Dance like no one’s watching: a No Lights No Lycra review

July 4 2017

It’s no secret that like Carrie Bradshaw, I’m a shopping-is-my-cardio kinda gal. However I suspect quite unlike Carrie, I’m also in the carbs-are-lyfe camp and that’s the sorta thing that has a way of catching up with a person. So tonight I journeyed way outside of my regular cardio comfort zone and tried No Lights No Lycra.

What is No Lights No Lycra?

No Lights No Lycra was started in Melbourne by “two unruly dance students” who were looking for a place “completely let go” without the rigour and rules of dance class. How do you create a space for people to dance completely free of inhibition? You let them wear what they want, turn the music on and the lights off. And with this very simple premise, No Lights No Lycra was born.

Fast forward 8 years, No Lights No Lycra (or NLNL as they cool kids call it) is run in cities all around Australia and the across the world. My local NLNL (see how I’m cool now?) is in a hall at West End on a Tuesday night from 7-8pm. It’s $6 to go in, the lighting is dim before 7, at 7pm the lights go out, the music cranks up – a very fun and diverse mix of tracks – and it stays that way for an hour.

The ‘no lycra’ thing is not for real – you can wear whatever you want, and people totally did. I wore leggings and a shirt, but I saw people come in wearing their work attire, jeans, jumpsuits, crop tops and shorty shorts, whatever.

The no light rule, however, is pretty strict (the one or two occasions where someone picked up their phone was really obvious and lit up the whole room) and as you’d hope/expect, there’s a strict no touching rule. As a woman whose had a lifetime of being told to fear being in dark public places with strangers, I wondered if I’d feel self conscious. I did a little at the start, but it’s a very non-threatening vibe in the room, or that’s what I felt. It’s also mostly women. The Brisbane No Lights No Lycra has 150-200 people come weekly, so even though you can’t see people, you do really feel a sense of togetherness. And you really can’t see people – there’s a few cracks of light sneaking in under doors and behind curtains, but it’s black. After a few moments your eyes adjust to the light and you can get a sense of the space around you so you don’t bump into anyone… but you can’t see people. Just shapes.

And then you dance like no one is watching. Because they’re not.

Actual picture from No Lights No Lycra. (Lies, it’s not an actual picture. It’s dark in there. You can’t take photos. If you did take a photo, this is probably what it would look like.)

Why I wanted (needed?) to give this a go

I have always loved to dance. My childhood was filled with dance, dancing makes me happy and unlike running or riding or lifting heavy things, I don’t totally suck at it. I have tried dance classes for adults and never quite had the feeling I had as a kid. For starters, the adult dance scene is very svelte. Now I’ve banked some serious hours getting very comfortable with who I am and how I look, but standing in front of a mirror for an hour next to a swathe of women who look fresh off the cast of the Australian Ballet doesn’t really help the cause.

And as for the gym… I’ve just never really found my happy place there, it has always felt like the a struggle. And the longer I’ve been away from it or structured classes, the harder it has been to go back. Not just ’cause my fitness ain’t the best, but because I like to do what I’m great at. And while I fully acknowledge that everyone has to start somewhere, getting the ‘I’m great at this’ feeling can be really tough when you’re just not great at it! And I just don’t really want to come face to face with the limits of my fitness with an audience at this point in time. I don’t want to bag classes cause they really can be so great as so many people experience. But it’s just not where I’m at currently.

So I’ve been on the hunt for somewhere I could be a part of something and do the one type of conventional  ‘exercise’ that I have always enjoyed, but go at my own pace and without any shred of judgement.

I freaking loved it.

NLNL seriously delivered! I went to there to dance, or at least move… and move I did. But some unexpected things happened too. The most interesting: I realised how extraordinarily visible we are these days, or at least I feel I am. Surrounded by people, or photos, or reflections, or social media or thingsss all the time, it is SO rare to be invisible. I choose that, absolutely. But I hadn’t really considered that it may take a toll. It is so rare to be invisible and revel in the joy of it.

