Seven ways to become an Ebay bargain ninja!

Ebay is one of the best places to find secondhand and preloved bargains. Buying secondhand reduces waste and carbon. It used to be easy to find the secondhand and preloved stuff on Ebay but now it’s a bit harder. This article will give you the seven best tips to become a bargain ninja and find exactly what you want on Ebay (if it can possibly be found).

First, if you’re looking for something generic (e.g. “black skirt”), make sure you’re only searching for things that are “used” not “new”. Otherwise you’ll be presented with a million mis-priced badly-made “new” items from abroad with 30-45 days delivery. If you’re looking for something branded, this shouldn’t be an issue as 99% of real brands don’t sell on Ebay, and Ebay is very good at clamping down on fakes.

Ebay doesn’t actually work to give you the search results in the best order for finding what you want, and hasn’t for about ten years, since they changed the way they showed their results. Back in the early days of Ebay, items were automatically sorted by “time: ending soonest” so if something was about to end, you’d see it right away and be able to jump on a bargain.

Now, however, they automatically sort by “best match” which is usually neither best nor a match for your search term. I did complain to them when they changed this and I got a patronizing mansplaining nonsense reply which basically said “we don’t care what customers think we’re doing this anyway”. The default sorting of the search results is basically the worst way to try to Ebay. It’s disorganized and means you’ll miss items that might be exactly what you want at the price you want to pay. There are two MUCH better ways to sort search results and I suggest you do one at a time.

Buy it now

Filter the results so you’re only looking at “buy it now” then sort by newly-listed. Things that have only just been listed sometimes are available at a lower price than the rest of the “buy it now” items. As people buy secondhand items, they disappear from sale, so seeing the newest listings is the best way to find the good stuff before someone else gets it.

Auction

Filter by “auction” then sort by “time: ending soonest”. Things that are available at auction sometimes get to the end of their allotted time and no one (or only one person) has bid on it. Snap it up when it has only a minute or two left to run (this is called sniping, by the way, and some people think it’s bad form, but HONESTLY it’s a f**king auction site not an etiquette party, there are no points awarded for letting someone else win your child’s Christmas present).

Don’t waste your time bidding on things with more than an hour left to run unless you’re going to be in bed or at work when the item ends. Everything before that last hour is effectively meaningless posturing because the real price the item will end at won’t become apparent until the very end of the auction.

Bidding far in advance is also a bad plan for another reason: Artificial inflation of the price from fake bids. Basically, some unscrupulous sellers on Ebay will get their friends or family to bid against you on the item to try and get you to increase your bid. Ebay has taken steps to clamp down on this over the years but it’s still happening.

Save your searches.

This can speed up finding the items you’re looking for when you’re spending more than the one day looking for something. Just hit the “save search” button. If you can’t see it, be sure you’re logged in properly. However, if you want the gift to be a surprise, don’t do this on a shared computer (probably best not to let your children have access to your Ebay account anyway).

Vary your search terms

Be sure to change your search terms. Just because you know an item by a specific name doesn’t mean that’s what other people call it.

A prime example of this is any branded handbag or shoe. You might know a specific pair of shoes as Irregular Choice Cookies for Santa, but someone who bought them secondhand or threw out the box might only know they are Irregular Choice shoes (or not even know the brand name). Also, they might have listed the size in European sizes or UK sizes.

So in this case, start with a narrow search for exactly what you want. “Irregular Choice Cookies for Santa size 39”. This will show you any exact matches. If nothing comes up, widen your search. A search for “Irregular Choice size 40” (without the name of the shoe’s style) would give you a long set of results to trawl through, but it means you’ll catch all the shoes which have been correctly listed as Irregular Choice under your EU shoe size. IC shoes are sold in EU sizes so this is the most logical second search. Then, if that shows nothing, change the term to “Irregular Choice size 6”, which is the UK size closest to a 39.

Lastly, if you still can’t find them, try describing them by their most distinctive feature. “Cake heel shoes” might give you something. By this point, however, you are unlikely to find anything, so the best move is to save your search and try again later or tomorrow. Using this search method, you can find pretty much anything you want, no matter how rare or unusual, on Ebay. However, it is very time-consuming.

Time your searches

The vast majority of people list their items at the weekend, so Friday evening until Sunday evening is when you are most likely to find newly-listed items and items that are about to end. If you only want to spend a couple of hours on Ebay looking for something, Sunday night between 4pm and 8pm is when most items end. This all means that if you pick the right time, you will have more choice and potentially get the item for a better price. However, the flip side of this is, more people are buying on Ebay between Friday and Sunday night, so you may have to compete harder if you’re buying something at auction.

Check out the seller’s other items

If you’ve lost out or if you’re looking for a complete set of something (e.g. Teletubbies dolls), click on the seller’s username (not his feedback number) then hit “view other items” or “visit their store” and scroll through their other items for sale. They might have more varieties of the thing you’re looking for (they might have nothing). Don’t spend time doing this before you bid on a last-minute item or before grabbing a buy it now bargain, however, or you could miss out on the original item!

Pay promptly

Always pay sellers as soon as possible so they can send you the item quickly and leave you positive feedback. Customarily, sellers should leave feedback first because your part in a transaction is over as soon as you’ve paid. I don’t waste time leaving feedback for sellers unless I’ve received feedback from them first because some sellers don’t bother and it’s annoying. If you’re always returning items or if you open Paypal disputes for stupid reasons, sellers can and will blacklist you from shopping with them in the future. Remember, there are plenty of online seller forums and groups where Ebay sellers can talk to each other, and they will share your username with each other if you’re a bad customer. You should treat Ebay sellers with the same respect you’d use in a charity shop or other face-to-face setting dealing with real people.

