Thursday, 23 June 2016

Curvy Barbie Fashionista Review

As a feminist mum to a doll loving little girl I have often worried about the gender stereotypes they promote. Tiny waists, large boobs and impossibly long slender legs seem to always be the norm. They are white and blonde, cisgendered and able bodied. Its hard not to wonder if Barbie promotes sexist ideals on what it is to be a woman.

I was lucky in a way as the Monster High Craze took off just as Baba discovered dolls. Although still promoting a very thin body shape,  the whole story arc behind the franchise is that they are  all descendants of monsters. The cartoons focused on them being misfits who found support within a community and embraced their differences. As toy obsessions go it could be worse.
That's not to say we don't have a few Barbies because we do. The Barbie films have always been firm favorites (I found the mother load of the DVDs at a car-boot a few years back so we have watched them all quite  a few times, "Barbie and the Diamond castle" was four year old Baba's absolutely fave) so inevitably we have picked up some of the dolls along the way.

The news that the Barbie fashionista range was going to bring out a selection of dolls incorporating different body shapes, heights, ethnicities and  hair colours was long overdue and we have been rather excited to get our hands on the "Curvy" Barbie Fashionista"
They went on sale just before Baba's birthday so we of course brought her one (at £9.99 they are also very affordable) There are a couple in the "Curvy" range but we chose the Sweetheart Curvy barbie. With very cool blue and black hair wearing a denim skirt and punky looking top she is very different from the usual blonde Barbie.

As soon as we took her out of the box it was apparent that the doll has a much fuller figure. She has big hips, a large bottom and is generally a bit bigger all over than the usual Barbie Doll.

The new Curvy barbie next to the classic fashionista Barbie
For a bit of fun we compared the new Barbie (who is now called Giselle) to one of Baba's classic barbies to see how much difference there really. When Baba was little she was obsessed with stripping all her dolls naked so this was all in  a days work for her.

 It was interesting to see how the proportions of the Curvy Barbie were generally less pronounced. A tummy that looks like it can hold intestines, legs without a vast thigh gap and a neck that looks like it could actually hold the weight of a brain.

Barbie got back

Its probably a sign of the times that Curvy Barbie has lots of Booty. In fact she has more than a hint of a Khardasian look about her.
What will be obvious to you all by now that whilst the new Curvy Barbie does have a fuller figure she is far from fat. Curvy is not a euphemism for overweight. She in fact possesses what is considered (if you flick through women's magazines or watch music videos) a very socially desirable weight distribution with a flat tummy, smallish breasts and a large bottom. Would I have liked her to be fatter-to be honest yes but my ten year old disagreed and perhaps her opinion is more important.
When I quizzed Baba on the doll she absolutely loved it. It presented a body shape that she could easily relate to and she loved the blue hair and general kick ass look of the doll. I did ask if she would like the doll to be bigger and was met with a firm no. She felt the doll was really great as she was. 
Its a thumbs up from Baba

Looking at the other dolls on offer within this range it was great to see tall and petite dolls offered, red haired Barbies and Asian and Black Barbies. These choices not only allow parents to buy their children dolls that look more like them,  but also to buy their kids dolls which reflect the vibrant multi cultural country we live in. 
The one doll missing from the original press releases I saw was a  androgynous looking doll with short hair and a suit on. I'm not sure why this isn't available in the UK but a gender fluid doll would be such a great addition to any kids toy box so I was sad to see that wasn't there.

On a practical note for anyone buying these for a child who already has a lot of dolls, the new body shape means the majority of the standard Barbie Doll clothes wont fit. Stretchy clothes from other Fashionista dolls work and Monster High shoes fit the feet but that's about it.
This definitely feels like a step in the right direction. It would be great to also see some dolls with cochlear implants, wheelchairs and birthmarks next. Society is made up of so many different kinds of bodies, which is what makes its so wonderful-how exciting to think our children's toys could reflect that.
A welcome addition to our toybox
The Curvy barbies can be purchased at Amazon here
I also filmed a short review video with baba for my Youtube channel. Watch that here.


