Book Shelf: I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti

My sister and I read this book in tandem last weekend, with her intermittently sneaking it away to her room whenever she spotted it lying idle on the coffee table/my bed pillow/the couch and me hunting it down Sherlock Holmes style in an effort to finish what I'd started... and was enjoying. In this little literary love triangle, the book was Brad, I was Jen and my sister, Jess, was Angelina.

Given that our usual taste in printed matter, as with clothes and men, are poles apart, our mutual affection for Giulia Melucci's memoir came as a surprise, though we each derived a different pleasure from the reading. I knew Jess would take interest as soon as I mentioned the author was a Brooklyn foodie with a penchant for dating angst-ridden creative/intellectual types, as she has been dating a Brooklyn-based gourmand for the better part of a year. Meanwhile, I relished the opportunity to have a Sex and the City style encounter with an author more interested in spaghetti than shoes, whose candid humour, self-deprecation and voracious appetite for new music keep her work from falling into well-trodden Eat Pray Love naval-gazing territory.

For Melucci, food is an emotional issue: she feeds her men to please, appease and tease, and cooks herself scrumptious pasta dishes – rather than falling head-first into a block of Cadbury – when they inevitably break up with her (apparently, the way to a man's heart is not always through his stomach). Jess got a kick out of the "emotionally inspired gourmet snacks" littered throughout each chapter, such as the pointed 'f*#k you cupcakes' (“Do not over mix, as this will make for tough cupcakes and you’ve suffered enough,” she quips) and 'Morning after pumpkin bread'. I skipped over a lot of the recipes, as I felt they slightly disrupted the flow of the text, though came away with a hankering for a hearty pasta dish.

Jess also loved the opportunity to relive part of her NYC experience: "Although Melucci works in Manhattan and dines in fancy restaurants, such as Soho's Blue Ribbon, she moves across the bridge from her Lower East Side apartment to the outskirts of Manhattan, living in Park Slope and Brooklyn. She shops at Sahadis Fine Foods, haunts bars in Smith Street and embarks on a subway date with a man who dwells in Williamsburg."

Now 42, Melucci is decidedly circumspect about her seemingly perpetual singledom as she recounts each one of her often turbulent relationships for our voyeuristic pleasure (each chapter represents a new man and ends with a bitter-sweet break-up). There's the 'older' New Yorker cartoonist who travels via Vespa, the moody writer (think Carrie Bradshaw's Burger) with an alcohol problem, and the Scottish author who uses her to get his next novel published (successfully) amongst others. You get the sense that Melucci is on a mission to save these men, one meal at a time.

Despite her lack in the love-luck department, the accomplished book publicist tells the New York Times of her eagerness to please by way of the kitchen: “I thought it would make them love me. You really ultimately hope it’s going to get you that love we all want.” It might also have something to do with latent father issues: hers died three days before her high school graduation, he spent most of his down-time on the golf course and she says she was the "ignored youngest" of five children. Jess observes: "She makes herself quite vulnerable to rejection, but I think it's the loss and betrayal that gives her resilience and keeps her wanting more."

Author psychoanalysis aside, most women will identify with some part of Melucci's entertaining dating chronicles. Enjoy it with a glass of red wine and cheese on bread. Tandem reading with sibling optional.

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci, $34, Macmillan

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel & Sister

GWAS Girl In Media – Siobhan Sheehan

From freelance stylist to full-time fashion editor, Sydney girl Siobhan Sheehan has edited fashion from across the glossy spectrum, giving her an appreciation for price points and an eye for outfits that appeal to the girl-next-door with celebrity aspirations. Meet Who magazine's resident trend-setter...

GWAS: Where did you passion for fashion come from? I would have to say my Mum. She has always a had a good eye for lovely prints, fabrics and styles. Living in Italy for two years also gave me a passion for style and design. I was obsessed with looking at shops on Via della Spiga in Milan and going to art and fashion exhibitions.

How has your career evolved? I studied fashion design at school, pattern making and fashion illustration at Enmore college, did work experience at Marie Claire and Harper's Bazaar, and then worked as an assistant for a freelance stylist. I started putting a portfolio together, doing test shots, and then became a freelance stylist, and did so for about eight years. Just over a year ago, I was asked to be fashion editor at Who. I thought it would be interesting to work in a dynamic weekly environment.

Who have you styled for? InStyle, The Sun-Herald, Girlfriend, advertising campaigns... In terms of celebrities, Jodi Gordan, Lara Bingle, Tahyna Tozzi and Jessica Mauboy.

How does freelancing compare with a full-time fashion gig? Freelancing, you may work on your own day and night to get two jobs done, then you may have two to four weeks off! It's nice to work within a team and not wonder when your next pay cheque is coming in!

What does an average week in your job involve? Planning what trends are going into the next issues by looking at fashion websites and magazines; attending fashion events day and night; making appointments with PRs to select fashion samples to borrow for shoots; answering approximately 150 emails a day; choosing celebrity pics to feature on my pages; and styling on shoots.