This is part of a series on buying ethical Christmas presents. Find the others here:

How to find ethical gifts for children and teens

Complete guide to buying designer clothes from charity shops

Complete guide to buying designer clothes from charity shops

Have you ever wished you could find designer goods in charity shops? This guide covers how to do just that! From an environmental standpoint, the more things we reuse and recycle, the better it is for the resources of the planet. And buying a secondhand vintage designer piece is also better for your wallet!

With such a big fashion revival right now, secondhand designer clothes have never been so on-trend! Keep reading to find out how to identify designer clothes in charity shops, how to avoid fake designer clothes, how to assess the condition of the piece and why you should only buy things that fit/suit you.

Find something that you actually like/suits you

This is rule number one, and I learned this the hard way. Don’t just buy a designer item for the label. Remember, no one will see that label except you. But a designer item because it is a work of art. A stunning reminder of the very best of fashion. A piece that inspires you to be something bigger than the boxes other people try to put you in. Because that’s the point of good fashion. Don’t be a fashion victim. Buy something you love. Buy something that flatters your shape and size. Enjoy your vintage fashion.

When we moved to China, I had to pack our lives into two big suitcases (one each) and a carry-on each. We were such inexperienced travellers that we didn’t know about sending your belongings around the world as freight (thank God we didn’t, I dread to think what rubbish we would have kept) and we didn’t know about paying for extra bags.

My designer collection now only includes items that I completely adore, which still fit me (sniffle, my favourite Vivienne Westwood shoes had to go when they started being painful to wear because I’d worn them too much), and which make me happy. But it wasn’t always that way.

Back in 2006, when I first started investing in designer pieces, I bought some minor disasters. My worst buy by a long shot was my Givenchy silk suit. It was £20 on Ebay which seemed like the bargain of the century. Except it wasn’t. First, it was a size 10 and I was an 8. Now, that shouldn’t have been a problem as it was vintage (80s at least) and everyone knows sizes have changed since then. However, when I actually tried it on, the skirt’s waistline was so low on my waist that my shirts barely tucked into it and left an unsightly silhouette around my boobs as they rode up over the course of a work day. The jacket, on the other hand, didn’t have a flattering neckline (this neckline was wayyy too wide to look good on my DD-cup boobs) and instead of making me look pulled-together, it just looked awkward and shapeless.

But by far the worst problem with it was the colour. In the Ebay pictures it had looked a beautiful deep grey-blue colour, but when it arrived, it was pale grey. None of my shirts or shoes matched it.

Did I send it back? No. I was 24 and too determined to hold onto something because of the label. I kept that bloody suit for 6 more years and only got rid of it when we moved to China, at which point, you’ll be glad to hear I at least sold it for the price I paid.

Another early disaster was my Armani jacket. I’d thought it was black. It was brown. And from a time in the 80s when shoulder pads were the same size as the wingspan of a jumbo jet. The waistline was… generous. The silhouette was very androgynous. And, again, a size 10. I looked lost in it. This year it would have been so on-trend it would have been a massive classic as oversized blazers are the biggest thing ever at the moment. But fifteen years ago, I had a jacket I was (mostly) embarrassed to wear. Did that stop me from wearing it? NOPE.

I’m stubborn.

If you don’t remember 2006, it was one of a few years in the early 2000s when Victoriana was the big trend in workwear. Everything suit-based was fitted. Skirts had fishtail hems and generally came down past the knee. And since we were still living with the hangover from the 90s to some extent, no one in the 2000s wore anything that looked like workwear outside of a formal office setting. It wasn’t like today, where you can chuck a blazer over a pair of skinny jeans (we didn’t have skinny jeans yet) and go out.

My big mistake of the following year was not understanding that designer sportswear is never, ever going to be a classic piece. And that designer brands all have sub-brands which are more affordable but not “proper” high fashion. I had this gorgeous Armani Jeans tracksuit (this wasn’t a shell suit, don’t worry), which comprised a hoodie and jogging bottoms in pale blue. I loved them and wore them on slouch days for about two years, but those sports lines are never made to be as durable as the expensive main clothing lines so buy them, enjoy them, but don’t expect them to last.

How to identify a designer item

Familiarise yourself with the names and logos of the brands you are looking for. This will make it quick and easy to recognise labels. Be aware that some brands have changed their labels/logos over time so if you’re looking at true vintage stuff, the label might be a little (or very) different. However, be aware this could also be the sign of a fake.

Avoid the really obvious fakes

You won’t always be able to avoid fakes, the thing about a really good fake is it’s indistinguishable from the real deal. However, you can learn to spot signs that something isn’t as it seems, especially if the item costs more than you wanted to pay for a secondhand charity shop item.

I’d avoid any secondhand Louis Vuitton bags and purses unless you can get it verified independently. Those Louis Vuitton brown bags with LV all over them are literally everywhere. I could easily pick up about a hundred fakes in the markets in Italy for the price of one genuine bag without batting an eyelid and they were rife in China, too. I actually tune those bags out now if I see them, and when I see people with them, I’m more likely to think you bought a fake than that you paid full price for one, unless you’re obviously dressed at the same price as your bag. The multicoloured LV bags suffer from the same issue. I feel very sorry for Louis Vuitton as a brand as the sheer amount of fakes is shocking.

