5 Strange Ways Dress Affects Your Life.

There are many things we know clothes can, and can’t, do for us. We know that how we dress can make us attractive, associate us with a particular subculture, denote status, show off our wealth, etc. But there are other, subtler ways that dress influences us and people around us. And some of them are a little weird, but well worth knowing.

1: Your clothes change your mood and temper.

Something I have noticed about clothes is that what you wear can change how you feel on a very basic level.

For example, when I’m depressed I feel far worse when I stay in my pyjamas than when I get dressed. Why? Probably because I associate being in pyjamas all day with being in the worst state of depression.

On the other hand, when I wear more girlish clothes like my favourite brown dress, I feel happier and more excitable because I naturally associate them with innocence, girl scouts and fun.

Your clothes can actually make you feel the way you normally feel when you wear them. If you hate your work for example, you’ll probably feel worse in the type of clothes you wear for work.

2: Your clothes alter your posture and walk.

We know about this to a degree. Heels will make a woman’s hips stick out, make her steps smaller and make her arch her back backwards. Corsets will make someone walk, sit and move without bending their back.

But clothes alter our movements more subtly. When we brush against the hem of a skirt we can subconsciously start moving to avoid that brushing, for example. Or when something squeezes our hips we walk with our knees closer together. This is why you can sometimes get thigh chafing wearing a loose denim skirt but not from walking in a swimming costume.

By wearing clothes that hug your mid back, drape over your hips, free up the groin area and don’t weigh down too much on the shoulders and back we can walk more naturally, more upright and with smaller, more precise movements.

3: Your clothes change how people treat you.

And not just on the obvious level. Of course strangers will treat you differently based on whether you’re dressed as a goth, as a man, in businesswear or as a woman. But it runs deeper than that.

People will treat you subtly differently when you change tiny aspects of your clothes. When your clothes are a little bit more disheveled than usual people treat you as less significant and your words as carrying less weight. When you wear too much jewellery people can treat you as someone scatterbrained or artsy. When you wear androgynous clothing people will treat you a little more like someone of the opposite gender and a little more coldly.

But this isn’t restricted to strangers either! Even people who know you well and know how you normally dress will slightly change the way they address you based on small changes in your clothes. Wearing more black or less put-together outfits can make your friends a bit more dismissive and coddling, basically treat you more like a child. Family can put more weight on what you say when you’re in professional clothes.

How much of this is how the media teaches us to treat people and how much of it is your change in mood? I don’t know, but it’s definitely there and it’s very odd.

4: Your clothes impact on your health.

Again, we are aware of this to a degree. We know high heels are bad for you and skinny jeans may cause cellulite.

But the effect your clothes have on your health goes further. When you feel better you are less likely to be stressed and less likely to suffer stress-related illness. If you’re not depressed you are less likely to act in a defeatist manner and sabotage your happiness. So clothes that make you feel good will lead to behaviour that improves your health.

And when you wear clothes that give you good posture as well then you can end up adopting behaviours and movements that are better for your body, meaning you don’t wear yourself down physically too much.

Wearing fitted clothes that you like, associate with good things and that push your back in and your shoulders flat can result in better diet, better choices, a more solid back and an all round healthier you!

5: Your clothes can change your demeanour and confidence levels.

Tying in to everything else: what you wear can drastically change the way you carry yourself, the confidence you have and your comfort in yourself.

If you are happier in yourself, not stressed or sad or angry about anything and wearing clothes that make you feel happy and excitable, then you will have a more pleasant attitude and enjoy interacting with people more.

If you have good posture you will look confident. But confident posture helps with internal confidence. Just as forcing a smile or a laugh releases endorphines, when you walk like you’re confident, your body decides that you must be the boss.

If people treat you as someone who’s got it all together, who’s got good things to say and who’s fun and awesome to be around, then you’re definitely going to feel that they’re right after a while.

And if you’re healthier you will be proud of your physique, that extra glow on your skin and your great hair.

So choose clothes that make you feel happy, that help your posture, that get people treating you right, that improve your health and boost your confidence. Who knows? Maybe a change of wardrobe is just what you need to get your life on track after all.*

*Disclaimer: A change of wardrobe is not a solution for every problem, however cool that would be.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What clothes make you feel great? Have you found that any items in particular make people take you seriously, or relax around you? Do tell!

9 Insanely Cheap Online Shops!

Everyone loves a good bargain. And I for one am happy to use charity shops, reduced-price sections of supermarkets, value high-street retailers and farmer’s markets to try and get everything at an awesome price.

But what about the savvy online shopper? And what about items you can’t find in your home town? I’m sure you’ve already got your own go-to websites or stores for certain things but, just in case, I’m sharing nine incredibly cheap online shops with you!

1: Hidden Fashion.

Hidden Fashion - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

Hidden Fashion is a UK clothes store that sells all sorts of fashionable, current clothing for men, women and children. They do deliver worldwide, but expect to be charged by the kilo, which could add up outside of Europe!

They seem to work with high street surplus, so the quality goes up and down depending on the season and where they got it from, sort of like 99p stores, if you’re familiar with them. There is a lot of variety and the sorting tool makes it easy to find whatever you want.

Their clothes are some of the cheapest I’ve seen around, at £5 or less for everything. I wouldn’t use it for anything fancy as you may not get the best quality, but for one-off items and everyday wear I would definitely recommend it. Delivery costs for the UK start at £2.99, so really you’re paying £4-8 per item, but when you can get leggings or shoes for £1, it’s probably worth it.

2: Nut Site.

NutSite - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

Another thing that can get expensive in stores are seeds, nuts and grains. It seems the little packets come with a surcharge that makes them crazily expensive, but at the same time nobody buys them in large enough quantities to drop the price.

Nut Site is a US based wholesaler for nuts, seeds, candy, you name it. Pretty much everything in bulk. Which means that as long as you’re happy to deal with 10kg of peanuts, you can save a good few dollars compared to in-store prices.

