Is Love Alive? I have been lucky. I am loved.

But, I have to be honest: I have a hard time with Valentine’s Day.

flowers card valentines day love roses i love you je t'aims

First Love

Don’t get me wrong, I love Love. I cry at weddings. I cheer for relationships.

But, I bristle at the exclusiveness Valentine’s Day implies for some. That a particular type of love is more valuable than others. That romantic love, marked by a narrow selection of gestures is how we shall know we are valued and loved.  Couples only, please.

This isn’t a bah-humbug post, but an invitation to reframe this day that might be disappointing or exclusionary for some, into one that is completely inclusive.

Even as children we feel the exclusivity of Valentine’s Day. I remember the big dilemma – do I give a card to everyone, including the kid who bullied me, or that I just didn’t like?  It stung if some classmate didn’t deem me worthy of one of their cheap-ass store bought cards.  I remember sitting at my desk in 4th grade watching popular kids count up their cards to see how got the most. There’s nothing quite like a gloating nine-year-old.

fire fireplace hearts love flowers lily valentine family romance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

to belong is to be loved

Here’s the great news, whether or not you’re a fan of the hoopla of Valentine’s Day, whether you are in a loving relationship or not, Valentine’s Day does not define love. Your lovableness cannot be boiled down to a single date on the calendar, or if one person chooses you on one day out of 365. Love is much more than that. Regardless of your status, today you can express your love for another person – a best friend, a mentor, a family member and brighten both of your days.

As we hit our late thirties, into our forties and beyond, our perspective of love changes, but the need for it never does. To be loved is to belong. Brené Brown puts it beautifully describing in Braving the Wilderness that our biggest need is for belonging.

What is left to say about love that has not been said before? Perhaps this: you are loved.

Love is alive

There are many types of love and lots of ways to spread it around. Try these and tell me how it goes. If you’re posting on social media use the hashtag #fortyologylove.

  1. Show yourself some healthy self-love and buy a cute journal today. Start writing it in it. What are your dreams? What are your healthy and unhealthy views of love?
  2. If you’ve got a pet, you’re definitely loved. Jojo Moyes writes a love letter to her dog. If you try this, please share!
  3. Pop a bottle of your favourite bubbly. (Pictured: my favourite)

       4. Call/Skype/Facetime/Zoom your current *Valentine (*anyone you love). Yes, on the phone.

5. If you think someone could use it, share this post.

6. Listen to this song (scroll down).

 

 

 

 

 

More on Love.

Love In The Time of Ageism

 

 

 

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Fierce-Hearted Faith There I was, standing in the pouring rain, and descending the last hill of my 800km solo trek across Spain. I had 8 kilometers to go.

 

And my heart was bursting full.

 

I felt clear and confident, with a calm and exuberant joy flying through my veins. The deepest parts of me were shouting, “You’re enough Christa – just the way you are!”

 

And to be honest, those were words I didn’t hear very often. I have a well-worn way of silencing any syllable that affirms my truest identity.

 

But, in those moments, I chose to have faith that this was the voice of God.

 

And it was easy.

 

Having faith when you’re flying high on life is not difficult, but a delight.

 

Do you know what I mean?

 

Regardless of the object of your faith, or the religious tradition (or not) you identify with, having full faith in something is simple when life seems to be going your way.

 

Faith your marriage will last when your spouse is responding to your needs.

Faith your children will do well in school when the report card is strong.

Faith your friend will beat that cancer when the prognosis is good.

Faith that God is on your side when everything seems to be going well.

 

But what about when life takes a turn?

Your spouse is shutting down, your children are flunking out, those test results are devastating, and God seems eerily silent.

 

Then, faith is a fight, and it’s not for the faint at heart.

 

It’s for the one who is willing to dance with doubt and not climb out of the pit with simple certainties.

It’s for the woman who will wrestle with questions and confusion, and not release her grip on hope.

It’s for those of us who will wait with longing dripping from our hearts for better days to come.

 

I’ve been there.

My full heart from my time in Spain lasted a few months, and before I knew it, I was being invited into a new season. Darker, quieter, and painful.

 

God had left the building – or so it seemed.

Insecurity, fear and depression were the clothes I wore and they hung like heavy cement that I couldn’t shake off.

 

Instead of joy and confidence flowing freely, questions would swirl in my head like a madman set on causing a scene. I felt confused, anxious and worn out.

 

But, as best as I could, I held onto a pebble of hope. I took the tiny thread of faith and chose to believe that someday, “this too shall pass”, and someday, new clarity and peace would be mine.