If you see something like this (or a high street brand with a very similar design to a well-known fashion piece) my advice is to steer clear. Copyright infringement in fashion is rife everywhere, and you can actually get into legal trouble in some countries if you’re walking around with a fake item (notably, Italy, where many of the fakes are being sold, and where the police are trained to spot them).

Fakes are less well made and made from cheap imitation materials, so they damage easily and don’t last very long compared to the real deal. People bringing these things back from a holiday then tire of them and give them to charity shops, so always check inside.

Here are some tips for avoiding fakes:

Check the lining. Usually in a genuine product, the lining is attached in a way so you see almost none of the inside stitching. This is true of coats, skirts and bags.

Look at the stitching around the edge of the product. Is it neat, even and straight? A true designer piece will not have any mistakes in the stitching.

Check for loose threads and “imperfections” in the piece. Loose threads on any item, a weird black blob on a leather bag, purse, or belt, or a place where the edging doesn’t quite match are all giveaways that this piece isn’t genuine.

Smell it. For leather goods, if it’s supposed to be real leather, it should smell like quality leather. If it smells like plastic (a sort of oily smell), nothing at all, or very strongly of tanning dyes, it’s a fake.

Look at the sheen. If it’s supposed to be real silk, the sheen is slightly less shiny than satin (which is usually part-silk, part polyester, cheaper to produce, and used more often on fakes) and definitely less shiny than polyester. Silk is usually quite thin and delicate, and may show damage more readily than other fabrics, so take extra care buying anything made of this fabric.

Don’t rely on labels that say “100% silk”, or “100% leather”, or “made in Italy” (the amount of marketplace items I saw in China that said “made in Italy” on the label was unbelievable. Italy is NOT importing designer goods to Chinese markets, I’m sorry to break it to you). Always use your senses to check for yourself, because the best fakes won’t put their real materials on the label. Why would they? They’ve lied about the brand already!

Assess the condition of the piece

Check for bobbles, especially around the armpits, where you also might find stains. Some people have ways of getting stains out. I don’t buy anything with stains because I find it a bit disgusting. Bobbles, however, are just areas of fabric that have rubbed against each other too much. They can be removed with a cheap bobble remover.

Many high-end items are dry-clean only. However, charity shops often have a protocol dictating that they have to steam clean every fabric item that comes into them. Check the piece for steamer damage and washing machine damage (in case someone got confused and put it through a wash at any point in its life).

You’re looking for shrinkage. This usually manifests as lining poking out at the bottom of sleeves/hems on skirts, items being a little mis-shapen or tight in some areas while the correct size in other areas. If any shrinkage of the fabric has occurred, I don’t recommend buying the item because it won’t hang correctly or flatter your form.

Check the labels.

Always take a good look at every label on the piece. There should be a brand label in the neck (or back of the waist in skirts/trousers) and a care label somewhere else in the piece. If the brand label is cut down the middle, this is “seconds” quality, which means it didn’t pass its final inspection at the factory.

With a cut label, it’s still a genuine piece, but it may have mistakes. The tolerance for mistakes depends on the brand. Some brands will reject a piece if the stitching is more than 1mm away from where it’s supposed to be. Other brands will might have a 3mm or 5mm tolerance for where the stitching should be. Items with holes or snags that were caused during the production process may also be classed as seconds by one brand, where another might send items with such severe faults straight to destruction, never to be seen by a consumer. Some companies don’t have seconds at all.

Seconds tend to have a much lower resale value later down the line, even if they’re a second of a very rare item, because it’s understood that the quality isn’t the same. However, they can still be worth buying as long as you’re happy with the item and it fits and flatters you, as you can get a great bargain compared to buying a first-quality piece.

If a piece has no label at all, it probably isn’t even “seconds” quality. Whether you decide to buy it anyway or not is up to you. I would probably look for a better quality piece.

Which areas of the UK are likely to have designer clothes in their charity shops?

I don’t know every area in Britain so comment on this article if you have suggestions, to help out other readers! Basically, you’re looking for a reasonably affluent residential area that doesn’t have a (proportionally) huge tourist/student footfall. This is because you want a shop that gets a good supply of designer stuff but without so many shoppers snapping it all up.

You also want an area that doesn’t have grabby charity shop managers. I’ve known a couple of managers and several volunteers at various shops in York tell me that they get the first pick on the best stuff, leaving none for the actual customers!

Google Maps Reviews of the shops in question are a good way to spot which ones often have designer wear and also which ones are selling overpriced Primark tat.

These reviews are also a good way to get the measure of the manager at any given shop. If they’re only responding to positive reviews, or if they’re arguing with negative reviewers (or accusing reviewers of lying or not being genuine customers), you know they’re a bad sort and that it’s not worth wasting time visiting their shop. If they’re not responding at all, you know they’re probably busy running their shop.

Northern Ireland: Holywood

Scotland: Edinburgh Morningside area or Leith (gentrification, y’all).

The North: Hebden Bridge, Harrogate.

Midlands: Lichfield, Ashbourne.

South East: Aylesbury, Ascot.

South West: Chipping Norton, Bath.

London: Kensington. The charity shops here are absolutely designer central. There are some outstanding ones in walking distance around South Ken underground station. I’ve also heard similar about Covent Garden but I haven’t seen it myself.


