Sunday, 29 April 2007

One Year On

Friday 6th April '07. 71kg – Now I’m really confused

It has been a year since I started this project. Wow, when you say it like that… Actually, I’m slightly disappointed that I have only managed 21 pages; somehow it doesn’t seem that much for a whole year. But it’s probably a good thing. As this is purely an account of events and thoughts relating to the project it would be a bit worrying if it had run to three volumes. Also (Surprise, surprise) I have not lost any weight. When I started this project I told everyone that its point was to show the difficulty involved in losing weight and the impossibility of becoming perfect, but who am I kidding? I wanted to become perfect. I wanted to become Kate. I knew I never would - I know me far too well for that - but still I feel just a little sad. Because of this, and because of entreaties from my friends who have read this, I have decided not to end it here, as was my original intention. I have even turned it into a blog. Isn't that nice? Besides, I am starting to grow quite attached to this little diary of mine.


Sunday 25th March '07. I don’t want to know. Probably about 40 stone by now.

The other day I went out to see a friend and his band play guitar in a pub after uni. Knowing this in advance, I wore a low cut brown dress over jeans and trainers and shoved some accessories in my pocket for later. During the day, stripped of all jewellery and with my hair tied up I chatted to a (male) friend in the workshop. Before going out that evening I donned some long beads, earrings and a hairband and re-applied my make-up in the loos at uni. When I got to the pub my friend looked at me in surprise. “Have you been wearing that all day?” he asked, clearly puzzled.

When I had read in magazines about the awesome power of accessories I had always laughed to myself. As if anyone would be fooled into thinking you were wearing a different outfit purely because you’d changed your necklace. But it would appear that it really does work. Letting you hair down and putting jewellery on really does change your entire look. I have never been all that interested in accessories before. I could never justify buying them, and they all seemed so pointless but now I’m not so sure. I have always just done the opposite of the given advice; I wear the same jewellery every day and just change my clothes.

The new version of Northhanger Abbey is on tonight. My god I want to live in a Jane Austen novel. Now there are some flattering clothes for you: in under the bust and then poof! And so very, very pretty. Crinolines are another fantastic invention; “No, I haven’t got a huge arse, it’s just the dress.” I have to go corset shopping this week actually. Can’t wait. It’s a cruel twist of fate that the only clothes that really thoroughly suit me are only suitable for the eighteenth century. Or possibly porn movies. Now, if you will excuse me. I have an important appointment with some ice cream…

Pirates and Pistachios

Wednesday 14th March '07

I have just eaten a slice of cake and half a tub of pistachio ice cream. Then I went on the exercise bike for half an hour. Pointless, pointless…

I was talking to a friend the other day who told me that she’d been speaking to someone I’d met once over the summer. This girl apparently mentioned that she really liked what I had been wearing, (My red 1954 dress and stockings) and remarked that I must have a lot of self-confidence to do that. I laughed and said ‘or no confidence at all’ as for me, this whole project has contained a distinct element of cowardice. This sounds self-contradictory I know, but although my attire attracts attention, it is more like a disguise for me than anything else. It is dressing up, transforming myself into someone else and hiding away from the world. No one gets to see me, uncut as it were, and when I am pretending to be someone else, in a roundabout way it allows me the confidence to be more myself. I have always been very strong minded, and have always worn exactly what I want to regardless of what people thought, but that is a different kind of confidence, more like pig headedness in my case actually. I wonder whether this element of dressing up applies to all fashion. People say we use our clothes to express who we are, but sometimes I think it has more to do with expressing who we want to be, which is a very different thing.


My approach to clothes has always been to buy one or two expensive, good quality items and then wear them to death rather than buying one hundred in Primark and having them fall apart after one wash. Not only does it work out cheaper in the long run, it is ethically sound and better for the environment. Recently however, it seems as if my entire wardrobe is falling to bits. I have holes in just about everything, especially my coat. Now this coat is my pride and joy. My mum bought it for me last September from my favourite shop Noa Noa and it cost £125. It is by far the most expensive item of clothing I own and probably ever have owned. It reminds me of a sort of highwayman’s coat, or a pirate’s coat, (despite the fact that it is eau de nil) with detailed edging and a flared back. Not really owning another wearable coat I have thus worn it to death. Despite my best efforts at keeping it nice, it has been through the wars somewhat. Before Christmas my drunk friend even decided to jump in a few muddy puddles, showering me with black, oily filth and prompting me to get it dry cleaned. This ruined the diamante brocade edging, leaving me with about 30 new diamantes to sew on. This week I have noticed two large worn patches on the back, which are rapidly becoming holes. I’m not sure how they got there, but they are definitely going to need mending. On reflection though, I almost like this new, ragged look. It is somehow more piratey, even more decadent looking. Maybe this could start a whole new fashion trend, grunge for the uber rich – get some nice clothes and ruin them.


Fifties patterns - tight waist and full skirt

A while ago I went to visit a friend in London and she took me to this huge vintage warehouse. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Amongst my many other purchases I bought two old fashioned hats that sit on the back of your head. I was however, at a loss as to how to keep them there. Elastic looked silly and hurts your chin anyway, so I asked my Nan. She informed me that hatpins really are the only way. You get you hair into a chignon and stab it through with a pin. This started me on a three month long search for hatpins, which was only resolved a few weeks ago when I found some in an antique shop. I still haven’t tried them yet. To be honest, I haven’t been dressing up much at all recently. Of course it has been the very depths of winter, which is quite enough to put anyone off, and I have been painting, but dare I say I am a little bored of it? I also love my new twenties style tops and beads that I got in the January sales so much I can’t bear to be parted from them. I am so confused as to what looks best though. All the magazine and tv advice is to go for tight waists and full skirts if you have my figure, but my mum says that fifties style clothes make me look really fat, whereas the twenties ones (Usually a huge mistake for larger girls) look slimming.

Problems, problems. I am also very aware how trivial this all sounds, and it is. I feel like a traitor to intelligent women everywhere. It is starting to take over my life though. I have always been treading a very fine line where appearances were concerned, and now I think this has pushed me over the edge. I am odd really, I have always been obsessed with fashion and very concerned with how I look but have never actually done anything about it, and was quite content to look like a tramp for most of my life. Now I am actually being forced to be proactive I am getting addicted. Maybe I am just making up for all those years spent wearing leggings…

Twenties dress - dropped waist and flat chest

Cats, Comfort and Calories

Tuesday 13th March '07. 73kg (Mis-read the scales last time, still lighter than when I began though!)

