Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Outfit Post: How To Wear Vinyl Pants

You're never truly alone. Literally as well as philosophically! Thanks to the little device that's never far from your hand, we're all hyper-connected during our waking hours which can either be a blessing or...not. I'm the first person to admit I have a serious phone addiction but as a blogger, it's partly par for the course. It's part of my job to tweet and Instagram as well as answer emails. This year, I wanted to reduce my addiction to my phone and while I still bookend my day by scanning through my social media feeds, I'm much better at switching off than I was six months ago. 

There are times when your phone can be a lifeline though. Despite living in London for nearly a decade, CityMapper is a total godsend. And I would much rather keep on top of my emails on the go than come back to inbox armageddon when I'm back to my laptop. I suffer from insomnia and it's nice to be able to catch up with friends abroad when I can't sleep and I love getting people's opinions on the go - especially when I'm shopping alone. 

This is exactly what I did a couple of months ago when I popped into Topshop after a meeting and documented my shopping trip on Instagram Stories. I tried on a handful of cute dresses, a couple of cosy jumpers, some velvet flares and...some vinyl pants. Oh, those vinyl pants. Who knew a pair of trousers could be so divisive?! My IG inbox was inundated with positive and negative reactions. No one minced their words, they were either VERY for or VERY against. The strong opinions left me in a bit of a conundrum; who do I listen to? 

Actually, it wasn't that big a conundrum. As soon as I slipped them on I felt like a total badass so of course, I bought them. While I love hearing other people's views, especially when it comes to fashion, I always go with my gut instinct. I'm the only one who's going to wear the item of clothing in question so the only thing that matters is that I love it. I'm pretty sure this is why Polonius said: "To thine own self to true".  Solid sartorial advice from Shakespeare. 

The conundrum about how to style them was also pretty straightforward; vinyl pants are surprisingly good and look great thrown on with a tee and some sneakers AND dressed up with heels. I've been wearing them a lot over the past few weeks and my favourite way to style them is with a killer heel (quelle surprise) and a fluffy jumper. I really like the contrast in textures between the smooth, sleek vinyl and a soft jumper. I really love this look and think it would even consider those naysayers to give vinyl a whirl. 

Coat - Mango (similar)
Jumper - Monki 
Trousers - Topshop
Heels - Jimmy Choo
Bag - Jimmy Choo (similar)

Photography by Adorngirl


Friday, 10 November 2017

Outfit Post: An Ode to Hoodie Season

Palace hoodie and over the knee boots worn by fashion blogger Reena Rai

I love that hoodies have become as much a part of Autumn as falling leaves, pumpkin spiced lattes and hygge. Hoodie season is the one thing that gives me literal comfort from the drop in temperature and darker evenings, there's nothing better than snuggling into a soft, welcoming oversized hoodie to keep the winter chill at bay. It's all the better if you have a bae to steal...I mean borrow...said hoodie from. For some reason, men's clothing is much comfier than women's and they're so much nicer to shrug on in the winter months. Since I've found myself bae-less this season, I had to bite the bullet and invest in my own Palace hoodie. 

And honestly, it's been the most cost-effective AW17 purchase I've made. I used to steal...I mean borrow...hoodies to snuggle up indoors but I'm loathed to take mine off so it's now part of my everyday wardrobe. Considering I last wore a hoodie in public circa 2003, it's safe to say it's not part of my regular sartorial repertoire. Comfort and practicality rarely factor into my decision-making process when I get dressed in the morning. I'm the girl with 5" heels surgically attached to her feet and often refusing to bundle into a big, warm coat because my outfit is too cute to hide. 

Palace hoodie and over the knee boots worn by fashion blogger Reena Rai

So how did I do a 180 and embrace a practical piece of clothing? For me, the "trick" has been staying true to my personal style. On occasion, I'll shrug a hoodie on with boyfriend jeans and trainers, embracing my tomboy tendencies but most of the time I'll throw it over something unexpected like a Vivienne Westwood dress or a pair of subtle over-the-knee pink satin boots. I tend to dress up even if I dress down! 