Reasons you may love the uninhibited vibes of No Lights No Lycra too*:

  • you want to discover your natural dance style
  • you have been seriously wanting to outwork outwerk your twerk
  • you like to let your hair out and dance with it flying around
  • you want to put your hair in a super high pony tail and flick it
  • you kinda like the feeling of yo’ jiggle when yo’ wiggle
  • your face gets really red when you exercise and no one being able to see it might be liberating
  • you have glorious DD+ breasts and sometimes you want to jump around but kinda just want to hold them still when you do so because skin elasticity but it’s not that socially acceptable to be grabbing your boobs… but is in the dark
  • you want to be totally unfindable for an hour… just one hour
  • you want to feel like you’re part of something in a room full of people you don’t know
  • you’ve become a bit addicted to buying feminist-themed t-shirts but have since discovered you kind of have nowhere to wear them
  • you want to be totally free of what anyone else thinks
  • you want to be totally free of what you think
  • you think that it’s fun to make a variety of not-conventionally-attractive facial expressions while you dance and prefer to be unseen while you do it
  • you just need to start somewhere
  • you think you may be secretly great at crumping but think that perhaps it’s best that noone ever discovers this secret about you *averts eyes*
  • you want to sweat ’til you smell your sweat but would prefer no one else to witness it
  • you’re just ready for something different
  • you’re just ready for something

*these may or may not be further examples of my personal experience. *more eye averting*

I was thinking about how to end this post and whether I’d say it’s for everyone. It’s probably not. But it has the very rare characteristics of not requiring you to leave your inhibitions at the door…. it’s a safe space for inhibitions cause it simply makes them invisible. I’ll be going back, and I highly recommend giving it a crack! Find a No Lights No Lycra near you here.

Have you tried No Lights No Lycra? Do you want to? Tell me of your thoughts and experiences! 

p.s. forgive me for starting so many sentences in this post with ‘but’. And ‘and’. Excessive stream-of-consciousness-never-quite-done vibes tonight. I blame the uninhibited dance!

Gifts that give back

May 7 2017

As consumers, it’s easy to underestimate our power to create change in the world. Yet, our decisions as shoppers make or break businesses. In the same way Femeconomy taught us we can use our consumer power to influence gender equality, we can also use our buying power to help create change in the world by shopping with businesses that are actively giving back.

From looking for ways to weave giving into their existing business model, to operating wholey with the intent of creating social change, there are a growing number of organisations looking to turn their products into good for the world. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or a loved one, below are seven businesses to shop with to turn your consumer power into gorgeous gifts that give back.

1. Toms

gifts that give back

Gifts that give back: TOMS makes a donation for every product sold. Image Source.

What they sell: TOMS was founded selling footwear, but has since expanded to sunglasses, bags and apparel for women, men and kids.

How they give: Every time a product is purchased from Toms, they give to a person in need. With over 70 million pairs of shoes donated, 445 thousand people’s sight restored, 400,000 weeks of safe water and safe birth services for 70,000 mothers – they are truly doing work you can get behind.

What to buy: Toms currently ships shoes and eyewear to Australia. Their best sellers are their casual canvas classics. Check out the whole range online here.

2. One Night Stand

gifts that give back

Gifts that give back: One Night Stand’s sleepwear range helps young people sleeping rough. Image Source.

What they sell: sleepwear, distributed through General Pants Co.

How they give: Every purchase of One Night Stand sleepwear is a meal for a young person sleeping rough plus 50% of profits are donated to shelter and employment projects.

What to buy: I am loving some of their cami’s and wireless bras. Check out their range online here.

3. Words with Heart

gifts that give back

Gifts that give back: The gorgeous products available at Words with Heart. Image source.

What they sell: stationery and printery.

How they give: each stationery product sold funds a specific number of education days for women and girls in the developing world. When you click on a product you can see how many days will be funded by your purchase.

What to buy: Words with Heart are now offering custom stationery! Business cards, notebooks, notepads and greeting cards, competitively priced and each educating girls. See the options here.

4. Thank You

gifts that give back

Gifts that give back: Thank You donate 100% of products to projects around the world. Image source.

What they sell: water, nappies, cereal and snacks + body products for beebees and mums.

How they give: 100% of Thank You’s profits are given to life-changing food, water and health and sanitation programs around the world. If you want to see more details about the exact project your product is funding, you can enter a special ID code on the website to learn more.

What to Buy: Their body products make gorgeous gifts. See their full range here.

5. Ruby Olive

gifts that give back

Gifts that give back: Ruby Olive have partnered with Cancer Council Queensland. Image Source.

What they sell: Gorgeous jewellery designed to put smiles on faces.

How they give: Ruby Olive are donating a proportion of proceeds from every sale in their Mothers Day collection to Cancer Council Queensland.

What to buy: necklaces, bangles and earrings in bright hues, including some fantastic value packs. Check them out here.

6. She Street

Gifts that give back

Gifts that give back: She Street donate sanitary items to women in need. Image Source.

What they sell: She Street stocks a whole range of apparel and accessories for women.

