"I Like Natural Looking Girls"



It's no secret that I love makeup. It was a crutch as a teenager with terribly bad acne and it has blossomed into a hobby, a pastime, and an enjoyable routine as an adult. Back in August last year, I shared a wee post all about why I like to wear makeup and it was just a genuine ramble and explanation of my relationship and history with the broad label "makeup" and what it all means to me. I shared how I was feeling towards my change into a foundation-free way of life and how I was becoming comfortable with my imperfections and believe it or not - it's almost a year since I stopped wearing foundation and boy oh boy, I still feel incredibly good for it. However my evolution with makeup and beauty in general got me thinking... I started to think about the opinions people seem to have on makeup, the opinions individuals have had on what I choose to wear and how I choose to wear it and how damaging those opinions can be. All that:

"you look better without all that makeup"
"I like natural girls" *sees picture of woman with body hair, acne, greasy hair etc.* "Girls should make an effort with their appearance and groom themselves"
"take a girl swimming on your first date because those bitches lie"

Yeah... all that bullshit? I want to challenge it and explain why that sort of shit needs to stop. I've spoken before about the damage in shaming bodies of all shapes and sizes and I think shaming those who do or don't wear makeup in varying degrees is just as harmful. In a world when it seems to be becoming more and more prevalent and weirdly accepted to have an opinion on people's appearances, I believe we should be aiming to try and stamp it out not see it as a norm and some odd shift in culture that we just accept. I'm a very firm advocate of makeup being an art form and something people can revel and excel in, so why is it always criticised, questioned and outright blacklisted at times?



Although there has always been a part of me who has worn makeup because I've been insecure, it's also been something I've enjoyed the process of. However I feel from a really young age, it is almost instilled in girls that makeup can "enhance your features" and is something you're expected to wear (I mean come on, I can remember my monthly subscription to Sabrina the Teenage Witch mag when I was little and it was 90% fashion and makeup and 10% Sabrina). But on the other hand, do a lot young girls just have a natural interest in it? I can remember watching my mam do face masks, watching my youngest Aunty getting ready for her weekend nights out with her friends and spending hours perfecting her makeup and hair - is it just something we're so surrounded by it nutures us to take part in it one day?

Who knows but I think it is something that should be seen as an art form that anyone can be involved in if they want to be - no matter their gender and no matter their "talent" or natural flair for it. I wouldn't say I am amazing at it, but it's something I like to think I've perfected - at least to my own standards and talents - over the years and I love to recognise that journey I have made. What I don't like to see is that a lot of people seem to think they have the right to bring down those who do enjoy using and wearing makeup and also those who don't. It will always stick with me the first time my first serious boyfriend saw me without makeup on and he responded with "Oh god, don't you look really different?" with zero attempt to hide his disappointment/horror/disapproval. Because of this, I'm still nervous for people to see me without any makeup on at all - I'm over my teenage fear of "oh no, people will see my gross acne, eye bags, freckles etc." but that fear that he created still lingers in me with a lot of people whether that be strangers, friends or even some family members.



What I hate to see is this seems to be coming the norm for a lot of young girls in particular. With the growth of social media and more and more of our lives published for the world to scrutinise, we see some celebrities being praised for posting their no makeup selfies yet the young girls those people may influence are bullied and torn down. People make assumptions that if you spend all of your money on makeup or show an interest in it, that somehow reflects a lack of intelligence and depth. Dammit, if I want to spend money on makeup every month, that doesn't mean I'm not also going to spend some money of books, art, and music. People seem to see makeup first and the individual wearing it after and that's just such a shame. But in the same measure, I've seen plenty of people try to "encourage" more natural aficionados wear makeup to hide imperfections or because they apparently "look prettier" and that's so disappointing to see too.

There's so many reasons individuals choose to wear or not wear makeup and those reasons shouldn't be anyone else's damn business unless the individual voluntarily wishes to share. We need to stop saying negative things about people who choose to express themselves and their individuality through this medium as again - it's art, it's their style, it's them. Everyone wants to be themselves and hopefully, happy and content with that and makeup certainly seems to please a lot of us and give us another outlet for that unique expression. Next time you see someone who's foundation is a little too dark or maybe they're not the best at perfecting the strong bold brow, just step back and think "they're doing them and that's just fine. In fact, that's just great" because negative thoughts and opinions are not needed and surprise surprise they do nothing but harm. Also think about how to tackle others who express this negatively freely - challenge them if you're comfortable with that - if you see someone being vile about a man wearing makeup, speak up! Defend their right to do whatever they want because makeup doesn't have a gender. It doesn't *need* a gender. The more of us who stand up to the bullies, the men who think they have a valid say in what women choose to do with their faces (I mean honestly), and the women who are catty about something so personal and subjective, the nicer the world - especially the worldwide web one we all so know and love - would be.





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Creating a Realistic Capsule(ish) Wardrobe



Hello, my name is Amyleigh and I have been a compulsive over-shopper and hoarder for as long as I can remember. When it comes to clothes I've always had a loving relationship and been quite a big consumer, often having many items in my possession that still have their tags attached for months and sometimes years after they were originally purchased because I simply haven't had the opportunity to wear said items. I'm changing this lifestyle I've became so comfortable in though as I've realised I don't actually feel fulfilled, it's a huge waste of money, and there's a lot of bad effects that go along with the fast fashion industry that our society seems to find itself in recently.

I published a lengthy post about why I'm leaving the fast fashion life behind a couple of weeks ago and since then I've been taking active steps to a more minimalist way of living when it comes to my wardrobe. Now, I know what you're all thinking - yuck everyone's a minimalist now and it's just a trend. I absolutely agree. It has quickly become "a thing" to be a minimalist and own little to few items or to streamline aspects of your life but I will only ever view this movement and popularity as a positive thing. If we can make changes like this that ultimately benefit not only ourselves but also the world around us, that can surely never be a bad thing, can it?

Please note that when I say "minimalist" I'm not talking about true minimalism - I mean I'm downsizing, streamlining, and just generally starting from fresh to make my life less fussy and more focused on the things that really matter. As much as I love fashion, I mentioned a few reasons why I'm falling out of love with industry, particularly in the blogging world, as it's just a fast-pace, no thought process that we all go through as consumers that isn't benefitting anyone - especially not ourselves! I always want what I don't have and envy what others do have and I realised that actually? I should be striving to be happy and content with what I have. So that's why I've been going through the wardrobe and cutting out the unnecessary.

As someone who loves clothes and compulsively shops, trying minimise my wardrobe has been tough. I used to occasionally go through my clothes every few months and donate a few things here and there but I still seemed to be accumulating more and more despite trying to forever downsize. So in my quest to get a bit more of a capsule(ish) wardrobe on the go, I've came up with some pretty fail-safe starting points that I'd recommend as pieces of advice for anyone attempting to go on the same journey:



- Know your own style. First off this isn't me saying you need to have a set style (lord knows I don't) but it's great to be aware of what sort of things you like to wear. I like to push myself out of my comfort zone sometimes but for the most part, I like denim whether it's jeans or denim shirts, Breton stripe tops, pointed cowboy ankle boots and wooden clogs. So I try to bear this all in mind before I even consider tackling my wardrobe so I have a general outline of what I should be keeping and chucking out. A lot of bloggers and YouTubers doing capsule wardrobes act like we've all got money coming out of our ears and can just buy a whole new wardrobe but for the majority of us that's not just possible so you need to work out what kind of things and styles you'd like to keep. Do you prefer minimal classic colours? Do you want loud clashing prints and patterns? Do you only wear dresses and skirts but seem to have a lot of unworn jeans? These are all things you should make sure you're aware of prior to sorting your wardrobe.

- Take everything out of your wardrobe. When you do begin to tackle your wardrobe, having a blank canvas when you are selecting what you keep and what you get rid of is so so effective. When I did this it made me actually feel slightly disgusted *just* how much stuff I had crammed in there so it motivated me to declutter even more. I also found this to be visually helpful - it made me see common patterns, colours, prints, materials etc. that were frequent, helping me instantly pick out what sort of thing I *must* usually buy for whatever reasons.

- Make three to four distinct piles. So you've got your huge mound of clothes in front of you now and what I suggest you do now is make three or four distinct piles as you sort through the items. I went with:
Items to keep
Items to donate
Items to sell
Items out of season/want to hold onto*
I know this won't apply to everyone but I rotate my wardrobe. I have a spring/summer wardrobe and an autumn/winter one and depending on the time of year, the out of season "set" gets put in storage. So of course, there's some items that I might not want to wear any time soon but I also don't want to get rid of so those need to be put away in storage to await appropriate weather. I also tossed clothes I wanted to keep in this pile. These items were different to my "to keep" pile because these were the odd few items I really loved but don't seem to wear. I didn't want to part with them so I made a rule with myself to keep them for now, try to make them work, and then if I still haven't worn them next time I rotate my items, they're a-gonner!