As far as I can see, they don’t offer free delivery. But if you try and make a purchase from them, please tell me what delivery options they have and how reasonable the pricing is!

3: Buy Whole Foods Online.

Buy Wholefoods Online - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

And if you’re from the UK, definitely try out this site. It’s basically the same deal as Nut Site, except I actually have personal experience shopping there and they’re great.

They have a wide variety of nuts, seeds, legumes and grains, as well as organic foods and specialist products, all at next-to wholesale prices. They offer free delivery on UK orders over £30 and deliver to various European countries, with free deliver on orders over £100.

The delivery service is fast and trackable and the quality of the foods is excellent, especially when you can buy crushed nuts and seeds to cut your costs.

4: A’Gaci.

A'Gaci - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

A’Gaci is a US-based store that sells reasonable quality womens’ clothing. They have some high street stores, but if you’re not near any of them, you may not know about their clothing.

The lines are fashionable and, whilst the prices aren’t exactly dead cheap, you can get top-end quality for mid-range prices. Shopping online with them is apparently very easy and the delivery costs are reasonable even for small purchases. Though, be warned, they only deliver to mainland USA, that is, excluding Hawaii and Alaska.

5: 5.99 Fashion.

5.99 Fashion - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

For a middle ground, try out 5.99 Fashion. Every item besides the sale is $5.99! They have a good range of surplus clothing that is often trendy and comfortable. And the sale area lowers the prices even further, down to $0.99!

They also stand out as a clothing store that not only offers womens’, mens’ and kids’ clothes, but also plus-sized clothing (up to 4XL and 18 tops and size 24 bottoms, as of writing this) which is all at the same reasonable price, often present in the sale area and just as cute, fashionable and suitable as the regular sizes. They also offer free returns and exchanges, to make any less flattering purchases that little bit less embarrassing and expensive.

6: Everything £5.

Everything 5 Pounds - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

For a similar, UK-based store, check out Everything £5, where, you guessed it, everything besides sale items will be exactly £5! Again, there are some delivery costs, so it all depends on the weight, but even a few pairs of boots, which would be quite heavy, come up at flat delivery, so you’d probably have to be buying a crate to make delivery expensive.

And it’s another site with reasonable plus sized clothing at the same price as regular sizes, in fashionable cuts and up to 4XL, or UK size 44. So if you’re a British plus sized woman, this store will offer you the same benefits as 5.99. The only difference is that their policy on refunds doesn’t seem quite so kind!

7: Tesco clearance.

Tesco Clearance - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

Another thing worth checking out is the clearance sections of supermarkets and general stores. Not the reduced aisles, the clearance on their online stores! You can snap up some straight-out-the-warehouse bargains alongside your grocery shop by checking out Tesco’s online clearance section!

8: Walmart clearance.

Walmart Clearance - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

And if you’re from the USA, have no fear: Walmart also has its own online clearance section for you to peruse a couple of times a week.

9: Argos clearance.

Argos Clearance - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

And for all sorts of random things, have a look at Argos’ clearance sections. After all, if you’re shopping at Argos anyway, it’s no trouble to sneak a peek at the clearance!

And those are nine online stores where you can get all sorts of awesome stuff cheaply and save your family money on clothes, household goods and expensive groceries.

Where do you like to shop online? Have any hidden bargain stores you’re just dying to share? Please mention any! And feel free to share your experience shopping at any of the above stores. All input appreciated. 🙂

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

10 Small Steps To Looking More Feminine.

Many of us want to become a little more feminine. Not necessarily porcelain doll, but we’d like to at least look and feel like women and embody the virtues that make us happy and that men enjoy.

But in terms of appearance, being feminine can seem hard, especially to the slightly more tomboyish of us. It can sometimes feel like our more image-conscious sisters use ten thousand different tricks, products and styles to achieve a graceful, feminine appearance. And sometimes the things we think of as over the top are considered basic by others and what to us is complicated is simple to them. So, for the absolute beginners like I was until recently, here are my ten first steps to obtaining a more feminine appearance.

1: Hygiene.

Make sure to use conditioner and a shampoo that suits your hair. Wear some perfume or body scent. Use some moisturizer. Basically, go from basic soap, shampoo and deodorant, to something to make your hair shinier, something to make your body smell softer and something to make your skin smoother. These tiny additions hardly take any time at all and make a world of difference.

2: Makeup and hair.

The next layer is basic makeup and hair styling. Just enough concealer, foundation, lips and eyes to add some extra feminine softness. And aim for a long haircut that is easy to maintain and frames your face well. Long hair is more feminine and the right fringe can soften and feminize your face.

Commenter SurferCajun added that boar bristle hairbrushes could also help keep your hair healthy, vibrant, lustrous and long!

3: Frills and flares.

Just because you may not be ready to wear skirts and dresses daily doesn’t mean you can’t use their attributes. Frilly, flared clothing always looks somewhat feminine, feels great on the skin and grabs your man’s attention, so adding something with frills and flares, be it a skirt or just a top, will make your wardrobe more feminine.

4: Nice shoes.

Not everyone likes girly shoes. And not everyone wants to wear heels daily. But just because you don’t want to wear tall sparkly heels every day doesn’t mean you have to be, as Jon puts it “Frumplestiltskin”. Try and swap your everyday doc martens and trainers for something a little girlier, like ankle boots, or ballet flats.

5: Jewelery.

Don’t try and overdo it or overload yourself yet. Get a few select pieces of jewellery or dig out your old jewellery. Make a point of wearing one item of jewellery (on top of wedding or engagement rings) a day. This way you can keep it more inkeeping with your outfit, but add that touch of sparkle that catches your guy’s eye.

6: Handbags.

As I discussed two weeks ago, I have been transitioning off backpacks and onto handbags. Whilst I sometimes use a backpack just for the sheer size of it, moving mostly onto handbags adds some feminine glamour too your everyday appearance.