It’s funny isn’t it, writing stuff down? I never intended for this to become a diary, never intended for it to get personal, but the more I write here, the more I feel the increasing urge to pour out my heart to it. I look back over the previous entries and I am not best pleased with the style, it seems amateurish to me, but I guess that’s what you get with a diary, just a continuous line of thoughts. As you have probably guessed I have not been feeling myself of late. I have been feeling a bit low recently and without wishing to sound melodramatic; in times of need food is my first port of call. It’s a funny thing, comfort eating. If anything the guilt associated with doing it just makes you feel worse. I guess it all stems from childishly equating food with love, and craving the cheap sugar rush I get from my kind of comfort eating. The trouble is, once you then get into a pattern of eating lots of nice stuff for a day or so, it is hard to break out of it, as I am now finding out. Right now I am feeling fat and frumpy and just downright ugly. Cramming my face with chocolate-based products is not going to help matters but diet and exercise is the last thing you feel like doing when you’re low. Tricky, tricky…


Despite my current (And momentary, I promise) lapse, I have actually been doing really well recently. I am trying to eat better and am even keeping a food diary. It’s amazing actually. I always thought I was pretty much on top of my daily food intake, and couldn’t see the point in writing it down, but it really does make a difference. I am highlighting any bad food I eat in red, and have been astonished to find that even when I think I have been eating really, really well, I still haven’t had a single day without any red in it. So far this hasn’t actually prompted me not to eat the naughty items, but it does make me feel bad about it afterwards, which is something I have never done. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or not, but still, baby steps.

In addition the food diary I have also been trying to do half an hour a day on the dreaded exercise bike. Unless I am going out or am really busy that is. Half an hour is exactly 300 calories, but instead of uplifting me, I just find that demoralising. Ever tried counting calories? 350 constitutes your average healthy sandwich. It is also a pint of cider. Considering that I will generally consume about 5 of these (Pints, not sandwiches) on an average night out, it’s no wonder I have been putting on weight. Despite the exercise, I am not losing it either. Pounding away on the bike the other night, I just couldn’t help but think, wouldn’t it be easier if I just skipped lunch instead of going to all this effort? That can’t be a good thing. But when something like a fat-free yoghurt or a healthy oat bar is 100 calories, in order to lose weight, you’d have to eat practically nothing. (Which judging by my food diary, is something that I would find impossible)

It is a worrying thought though, the fact that food means that much to me that I cannot have even a single day without eating more than I should. I loathe those people who can forget to eat. I think about it all the time. Lunch is the high point of my day. Is that my life? Am I so sad that I have nothing more to take enjoyment in other than eating? I hope to god not, but I suspect I may finally be edging closer and closer to the truth here. When I have been on holiday in the past, I have not thought about food at all. In fact whenever I go on holiday abroad I lose tons of weight because I am just too busy and happy to think about it. My life at the moment by contrast, is in a gigantic rut. I get up, I go to uni and paint all day, come home and collapse. That’s about it. Now while I resigned myself years ago to the fact that I am going to become a sad old cat lady and die alone, I do not want to die due to chronic obesity. Something has to be done. I have asked other people though and we all agree that there is just something about painting that makes you want to eat. Maybe it’s all those calories we burn up thinking so hard. My theory is that it’s because it gets so monotonous. But never mind, it’s not like I could even go out and have fun on a diet anyway. Not at 300 calories per pint.

Cakey Favours

Wednesday 7th March '07. 71kg

Well, I am pleased to say that I now finally weigh less than I did since starting this project nearly a year ago. I am also pleased to say that this got a first in the last assessment, so I must be doing something right. (Personally, I think it was the free cake) I am also having a bit of a bad week and my body is reacting the way it always does when I’m upset - by twisting my insides into a tight little nauseous tangle, thus preventing me from eating very much. Yay for me.

Historical re-enactment society

Wednesday 24th January '07

Last night I came up against an interesting problem. In a conversation with my tutor at uni a few months ago, we decided that in order to perpetuate the myth of myself effectively I would need to be dressed up at all occasions at which I would be on display - private views, meetings, tutorials and so on. The slight obsessive streak in my brain being what it is, I have amassed quite a substantial fifties section in my wardrobe for just these sort of events. Of course, me being me, as soon as I had acquired all these fifties clothes, I fell desperately in love with the twenties. Last night I was desperate to wear a beautiful twenties style dress and hat I had just bought to a friend’s private view. The dress being very short, and my legs being rather on the ample side, however, I was forced to wear it over jeans. Not that that mattered to me, it simply gave it a bit of a twist. It was only when I revealed this outfit to my friend the night before the show that she raised the interesting problem in question. “But if you wear that” she exclaimed “you will be negating the whole point of dressing up fifties all the time.” “But I like it.” I replied sulkily. “That doesn’t matter” she said “I thought the whole project was about sustaining an image, whether you felt like it or not.”

I thought about this dilemma a lot. The trouble is, if I say I have to dress up fifties for every important event, or even (As my tutors think I should) all the time, then I will never be able to wear any other clothes again. And I do so love those twenties, not to mention my jeans! But then again, I thought, since when did this project become exclusively about the fifties? It was about turning myself into a myth. It was about acquiring a mysterious image of perfection and projecting myself as an artist. The fifties look was just one that I was particularly fond of. So I have made an executive decision not to limit myself exclusively to the fifties. As long as I am turned out to perfection my outfit may range from any era from 1900 to 1959, and I may add modern touches occasionally it the look requires it. Vintage is one thing, historical re-enactment is quite another!

Britain's Next Top Model

Sunday 21st January '07. 75.5kg (Last time I checked)

Again, it has been a while, but what with the exhibition, Christmas and the forthcoming assessments I just haven’t had the time. The show went off without a hitch thank god, and it has given me a lot more confidence in many areas, especially with ‘displaying’ myself, as it were.

The show featured several photographs of me dressed up in fifties and twenties regalia. These had been taken last summer when we went to visit my Nan who lives in Devon. One of my Mum’s ex boyfriends (Who has remained a good family friend) lives not too far away so we went on a trip to see him one day. Now he just happens to be a professional photographer. He used to work for EMI but had moved down to Dorset to set up his own photography business and get away from the rat race. Shortly before our trip to my Nan’s he had requested doing a photo shoot with me in order to advertise his new business. Not being one to pass up an opportunity to dress up, I obligingly arrived with a whole suitcase full of clothes. The shoot itself turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. It may not sound like much, but for the first time ever I felt genuinely beautiful. I was a little nervous at first, but he soon put me at ease and I took to it like a duck to water. Now don’t laugh, but I will confess that one of my secret, secret dreams has always been to be a model. When I was young I used to dream about it all the time. I knew I never could be, even when I was a size 8, due to a huge scar running across my stomach, (Being 5ft tall at the time didn’t help either) but it never stopped me secretly believing that maybe, just maybe… I used to sit there filling out all the modelling competition forms in my teen magazines for hours. I just somehow never got around to taking a photo and sending it off.