 

Some days, I would choose to pray, when I didn’t feel like anyone was listening.

I would choose to believe that what I experienced on that Spanish mountain was not just some illusion of my imagination.

I would choose to trust that I wouldn’t always feel like this. I would choose to believe that change is the most predictable thing there is, and one day I would be in a different place.

And, some days, I wouldn’t choose to have faith at all. The madman would run amuck and I was stuck in a quicksand that wouldn’t let me go.

 

That’s how it works. Faith is always a choice.

 

It’s a choice to live with doubt and not certainty. So many people think that faith is the absence of doubt, but that’s not true.

 

You cannot have faith without doubt.

The only thing that erases faith completely is complete certainty.

Faith is walking with questions, reservations, hesitation and suspicion.

 

And this is why it is for the fierce-hearted!

 

Faith has a way of companioning us into new realities. It carries us like a mother carries a child. Through the murkier seasons of life, when we have lost our will and the way seems dark, the faith we choose to have (however small), helps us down the path.

 

I’m now in a different place. I still have unanswered questions, and that madman occasionally comes knocking at my door, but my choice to have faith made all the difference.

 

Fierce-hearted faith is one of the most powerful forces around and I think we need more of it in this world.

 

We need more people choosing to believe in things they can’t see.

More people willing to step out into unknown places, risking the comfort that comes from staying put.

More women daring themselves to walk in the dark, trusting their path is being led to better days.

 

Yes, if more of us were fuelled by fierce-hearted faith, imagine the mountains in our lives that could be moved.

 

backpack, hiker, womanChrista Hesselink  (@chesselink)has walked on the Camino de Santiago twice, travelling over 1200km solo across Spain. She is the author of , Life’s Great Dare: Risking it all for the Abundant Life, which was released in March 2016. 100% of the proceeds from sales of her book go to the Love2Love project, totally 37,000.00 in it’s first year. Click the link above to purchase.

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From Slackers To Silence Breakers: the women who brought a reckoning When we rang the New Year bells to kick off 2017 a short 11-and-a-half months ago, no female in Hollywood or elsewhere could have imagined that a cultural earthquake led by reluctant women was about to crack open a long held system of harassment and abuse and ousting a long list of high profile men.

And, who’d have predicted it would be led by a few dozen bad-ass women in their forties?

First, a refresher

There are some things you need to know about Hollywood.

As Bruce Feinstein summed up nicely here in a 2007 Vanity Fair column (that still holds up), there are unspoken rules of engagement in Tinseltown. For example,

  1. All relationships are transactional.
  2. Always establish blame.

And, a third well documented rule –
3.  If you’re a woman north of 35, your career is all but over.

That last one is interesting to note, as we hail the the year of the Silence Breakers, because an important detail has been overlooked.

The leaders of this revolution are women in their forties.

Stranger Things

If you’ve ever pissed-off a fully realized, busy, peri-menopausal woman with a job/kids/spin class to get to, you know this: Forty-year old women are fierce af.

In 2016, Gretchen Carlson, then a 49-year-old star of Fox News, did something unprecedented. Knowing full well the risk she was taking, she made a decision: to sue the most powerful man in the American media landscape, her boss, Roger Ailes, for sexual harassment. Ailes was fired (he died a short time later), Carlson was awarded 20 million dollars.

There had been others who’d accused powerful men of assault, she wasn’t the first. But, there was something bold and groundbreaking this time. She was believed.

Another Fox News alum, 46-year-old Megyn Kelley spoke out too, adding her name to the official list of women accusing Ailes and Bill O’Reilly of inappropriate behaviour towards her and other women at the network.

It didn’t stop there.

Voice Of A Generation

There are a few “official” lists of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers  around, and while names continue to be added, so far approximately 60–65 women have come forward with horrific accounts of his aggressive sexual behaviour.

The average age of the women who’ve accused Harvey Weinstein is 43.

Of those women on the record, alleging decades of egregious sexual harassment and assault by Weinstein, a full 60% fall between the ages of 37 and 52. 43% are in ages 40-49. That is a statistic not to be dismissed.

They are of the Generation X.

All of the women who spoke publicly of Louis C.K.’s offensive and abusive behaviour — all in their forties — Generation X;

Brett Ratners accusers? — Natasha Henstridge, Olivia Munn, Jamie Ray Newman, Catherine Towne: all Gen X.

Notice a pattern?

Continue reading this article on Medium.

This reckoning, that now includes too many men to mention could not have happened without these women.

Not to be overlooked is that one of the two New York Times investigative reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein story is Jodi Kantor, and you guessed it she’s a Gen Xer.

