Every Time We Say Goodbye

Living abroad is an immensely rewarding experience: the constant sense of adventure; opportunities for language learning; a greater respect and tolerance for difference. However, as an expat, one inevitably makes a lot of expat friends. It’s only natural – you’re taking language lessons together, perhaps working in international companies, people helpfully introduce you at parties (“Jo – meet Svetlana – she’s Russian so, well, foreign, just like you! You must have lots to discuss…”). And, in my opinion, having expat friends is no bad thing, it’s certainly not a worry.

new friends

Until…

Until your expat friends come over all patriotic and leave. My refined and notoriously indecisive Bostonian friend (it’s all very “Where do you summer?” à la Katherine Hepburn), whom I have in past musings referred to as Peggy-Sue, is returning to her native land, where a new job and her wonderful man await. Despite being thrilled for her, this imminent departure makes me unutterably sad. Peggy was a bridesmaid at my wedding; she’s spent Christmas with my family; I call her when I need to work out the Big Issues of life and when I have nothing other to report than what I ate for dinner. Her not being in the same country or even in the same time zone any more will leave a chasm in my life.

All Good Things

Quite a few friends have left Paris recently – sabbatical years, travelling, job opportunities – but they all plan to come back. Not Peggy-Sue. She’s leaving on a jet plane and not coming back again. Since I found out, I’ve been heavy-hearted, with an unshakeable end-of-an-era feeling. The fact that Peg’s departure coincides with my getting married and a number of friends either doing likewise or having babies only adds to my fin-de-siècle malaise. Like many thirty-somethings, we’re closing the Roaring Twenties chapter of our lives and starting a new one; and while, in its own way, it’s equally as thrilling, I can’t help but mourn the end of a glorious period of much spontaneity and few responsibilities.

friendship

Profit and loss

The French have a wonderful verb for which I’ve never found a satisfying English translation: profiter. It means “to make the most of” or to “fully take advantage of”, though neither seem to really capture the notion of living fully, enjoying, savouring. It’s a word I’ve often had in mind of late. Have I lived this era of my life to the full? Have I made the most of my twenties and of Peggy Sue, enjoyed time spent together, gone places and done things we wanted? I’m still trying to answer myself, and I’m guessing the reply is somewhere in the grey area of “yes, but could have done more”.

Making your mind up

So that’s what I’m trying to focus on in the run-up to Peggy’s leaving. Living deeply and fully. Enjoying every moment. Savouring the people in my world. I can’t redo the chapter of my life that’s slowly coming to a close, but I can learn from it and resolve to make the next one even more of a page-turner. I can make the trip to visit Peggy Sue (and not simply talk about it); schedule Skype dates over a glass of wine (and not just collapse in front of the television); make more time for friends who are still in Paris (and elsewhere); book tickets for that stand-up comic/play/band (instead of simply looking at the posters)…

paris cafe

I’m sad to see my friend move so far away, but I have control over how our friendship evolves and the time I choose to invest in it from a distance. I can choose to wallow and focus on all the things we’ll no longer do together (silly films, Friday night drinks), or I can choose to be here now and make the most of what is. One path leads to misery and stasis, the other promises growth, joy and gratitude. Even Peggy-Sue would see that’s no dilemma!

Werk It

I am in Yorkshire. It is raining. Obviously. However, since my new find I am excited about this rain. It’s been sunny in London since I purchased the Short Rain Cape from Norfolk-based Carrier Company, and while this is very welcome in some respects (and must not end for a minimum of seven months please), I have hardly been able to contain my excitement in regard to wearing my new bit of kit.

short rain cape

You see this cape is just about my wet weather everything. As a shorter lady, this version sits just below the knee in an elegant fashion (although is available in two longer lengths) and the cut is just, well perfection. If it was ever possible to look elegant and chic in a green rectangle of waterproof fabric, this is it. And not only look, but also feel. I feel as if I glide along, fabric draping perfectly from my shoulders, smugly dry shouldered underneath. Dry and stylish, and just like Barbour it is a style that crosses ages easily, but gives you a lovely alternative to the sweat-inducing (let alone just not that Vogue any more) Barbour.

barbour

This purchase is the latest in a new direction I am trying, which interestingly in some ways harks back to my early twenties flirtation with a skater aesthetic. Carhartt have been a go-to staple for skater types for decades, and I have recently re-embraced their chinos and shorts as elements of my new grown up look. Strong, mature-coloured hardwearing cotton drill chinos that sit nonchalantly on the hips, and incidentally they make your ass look incredible. Bound interior seams and perfect finishings add to the appeal to an adult connoisseur, a person to whom quality is key.