This is part of a series on buying ethical Christmas gifts. Here are the others:

How to buy ethical Christmas gifts for children and teens

Seven ways to become an eBay bargain ninja

I just want normal trousers

I have a shopping problem. Tops are fairly easy. But every time I need to buy a pair of trousers, I take hours. I don’t know why clothing retailers waste money making trousers in shapes and sizes that no one actually wants. I mean, let’s say you’re in a marketing meeting. You’re working for a big company. You’re well respected and until now, you have quite a good track record at making sensible decisions about products.

Then someone gives you the trouser account. And instead of thinking, legs haven’t changed for tens of thousands of years, let’s just go with what works, you decide that the way for you to make your mark on trouserland is to change everything. And to test the market, you decide to manufacture these monstrosities in size 2-4 only.

Not satisfied with your contribution to the world, you flood every single online retailer with your stupid designs. Cropped jeans. Skinny jeans. Super skinny jeans. Ultra-high-waist jeans. Jeggings. Wide leg jeans. Extra wide-leg jeans. The low-rise. The high-rise. The rise-and-shine (now made without leather)…

And that’s just the jeans!

Dear God is it too much to ask for a fucking pair of trousers that go on past my feet, and go around my legs, and fasten at the waist without making me look like one of those nurses from the 90’s with those awful elastic belts, and simultaneously not gaping at the back showing my knickers to all and sundry? How hard is it to just… make a pair of jeans? I don’t want options other than “these ones will fit you”. I don’t have some weird body type. I am a normal-sized woman with average-sized bones. I am 5’6” tall so my legs are regular. I don’t want jeans that scrape the floor when I walk and therefore the seams get ruined after about three hours and I have to buy another pair. I don’t want jeans that look like someone dropped paint on them or vomited on them. I don’t want them to look like the man at the dyehouse was drunk and incompetent and somehow made the seams dark blue and a big oval around my arse light blue so everyone behind me thinks I sat in bleach.

When men buy jeans? They walk to a shelf, pick up their size, pay and leave, knowing this pair will fit exactly the same as all their old pairs did.

I want that. I want to find all the jeans and trousers in one category in any given online store, and I want two options. Jeans or trousers. We only have 500 options because every last one of them is an inadequate trade-off designed to ruin our self-esteem so we are forced to go shopping again.

I am sick of taking on the mental load of thinking about clothes. I just want to not be naked in public. That’s really all I want from my clothes. Why can’t the clothing industry make that happen with the least amount of fuss and fanfare as possible?

Could you imagine if some totally random industry, like the car industry or the gardening industry, had options as stupid as women’s trousers? They’d never get investors!

“Uh, yeah, so I want to bring out a brand of car that has seats that are too short, so the headrest stabs people in the back. I want the steering wheel to be triangular so it looks really cool but doesn’t turn the car around corners. And I want no cupholders or those little door pockets. Gloveboxes are right out. Every car owner will need to buy a trailer which will be sold separately and may or may not actually fit their phone and purse. Oh, and the paint will flake off after six months so you have to scrap it and buy a new one every year, and we’ll manufacture them in Shantytown, Nowhereistan, so those people who attend protests all bully their friends for owning our cars. For colour ranges? Why don’t we just get a cat to shit on it and sell it like that? We’ll call it post-post-postmodernism.”

“Hi, I’m designing a new seed for people’s vegetable patches. The plant will have no leaves, flower heads, fruit, vegetables or petals and the root system will only work in a climate that’s Everest in the summer and the Sahara in the winter. We’ll make it sell by removing any actual vegetables from the seed catalogue this year. Oh and we’ll size it so there’s half a seed in each packet. It will be inedible. We will call it post-foodism and target 18-25-year-old gardeners with about two acres of land who live in the inner city.”

It’s like clothing companies utterly misunderstand the average requirements of their customers. And they’re wondering how the Arcadia Group and Debenhams collapsed within about a year of each other, emptying half the British high street in any given town. We don’t want to be sold shit that is impractical and has a lifespan of about 3 months unless you wash it. There’s only so many times you can rip off customers before they just stop buying.

So if you’re a clothing designer and you just got your first big contract, how about making trousers like this:

  1. They actually fit. Around the waist and the leg. At the same time.
  2. They are made of a fabric that you can’t see daylight through when you hold it up to a window.
  3. The seams are stitched so they don’t tear apart or unravel in normal use.
  4. The button holes are big enough for the buttons.
  5. The colour is something you could see the average woman wearing on a rainy day in Sutton Coldfield or Twickenham.
  6. There are no stupid words on them. If you must put your brand name on them, the only appropriate location on trousers is a leather patch near the belt loops.
  7. Don’t ruin them by embellishing them with some stupid ribbon down the sides of the leg that means I have to buy new trousers in a year and can only wear them with two jumpers unless I buy more.
  8. Refer to an actual size chart with measurements before calling something a size 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 etc. In this day and age, people don’t want a size 8 that only fits a size 10, or a size 16 that a 12 couldn’t get into. People are shopping online and returns are expensive and make people mad because they didn’t get to wear their clothes when they wanted to. Standardize your fucking sizes. I had to send about £125 of a £200 order back to ASOS.com recently because sizing is meaningless to clothing companies. I am a very consistent middle-of-the-road 8. There is no reason for jeans to be sized with a different system to trousers, they both go on my same legs. I don’t know what a 26, 27, 28, S, R or L mean, or how you’ve sized the hips if 28 is the waist. I know I am an 8. Make trousers in an 8. Jeans are trousers, stop kidding yourself that they’re special or different.
  9. If your clothing is targeted at over 30s (which I recommend; there are a lot of us and we’d be more economically active if you sold stuff we wanted to buy), consider the fact that we are likely to have had at least one pregnancy, and therefore our ribcages and waistlines have shifted. Letting out the waists by about 1-2 inches would give a much better fit for each size.
  10. Don’t bother making clothes in a size 2. I can 100% guarantee you’ll have several thousand pairs of trousers left over in a size 2 which you won’t even be able to get rid of in a sale.