How they give: for every item sold, they donate a sanitary pack to Share The Dignity to distribute to women who many not otherwise be able to afford it.

What to buy: I recently bought one of their one-size drape tops and am pretty thrilled with it! Check the whole range out here.

7. Witchery

Great Products that Give Back - Witchery

Gifts that give back: Witchery’s White Shirt Campaign supports the OCRF. Image Source

What they sell: apparel, accessories and beauty for women, men and kids.

How they give: Witchery donate everything except GST from the sale of their White Shirts to the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.

What to buy: a white shirt! Available for women and men here.

Does a company’s social conscience influence your decision to shop with them? Have you bought from any of these companies? Who else should be on this list? Share in the comments below!  

eShakti Review

May 2 2017

Recently I had lunch with a friend who arrived in a gorgeous pink wrap dress. A new mum, she’d been finding it tricky to find designs that flattered and were convenient for breastfeeding. Low and behold she declares her frock is custom made and was entirely affordable. Instant Sublime Find alert – she gave me a card for eShakti which has recently started shipping to Australia and I scampered off to try them!

Today I’m sharing how it all shook out… but first a note: eShakti work with lots of bloggers, providing items in return for review. (This is standard blogger fare and most are very clear with brands that items provided for editorial consideration do not guarantee a positive review, because integrity.) This is not one of those posts. There were a few elements unique to eShakti that made me a little cautious of a reciprocal arrangement if I wasn’t sure it could write something positive… and also, I was genuinely interested in buying from them on the recommendation of my stylish friend. I happily added-to-cart and paid without any disclosure about this blog.

The Concept

eShakti is an online store with a range of designs that are available to order in standard sizes between 0 and 36 (US sizes) OR custom fit to your exact measurements. For $9.95 USD flat rate you can make customisations to the design you selected: both in terms of it being built to your exact measurements and also adjusting elements like neckline, sleeve lengths, hem lengths, pockets.

eShakti Review

eShakti Review: a snapshot of their behind-the-scenes!

While this type of customisation at a dress maker would set you back significant $, the prices are very reasonable, for example most dresses are around $50 USD (before the $9.95 customisation fee). They have a 30 days returns policy on unworn items giving you option for refund or credit or note to help ensure customer satisfaction. eShakti have just started shipping to Australia, giving us access to a unique online shopping experience at an accessible price point.

The Experience

The website is easy to navigate, and after setting up a profile you can store your measurements rather than enter them each time you want to make a custom order. When it says measurements, this is no bust, waist, hips affair – there’s about 20 different measurements around all different parts of your body, with good instructions on how to measure. They suggest having a friend help for accuracy. (I didn’t, but did measure everything twice. Worked out fine.)

The eShakti website suggests orders typically take up to 9 days to make and 4 days to ship, but currently are taking up to 13 days (jeans, skirts and wedding dresses take longer again). I ordered three dresses on 25 March, they was estimated for delivery 6 April and arrived 21 April.

…that is two of the three dresses arrived. I emailed them re: the third dress, after two days I heard back that it was being shipped separately. No shipping details were provided for the third order. It arrived more quickly than I thought, on 26 April. Shipping is with DHL and super quick!

The Products

The element I was most curious about was fit: how accurately can the eShakti team customise their designs? If my experience is anything to go by: very accurately. The dresses I bought all fit very well… and consistently. I chose fit-and-flare designs that would flatter my shape, but trying the dresses on reminded me how well neatly tailored pieces can really work for you.

eShakti Review

eShakti review: this is the Contrast Stripe Hem Belted Cotton Knit Dress, $54.95 USD (before $9.95 customisation). I purchased it as designed, customised to my measurements. 

eShakti Review

eShakti review: this is the embellished polkadot cotton knit dress, $54.95 USD before customisations ($9.95 USD). I changed the neckline and made it slightly longer than standard on the model + had it built to my measurements. 

eShakti Review

eShakti review: this is the V-Neck Cotton Knit Wrap dress, $59.95 USD (before $9.95 USD customisation fee). I didn’t change the design, did have it made to my custom measurements.

The quality is what you’d expect – average. The craftsmanship (Craftswomanship? Craftpersonship? I see these gendered terms everywhere!) is good, the fabric is okay. The dresses are unlined, I haven’t laundered them all yet to see how they fare in the wash. eShakti seem to have a lot of designs in poplin which crushes so instantly, I went for knit fabrics. Even then, they’ll need ironing each wear. For the price, the product is very reasonable, even more so when you consider the customisation. (NB: all the dresses I purchased were on sale slightly and I receive some $ off for my first order plus free shipping.) If you’re looking for a beautifully designed dress, with lining and great fabric, you don’t expect to pay $65ish Australian dollars which is about what my eShakti frocks cost.