Bill Cunningham

What is it about work wear that has such appeal? The fashion industry are constantly throwing colour and shape and texture and more and more at consumers, maybe this is a way to take a break from this sensory overload? Arguably the most important man in fashion wears only a blue multi-pocketed French work jacket. I am talking of course of the original doyen of street style, Bill Cunningham. In the beautiful film documenting his work, he explains why these jackets are perfect for him as they have pockets for all of his film and pens and things, they are hard-wearing and they are practical. Bill is a very gentle man, who has very simple tastes. His ‘uniform’ consists of his work jacket, cotton shirt, chinos and dress shoes (lace-up boots if it’s winter), and to me he is the most refreshing person to have ever existed in the fashion industry. A stylist I used to assist once said to me that you can tell a good stylist a mile off, that if she looks a bit dull in the clobber department it’s because she spends her time making other people look fabulous, and not all of her time making herself look fabulous. This quote always stuck with me, and I think this is adding to my current draw to such style, having now been a stylist now for over a decade.

Suffice to say, in true fashion industry style, you’d be hard pressed to find Bill’s jacket for ‘about $20′ any longer, which ironically is what he paid for them before he made them such objects of desire with scores of people wishing to pay a little homage to the king of street snappers. The Norfolk Work Jacket from Carrier Company is one that comes very close to the holy Bill grail. Currently priced at £68 it is certainly not the most expensive variation either. The images on their website show the jacket sun-bleached and weather-worn beautifully, evidence that such pieces create their own life from the life of their wearer. I admire a company which promotes long life, and an investment in their products, as opposed to the throw away nature so often employed when trend is involved. I think work wear is almost an anti-trend, so maybe that’s the key.

norfolk jacket

I feel, at the moment at least, that I am alone among my peers with this look, which obviously appeals to the stylist in me, but also the blank canvas, practicality and quality of the pieces is in line with my tutorage that as a creator of other people’s looks I need to retain a simplicity that inspires trust. Trust that I am 100% in creating the fabulous for my client and that I am 100% concentrating on them. After all, what’s a celebrity without the self-centred ego hmm? There’s no wonder when thinking along these lines, why it is that artists traditionally wear smocks when creating art.

chanel couture

In the Chanel atelier, all of the staff wear custom white work jackets. If it’s chic enough for Chanel, well. It stands to reason that garments which are held in lower regard than your day or fancy clothes are bound to create a much richer tale of life. Cheap, hard-wearing, neutral pieces of clothing chosen so as not to distract from the (often messy) creative process- being that stitching for Karl or trawling oysters in Dublin Bay. With pockets. Work wear is your own self-couture, buy it, live it, make it your own.

Good Glitter

I am not sure whether it is a chromosome thing, a stylist thing, or an antithesis to my grunge thing – but for as long as I can remember, I have been a magpie for glitter. Not just any glitter, good glitter. For me, a good glitter for is chunky, thick and unwavering. I am especially drawn to what I like to call Sixties Lurex; thick knitted garments with crude metallic threads running through them. Silver was often combined with a black nylon base giving a dirty grungy glitter that could easily be incorporated into a goth girl’s outfit without drawing too much attention for being girly.

dorothy red shoes

Dorothy’s hand sequinned ruby slippers from the 1939 MGM movie The Wizard of Oz were designed by the original king of glamour ‘Adrian’. A very famous Hollywood gown designer, his career spanned the 1920’s right up to the 1940’s. Adrian dressed every starlet you can possibly think of in sparkle and glamour; Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow and Katherine Hepburn to name a famous few. These slippers are officially the most important piece of Hollywood memorabilia, each pair remaining from the original movie worth an estimated $3 million. No wonder I covet them. Many covet them. Music man of the moment, Pharrell Williams even paid tribute to the glittery treads during his Oscars performance wearing a pair of custom made red sequinned Adidas high tops.

glitter

As a fashion student in my early twenties, I came across a pair of red sequinned pumps from Miu Miu. I obviously did what any self-respecting fashion student would do and promptly started eating back copies of Vogue until I had saved up enough to purchase them. That is not quite true; I bought them as soon as I set eyes on them and then had to eat white pasta with only garlic salt for flavour for months. I still have them, one heel so bent it is impossible to stand, and they featured in a piece of work I styled recently; my trashed beyond belief, wonky ruby slippers. (image below by Zoe Buckman)

If I Were A Rose

When I worked in the music industry, I created a special process to glitter {cheap} heeled pumps for a songstress on stage, and it seems Hedi Slimane loves this idea too. The ‘Flats are back’ announcement is only making me mutinously decide to wear heels as much as possible {although this is rapidly reminding myself why I always wear flats obviously as they are impossible to be speedily constructive in}. As a life long hater of the insipid kitten heel, I must confess Hedi as buggered that up royally with his AW Saint Laurent collection. I am mentioning this all now, so far from winter, as we all know such things get, ahem, homaged, quite quickly, and the things I am about to talk about are crazy money. They are also potentially my dream shoes and will go with everything all year round. See, see how I talk myself into purchases? I am a fully-grown woman who still lies to herself about how much things cost.

saint laurent glitter shoes

The shoes which currently hold my desires? Glittered. Chunky, heavenly, ankle strapped, low heeled, pointy, dirty, grungy and glittered. Grown up glitter. Get it now glitter. Get a grip on yourself spending over £600 on a pair of shoes glitter.