Where do you get inspiration for styling? Magazines and movies. I especially love the old Hollywood glamour movies. When I travel, I love seeing what people wear in other countries, too: Thailand, Vietnam, and, of course, New York and London.

Do you have to be a writer and a stylist to be a fashion editor? No, but it does help!

The biggest misconception about working as a fashion editor? We get everything that gets sent into us for free!

What does it take to make it in the fashion magazine business? A passion for fashion, determination, organisation and patience. A degree in fashion design, and/or journalism or media would also help.

Your advice for aspiring fashion editor/stylists? I suggest you try and get an internship with a magazine. Most magazines take on interns. Or, you could try being an assistant to a freelance stylist. It will give you an insight into what we do, so you can see if it's something you really want to pursue.

Who captures your attention on the celebrity style front? Alexa Chung, Kate Moss and Rachel Bilson.

Your top five fashion must-haves for autumn/winter?
1. A coat – there are some great Militant and Trench styles out in stores and online.
2. A jumper – a simple turtle neck jumper is always a great basic.
3. A boot – there are so many cool boots around, from shoe boots to knee-length boots. Ones with a detail, like fringing, studs and buckles, are a hot trend this winter.
4. A scarf – one of my favourite accessories for winter. There are an array of colours and patterns out now. They're a great way to layer up!
5. Jeans – safe, I know, but you can always dress up or down in a pair of jeans. Throw on a flat boot to shop around in, or slip on a pump heel for an evening out.

Your current favourite outfit... I have favourite items, as apposed to outfits. My favourite item at the moment is a my Doma lavender leather jacket. Love!

If you could edit your own magazine, what would it feature? It would have a mix of news articles, as well as features on a designer, model, someone not necessarily fashion or design related. A four to six page fashion spread featuring a hot trend with the model wearing both affordable and high-end labels, fashion news (new labels, ranges, shops, who wore what that looked great or outrageous), and some beauty.

Who is published each Friday, with the eight-page 'Star Style' fashion section edited by Siobhan. It retails for $4.70.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Pop: Rein priming for mag cover?

The likelihood of Therese Rein winding up on an Aussie glossy magazine cover are about as likely as Susan Boyle landing the cover of British Vogue. But even the accomplished wife of our PM isn't immune to the body image pressures associated with being in the public eye.

What with the likes of Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy – who are both successful in their own right, slim, beautiful and impeccably groomed – setting the standard for First Ladies on the international political stage, and the press analysing your every outfit choice, Rein would have reason to feel the weight of great expectation.

But what does it say about society when we start celebrating the weight loss triumphs of prominent women above their other achievements? When we're keener to know the secrets to their dietary success than their business feats?

The Herald Sun writes: "Therese Rein yesterday shed her beloved oversized jackets to reveal the stunning effects of a recent diet. The noticeably trimmer Ms Rein emerged from St John's Church in Canberra in tight-fitting dark pants, boots and a close-fitting black jacket. While the Herald Sun can confirm Ms Rein has shed many kilos she has refused to divulge the secret of her dietary success."

Back in April, The Daily Telegraph wrote of Rein: "Faced with the daunting task of having to stand next to the "supermodel" of the pack, US First Lady Michelle Obama, at the G20 Summit, Rein went on a weight-loss campaign in recent months and dropped a rumoured 15kg since visiting London a year ago. While the media has been obsessed with her wardrobe, Rein has looked confident in more fitted and flattering outfits in recent days and looks to have finally tamed those unruly curls."

Finally! I mean, how embarrassing to represent your country with unruly curls wearing unflattering outfits. You may have an honours degree in Psychology, oversee a charity devoted to helping small business, the long-term unemployed and disabled, and run a multi-billion dollar business, but, really, it's all about how you look. By the same token, you might be the world's talk-show queen or a brilliant comedian, but we are not prepared to celebrate you until you shed a few surplus kilos. What a truly excellent and inspiring message to be sending young women.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

GWAS Notes: Blogger guilt

Dear GWAS readers (aka Satchelings),

Despite appearances, covering the glossy beat is no easy feat (it's not all lounging around sipping lattes while flipping pages, you know). Nor is maintaining a blog from the isolated confines of one's home, with only a MacBook, "glamorous girlfriends" like Vogue and anonymous comments for company, a recipe for sound mental health.

In fact, coupled with a genetic predisposition for anxiety and perfectionism, this working environment can be downright toxic. As I've come to realise, we humans are social beings who need genuine, quality interaction to survive. Loving, supporting, encouraging, sharing and empathising with each other – as well as having a laugh, 'giving back' and working towards a greater purpose than funding the next shopping expedition – is essential if we want to live full, happy lives.