This is not mere coincidence. It’s part of an uprising that’s sending a wrecking ball through the halls that have allowed systemic sexual harassment of women.

So, why does it matter?

“Of those women on the record, alleging decades of sexual harassment and assault by Weinstein, 43% are in their forties. A full 60% fall between the ages of 37 and 52.”

Dangerous Weapon

We Gen Xers, with our ’80s music and pre-internet stories, are mostly forgotten in the frenzy of 24/7 Millennial hype and online hand-wringing about everything from Tinder to retirement.

Today, if you can find an article about us, we’re referred to as “forgotten”, “sandwiched” and “depleted”. Uh, thanks?

The fact that no one has noticed that it’s Gen X women at the head of this tidal swell of white male reckoning is notable by it’s absence. Imagine if it were Millennials.

In 2016, the University of Edinburgh ran  ‘The Dangerous Women Project’, It examined how women who use their voices to speak out are dubbed ‘dangerous’ by media. How being bold and outspoken while female incites trolls.

Psychologist Yvonne Skipper who contributed to the Dangerous Women Project, noted,

It appears that across the ages, a woman’s voice has been seen as her most dangerous weapon.

The Language of Forty

Most women will tell you that there is an empowerment that comes with turning forty. The paradox is in the trade-off; self-actualization and assertiveness come along at the exact time when society — some would say, the patriarchy, tells females they are no longer relevant. Or, in Hollywood terms, f-ckable.

Remember Amy Schumer’s subversive sketch with Tina Fey,Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette called Last F-ckable Day? “Believe me no one was more surprised than me that they let me stay f-ckable throughout my forties,” delivered by JLD is just one of the many LOLs.

You see what they did there?

The very men creating the cultural bias in the forms of mass entertainment and advertising, also enforce it, and then reap the benefits from it’s effects.

If you can’t see women over forty, you won’t value them.

This year, the world saw the power of Gen X women whether they knew it or not.

After Weinstein, Ratner and Louis C.K., more women of all ages, and equally courageous,  continue to name names and not just in Hollywood. But, would they have done it if these fortysomething women had not thrown the first punches?

Is this what happens when a generation of women stand up and raise their voices to stop a common enemy? It is when they do it together, and when they are believed.

If history is kind, being Silence Breakers, not Slackers, will be the lasting legacy of Generation X women.

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On Faith, Christmas and Real Life
Some time around middle-ish part of your life, not the precise mathematical middle (who’s to know?), but, when it feels like you’ve been doing this life-thing for a good while, things start to get uncomfortable. You start to ask all sorts of questions.

You may find yourself looking around, forced to reevaluate how you’ve spent the last 20 or so years; where you’ve put your faith, and most importantly what you will do with what time remains.

This Is It…?

One of the most common and heartbreaking laments I hear from women who are approaching forty is, “I thought things would be different when I got here.” If this is you, relax, you’re not alone.

It creeps up on virtually everyone, male or female.

We thought we’d be richer or have kids, or be married or have traveled more or own a house or be a CEO. We thought we’d happier and smarter and instead we feel like we’ve aged and not advanced our goals.

This discomfort is normal.  The key is to not stay in this mood of failed expectations.

Evaluation is a sign that you’re right on track. Half of what we do, we really only understand in hindsight. What we value now may and should change as we mature and learn. Remember your twenties? Yeah. Not the same priorities as now.

The author Richard Rohr talks about how we spend the first half of our lives preparing for the second half and they are very different approaches to living.

“The first journey is always about externals formulas superficial emotions, flags and badges, correct rituals, Bible quotes and special clothing, all of which substitute for actual spirituality.

Rohr calls it building “the container”. Our second half of life is to  turn our focus from building the container, to what we want to fill that container with.

A Large Empty Container Is Not The Goal

“The task of the second half of life is, quite simply, to find the actual contents that this container was meant to hold and deliver. As Mary Oliver puts it, What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? In other words, the container is not an end in itself, but exists for the sake of your deeper and fullest life, which you largely do not know about yourself! Far too many people just keep doing repair work on the container itself and never “throw their nets into the deep” (John 21:6) to bring in the huge catch that awaits them.”

We start to crave and demand meaningful choices. We start to consciously make decisions based on what meaning they bring to our lives – the world legacy starts to pop up.

Meaning is always to attached to human connection

Human connection requires faith.

Decemberist Faith 

This time of year Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza all highlight the feel-good part of religious celebration. Each with unique, miracle-filled origins and meaningful rituals.

