Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

“The story of my body is not a story of triumph.”

Hunger is not a weight-loss memoir but therein lies its power. It is Roxane’s struggle with her “unruly body and unruly appetites” that I connected with. Reading this book was a deeply personal experience. Often, Roxane articulated the exact thoughts and feelings I have had as an overweight person.

When you are overweight, people feel they have the right to comment on your body, to speak authoritatively on it. Like my uncle who I hadn’t seen in years who told me, in lieu of a greeting: “You have to do something about your body size.” I know this commentary isn’t restricted to the overweight and there are thin people who are judged too. Body shaming in any form is wrong. Imagine if just by looking at someone you could see they were jealous or selfish or cruel. But such flaws cannot be seen just by looking.

“I know what it means to hunger…I know that hunger is in the mind and the body and the heart and the soul.”

The source of that deep hunger is complex and unique to each person. But “people see bodies like mine and make their assumptions.” They assume that overweight people must be indulging at every opportunity, that they are unable to exercise even a shred of self-control. But like Roxane: “I deny myself so much and it is still not enough.”

I am tired of apologising for my body. “I am hyperconscious of how I take up space…as if I have less of a right to be in the world than anyone else.” But when someone bumps into me, most of the time they don’t care – it’s as if it’s the price I have pay for my body. As an overweight woman, society tells me that I should have a pretty face or be funny or be silent. I should be trying to make my body more palatable.

But I am more than my body.

One of the things that makes me feel really good, has nothing to do with my body. It is when I do something that reaches someone, when I truly connect with another person, even in the smallest way. When I leave this earth, it will not be my body that will be my legacy.

This book is for anyone who has ever hungered for something. Roxane’s story is raw and painful but it gave me hope. I don’t mean hope that Roxane or I or anyone else will lose weight. But a hope that comes from feeling seen and understood.

This story is a story of triumph because Roxane is still here, living in the world and creating. Creating words with an honesty and beauty that reaches people. And Roxane created this incredible book, living in the body she has now. Not the body she had before and not the body she may have in the future.

Let Go and Create Space

I have been carefully editing my closet on a seasonal basis for some years now (see my Shop Your Closet post). What I have not been so diligent at, is getting rid of the items I edit out of my closet. In the past, I have dropped clothes off in charity clothing bins but more recently they have sat in my attic waiting to be taken to the bins. I also had a lot of accessories and books which didn’t know what to do with.

This month I decided to get serious about finally getting rid of this stuff. Related to the ideas of minimalism and manifesting, I realised that although I had let go of these items from my wardrobe, they were still in my life. I needed to create (physical and mental) space for what I really wanted.

Having scaled back at work, I had also come to the decision that going forward I would need several different income streams. My new ventures weren’t bringing in any revenue yet, so I was looking to make some passive income.

It had been a while since I had culled all that clothing, so I went through it with a fresh eye and separated it into three groups:

  1. Items that were new (with or without tags) or hardly worn.
  2. Items in good condition that I wanted to give my friends first dibs on.
  3. Everything else.

The clothing in the first group I donated to a hospice shop so that they could sell the items and keep the proceeds.

I had three huge bags full of clothes which I gave to friends to sort through and pick what they liked from. Anything they don’t want I will donate.

The items in the third group I took straight to charity clothing bins. It took two car trips but I felt great when it was done.

That got rid of the clothes but I still had shoes, bags, jewellery and lots of books. I gave some of these items to the hospice shop but there were some that were worth decent money and I needed to supplement my reduced income.

I had thought about selling online but wasn’t sure how to do it. Trade Me (which is like the New Zealand version of eBay) is really for finding a bargain and I had tried selling jewellery on there before, without any success. Then I came across Designer Wardrobe (DW). This site is specifically for buying, selling and renting designer brand items (and some high street labels) in New Zealand and Australia.

I decided to have a go at listing my shoes, bags and jewellery. I chose the option of shipping with a DW shipping kit. This means that when an item sells, DW sends me a pre-paid and pre-addressed courier bag which I put the item in and then drop off at a NZ Post shop. The cost of shipping is subsidised by DW and the balance is included in the selling price.

A couple of hours after listing my first item, it had already sold. I have just received my shipping kit and packed it up ready to send to its new owner. It takes a while to photograph the items and write descriptions for the listings so I will keep adding more items each week.