It's these values that I want to espouse through GWAS. But it seems I've fallen short (once again!). One of the girls who features in Dolly's June edition has taken issue with my admittedly flippant reference to the 'Big Skinny Lies' story which I referred to (offhandedly) in my analysis of the magazine's new body image campaign, Heart Your Body.

In response to my remark that the story – which features the first-person accounts of three eating disorder survivors – is not helpful, as it may be misconstrued as instruction by easily influenced young readers, Celeste says:

"I volunteered to tell my story because possibly the hardest thing for me going through suffering an eating disorder was feeling alone. How dare you suggest that people putting themselves out there for the greater good, in the hope of helping some other girl out there feeling just as terrible as they did, might be teaching some one that behaviour... the idea behind the article was to tell girls that its not the answer, that it’s a compulsion, not a choice, and its hard to beat, but there is a way..."

As I recently told one prominent magazine editor, like most other bloggers, I'm prone to premature posting. In a rush to get things written and up online to feed the near insatiable blog appetite, it's rare that I have the chance to reflect: to sit back and think, "How will this be received? Am I going to hurt anyone's feelings? Am I saying this to be controversial or because I believe it's true? And am I being hypocritical?". Sometimes, I even forget about the GWAS core values. And I offend people like Celeste, to whom I apologise.

It seems I can be just as contradictory as the magazines themselves, though it's something I strive not to be: hypocrisy is so diminishing. Without a co-editor or sub-editor overseeing my work, a colleague to run things by or significant lead times to make alterations, I often act in haste, relying on you, dear Satchelings, to illuminate discrepancies (which some people delight in more than others!).

The GWAS mission is to "Find the good in gloss". I do endeavour to give as much time to the positive aspects of the magazines I review as their perceived shortcomings, as well as encouraging excellent magazine journalism and giving props to magazines who are contributing something positive to the (often superficial, demeaning and downright depressing) glossy spectrum. Objectivity is not really the domain of the blog, but I do, at least, aim for fairness.

'Real life' stories have become a staple in women's magazines and are often a rewarding and enlightening read. Celeste, and the other two girls featured in the Dolly story, are brave for sharing their stories. Sharing is caring – I, for one, take solace in the knowledge that I'm not the only woman on earth who suffers the perils of isolation and loneliness, and who has battled with a soul-destroying eating disorder (I'm "in recovery", as they say).

I want GWAS to be the blog antithesis of the likes of Perez Hilton. I'm not interested in highlighting the flaws of celebrities, in salacious gossip or making people feel bad about themselves. Unfortunately, as Mia Freedman wrote in her most recent Sunday column titled 'How the internet is a bully's best friend', and Shelley Gare wrote for The Weekend Australian Magazine earlier this year ("Bullying: secret women's business"), in all its many splendid varieties, bullying and negativity is getting us down. But I see part of the GWAS mission as turning this around, at least in one small section of the web (gawd, more accountability!).

Over the weekend, I read journalist Margo Kingston's* account of her experience with Webdiary, the online forum for democratic political discussion she founded, which ultimately (and sadly) led to "major league self-destructive behaviour", a professional/personal life significantly out of balance, and her eventual, albeit reluctant, retirement from the mentally exhausting role of editing and moderating the site.

We bloggers tend to pour our hearts and souls (in addition to great big chunks of our personal finances and time) into these online pages because we are passionate about them and believe that, in some small way, they might affect change, stimulate discussion or provide some light entertainment on an otherwise bland workday.

I've often contemplated shutting up GWAS for good – particularly for the sake of my marriage and personal health – but, as my dad (aka 'Bloke with a Bag') said in his speech at my 21st birthday party, I'm a determined girl (with a satchel) and a fighter. And, obviously, a glutton for (glossy) punishment!

The blog had almost got me beat, but as I progress in an often painstaking recovery, with a renewed commitment to my faith, a more positive outlook on life and the support of my husband, family and friends, I hope GWAS becomes an even more rewarding and positive experience. Stories like Celeste's are a reminder that magazines can give a girl hope – and without that, what have we got?

Thanks for your continued support.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

*Kingston will join me, along with Tim Blair, Antony Loewenstein and Rachel Hills, at a Sydney Writer's Festival panel discussion on blogging and journalism at the MCA this coming Sunday.

Mags: Anna Wintour for 60 Minutes

Watch CBS Videos Online

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: Readership and circulation results (March 2009)

March quarter weekly mag sales numbers are out, in addition to glossy readership results, with publishers and industry body MPA quick to put a positive spin on the data: "A little scary, but mostly upbeat!", to quote How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days, is the general industry sentiment.

Unsurprisingly, sales of weekly gossip magazines are down across the board year-on-year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, with Pacific Magazines' Famous the only glossip to post a circulation increase, with a rise of 7,000 copies to an average of 77,062 sales each week. While a reduced cover price (Famous dropped its asking price from $4.50 to $3.50 in October 2008) is likely to have contributed to the gain, Pacific CEO Nick Chan tells The Australian: "That would be far too simplistic. That's one factor (out of) many."