Maybe it hasn’t been the most wonderful time of  the year since you were a kid, if ever. And, while we need to rest, to revel in rituals, connect, sing and have more twinkle lights our lives, things are never that simple.

Mental illness, grief, frightening diagnoses, financial stress, loss, family drama- these affect each of us in one way or another.  At Christmas it can seem unbearable.  The normal stuff – raising kids, work, traveling, social media – can induce feelings of despair.

To keep moving forward requires faith.

Faith that you’ll make the right decisions, that things will work out.  Faith in God or a Higher Power. Faith in the health care system. Faith in mankind.

Whatever it looks like, your faith is achingly personal. It might be asking you difficult questions right now.  But, this is good.

This is the process of finding what needs to be put into your container. You’re filling it with wisdom and purpose for your one wild and precious life.

Author Christa Hesselink talks about her journey of faith on the Camino di Santiago. Click here to read about Fierce-Hearted Faith.

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Hygge For The Holidays 2017, what a year.

With mere days left in this trip around the sun, it’s time to focus on wrapping up this challenging year (with the occasional bright spot) by dialling in what makes us feel loved and warm and safe and happy. AKA, hygge.

Here’s why it’s the best Christmas plan ever: You can’t buy hygge, it’s a state of mind.

Wondering how to say hygge?  Click here for a lesson.

Gettin’ Hygge With It

As a Canadian, hygge has a  familiar resonance , despite it’s Scandinavian origin. Danish and Norwegian settlers had little in the way of material possessions as they established a new life in a cold and harsh new environment.  So, they did what they could with what they had. They made it cozy and comfortable and safe using warmth and light from fires they built and the ones that burned within. To put it in terms Millenialls will understand,  it was all about Good Vibes Only.

Immigrants to Canada – a similarly cold and harsh environment –  built homes and communities with their bare hands, clearing dense forests from Cape Breton Island to Northern Quebec to the Canadian prairies with next to nothing but sheer will, hard work and big dreams.

One of the rare things in life that is easier to do than say, hygge, is what we hope Christmas will be  – carols, twinkle lights, fireplaces, stockings, sleigh rides, friends, family and peace on earth.

If you want to go full on hygge this holiday – and why wouldn’t you? – here’s a handy how-to list:

7 Ways to Have a Hygge Holiday

1. Stop, Drop and Don’t Shop

The more radical the idea of not shopping is to your mind, the more you need to embrace it.  It’s not that buying gifts is wrong or bad, but, if you can’t imagine not shopping for presents, it is worth asking yourself if that’s what you really want the experience to be.  Tip – as your making your list and checking it twice, ask yourself if there is any thing you could give that person that doesn’t involve spending money. Then try it.

2. Write It Down.

To me, hygge sounds a lot like self-care. And, writing is one of the best ways to practice a little self-hygge. So, since Christmas comes but once a year, why not write something really meaningful – to yourself, to someone else; write about this past year and be proud. You made it, no matter how many times you thought you wouldn’t. Grab a pen and a journal and let your thoughts out.

3.  Light

Candles and a roaring fire  isn’t a hard sell for most of us, #bestlight.  The hygge fire light is about feeling content, not romantic, although we’ll take romance, too.  Other than sunlight, it’s one of the few totally natural lights we can experience. Make it a naturally scented candle for some added aroma therapy.

4. Go outside

Get cold. Smile. Don’t complain about the cold. One hall mark of a cool kid (at least back in the day) was to wear the bare minimum coat for the weather. Subsequently, you were cool, and also very cold.  We’re not doing that. Bundle up. If there’s snow within a 30 minute drive – find it and play in it.

5. Hot bev-ies 

Obviously, this is a must. Preferably right after step #4. My tradition is spicy and warm mulled wine at the holidays. But, you do you: spicy Mexican hot chocolate, cider, peppermint tea,  hot toddy. And, by the way, a cold climate is not mandatory. If your lifestyle means you throw on a two-piece and head to the beach for Christmas Day, a little Bailey’s in your coffee can bring a little  hygge glow, or pick your favourite beverage (straight or spiked).

6. Devices Down

Nothing kills a hygge buzz like the blue glow of a smart phone. Turn it off for at least one-hour. Make eye contact, read from real book. Bust out the old recipe books that are gathering dust. Use the hours you’ll gain back by not checking Instagram to fill your house with the smell of gingerbread.

7. Slow  Everything

Sometimes, when I catch myself speed walking on an errand for no good reason, I force myself to do an awareness check. Like, really, is racing everywhere that helpful? Whatever the scenario –  I walk slower, breathe slower, type slower. The holidays are a hectic time. The best thing you can do for yourself is to slow down on the baking, the driving, even how fast you talk.