This just leaves my books. I am kind of obsessed with books and for a long time I was only interested in print books. When a book came out I would usually buy the hardcover edition rather than wait for the paperback. For a long time my favourite genre has been memoir and biography but in the years since reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, I have gotten back into fiction in a big way. I love psychological thrillers. I buy them, read them fast and then add them to the ever-growing pile of books which I can’t fit in my bookshelves.

Last year I got a Kindle and this has helped me reduce the number of physical books I buy. I still prefer print for memoir and biography, and books with images.  But I love that I can get the latest thriller delivered straight to my device, read it in one sitting and not feel guilty about how much I spent (ebooks are generally cheaper than print) and the physical space it would be taking up.

But I still have a backlog of books, mostly fiction but also some non-fiction (particularly fashion) books, that I am ready to let go of. I seldom read a novel a second time, even if I really enjoyed it. I am planning to sell these books on Trade Me. Books are expensive to buy in New Zealand and I am a careful reader so most of my books look brand new. It would be nice to send them to someone else to enjoy, while getting back part of what I spent on them.

I hope this has given you some ideas to use yourself and I will update you on my progress in a future post.

xx Michelle

Beauty from the Inside Out by Bobbi Brown

This is my first book review on the blog but I’m planning for it to be a regular post. Just so you know, all the books I review will have been purchased by me and I will give you my honest thoughts.

I follow @justbobbibrown on instagram and when I saw her latest book, I was immediately drawn to the cover. I loved the fresh, glowing makeup on the model and how the turquoise background popped. It’s a gorgeous book and one you will want to leave out where it can be seen. But it’s not just a coffee table book, there’s plenty to dig into and learn.

Although I have read widely on nutrition and wellness, so was already aware of some of the ideas covered, I still enjoyed having them pulled together in one book. For those who are new to these topics, the book presents them in a very approachable way. As I expected, the sections on makeup and makeovers are excellent. Bobbi is, after all, an expert on the subject. I also appreciated the range of women interviewed and models photographed.

My favourite genre of books is memoir and biography, so I couldn’t help but wish there was more about Bobbi herself, but maybe that’s for another book.

 

The Luxe Edit: Year 5

I can’t believe The Luxe Edit is in its 5th year! From the beginning, the blog has been mostly visual – basically my own fashion magazine. But now I am focused (both personally and professionally) on writing.

With this in mind, I thought I would select some of my favourite written posts from the blog. For those who have followed The Luxe Edit since its inception, this is a chance to revisit them. If you have come across the blog more recently, then I hope you find them useful.

xx Michelle

Shop Your Closet

How to Shop Online

New Year. New You.

How to Pack

Proportion & Fit

 

Minimalism Challenge 2017

Lately I have been feeling a pull towards minimalism. For me, having a lot of things isn’t luxe but loving what I have is.

An obvious place to start was my wardrobe. In recent years, I have gotten better at choosing pieces that I wear often and editing my wardrobe seasonally. I donate most of the culled pieces to charity. This year I wanted to refine my wardrobe even further.

The goal was a carefully curated selection of 20 pieces (including shoes and bags). If you have a lot of clothes but only wear the same pieces over and over, why not pull out these pieces and sell or give away the rest? Try the Minimalism Challenge 2017.

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When choosing your 20 pieces it may help to use the following criteria:

Do I feel good in it?

Do I feel like I look good? Is it comfortable? Skirts or dresses that are too short and you keep self-consciously pulling them down, need to go. As do any tops or dresses that gap and you constantly need to check you haven’t come undone. Anything you can’t relax and breathe in, should also go.

Will I wear it often?

Think about whether you would wear the piece in an average week. While it’s great to have a go-to outfit for a night out, the bulk of your wardrobe should be able to be worn on any given day. Similarly, you should consider your preferences. If you are more comfortable in trousers then include more of these than skirts or dresses. As a general rule, you should have at least as many tops as bottoms, to maximise your outfit options.

Do I love it?

Does it reflect the life I want to live now? This is important because your personal style develops and evolves. If you feel good in a piece and will wear it, then you probably like it, but you still need to weed out borderline pieces. These are pieces you feel good in and will wear because of that, but you may be bored by, or they do not “spark joy” as Marie Kondo calls it in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. These pieces do not belong in your life anymore.

