Genderquake: Why I Turned Down Channel 4 and “The Gender Debate”

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I just want to start this with a little note to say that I am very grateful to have a safe space like this to discuss gender and LGBTQA+ issues. I hope that what I talk about here, in this article and others, does reach people and in some way help them. I want to talk about experience and understanding, adding my voice to the larger fight in whatever small way I can, and it is my voice. I am controlling my own narrative, I am creating content from a nonbinary point of view. Which is why I want to talk about Genderquake.

A few weeks ago I was approached by a researcher for ITN who were looking to talk to trans and NB people for a programme being put together by Channel 4, some form of debate on “the gender question”. It was the first time I had been approached by someone outside of the little queer or nerd centric bubbles that I live in to really approach me about gender and my opinions on it. I was perfectly happy to talk to her and answer her questions; after all it was a safe space to give my piece. Sitting in my kitchen on a Tuesday morning, drinking tea, I felt like I could give a good, articulate set of view to show what it’s like to be NB. I even felt that I did some good, seemingly changing her mind on certain things and giving her some new perspectives to think about in the future, it was honestly very pleasant and I have not a bad word to say against her. However, when she came back to me asking if I would be part of the debate itself I had a very different reaction.

The mainstream media is not a safe space for trans and NB people. It’s just not. Any “debate”, interview or documentary ends up as biased, with anti-trans activists being allowed to vocalise the opinion that trans people don’t exist, that we are ill, and need help. That trans women are men trying to attack and rape cis-women and take over female spaces, it’s like asking a black person to sit and debate with a member of the KKK for goodness sakes. The idea of being on TV and having to talk to these people, being trapped with people who saw my existence as something that COULD be debated at all was horrendous. It lead to a lot of sleepless nights. I had no idea what to do. Should I put myself through it for the cause? Or should I turn it down as a statement of rejection, showing that I wouldn’t let others use my story for themselves? And most of all, should I open myself up to the public scrutiny that would come with this sort of thing? In all honesty, I was afraid of having to hand over my narrative to anyone else despite what it might have gained me in other ways.

In the end I turned to the community, putting out feelers to find some sort of answer. What I found was the most trans and NB activists, big or small, were now turning down interviews and TV appearances in favour of self-creation and promotion. I was gladdened, a weight lifted from my shoulders as I felt the familial strength that I wasn’t alone and I did not owe the media anything. Because that’s what it feels like, you feel like you owe the world a reason for being yourself, having to give excuses for existing and that is not ok.

As a community we are talking about trans issues, we are having discussions and rallying with each other about how we can best be ourselves and be safe in the world. We talk about gender and identity, what it means to be trans, what gender means, we are more than happy to talk about it and educate people, but no one is asking us to do that. What we are being asked to do over and over is to justify the bare basics to people who are never going to listen, and it never gets past that. That is why we are stopping and must continue to stop being part of these debates, and not let the predominantly cis-gender bias media hold all of the cards.

I will admit that when I heard it was Channel 4, I did have a small glimmer of hope that it might be different. Channel 4 have in the past, talked about gender, opening up ideas of trans people in an attempt to be inclusive. For the most part they have been flawed, though have opened ideas to many, including myself, that gender is not a spectrum. It was only when I went and did my own research and talked to friends working in the industry, did I see that media, even if presented with the best intentions is skewed in favour of entertainment value rather than completely truthful for the sake of the community being portrayed. Trans issues are something of a headline grabber at the moment, so it makes sense that Channel 4, with its right on, inclusive attitude, would want to talk about them, but, for all their well-meaning views, what they presented was a shoddy debate and what I can only describe as a modern freak show for the masses, putting queer people on display for cis-gender folks to “ooo” and “aaah” at. I feel utterly terrible for those involved and the abuse they have received on social media and for the provocative editing that littered the show.

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The Cast of Genderquake

Considering that the public has been whipped up into a frenzy by the likes of the Daily Mail, showing  trans and NB folks as monsters to be scared of, unnatural and wrong, abominations to be destroyed, this programming could have been used to challenge attitudes, to give trans people a voice, to give them a platform in the mainstream media, but instead it came across as unfeeling, with a touch of shock value on the side (I don’t even want to talk about the disgusting “outing” of a trans man on Genderquake behind his back just for the sake of “drama”, utterly appalling). As for the “debate” itself, unsurprisingly it went nowhere, with Germaine Greer’s TERF-tastic views being allowed to slide due to a strange bout of forgetfulness (the same that the PM has been having recently, maybe it’s catching) and her crowd of cronies cheering at “just because a man has cut off his penis and put on a dress doesn’t make him a woman” without repercussions. It also seemed that the trans members of the panel were hit over and over again with deep, complex questions – which they dealt with incredibly well – whereas the anti-trans contingent was given free pass after free pass.

It cemented to me why we must stop being involved in this. We aren’t being listened to, in fact many times in the program people were actively talking over each other and not taking points on board. Pretty much describes the situation. Until we, as a community, can have a space to say our piece in mainstream media, without fear of attack, we must continue to make our own media and use it to educate people as much as we can, with open hearts and minds, holding hands with those who support us.

That is what this blog is. This is my small contribution to the world of trans friendly content, making some small attempt at education. Here I am able to write down my thoughts, work out the best phrasing, how to describe things so that as many people as possible might find them accessible and gain some sort of understanding of being nonbinary. It’s very different writing a blog than it is trying to say what you mean out loud; you can’t edit yourself or have time to think of a quick, yet articulate response to someone who may be vehemently opposed to you and your existence; that’s a whole different skill and I am always impressed by those who can do it. You guys are strong and incredible, I wish I had half your strength to speak out as you do, but I can give you what I have. I hope that, despite not being able to stand on the front line, my voice is adding to the chorus, and making our tune stronger.

You can now follow me on Instagram @lilnonbinaryfashion and on twitter @lilistprince. I will be posting looks on both of these, and chatting about life as a nonbinary person. Oh and Star Wars.

As always if you like what I’m doing here, please support me on Patreon for just $1 a month to get early access to my posts, articles and all the info on The Cosplay Journal, Ray Gunn and Starburst and all my cosplay adventures!

Or if you just fancy being nice because you liked this piece you can buy me a cuppa on Ko-fi!

‘Olly Out!

If you want more please check out my last articles:

Written by Holly Rose Swinyard

 

 

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And Now For Something Completely Different (Video Game Characters and the Importance of Doing Research)

Hello one and all! Once again I must apologize for how oddly sporadic updates have been on this blog (and on my patreon for those that support me there), and I don’t think I can make a promise of weekly updates returning yet, but I shall endeavour to get new posts out as often as I can. I hope you have all had a nice few weeks, and not had to manically run around trying to get the first issue of a magazine finished and suddenly see all the things you have somehow forgotten about, but it’s all learning, isn’t it.

I’ve recently had a moment to play some video games for the first time in months. It’s been nice to escape into fantasy and adventure for a bit after months of working hard on The Cosplay Journal – which, incidentally, is very nearly ready – but it turns out I really can’t turn my brain off from thinking about fashion and costume, even when I’m trying to relax. A lot the games I play have historical elements to them, even if they’re strictly accurate or factual, often including real historical personages and places. For me this is great, my inner historian jumps at the chance to see how people have used the past to create new stories or retell old ones, but unfortunately said historian does get a little frustrated when something in all of that ruins the illusion, and more often than not this is the costume and character design. It’s very jarring to be walking around through a beautiful realised version of 18th Europe and then be faced with outfits that wouldn’t even been seen at Carnevale di Venezia let alone anywhere else.

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My current gaming obsession The Council developed by Big Bad Wolf, succeeds in so many ways (it is an excellently made mystery/crime solving game, with an intriguing story and brilliantly realised mechanics) but failed so badly on the character design front. Ok, that’s not strictly true, it failed utterly on the design on the female characters and completely broke me out of the feel of the game when I was introduced to each of them.

I want to say from the get go that this game is very good, it is so close to being flawless for me, that I have to be critical of this one thing so that hopefully in the future the studio take this on board and will make a beautiful storm of perfection in the form of a video game.