Once you’ve covered all 7, start over from the top.

 

Happy Holidays!

 

What’s the best way to bring some hygge to your holidays?  Bonus points for our Scandinavian friends with old-country stories!

 

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Runway Run-in’s, Paris Fashion Week Edition
On a sliding scale of glamourous events, let’s all agree that fashion shows exist in the top tier.

There is, of course, a hierarchy in the world of glamour.

#GlamLife Flow Chart

First, you have the local fashion shows where designers are stars in their homeland, then, several notches up is , say,  the Victoria’s Secret fashion show that has become a pop culture event and #modelgoals for young beauties to strap on a thong, 5 inch heels and giant wings and stomp their fiercest game for six million viewers. (This year’s show is November 28th on CBS if you were wondering)

Then there are the big shows. And, among cities that have become iconic for atelier royalty –  New York, London, Milan -with their whirlwinds of designers, supermodels and sunglasses-wearing-front-row celebs, Paris Fashion Week is top dog.

Paris Street Steeze

Any day of any year, Paris is teeming with a kind of style and fashion oeuvre that has cast it in the role of king of the fashion world.

Click here to read Nine Things I Learned From French Women

On the Metro you might find yourself squished against a woman in her 60s emanating effortless in a button-down shirt, popped collar, tailored trousers and red lipstick. Or, you might be at a traffic light beside a twenty-something in barely-there make up and a cheap (but not cheap-looking) coat over her skinny jeans as she cycles along the Seine. Le sigh.

But, when it is officially Paris Fashion Week, Holy Karl Lagerfeld, triple-snap, it is on.

The ratio of high-style to normal people skyrockets.  The streets are crawling with dazed models, over-dressed posers hoping for a street-style moment with the Sartorialst, annoyed publicists, celebrities and their entourages.

 

l'areal paris fashion show champs élysées france

Entrance to the L’Oreal Fashion Show, Paris Fashion Week

I was in Paris on a Sunday morning a couple of months ago when I ran smack into one of the biggest events of Paris Fashion Week, the L’Oreal Show. The runway was a spectacle of lights and music in the middle of the Champs Elysées. The Arch de Triomphe and the moody Parisian sky served as the magnificent backdrop. It was glamour in all it’s glory.

helen mirren model paris fashion week france loreal

Dame Helen Mirren, walks the runway, Paris Fashion Week

 

 Barricades were lined with camera-thrusting giddy voyeurs as far as the eye could see.  On the giant screens they’d erected for the plebes, images cut between the ring-side audience, backstage flurry, and the catwalk. Big name models wore big name designers. Jane Fonda tottered her way in a leopard  Balmain dress. Helen Mirren stole the show.It was spectacular.

We have been trained to aspire to this, non?

Without these multi-million dollar (seriously) opulent displays of fantasy, fashion and beauty, starring (mostly) impossibly thin young models and clothes with price tags for the 1%, the fashion industry would not have the caché it now enjoys.

Before you start yelling at me, yes, many of these designers are artists and cultural influencers. Their skill is to offer style and looks that make us feel something. But, at what cost?

What’s Real

But, there’s a notable change of mood.

I stood there on the Champs watching Paris swirling in it’s most natural state; the models are more beautiful in real life than their photoshopped images imply.  Designer clothes are full of nuance and structure and colours that (sadly) you don’t find on a department store rack. A jacket might cost as much as a car.

But it could be that the people closest to the most expensive and beautiful clothes money can buy don’t look that happy, beyond the lights and cameras.  Once the music was turned off and the applause died, everyone took a bow, the actors in that show all returned to their normal face. The happiest people seemed to the be ones like me, watching it all unfold.

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10 Q’s with Innovator Style Bae’s: Smithery If you described all of the things on your wishlist for a dream shopping experience – personalized, fun, low pressure and fantastic curated pieces to choose from – you’d be describing Smithery.   Founders Rena and Mavis have been through the advertising world trenches together and have forged a partnership and online retail business that is taking off.  They’ve got big plans for 2018.

Scroll down to learn how the letters X, H, A, V and O will rock your world, as will their magic butt pants.

And, don’t miss their exclusive offer, below.

 

CLICK HERE TO GET SMITHERY’S

EXCLUSIVE OFFER FOR FORTYOLOGY SUBSCRIBERS

 

1.How did Smithery begin?

The idea of Smithery really came from our own life experiences and conversations around fashion. Rena loves, loves, loves shopping and Mavis always found it was a chore and was frustrated with the lack of solutions and struggled with styling.

