The List: Ethical kid’s clothing

Now that my kids are exiting the toddler years (well, two of them anyway), finding ethical kids clothing that is affordable is becoming somewhat of a task. Speaking to my cousin recently, she also expressed difficulty in finding ethically made clothing for children aged 5-15. It can be difficult to pass up the $5 t-shirt in Kmart, especially when kids seem to get through so many clothes because they grow 10 cm every three months or get grass stains on the knees of all jeans or food stains that just won’t come off. Is it worth spending a little more on ethically made clothing for kids?

I think it is.

Non-organic cotton fabrics, and other synthetically produced clothing contain toxins (given the chemicals they are treated with) that can seep into the wearer’s skin. I also think that if we teach our children to wear less but cherish and value their clothing from a young age, this will teach them good values that they can carry into adulthood.

I know, I know. These days it seems that, as parents, we already have SO MUCH to be concerned about, from GMO, pesticide sprayed food, to the dangers of screen time, and so on. But given the great ethical companies out there, that are online as well, purchasing ethical clothing for your kids is truly made that much easier.

So! Having scoured the internet for ethical kids wear, we present “The List: Ethical kid’s clothing.”

1.Hubble and Duke

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A West Australia based label, they make a beautiful collection of clothing ethically made in Portugal and Bali. I especially love their shoes, and the stunning prints and colour palette.

Ages: 0-8 years old, boys & girls

2. Nature baby

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Based in New Zealand, Nature Baby have the best basics for baby, up to four year olds. All ethically made, and with organic cotton, I just loved their soft track-pants, singlets, underwear and onesies for my own kids.

3. Boden

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Though I haven’t personally shopped from this store before, their clothing looks bright and suitable for children, and reasonably well-priced. I’m tempted to pick up some summer dresses for the girls. Importantly, they have joined the Ethical Trading Initiative and also outline their production processes in a detailed manner on their site.

4. Industrie Kids

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I was surprised when I saw Indie Kids with an “A” grading on the Shop Ethical consumer guide. They have a detailed outline of their commitment to responsible manufacture on their website. Although they mainly do boy’s clothing (from 0-14 years of age), I have seen them stock girl’s clothing in their stores.

5. Etiko

Etiko is a well-known ethical clothing manufacturer. Although their children’s clothes are limited, they do stock shoes, and ethically made trainers can be notoriously diff’icult to find, particularly for children.

6. Elves in the Wardrobe

This multi-brand online site stocks a range of ethically made, organic cotton children’s clothing, up to 12 years of age.

7. G.Nancy

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A recent find, G.Nancy are an Australian company who make beautiful sleepwear in distinctly Australian prints.

8. Minouche 

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Another Australian brand, Minouche make some lovely pieces (mainly for girls, but they just released a unisex collection). I love their soft, beautiful dresses for girls. They are ethically made in Australia and go up to size 10.

9. Everlane

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Everlane makes incredible clothing for adults, but also make a limited range of great basics for the little ones too. And they ship to Australia now!

10. Numero 74

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This company makes the most beautiful but simple clothing for women and young girls. More importantly though, the brand is the love child of two cousins who have set up a Thai Women’s Self managed Cooperative employing over 400 women each of whom are able to work at home whilst caring for family.

11. Love it love it love it 

Actually affordable, ethically made, organic cotton, cute, practical kids wear… basically sums up this brand. They do children’s wear from 0-10 years old, and they also do clothing for adults, and homewares too. So something for everyone!

That’s it for now… There are so many more beautiful labels out there. If you know any ethical children’s clothing stores that are not on this list, please do add them below in the comments section.

Clothes with Baraka

Here at The Modest Life we are passionate about supporting local businesses, women-run businesses, ethical-minded businesses… basically businesses that kick butt 🙂

Baraka Women is one such business. Designed by Eisha Saleh, an all round incredible lady, the clothes are made with the modest dresser in mind, with the most beautiful fabrics, made right here in Australia.

With the release of her new “Pollyanna vintage” collection, my sister and I jumped at the chance to play dress ups over a little catch up at my place…

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This print is so pretty and the fabric is luxuriously soft. Also, given that it is a wrap dress, it makes feeding baby easy. So basically it ticks all the boxes for me. Stylish, pretty and comfortable…

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We love the details on these pants, made from a vintage fabric.

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I’m wearing the Afternoon Wrap Dress.

My sister is wearing:

Outfit 1: The Emerald Day top with The Cornflower Pant in cream

Outfit 2: The Envy Layered skirt.

Photography: Z by Zahrah.

High-tech bassinets are totally a thing now

For those of us who have kids, think back to your most difficult child, the one you brought home from the hospital terrified of because from DAY ONE they wouldn’t sleep anywhere else but on your chest. Or in your arms. Or only in the car.

Or they didn’t sleep at all.

If you were told back then that there was a bassinet that would:

  • strap your child in safely
  • detect when your baby moved and ROCK BABY GENTLY
  • “chooses” which motion your baby likes best
  • play soothing white noise
  • simulate the sensation of a car

how quickly would you throw your screaming baby into one?

Half a second it’d take methinks.

Anything to get some blessed sleep.

Recently, one ultra high-tech bassinet, developed with MIT engineers (that’s what you need to get your baby to sleep people, a team of MIT ENGINEERS) has hit the market and another has been made by Ford. The car company.

Yes.

A car company has made a bassinet that moves your baby from side to side in a motion that mimics a car. 

Just so you, I mean, your baby, can sleep. I’m pretty sure those LED lights that simulate the lighting in a car that surround the baby wouldn’t really help the baby go to sleep. It just might be a little distracting.