Your 20 pieces will not be the same as mine but it may be helpful to know what I chose. My 20 pieces for Summer 2017 are:

  1. Go-To Dress: Black T-shirt style dress in shimmery pleated fabric.
  2. Fashion Top: Black off the shoulder top with ruffled neckline.
  3. Relaxed Shirt: White striped silky shirt.
  4. Plain T-shirt: Grey V-neck T-shirt in textured fabric.
  5. Decorative T-shirt: Blue striped T-shirt with “Capri” on it.
  6. Lightweight Blazer: Pink unstructured blazer.
  7. Camisole: Black silky lace-trimmed camisole.
  8. Classic Top: Navy and white striped top with three-quarter length sleeves.
  9. Pencil Skirt: Black bandage style, knee-length skirt.
  10. Shorter Skirt: Black lace, fuller style, above the knee skirt.
  11. Textured Skirt: Grey knit midi skirt with side splits.
  12. Denim Shorts: Black denim above the knee shorts.
  13. Jeans: Medium blue wash skinny jeans (not too tight).
  14. Everyday Shoes 1: Nude slim loafers.
  15. Everyday Shoes 2: Nude dressy sneakers.
  16. Heels: Black medium height heels.
  17. Tote Bag: Yellow structured tote.
  18. Crossbody Bag: Red crossbody.
  19. Shoulder Bag: Black quilted shoulder bag with gold chain strap.
  20. Everyday Watch: White/Gold rectangular face with navy leather strap.

I hope you enjoy choosing your 20 pieces and your streamlined wardrobe helps you to live better.

xx Michelle

Hello 2017!

I adore reinvention. Every new year I am excited by the seemingly limitless possibilities. No matter how tough the preceding year has been, I shake it off, read all the January issues of my favourite magazines and think about my hopes for the coming year.

In preparation for 2017 I read She Takes On the World by Natalie Macneil and the companion planner The Conquer Kit. In these books I found a whole lot of inspiration and motivation for my entrepreneurial endeavours. I have read a lot of books on career, blogging, social media etc and often feel I have not taken much new away from them. Not the case here, these books really got me thinking about what I want to achieve in 2017 and helped me to drill down with helpful and interesting exercises.

The key idea running through everything I want from 2017, is to start living on purpose. To stop waiting for “someday”. Someday isn’t good enough anymore, I’m ready now.

If you’re not feeling entrepreneurial, my other recommended reads are The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck  by Sarah Knight and Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker.

Wherever you found yourself at the end of 2016 I urge you find some inspiration and motivation for the new year. It is never too late to start living the life you want – to start living on purpose.

xx Michelle

The Transeasonal Pieces

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Jacket ASOS Curve, Skirt ASOS (for similar click here) and Bag Tory Burch (for similar click here).

The weather has been pretty nice lately but I’m not ready to fully switch over to my spring/summer wardrobe. I still need a few transeasonal pieces on hand to get me through.

This relaxed, lightweight jacket is perfect. The leather look skirt is a great piece no matter the season. Right now I’m pairing it with leggings and boots but as it warms up I’ll wear it with bare legs and ballet flats. My Tory Burch bag is also convertible – you can wear the strap long or short.

What is your favourite transeasonal piece?

I’m Back!

So I had to take a little break from my blog. I recently left my job and needed some time out to reset. The only social media I engaged in was posting pics from my holiday on instagram. Keeping up with social media can be draining and it’s important to engage in a way that is positive for you. I have found that instagram is particularly good for this.

A while back I changed who I was following on instagram. I was following a lot of designer brands and fashion bloggers, which was fine but when I scrolled through my feed, I mainly saw things I wanted to buy and super slim bloggers who I couldn’t always relate to.

Then I started following Ashley Graham (@theashleygraham) and other models from Lane Bryant campaigns (@candicehuffine@preciousleexoxo@denisebidot).

This led me to find heaps of body positive accounts and models whose names I didn’t know but who I recognised (@mahaliahandley@helloemmasanders).

I ended up unfollowing a lot of accounts and following all the body positive accounts I could find. Now when I scroll through my feed I see gorgeous, sexy women of all body types and ethnicities, along with positive, inspirational words (and some stuff I want to buy). Now my feed boosts and invigorates me.

Soon after this happened I read Jes Baker’s book Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls” (@themilitantbaker) and she suggests something similar. So if you aren’t totally loving your instagram feed then this could be something for you to try.

Here are some other body positive instagram accounts I follow, to get you started:

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@jennatilemile

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@notoriouslydapper

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@tiaprovost

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@dothehotpants

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@lililand

The Biker Jacket

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Jacket M&S Collection Petite, T-Shirt ASOS Curve, Skirt ASOS Curve (for similar click here), and Heels Truffle Collection (for similar click here).

I wanted to style this biker jacket in an unexpected way, so I paired it with a midi skirt and heels.

The outfit is all black but each item has a different texture so it’s not flat and boring. I particularly like that the midi skirt has sheer stripes.

With a biker jacket you want the look to feel relaxed and comfortable and not like the jacket is wearing you. So wear it with a little insouciance.

Let me know what you think of this look by leaving a comment.

xx Michelle

Proportion & Fit

These terms are thrown around a lot in fashion but they really are worth knowing about, to make the most of your shape.

PROPORTION

This is especially important if you are not very tall (like me). The way I think of proportion is that an outfit looks better if there is some contrast between the garments, for example:

  • A long top and a short skirt
  • A voluminous top and a tight skirt (or jeans)
  • A cropped top or jacket with a midi skirt

FIT

A popular piece of style advice is to “get everything tailored”. While I do recommend tailoring for special occasion or investment pieces, it’s not realistic for a lot of people or for the bulk of your wardrobe. So it’s important to get the fit right before you buy.

If it doesn’t fit right and you don’t plan to have it altered, then go without. It won’t make you look and feel great so it’s not worth it (even if it’s cheap).

Some brands are starting to understand that there are body variations beyond size and have introduced ranges to cater for this, for example:

  • Marks & Spencer Petite – designed for women 5 feet 3 inches and under.
  • ASOS Tall – but it’s not just for tall people. I like their mini-skirts which have that extra bit of length compared to the main and Curve lines.

Here is my best piece of advice with regard to fit: Don’t be afraid to go up a size. The size on the label is irrelevant – what matters is how it looks on you.

If the next size up gives you room to breathe, stops buttons from gaping, and allows you to move your arms unrestricted, then that’s the right size for you.

I personally prefer my clothing a little loose rather than skin-tight. I don’t believe in suffering for fashion. When you feel comfortable you feel more confident, and confidence is key.

xx Michelle

The Statement Piece

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Necklace Lanvin (for similar click here), Dress ASOS, and Boots Lane Bryant.

With a statement piece you need to style the rest of your outfit around it. This Lanvin necklace is pretty major so I wanted to keep the rest of the look clean and simple. This black T-shirt dress is the perfect backdrop, with the ribbed fabric adding a bit of texture.

The boots have an over-the-knee feel to them without actually going there. I like the glimpse of skin which stops the look from being completely covered up.

I wore a similar outfit to a wine-tasting with friends, which ended up being a 12 hour affair and I felt stylish and comfortable.

Do you have a statement piece you need help styling?

xx Michelle

 

 

The Print Dress

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Dress Portmans (for similar click here), Heels Banana Republic, Clutch Comme des Garçons (for similar click here), Bracelet Marni (for similar click here), and Earrings Anton Heunis (for similar click here).

A lot of people are afraid of prints (especially when you favour black because it’s “slimming”) but I adore them. I am always on the lookout for a top or dress in a great print. This dress was an unexpected find just before I went on a trip to Hawaii.

I wore it to celebrate a friend’s birthday on that trip. I paired it with these kitten slingback heels, which I picked up on the same trip, and happened to match the blue in the print.

To accessorise I wore my favourite statement earrings – yellow crystal chandeliers. The yellow provides a nice contrast to all the blue and stops the look from being too matchy-matchy. The gold bracelet blends with the yellow earrings and is bold enough to stand out against the long sleeve. The simple clutch picks out the black in the print.

If a print dress is too much for you, start by pairing a print top with a plain black skirt. Let me know how you get on.

xx Michelle

A Matter of Size

In my post on this blog’s new direction I noted that my clothing size varies depending on the label and style. I’m sure you have had the experience of not knowing which size will fit you best, particularly when shopping online.

Here’s my first piece of advice – don’t worry about the size you wear because it’s how it fits that matters. I will buy a size 16, 18, 20 or 22 if that’s what I think will fit (and therefore look) better.

If you are physically trying clothes on then take the size you think you are, plus one size up and one size down. That way you can compare them and see what looks best.