Two of the best insights that propelled us are that only 1 in 10 women know their body shape (the key to fit and style) and that models are typically 6’ tall with 34” B, 25” W, 35” H while the average Canadian woman is 5’4, 155lbs with a 33” waist and 41.3” hips. That’s how we knew there was a need out there for ‘stylesmithing’ and Smithery was born!

 

  1. What’s the shopping experience like with Smithery? – how is it different?

 

We have two ways you can shop with us; online or in our Studio (located at Queen and Spadina in Toronto).

We have a Shape Finder that helps you identify which of the main 5 body shapes that you fit into. They are named after the letters X, H, A, V, O and once you determine your shape, we provide a style profile outlining the styling goals for that shape and most flattering cuts.

We model all the clothes on real women representing those body shapes and we provide the measurements for every model so you have a true comparison as to what it might look like on you.

 

  1. What’s your philosophy?

To democratize personal styling so no woman ever feels like she has nothing $#@%! to wear again! We want to be the antidote to that shopping migraine.

 

 

 

 

  1. Does Smithery have a particular aesthetic or style that I can always find with your clothes?

We both agree that Olivia Palermo has greatly influenced not only our personal styles but the aesthetic of Smithery.

When we’re buying each season we’re looking for elevated basics, the pieces that will become your ‘go to’s’ in your closet. So they have to be good quality, easy to wash (we avoid the dry cleaner whenever possible!) and at a price point that you can afford (90% of our pieces are under $150).

  1. What are the most common fashion questions you get?

1) I think I’m in between shapes?

It’s not uncommon for someone to be in between two body shapes and we can take rules on how to dress for your shape from both of the letters in order to give you an arsenal of styling tips that work for you!

2) How do I cuff my jeans?

It’s bootie weather and ladies everywhere are rolling up their hems. Luckily we worked with our friend Susan from @islapearl to show everyone just how to do it. Click here for the article.

3) What colour tights should I wear?

In our humble opinion, always black opaque. Always.

  1. A lot of women are frustrated with their wardrobe, or their bodies – what are some typical frustrations you hear?

 

Oh man, we have heard it all! And it is sooo hard to listen to women beat themselves up, even though we ourselves have that internal voice in our head. In essence that’s why we started Smithery, we want to help women become less frustrated with their arms they don’t love, their belly they’ve been trying to hide and instead focus on the parts that they do love and have those shine.

  1. Fortyology is all about leaning in to your forties, how do you see fashion and clothes help us get there?smithery girls laughing pants fashion

 Mavis: I turned 40 this year and have seen my style evolve over every decade. As I’ve aged I find I’m not as nostalgic for my old clothes and body, so don’t tend to hang on to the jeans that don’t fit or those short shorts. I’ve come to terms with who I am (although like everyone if I lost those 10 extra pounds I’d be happy!) and am generally comfortable dressing for that age and body shape, especially now that I know what to wear and how to wear pieces that flatter that 40 year old body!

Rena:
Welp, since leaving office life I’ve said sayonara to my heels. That actually really changes how you style a look. As I’ve grown, I also increasingly invest in beautifully crafted pieces. The fast fashion offering is less expensive but it’s also usually less flattering, lower quality fabric, and guaranteed to be on someone else I pass on that street.

 

8. Is there a deeper conversation – what do you think it is you are connecting with when you host your events?

 

When we started Smithery, we didn’t realize that in-person events would become such a large and satisfying part of our business.

The best part of our job is when someone walks out of those sessions feeling confident and armed with a set of tools to help her feel her best each and every day. So many times, we have heard ladies say they didn’t think they could ever look this good and that twinkle in their eye is worth every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that we put into this business

 

 

9.What emerging pieces /trends/styles are you wearing and are you excited about?

A Coatigan: A long sweater with a substantial weight that takes you in an out of the car and work and errands.

Smithery, Sweater coat

Waxed Pants: We’ve hunted down what we’ve dubbed the magic butt pants.

Smithery waxed pant

A Wild Card That Makes You Happy 

This our first design project a custom blazer collaboration with Toronto’s Dotty Dress Studio!

blazer smithery yellow door fashion

Smithery, Blazer

10. What new things are you working on for 2018?

We are launching a style concierge service called “Style Mail”. We’ll ask you a few questions to get to know your fashion mojo, body shape and lifestyle and from there a Stylesmith curates a box with 3-4 pieces picked specifically for you. Keep what you want and return the rest! Sign up for our newsletter or follow us on Instagram to be kept up to date on the launch date for that.