Dear Diary

On this day in 2013, I was having my first wedding dress fitting. And it’ll be a year ago this weekend that I saw a fantastic production of Sunday in the Park with George, with (and this pleases me no end) my friend George. And around this time last year, I was enjoying reading The Woman in White. Fascinating, I know – but more interesting is how I know and remember all this. Well, in 2013, I started keeping a one-line-a-day, five-year diary. The concept is this: each date has a page, each page is divided into five sections. You write on the same page on the same date each year – and you do so for five years.

Diary writing

I bought my journal for a song. Baby blue and leather-bound with gold-edged paper, it’s a little marvel that consistently makes me reflect on the passage of time – both looking back and thinking forward. I find traditional journaling a chore – the pressure to write regularly, the tendency just to pen a personal monologue of every worried, angry or depressed thought I’ve had. But this diary is different – I only have space to write two sentences, which only take a couple of minutes so there’s no pressure. Even more delightful is my discovery that, far from dragging me into a quagmire of self-analysis and rehashing my doubts and fears, it elevates my thoughts and offers me clarity and positivity.

Remember, remember…

Since I began the project, having just a few lines in which to sum up my day has made me think very clearly about what I want to be reminded of five years from now. Do I want to write that I had an argument with my boss, got a manicure and had drinks with a friend? Or perhaps I want to express something that I won’t remember unless I write it down. A stunning winter sunset watched from the office window with a couple of fun colleagues as we worked late? The stranger on the metro who handed me a tissue when I was crying with laughter reading David Sedaris? It makes me really choose what shapes my memories and thus my experience of the day.

sunset

How Was Your Day?

And by making me consider what I want to remember about this day, the diary also makes me think about what I want to focus on here and now. So, when my husband asks about my day, I can go into details about an endless meeting, a last-minute request for a report, a coaching client who keeps changing her appointment. Or… I can tell him about a great book I read during my commute, the email I got from a friend I haven’t seen in ages, how I got on in my yoga class. What I choose to tell him about my day colours how I view my day even as I see it that very evening.

Looking Back

Now that I’m in my second year of the diary, I also get to look back at what I was doing last year. I have cited just a few examples and every memory makes me smile. When I’m feeling in a rut and look back at what I was doing last year, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come. I’m also noticing potential patterns: for two years running, late January has not been a pleasant time for me. Maybe in 2015 I’ll be able to factor that in and find a way to take the edge off.

diary

Choosing your memories

Journaling, of either the traditional sort or the type I’ve embarked upon, may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but really thinking about how you want to describe your day, week, month or year and what you’d like to remember are great habits to adopt. It’s so easy to get caught up in what went wrong with your day or what you didn’t get done, but those things don’t have to be the sum of your experience. So, the next time you’re having drinks with a friend on a Friday night and she asks, “So, how was your week?” think about what you want your week to have been about and the experience you want to call to mind before you answer.

Ugly Shoes

It is a well-known fact that ugly shoes are better for your feet. I would hate to name any shoe brands in particular as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course. But every time I step out in fancy, impractical, blister-inducing footwear I berate myself for not wearing ‘sensible shoes’.

pool slides

What gets to me is that there is a presumption that once you are ready for comfortable shoes you are also ready to hang up any stylishness that you have procured throughout your life. I realised this most recently when I styled a job for a character – a 65-year-woman. The general idea I was fighting against is the notion that 65-year-old women are frumpy, dowdy and sans style. This was very hard for me to get my head around, as the women I know anywhere near this age category are rather fabulously dressed. Case in point? The stars of Sue Bourne’s fantastic documentary Fabulous Fashionistas.  I can only imagine that this notion comes from the image of 65-year-old women from previous decades. The women who are 65 now grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, so these are women who championed mini skirts, crochet and platforms. They were the first generation to really have fun with their clothes.

