Papow Ponders #16: The Sari And Me

At the beginning of this year, I promised myself that I’d get a new sari (one that wasn’t a hand-me-down from older generations in my family; one that was truly mine). On Wednesday night, I made my selection on a website. As I was just about to pay, I stopped. I’ve previously touched on my relationship with my race and culture in a previous blog post. Trying to buy a sari brought a lot of those feelings back.

When my grandparents came to this country from Fiji, they did what they could to assimilate. As well as having their given names, they also had anglicised names – this was also the case for my mum and her siblings. Even I anglicised my name for the majority of my childhood, going by Cherie rather than Chereeka. Assimilation also impacted the way my family dressed. There are some pictures of female family members wearing saris in the UK (most around the sixties and seventies) but as the years have gone by these images have become scarce. In my lifetime, I cannot remember seeing  any woman in my family in a sari. I’ve only every seen close family friends in them or strangers going about their own business. With all this in mind, it made me wonder whether I should be buying a sari if they hadn’t been worn for such a long time. Would I be able to put it on without my mum’s help? Would it look wrong on me? Would people question what I’m wearing?

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My mum in a sari in her late teens

Another thought that made me pause was my own background. I’ve only ever worn my mother’s sari. I wear it rarely but when I do, I feel a greater connection to her and the older generation of women in my family. Should I be able to wear it more often? I’ve been brought up in majority white neighbourhoods and educational institutions. On several occasions, I’ve been referred to as a coconut or Oreo – not brown enough. Also Fijians are such a tiny ethnic group in the UK, it’s hard to find someone from the same background to discuss this stuff with. I know I’m waffling at this point but what I’m trying to say is do I have enough connection with Desi culture to wear it? I want to take pride in my ancestry but I don’t want to be disrespectful or disingenuous either.

I know it’s not the biggest issue to be discussing but it is something that I worry about. Maybe I shouldn’t be so concerned with other people’s opinions. Maybe I should already know the answer. However, I still ask myself: should I buy the sari?

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Drag Nights: #1 Sasha Velour

To cut a long story short, I fell in love with drag around three years ago when I first started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. Since then, I’ve been been following the journeys of several queens and branched out to seek other forms of drag. The Boulet Brothers (including everything Dragula) and Creme Fatale are particular favourites of mine.

Even though I’d been enjoying drag for quite a while, I’d not been to an actual show. I’m not a fan of being out really late and I hate public transport at night so the natural timing of a drag show isn’t all that ideal for me. This all changed when I found out that Sasha Velour was coming to Reading university – I knew I could cope with a twenty minute journey. Excited at the prospect of finally seeing some fabulous queens up close, I asked Becky if she fancied coming along and she happily said yes.

On the night, I opted a Velour-inspired outfit: bold colour, velvet and a leather jacket.

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My other half dropped me off at Becky’s and then we made our way to the union (which I hadn’t visited since 2011). Neither of us knew what to expect.

A mix of UK drag queens and dancers strutted their stuff on the stage as the DJ got the audience warmed up. I’m in no doubt that Becky was in awe of my masterful dance moves. Everyone in the room seemed to be enjoying themselves – even though it was a Monday in January.

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After some time of boogying on down, the time had come for Sasha to come on stage. It was bloody amazing. I won’t say too much but Marlene Dietrich, Golem, Kate Bush and Le Tigre were involved – along with some stunning costumes.

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The final act had Becky and I holding hands, swaying and singing. Totally unforgettable. Afterwards, we headed upstairs for out Meet and Greet. Sasha turned up in the most glamorous vagina outfit. It was wonderful. When it came to my turn, I just told her that she was brilliant, that I was out on a school night and that I loved her views on education. It was a blur of smiles and happiness.

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Despite it being nearly two in the morning, Becky and I left the union buzzing – we’re definitely going to more drag shows together.

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Mustard And Teal With Susan Phelps Photography

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I have always adored teal – not quite green, not quite blue but completely beautiful. Lately though, I’ve been having a bit of a love affair with mustard. Any shade seems to satisfy my need for warmth, sunshine and a little sophistication.

When Susan Phelps and I decided to do another shoot, I knew I had the perfect combo. First of all, I grabbed my newest dress from Vivien of Holloway. The Runaround Sue is one of their staple styles but the latest batch are made from an easy-to-wear crepe fabric. I had to go for the petrol version, which is a darker teal colour. Pockets included – definitely a winner!

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Now when I saw this jacket on the House Of Foxy website, I knew I’d eventually end up with it. It’s got to be one of my favourite purchases; great quality fabric and a perfect fit. Mustard is quite a bold colour but it goes nicely with quite a few bits from my wardrobe.

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My talented little sister knitted me a mustard hat and scarf set for Christmas. The scarf made a great accessory for my dress!

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Thanks again to Susan Phelps for creating these gorgeous shots – here’s to the next shoot!

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Repro And Vintage Mix With Susan Phelps Photography

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Last year, a new vintage shop opened up Reading – Georgina’s Vintage. Curious, I went on a visit with a friend and found a gorgeous skirt. Before Christmas, I headed back again to pick up this fabulous shirt and skirt combo. I fell in love with the colour and pattern. Both pieces are vintage and decently priced too.

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‘Jenny’ cardigans from Vivien of Holloway have become a staple in my wardrobe. The rosewood colour compliments my vintage pieces perfectly. I’ve always enjoyed mixing vintage and reproduction clothing – with the right mix, you have a whole range of outfits at your disposal!

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I love how many different colours there are in the skirt too. I’ve gone for burgundy and mustard here but I’d also love to try it with orange and teal too.

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I added a simple vintage brooch and comfy Doc Martens to complete the look. Though in this weather, boots might be a better option.

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Thanks again to Susan Phelps for capturing the richness of these colours – beautiful!

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Marvellous Marianne With Susan Phelps Photography

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I’ll admit – I’ve had my ups and downs with Lindy Bop (inconsistent sizing mostly). However when I saw the Marianne twin sets pop up in their sale, I knew I had to have one.

I bought my first Marianne back in November for a girl date with my pal Steph. Mustard has fast become one of my favourite colours so I had to order it. When I got it, I was pleasantly surprised by the feel and quality of the fabric – I loved that the buttons were covered in the same material too.

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I was very happy with the fit: true to the size chart and just the right length – definitely a good buy!

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Now that I knew this style worked for me, I decided to chance it and grab another sale bargain. This time in teal.

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The great thing about a twin set is that you don’t really need to worry about cardigans or jackets to go with your dress because you already have one! I simply added a little prawn brooch from The Hirst Collection for contrast – a cute detail.

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Thanks to the talented Susan Phelps for my lovely teal dress photos – really perked me up after my post-Xmas blues!

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Beating The January Blues With A Boogie And A Giggle!

After the joys of Christmas and New Year, January can feel pretty bleak. Term started over a week ago for me; I’m already feeling both stressed and tired. To fight my low mood, I’ve planned something nice to do each week. Hopefully, this will keep the doom and gloom at bay and help me to focus on positive moments.

During the holidays, a couple of friends organised a meet-up in London – just to hang out and catch up. Kelly and I booked tickets to a dance class linked to the Louise Dahl-Wolfe exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey. It was great value – an hour’s dance class and access to the exhibition for fifteen quid.

A chilly day out called for an outfit of many layers: thermal vest (I get very cold), shirt, dungaree skirt, cardigan and thick jacket. I was colourful and toasty – perfect.

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We turned up (fresh from the cold) for the class based on posing in Wolfe’s photography. As we picked the earlier class, the class was quite small but I definitely think that worked in our favour. Let’s just say we worked up a good sweat and had a proper boogie – highly recommended!

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After a cool down outside, we headed back to explore the exhibition. There were many striking images throughout with photographs from the Great Depression to Old Hollywood. Upstairs there was also a small section dedicated to Dior – a lovely reminder of my time in Paris with my mum. If you’re in the area, do visit!

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From there, we hopped on the tube to Angel. We’d worked up quite an appetite so I took Kelly to Kipferl (a lovely little Austrian restaurant). Kaesekrainer and sauerkraut consumed, we met up with Leanda, Becky, Carrie, Linz and Holly. Strolling through Camden Passage, we chatted and perused the goods on offer. We even got to bump into some cute pooches!

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Next, we moved on to Brick Lane to rest our feet and consume doughnuts. This was my first time trying Crosstown Doughnuts and I was not disappointed. I had a creme brulee doughnut – it was just what I needed. After bidding farewell to the rest of the womenfolk, Kelly and I picked up some beigels before heading home. My feet were sore and my heart was happy.

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Spotlight On The Diverse World Of Pin-Up and Vintage #1

Top of my list of things to do in 2018 was to highlight vintage and pin-up lovers from different backgrounds. Well, it makes sense to address this in my first blog post of the year!

I went through the long list of people I follow online and picked out ten accounts that share something other than what Google shows when you type in the words ‘vintage’ or ‘pin-up’. There are many more accounts I could share so I’ll probably do a few additional posts in the future. I’ve linked their IG accounts and added a short description.

The Urban Pinup

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Elora is a woman with many strings to her bow: pin-up, gamer, artist and a whizz with hair-styling. She’s utterly hilarious and an all-round good soul.

Ms Tiff Mischief

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Tiff is a US-based lover of retro and vintage, who is always well turned-out. She shares her fab outfits and info about events she attends too.

Dandy Wellington

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Dandy is a talented bandleader based in New York. He is always impeccably dressed – lots of style inspiration. Often he shares stories or posts about people of colour, past and present.

Pinups Of Colour

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The Pinups Of Colour account shares posts about people of colour who enjoy pin-up/vintage style. I’ve discovered so many people through this account and there’s a ton of fashion and styling inspiration too.

Violet Chachki

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If you’re a fellow Drag Race fanatic, you’ll know who Violet is. Violet is a drag queen, specialising in burlesque fantasy performances. From her hair to her shoes, her make-up to her costuming, she is exquisite.

The Desi Pinup

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Laila is an Aussie pin-up, who has an array of stunning tattoos. She shares elements of her Desi background on her account, including the styling of some of her pin-up looks.

Frantasy Island

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Fran is a bright and colourful pin-up from New Zealand, who’s a hair and make-up artist. She’s also a disability advocate, sharing her experiences and thoughts on the subject.

His Vintage Touch

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Tony is an incredibly talented vintage hair-stylist, primping and preening an array of people. He also speaks out on issues such as racism, homophobia and transphobia.

Angel Demure

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Angel is a fellow vintage lover, based in the US. Not only is she well put-together, she styles her hair beautifully in a variety of ways.

Onyx Vintage Magazine

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Onyx Vintage Magazine puts a spotlight on black and brown history. Contributors to the magazine come from a variety of backgrounds. You read about anything from cherished family stories to make-up tutorials.

This is only a slight glimpse into the huge world of vintage/pin-up – there is so much out there and I hope to discover more and more. Remember that a lot of what we see is a very narrow view of a subculture.

Which accounts do you follow that show a different element of the vintage/pin-up subculture? What kind of inspiration are you looking for?