Pacific says it has reported its highest ever share of the women’s weekly category with its portfolio of Famous, New Idea, That’s Life! and Who combining to deliver a 48.4% share of all women’s weeklies sold. Meanwhile, the MPA (chaired by Chan) reports that ABC net paid sales for the 16 weekly audited magazines are up 0.1% period-on-period to 2.47 million copies (total year-on-year sales fell 5.1% despite Grazia entering the fold).

Meanwhile, ACP spin doctors say the publishing house's strong leadership position continues with an "outstanding circulation audit of its weekly titles for the period January – March 2009 and 59% of weekly consumer magazines sold in Australia an ACP Magazines title". ACP group publishing and sales director (women’ s lifestyle) Lynette Phillips says, “It’s really encouraging, particularly when you consider not only the immense competition in the category but also the pressures of the current economic climate.”

The biggest sales losses at the checkout and newsstand were experienced by NW (down 15.2% to 146,320 weekly sales), OK! (down 15.1% to 120,672), Woman's Day (down 13.6% to 406,005) and New Idea (down 13.4% to 330,116). Proving more resilient were TV Week (down 6.5% to 230,020), Who (down 4.9% to 138,512), That's Life (down 1.9% to 309,076) and Take 5 (down 1.5% to 255,261). Year-on-year sales data isn't yet available for Grazia, which has reported average weekly sales of 65,178.

On the readership front, total consumer mag numbers are down 3.4% year-on-year, a "relatively solid" performance, according to MPA/Pacific's Chan, who told AdNews: "If you look at these current results against the performance of magazines over a 10-year period, then magazines are still delivering gross readerships better than the levels seen eight to nine years ago."

In the weekly market, readership losses were experienced across the spectrum, with NW down 26.5% to 402,000 readers, Famous down 17.1% despite its circulation increase, Woman's Day shedding 10% to register 2.2 million readers, Who down 8.5% to 712,000, New Idea down 7.9% to 1.8 million and OK! (down 2.2% to 399,000).

Monthly glossies tell a similar tale, though News Magazines' Vogue Australia and Pacific's Women's Health both posted readership gains, rising 1.1% to 351,000 and an impressive 13.5% to 364,000 readers respectively.

Harper's Bazaar is down 27.1% to 188,000 readers; Cleo lost 15.7% of readers (falling from 517,000 to 435,000); Cosmopolitan lost 14.6% (694,000 to 593,000 – its lowest readership result since 1980, reports The Australian) and The Australian Women's Weekly lost 12.4%, to register 2.217 million readers.

Madison lost 11.1% (252,000 to 224,000); InStyle lost 6% (249,000 to 234,000); Shop Til You Drop shed 4% (200,000 to 192,000); and Marie Claire lost a nominal 1.6% (503,000 to 495,000 monthly readers), proving its stalwart publishing position and giving advertisers a reason to stay on board. News Mags noted the worst effected publisher was ACP with its readership falling by 6.5% year-on-year.

On the teen publishing scene, ACP's Dolly (down 9.5% to 335,000) lost the most readers, but retained its Teen Queen title, while Girlfriend (down 0.3% to 318,000) posted a small decline, further narrowing the gap between the two titles.

"It looks really bad based on year-on-year numbers," Chan, who is pressing ahead with the launch of Prevention later this year, tells The Australian. "It isn't our proudest moment. But in what has been a really volatile, nervous, fragile market, it's still pretty solid. And from the circulation side, there's a little bit of steadying there."

See... a little scary, but, you know, upbeat! Is this the glossy equivalent to denying you use Botox?

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Cover Talk: Mags without makeup

Following on from Dolly editor Gemma Crisp's foray into Photoshop-free territory (and French ELLE's "sans fards" issue), weekly magazine Who has published its annual 'Stars Without Makeup' issue, fronted by makeup-free pop star Natalie Bassingthwaighte...

At the height of her career, Bassingthwaighte, 33, is definitely deserving of a GWAS Bravery Award, though the positive PR might just be enough reward in itself. Natalie's Who images are quite the departure from her glossy, near-perfect So You Think You Can Dance persona. Natural Natalie is the kind of girl you can hang out with and not feel crap about yourself. She tells Who: "I feel my most beautiful when I'm in my jammies, no makeup, curled up on my boyfriend's lap, without a care in the world." Endearing, no? I'm off to buy her album.

Bassingthwaighte adds: "I know how to get the most out of makeup: you have to know your face and not be afraid to try new things." This sentiment is in perfect alignment with the glossy mag take on the makeup-free movement. Essentially, it's all good and well to show our real faces, but we still love makeup (and our beauty advertisers!).