Set in 1793, the game takes place predominantly on an island, seemingly somewhere in Europe with guests from all over the world attending, including real people such as Napoleon and George Washington. Now, I’m not going to talk too much about the game, and it’s story as that isn’t what this is about, but I will say that if you are interested in playing it, then there may be spoilers from this point onwards so beware.

(If you aren’t interested in the game and just want to talk about pretty period costume skip down to the bullet points to get your teeth.)

Playing as Louis De Richett, a Parisian aristocrat, you are invited to a mysterious island, by an even more mysterious host, one Lord Mortimer, after your mother disappears while she is staying with him. Knowing that his mother is capable woman and it would take a lot to make her disappear, Louis goes to the island in the company of Mortimer’s other illustrious guests, but soon finds nothing is what it seems, having to use all his wit and know how to solve a case that confounds at every turn.

The episodical game plays as a choose your own adventure, much like games like Until Dawn you have to make choices, moral or otherwise, but there is also a large RPG element to the game, giving you choices of class (diplomat, detective or occultist) and skills within those classes to help you manipulate, convince and steal your way through the game.

For me it was the perfect mix of intriguing story (which now has me on tenterhooks for the next part to be released later this month), and clever game play, keeping you guessing about the best actions to use and forcing the player to second guess themselves about what options to take. I’m already thinking about playing through again to take a different path and to see what happens, there is literally so much to see and discover. The writing is top notch, though the dialogue is possibly a little to modern in its parlance for me, but I can let that slide when the narrative and characters are this well developed. Each person you encounter gives the impression of being a fully fleshed out human being, there are no cardboard cut out stereotypes, and this is most notable in the female characters, something that is unfortunately still not all that common in the video game medium.

I love the slight overtones of Lovecraftian occult as well. It’s subtly slotted into the story and yet to be explained in the available game play though the hints are enough to keep you wanting more. It is for this reason that I am writing this piece. As I said before, this game really is wonderful and so by being critical and offering a constructive article on historical costuming, I hope, in some small way, to help them on improving on character designs in the future.

So, I suggest we dive on in.

In the first episode of the game, all that is currently available, there are three main female characters:

  • Sarah, Louis’ mother; an stern but strong woman and a leading figure in crime and the occult, seemingly respected by all.
  • Lady Emily Hillsborrow; a spy, working with Sarah, witty, clever and wise beyond her years.
  • And Elizabeth Adams; the supposed dead daughter of John Adams, who has been brutally tortured and hidden away due what is called “the evil inside of her”.

I am going to focus predominantly on Emily as she feels very much like the secondary lead in the story, becoming as entangled with the riddles as Louis does, and there is plenty of what is illustrated with her can be used to great effect with the designs of Sarah and Elizabeth, but I will touch on Elizabeth as well as she has some interesting aspects to her design that I feel need mentioning. Each of these women is unique, well written, believable people, but there seems to have been no effort made to design them in anyway beyond “that looks kind of period-y” and that is a huge shame. Especially when placed alongside the designs for the male characters which appear to have been much better researched.

I feel like I can’t illustrate this, without well illustrations so I’m going break this down, using images of accurate clothes from the late 18th century and early 19th. So putting our best foot forward, let’s start with some ideas of what women were wearing so we know what we are aiming for.

We’re in the reign of George III in England, just before the Regency; so we’re just about starting to see the classic Jane Austen looks appear , in France Marie Antoinette has been setting all of the fashion trends with daring and dazzling new looks and is about to lose her head for it, so what I would be expecting to see is either the pompadour style dresses, though these are starting to be considered somewhat old fashioned by this time, or the chemise.

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Marie Antoinette being a perfect example of upper class/courtly fashion in the late 18th century

I want to start with Emily as she stood out to me as a character. Emily is an English Duchess, a I would say falls somewhat into the “femme fatale” genre of characters, but that is mostly because of her design rather than the way she is written or perceived by the other characters in the game. I really enjoyed her personality, her cutting remarks and witty banter with Louis that was both flirtatious and clever so she never felt like she was merely there to be his love interest or a pawn in the game.  As a character she felt very real and very easy to relate to, which makes her design even more infuriating as Emily is in every other way the perfect female lead. In many ways she reminds of Milady DeWinter from The Three Musketeers or Evie Frye from Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and, for me, that shows some idea of how she could have been designed.

As much as both of these characters are dressed in a completely inaccurate ways, they do both take cues from a some more historical pieces from the periods that they set in, while using modern ideas to twist into clothing that is not only interesting but suits the personality of the character, and portrays their role with the overall story.

They also both fit into the rest of the design around them. This is one of the things that really jerks you out of the game setting with all of the female characters in The Council, that they don’t seem to fit in with the design of the game or the male characters, whereas Evie matches up with Jacob and the two of them fit in the world of Assassin’s Creed and, well, The Musketeers is just an exciting journey of ridiculous design, but at least it’s all anachronistic.

Evie, I will admit, takes a of liberties, using more references to men’s dress in Victorian England for practicalities sake, but nevertheless, she does not strike you as completely out of place, and most definitely fits into the world that has been created for Assassin’s Creed. The clothing is still of its period in many respects even if it would, most likely, not have been worn by a woman, while still relating back to other assassins in the francise.

Milady on the other hand, is created to stand somewhat apart from the other characters around her, being that she is the classic femme fatale and spy. She is very much like Emily as a character but the modern twists on her costumes are worked to build her into the place in the Musketeers story effortlessly. They use the cut of the neckline, or the removal of sleeves to add danger and temptation to her character without losing the original intention of the garment. Again, the dresses are entirely unrealistic but they have enough there to maintain an illusion of what dresses of the time would have looked like.

Looking back at The Council, when you take the period that the game is set in, and Emily’s position in society, it’s most likely that she would have been following the fashions of the French court, with a focus on “the pastoral”, basically pretending to be farm girls or diary maids, but it lead to a less restrictive way of dressing (as seen by the left hand painting of Marie Antoinette above) than the older school of pompadour dresses (on Marie Antoinette on the right – isn’t she useful?).

The image below shows the English take on this style, with the high waistlines, light weight, white fabrics making up the majority of the piece with colour added with decorative accessories. Wealth would be shown in the quality of the fabrics, the trim and the feathers and furs used in the decoration.

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Illustration from the 1790s

Instead of this we get an outfit that would be more likely to be seen at a modern day gothic prom; a black backless corset (Backless?! Really?!) with a sweetheart neckline – something that isn’t seen in fashion until at less the Victorian either – with a large crinoline style skirt. It comes off looking more like a 21st century dress up piece with nothing vaguely period going on at all. And don’t get me started on the the “underwear” – come on, Georgians would have thick stockings held up with garters at the knee with a shift and petticoat, no knickers, suspenders or thigh highs!

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Lady Emily
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Mmm, yes, that big ol’ prom bow
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I have no caption because I have no words

 

All of this is jarring and overly modern, throwing the immersive experience of the game out of the window within the first 5 minutes. I feel that the “occult” feel of the game was trying to be shown through the costumes, but unless they went for a fully realised image of that world where everything was completely anachronistic, going completely wild – maybe put George Washington in a zoot suit! – it doesn’t work. It’s faux period, almost like they were giving them a steampunk element, but without the thought through elements of steampunk – and, you know, steam power is a still a way off, after all in 1793, we haven’t even had the Battle of Waterloo yet!

I honestly think the design that could have been brought from this style of dress would fascinating and innovative, something that we really haven’t seen before in video games, or in fact in media at large. The only examples I can think of is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies  and The Pirates of the Caribbean  franchise, managing to use historical costuming, and trying to keep it period while creating something dynamic for on screen. Pirates by the way is set just before the period of The Council and Pride and Predjudice is obviously just a little after in the Regency.

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The Bennett Sisters are ready to take on the hoards

Ok, let’s leave Emily alone, and move onto Elizabeth Adams, the supposed dead daughter of John Adams. A horribly brutalised character, driven mad by her torture and the occult forces worked on and around her.

One of my favourite things about the game is that is doesn’t take any prisoners when it comes to the storyline and this is excellently reflected in Elizabeth, she is a deranged and tragic figure who makes up a large part of the mystery surrounding Louis.

