Blogger, Cake-Lover, History Buff and Amazon Woman.
Blogger, Cake-Lover, History Buff and Amazon Woman.
If you know any expectant parents about to gain a little bundle of joy in their lives, then this is the guide to alternative presents. As a mother to be, I have been given so many lovely gifts over the past few months, and whilst I appreciate each and every one of them, some have been more unusual than others.
I absolutely love useful gifts. At my baby shower I was completely spoilt with baby grows (size newborn- 3 months), blankets, and memory books. As times gone on I’ve been given other gifts such as teddys, nappies, and teething rings. You may be thinking, “who wants nappies for a present? I wanna buy the fun stuff!” Well I can vouch for many mamas/papas that we do indeed want to receive nappies. The more the better! Here are some other ideas for presents:
Clothing (for older babies):
Oh yes, every baby is going to spit on, poo through or dribble over items of clothing so it is fabulous to receive so many items. If you want to be super clever (and THAT friend that becomes the favourite quickly) then why not get some clothing for when the bubba is a little bit bigger? I got given a few items for 6-9 month year olds and 9-12. After I’d gone a little nuts on newborn items myself, I’ll be forever singing the praises of those who thought ahead for when the baby grows.
Fortunately for me, Nibbling sent me this adorable teething ring for my little one. Whilst I won’t be able to use it for a bit, it’s there and ready for when those uncomfortable moments happen. I love the general aesthetic of this ring and it feels super lovely in my hands. After reading their website obsessively you’ll find their teething rings are eco friendly and made from untreated wood and safe silicone. I have much to learn about teething, but having the right tools for the job is certainly gonna help me on my way. A teething toy is a great idea for a gift for a mother to be and one many may not think about!
One of my friends picked out the most beautiful Jellycat Lion Toy for me on my baby shower and I almost burst into tears at the sweetness of it. Call it hormones, I was in love. If you want a gift that will tug at the heart strings then why not pick out an adorable cuddly creature for their little one to snuggle up with whilst they snooze.
Art Piece/Wall Decoration:
If you really have a feel for the taste of the parents to be then why not pick them out a nice wall art piece for their nursery? My walls were empty for so long that when I found this adorable little glow star from the Range my womb cried and I had to purchase it. Okay okay, it didn’t cry but I did feel very emotionally overcome.
I hope you enjoy shopping for this very exciting time in your or your friends lives. If you have any suggestions on other unusual/non typical items then please post a comment below! We love to hear more ideas.
Just a note to add that since writing this post, Violet has given birth to the beautiful Baby Jasper. We at SMB couldn’t be more thrilled for her, and wish her and her family all the best!
If, like me, you’re new to the crafting world then look no further for some super easy DIY Christmas crafts. Here are the instructions to make super easy bobble hat ornaments that may just help you get into the Christmas spirit. They make excellent gifts or decorations for your own home. If you’re creative you could even make them for nurseries and pop them on a garland.
First things first, what will you need?
Once you have all of these items it’s time to start crafting. I made the base for my little hats by cutting a piece of cardboard about 10cm long and taping it together as so.
If you’d like an easier way to do this you can just wait until you have an empty toilet roll and snip off a piece of it about 1 or 2 cm thick. The bigger/thicker you make this piece the bigger your ornament will be. So make it as diddly as you like or go big.
To start your hat we need to prepare some wool. Snip off strips of wool ‘hereby to be known as ‘tails’ until you have a nice big chunk as so. You can always cut more off so don’t panic if you run out later. As you make more of these you get a sense of how much you need but it will vary based on your card size. You can see a comparison of how long my wool strips are compared to my dinky ring above.
Now to tackle the tricky part- and honestly this is the hardest bit to grasp. Create a loop shape and thread it in the middle of the card ring. Then pull through the other end of your wool (it will have two ends so hold them together for ease) and pull tight. You’ll form a strong lasso which didn’t slip once whilst I made these and I can be very clumsy. You should have your first ‘tail’.
Repeat the process above until your card ring is completely covered. You can push and stretch the strips apart a bit if you’re wanting to make a little room whilst fitting more onto the ring. After all, wool has a little elasticity.