The Production

Which leads to a question around how eShakti are making these custom garments at such a low price point. We’ve seen a lot more in recent years around ethical production and asking ‘who made my clothes?’. Luciana at Lilt Blog did a great series on ethical production for Fashion Revolution Week last week if you’re interested in learning more about this topic.

Clearly a point of interest for customers, eShakti have shared some information on their website around the working conditions for their staff in India. The information they provide suggests favourable working conditions verified by the government of India and wages in excess of minimum wage. I read a few other posts exploring this further… minimum wage is extraordinarily low, so a claim of 70% above that rate certainly is no fortune.

My basic read is that the conditions are better than many operators but not amazing. I am not an expert in this field, nor is this info I’m regularly in the habit of looking at (though probably should be) so I’m uncomfortable making a firm call with a bunch of second hand information. If this is something you want to know more about, I encourage you to google more.

The Verdict

I’m not sure if I’ll purchase from them again. The price point is great but I have long ago vowed to value quality over quantity in my wardrobe and have been spoilt with gorgeous quality pieces that show up the eShakti frocks. But, I do love the custom fit and option to choose customisations that work for my body. I think I’ll see how these pieces wear over the next few months and go from there!

If you typically find fit a bit tricky with standard sizing and due to effort/expense/inconvenience don’t regularly use a tailor, eShakti could be a great option. If you are a certain shape for a limited period of time (i.e. breastfeeding like my friend), eShakti could also be a great option. If you have a bridal party or squad in different shapes and sizes or want slightly different designs, eShakti is definitely a good choice at a low price point – just make sure you leave plenty of time for delivery.

Have you bought from eShakti before? Or know someone who has? What was the experience like? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

How to: sell clothes on Facebook buy swap sell pages!

April 12 2017

We are mixing things up today people! I’m taking a step away from our regular programming of buying-fabulous-things to talk about how to make money selling your fabulous things!  On Facebook no less! I recently made $1,507 selling worn clothing and today I am going into precise detail on how you can do it too. 

For the shopping enthusiasts in the audience, the reality is that shopping can be an expensive passion! As glorious as it is to find the *perfect* item, it can seriously take it’s toll on the credit card and sometimes you just have to say ‘no’ <insert sobs>.

Saying no is hard to do… and harder still on holidays.

In my experience, there is no scenario harder to pass up a *perfect* find than shopping on holidays. There is no returning to buy it next week, or waiting ’til it’s on sale. It is a now-or-never scenario and my personal history suggests I opt for now over never 9.9 out of 10 times.

In February, JS and I snuck over to New York for 10 days of amazing big city holiday buzz. While we spent much of our time exploring and learning and hanging out… there is no scenario where I am in NYC for 10 days and don’t shop. So before I went on holidays, I tried something I hadn’t done before… and focused on making some extra $ ahead of time by selling some no-longer-worn pieces from my wardrobe.

How did you sell them?

In the past, I’ve always sold from eBay and while it can be slow, I’ve had reasonable success. However, an extraordinarily resourceful friend recently introduced me to the world of Buy, Swap, Sell pages on Facebook which made selling faster, easier and more profitable!

How do I join a Facebook Buy Swap Sell page?

Buy, Swap, Sell pages are set up on Facebook as groups using the marketplace functionality Facebook has built to support people selling items through their platform. Conveniently, a bunch of groups have popped up that are specifically focused on one particular brand, like Cue which is the one that I sold in. Search the name of the brand you’re looking for with ‘buy sell’ afterward and you’ll likely have a range of hits. Find the group with the most members then like all facebook groups you need to request to join.

How to find Facebook buy swap sell page

Cue Buy & Sell page – select the option with the most members for the biggest audience!

Most groups have a pinned post outlining guidelines for selling using the page. Read this to understand how it works.

Facebook buy swap sell pinned post

View the pinned post first!

 

Facebook buy swap sell rules

Buy and Sell pages have rules you need to adhere to when selling your items. For example, there are strict rules in this group about using any images that originated on the Cue website. #copyright

Then you’re ready to start buying and selling!

11 Tips for using Facebook buy swap sell pages

Want to save these tips? Pin them for later!