On the last page of Who's 'Stars Without Makeup' portfolio, opposite an ad for Clearasil (tagline: "Dare to be spotted bare"), there's a break-out box featuring the 12 makeup-free stars in full makeup accompanied by the text: "Natural is nice but sometimes a girl has to shine for the cameras". Jump past the ads for Revlon and Rimmel to the beauty section and you'll be shown how to put on false lashes a la Leighton Meester!

To be fair, the glossy take is really in line with most women's relationship with cosmetics. I love to go make-up free whenever possible (and am encouraged by seeing celebrities are, too), but also love to indulge my girlie side by glamming up with a little eye shadow, foundation and blush. As such, I am utterly obsessed with Revlon's new ads featuring Beau Garrett sporting an inky shade of matte blue shadow...

You can even watch how Gucci Westman created the look via video at (Revlon is a major sponsor of theirs). But back to Who...

Props must be given for featuring an Australian celebrity on the cover (last year it was Kate Hudson) and special mention to All Saints' Tammy MacIntosh, 39, and Home and Away's Esther Anderson, 29, for going bare-faced...

We are told by editor Nicky Briger that the 12 stars featured in the portfolio have applied nothing but moisturiser and lip-balm "after an on-set facialist cleansed and primped their skin". No mention of whether the shots have been touched up with the Photoshop wand, though I'd presume as much. Vanessa Hudgens, Ruby Rose, Amanda Bynes, Tahyna Tozzi and Taylor Swift may be makeup-free but their images are glossy-standard. Claire Danes and Eva Mendes have their pores and slight under-eye darkness on show but are so naturally beautiful that they needn't wear any makeup, ever (Mendes is one of those girls who looks better without, anyway)...

And, like Dolly with its 16-year-old models, Who features two youngsters (Home and Away's Rebecca Breeds, 21, and Tessa James, 18) for whom going makeup-free isn't really an ego ordeal...

Now, I'm off to buy a new foundation as recommended by the Primped girls (apparently ELES Sheer Mineral Tint, La Prairie anti-aging foundation, Revlon Age Defying Spa Foundation and Maybelline's mineral powder are the way to go)!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: UK ELLE "30, flirty & thriving"

Call me generationally narcissistic, but the mere mention of anything Gen-Y specific is enough to capture my (apparently short) attention (span). So it was with great pleasure that I delved into the May issue of UK ELLE, fronted by 80s pop culture princess Kylie Minogue, which features the results of the magazine's "ELLE Turning 30" survey.

You see, the first of the Gen-Ys are now turning 30 (as of last year, really), a fact which seems to have passed most other media by (Frankie, which perpetually feeds Gen-Y nostalgia, may be the exception). Perhaps this is because most of the current media makers are Gen-Xers too busy with their own prolonged existential crises/financial crises/babies to notice, or Baby Boomers sidetracked by the status of their dwindling super accounts. Or maybe the media, nursing a Paris Hilton hangover, just doesn't want to indulge our collective attention deficit disorder?

Well, I say, Happy Birthday To Us! And thank you, ELLE, for so graciously indulging us. Given many of us still live at home and have cash to burn at Topshop, you are very wise, Lorraine Candy. Representing Team Y this issue are New York-based writer Sloane Crosley (I swear, I had a premonition about her contributing a piece), singer Duffy and the return of lipgloss (we were the first kids to trade Lipsmackers and Juicy Tubes, no?). Model Petra Nemcova ('My Stylish Life'), Scarlett Johansson (see '10 Rules of Beauty') and Alexander Wang ('Fashion Playlist') make token appearances. Oh, and then there's Agyness Deyn for Jean Paul Gaultier and Christina Aguilera for Stephen Webster, too. It's a small, tokenistic party.

Then there's the results to the survey answered by 2,000 readers, which reveals we are the 'me generation' (no revelation there) that values relationships and personal and emotional fulfillment ahead of our careers. The survey stands to assuage readers already in their 30s as much as encouraging those fast approaching the big 3-0 to look at this milestone with optimism. According to ELLE:
  • 80% of us believe 30 is the perfect age to get married or engaged, with 43% citing 30 as the best time to have a baby;
  • over 70% of readers believe 30 to be the age when you put your relationship ahead of your career;
  • turning 30 means more confidence for 60%, more security for 46% and more overall happiness for 37%;
  • 32 is the age at which four out of 10 women feel most attractive.
Essentially, turning 30 is something to be hotly anticipated, like the next range from Kate Moss for Topshop. But, more than statistics, it's our Gen-X predecessors we can learn from and, as such, this issue of ELLE is still dominated by Gen-X: from Kylie and her Botox confession, to a series of personal memoirs and Stacey Duguid's 'Mademoiselle: Confessions of an ELLE girl" column (coincidentally, this month Duguid laments "the last birthday I will ever celebrate"). Gratuitous nod to Gen-Y aside, ELLE is still, like 40-year-old covergirl Kylie, "30, flirty & thriving" (at least in her mind!). I'm calling it the Sex and the City complex.