I don’t know why exactly, but I have never in my life felt pretty. Of course, there was the scar, a remnant of the accident I had when I was four, but as it is hidden most of the time, it never usually bothers me that much. I was pretty monstrous as an early teen (Glasses, braces, bad hair, overweight – the works) and had all the attendant teasing you would expect, but it was nothing too out of the ordinary. I do have a Mother who is very honest in her opinions on my appearance. I appreciate it actually, and I do love to regale my friends with the fact that I alone had a Mother who, on seeing me coming down for breakfast one morning when I was about thirteen exclaimed “Are you wearing make-up?” “No” I hesitantly replied. “Shouldn’t you put some on?" she said. The only problem with total honestly is than it can lack tact at times, especially when you are young and insecure. She has also been very vocal on the subject of my weight, always has been. I get the definite impression that she is slightly disappointed in me for looking the way I do. But she means well, and I don’t think she has warped my tender young mind too much! So all in all, I can conclude that there have been no significant events in my life to make me feel this way about myself, I just do. And so therefore, must many other women. As we women are so fond of saying, it’s just all the little things that build up over time.

The only problem with the photo shoot was that I got into it so much I actually started believing it, so to speak. I felt like a beautiful, mysterious twenties starlet. I felt, in essence like somebody else. When I finally saw the photos they came as quite a shock because there, resolutely staring back up at me was me. I was dressed up, made up and attractively lit, but I was definitely me. I don’t know what I was expecting, a miraculous transformation perhaps, but to say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I am ashamed to say that the only thought running through my head, over and over like some kind of sick mantra, was “god, am I that ugly?” It took me a good month to finally get used to the photos and start seeing them, and myself, for what they were. Now I love the photos, I think I look great in them, even god forbid, pretty.

A pictoral history

Me at about 12ish

My 14th Birthday. That dress is a size 8.

My 15th Birthday, probably. Here you can see my school uniform and the de rigeur beads we all used to wear.

At christmas during a goth moment. I forget when.

My year 11 prom. That's me on the right, in front of the vintage Cadillac we drove to school in that evening. That dress is a size 10.

My brother and I on the beach. I would have been about 16 or 17 at the time. You can see my then uniform of hoodie and flared jeans (rolled up here)

At christmas. I'm probably about 17 or 18 here.

My 21st birthday and all my lovely tea and cake things


Tuesday 14th November '06

I’m writing this, post beans on toast with two fried eggs on top. Ah well. In four weeks time I shall be holding a show at uni. It is essentially a fake exhibition – a retrospective at a generic and unidentified ‘Museum of Art’ featuring me as if I was a famous artist. There are no dates or indication of whether I am alive or dead, but there is an elaborate fictional story of my life. This includes such golden nuggets of information as the time I won the Nobel peace prize, and received a damehood from the Queen. Intended as a playful critique of the fake and mercenary atmosphere of the art world as I see it, and the unnecessarily competitive attitude of some of my fellow students, the show will be a play on the myth of the artist as genius and how that can be manipulated to one’s advantage. In it will feature a self-portrait in oils, and several photographs of me dressed up in my fifties attire. It feels such an alien thing to do, promoting myself like this, even if it is intended as a joke. Doing a self-portrait is also a strange thing to do as you have to study your face in such minute detail for extended periods of time. Hopefully all this will help towards the transformation of myself into a myth.

Sweet temptation

Friday 13th October '06

Over the summer, as I just couldn’t stomach the attempt to run, I decided to take up yoga. In the face of astronomical prices at the local gym, I brought a video off the internet. My god, it’s harder than it looks. I actually did a year of yoga classes when I was sixteen, but I don’t remember it being anywhere near as painful as this. The trouble was, in the absence of a handy mirror or instructor to tell me if I was doing it correctly, I didn’t know if the pain was a good thing, brought about by healthy exertion, or a pulled muscle. I soon gave up. I keep meaning to start again, but never seem to get around to it. I am also being repeatedly harassed as to why I am not running around the park at the crack of dawn every morning with my housemates. I just can’t do it. The few times I have, I just lacerated my feet. They came back bruised, blistered and bleeding every time. I could of course go and buy some super, high-tech shoes, but somehow I never seem to get around to that one either…


Dieting. God, I hate dieting. But I also hate exercise, and as I seem to be essentially short on time and will power, it’s rapidly becoming my only option. I don’t hold with diets. I think they’re stupid. The only diet you will ever need in my opinion is this one; eat less, eat healthily, and move more. So why can’t I take my own advice and lose weight? In my case it’s really, really simple. I just love food. Not all foods, mind you. To be honest it pretty much is exclusively desserts and savoury nibbley bits that get me. The rest I could take or leave. The thing is, I really hate salads and pretentious health foods. I just don’t like the taste, I’d rather go without dinner than eat a salad, I really would. Despite the odd binge or two, the food I eat on a regular basis is relatively healthy and good for you, (Certainly compared with some people I know) but it just isn’t slimming.

When I was four I had a serious accident that nearly claimed my life. Thanks to emergency surgery I am still here, but I was left with a condition called adhesions. This involves (Amongst other things) a highly sensitive and quirky digestive system, random attacks of excruciating pain, and an inability to digest my food efficiently. Due to this, or maybe just because nature made me that way, I have always been of a somewhat weak constitution. Just like some sort of sickly Victorian maiden really. You know the type; pale, fleshy, a little bit anaemic looking. Always riddled with a variety of minor complaints and allergies that never seem to have any definable cause or cure. Definitely in want of some good fresh air and vitamins, your grandmother would probably say. I always have to be careful with what I eat, and seem to be constantly craving something or another. I will always go with what my body craves. I trust it. Lunch today was sushi, a whole bunch of grapes and a blueberry yoghurt. The other day it was two pints of strawberry milk. (I know, I know, all probably loaded with sugar and chemicals, but that was a minor hiccough I promise). I guess I’m just making excuses really, but the point is food is a lot trickier for me than most.

My other big problem with dieting sees the most elementary really, I get hungry. Really hungry. My stomach rumbles loudly, I get shooting hunger pangs, I feel faint and weak and am unable to concentrate. And its no use telling me to just fill up on healthy snacks like carrot sticks or celery, I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work, believe me. There is also the drinking. Now I don’t really drink that often, it probably averages out to once a week I guess, but it is probably the biggest source of my rogue calorie intake. Here come the excuses.

1. I get really thirsty in hot, smoky pubs and bars, especially when I’m dancing. 2. You can never sneak in your own bottle of water, and in the places we frequent, soft drinks, and sometimes, even water is more expensive than beer. 3. Peer pressure, enough said. 4. Spirits (The lowest calorie option) are expensive and generally disgusting, even in mixers. The nicer ones, and for me that pretty much only encompasses gin and tonic, keep you stone cold sober until about three hours later when you suddenly vomit and fall over. They also don’t solve the thirst problem and leave you without the social comfort of having a drink in your hand. 5. I have absolutely no self-control, and once I’ve had one drink, I’ve had five. 6. I’m shy. Painfully shy, and frankly I’ll take all the help I can get.

I guess the only other barrier is the psychological one, namely my extreme love of sweet foods. I don’t know why, but I have the sweetest tooth. Nothing makes me feel sick. No amount of sweeties can ever defeat me. Savouries can, but never sweets.


