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Time to go away January 10, 2011

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Advice, Life, Chatter & Politics, Travel.
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Today is a day of excitement. And a little bit of terror. As of this morning my application for a sabbatical this summer has been granted, meaning that I now have three months in which to explore the world. Utterly exciting, yet terrifying, because I may well be doing this trip alone!

The aim is to spend a month in Australia, a month in New Zealand, and a month in the US. I have friends in each who I hope to meet up with (and abuse the use of their couch! Free accommodation is the name of the game, hehe), and if anyone wants to accompany me for legs of the trip they are more than welcome. If not, I shall head of alone, aiming to make friend along the way (and, knowing me,on travel dating-style sites before I leave!).

Firstly, Australia.



The symbol of Oz!

If things go according to plan, I will fly into the North of Australia (hopefully Cairns) at the beginning of August. I know this is technically winter, but by the sounds of it the temperatures up this part of the country will be fine, and at least it will be dry! I will then aim to make my way down to the south, with Melbourne and Sydney definite calling places.

Has anyone been to Oz? Where would you recommend as must see places?

Next, New Zealand.


New Zealand Sheep


I don’t quite know the plan of action for this leg of the trip yet, but I think I will be landing on one island and working my way up to the other. This will be in September, which I know isn’t the best time of year but hey, I’m British, I can cope with rain! This whole trip has to fit around my flat contract running out at the end of July, so I don’t have much choice in the matter! Still, I imagine the spectacular scenery, geysers and more will look good even with a bit of drizzle!

Any recommendations for the NZ part of this trip?

Finally, on to the US.


Bald Eagle

Soaring the heights

I hopefully will hit LA at the beginning of October, where the plan is to head across the country to catch my flight back to the UK from New York. There are people (and places) I desperately want to see, so the plan may well be to work my way up the west coast to Oregon, checking out the Rockies, and then somehow getting over to the east coast. I need suggestions for routes and travel arrangements for this section, so any help is appreciated!

If anyone has any secret insider tips, places to go, things to do or (OR!) just wants to meet up whilst I am on the road, all help and friendliness will be much appreciated!


How attractive are you on a rating of 1 to 10? September 28, 2010

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Advice, Fashion, Inspiration.
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Girls, it seems, don’t like themselves very much. They are known for wearing makeup, shaving their legs, and wearing uncomfortable shoes. More negatively, girls are seen as the dominant gender when it comes to a lack of self-confidence, eating disorders, and body dismorphia. Whatever the reality of these sweeping overgeneralisations, one thing is clear. Women seem to underestimate themselves and their looks on a daily basis.

A colleague brought this to my attention. His point, eloquently put, was that men are able to interest women more attractive than themselves, because no woman he has ever met rates herself high enough. So, there we are, plodding along believing that all people see is our big noses, our moles, and any other imaginary flaw that we are able to concoct. Despite the fact that in actuality the men in our lives see us as beautiful and technically out of their league, we continue to self-depricate.

So, what would you rate yourself on a scale of one to ten? I rated myself an optimistic six – I can see so many flaws that I couldn’t imagine being higher. I wasn’t told what I would be scored, but apparently I seriously underestimated myself. If this is the case for me, who has a reasonable opinion of herself, then I dread to think how unattractive some of my most wonderful and beautiful friends think that they are.

If your rating is low, then is it individual self-esteem issues, or a deep-seated problem with society and the things it makes us aspire to? Perhaps, rather than issues unique to each of us, there is an element of group thought. Perhaps we aren’t brought up by the media, or by people around us, to concentrate on our good points. And sure, none of us want to be cocky or self-obsessed, but a little boost on our self-perception and personal attitude seems like it may be really useful. Instead, however, we are all underestimating ourselves all the time.

So, now you know you are more attractive than you think, what would you rate yourself?

Go Ink Yourself August 23, 2010

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Advice, Fashion, Graphic Design, Life, Chatter & Politics.
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As I tend to when I get a new topic in my head, I have spent most of this week thinking about tattoos. I have had to rethink my opinions on some people’s tattoos and replace a certain sense of fear with one of respect over the design and the workmanship. It may not be to my personal tastes, but who gives a s**t?!

