Merry Little Christmas

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Santa Claus Is Back In Town

Well, it’s Christmas time pretty baby
And the snow is falling on the ground
Well, it’s Christmas time pretty baby
And the snow is falling down
Well you be a real good little girl
Santa Claus is back in town
Got no sleigh with reindeer
No sack on my back
You’re gonna see me comin’ in a big black caddilac

-Elvis Presley

This was my favourite Christmas song growing up. No really, it was!  I listened to it over and over and over again.  It may in fact have been the first time I was exposed to old-school rock and roll, and it blew my mind. You really have to listen to it to appreciate it’s magic, because the lyrics leave something to be desired.  Full on rock and roll, groovy Christmas, with some subtle sexiness on the side (which Elvis did oh so well), oh and an amazing jazz piano solo.  Now I rock out to it with my own kids. Tradition.  It is not something I would have guessed would become so important to me, but it is.

Christmas means different things to different people. During a really difficult time in my life when I was at the tender age of 20 and planning to move out on my own for the first time, I really started thinking about what the holidays really meant to me.  It was a tumultuous time on my Mother’s side of the family with an immense amount of change being imposed on me and for the first time in my life, I was an adult, living on my own, paying my own way, and I was in a position for the first time ever in my life to choose for myself what I wanted. So, out of a really difficult situation that hurt me deeply and left me feeling really alone, came a really wonderful opportunity (as often happens).  The opportunity to really do some soul searching and decide who I was and what I believed in and valued. I was extremely fortunate to have a really solid group of friends around me and my then boyfriend who was later to become my husband and partner for life.

After digging into my own heart for answers, I realized that what hurt the most about everything I was going through with my family was the loss of history and tradition.  I realized that the real glue that holds a family together are the things that we repeat. Our rituals. We have all kinds of new experiences every day, but tradition allows for a regular check-in on our roots and they become the milestones for the passage of time.  All you have to do is look back at old photos.  Before the era of smart phones, people only pulled out their cameras during special occasions (a.k.a. traditions).  Most of my childhood photos were from Christmas, Easter, Summer Holidays and Birthdays.  Our traditions are our culture. It is the fabric that holds us together.  It is the music we listen to, the food we eat, the sayings and expressions we say, and all the rituals we carry out together in bond.

So, I started over.  I began again from scratch and I built my own traditions.  I dug in my own roots, deep and wide, and made my own glue, thick and strong.   At first, Gregory (then my boyfriend) thought it was all a little too much.  I insisted that we go and get a real Christmas tree on the first weekend of December, every year without fail.  I made sure we blasted Christmas carols in the car on the way.  I decorated every square inch of our apartment and made a Christmas list of all my favourite classic Christmas tunes, which I played constantly until New Years.  I trekked down to the other end of the city every year to get fresh  perogies made by local Ukrainian ladies.   I learned how to make a turkey and wrap gifts like a champ. I was an epically annoying Christmas elf that Gregory learned to tolerate!  Then we had children.  Then, Gregory got it!  I had been nesting.  Digging in the roots and building a strong foundation of tradition.  When he saw how much joy they got out of it, and how much more magic was created by their knowing expectation of all the fun and magical rituals that were awaiting them as the holiday season approached, he understood. It’s about belonging.  When you know the rituals and are part of the traditions, you belong, and the bond is strengthened. This was what I was building.  Every year, my sons know what to expect and we all take comfort in the traditions that bring us together and strengthen our connection.  We drink eggnog, sing carols and decorate the tree.  We eat together, we laugh together and we build memories together.  So, what does Christmas mean to me?  Christmas is about traditions that stand the test of time and ride the waves of change unscathed.

Merry Christmas everyone and the most joyful and prosperous New Year from our family to yours!

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams.  Hair cut and colour by Kitty from Berns & Black

VINTAGE: Shoes from Buffalo Exchange, Beret from Ruby Slipper Vintage, Blouse from Value Village Thrift.

NEW FASHION: This incredibly adorable and insanely perfect for the holidays Velvet Colorblock Mini Dress by Tony Chestnut Design (An amazing Winnipeg designer who is rocking my world these days! You need to check out her work!) Knee-high socks by American Apparel.

A Marriage of Geek and Glamour

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“For too many centuries women have been being muses to artists. I wanted to be the muse, I wanted to be the wife of the artist, but I was really trying to avoid the final issue — that I had to do the job myself.”
― Anaïs Nin

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“The ‘Muse’ is not an artistic mystery, but a mathematical equation. The gift are those ideas you think of as you drift to sleep. The giver is that one you think of when you first awake.”
― Roman Payne

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“NO MUSE IS GOOD MUSE

To be an Artist you need talent, as well as a wife
who washes the socks and the children,
and returns phone calls and library books and types.
In other words, the reason there are so many more
Men Geniuses than Women Geniuses is not Genius.
It is because Hemingway never joined the P.T.A.
And Arthur Rubinstein ignored Halloween.
Do you think Portnoy’s creator sits through children’s theater
matinees–on Saturdays?
Or that Norman Mailer faced ‘driver’s ed’ failure,
chicken pox or chipped teeth?
Fitzgerald’s night was so tender because the fender
his teen-ager dented happened when Papa was at a story conference.
Since Picasso does the painting, Mrs. Picasso did the toilet training.
And if Saul Bellow, National Book Award winner, invited thirty-three
for Thanksgiving Day dinner, I’ll bet he had help.
I’m sure Henry Moore was never a Cub Scout leader,
and Leonard Bernstein never instructed a tricycler
On becoming a bicycler just before he conducted.
Tell me again my anatomy is not necessarily my destiny,
tell me my hang-up is a personal and not a universal quandary,
and I’ll tell you no muse is a good muse
unless she also helps with the laundry.”
― Rochelle Distelheim

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I am both Geek and Glam, and so is my beloved, Gregory Chomichuk.  We share a love of books, film, art, the strange, the fringe, the beautiful and the underground.  He makes graphic novels, kids books and fine art.  I style wardrobes, bellydance and tell stories with images. Finding one another at such a young and idealistic age (I was 21, he was 23) has posed both tremendous challenges and growing pains, as well as rewarded us with a consciously created and curated life together. Side by side, we grew both together and independently, purposefully giving each other space and respect to become who we are as individuals.  We are united.  We are each others greatest supporter, we share everything and work diligently to constantly create circumstances where our passions and interests can overlap and intersect.  But, we are not the same.  We disagree on many things.  We do not love all the same movies and books and topics of conversation.  We do not understand the intricacies of one another’s work, nor do we trip over ourselves trying to. And we are absolutely not one another’s greatest fan!  Truth be told, I’m not even a fan of comics.  YES, I just said that! It is not a genre that has ever drawn me in, aside from a small handful. You see, our strength is our differences and our unwavering and ever conscious encouragement towards being ourselves. I don’t have to love comics to love my Husband. He, like myself, is much more than the work he does and no fan will ever know the truth of the Man. What I love, respect and admire, is his passion and drive to do what he loves no matter what.  The life we have built together, now including our two sons and two dogs, has us riding the waves of deep connection, while at times being oceans apart.  The constant ebb and flow has created a strong foundation while allowing each of us to grow into the people we are aspiring to be. When we wrote our wedding vows many moons ago, we included our intention to continually inspire one another.  We understood that working towards bettering ourselves and keeping life interesting and always evolving was one of the magic ingredients to a happy lasting marriage. There is still an air of mystery within each of us that keeps the other guessing, and our perpetual forward movement provides endless surprises and fulfilling experiences. We keep each other on our toes, so to say. He is my Muse and I am his. Together we share the non-glamorous as well as the glamorous sides of our life. He takes out the garbage and I do the laundry and together we build an empire and celebrate our victories with our Princes. It isn’t perfect, and it isn’t always easy, but it’s authentic and intentional and a glorious masterpiece in progress. We are powerful on our own, but together, together we are a force to be reckoned with.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, ART DIRECTION, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

FASHION: Great Gatsby sweatshirt, glasses and beanie (embellished by me) from Urban Waves in Winnipeg. Over the knee leg warmer by American Apparel.

VINTAGE: Thigh-high boots from Ruby Slipper Vintage, scarf from Value Village Thrift

BOOKS, PRINTS & ART BY:   GMB Chomichuk

BOOKS (Available for purchase on-line):

1.Infinitum– Time travel noir. A murder mystery that asks the question: Is love a force of nature or a force of habit?

2.Midnight City: Corpse Blossom + Midnight City: Flesh Tree– Pulp era mystery men and woman fighting a secret war against a mythos inspired by the horror auther H.P. Lovercraft.

3.Underworld– True crime, dipped in greek mythology set in Winnipeg in the 1980s.

4.Cassie and Tonk– All ages adventure about a girl and her robot at the end of the world.

5.Rust and Water – All ages graphic novel about two unlikely travellers learning to find a common language and alter the collision course of violence between their two cultures.

6.Moonshot– Indigenous comics collection

7.The Imagination Manifesto– Five interconnected stories that share a central theme- what happens when the things we believe in start to come true?

8.Fractured  Tales of the Canadian Post Apocalypse.

9.Will I See?– Illuminates the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Be a Queen

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“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” –  Oprah Winfrey

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You’re the type of woman a man should never let go of

you’re the type of woman men regret losing

nothing about you is ordinary

choose someone who knows this…

never settle for less than you are…

– r.h. sin

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She has the mindset of a Queen and the heart of a warrior

she is everything all at once

and too much for anyone who doesn’t deserve her

she is you

-r.h. sin

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Being a Queen is a state of mind. It’s about hearing all the noise around you; the opinions, the criticisms, the suggestions, and considering them all without allowing them to sway your truths and values, or rattling your core.  A Queen makes difficult decisions every day and understands the flow of give and take to maintain balance and order.  A Queen knows that she is ultimately alone and responsible for her own happiness, and at the same time she is a part of everything and everyone. A Queen knows her worth and holds herself in high regard so that others may do the same. She understands that a deep respect for herself and unwavering values commands the same from others.  She is all women.  She is maiden, lover, mother and matriarch.  She is goddess, and servant, and witch and warrior.  She is your screams and tears and fear and anger.  She is your love and compassion and tenderness and joy.  Through all things, she is serene.  Although the depths of her heart may rage and churn like angry waters through all that she must do, and the choices she must make, the surface of her soul stays calm and clear like glass.  She does not shatter.  She is strength and peace personified.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams.  Hair cut and colour by Kitty Berns of Berns & Black.

VINTAGE FASHION: fur hat, wool coat, fur stole and boots all from The Ruby Slipper Vintage Shoppe.  Purple sari from Value Village Thrift.

NEW FASHION: Indian mirrored vest and tunic top from Shakti, layered necklace (VEGAS & MAX) from Mirina Collections (USE CODE: “tara” at checkout when you purchase anything from the site and receive 20% OFF!!!)

 

Over The Top With a Cherry On Top

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“One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.”  -Oscar Wilde

“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!”  -Mae West

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” – Dale Carnegie

“Life is short. Eat dessert first. ” ― Jacques Torres

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The creation of this shoot was an absolute pleasure and guilt-free indulgence with fellow fashion stylist Monique Andrew, Style Hunter Fox.  We share the same love and passion for creating a story with styling and decorative design.  We agreed that if we were to join forces, then we must go big.  In truth, I think going small would have been an impossibility for us together. When those creative juices start flowing, it can be difficult to reign them in. We knew that with both of us throwing our passion into it, it would have to be fantastically bold, and so, what better subject than Marie Antoinette and her over the top decadent and indulgent lifestyle.

I was fortunate enough on this shoot to collaborate with some amazing local businesses and talents.  All of the mouth watering baking was provided by Winnipeg gem, Pinky’s Bakeshop, and YES, we ate it!  The incredible one of a kind, re-worked vintage jewelry was provided by Vintage Bling. The intricate and beautiful white lazer-cut bustier worn by model Madeline Brandt was provided by designer Rebecca Johnson.  The photography was  done by Winnipeg photographer Dano Tanaka, and the location of the shoot was graciously provided by my Grandmother, Judy Cole.  The gorgeously elaborate hair was the creation of Monique Andrew, Style Hunter Fox. The creative concept, artistic direction and styling was the collaborative love child of both Monique and I.

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I am a true believer that when you feel good, you do good!  When I am feeling joyful and excited and my cup runneth over, I am my most generous and giving self and it feels effortless.  I think it is really important to indulge and treat ourselves every once in a while without guilt or shame.  We feel wonderful when we can pamper or treat someone else, so why not ourselves?  In this case, I think that balance is key.  We know how distasteful opulence, excess and extravagance can be when it becomes someone’s everyday lifestyle.  No one in history has taught us better than Marie Antoinette, how shallow, short-sited and ultimately destructive excessive indulgence can be. However, self deprivation and habitually denying yourself pleasure can be just as destructive and leave us feeling resentful and un-able to give back to the world around us.  True happiness lies somewhere in the middle.  Sometimes we go without and focus on others and sometimes we should have our cake and eat it too. Hopefully we enjoy our cake not with a side of guilt and shame, but instead, with a cherry on top.

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It is my wish and desire, especially as the holiday season approaches, that this post inspires you to suck the marrow out of life a little more than usual.  Don’t just eat that macaron, savour it. Stop to smell the crisp fall air or study the colours of the sunset. Drink champagne instead of your regular bottle of wine and celebrate that you are alive! Why do we need more reason than that to celebrate?  Wear something decadent hiding in the back of your closet, like the satin or velvet that makes you feel gorgeous and treat yourself with a manicure or new hairdo, or even something as simple as whipped cream on your hot chocolate. Go over the top, just because.  You don’t have to spend money or be wasteful to indulge either.  Wear those sexy underwear and silk robe you’ve been saving for a “special occasion” on a weeknight just for the hell of it! Use those fancy dishes you inherited that are collecting dust in the basement.  Put on Grandma’s diamond ring and the fur coat she left to you that you tucked away in a box somewhere and host a tea party!   The point is, life is short and it’s okay to indulge sometimes.

Like Oscar Wilde said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

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PHOTOGRAPHY: Dano Tanaka

STYLING & ARTISTIC DIRECTION: Monique Andrew, Style Hunter Fox  and Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

HAIR: Monique Andrew, Style Hunter Fox

MAKEUP: Each model applied their own makeup

MODELS: Monique Andrew, Madeline Brandt, Tara Cole-McCaffrey

JEWELRY: Vintage Bling

BUSTIER: Designer, Rebecca Johnson

BAKING: Pinky’s Bakeshop

* Special thanks to Angela Brandt for all her help and support at this shoot! xo

The 90’s Influence

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“The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.” –Kurt Cobain, Nirvana

“Just A Girl”

Take this pink ribbon off my eyes
I’m exposed and it’s no big surprise
Don’t you think I know exactly where I stand
This world is forcing me to hold your hand

‘Cause I’m just a girl, a little ‘ol me
Well don’t let me out of your sight
Oh I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don’t let me have any rights

Oh…I’ve had it up to here!

The moment that I step outside
So many reasons for me to run and hide
I can’t do the little things I hold so dear
‘Cause it’s all those little things that I fear

‘Cause I’m just a girl I’d rather not be
‘Cause they won’t let me drive late at night
Oh I’m just a girl, guess I’m some kind of freak
‘Cause they all sit and stare with their eyes

Oh I’m just a girl, take a good look at me
Just your typical prototype

Oh…I’ve had it up to here!

Oh…am I making myself clear?

I’m just a girl
I’m just a girl in the world…
That’s all that you’ll let me be!

I’m just a girl, living in captivity
Your rule of thumb makes me worry some
I’m just a girl, what’s my destiny?
What I’ve succumbed to is making me numb

Oh I’m just a girl, my apologies
What I’ve become is so burdensome
Oh I’m just a girl, lucky me
Twiddle-dum there’s no comparison

Oh…I’ve had it up to!
Oh…I’ve had it up to!
Oh…I’ve had it up to here!

No Doubt, Gwen Stephani 

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I was a teen of the 90’s.  I went through puberty; graduated high school; used the internet for the first time; fell in love (twice), and moved out on my own.  I went through some of the biggest and most informative changes of my life during that decade.  The 90’s left a significant mark on my character and it still resonates with me today in 2016.

It was in the 90’s that I accepted my interest in fashion and style as a legitimate part of who I was.  I cared about it, and I put time and energy into it. If I wanted something I couldn’t afford, or it seemed unavailable to me (remember this was before on-line shopping), I bought second hand and altered it, or sewed it from scratch. I laugh now to think of what a strange experience it must have been for my parents to have a teenage daughter during the 90’s grunge era.  I imagine it must have been a combination of relief at the blatant lack of overt sexuality being displayed in the popular youth fashion of the time, and a touch of horror at my shabby, oversized, somewhat masculine style sense. Not to mention the very cheap price tag that went along with my almost entirely vintage wardrobe, which would be a relief to any parent. My style fell somewhere between your Grandpa’s closet in the 70’s, and Kurt Cobain’s, with an ever so tiny sprinkling of Charlie’s Angels. There were a lot of chords, bell bottoms, ripped jeans, 70’s big-collered button-downs and my most favourite pair of army pants bought at the local Army Surplus store.  I later regretted trading those beloved pants to my friend Ian, for his tie-dye sarong scarf. Although I do still have and use that scarf today.  Hey Ian, if your reading this, I want my pants back!

I jokingly laugh with my Husband and our male friends now about how they were ripped-off at the lack of skin and female bodies being put on display during their teenage years and twenties. The truth is, we all know how good it was for us in reality. The following generation of Brittany Spears/Christina Aguillera look-alikes made that abundantly clear to us. I feel lucky that I became a woman at a time in history when popular youth culture wasn’t embracing overt sexuality in women’s fashion.  That experience powerfully informed my opinions of how sexuality and the female body is displayed in fashion and it comes through in my taste now and how I dress myself daily.  I wasn’t even conciously aware of my tendency towards modesty in my style until another fashion blogger Miss Mellalina wanted to feature me on her blog as an example of a modest fashionista.  It was an interesting realization. My style is definitely bold and out-there, but it’s not overtly sexual. It’s true that most of the outfits I put together cover up most of my skin and don’t show off too much of my body.  Any skin I do show is typically a result of contextual function (e.g. wearing a bathing suit at the beach or cabin, shorts in the summer), or it’s balanced by a very contrasting counter-style (e.g. plunging neckline paired with oversized men’s trousers or all other skin completely covered up).

That said, I am fully aware of the effect that showing off even the tiniest portion of my body has had on my viewers.  Don’t think I didn’t notice the significant increase in the amount of attention my last blog post got for it’s slightly more provocative nature. It’s both totally predictable and yet completely astounding to me, the effect that a plunging neckline and seeing nipples through a top can have on people.  My likes, comments, and general traffic on all my social media accounts increased instantly and substantially.  Hmmm.  What does that say about us as a society?  It certainly shows why there are so many women and girls showing off their bodies and being provocative and seductive on social media.  The world has told us quite clearly and effectively that that is what it likes and wants, so that is what they keep giving to us. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly appreciate every like and comment that I get, but, here’s the thing,  you won’t see me posting any overt ass or boob shots on the internet simply for more “likes”.  You can be sure that the well established grunge era influence on me will be ever present in my choices to display my body.  Everything I do with fashion, I do for a reason and I can guarantee that if sexuality shows up in my posts, it will be to tell a story or express an idea or as an intentional art piece.  I have no intention of using my sexuality to get attention or gain more followers. The truth is, in my opinion, it’s too easy, superficial, and boring.  It’s also being done to death!  Not to mention it leads too many women down the path of attaching too much value to their physical appearance and then losing their self-worth in their later years, when showing off their bodies no longer gets the attention it once did. Hollywood’s substantial list of women over 35 who have had botox or plastic surgery is proof of that. Now, does that mean that my social media climb will be longer?  Likely.  Does it mean that the followers I do get will be more genuine? Indeed.

As a women who is approaching her 40’s now, I’ve lived some life, explored my sexuality and it’s effect, and I’ve been lucky enough to land in a place of self-worth and confidence that holds me true to my values without compromise.  If you ever find yourself in a place where you are allowing society to define who you are or what you have to offer, take a moment and determine if what others are saying they want from you is in line with what you want from yourself.  If your opinion doesn’t match theirs, I implore you to choose yourself over them. Our current focus on instant gratification, external approval and quick fixes has driven so many down a path that is not sustainable or satisfying in the long term.  In the end, what you create will be for others, at your expense. Gwen Stephani’s lyrics still resonate today as if it was still 1995…

“I’m just a girl, living in captivity
Your rule of thumb makes me worry some
I’m just a girl, what’s my destiny?
What I’ve succumbed to is making me numb”

If you stay true to yourself, you are patient, and you don’t succumb to society’s rule of thumb, you will find that there are many others who share the same values and tastes as you and they will find you, stick with you and help you to achieve the things that are important to you, because they are important to them too.  Everybody wins, no compromise.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

THRIFTED FASHION: Jeans (altered by me), militarty/faux leather sleeve jacket (altered by me with addition of ethnic textiles).

CURRENT FASHION: Hat and purse by H&M, sequin skirt and plaid shirt by Forever 21, boots by Dr. Martens, faux septum ring from Urban Waves Winnipeg.

Let Fashion Transform You

“Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” —Bill Cunningham

“Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers. And style is what you choose.” —Lauren Hutton

“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” —Rachel Zoe

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn”
― Orson Welles

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One of the most satisfying things about fashion, is how it enables us to transform ourselves over and over again.  In a chameleon-like way, we can express all the different sides of our personality by shining a spot-light on a specific part of ourselves through the clothes we choose to put on.  We can visit different eras in history and through styling the fashions of the time, we get a taste of the energy of that time and get to experience the feeling of that moment in history. We can also mix and match eras with our fashion and create a new energy and feeling that is all our own, or try on a lifestyle we don’t have just to see how it might feel. The clothes we wear can also allow us ease in manoeuvring through the variety of places, people, and circumstances we find ourselves in. I have found that my ability to adapt my style to the company I’m keeping, places I visit, or events I attend has been invaluable to me, and it’s also half the fun! Fashion allows us to wear our feelings on the outside if we want to, or to change our mood when we start the day in a funk and want to turn that around.

You can almost always tell how I am feeling or what type of mood I am in by what I’m wearing.  The process of getting dressed in the morning is so much more than just covering my body with coordinated clothing.  It is about tuning into how I’m feeling, or how I’d like to feel, checking in with myself and becoming aware of what traits of mine are feeling amplified.  I dress to the dominant characteristics that come through with the mood I’m in each day.  Some days I’m subdued and all I want is comfort and ease.  Some days spike heels and a push-up bra feel like my second skin. Sometimes I’m wacky and contrasting because I’m feeling artistic or counter culture.  Some days I’m just in jeans and a t-shirt, although admittedly, this is pretty rare for me. Some days I like to push the bar with a provacative attitude that says, “just try and question me on this look!  I dare you!”

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I think that it’s important for people not to get too attached to a specific style or look that they identify with, or they may begin to feel uncomfortable when they aren’t wearing it.  What I mean to say is, are you wearing your clothes or are your clothes wearing you?  Is your comfort so tied to the style you’ve adopted that you are no longer expressing certain sides of yourself?  Is your inner vamp being stifled by your black skinny jeans and t-shirt?  Are you afraid of colour or contrast because you are afraid you’ll attract too much attention to yourself? Are you becoming less adventurous in life because every time you go out you wear your little black dress instead of trying something new?  Does our lack of adventurousness in life cause a lack of adventurousness in our style, or is it the other way around?  Hmmm.  I would hazard a guess that if you took more chances with your style, it would positively impact your life.  I’m going to take the plunge and even suggest that being more adventurous and allowing your style to better reflect your feelings on a daily basis would have a dramatic positive effect on how you feel about yourself and that it will translate into a more positive life experience.  The clothes you choose to put on every morning can empower you tremendously and transform your life, or they can drain you and sap you of your motivation.  You have to admit that you feel exceptionally different in sweat pants and a hoodie than you do in a dress and heels, and I’m not talking about physical comfort.  I’m talking about the energy created by how you feel about yourself in one look versus another.  One of these looks leads to adventure and who knows what, and the other leads to Netflix and chips.

Sometimes you just need to push your own boundaries and step outside of your comfort zone. Even the simple addition of a scarf or other accessories to a very basic outfit can be an incredible energetic mood boost. Each one of us is made up of all kinds of personality traits, and moods that are equally a part of us.  If you aren’t already, I strongly urge you to play with your style and express some of those sides of yourself, if for no other reason than just to have FUN!  That is what fashion and style is really all about in the end.  It’s not meant to be intimidating and serious.  It’s about creation and exploration and self expression at it’s core.  It’s a tool.  It’s the paint and your body is the canvas.  Have some fun, get creative and let those hidden sides of yourself shine forth. It’s so simple, yet so incredibly liberating!

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

THRIFTED FASHION: Traditional Scottish wool plaid skirt from Ruby Slipper, Boots from The Goodwill Store.

MODERN FASHION:Gold body suit and tights by American Apparel, feather earrings from The Haberdashery

VINTAGE: Faux fur leopard print jacket

 

 

HOBO CHIC

Down around the corner
A half a mile from here
You see them old trains runnin’
And you watch them disappear
Without love
Where would you be now
Without love…

Where pistons keep on churnin’
And the wheels go ’round and ’round
And the steel rails are cold and hard
For the miles that they go down
Without love
Where would you be right now
Without love
Where would you be now

-The Doobie Brothers, Long Train Runnin 

The Doobie Brothers, Long Train Runnin-Video

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” -John Steinbeck

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Each and every one of us is on a journey.  A journey away from where we have been, towards some kind of unknown future.  In this we are the same.  No matter how organized, well intentioned or thoughtful you are about planning the course you want your life to take, the truth is none of us really knows how our life will unfold.  We have plans, wishes, desires, dreams and many of us have plotted out a course to achieve all those things. But life often has a different idea about where you’re going doesn’t it?  Life seems to direct us all over the map, throwing up obstacles and curve balls and even sending us in what appears to be the opposite direction from our goals.

When I was in my 20’s, I had my life very clearly planned out. In fact, most of it was set out in my mind as a teenager. I was more than a little bit Type A and a bit of an over-achiever, but still far from a perfectionist thank goodness. I knew what I wanted and I was adamant that I be one of those people that accomplished everything that they set out to do, instead of someone who just talks about things but never gets around to doing them.  The truth is, I was rather effective with this approach to life.  I fell in love, started a career in Environmental Science, bought a house and a car, got married, travelled to exotic locations, got a dog, and was pregnant with my first child all before the age of 30. I had accomplished everything I set out to do in record time. Some call this success.  But I wasn’t completely satisfied, and I was only moderately happy.  The key thing that never sat right with me was that the road to get there was really difficult, and somehow I always felt that if I was on the right path, I would find more ease in the process.  If I am completely honest, it was a real slog.  I was exhausted and drained and getting where I was going felt like an up-hill climb against the grain.  I had proven to myself that whatever you put your mind and focus on you can achieve, but what had I put my mind and focus on?  I was completely focussed on all the typical milestones that society has deemed worthy goals.   I put all my attention and focus on the things I thought I was supposed to do. Things I knew people would approve of and encourage and praise. I was following the path of millions who came before me and I was looking for external gratification and approval instead of following my own passions and dreams.  In doing so, I landed precisely where I aimed.  The middle.  I was completely successful at landing right smack dab in the middle of mainstream mediocrity, and it was a slog to get there.  I had created a perfectly average, middle-class, working for a pay-check lifestyle.  Life was ok. Life was beige.  I had very few lows, but I had almost no highs.  Every day was just “meh”.  Rise and grind, sleep, repeat. I was taking very few risks and as a result, was completely un-inspired!  I feel exceptionally blessed that I had a wake-up call in my early 30’s. The road I was on came to a screeching halt when my first son was born.  Not to be cliché, but it truly opened my eyes! I think it saved me from a fate too many experience. The all too common mid-life crises.  At 30 I looked at my life and all my accomplishments and said “what now?”  Is this really all there is?  Is this really what I’ve been working so hard for?  I was bored and stressed out all at the same time.  Something was seriously amiss.

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One of life’s little synchronisities.  Me and ‘ol Chimney Top had a moment.  He gets me! 

So here’s what I’ve learned since.  The more you try to control every experience in your life, the smaller and more mundane your life becomes.  Control is based in fear. The fear that if you let go and leave it up to anyone or anything else, all hell will break loose.  When you live like this, the energy and passion and purpose you are here to fulfill gets sucked out of your experiences and life becomes an endless series of to-do lists.  Life only started to get interesting for me when I started to let go.  I mean really let go. It was an act of loving kindness towards myself when I began to surrender to the twisting, turning, strangely winding road of life with trust and faith instead of trying to control every twist and turn.  This has been exceptionally difficult for me at times, but oh so necessary.  The word surrender has always had terrible connotations to me.  It was something that the weak did when they had no more fight in them by waving their white flag and giving up, whereby ending up a prisoner in someone else’s kingdom. The feisty warrior woman in me was repulsed by this idea.  I’d rather die fighting than surrender!  But life isn’t an action movie and I’m not on a battle field.  The truth is, I’d rather live than die fighting. I had to re-define surrender for myself. I realized that my definition was holding me back.  Surrender really means letting go of the need to control every situation, and by doing so, releasing all of the resistance you create as a result.  I was a ball of tension and I needed to let that shit go!

So, I gave up!  I gave up my average, mediocre, safe little life in the middle.  I started living with passion.  I started taking risks, I started focussing on things that really mattered to me, whether people approved and praised it or not. I gave up on average and started shooting for the moon, so even if I fall short, I’ll land among the stars.  When I started doing this, an amazing thing happened.  My life started creating itself.  I no longer had to force things into place by exhausting myself trying to control everything.  As I took one step towards my goals, things just started to unfold and one positive experience led me to the next.  This is what people mean when they say follow your bliss.  You have to let go and trust and move in the direction of your enthusiasm and excitement. This is where the magic happens and the momentum begins to pick up.  This is where strange twists and turns you could never have planned out lead you to the most incredible people, situations and opportunities.   The second I begin to tightly clutch at life or try to make things happen instead of allowing them to unfold, all the obstacles show up and life gets really difficult again.  This is not to say that life will ever be easy, but there is a big difference between physical exhaustion from the hussle, and mental and emotional exhaustion from just trying to get through your un-inspiring day with no flow whatsoever.  I’m still learning and growing, but I know I am moving in the right direction. Life truly is a journey after all, and there really is no destination.  I know now, that you never really get there.  We are all just travellers passing through and having experiences at every stop.  So trust in the journey.  Let go, surrender, and allow this crazy train to take you on the ride of your life. The life you are supposed to lead.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE: Hat, blouse, vest, jackets, backpack (I’ve had since I was 17.  It came to Europe with me), wrist warmers, rings and pipe.

CURRENT FASHION: earrings from Urban Waves, skirt by Nygard, velvet boots by Shellys London , from Hudson’s Bay Company.