Sort your shit out and make normal trousers for normal people. What is normal? How about stop wasting time on pointless unanswerable pontifications and go make some better trousers, fashion industry!

Emily the Strange Make Up Tutorial

So I’m still waiting for the white hair to arrive for the Lily Munster tutorial, in the meantime, here’s another thing you can do with a black wig (or straight long black hair if you’re so blessed), white foundation and black eyeliner.  Enjoy:

Hair Trends for 2016: My Favourites

So there’s been enough fashion shows by now to be able to work out what’s trending and what’s over for 2016.  Here are my 5 favourite hair trends for 2016 (I don’t own any of the images in this article):

1. The very slightly off-centre parting: Of the 10 best trends chosen by Vogue, 5 of them incorporated a parting which was lined up with the center-tip of one eyebrow or other. I like the natural parting look because it looks so DIY and ‘normal’ compared to those unachievable looks of recent years, which were very contrived.

Natural hair
Image from: Buzzfeed.

2. Anachronistic accessories: Ok, so I’m not completely sold on this one, because the last time I put princess crap in my hair, I was probably 7, but I have a feeling this trend is going to grow on me. Fashion-wise, it’s being teamed with boyish clothes and wellies, to create a gender-bending look that I know is going to either be totes awesome or an utter disaster.

Accessory hair style trend
Image source: Harpers Bazaar

3. Big Fringes: I knew big fringes were going to be big news because there’s a lot of 70’s imagery in popular culture this year. The fringes I’ve seen coming from catwalks are all very 70’s-style, so I think this is a case of a back-door revival – nobody’s actually said “this season’s a 70’s revival” but when I look around at the designs people are using, the influence is very definitely there.

Hair fringe trend 2016
Source: Harper’s Bazaar

4. Braids and Cornrows: The thing I’m most excited about for the coming year are the braids and cornrows. My stepdad had dreads when I was growing up (after he got rid of the mohican lol) and I always loved getting the chance to spend hours plaiting my hair into different styles, but I had to take them out for school because braids and cornrows were NOT what the cool kids did in my all-white village school (later I realized they weren’t so much cool kids as narrow-minded insular bullies, and that it wouldn’t have mattered whether I’d had the same hair as them or turned up with a pink clown wig, they were going to bully me regardless as I was different). I can’t wait to do my hair in some of these styles again. If you teamed this up with number 2, you could put beads and stuff in your braids and it would be da bomb. Both Valentino and Chanel showcased models who rocked cornrow braids on the catwalk.

Cornrows example
Source: Listaddicts.com

5. Bleach blonde: The platinum blonde trend of 2015, which reached its zenith in Autumn/Winter 2015 with silver hair being the biggest trend of the year (I should know, I’ve made loads of tutorials on how to achieve silver hair on my Youtube channel), has turned it down a notch. Now that silver hair is starting to look a bit shit, because there’s people wearing it when it a) doesn’t suit their complexion, general skincare routine or clothing choices, and b) not looking after their hair so it looks scabby rather than deconstructed and c) People are doing it in a half-assed kinda way so I’ve seen quite a lot of skanks whose silver colour is literally sitting on top of their hair instead of shining out of it, it really just looks terrible. It’s put me right off wanting to be silver again for a long while because there’s just too many people who are doing it badly. Like Lycra leggings in the early 90’s were ruined for a whole generation by fat women with bad pantylines, this silver hair trend has gotta die! If you’re wondering where to go next with your hair colour, block colours are still really big, and bleach blonde is still the base colour that celebs are choosing this year. If you are still tempted to go silver, check out my silver, platinum and white hair tutorials on my Youtube channel (scroll to “popular uploads” and take your pick) so you can do it right and rock it like you got it done in a salon (or at least like you didn’t just wash out some greeny-blue).

zig zag parting
Source: Harper’s Bazaar

freckles makeup 16 1
Source: Harper’s Bazaar.

So that’s the top 5 hair trends of 2016, of course I couldn’t wear all of them together, and I can’t wait to maybe do some tutorials on some of these styles, although, oddly enough, I’m considering keeping my hair dark for the time being because after hating my colour all my life, I’ve started to like it.  There are several other trends I haven’t mentioned here, chiefly the “lob” (long bob) which is a stupid name for a nice hairstyle, and the “bronde” (light brown/dark blonde hair colour) which is another stupid name for a nice but utterly unremarkable hair colour.

Have you seen any of these trends out and about yet? What do you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

Images are attributed to their owners in the captions.  All interpretations and explanations are my own.