My thinking about tattoos has led to me spending many hours browsing through pages and pages of some of the most beautiful tattoos in the world. Many are horrible, yet brilliantly done, whilst others are purely beautiful. The range of styles (I tend to lean towards eastern inspired images, natural subjects, tribal patterns and solid black work) is incredibly, and you would never believe how many different ideas there are out there. I have become a little obsessed!

3d stone seal tattoo

3D stone seal tattoo

One of the cool ones I came across on the website was this amazing stone tattoo. It is incredible, and although I would never have a tattoo like that it has to be respected for the artistry! The 3D effect in particular is worth mentioning – it reminds me of Edgar Mueller’s stunning pavement art!

beautiful womans face tattoo

Stunning Portrait Tattoo

In a totally different style is this portrait. Whilst usually I am not a fan of colour in tattoos, this one made it look like a water colour. The combination of Japanese and Art Nouveau styling is also beautiful, and I actually find myself wanting a tattoo like it! So stunning!

full back tattoo

Amazing Gothic Tattoo

More astonishing than anything else I found, however, was this full back tattoo. Now, I would never have anything like this. However, ignore the overall tattoo and look at the detail. There is depth, texture. Creatures clamber from the base of his back, whilst muscled beasts strain against the stone wall above. Centrally, a terrifying figure enters the room. All this, in ink, on someones back. Wow. Loving the bum crack though!

There were, of course, many other tattoos that were stunning. Gentle maple trees. Stunningly realistic roses (not my favourite subject matter though). Deep black patterns and shapes. Confusing visual illusions. I am a total tattoo convert!

Now, of course, I have to decide where to have mine. It seems I won’t be able to have it on my hairline on my neck as previously planned, so I have to think of somewhere else. Somewhere only I and particular chosen people can see it, which isn’t cheap or tacky.

The tattoo itself is a stylised art deco treble clef, designed by Tom at my work. Check out his portfolio, it is pretty cool! Alongside show casing the really stylised art style that I love, this is also meant to represent my love of music, and more importantly the significance that music has had in my life. It has saved my life, many times over!

My tattoo

My future tattoo

Where do you think I should have it? Serious suggestions only please! Now I am not having it on my neck I am willing to have it a little larger than the 50p piece it was originally going to fit on, so the possibilities are varied!

The wonder of boy hugs June 10, 2010

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Advice, Life, Chatter & Politics.
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two cats having a hug

The world's cutest hugging cats!

(image from here)

Hugs of all descriptions are one of the most healing acts that I think there are in the world. I am not talking about the little meaningless hugs that you get on a day-to-day basis, but those hugs where people fully envelop you in their arms, acting as if by enclosing you within the circle of their grip they can keep all of the bad things in the world at bay. As soon as you are swaddled in a proper and true hug you feel safe, sound, protected, and like all of the dark shadows creeping around the edges of your life are being held at bay, unable to sneak any closer.

Whilst hugs like this from anyone are brilliant, I find that noone gives better hugs than boys. Nothing silly or inappropriate involved, I mean true honest hugs from a boy that you know. It must be because generally they are bigger and a bit stronger, but if you want a hug that makes you feel safe, then a boy is most likely to be able to deliver on the challenge.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t some anti-feminist stance, an “I’m only a weak little woman” position – it is just where the physical difference between the genders can be used to make someone feel utterly secure, and to stop them worrying.

Whilst life may be on the up, I still feel I need a real bone-crushing soul-saving hug from a boy to set me on the right path.

A sure-fire way to lower self-esteem May 21, 2010

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Advice, Life, Chatter & Politics.

I can officially declare that there is no better way to lower a girl’s self-esteem than to ask her if she is pregnant. When she is not.


This is exactly what happened to me today. There I was, feeling all summery and happy in my beautiful floaty maxi dress. I was buying a drink and a snack from the sandwich van, went up to pay and wham – Banjo’s lady said – “oh – are you pregnant?”. My face must have been a picture as I stumbled to inform her that no, no I was not pregnant, not at all – and not only that but I had been feeling quite happy in my body until that minute. She was fast to backtrack, of course, declaring “oh, it must have just been the wind going up your skirt” – but it was too late, the damage was done.

Although it is funny, and has made for a good laugh and lots of cheeky “congratulations” from my workmates, this has also made me feel quite unhappy in my body. After all, if I look pregnant when I think I look good, what on earth do I look like when I feel I look crap?!