7: Colour coordination.

Try and keep your outfit held together. Ideally find out what your colours are and then your wardrobe will always match. But if you have something in every colour, avoid combinations that remind you of abstract art or shabby-chic. These looks are very hard to pull off and don’t always look feminine even when they are pulled off. Stick to classic colour combos, like blue and white or green and purple.

8: Posture.

Good posture adds grace and femininity to every woman. Walk with small steps, with your back straight, your neck straight and your head facing forwards or even a little upwards. Sit by touching your calves to the seat of the chair, sitting down upright and folding one ankle behind the other. Don’t slouch, stoop or bend over.

9: Manners.

All this wouldn’t be complete without manners. Manners are very much a regional thing, but aim to have the manners of a local fifty year old, not an all-American twelve year old. Remember to be considerate, grateful and giving.

10: Smile.

Finally, smile. Have a pleasant demeanour about you. Appear open and friendly, not cold and unapproachable. Try and deeply enjoy your new femininity, to let that joy radiate from your smile.

And those are my ten very simple tricks to being a little bit more feminine. They take virtually no time, hardly any effort and most don’t even cost you anything. All could be accomplished in a day and mastered in a week, if you set your mind to it. Though I’d personally recommend focusing on one a week and seeing how you go!

Have anything to add or comment on? Looking forward to reading your anecdotes, tips and thoughts!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Some lost arts and habits I’d like to see revived.

Even if they never will be.

past

Spring Cleaning.

clean

Admittedly this is moreso for the younger among us, as I’m fairly sure that most people over the age of forty have embraced their inner domestic goddesses and gods when it comes to dettol, vinegar water and the hoovering.

It seems that with the advances of female employment and the two-worker household we have started to let cleanliness slide. Oftentimes we stay at home for most of our youth, maybe leave briefly for university and then move straight back into our room. The cost of living has just reached a point where being a full-time homemaker or hiring a cleaner are not feasible options, even with our reduced living spaces. So we let our space get cluttered, after all, it’s small and we have a lot of stuff. We may sometimes tidy it, but a lot ends up under the bed, piled unattractively in a corner or thrown unceremoniously on a chair. We dust and wipe the obvious things, like tables and windows, and clean things we use regularly like TVs and books. Everything else can be left to collect dust behind it and rust stains under it. Our sinks and baths have clogged drains and limescale staining. Our trinkets have collected dust over and behind them. Under our bed the dust-bunnies breed like… bunnies. And it feels OK. Until we get it into our heads we’re going to clean. Then we despair.

But it really isn’t that difficult. Sure, maybe we can’t thoroughly clean every day. But we can tidy a little every day and keep on top of dust and dirt weekly. Then, once or twice a year, we have fun.

Spring Cleaning consists of several stages.

1: Declutter. I hate that word, but it explains it so well. Look at all the stuff you’ve accumulated. First of all, pick a theme for your room based on what you like from your clutter. It can be a style. a colour, an item, a patter. Maybe it’s butterflies, football or ebony and teal. Now, pile everything that doesn’t fit that theme to one side. Go through it and pick out only the things that mean the most to you. Also, maybe you don’t need so much clutter.

2: Deep Clean. Take everything. Dust it, wipe it down, rinse it, varnish it. Do whatever you must to make it clean. Same goes for the surfaces. Start with the laundry, like pillow covers and curtains. Next, start from the top, cleaning curtain rails, door-frames, shelves and window-sills. Move down until you reach the carpet. Leave the carpet for now. Next, dust and scrub all your trinkets and gadgets.

3: Organize Stuff. Maybe rearrange it from where it was before. Delegate your cat-sculpture collection to the windowsills. Put the DVDs and games nearer the TV. Or hide the gadgets entirely into drawers and make a display of books. Or finally hang your collection of vintage pinup posters. Make it functional, but good looking. Make it different enough to be proud of it.

4: The Carpet. A separate job entirely. Now that the floor is mostly clear, see whether or not it needs stain treatment. If it does, shampoo it or rent a carpet cleaner. If it doesn’t, hoover at least twice to ensure everything is clean.

5: Finally replace curtains and pillow covers. Light some scented candles, incense or plug in an air-freshener.

This doesn’t need to be done too regularly. As I said, once or twice a year. But the house or room will feel a lot better, be easier to look in and be cleaner for the next few months.

Entertaining.

entertaining

This is something so underrated I can hardly express it. You see, we regularly interact with other people. Co-workers and family, mostly. Or our “duty” socializing. Lots of time spent with people we only moderately like in a setting that’s less than perfect and often a little stressful. Then we have our friends. We see them less frequently, but we love to spend time with them.

But we’ve also developed some bad habits regarding our time spent together. We go all-out, spend too much, drink too much and forget to actually socialize a little. After all, no inhibitions means no worries! But all this is also expensive and, let’s be honest, not all that nice. If you’re a teen or uni student first experiencing some freedom and having a bit of money, then sure, maybe this is the best use of it. Especially if you share living quarters.

But there is a cheaper, more personal, more private way of getting drunk with your best friends: entertaining. I know, it’s a weird and outdated expression. But it’s a lot more fun than you’d think.

Basically, pick a group of friends. If you’re on your own you just have to pick ones that will get along with each other. If you’re in a relationship then you can either pick shared friends or dedicate a night to one social circle, though I am not accountable for what happens if one of you always has their friends round and the other doesn’t get a chance. That’s between you.