fabulous fashionistas

While this is a preconception about an older generation’s style which we must fight, when it comes to footwear that’s a different matter. Working as a stylist, I’m on my feet all day long, so I crave comfort in footwear. During preproduction I am dashing around shops, hire houses, driving and carrying, and on shoots I can be on my feet for up to 18 hours a day. I have always favoured the Converse low top or a ballerina, but am now finding these less comfortable day to day. I have recently followed the pack (shock horror) and invested in a pair of Air Max 90’s to put some actual max air between the ground and me, and I must confess they are enjoyable to wear. However, I am not a teenager and I fear this look must be restricted to work only.

nike air max 90s

Men have spent years complaining about women, complaining about their shoes; walking slowly, limping occasionally, blistered bleeding aching feet ahoy. However as soon as we switch over to practical-looking, clumpy safe choices they are up in arms that women now don’t look sexy and we all look like we knit our own muesli. You can’t have it all mate. Or can you?

Celine Furkenstocks

For several seasons now the Ugly Shoe has been creeping into collections. And now it has finally infiltrated the high street, it is officially a trend. Style reference? See Celine’s fur-lined Furkenstocks for Spring 2013. These have translated into a slightly more practical non fur-lined version for this summer, featuring a criss cross grosgrain strap and Birkenstock styling. Birkenstocks themselves have enjoyed several summers in the spotlight now and joyfully this success looks set to continue. Who wouldn’t want a super on-trend, cool, practical, flat, soft cork-lined footbed with arch support and a roomy toe box hmm? And even Vogue said it was okay. And Alexa. And remember the images of Kate taken by Corinne Day back in the 1990’s? See.

birkenstocks alexa olsens kate moss

Givenchy Spring 2014 was styled exclusively with leather sandals, and the Prada collection featured some chunky rhinestoned neoprene rainbow brite practical sandals that I just can’t decide whether I secretly love them or openly hate them. The Prada offer brings me on to the other big hitter in this slightly ugly and strange trending footwear department – The Humble Poolslide.

prada ss14

I spent the majority of last summer trying to persuade the various Directors of E4’s Misfits to let me style a pair of poolslides into the show, alas to no avail. I was saddened to notice them appear in countless shows and on pretty much every catwalk subsequently and I now mourn the passing of my poolslider trendsetting moment. Now here is an item I have championed on holidays since the 1990’s, loving its chaviness, especially with white towelling sports socks. My father had a thing for poolsliders and socks, and as much as we berated him and I hid in shame as a teenager, it is a style I have adopted with gung ho as an adult. These beauties are making a mainstream reappearance on the high street too. You can even design your own at Adidas for under £30. That’s semi bespoke footwear for under a bullseye. Bullseye indeed.

adidas poolslides

For full ‘I don’t give a blister’ ugliness I like all-black sandals, but white is super nice for summer too. You can get glitzy with metallics, which are huge for 2014, and there are some delicate florals and cool stripes to be had too. Bright or pastel, natural leather, anything goes. The great thing about this trend is it won’t break your bank or your feet. The real battle is now not whether your footwear is seen as fashionable but how sexy it makes you feel. And your feet may well be considered sexier when they are not covered in blisters and plasters. The dilemma continues…

Winning Differently

Seeing things through. Honouring your commitments. Giving your all. Noble thoughts, and laudable goals indeed, but are they always the best route to peace and happiness?

Stop pushing yourself

This week, as I was leaving the office after a hectic day, I faced a dilemma. I had a life coach networking event to attend and, boy, did I not want to go. All I could think about was a hot bath, a glass of wine and a comedy show that would relax my over-taxed brain. But wait, the type-A/achiever/self-motivator demon living inside me shouted: “You’ll regret not going and slobbing on the sofa when you could be making valuable new contacts!” I phoned a friend. “Don’t go”, she said, “You’ll regret going because if it’s anything other than insanely useful, you’ll just sit there wishing you’d listened to yourself and headed home”.

networking

It took a lot of effort for me to overcome the dire sense that I was copping out – baling on something I’d said I would do. (Said to whom? Just myself and my diary!) And yet… as I unwound at home, I didn’t regret staying in one bit. It didn’t feel like laziness or doing myself out of opportunities. It felt something a little like… self-care.

Help those who would be helped

It has been theorised that when you decide to buy a red car, you start seeing red cars everywhere. In that spirit, a coaching client this week brought me a second example of when giving up is far from giving in. She was bewailing her failed attempts to help a friend, complaining that the friend just wouldn’t listen and was impossible to help: “I sometimes think my friend doesn’t want my help.” Ah, there it is. My powerful coaching question: “So, if this person doesn’t want help, what’s the result of trying to help him against his will?”

counselling

Cue fireworks, glass shattering, earth ceasing to rotate on its axis for a split second. “Yes”, said my client slowly, wrapping her mind around my unexpected enquiry, “I can only really help people who want to be helped. The rest is just a waste of energy.” When faced with intransigence and a lack of willing, insistence can only lead to frustration and even conflict; sometimes giving up is an act of self-protection and kindness.