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Elizabeth Adams

Her appearance is clearly something they went to town on, covering her in scars and mystical tattoos. Oddly, I really have no issue with this as a premise. It’s interesting, it adds to her personality, giving the player insight into the cruelty that has been visited upon her. She’s erratic and wild, swinging through moods and one can never quite get a hold on who exactly she is within herself or what her end game is. I like that it’s so viscerally shown, permanently marking her as an outsider. However, her odd appearance is never really questioned by the other characters, which is a tad strange but I assume will be touched on in later episode but I do think she would stand out as even more of an unusual guest, if she were dressed more in the clothing of the time. Like Emily it rather uncuts her seriousness as a character, and leaves her lacking in someway. Plus the fact that all of the tattoos seem hyper modern, now this may just be my eye that they seem to detailed for the time, and some of the designs are more modern concepts but there appears to be no rhyme or reason to them or their placement, other than “that looks magical” – if you look closely at her right arm she has the Deathly Hallows symbol from Harry Potter – and that seems to be the problem throughout, this vague oh that looks good attitude rather than even just a few hours research. It’s shame that such a good game let’s itself down here.

There is one scene in particular where this stands out more an any, where she appears in, wild eyed, in what one can only assume is meant to be an under gown or nightdress, a small, strappy number, cut much to short that again reeks of modern ideas of period clothing. I understand that it was used to show that her body is covered in the tattoos but considering that the scene meant to dark and moody, I couldn’t take it seriously. I suddenly felt like I’d fallen through a crack in time and was hanging out with a punk.

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If I take us back to the Pirates of the Caribbean reference I made earlier there is a perfect example of what could have been achieved with this character with the linen under gown worn by Elizabeth Swann.

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Where has all the research gone!?

With the longer length of this style of dress, with front lacing, you could still get away with having the shorter sleeves/straps but without making it seem modern and out of place, you could even have her still wearing her stays (which practically all women at the time would have worn) over the top to give the look even more of a historical footing. Plus I always find stays always have the added benefit of looking a bit exciting, thought that may just be me, but they definitely would have added something to that scene and for her character in general.

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Gorgeous stays from American Duchess’s video on 18th century stays, definitely worth a watch! Click here!

Now I’m aware that of course designers want to add some interest and flare to their designs and I more than think they should, but often those likely touches of realism and obvious research go a long way to embedding the player better into the game, no matter their level of knowledge about these things. I would also say that considering the nature of the game, and the obvious work that went into other areas of research, they are clearly aiming this at an audience that will be more clued up about these things, at least to some degree.

The thing is, that so many games use historical period to set the scene but refuse to give the player any depth, often have research as shallow as a puddle while using the stories of the past to add to their own. It feels cheap and as if the player is being underestimated, that they won’t care or notice if there are massive mistakes because it’s game, so it doesn’t matter. But it does. Games are a modern storytelling medium, which The Council recognises in its writing and game play, so why do so many games drop the ball when it comes to researching their setting? Adding those little touches make all the difference to the game, it makes it more immersive, more real, heck more interesting because it will look different from any other fantasy or steampunk game (Bioshock is a great example of this, hmmm, that deco is so good, gosh they really set the bar high).

I guess this is my plea to designers to start looking into historical costuming, to reach out to those who work in period fashion and costume for advice and guidance so that we can see the truly beautiful fashion of the past brought to life again in a whole new way.

Massive thank you to Velveteena Leigh, Tilda Lewis and Alyson Leeds for your wonderful advice and knowledge (sorry if I mucked it up a bit). If you want to look more into historical costume I suggest you check out the V&A Website Archives, American Duchess, History.Org, Georgian Era, and for more on Regency clothing Jane Austen’s World

You can now follow me on Instagram @lilnonbinaryfashion and on twitter @lilistprince. I will be posting looks on both of these, and chatting about life as a nonbinary person. Oh and Star Wars.

As always if you like what I’m doing here, please support me on Patreon for just $1 a month to get early access to my posts, articles and all the info on The Cosplay Journal, Ray Gunn and Starburst and all my cosplay adventures!

Or if you just fancy being nice because you liked this piece you can buy me a cuppa on Ko-fi!

‘Olly Out!

If you want more please check out my last articles:

Written by Holly Rose Swinyard

 

Strange the Way Things Work Out (Ten Years Since Straight Out of Surrey)

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Straight Out Of…er…Somerset?

Firstly, before we go on a strange adventure into my past, I want to apologize about the present. I’ve been working my little fingers to the bone on The Cosplay Journal (which you can read all about here) and this blog rather fell to the bottom of my todo pile. But we’re back now! Hopefully much more permanently as the print deadline for TCJ is looming and after that I can get back on my lovely fashion horse. Anyway, onwards and upwards we go.

Today I realised that “Straight Out Of Surrey” is 10 years old. To many this will mean nothing, but to me it’s something that changed my life, which is pretty strange and at the time I would never have thought it either.

I discovered Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer when I was in sixth form. It was a time when I was just starting to work out who I was, how I wanted to look, what I wanted to be, the same as all teenagers, but, being into alternative fashions and having little to no money – plus being a budding cosplayer as well, that is a hobby that just sucks up you money – I failed pretty badly at all of the looks I tried.

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Mr B – This is all his fault.

So I kind of gave up for a bit, sort of. I went for an easy to maintain and wear shirts, jumpers and skinny jeans look, about as andro as you can get and stuck with it for most of my time at Uni. I kept a little bit of an eye on Mr B but the whole Chap thing rather fell by the wayside since I felt I couldn’t really afford or pull off the look in a way that I would be happy with. I was still working out a lot of gender issues in myself and struggled to see a path in fashion that wouldn’t constrain me to gender or social identity. I’ve talked about this before, and how I started to work out that clothing and gender really didn’t need to be linked, that I could wear what I wanted and that didn’t affect my gender identity. After all, they’re my clothes, I’m wearing them, so they are representing my gender and anyone who doesn’t see that, well that’s on them. Working this out, and I am still working it out actually, felt like opening my eyes to a whole new way of being, that I could re-embrace alternative fashions for myself, I could be loud and proud of who I am and how I look, and that was the first step on what I am sure will continue to be a long and interesting journey.

Interestingly, I still didn’t go back to chap, despite it now being my favourite way to dress, something of a signature look for me. It was almost like I was looking for it but in the wrong places. Maybe wrong isn’t the right word, but I definitely wasn’t looking in the right place! I tried Lolita, Mori, some Punk, some New Romantic, all being looks that I still love and wear, but none of them really fitted me as a person.

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Even my Lolita looks are Chap! Read Mad As A March Hare to find out about this look.

Lolita was always too OTT for my tastes. I loved the boy style Ouji and the cute sailor suits but the lace, the hair and the accessories overwhelm me at times. Mori wasn’t tailored enough, too many layers and very little shape, good for winter though, very snug. Punk, well I’m just not punk, not in a fashion sense anyway, I think I’m a bit too square. But the thing with all of this experimentation is that I was exploring how one could express gender in nonconforming ways, all of these looks bring in strong strains of androgyny and gender manipulation, yes, even Lolita. Look at Ouji and Kodona or the “brololita” movement within the fashion – male identifying lolitas in the the hyper feminine clothing. The whole fashion is in and of itself subverting the ideas of gender, pushing against the boundaries of Japanese culture and traditional Japanese femininity, girls reclaiming their bodies and their appearance in a way that upset the status quo, kawaii is punk af my friends. This has then being taken on by western cultures to create their own subversive message of gender and appearance. Honestly I’m going to do a whole piece on Lolita and it’s nonconforming, gender boundary pushing, society changing nature, but for now here’s some links if you are interested (LINK LINK LINK).

All of this helped me address issues in my gender – and if you want to read my ramblings on that you can do that here – but I still didn’t feel like these looks were me just being me. It was exaggerated, costume like in fact, a protective way of seeing myself and the world seeing me but I was still living in jeans the rest of the time and, well, that wasn’t making me happy. It was a problem I needed to solve but couldn’t see how to solve it, and then by chance one day that I noticed a sign on the high street that I hadn’t seen before, “Vintage to Vogue – high quality vintage fashion”.

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A much happier chap. It’s the law that I must take pictures on strange bikes.