Sunday 1st October '06 74kg

I feel bad for not having updated this in such a while, but not that bad. I have had a blissful summer at home, doing nothing but shop, eat, paint and go for long walks in the countryside. I even made some jam. This, perhaps, being a good illustration of the slight obsessive-compulsive streak in my personality, as you have to wonder why I would spend several full weeks totally absorbed in the sticky and exhausting intricacies of jam making - eventually turning out approximately 15 jars of the stuff -when I don’t even really like jam. I normally have the attention span of a small kitten, but when something grabs me it really grabs me if you know what I mean. I am one of those annoying people who will play a song over and over until it makes myself and everyone else around me sick. Speaking of which, I brought a lot of fifties music over the holiday. I first acquired some a while back as a sort of joke, but it has kind of grown on me. I can only listen to it in a certain mood though. Now I know why everyone was so depressed in the fifties, having to listen to that crap all day. It’s just so militantly cheery, even the so-called blues. If you were at all down to start with that’ll finish you off, I swear.


It feels really odd to be back in the city after four months at home in the middle of nowhere. I have just gotten so accustomed to going out in public everyday with no make up and an outfit comprised of anything I could find on the back of my chair. No-one bats an eyelid at home no matter what you wear. The only situation in which they will is if you go out in a fully thought out and co-ordinated outfit with jewellery and make up to match, then they stare. Cagoules with a summer dress and wellies? Fine. Three mismatched jumpers, baggy shorts and socks with sandals? The height of normality. And you know what? I love it. Before I went to uni my general uniform was my brother’s old t-shirts about ten sizes too big, huge, baggy boy’s shorts that came well below my knees, and gigantic, boy’s black skate trainers with white socks. Now I have clothes coming out of my ears and never anything to wear. Welcome to womanhood.

Picture - me at the beach over the holidays - t-shirt, 2 jumpers, duffel coat, cagoul, wooly hat, wellies...

Something I have noticed recently is how much nicer people are to you when you look attractive. This works for both sexes. Whenever I go out looking good, often dressed up in my fifties gear, I have so much of an easier time of it with people. Being a naturally shy person with one of those miserable faces when I’m daydreaming that people just love to say “cheer up love, it might never happen” to, I have never done all that well with people. When you are dressed up pretty and cute and unthreatening people are just so much more accommodating and responsive. Without meaning to sound belittling, this effect can usually be achieved with men by getting your tits out, but girls can be a tad more difficult. There is one particular dress I own that illustrates this very well. It is a bright magenta nylon vintage number with tiny white dots on it. It has a high slash neck, short puffy sleeves and reaches to just below my knees. It resembles the party dresses I used to wear as a child in the 80s and could not in any sense of the word be described as sexy. It is cute though, and stylish, although not particularly flattering. Every time my one of my friends sees me in it he bursts out laughing. Every time I wear it out I receive no male attention, (Although frankly, the way I am going, this could be nothing to do with the dress at all) but girls just love it. I get complimented hundreds of times on it. People just walk up and start talking to me, something that never happens in real life, ever. I’m not entirely sure what point if any I am trying to make here, except the one I have made before, in order to get on in life you need to be attractive enough for people to like you, yet no so attractive as to pose a threat. Being cute helps, people think you are innocent and delicate and need protecting. People around here always assume that about me – that butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth. It’s always a good indicator of how well someone really knows me if they can see past all that. So far no one here has.


A while ago I was watching tv and flicked onto the second half of one of those ubiquitous makeover shows that seem to be everywhere at the moment. “Take a person and see if we can’t transform them from a perfectly nice, friendly looking (If a little frumpy) Mother figure to a false, frumpy chav in half an hour.” Only this was one with a twist. It was for men. Te basic premise of the show was that they took three obviously ugly men, one fat, one short, one tall, (Rather like Boggis and Bunce and Bean in the Fantastic Mr Fox) took them out, and tried to convince them that there was nothing wrong with the way they looked - they could have any woman in the room falling at their feet – it was just a matter of self confidence. Now when was the last time they did that for women? Even the best shows in which they actually do try to make a half hearted stab at rebuilding their shattered self confidence, (Probably ruined in the first place by all the other shows in which they ritualistically rip women to shreds as if nothing else in the world mattered apart from the bags under their eyes) they still focus most of the show on a makeover, surgical or not. It just makes me so angry. The message we are given by the media is that nothing about women matters except that they look young and sexy. Never mind their personality, it is all negated if they don’t measure up to some impossible standard no one knows exactly who set, flatter men’s egos and end up looking and sounding exactly like all the other brainwashed automatons out there. Whilst simultaneously being berated by the very same “fashion gurus” for not having their own definitive signature style. Men on the other hand can look and act how they want, but so long as they believe they are god’s gift (Not usually a difficult feat in my experience) all women will fall for them. And you know what the sad and awful thing is? It’s true. Even on the program itself they proved it. They took these hideous men with absolutely nothing interesting about them other than the fact they were pathetic enough to actually go on national television for help picking up women, put them in a room full of attractive, normal women and guess what happened? The women fell at their feet. It makes me sick.
And yes, I am aware of the ironic ramifications of this project.


You would not believe the hassle I have been through trying to get heated rollers. In order to complete the fifties look, it appears that in addition to the side parting and slightly shorter hair, it needs to be gently curled. Not only that but you just cannot get the size heated rollers I need anymore, which is ridiculous because I’ve seen them on tv. You can get non-heated ones, but not heated. I actually tried the non heated – a disaster of course, but it was amusing that the sweet little old lady in the shop in rural Devon that I brought them from didn’t bat an eyelid at me coming in, in a full fifties outfit and buying an armful of gigantic rollers. She probably hadn’t noticed things had changed since the fifties in the first place bless her, she probably thought that that was a perfectly normal and respectable way for a young lady to dress. Which of course it is, ahem…


Tuesday 18th July '06

I cracked. I bit one of my precious new nails off. To be fair, I think I did admirably well holding out this long anyway. I can’t stand them. I don’t know how people live like this. I cannot perform even the most basic of tasks without them breaking or bending in a way the sets your teeth on edge. Even typing this is excruciating. The trouble is, having come this far, getting rid of them seems like a failure of sorts. I have turned into that creature I have always hated, a woman who actually cares if she breaks a nail.

What Men Want?

Thursday 29th June '06

My Nan came over last night with a car full of old things she had cleared out and thought we might like. Amongst these treasures was a large brown leather vanity case that had come from some old and wealthy relations in America. I don’t know exactly how old it is, I’m guessing it dates from sometime at the beginning of the 20th Century. I don’t know, the twenties perhaps? Anyway, this case is the size of a small overnight bag and contains two compartments. The bottom compartment is empty, but the larger top section holds a mirror, compartments for jewellery and cosmetics, and many glass pots and bottles for your lotions and potions. I’m not sure what the bottom would’ve been used for, gloves or hairbrushes perhaps, but certainly not clothes. This comes from an era in which people sailed the world on huge cruise liners and took half their households with them wherever they went. If this large case was meant exclusively for cosmetics, I would’ve loved to see what they used for clothes.

