Yoga Capsule Wardrobe

Make your essential Yoga Capsule Wardrobe

I don’t need excuses to go shopping, but I still make them anyway.

The first thing I did after signing up for my Yoga Teacher Training Course was (of course) to make sure I have enough Yoga clothes to make it through the course in style. I went to my Yoga drawer to do a stock inventory and I found that I had a few good pieces…  but I did not have 5 full Yoga specific outfits to make it through the week.

Heavens! I had to go shopping! #firstworldproblems

(SHORTCUT – cut the crap and take me to the list)

You could say I have my priorities right… or not. Honestly, a bit of vanity is not incompatible with Yoga. Keep in mind I also had to look like a reputable Yoga Teacher after the course, so the expense was more than justified.

It was, It is important that they are Yoga specific outfits. The other stuff in the drawer had been abandoned years ago because it just doesn’t do the job so well. If you are not convinced about this yet have a look at my post “Why having good Yoga clothes is important“.

But before going shopping I had to do a small little eco-friendly ritual I have. Send the old pieces to Salvation Army. For everything new that comes in, something I have not worn in a long time has to go. Ok, that’s it, now I’m ready to hit the mall.

WARNING! Shopping for Yoga clothes is a bit like going to the candy shop!

They are all so pretty! Your eyes start widening and glistering… The bright colors, the patterns, straps here, straps there… and that’s how I ended up with and impossible mix of prints and pinks. I had to plan in advance this time. I had to first find out what I actually needed. That’s why I came up with my Yoga Capsule Wardrobe.  I went shopping only for the pieces I was missing. This way you stay focused and make smarter choices. Personally I needed some basics.

Yoga Capsule Wardrobe

Yoga Capsule Wardrobe

This selection has 13 pieces will give you enough to survive the week of TT, and set a base of sanity for future visits to candy store.

From top to bottom: The first three leggings are all Luluemon. The nude top is from Cotton On Body Active. On the second set, the fucsia top is my beloved Scoop Tank from Lululemon again. Strappy bra model is Free to be Serene, The navy bra+tank is too old for me to remember. Leggings are Liquido Active.  On the third group: striped top from Cotton on Body Active, black tank from Forever 21, white tank from Gap Fit, purple leggings from Lululemon and maroon soft bra from Forever 21.

Ideas to make your own Essential Yoga Capsule Wardrobe.
13 pieces, 5 outfits.


You might wonder…Why five outfits?  It’s for ecological reasons. I do laundry once a week only, with a full load. So I needed one set for each day of the week of TT.  If you are not in my position you probably need less.

An Essential Yoga Capsule Wardrobe should contain 80% basics

It should have pieces that you can easily combine with each other, and it should have variety as well. For example on the length of the leggings and the shapes of the tops.

My selection contains:

      • 5 Leggings: Black, block color, grey, black and white, and one with a funky print.

Crop, long, extra long and 7/8. I live in Asia, where people tend to be more modest and very few wear shorts and crops for Yoga. Even back home, I do not think I would wear shorts for yoga, so they are excluded from my list. Sorry!

      • 5 Top combos:

2 tops with built-in bra: One with thick straps, one with thin straps.  Thick straps and built in bras are better for vinyasa classes, where you sweat more, move more and need more support.

3 bras: One neutral, one dark, one bright. One soft, one strong, one strappy and fashionable.

3 tank tops: One white, one black, one striped. They will go well with any bra and with most of the leggings. You will need change one of the tanks for short sleeved t-shirt here if you do Aerial Yoga, to avoid rubbing from the hammock.

How to pick the right clothes for your Essential Yoga Wardrobe

1- The must-have Yoga leggings

The first thing you need is a good pair of black leggings. That’s a basic essential. A minimum requirement. I would make that a pair of Lululemon High Times pants. Long and high waist. Thicker or thinner depending on the weather where you live.  They are so worth the money. Just as much as buying a good yoga mat (more about this in my last post) You can always get them on sale or even consider second hand. Good Yoga clothes are meant to last so they stay in good condition for long. I buy second hand often myself.

All sorts of neon tops that are so trendy right now will go well with back leggings if that’s your thing.  Personally I’m more into deeper or pastel shades.

If you like to spice it up go for black leggings with mesh windows, extra long legs, ombre ankles or pants that come with some texture.

You also need something a little softer. Light or dark grey leggings. Plain, with salt and pepper pattern, or any other small self print. See below. You can use them as normal clothes too. Expense justified right there! More about this in my next post.

I also recommend having one block color that’s easy to match.  Navy blue, dark green, maroon or purple. The tanks in the capsule wardrobe will go well with any of these.

Finally, you need oneblack and white print. Monochrome is always safe and easy to play with.  If I could get my hands on those feather leggings from LuLaRoe… they seem to be sold out everywhere online!

Once you have the basics covered you can indulge yourself with the funky prints. Oh the prints! My weakness! You need only one for the Yoga Capsule Wardrobe, but they are difficult to resist. Beware you can become a Liquido Active junkie like me,  and that comes with an additional set of matching tops, so you are warned… 😉

Here are my favorite prints from the Brazilian brand. They have a unique combination of materials that make them the softest thing you’ll ever wear. On top of that, I think they are just art stamped on Lycra. I confess I actually have most of these. From Pure Yoga or Carousell.  I’m now teaching Yoga full time, and make two or three outfits changes per day,so I do need more than just a capsule wardrobe. Stay focused!

2- What you should know about Yoga tops

You have two choices: Built in bra, or separate bra and tank top. Actually there are three options. Now they make tops that look like two pieces but they are stitched together.

4532d8592b893dcc3116fbb5336e0e61 I have a couple of those and I always get tangled getting in and out of them. I don’t think I will buy more. They also expose a bit too much of my back fat rolls.

That said, this little number from Vivre Active is VERY very nice. They are on the “maybe, one day, if the rolls go away” list.

THE TANKS WITH BUILT IN BRAS – Getting into a yoga tank top with a built in bra requires strength, and patience! It’s not easy and they seem to make them more complicated by the year. Will we end up wrapped in bandages?

All these Lululemon options below have good bras, good support  performance. The brand offers 15% discount for Yoga Teachers worldwide. Even on top of an already discounted item so that makes them more attractive even.

  • The first on is a body-con model. Watch our for this. For me this is a complete nightmare to get into. Looks fab, but when you are in a rush… go for the next one. I just didn’t read the fine print on the label that said it is a body-con model when I bought mine. I was too distracted with the white and grey snake print.
  • The second one is a newer and finer version of the fabulous Scoop Tank. The scoop tank remains my all time favorite Yoga top. Even if it’s discontinued, I buy them on eBay. It’s a ‘hassle free, don’t worry be happy’ top. Keeps everything in place, nothing shows, soaks all the sweat.
  • The last one is sort of loose at the bottom. I have one that looks like this and it feels a bit like maternity top. This cut works better with decently breasted women, and I’m in the ‘barely anything there’ category. It’s good to keep for the future…  It looks flowly and graceful in Barre classes but I don’t use it for Yoga unless I’m teaching Prenatal.

The Y tank (below) is probable the most popular design by Lululemon, and it’s iconic. My first ever Yoga top was one of these. It’s 7 years old and in mint condition. This is definitely a winner in the basics category so it deserves a special mention.

THE BRAS – The poor things… most people just hate them.

For people that love wearing unwired unpadded bras, a sports bra is a horrible torture device. People that can’t live without full nipple coverage, pads and proper structure find that Yoga Bras are flattening and unflattering.

A sports bra is for what is is, but the most important thing is to put it on properly.