Why shout them down?

I have recently been grappling with a difficult relationship with a work colleague. She does not listen. I don’t mean she hears what I say then ignores my recommendations. No, worse: she literally doesn’t let anyone speak – she cuts people off, talks over them; I even saw her get up and leave the room when another co-worker was midway through answering a question she had asked. This kind of behaviour pushes all my buttons. A lack of consideration for anyone else’s contribution to the discussion (otherwise known as interrupting, not letting you finish, finishing your sentence for you) is a personal bête noire.

This week I realised (finally) that I was never going to change this woman (see my previous point!), and I am certainly not willing to shout in order to be heard. So I decided I’d just stop. Stop trying to make her hear, stop trying to give her my opinion, stop attempting to converse with her at all, in fact. And, oh, the relief! Essentially, I’ve decided that if she doesn’t want to hear me, I won’t waste my breath. I’ll give up, and in doing so, I’ll conserve my energy and spend it on someone who wants to listen and who shows me enough courtesy to deserve my precious time!

communication

Obviously, powering through is sometimes the best course of action – who wants to be someone who doesn’t follow through or get anything done? But it’s essential to identify those times when the wiser course of action is to stop trying so hard, walk away from a damaging situation, or abandon a toxic project or relationship. Sometimes giving up is not equivalent to losing the war but to picking your battles.

Thinking Pink

It is hard for me to pin point the true foundation of my obsession with pale pink. Is it the beautiful pale satin ballet pumps, which I still wear as shoes in the summeriest of months? Or perhaps my Mama’s beautifully-destroyed pointe shoes that hang around my home like trophies of a past career. I adore the ballet, and often work with ballerinas so the link there is clear. It reminds me of my childhood; my mother was a dance teacher and I used to attend all of her classes, whatever level she was teaching. The sound of the pointe shoes of the Corps moving across a stage is one of my favourite sounds of all time. My biggest regret is giving up ballet. That and ever smoking my first cigarette. Which actually brings me onto my second wave of pale pink obsession – those teen consuming Pink Ladies jackets. My preference is actually Stephanie Zinone’s version in Grease 2; it was cool, silky and reversible and I still want it now.

pink 1

The problem with pinks is that they generally are seen as ‘girly’. I have several be-babied friends and a regular request is ‘no pink’. As a non-childholder myself, I often think this is a mean ploy to entrap strangers into taking wild 50/50 chances as to the sex of the baby. Of course I would say that, I am one of those un-babied people who thinks all parents and or marrieds have some weird secret code whereby they must punish singles for any decisions they made to the contrary of their own fully paid-up family life.

I like that my association with pink is both romantic and delicate (ballet) and tough and cool (Rizzo). There is a art to selecting the right shade of pink. It is an art that fashion maestro Marc Jacobs found when designing his Marc by collection for S/S ’14; not only was there pale pink, but it was exactly the right pale pink. Pale pink, low slung, wide-legged trousers from heaven. Colours and fabrics that reminded me of jockeys silks and cheerleaders, and a more structured slouchy suit oozing luxury and coolness in a grown-up way. Carven and Simone Rocha also championed this hue last season, although it was a little punchier in the heavier woollen fabrics used for A/W collections.

pink 2

My pink rules used to be simple; shoes, nails, silk-satin quilted vintage bed jackets were a ‘Yes’, everything else, a ‘No’. This season has truly turned everything on its head and like a child obsessed with becoming actual Barbie in the 1950’s. I want coats and trousers and lipstick and suits, oh MY!

In order to keep pink sharp it needs some cool. Trainers work, black leather is good, and so is white – Converse, Saint Laurent, Air Max, Superga, Dunlop green flash and Stan Smiths – whatever takes your fancy, but try and keep them boxfresh to keep the scruffy teen dream away from this look. Otherwise I propose leopard as a modern bedfellow for Pink. Let’s be clear though, this is NOT tight sexy leopard. Think chic, oversized, 1960’s-inspired and you’re there. A big slouchy leopard print coat with an Olsen Twins bag lady vibe? Perfection.

leopard coats

Patent fabric looks set to hang around for a little longer, so whilst investing in a pale pink patent skirt may be verging into fetish wear territory, this is the time to have a go if you’ve ever fancied it. I would recommend A-line mini or pencil styles only, worn with thick woollen tights and a fitted polo neck. Cool bright or printed heels easily de-princess pink, and Sophia Webster has come up trumps with these metallic heart-decorated pumps. The British Cordwainers and RCA alumni won the Emerging Talent Award at the British Fashion Awards last year, and there is a reason for that – her shoes are frivolous, fun and the perfect antidote to this frankly ridiculous weather.