2016 Best Beauty Trends From The Catwalk: Reviewed

The spring and summer make up trends for 2016 are a mixed bag – I am in the middle of editing a video for my Youtube channel where I found the 4 worst looks and tried them out on camera.  Today, however, I wanted to do a quick review of the best 6 trends in beauty and make-up that are worth knowing about:

1. Long eyelashes. While the no-make-up-make-up is still pretty big, long lashes are definitely the next big thing in beauty. Whether they’re on-set or out getting papped, celebs seem to all have either lash extensions or lash growth serums, giving them long, luscious lashes. This trend is one of my favourites because it’s so easy to recreate at home, you literally just need to buy a good lash growth serum such as Revitalash and in 4-6 weeks you can have those telescopic lashes when you put your mascara on. I love how feminine it is, and it really makes the eyes look more romantic, softening your features. If you have a longer face like me, long eyelashes really help to break up the face without having to have a brow drawn in with a sharpie, and whether I’m feeling masculine or feminine, I think long lashes ALWAYS look good regardless of gender.

make up trends 2016 long eyelashes catwalk fashion

2. Natural eyebrows (or, less HD brows): FINALLY!!! The HD brow seems to be waning in popularity and I suspect that, like silver hair, it’s going to die a death this year, having become the domain of scruffy people everywhere. The death of the HD brow is to be celebrated, opening the door to feminine, shapely brows (but not over plucked). I am particularly excited that brow colours are tending towards natural shades again – last year it seemed like, no matter what your hair colour, everyone wore black eyebrows! That was not a good look and I didn’t like it. Eyebrows seem to be getting further apart as well, with the almost-touching-each-other nearly-a-monobrow look of the HD brow being another feature that anyone trendy is going to leave back in the grody dark ages of 2015. On catwalks, one surprising brow trend I noticed a couple of times was the curved brow, that rounded look that hasn’t been seen in several decades. It did look good on the models I saw, but check it suits your face shape by drawing it in with an eye pencil before you commit to getting your brows reshaped. Personally I’m thinking of going for a Marilyn Monroe brow this year after experimenting with it in one of my videos last year.

Natural, non-HD brows were a theme across every fashion show for Spring and Summer 2016.
Natural, non-HD brows were a theme across every fashion show for Spring and Summer 2016 and I’ve been seeing them more and more on celebrities as well, showing we’re finally at the end of those Neanderthal-esque HD brows!  Picture: Vogue.

3. Long flat straight noses: Yes this IS a makeup trend. Before you go calling up the plastic surgeon, go to your local makeup counter and ask them to show you how to shape your nose using highlighter and contour powder. You may be surprised at the results. The downside is that if you have a crooked nose like I do, you can’t switch between a straight or curved nose by using make-up, but I have found a video on Youtube (not one of mine) where this lady shows you how to allegedly straighten your nose using nose exercises. I’ve tried them out for a couple of days and I’ll let you know how they turn out.  I didn’t really have a picture for this but they’re everywhere:

make up trends 2016 straight noses catwalk fashion
See how in profile her nose is curved but straight-on it’s flat? That’s make-up.

4. Freckles: Yup, they’re in again. My suggestion with this one is only go for freckles if you’ve got very clear skin, otherwise (like last time this trend came around) you’ll be walking round looking like you’ve got terrible acne. Any 3D spots on your forehead, chin or cheeks, and faux-freckles are a total no-no.

make up trends 2016 freckles catwalk fashion

5. Color-pop lips: If there’s not a lot going on in the eyeshadow department, the lips are the big deal this year. Celine had off-red lips on the runway and Miu Miu had two-tone blue and berry lips (see picture). The theme here seems to be to go for “natural” (or “nude”) eyes and unnatural, experimental lipcolours, which is the complete opposite of the predominant nude-lip trend we’ve been seeing for the past few years. In particular, red lipstick is getting much bigger this year.  Blending 2-3 colours (like you usually would for eyeshadow) to create shape and perfection, seems to be on the verge of becoming a trend, but I think we will be waiting until Autumn/Winter for it to really take off because it’s still on the horizon at the moment.

make up trends 2016 lips color pop blueberry catwalk fashion
Excerpt from Cosmopolitan Magazine website about blueberry color-pop lips for Spring/Summer 2016.

6. Coloured Contact Lenses: OMG I’m so excited that these have started making their way onto the runway, although no-one seems to have noticed them yet. I spotted them on this MAC girl styled by Lucia Pieroni. Brown contacts definitely suit a lot more people than the garish and unnatural blue and green ones that are also available. I can’t wait for contact lens companies to respond to the increasing popularity by designing more realistic contact lenses. Perhaps it won’t be too long before coloured contact lenses become as acceptable as hair extensions and wigs.

make up trends 2016 colored contact lenses review catwalk fashion
Look at her eyes. It’s not remarked upon in the text that ran next to it in Cosmo, but she’s clearly wearing brown contacts and I suspect it’s going to be a trend in Autumn/Winter 2016 if it catches on.

So those are the top 6 make-up trends of Spring/Summer 2016, what do you think?  Have you tried any of these yet?  Would you experiment with coloured contacts?