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Cover photo courtesy: @flashbackphotoco

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The Life Changing Magic of Fashion Psychology Fashion Psychology is nearing it’s moment in the sun.

While there are more than just two Fashion Psychologists to be found in the world, the one’s you’ll most likely come across in a Google search are Carolyn Mair and Dawnn Karen.  They’re disrupting the worlds of Fashion and Psychology, simultaneously.

Anyone who’s spent a minute in a therapists chair will know that our internal angst – what landed us there – is on some level generated by the existential gap created when who we really are is different from who we wish we were.

The inverse of that is happiness – when we feel authentic, and truly ourselves, we are calm and content.

It’s the same with our clothes.

This is what Dawnn Karen, Fashion Psychologist, tells me as we are discussing the arm of psychology that she has helped bring into the 21st century.

“What I do is help people understand their relationship to fashion from the inside out.”

Karen is a professor at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology and investigated the idea of focusing on authenticity in dress to help people feel better about what they wear and empower them with new ways to think about why they wear certain items.

“We wear clothes every day and it’s a huge part of our existence. We think we have to care about what others think of our clothing choices. We wear a sort of ‘uniform’ based on what we think is expected of us and it’s a kind of performance. It’s hard.”

fashion psychology

It’s why ‘retail therapy’ is a short-lived fix. Or why your closet full of cute clothes doesn’t always produce the effect you’d hoped, and ends up in a pile while you wear the same black-on-black combo you can’t seem to break away from.  “You throw on something and don’t feel good, or go shopping.to alleviate the frusration.”  The problem, she explains, is that we focus on the external.

The Substance of Style

She tested her theory in a series of case studies where she had clients dress according to how they authentically felt and recorded their feelings over several months. Some clients claimed it was life changing.

The mindful approach is, before you get up, to “Lie in bed and say, ‘How am I feeling today?’ If I’m tired, or in a shitty mood, I’ll dress to illustrate that mood and as a result I feel authentic.”

Sounds simple, but generally, we dress to be appropriate not to be authentic.

The idea is that dressing according to how you feel and not to conform to expectations creates an authentic expression of yourself. Authenticity breeds content.

Case in point, on top of her regular schedule, Karen had been prepping for a Ted Talk and remembered she had an event to attend that evening. “I just wanted to be my introverted self, stay inside in my sweats and keep working.  I found a way to honour my feelings and still show up. I wore my sweats… with heels.  I felt very comfortable and most importantly, I didn’t feel like a fraud.” (Scroll down to see the a photo of her outfit.)

The Emergence of the Fashion Psychologist  

In London, UK, Dr. Carolyn Mair, takes Fashion Psychology much further. Until recently, Dr. Mair was Professor of Psychology for Fashion at University  of the Arts, London, launching the only Masters program in the world that brought together the scientific study of human behaviour and fashion. She now works as an industry consultant on the subject.
fashion psychology

 

“Fashion psychology is about the understanding of human behaviour within the entire context of the fashion industries. It’s not only about clothing as a form of communication and enabling us to negotiate our identity, it’s also about using fashion as a form of good across the swath of industries from production to consumption to disposal.”

Carolyn mair fashion psychology london

Dr. Carolyn Mair, Professor of Psychology for Fashion

“When we are choosing which item to wear, what our clothes look like is barely scratching the surface. It’s more complex than it appears to be. And, one of the reasons is that human beings are different. There really isn’t a one size fits all.”

fashion psychology

For instance, the red jacket that makes you feel confident and powerful, might make me feel garish. That nose-ring you think is tacky might be her secret to confidence.

Whether it’s magazines of past decades, or today’s social media influencers, brands and celebs – fashion exists in a singular one-style-for-everyone vacuum. ‘Teal is the colour of the year!!’   ‘Millenial Pink is in!!’ Fundamentally, this flies in the face of what fashion is, and how we’re wired.

“When we talk about how our clothes portray and effect us we need to take into account the individual differences of the wearer and also the context of which garment is worn.”

Increasingly, the context – where and how a garment is made – is on consumers’ minds.

Would knowing that your perfectly fitted jeans were made in a sweat shop and will live in a landfill long after your gone make you feel icky? Maybe.

It ‘s pressure from cash-strapped Millenial’s, not the middle-aged consumer that’s behind this growing awareness. They’re demanding transparency from brands in exchange for their patronage.

“It’s not just enough to look at the profit, brands need to think about explaining to customers where their product comes from,” says Mair.

It’s no coincidence that wrapping our heads around modern fashion calls for analysis of our behaviour. Makes perfect sense that now is at a time when Mindful Fashion is gaining momentum.