A general rule of thumb, therefore, is never ever to ask if someone is pregnant. Wait for them to tell you, or for it to get to the point when the are so front heavy it couldn’t be anything else. Never, ever assume – it is a recipe for disaster!

1930’s Inspired Wedding Dresses April 20, 2010

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Advice, Fashion.
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Reader Rebecca contacted me to see if I could help her with a 1930s inspired fashion enquiry:

I’m getting married in September. Any advice on a source for 1930’s style bias cut gowns? Preferably budget friendly (under $1000)


Well, being as I am now a bit of a 1930s fashion addict, I simply couldn’t resist the chance to hunt for some seriously gorgeous dresses. You see, in my opinion bias cut 1930s gowns are perfectly matched to weddings, as they work well with long stretched of fabric – and consequently will work brilliantly in a blinding white or ivory. Even better, there is something sleek, elegant and pure about the simplicity of 1930’s dress design, and I can see this working wonderfully for a wedding dress.

So, what bias cut wedding dresses can I find?

Well, I started with looking for some actual vintage dresses, Obviously you are more restricted on sizes with these sorts of dresses, although a good seamstress will be able to take them in and generally make them fit well – it is only if they are too small that you have a problem! My go-to source for these was Etsy, which is definitely one of the best places for affordable vintage – I would keep checking back on it to see what the Etsy sellers get in.

Exquisite Vintage 1930s Wedding Dress

Ivory Lace Vintage 1930s Wedding Dress

The first dress here is, quite simply exquisite. It is also less than $500, which for a piece of this quality and elegance is pretty rare. Even better, this is a vintage dress that manages to look modern at the same time. The second dress needs a bit more work – but if you get rid of the horrible puffy sleeves you could have something wonderful for only $200.

There are a lot fo other vintage wedding dresses here.

For the modern 1930s inspired wedding dresses I have included a range of options and sellers. They range from just about the $1000 limit (the time has come to haggle…) to a bargain basement $200, to give you lots of choice.

Bias Cut Hemp Silk Wedding Gown

The pure simplicity of this bias cute dress from Conscious clothing meant that I simply had to include it. It isn’t fancy, it isn’t over the top, but it is beautiful. Of course, this is the most expensive gown, coming in at $1,140.

Bias Cut J. Crew Wedding Dress

Interestingly, this J. Crew dress is not only the cheapest, but it is one of my favourites, It may not be the obvious place to shop for a wedding dress, but with examples like this it definitely ought to be considered! Remember, don’t shop exclusively in bridal shops, as many evening dress providers will sell bias cuts. Oh, and this particular example is for sale for $275 with free shipping.

Bias Cut Chiffon Wedding Dress

I love the chiffon in this dress, it makes a nice change from all the millions of satin bias cut dress. Satin does work well cut on the bias, of course, but I think seeing something a little more summery and floaty!

The Wildcard Bias Cut Ruffled Wedding Dress

Finally, a dress that although bias cut, isn’t perhaps as vintage inspired as the rest. I suppose you could have seen something with this kind of base and trail, but you definitely would never have seen all those ruffles in the 30s! Oh well, I had to put it in – and mention that it costs $449…

Hopefully this will have helped, and will have given you some ideas! Let me know if you find your dress!

Chocolate Solves All Problems January 28, 2010

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Advice, Foodiness, Life, Chatter & Politics.
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I have discovered the most amazing and absurd vintage eBay shop in America, I will have to share it with you later today!

Homer Simpson In World Of Chocolate

Today lots of people around the web seem to be suffering from all manner of ills. People are having issues with technology, getting ill, making mistakes and generally just feeling down in the dumps. I, usefully, have been on hand to prescribe one thing to all of them, regardless of what the actual situation is – chocolate. Whilst I think if the problem was a chocolate allergy I would be lucid enough to hold back from the prescription, I can’t guarantee it, and I know that I perhaps shouldn’t recommend the god of all sweet stuff quite as much as I do.

The thing is, however, that I love it. Even when I am full and satisfied a huge bar little square of chocolate can make the world seem a brighter, happier place. Much like Homer Simpson in his hallucination of a world of chocolate, everything seems wonderful (although disappointingly not quite as edible!). The smooth feeling of chocolate melting on my tongue feels like home, and whatever form it comes in I love love love it.