I always advocate the need to balance a look. Tight top plus baggy trousers and vice versa. A batwing shirt with a pair of Hepburn-esque cigarette pants? Yes. A long sleeved roll neck with Oxford Bags? Absolutely. After you’ve chosen your pink piece, the rest of your outfit should be A. the same colour, and B. a neutral colour. Please note that black and white/cream are the irregular verbs here, otherwise navy works well as do browns and nude. Actually other pastels look great too, but I would generally limit these to accessories to avoid looking too saccharine. And of course polka dots are totally acceptable, likewise stripes, and contrast collars!

pink picks

 
What is great about the pink love is that it’s an investment colour. It was big for A/W ’13 and just as prevalent on the runways of S/S ‘2014. Get something now and it’s guaranteed to work for the next couple of seasons – it’s fashion maths that makes sense.  And this brings me on to my last piece of practical advice; I strongly recommend that you lock down an amazing dry cleaner before embarking this craze with too much gusto. Purest palest truest most delectable pink attracts drinks and dirt like you would never believe, no matter how much of a lady you are…

Wonder Women 2013

Politicians and businesswomen, charity campaigners and journalists, these are some of the women who have been inspiring us over the past year…

Elena Rossini

Elena Rossini has worked tirelessly for the past five years to create The Illusionists: a 90-minute documentary about distorted body image and the toxic marketing of unattainable beauty – and in 2013 she reached the final stages of post-production! Rossini funded the project using a Kickstarter campaign in order to ensure full control and to be able to tell us the whole, explosive truth. I can’t wait to see this film make waves on the festival circuit in 2014. Nominated by Pippa Rimmer.

Jyoti Singh Pandey

Jyoti Singh Pandey – better known to the media and the public as Nirbhaya – changed the world in 2013. Sadly Nirbhaya (which means ‘fearless one) wasn’t able to see the difference she made, as she died in hospital nearly two weeks after being brutally gang-raped and attacked on a bus in New Delhi last December, sending shockwaves across the globe and causing other women to speak out about sexual and physical abuse they had suffered. Women’s rights groups called for change, self-defence classes were set up and protesters campaigned in India and beyond to show that enough is enough. A play directed by Yael Farber, simply named Nirbhaya, also made a strong impact this year, covering the events of December 2012 alongside the personal stories of cast members, telling their own harrowing experiences of ‘gender-based violence'; it was a powerful and deeply moving performance that left most of the audience in tears when I saw it at the Edinburgh Festival in August. Jyoti Singh Pandey may no longer be with us, but we won’t forget her, and others like her. Nominated by Polly Allen.

Stacy-Marie Ishmael

In February 2013, Stacy-Marie Ishmael launched #awesomewomen, a free weekly newsletter linking professional women across continents. Sent on Sundays, the email provides links to career and leadership articles as well as opportunities, job-related and otherwise, created by other members of the network. #awesomewomen is symptomatic of Stacy-Marie’s habit of doing things to change the status quo, rather than whinge about it. For instance, rather than complaining about the rarity of female public speakers, she set up an online public speaking workshop with EdTechWomen, and then applied her own advice during aTEDxPortofSpain talk in November. And this is just what she does on her free time. Her full-time job, since September, has been as the Financial Times‘ first ever VP of communitiesNominated by Lucie Goulet.

Martha Lane Fox

Also known as Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho (seriously, how fabulous is that?), in March 2013, Lane Fox became the House of Lords’ youngest female member. However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the founder of Lastminute.com and business wonder woman. She’s a digital champion regularly featured in the media, but many may not realise that Lane Fox has had to overcome adversity and challenging personal circumstances. In 2004, she was seriously injured in a car accident, sustaining multiple fractions and eventually undergoing more than 20 operations. Lane Fox may be a brilliant businesswoman, but she’s also a survivor.

My Mother

My inspirational woman of 2013 was my mother, Walkiria. After a 25-year career in investment banking, she has followed her lifelong dream of becoming a counsellor. Originally from a deprived background in Sao Paulo, Brazil, her story has been one of great inspiration to so many people. She was brave enough to move to London in hopes of a better life for her family at 17, and recently had the courage to leave her job and join university although she’s in her fifties. She has taught me that regardless of your age, background or circumstances, it is always possible to reinvent and redefine who you are. Having qualified just this month, I am so proud of what she has become and continues to achieve. Nominated by Bianca Bass.

