Self-portraits & self-isolation

This blog post was originally intended to be dedicated to a few shameless selfies along with some waffling about how much I love my new glasses, but current times have escalated and led me to realise that as much as that may be an escapism for some people (lol, who am I kidding) there is now an elephant in the room to address (that will teach me to take blog pictures and put off writing the content to go with them for so long).

Let me start by saying how much I do love my new glasses (just so I can get it out the way). This is the ‘Jude’ pair by Ollie Quinn, and I’m really happy with my decision to get them. I’m a very indecisive person, so it won’t come as a huge surprise to you that choosing the object that will undoubtedly sit on my nose while I work or drive or watch TV for the foreseeable future is somewhat of a puzzling and laborious endeavour.

I have only owned one other pair since being told I needed them in 2018, and the ones I eventually chose were down to the pressure of not preempting the requirements of the Specsavers appointment and needing to pick them on the spot without a second opinion. Said glasses turned out to be pretty spectacular (awful pun, I’m sorry) until someone sat on them at a house party and I had to tilt my head to hide the wonkiness for about 7 months because, you guessed it, I’d rather deal with the inconvenience than avoid the challenge of replacing them.

Eventually, though, I noticed I was wearing them increasingly throughout the day: where I used to float through until mid-afternoon before reaching for them to sooth the headache that appeared from constantly staring at my screen, I now relied on them to clear the fuzziness when checking my morning emails. An early optician appointment confirmed my eyesight had slightly disintegrated, so I decided this would be the ideal opportunity to take my new prescription and purchase some new glasses to match.

The hunt began with a dedicated investigation, window-shopping brands and reading reviews. I knew I wanted something a little different and more ‘me’ that would suit my everyday life better. I thought I had it sussed with the ‘Elton’ pair from Ace & Tate (I even virtually tried them on through the website feature) but when I took my mate Abi with me to the shop for moral support, they really didn’t suit me. I have a tiny head so my face easily gets drowned out by frames, but I was devastated as I had really pictured myself in them!

She suggested we look in Ollie Quinn, a brand that proved I had clearly not done my research properly. While I wasn’t sold on the spot, luckily I took some pictures and discovered I was very fond of ‘Jude’ when revisiting them. So I set up an Instagram poll (obviously) and when the majority agreed with me I took the plunge and ordered them! Some of the reviews about customer service were quite poor but I had a great experience: they arrived within about a week in great condition and a very cool case.

The retro, oversized style compliments my petite face rather than overwhelming it, shines a spotlight on my freckles and illuminates my eyes. My key jewellery pieces are gold, so the wiry frames fit right in without looking bulky or tacky.

Writing about fashion has never come naturally to me. Despite my previous burning desire to be a fashion journalist, I have no idea what I’m doing when I talk about clothes. I treasure my personal style, I curate outfits I love, I wear them, and then I try to conjure up some words to describe the ensemble for the benefit of this blog when it’s never necessary anyway because you can clearly see how it looks from my photos. All I can do is be honest and transparent about how certain items make me feel, where I shop and how I throw garments together to suit my taste.

In recent times I have attempted to steer away from a purely sartorial focus on this space in order to discuss more prominent topics that are prevalent in the world or affecting my life, such as how I am being more sustainable, or simply sharing stories and experiences I have encountered.

I’m a stubborn Leo, so while there’s no chance of me giving up modelling my own clothes and generating opportunities for vain photoshoots, I figured you can pick up a copy of Vogue if you want to know what’s on trend. I’ll just stick with sharing the looks that are inspiring me from my own wardrobe (which is mostly second hand or well-invested in).

In acknowledgement of loyalty to that content, this t-shirt is doubly thrifted because it did belong to my brother, who bought it from a charity shop. I adore yellow and anything oversized, so I was over the moon when he said I could have it. Since then I have been mixing and matching it with various combinations of overalls and jeans and loving the vibrancy it exudes.

These vintage Tommy Hilfiger dungarees are from Cow Vintage (specifically the Nottingham branch, where I spent much of my time and money while at Trent university) and have featured on this blog a few times before because they are a genuine staple for me. I wear them exclusively when I want to be comfy / on long roadtrips / when I’m in a style rut / because they are effortlessly cool and have become an authentic embodiment of my dress sense. Despite being quite a statement, they really transform with whatever you style with them; be that the shoes, the t-shirt, or the accessories.

Ironically I took these photos before self-isolation needed to be a thing, because I was lacking inspiration from my typical photo shoots and wanted to be a little more creative of my own accord. So I figured, what better way to show off my new facial feature than to stick my camera on a tripod and time it to capture some personal, intimate shots by my nan’s front door?

Now we’re being told to self-isolate wherever possible. I am incredibly privileged that in my job I can work from home, and I find luxury in being able to do so every once in a while. However, being informed we have to be working from home as offices are shut puts it into a whole new perspective.

It also makes me frustrated that this isn’t a benefit that most jobs can offer. The people who we rely on the most aren’t able to prop their corporate laptops and work phones up on makeshift desk in their cosy home; supermarket workers and NHS staff (who are on the frontline of the Coronavirus pandemic) have to endure working in the most at-risk environments just so that we can keep ourselves afloat with routine appointments and weekly supplies.

That being said, many people are being warned to quarantine themselves regardless, and in our free time we are urged to stay inside in the interests of preventing the spread of the virus and keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe. It’s scary and it’s strange and it’s fucking shit.

Weddings and celebrations have been cancelled, gigs and festivals are being postponed, travel is limited, companies are filing for administration and lots of our hard-earned plans are now up in the air; but most importantly people are dying. COVID-19 has totally upheaved our social structures and instilled fear into the majority of the population globally, let alone those who are already vulnerable: the homeless, the unemployed, refugees, those on low incomes and the elderly, who rely on support networks and organised groups to survive.