So, is this love purely based on the taste? Or perhaps it is based on the sugar rush, the immediate high and reasonably fast-following sugar low that follow its consumption? It is that, like cheese, it releases those same endorphins into our brains, giving us a natural chirpy high that is, as far as we know, only bad for our hips? Maybe, and I don’t like this idea, it is all psychological, and it is just an enviable placebo effect?

What do you reckon?

Never mind what the explanation, if you are feeling down and low, follow my advice – have some chocolate and see if it helps!

Buyers Remorse December 15, 2009

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Advice, Depression, Fashion.
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There is nothing worse than buying something that you have always wanted, or have accidently fallen madly in love with, and then realising that it completely and utterly doesn’t live up to expectations. Sure you can sell it on again if it doesn’t fit – but the magic of the moment of ripping it out of the packaging is completely dead and gone.

It happened to me today. I ordered the most lovely looking pair of brown suede Irregular choice winter boots, with a cute fleecy top, strap up foldover and sensible low heel that I could actually wear when the temperature plummets. They arrived, I dragged off the cute pink tissue papers, forced my feet into them, et voila! Clown feet! I am not exaggerating people – this was a serious case of the wide and longs for my little Tootsies.

Irregular Choice Winter Boots

Irregular Choice Winter Boots

I was going to put an uplifting list at around about this point of the blog. Something that explained that these situations can be avoided, that spending some quality time with the internet and researching each and every purchase can mean you will never have to experience the deep dark sorrows of buyers remorse. Then, however, I realised that it was all bollocks. Completely made up. That sometimes, you can spend four years preparing for a purchase, putting together neat and efficient pros and cons lists using your recent excel training, quizzing your friends and comparing colour swatches with your room to make sure it doesn’t clash. You can do all of this, and what you ordered can arrive – and it can be completely utterly wrong.

Sometimes it is on their end, they have simply missold it or listed it wrong. Other time, unfortunately enough, you have been a right lummox and bought something you should never have bought, no matter how clever you tried to be about it.

So here is the real point of this blog – to make you realise that you are not alone. That mistakes happen, things sometimes just won’t fit, that this is a just a dark dark day and the future will get brighter, and other such uplifting merry bullshit. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and recover – so those shoes didn’t fit? Sell them, send them back, buy another pair. Buy 10 other pairs, in the hope that the factory will produce one that comes up small at just the right place. Do something and fix it – or cry, eat ice cream, and deny it ever happened. Either one is fine with me, and a great way to deal with the challenge that is buyers remorse!

Make me a… 1950’s Sexy Housewife December 7, 2009

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Advice, Fashion, Makeup/Cosmetics, Vintage.
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The fourth in my series helping modern girls to wear the fashions of their ancestors, this week I address the wonderful vintage fashion of the sexy 1950’s (apologies as this article is long overdue). These will contain clothes (both vintage, vintage inspired and direct repro), makeup and more, to help you achieve that distinctly vintage fashion style!

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This week I tackle the hourglass shape, sexy halter-necks and uncompromising love of polka dots that characterises the bright cheerful 1950’s.

 Rebelling, perhaps, against the classic and refined styles of the war-torn 1940’s, the 1950’s were a period of fun, frivolity and glamour. The American housewife style is the most popular and recurring theme, and this is the funky look that I am going to concentrate on. Best of all, this style works for a suprising number of body shapes, is immensely flattering, and is still quite modern.

1950's Fashion Vintage Dress

1950's Fashion Vintage Dress

  To begin, the dresses. For anyone who has even the vaguest inkling about 1950’s fashion, the wide skirted petticoat dresses are perhaps the most enduring mental image. As are the halternecks, bright colourful prints and combination of pretty little apron with feminine dress. In fact, 1950’s dresses couldn’t get more feminine if they tried, as women rediscovered their curves and celebrated their bodies. If you want to go authentic a full skirt, sweetheart neckline and full petticoat are essential for the look, with something like this blue vintage dress. alternatively, modern incarnations are rife, and the Vivien of Holloway’s ones are some of the most spectacular on the market. Any shape can wear this, just adjust the size of the petticoats to balance out your hits (thin if you have big hips, full if you have none!) and get a shape that suits your bust.