Side note:

When I started wearing Yoga bras much more than regular ones, I noticed that my armpits and all the area around them started accumulating fat. I was getting slimmer everywhere else except there.

My masseur told me one day (to my utter shock) that it was actually tissue spreading out from my breasts! There’s no emoji to describe my face and the begging that came later to change my massage to a boob fixing massage straight away. It’s the same phenomena that occurs when you wear a bra size that’s too small for you. You end up covering only the main part of the gland with the bra cup and pushing the rest to the side.

I have noticed since then that this happens to a lot of Yoga teachers.  To prevent or correct this this you must pull the flesh under your armpits inwards, towards the outer side of your breasts, and make sure the bra holds it there.  Re-adjust as often as needed (not in the middle class …)

Also, try to wear wear normal bras that have a wide enough band to do the same and hold it in place. Else you will do and undo the the job all the time. Consistency is the key.

Back to the topic. The first two bras below are from Lululemon. The last one is one of me favorites, from Forever 21. They make inexpensive and very soft bras. They are so comfortable and affordable that I have a few. I buy one size smaller than mine to add a bit more support. Low Impact – Y-Back Sports Bra

Yoga bras are meant to be shown or to peak from the top, so don’t be shy with the colors or textures. Do not buy a white bra. It looks too much like underwear and they don’t remain white for long, lets be honest.

THE TANKS – Honestly, this is a loose category. You could wear any tank you have on top of a sports bra. Cotton, Lycra or any material does the job because they will always have enough flesh exposed to evaporate sweat. But there’s a difference between normal exercise tops and Yoga tops.

Tank tops that are specific for Yoga have a thicker but lighter texture. a bit like a sponge. That makes them stick to the leggings and stay put. They don’t move from there so there’s no accidental reveal of flesh.

Unfortunately very few brands make these kind of sticky top. So all the ones below are from Lululemon and Pure Apparel. I think Old Navy does but it’s not available in Singapore.

A running or fitness tank top can be used for Yoga too. But watch out for two things.  I found this ‘so called’ active top in Cotton On COAR the other day (first one below) to match some patterned legging I have and It was a big disappointment. Instead of evaporating my sweat, it soaked it all. The top became heavy and swang back and forth, dripping for the entire class.

Interestingly, the basic tanks from sister brand Cotton On Body (second) are really the solution to all my matching problems. A complete super start of tank tops! The third one is a very pretty Lululemon essential tank in Tiger Space Dye Black White. The little pleat on the back drives me crazy. This is a hybrid. It stays in place but it’s not fitting. They do miracles at Lululemon.

THAT’S it for now. I hope this guide is useful for choosing your Essential Yoga Capsule Wardrobe, and that you learnt a thing or two about Yoga clothes. Feel free to comment and give feedback!

Coming up shortly: How to wear Yoga Clothes all day and look glamorous.

Until then, NAMASTE!

Why having good Yoga clothes is important, and where to buy them in Singapore

I get it all the time: ‘Oh you have such nice Yoga outfits, but Yoga clothes are so expensive!’ First, thanks! Second, yeah I hear you!

Yoga clothes are my work clothes, so It’s something worth investing on for me, but they do cost a fortune. That said, I think it’s pretty important you have appropriate clothing as a Yoga Practitioner too. That’s why I’ decided to write this for my students.

As a Yoga teacher, on a busy day I would use 4 changes of clothes. The Essential Yoga Capsule Wardrobe I made for my Teachers Training will not even last a couple of days but have a look there for inspiration.

 (SHORTCUT – cut the crap take me to the list)

A bit of background- Traditionally in India Yoga is practiced in loose cotton clothing that covers the entire body. You know what? That’s pretty much the clothes they wear on a regular basis so no hooha here.

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Image from jeffvonderschmidt.com

From a Western perspective this is not a really comfortable attire. It’s not even necessary to cover yourself so much, even more when the weather is hot. I had to do Yoga in this type of clothing called Salwar while I was in Rishikesh, India, because it was compulsory. I did it with respect and pleasure but I was hot, soaked, tangled and at moments frustrated.

I now understand why famous men yogis are always nearly naked, but that’s not allowed for women, right?  I will not go on with the topic of discrimination this time, but I shall continue to write from my own perspective, because that’s why this is my blog 😉 hehehe.

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BKS Iyengar – Nearly always on speedos

Is it worth investing in good Yoga gear?

The answer is YES.

Even when you are not a Yoga Teacher? Still Yes.

I am known for lecturing my fellow Yogis (and now students) about the importance of having appropriate Yoga specific clothes and gear. They are expensive, but they are worth it. I wrote all this to explain why.

But before we start, look at the photo of Iyengar again. Now imagine the seam of your shorts cutting through the flesh of your groin… or worse even… the stitching bursting open in the class (based on a true story). You should have at least one set. I rest my case.

On the Eco side of things, buying cheap and cheerful comes at a price for the environment.  Disposable clothing from big chains generate consumption and also more rubbish in the dumps.

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What’s so special about Yoga clothes?

Yoga clothes are adapted to the needs and requirements of the practice, and they need to be good quality to endure it. That all comes at a price. When you start you obviously don’t want to make an investment in case you and Yoga don’t along, but once you have regular practice you will notice that there’s a difference. A big one.

THE PANTS –

The leggings need to stretch 4 ways so that they don’t squeeze anywhere, in any posture. If that’s not the case they will pull or dig into your flesh when you pretzel yourself. The stitching might even end up coming off. This is based on a true story. I have hear that tearing noise in class before.

The definition of Asana = Yoga posture by old sage Patanjali, is to be at ease. One can’t not be at ease when uncomfortable. The leggings also need to be high rise and have a wide waist band. They sit nicely on top of your hips, and don’t slip down showing your underwear. This also avoids the famous muffin top effect.

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Here’s Lena Dunham having a laugh about the muffin top effect. (dailymail.com.uk )

They need to be completely opaque too. I will never forget the face of my students when I mentioned that I could see their underwear in downward dog sometimes because their leggings are sheer… Thank god that’s an only women group and they have a sense of humor.

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Yes, that’s pretty much what it looks like 😉 Image from Photobuket

Most importantly, your Yoga pants need to breeze. You will sweat, a lot,  and if your leggings don’t help evaporate the sweat or the fabric is too synthetic, you will cook in your own juices. When we do Yoga we release toxins in the sweat from the internal organs. It’s not just sweat. This can also give you rashes, itchiness, pimples or even make you feel suffocated and unwell. My advice is go cheap on the tops if you need to because they only cover you torso and the rest is aired, but invest in good bottoms.

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Lululemon Align pants are the lightest and more breathable of their range. They are so soft they feel like you are not wearing anything… but they are 100% opaque. No matter the quality, the lighter the color the more sheer possibility there will be, and the more they will show sweat. Always test in the fitting room before you buy. Do a down dog or a forward fold. Use the mirrors and your phone to check if you need to.

FOR MEN, good pants are even more important. When I did my first boys class it was with my friends’ husbands.

I was a bit conscious about ‘things’ coming out accidentally, so I told them not to wear football/basketball shorts without long fitted underpants. No running shorts, no sheer briefs no speedos. I made them wear double layer to avoid embarrassment (on my side because it seems they really couldn’t care less). There were jokes circulating on the topic for a while… but I achieved my mission.

Imagine, they would have come to class like this… Jaysus!

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Image from Doyouyoga.com (don’t miss this article please!)