Next, you decide on what you’ll do. This is very personal, so just think of what you’ll have fun doing. Maybe a posh dinner, or a movie night, or a house party, or a games night. Anything you want.
Finally, arrange it. You’ll have to consider your budget as well as what to buy and what you’ll do to fill in the time as well as how long it will go on for.As an example, Jon and I semi-regularly have MeatFeast’s. Basically we get one or two shared friends round, cook up piles and piles of meat, add some eggs and some garnish, I mean veg, and feast. Generally we play good music, have a chat and get absolutely stuffed before we move on to some nice strong drinks and a film at the end. The friends is an easy option because I’m OK with most of his friends and don’t live near anyone I find OK myself, so we usually agree on who’s coming round. We’re also rather introverted, so one, two or three is enough. So no planning is really needed there. In order to organize the food I need to have the morning free to get an obscene amount of roasting and frying done. Usually I will see whatever meat and root veg is going cheap a few days in advance and then plot the recipes the day before. That means any soaking or rubs are done and that all I have to do is slice and cook. Then I will look at how long they will stay and plan accordingly. Usually the meal takes one to two hours at the most, during which not a lot of drink goes in. Sometimes there is a pudding, but that is often had with the drinks. Then I will select the drinks and film according to how much longer they will stay. Usually something light, so we can continue chatting. Then we say our farewells, Jon and I watch another film and I have a lot of washing-up for the next day.Yours could be easier on the cooking and cleaning or a bit wilder. Whatever you’re comfortable doing. Just remember to consider:-People. Who gets along with who, age ranges, tastes.-Food. Will there be any? What? Any dietary requirements?-Drinks. Alcoholic or not? Consider the food.-Entertainment. Think of how much time, how many people and what sort of people there will be.-Cost. Probably shouldn’t buy a BBQ for a single BBQ dinner.-Time invested. How long will it go on? And how long will it take to prepare?

Make, Do and Mend.

mdm

Another home-making essential that has gone by the bye along with housewives. But it makes so much sense. I’ve already written on this, but it ties into all the above. When you set up your own shelf, darn your socks, make paintings and decals for the walls and maintain a garden you’re saving money, developing valuable skills and perhaps even enjoying yourself.

It usually costs far less to buy a spare socket than get an electrician in to fit one, or to darn socks than to buy them new. This means that over time we save a reasonable amount of money. The more DIY you learn, the more you save. It will also help you develop an array of skills which could make work, social life and further DIY even easier.

We can group it into seven categories, all of which have their own levels. The best thing to do is to work your way through each level as you need to. When it’s time to darn socks, you learn to darn socks. When a shelf needs fitting, you read up on woodwork. When the oil needs changing, you open up the car manual. This ought to keep the learning focused, useful and low-stress.

1: Art.

This encompasses anything from paintings to hang on the walls to decorating a room. Stages would progress from organizing, to wall painting, to decorating, to making paintings and customizing ornaments, to putting decals on walls, to designing whole rooms. Whenever something pretty and artistic is required, learn it.

Possible money spent if you were to get a designer in to help you with your room, buy two paintings and new ornaments and get a professional artist in to make a wall decal: £2250.

Possible money spent if you buy some interior design magazines, make two paintings, buy charity-shop ornaments and make your own decal: £35.

Skills you could develop: creative painting, charity-shop hunting, colour-combining, organization, awareness of your living-space, wall-painting, customizing interior decoration.

2: Woodwork.

This starts light with cutting plain shelves and steadily progresses onto light furniture, fitting doors and free-standing buildings.

Possible money spent if you were to hire someone to fit an already purchased door and a shelf, buy a table and four chairs and a playhouse: £230.

Possible money spent if you were to fit the door and shelf yourself, make or fix-up a table and chairs and make a playhouse from scratch: £65.

Skills you could develop: sawing, joinery, sanding, curing, sealing, painting, measuring-up, fitting, moving heavy and awkward materials, making things watertight, maintaining woodwork.

3: Gardening.

The basics are mowing the lawn, weeding and shaping hedges. Then we progress onto plant care and growing from seed. Then digging flower beds, irrigation and growing hedges. And finally ponds and landscaping.

Possible yearly money spent if you were to hire a gardener to keep on top of your garden once a week, pest control once a year and a landscaper to plant everything out and organize everything once a year: £2000.

Possible yearly money spent if you landscape on your own, grow your own plants from seed and look after your garden yourself: £320.

Skills you could develop: plant identifying, weeding, pest control, flower arranging, growing your own, seed sprouting, incubating, irrigation building, landscaping, pond digging, lawn mowing, hedge trimming, hedge shaping, animal control, fence building, paving.

4: Clothes.

This covers everything you could do with your clothes, from fixing things, to customizing charity shop clothing and hand-me-downs, to making things from scratch by sewing, knitting, crochet and weaving.

Average yearly money spent on clothes by a family of four: £1216.80. Possible in-store cost of a non-branded outfit: t-shirt £10, trousers £25, underwear £5, socks £1, coat £35, shoes £35; total: £111.

Possible yearly money spent on clothes by a family of four through using hand-me-downs, charity shops and home-making items: £500. Possible cost of an outfit: charity-shop t-shirt £3, fixed-up trousers £0.75, home-made underwear £2, home-knitted socks £0.50, charity-shop coat £5, charity-shop shoes £10.; total: £21.25.

Skills you could develop: sewing, darning, knitting, weaving, crochet, patching, customizing, jewellery-making, pattern-making.

5: Electrics.

It starts out easy with replacing unusual batteries (so anything outside of the A-C range), moves onto socket and lightbulb replacement, fixing small electrical goods and right the way up to rewiring a wall or even making your own small electrically powered goods.

Possible cost of an electrician outcall to replace two sockets: £120.

Possible cost of installing them yourself: £10.

Skills you could develop: wire recognition, fuse handling, wire stripping, rewiring, battery changing, wire planning, installing permanent fixtures, safely working with electricity.

6: Plumbing.

The basics are unclogging drains, closely followed by taking apart and cleaning pipes and u-bends, installing outdoor guttering, fixing leaks, replacing sink parts and fitting shower-heads. Most of plumbing is easy once you know how to do it and could save you a bomb.