It is fascinating to think how times change. Back then the more ‘expensive’ a woman was perceived to be, the more she was admired. Nowadays you are accused of being too high maintenance if you order a drink that costs more than one pound fifty. Women like the one who owned this case were supposed to be beautiful mysteries, to be treated respectfully and impressed by manly shows of door opening and bag carrying etc. Or at least that was the idea. The price you paid for that, of course, was the reason why you had so much time to spend on your beauty routine in the first place! Nowadays in our supposedly more enlightened times things have changed, but not necessarily for the better. Chivalry is dead but men’s attitudes toward women have not improved. If anything they have gotten worse, now they don’t have to treat us like delicate flowers. We are now expected by men and women alike to be strong, capable, self-sufficient and practical while still maintaining an aura of womanly mystique and femininity.

We are supposed to be as good as men at performing any task, but not too good unless we make them feel threatened. We are told by dating books to flatter men by asking for help screwing in light bulbs etc, but not to seem pathetic and useless. We are ridiculed for being too girlie in our tastes of movies, décor, drinks etc, but warned not to be too masculine either, lest they find it off-putting. We wouldn’t want to become old maids now would we? We are expected to hold a full time job whilst juggling a family and still doing the lions’ share of the household chores. In short, we appear to be suffering from some sort of massive identity crisis.

The truth is that although men say they want a strong modern woman, when actually faced with one they appear massively threatened. I have a theory that in his heart of hearts, most men wouldn’t say no to a nice little fifties wife to cook and to clean and to massage his fractured male ego. The world seems to expect us to be some sort of superwoman who has an effortless sense of style without ever going shopping, will appear expensive and desirable without costing a penny and will be powerful without being threatening. She should look beautiful without cosmetics, well groomed without any time spent, sexy whilst being oh so practical, and will absolutely not pack too much luggage!

The theatre

My pattern. I have so far made the dress in red and blue.

Monday 26th June '06

Well last night I wore my full compliment of new underwear out to the theatre. I didn’t even ladder my stockings. I wore it under my scarlet dress I had made last summer from a ‘Vintage Vogue’ 1954 pattern and felt absolutely ravishing. Until, that is, I actually got to the theatre and observed all of the other people in jeans and t-shirts.

The Knickers of my Dreams

Picture - 50s frilly Knickers from - sadly not the ones I loved, but beautiful none the less.

Thursday 15th June '06

After over a year of searching I have finally found the knickers of my dreams. Well, not quite, the knickers of my dreams were beautiful a beautiful fifties style pair of French knickers in black satin that I found on a website. Everything on this website is beautiful. It is a whole site devoted to reproduction fifties lingerie, called ‘What Katie Did’. I had been coveting these knickers for months, but when the time finally came to buy them with lots of lovely birthday money, they had stopped stocking them.

These knickers on the other hand, were discovered in a random trip to Debenhams with my mum. They are fairly high waisted classic fifties knickers with a lace trim. A bit scary and Bridget Jonesey but they look gorgeous on. I was so pleased I got several pairs in cream and black with matching suspender belts and seamed stockings. I can’t get over the difference. I look about a stone lighter, and even sexy. The stockings are so much more comfortable than tights, and with these knickers you don’t even know you’re wearing the suspender belt. Not quite sure how you’re supposed to go to the loo though…

So much younger...

Pictures - Me at about 12ish
Tuesday 13th June '06. 75kg

I tried a side parting today, just for a little variety. Somewhat discomfortingly, it looked really good. It made me look perkier somehow, less haggard. My mum said it made me look younger, and by god I was actually genuinely pleased! So it has come to this. I really am old enough to be complimented with “It makes you look so much younger!” I think I will keep the side parting anyway though. It is one small step towards the fifties haircut I dream of. I have booked my annual haircut for a few weeks. I can never wait to get it all cut off. At this time of year it is like a warm blanket on my back and has now gotten to the length I describe as the depressed hippy stage. I just need to get some big heated rollers and I will be ready to go.

It makes me wonder why I never did anything to my hair before. I’ve never even had a proper parting as such, a wiggly line running roughly down the centre of my head was just where my hair fell. Being simultaneously blessed and cursed with shiny, springy, healthy hair, I have always just let it flop, as it is impossible to pin up or style. It is just too heavy and slippery. A half-hearted ponytail is about the best I can manage. I still have to get my mum to plait it for me in hot weather. I just can’t do it. As for anything more permanent like colour or styling, you can forget it. As I am again blessed with poker straight blond hair I am also terrified to screw with it. Much as I have always dreamed of raven curls, any dyes, perms or radical haircuts are right out of the question. I hope heated rollers will work because up until now, all my best attempts to curl it with irons and tongs have failed miserably – it just falls out after five minutes. Still, I need those curls if I am to complete the look.
My worst, and only real, hairstyle occurred when I was about eleven. My mum had just had her dark blond bob violently layered into a sort of shaggy, bedhead mop, which looked so great I immediately wanted the same done to my hair. What the tactful hairdresser neglected to point out to me was that what looked good on my slim, tanned, high cheekboned mother, might not look so good on a pale, chubby eleven year old with huge glasses, a brace and developing acne. When it was all done, I looked in the mirror and wanted to cry. I cannot even think of a decent way to describe how I looked, so I will just say that at least then I was doing the geek thing properly. The worst part was that despite my initial despair, in my general cluelessness regarding anything pertaining to my appearance, I actually kept it like that for several years.

In other news the unthinkable has happened, I have fingernails! All the vitamins I have been pumping myself with must be working as this small feat was formerly impossible. My nails are as soft as butter and bend at the slightest touch but they are there after only a week of not biting them down to bloody stubs, as has been my habit for the past 21 years. Maybe if I have the willpower to keep them like this I will be able to lose weight too?