Sponsored Posts: The Best of The Worst

So as I mentioned in this post, I often get asked to write sponsored posts for companies wanting to improve brand presence.  After a deep moral dilemma, I made it a policy to always turn them down due to my standpoint as a minimalist (although recently I’ve not had a lot of time to respond), but they keep coming.  I do take a look at what they are proposing, particularly when it sounds dreadful, and mostly out of morbid curiosity. For your viewing entertainment (and to fight back against the consumeriarchy), I have included the best of the worst, the factual inaccuracies and old wives tales type information that is all over the internet already, and which people have offered to pay me to perpetuate (which all seem to lead back to consumerism):

1. Quinoa is a good source of protein.  This has to be the most blatant lie; it was followed up with an amount per cup that was a) several times the actual amount of protein in a cup of quinoa and b) still not a great amount of protein.

2. You need to lose weight to get married:  Yep, those “how to lose weight before your wedding posts” you see all over the internet, that are firmly designed to make women hate themselves and feel insecure (so they can sell women more clothes, diet pills, cosmetics, and when all else fails, food) are sponsored.  Do yourself a favour:  Learn to love the size you are before your wedding.  That’s who your future husband/wife fell in love with.

3. People get too much protein in their usual diet, so vegans shouldn’t worry about protein.  This is not only untrue but it’s very dangerous advice.  See my list of sources of nutrients for vegans post (with the amazing spreadsheet of sources for EVERY nutrient) to find out the truth.  It’s especially interesting that this sponsored post wanted to “inform” vegans that they can pay for recipes that don’t contain enough protein, because it makes money from the recipes in the first place, then they’ll get a protein deficiency, and be back supporting the dairy/meat industry in no time.  That’s win-win for paid meat/dairy people.  That’s the result of the “protein myth”-myth.  You need protein to live, and you CAN get it from a vegan diet.  It’s like “big pharma” became “big farmer.”

4. SEO is apparently all about keyword density.  If that was true, a page of “buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online buy computers online…” etc would be at the top of each search result.  Instead of being excluded for being dumb and pointless.

5. If I only BUY a bunch of items from some hitherto unheard of fashion house, they will apparently pay me to write reviews (but only if those reviews are positive – that’s the rules of reviewing things for paid posts in blogging).  Listen up, potential bloggers and those of you who are considering paid reviews, because this is a basic rule of making money:  If you have to spend money to do something that someone asked you to do, the chances of it netting you any cash is minimal, unless you have it in writing that they are going to pay you back (at which point, you’re giving them a loan, so charge them interest).  They like to make you think that they are going to give you a return on any “investment” you make e.g. by buying a product, but at the end of the day, as far as companies like this are concerned, YOU are the customer, and they are making money from bloggers, not any readers (the readers are just icing on the cake for these scams).  This is the consumerist myth, and you do NOT have to spend money to make money unless you have a shop.

6. Am I interested in a free sample of these AMAZING new diet pills which have heretofore been tested on mice, rats, rabbits, giraffes and monkeys, and have helped them all achieve the figure YOU deserve??? This one particularly makes me laugh because I have mentioned time and time again on my blog that I am clinically underweight.  The only time someone my size would say yes to diet pills would be if they had anorexia.  At which point they need a free sample of a cure for anorexia, not diet pills.  The whole concept of diet pills really makes me fume, like we can’t just be the size we are (and yes, I fall into that trap too – sometimes wishing I could put weight on to be the “perfect” weight, because all this crap about weight isn’t just “fat shaming” it’s “non-normal shaming” for a made-up value of “normal” – hey, we’ve felt the results of “non-normal shaming” before in other aspects of life such as mental health).  The lunatic fringe of the pharmaceutical industry had to rear its ugly head, and my big question to all these “supplement” pill companies is, if what you’re selling is so good, why don’t doctors ever recommend it to patients?  They can never answer that.

That was six of the best examples of bad paid-posting proposals; obviously I have left company names out because of legal mumbo-jumbo, but I thought these would be entertaining examples.  A lot of the crap I receive in my inbox is to do with either perpetuating myths (e.g. the “protein myth” myth) or perpetuating the LIE that my readers are inadequate unless they spend money on a specific thing (e.g. a weight loss course, diet pills, beauty products).  I respect my readers so could never flog this crap to you all.  If you are a very furious company reading this, and your company has approached me with one of these pitches, perhaps you should look at what you’re offering and try making/selling a better product.  Content is king.

Content is king.
Content is king.

[travel] How Many Pairs Of Socks? How Many Panties?

It doesn’t matter how many times I go anywhere. The size of the bag seems to make no difference. I always find myself, about an hour before I am due to depart, hanging around my smalls, trying to decide on the fundamentals of travel packing: How many socks, how many panties?

Go on, snigger.

Then tell me in all honesty that you’re totally confident with your sock-panty quantities.

Hmm.

If I’m going away for less than a week, I take a pair for every day that I’m away. It’s a bit difficult, as a girl, because there are so many different types of both – there are ankle socks, knee socks, hose, stockings, pop socks, those annoying socks that come between the ankle and the knee. The ones that shrink the first time you wear them.

If you consider colour, then that’s a whole different minefield again. Do you take opaque black stockings or bare leg tights? Will neon brighten up your legs or make you look like a slapper? Can Christmas socks ever be cool if it’s not Christmas? What about that pair of socks you really like, but are as itchy as chilli powder?

Here’s the way the boys do it: Just pack five pairs of plain black socks. Then pack pants according to the following formula (based on actual conversations with men):

n = number of weeks; p = number of pants.

p = 4n, where any number of days is rounded up to the first week (so always at least 4 pairs of pants). So if you were going somewhere for 2 weeks, p = 4 x 2 which is 8 pairs of pants.