Camila Batmanghelidjh

Since she founded Kids Company in 1996, Camila Batmanghelidjh has helped over 17,000 of the most vulnerable children and young people in London with practical support and advice. Instantly recognisable for her bold, colourful outfits, the former psychotherapist has devoted her life to working with disadvantaged children, with the charity’s centres providing a safe and caring environment. The fact that Batmanghelidjh is severely dyslexic and cannot use a computer makes her achievement even more inspiring.

Ruby Tandoh

I’m not a fan of baking, much less of reality TV, so The Great British Bake Off was never going to be on my must-watch list. And although Ruby Tandoh hasn’t, by any means, revolutionised society, she has created in change in a small, simple way that we all can relate to. Unlike other famous-for-five-minutes reality show survivors, her behaviour has been exemplary and I genuinely feel that she’s a credible role model for teenagers and young women. Putting her moment in the limelight to good use, in the aftermath of the BBC2 series, Tandoh spoke out and confronted the misogynistic criticism that the contestants had received via social media. She’s since gone on to affirm that yes, she is a feminist – and she’s even written a few comment pieces for The Guardian. We can’t all change the world, and 99.99% of us won’t be Nobel Prize winners. But we can take action in our own small, simple way. And every day is an opportunity to do that. Nominated by Alice Revel.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography, published in 2013, would be impressive if it were written by a 60-year-old politician. That it’s the life story of a girl of just sixteen makes it an astonishing read, and my recommendation for anyone looking for some New Year inspiration for 2014. Malala was shot by the Taliban on her way home from school in Pakistan in 2012, after years of campaigning for girls’ rights in the country. Rather than silence her, as the Taliban attack intended, Malala gained worldwide fame and her calls for education for all have been heard around the world, and last year she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest ever nominee. I have high hopes for this young wonder woman. Nominated by Katie Wright.

Jo Swinson

As Junior Equalities Minister, the Liberal Democrat MP is known for championing issues such as equal pay and opportunities, body image and shared parental leave. Over 2013, we’ve seen Swinson involved in campaigns against airbrushing, LGBT bullying and unpaid internships, and it’s so exciting to see a woman spearheading change and bringing these questions to the fore.

Ashley Milne-Tyte

Every other week, radio journalist Ashley Milne-Tyte broadcasts The Broad Experience, a 20-minutes long podcast about women in the workplace. My two favourite shows this year: overcome the guilt which too often holds women back, featuring an interview with another wonder woman, Mrs Moneypenny, and Lean In, the women in the workplace book of 2013. The podcasts are a one-woman production, with Milne-Tyte selecting and researching the topics, conducting the interviews and recording in her little cupboard at home. Her expertise and passion show through and with every episode, you’re guaranteed to pick up advice applicable to multiple work situations, turning The Broad Experience into something akin to one way mentoring. Nominated by Lucie Goulet.

Laura Bates

I was lucky enough to see the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project at a talk a few weeks ago, and the way she described the people that get in touch with her each day almost moved me to tears. Laura Bates has given an outlet to women of all ages who face sexist abuse, that otherwise would not have existed. She gives a voice to those who perhaps would not have told their stories of discrimination or harassment and documents how far behind society still is in the fight for equality between men and women. Nominated by Sian Hunter.

Big. Sexy. Pants.

I have just tidied my knicker drawer. I have realised that, at the age of 33, I have turned into my mother. For 30 years, I have rebelled against her knicker neatness, but it has finally taken hold. I am sure she will be thrilled. Actually she probably hexed me in retrospect. Boy, does that lady love an organised knicker drawer. I must ask my sister if she has got there yet, she is messier with her clothes than I.

pants

Anyway, what I have noticed is that my aforementioned knicker drawer is (now) organised into sections. There are the day knickers and weird unworn thongs (why do I seemingly have hundreds, I think I may have worn one, once?). There are massive, elastic-less, greying ‘period pants’ that must never see the light of day (cue mortification should a partner ever witness them on or even off the body) and some which can only be classed as Sexy Pants, which just do not ever see the light of day. The bra side is essentially split the same: sexy, uncomfortable and never worn, everyday comfortable cropped tops, slighter racier crop tops (you know for dates and low v-tees and the like), and this strange section which includes the Sexy Bras which I have no idea why I ever bought as they look like implements of torture/are ridiculous. I have just put these in my styling kit – someone else can look ridiculous in them.

lingerie

This tidying has brought to light that I really like and only wear really big pants. A styling secret of joy is to avoid VPL by buying knickers at least one if not two sizes bigger as the lines are minimised when they are not digging in. But I think my love of the big pant goes further than this. When I say big, I mean really big.

This came about because one of my pet hates is the so called Muffin Top. Jeans are often cut with low rises and A. it looks gross and B. that bit gets cold in the winter. I am a tucker-in, and everyone I style is tucked-in. I even tuck my t-shirts in, but I always feel conscious of ‘that’ bit. It’s so hard to find jeans that actually fit (regular readers of this column will have read my Open Letter rant to denim – before the open letter became more vogue than denim itself, see Sinead O Connor, Anthony Hopkins), but my main issue apart from the length and fit and expense, is that if you wear high-waisted you are likely to have to accept ‘Mum Bum’ and if you wear normal cuts you have to succumb to Muffin Top.

Here’s the thing. The high-waisted knicker solves this. Yes, I love the high-waisted knicker. I love it so much I wore a pair in accessory designer Emmanuel Katsaros’ Short Film for Autumn Winter 2012. With a shirt. Tucked in. I really enjoy feeling together. It’s a feeling you get in a high-waisted big knicker, and apart from the fact that seeing peoples allegedly sexy, lacy, brightly-coloured thongs makes me want to gag, there is a place for the big knicker in Sexy Society. Think Dita, think Marilyn, think the Fifties Pin Ups….if the underwear you are wearing is not for you but a partner, you are very welcome to convince me they wont find a confident, 50’s style, vintage sex siren version of you sexy. I dare you.

1950s

Gina Bradbury-Budd seemingly felt the same when she took matters into her own hands after fruitless trawls for knickers that weren’t thongs, low rise or granny pants. I am very glad she did. Sexy Big Pants is her brainchild and they are the best thing ever. A capsule range of flattering black knickers for women who want to look sexy, and like me, don’t think fluro pink thongs or crotchless panties equal sexy.

sbp

Her SBP’s have Italian lace inserts, mesh panels, bows and embroidery, with a cotton gusset – hurrah! What’s really great is that they make you feel good, no one can see them and they are not Spanx, squeezing you within an inch of your final breath. Who gets the tube in Spanx? Who microwaves soup in Spanx? There is a time and a place, sure, I get that, but every morning to go to work is not the one surely? I would recommend the ‘Millie’ for everyday wear if your knickers will be seen above a waistband, I think the plainness on sight is cute, too much lace on show and you most likely to be creating the wrong impression. The more intricate pieces work under high-waisted trousers, skirts and dresses though.

marilyn

Wearing a high-waisted knicker makes you feel different. There is something sexy about wearing something that feels so Pin-up-y under your t-shirt and jeans, and there is something about a high waist that makes you stand up properly. Women of all shapes and sizes are sexy, and these knickers don’t squash and squeeze you into another shape, they give you the confidence to be the shape you are. Who doesn’t want to feel like that everyday? Even if it is in secret, oh what lies beneath! Join the revolution to banish the muffin top and Get Sexy, Big, Pants.

The Careers Coach

Growing up, for me, the theme tune of Howards Way on a Sunday night signalled the impending doom of bedtime and school the next day. It’s a depressing thought that for many of us now in adulthood, we’re still experiencing that slight (or not so slight) sense of dread as the weekend closes. It can be a good idea to ask ourselves whether our anxious feelings are something to be addressed or whether we’ve simply got in to a bad habit of hating Mondays. Here are some things to help with that Sunday feeling whilst you figure it out.

sunday nights

Make a to-do list on Friday

A lot can happen over the weekend, which can have a slight amnesic effect when you find yourself back at your desk the following week. Rather than spending your Sunday night feeling edgy about what you may or may not have to do when you’re back at work, make a list of tasks on Friday for the week ahead. You’ll feel much more prepared and in control by the time Monday morning arrives.

Eat well and not too late

The later you eat in the evening, the less time you’re giving yourself to digest your food. This can lead to a lot of surplus energy in the body which can keep you awake and often in a cycle of thinking about what you’ve got on the next day. Eat earlier so that sleep is all that’s on your mind.

eat early

Plan something different to do

Keeping to a routine for our Sunday nights can feel like it should be reassuring but sometimes it’s perpetuating habits of anxiety. Shake things up a little and do something different, like going to the cinema or going for a walk. It’s a nice distraction for an over-active mind and Sundays will start to feel different.

Don’t delay going to bed

Watching TV or messing around on your computer late in to the night might seem like a nice distraction but it’s counterproductive. All the screen work means you can over-stimulate your mind which leads to poor sleep and a potentially rough start to the week. Downton and then bed.

sleep

Think about your experience

If you’ve tried all the above and the feelings aren’t going away, ask yourself if being gripped by fear every Sunday night is really worth it. Clearly you’re not enjoying how you’re spending your time so acknowledge this rather than avoid it. There are always other options. Be brave and start exploring what yours might be.