What to wear to a gig in the middle of winter

One of the very first blog posts I ever wrote was in reaction to having to wear the same biker boots over and over to gigs because they were the most comfortable and supportive for my arthritis, but they were also beginning to bore me rigid, and they’re hard to dance in. I decided then that I would be on a ceaseless mission to find acceptable alternatives to big clumpy boots so that arthritic girls like me might not feel so bored and limited, when our surroundings was making us feel inspired and limitless.

So, at the weekend I was back at Brixton Academy watching Cage the Elephant. They’re a great band to see live — they have so much energy, and it’s impossible not to want to move while watching them. Although there were far fewer stage dives and crowd surfs than I was expecting after seeing them previously, maybe Matt Shultz had hurt himself in a previous gig, but it didn’t really matter because they have such an energetic stage presence anyway. They were great.

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Cage the Elephant

 

Last time I was at Brixton, I had noticed that the floor was significantly more sloped than most venues (meaning you get a great view) but this is a bit of a gift to people with arthritis in their ankles as it means your shoes can be flatter, as the slope of the floor takes some of that ‘flatness-pressure’ off your feet. So, of course I wanted to wear my kick-ass converse-style hi-tops that I bought from Zara in the sale:

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They’re still available in sizes 2–4 for £12.99!

Unfortunately, the weather in the UK is below freezing at the moment, and keeping arthritic joints warm is REALLY important. I nearly cried these off in favour of a pair of big  ol’ clompy boots, but I figured I wouldn’t really be outside for that long (if Southern Rail didn’t cancel my train) and I wore my lambswool liners and my favourite catherine tough wool socks, and this combination was actually pretty good at keeping the cold out, and my joints were comfortable throughout the gig.

So, that was my feet sorted, but I really struggled with deciding what to wear on the rest of my body. I only have joint problems in my legs, but I really hate the rest of my body being cold too. Looking at the kids that were at the gig, it would seem that a bralette and pair of high-waisted jeans are all that’s needed when it’s –5°C, but being over 30 I have the wisdom of just not giving a **** any more, and I wore a merino vest with my high-waisted jeans.

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Icebreaker long-sleeve crew: £50

I swear by these wool vests for walking the dog when it’s really cold. They’re lightweight merino and the business for adding a warm layer without bulk.

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Wool to the power 3

Of course, I didn’t go out in just a merino vest, I wore a denim shirt over it, and a cashmere jumper over that (I think I must be the only person to have worn a cashmere jumper to Brixton Academy — I wasn’t feeling decadent, I had already wrecked it by washing it on the wrong cycle, a bit of beer flung on it wasn’t going to make it worse). I felt great: not too cold when I was outside, and not too hot when inside… merino wool has excellent thermoregulation qualities.

Then all that was needed was my leopard coat over the top and I was ready to go. Southern even ran all my trains on time!

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The great train gamble  — will I be stranded at a platform in sub-zero temperatures (again)? Who knows?

So there we are, if you know your music venue, it is possible to tailor your shoes to it and get away with shoes you wouldn’t normally think you could wear. I think the trick is to know your body’s triggers (for me it’s standing on with flat feet and the cold) and then to try to find ways to look after those aspects without having to give up how you want to look. I’ll hopefully test some more shoes out this year (Maxïmo Park are touring, so that definitely has to happen!)

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Spring forward

I’m not very good at living in the moment. During the day, I’m often distracted by upcoming deadlines and things I need to prepare for (I also hate waiting for things); at night, my brain likes to entertain itself by replaying embarrassing things I’ve said/done in the past. However, I think it’s important to appreciate the time as it’s happening or you can miss out on so much, so at the moment I am trying to be mindful of how beautiful and crisp the winter sunsets are, how nice it feels to wrap up in soft layers, drink hot tea and knit beautiful things.

Even so, I can’t fight my urge to look forward to spring, and it was in this frame of mind that I stumbled on these shoes:

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Ash embroidered denim buckle trainers: £149

 

I don’t think these would be especially comfortable for arthritis, which is on my mind at the moment as I’m having a bit of a painful flare up… I think the snow has been hard work, but they are so pretty, I can’t help think fondly to warmer (and more importantly drier) days when it would be possible to wear them. I love the denim and studded buckle details too, it stops it getting too twee:

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I have a few white skirts and dresses for the summer, and these would be great with those if we were to have an early warm spell (fingers crossed, right?)

And with this spring feeling, I have also treated myself to this skirt from H&M:

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H&M pleated skirt: £24.99

I usually stay away from pink as I often wear red lipstick (MAC Ruby Woo is the best), but I love this bright bubblegum pink and how it works with the more monochrome elements of my wardrobe, and it wasn’t very expensive. Accordingly,  it’s not very well made: it’s unlined (and the fabric is pretty thin, I’ll have to cut the care label out as you can see it through the fabric), but for a little pop of colour, it’s not too bad. I just need to invest in some more nude-coloured knickers, and I’m planning on wearing it with long layers like in the photo, so there shouldn’t be any embarrassing skirt-related incidents for my brain to replay to me for years to come. Here’s looking forward to spring.

 

 

Kerfuffle for ruffle

(or how to do ruffles with big boobs)

After months of searching, I’ve finally found a shirt with ruffles that doesn’t scream ‘LOOK AT MY BOOBS’. I do mean literal months of searching, I think it was spring last year when ruffles started to be cutely adorning jumpers and shirts, and I have looked at the ruffles on the clothes rails, and been tempted, only to look like I had udders rather than boobs when I tried them on. So, in having a break from ‘what to wear on your feet when your arthritis is killing you’, I’m turning to my next area of expertise: how to dress your big boobs when everything is styled on small boobs.

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My boobs and clothes

First up, the thicker the fabric: the more bulk it will add; you can wear jumpers with big boobs, but adding a thicker-fabric ruffle adds weight, and most ruffles are around the boob area:

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Boob Ruffle Boob Ruffle Boob Ruffle Boob Ruffle (images from asos)

So, I figured a shirt was probably my best bet, despite the fact shirts can be difficult to fit over big boobs because they can gape at the buttons. So over the course of last year, many ruffled shirts were noticed and many tried on, and many were decided against. I was most gutted about this (buttonless) ruffled lace shirt from Monsoon:

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Monsoon lace frill blouse: £59

It’s so pretty and so elegant and lacy! So, this is how I wanted it to look versus how it actually look on me:

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OK, OK, I’m not really trying that hard, I’ve not even tucked it in, because I already knew it looked ridiculous. My boobs are introduced by the horizontal lace pelmet like a compère introducing the star performers in a show. The rest of the shirts hangs off the boobs like a baggy sack because, in order to accommodate the boobs, it’s voluminous on the waist and back making my tummy look enormous and, to complete the ensemble, the ruffled sleeves (so chic on the model), have a certain ‘je ne sais clown’ about them on me. And so it went on, and on, ruffles and my boobs were not mixing.

Then last year, I had a birthday voucher from Boden that needed using up, and I saw this shirt in their discounted next-season preview:

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Boden virginie ruffle shirt: £55

And so it came, and I am loving it! Because the ruffles are small, and not directly over, around, or touching the boobs in any way, they don’t add emphasis:

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subtle ruffle

The shirt is not particularly made for big boobs, so I still have to wear a size larger than my back size, but the fabric drapes nicely but is sill crisp, so it looks slouchy rather than tent-like. If you prefer a fitted shirt, M&S make ‘fuller bust’ shirts, which are a good shape and have a ‘no-peep’ button system that all shirts should have to prevent gaping (though the cotton is a little cheap-feeling and style a little dull — it makes me think of ‘generic smart shirt’ of the sort I would have bought for a Saturday job when I was doing my A-levels):

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M&S fuller bust shirt, not currently available

The Boden shirt fits really nicely under sweaters, and the ruffles on the collar and the cuffs add a nice contrast when you’re wearing ripped jeans and boots that are a bit rock n roll, so it’s going to be a staple for me this winter:

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It’s one of my resolutions to wear more colour in the winter… not going so well

While I’m on the white shirt theme, there are lots of shirts with interesting tie details coming out for this season, which are a good alternative to ruffles if they are not your thing:

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M&S long sleeve shirt: £39.50

Although I have seen bows and ties across the body of shirts, that is a bit too ‘straight-jacket’ for my liking, but when the weather warms up enough not to be wearing a jumper and a coat every time I leave the house, the bow sleeves are a nice touch for spring.

 

 

Get you a shoe that can do both

I’m going to be very light in posts this January. Partly because I’m trying not to buy anything new so I am staying away from shops that could tempt me, and partly because dry-January, trying to eat better and doing some exercise is taking more effort (and time) than I would like to admit.

Shops that are too expensive for me are fair game, however, because I can’t get tempted anyway. Thus, I was perusing the Christian Louboutin website. I rarely find anything I like there as the heels are so much nicer than the flats, but occasionally they produce a belter. That’s where I saw these:

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Louboutin vinodo patent degrade leopard: £475

My initial reaction was that they were a bit like a mullet: business at the front, party at the back. But they have really grown on me as they’re pretty awesome and, were I to be getting married this year, these would definitely be on the ‘bride shoe’ list with its nod to traditional bride shoe, with the true me coming through at the back.

When I got married, I didn’t wear any shoes as I couldn’t find any that weren’t super ugly, and ruined my outfit, that didn’t aggravate my arthritis, which was much worse back then. I’m not saying that these shoes would have passed the arthritis test, they look narrow and not particularly supportive if you’re standing all day (and boy, do you stand all day when you get married), but if you want special shoes for your wedding, and many brides splash out on Louboutins for their wedding as it is a special day, these shoes are worth a look.