The good bits:
  • Kylie "Locomotion" Minogue confesses to using Botox and opens up about how cancer affected her body confidence (the chemo meant she put on weight: "I still have to deal with it. I've got fat ankles hidden beneath these boots. But I think my body in many ways is better now for having weight on it."). The self-confessed workaholic talks about her perfumes for Coty and bed linen range, defends her sister against media criticism ("I'm just so proud of my sister and it annoys the hell out of me when comparisons between us are made in an unfavourable way to her.") and muses on her role models: "Dolly Parton and Bette Middler – those lovely ladies are still doing it and doing it their way." What about Madonna? "She takes... insane care of herself... I'm not a gym bunny."
  • I enjoy Ellen Burney's 'Style For Less' column (high street pieces with designer references), though it's a true sign of the times when even your vicarious shopping pursuits are done on the cheap!
  • Closet Confidential introduces us to former model and Zadig & Voltaire creative director Cecilia Bonstrom, whose style is "masculine-feminine" and says, "The older you get, the simpler you dress, the better you look and the younger you stay."
  • Louise Roe tests out the jumpsuit in Fashion Tried & Tested: when one is pursuing a trend, it helps to have the body of a model as Roe does. As such, this is less of a service piece and more of an advertorial for Asos, Jean-Pierre Braganza and Sea NY.
  • Menswear is "The High Street's Best-Kept Secret" with men's pants, jackets and tees all essentials for spring's androgyny.
  • Lucie Whitehouse, now 32, writes of the wakeup call she received as her 30th birthday passed and she found herself in hospital. She recalls what she'd hoped to achieve by the time she passed the 30 mark and how she'd fallen short despite her career success. Her story ends on a positive note: "I was always queen of the quick fix, wanting everything done yesterday, but I learned it takes time to make a real, sustainable difference."
  • Sloane Crosley writes 'Turning 30: Only Adults Allowed' and challenges the idea that with your 30th birthday comes the responsibility of being a bona fide grown-up: "In the end, 30, like anything else, is what you make of it. For better or for worse, we create our own milestones to reach and our own corsets to lace... Perhaps being an adult is as simple as not letting the rest of the world say when."
  • Take a trip down Pop Culture Lane with 'Ethan Hawke: The Grown Up'. A keen social observer, he says: "I'm fascinated by the fact that it's the wealthy who commit suicide. The more options you have in life, the more existentially lost you become" (how very Reality Bites). It's the catch-cry of Gen-X. He also says, "You have to be careful how to define success; that's very important if you're to keep your mental health."
  • Jude Rogers writes of losing her father as a child and her subsequent quest to get to know him through conversation, a recorded tape, Google entries and photographs. A poignant piece - I called my dad. In a similar vein, 'Mum, Make-Up & Me' is Suzanne Scott's sweet tribute to the woman who encouraged her foray into fuchsia lipsticks and red hair dye but discouraged overzealous brow-plucking and sun exposure. Scott lost her mum aged 15 and still recalls the smell of her O de Lancome scent. This story will give you the warm and fuzzies.
Blink and skip it:
  • I had to check to see that I hadn't stumbled into the pages of U.S. Vogue when I came across Bliss Broyard's piece, 'Friends with money'. Though I don't think even Anna Wintour, who has been accused of being out of touch with the 'real world', would have commissioned this piece right now. The Brooklyn-based author writes of the social angst she's experienced as "the token impoverished bohemian among my Manolo Blahnik-heeled friends." Broyard's parents were of the asset rich/cash poor variety, and she spends her own money unwisely. She rationalises freeloading off her wealthy friends because "a part of them admires my choice to pursue my artistic ambitions... And I allow them one of the pleasures of having money – spontaneous generosity without guilt or expectation." Broyard's idea of keeping her friendship "accounts" balanced is to provide the odd meal ("I haven't, however, planned on footing the bill for all the groceries"). When she does need cash to pay her bills, she'll "turn to friends with modest savings accounts... so there's no risk I'll 'forget' to repay them with the rationale that they don't really need the money." Is this woman for real? By the article's end (and it only gets more self-indulgent), I am so infuriated by the author's lack of grip on reality that I want to throw the magazine against a wall. How about spending one of your "summers off" living amongst some truly impoverished people to gain some perspective on your relative wealth?
  • 'Diet: Approach With Caution', the headline for Avril Mair's latest 'Beauty Extremist' feature, says it all. Following the food plan recommended by Dr Jeffrey Fine (the fashion "insider's secret" passport to thin), Mair subsists on protein, citrus fruit, weekly vitamin injections, mineral supplements and the "empty, complaining growl" of her stomach. Fun! Mair is not content to be an "average" size 10 (UK), thus she enlists Fine's approach to shed those pesky surplus kilos ("I just want to fit into my RM by Rouland Mouret pencil skirt. This is all about vanity. Not health."). This is not a "fad diet", you see, but a "properly prescribed, medically approved regime" akin to Atkins, but with fruit. After losing a stone, and inhaling a jumbo pack of dry-roasted peanuts, Mair resolves to stick with the eating plan: "it is the extremes that make it successful...It's all or nothing." Yet it's this sort of thinking that sees girls step on the Kirtsy Alley yo-yo diet train.
  • Eva Mendes, 35, who is not a fan of the gym, consumes an entire pizza on the completion of a project and has been smoking for five years is the month's 'Health' page subject. An unusual choice.
Pretty pages:
  • ELLE encourages us to invest in "heirloom pieces" (i.e. designer advertiser pieces) that will last a lifetime, like the Balmain miliary coat and Lanvin's one-shouldered dress;
  • Milla Jovovich and Lily Donaldson appear in the street fashion lineup;
  • 'Show me your wardrobe' gives us six impossibly chic women in some of their everyday ensembles;
  • Loving the 149.99 leather jacket in the Matthew Williamson for H&M ads;
  • 'Living Doll' is all "diaphanous" designer pieces;
  • 'Ray of Light' gives us sequins, beads, crystal and gold on a sanddune backdrop;
  • Suede and leather are the focus for 'Style Is Skin Deep', which features some very cute short/shirt, skirt/blouse, pant/jacket ensembles;
  • Yellow, white and rose gold jewellery are in focus for the Jason Ell-shot 'Pieces of Me';
  • '25 Expert Tips and Tricks' draws on makeup artists, hair stylists and facialists who give us the 411 on new techniques and trends for looking pretty (though using the waistband from an old pair of tights to pull back your fringe/hair is the oldest trick in the high-school girl's book).
Glossy posse: Kylie Minogue, Leigh Lezark, Lily Donaldsonm Jourdan Dunn, Karl Lagerfeld, Petra Nemcova, Chloe Sevigny, Ayelet Zurer, Duffy...
Glossy stats: May 2009; 276 pages
Blosses: Lorraine Candy; Hachette
Glossy ads: De Beers, Tom Ford, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Chanel, Gucci, Burberry, Dior, Clinique, Roberto Cavalli, Prada Eyewear, Emporio Armani...
Glossy rating: 2/3: not good for the self esteem but worth a flick.