Possible cost of a plumber outcall to unclog a drain and replace a ball-valve: £143.

Possible cost of doing so yourself: £14.

Skills you could develop: moving pipes, shutting off water supply at various points, knowing the working parts of plumbing, replacing pipes, taps and cisterns, fitting shower-heads, new taps and washing machines.

7: Cars.

The basics are tyre maintenance, water and oil top-ups and cleaning. Then we progress onto changing batteries and parts like wheels and tyres, engine check-ups and oiling. Finally we have actual engine part maintenance and diagnosis.

Possible cost of minor service on a car (spark plugs, coolant, oil, air-filter change): £120. Possible cost of a full-valet cleaning: £50.

Possible cost of doing so yourself: £40. Possible cost of fully cleaning your car yourself: £15.

Skills you could develop: understanding of your engine, working with oil, water, etc, piecing machinery apart and together, cleaning and waxing a car.

All of these DIY areas could save you money, help you develop skills and even consider a career change if you like what you’re doing and feel capable of pursuing it full-time. This could be the time you decide you want to earn money as an artist, carpenter, gardener, tailor, electrician, plumber or mechanic. Or simply an extra £1000-3000 in your pocket at the end of the year.

Clothing Changes.

clothing

A small section that makes a big difference. Many of us work in office-wear or uniform, study in uniform or school-appropriate clothing. We may then have our lounging about the house clothes and definitely have our “going out” clothes. But rarely do we change outfits more than two times a day. We get up, put on our work or school clothes, maybe change out of them when we get home and wear either lounging or work clothes until we go to bed. But there are many reasons to change clothes more regularly.

First of all, we have environment. Sometimes it’s too hot, too cold, too windy or too rainy not to change clothes. Sometimes it’s just impractical to wear certain clothes in more than one situation. If you’ve got in from work and it’s a bit cold and rainy, it’s best to change out of your wet jacket and trousers into some comfortable, warm, dry jeans and a woolly sweater. If you wear a cheap uniform to work, it would be advisable to change into an old t-shirt and trousers to do the gardening. What you are doing greatly impacts the functionality of your clothes. Think about the weather, the climate indoors, the movements you’ll be doing, how strenuous the work will be, how close you may be to dust, dirt and staining materials.

Next comes hygiene and wear and tear. Most of us don’t have a suit or school uniform for every day, Monday to Friday or even Saturday. We get by either by washing our clothes every day and rotating two or three sets of clothing or by just wearing one uniform or one suit for two to five days in a row. The first involves many small, non-eco-friendly, expensive washes a week. One every day. The second involves potential hygiene issues. Both increase colour-fading and wear and tear on the clothes. The way to save your clothes, save your money and save your hygiene all at once is to make sure you only wear your clothes for work or school. When you get up, get dressed after sorting everything around the house and eating. When you get home get changed out of your clothes into something more practical or comfortable. This means your clothes were only worn for work, which, provided your hygiene is good and you don’t do much manual labour, should keep you clean. It also means you avoid any scenario where your environment may cause staining, discolouration or extensive damage to what may be company property or an expensive suit.

Then comes social life. Different social settings require different dress. This is still understood on a basic level in general society. You don’t wear the same clothes to work as on a date as to a PTA meeting. It is understood in even more depth in the small pockets of highly cultured people that remain around prestige universities and associated clubs, businesses and the likes. Yet few everyday people could tell the difference between smart, smart casual, casual, casual evening and lounge clothing. And it’s nobody’s fault, really, we just aren’t taught any more. But dressing exactly the right way for social situations can seriously make a difference in life. Your ex may have liked small cocktail dresses for nights out, but your new partner may prefer you in long skirts and blouses. Working at a primary school you could be expected to wear tracksuit trousers and a t-shirt, but working at a secondary school you could be expected to suit up. Going out with your goth friends will involve different make-up than going out with your childhood friends. Going out to a club will involve a different length of skirt than going out to a bar. When you dress even slightly inappropriately for a situation, you lose out on small social perks, status and interest. You don’t have to like it or think it’s fair that people won’t always, unconditionally, 100% accept you for who you are. If you want a cheaper drink, to be invited to the next event or to catch someone’s attention, dressing just right will help. Of course, some don’t care for those perks, status or interest. But there’s no denying that social structure is beneficial to humans and that keeping that order and scaling it will help you somehow.

Finally we have aesthetics. A pettier one, but also a benefit. You should be able to balance the practicality of your clothes with how attractive you feel in them. If you wouldn’t wear a McDonald’s uniform to a date, how comfortable and attractive do you really feel in it at home? Think about what looks good on you, weigh it against its practicality and appropriateness and decide what to wear from there.

I would suggest just starting with six different sets of clothing.

1: Work. Something that fits the dress-code, flatters you, fits into social conventions regarding your job and won’t get destroyed by work. For example, as a private tutor I need something that lets me bend down, stretch and move around without exposing flesh; as someone with an hourglass figure accenting my waist or hips is the best way to flatter myself; as a teacher I am expected to dress modestly and fairly sharply; as someone who’s not too active in work but who deals with a lot of paint, chalk and markers, I need something that is easy to clean if not robust. Therefore I wear high-waisted, long skirts, sharply cut blouses or tops, not much jewellery, no exposure of legs, midriff or bust, slippers as shoes.

2: Dates. Something that flatters you, that your partner likes on you and that suits the venue. For example, Jon likes me in skirts, tight clothing and blues and oranges; accenting my waist and hips shows my figure. Depending on the venue I may wear an above-knee down to an ankle-length skirt or dress, a tight top with a little cleavage and usually pick clothing he likes me wearing, plus heels.

3: Housework. Something that can get dirty, torn, mauled by kids and pets, washed to death, etc. For example, as I garden a lot, I like to have a robust t-shirt that doesn’t get worn often alongside some old jeans that are already torn and stained from something else or from past gardening, with old trainers or wellington boots to keep my feet dry and clean. That way it doesn’t matter if I rip or stain anything and I can focus on work.