Read more about the Mindful Fashion movement.

 

dawnn karen fashion psychology leopard coat, burgundy sweats pumps woman model

Dawnn Karen Photo :Frank “Augie.1” Fraley

Dr. Carolyn Mair‘s website.

 

 

 

 

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Conscious Fashionista
At first blush, the idea of “mindful fashion” sounds like an oxymoron. Possibly even a buzz kill.

Isn’t fashion about looking 💯and feeling fab?  Isn’t our dressing based on spontaneity, creativity, and self-expression? Doesn’t the very thought of a new outfit, a new pair of shoes give you a little thrill?

For some yes, for others, wardrobe dissatisfaction is indicative of a deeper issue.

Turns out, mindful dressing can be a game changer for your day-to-day, and, if you take it seriously, it might be a world changer.

And this is true whether your jam is Zara or Louis Vuitton.

Closet Case

As with most learning curves that take us from numb to ‘woke’, it typically begins with something small and highly personal. Something so ubiquitous it’s nearly impossible to see.

Fashion Psychologist Dawnn Karen suggests in this article on Fashion Psychology that we take a minute to connect with our inner dialogue before mindlessly reaching for something to throw on every day,  “Ask yourself what, if any, negative feelings come up when you’re staring at your closet? For example, frustration or boredom. So, you throw on something, but, you still don’t feel good. Or, you might go shopping to alleliviate the negative feelings.  All that does is focus on the external.”

The issue isn’t your wardrobe. It’s the gap between how you feel inside and how you are presenting yourself to the world.  And, mindfulness, she says, can turn that around.  Your clothes won’t  suddenly make you happy, but, at least you’ll know why.

It doesn’t stop there. 

Beautiful Clothes Ugly Truth

The fashion industry uses an obscene amount of resources – water, electricity and chemicals, to produce the billions of pounds of clothes we consume every year. It is one of the worlds largest polluters, Not to mention the human toll far from our eyes and consciences.

Sorry (#notsorry) to rain on your True Religion parade, but, y’know, mindfulness.

christina dean redress eco mindful fashion sustainable honk kong

Dr. Christina Dean, Founder, Redress

In 2007 Christina Dean, a former journalist who had uncovered “so many horrific truths about the fashion industry’s impact on the environment”  that she decided to devote her life to raising awareness of this issue started Redress, an NGO that holds the industry accountable and helps it to change it’s polluting ways to a more sustainable industry across the supply chain and ultimately make for more mindful consumers.

Last year Vogue named Dean as one of the UKs Top 30 Inspirational Women.

She hasn’t bought new clothes since 2013. (Check out her insta for inspo)

“…[After] years of understanding the challenges, both at the industry level and also on a personal level, I have changed completely. I now only wear (and buy) clothes made from re-used or recycled sources. This essentially means that I wear secondhand clothes or clothes made with up-cycled fabrics or recycled fibres. This ensures that in my personal quest to reflect my own style, I am not consuming new fabrics or driving up demand for virgin fabrics.” source

Mindful Trend: BioTech

Now in their tenth year, Dean and her Redress co-founders published a consumer handbook Dress (with)) Success:The Practical Guide to a Conscious Closet and this fall launched a luxury up-cycled clothing line called B Y T.

Partly thanks to the Green Carpet Awards, held in Milan,  sustainable clothing designers who use up cycled and recycled textiles, are becoming stars and making money.

Luxury clothing designer Stella McCartney is one of the OG’s of ethical garment sourcing.  She recently gushed on her social media about a partnership with Bolt Threads, a San Francisco biotech lab that’s developed a number of sustainable textile options for luxury brands.  Her gold dress made from their protein-based silk is on display at MOMA in New York City.

yellow dress mama stella mccartney mindful fashion ethical sustainable

MOMA: Is Fashion Modern? Stella McCartney one of a kind dress made from biotech silk. Photo: Forbes

Adidas, with whom McCartney’s had a longstanding partnership, is also focusing on recycling and upcycling to produce it’s products. They’ve partnered with Parley to recycle plastic harvested from the oceans to make high performance footwear.

Not that long ago we didn’t think to read the labels on our food (if it was even listed) .Now we demand it because it’s better for everyone. The garment industry is headed there.

Ideally, we can merge both of these approaches to mindfulness to transform the decision of what to wear today, and transform the fashion industry that holds the key to our choices.

For more tips on how you can be a more mindful fashionista, check out the Redress consumer guide here .

Read more about Fashion Psychology.

Christina Dean’s TedxTalk

 

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