A while ago I bought a good pair of Lululemon Yoga shorts for my dear boyfriend the Troglodyte.  They have small slits on the side, a flexible waist band, they breathe and stretch but keep things cool and in place. They even a vanity fly, and side and back pockets. All the perks! He absolutely loves them. If not so much for Yoga, they are used often as lounge wear. I think my friends’ husbands have chances of getting  a similar pair for Christmas this year. These are the latest Men Yoga Shorts from Lululemon.

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Disclaimer: This is not my Dear Boyfriend the Troglodyte


THE TOPS-

Two things to be considered when buying a Yoga top. That it covers and holds the bust completely, and that it doesn’t roll down.  When going upside down you don’t want your boobs ejecting and your belly showing, right? Yoga tanks are usually made of a material that’s non slip. The top will stick to the pants and no matter what you do it will stay there. Running tops on the other hand will slip and roll down, but they are cheaper, so you can always make a fancy knot on the back like this and go on (if Lululemon says It’s cool we do it don’t we?)

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They make very nice Yoga bras these days with lost of crisscross straps, but do they offer the right amount of support for you? That’s something to consider, even if you think you are not very busty. Try them on and do a test. Jump or go upside down to see if your bad boys stay in place.

Lululemon (of course) also make Yoga t-shirts for men, but they are not so essential in my opinion.  My dear boyfriend the Troglodyte has one, and he uses it to sleep only. No wonder he does! It’s the softest thing on the world! I’m afraid I’m not going to stop him from using it as PJs. No no no. It’s great to hug!

Jokes aside, for guys, a regular dry-fit t shirt or tank does the job because they can tuck it in. But for us ladies, tucking in a top when you are wearing leggings is not so cool.


THE MAT –

Don’t forget about the mat! A good Yoga mat is a long term investment but it’s worth it. If you don’t have a good a mat you should consider buying if you are committed to your practice. Here’s why:

  • Good mats don’t disintegrate if you toe nails accidentally scratch the surface coming from downward dog to high lounge (Based on a true story).
  • They also don’t soak your sweat and stink after a few uses (no further comment needed)
  • Most importantly, they allow you to push through your hands and feet without slipping. This way you don’t fall, and you can actually do the postures properly.
  • Good Yoga mats are dense and they are heavy. This is to provide a cushion for your knees and writs, protecting the joints.

If you are new to Yoga you can get a cheaper version to start with. A lot of my students go for Gaiam premium mats. They are available in Singapore in Lazada  and in Qoo10 but think they are a bit pricey for the quality, particularly if you compare to the US prices in Amazon.

Most end up going for a 25$ mat in Cotton On Body because it’s easily available and looks a bit better than the ones in Guardian or Watsons (supermarket ones). It’s Ok… but don’t be sorry to throw it away in a month or two. That’s if you don’t get tired of picking up the debris after the class before that time.

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Image from Reviews.com article about The Best Yoga Mats of 2017

My advice is that you consider a good Manduka or Jade Yoga mat if you are serious about your practice . These are my two favorite brands, but if you want to know more options have a look at The Best Yoga mats of 2017.

I got my first Manduka mat when Pure Yoga Singapore renewed their mats in the Orchard studio, about 7 years ago. To my delight, they decided to give away the old ones away to the students. I don’t know how old my first mat it is. I can’t imagine how many times it has been used and washed… but after one good scrub and some disinfectant it is in semi perfect condition. I’ve had it at my parent’s place since. It’s my holiday mat now. Still standing and still does the job well.

Side note: I usually just wash my mats once a week in the shower. Wiping them with mild soap and a giving them a quick rinse.

You can find Manduka Mats in Singapore in their shop in 313 Sommerset, in Isetan, in Pure Yoga and in Touch the Toes.

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Image from Jade Yoga

In my opinon, Jade Yoga mats actually have better grip than Mandukas. If you have sweaty hands like me this is a game changer. Some people find them too rough though. Different people, different taste!

I also find that when Mandukas are new they have a sort of finish coat that makes them less porous. Later, after use and wash they are fine, but at first you don’t get that grip.

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Credit: leena_mun

Another option if you are budget concious is to buy a travel mat and put it on top of a cheap mat. It’s basically like a rubber sheet.  The one on the left is is the Eko SuperLite from Manduka. They come in many different colors.

I find they have more grip than the normal mats and they get even more grip with use. I bought all mine second hand to ensure they are seasoned.
This is actually what I use for my classes.  I’m always on the go and I can carry them in my handbag with 1,000 other things. The downside is that I have to use small towels to protect my knees and writs because Ii doesn’t provide any cushioning at all.

Where to buy Yoga Clothes in Singapore?

This is always the next question. My rule of thumb is that if you know exactly what you want (model, brand, color, size) first check in Carousell if anybody is selling it. The amount of stuff they have in the platform is AMAZING. Finally there’s an eBay in SG that works wonders!

They have second hand as well as new stuff. There’s individuals selling and also small businesses . Look for acronyms like BNWT (brand new with tags) or BN (brand new) to describe items. I buy a lot here, new and second hand. A good wash removes all traces of the past.

“WHERE TO SHOP”

  • Lululemon is probably the top brand of Yoga clothes. They have two shops in Orchard Rd, Takashimaya and Ion. They are expensive but if you are getting your first basic pair of black leggings It’s s worth the money. They will the last forever.

INSIDER TIP! They have a permanent sales rack hidden near the fitting room. Stay focused. Don’t look around! Just go for the rack. That’s the place to get some juicy discounts up to 30%. Also, Yoga teachers get 15% off even on sales items.

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Lululemon sales rack in Ion Orchard – 3 March 2017 (Image:  my own)

  • Vivre active. Is a local brand with online store and shops in Wisma and Bugis Juction. They are cheaper than international brands but in quality I give it a 8/10 because not all items are there yet. Note that they have Asian sizing so expats might end up on a size much bigger than their usual. Don’t let it put you down. I love the tops but some of the leggings are not so breathable. What I love more is the initiative of setting up such a business. You can read about it here.
  • Pure apparel. In every Pure Yoga studio there’s a shop with Yoga Gear. They carry a big selection with brands like Onzie, Liquido Active and their own brand Pure Apparel. The Liquidos here fly off in a blink. So if you like something buy it or it will be gone the next day. Their own brand is of high standards and nearly as high in price as Lululemon (minus the cool/design factor most of the times). Check them out in Takashimaya, Chevron House and Asia Square. Members get 10% off.
  • Touch The Toes. They have an online shop as well as their outlet in Haji Lane. You will find brands like Teeki, Manduka. The place has the biggest range of mats and props in town. Here’s a tip if they happen to read this some time. Not having the .sg domain made me dismiss your site many times when doing online research.
  • Isetan in Shaw house has a huge sports section with Manduka, Rumi and other brands. This is more for window shopping because they mark up the prices a bit higher. Also they have all Yoga clothes from different sports brands in one single area. It might sound silly but that’s not the case in many department stores. Others that classify by brand and you have to go hopping from one to another.
  • Gap. Gap Fit is there fitness line. It’s only available in Vivo city if I remember well. They don’t have a huge range by the quality is good and the price decent. I have both leggings and tops from them and I’m very satisfied. Old navy seems to belong to the same group as Gap and have nice Yoga clothes but you can’t get them in Singapore.
  • H&M. I think It’s better to go to the cheaper shops after you have touched the good stuff, then you will be able to find the jewels hidden in the piles of hay. There’s a lot of choice. And a lot of it not good. Trust your fingertips and go for dark items that will not sheer.
  • Cotton On Body. The active wear range of the Australian brand has been a great success. I pass by the shop in Wisma often and they have new collections coming out all the time, with funky designs.  I’m not a fan of their leggings because they don’t breathe well enough for me. But go for the tops and bras without a doubt. The touch here is important too. Not all items are the same quality. Rough Yoga clothes can give you rashes if you have sensitive skin. You twist an turn in them rubbing you all the time.
  • Forever 21 has a pretty decent active wear selection. The one in Ion Orchard has all the sales items, and the ones in Vivo City and 313 Sommerset have the newer collections. . I find them quite soft to the touch but I’m not a hug fan of the black and neon trend they seem to love. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just not  their target audience…  I love their soft bras though! The low support Y bra. I would get them in every color possible.