Spring is definately in the air

Monday 22nd May

It has been raining solidly for about 4 days now. With nothing much to do, and virtually confined to the house, I am going slowly crazy. Taking advantage of the first short break in the clouds, I shot out of the house and into the park. It was as if nature had exploded. The whole place was like a rainforest. The warm air was damp and heavy with the scent of rain, earth and hundreds of flowers. Fat raindrops rolled off the leaves of the drooping trees, splashing into the puddles on the flooded grass. The path was slick with the pulp of fallen blossom. Walking further out of the park proper, and along the cycle path I noticed a tiny snail crawling across the track. Its ivory shell was gleaming in the light, and bending down closer, I noticed its shell sported a perfect spiral of gloss black, as if someone had just painted it on. As I continued, I heard a bike approaching behind me. I stepped over to one side of the narrow path and continued walking. After a while, wondering why the bike wasn’t passing me, I slowed down and looked over my shoulder. As I did so the young man on the bike pulled alongside me and caught my eye. “Hi,” he said. Confused, I assumed he must’ve been a music student, one of Becky’s friends I had been introduced to at some distant party or another. Racking my brains to think when and where, I replied “Hi” back. “I’m Chris,” he said, holding out his hand. Realising with surprise and amusement that he was actually a complete stranger, I shook his hand. “I’m Robyn.” I replied. I felt a little awkward, but I was sure he was just being friendly, and he didn’t look particularly threatening. He looked not much older than myself, and his slight frame, curly hair and sharp, elfin face reminded me more of some sort of street urchin out of Oliver Twist than a dangerous assailant. In the instant I was contemplating this, he kept hold of my hand, and saying, “come here,” pulled me towards him, and tried to kiss me. Shocked and a little scared I pulled away, an incredulous expression on my face. Not knowing what to do I just stood there and looked at him. Taking my expression of horror as a definite hint, he laughed and turned his bike around, cycling off a little way down the path. Still standing there like a lemon, I saw him stop and turn back. “I have a boyfriend you know, sorry.” I blurted out still a little scared. (I don’t, just for the record). He smiled at me. “You have very nice… you know,” He said, motioning to his chest. “Um, thanks?” I replied, and he cycled off.
I’m still not exactly sure what that was all about. I wonder if he does that to all the girls he meets in the park? I don’t think he was particularly dangerous, although I do think he was probably after a quick tumble in the shrubbery. I didn’t know whether to be amused or scared. I suppose I was ironically, looking at my best – I always do when I’m out walking, guess I must just radiate happiness at being out in nature. I’m ashamed to say I quite flattered. I’m even more ashamed to say that had he been more attractive, I probably would’ve kissed him.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Gingerbread hell

Sunday 21st May ‘06

My god, I have just been looking at some photos of myself in my underwear taken yesterday for this project. I had no idea it was that bad. Admittedly, they were taken sans make-up and involve me staring blankly at the camera, (Never a good look for me) but still…. In comparison to photos of me taken years ago when I was a size eight, the transformation is horrific. I seem to have developed recently into a magnificent chinless wonder. Or should I say the magnificent multi-chinned wonder? Because that is the current situation. I have also noticed that my face is really very asymmetrical – something I had never noticed before in the mirror. Taking into account the vital importance of symmetry in assessment of beauty, I probably should do something about that.


The day before yesterday I completed four weeks of hell, otherwise known as my contribution to the end of year show. For this I was submitting a huge fake gingerbread house, big enough for people to stand up in. Now this creation had been a nightmare from day one. The original idea was to create a real giant gingerbread house that people could actually eat on the private view. This turned out to be completely unfeasible due to the necessity of an industrial oven, huge freezer and an obscene amount of money. After revising all the options, I settled on foam as a gingerbread substitute, unwisely neglecting to check the price. (A mistake I won’t be making again in a hurry). I went ahead and built a huge wooden frame for the house, made even bigger in the course of the build. This all went smoothly and I left for the Easter holidays confident in the ease of the next phase.

When I returned from Easter bright, breezy and brimming with optimism I decided to pop down to the market and buy the foam I needed for the house. Upon arrival I discovered that at the very least it would cost me about £120 if I wanted to use foam. After running through many possibilities I then settled upon salt dough instead; it was cheap and looked just like bread. I threw myself into manufacturing huge panels of salt dough, which I planned to nail onto the frame. In order to do this in time, and for it to fit onto the frame, I had to make the panels huge. They would not fit into any oven, not even the kiln, but I was assured by a so-called expert on the internet that they would dry naturally anyway. Now, making huge panels of salt dough is difficult. Really, really difficult. It used up huge quantities of salt and flour, necessitating hundreds of trips to Tescos. It was hot, exhausting work, they were nearly impossible to roll into the right shape, and I was rapidly running out of places to put them. After the first few days, I attempted to turn the panels over to dry them, nearly destroying them in the process. Eventually, as I had run out of time and space, I was forced to admit defeat.

My next plan was to use two layers of fabric stuffed with newspaper to simulate the gingerbread. I purchased 30m of brown fabric for £30 at the market, and about £15 worth of sweets to decorate it with. Everything set and ready to go, I was then faced with the problem of getting the stuff down there. Unable to get transportation to the gallery, I ended up carting it all down in a shopping trolley, as it was far too heavy for me to carry. Once at the gallery I started assembling the frame in the foyer, where I had been given permission to exhibit it. Only once it was all assembled management then informed me that in fact, I couldn’t place it there for reasons only known to them. It had to be partly taken apart and moved into the gallery. Two frantic days, multiple glue gun burns and hundreds of trips back and forth into town later it was all ready. I had spent the whole weekend baking tons of fairy cakes to put in it and had put them in plastic bags to take to the gallery. I was then told that in fact, I couldn’t do this for health and safety reasons in case I poisoned someone. Much negotiation later I obtained permission to use them so long as I put a note by them warning people they were home made. Relieved, I went to get out the cakes, only to find that as a result of being made from packet mix (For cost and convenience) and being kept in plastic bags, they had virtually disintegrated.

That evening, I was informed that there was no-where to store the shopping trolley for the week; I would have to take it back to uni. Everyone else had left the building, leaving me to get the lift down with the trolley. I tried all the lifts but none of them were working. Security was no-where to be found, and I couldn’t ring anyone else to help me, as I couldn’t get back into the locked gallery to buzz them in. In a moment of panic, scared I would get everyone into trouble for leaving the trolley lying around, I wrestled with it down about eight flights of steep stairs. Upon eventually reaching the bottom, bruised and exhausted, I found the place deserted and all of the doors shut. I eventually located one that wasn’t locked, and managed to set off an ear splitting alarm. Bolting out of the door like a startled rabbit, I scurried up the long hill back to uni, shopping trolley clanking and swerving in front of me.

In the end I substituted the cakes for wrapped sweets and these went down well. With everything ready for the private view, I arrived early to turn it all on, only to find that my cd player, which was to provide the house with spooky music, was refusing to work. Despite this, it all seemed to go fairly well at the private view, and the time soon came to take it all down. This was easier said than done, as I had put it up so securely, I had to almost totally destroy it to bring it down. I was also faced with the problem of how to get it back to uni. If I wanted to put it in for assessment, I would have to re-buy all the fabric and sweets and hire a van to get the wood back, as I couldn’t get it all back up the hill again. Not prepared to pay more money just for the sake of assessment, most of it had to be thrown away. I am not too worried though as it was only ever meant to be a transitory work anyway. As a result I am left with little to do this week. Unable to really start anything large in uni, I am reduced to painting here alone, eating biscuits and watching the rain. (Upon checking, weeks later, the salt dough never dried. It stayed as soggy as ever, the only development being a film of greenish black mould).