4: Workout. Something that is flexible, robust, suited to the activity at hand, not prone to sweat-stains or holding smells, easily covered or added to if you’re going out in it. For example, as I lift weights and walk a lot, my clothing needs to be loose enough to be comfortable, but not baggy, expose or outline my arms, legs and back clearly so I can check on my form and stretch with my movements. So I wear loose elastic trousers (almost like pajamas), a sports bra and converse shoes.

5: Friends. This will expand based on how many social circles you have, but in principle let’s use one as an example. Something that lets you feel one with the group, stand out a little and that is venue-appropriate. For example, if I’m going out I don’t want to be too dressy, I want to be comfortable, I don’t want to give off the wrong signals to local men, but I want to look my best within that context. So I will wear a tight-fitting t-shirt, feminine jeans, note much make-up and a piece or two of jewelery as well as my ring, with Doc Marten boots and a nice coat.

6: Work casual. Look at what you wear for work and just make it more attractive. I don’t have the option here, so I’ll give a few random examples. If you usually wear a suit, make your shirt brighter or wear well-fitting jeans. If you usually wear a floor-length skirt, wear a slightly shorter one with tights. If you usually wear a loose-fitting outfit, wear something a little more form-fitting. Use colours, cuts and styles that you normally aren’t able to and that you know will flatter you.

In principle, those are the only ones you need to give much thought to, however, you may also need to consider appropriate homewear, eveningwear,  partywear, working-around-kids-wear, interviewwear etc.

A typical day of clothes for me would be:

-dressing gown to get the hens fed and out of the coop

-t-shirt and jeans for housework

-blouse and skirt for tutoring

-blouse and shorter skirt for when Jon gets home

-pajamas or nightie for bed

And always bear in mind that your wardrobe is probably flexible enough to dress appropriately for each situation. I have a suit dress, suit skirt and suit jacket I could combine with my tutoring shirts for an interview. I can wear my long skirts for work, on a date or for an evening at a friend’s house. My gardening jeans are also suitable for cleaning the house or just lounging. My casual t-shirts are good for light housework and exercise as well as for visiting friends or going on a more active date with Jon. Think it through and you’ll see how many options you have.

Book Clubs.

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It’s quite well known that fewer and fewer people read. After all, we used to read because there was no TV, no internet, no radio to entertain ourselves with. And there’s only so much socializing, so much poker and so much drinking someone can do before they want to be a little more entertained. Escapism is naturally human. Even tribal people who do not use written words will tell campfire stories and act plays among themselves to escape their everyday lives and imagine the lives of gods, ancestors, demons, foreigners and animals. So it was only sensical that literate societies would seek out books to entertain themselves with. And, with the progression of other media, it also makes sense that we would pursue the idler forms of entertainment available.

However reading provides many benefits. From newspapers and magazines to comics to novels to textbooks, simply reading anything boosts your memory, decreases stress, builds your vocabulary, etc. Just check that link. Reading is good for you. Not to mention the expanded knowledge from reading a variety of literature.

And the next step is to make reading a social thing. Making it social will encourage you to read at a good pace, immerse yourself in the book and pick up the next one as swiftly as the last.

There are many ways to organize a book club. Firstly you should find people who want to join it. Maybe as a circle of friends, maybe suggest one at the local library, maybe ask on a forum. Your book club can meet in person, online, through a messaging system or a chatroom or on facebook. You can pick a book for everyone to read or a theme for everyone to find a book on. You can read for entertainment or in depth. You can keep your club meetings to yourself or use them to write reviews. You can meet once a month or once a week. You can read together or on your own. You can meet when you’ve all finished the book or when you’re halfway through. Just get organized, read, review, motivate each other and make progress.

Men’s and Girls’ Bonding.

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No, not together. All the opposite. The idea of men and women separating to spend some time on our own was fairly common until recently. Tribal women and men would spend from a few hours to a few weeks apart whilst the men hunted or fought and the women defended the grounds, reared the children and gathered. In early societies women and men would segregate either naturally or through enforced laws. And let’s not forget that when boys and girls start becoming more social their first behaviours regarding sex differences are “cooties” and “no smelly boys/girls” signs. The message is that boys and girls and men and women like a little time apart.

But with an ever-inclusive workforce, clingy partners, the slow erasure of gentlemen’s clubs and the creeping appearance of the “token” girl or guy in every social circle, these gender-focused spaces are becoming rarer. And the problem is worse for men than for women. Women can claim women-only spaces under the pretense (honest or false) of safe-spaces, of doing girly things boys shouldn’t be doing, of wanting to talk without feeling embarrassed or of being uninteresting. Yet for men these options aren’t really available as they just won’t work. However, both genders increasingly face the same issue: a lack of time for men to interact with men as men and for women to interact with women as women.

Whilst our roles in work are increasingly becoming the same, our roles in society still differ. Men and women face different trials, different beauty standards, different embarrassments, different social requirements. We calm down doing different things. We have different physical and emotional needs. Some of these can be shared with the opposite gender some of the time. But when we spend all or most of our social time in mixed-gender groups we are essentially engaging in a social experiment that hasn’t been attempted before. We are repressing things that we would like to say or properly discuss because the social group isn’t right. How many women wait until they’re left alone with their female friends so as to complain about heavy periods? How many men hold back emotional outbreaks because they don’t want to be seen losing it in front of girls? How many men and women alike have that one friend they can talk to about sex and relationships, because they’re scared of something they say becoming public? Deep down, we still want that little bit of privacy between ourselves and our girls/lads.

This doesn’t have to mean segregation of the genders, or gender-typical behaviours. It doesn’t even require segregated spaces, although this would help. You can spend 9/10 social meetings in mixed gender groups or take your female friends and your sisters hunting. You can have ten hours a week dedicated to general socializing and only half an hour for socializing with people of your own gender. Just a few times a week sitting down and building bonds with those people around you who share more intimately in your struggles, achievements, pains and everyday experiences can refresh you and help build you as a person.

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And that’s it for the arts I’d like to see revived. Six habits from the past that served solid purposes that we have left by the wayside in the name of idleness, political correctness or simply a lack of awareness. Six habits that would still do us some good to engage in, to some degree or another.

I doubt we’ll bring them back. Not intentionally. We prefer slovenliness to cleanliness, clubs to dinner parties, buying to making, ease to practicality, laziness to mindfulness and political correctness to emotional wellbeing. The marks of our society are media, money and mediocrity. And all of these will guide us towards the more common behaviours. But the fact they won’t return to society in general doesn’t mean that they won’t do you any good.

Money-Saving Book. Mending Clothes.

Another excerpt from my Money-Saving Book, currently subtitled The Good Housekeeper’s Guide to Economizing”. Still no clue on the main title. Working on a cover picture though.

The previous excerpts were on supermarket grocery shopping and time management. This one is on mending various items of clothing, from the chapter on clothes.

-Holes and tears (cotton, linen and thin synthetics).

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Some jogging trousers suffering from run-in with an unexpected hawthorn bush, a vengeful door taking a bite from your shirt or kids being kids and wrecking every item of clothing they own; we’ve all been here at some point. Usually a thin tear, though sizes and shapes may vary. And you’re unsure how to deal with it. Well, here’s how.

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For formal-wear: If a smart shirt, school shirt, tie, dress, blouse or scarf gets a tear, the first thing to assess is where it is. A torn pocket can be easily sewn back on, but a tear at the ribs is harder to deal with. The best solution for a small hole which is already near a seam is to undo the seam a bit and fold it in. If it’s really quite small, you can often fix it with small, even stitches done from the inside of the item. Some of the best solutions, however, are to customize it, which I shall go into in greater detail below.

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For informal/kids wear: Cut out a piece of fabric into a nice shape and simply patch the item. If that’s a bit adventurous, you can always buy iron-on patches online, that come in pre-made shapes. Iron them on, then stitch them a bit, to secure them. A knee-patch on some baggy trousers or a kids’ blouse covered in cool patches can actually look pretty awesome and individual.

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For practical clothes: If you need the item to be sturdy again, such as with gardening clothes, jiu-jitsu outfits or heavy-duty work gear, the best solution is often to get some thick thread and just stitch it as securely as possible. It may not look as nice, but in these cases a patch may not quite do the job.

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Holes and tears (denim, canvas and wool).

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Heavier, woven materials tend to tear in a different way to lighter ones. It usually involves some rubbing-away of the material, which can make it hard to just stitch back together or patch over. Eventually, the material wears around the stitches and comes undone again. This can happen with scarves, hats, gloves, jumpers, socks, coats, jeans, jackets and cardigans. The solution to this is to darn them. If you don’t know what darning is: no I didn’t just swear and, no I didn’t just suggest giving up. Darning is a process where you replace worn or torn fabric by sort of weaving, sort of knitting, sort of sewing the hole shut.

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A simple darn is suitable for denim, socks and canvas. You usually need nothing more than strong cotton or thin wool thread. Here is where you sew from right to left and left to right, up to down and down to up, weaving the needle in and out of the threads you’ve just sewed. It sounds more difficult than it is, but is easy once you’ve got the hang of it. You’re basically sewing across the hole until your threads are so interwoven and so densely packed that they’ve filled it in. Depending on how big the hole is, this can be a quick task or a very long one.

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Some forms of darning, especially those used on wool jumpers and other Winter-wear, is to follow the pattern created by a knitting-needle to fix the hole almost imperceptibly. For this you usually need wool of an appropriate colour and thickness and a wide-eyed needle. It may take a while to identify the knitting-pattern and get the hang of replicating it, but it is worthwhile to know and, plus, you have your favourite jumper back!

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Holes and tears (plastics, leathers and furs).

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As they are not thread-based materials, a plastic or animal-derived fabric is often hard to fix. This is because most threading would be very obvious. So, here are different approaches for different types of ‘unsewable’ materials. I will list the plastic-based ones first, so that those who wish to escape discussion of leather and fur can do so.

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Pleather: Often, the thin upper layer of pleather breaks and lifts away from its backing, looking like something has been peeling it like an orange. Not a good look. The best way to fix this is to insert fabric glue beneath every side of the tear and press it down. Start at one end and be sure not only to glue the part that lifts up, but also the main fabric. This is so the pieces can’t be pulled apart again. As fabric glue dries slowly, you can adjust the lay of the tear until it’s just right and looks like a natural fold in the material. Hang it up away from other clothing, dust and damp for a few days. After this, find a polish suitable for pleather (make sure it’s colourless or in the right colour) and gently polish around the area with small dabs. This should re-blend the colours and lessen any scuffing. When scuffing is severe, it’s best to dilute fabric glue with suitable polish and “brush” it in, making sure to keep strokes going in one direction. This minimizes the damage.

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Meltable plastics: The best solution is usually to use fabric glue on the tear. If you can warm the tear area so the fabric is more pliable and likely to bond with the glue, then do so. Just be EXTREMELY careful not to overheat it or use a naked flame, as it will melt and some can catch fire. Holding it to a radiator or using a hair-drier on it for a minute or so would do the trick. Avoid using irons, candles, matches…etc Once the area is warmed, add the fabric glue and press both sides together.

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Non-meltable plastics: Trim a small, ½mm-deep fray along both edges of the tear. Apply glue and press them together. Flatten with your fingers, a spatula, a butter-knife or a similar heavy, flat-edge instrument. Leave to dry.

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From here until the next material category I am discussing animal-derived materials.