Now you have a complete ring you’re almost done! To make this super neat like a bobble hat simply grab the string ‘tails’ you’ve got to one side, twist and push them through the card hole. You want to get all of the tail ends through and neaten up your edges around the card ring.
Now you can create your loop for hanging off a tree. Cut off a piece of wool and tie around the hat as above. You can make this as long or as short as you’d like. I prefer long. Once you’ve tied this, keep it in your hand separate from the rest of your ‘tails’ whilst trimming to ensure you don’t cut it off.
Trim your tails to form your bobble/pom pom end. Again make as big or as little as you like- this is after all a homemade craft!
Finally enjoy your hard work (or was it easy?) You can make these in different colours and even do cute striped ones.
Almost every gal that’s been through pregnancy will relate to how I’m feeling: yes, my body is doing amazing things right now but I am also struggling to adjust to my clothes getting tighter and the brand new need for more elasticated, comfortable items. If you’re newly pregnant and want to read about plus size pregnancies check out this great article Holly wrote about the Myths & Misconceptions of plus size pregnancy. For those of you who feel like old hats in the pregnancy game – I welcome you with open arms but our bumps would get in the way!
As I begin to reach 26 weeks my bump is in full force and I’m on the hunt for some new clothes to get me through the next and final trimester. Luckily for me (and many other pregnant plus size folks), Bump it Up Maternity at Yours Clothing have got us covered.
As I’m not one for spending a ridiculous amount, I’ve been pretty chuffed with the price of the items at Yours Clothing. Bump it Up are no different. The first item I picked up as a ‘must have’ for pregnancy was some Maternity jeans. Simply pair them with any top and you’re covered for most occasions. I loved the fact these were skinny around the ankles and didn’t give me the dreaded ‘saggy crotch’ that other jeans sometimes have.
I actually only bought these about a week ago and I’m questioning why I hadn’t purchased sooner. The amount of times I’d been staring into the cupboard of doom (also known as my wardrobe) angry that ‘I had nothing to wear’ could have been much less painful with a good pair of jeans. I spotted that Bump it Up also have a killer pair of dungarees which would be perfect for anyone wanting to trade jeans for this adorable item of clothing. I actually feel like a toddler in them and I love it. In fact, I feel like everybody needs to buy a pair of dungarees, pregnant or not!
Next on the ‘must have’ list for any office based girls like myself was a top and a pair of trousers for work. I’m just gonna throw it out there: ‘workwear’ when pregnant sucks. Trousers actually offend me right now as the thought of anything constricting around my waist is a big no-no and as for tops, all I want is comfort. I actually bought some palazzo trousers which are super comfortable and the fabric is light and breathable. You’ll find me pairing these with the wrap front nursing top. I still want to feel smart for work but right now my main priority is comfort.
Finally, would any shopping basket be complete without a ‘fancy’ dress? For the days when the ‘glow’ is in full flow and you just wanna feel like a goddess the Paisley Maxi dress with cold shoulders is the one. I know I know, ‘another cold shoulder?!’ I hear some say, but with pregnant bodies seemingly having their own thermostat I’m grateful for the teeny bit of exposed skin to allow for ventilation flow and body heat loss.
If you can help me out with any other good places to shop for maternity I’d love to read in the comments below. I’ve recently picked up an ASOS maternity dress that I’ll be testing out at my baby shower soon but I’d love to hear more suggestions. Help a rather round lady out and pop a comment below!
With 2017 being the year that my hometown Hull hosts City of Culture I HAD to include an extremely influential and strong woman from Hull as part of this series. Tie this in with the sad news of the passing of one of the Headscarf Revolutionaries, Mary Denness, and it’s time to shine a light on the wonderful work of Lil Bilocca and these women.
Hull, widely known for its trawling industry, has had a LONG history of fishing. This is something that resonates through the heart of the city. We have monuments, a fish trail and docks (now forming beautiful gardens) to remind us of this rich culture. We also have the BEST Fish and Chips; sorry Hornsea/Brid but it’s true. Of course, there has been a darker side to this in the past and one lady from Hull dedicated her life to improving the circumstances.
Lillian Bilocca was born off Hessle Road (ezzle reeerd) in ‘ull. A road at the centre of the fishing community and surrounded by people whose safety and wellbeing Lil would later go on to dramatically improve. The sea was deep rooted in Lil. Her father was a seaman, as was her husband Charlie and her son Ernie. Therefore she passionately understood the constraints put on these men serving their lives at sea. When the trawlers St. Romanus H223, Kingston Peridot H591 and Ross Cleveland H61 went down in 1968 (resulting in 58 lives lost) Lil began to take up arms against some of the most powerful people in the fishing industry.
If you didn’t know about these trawlers, to give you a quick insight, the St. Romanus trawler was completely lacking a radio operator. The radio operator could communicate safety instructions to help protect the lives of the men on board. Whilst the Skipper of the ship could do this, it was not ideal to have such an important role lacking from a trawler crew.
This wasn’t right and Lil knew it. ‘Big Lil’ as she was nicknamed decided to take this up with the highest power she could summon. She met the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, and battled for radio operators to become a legal requirement on board – and you know what – she won! Full credit isn’t just to Lil though, she had help from the women of Hessle Road who were deeply involved with the campaign. The ladies are now nicknamed the ‘Headscarf Revolutionaries’ after author Brian W. Lavery put paper to pen to cover this fantastic story of some extremely uplifting women. It’s the next Made in Dagenham!
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all quite as rosy, and Lil’s dedication to improving the safety of fishermen led to unfortunate circumstances for herself. She lost her job at the fish processing plant and received threatening phone calls. When Lil appeared on the Eamonn Andrews show in the late 60’s some of the public wrote letters in describing her as ‘common’, ‘fat’ and a ‘whore’ – giving us an understanding of how Lil could be preserved in the media. People can sure be ugly about someone doing something so important and live-improving. Many would describe her as a stern, blunt woman. Yet those who knew her said she had the kindest heart.
Good for Lil for standing up for something so important and there is no doubt that her drive and stubbornness saved the lives of many. If you’d like to read up more on Lil and the Headscarf Revolutionaries’ story you can buy the book mentioned above here.
Tell me what the name Emma Hamilton means to you. No, she is no relation to Lewis Hamilton, yet she was a celebrity of her time. Hamilton was, and is still known as, a muse who like many a model before her became an icon of her time through portraiture and her reputation in the entertainment industry. This considered, how did she get to the be the persona we know today?
We know that Hamilton was born with the name Amy Lyon, and started her early career as a servant before becoming a dancer and model for a rather ‘experimental’ fertility doctor. That is… until she met Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh. Ole Harry boy saw the twinkle in Hamilton’s eye and quickly took her as a mistress. In between his gallivanting (one can only assume excessive drinking and hunting) he asked Hamilton to entertain guests. One form of entertainment is said to have been requesting for her to dance nude on the table for Harry’s friends (Bingley, 2010: 54).
In a somewhat uncomplicated twist of events, Hamilton fell pregnant. Fetherstonhaugh abandoned her and Charles Greville, the second son of the Earl of Warwick and regular guest at Fetherstonhaugh’s humble abode, offered her help. He gained something in return and took her as his mistress on the understanding that she abandoned her ties with her child, and more or less did whatever he said. At this time, what choice did she have? Hamilton changed her name to Emma Hart at the request of Greville and conformed to his demands. OBEY THY MAN or whatever twaddle it was society said at the time.
Greville admired Hamilton’s beauty, and who can blame him when you see paintings of her? Whilst under Greville’s influence, she sat for George Romney and became widely known throughout the art community. George painted many exceptional portraits of Hamilton which were widely well received. When Greville sought a wealthy wife he disposed of Emma by passing her off to Sir William Hamilton – and she gained the name we now know her by. Emma Hamilton moved to Naples, for what she thought would be a brief holiday, and triumphed in the epicentre of the Grand Tour. She became the confidante of Queen Maria Carolina (Royal Museums Greenwich, 2017) and here she did have influence, in contrast to her passive role in society.
After her scandalous affair with Lord Nelson, Hamilton’s name became tarnished. Well, she was a married woman and the affair formed a bit of a love triangle with Nelson and Sir William. How much Sir William knew about his wife’s affair at the beginning is still a question raised by Historians to this day. Nelson referred to Hamilton as the ‘wife of his heart’ and Hamilton reciprocated that love. By 1800 Emma was pregnant with Nelson’s child and Sir William definitely knew. They even bunked up together in a new pad Sir William purchased for the three of them.
The menage et trois was not to last however, and Sir William died in 1803 leaving Hamilton to fully pursue her passionate romance with Nelson. Hamilton was still the centre of the media attention which reported her clothing choices, interior design – anything! Nelson preferred a quieter lifestyle, and Hamilton turned to home comforts to entertain herself.
Unfortunately, Hamilton again was left heartbroken in 1805 when Lord Nelson was fatally wounded during the Battle of Trafalgar. Abandoned by her current circles, she turned to drink. Sir William had left her a small pension that would have been enough for a comfortable lifestyle, but this wasn’t what Hamilton craved. Rather unfairly, the request by Lord Nelson to support Hamilton and their daughter together had been denied by the government, and was instead passed on to his brother. Emma gambled and drank her pennies away, until she and Horatia (her daughter) had nothing left. In her later life, Emma moved to Calais, and died as she had come into her life – in poverty. Her daughter however, went on to marry, and never publicly admitted to being Emma Hamilton’s daughter.
But what about the perception and portrayal of her body image? Why was this so severely commented upon in her time? Earlier images of Hamilton show her as a visually stunning character; later on she becomes a lady who is the butt of jokes. Was it the drastic weight gain tied with the scandalous affair that caused Hamilton’s popularity to deteriorate?
The image by James Gillray (see above) entitled ‘Dido in Despair’ (1801) tells us Hamilton was the centre of celebrity mockery. We can see her portrayed as an older, fatter, woman who can barely keep her own balance in this comical scene. It’s no accident that this image directly makes statements on Emma’s choices. For example if we look beyond Hamilton we can see a book laid upon the window seat. In this book is a nude woman, laying in ‘sensual abandonment’ (British Museum, 2017). A direct hint at Hamilton’s current life at the time this image was made.
Her clothing, or state of undress, gives us a social commentary of the regular opinion of Hamilton at the time. Her nightdress and sleeping cap represent ‘impropriety, an unfashionable entrance into the public sphere’ (18th Century Clothing, 2017). Although just one image circulated of Emma Hamilton, it gives us an insight into the public portrayal of this iconic lady.
You may have seen or heard of Hamilton and never realised. For example, the painting Circe by George Romney was used as the cover of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (fancy that!) Or in Blackadder where Rowan Atkinson repeatedly makes jokes about Nelson and Lady Hamilton’s affair. All in all, it is rather a shame that Emma Hamilton’s name has been remembered for her relations with men, although there is no denying she certainly ‘got around a bit’ for the societal standards of the time.
I like to think that Emma Hamilton, a peculiar character, rose from peasantry to popularity. She became a woman of influence and intelligence (fluent in many other languages), she may have made some poor decisions with her money but she is not a character to be overlooked.
*This post is written in collaboration with the Royal Museums Greenwich, which house the exhibition “Emma Hamilton: Seduction and Celebrity” in the National Maritime Museum from NOW until 17th April 10am – 5pm daily. Tickets available here from £12.60.
Bingley, Randal (2010). Behold the painful plough. Thurrock Unitary Council Museum Service. p. 53. citing Uppark and its people by M Meade-Fetherstonhaugh.
I know that I like to dance around the chronological history timeline as much as I like to sing into my hairbrush to Tom Jones’ Sex Bomb. (That’s a lot if you didn’t already know). So when I write these pieces my fingers type before my mind had chance to think about the topic. Having spent the last few weeks re-watching the ITV series of Victoria I began to wonder ‘why haven’t I covered her yet?’ Victoria’s life is fascinating, filled with a loving marriage to Albert, many survived assassination attempts and a significant impact on the reputation of the Monarchy. Oh and did I mention she was an Empress? Isn’t that posh?
She was patron of 150 institutions, and even after the death of her sweetheart Albert, she continued to give audiences to officials – although retreated from the public eye to mourn for a period of time. Victoria is represented through photographs, caricatures and etchings throughout her life. If you’ve seen any statues of her, she’s often depicted as later in life as the plus size woman she was. However, what made me chuckle is that when Victoria was born Baron Stockmar, doctor to her uncle Prince Leopold, described her as ‘Plump as a partridge’. We’ve all been there love.
Into her teens, Victoria demonstrated a 22 inch waist – equivalent now to a size 6. Images of Young Victoria are rarely circulated, often overshadowed by the dominant, fuller figured woman. I suppose this is an interesting observation as Victoria’s strength and reputation grew with age. Of course her body changed with time and as I say she did have nine children which would have impacted her body shape. She wasn’t the Kim Kardashian ‘Snap Back queen’ so many aspire to today. Victoria was a powerful and formidable woman, and certainly did not make decisions that we would agree with in the 21st century. I think the lasting image of this wide woman with a double chin and a stoic expression represents just what a powerhouse she was, and was deliberately chosen to represent her as a strong woman who should not be challenged. The portrayal of her weight may also have been linked to her gender: a nineteenth century woman was the ‘angel of the house’, a delicate woman who brought faith and grace to the home. In order for Victoria to have been taken seriously as the ruler of an Empire, she needed to be devoid of her feminine traits. Arguably, her power within her realm increased as her femininity decreased, which is a really interesting notion to explore. Like her or not, she dominated the public sphere. A place where she shouldn’t even have been allowed to enter, let alone rule. Portraying her in an un-feminine light may have been the only way for some observers to stomach that. Yet she loved, and was loved. She was a mother of nine children. She was able to uphold the stereotypical necessities of femininity while thriving in a masculine world, and regardless of her policies that is not something to be sniffed at.
After the death of Albert she had her largest weight increase and later went on a secret weight loss retreat (honestly it was a secret!) to climb a few hills to shed the pounds. Victoria seemed to be in a constant battle with her weight reading from her journals, and with the advice of health officials she undertook many a remedy. A few days into her super-secret weight loss retreat climb she said she was feeling ‘lighter’ and returned to her duties. Her figure of course, did not change dramatically and she remained the outstanding lady the name Victoria conjures to our minds. She had a slight reputation of being a glutton and numerous people account her eating quickly and large amounts. Victoria lived in an age where it was not really known to exercise. If you could afford it, you would be waited on and of course as royalty she was.
Victoria’s figure was a great representation to the public that she had wealth and prestige. I’d say if we’re taking this perception from this it’s pretty apt. She ruled a confident leader and had over 60 years in power. Victoria was the longest reigning monarch, that is until our Liz took over this milestone in 2015.
A note to our readers: although we use historical figures to comment on the representation of plus size women throughout history we are not commenting on the suitability of their role, merely their position as a plus size woman in history.
This wouldn’t be a very honest thread of posts if I only focused on when the plus size body was glorified. In an art movement called Neue Sachlichkeit (meaning New Objectivity) women in general were showcased as ugly, devilish beings. They are read throughout this paintings as witch like creatures or over indulgent gluttons. So why exactly did this happen?
Let’s begin by adding a little background so we can fully understand why artists working within this moment did such a thing. Neue Sachlichkeit art began around the 1920s, just as the age of expressionism (think Munch’s the Scream) began to lose its delight in causing viewers to ‘feel’ so many emotions from a canvas. You might think I’m being sarcastic here but I’m really not. Colours have a deeply universal effect on how we read a painting and this was a lot of what expressionism based its ideas on.
Neue Sachlichkeit art began in Germany and directly rejected the idea of romantic idealism. Neue Sachlichkeit can also be translated as ‘New Matter-of-factness’ or ‘New-Sobriety’. It’s an art movement that offers a horrific reality in comparison to the dream like state of previous works.
One of the main movers and shakers of this movement was an artist named Otto Dix (the name speaks for itself) and his work Three Wenches, from 1926 is the piece I’d like to focus on in this post.
Dix was a man fascinated with sex, in this image there is no other way to take his view. We as the observer are completely and uncontrollably gazed at by one woman in the picture. It’s clear this work is derived from an experience in a brothel and Dix is reflecting his blatant experiences on canvas for all to see. There are so many interesting things about this painting. Firstly, the title itself – ‘Three Wenches’ – harks back to names in the Renaissance, usually the ‘Three Graces’. Dix, you saucy devil thinking you could get away with that! Audience members would have understood this nod to the past and quite frankly would have been offended by it. He further looks back to the Renaissance by using a specific material. It’s Oil and Tempera on Wood, which is perhaps the most Renaissance a man could get.
Onto the figures. We have 3 ladies tightly crammed into a very small canvas frame. Firstly, let’s just state NONE of these women are supposed to look flattering, Dix wanted to shock and engage his audience. There is a body represented here for ‘every perverse taste’ as Artnet claimed. The stained cheeks of the lady in the back along with the stale pink stockings on the ginger gal at the front almost give us a scent of what this room was like. All of these items playing to our senses are to further enhance our opinion of these women as dirty and repugnant.
One thing I only recently noticed in this piece is even the display of stretch marks (hey we’ve all got them!) But our friend at the back displays them on her upper thighs and around her breasts. It’s almost as if Dix was showcasing that prostitutes were stretching society with their grotesque indulgence.
I used to hate this painting, find it deeply offensive and just ugly to look at. But now I feel fascinated by it, drawn to each element. Whether it be a chunk on the ladies leg, the ribs sticking out of our winking girl in the middle or the blush stained cheeks of the lass in the back. Each time I find something else to look at. It’s an interesting way to observe how women were reflected on each time. I suppose a lot more is to be deduced from the surroundings in this work as opposed to one individual figure. I’ll take it Dix. Ta.
The Renaissance period is all about beauty and authenticity. I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you if I told you that before the likes of Slimming World, larger women were deemed sexy. There was a sensual attribute to curvy bodies (which I intend to uphold with my own body).
Throughout my series I’ve covered different eras where fat women have been both cherished and frowned upon. It seemed obvious to me to cover a time where they were glorified. There is one era I know did this perfectly well and it is indeed my favourite movement. Enter the Renaissance.
In the Renaissance period these fuller figured women were deemed both powerful and beautiful. You only have to google ‘Renaissance Art’ and boom there they are, fuller figured beauties. Go on do it. You’ll find Mona Lisa (the broad shouldered thick skinned wonder), Titian’s gorgeous laid out nudes and other famous works. In the Renaissance it was deemed fashionable to be on the heavier side. Firstly, it showed you had a bit in your pocket. I covered this in the Venus of Willendorf and the preconception still stands in this era. OH and of course, some believed that fuller figured women had key signs of fertility (larger breasts and bigger hips) and this meant they were in high demand when men were hunting for a bride. This is again another topic that gets carried through in different eras of art and something I’m sure I’ll touch upon again.
The Renaissance saw the popularity and fashion that came with being on the chubbier side. In fact, some saw that being ‘skinny’ was unattractive.
Titian, the stud of the Renaissance saw a beauty and purity in the nude art form. Some of his works were deemed too beautiful for public appearance and were therefore kept in hidden quarters (check out the Venus of Urbino). Looking at Titian’s Woman in a Mirror we meet a chunky gal prepping herself for a rad night out. What is most noticeable is the curves of the woman’s figured and the shape she creates within the frame. Her face echoes the roundness of the mirror and this a harmonious classical layout.
Titian, Women in a Mirror, 1512-1515 Image Courtesy of the Louvre.
It’s likely this piece later inspired Rubens to paint Venus Before a Mirror, another piece which better represents artists harking back to the Renaissance. In this case, Rubens has shown a girl with stunning love handles and rosy cheeks. I mean her face, of course
Rubens, Woman Before a Mirror, 1613-14 Image Courtesy of Liechtenstein Museum.
So looking at the term Renaissance, we can begin to understand why this ‘fatshion’ came about. The term Renaissance actually translates as ‘Rebirth’, a time to reflect on the pure art form and true beauty of the human body. Looking at classical sculpture, women are often curvaceous and dreamy. There are of course, as with everything, varying portrayals of body types and this is a good thing. All body types should be represented.
The paintings we can view to understand the Renaissance act as fashion magazines for us. A key trend in these is nude large women. Now isn’t that reassuring?