Ugly beautiful thing

Sunday 14th May '06

During a snatched hour in the pub garden the other day, the sunburn and cider bought me to reflect upon how summer seems to change people so radically. My (male) friend was expounding the point that how successful men are depends upon the amount of power they appear to wield, whereas how successful women are depends upon aesthetics. I replied by explaining the interesting position women therefore find themselves in. Human beings are virtually programmed to be more prepared to like an attractive person. It has been proved that attractive people get further in life, easier. Sad but true. However, women (Or at least those in my experience) find themselves in somewhat of a conundrum. I call this the “is she prettier than me?” problem. When we meet someone new, if we are to believe scientists, we will like them more if they are pretty. But always, even if it is at an unconscious level, there is the thought, “but is she prettier than me?” running through the backs of our minds. We will like her a lot more if she isn’t believe me. (All this tends to vanish over time if you become friends with the person, but the knowledge of who is prettier still hangs around in the air. We may not like to admit it but women are always aware of who is the most attractive). So there is always then, a balance going on between the two mindsets. In order to fully like a person on first appearances, she must be tolerably pretty, but not stunning. The same also applies to fat. But magnified by about 100.

This week there has been the most beautiful sunshine, and I have been wearing a dress. The reaction has been startling. Usually I am pretty invisible to people. I get bumped into in the street, overlooked by men and have practiced the art of disappearing quietly from a group completely undetected from an early age. (I get bored really easily). My friend recently told me that I was such an uncontroversial person he couldn’t imagine anyone not liking me. Which is odd really, as I have been picked on all my life as a result of being somehow different. I guess I just try to avoid unpleasantness where I can. My point being, I guess I fall into that category of women I have just described, pretty but not a threat. (Far too fat). Ironically, I have always assumed I fell into the category of ugly/beautiful – considered ugly by some, beautiful by others, but never just normally pretty. All my heroines (And Heros) fall into this category too. I have a particular taste in aesthetics and think the likes of Helena Bonham-Carter, Johnny Depp and Dita Von Teese the most beautiful people in the world, while most people I know find them ugly. One thing I have never experienced however, is what it must feel like to be truly stunning - a femme fatale, loved by men and envied by women. Well, just put on a dress and walk through Birmingham. It’s an education. In just one short stretch of road I was aware of nearly every man clocking me. At least 5 or 6 called out variations of “Oi nice titties!” (Yes, they really do think that this constitutes charm) or wolf whistled. The male sales assistant in Smiths called me darling and gorgeous, and stroked my hand as he gave me the change. The female sales assistant in Boots couldn’t have been more deliberately unpleasant if she tried. On my hurried way home, actually a little intimidated by all the creepy men on my road following me and leering, a taxi full of girls drove past. As it did so they leaned out of the windows and screamed “Fat” at me, as if all the malice in the world could be condensed into that one little word. Now, I am not really what you would call noticeably fat. A bit overweight maybe, but not so much that it could be used as an insult. In fact, in that particular dress I flatter myself I look very good. Those girls could have only two reasons for shouting that. The first is that they were drunk or something and would’ve shouted it at anyone, the second, without sounding too much like my mother, is jealousy. It makes you think doesn’t it, how hopeless women really can be. We hate men because, naturally they are all evil and don’t understand us, but we are even more vicious to our own kind. We sneer at a woman if she is ugly or overweight, wonder why she doesn’t do something about it and preen ourselves smugly. (Why else do you think these reality makeover shows are so popular?) But if we come across a woman who is a threat to our fragile egos we tear her to shreds. How do we ever expect to get anywhere with this attitude? It baffles me. Not to mention the shallowness of the male populous. Why should I be treated any better, noticed more and served quicker just because they can see my cleavage? I don’t look any different. I’m just wearing a lower cut top. It’s unbelievable. I know it sounds so tired and hackneyed now, I’m embarrassed to have to say it, but experience of it firsthand always seems to shock me, even though it happens every summer. It really would appear that men and women alike honestly are blinded by blond hair and big tits. If you cover it up, you might as well not exist, if you don’t you are exposed to ridicule.

My mother is always saying to me, “My god you can’t go out in that, it’s obscene!” Not an unusual comment for a mother to make you might think. But when the offending item is no more than a common or garden t-shirt or blouse, worn with jeans and showing no flesh, no mid-drift or anything risqué, what am I to do? “It’s not the clothes that’s the problem,” replies my mother upon questioning, “it’s just you.” I get hot in summer just like anyone else, but anything less than a woolly jumper gets me branded as a whore. I should be able to wear a cool summer dress in public without everyone on the street automatically assuming I am doing it to attract the attention of men. If I was thin and flat chested you bet I wouldn’t have this problem. Therefore I find myself in the unique position of being made to feel ashamed of both my good points (Face, hair, curves) and my bad (Fat).

Another interesting aside is that while walking through the posh part of town on the way to meet my friends the other evening, I strolled confidently along thinking that at least here, in this haven of fairy lights and expensive restaurants, I would be safe. I was still wearing the offending dress - which is a baby pink, knee length, flared, 50s number – with flat pink shoes, a cardigan and a small white bow in my hair. I had been walking for some time, completely free of leering men, when I passed by a group of 30 something business women, all in their black suits and obviously drunk from the post-work drink. As I walked by they called out “Oi, wonderland is that way, hahahaha! Never land is that way!” shrieking and squawking abrasively and falling about drunkenly as they did so. After the initial catty thoughts in my head along the lines of “Yes, because you’re all so attractive, you remind me of a flock of painted vultures.” Which I wish I’d had the guts to say, I was shocked at this treatment from what I perceived as grown ups. Even though I am now 21, it had never occurred to me that I could be considered a threat to older women (Although now it does make sense). I had always been protected from adult derision through the virtue of being seen as a child. (Probably a lot longer than I should, as I do appear very young). I was also shocked that grown women who should know better still behave this way – like childish bullies. Interestingly though the more abuse I get only strengthens my resolve further. I have never given in to bullying, even at an early age; no amount of pressure could make me less determined to be absolutely me. This is mostly because every time someone says something nasty I am always overcome with relief that I am not them, not so bitter and ugly inside (And more often than not, outside) that I feel it necessary to hurt others in order to validate myself.

Brain damage - a marvellous excuse

Saturday 13th May ‘06

We have just completed five whole days of glorious sunshine. Despite the near torrential rain today, I remain optimistic, and even bought some salad. I Still haven’t been running, but I am confident that with the onset of summer I shall be tempted into long morning walks in the fresh air and mountains of crisp greens. I just read an article today about how it is better to run in pairs as it reduces the damage done to your brain from the violent stress chemicals released when running. Hmm, maybe running isn’t the answer after all. I think I hear that sticky toffee pudding calling….