You may remember a post I wrote a few months ago, where I discussed the democratisation of fashion and how style isn't dictated anymore; inspiration can come from anywhere. I explained how - and why - my style has evolved to blend streetwear with fashion. That mash up is so evident in this post, the mix of the Balenciaga-esque shocking pink OTK boots and the hoodie from Palace - a cult skate brand that I'm utterly obsessed with. I really love feeling free and confident enough in my style to switch my style up and throw surprising combinations together. Fashion is supposed to be fun, after all! 

Palace hoodie and over the knee boots worn by fashion blogger Reena Rai

Palace hoodie

Palace hoodie and over the knee boots worn by fashion blogger Reena Rai

Hoodie - Palace
Jumper dress - LOTD (similar)
Boots - ASOS (similar)

Photography by Adorngirl

Palace hoodie

Friday, 27 October 2017

Outfit Post: Why Representation Matters

Fashion Blogger Reena Rai discusses the importance of representation

I have a confession to make. I've fallen off the wagon. Wait, don't worry, I just meant the blogging wagon. I just lost my mojo for a little while, hence the conspicuous absence of last week's post. After a having a brief breather and reminding myself why I'm doing what I do, I'm back with a bumper post so grab a cuppa and get comfy.

Despite being a veteran blogger with 8-9 years under my belt, 2017 has been the most transformative of my blogging career. This is the year that I decided to embrace my own voice. It’s taken me a while to discover it again as the blogosphere has changed so much in the time I’ve been blogging. Back when I first created my little corner of the Internet, blogging was more like a personal diary shared online. My corner was like a little scrapbook of fashion inspiration, news and a touch of my personal style, self-shot in my bedroom. But it’s all different now.

Over the years the blogging landscape has evolved, becoming more polished, curated and editorial. I have to admit, much like a dinosaur, I was slow to adapt. I had tons of blogger pals and PRs urging me to put more of myself on the blog but, well I guess I was shy. Putting yourself out there on the internet for the world to see is nerve-wracking. I knew that it was the way blogging was heading but I just didn’t feel comfortable making it all about me. So I spent the last couple of years straddling the old and new worlds of blogging and writing on and off - like most on/off relationships it's been more off than on. I was frustrated with my content and unsure of where I fitted in.

I struggled with the concept of being my own brand. I guess it goes back to my previous post about confidence. But in spring, I decided to leap. I took a bet on myself and decided to give my voice a chance. Looking at the blogging landscape, it's become so homogenous. It used to be diverse, the antithesis of mainstream media. Anyone with a laptop and internet connection could have a blog; you didn’t need to fit a narrow ideal. But slowly, this has changed. And I figured, if I have an opportunity to shake that up then I should.

London blogger Reena Rai shot at the Tate Modern

While anyone can be a blogger, it seems that there are a couple of prerequisites to being a 'big blogger'. Namely, being white and slim with swishy blonde/bronde hair. Of course, having these attributes doesn't automatically make you a super influencer and I'm not glossing over the hard work successful bloggers have put in at all. I see the years of hard work people have put into their craft and I applaud it. Blogging is a graft and it’s inspiring to see people who work hard win. But at the same time, there are plenty of great bloggers who shoot beautiful images and write wonderful words who don’t seem to get a look in.

As a woman of colour, I’m very aware that we don’t tend to get the campaigns or opportunities. Granted, there are a handful of black and brown bloggers who are successful but brands and agencies tend to work with bloggers with a very similar aesthetic. If you don't fit that ideal, it's much harder to succeed. It seems that blogging and mainstream media aren't that different after all.

Fashion Blogger wearing silver ankle boots AW17

Over the last few years, issues surrounding race and representation have become increasingly important to me. As a woman of Indian heritage, I can't help but feel marginalised and overlooked by the media. There are very women who look like me in the media. I can count the Indian women who get starring roles in TV or movies on one hand - Mindy Kaling, Archie Punjabi, Frieda Pinto and Priyanka Chopra. The only Indian models I’ve seen for more than a couple of seasons are Lakshmi Menon and Neelam Gill. The only examples I have are always the exception and not at all proportionately representative.

So, why does representation matter? For me, the answer to this question is complex and simple at the same time. Seeing a brown person in media makes me feel like I matter. It means what I look like is accepted, that my heritage is accepted. My parents come from two countries which were former colonies, where locals were seen as lesser by the British Empire. This is why relating to someone I see on a screen is quite profound. There is a term known as 'symbolic annihilation' which links what you see in the media to perceived importance - "representation in the fictional world signifies social existence; absence means symbolic annihilation.". Simply put, if I don’t see people who look like me, it means that people like me don’t matter to society.

Growing up, I didn’t really have anyone who looked like me as a point of reference. I watched Bollywood films with my grandma but I lived in the UK, what I saw was unrelatable to me and my life. I grew up playing with Barbies and watching Sweet Valley High. I guess this is why I spent a lot of time wanting to be blonde – long-term readers will remember when my wonderful hairdresser managed to take me from brunette to blonde hair in this post. It’s funny. At the time I enjoyed being blonde but when I look back, I don’t think I looked like me. Visually, I spent years yearning to be what I saw in the media but it was so far from who I am. That’s the danger when there is a lack of representation in the media.

As an aunt to three nieces from 4 months old to late teens, I want better for the next generation. Granted, things are slowly moving in the right direction. But I realised that I have an opportunity, to be the change that I want to see in the world. I’ve been blogging for a while and I’ve built up a modest following. This year, realised that I have a voice and a responsibility to be visible. I’m proud of who I am and what I look like. I want other brown people to feel the same, whether it’s Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or any other beautiful South Asian country. I feel like it’s my responsibility. Doesn’t everyone deserve to see people who look like them and feel like they matter?

Fashion Blogger Reena Rai discusses the importance of representation for British Asian women

Jumper – Hot Mess
Skirt – Zara (similar)
Boots – Look of the Day

Photography by Adorngirl.

The importance of representation for South Asian women

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Outfit Post: Let's Talk About Confidence

London fashion blogger Reena Rai shot in Shoreditch

A quick scroll of my blog and social media channels may show you a happy, confident woman. Someone vibrant, who is out a lot, perhaps has one too many pairs of shoes and seems pretty outgoing. That's not far from the truth. On the whole, I'm pretty content with my lot. I have a great life that I've worked hard to create and I'm fairly confident in myself. But my self-assuredness has definitely been earnt after years of lacking confidence and anxiety. I'm proud of myself for overcoming hurdles to accept and embrace who I am. I truly believe that this is one of life's hardest lessons, especially for women, and it is only becoming harder with social media, Facetune, filters and photoshop. 

For me, confidence is a funny thing. Often it comes down to how you physically look (or feel you look) rather than accomplishments or achievements. I would much rather be judged for my career or work than how I look but that is the way society operates. I am the first person to put my hand up and admit that I'm fairly blessed when it comes to looks - my features and build are broadly in-line with what society deems as "attractive". I can see and acknowledge my privilege in this respect but it doesn't mean I haven't spent years uncomfortable with how I look. 

In my younger years, I was painfully thin. I ate. I still feel like I have to jump to my defense and tell you I ate, most people made jokes that I didn't. During my teenage years, I was just tall and skinny with a super fast metabolism. It marked me out and people would always ask if I ate, whether I was anorexic or worse. I hated how I looked and hid away in baggy clothes - I practically lived in my three-stripe Adidas tracksuit. Add to this awful 90s glasses, braces and a mane of frizzy hair.  I managed to hit every single "awkward phase" stereotype. 

London fashion blogger Reena Rai wearing a pink Topshop suit

Nothing lasts forever though. Eventually, the braces came off and I discovered contact lenses. I chopped all of my hair off and started straightening it. By the time I was heading to A-Levels, I had started to blossom and for the first time in a long time, I started feeling comfortable and even confident. 

For women, I think confidence is something that fluctuates daily. There are so many contributing factors. The media, and increasingly social media, plays a huge role in how I feel about myself. The media loves to pit women against each other, just look at all of the "who wore it best?" articles or cast your mind back to YEARS of the media pitting Jennifer Aniston against Angelina Jolie. This mentality is so ingrained into our collective mindset and it's so toxic. 

I used to scroll through my feed and see a bunch of beautiful women who looked incredible. Rather than being happy for them and celebrating their beauty, I felt like it highlighted my own lack of beauty. I'd see a beautiful curly hair that I wish I had or someone with fuller lips or a more defined, feminine jawline. The worst was if I saw someone with a gorgeous hourglass figure which only highlighted how boyish my own figure is.

It's so easy to get sucked into a negative cycle of thought. But something I realised is that another women's beauty does not mean the absence of your own. We are all beautiful. It took me a while to understand it's human nature to want the opposite of what you have; if you have brown eyes you'll want blue ones, if you have dark hair you'll want blonde hair and so on. It also took me a while to realise that I am who I am. I was created like this. Try as I might, I will never have blue eyes or ringlet curls or an ass that just won't quit. And that is ok, because I have lovely brown eyes, naturally thick hair and a slender frame. These are all things that make me me and unlike anyone else on the planet. Isn't that something to be celebrated? 

Now when I scroll through my social feeds, I'll double tap a beautiful woman or tweet her. I feel happy for her and confident in myself. It's so easy to slip into old habits but I've slowly trained my mind to see myself in a positive light. Having self-confidence is a beautiful thing and because I'm comfortable in myself, I feel like I need less validation from others. As long as I'm happy, who cares what anyone else thinks? There are so many much more important things to be thinking about than that. 

London fashion blogger Reena Rai wearing a pink Topshop suit

I'm conscious that I've dedicated so much of this post on physical confidence. I guess this is the easiest way to unpick confidence. When you start taking into account how a person actually feels in relation to family, friends, past experiences and work, things get a little complicated. Confidence stems from different sources and fluctuates daily. While I'm confident in many areas of my life, blogging is where I still come unstuck.

As a "Blogging Elder", I was an early adopter of blogging and social media and I've seen the landscape change so much. It started out as the antithesis of glossy editorials in magazines but over time has evolved into the thing it was a rebellion against. I came from an era where you didn't have to put yourself out there to a new world where you have to be front and centre, laid bare in your writing and looking perfect in front of the lens. 

I spent a lot of time feeling unhappy with my content and I lacked the confidence to get in front of the camera. I ummed and ahhed about working with a proper photographer. Then I had a fortunate stroke of serendipity and started working with an old friend and photographer, Adorn Girl. From our first shoot over 6 months ago, we just clicked and our images have gone from strength to strength and with that my confidence in blogging has soared. We work so collaboratively on the looks we shoot and where we shoot them; I'm happy having my picture taken and it shows. My images inspire what I write and to write better.

Pink Topshop suit worn by fashion blogger Reena Rai

And the best thing about Ashanti is she keeps pushing me to be more creative. She has convinced me to dip my toe into YouTube with a little lookbook video. I was so blown away by how great it looks that this is now going to be a regular feature - it's such a fun way to bring my personality and clothing to life. I hope you enjoy this little video, if you do please subscribe to my channel! 

Suit jacket - Topshop
Suit trousers - TopshopBralet - Oysho
Sneakers - Vans

Photography and videography by
Adorn Girl

Pink and white Vans worn by fashion blogger Reena Rai

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Outfit Post: The Trouble With Trans-seasonal Dressing

Autumn is one of my favourite seasons. Clear skies, crisp mornings and the beautiful shades of the falling leaves. London is at its most beautiful in Autumn (don't @ me). Summer in London is glorious but the buildings and transport are not built for warm conditions. But from September it really comes into its own. Everything is geared up for cosiness. 

The one thing I hate about autumn is trans-seasonal dressing. Aka dressing for four seasons in one because you never know what the day is going to throw at you! In a single day, it's possible to be too hot and too cold, especially when navigating the inferno-like Central Line. The layers peel off, then get shrugged back on before heading outside. The mornings are beautifully crisp and bright but the sunshine belies the drop in temperature, lulling you into a false sense of warmth. 

Practicality aside, being in this trans-seasonal period is also hella confusing trend-wise. Do you cling onto summer a la Sandy from Grease or do you throw in the towel and embrace AW17? What if you're not quite ready to give up millennial pink and wear red just because Givenchy, Max Mara and Roksanda et al want you to? Autumn/winter sees the return of practical big bags but what if I still want to be hands AND carefree?! So confusing. 

In this shoot, I was totally caught out by the cold as I'm sure you can see by my visible goosebumps! I kind of threw the look together with pieces I like, much like I do IRL these days. Clearly, I am not yet ready for the weather or to let go of pink in favour of red (just me?). It's the season for experimenting and throwing a look together but a word of warning - a sheer top has no business being worn in this weather unless it's under or over a jumper!

Top - ASOS (similar)
Jeans - River Island (similar)
Shoes - ASOS (similar)
Bag - Shrimps (similar)

Photography by Adorn Girl

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