I’m not convinced this is going to work for girls. Socks or pants. The thing is, if men wear jeans, they wear the same sock type and pant type as they sport if they’re donning formal trousers, bermuda shorts (unless they go commando to avoid sand deposits), dungarees… are there any other types of trousers that men under 50 even wear? I don’t know about them. Men’s clothing is mysteriously simple. I envy them. It doesn’t matter what else they pack, their socks and pants will go with everything, because they are designed to. Men choose their pants based on what feels most comfy/makes them feel sexy (sometimes), whereas women often have to pick their underwear based on whether people will see it under their dress. I remember when I was at school, doing Maths A-level, and the maths teacher used to wear a plain black cheap suit – but the trousers were so thin that you could see the triangular line of her panties indented through the fabric. AAARRRGH EMBARRASSMENT ALL ROUND! I have always had a horror of that, because there’s nothing more awkward than knowing that your maths teacher buys her panties from ASDA’s cheapest plain multipack. The kind your mum buys you when you’re eight. I can’t even begin to comprehend it. Thing was, I’m fairly sure she was blissfully unaware that she had this huge honking great panty line, and had no idea that people were seeing it – and judging her for it, and making all sorts of assumptions. Don’t be that person.

If girls could get away with that there would be no beauty blogs or fashion blogs, so while I envy men, I also feel sorry for them that they don’t have as much choice as us.

So you will need the following:

For every dress you have packed: One thong and one pair of tights. Don’t bother with stockings unless you know how to ask for a suspender belt in Swahili for when yours breaks. They’re not very well made these days (I’m not old enough to know if they ever were, but people tell me things used to be better in their day).

For every pair of trekking trousers: One pair of bikini briefs* or girlboxers and one pair of socks (the fabric can chafe in thongs).
For every pair of jeans: Thong or girlboxers, and one pair of socks.

For every pair of shorts: Thong or bikini briefs and one pair of socks.

For every sarong: A swimsuit or an actual bikini/tankini, and some flip-flops.
For every floor length skirt: Loose cotton girlboxers and one pair of socks.
For every miniskirt: Thong and bare legs unless you’re going somewhere cold, in which case cover legs with leggings, unless it’s too cold, in which case just leave the miniskirt/dress behind.
*Bikini briefs – not the same as bikini bottoms. A bikini brief is a high leg panty which is halfway between a thong and a girl boxer. It’s useful in hotter weather but the elastic can be just as chafing as thongs, but in a different place. Depends on where your chafe-immunity is, I guess.

You need underwear options so that you feel comfortable whatever the weather and during every activity you undertake, but you don’t need underwear that doesn’t fit properly, is worn or frayed, stained, faded, uncomfortable, or the elastic just doesn’t behave. When do we ever pack for our needs though? Last time I went on a long trip, I took about four different swimwear options (underwired tankinis, so the tops could double as non-swimming tops), but I only actually went swimming once, in an indoor hotel pool in Sindenfingel, and I also went to the beach once. I was delusionally expecting to spend more time at the beach, even though my overland route didn’t allow for any stopping points at any beaches because there weren’t any within range of the roads we were taking until the last day, on the way back through Belgium, when we saw a sign for a beach, and took a detour. It had been blazing sunshine until we started walking towards the beach, then suddenly it turned overcast, the way was filled with prickly plants, and there was a constant stream of sand being blown into my right ear. But I got to wear one of my swimming outfits. Although I didn’t go within fifty feet of the sea. It was far too cold.

My point is, I probably only needed two or three of those swimwear options. I certainly didn’t need four. But if there’s room in your bag or your campervan storage locker, why not have options? I think I had one item that I didn’t even wear on a three week trip with a capsule wardrobe.  Again, I thought there’d be more random stopping points, and was expecting to climb some mountains somewhere during our two alpine crossings, but this did not happen, so I didn’t need the 3/4 length walking trousers I’d packed. **UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE – THEY DID GET WORN – I HAVE PROOF!!**

In relation to the how many socks and knickers question, take as many as you like, as many as you feel comfortable wearing. Just remember, only take what you can carry if you are backpacking. And remember a carrier bag to put the dirties in.

I have been contemplating downsizing my underwear and sock collection in my actual home and am currently still trying to comprehend the formula for this which will create a sock and panty equilibrium that I can live with, as part of my pledge (to myself) to minimalize my life. The last thing I want is to get rid of all my undies then have to go straight to M&S to get sized up for some more because I got rid of too many.

I thought I would have a chance to minimalize my underwear and socks today, and have been looking forward to getting stuck into it all week, but between marking 40 mock exam papers for the school I work at, and my next-door-neighbours playing music so loud we could hear it clearly in our car as we left our house, I haven’t really had the time or space to get this done. Nothing kills my concentration faster than “boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom” for 6 hours.

I will update you on the permanent underwear quandary once it is solved. In the meantime, enjoy sorting through your panties and socks, and let me know via the comments if you’ve minimalised this area of your life either for holiday packing or 24/7 living, as I’d be very interested to know what works for you.

UPDATE: I have been shown a photo from our drive to Rome six months ago which shows I definitely did wear the three quarter length loose trousers (aww, my hair was so much darker then).  My packing was all used!! Huzzah! :

Those trousers definitely got worn - Schloss Hellbrun, nr. Salzburg, Austria.
Those trousers definitely got worn – Schloss Hellbrun, nr. Salzburg, Austria.