Extra Inches

Wednesday 3rd May ‘06

I am writing this one month after my original good resolutions, stuffing my face with chocolate and watching a programme in which they are giving cosmetic surgery to a woman who lost about 20 stone and now has huge flaps excess skin all over her body. I tried, I really did. I went for lots of walks over the holiday, I cycled, I even went running…twice. It’s just that it’s hard trying to lose weight with my Mother’s birthday, Easter, and then my birthday to contend with. It could have definitely been worse. I will start afresh soon. I promise. On a brighter note, against all the odds, I have completed four 50s circle skirts and petticoat, all done I might add, without the aid of a pattern. It took a while but it was worth it, it’s amazing how much more authenticity a couple of inches on a hemline gives you.

Day One

Tuesday 3rd April ‘06
Bust: 38” Waist: 33” Hips: 41.5”

I went for a run this morning. I thought I was going to die or be sick; or die then be sick, either would be accurate. It wasn’t my first run, in fact it was my fourth, not bad going for nearly 21 years I feel. You have to be something of an expert to avoid exercise for that long, and I am the all time master. At school I used to pull every trick in the book to get off PE: “forgetting” my kit, skiving off sick, sprained ankles and countless notes from my mum. It even got to the point at which I’d fake asthma attacks every time we were made to run anywhere. The only exercise I have ever been remotely interested in has involved adrenaline in some way. I have ridden horses since I was two, been on a few skiing trips and attended guides and all the accompanying outings abseiling or kayaking until I was about 15. I went through a brief, highly embarrassing period of ballet lessons, and there was even a time during puberty in which I could outrun my whole PE class. Having been the school fat kid all my life, this felt pretty good. However, this didn’t last long. I gave up ballet pretty quickly after myself, my teacher and all my snotty classmates realised my total ineptitude. Ski trips were not an affordable option for regular exercise, and even my beloved riding fell by the wayside as I started my A levels. Since leaving school the amount of exercise I take has dwindled to none, and my weight has slowly but steadily been on the increase. Since uni and the discovery of all you can eat Chinese buffets for £4.99, I am now the heaviest I have ever been. My only saving grace is (Underneath there somewhere) an hourglass figure and a 34E/F chest which balances me out a bit.

My friend had gone on holiday for a month in Australia with a fitness mad aunt. She came back full of beans, a stone lighter and running 3 miles every morning. Since then she and her housemate have been bullying me to go running with them. I had only been once previously, and that ended in tears, blisters and a real asthma attack, so I was not optimistic. After avoiding it for as long as possible I eventually relented for the sake of art. The results were not pretty. I went twice and had to give up due to shredded feet from my battered old trainers. This morning however, having gone home for the holidays full of promises to run, my mum lent me some trainers. Excuses to self thin on the ground, (Even the weather was uncharacteristically beautiful) I was forced to go. I didn’t do too badly considering. I made it all the way to the end of the cycle path before I died.

Friday, 27 April 2007

The Project

By the time I was seventeen I was going to be perfect. I was going to be the lead guitarist of my very own punk band; I was going to be confident, popular and oh so thin. Seventeen was years away; I had plenty of time to do it. I used to fantasise about this perfect version of me and her perfect life. I even gave her a name – I called her Kate. Now, her life was obviously a far more attractive prospect than mine, filled with orthodontists and maths lessons as it was, and I began to spend more and more time in my fantasy dreamworld. Over time, the characters and stories I created to augment Kate and her perfect life (So many I could have written a whole series of books) started to acquire a life of their own, and became almost as real and dear to me as the inhabitants of my real life; leading me into all sorts of philosophical conundrums about the nature of reality! Since I left school and the real world started demanding more and more of my attention, my daydreams faded into the background, only to be retreated to in times of severe boredom or insomnia.

The interesting thing was, that although I grew deeply involved with all the characters in my stories, giving them entire life histories and complex personalities, Kate herself, (Supposedly the star of the show) always remained curiously one-dimensional and distant. Due to her perfection, I never really identified with her the way I did my more dysfunctional creations. She remained a far off, hazy, ideal that, as I grew older and older, I knew I had little chance of becoming.

Over the years my idea of what constitutes perfect has changed dramatically, and I have always strived to be whatever I happened to think that was at the time, whether it involved colour co-ordinated accessories or good karma.

It should be easily understood by now that fantasy is very important to me, and always seems to crop up in my work in one way or another, often unintentionally. I have never been a fan of reality, especially not in art. As an interesting point, Oscar Wilde was in perfect agreement with my point of view. There are many quotes I could use to illustrate this, but a few of my favourites, (which also perfectly outline my practice) would include:

“No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did he would cease to
be an artist.”
“Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things is the proper aim of art.”
“(Art) is a veil, rather than a mirror.”

It would appear today that we have all become far too jaded. I was recently told that I was very unusual because I can look at the images of women in glossy magazines like Vogue, and see only beauty and mystery, instead of feeling depressed and inadequate in the face of such misogynistic representations of an ideal. It’s a sorry state indeed we have gotten ourselves into if we cannot look at a simple beautiful image, whether it be in art or a magazine, without working ourselves into a depressive frenzy trying to read the deeper socio-political messages imbued in it. When I decided to set out to become an artist, I just wanted to make the world a better place. To give people a moment of joy and beauty, to envelop them in mystery and layer after layer of elaborate fantasy. I am not saying my work doesn’t contain negative or disturbing aspects (Rather the reverse I fear) but the world has enough ugly realism in it without me adding to the problem.

As artists, certain things are expected of us. The myth of the artist as genius is a well established one, even the myth of the artist as myth itself. Many artists assume alter egos and pseudonyms. Their work even changes when produced by these alter egos. Cindy Sherman is a fascinating example as she uses artifice in her work to conceal her real identity so completely no-one really knows who she is. The archetype of the wild artist is very well known to the public, and the YBA’s live up to this image, nobody knows to what extent intentionally. One of my favourite contemporary artists Nobuyoshi Araki lives up to the image he has created for himself so much that nobody can tell where the myth ends and reality starts. From what I gather, in order to succeed in the art world, or indeed, in the world in general, you require an image. Even if that image is one rooted in non-identity, as Cindy Sherman’s is, it is still something for people to remember you and your work by. Taking into account the prevalence of myth and fantasy in my work, I have decided to attempt to become a myth myself.

This project was originally undertaken as part of my uni work and formed the contents of a scrapbook. However, dubious though I am, I have finally decided to give technology a try - it seemed a shame to go to all this effort and have only a few people ever see it.

I have always been in love with the fifties dream, (Not to be confused with the real 50s) - a Pleasantville style world where everything is just super. I am also interested in the mysterious world of fashion, especially the ideas of perfection it sells, a perfection that is always just out of reach. I love the fifties fashion and would like to become one of those perfect women - a person that has most likely never existed. There is only one problem, I am not a fictional character in a 50s sitcom, and you cannot airbrush life. However, I have never been one to let reality get in the way of my plans, and so I have determined to give it a try. Can I become perfect? Can I become a living myth? Probably not, but I need to lose the weight anyway!