Brand New eco Design  over at  Nicky Rockets
Printed on climate neutral, fair trade tees in water based ink. 

All content (text, photos and other) are the property of Perelandra Beedles unless otherwise stated. Please refrain from copying any material without recognition of the author and a link to the source on this blog

Monday, 20 June 2016

Vegan Army Dreamer

Another day another outfit. I found this jacket on the sale rail of my local cancer research charity shop. I love camouflage, which is perhaps odd being that I'm such a pacifist but its all about the design and this desert storm type jacket is perfect for summer. Camouflage jackets seem to be having  a moment, Simply be have a similar one here and having dressed almost entirely from the Army and navy store as a teen its nice to rediscover second hand army duds.

My top is also from a chazza but you can still get it  from New Look here My leggings  and jersey tube skirt are by Simply be.

Having all but stopped wearing black for a few years I am now really enjoying wearing it. Its a brilliant contrast to my hair colour and works as such a good blank slate to put heavy print design jackets or statement jewelry with.

I think I avoided wearing black because I hid behind it for so many years. Convinced it was "slimming" and also keen to not stand out. I now feel comfortable enough in my own skin and style to flip reverse that thinking. I know that wearing black doesn't make me look slimmer,and even if it did, who gives a shit. Fashion is about expression and individuality not trying to create a socially acceptable optical illusion (which lets be honest fools no one) and in the same way that I'm excited to rock bright colours and loud designs I'm also now happy to goth it up when the emo calls.   

When I began this blog as part my body positive journey I felt a strange sort of duty to always wear clothes that defied the critics. Don't misunderstand me I always wore clothes I adored and was very happy flying the flag for women who realised life was too short to lose sleep over their VBO but I feel I have banged that drum enough. I pass the Bodhram on.My work as a plus size acceptance activist will always run through me like words on a stick of rock but I no longer feel the need to be like the fat version of Citizen Smith and be shouting "power to the people" every time I get dressed.

That said I think this outfit would look brilliant with a jaunty army beret.

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Brand New eco Design  over at  Nicky Rockets
Printed on climate neutral, fair trade tees in water based ink. 

All content (text, photos and other) are the property of Perelandra Beedles unless otherwise stated. Please refrain from copying any material without recognition of the author and a link to the source on this blog

Saturday, 18 June 2016

How To Talk To Kids About Hate Crimes (And Help Your Own Healing)

The last week has felt rather bleak. Like a pan of water on a hob reaching boiling point. The shooting in a nightclub in Orlando which killed and injured so many of the LGBT community, the senseless murder of MP Jo Cox, even one of my favourite cookery writers Jack Monroe being forced to leave twitter after the level of death and rape threats became unbearable. Hate crimes are nothing new but when the information surrounding them is so easy to access, it can feel almost overwhelmingly depressing. Its easy to feel powerless against the tide of intolerance which seems to have taken a grip in politics, religion and everyday life.So how do we talk about hate crimes with our kids?
Even if we as adults struggle to make sense of the senseless, its important that we open up an age appropriate discussion with our children about these events. Chances are (especially if they are of reading age) they have already heard or seen snatches of  the recent horrors. From newspaper headlines at the corner shop, sidebar news on their tablet or overhearing reports on the radio or TV, its almost impossible to protect our sons and daughters from these events and I believe we shouldn't try.
When basic human freedoms are threatened on a daily basis, perhaps the only positive thing that can come out of hate crimes is that they provide teachable moments not just for adults but for children too.
Deciding how to tackle these conversations can be tricky. If the coverage of a hate crime is leaving you tearful and shaky can you responsibly talk to a child about it without really frightening them? Yes you can, but it needs to be handled thoughtfully. Here are some approaches I have found effective.

#1 Keep It Age Appropriate

There is a big difference between educating and terrifying your kid. Children crave safety and stability pretty much above all things so its important to set aside your own worries about the state of the world before tackling these conversations. I remember being shown the Raymond Brigs cartoon "When the wind blows" about nuclear attack when I was about 9. It really frightened me and made me obsessed that the world was going to end very soon. It kept me awake at night and even now when I think about it I feel a bit anxious. It was too powerful and I simply wasn't mature enough to process it. With this in mind I am very careful. When I discuss events like the Orlando shootings for example, I don't place emphasis or offer details on the violence or some of the more brutal aspects of the crime. Its enough to tell my daughter that a person or group of people were killed or badly hurt.

#2 Don't Shy Away From The Reasons The Hate Crime Was Committed 

Its really important that we don't allow the perpetrators of hate crimes to become bogey men. A faceless monster who kills for absolute no reason. The underlying reason is always the same-intolerance. 
As parents we mustn't let the architects of these horrors off the hook with a banal "they were bad people" instead emphasise how the LGBT community in Orlando were targeted simply for being themselves. For having fun with their friends and for loving who they wanted to love. 
I remember explaining to my daughter a few years ago that people didn't "choose" to be gay It was how they were born, like having big feet or curly hair. Who we want to love is an innate part of our biological make up. I asked what she would think of someone who judged her for having brown eyes and she replied "that they were silly, its who I am, I cant change it and wouldn't want to" Kids see things in very simple terms and need little convincing that attacking people for their sexual orientation or beliefs is wrong. Its very refreshing.

#3 Use Examples They Can Relate To When Explaining Intolerance

 Explaining racism and how it motivates hate crimes to kids is actually harder than it sounds because so often your child will just not grasp why anyone would want to hurt someone simply because of the colour of their skin. Using films or books can be a great help for the parent trying to explain bigotry. The Pixar movie Zootopia for example with its main character of Judy Hopp the rabbit draws some brilliant parallels with race inequality.How everything seems peaceful but actually the world is dominated by the bigger animals who want to keep the likes of Judy down.  I also found the Dr Seuss book "The Sneetches and other stories" a great gateway book when I first began talking to her about diversity. Its much like getting on the floor and being on their level. It breaks down powerful concepts into bite size pieces which are easy for a child's mind to digest.

#4 Keep Making It About The Victims Not The Perpetrators

Its so easy when discussing hate crimes to focus almost entirely on those committing them. To raise children who believe all people deserve to live peaceful lives regardless of race, sexual orientation or beliefs we need to switch the focus. 
Strip away the idea of people being almost faceless "victims" and instead take a few moments to see them for what they were-vibrant, beautiful humans whose light was extinguished by intolerance. A really easy way to do this is look at pictures of, for example Jo Cox. A happy smiley clever woman who was a mummy and who helped other people. Pay tribute to victims of hate crimes. Whether it be by taking your child to lay a posy at a vigil, going to a local church to light a candle or agreeing to donate this weeks takeaway money to a fund to help those affected. 

#5 Keep Your Mental Health Messages Clear 

 Its understandable when trying to reassure a confused child about something (that lets be honest we adults don't really understand) to simply say "well they were clearly mad" but for the sake of having meaningful discussion about mental heath later down the line I avoid these generalisations.
People with mental health problems are still far more likely to be attacked or killed than be the perpetrators and its vital that we don't allow ill informed ideas of how mentally ill people behave become wedded to our views of the type pf people who commit hate crimes.

#6 Pay Tribute To The Fallen With Your Own Acts Of Love

The problems of intolerance and hate can seem insurmountable but we are not small. We each make a difference in this world. Change is brought about not just by grand sweeping gestures or acts in parliament but also by individuals such as you and I committing to living in a peaceful, inclusive way. With every article we share on social media, with every petition we sign, with every fair trade purchase we make, with every act of kindness we shine light into the dark corners. We are the light bringers and the world has never needed us more.


Brand New eco Design  over at  Nicky Rockets
Printed on climate neutral, fair trade tees in water based ink. 

All content (text, photos and other) are the property of Perelandra Beedles unless otherwise stated. Please refrain from copying any material without recognition of the author and a link to the source on this blog

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Natural Fabric Dyeing With The Wild Dyery

Over the last year I have become increasingly interested in how I, as a lover of fashion and beauty, can carve out a new approach that fulfils my desire for lovely things without being too destructive to the planet.
To this end I have been sourcing fashion made in a sustainable way, fair trade items and incorporating second hand clothes into my wardrobe.
This approach has also worked its way into my tee-shirt company Nicky Rockets We have recently started a new line of eco teeshirts printed in water based inks on climate neutral tees and have even swapped our old packaging for bio degradable products.

We dye a lot of our tee-shirts, especially the ones in our plus size ranges. It wont shock my plus size readers to hear that finding the tee shirts to print on, from a fair trade pipeline has been tricky, finding them in the colours we want is basically impossible. To this end we dye plain tees to the colour's we need. We use the eco dylon but inspired by very talented friend Justine Aldersey Williams I have been toying with the idea of trying to dye some of our tees using plant based dyes.
A tablecloth, totebag and tee shirt dyed using natural indigo

Justine runs a company called The Wild Dyery she is an incredible talented artist, textile and print designer and is fascinated with the ancient art of using plants to create colours for fabric. Her work is truly beautiful and her recently opened studio so inspiring.
Queen of Indigo Justine
When I saw that The Wild Dyery were offering a one day course as an introduction to natural plant dyeing I jumped at the chance to attend. It was actually a class which had been booked by the Wirral embroiders guild and they very kindly let me join them for what turned out to be a wonderful day of plant dyeing magic.

Getting our dye thang on

Justine started off by telling us a little of the history of dyeing. Focusing on Madder (red) Weld (yellow) and woad/indigo (blue) 
The environmental benefits to using plant based dyes are huge so rediscovering this heritage craft has never been more important.History, Art, fashion-this ticks all my boxes. It was brilliant.

using Indigo to revive my old tablecloth

And how amazing does it look.
Using the three key dyes we were able to create 12 primary colours and were quickly dying our own swatches of silk to create an Eco spectrum-it was really quite extraordinary. We modified the colours using iron water and were also taught various Japanese Shibori (knot) techniques so we could tie dye scarfs in the patterns we like.
My Eco spectrum-so proud of these
To come away after only one day having created 12 colours from just three plants was really empowering but also really humbling. There is so much to learn about these plants, and its so dependent on the water you use, how long the dye is in the vat, how gently you stir it. It really is like making magic potions.  I had gone there thinking about trying the techniques on some of Nicky's designs (if I had any skill it) and it definitely ignited a real interest.

All these colours made from three plants-incredible

The ladies from the embroiders Guild are real experts in their own fields of crafts and quite  a few had already tried plant dyeing (in fact two had travelled to India to see the techniques first hand) so I definitely felt like the novice of the group. That said, with Justine's wonderful tuition I still managed to create all my swatches and dye a beautiful sunshine yellow headscarf using Weld and the Arashi Shibori technique (wrapping the silk around a pipe with elastic bands and leaving it to absorb the dye) 
In my beautiful scarf dyed using weld
Justine makes it look very easy (she had very kindly scoured our samples and provided substantive dyes which didn't require mordanting) and she is a real artist with the indigo. My plans to jump straight in were a little bit premature and I think I need to spend the summer working on creating the dyes myself and seeing which shades and designs work. Whether I do incorporate it into our own designs or simply create some beautiful items just of my own shall remain to be seen. 

My first indigo dyed tee-shirt
Look at all the beautiful work we created
It was a fantastic experience and I would really recommend anyone booking one of her workshops. she has also started an amazing regular event called "The Indigo Social" where you can come for just an hour and dye your own clothing, meet like minded souls, have a bit of food and absorb the great energy at her studio. Not to be missed.
To find out about The Wild Dyery go to the website or visit the very vibrant facebook page 
Check out my Youtube channel for vlogs, beauty, fashion and vegan inspired reviews.


Brand New eco Design  over at  Nicky Rockets
Printed on climate neutral, fair trade tees in water based ink. 

All content (text, photos and other) are the property of Perelandra Beedles unless otherwise stated. Please refrain from copying any material without recognition of the author and a link to the source on this blog