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Smooth leather: Use the pleather trick, except, as leather doesn’t have a “backing”, insert some strong fabric beneath it to glue it onto. Make the fabric as close to the leather colour as possible, but a shade darker is better than a shade lighter. Gluing so it overlaps is also fine, but remember to polish out the marks around the edges once the glue is dry.

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Thick leather: This is your biker leathers, your leather shoes and your heavy-duty bags. Things you don’t want to just lightly glue back down. First step is to peel back the backing a little. Unstitch it as near to the area as possible and peel it back until you can comfortably work around the hole. Use the strongest super-adhesive you can find and some solid leather. Glue the leather firmly behind the hole, skin-side-up. Turn it over and glue the edges of the tear onto the under-patch. If you’re more bothered about function than cosmetic value, get a leather patch (maybe something plain, maybe something cool, whatever suits you) and stitch it firmly down over the hole. Next, apply leather polish to the top and a hardening mixture to the underside. Hang up to dry. A few days later, get it down and apply waterproof paint to both sides of the patching. Make sure to get it around the edges and under the upper-patch seams. Hang it up to dry. It ought to be good to use again after that. If the item in question is a shoe, consider waterproofing the entire inside of the shoe, in case of leaks. Water inside a leather shoe can spell disaster as, when damp, leather wears easily.

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Suede: Suede is basically inside-out leather. If you’re going through this step-by-step and have fixed a couple of smooth or thick leather items, you’ll have noticed how weird the backing looks once its been fixed. This is why suede shouldn’t be fixed with stitches, overpatches or anything stronger than normal fabric glue. Follow the same steps as with normal leather: insert an underpatch, glue the back of your suede down to it with fabric glue and press. As you’ll have to use very little glue, to avoid making stains on the visible parts, get a hair-drier and heat the area after the glue has been applied. This will make it stickier, so it will soak into the patch and the back of the suede and hold them more firmly together. Hang up to dry. Buff with leather protector and, if necessary, re-dye.

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Long-hair fur: Fairly easy to fix if the area won’t be seen. Simply get tapestry thread or leather-based thread, part the fur around the area and stitch the tear together. Be careful not to catch any furs or pull them out, as it may make a larger repair look more noticeable. Treat the tear with a tiny amount of vaseline to make it soft whilst the stitching beds in. Brush the fur back down over it with a soft-bristled hairbrush.

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Short-hair fur: Slightly harder to fix, as the fur parts more easily. This means you risk your needlework being exposed. To avoid this, follow the steps for long fur: part the fur, don’t pull any out. Next, overlap the tear so that the part that’s on top is coming from the direction the fur grows in. This should stop the fur from parting and exposing the stitches. Sew in a straight line (rather than from one side of the tear to the other) going through the upper and lower layer every time. Treat the stitching with a tiny amount of vaseline and brush the fur back into position with a soft-bristled hairbrush.

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Bust seams and scuffed edges.

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An open seam or a scuffed edge may seem unfixeable. But, with the right technique, this job can be made easy. For open seams, cut the broken thread out, sew any loose thread back down and stitch together from the back. If you can’t easily access the back, sew in a zig-zag line from one side of the seam to the other. Find the fold created by the seam. Put the needle into it, then straight back out a few mms up. Move to the other side and do the same. When you draw the thread tight, the stitches should be invisible.

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Broken jewellery (hooks, hoops, chains and wire).

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If you wear a lot of designer jewellery or are forced to wear largely gold because of metal allergies, it can be pretty annoying to find the hook or a link has bent out of shape or broken. Fortunately, a chain or connection hoop that has been bent out of shape or split open is easily fixed. It is worthwhile to invest in some jewellery pliers, as they do the job best and are often useful for many other tasks; but, if you’d rather not, hunt through your toolkit and find the smallest round-nosed pliers you have. They’re the ones that look like cones and end in points: no flat sides at all. You can use them to open, re-shape and close broken links. You can also use them to replace ornaments that used to be attached to the jewellery.

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Broken jewellery (rethreading).

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It’s best to catch something that needs rethreading before it’s too late and it falls apart. Many jewellers offer the service when you buy a more expensive item off them or when you pay to have it done, but, for your everyday jewellery, here’s a step-by-step: take an appropriate thread (metal-based threads are always preferable) and measure out twice the length you need it to be, add two inches and cut; thread it through a needle; even out the thread so it folds in half at the eye of the needle, tie the loose ends together tightly; unthread your beads carefully onto some fabric (the beads ought to weigh it down and the roughness of the fabric ought to stop them from rolling out of order); if you’re particularly worried about losing the order, then remove and thread one by one; save the original clasps if possible; rethread the beads; once rethreaded, tie off the end by the needle’s eye and cut it free; firmly attach the thread to the clasp. The best replacement clasps are the ones that pinch down on the ends of the thread, but remember to wrap the thread tightly in leather or faux suede before clasping, so it will be held more firmly. Another option is to add glue before compressing the clasp.

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Broken jewellery (earrings).

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Most earring involve some beads or charms strung onto something. This something can be a fine chain with a stopper, a hoop or a stem with a stopper. These parts are known as being in the category of “findings” and the ones with stoppers are called “headpins”. To fix a broken earring, you must first work out what part is broken. Is it the hook that goes through your ear, the clasp that locks onto your earlobe, the pin that goes through your ear, the backer for the pin or hook, the hoop that the pieces are strung on, the headpin the pieces are strung on, the pieces themselves or any chain involved? Usually the broken part needs replacing, but most DIY and sewing stores and any jewellery store that sells beads will be able to sell you replacements – sometimes these are sold in bulk and sometimes piece-by-piece.

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Once you’ve bought a replacement, then take apart the earring. Normally there are bent “eyes”, chain links and hoops that you can bend open with round-nosed pliers. Open all of them you have to until you reach the broken piece. Swap it for the replacement and reassemble.

You can apply this method to whenever anything fully breaks, but it’s usually necessary with earrings.