Funky Modern Petticoat Perfect for 1950's Fashion

 It is worth shelling out on an underskirt if you can, but bear in mind that these never get cheap. Vintage ones are likely to have damage in the lace, but you can get modern equivalents. To update the look, choose a bright colour and have it peeking boldly out underneath. You can even go a bit Gothic with a contrasting black petticoat.

Patent 1950's Inspired MaryJanes - Modern!

To really make the 1950’s look work for you, think hard about the shoes. If you are a true vintage enthusiast you can opt for some vintage pairs, although this will only work if you have incy teeny-weeny feet! The look generally leant towards thicker heels, kitten heels, and satin or leather heels that you could dance in. The modern equivalent are those sky-high MaryJanes, that I think look stunning with the vintage styling. Try some originals like this, or opt for something a bit different an unusual like this MaryJanes from Barratts.

Fifties Style Makeup


For hair and makeup, you might have to plan in advance. Rollers, hair pins, copious amounts of chemical hairspray – soft floaty curls were what it was all about. Whilst it was always about short curls and short hair, modern girls have the luxury of choosing whether to have it long ot short, tied up or straight down. Pair this with dark arched eyebrows and a peachy perfect complexion and you will be well on your way to channeling that 50’s vibe!The rules are a lot more flexible with 1950’s fashion than they are with other eras, perhaps because it is so flexible. Anyone can wear it, and there are a million and one different ways in which people feel the style should be worn. All that really matters is that you feel good and what people think can follow-up last.

Handmade, Vintage and Preloved: My problems with Etsy November 15, 2009

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Advice, Crafting, Inspiration, Life, Chatter & Politics, Rants, Vintage.
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You have probably gathered just how much I love vintage fashion. The quirky, the wierd, the classic and the wonderful – I am happier in my preloved belongings than in brand new items. It would make sense, therefore, for me to love Etsy. After all, unlike eBay (my usual haunt), you don’t have to compete and bid against other buyers, and the prices are fixed and obvious. Along the same lines, vintage clothes tend to be cheaper on Etsy than they are on online stores, and even often cheaper than they are on eBay.

Etsy Logo

Etsy Logo

With all these advantages, however, come a number of disadvantages that mean I only buy on Etsy if it really is a case of needs must. These little things make the overall buying experience a bit of a disappointment, and really are simple little things. I simply fail to understand why such a big and successful website won’t put in the effort to make their site that bit more user-friendly.

So why do I have problems with Etsy?

Firstly, they will piss a lot of people off by not having multiple currencies. I don’t mind this too much (I can roughly translate dollars to pounds in my head), but for those who don’t have it programmed into their brains this can be a right hassle. People will find that heading to a site such as XE.com in order to find out the cost is often time-consuming, and can persuade people away from buying at all.

Etsy Local Search - No Keywords Anywhere!

Etsy Local Search - No Keywords!

Next the search local tool. This is great if you don’t have something specific in mind. If you are just browsing, this tool allows you to enter a location, and see the first 100 shops that match those parameters. Of course, a brilliant shop may not have updated recently and will only come much further down the list than that initial 100, and there is no facility to extend the search and see the next bunch. Even worse, you can EITHER search by keyword, or by location, never by both. The closest you can get to this is to see who delivers to the UK, but if you are trying to keep postage costs down and only buy local this is quite a major pain in the ass.

Finally, I have an issue with the feedback method for Etsy. Like its more professional competitor, eBay, people are rated on selling accuracy – but unlike eBay, people don’t have to fill this in. That pressure to be a good and trustworthy seller isnt there, and whilst most people are good guys, there will always be scammers out there.  

The thing is, there is still a recession on. We should be encouraging people to buy vintage, and experience the quality and brilliance of a real quality item. Similarly, people are becoming more and more creative, and for the first time in years a real handmade force is out there, crafting and sewing away. eBay doesn’t care about these creatives, concentrating more on the big corporate brands – and Etsy is fatally flawed. There are few outlets for such wonderful talent, and I just wish the website would get off its lazy bottom and sort it out!! 

All that said, Etsy is home to the most wonderful and beautiful items. Definitely give it a visit, I am not trying to persuade you away from it! I just think that if they fixed these flaws, their website would be better than ever before, and so many more people would use it!