On the other hand, the MIT engineered Snoo claims to be a self-soothing bassinet, doing everything from rocking the baby slower or faster depending on what it “thinks” your baby needs, to ‘choosing’ which white noise your baby likes best.

Both bassinets sound simultaneously crazy and brilliant, and I’m still trying to figure out which one I ultimately think they are. They sound crazy because it seems like they are interfering with the natural bonding process of a mother rocking her baby to sleep, and the mother figuring out how her baby likes to be rocked, and what “white noise” baby likes best. Like the sound of mama’s voice softly singing, for example. It also seems sort of dangerous- all that rocking and moving up and down, side to side.

But also, it sounds brilliant because I know what it is to be a desperately sleep deprived mother who just needs her baby to go down for more than 20 minutes at a time and if these robo-nannies were around back then I would have convinced my husband to spend $1800 if it meant we could get sleep for the first six months of our baby’s life.

That’s right. The Snoo costs around $1800 and it will only last the first six months of a baby’s life.

Is it really worth it? Can we really put a price on getting sleep and retaining our sanity? Do the makers of the Snoo know this and are therefore maybe exploiting our desperation by selling us this MIT engineered ultra high-tech device that guarantees it will put our child to sleep but is maybe messing with the natural arc of motherhood…

Yeah. Possibly. Totally.

Will robotic bassinets be a thing of the future? Will it only contribute to a detachment between mother and baby? Isn’t it kind of creepy to envision babies strapped in these devices, their needs met by technology, and their parents relying on these robotic bassinets more and more to soothe their children?

What do you think about these high-tech bassinets?

Conversations with kids

Kids say the most hilarious things, and I wish I wrote down some of the things my own kids say more often. Here are a few things my little ones have spilled recently…

When I came back from the hospital and J said to me:

“Mum, why do you still have a baby in your tummy?”

Me: “Umm… there’s no baby in there J. My tummy is just going to take some time to return to normal.”

J: “Oh, ok. I don’t like it like that. It needs to be flat again!”

Me: *tears streaming down my face… “This tummy stretched to carry all three of you!!”

When asking why her 16 year-old uncle isn’t married yet…

J: “Why isn’t Emmi (short for ‘Amja’ or ‘uncle’ in Turkish) married yet?”

Me: “Because he is too young J, he’s still in school…”

J: “Oh, so he can get married in the school holidays…”

A few weeks ago she suddenly piped up with…

“An-ne (or mum), I want to be exactly like you when I’m older…”

Me: “awwww that’s so sweet… but why baby?”

J: “Because I love you more than anyone else.”

And when putting her to bed tonight:

J: “I can’t sleep anymore An-ne…”

Me: “Oh why not baby?”

J: “I just feel different these days…”

Me: trying not to react “Why?!”

J: “I think it’s because I’m going to turn 5 soon…”

And a few one liners from Z, who is talking so much these days…

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Z: “Just leave me An-ne, just leave me…” as she shuts the door on my face in defiance because I wouldn’t let her do something. 

This morning…

Me: “Z what do you want for breakfast?”

Z: “Chocolate. I WANT CHOCOLATEEEE!!!”

And lastly,

Z: “all the girls love me An-ne, all of them!” 

 

What social media is really about

I am on social media a lot.

Recently I admitted to myself that I am addicted to it. That I spend way too much time on it. That it is taking over my life and turning me into an automaton. Yes my eldest has yelled at me numerous times to put my phone down. And yes, I’ve written before about how allowing kids screen time is madness, and yet here I am, admitting that I am addicted to social media. Hypocritical much?

Possibly…

I told myself that I actually do “work” on there (I am the editor/creator of the IG The Modest Bride) and that it’s a way to pass the time. But I think what really pushed me to realise its true nature (Instagram in particular) is consciously admitting that ALL social media is the most pernicious form of advertising. And IT’S KILLING MY SOUL.It’s emptying my bank account. It’s making me anxious and making me feel like somehow my life is inadequate because I don’t have all the eco-conscious, organic, ethical, MINIMALIST THINGS in my life.

Oh the irony.

Or because my children don’t wear perfectly matching and boho, minimalist, stylish clothing and I can’t take Insta-worthy pictures of them in beautiful, natural settings like at a beach or a forest or some hipster cafe BECAUSE I CAN’T GET OUT OF THE HOUSE WITH THREE KIDS.

I scroll through my feed and see one beautiful image after another of perfect children in hip (and expensive) clothes in shades of dusty pinks, autumnal hues of brown and linen greys playing in beautiful rooms of pastel shades with THAT DAMN CANOPY (it’s so pretty though…) and vintage style bed with the same grey bed sheets and the same soft toys and wooden accents and fiddle leaf fig trees with kilim rugs and string lighting and cute wall art of strange and slightly creepy circus figures? Because all kids dream happily about the circus right?

And when I hit the image I can conveniently see where all these beautiful products are from and I find myself on a slippery slope from there… I go onto this company’s IG page, click on their website and before I know it my virtual cart is full of beautiful children’s dresses, soft toys, wooden toy cameras, ethically made children’s shoes and organic flower bath stuff, so that their rooms and their clothes and my house and my life can look like a beautiful Instagram feed from some perfectly put together Instagram Mother.

And whilst this isn’t a conscious thought, it is an underlying subconscious impression that imprints itself on our minds as we scroll through our feeds day in, day out.