Yours truly,
Gen-Y Girl With a Satchel

Girl Talk: Lose a job, bake a business

A story I penned for a women's mag earlier this year about how ambitious Gen-Y women can avoid the dreaded 'Thrisis' started thus:

At just 22, Sarah’s checklist of achievements and ambitions are enough to give Ivanka Trump a run for her Christian Louboutin pumps. A university graduate, she works full-time in advertising, is preparing her PhD, co-edits online magazine Tresspass ( and, in her spare time, is planning to launch a blog and pen a book.

“I am a firm believer in the fact that people should be encouraged to achieve their dreams, because I am always doing everything I can to achieve mine,” says Sarah. “This is my time to shine. I am never going to be as young or as energetic or as driven as I am now.”

Given Sarah was recently made redundant (she's the third young media worker I know personally to be laid off), she now has a little time up her sleeve to consider her ambitions. According to The Wall Street Journal, those Gen-Yers still employed are becoming "good workplace citizens" (prompt, dressing appropriately, following up obligations and building rapport with managers and customers...) and using social networking to build contacts, while those who find themselves out of work – their I-can-do-anything dreams dashed but not forgotten – are taking time out to reinvent themselves.

Social demographer Bernard Salt recently told me: "For Gen-Y [the recession] will be confronting, but they can recover. They don’t have commitments to marriage or mortgage or children. They’ve got 35 years before they retire. They will learn a lesson from this downturn and they’ll be the stronger for it. They’ll be an absolutely formidable force once they’ve had this. They’ve never faced tough times. Now is the chance to show off their metal."

This month's Cosmopolitan features a story, "From Career to Concession Card", which profiles three women who have changed career tract. Hopefully stories like those, as well as the below tips from How To Bake a Business author Julia Bickerstaff, will help show Gen-Ys like Sarah – without the privileges of the likes of Trump – get back on track...

Julia Bickerstaff is a former consulting partner at Deloitte, where she lead a team that helped small companies grow and sat on the company's Innovations Executive and Inspiring Women council. She recently started up her own company, The Business Bakery, to help "kitchen-table tycoons" grow successful enterprises. She's also written a very excellent book full of tasty business/baking analogies and case studies. Here she talks about the recession, shopping, e-commerce and getting a business started.

GWAS: You're the victim of credit-crunch redundancy. Eek! What's a girl to do (apart from taking her severance to the shops)? Here’s a suggestion. If you have time on your hands, money in your pocket and a business in your heart, why not start it now? I am neither oblivious to the fact that we are in a recession, nor am I mad. I know that it feels counterintuitive to start a business when the headlines are stories of businesses closing. But, you know, there is never a “right” time to start a business. If you start your business right now, you will be beautifully poised to take advantage of the upturn in the economy. And when if does happen (it will, I promise) you will steal a march on your competitors. If starting a business is not for you how about using your time and your cash to learn a new skill? Maybe it’s time for a trip back to college to do the course you always wanted to do. Or you could backpack around Asia and come back when the recession is over!

