Once again Halloween rolled around and once again it was a week before a party that I started thinking about a costume. I had a little time in central London so wandered around a ‘vintage’ store for some inspiration. I wanted a costume that would work with my teeny weeny Afro. Initially I was thinking Moss from the IT crowd.
As I looked at the dubious vintage items (a bugbear of mine is ‘vintage’ stores that are overpriced and have crappy, samey clothing), I started to feel inspired. I quite wanted to go for an It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia costume but didn’t want to buy a new wig- maybe I’ll go as Ango Goblogian if I stumble across the right secondhand wig another time.
I had just seen the new Joker movie and wondered whether there was mileage in that as a concept. I’ve seen on Instagram (good targeted advertising I guess) that they sell hair wax that’s capable of producing vibrant temporary colour on Afro hair and doesn’t look crispy and awful.
Note: I’ve been meaning to write about the experience of cutting my hair but haven’t got around to it. I definitely surprised myself with how strongly my feelings about my gender were tied up with my long hair. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that I felt much more drawn than usual to dressing as a male character.
Anyway, when I went charity shopping a couple of days later, it was the character of the Joker that appealed to me the most. I spotted a red jacket and went to look at some reference images. What would the odds be that I could find a red suit, green shirt and yellow waistcoat all in my size in five days? Would I become desperate enough to violate my ethics and buy something new?
I visited the secondhand shops near my work and came away feeling a little apprehensive. I made the decision to just buy any item I could find that suited my needs- more on this later. As I returned to my office after lunch, I recalled that nearby Chiswick High Street has a fantastic selection of charity shops. Since I had some containers and could pop into the Source as well, I hopped on my bike and went over that very afternoon.
Chiswick sorted me out beautifully. The first thing I spotted in the Shelter store was a bright red jacket for £15. I tried it on and it fit. I decided not to buy it immediately just in case I came across something better.
The next shop came up trumps with a pair of red trousers- I had to ask the volunteer to take them off a mannequin for me. Not perfect but definitely good enough for my needs, especially since they were £6.50. I bought them straightaway so the lady wouldn’t put them back on the mannequin.
The thing I was most worried about was the waistcoat. I’d hardly seen any waitscoats at all on my search, and is a yellow waistcoat an item anyone would want aside for for costume purposes? But the Barnado’s shop contained a golden floral one. Again I didn’t buy it straightaway. It wasn’t quite perfect and I had a couple more shops to visit.
I wandered down to the shop at the end of the road, where my eye was immediately caught by a green silk shirt. It was more olive than I wanted, but a beautiful silk shirt from Whistles seemed too good an offer to pass up at £20- it’s something that can definitely slip into my work wardrobe when spooky season is over and done.
I quickly walked back up the street to collect the waistcoat and jacket, which was a great match for my new pants. It seemed silly to waste time looking any further. I was irrationally terrified that other shoppers would have snapped my items up, but I needn’t have worried.
The only big misstep I made was with the very first item I bought; another red jacket. For the first time, I investigated a weird junk shop that’s opposite my office. There’s no indication of what it is on the outside, just some rails of clothing. I went in and there are hundreds of poorly sorted items and no lighting. It’s so strange. There were people wandering about using their phones as torches. I wish I knew the story behind it.
I found a red men’s jacket in there and hastily bought it for £15. In the gloom of the shop, it had looked okay if a little big. As soon as I tried it on in a proper changing room, I realised that it wouldn’t do. I looked like a little kid in their dad’s suit. When I bought the second jacket, I donated the first one at the same time. No sense bringing it home to take up space when I have absolutely no use for it. I hope that Shelter will be able to make some money back from it at least.
Overall it felt really serendipitous that I was able to get everything I needed within only a couple of hours. Normally my cardinal rule of secondhand shopping is not to go looking for something specific. But this time, it worked for me. As my friend Cayleigh pointed out, perhaps even the men’s red jacket was part of the magic of that day of shopping. There may be some reason that it needed to find its way to the Shelter store in Chiswick.
In the end I paid £49.50 (not including the stupid second jacket) for my costume, which I know is far from cheap. The silk shirt I know will go into my normal wardrobe. And, in fact, I felt really fabulous in the red suit. I wonder if there’s a viable market for renting a single costume only suitable for a size 10 woman. Actually, two costumes since I still have my Wonder Woman dress from last year. I feel grateful that I am fortunate enough to be able to pay a premium to live according to my principles.
The one thing I bought new was the hair wax for £11. I had to use around 1/3 of the pot to get decent colour on my hair. I quite liked the definition that it gave my curls, though it did make my hair quite hard.
Yes I did go out for dinner dressed as the Joker. And yes my two companions were wearing normal clothes.
It was so much fun to dress up in a completely different way to normal. I’ve never worn a trouser-suit before and actually I was living for it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve worn a suit as an adult full stop. I will 100% be looking for any excuse to wear my red suit again. The biggest surprise was probably how hot I was! I suddenly have a new respect for men in three-piece suits on the tube. Continue reading
I was going to include some about the change to my make-up habits in my previous post about cosmetics, but it was starting to get a bit long.
The biggest change there has been is that I am simply using less. It makes me a bit sad to think that when my skin was near-perfect in my late teens, I covered it up with loads of products. This is probably part of the reason I feel so sad and outraged when I see young women plastered in foundation. As I’ve grown older, I have become more able to accept the fact that my skin has some flaws. Most days, I don’t wear anything on my face except moisturiser. If I’m feeling fancy, I still have a bottle of Mac Face and Body that will probably last me for years to come.
I also accidentally stopped wearing blush. For a long time, I used Posie Tint. I wasn’t able to restock it the last time I ran out (I generally buy make-up at the airport) and I have now reached the point where I’ve not been wearing it for so long that I don’t think I need it.
I am quite reliant on eye make-up. I’ve been wearing liquid eyeliner on a daily basis for at least a decade. Someone (normally my friend Paula, who I don’t think realises what a faux pas this is) comments that I look tired every time I appear in public without it. And I agree. I don’t like to have my picture taken if my eyes are bare. Maybe this is something that will change over time, but the eyeliner certainly creates a dramatic change in appearance compared to the subtle blurring of a tinted moisturiser.
One thing I’ve never understood was makeup brands constantly changing their formulae. I used a No.7 product for ages until they changed it. I switched to Illamasqua and the same thing happened. Since then, I have been on a carousel of trying new brands, never finding a product that I really loved.
The last time I was at the airport, unable to find a suitable product, one of the employees suggested that I try one from Boots. Pfft, I scoffed internally. I have become way too fancy to use a drugstore brand. I bought a long-wear brand from Mac that looks great but needs professional make-up remover to get off. It is like glue. I am not willing to invest in a special make-up remover to keep fuelling my habit.
A few weeks on, and a few eyelashes down, I re-thought. Since when did I become a slave to the idea that more expensive brands are inherently better? Why am I determined to buy from a premium brand when I have been disappointed time after time for several years? I popped into a Boots store to see if any of the brands (I had long since forgotten the recommendation of the nice lady at the airport) appealed. While I was looking for a tester that didn’t look replete with conjunctivitis, I spotted a gel eyeliner kit.
It was a lightbulb moment. Gel eyeliner comes in a small glass tub. You use a proper make-up brush rather than the disposable one inside the plastic tube of a liquid liner. I’d tried a gel a few years ago in my search for a consistent brand. I rejected it at the time because I was still in love with the look of liquid. Now, the idea of a less defined wing doesn’t bother me so much. The next time I passed the Mac store (I know I realised earlier that I didn’t need to be a sucker and stick to a more expensive brand, but throw a girl a bone), I made the switch.
I realise that this has been a ridiculously long-winded way of saying that I changed eyeliners, but I guess my point is that change happens incrementally at times. In an ideal world, I would just be happy with the way I look bare-faced and stop wearing make-up altogether. I still feel the need to balance my personal comfort with my desire to have less of an impact on the planet.
I didn’t post about my twelfth OddBox because I didn’t make anything that interesting. Here is what I received in my most recent instalment.
My flatmate brought me some curry mix back from Singapore. I used some onions, the squash and potatoes in a vegan curry. It was really tasty!
I added a block of Tofoo brand extra-firm tofu to increase the protein content. The curry paste is pretty spicy so it’s nice to have something bland in there too.
I used the beetroot, an apple and the remaining onions in this vegan galette.
I found the recipe on Pinterest. I have to say the galette is amazing. The vegetables all have the right texture (this was on me, I roasted them for different amounts of time until I was happy) and their natural taste is enhanced by the dressing. The pastry is lovely and crisp. I used chunky sea salt that adds an extra crunch too. I was worried that it would be horribly dry. Like the vegan patties I made, the galette is on the dry side but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment.
You can easily adjust the recipe according to what you have. I used quite a bit more veg than stated in the recipe (due to what I had on hand). I just rolled the pastry extra-thin and piled the veg high. It worked well.
I made soup with the cabbage.
I finally got around to making some reusable cotton pads for removing make-up. I ran out of disposable cotton rounds some time ago.
My handmade pads took some getting used to. They absorb a lot of liquid, which seems a bit wasteful, but then I probably need to re-think using micellar water once I run out of that. The crocheted surface is also very different to the smooth surface of a disposable product. However, I used them to take off the makeup (liquid eyeliner and lipstick, false eyelash glue) from my Wonder Woman costume and they worked fine.
I would probably mark the cotton pads down as a fail overall. I bought some pre-made reusable cotton pads from the Source and they are much better. Removing make-up with toner is still an occasional part of my skincare routine and my skin suffered when I stopped using disposable pads.
It’s so interesting to reflect on the genius of the cosmetics industry. I started using micellar water when it came out a few years ago and totally believed that it was superior to toner. I remember how MW was marketed as being better (and thus justifiably more costly) because it eliminated the ‘need’ to use cleanser. I thought this was great! A few years later I wanted to take some MW on holiday so looked for a travel-sized bottle at the airport. They had nothing under 100ml so I reluctantly bought toner instead.
Reader, the two products were indistinguishable to me. I got got. I have since switched to showering at night, which means that I seldom need to remove my makeup (I just wash my face in the shower) but it was such a revelation at the time. Marketing can be so powerful, even if you consider yourself to be a thoughtful person with a critical eye.
Speaking of showering, I have also been trying to get single-use plastics out of my bathroom in general. I went to Lush and bought a few plastic-light things to try. I went in looking for a shampoo bar and some face wash. I came out with two solid facial cleansers. I have to say that I’m not too keen on them so far. The base is quite oily and I find it impossible to remove the oily feeling without using soap on top of the cleanser, which doesn’t really make sense to me. I am yet to try removing the product with a hot washcloth (this is my face wash routine in the morning) so perhaps that will work better for me.
In the end, I got a tub of liquid shampoo since I didn’t think that any of the bars would be suitable for my hair. The tubs can be returned to their stores. I’m not sure if any of their products are designed with POC in mind. I am planning to cut my hair very short soon, so perhaps I will try a shampoo bar then.
Last week, I returned from Lapland to my latest OddBox delivery.
I must say that I was baffled by the item in the bottom left corner. I thought it was a beetroot but there was no indication on the website or letter that we would get beetroot this week. I then thought it might be a really big potato. It smelled like a potato.
It was indeed a yellow beetroot, though I wasn’t entirely certain until I had cooked and tasted it 🙈
I stir-fried the cavolo nero and purple broccoli.
I followed the recipe that came in the box for a roasted carrot and lentil salad. I don’t really like roasted carrot (I prefer sweet potato) but I liked the lentils and dressing, and it was pretty filling.
I also followed the vegetable soup recipe from the box. The soup is serviceable but it looks repulsive.
I also managed to have zero waste vegan quidditch tournament! When I realised that the only available food would be from a burger van, I took some time to food prep. I had shopped in the Source and Lemons & Limes, a lovely greengrocer in Chiswick. I made the satay noodle dish I’ve done a few times before.
I packed two servings and warmed them up each morning before transferring to my vacuum flask.
Since I was volunteering, I got a £5 food voucher. I got some (black) coffee in my keep cup and the lid of my food container saved a couple of polystyrene trays from landfill. Its so nice to be able to eat hot food when you’re standing around outside in Manchester all day.
The team I was coaching came third and my club’s second team (London Unstoppables) took silver, so all in all a successful weekend.
My most recent Oddbox arrived during the busy final week of Veganuary.
I made some sticky sesame cauliflower. Since I didn’t have any sesame seeds, I added in some cashews. It was pretty nice- possibly some of the enjoyment was lowered because I didn’t reduce the sauce enough. I’m not sure if I would make this again because it really was not filling. I still struggle to remember that just because something looks like a decent amount of food, vegetables simply do not fill me up.
I haven’t eaten a turnip (to my knowledge) in years so I decided to roast it. The roasted turnip was okay. I wasn’t sure if I like turnip but I think that it’s swede that I really hate. I don’t tend to like bitter vegetables. The leftover roast swede was slimy and inedible so I stuck that in with the remaining cauliflower when I made some meatless balls. I’ve made this recipe before. It’s quite easy, filling and a good way to get rid of cauliflower.
The kale, cucumber and fruit went into either smoothies or lassis. I decided to go with a lassi as a non-vegan treat but I made the regrettable decision to try kefir rather than using Greek yoghurt. I will certainly not be doing that again. I juiced the carrots as I did with the beets last week. I am going to stop juicing until I have found a responsible way of disposing of my food waste. Even though I am ‘using’ the veg, in reality most of it is going in the bin.
Overall not the most interesting week but things have been so busy and hectic that I’m just pleased to have managed not to waste much food.
I stayed in a hotel at the weekend and remembered anew that sachets of instant coffee and individually wrapped tea bags are the status quo at most chains. I need to start travelling with my own sustainable solution. At home, I have vegan flat whites made from package-free beans and oat milk (tetra pak but not much alternative at present).
I have managed to convince my aunt to stop wrapping presents for me in foil gift wrap (it’s my birthday on Thursday). Even though there is still tape, at least I know that it’s reused paper rather than virgin material.