Online shopping is a bit trickier. First, you need to know your measurements. Yes, it’s a hassle but get out that tape measure and measure your bust, waist and hips in both cms and inches. Write your measurements down and keep them handy.

Second, check the size guide on the website to see which size is closest to your measurements. If you are like me and between sizes, you’ll need to check the product description. This is often overlooked as people tend to focus on the pictures but I always make my buying decisions based on both.

If it says slim fit, skinny fit, cut close to the body or similar then you need to go with the size up. If it says regular fit I would also go with the size up unless there is stretch in the fabric (more on this in an upcoming post) and you like to wear your clothes more fitted.

If however, it says relaxed fit then you can probably get away with the size down. A relaxed fit is what I look for when shopping online because fit matters less and you don’t need to get the size exactly right.

Last weekend I was in Sydney, shopping at Myer department store which has a range of different labels. I walked past a label that I stopped wearing several years ago when the largest size got too small for me. On display on a table was a knit top. The print caught my eye and when I picked it up I saw that although it was a size small it was quite big. I searched through the pile and found a size large. I held it up and was sure it would fit. I tried it on and sure enough it did. I was thrilled and went to the counter to buy it. While waiting in line I spotted a cardigan by the same label, and again the size large looked like it would fit. I quickly tried it on and it did. So I ended up with two pieces by a label I haven’t worn in years all because of a relaxed fit.

Let me know what you think of this post by leaving a comment.

xx Michelle

 

 

The Pajama Style Shirt

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Shirt Banana Republic, Skirt New Look (for similar click here), Flats Diana Ferrari, Tote Mansur Gavriel, Watch Nixon, and Earrings Noir Jewelry (for similar click here).

The key to not looking like you actually walked out of the house in your pajamas, is to keep the look polished.

To get the proportions right, I paired my shirt which has a relaxed fit and is quite long on me, with a mini skirt. Related to proportion is balance. In this case, wearing the mini skirt with flats, because I prefer a look that is subtly, rather than overtly, sexy.

To complement the “busy” stripes of the shirt, I limited my accessories to black and gold, and added a pop of red on my lips and nails. Simple but effective.

Let me know what you think of this look by leaving a comment.

xx Michelle

A New Direction

Nearly three and a half years since I started THE LUXE EDIT blog, I am ready to take it in a new direction. In recent times I had let the blog slip on my list of priorities. When I’m not working I’m writing and the blog had been coming a distant third. After chatting with some new friends over a few glasses of wine, I realised that I needed to dig deeper. If I made the blog more personal I could keep myself motivated and connect with a wider audience.

So here goes…

I was a tiny baby and a skinny kid but since adolescence I have struggled with my weight. It hasn’t fluctuated up and down so much as steadily increased year on year (apart from a brief period when I lost a bunch of weight on a fad diet and then proceeded to gain it all back and more). My weight plateaued about three years ago and I now wear a NZ/AU/UK size 18 or 20 depending on the label and style (more on this in an upcoming post).

And you know what?

I am more body confident now than I ever was at my slimmest. That’s because it’s not actually about your body but your mind. You have the right to feel good in your own skin. How your body looks has no bearing on your worth. We are all people with thinking minds and feeling hearts and that is what really makes us who we are.

But we do get judged on our appearance, and you know, fashion is fun! So I want to help you feel comfortable in the body you have, and confident in the style and image you are projecting to the world. This will enable your inner beauty, your true beauty, to shine through.

When I started THE LUXE EDIT I wanted to share my style advice but being a naturally private person, I didn’t feel comfortable photographing myself for the blog. But styling is a visual medium and I realised that the best way to help you, would be to show you. So going forward I will be sharing my outfits with you and breaking down how I’ve styled them. I will also be creating other original content intended to inspire you.

I called my blog THE LUXE EDIT because along with style advice I wanted to express my personal taste, which is unabashedly luxe. But luxury doesn’t have to be expensive. While I have some higher-end pieces, the building blocks of my outfits are affordable. I will show you how to create a look that is polished and luxurious.

So THE LUXE EDIT is aspirational but it is also inclusive

You don’t need to look like me to get a lot out of this blog. Whatever your body shape, size, ethnicity or gender identity – there is a place for you here. A place that I hope will help move you closer to self-acceptance and ultimately, self-love.

xx Michelle

P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts on THE LUXE EDIT’s new direction so please leave a comment.