. Just the way you are.  Maybe you, like me, have moved on from that ‘carrot’ feeling. Maybe instead you’re in the unhappy-pear-stage, or feeling like an apprehensive-apple, or any one of the body shapes stylists love to group us into. Whatever it is, it’s sweeter than you realise. Stand up, square those shoulders, put a grin on your face and move that body like only you can. Listen to the voice inside you that speaks the truth of your beauty, not the many that speak only to bring you down.

Because when you are confident, it is a beautiful thing, it showers all of your inside sparkles onto the people around you, like glitter, like confetti. Like a celebration of something amazing.  It would be a shame not to share it, right?

I’d love to know what gives you confidence.

Do you have it? How did you find it? Did it take you as long as me?

 

fruit

 

Synergy

Euphoric!

I love a good coincidence. I love the synergies between things and finding unexpected connections.

You who know me and know my story will understand the particular significance of the word ‘euphoria’ for me. Euphoria was my most significant side effect from the immune modulating steroids that put me into remission. I wrote about that here.  Ah, such a buzz that was, and so nice to have a positive side effect from medications! It’s rare, you know, for the meds to produce something lovely!  I like the synergy, that the med that made me happy also made me well.

So, euphoria and I were an established pair.  And that bubbly happiness spread out across the joy of my remission, across the beginnings of becoming a plus size model. And then one day, I found myself in the uber cool flat of a brilliant photographer, Carolyn Haslett, who was going to do a shoot for me. She was so lovely. I felt really embarassed by my lack of knowledge about the high end plus size fashion scene. I mean, I’ve never really had budget for high end fashion, so my knowledge extended to bagging bargains and making style out of what you’ve got. And of course, when I was sick, there was very little call for fancy things.  It was all comfort and practicality, perched up in my bed looking out at the world.

Carolyn is vastly experienced in the world of fashion, here and overseas. She was a patient educator. She chatted about Georgia Pratt, a plus size model she had photographed previously. Georgia is a forerunner for plus size modelling in New Zealand and is now wildly successful in the UK. Carolyn also told me about Euphoria Design. She told me how much I would love their pieces. We went upstairs to her rooftop and she took some photos. I love all the pictures she took, but the one above feels particularly breezy and confident, it’s one of my favourites from that day.  I was wearing my beloved dress from TCD (another oustanding NZ fashion label for plus girls) and enjoying the whole experience.  It was a day for stepping into confidence and learning to move my body for the camera. I learned so much, not just from shooting with Carolyn, but from analysing the photos with her later.

I looked up Euphoria Design when I got home, and joined their facebook page. I am always keen to support local fashion houses, and I wanted to know more about them. Their clothes made me swoon. Luxurious, flowing layers and unique signature prints, I loved them all. I was thrilled when they announced an end of season sale, such a great opportunity to pick up designer delights at a fraction of the new season prices. And then, one day, Euphoria announced they were running a competition. They were looking for ten ladies who exhibited the ideal that ‘Confidence is Beautiful’.

I was beyond excited! I rifled through my photos and found the one Carolyn had taken all those months before, up on her roof. James Taylor‘s song started floating through my mind… I uploaded my pic and wrote about that experience, strutting across the rooftop terrace, totally new to modelling, a novice at confident posing. I wrote about how confidence is a choice you make, to back yourself. And then, even though I will never be comfortable asking for votes, I shared and shared and hoped and hoped.

Last night, I got an email saying I was in!  What a win for women like me, over forty, a little frumpy, a little frazzly, a little frightened about being thought ridiculous. We’re not ridiculous. We are beautiful, for all that we are, all that we do, all that we have experienced.

It made me dance up and down my hallway. I love this competition because it is all about the very thing I believe. We shine when we stand up with confidence and believe in ourselves. We are beautiful when we know ourselves and treat ourselves with kindness; we radiate positivity when we accept ourselves for all that we are and have been through. Beauty and confidence go hand in hand. It’s a feeling. It’s quite a lot like euphoria!

I sat down this morning to write this post because I knew you’d want to know how that competition went.  And as usual, I went to my online graphic program, Canva, to make the blog graphic for the beginning of the post.  I kid you not, look at the font name!

See! Synergy!

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If you’d like to look at Euphoria Design’s beautiful clothes, you’ll find them online here.
Or join their facebook page here and follow the competition as it all unfolds.

So thank you: Carolyn, for the image that helped me place among the winners, to anyone who voted, to Monique at Euphoria & Jane at Identify Marketing for choosing me…

…and thank you ‘synergy’, for making it all feel like a kind of cosmic kismet. I like that.