And here, my dear friends do we return to Mr B. Because you see, at that moment, I didn’t follow the sign and go into the shop. I was on my way home from a deeply upsetting day at work and wanted to have a bath and play video games that let me shoot nazis, but what it did do, as I trudged up the hill to my flat, feet hurting, legs aching, and mind wanting to escape the drudgery of bar work, was open Spotify and search for Mr B. Something about the sign had triggered a memory that made me want to listen to chap-hop again. It all came back. Everything I loved about it, everything I had aspired to be aged 16 flooded back into my head. And there was so much more now that I had never heard. Honestly I was so excited that I went home and instead of playing said shooting nazi games, I looked up all things Chap.

It’s such a weird moment to remember so clearly but it was the moment I rediscovered my love for Chap and all things vintage. Though, it was never really lost, like I said, what I wore in Lolita was inspired by sailor suits and vintage school uniforms, the same with all the other stuff I tried, but this was when I realised it. What I actually wanted to look like, I wanted to be just like a chap.

The next day I went into Vintage to Vogue, down it’s weird little alley and this amazing cave of wonders opened up for me. And I could afford none of it. Unsurprising really, I could barely pay the rent, but I could afford a copy of The Chap. My first copy. How things have changed.

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A preview of looks to come. Photo by Meggo Photography

See the thing is, that I had to go full circle. 16 year old me had no idea that they were nonbinary, why they struggled to dress for how they felt, or experiment with Chap fashion in a way that felt right. I needed to learn so much about myself before I would even be able to start thinking about how I could fit myself into the world, and see the way that androgynous fashion could exist and had always existed within this beautiful vintage world. Sometimes fashion helps us find ourselves, but sometimes it needs you find your way to it instead.

I think the version of me that’s sat in the sixth form common room, listening to a terrible quality version of “Straight Out of Surrey” on my iPod shuffle would be amazed at where I ended up, that those few songs actually made a difference to who I am, that me would think this me is cool. And I’m pretty ok with that.

You can now follow me on Instagram @lilnonbinaryfashion and on twitter @lilistprince. I will be posting looks on both of these, and chatting about life as a nonbinary person. Oh and Star Wars – it’s all about that Rebels Finale right now guys.

As always if you like what I’m doing here, please support me on Patreon for just $1 a month.

Or if you like what I’m doing please you can buy me a cuppa on Ko-fi!

‘Olly Out!

If you want more please check out my last articles:

Written by Holly Rose Swinyard

The Cosplay Journal (New and Exciting things!)

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Hello all!

Firstly, I’m sorry that I missed a post last week but I promise I have a legitimate reason! For the last 6 months myself and Meggo Photography, along with an amazing team of writers and cosplayers have been putting together a cosplay bookagazine (hate this “word”) based here in the UK.

The Cosplay Journal is a coffee table type magazine that focuses on the art, craft and diversity within the UK community, promoting Cosplay for All. Everyone, no matter who they are, should be able to feel that they can get involved! We put cosplayers of colour, LGBTQA+ cosplayers, plus size cosplayers, disabled cosplayers and cosplayers over 40, front and centre of The Cosplay Journal to show that the scene is diverse and open to all. We hope to encourage more people to start cosplaying, as many may have felt they do not fit into the mold that is often promoted by mainstream media, or have been put off by abuse online (not from the cosplay community predominantly).

My mission statement from the get go was to create something that people would be inspired by but what was inspiring them was attainable. We didn’t want to show them aspiration that they could never achieve, we wanted people to pick up The Journal and go “oh wow, they look like me! I can do this too!”. The representation of all kinds of people and skills is so important and helps people see themselves as completely capable of achieving things that for whatever they may not have done before.

We also intend to show the amazing level of crafts, artistic talent and effort that people put into making their costumes as we believe that cosplay has as much skill as any creative field. Cosplayers are artists, designers, tailors, armourers, wig makers, make up artists and so much more all rolled into one. There are so many different types of crafting and artistry involved in cosplay that everyone will be able to find their niche, just need to know it’s there. Cosplay isn’t all one thing and you don’t have to be able to do everything; but you also don’t have to specialise, you can do everything in your own way and in your own time. I really wanted to show that the range of skills is just as varied and diverse as the people making and wearing the costumes. You can do everything from leatherwork to puppetry, prosthetics to fine hand embroidery and it’s all cosplay. There is, quite literally, no wrong way to do it!

Since this all started last August I have been working no stop. There was so much more to do than I had ever imagined; I had a very steep learning curve to climb. But I strapped on my crampons and headed off into the unknown; gathering cosplayers, finding locations, organizing shoots, hiring writers and writing articles myself, sorting out all the social media (and running it!), doing tones of market and design research and basically managing the whole project on track so that we can go to print at the end of March/being of April.

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It’s been a massive undertaking and I cannot thank the people who have been supporting enough. And this is going to sound like an award speak, so sorry about that, but I really do feel like I’ve won something with how this has all come together!

Honestly I think my Mum deserves a freaking award for how much she has had to put with, opening up her house to shoots and cosplayers. She has supported me so much.

My wonderful photographer and partner in crime Meg has been a constant source of inspiration and pushed me to make this best it can possibly be, while holding my hand the whole time.

The writers, models and designers who have all come on board for free, have helped keep me grounded, I think without them I would have exploded through the stress of it all! The whole team is made up of people who have been cosplaying or involved in cosplay for many years and all of them have a passion for the hobby that they want to share and promote.

It would be amazing if you guys could support us by following us on:
Facebook – The Cosplay Journal

Instagram – @thecosplayjournal

Twitter – @cosplayjournal

And check out our website: www.thecosplayjournal.com

We will be posting loads of behind the scenes photos from our location shoots for issue one, as well as sneak peaks at articles and the production of the Journal.

Issue one goes to print at the end of March and will be available online to buy as a physical or PDF edition on our website as well as being available at conventions throughout the year (and hopefully a few comic shops).

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Thank you guys, I’ll be posting proper blog updates again next week all work allowing. Also if you are interested I am now writing fortnightly on Down The Tubes as their Cosplay Columnist (which is also taking up time!) and my first interview for The Chap magazine is in the next issue which you can get THIS WEEKEND from WH Smiths and on their website! If you are following my Patreon that article will being going up on Saturday in the $7+ reward category, and all future pieces for The Chap, Down the Tubes, The Cosplay Journal and this blog will be going up in various reward levels of my patreon before they are available anywhere else! Oh gosh!

You can now follow me on Instagram @lilnonbinaryfashion and on twitter @lilistprince. I will be posting daily looks on both of these, and chatting about life as a nonbinary person. Oh and Star Wars.

As always if you like what I’m doing here, please support me on Patreon for just $1 a month.

Or if you like what I’m doing please you can buy me a cuppa on Ko-fi!

‘Olly Out!

If you want more please check out my last articles:

The Cosplay Journal Logo by Redwood Creations

Written by Holly Rose Swinyard

Cute and Casual (Don’t Judge a Nonbinary Person by their Cover)

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The way I see it, there is this idea that people need to look a certain way to be seen as a certain gender. Society dictates these ideas of dress and appearance to code as binary people. Men or woman, boy or girl, 1 or 0, it’s an odd dichotomy that traps the world is state of stagnation. To say that a person is one way purely based on a socialized idea of appearance is unnecessary and deeply boring. We are, after all, books that cannot be judged by our covers.

I feel this is why there is an assumption that nonbinary people will look a certain way. People love to put a little box out for you to sit in so they can go “yup this one looks right I can validate it” and that is wrong on so many levels. The idea that any gender should look a certain way to fit into society’s fixed view of who and what they are means that many people do not feel free to present themselves in way that they like and those that do are seen as, at best, “unfashionable” or, at worst, “ugly”. This is obviously ridiculous. No one is ugly, and no one is unfashionable, we are simply ourselves, expressing what we want to express.

It may seem odd that I have chosen such a conventional outfit to talk about this topic but I actually felt that for me, and for the way I present myself, this was a perfect choice. I often dress in a very unconventional manner, and often people are more likely to accept my identity when I’m like that then when I’m “dressed down”. Just because I’m not wearing a binder and a pair of breeks today does not mean I have suddenly stopped being NB. Yes, I have opted to look more feminine, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I am still NB. My clothes have nothing to do with my gender. If I have decided one day to conform more to society’s feminine ideals that is not because I am a girl, it is because this outfit looks nice and I wanted to wear it. That’s all there is to it.

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Traditionally Masculine? Traditionally Feminine? Doesn’t matter I’m all NB!

There is an obsession with gendering appearance, judging if someone is a man or a women with a glance, and that is incredibly damaging to everyone. For the trans community is has created the idea that you need to “pass” to be accepted, which is blatantly wrong and unfair. Not everyone has access to amazing plastic surgery or even to the hormones that they might need, that doesn’t make them any less the gender that they are. Not everyone wants to present according to the traditional norms of gender either but that doesn’t make them any else the gender they say they are.

And thing is this is programmed into us and it will take a long time to undo that way of thinking, so don’t feel bad if your first thought of someone is not correct, what’s important is that you catch yourself and don’t make assumptions, don’t say awful things, but instead maybe ask that person’s gender just a “I’m sorry but what are your pronouns”, listen and learn and try to deprogram yourself just a little. Don’t be like “well you don’t look nonbinary” or something like that because we don’t know other people’s minds and we cannot be the ones to decide these things for them.

That got a bit deeper than I was planning if I’m honest. And I’m not sure if I managed to write it out well or convey it properly but I tried.
Outfit Breakdown

Honestly this is a crazy simply outfit. I think I wore it in June last year and it was oddly cool for summer, but still I didn’t want to go for loads of layers, just in case. I actually really like cool summer days because you can wear such a range of outfits but still don’t have to put a big coat on over the top. It makes life so much easier haha.

The top is one I’ve had for literally years. I got it in Zara and a while back I would have said it would be hard to find something like this now but tops like this are back in fashion! It’s pretty great! I love the wide neck on this because I think it makes it’s more interesting and makes your neck look longer which a round or turtleneck jumper won’t do, plus it’s more summery. So if you want to create a more spring/summer time look go for a more open or slash neck type top and for autumn/winter you want polo/turtle/round neck, at least if you are into that sort of thing and matching your outfit to the season. It’s not everyone’s thing.

Anyway! The stripes are cute and give a “nautical” type feel to the look, which again is cute for summer and this top is actually cropped so, even though it’s tucked into the trousers so it’s got a cute vintage vibe which I obviously love.

If you like this too, I think you’ll be able to find something it like on the high street but otherwise Depop is a great go to for this things. I do love that app.

The trousers are linen peg trousers that I got in Marks and Spencers last summer season. Again, such an easy wear, I think I spent a lot of last summer wearing them because they are so chill and look good with pretty much everything despite the mustard colour. I also have a pair that’s striped but they are harder to wear unfortunately.

I think peg trousers are pretty much a go to for me when I want something quick and cute to wear. They’re high waisted, which I love, not too tight, but cut nicely and flatter pretty much every shape (no seriously, I mean it, everyone should wear them). They can be smart or casual, dressed up or just chilling out with friends. I would recommend that everyone have a pair in their wardrobe. I do think it’s a shame that they seem to be going out of style in favour of lower cut waistbands (boo!) but you can still find them around, especially in places like Marks and Spencer, Zara and Next. Or again go online, eBay, Depop, and most good vintage sellers will have something good there for you to find.

This whole outfit is built with favourite pieces of mine, because the shoes are right up there as well. I love monk straps, and I love these ones even more because they have a creeper sole and they were a fiver from a charity shop! The things you can find!

I do think modern takes on traditional shoe styles are one of the best things that is happening in fashion right now. It means you can get a good, comfy, proper shoe but it still looks great. Silver Oxfords, glitter covered Brogues or a styled up Monk Strap are making it fashionable to be comfy and I am all about that!

The bag is just my “day out” bag. It’s a canvas and leather rucksack that I got in a very good amazon sale (£40 instead of £200! Yes please!) but these sorts of bags are very in at the moment, you can get them in Fatface or Accessorize or any hipster, vintage store you want to stick you head into. Really good for carrying around a book or two.

Over all this is a really simple but classy look. It’s not a big statement or a “look at me” but it’s also not blending into the background. I actually worried on the day that I would feel “too feminine” but I didn’t. It wasn’t the clothes that defined my gender but my gender that defined the clothes.

You can now follow me on Instagram @lilnonbinaryfashion and on twitter @lilistprince. I will be posting daily looks on both of these, and chatting about life as a nonbinary person. Oh and Star Wars.

As always if you like what I’m doing here, please support me on Patreon for just $1 a month.

Or if you like what I’m doing please you can buy me a cuppa on Ko-fi!

‘Olly Out!

If you want more please check out my last articles:

Written by Holly Rose Swinyard

The Little Lost Prince and How They Learned Their Clothes had Memories.

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I thought that it’s been a while since I did an outfit post, and I miss them, so here’s my first look of 2018, which is actually a look from September 2016 because of course it is. I’ve never really been one to be constricted by the conventional passage of time, plus who doesn’t like a look that could be found in an Enid Blyton novel?

I find that I can define moments in my life by outfits. I can see a certain picture of myself and I know exactly how I was feeling by the outfit I had put together. Often to the casual observer, or in fact anyone who isn’t me, there is nothing different in one look to the next, unless it’s an overt change in style, but I can tell. I know that I put on a slightly more worn jumper that day because I needed to feel comfort, or I chose a certain pair of socks because they made me feel cuter than I was feeling inside. I think in these moments of pain we have clothes that can make us feel better, can help us through the dark times. Sometimes these are “pyjama clothes”, as my mum would call them, to hold us and comfort us, things to curl up on the sofa and watch Lord of the Rings in (or your comfort food movie of choice, but if it’s Lord of the Rings we might need to have words, I mean come on, hobbits guys) and sometimes they are things that let us be a little braver than we are. Because an old, worn out jumper holds all the memories that made it old and worn out, all those times you wore it and you were happy or strong or loved, and that can strengthen you.

Clothes hold memories. Like a smell or a taste that takes you back to something, clothes have that same strong power over memory. You look in the mirror and see yourself wearing a piece from a picnic, or a day you spent discovering your favourite book, and you instantly have a sense of things being well, and even on a day when you are hurting more than you could imagine, those clothes can make that small bit of difference.

And the thing is, even if you wear something on a bad day, if it has good things attached to it, the bad day doesn’t mean those memories become bad, it means they helped to make the bad day a little better. The outfit attached to this blog is like that. It was a bad day, it was a really bad day, but something about these clothes made me stronger and happier, and actually, looking at these pictures, I don’t remember is being awful, or how much I was hurting, I remember being out with my best friend, feeling just that little bit better than I did the day before. These are good pictures and these a good memories attached to that outfit. The fact that it’s a really cute outfit that made me feel like I was in Swallows and Amazons is an added bonus in the good memories column.

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I talk about clothes giving you confidence, being bold and bright and beautiful, but confidence isn’t always going out in a feather cloak, sometimes, often in fact, confidence is just stepping out of your door. If you need to wear that hoody with the holes in the cuffs wear your thumb has worn through, and hide in the hood to get to the shops, then do. That items has something in it that is strong enough and comforting enough to get you out the door so that’s a damn good piece of clothing in my books, better than any designer piece.

Outfit Breakdown

This is really simple look, which is part of why it was so comforting and easy. I wanted to be ok but also cute because cute is ok in my books, so this is not going to be a standard breakdown, more of a “why did this make me feel better” introspective type thing. I guess. We’ll see won’t we!

The jumper is from Primark of all places. I bought it in my third year of Uni, so two years before I wore it in this outfit and I still have it and wear it. Honestly it’s a surprise it’s lasted so well, but I guess if you look after anything properly it will keep on going. It’s so comfy as well, really worn in and warm. I guess it has that home knitted vibe going on, it always reminded me of a fisherman’s jumper which probably says a lot about my fashion sense – I mean I legit want to get a smock, coz how cute would that be?! I don’t feel like I need to say too much about where to get jumpers, I’ve written a lot about jumpers. They are my favourite item of clothing ever. If you do want some advice you can check out these other posts of mine (Tweeds, wool and Glastonbury and School Boy Summers).

The shirt, which you can’t see that well in these pictures unfortunately, is another favourite of mine. It’s a pale blue, striped shirt, loose fitting with a Peter Pan collar, longer at the back than the front. I bought it because it really reminds me of old fashioned night shirts (weird, yes) and I love how easy it is to wear. It’s a perfect all year round piece as well, as it has three quarter sleeves, and being a light-weight fabric you can wear it on summer days or put something underneath to make a snuggly outfit for long winter nights by the fire.

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The shorts are ones I got in Zara a few years back when I was really into steampunk (no bad thing, it lead to loving Chap and I got a load of good clothes out of it). The weirdest thing, looking at these pictures is how skinny I was. I had been incredibly unwell, losing a stone and half in less than a month, so these shorts don’t actually look like this on me most of the time. In fact I wore them on holiday recently and they are fitting much closer to the leg now, and looking much better than they do here. I was not well. However I do love these shorts with this look. It is very Tintin, Enid Blyton, Swallows and Amazons, that sort of adventure you wished you went on when you were a kid, finding spies and smugglers or buried treasure, there’s something about that childishness that makes me feel better. It’s a safety, even if it’s not real, it makes you feel like you might be able to take on the world and then get home in time for tea. These style of shorts a little hard to find right now, because it’s winter, but ebay, depop and other sites will probably be able to sort you out if you look for safari shorts or the like. And you can shove a pair of braces on any shorts to get a slightly different look out of them. I like a good pair of braces, so sue me.

I really like how the caramel and the blue work together, it’s very reassuring combination. Connotations of summer by the sea, on the beach between surf and sky, warm sun and cool splash ooze from this colour combo. Adding that onto of the vintage style and you get memories of long ago summers that never really happened but could of in a book or maybe they’re a story your grandparents told you, who knows. But it works.

The little deck shoes are such a cute touch with this look. I mostly wear them because they are easy to slip on and hug my feet in just the right way, and yeah, they are super adorable. Who said practicality couldn’t look good? These were from Moshulu in St Ives, and their shoes last forever I swear to god. I’ve worn these more than any I own and they are as good as they were the day I bought them – if not a little dirtier – and I would highly recommend their boot collection. Bright colours, great designs, all for practical wear! What more could you ask for?

The shoes tie in with the jumper and the shirt really nicely with the blues and whites, but the socks…oh the socks. They are just a bit of colourful fun. Sometimes that’s what you need, something a bit silly? I have so many pairs of silly socks I don’t even know where these came from but I’m always on the lookout for more and the high street is full of these types of things at the moment, The White Stuff have ones with foxes and stags! It’s great.

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I hope you liked this article, it’s been a really nice one to write.

I’m going to be doing less straight outfit posts this year I think, probably just one a month as I am going start writing more about sustainable fashion – vintage, slow fashion, charity shops, make do and mend type stuff as that went down really well the last few times I’ve talked about it and I feel it’s something we can all implement in our lives to help the environment and our wallets! I’m also going to doing more on my patreon, realising articles for other sites and magazines on there first, as well as behind the scenes of a big new project that I am involved in, which I will be announcing the details of very soon!

You can now follow me on Instagram @lilnonbinaryfashion and on twitter @lilistprince. I will be posting daily looks on both of these, and chatting about life as a nonbinary person. Oh and Star Wars.

As always if you like what I’m doing here, please support me on Patreon for just $1 a month.

Or if you like what I’m doing please you can buy me a cuppa on Ko-fi!

‘Olly Out!

If you want more please check out my last articles:

Written by Holly Rose Swinyard

We are the Young Bohemians (Ringing in the New Year with Style)

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Bright Young Things by Meggo Photography

There is nothing which like New Year’s to be mildly disappointing and overwhelming unnecessary, or at least I had always thought. Many a year I have sat in my PJs ringing in the New Year in a rather bored “I’d rather be asleep” way, but this year, for some strange reason I felt a compulsion to do something different, something better, something more…Bohemian.

Now, I don’t mean “boho” like all the trendy fashion sites keep going on about, you know all this tasselly, drapey, ripped up for no obvious reason type items of clothing, no, I mean Bohemian as in The Bohemians as in Bohemianism. If you don’t know about these rather eccentric, artistic, possibly dangerous, challengers of societies status quo, let me explain.

“Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people and with few permanent ties. It involves musical, artistic, literary or spiritual pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may or may not be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds. Bohemians were associated with unorthodox or anti-establishment political or social viewpoints, which often were expressed through free love, frugality, and – in some cases – voluntary poverty. A more economically privileged, wealthy, or even aristocratic bohemian circle is sometimes referred to as haute bohème – literally “high bohemia”.” – Bohemianism, Wikipedia

The Bohemians, particularly the Bloomsbury Set – whose members include the likes of Virginia Wolf and E. M. Forster – have always been of interest to me, well more of a fascination if we’re being honest. This group of creatives building their own world were they could express themselves in the best and truest way possibly. They were queer, polyamorous, gender fluid – if not nonbinary – people who rejected the ideas of their parents (often the upper and middle classes of Victorian England) to be free in a society that would deny them.

As a teen I idolised the lifestyle of these creatives, their friendships and the buzz of artistic energy that must have poured within these circles. I craved the stimulation and drive that being around other creative people gives, the conversation and passion that they have, and it wasn’t until I went through Uni, oddly, that I really found “my people”. People who inspired me, drove me, pushed me to be better in every way I could. Of course there had been a few before this, but to finally find like minded people who truly understood the need to create at all costs was like the sparks of a fire being set.

And it wasn’t as if they were all there in one place. It was like a slow gathering of minds, finding each other in the strangest places and knowing that we needed to be together. There is something to clicks between you when you meet someone who you know should be part of your life, and not in a “romantic” sort of way, but in a way that you know it’s going to be so much more fun with them around no matter what happens. Some people make you happier just by being there. That’s worth any sort of effort to keep.

But what does this all have to do with New Year I hear you ask!? Well it was the first time when I decided to gather all of these wonderful people together. Of course not all of them could come, it is a busy time and there are other demands we all must bow to, but those people are no less included than those who attended.

What followed was a day, a night, and a day of joyous conversation, stimulating amusement and wonderful, beautiful friendship. People who had never met before clicked instantly, it was as if we all worked on the same wavelength despite differences in age, upbringing, and even language. Passion for life surpassed social boundaries.

There is nothing like getting ready together than then having the evening stretch out before you full of possibilities. Curling hair, doing each others makeup and advising on outfit choices is a long standing tradition for any good party, and I think it adds something more to a night. It’s a bonding ritual, intimate in it’s very nature. Helping someone into their dress or getting them into their waistcoat and cufflinks allows for closeness and a good giggle if the zips being a bugger. Exchanging compliments, throwing little positive comments at each other the whole time makes this human equivalent of social grooming (coz that’s what it is), an emotional experience and boost as much as a physical one. I do think it strengthens friendships, and I may do a whole piece on the role in plays in society, but that is for another time.

Of course the theme of “Let’s party like it’s 1929” added to the proceedings, and it didn’t hurt that everyone looked utterly spectacular in their own wonderful way. But what was more inspiring and beautiful than the clothes was the spectrum of personalities that flurried through the group, giving openings to all to talk, discuss and laugh together. It is not often a group can work in so many ways, giving a space of comfort and creativity to everyone but think to a certain degree we achieved it, especially given the inaugural nature of the meeting. I’ll be honest though, a few well chosen – and well made if I do say so myself – cocktails does wonders to get a mood going.

Party games – including pin the moustache on Poirot and damn good murder mystery – some excellently made bunting (well done Aly), as much jazz as I could get hold off and a mountain of finger food placed as squarely in the mood for fun.

By the next day a group of firm friends had rung in the New Year and now sat blinking in the morning light over tea, coffee and excellent Dutch pastries (thank you Theo). We had returned to the 21st century, mostly unscathed and surprisingly un-hungover ready to face the year ahead in good spirits and with something of a positive attitude – though how long that will last who knows, it may already be gone. I cannot say that I was not a little bit pleased with myself for bringing this group of bright young things together, because I’m really f***ing pleased with myself. What had emerged from a crazy idea in the back of my head was now a group of people who I never want to be parted from.

Honestly that all sounds incredibly gushy, but the spark had been lit, and, on a visit to the zoo a few weeks later – yup, that’s right, the first thing we did was go to a zoo and get all excited about lemurs, or at least I did, lemurs are great. What did you think I had a lemur onesie just for the hell of it? I mean really, you all should know me better by now. Apologies, this is a tangent – I had it confirmed, we are Bohemians.

I’m aware that what I have done here is write 1000 words about how great my friends are, but what is the point in having a platform if you don’t use it to show off how great your pals are every so often? Especially when they make you the best version of you, you can be.

If you like what I’m doing please you can buy me a cuppa on Ko-fi!

Or you can support me on patreon.

‘Olly Out!

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We will see you soon. Love The Young Bohemians.

If you want more please check out my last articles:

All photos by Meggo Photography

Written by Holly Rose Swinyard

Bags of Personality (Or How I Learned to Stop Throwing Things Out and to Love Bespoke)

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A lot has been lost in the last few decades with more and more of our fashion coming off the rack. It’s a mass produced nightmare, ill-fitting in both size and style for most of us. We are forced into clothes that the high street have decreed are fashionable with very little choice outside of that, and are judged for not fitting into the mould these shops have created. How many of us have looked in the window of a shop and thought “none of this is me” for whatever reason? But with, what feels like, no choice outside of the norm we often end up buying the same uniform of fashion as everyone else. It is only when you free yourself from the high street mentality that we can explore what clothes can really give us and our own personalities freely.

I’ve talked at length about how to go alternative,about finding that self-expression and how to do that with a small budget, but I also want to talk about the other end of the spectrum, the wonderful world of bespoke fashion.

Please don’t run away, I know, bespoke is scary. It’s expensive and often it’s in shops that look like you might have to give over your life savings to just step through the door, BUT I promise it is so much more than this and often you will find it to be a loving place where people truly enjoy what they create. There is something wonderful about being able to trace a garment back to its roots, it’s like you know it intimately. A bespoke piece of craftspersonship is something more than a bag or a coat; it’s something special and should add to your world. Every garment you own should make you happy in some way, but a bespoke piece should do more than that, simply owning it gives you a special little sparkle inside. You can see the time, skill and love of a master craftsperson, and that is so much more than just clothes; the hands that worked it, crafted it, made it just for you. And it is just for you. A piece that has been made so beautifully, it must be.

And the thing is a bespoke piece will last! You may spend more money on it to start with but you will still have it in working nick after 10, 15, even 20 years! After all we are all paying more and more for clothes that don’t last; you have to buy new stuff each season, not just to keep up with the “latest trends” but simply because things wear through, fall apart and break within months of buying them. It’s the Sam Vimes School of Economics:

“A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars… But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.”

Now, I’m not going to get into the politics of this, because that’s a whole different argument for another time that has many, many, MANY complex layers to it that involve lots of terrible things about capitalism, class systems and what humans do to each other for money – I mean this stuff might be cheap but we all know someone is being woefully underpaid, in awful conditions for us to have it at that price, sigh – BUT I do think that idea that buying a well-made piece if you can is worth the money because it will last. And you get that special little sparkle I spoke about from a bespoke piece, knowing that you are paying a brilliant craft person for their time and skill.

I’m going to illustrate this by talking about a home grown, British company that I have been introduced to on the ground floor as it were, making great quality bags for everyone from the most fashion conscious amongst us, to those who are going to hike up a mountain in the middle of nowhere and still look damn good doing it.

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John Lowin are creating a brand new way of expressing yourself, and they are also taking a wonderfully old fashioned path to give it to you.

“We are committed to reinvigorating traditional artisanal skills in the crafting of our unique pieces. Quality and longevity take precedent over cheap and speedy mass production – no corners cut, no humans harmed.”

John Lowin are a new company in the UK creating bespoke bags which will not only last a life time but change with you and your tastes. Which sounds kind of impossible and a little hokey, but trust me, when I saw these beautiful pieces, my mind was blown. Each of the incredibly made leather and canvas bags, made in their factory in Somerset with locally sourced materials, has a clear front compartment the perfect size to take either the sleeve of a 33” or 45” record. That’s right, you can display your favourite pieces of art work and your favourite bands as you walk to work. The bags range from satchels to canvas shoulder bags to rucksacks, to fit whatever needs you have, all with the tortoise shell guaranty, something which I think completely encapsulates the bespoke mind-set.

“We will deliver quality wares, no matter the time it takes, and like the shell of the tortoise our products are unequivocally individual.” – Why the Tortoise Shell?

Not only do they guaranty quality but they also promise that you will never get a bag like it. Each bag has a silver sixpence sewn into it. I mean, if you’re going to have a trademark for your wares you can’t get much cooler than that, come on! It’s a statement of intent that they will deliver what they say, as well as creating a unique item for each customer.

“A sixpence in a leather purse is the mark of a genuine original John Lowin bag. In UK circulation from 1551 until 1980, it has been seen as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune since the time of Elizabeth 1st.

As well as featuring in Victorian wedding rhyme, a sixpence was often sewn into the badges of World War Two pilots in the hope it would offer them protection. We hope your sixpence brings you good fortune.”

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John himself, because he is a real person not just a company name, is an advocate for quality goods, fair working conditions and a champion of craftspeople, he believes that keeping his all of his manufacturing – the factory, the materials, the workers – in the UK will help support the local area and help skilled artisans get jobs. A lot of his ideas come from his love of vintage fashion, as fan of old school clothing, running his own vintage shop. With the rise of vinyl again leading to an upsurge in expressive and interesting cover art for record, John, ever on the look-out for ways of expressing his passion for all things vintage, saw a vision of putting a modern twist on this very vintage of ideas.

I think we’ve all seen the Japanese bags with the clear windows in them, but they do not stand up to the utter style and sophistication that oozes out of these designs. This is something different. It isn’t that tacky fabric covered in glitter screaming to be sent back to the 90s, this is timeless design integrating with modern ideas in a way that will last both visually and physically. This is company that marries the feel of high class design with that sense fun and childish excitement that personalization brings. They are allowing people who may not necessarily be interested in a cute pink bag with wings and opportunity to let loose and enjoy that sparkle of creativity.

I find that a lot of the time, anyone who dresses in vintage actually wants to be able to marry their love of this old school look with their modern life. We want to wear plus fours and still carry our laptops, or listen to vinyl and still have the songs on our phones and iPods, and for me, that is what we are being given in these bags. It’s a perfect marriage of past and present; honouring the look classic designs and incorporating a modern technology to share that love for vintage vinyl. John Lowin promotes this idea so well in their shop “Vintage to Vogue”, keeping one foot in the beautiful designs of the 20s, 30s and 40s as well as looking to the future of fashion in the UK.

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The quality is obvious from the moment you hold one, you can feel the stitching, the fixtures and fittings fitting perfectly together, working as one. And the thing is, this isn’t just some big company trying to sell you something that’s this season’s thing, this a group of people who really love what they are making and are trying to make the best products they can. The thought and vision that has gone into each and every design is evident. These are items that will withstand the harsh tests of fashion and of our modern lifestyles.

You can now follow me on Instagram @lilnonbinaryfashion and on twitter @lilistprince. I will be posting daily looks on both of these, and chatting about life as a nonbinary person. Oh and Star Wars.

If you like what I’m doing please you can buy me a cuppa on Ko-fi!

Or you can support me on patreon.

‘Olly Out!

If you want more please check out my last articles:

Written by Holly Rose Swinyard

Adventures in the Comic Con Sun

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Now it’s ninth year, Malta Comic Con has become a fixture of the country’s social scene for nerds and norms alike. There is a positive buzz around the show from people all over Europe, especially the UK, and the chance to get away from the cold winter weather blasting at our faces to some warm (ish) sun in the Med was not something I was going to miss.It was my first year taking part in this show, having seen friends go on about it I figured why not give it a shot? It’s always good to try something new, and considering that I want to head out to more European conventions in 2018, why not start as you mean to go on?

The show is organized by the crew at Wicked Comics, a tight nit group of friends who genuinely love comics, games, movies, and all things nerd culture, and it shows. The convention is a proper, home grown event, with it’s roots buried in the love for what conventions should be.

In the last few years, many of the bigger shows in the UK have lost something of their vibe, the feeling of love for what they are doing and creating for the nerd community has given way to the stalls selling the same expensive tat, often fakes or rip offs, and stopped supporting a lot of the creators that depend on the shows. They are more interested in the money they can get for big stands and celebrity names than building and supporting the community of creators. Unlike many of the more commercial shows that we have in the UK, Malta Comic Con is very much a community driven show.

With it’s large gaming section, cinema and many open talks, it encourages people to get involved and be open to ideas they may not have had before. From the point of view of a dealer, they also make sure you that you feel very welcome and part of the family, setting up events for people to get to know each other (karaoke, tours of the area and the like) to build that sense of community, something that is often lacking at shows now-a-days I feel. The staff, guests and dealers all muck in together to bring about a great show. By the end everyone knows everyone, they are supporting each other and holding up the event by returning every year because they truly believe in it’s family atmosphere and open minded acceptance of everyone no matter how much or little they know about the nerdom.

The variety of stands and sellers was amazing. People were teaching Japanese, some were selling homemade crafts, others 3D printed pieces, artists of all styles from all over the comics spectrum, books for kids and adults, brilliant interesting collectors merch and not a freaking pophead in site! God I hate pops. As I mentioned before there was a gaming area for competitive gaming, vintage gaming, card games, whatever you can think of they seemed to have it. This show may have been small but they managed to fit everything and the kitchen sink in. No matter what you like you were going to find something to interest you and something to buy.

This being said, it lacks some of the organization that comes with the more commercial shows, timing and running late being the biggest on, along with needing a more coherent program (or a better PA system) and a lack of information on the website for pretty much everything, but for the most part these issues could be easily ignored and I feel will continue to be worked on, however there was one issue that I feel does need some attention. The Cosplay Competition.

As a cosplayer I actually really enjoy competing, it’s something I’ve been involved in pretty much since I started cosplaying many moons ago – not that I was very good back then. I’ve been a competitor, a judge and an organizer and a cosplay comp is something that often draws the big crowds a convention. So I decided to take part. Easier said than done.

My first issue was, like I said above, a severe lack of information on the website, facebook and twitter pages on how the competition worked and how it was being run; I had to talk to the organizer to get a lot of answers. This is so easily rectified, all you need is an easy to follow set of instructions on how to enter with all information about times, requirements and fees.

Secondly, the prejudging was something of a shambles, with all the cosplayers told to arrive at a certain time, but nowhere for them to stand and wait, no communication from the staff as to what was happening (as it was running late) and the judging was done on the con floor, not away from the rest of the event which meant that the cosplayers were blocking a lot of space. Personally I would have given time slots for each cosplayer, so that even if there is a lack of space for the judging, the cosplayers aren’t waiting around and getting in the way and they can still enjoy the con without having to give up an hour waiting to be judged. If that isn’t do able, then a waiting room out of the way so that there isn’t a crushing bottleneck in the middle of the convention floor.

While we’re talking about the pre-judging A+ guys, the judges were great and really knew their stuff, I have never had my costume gone over like that, they flipped my seams man! It was hard! Super impressed by that.

Thirdly (and probably finally) for the competition itself they did not line the cosplayers up in order to go on stage, simply had them sit in the audience and were called up. With the crush of people watching the comp, this was completely impractical and I was honestly surprised that they didn’t line the cosplayers up outside of the stage area (or in a side room) ready to go. It means not only does every know what’s going on, they also have time to prep and get in the zone, and it means that there is more room for people to sit and enjoy the show, as there were many people standing. I think, honestly it’s just helpful from a practical point of view and keeps everything going smoothly.

The thing that really stood out though and actually made all of these problems seem much smaller, was the cosplayers and cosplay organizers themselves. The Malta cosplay community was completely open and welcoming to me as an outsider, really making me feel at home and part of the group. They are incredibly talented, I have not seen such high standards in a comp at a domestic show outside of the large London shows, and they love their craft, all putting in 100%. Their attitude to cosplay was utterly refreshing compared to the often drama filled waters of the UK scene, these guys all have each others backs, all getting involved and enjoying what each was creating. I want to say a massive thank you for being so lovely and letting me be part of your community for the briefest of moments.

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The Winners! (Yes that is me…)

Overall I loved my time at Malta Comic Con. I feel that I was pulled into the world of people who completely love and cherish what a convention should be. They have created a supportive, honest, open show with so much heart that I would encourage everyone who can to go. I think that, despite it’s small size, Malta Comic Con has a big future ahead of it.

Written by Holly Rose Swinyard

Let’s talk about gender presentation and be empowered

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Me and my lemur onesie want to have a word with you

First off, I want to say sorry for being quiet for the last month. I’ve been very busy with a new project (info on that coming very soon! Exciting!) and then I’ve been in Malta working at the Comic Con (which I will tell you more about next week). Thank you for being patient with me, it means a lot.

Secondly I want to apologize for the fact that this is going to be a bit more of a serious topic, though hopefully carried off with some grace and aplomb. I want to talk about gender presentation. Well sort of. It starts there and moves on to a lot of other serious things, so probably ought to drive right in rather than waffling.

I’m also sorry if this is not that coherent. I’m saying sorry a lot. Sorry.

It starts like this; two weeks ago I bought a dress.

This dress was hanging in the window of a shop and I had to have it, a perfect 1930s style evening gown, silver grey velvet fading through to blue, draped neckline, and, God, I looked like an icicle. The reason I am describing this dress rather than posting a picture is because the moment I posted an image of me wearing this dress on my fashion group I felt sick, and I’m actually scared of showing it to anyone again.

I posted it asking for advice on how to style a look around this gorgeous dress. I don’t wear glamour dresses like this, I had no idea whether I should twin it with pearls or a vintage fox stole, but instead of advice I was inundated with men making at best inappropriate, at worst overtly sexual and explicit, remarks and comments about my body. It was utterly disgusting. I was genuinely surprised as well, after all I’ve asked for advice many times and never had this reaction, and then I realised. I was presenting as female. I don’t often do that online, I’m very clearly andro a lot of the time and that comes with its own special brand of hate and gross comments, but this was a whole different kettle of fish. I haven’t experienced these comments since I stopped presenting female. It made me want to crawl back into my little andro shell and never come out again. Being andro suddenly felt very safe. It was protecting me from these eyes that sort to objectify me and suddenly I wasn’t upset anymore, I was angry. Angry that these horrible comments were making me deny myself.

I had always thought that I had chosen to express myself in a certain way, that is was my want to express my nonbinary identity, but now it had me thinking, why did nonbinary mean “masculine” or “andro” why couldn’t NB be feminine as well? Was I trying to escape from these people who would comment and judge and leer over me? Nonbinary should be everything, it should be expressing yourself and your gender however you want, but men, male culture, had made me, and probably many others, scared of expressing any sort of femininity for fear of the repercussions. I’m flogging a dead horse here, we all know how these sorts of men act towards women (cis, trans, AFAB NB) but I think that it has had massive ripples across how we present gender. Whether that’s AFAB and AMAB nonbinary people having to “look” like a certain andro masculinity, and feeling scared of what might happen if they present femme; or women of all types having to deal with constant attacks on their appearance and their bodies, trans women being mocked and worse because “they’re a man in a dress”, all of this is because male culture is to see femininity as weak and to be objectified. It is lesser than masculinity. They force us to be scared because we have femininity.

But you know what? I want to be able to look feminine and wear my icicle dress and feel safe. I want every person, no matter their gender to feel safe. These men are stopping people from expressing themselves. I don’t want to be scared of who I am or how I want to dress. I want to be able to show up in a tux or dress and feel as powerful and in control of myself in either. I don’t want to reject my femininity anymore. I want to embrace it and I want to fight for it. So, sod that. This is the dress. It’s a damn good dress and I am going to wear the hell out of it.

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I look killer and no one can take that from me.

I’m sorry, this was a bit of a rant. It probably doesn’t make much sense but I had to get it down and out of my head.

You can now follow me on Instagram @lilnonbinaryfashion and on twitter @lilistprince. I will be posting daily looks on both of these, and chatting about life as a nonbinary person. Oh and Star Wars.

If you like what I’m doing please you can buy me a cuppa on Ko-fi!

‘Olly Out!

If you want more please check out my last articles:

Written by Holly Rose Swinyard