What is also disturbing is that everyone’s lives are starting to look the same. Instagram is promoting an aesthetically beautiful (not denying this!) monoculture. Go through any number of Instagram Mother pages and you’ll find that they all look identical. They’ve all perfected the flat-lay with the ultimate prop- their baby- dressed perfectly in cute rompers and vintage style bonnets (which my two year old flat out refuses to wear when I tried to get her on board so she could look IG WORTHY) with some cute toys surrounding them (I just did this myself today lol), and throw in some flowers too, and those new dummy chains that company sent for free so you can add them onto your list of sponsors to advertise and market by sharing every detail of you and your children’s lives for the rest of the world to consume. Oh and under this perfect image of your house and free stuff you’ve been given, have a caption that shares in intimate detail your struggles so that you can ensure that people don’t think that picture is an accurate depiction of your life and so that you are #keepingitreal. There is such a thing as oversharing, and I feel like in the name of ‘normalising’ things, everyone is just sharing too much. It’s one thing to share experiences with the intention of bringing awareness to an issue, and it’s another to simply overshare details that really should be kept private. In the social media world, privacy is the enemy, sharing is the name of the game.

So what is social media really all about?

Instagram is a genius form of marketing which businesses use to push their products in a manner that is incredibly dangerous. We see their products in the lives of “normal” people, who can pick up a camera and create such beautiful images of themselves and their children so much so that people will buy the exact same things so that their lives can look like that too.

Also, I feel that it is totally putting a halt to originality and creativity. Because of Instagram and Pinterest, we see hundreds of images a day and they all look the same, and we copy and emulate those images. When it comes time to do something different, we can’t, because we’ve been so influenced by the imagery put out there and we literally can’t envision something new and unique.

Friends that I have spoken to recently have also aired the same concerns and have admitted that it makes them feel inadequate, and that it results in overspending. They have deleted their accounts and their IG apps from their phones.

I have also been using it less and less, only uploading what is necessary and not scrolling through my feed. For a time I didn’t login at all, and it felt so… calm. I felt peace. No longer did I have a niggling need to check it. I didn’t feel anxious. I called my friends and caught up with them. I cleaned my house. I did some reading. I spent proper time with my children. It cleared my mind of all those images cluttering my psyche and I was able to just have time to reflect and ponder and have gratitude for everything I did have.

So if you’re on IG or Facebook, I suggest taking a break and seeing how that goes for you. Trust me, you’re not missing anything, in fact you will gain so much from it and realise that you do not need it at all.

Here are two incredible analyses of social media and their effects:

  1. Quit Social Media.
  2. Technology is diminishing us.

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Postpartum reflections

I’ve been following Australian actress Teresa Palmer on Instagram lately, and have been reading her posts over on her blog Your Zen Mama. She had her second baby just before I had my third, and she has been sharing her weekly postpartum reflections. I’ve really enjoyed reading them, it reminds me that I’m not the only one going through this at the moment. Her honesty is refreshing and the detail she goes into with her reflections is also actually really helpful.

Inspired by her posts, I’ve decided to put a reflection of my own together, but I will not be doing this weekly because I HAVE THREE KIDS. It’s also taken me four and a half weeks (no, I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I gave birth) to get this down because I’ve been stumbling around in a mind-fog and drowning in an endless cycle of nappy changes, tantrums, sibling rivalry and swaddling wraps…

So here goes:

The Labour

I’m not going to give y’all a recount of my labour in detail, because, well, who really wants to know how it all went down? All labours are excruciatingly painful- regardless of how long/short they are. There are some things I do want to note though:

  • This was the first labour that I opted to have an epidural. At first, it was wondrous. My husband and I looked over at each other and could only stare in amazement and comment on how this “doesn’t even feel like labour.” I knew when I was getting contractions, but I couldn’t feel their full force. Until I could. OH MY GOD. The damn epidural WORE OFF PEOPLE just when I needed it the most and I faced at least 40minutes to an hour of excruciating pain. The anaesthetist was stuck in a caesarean (later I found out from the nurses that there were SIX caesareans that day) and I had no choice but to scream through contractions that hit me with extreme force. I opted for the gas, which made me nauseous and suddenly I was vomiting all over myself. I was also screaming “WHY THE HELL DID I GET AN EPIDURAL IF THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!!!” and then profusely apologising afterwards for yelling… because I am an apologiser. More on that another day.
  • Essentially, I had an epidural because they wanted to speed up my labour due to certain risks and having heard horror stories about induction from friends who had been through it, I decided to get the epidural in advance. Sure I felt that guilt, I was anxious about the consequences and side effects, and I was also terrified of having someone stick a needle into my spine. BUT, the memory of the pain of contractions was also much too fresh and came rushing back to me when in that birthing room and I looked over at my husband and said, “let’s do the epidural”, whereupon he replied, “it’s your choice babe. I aint gonna judge you, and nobody else should either. You do what you have to do.” Basically he said exactly what I needed to hear lol. #husbandoftheyear
  • So this labour was different from my other two because it literally had a bit of everything. There was the epidural, the syntoconin, the gas, feeling the full force of contractions and in around four hours or so (my memory of the timeline of this birth is fuzzy given everything), baby was ready to make his entrance. With a top up of the epidural and the midwives telling me when and how to push, my son graced us with his presence.
  • And apparently that is me NOT giving a recount of the birth lol. Too much detail for y’all? I apologise…
  • OVERALL: I hated the epidural. I paid for it after as well (more on that in the next section). Labour is FREAKING PAINFUL AND I NEVER WANT TO DO THAT AGAIN. Phew. But when baby comes out and they place him on your chest, there is nothing in this world that compares. I am extremely grateful I was able to experience it again.

The Hospital Stay

Because of the epidural and certain side effects, I stayed in hospital for around 3 days. Basically I was getting some major headaches. And when I say major, I mean MAJOR. I was basically forced to stay lying down, as the headaches would hit me as soon as I sat up. This made changing baby’s nappy/clothes and picking him up difficult. But I took all the painkillers they gave me and it helped.

The hospital stay was much calmer and overall a better experience, mainly because I was mostly ignored by the hospital staff, except when they came in to do the necessary checks. Because #BABYNO3

Oh, also, the girls meeting their baby brother was the sweetest. J (the older one) was totally smitten. Z on the other hand, wasn’t so sure. She kissed him and exclaimed his name over and over, but she wouldn’t come near me. I think it was because I was lying in a strange bed, in a strange place, drained of colour, with needles sticking out of me. Maybe…

Once we got Home

Again, things were much calmer as baby slept really well. Actually, he was extremely sleepy and I’d have to wake him up for feeds. He was slightly jaundiced so this probably contributed to his lethargy. It did make recovery for me easier though as I got plenty of rest. Also, my mum came over everyday for around two weeks, which was basically a God send, otherwise I could not have dealt with everything, and probably would have starved.

My mum is an angel in disguise, as every time I’ve given birth, she comes over and does everything for me. She’s firm with this as well. She forces me to rest, and literally does not allow me to do anything. And I mean NOTHING. She doesn’t let me wash dishes, throw in laundry, vacuum, cook… She spends the time looking after my older kids and doing everything. She insists that the postpartum time is for rest, and drinking soup lol. Which she forced me to drink 3 times a day. Breastmilk is mainly water, so drinking lots of soup makes sense.

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What I’m eating

The weeks when my mum was here were great. She made good wholesome homemade food, mainly soups as I said above. My mother in law sent yummy Turkish foods… I tried to get my intake of veggies and fruit, and a snack at night, because breastfeeding makes me really hungry. My friend made me some lactation cookies and sweet potato tarts which were the best for snacking.

Once my mum stopped coming as often, I had to fend for myself lol. I’ve been doing grocery shopping online, or getting the husband to bring home groceries. Haven’t been cooking much, although I’m trying.

This week I’m going to try to go back to a gluten free diet, as eating wheat based foods throws off my digestive system, so we’ll see how it goes.

Also, lots and lots of water!

The Emotions

The first three weeks I went through the wave of hormones and the resulting emotional rollercoaster. I’m prone to anxiety anyway, so I don’t cope well with the postpartum hormonal changes that the body goes through. Plus the stress of keeping a baby alive… basically I obsess over every little detail, dramatise it, and end up in a puddly mess of tears.

This time around I felt completely overwhelmed by the need for me to meet the emotional needs of three children. And I wasn’t even feeding them. Or cleaning. How could I do EVERYTHING once my mum stopped coming?

More tears ensued.

Somewhere around week 3.5-4, the fog started to clear from my brain and I started to feel like myself. My body started to recover and gain strength, and my psyche benefitted from heading out of the house, getting back to some sense of normalcy. The Solly Baby wrap has been great, making outings easier, and I’m also loving the new stroller.

Our new family of five braved dinners out, a wedding, a picnic at a beach, visiting interstate guests who had arrived, doctor’s appointments etc within the first few weeks of baby’s life.

Baby

Our new baby has coped with entering this world like a champ. He is very serious, always frowning, and has a gaze that is so knowing. He is totally wise beyond his…weeks lol. He sleeps really well, clocking over 4 hour stretches at night, basically waking twice a night for a feed. Some days he feeds more, which I suspect are times of growth spurts. Currently he has longer waking hours, he can hold his neck up really well, and is starting to follow movements with his eyes.

Everyone keeps telling me he will change as he grows, and this I know. Right now I’m just thankful for this phase and taking all that I can get, because I know what a fussy baby who does not sleep, who cries all the time, is like.

I’d forgotten how much you need to plan in advance before leaving the house with a newborn, trying to squeeze in a feed before leaving or else face a screaming baby in the car, getting the baby bag ready… now I had two more kids to prep. Once we did it a few times though, we got the hang of it. Although, if we go somewhere that is quite far, we have had to pull over just to feed baby, because if he’s hungry, he will scream till he is fed.

The girls

The girls are coping in their own ways with this new phase. J struggled the first week, as she kept asking me when I was going to play with her, sit with her, read with her and she also kept telling me that she loved me over, and over, and over again. She did the same when her younger sister was born as well. There was one heartbreaking moment around two weeks after we brought baby home where she just got really emotional, threw her arms around my neck and told me that she was worried about me…because I just kept sleeping, and having my own mini-breakdowns. Since then, she’s been back to her usual, 4.5 year old, sometimes annoying, always chatty and playful, self.

Z on the other hand has been acting out in different ways. Tantrums over random things are on the rise, her attachment to me has increased, and she’s also displaying violent tendencies toward her older sister (the other day she bit J’s finger so hard it bled). She just hit 2 so I know this is normal for her age, but it’s just compounded by having to contend with a new sibling in the house.

We, the parents, are barely scraping through. Trying to maintain our own patience in the face of SO MANY EMOTIONS has been tough, and to be honest, I know that I have had many, many bad parenting moments. Lots of shouting, and dramatic moments, using the TV to get things done, like feed my newborn, cook and clean have been my worst vices. Just this week I’ve made the conscious effort to keep myself calm in the face of Fight No. 1000 between the two girls in the one day, or a tantrum because Z doesn’t want to sleep. And I’m getting rid of the TV. That’s right. We are going cold turkey. Please pray for me lol.

Lastly…

Yes. Three kids is definitely tough. Slowly though, I feel like we are getting into a rhythm, and adjusting to this new phase. It helps that baby is sleeping well and feeding well, and I have nothing but gratitude. As with babies, I know things will change as he grows, and starts teething and so on, but as I said earlier, I’m taking whatever I can get now.

Despite the emotional rollercoaster, the physical recovery from labour, and adjusting to three children, I do feel that this postpartum period has been the easiest out of all my kids. Experience has definitely been a factor in this obviously, as has sleeping enough lol.

I feel a lot more comfortable and confident and I know that has made a big difference.

I’m looking forward to the next few months, and just enjoying having another baby in the house, especially knowing how fast it passes…

Mostly, I am incredibly thankful for all the loving and supportive and helpful people around me, without whom all this would be infinitely more difficult and challenging. Still, with all the support, there have been moments of sheer desperation, frustration, tears, where the mounting responsibilities of three children has felt so overwhelming. I know that there were many times where I didn’t cope with it all in the best way, and I’m learning from those mistakes and trying to move forward now. But honestly, watching my family grow, work together, cooperate, help each other and settle into a new phase is truly a beautiful gift. As is being able to kiss soft newborn cheeks 🙂

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How to style an entryway

Not only is your entryway a great place for necessary storage and organization, it’s also the first thing you see upon entering your home and therefore a great place to work on to make your home welcoming.

Even if it is a really small space, there are many ways you can introduce storage and design elements, with trendy wall hooks, a brightly coloured door, statement art or a sleek bench.

Here are some ideas on how to style an entryway…

*click images for sources.

Pink and feminine

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Monochrome and minimalist

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Modern ethnic touches

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Functional

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Statement art

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Featured image via Domino.

On love…

There is much to say about the consequences of the individualistic, self-centric world that we live in today.

One consequence is the impact it has had on relationships and people’s views of what a relationship should look like.

More specifically, people seem to have a keen idea about what a relationship should offer them, not what they can offer in a relationship.

What many seem to frame their relationship around is what it can do for them, how their partner will make them feel, what their partner should do for them.

I don’t think this only applies to a marriage-relationship though. I see that most relationships, friendships, even filial relationships are based on need, rather than sincere concern for one another.

Where people will only give you a call when they need something from you. Or when they will only reach out to you when they want to call you to something that they are organising, and need your support for.

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And these days, it’s barely a phone call. Mostly it is a text message. Or a Facebook message. Or WhatsApp. Or Telegram. Or… God knows what other form of social media we flood our phones with to ‘stay connected’. Forget actually visiting each other, or just dropping in to each other’s homes, unannounced, without fanfare or giving people the heads up.

When we were kids, our pantry was always stocked with sweets and biscuits for the guest who unexpectedly dropped by, or my mum would always make extra for dinner because it would either be eaten as leftovers the next day, or in the that case somebody dropped by close to dinner time.

We would often drop by friend’s homes as well. If they lived close enough, we’d take the opportunity of a soft, summer evening and walk to their home to share a cold drink and eat some fruit. The parents would chat whilst the children ran amok in bedrooms with toys and played games outside, being eaten by mosquitos and trying to catch our breath in the hot air of summer.

But beyond just the visiting and dropping in, I think we’ve also lost the skill of knowing how to go above and beyond to help others in need. We are so busy and caught up with our own lives, that we wouldn’t even know if somebody was in need, unless they shared it on their social media. When a family member falls ill, a mother has just given birth, when someone has injured themselves, when they have lost their job and have a family to support, or even simpler, if their car broke down, if their children fell sick, how do we as a community rally to support them?

Let’s bring this back to individual relationships, such as a husband and wife. Do we enter such a relationship with expectations as to what the other person can do for us? Give to us? Do we enter the relationship with visions for what it will look like for us, rather than ask ourselves what we will be bringing to the relationship… Do we ask ourselves how we will support our partners in their times of need, or just generally? Do we take the time to figure out their needs, their unique quirks of nature and do our best to aid them, to support them, to be patient with them, but even more than this, to intentionally set out to do our best to enrich their lives? To put aside our own ego when say, we’re arguing, and just let them have it out? Do we do our best to SEE the other person, to see what they are experiencing, to pick up on the fine detail of their emotions day to day, and how it wavers? Do we take the time to devise ways, gentle ways, soft-hearted, fun and caring ways to aid them? To uplift them?

Don’t try to constantly seek your rights, your wants, your needs from others.

Love is doing for the other person what THEY love.

This is Love…

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Brightness is not a dim place on the horizon…

I remember the first night that I was in the hospital by myself with my new baby. My family had left, my husband included, as hospital policy (in a public hospital) did not allow the husband to stay overnight. I was alone in a vacuous hospital, lights dimmed, with the constant beeping of machines, other patients around me, separated only by a thin curtain. It was cold too, as the hospital had its air-con blaring.

I was alone for the first time with my baby. I was exhausted after a long and difficult labour. I felt like I’d been hit two trucks, not one. I could barely lift my arms up, let alone roll out of bed and walk to the bathroom. I literally needed my husband and a nurse to assist me to walk the few metres out of my room and around the corner to go to the bathroom.

It was in this state that I was now left alone with a baby.

All night my uterus churned as it shrank. In my delirious, exhausted state, I was convinced that a baby was still inside of me. That the doctors had made a mistake. And yet, I’d look over at the bassinet next to me and see the sleeping baby.

She was mine, right?

Was it she who had resided inside me just hours earlier?

Then what was this movement inside of me now? It really felt like a baby. Maybe I’d actually had twins and the doctors forgot him/her inside me. Of course, the doctors had told me that my uterus would shrink and I’d feel the pain, but my irrational state wouldn’t fully accept this explanation.

I also felt a strange disconnection from the real, out-in-the-world baby next to me.

At the same time I was petrified that I would not be able to keep her alive.

My newborn actually slept for 5 hours straight that first night (alas this was not to last over the next few weeks) and when she finally woke up, and I rang the bell for the nurse for assistance, she reprimanded me for “allowing” the baby to sleep for “that long”. Didn’t I know that I was supposed to wake her up at least every 3 hours to feed her?

Um. No. I didn’t know that I was “supposed” to do that, because this was my FIRST BABY and I HAD NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE, oh and NOBODY HAD TOLD ME WHAT I WAS SUPPOSED TO DO WITH HER. (Two babies later, I know that this nurse was actually incorrect. If a baby is sleeping, they should just be allowed to sleep, and feeding should happen on demand rather than trying to stick to a strict schedule. So not only did she reprimand me and make me feel guilty, she was actually wrong.)

So now I felt like my baby was possibly going to suffer because I hadn’t woken her up for a feed.

Then it came time to actually feed her, and the nurse stripped J of all her clothes and literally shoved her onto me repeatedly, pushing me into J’s mouth. Yes. IT WAS PAINFUL and traumatic.

When I came home the next day, J would not sleep at night for more than 10-20 minutes. I was still in pain from the labour, and in pain trying to breastfeed (she probably wasn’t latched on properly, but breastfeeding for me was excruciating for the first few WEEKS).

On top of this, J was not gaining weight properly. She wasn’t “thriving”. She had some mild jaundice. She was constipated and not passing stools for weeks at a time. And well-meaning relatives around me were constantly looking in and commenting and asking “why isn’t she gaining weight, etc etc…”

I remember sitting on my bed and looking down at my new physical self, with tears streaming down my face. Yes I got a baby out of this body, but I no longer recognised a single part of myself. Everything about me was just so different. I still had the weight that I’d gained from pregnancy, stretch marks crawled their way across my stomach, my chest had swelled from the milk… None of my clothes fit me. And when I did get dressed, I did not look like myself at all. I mourned my pre-baby body. I scolded myself for not appreciating it and constantly complaining about how I had extra chub here or there. I would never look like that unscarred, unmarked by birth, self, ever again.

I remember again, sitting on my bed looking out the window and feel a heaviness descend on me. Tears were rolling down my face. My husband came and simply sat next to me, put his arms around me.

Sometimes whilst sitting in J’s nursery with her in my arms, trying to rock her to sleep, the same heaviness would descend upon me and the tears would once again snake their way down my face. And again, well-meaning relatives would tell me, “you can’t be sad! It will affect her. You’ll pass on your anxiety to her. So be happy!”

Of course, this only exacerbated the guilt I felt for not “being happy” and wondering why I even felt this way, and that omg now it was affecting my baby, wasn’t I just a horrible mother!!

The thing is, I felt that I couldn’t quite comprehend nor grasp the momentous transition that I’d just experienced. I couldn’t believe the pain that I’d been through to birth this child, I couldn’t comprehend the physical separation, and I couldn’t cope with the intensity of my feelings for her, which mainly manifested itself in anxiety and fear over her health. Every little thing that did not “go right”, such as her sleeping, her feeding, her constipation, her slow weight gain…everything… I couldn’t be rational about it. I felt that it reflected my failure as a mother, because I didn’t even know what me as a mother looked like and I was terrified of hurting her in some long-lasting way.

When I think back to those initial months, I can literally feel the stifling heaviness and anxiety that I experienced.

When I had Z, I thought it would be easier given that I “had experience”. But I was to learn keenly the lesson that “every baby is different”, and therefore you have to change and adapt to them. Although it was easier to fall into the newborn cycle with Z, she also was not a good sleeper, had colic, fed for hours, and did not want to be put down during the day.

So most of my days with her were spent on the couch feeding her, with J watching TV for hours (even though I tried to set up ‘play stations’ for her), and the time in between carrying Z in a baby carrier and trying to cook, or clean, or play with J whilst my back suffered from the constant carrying of a 4kg baby. Come around 7pm, Z, overtired from a day of not sleeping for more than 45 minutes at a time, would scream for around 2 hours and nothing, nothing that I did would calm her.

Again, I felt that familiar heaviness. That creeping, uncomfortable anxiety that I wasn’t doing things right. That sense of fear and insecurity about the health of my newborn, and this time, of the boredom of my eldest and frustration that TV was the only way we could get through those early days.

Anxiety was not unfamiliar ground for me. A few years before having J I had experienced anxiety disorder and panic attacks for quite some time.

Maybe this history of mine meant that I was predisposed to experiencing post-natal depression of some form after giving birth. I had feared that I should expect it whilst I was pregnant with J, given my history.

The midwives would ask me those standard questions, where we’d have to tick off on a checklist how we felt, and this would determine, supposedly, how ‘depressed’ or ‘sad’ we were. I remember a midwife who came to visit us at home after J was born told me that I had the “blues”. She left it at that. She didn’t really tell me how to deal with it.

Looking back, I would tell that fragile-as-a-baby new mother to be easy on herself. I would tell her, yes, you have been through an incredibly harrowing event that will mark the timeline of your life, that will unalterably and significantly change who you are as a person.

I would tell her that it’s ok to mourn for her pre-mother self. But that slowly, vestiges of that self would slowly creep back in, only this time she would be coloured and brightened by a new self, a new role, a new mission that will guide every decision that she makes henceforth.

I, I’d tell her that things will get easier. In those early weeks, it feels like the days simply drag on and that your baby will never grow, never sleep, never settle.

I’d tell her that “the days feel long, but the years are short” my dear. And if only I knew then how quickly the years pass, how quickly the fussy newborns morph into children of strength, curiosity and brightness… I would tell her to cherish the soft soft skin, the untainted smell of baby, the wondrously small toes and fingers…

And difficult as it might seem, I’d tell her to cherish this time when there is no other responsibility in the world but to care for this baby… even though some of the time this knowledge itself can exacerbate the anxiety. There will be years ahead to dedicate yourself to things outside your children… there is only a small window of precious time when it is just you and baby…

Giving birth, regardless of how it happens, and bringing that baby home is an incredibly difficult, strange and challenging time. Without proper support (I’ve written about what support should look like before) it can be almost impossible to cope with. The physical separation of mother from baby is itself a contributing factor I believe to the post-natal depression that women experience.

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So to all mothers, mothers-to-be, mothers who have experienced the crippling anxiety and the weight of heaviness descend upon them during a time that is supposed to be the ‘happiest time of their lives’, I want to reach out and hug you, and tell you, it’s alright. I promise it will get better. Remind yourself to have shukr (roughly, ‘gratitude’) for the beautiful being you have helped to bring into the world. Steel yourself with positivity. And when you feel that sadness, accept it, let it wash over you, but know that it will pass. It does not mean you are a bad mother… it just means that you are human, and that you have just been through a surreal, yet completely natural transition, and yes, you will experience an array of feelings.

And that’s ok.

It’s ok.

Brightness is not a dim place on the horizon, you carry it within you, you carry it in the love that you have for your child… and this will carry you both through…

*Images via Akira Kusaka. Featured image is “Dawn” and second image is “Stray”.

‘Modest Fashion’ is an oxymoron…

‘Modest Fashion’ has become a catch phrase that is used to refer to a broad spectrum of clothing, generally in the milieu that is considered to be ‘covered up’. It may or may not include a head covering.

In the past five years, with social media platforms accelerating as popular bases for self-promotion, ‘modest fashion’ has experienced a huge (and this is an understatement) growth. With the aid of ‘modest fashion bloggers’ and ‘modest fashion businesses’ that have cropped up, the industry is now worth over $300 billion dollars, and is set to grow. Mainstream fashion houses such as Mango, DKNY and even Dolce & Gabbana have tapped into the niche by producing collections specifically for the modest market.

Modest fashion bloggers have been a huge part of this growth in the industry. They have amassed (altogether) millions of followers across their social media, from Instagram, to Facebook to Youtube. More specifically, ‘hijab bloggers’ are increasingly sponsored by and affiliated with mainstream fashion houses, such as Ascia Farraj’s collaborations with Net-a-Porter and Dior, to name just a few. Recently, Covergirl included beauty blogger Nura Afia as part of their #LashEquality campaign- because every woman deserves to have “bold, sexy lashes” ok? Even women who aim to live modestly, which is the EXACT opposite of being ‘sexy’. Even H&M got in on the action by including a ‘hijab model’ in their campaign to promote their ‘Close the Loop’ recycling initiative.

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“Bold, sexy lashes for all”= EQUALITY FOR ALL WOMEN

All these examples point to greater representation of women who wear the headscarf (or hijab) in mainstream media. I remember 7 years ago or so when I first put on the headscarf and was browsing the internet for inspiration or even a ‘hijab tutorial’, the only bloggers active were Hana Tajima and Dina Torkia. There were practically no companies catering specifically for women who chose to dress modestly, let alone for the customer who wore hijab. I bought my clothes and scarves from Sportsgirl, Witchery and other mainstream stores, enthusiastically buying any maxi dress that I could get my hands on with cropped jackets on top, or wearing short tunic dresses as tops with loose pants underneath. There were no straight-legged, peg-legged looser pant options back then. It was only skinny jeans.

Given the momentous change in the industry now, I think it would definitely be easier for a girl to make the decision to wear the hijab, or just dress more modestly, given that there are so many examples of how it is done, a plethora of companies catering to the modest consumer to purchase from, and also a general sense of empowerment given the increasing representation of modest fashion and bloggers in the mainstream media.

I’m going to throw a spanner in the works here though and discuss a few problems with all this. Sure, all of this increasing representation is great, but I feel that it comes at a cost. A cost of our core values and principles.

You see, dressing modestly isn’t just one, isolated value. It is and should be, part and parcel of a much greater ethos of humility that is central to the religion Islam, and to other religions might I add.

And what we are seeing in the modest fashion blogger is in fact quite the opposite of ‘modesty’. And no, I’m not talking about how they dress because I’m not here to nitpick at what people choose to wear. I believe that people are fluid in how they choose to dress, and that it transforms over time.

What I am calling out though are the bloggers whose Instagram pages are an endless stream of pictures…of themselves. Whether you choose to admit it or not, the “selfie” is at its core, a narcissistic undertaking. And we now have ‘modest fashion bloggers’ whose social media pages are full of photos of themselves in various outfits, close-ups of their faces… and not much else.

And this is what the public want. Do some research on how to “increase your followers on Instagram” and the type of post that receives the most traffic is one with someone’s face. It has become incredibly easy for somebody to take photos of themselves in a #modestfashion #ootd and amass hundreds of thousands of followers within months. Especially if you are “pretty” and “slim”.

Yes. This standard of beauty also applies to the modest fashion blogger.

The problem with this is that it essentially promotes and supports a culture of the self, of promoting a shallow version of oneself based on what you look like.

So sure, modest/hijab bloggers are much more visible these days, but how different are they from the average fashion blogger? What sets them apart?

What is more dangerous here also is that being swept up in the current of fashion blogging for the sake of mainstream acceptance promotes a culture whose values run counter to many of our religious principles.

We are just as susceptible of seeking acceptance by a culture that thrives on the objectification of women by creating a consumer culture and standard of ideal beauty by manufacturing beauty products and clothing en masse and literally brainwashing ALL women into thinking that they NEED these things to be presentable to the world.

If you have a Muslim hijab blogger affiliating themselves with these major corporations, then is it not creating an association between all the values that we should strive to espouse, and the values of these corporations?

Furthermore, it’s not just the polar opposites of humility and narcissism that is married in modest fashion blogging, there are other weightier values put at risk and being compromised here. Values that we compromise that have a much greater impact on the world.

When H&M used a hijab model in their campaign, the Muslim community (women mainly of course) celebrated this as a step forward in the mainstream “accepting”us and applauded H&M’s boldness. But who took a step back and looked at the company itself? H&M is well known for its unethical manufacturing practices. They represent all that is wrong with the fast fashion industry. In fact, their factories were involved in the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. So whilst it may seem like a win for Muslim women to be ‘accepted’ and ‘represented’ by a company like H&M, the flip side to this is that we have just aligned ourselves with a company who epitomises values that run completely counter to our religion as a whole.

Islam has a strong social justice dimension. It heavily emphasises the importance of respecting human dignity, of treating workers fairly, but also of respecting the environment. It is evident that the cost of fast-fashion is not just on the workers who are forced to work in oppressive conditions, but also on the environment. This article for example outlines the climate costs of fast fashion amongst other issues such as worker’s rights.

When a Muslim modest fashion blogger affiliates themselves with companies such as H&M, Zara, and other major designers/brands, they are essentially promoting the company’s ethos and influencing their ‘followers’ to purchase from these companies. This is the point of ‘affiliations’. That a company would seek an ‘influencer’ (i.e. blogger) who they believe will market their products, but more so, the ‘lifestyle’ that they promote.

A cynical side of me also thinks (ahem, knows) that these companies are simply tapping into an avenue of profit. Do you think they really care for more representation of Muslim women?

What’s more is that when we think of ‘modest fashion’ what do we mean really? I can tell you that most of the clothes that I buy and own do not come from a ‘modest fashion brand’. The few clothes that I have bought from companies such as these have only disappointed me in their lack of consistent sizing and general low quality of their garments, for example in their use of synthetic fabrics such as polyester.

Essentially, it comes down to marketing. That when a company like Mango create a ‘Ramadan collection’ and it has items such as this…

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and then you go onto their site, check out their maxi dresses and find an item like this…

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the question has to arise… isn’t it just all marketing?  Isn’t it all JUST CLOTHING that we NEED to cover ourselves?

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“Modest Fashion” right? Or just clothing? Or just “fashion”? Image via Witchery (a mainstream company). 

I’m not here to be all cynical and whing-y. My intention in writing this is to call out some serious problems with the ‘modest fashion’ world that needs to be called out. We can’t be blind to these real issues, and we should be brave enough, courageous enough, creative enough and principled enough to challenge the ‘mainstream’, rather than do anything it takes, and compromise on values that form the essence of our beliefs, to simply be ‘accepted’, or ‘represented’.

And there are some brilliant examples of how people in the industry have done it right. Hana Tajima for example continues to assert her unique aesthetic and creative and artistic talents, and eventually teamed up with Uniqlo to create a collection specifically for Muslim women. It was available not just in the Malaysian Uniqlo stores, but also the US and Australia.

Ruh Collective is also changing the modest fashion marketplace, with its focus on ethical manufacture, transparency in their pricing and even (shock horror), moving beyond promoting the self and focusing on the garments themselves. Their campaign images do not show the faces of the models. They use their creative and artistic abilities to do something different. I’m not saying that I necessarily agree that a woman, in hijab, shouldn’t be photographed with their faces, but I applaud Ruh Collective’s efforts to appeal to a broader market by not portraying their models in hijab.

Also, it really shouldn’t be about ‘fashion’ at all for the one who chooses to dress modestly. The ethos of ‘fashion’ runs completely counter to what it means to dress modestly. Or live modestly. ‘Fashion’ is defined as “a popular or the latest style of clothing, hair, decoration, or behaviour.” The culture of fashion is linked to pop culture, by its very definition it requires acceptance by a mainstream, but also, it demands fast production methods of clothing so that one can keep up with ‘trends.’

Adorning oneself in the realm of ‘modesty’ is the polar opposite of this. It is quite literally about covering up your nakedness with good quality clothing that will last for years so that you don’t have to keep purchasing. Because constantly buying clothing is a sign of extravagance.

Dressing yourself modestly is about respecting and valuing the clothing that you possess, but not being attached to the item itself. The Prophet (pbuh) used to value his few clothes and even give them names. But when he (pbuh) saw someone in need, he easily gave the clothing to them.

Dressing well is also about ambassadorship… Because the reality is that how we choose to dress says a lot about who we are, and what we represent. Dressing beautifully is a good thing because we are naturally drawn to that which is beautiful. And we should strive to be beautiful ambassadors of our religion.

All of this runs counter to the aim and purpose of major clothing companies, who want you to follow trends and keep purchasing to keep up with ‘fashion’.

So, all in all, ‘modest fashion’ is actually an oxymoron. Two polar opposite words married into one phrase made popular simply for the sake of acceptance by the mainstream, or used by companies for profit.

Let’s be brave and do something different. Something that stays true to the source of why we prioritise modesty in the first place… Let’s go beyond ‘fashion’ and looking ‘trendy’ for the sake of acceptance by a culture that runs completely counter to our core values. Let’s take back what it means to dress ‘modestly’ in the context of our religion and be courageous enough to assert this.