- Do not try anything on. Okay so as much as there were some things I just *needed* to keep, I honestly believe the worst thing you can do when going through this process is to try anything on. As soon as you try something on you'll think "oh this is so cute!" and uh-oh who'd have predicted it - suddenly the "to keep" pile keeps growing and growing. I understand that many of us will need to try certain things on as, if you're a hoarder like me, there's bound to be items in your wardrobe that no longer fit, however save it for another time. Sort out visually and emotionally what you want to keep first then try it all on later.

- Always be mindful of the six month rule. I probably don't need to mention this one as it seems to be a standard unspoken law, but if you haven't worn something for six months (not including out of season items), it needs to go! I cheated a little and *did* throw a couple of things in my "to keep" pile that I haven't worn a lot if at all but again, if I can't make them work or if I don't reach for them before my next rotation - they're going out the door.



- Try to keep it interchangeable. This is definitely I'm more mindful of going into this new lifestyle choice. I tend to play it safe with a lot of things I buy but I do tend to pick the odd wacky thing up that's totally out of my comfort zone or usual style and I realised this is a big downfall of mine. I had a lot of items that could only been worn a certain way or with other specific items and that seemed kind of wasteful to me. So now I'm making sure what I keep and what I purchase in future goes with more things in my wardrobe. A great thing to do is if you see something you like when you're shopping is to think "can I make this work with five other outfits and/or items in my current wardrobe?" and if the answer is yes, run straight to the check out with that sucker. This isn't me saying you need to do that whole minimal capsule wardrobe style because I know for fact I couldn't stick to that simple colour palette etc., but just be mindful of what you're keeping and make it work for you.

- Be strict but just. Again, this is a difficult one when you're emotionally attached to some items, but being strict with yourself really pays off. I purposefully went with my gut instincts as soon as I started sorting my stuff like some sort of crazed fashion-conscious sorting hat. I picked items up and made super quick, split-second decisions about each one as I knew if I hesitated, I'd end up keeping almost everything. And you know what? It actually paid off because all of the clothes I've gotten rid of have either been completely forgotten in the last few weeks without them or I haven't once thought "ah, I wish I had kept that".

- One in, one out. Something I'm definitely taking forward shopping in the future is having a one in one out system. I'll be honest - I might not have this as a strict rule for every purchase but I think it's a great way to keep the wardrobe from getting out of control once more.

- Make a list of what is needed. One of the best things about this declutter other than simply getting rid of unneeded material possessions that can benefit others is now I am aware of what I'm lacking in my wardrobe. I realised I somehow skipped on most basics in my wardrobe and therefore I now know I need to get a couple of basic tees added to my collection. Making a list of what you need or a particular item you *really* want also means you will be less likely to go buying things willy nilly. Now if I'm online shopping or browsing a store, I know exactly what I'm looking for and (hopefully) won't get too sidetracked by other items I don't need.


So there you have it. This method obviously won't work for everyone and of course, not everyone wants to even have a capsule wardrobe but I want to downside greatly so I can focus on items and styles I truly love and it is helping me cut out a lot of fast fashion in the process. As I mentioned in that fast fashion post, I'm not completely saying goodbye to on trend pieces and what is available on the high street, but I will be making a conscious effort to try and buy from more small businesses who are ethical, sustainable, and I will be shopping secondhand wherever possible to minimise my contribution to the fast fashion world. If you're creating or using a capsule wardrobe yourself, let me know how you're finding it and if you still enjoy what you wear despite the minimised options and variety.



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Book Club No.8



Happy Friday you lot! I have been reading so so much on my commute to and from work lately and during my Easter break from work, so there's a lot of back-dated book review posts coming your way, but I'm trying to keep them in order of when I read them so I can keep track! So here's some books I read and finished back in March:

Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak
Okay so this first one was something I won in a Twitter giveaway and to be perfectly honest, I had never heard of the author or the book but the cover sold me instantly because I mean *look* at it - it's beautiful! When the book landed through my letterboz, I did a little bit of research and discovered that this is in fact Elif Shafak's tenth novel and she is heavily involved in the World Economic forum and has been prosecuted by the Turkish government. This made me realise this lady needed my attention. She's a vastly celebrated author and woman in general for acts such as defending gay rights and arguing about why feminism is important to write about - and not just from a Muslim woman perspective. If you want to know more about this inspiring lady, definitely check out her TED talk where she discusses the freedom writing gives her. But for now, let's talk about the book itself.

The book follows the life of Peri, a wife, mother, and inquisitive woman living her life Istanbul but during an altercation with a homeless man, she has flashbacks to her younger years and questions start to rise again. The book flits between different periods of Peri's life: the present day as an adult woman with multiple responsibilities, to being a child in a household torn apart by religious differences, to her teen years and early adulthood where she explored herself and her beliefs in a western cultural setting whilst attending Oxford University. The whole book is about soul-searching and deals with some many cultural, societal, and religious aspects that I really admire Shafak for tackling in this novel. For a fan of learning about religion, this book has it all and displays it all in such an honest, down to earth way that you can't help but feel engaged throughout the book. It's not the sort of novel I would naturally reach for but I did enjoy reading it nevertheless. If you want to read something that feels incredibly current, that can educate you as well as entertain you, and that will make you question your own beliefs and standpoints on certain topics as you read it, then this is the book for you. You can pick up a copy in various formats here.




A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
This next book is something I received as a birthday present from Matt. As soon as I opened it I recognised the name and realised it was because it has recently been made into a movie and I can remember seeing the trailer and thinking it looked great. Patrick Ness is an author I've been intrigued by but for some reason hadn't read any of his work until I got this novel. His work can often be found in the young adult fiction area of your local Waterstones and has won many awards for various works he has written. A Monster Calls is no exception to the awards and guys, this is possibly one of the best things I've ever read.

A Monster Calls is about a little boy called Conor. He is in secondary school, he's a young teen, and he's your typical stroppy teenager to boot. However he's got a lot going on at home - his mum's extremely ill, his dad lives with his new family in America and doesn't really spend any time with him, he's got a bad case of bullies at school mocking and beating him up daily, and his grandmother sticks her oar into his and his mum's life and let's just say he doesn't like it. He keeps having a recurring nightmare that he is terrified of and the novel opens with a development in the nightmares - a monster. Not a big hairy or beady eyed beast, but a gigantic tree that keeps visiting Conor and wants to tell him stories. Conor develops a relationship with this monster based on folk lore, morals of stories, questions and honesty. The way the story develops really pulls on the heartstrings and I genuinely struggled to put this book down. It's not a long read and I got through it in 2 commutes to and from work and I genuinely wanted to sit and cry relentlessly on the train reading the ending. It's such a fantastic book for being such a short read but playing on the emotions so well; it's a work of genius. Although it is young adult fiction, it deals with some dark dark stuff that many people come in contact with in reality and can definitely upset the reader. That's in no way a criticism of it - it's actually the thing I loved most about it - but it's something to bear in mind if you're going to pick it up. The wriitng style of Ness is so quick pace and makes you stay engaged and desperate to keep turning the pages whilst also creating such vivid images in your imagination that I honestly felt like the movie version of this was playing in my head as I read. I can't wait to watch the film now. If you fancy giving this amazing book a read, grab a cheap copy of it here.



American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell
My last review is a collection of short stories by award-winning writer, Bonnie Jo Campbell. This book is something I wanted to read after reading my favourite blogger, The Dainty Squid, review it on her blog and she sang it's praises. I usually steer clear of short stories as I find I start to really get into the story and then it's over and I'm left wanting more but having not previously read any of Campbell's stuff before, I thought this would be a good entry route to get a taste of her work. My wonderful American Twitter friend, Akeen, got this book from my Amazon Wishlist and it arrived on my birthday and I was so overjoyed (thanks again dude!). The internet is a wonderful place, don't let anyone say any different.

So, American Salvage is a collection of short stories and those stories all centre around small-town life in the Michigan area. If you ever enjoy that small-town American stereotype, then you will definitely enjoy these stories. Campbell has a great ability to tell stories about characters that are experiencing incredible hardships from domestic violence, to poverty, to alcohol and drug abuse. All of the stories are so very different but all share a great thread of misery, hopelessness, and unfortunately, realism running throughout all of them and tying them all together as a seamless collection. I obviously enjoyed some of the stories more than others and my favourites are The Burn, The Solutions to Brian's Problem, and The Inventor, 1972 (which has won awards). As I said earlier, all of the stories seem so true and real-life for working class suburban America and therefore create a window of insight for the reader, but despite their usually dark tone, there's a weird sense of beauty in how Campbell writes which makes these short stories a quick, easy and great read. Make sure you pick up a copy of American Salvage here.



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