You might be surprised not to see some usual suspects of sports clothes here. Of course brands like Reebok, Underarmour, Nike, Adidas, Puma etc have Yoga Clothes now but even these giants sometimes don’t get the basics right. The texture, the cut, the waist that doesn’t make muffin tops or move down,  the 4 way stretch… not all items meet these standards. Even Stella McCartney’s Adidas Yoga line is not always convincing to me, and it’s even more expensive than Lululemon.

ONLINE SHOPPING

Just for your information, you can buy Yoga Clothes online in the following sites. I found all online execept InZone5. I met the ladies in the last edition of Boutiques Fairs . these online but I have not tried. So I can’t give my opinion

 

My point is made. With some proper Yoga Clothes and a good Yoga mat, I can asure you you will enjoy the practice more. I do not get any commission out of endorsements, so I hope this really help!

Until next time, Namaste!

Xx

PS: Here’s a bit of indulgence… my Yoga outfits Pinterest board.

Brazilian waxing, yay or nay? 

Disclaimer: I’m about to reveal some pretty intimate (and hilarious) facts about my down under.
Before I decided to get rid of the bush, you could see it from outside. You could see the cushion bump when I was wearing leggings or bikinis… or at least I though you could . That was enough to hate it.

When your pubic hair is so stubborn it feels like elephant hair. The root goes down at least 5mm into the skin. If you try to tame the mane, let me tell you it pulls and it hurts like hell. The bush also makes you itchy, it makes you sweat, it serves no critical purpose and it’s not a good welcome present for whoever you invite for an oral exploration.

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Once I moved to the tropics, the cushion had the days counted. Singapore’s fancy waxing joint Strip got me hooked with a package. It was too hipster and appealing to resist. First it was Brazilian Wax but after a while… IPL here we go! I successfully got rid of the cushion for life, but did I stop a single moment to think about the possible consequences? NO. Will I be cold in winter? What will I tell my future teenage daughter when she grows a virgin forest and I look like a sandy beach? Will full bushes be the sexiest thing on earth in 2030 and will look like a 12 year old? Was Samantha from SatC right?

Wait a moment! Stop right there. I have no regrets. I chopped the jungle because it was just too bloody uncomfortable. I don’t miss it. We could say it was for medical reasons. As in ‘I was on the verge of causing a psychotic episode and it had to go away’ kind of medical reasons.

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Nevertheless the IPL didn’t fully work. It didn’t give me the dramatic irreversible baldness that it promised. The darkest corners of down under have too much pigment for it to work (apparently) and the roots are so deep that they can’t even see the light. Sigh… So much for my package.

But I was hooked. The bits that survived needed to be waxed, regularly. No pain no gain. Ever since I experienced what it’s like to have the softest and smoothest bit of skin between my chubby, prone to sweat, inner thighs, there was no going back.
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Last month. after years practicing the Brazilian rites, the imaginable happened. I finally dawned to me. I stopped and thought: What the hell am I doing here?! All of those transcendental questions about my decision came up. It was thanks to my therapist. What is this woman doing with my delicates?!

She’s moving one leg here one fold there! Jesus Christ the Lord!  I was in shock. Maybe I had a bad day, maybe it was just her.  The ruthlessness  of my Chinese therapist woke me up. She operated with the precision and determination of a person that plucks chickens in a farm for a living. Maybe that’s what she did before ending up here. Maybe that’s why she got the job, all the way from rural China. Never mind, I was there waking up from a coma of self-consciousness feeling completely invaded and witnessing how she raided my tomb.

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It had become so normal for me to have a complete stranger (woman) digging my punani that I was amazed with myself. I never had any shame of that kind, and now all I wanted is for Miss China Poultry 2015 to finish and leave me alone, to lick my mental wounds.

Nature is wise and gave us eyebrows so that blood from wounds in the head and forehead won’t get into the eyes. It gave us armpit hair to help sweat evaporate and refresh our pits, so I guess public hair had a similar purpose, to serve as some sort of protection, but it never worked for me. I had the same amount of urine infections pre and pro baldness. I’m not entirely sure we can trust mother nature anymore. Specially when the mystery of men’s nipples is still unresolved.

When my public hair first made an appearance in my life it was very uncomfortable and disturbing. We didn’t click from the start. I used to trim it. I even wanted to to relax it like black women do to control the frizz of their hair. It worked, but didn’t last.

Now the hair is growing back. It’s decision time. If I let it be, it will pull, itch and make me sweat again, but I’m not ready for another wax anytime soon, or to waste another IPL package.  I want to say bye bye to Brazilian waxing, I’m completely traumatized. Au naturel is supposed to be on, right? It’s a bit difficult for a woman that grew up in the 90s.

I wonder what would ‘Au Naturel’ queen Solange Knowls do… Probably lots of conditioner.

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How to make supermarket flowers look good

If you like interior design you have probably noticed that nearly every picture of a nice living room, a bookshelf, or a dining table has a pot of fresh flowers in it. Flowers add liveliness and color to any room. You can even put them on bedside tables and bathroom counters.

I usually get flowers for the home when there’s a special occasion, but every now and then I buy inexpensive supermarket flowers just because. Flower arrangements give a touch of glamour I just can’t resist.

The good news is that they don’t have to be expensive to look good.

Not everybody has a good florist around the corner or the budget to have weekly fresh flowers delivered a-la Elton John.  Following a few easy principles you can give that high end touch to your house using supermarket flowers.

For example, the photo in the cover is a bouquet I made with 3 bunches at $4.50 each. Two dahlias in different shades of purple, and one bunch of white chrysanthemum.

Here’s a few tips to bring some flower power to your house.

 

1- Keep a small collection of glass vases.

Use an assortment of your own water glasses, tea cups or mugs for example. Some mineral water brands have beautiful bottles you can keep for this purpose, or you can get economical packs of simple vases in IKEA. If you spread flowers among many vases it also creates a beautiful composition. They KEY here is to trim the stems very neatly to create a clean look.

Lisianthus are  inexpensive flowers. These are available at my local supermarket

 

Spring decorating by Midwestliving.com with ferns instead of flowers. You can pick anything from your back yard for this.

 

2- Go vintage, like an English Cottage. 

An old water jar, a wooden bucket, a tin or a Harney & Sons tea can, make a wonderful flower arrangement too. If the flowers are not so fabulous, the arrangement will stand out with an original vase.

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Image from Gabba Gabba Gorgeous

 

3- Pick your colors wisely

You can take a multi flower bouquet and separate the flowers for different rooms or spaces. Even the leaves can be used in separate vases like the example above.

Try to pick smaller single flower packs instead of ready made bouquets. They are cheaper and easier to play with. For example 3 different flowers in the same color,  two packs of two colors (white and yellow, yellow and orange, pink and purple…) or 3 shades of the same color.

 

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Gladiolus in pastel shades.  They are a bit more expensive but they make a very dramatic effect with the long stems. Filling the room

 

4- Less and more.

Make a few flowers really stand out when they are lose in a big vase. Or go to the other extreme and fill the vase with lots of flowers of the same type making it very crowded. This works for big or small vases, so it all depends on your mood and your budget.

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Baby’s breath an affordable and easy to find flower. You can also skip the water and let them dry. They will last forever.

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I don’t know the name of these big purple puff flowers but they are $6 a bunch and look fabulous all aligned in the vase

 

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White chrysanthemum (2 packs of $4.50) in a large vase from IKEA and voila!

 

How to arrange your home bouquet

  • Step 1 – Remove the leaves from about 5 centimeters below the flower to the bottom of the stem
  • Step 2 – Cut your flowers in 3 different heights, of about 3 cm difference between each other. This will help you arrange them in round shape of you are using a wide open vase
  • Step 3 – If the flowers do not quite fill the opening, cut them to approximately 15cm above the opening, so they will stick together
  • Step 4 – Arrange and re-arrange so that there’s no 2 flowers of the same kind next to each other

For the minimal look you can take inspiration from two different regions, Japan and Scandinavia.

If you trim the stems every other day and change the water frequently they can last a whole week, and then you can make another arrangement for the following week.

If one flower is getting a little stale and spoils the composition you can move to another room by itself while it lasts, to make the most of the investment.

 

Now you know what to do next time you go to the supermarket. Put those flowers to your trolley and enjoy the flower arranging!

Until next time.

Tips to match your outfits with your children’s

Let’s face it, deep inside we all want our kids to be like us. Like a Mini-me, an improved version of ourselves. Same features, same gestures and why not same style? While they are little and still do what we say, it’s so much fun to dress them up.

Matching parent-kid outfits are just too cute to resist. As long as it’s not unhealthy or uncomfortable for the kid and it’s done within the limits of good taste (of course) it’s a great way to bond with your kids and even encourage creativity.

Nevertheless It’s easy to get carried away. We should all keep a level of sanity when it comes to dressing our kids up. A child is an empty vessel and giving so much importance and attention to physical appearance can have a negative effect on the child. With all the body shaming going around let’s keep the head on the shoulders.

I could spend hours doing a ‘Yay -Nay’ session over the famous Instagram account Fashion Kids, where parents from all over the world submit photos of their fashionable kids to get featured. They cross the borders many times, from cute to over the top. Instead I’m going to give you a few examples and 5 easy  tips to keep it sane.

This is a ‘Nay’ for me. a Big one.

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The vest, the bag, the glasses… Looking back, my own mother didn’t have much of a chance to do this. First, 30+ years ago the choices of baby clothes were limited and they certainly did not resemble adult clothes. Second, I was the kind of child that at 2 years of age asked to be picked up every morning to select what dress I would wear to kindergarten. Read: strong headed and opinionated. The one with cherries was my favorite. No chance to make me wear anything I did not approve of.

How to match parent-kid outfits tastefully

If I had a girl I would of course love to have some matching clothes. It’s fun and playful, but I would rather match subtly than having the exact same outfit in big and small size. That’s just too much to me. (more on this below).

It will be hard to resits buying all those cute little outfits to kind of match my own when you  see them in every high street shop. It’s ridiculous how adorable and overpriced they are! I would  probably need a course on how to be the Minimalistic Scandinavian mum. Still, l would fall in the trap most likely. What I would no do is dress my kid like this. Like an adult. Not even for the sake of the photo. Unless it’s Halloween of course.

Big ‘Nay’. Look at the mini LV Speedy, the gladiator sandals and the gold bangles.

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Instead I would rather use similar items in adult and child version. Like this boho-chic white dress combined with tan sandals and denim jacket

Yay!

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If I have a boy I’m very sure he will be a mini-troglodyte rather than a mini me, but there’s no way I’m going to let those two, Big troglodyte and Baby troglodyte, go around wearing matching football jerseys. Unless they are going to a game. Over my dead body!

There will still be some level of style and matching, just because I love stylish and matching clothes. It could be with my own clothes or making use of The Troglodyte’s collection of Ted Baker flower print shirts. There will no be dressing my little boy as a preppy miniature monster or  a glorified beard-less hipster.

Nay! No way. It’s not even funny. No even the Beckham boys do this.

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Another nay, nay, nay. Trying too hard I’m afraid!

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It’s  a big Yay for both wearing stripes.

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It’s an adorable Yay for matching swimming shorts for father and son.

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 Here’s 5 quick tips to matching outfits successfully:

1- Match accessories. A cute scarf, shoes, a hat, crown of flowers or a bandana make a very nice match.

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2- Match colors and prints, not cuts. Pick different dresses or pieces in the same print or color. Below you will find a few brands that sell mother – kids combos.

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3- No adult like accessories, like chunky jackets necklaces and bracelets or high heeled shoes. Chances are they can’t even walk properly on them no matter how much they like them. Children play all the time and they need to be comfy to run around, and safe!

This to me is a Nay! She’s even wearing make up! I see myself in this outfit though.

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4- Do not do their hair elaborately unless you are going to a wedding or something of the sort. They are not dolls. I have no comment on this one.

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Nay below. Overdone. Let’s set better examples for our kids.

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5- Go for brands that make adapted kid versions. You can find plenty of them online, but if you like to window shopping and have time in your hands it can be a really fun project to find matching clothes by yourself and your kids.

Yay! cute and tasteful with a playful touch

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Mommy and Me collection from Bliss Tulle

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Envie de Fraise – Family collection

 

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Marisya Swim wear

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You can find lots of cute Mum-Kid outfits from Australia Women’s Weekly Magazine here 

To sum up

Dressing kids like adults brings the inner child in every parent, but they are not toys ,they are little people in the middle of development and we are responsible of it. It’s not good for them to be overly exposed to a high level of importance given to external appearance. There will be enough of this toxicity from society later on that you will not be able to avoid, so better to set a good base to face that.

Parents that over do the whole ‘dressing kids like adults’ thing probably do it is a way to channel their own desires or frustrations, but at times I wonder if It’s not keeping in in mind, thinking of what’s best for the child.

Kudos to Angelia Jolie and Brad Pitt for letting Shiloh wear boys clothes just because she wanted. Think of how wrecked a lot of celebrity kids become. It’s just very scary to see how some parents encourage them to grow too fast. I know it’s extreme but, Michael Jackson… Macaulay Culkin… Toddled with Tiaras…even the satire Little Miss Sunshine.

New generations like Ivy Blue, Suri Cruise or Harper Beckham are perfectly good examples of stylish kids that still look like kids. Even if they have the most expensive wardrobes you can imagine, they are not dressed to mimic their very famous and very stylish mothers.

I think that when the  moment comes for me to become a parent I’m going to become the most conservative person ever, but until then this is where I stand.

Let’s please keep a level of sanity.

The Essential Headscarf Guide – in 7 easy steps

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Continuing with my fascination and admiration for stylish Muslim divas, I had to make a post about headscarves. But this one goes out not just to Muslim women, hijab or no hijab, but also to women of all kinds who’ve lost their hair through alopecia or chemotherapy. I hope they find this guide useful too.

Without going too deep questioning the values of today’s society, it is a fact and a reality that how we look affects our self confidence, tremendously. I love fashion, and I do not believe it’s a vain or superficial thing. It’s a way of self expression, creativity, a tool to make people feel good. Women with cancer (just like everybody else) turn to the internet to look for beauty tips, tricks, solutions and illusions. Fashion is a very important tool to lift their spirits. Feeling attractive while going through cancer makes people feel normal, healthy, human.

The woman below, with the eternal smile, went through chemo during pregnancy. She looks amazing in her pregnancy body, post baby body and chemo body. She found ways to adjust her style to the changes and she radiates bliss no matter when or how you look at her. She’s a champion! A true inspiration. This one goes out to her.

Now let’s get down to business. Here’s my Essential Head Scarf Guide – in 7 easy steps

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HOW TO MAKE A HEADSCARF OUTFIT LOOK GOOD

This whole article is based on research and observation, and I have observed that to make a good hijab outfit stand out from the crowd, you need to consider 2 factors.  First is to pick the wrapping style that best suits your features, and then match the scarf nicely with the rest of the outfit. In a nutshell that’s it! but let’s see how to do it.

1- Picking the wrapping style that best suits your.  There’s plenty of tutorials online about how to match a hijab to the shape of your face, and endless videos on how to tie it. If I may add to the clutter, I think taking into consideration to your features is also important when choosing a headscarf. For example if you don’t have very sharp features, an exaggerated hood style of headscarf might not be the most flattering for you. Even if it’s the trend. It will put all of your face in the shade.

Chose the right hijab for your face shape

Image credit: misshijabi.com

Once we have the basics cleared lets look at different styles. From turban knot to high Arab princess crown, fully tucked , half tucked, lose on the sides or all wrapped around scarf. The possibilities are endless. Bloggers like Indah Nada Puspita, Hana Tajima,  or Nuriyah O. Martinez can give you a lot more ideas. Here you have my top 6 styles of headscarves.

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The Turban – with rolled tiara 😉 (by Indah Nada Puspita)

 

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The classic – two folds and fully tucked in

 

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The hoodie – with a bit of side scarf

 

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The full crown – My personal favorite. Lots of folds and texture

 

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The Knot – Playful turban with knot on the forehead (by Indah Nada Puspita)

 

The Turban + Scarf. Hip and modern way to create a full hijab effect combining with 2 pieces

 

2- Adjust the volume. If you are wearing a coat or a bulky structured top, opt for a headscarf with less volume. If you are wearing a very long flowing outfit, or a more fitting outfit, you can play a little and add more volume to the hijab. This is the key not to have an overdone look that can look exaggerated and artificial. Or like my dear boyfriend The Troglodyte says: trying to hard.

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High volume hijab with flowing long top and skinny jeans

 

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Low volume fully tucked hijab with big poncho


3- The one print per outfit rule.
If you are wearing a printed blouse or skirt, avoid an printed scarf, and vice-versa. Mixing prints and colors can look great but it can also look awful. It’s tricky! Keeping it to one print per outfit is a good way to be safe. You can find lots of examples in my Pinterest album.  If you want a few hints about mixing prints and being more adventurous, keep reading. There’s more below.

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Plain scarf with striped top. Mixing black white and orange, a trend for this season. Spring 06

 

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Printed Scarf – Floral patters, another trend for this season

 

4- Don’t make it too tight. One thing I have observed consistently is that ALL nice looking headscarves are not fitted tightly all around the face. Interestingly, that’s the most common style I see in the streets of Singapore. A little volume achieved with the folds of the fabric replaces the volume of the hair in a very natural way, and that makes all the difference.

When it’s 33 degrees with 90% humidity outside, I’m sure wearing an elastic ready made lycra hijab with a visor is very comfortable and cooling. Mmmmm… I get it, and I respect it. It just doesn’t look as good as a proper one in my opinion. Sorry, it reminds me too much of a swimming cap or a balaclava. It’s a bit like sports equipment, and where I come from we only wear that to exercise.

I found a very interesting article on the BBC suggesting that the lack of appropriate hijab options might be hindering Muslim women’s participation in sports.  Again another sign of how little attention has been given to this group of customers on a big scale. This young Canadian lady is Elham Seyed Javad. She started designing her own sports hijabs to fill the gap in the market. Nevertheless we are talking about fashion here.  This is super practical but not the most flattering option outside the field or the court. Kudos for the initiative, of course.

Seyed Javad wears a Resport Hijab, designed by her and to be marketed for female muslim athletes in Montreal on Wednesday, November 11, 2009. The head covering will be available in long sleeve and short sleeve depending on the athletes wish's. THE TORONTO STAR/Peter McCabe

Elham Seyed Javad wears a ResportOn Hijab, designed by her and to be marketed for female muslim athletes in Montreal – THE TORONTO STAR/Peter McCabe

 

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have to PAUSE and throw a little disclaimer here. I am not a Muslim, and I do not wear a headscarf myself. I understand the original purpose of a hijab is not to be a fashion accessory. Nevetheless I’m treating it as such in this post. In the most respectful and entertaining way I can. If you want to learn more about the meaning of the hijab and what it is to dress modestly, I recommend you read this article from Haute Hijab: An Interview “It” girl Farah. There’s also quite a bit of controversy around Muslim women wearing skinny jeans. I decided to leave that aside.

5- Matching an outfit to a print. In my previous post, Modest and very stylish. The rise of Muslim fashion, I mentioned that one of the easiest tricks to pull out a headscarf outfit is to first pick an item with a print, and then choose colors from that print for the rest of the items. This will create a very harmonious look of matching elements. Here you have a few more examples of outfits that follow this tip.

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The colors of the cardigan the blouse and the skirt come from the scarf

 

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Beautiful flower tunic and matching headscarf

 

6- Matching complementary colors.  Although it might shock us at first, this one comes from a scientific base. The chart below will help you find groups of 3 complementary colors. Pick one color, and then find the ones just opposite on the wheel to get the complementary brother/sister. I use this for my coloring too 🙂 To learn more about the theory of color  have a look at this article from Buzzle.

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Red and green with poka dots. It’s a bit Christmasy but it works

 

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Navy goes well will nearly anything. I love he shirt and skirt combination!

 

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Yellow with Navy. Contrast and matching the scarf that’s the same color as the flowers in the blouse

 

7- The ultimate art is to make different prints go well together. I’m particularly conservative when it comes to this. So I only dare to mix prints in monochrome, or stripes with a flowery print. I think that one print has to be very bold and the other very subtle or repetitive.

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Farah featured in Haute Hijab with a print hijab and striped skirt

 

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Bold printed scarf and polka dots skirt. This look is amazing

 

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“It girl” Olivia Palermo for Emirates Woman Magazine. Leopard print dress and heavily printed scarf

There are endless combinations that just work and I couldn’t explain you why so I’m going to leave it there. Layering and mixing of items is the gist of Muslim fashion so have fun!

Until the next one, ilah al-liqah!
إلى اللقاء

My Fat Suit – A story of weight loss and weight gain


Imagine falling asleep one day and waking up three months later with 10 kgs more. That’s pretty much how I felt after weeks in my pajamas, nursing some sort of tropical pneumonia I got at a Christmas party.  Suddenly the brain fog was gone. I felt alive and energized. I wanted to exercise, go places… and then, I discovered The Fat Suit.

I had put on so much weight that my rolls were on the way of everything. I couldn’t bend forward doing yoga because there was something unfamiliar blocking the way between my chest and my pelvis: My pregnancy like belly. I never had much of a backside and now my butt jiggled like jelly as I walked. The feeling was so foreign to me it felt like I had put on butt implants. Sitting was fun. Like having a chair cushion made to measure. It was amusing at times and at times disturbing, but my lovely boyfriend The Troglodyte was more than happy to welcome my new Latin Ass to the family.

My thighs now rubbed each other when I walked. Reminding me with every step that they didn’t use to do that in the recent past. It was entertaining to discover the changes. There was like a soft padding all around them that had a life of its own. Nigella Lawson once described the perfect texture for her peanut butter cheesecake as inner thigh wobble. Perfect analogy. The inner, the outer, the front and the back. It was all wobbling like a gorgeous cheesecake.

For months I could not see the weight accumulating. I was too busy being happy. I was having fun and enjoying life. Going out with my friends, making new friends, dating and falling in love with The Troglodyte. Eating and drinking the same copious amounts he gulps should have rang a bell. I’m half his size and have a fourth of his fitness level. It was not surprising that I put on weight. It was simply not important.

It was going take a while to get used to. My brain did not have any recollection of the new volumes so it still thought I was my usual weight. The brain fog was gone it could not process the changes fast enough so I found myself hitting the furniture in occasions.  It was a bit like having an Audi A3 all your life, suddenly changing to an A4 and drive around hitting every curb. I have to admit it was pretty hilarious.

I was wearing a Fat Suit I couldn’t take off.  I was fat and happy, bubbly like Bubbles DeVere from little Britain.  Very much willing to celebrate I was finally felling well. Champagne for everyone!

It was just a few extra happy pounds. But as you can imagine, I didn’t fit in ANY of my clothes. Strangling bras and panties are the closest to Chinese torture I have ever experienced. When I had to go shopping for a new size of everything, I found myself caught in a dilemma. Should I invest on a new wardrobe or not? Am I really an ogre like Princess Fiona from Shrek and I was just under a spell all this while? Or was this the actual reality? Where did all those tiny clothes hanging in my closet come from? and why where they bothering me so much?

Let’s rewind a bit.

A year ago I was 10kgs lighter. I was super super skinny like I have never been in my entire life. I had lost a lot of weight in a short period of time. Some weight that I wanted to lose, and some I didn’t want to lose and went away anyway. I always thought it was temporary, that I would go back to my normal weight. So I stopped thinking about it or doing anything about it.

All my clothes hanged on me like sacks. I did not look good. I looked sick. I had severe anxiety, hyperthyroidism, and digestive problems. My eyes were sunken. My cheekbones protruded out of my face.  I sometimes didn’t even wear a bra because there was nothing there to hold. My butt was flat. The skin on my face was paper thin. To the point that my dermatologist suggested I get fillers to look better. Yet, a lot of people were so willing to praise my figure and discover the key to my epic weight loss . What diet did you do? What was the magic formula? It was body shaming, but I could not tell them that. I was not aware back then.

The constant body remarks I was hammered with, slowly killed my appetite and wounded my spirit. It was presented to me as a challenge, a chance to try something I have never done before. Something we could do together. How fit could I get, how thin could I get. I never thought my body needed massive renovations, but I did have my insecurities like everybody else. Manipulators prey on insecurities and feed on your frustrations. I jumped to it half heatedly, more to learn about something that was important to HIM than anything else. But HE, the man that treated waiters badly, never had enough. I was never enough. I was never trying hard enough or was committed enough to having the body he wanted me to have.

I lost appetite for food and appetite for life. Why did I jump in? To prove myself I have will power? No. It was to feel accepted by somebody I loved that obviously didn’t love me back in the same way.

When the the body shaming and the relationship finished, I decided to buy a bunch of fancy expensive clothes in celebration. I wanted to feel pretty, attractive and desirable again. Something I had not felt for a very long time. And it did the job. It helped me feel normal again.

Months later the fat suit materialized itself all around me to everybody’s entertainment. I felt happy, I was healthy and even felt sexy, but It seemed the weight was the thing people noticed the most. I found strangers and familiar faces staring and my belly all the time and asking if I was pregnant. ‘I’m not pregnant. I’m just fat. Get over it!’ – I used to tell them. It was like a constant reminder that something was wrong with me, but there is really nothing wrong with me anymore. I have a healthy functional body that allows me to do anything I have to do. There is something really wrong with them, and by them I mean society. We need to teach our children realistic body standards.

What really bothered me at the end of the day is that the tiny clothes were very beautiful and I just wish they were my size. I like beautiful things. Will I go to an extreme to fit back in them? NO. I don’t know if I will eventually sell them or keep them as a reminder of those times. The fact is that It’s really not that important. 

 

 

In-flight guided meditation

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I always prefer to take night flights, but when a day flight is unavoidable, killing 12h on a plane can get a little challenging. The in-flight entertainment system could be your salvation, but if you fly a lot you will exhaust the options soon. What to do then?! Keep calm and meditate.

If you think about it, being alone on a plane for a long period of time is a bit like a spiritual retreat. A chance for some introspection, to get some “me” time and put your head in order. There’s no internet, nowhere to go, not much to look at, no interruptions, you have nowhere to go but inwards. What does it sound like? YES, meditation.

If you are afraid of flying or just stressed by the whole thing, this meditation can help you get in good spirits for your long flight. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed even if you are a frequent flyer. The packing frenzy, the traffic, the check-in queues, that moment when you don’t know if you will get away with those 10 extra kgs in your luggage… Then security scans, shoes off, shoes on, immigration, customs, waiting, boarding, placing your luggage in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you, fasten your seat-belt and switch off all electronic devices…

You made it, now it’s time for YOU to SWITCH OFF

In-flight meditation

Settle in your seat. Make sure you are not cold. Place a pillow or blanket on your lower back and sit up straight, but relaxed. Plant both feet firmly on the floor, rest your hands on your thighs and gently take a few long, deep breaths. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth with a releasing sigh. Keep your eyes softly opened and gazing slightly downwards, to the pocket with magazines in front of you. This elongates the neck and facilitates relaxing the muscles. With each exhale try to remove the tension of the whole of your body. Do this 5 times at least.

Now start to breathe only through the nose. Observe your breath and resist the temptation to control it. You are just a witness of that phenomenon that happens without you even thinking it  Close your eyes gently and use each breath to scan your body from the top of the head to the tip of the toes. Each breath goes through that specific area like a healing wave and releases any accumulated tension. Let the tension leave with the exhale.

Relax your forehead, the muscles around your eyes. Feel the cool air entering the body through your nosetrils and notice how the air feels warmer when it leaves. Relax the sides of your mouth. Let it open slightly if that’s it’s most relaxed position for you. Unclench your jaw and your teeth. Relax the back your neck,  the front of your neck, your throat and collar bone.

Stop a little longer on your shoulders, for four to five breaths. We hold a lot of tension there. Once you are ready and at your own pace, move your awareness down to the chest. Notice the air first fills some areas of your lungs and then others. Do not inflate your chest. Remember you are just an spectator. Your breath is breathing you, you are not in control. Your whole body is breathing and it happens without your intervention. Leave the belly soft, letting it inflate and deflate naturally with each breath. Make it stick out softly, nobody is looking, nobody cares. You are alone in your own air bubble floating over oceans and continents. You don’t hear the noises around you anymore. It’s just you and your breath.

Go down to the belly. Feel it rise and fall with each breath. Stay here if you wish. Feel your arms breathing too. From the shoulder, the elbow, forearm, top of the hand, back of the hand, fingers. The whole of the arm. Do the same with your legs. The back of the thighs, the front of the thighs, the calves, the shins, ankles, top of the feet, toes. Feel the soles of the feet in contact with the ground. Feel the vibration, your whole body is breathing. Keep our whole body in awareness. With each breath feel the air run through you as if you where a sponge. From the top of the head to the soles of the feet. Stay here as long as you wish.

Congratulations! Just by reading this you have already felt the bliss of meditation. You have probably scanned your body  with each line and unconsciously followed the instructions. You might feel sleepy, then sleep. You might feel calm and content, or energized. There’s no magic formula. You are feeling whatever it is that needs to be felt right now in your body.

When you reduce external stimulus the senses stop bothering the mind and it goes quiet. I have my brightest ideas in those moments. Starting the flight with this simple meditation had me writing posts for the last 8h. I think I’m over India at the moment which is very appropriate! I feel calm and inspired, my head bubbling with ideas.

It doesn’t always go this way though, and there’s nothing wrong with you if that’s the case. Keep trying if you are keen. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Calm.com has some nice free audio meditations you can download to your phone before a flight. If your inner Buddha has gone out fishing and your inner jumpy monkey is in charge, check out 10 things to do to entertain yourself on a long flight. Coming soon.

Until then, namaste, and safe travels!

5 really useful tips to survive long flights

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If there’s one thing in life I have lot’s of experience with, that is flying long haul. I sometimes feel like the woman version of Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets. OCD basically. I have perfected the art of passing security scans, lifting cabin luggage to the overhead compartments, maximizing your luggage allowance and providing myself with as much comfort as the economy class allows.

People ask me a lot how do I survive, so here’s my list of essential tips and equipment you should carry with you to survive on a long flight.

1- MOISTURIZE

This is THE most important thing I learnt through the years. The long exposure to the dry air of the cabin has devastating effects on my hair and skin. My eyes, my nose, my throat, even my nails suffer badly. The lack of humidity also also contributes to other discomforts one can live without.

  • Moisturize from the outside. Carry at least lip balm, and face lotion. Even my boyfriend The Troglodyte does! I also carry body lotion, face mist, nose spray, hand lotion and Strepsils for the throat. Get travel sizes, samples or just pour your own into small containers like these ones I buy in Muji.  Avoid wearing make up and before boarding apply a thick layer of night cream on your face (I pick from high end Duty Free testers) When you start feeling the tightness, go on and apply from your stock generously.
Muji Travel Bottles & PP Cases - Image from getthegloss.com

Muji Travel Bottles & PP Cases – Image from getthegloss.com

  • Moisturize from the inside. Drinking lots of water helps the skin issue and prevents the other two big ‘dementors’ of flying: water retention and constipation. I carry my own small water bottle that I refill as often as possible because they never serve enough water on flights. Yes, you read properly, you can actually pass a water bottle through security as long as it’s empty. Avoid ice water, and opt for an apple juice instead of coffee or alcohol, they dry you up even more!

If you don’t want to end up like a raisin add these to your bag and you will not regret it.

2 – WEAR COMPRESSION LEGGINGS

They should give a pack of these to every person walking into the plane, seriosyly. Without going too deep into the science, flying is not very good for your blood circulation. Women tend to be particularly sensitive to this. It used to take me days to get rid of the water retention, the discomfort and swelling of the knees, ankles and even wrists and fingers. Now I don’t even get it. I started using Dr Scholl’s compression leggings, but later I bought some exercise leggings and discovered they are so much more comfortable because they have softer parts on the knees. I have the A400 model from Skins but they get a little tight on the belly when you sit down for too long, so I’m considering the Under Armour Woman’s Fly By Legging. They have a big waist similar to yoga pants. I wear the compression leggings under comfy cotton harem pants to stay stylish.

from LuLuBu via Pinterest

Harem Pants from LuLuBu via Pinterest

3- STAY WARM

A big scarf that doubles as a shawl and a blanket can save your life. Sometimes I even wear it over my head since we lose a lot of heat from there. This pink one from Shanghai Tang is a perfect blend of silk and cashmere that’s soft, warm and light. I have a very similar one from a previous collection.

Try to keep your lower back, neck and feet covered.  A pair of thermal socks can also help if you tend to get cold feet. I like Heattech from Uniqlo and I wear them under the ones they usually give you on the flights. They are thin but warm. When it gets really really cold and two pairs of socks plus blanket don’t do the job, the ultimate trick is to put your wrapped feet inside the plastic bag of the blanket. I think the idea came to me in a moment of absolute desperation and this trick has saved me several times from frostbite!

W Peony Pop Silk Cashmere Jacquard Shawl from Shanghai Tang

W Peony Pop Silk Cashmere Jacquard Shawl from Shanghai Tang

4- CARRY YOUR OWN SNACKS

A cereal bar, a piece of fruit or something else to eat between meals. They tend to serve one meal right after take off, and one before landing. In the 7-10 hours in between you are by yourself. There’s only light snacks and it’s like war, the good stuff tends to run out quickly. You don’t want to be cold , tired, bored and hungry on top of that so add that to your bag.

5- ENTERTAINMENT

Carry enough things to keep you busy in case the movie selection is is not good, and you have a long day flight without any chance of having a long sleep. Use the time to read, meditate and enjoy the smartphone disconnection. If you are hyperactive, coming up soon, you will have my full guide of ‘in flight entertainment tips for long day flights’ for people that have ants in their pants

Until then, safe journeys!

 

Modest and very stylish. The rise of Muslim fashion

When Uniqlo launched a collection with blogger with Hana Tajima I realized how little attention has been given to provide off the shelf, easy to combine clothing options for Muslim women in the high street fashion industry. Social Media has given this community a new vehicle to share tips and express themselves creatively (#hijab #hijabfashion #muslimah) but this step forward to brick and mortar validates a smashing online reality: Islam is not incompatible with style.

From my Western European upbringing, I grew up seeing Muslim women mortified in their clothing. It was more of a punishment in my eyes. I remember teenage Moroccan girls wearing thick long sleeve winter turtle necks under spaghetti strap maxi dresses, on hot summer days. I thought: God they must be suffocating! I realize now that part of it was the lack of suitable options available for them. Luckily nowadays I see many young Muslim women dressed nicely, modestly and wearing hijabs like proud crowns. They have more comfortable options at their disposal and they are able to express themselves. Fashion has empowered them. I see them in the streets of Singapore, dignified and with an enormous amount of creativity and style. Writing this article made me aware of this evolution and encouraged me promote the cause, to celebrate diversity in fashion. It will not be the last one on this topic.

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Faithful to the brand, the Hana Tajima collection for Uniqlo is a combination of comfortable, well cut basics and a few statement pieces you can mix in endless permutations. Lose fitting tops, slacks, tunics, cool airy dresses and subtly printed scarfs in white and deep shades. If you are not crazy about fashion or can’t spend much time shopping and putting outfits together, this is a fabulous option for you. If you want a little more this might be too bland.

It is bland for me. I was hungry for more, so I went online to find modest Muslim outfits with more sass and what I found really amazed me.

Here are my top 5 Muslim Fashion Blogger outfits –

Ethnic print scarf worn in the front and tied with a belt. Off white hijab and long black dress, from SincerelyMaryam.com

Jersey skirt and knit jumper in grey and whites. Soft colors and chunky trainers, by Nuriyah O. Martinez – Hijabhaul.com

Ethnic print trousers with matching the turban. Mustard blouse and green jacket are picked from colors of the print. This is a great trick. By Imaan Ali – modeststreetfashion.com

Khaki shirt with distressed jeans, brown stripped hijab and pointy heels, by street hijab fashion

Black, white and gold maxi necklace. Win win win! By blogger Essra Azim from Valessie

Out of all brands it was Uniqlo the one to move forward on this area and not Zara or Top Shop for example, high street fashion companies that come from countries that have much bigger Muslim populations than Japan. It surprised me because Japanese is not a very diverse and tolerant culture, from what I have seen myself and what I learnt from my friend Lara, producer of the documentary Hafu – the mixed-race experience in Japan. So kudos to Uniqlo for taking this step with Hana Tajima!

To be continued…

Check out more inspiring modest looks (and more to come) in my Pinterest Album: