Monday, December 31, 2012

If You Didn't Come To Party...

New Year's Eve will always, and forever be linked in my mind to Prince.

Although, come to think of it, a lot of things come back to Prince for me. Say what you will about the man's eccentricities, he has a fuckton of flair and can write a bass hook like no-one's business. He has been apologetically, unabashedly over the top his entire career, and I find that not only sexy, but inspiring. He does what he wants, wears want he wants, and is damn good at what he does behind all that flash. Eline, the very talented writer of A Fluffy Blog (which you should be reading) did a great roundup of Prince's greatest outfits recently, and I was reminded all over again just how much I love this man's chutzpah. I mean, how can you not admire a man with the sheer nerve to appear on stage in a cloud covered suit with matching cuban heels?

I'm restraining myself to one picture, because
if I start on a Prince Outfit Post then we will
be here all day

Apart from the unforgettable song all about New Year's Eve (Please, go look it up on YouTube if somehow have managed not to hear it), his aggressive self belief is also what ties him to this time of year in my head. Even his most strident fans seem express the opinion publically that he's past his prime, that his newer music isn't as good as his old music, that he's lost his touch. Quite apart from the fact that I think this is absolutely not true (listen to Musicology if you don't believe me), I'm blown away by the fact he doesn't care. Prince is just gonna keep doing what Prince gonna do, and the haters can stroll on over to the left.

Every year, the closest I ever get to a New Year's resolution is a vague desire to be happier, to love more, to be less scared, and to be more courageous. So this year I'm going to pin it right down and put it out there - My new Year's Resolution is to Be Like Prince. And with that in mind, here is my contribution to this week's Aussie Nails Monday.

Aussie Nails Monday - Party

For this manicure I went in with the aim of simply adding more and more and more sparkles until it was literally impossible to add any more. And I think I more or less succeeded. 

To get this effect, I just laid down a good solid base of the Halo Hues, and let it dry for as long as I could stand before sponging the Fascination Street over the top. There are lots of different tutorials around for using sponges to make pretty gradiated effects, but for this one I just painted a stripe of the Fascination Street onto a wedge of kitchen sponge and dabbed it on the top part of the nail until I was happy with it. Then once that was more or less dry, I got my Fantasy Fire and did the exact same thing on the upper third of the nail.

Now if only I had a perfectly tailored holographic suit in a similar gradient to go with it, my life would be complete.

Don't forget to check out the other lovely bloggers who are also in on this challenge!
Nail Gun XS - Marie’s Manicure Madhouse - Tales From The Makeup Bag - Shatter Me Claire - A Polished Prance - Tee Bee’s Nails - The Epitome of Superficiality - Lacquer Dreams - NananaisNails - Enamoured With Enamel - Pretty Polish Please - Adelle1985 - Kelly's Kolors - Polished Peripherals - Every Little Polish - Mel My Issta - Walk In My Eyeshadow - JennLojko - The Polish Haven - Nails In The Desert - Erinzi - Strawbrie - Lovessweetas - Jas' Blingtastic Nails - Mckfresh

Sunday, December 30, 2012

OPI Skyfall Review - Is That Silva?

My most excellent and wonderful little sister got me two exciting little bundles for Christmas, both from the OPI Skyfall collection. I am now the ridiculously proud owner of The Man With The Golden Gun real freaking gold top coat, and one of the magnetics called Is That Silva?

I won't bore you with how excited I was about Man With The Golden Gun just yet - I have  plenty to say about that another time. Today I wanted to let you all have a look at Is That Silva?

I've held off on getting any of the magnetic polishes that have been coming out recently because I just got a real "meh" feeling about them. They're nice, but it just seemed so fiddly for a not-so-spectacular effect. But I was willing to have my mind changed, especially when one so graciously landed in my lap.

Unfortunately, Is This Silva will not be the polish to change my mind about magnetics. The holographic sparkles are lovely, but the contrast with the dull, brushed aluminium looking silver just makes them look out of place. I wanted to like it, I really did. But overall, it's just enormously bland. The other thing to note about the polish when you don't use the magnet is that it dries like there are little bits of grit all through it, which isn't particularly appealing.

Of course, to be fair, it's not really intended to be worn without the magnet pattern, so I tried that out too. After reading Anthea from NailedObsession's review of Morning Moneypenny (another polish in the same line), I made sure to leave the magnet over the nail for at least 20 seconds rather than the box reccomended 6-7. And yet, the results were still pretty poor.

I couldn't for the life of me get the pattern to go the whole way around the nail, which annoyed me enormously. I found myself wishing I could just get a polish that's the neat black colour this goes when magnetised, and be done with the nasty dull silver crap on top. The silver particles also drag quite a bit when you put the topcoat on if you're not really, really gentle with it. Actually, even if you are they still drag, and honestly, I would expect more from a polish this pricey.

On the whole, Is That Silva? was quite disappointing. Knowing me, I'll think of some neat design to use it for though, so it's not all bad news. More polish is never bad polish!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

How To Do Nails - Butch Edition

I am not a number, I am a free man
After some feedback on my last How To Do Nails post, it occurred to me the advice I gave wouldn't necessarily be of use to everyone who might want to play with nail polish. Not everyone can or want to grow nails as long as mine, so I thought I would put together a tutorial for those of you with what the Nailistas call "shorties".
This is my boyfriend, Alex. As you can tell, he has a pretty good sense of humour and is willing to do all kinds of silly things to amuse me. So when I said I wanted to paint some short, blunt, butch nails, he was happy to be my guinea pig. Well...maybe not HAPPY. But he let me. Maybe he was just excited to be called butch, who knows?

So this is the guide to nail polish for those of you who don't have long, strong, or femme nails, but still like to put pretty things on the ends of your fingers.

My nails on the left, his nails on the right.
The first thing you will need is nail polish, and nail polish remover. I cannot stress enough the importance of having something to take this crap OFF your nails again BEFORE you put anything on them. As for what polish to choose, I don't really have any different advice for this edition. Quick drying options are always better for first timers, and the Sally Hansen Insta Dri brush is a miracle for those of us with shaky, clumsy, or simply unpracticed hands.

When it comes to a topcoat and a basecoat, and whether you need them, there are only two questions you really need to ask yourself. Do you want it to last a couple of days? If yes, get both. If no, don't worry about it. Do you really need to make sure it will come off cleanly and not stain your nails? If yes, use a basecoat. If no, don't worry about it.

If you've got short nails, you will also most likely have pretty overgrown cuticles, so you will probably need a round wooden stick with a slanted end called an orange stick to push them down and out of the way of the polish. My boy's cuticles are halfway up his nail, and it drives me a little crazy, so I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to do something about them. You want to get a little hand cream, or sorbolene and rub it into your cuticles first so they don't split when you start messing with them. If you don't have anything like this around the house, I imagine a teeny bit of olive oil would do just fine. You just want something to lube up the skin a bit, and make it nice and soft.

This does hurt a little bit, so be gentle. Unless you're me, then enjoy
the whimpers of your guinea pig.
Then you get your orange stick and slide the pointed end under the cuticle like so. Just keep pushing it all back until you have a little ridge, and then rub the ridge with your fingertip to get it soften it up some more. Keep doing this until your nails look like this;
Ahh, that's better.
Don't fuss too much about getting it all perfect and neat, because it's not going to be. Just try and free up as much real estate as possible for the polish. Once you've done this, you'll need to get out your nail polish remover and a cotton bud.

Dip your cotton bud in the nail polish remover, and swab the actual nail. This is to get rid of any cream/oil that is sitting on it from softening up your cuticles. If you leave the oil there, unfortunately the polish will slide right off.
Now, it's time to get polishing! As I said in my previous edition, don't stress about getting outside the lines. Everyone does, and I'll show you how to clean it up after.
Once you've slopped it on, leave it alone for at least ten minutes. I wouldn't have thought I would have to add this before today, but after wrenching my boy's hands away from his face every five minutes I feel like I should also add that you shouldn't huff the fumes. It's not going to kill you, but you'll likely end up with a killer headache.
Once the polish is completely dry, or you've completely run out of patience, get your polish remover and cotton buds out again. This time it's also helpful if you have a little dish of some sort to pour the remover in. I like to use metal jar lids - plastic lids can be hit and miss, because acetone melts an awful lot of plastics and you never really know which ones it will destroy until it's sitting in a steaming puddle on your carpet.

 Once you've got this set up, dip the cotton bud in the remover and rub it along the edge of your nail. It helps if you can get the hand of pulling the skin back from the side of your nail while you're doing this, so the skin is sitting a little away from the nail. This means you're less likely to take the polish off the actual nail. because short nails are a different shape to longer ones, they're actually a little easier to clean up. Usually you only need to rub in two lines - across the top of the nail, and then in a little semi oval around the bottom of the nail.

Because these particular nails have been bitten quite badly, I wasn't too fussy about taking all the polish off every bit of skin across the top - I concentrated more on making a pleasing shape from a distance. Once you're happy with it, throw a quick dash of topcoat over it if you're wanting it to last without chipping. And then, we're all done!

Look at that hand model form! He's a natural.


Not bad all, if I say so myself. I'd love to see the results if any of you end up trying out this guide!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Colour Club Halo Hues Review - The goggles, zey do nossink!

You might have noticed by now that I have a terrible weakness for anything excessively sparkly, and the wonders of modern chemistry mean that I have an absolutely staggering array of choices when it comes to bling for my nails. I've already covered Darling Diva's fantastic array of spectraflair wonders, and Cirque's unbearably classy Fascination Street, but today it's all about trashy, tacky, fanastic BLING.
Meet the Color Club Halo Hues.
I got mine from 8ty8 Beauty, on the recommendation of someone in the US. I am guessing if you're also in the US, they are probably your best bet, but their international shipping is simply APPALLING. So if you're stuck on the Continent like me, you should head over to Head2Toe Beauty, who charge the exact same amount for the polishes, but much more reasonable postage.

The ones I ended up choosing after much umming and ahhing were Harp On It and Cloud Nine - in hindsight, I probably should have gone with one of these and one of the stronger colours, since these two look more or less the same on the nail. The following pictures are all Harp On It, but the only discernible difference between this and Cloud Nine is that Cloud Nine has a SLIGHTLY warmer base colour, so the blinding silver looks a TEENY bit more pink.

The formula is lovely - I didn't use anything under it, because it's so jam packed with sparkles there really didn't seem to be any  point. It's a little patchy after one coat, so I used two. You could possibly use three if you really want to burn someone's eyes out, but two is perfectly fine.

I was a little bit disappointed in the lack of rainbow in the holographic effect. Perhaps I've been spoiled by Darling Diva and Cirque, but I was hoping for a fuller spectrum of colours in the reflection. However, it is incredibly, ridiculously shiny. I threatened to do a gradient with my two colours, and my boyfriend immediately insisted I wasn't to go outside with it on because he was concerned I would blind someone.

Sunshine, indirect light
Sunshine, direct light

Inside, artificial light
If this polish and Fascination Street were gems, this would be a diamante and Fascination Street would be a diamond. They're both really shiny, but there is something indefinably cheaper looking about the diamante. The diamond has a richer rainbow reflection, just a few more colours in it.
However, I'm certainly not too proud to turn down a big ol' diamante. There are shinier glitters out there, but quite often there is a lot of skill involved in getting a really full on glitter polish to look good. Ones with chunky glitter need to be dabbed on, ones with tons of glitter need to be soaked off a certain way - it can be tricky, and unless you have the time and energy to sit down and really learn how to do it properly you can get some really, really disappointing results.
But this, like a diamante, is the perfect starting point for any aspiring sparkle junkie. It's so cheap, it's so easy to use, and even better, it cleans up really easily. Go pick one, and blind some civilians for me!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Work It, Princess - Part Two

So yesterday we had a look at some princesses from folklore that show a different side of princesses than the one that is normally portrayed. But it's not just in stories that princesses are more than just selfish, silly twits - history is full of examples of inspirational princessing.

For a real historical under-rated princess, I always like to look to Marie Antoinette. All the cake quotes and bullshit covers a deeply fascinating story of a woman stuck in a terrifying, deeply complicated political situation, who was subjected to enormous amounts of pressure over things she had no way of controlling. It would be a more inspirational had she survived – but I think there are still interesting examples to be found in her story. This is one of the reasons I’m one of the five people who saw and loved Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. I feel like she really captured a lot of the complex motivations and really human feelings behind the actions that became famous. There is a fantastically moving scene where Marie has spent most of the film thus far attempting to convince her husband not to be such an uptight, terrified virgin and get it on with her in order to make the heir that is more or less Marie’s job to produce. She gets a letter from her mother tearing her apart for her failure, and threatening that there could be war over her uselessness, even though it’s a situation that is largely her husband’s fault. It’s a heartbreaking example of the kind of pressure she was under from the moment she set foot in France.
Antoinette was widely criticised for “wasting” money setting up a summer home of her own, complete with a working farm, where she would spend great chunks of time just chilling the fuck out. A lot of this criticism stems from the fact that France simply couldn’t afford to be supporting her in this manner at the time – but there is no way she  could possibly have had access to those numbers. For someone who is known to have been wildly irritated by the ridiculous ceremonies of the Court at Versailles, I think her farm was a brilliant compromise. She would play the stupid Court games when she was at home, but then she would fuck off with her daughter and play with the ducks for a while to keep from completely losing her mind. 

So how do these stories relate to femme, and fashion, and my newfound obsession with pretty dresses and putting shiny things on my nails? I’m glad you asked.

All the stories I have come across regarding princesses, be they “good” or “bad”, or selfish, or selfless, there is always a common thread running through them – the idea that a princess is inherently special. Even if she starts out as a peasant girl, or is reduced to the station of a gooseherd because her serving girl is a total bitch she is still inherently a princess. It’s something that she is, something special and wonderful and irreplaceable. Historically this is linked to the idea of the divine right of kings, the theory that the royal family is the royal family because God has blessed them with everything they need to be kick ass rulers. But in folklore, this special “thing” that princesses have crops up in even in cultures that aren’t really based around the Christian god as such. There is something special about a princess, and that can never be taken from her. She deserves good things to happen to her – in the stories I’ve read it’s only the “evil” character that begrudge the princess the handsome husband, or the tons of gold, or whatever it is she’s rewarded with in that particular story. Everyone else recognises that simply by being who she is, she deserves the good things she wants. In Cinderella, it’s only the wicked stepsisters who refuse to see the innate worth in Cinderella – everyone else accepts happily that obviously she was SUPPOSED to marry the handsome Prince all along. Marie Antoinette stood fast to her belief that she deserved the things that would make her happy, no matter how unfashionable (or unfortunately unaffordable) those things were.

I’ve noticed that a lot of women have trouble convincing themselves they deserve the things that they want, or the things that make them happy. Someone else deserves it more, I don’t have time, the kids need this other thing more, it’s alright, I don’t really need it, it’s only for me, it’s a waste of time....the excuses go on. I find myself doing it a lot, especially at work. My boss will ask why I’m not going to lunch, and I’ll explain that someone else in the company needs something done right now, so obviously I can’t go to lunch. At home I catch myself doing it when my boy asks what movie we want to watch, what we want for dinner. If I’m a little down, I will almost unconsciously default to the position of “Whatever you want,” like it’s an enormous favour to ask of him to watch something or eat something I want. If I had children, I imagine I would be even worse. 

One of the fascinating things I’ve noticed from trawling around the nail community is how many of the bloggers I come across are mothers. Their lives are so centered around the needs of other people, that often their nail blog and the whole nail “thing” is the only excuse they have to do something just for them – and I think this should absolutely be encouraged. As Virginia Woolf observed so long ago, everyone needs a room of one's own. Everyone needs something  that they do simply to make themselves happy, and that can be hard to find when you’re in a situation at home or work where so many other people have things they need from you, and so much of your life is effected by the decisions of others. But the thing is, whatever it is that makes you happy? You deserve it. Even without a crown, or a handsome Prince, or a castle, you can be a princess. The divine right of Kings and royalty in general has long ago been thrown out the window. We all know that the people who become princesses are the people who want to be them. But I don’t think you have to marry a prince to be a princess . If you’re smart, and resourceful, and kind, and concerned with those around you, then you are a princess. You can be a part of a long tradition of resourceful, awesome women who changed the world around them.  You deserve a happy ending. You might have to work for it, certainly. There are actually surprisingly few traditional stories in which the happy ending just happens to the princess. There are a lot more where she has to travel, or sacrifice, or come up with a plan to make her happy ending come true. But a princess deserves a happy ending, and so do you. 

And this is where it comes back to femme fashion for me. Indulging in pretty dresses and pretty nails makes me feel beautiful, and reminds me to celebrate the kind of power that I DO have. Instead of lamenting my lack of total control over my professional life, I celebrate the fact I can make things happen without anyone knowing it was me, like the Clever Peasant Girl. I rejoice in the kind of dogged strength I have, where I won’t give up until things are how I want them to be, like the Pigeon Bride. I celebrate the confidence that allows me to make sure I have the things that make me happy, like Marie Antoinette.  The things in question don’t have to be expensive – it’s the frivolity, the impracticality of frilly dresses and holographic nail polish that remind me that I am a princess, and that there is something in me that is unique, and powerful, and deserves to be celebrated.

Take this polish for example – it was a gift from my sister for Christmas, and it absolutely makes me feel like a princess when I wear it. Not because it’s the prettiest polish I own – but because it’s ACTUAL BLOODY GOLD. How ridiculous is that? How gloriously ridiculous! It’s so amazingly over the top and frivolous and totally Marie Antoinette that I fucking LOVE it.

Wearing things like these reminds me that I am a princess, and that being a princess is something that can’t be taken from me. I can’t reach the light fittings to change the bulbs, or beat off a horde, but I can make my kingdom/office run so smoothly that it looks like magic, and that's something worth being proud of. I can’t decide when I am going to get to work every day, but when my boy asks what I want to watch, I can tell him I want to watch the Little Mermaid, AGAIN, and he can deal with that. I can’t help everyone, but if someone in my kingdom is having a bad day, I can reach out to them to try and help even if it’s only to cheer them up. Dressing like a princess reminds me that I am strong, and clever, and allowed to treat myself like a princess once in a while.  It helps me hold my head high, and believe that even though my power isn’t as sexy and bold as it could be, it’s still mine, and I can still reshape the world with it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Work it, Princess - Part One

Sometimes I have trouble reconciling the things I believe I should want as a feminist with where I find myself in my life, and what I am actually capable of. I feel like feminism teaches me that I should be in charge of my own life – be my own boss, in as many senses as possible. Problem is, for me, it’s just not possible for me to be my own boss in all aspects of my life, particularly my work life.

I currently work for other people, and I can’t see this ever changing. I’ve had a couple of stabs at running my own businesses, and I have come to a point where I have to face up to the fact I’m simply not cut out for it. My history of mental health issues alone makes it even more difficult for me than it is for neurotypical types, and as any small business owner will tell you, it’s hardly a piece of cake to start with. This means that I am pretty much always going to have to answer to other people in my professional life – and not just answer to them, but largely work to serve their ends. It’s a hard place to be when you feel like you should be putting all your effort into working towards your own goals. I feel like I should be more aggressive, more interested in being lauded for my achievements – but I’m not. My shyness (in person) and social anxiety make the idea of public recognition on any sort of major scale fucking terrifying. I’m much happier making things happen from the background. While I obviously love praise and encouragement, I simply couldn’t deal with being above a certain tier in my professional life. The pressure and expectation would cost me far more than I would gain from public recognition and a slight increase in self determination. I also derive a great deal of satisfaction from helping other people achieve what they need to do. I am proud to be “support staff”, because I know that without me the CEO would never get on his damn plane on time. When he gets interviewed in the paper, I get quite smug knowing that I helped him achieve the success he needed in order to get that kind of media attention. I enjoy this kind of backseat driving far more than I ever enjoyed running my own enterprise, and I sometimes feel like it’s anti feminist to be this disinterested in being “in charge”.
I’ve recently realised that my increasing interest in femme aspects of fashion and my long term love of princesses has helped me come to terms with this complex situation. Femme, fashion, and frivolously pretty things make me feel like a princess, and feeling like a princess makes me feel powerful. While I’m not interested in being selflessly subservient, I’m not particularly good at being powerfully aggressive either. Exploring femme, and revisiting a bunch of folklore, has allowed me to recognise in myself a different kind of power, a less aggressive power, and revel in it. It might seem like a long bow to draw, but let me take you through it. 

I’ve always been deeply fascinated by folklore. I remember freaking myself out thoroughly reading stories I was way too young for about a native American spirit that steals part of your liver while you’re asleep, and never being able to sleep on my back again. 
Unlike other kids though, I got more and more into the whole Princess thing as I got older. I thought they were stupid when I was very small, and it wasn’t until I hit my teens that I started really getting into the whole Disney movie thing. It’s remained a guilty pleasure, but become a stronger pleasure the older I get, quite contrary to popular expectation. 

I loved Mirror Mirror so much. This
outfit is stunning and she kicks so much face.
I think princesses get a bad rap these days. You ask people what qualities they associate with princesses, and the same negative terms come up over and over again – selfish, frivolous, petulant. Pretty, almost certainly, but being pretty is her only worth or value. There has been a rise in popularity of modern, adaptations of stories like Snow White where they attempt to refute this idea of princesses being useless idiots. But in order to do this, they are often butched up to be more physical and aggressive than they ever were in the original stories. Don’t get me wrong, this is pretty neat in itself. I like seeing a gorgeously costumed girl kick some face as much as the next person. But this depiction doesn’t really resonate with my experiences. As much as I would love to, I can’t just kick my boss in the face when he’s being a right dickhead. I can’t just pummel my friend until they realise they’re hurting my feelings. My life has a lot of problems that can’t be solved by a sweet flip, and so while I enjoy these kick-ass princesses for themselves, for personal resonance and inspiration I actually much prefer older depictions.

Let’s pause for a moment before we launch into storytime, and define what I mean when I use the term princess. Historically, and in folklore, a princess is a woman who has power based on either her husband or father’s social position. Even when we use this word in a modern (and almost always negative) context, it’s usually aimed at women who have inherited fortunes, or are seen to have power they didn’t earn. Therefore even though there aren’t really any monarchies with a great deal of power anymore, a modern princess is still a woman who has power based on someone else’s position.
This is an enormously broad net to cast, I know, but there are people writing PhD’s on this very question who have much better definitions if you feel like getting into it that deeply. For the purposes of this little ramble though, I’m talking about how the historical precedent of princesses having power based on the position of someone else relates to my own “subservient” role at work, so the definition is good enough for this discussion.  
Like so many depictions of women in modern media, the image of princess has been homogenised to the point where it has almost lost all contact with it’s historical context.  As I said before, the same three or four words are now thought to sum all there is to say about princesses, when some reading shows this is absolutely not the case. I’m happy to concede there were certainly some pain-in-the-ass princesses in folklore. I’m sure everyone remembers the Princess and The Pea, and there are hundreds of similar stories that went around in just about every culture. But it bothers me that in the transition of folklore from an oral tradition to a written one so many stories that showed a different side of being a princess got lost. I personally have a sneaking suspicion a lot of this is to do with it being largely men who were doing the writing down of these stories, but I don’t want to get too sidetracked. The point is that there are still awesome, inspiring princess stories out there if you know where to look.
One of my favourite books of folklore is this one, given to me by my long lost paternal grandparents.

It was apparently published in Hungary, so I have no idea why a dyed-in-the-wool Aussie couple thought to give it to me, but I’m really glad they did. A lot of the stories in it are familiar, but the versions are quite different to what I’ve seen elsewhere. A lot more blood and gore, for a start, which I thought was BRILLIANT as a kid, and is what leads me to suspect that these are older, more authentic version of these traditional stories. But it also has a bunch of stories I have never come across anywhere else, and one of these is a great example of inspirational princessing. 

This is how the king is illustrated in my version.
He clearly needs some help to not make more
poor decisions.
The Clever Girl is apparently an Italian story originally (although the Brothers Grimm did take down a version much later). While the version in my book is shorter than the one I’ve linked to here, there are enough similarities that I’m going to go ahead and assume they are versions of the same story. She’s also technically a Queen in the version I’ve linked to, but she fulfills the narrative role of princess, so just go with it. I’d recommend reading the whole thing, but the very condensed version is that a super smart peasant girl gets the attention of the King because her Dad can’t help bragging about how smart she is. The King gives her a number of riddles to solve, which she does easily, so the King decides she should obviously be his wife. Once they’re married, the now Queen overhears the King making a really unfair decision on behalf of a peasant who’s come to him for adjudication. She goes behind his back and tells the peasant who has been fucked over how to convince the King he’s been an idiot, which he does, but when the King realises his wife was behind it the whole time he kicks her out. He does say she can take whatever she loves most with her when she goes though, so being a clever and stubborn kind of lady, she drugs the King and kidnaps him because he is the thing she loves the most. The King wakes up in her cottage, is overwhelmed by how totally smart and hilarious his wife is, and takes her back. 

Firstly, what really struck me about this one is the language used to describe the princess. It’s mentioned once that she’s beautiful, but almost as an offhand remark. The version I have treats her beauty the same way – it’s mentioned once in passing at the start of the story, and then never mentioned again. The real thrust of the story is that this girl deserved to be a princess, and became a princess, because she was just so damn smart. She is also much more courageous and combative than a modern audience would expect from a princess – she tells the King when she thinks he’s wrong, and moreover, goes and fixes it when she thinks he’s made a mistake. Just as I can’t tell my boss to his face when he’s being a dickhead, she can’t just flip the bird at the King and tell him to shove his poor decision making up his arse. But as I try to do in my job, she finds a way to not only fix the damage caused  by the King’s poor judgement, but also to make him realise he was being a jerk. Happily, the King loves her all the more for it. He knows he can trust her to have his back when he’s being a jackass, and appreciates that for the gift it is. The story tells us that her cleverness is a quality that means she deserves to be a princess – that princesses should be clever, and kind, and patient, and because this girl is all these things, that’s why she gets the position she does. 

Hey girl...
Here is another one, this time from Yugoslavia. This one is usually called The Pigeon’s Bride, and here is a full version if you want to read it through. The crib notes are that there was once a princess who did nothing all day but sit in her tower doing embroidery. Her parents are always hassling her to get married, and she’s all “Don’t hassle me guys, I will totally get married eventually. I’m just really into this whole embroidery thing right now.” One day a pigeon lands on the windowsill of her tower, and for folktale reasons she falls hopelessly in love with it. Turns out (luckily) the pigeon is actually an enchanted prince, so hurrah, she can get married and it won’t be a crime against nature. Only her boyfriend forbids her to tell anyone about them, because if she does he’ll have to go away and never come back. So the princess’s parents are hassling her about getting married to some dude, and the princess caves and admits she can’t marry anyone else because she’s already totally set on marrying the pigeon prince. Of course, now she’s said it, the prince has to go away and never come back. But the princess isn’t having this. She sets off on a world walking tour to track the guy down, and wears through three pairs of iron shoes before she admits that maybe this won’t work. Instead, she comes home and sets up shop in the local bathhouse, offering people free baths if they tell her about weird things they’ve seen, in the hopes one of them has seen her pigeon boyfriend. Happily, it turns out a winsome little peasant girl has – she tells the princess, the princess finds her guy, breaks the spell, they get married and live happily ever after. 
This one is a little more complex than my first example. At the start of the story, the princess is punished for opening her big mouth when she’s specifically told not to – a pretty standard misogynist trope, the idea that women can’t keep a secret, because they are driven to gossip. But she doesn’t take no for an answer. She literally will not stop until she gets what she wants, and in the end, it is her clever idea that allows her to find her husband again. Through determination and intelligence, as well as creative thinking, she is finally rewarded with the thing she wants most. It could be argued that maybe she should have aimed higher than just getting the boy – but you also have to take these stories in context. The princess is initially presented as being a “bad” princess because she’s not taking any interest in the world around her – underlining the idea that a good princess should be concerned with the plight of others. Once she learns to be a “good” princess, she magnanimously invites the peasant girl who helped her find her husband to the wedding, showing gratitude. Determination, intelligence, and kindness, and in interest in the people that surround them -  these are put forward as the qualities a princess should have. 

Stay tuned for the conclusion to all this rambling tomorrow!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Good as a Holiday - On My Hands

Aussie Nails Monday - Holidays

The theme for this week's challenge was "Holidays", and in my usual way I interpreted this theme rather liberally. You see, for me, holidays are all about sleep. Sleeping in, nanna naps, lazing around in bed so long you kind of doze off and suddenly it's dark...this is my idea of a holiday. So a cute little snoozing chick expresses what holidays mean to me perfectly.
I am a big fan of the chunky, stark style of artists like Bryan Lee O'Malley (Scott Pilgrim), Jim Mahfood (Clerks, Spiderman, and the awfully written but amazingly illustrated Grrl Scouts), and Chynna Clugston (Blue Monday) so I wanted to try and emulate a bit of their style into my design. 

Jim Mahfood's Grrl Scouts
From Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim comics

Chynna Clugston self portrait
 Obviously my work isn't going to be anywhere as good as any of these, but hopefully you can see some of their influence in what came out.

I was ridiculously excited by how well these came out. I must have waggled my fingers at my boy and exclaimed "Lookit! She's SLEEPING! She's all z z z z z z!" at least ten times before he finally asked me to quit it. 

Because I'm pedantic, I was really happy the Z's were still the right way around even when the nails were upside down.
Aww, lookit! She's SLEEPING!
To put this together I used a base of Ulta 3 in Lily White, which was all of 2 bucks. Fantastic value, since something like this is all I can ever see myself using white for. Her little face was done in Sinful Colors Easy Going - this would have been a lot easier if the bottle I picked up had actually had a brush in it like I imagine it's supposed to, but I got it more or less working in the end. The black parts were all done with Sinful Colors Black on Black, because I had read it was excellent for this sort of detail, being really pigmented. And  you know what? All the things I read were totally true. I'd been fooling around with a couple of blacks, trying to find one that wasn't bullshit, and this is by far the best one I've tried. There is also a swipe of a random dark red in her hair, but since you can't really see it I'm not going to go rummage around to try and remember which one it was. 

Don't forget to check out the other lovely ladies who are also in on this challenge!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Stop Tearing Yourself Apart - In My Head

I held off on posting this until the second part was up, but now it is, so let's all go and take a look at a rant I wrote for up and coming feminist fashion blog, The Closet Feminist
I started talking about how advertising and the beauty industry encourages women to dissect themselves into component, flawed parts, and...well, just couldn't stop. (It is, however, safe for work - less swearing than this blog, even). Check it out! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Life's A Beach - On My Hands

Aussie Nails Christmas Challenge 17/12 - Beach

Now this theme WAS a challenge. I hate the beach. Like, seriously, hate it. All summer my friends try and drag my pale, pasty self to the beach with them, only to be met with wailing and knashing of teeth from me about how I'll burn, it's too sandy, there are too many people, there are THINGS in the water and please PLEAASE don't make me goooo!! I wasn't really sure how to paint despair in a manicure, so I decided to try and emulate the one thing I like about the beach - the ocean.

 I think this turned out MUCH better than my first attempt. Turns out if you're going to do a design, it's best to go all out, because subtlety just gets lost on a canvas so small and shiny. However, I am still absolutely rubbish at keeping my left hand steady, so I went with a much simpler design on my right hand.

And of course, if I'm going to do something summer themed it HAS to feature a Slushie. As soon as it gets hot I start living on these things.

For the left hand I used Revlon Top Speed in Ocean for the base, then drew the "waves" on with Rimmel I "Heart" Lasting Finish in Azure, and Chi Chi Salon Formula in Show Me The Money. I put a dab of OPI in Austin-tatious on the ends of the left nails to try and add some oceanic sparkle, but as before, the results were pretty disappointing. Even putting a whole layer over the right nails didn't really do anything but dull the colour differences. I am SO glad I didn't pay full price for that thing- it is literally good for nothing.

Overall though, I'm really proud of this result. Be sure to check out what the other lovely ladies have made of this theme!