Tips for selling using a Facebook buy swap sell page

I have tweaked how I sell along the way, here’s my lessons learnt:

  1. Include as much information as possible about what you’re selling, including measurements of the garment. (When I didn’t do this, people requested it, usually at inopportune times when I wasn’t home).
  2. Spend time making the garment look as presentable as possible for pictures. Give it a press, use a sticky roller to remove any fluff. Use good lighting to take the pics.
  3. Be honest about the state of garments. It’s the right thing to do and in my experience it doesn’t deter buyers.
  4. I had more success increasing the price of each garment slightly and making the shipping free. Don’t we all love free shipping? Specify the price for shipping is in Australia (or wherever it’s based).
  5. List your garment at the price you are genuinely happy to part with it at. You can always decrease your price if it doesn’t sell.
  6. Be online and available when you list your item/s – if your item is going to sell my experience is it will do so quickly!
  7. Be certain on the rules of the page to avoid awkward selling moments. The pinned rules will specify exactly how the page works but typically the item will go to the first person who comments sold on your post. This may not be the first person who comments on your post (i.e. ‘is this still available?’ ‘I have questions I will PM you’).
  8. Once sold, add a comment saying you will PM the buyer, click on their name (takes you to their profile) then click message to start a private message with the seller. This is where you provide your paypal details and confirm their shipping address.
  9. More people will interact (and therefore more people will see) posts that sell multiple items at a time. However, not all pages will allow this (checked the pinned post on rules for the page first) and the functionality to see what is listed differs from the phone to the laptop (people couldn’t see descriptions of photos posted in captions on the laptop). Next time I sell multiple items I will do this:
    • Use an app like Pic Stitch to combine all of the photos of the garment (back, front, details) into one picture. Add a number to each picture so you can refer to it i.e. ‘item 2 has been sold’. This will save the need to post additional pictures in the comments section of the post or respond to requests to send extra pics.

      Facebook buy swap sell image

      Combine the pictures of your garment in one image with a number assigned to it. This number should correspond with the description of the item.

    • Put the descriptions and prices for all of the garments into the main description area of the post. This will make it long, but ensure all users can see the detail. Comments added as a captions to individual photos cannot be seen on desktop. You can also not comment on an individual photo in the marketplace like you can in a normal facebook photo album. When you make a comment, it comments on the entire post. #learntthehardway

      Facebook buy swap sell description

      This person has done the right thing and put all the descriptions for the items they’re selling in the one post. HOWEVER it would make it easier (for buyer and seller) to number each piece and ensure the picture of the piece also has the number on it.

    • Expect people to contact you to bargain on multiple items.
    • Once items are sold and you are liaising with someone on payment privately through messanger, post a picture of the item they have bought to ensure there is no confusion and to make it easier when you are packaging multiple items to be posted. No chance of sending the wrong thing!
  10. There are a whole lot of acronyms used in the buy swap sell sites! These are the common ones.
    • NIL = next in line. People may use this if the item is sold and they want to be ‘next in line’ if the sale falls through for any reason.
    • TIA = thanks in advance
    • F = following. Someone may use this if they want to see the other comments made on the post, they may have something similar to sell themselves or be interested in making a lower bid if the item doesn’t sell.
    • PM = private message. Once an item is sold the remainder of the transaction takes place in messenger – see point 7 for details.
  11. I sent all buyers a picture of the package with their address on it and tracking details to reassure them their item is on the way. I also delivered parcels to the post office so they were tracked as in commute immediately.

Paypal tip: paypal froze my account after I had received more than $1,000 AUD. I needed to provide photos of my ID and proof of address then they unfroze my account quickly.

Pros and Cons of buy swap sell

The downside of selling this way is it takes a fair bit of time to set up and the functionality is still a little fiddly. You’re also dealing one on one with a person, and if you’re buying as opposed to selling, and the item is not as described, you are on your own to resolve it with the individual who sold it. I haven’t heard a lot of stories like this, but it’s worth being aware of.

The upside of selling this way is that you have a captive audience who love the brand you’re selling and therefore are willing to pay. The Cue garments I sold were worn but in great condition, and were sold for between $75 and $135 each.

A final point on selling vs donating to charity

I know lots of people prefer giving to charity rather than selling used clothes and if that’s you – hats off to you. I think Buy Swap Sell is still a great option to try if you want to give back, it gives you the option of donating your funds (or a portion) to a charity you believe in! While my primary driver in selling was to free up some shopping money, I also signed up to be a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador after the funds came in from this haul. Always feels good to contribute to making a difference!

Have you used Facebook’s buy, swap, sell pages? Do you have any extra tips? Success stories to share? Spill in the comments below!