Restaurant employees and small business owners who work unsociable hours to bring us joy are suffering because we are being told to stay away. And what worries me the most is that this is just the beginning. The entire economy is at risk, but so is people’s health. It’s an unprecedented and confusing situation.

While it’s definitely not a major problem in the grand scheme of things, our trip to Brighton this weekend had to be cancelled. Thankfully we got a full refund through Airbnb and the Hollie McNish show we were attending has been postponed until September. I’m aware that some fellow travellers have had to abort expensive holidays without getting any money back and others have been stranded abroad due to restrictions and closing borders. Nonetheless I was really looking forward to a break, and I’m not going to pretend it hasn’t upset me because my feelings are still valid even if I’m not suffering the worst consequence. We need to surround each other with love and solidarity if we’re going to make it through this test.

The point of this blog isn’t to add to the scaremongering doom and gloom that you can sign up for with notifications from the BBC News app. I have found comfort in the fact that because of social media and technology and the communities we have developed online, we are actually more connected and united than ever before, despite the awful cause that is physically dividing us.

I’m not going to be that person that preaches about how to be most productive working from home either, as there are some brilliant articles advising better than I ever could (see here one of my favourites).

What I can do, though, is share the promising antidotes to this unfamiliar period that I have complied from different corners of the web and from conversations with positive friends, that have helped me experience faith in humanity and stay sane, in the hope that it can inspire you to find new opportunities to adapt and take pleasure in the little things while this madness rages on.

DUNGAREES Cow Vintage (find similar here) | T-SHIRT thrifted (similar here) | GLASSES Ollie Quinn

How you can help others

Donate to a food bank
These are sanctuaries many people rely on but they are in trouble due to people stockpiling. Use this site to find your nearest one.

Offer to help
If you’re willing and able to offer up your services to anyone living locally who may benefit from it then write a note and leave it publicly in the reception area of your block of flats, or print out this template and slip it through your neighbours’ doors. Maybe you could pick up their groceries and leave on the doorstep, or just offer your number in case of an emergency.

Take only what you need
Stockpiling (unless it’s wine, in which case I totally understand) is pointless and only works to block others from accessing essential items. You can still order deliveries from stores right to your door if worried about how you will cope during quarantine.

Shop small
Independent businesses need support more than ever, so swap big chains for local high street boutiques if you have the means to do so. You could buy a meal or gift voucher that will provide much needed income for a retailer in the short-term, and once everything blows over you can enjoy a nice reward or give it as a gift.

Sign petitions
To show solidarity for groups that are being hit hard. Self-employed workers, the NHS and others are campaigning for additional rights and funding during this turbulent stage. By simply electronically signing your name (it takes seconds) and even sharing the link on your networks if you are able to, it can make a big impact. After all, we’re in this together. Change.org and UK Government and Parliament Petitions are great places to find causes that align with your values and you can opt for email updates to follow what happens next, too.

Ways to stay positive

Self-care
If you are homebound for the foreseeable future, make sure you are putting yourself first. Be kind to your body and mind: indulge in long, hot baths, meditate, practice yoga, and use it as a peaceful outlet for reflection.

Exercise
There are limitations to where we can go, but spending time in the fresh air is a fundamental right. The gym probably won’t be an option for much longer, but that doesn’t mean you have to confine yourself to being sedentary. Go for a run or walk once everyday (I have been using my lunch breaks to do this and have found it boosts productivity immensely and helps me clear my head) or try a home workout.

Consider the upsides
I know that’s easier said than done, but what could you be doing that you wouldn’t normally have time for? Perhaps your shed needs tidying or you were about to embark on some renovating? Alternatively, weigh up your finances. Are you saving money not going out or on your commute? Work out how you can save now and spend when normality resumes – maybe plan a holiday or a treat that you’ve desired for ages.

Things to do whilst self-isolating

Make a list of fun things to do
I owe my good friend and ray of sunshine Beth for this one. It’s a bit disheartening to know you can’t just pop down the pub with your friends and put things on hold for a few hours to have a laugh, but whether you’re alone or shacked up with a partner, family, or roommate, there are loads of activities waiting to be enjoyed. Here are some of her amazing ideas: karaoke night, fancy date night, Harry Potter drinking game, choreographing a dance and (my personal favourite) throwing an indoor festival with your favourite setlists on the telly! Leverage the power of the internet if you need to and Skype / FaceTime companions.

Read
I for one am ecstatic about getting my teeth stuck into the neglected book pile gathering dust on my bedside table. I’m a slow reader unless something is absolutely addictive, and usually the task gets shunned for writing or socialising. So hand me a novel and a glass of red and I’ll be in my element!

Netflix and chill
If reading isn’t your thing, dig into the mental note of films or TV series’ you’ve been making and meaning to watch for ages. But be warned, once you finish everything you may have to start on the books.

Get creative!
Start a new hobby or resume an old favourite. Learn an instrument, try a new art medium, learn a different language or write some poetry (or crack on with the novel you have been meaning to start…).

Make phone calls
Contact the family or friends you’re normally too busy to speak to and give them your full attention. Catch up, reassure each other and enjoy the pleasure of their distant company.

Cook or bake
Try out some new recipes and savour the fulfilment that creating a meal or dessert brings (as well as savouring the taste). When dinner parties are allowed again, you’ll have loads of new tricks up your sleeve to wow guests with!

I say we take to the streets for a national celebration once this is over, but until then we need to stay safe and be kind to each other. The gift of time is something we are always searching for and so rarely granted, so let’s make the most of it.

Lily x

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