What are the benefits (if any) for Gen-Yers of experiencing their first bona fide recession while in the workforce? I was in London during the 90s recession and, taking my economics background very seriously, took it upon myself to boost the economy by spending my way through it. So I do think that one of the great unsung benefits of living through a recession is that it gives you a noble excuse to spend!

More seriously, though, a recession can help you re-evaluate you career. I have a friend who lost her job in the last recession and she says it was the best thing that ever happened to her. She was an accountant, poor love, and had only gone into it to please her parents. When she was made redundant she decided to try her hand at being a writer, a move that netted her a book deal and, coincidentally, a husband. Of course, you don’t actually have to lose your job to work out whether you are in the right career. I can remember being slightly envious of my friend who lost her job, a sure sign that I wasn’t in the right one either.

How do we go about baking a business? If you are going to bake your own business, then best place to start is by creating a recipe for it. Following much the same format as, say, a chocolate cake recipe, this is the five steps to do it:

Ingredients: make sure you have, to hand, an idea, a purpose (all businesses need a reason for being) and a passion (yep, you need to feel as obsessed about your business as you would a hot new man).

Picture: dream about what you want your business to look like in 5 years time; be outrageous and have fun with this.

How-to-it-steps: think through how you are actually going to make, distribute and sell your stuff; a little tedious but important.

Equipment: work out what you need to buy to do the ‘how-to-do-it’ steps; on the cheap - think k-mart rather than ksubi
Number of serves: calculate how you are going to make money, and how much stuff you need to sell; you don’t want to be impoverished forever.

What kind of opportunities does/has the online world afforded young women in business? It’s made starting a business so very much easier. There are many reasons why, here are three:

1: You can set up a business with very little cash. An online business is cheap to set up; you can buy a domain name and build you own website for next to nothing and not need a jot of technical ability either.

2: You can reach a big enough audience to make your business profitable. Your best bet when setting up a small business is to make it a niche business - something that you can be a bit of an expert in. In a traditional world it’s hard to find enough local customers to support a niche business, but on line, with the global market at your feet, it’s very do-able

3: You can run a small on-line business at that same time as having a job. This is a lifesaver as it gives you the chance to dip your toe in the choppy entrepreneurial waters before submerging yourself.

Do you see women outnumbering the number of male small business owners any time soon? Yes, yes and yes. The number of women running small businesses – I call them kitchen table tycoons – has exploded in the last 40 years. Back in the days of sheepskin coats and flares only 4% of small businesses were run by women, today it’s nearly 50%.

It’s not that back in the dark ages women didn’t want to run their own businesses, but rather that it wasn’t the ‘done thing’. Unfortunately, the brave souls who did manage to escape the clutches of domesticity found running a small business in the pre-internet world expensive and exhausting.

Today starting a business can be done relatively cheaply and because we women have great expectations about how we want to lead our lives, it has become an attractive option. Having a small business can enable Gen Y women to do their ‘own thing’, Gen X women to so find some middle ground between a fulfilling work life and a hectic home life and Baby Boomer women to finally, after devoting their lives to raising husbands and children, get the thrill of doing something challenging and exciting for themselves. So, yes, with all that in mind, I can’t help but believe that we will soon be seeing more women small business owners than men

Your top tips for women small business owners...

1. Keep a handle on your figure; profit figure that is, not whether you can squeeze into a size 8.

2. Read books and blogs to learn about small business; okay, so it’s not quite as stylish as Vogue but it’s much easier to fix a fashion mistake than a business mistake.

3. Find a friend; running a business can be a bit lonely so go for coffee with another small business owner, often.

Best online links for small business owners... Two Australian ones that I like are: - great for small business news and articles, sign up for the daily newsletter so you can get tips direct to your mailbox.; and - packed with videos that you can watch if you don’t feel like reading. Internationally, I love Seth Godin’s blog It’s not just for small business but it’s great content, he inspires and entertains me every day. And last, but by no means least, Okay, so it’s my website, but it is designed especially with you in mind, the sassy women running her own small businesses.

Which is your favourite small business success story and can you tell us about it? My favourite stories are the ones where women set up businesses out of frustration, because no-one else sold what they wanted. In How to Bake a Business, I tell the story about Paula Neeme who started Sarah Jane shoes because she couldn’t find any decent, fashionable, well-made shoes for her large feet Fed up with having to wear sensible motherly shoes, Paula imported leather shoes from Italy and, how tiresome, had to go on buying trips there too. Her shoe collection is enough to make anyone want to be a size xxxxs.

How To Bake a Business is published by Arena, an imprint of Allen & Unwin, and retails for $24.95. Buy it here!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel