I’ve been meaning to have a spotlight on one of my favourite brands, Miista, for a while, but I’ve been so busy. However, their autumn collection really does need mentioning, so it’s spurred me to do some writing.
I’ve known about Hackney-based brand Miista for a few years, I think I first read about them in an article by the wonderful Lauren Laverne, whose good opinion I trust. What struck me about Miista, is that they seem to love flat shoes. Many designers seem to love designing high-heeled shoes, which is fair enough, but seem to lose motivation when it comes to the flats. Christian Louboutin is a particular perpetrator of this; I’m not saying his flat shoes are not nice, I would love some studded pigalles, but if you compare the high-heels to the flats in that range, it feels like you’re not getting such a nice shoe, and it’s galling when you are paying so much money… if you want £450 for a pair of shoes, then you damn well better make me feel like they’re the best thing I want to put on my feet.
Miista shoes are, fortunately, not so expensive (around the £150–£200 mark), and they really do make excellent flat shoes, putting as much effort into their flat shoes as their equally beautiful heels. Miista shoes are unusual, you’re not going to find similar shoes anywhere else, so it’s a good place to shop if you want something particularly special or if you like to wear things that are different to other people.
They’re an interactive brand: they send you a card with your shoes, and if you instagram a picture of your lovely new shoes with the card, and tag them, you can win a freebie!
In addition, it’s quite personalised; you often get hand written notes on your card, about previous shoes etc, which is always lovely to receive, they really do seem to care about how awesome their customer’s feet are feeling.
One thing to note, they can be quite narrow, and they’re not great shoes if you’re doing loads of walking until you’ve broken them in (though my feet blister very easily), that said, I wear footsies socks under the shoes, and they’re fine. The sneakers are also quite heavy, they’re fine for going to work (they’re smart sneakers) or a party, but I wouldn’t want to do loads of walking in them, my joints would get tired.
So, as I said, the shoes this autumn are really cool, and I am very tempted by several pairs, but most of all these sparkly wonders:
The website describes these as like “watching the sun come up over dunes of the Sahara desert”. Having had a high-velocity encounter with the dunes of the Sahara desert from the back of a crazy horse, I can say that these shoes are much better. I mean, just look at them, the colour alone is beautiful, and I think they’re a bargain (the shoes are very well made). Sequins and sparkles are going to be pretty big this autumn, and if wearing sequins isn’t your thing, shoes can be a good way of embracing a trend. I also particularly like the low cut of the side of the shoe around the ankle area. Having swollen, arthritic joints, the sides of a shoe can often rub, but these look spot-on. I am so tempted!
Next up are these lovelies:
These shoes are a bit more robust than the Adelaide, the soles look quite thick, but I love the pattern. Apparently, the design was inspired by Saharan nomadic tribes. I really like the fact it takes quite a sensible shoe shape and turns them into something sparkling and interesting.
But if you’re really into sparkles, then you should consider these:
They are the shoe version of a mirrorball, which is two of my favourite things rolled into one. There is a black version, for the more demure sequin wearers out there, but I prefer the silver: if you’re going to get wet, you might as well go swimming.
Getting off sequins now, but staying with awesome, are these boots:
Ankle boots seem to be really having a thing this autumn, they are everywhere. These are also available in black, but I love this glossy deep-caramel colour. The cut out in the back suggests these will be really flexible over the ankle too, which something I always find difficult with boots. The only thing putting me off is that I prefer these slightly higher (and too high for me) boots:
And finally, from the same stable as these boots, these shoes:
I love the minimalist style: no fuss, just sharp angles and an asymmetrical cut out. They’re really smart.
So, if anyone is looking for a pair of really beautiful shoes this autumn, you should check Miista out. Their shop is in Hackney, but if you can’t get there, their online service is very good.
So, last month I wrote about my experiences on the Sunday of Bluedot festival, and I mentioned that it was training for a full-on festival experience, and boy did I need it! I had forgotten what wonderful, elating, tiring, full-on experiences they are, even without arthritis. Last weekend (Thursday until the early hours of Monday morning) I was at the Green Man festival, in the Brecon Beacons in Wales (it seems I only like festivals with colours in the titles), and I had a wonderful time, even if now it feels like an amazing, exhausting dream.
It’s possible to enjoy a music festival with a condition like arthritis, but as I said last time, you have to make it as easy as you can on yourself. First of all I chose the Green Man because it’s such a lovely festival, not only in terms of music which mixes folk with electronica, alt-indie and world genres, but because it seems to attract nice people (of course you get a******** everywhere, especially at a music festival, but it seems that its distance from London does seem to keep more brattish behaviour away). I’ve been to the Green man festival before, in 2007 when it was tiny and held at Hay-on-Wye, and even though, now, it is much, much bigger it still has that same small-festival feel: it’s tidy, there are families (but it’s still grown-up space – the beer and cider festival is very popular) and there is no corporate sponsorship. It feels very genuine.
Even so, four days in a muddy field is tough going on the most relaxed of bodies, so when I first considered going to the festival (because the bands this year were really up my street) I figured the only way to do this was to hire a camper van because my body cannot deal with sleeping in the cold and damp of a tent. I need a bed raised off the damp, cold earth, an actual bed, and solid walls. No easy task, I thought, but then I found Mike…
The minute I saw Mike on the Quirky Campers website, I knew it was meant to be. Inside his plain, workman-like exterior, he is a beautiful living space. Importantly, there is a cosy bed and a cooker on which to make tea. All things that are vital to being alive. Mike was a great place to live for the festival, though, for driving, the gear-stick and clutch were heavy, so something to consider if you are used to driving light cars with your arthritis, but he was reliable and, once he had got up to speed, had no problem keeping up with the traffic. There was also lots of storage space, so the essentials like beer and cider could be stowed safely.
And inside, Mike was just perfect. The bed is short, at 5’7″, which meant I only just managed to squeeze in; I sleep on my side so it was fine, but I couldn’t stretch out (and I bumped my head on the lintel behind the front seats a few times), I think anyone taller would struggle, but it was so cosy! We had rain and howling winds two nights, but Mike stayed warm and dry, and the wood panelling gave you a nest-like feel. This was very important to me, as I find I have to rest a lot when my bones get cold, and with a stove so I could make hot tea or a dirty pot-noodle to warm me.
So, with my inside sorted, the question was how I was going to cope on the outside. I had such grand ideas for dressing for this festival: boho dresses, cool sandals, feathered sun hats… and then the weather forecast quite literally rained all over my parade: squally showers with the odd bright spell (to lull you into a false sense of security): the worst weather.
Dressing soon became about damage limitation, and here are my festival tips to keeping your bones from aching, while looking good OK.
Forget normal wellies, unless you are going to the Glastonbury mud-bath, the mud won’t be more than ankle deep. Long wellies are restrictive (thus giving you joint pain and blisters), and are a nightmare to take on and off. Ankle-height wellies look cooler (especially the Meduse jumpy boots with the contrasting sole), and are a doddle to slip on and off. The elasticated sides are also supportive, I really recommend them.
Apart from a pair of Adidas Gazelles I brought for driving in, these were the only footwear I took to the festival (and they only ones I wore out of the van). And, although I did get sore, it wasn’t unbearable.
I say coats, because I think you need two. A decent one to look good and keep you warm, and something you can roll up and stuff in a bag to keep you dry. Occasionally you can get a coat that keeps you warm and dry, but they rarely look good. I wore my Oliver Bonas parka a lot, and I bought a waterproof coat from ASOS. I have a really good waterproof coat for walking the dog, but that was expensive and I worried about it getting ruined in the mud (they’re never as good when you wash them, even if you use the nikwax wash stuff), so a fun waterproof for festivals seemed a good idea. This was billed as a ‘marble’ pattern, but I think it looks more like stilton cheese. That’s OK, I love stilton, and I was easy to spot in the crowds.
This has sadly sold out, who doesn’t love cheese? But I like this silver alternative:
My festival/gig bag is an old one from Boden, it’s a bit wrecked now but the prefect cross-body bag for festivals, fitting in my mini-purse, camera, umbrella, loo-roll, warm hat and shewee (these are worth taking, not that I had to use this as the toilets at the Green Man never got into a total state, but I have been to festivals where sitting down to pee was not an option). I could also roll my waterproof coat and fit it in there. The bag is ancient, and Boden don’t have any satchels at the moment, so the Cambridge Satchel Company is probably where I would buy a replacement.
Jeans and t-shirts
I admire people who can wear sequinned dresses in the mud, as well as people who can wear jumpsuits and dungarees when faced with the horrors of the portaloo (what if a strap dangles in!?!), but they’re work, and just standing around listening to music is harder for people with arthritis than most people, so I am not inclined to give myself extra work. I think you need to be able to roll your jeans up out of the mud, so mom-jeans if you can get away with them or, for me, a sufferer of ‘back-gap’, skinny jeans, my favourite being these from Hush:
And these from Gap:
Most Jeans don’t dry very quickly, so I think you need a pair a day (another reason to take a van), but I have loads of jeans so I don’t find that a problem (I refuse to wear waterproof trousers unless it’s a torrential downpour as the good ones are too expensive and the cheap ones look rubbish and give you leg-sweat).
I have ridiculously greasy hair and skin, so, unless I wanted to embrace the chip-pan look, this is a necessity (this is despite the festival having showers). My favourite is the Bumble and bumble pret-a-powder, because the powder is super-fine, and it seems to last longer than their spray stuff, which makes the price worth it.
I also use Superdrug dry shampoo on a normal day-to-day basis to get a bit of volume in my fine hair. This is good at the price, but the powder is not so fine, and your hair would certainly feel a bit rank after a few days of the stuff.
Having foregone any outfit originality over of practicality, I decided to go for some earrings and temporary tattoos (from Mr Kate) to remind myself I was essentially on holiday. I have some peacock feather earrings that I love but don’t often wear because they’re a bit of an effort; they are, however, perfect festival wear. And, owing to the 90s fashion trend that is refusing to go away, there are a lot of cool earcuffs and earrings on the highstreet. I bought these from Zara, and they were perfect! I can’t wait to wear these all winter.
So what about the festival itself? Despite the rain, it was amazing. The headliners on the opening night were Wild Beasts, who I was most looking forward to seeing. I love their clever, unusual music, which never strays into over-intellectualised tweeness, there’s a grubbiness to it, and the latest album, Boy King, is no exception. It’s more mainstream than their previous work (which I think is good for a band that has been together so long, they should sound polished), but it’s different to everything they have done before. I love it.
They sounded great at the festival, with lots of old favourites and new stuff, they finished with my favourite song, All The King’s Men, and I turned embarrassingly fangirl.
Ezra Furman was also a massive favourite, he is so charismatic, and got everybody dancing. He finished with the happiest cover of (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher, to which the entire tent danced and sang along; it was a special moment.
And the festival closed with Belle and Sebastian, which was such a nostalgia trip: the music of Belle and Sebastian have been around me for almost half of my life, and their songs hold such memories. I am sure this is the case for so many people, even if they are not total fans of all the music. Stuart seems to have hardly aged at all, which made me feel even more like I was 19 again!
Honourable mentions also go to Jagwar Ma, who got me dancing despite the feeling I was on the older-side of the fan spectrum, and The Unthanks, who had the crowd singing along in a three-part harmony despite the rain.
And finally, whoever had the AMAZING idea to provide wood-fired hot-tubs at a festival needs a medal!
I originally booked the bathing undo the sky hot tub this to get the special ‘extra free shower’ offer, but it turned out to be one of the best things to do. There were free showers at the festival, but they were cold and not particularly nice. The showers with the hot tub were AMAZING hot restorative experiences in themselves, and then lounging in the hot tub, where we met a lovely couple about to get married and a couple of friends celebrating a birthday (who bought us all more champagne) was so much fun. There was also a sauna (which I didn’t use because I don’t like them if I have been drinking) and a cool pool for afterwards. This small luxury really made all the difference… warm and clean at a festival! If you have the opportunity to do it (and they do several UK festivals) you should definitely spend the little bit extra on a tub, arthritis or not.
So, there we have it, an exhausting weekend full of fun and terrible weather. Now I have to adjust to normal life, in which it’s sadly not considered acceptable to drink Bloody Marys all day. Fortunately, Mike came with a selection of wholesome herbal tea to help me forget all the fun and excesses.
If there’s one texture that could sum up my life in the nineties, it’s velvet. I wore it all the time, particularly in a trouser format, but dresses, jackets, hats, bags, chokers… all of these were found in my wardrobe made of velvet. I was very much smitten with this poster of Jarvis Cocker, sporting velvet trousers, and this was a look I tried to emulate but at which, being a busty girl and not a willowy man, I failed quite spectacularly.
So naturally, now that nineties styles are back in, I am drawn to velvet like a woman in her thirties is drawn to nostalgia. However, I don’t really want to go back to my teenage wardrobe. So then, I am very much drawn to this beautiful pair of velvet shoes. For some reason velvet clothes have been about over the summer, when no one wants to wear velvet, and as such there are some very good pieces in the sale.
These shoes are reduced from £145 to £58! They are a bargain, and really good quality shoes as well, the velvet has silk content, and they are lined with leather. OK, you won’t be able to wear these in the autumn rain, but for a dry day, they would look great and are so autumnal it’s untrue!
Also in the Bimba Y Lola sale are these rather splendid trainers, which look a little bit like the red Marni trainers (at a fraction of the price), reduced from £115 to £69.
Alas the Marni trainers are out of my price range (but maybe they will be in the sale one day), but the Bimba Y Lola ones are pretty cool, and a really attractive shape. The mary jane strap, smartens them up, and I could happily wear these for work. So there we are, sale shoes to buy now and wear later, it’s how it should be!
Last weekend I was invited to an Iranian wedding, which posed a new challenge to my usual ‘what to wear’ quandary, Normally, at weddings I err on the more quirky, dressed down side of apparel, which allows me to pair a dress with flat, smart, arthritis-friendly shoes such as brogues and not feel out of place. I would happily wear trousers to a wedding, if I could ever find a pair that fitted really well (as anyone with a big bottom and small waist knows). However, Iranian weddings are very glam affairs, black tie rather than morning suits, and I wanted to be able to rise to the occasion.
So problem one: I am not a very glam person, but I like a challenge. I also wanted to feel like myself and not like I was wearing someone else’s clothes. In addition, my hair doesn’t do glamorous shiny mane, it only knows how to do fine and flyaway. I’ve learnt to live with this and purposefully style it a little messy, so there was no point going for a super-smooth dress, it just wouldn’t look right on me. So, the challenge was to find a glamorous dress that still felt like I was wearing it, rather than the other way round.
So, first off, I decided to check my wardrobe for anything suitable, as I try to avoid buying new things just for the sake of it. As I said, I’m not a big dresser upper, and I don’t often go to black tie events. I have one ancient blue dress from Phase Eight, which is very nice and drapey (if a little dull and uninspired) that I have worn for every black tie event since I bought it:
It’s a flattering dress but I’ve worn it so many times, it bores me rigid. I needed to lift my game a little and get something a little more interesting; I decided to hit the virtual shops and found a number of really nice outfits that would work well with flat shoes:
I swooned over all of these; however they weren’t quite right. The Diane Von Furstenberg dress is a stunner, but way too expensive for me (even at the reduced price). The colours on the Mango dress are divine, but as I have discussed before those straps wouldn’t work on my big boobs (and I hate wearing a strapless bra, it’s just something else to worry about). The Finery dress is beautiful, and a shirt dress is an acceptable way to wear white at a wedding, but it wasn’t glamorous enough (and looked a little ungenerous in the boob area). And the Needle and Thread skirt is a good option for those, like me, who are long in the body and find the waists on most dresses sit high. However I have a shorter version of the tulle skirt and it’s not a flowing fabric, it really emphasizes my hips, and that wasn’t what I was going for. You may find these dresses perfect for you, however, so I’ve included my browsing finds as they’re all fantastic.
I begrudgingly decided that the best route for me to go was a typical ballgown, even if that was the predictable route. And I dragged myself to the shops to make sure I got the right fit. I ended up in Coast, which is a shop I tend to avoid when looking for wedding attire, because EVERYONE gets wedding outfits from Coast, and you wouldn’t want to wear the same dress as someone else at a wedding, photo evidence is mandatory! And then I found this dress:
This was perfect, and it fitted like a dream. The skirt is swishy and flows nicely over the hips, and I love the polka dots. They’re a bit retro and a bit unusual on a ball-gown type dress. It also lends itself to being blinged up with a bit of sparkly jewellery. I was sold.
Problem two: what to wear on my feet… this problem was easily solved for me as I knew I wanted something sparkly. I had bought these diamante cage shoes from Dune a few years ago, and they are really comfortable, despite being quite flat and unsupportive:
The reason I think they’re so good is because the zip at the back allows you to take them on and off really easily, and also, the sides of the straps are elasticated.
This gives the shoe a surprising amount of flex, so there’s no restriction of the foot’s movement. This is important when you have arthritis, as your joints are often moving in unusual ways. As I said, I bought these shoes a long time ago, but there are similar shoes in Dune, with a trendier higher heel, which is probably more comfortable, and the strap across the foot is elasticated on the inside.
In the end, I think I scrubbed up OK despite a bit of a rush to get there on time and an incident with some false-eyelash glue:
The wedding itself was held at the lovely Danesfield House, which has really beautiful formal gardens, and the shoes held up well for a little wander.
The back of the house looks out over the Thames in the rolling Berkshire countryside, which shone on the idyllic summer’s day:
And most importantly, the newly wedded couple seemed to be having a whale of a time. The bride was radiant, the groom was so happy. The food was excellent and the champagne flowed. It was idyllic, and I also learnt some excellent Farsi swearwords – a perfect wedding and nobody else wore my dress!