Chatting through the points you’ve raised in the reader survey
I’ve spent some time over the last couple of weeks reading through the really helpful feedback you gave me as part of the reader survey. 3,000 of you answered so I’m still going but I’m noticing that certain questions are coming up quite regularly. So, given that it’s been just too wet and windy to take any photos this week (will it ever stop?) I thought we’d spend some time chatting through the points you’ve raised today.
Petites and Plus sizes
There were quite a few requests for coverage of different body shapes so, I’ve decided that I’ll experiment by including somebody who is a different frame size and see how you like it. I’m being cautious because I know you really didn’t like it when I featured other bloggers on here a few years ago. Your feedback was that you follow Midlifechic because you relate to my style and shape but I’m happy to give it another try.
The problem I have is that most people I know are horrified by the thought of ever appearing on here. I understand, it’s a bit daunting smiling for the camera and not knowing what people will think when they see you. I’ve got over it now but it took me a long time and as you know, I still struggle with Instagram because I don’t know who follows me on there.
However, a couple of weeks ago I bumped into a friend who is the village dance teacher and she was very excited by the thought of taking part. She’s a petite size eight and so I’m now busy talking to brands and trying to put together a post that we’ll appear in together, perhaps wearing the same outfits so you can compare them… maybe we’ll call it little and large(!) If I can make it happen, I will.
I’ve had less success with my plus size friends and so I wondered if any of you who are plus size would like to join in, just for fun. Obviously you’d need to be relatively local (North Lancs / South Cumbria) because shoots are always weather dependent and so I need to be able to call you in the morning and say “today’s the day.” If I get a volunteer, I’ll then have to talk to brands so it may well not happen until autumn but I’ll do my best to arrange for whoever takes part to keep the clothes. Let me know if you’re interested via the contact form here.
A few people mentioned budget or price bracket. I’ve been tallying it and the same number of people are saying they’d like to see cheaper clothes as those who want me to venture into the Rixo / Self Portrait price range and above.
My principle aim this year is to focus on brands that are working hard on the sustainability front. This means that the entry point level will be M&S, Uniqlo and some of the ranges from H&M because I’m struggling to find other retailers in that price bracket who are making real changes rather than just greenwashing. If you know of a lower priced brand that you feel is working hard towards sustainability do let me know and I’ll look into them.
I’m changing my own behaviour and buying far fewer pieces but paying more for them. I’m thinking ahead to make sure that I’ll wear anything I buy for years, especially when it comes to winter clothes which make up the larger part of my wardrobe. I know some of you think I have a huge budget for clothes and of course it’s all relative but I don’t have anything like your average Instagrammer. For this reason I doubt I would ever buy a flamboyant Rixo dress because I’d probably tire of it quickly and it would become a spectre in my wardrobe. It seems disingenuous for me to feature pieces that I wouldn’t buy and so although it’s tempting when I’m offered them, I do try to turn them down. There are a lot of midlife bloggers and Instagrammers who cover them though so if you want to see people wearing more expensive clothes, you’ll easily find them.
As for me, I’m happy to remain as a doyenne of the high street, albeit at the upper end which I see as the sweet spot. As a community we’re now highly regarded by these retailers and so I think that as we continue to have dialogue with them, we can effect change. We can not only convince them to meet our needs as an underserved audience but we can also insist that they do so in a way that considers the planet and its people… and I’m now stepping down from my soapbox!
A few words on price
Actually one more thing before I do – and I could talk about this for hours but I’m going to give a simplified outline here. We have to accept that prices are going to go up. Retailers have been holding their pricing matrices since the great recession because there has been very little growth in consumer earnings and so they’ve been insulating the market. However, almost every single cost in the supply chain has increased significantly since 2008 and now that there is a necessary focus on sustainability, the cost price of producing the items we buy is soaring ever higher.
Retailers have two choices – they can keep the price to the consumer the same by reducing quality or they can retain quality and relay the higher costs to the point of purchase i.e. you and me. This is one of the principle quandaries that is causing so many retailers to struggle. To date, they’ve mostly been keeping prices static by making economies at a production level but that then impacts upon their reputation. People like us have to make a decision, we either have to stop complaining that quality is dropping at our favourite brands or accept that we need to pay 15 – 30% more than we have been doing.
Quite a few people have asked me to include clothes from brands that I don’t often cover including Mint Velvet, Hobbs, Reiss and The White Company. Do let me know in the comments if there are others – and also if you’ve discovered any small British brands who deserve support, they’re harder for me to find.
Some people said that they feel annoyed when they see gifted items in my ‘What I’ve been wearing’ posts. This comes back to budget again, I can’t buy new clothes all the time and it would be wrong to do so anyway. However I do my best to keep this blog interesting and current for you and so if all I show you is past season clothes that you can’t buy, it would soon be frustrating. To maintain a balance I sometimes accept gifted pieces I love from brands that I respect.
The ASA says that bloggers only need to declare something as gifted if it’s been given in the last year but I don’t think that’s right so I continue to declare it even if it’s five or six years old. This means that captions in my posts can appear to be heavily gifted because I wear things that I’ve been given repeatedly – along with new pieces.
I put a lot of hours into creating an interesting blog that comes at no cost to readers. It isn’t a money-making exercise – I turn lucrative offers for sponsored content and advertising down all of the time because I want to feel proud of what I produce. So I hope that helps you to see the occasional gifted item in a kinder light. Don’t forget that when my dressing room starts to groan I then run my blogger sales so that you can benefit from it too. Between us we’ve given £2,742 to Bloodwise, Leukaemia and Lymphoma, Winston’s Wish and Look Good Feel Better over the last year.
A few people questioned whether it’s an invasion of privacy when I include Mr MC and the boys on the blog, I’ve covered this before but I’ll just recap. Midlifechic is very much a part of our family, when we’re discussing our days over dinner I’ll often talk about it. Mr MC and the boys know some of you as well as they know old friends of mine that they’ve never met and I regularly chat about something that you’ve said in a comment or email.
We discuss their inclusion on a regular basis. I never reveal exactly where we live and I never include their names so that they aren’t tracked by Google – or their friends. Obviously quite a few of their friends are aware of Midlifechic now so I’m also careful about what I include. I’m often offered money to photograph lingerie for example but I don’t, maybe I’m a prude but I cringe when I see other bloggers doing it because I don’t feel it’s appropriate to show something intimate that you wouldn’t wear in public. Bikinis are fine because I only photograph them if I’m genuinely on holiday. Lingerie is another matter – however artfully I drape a silk robe over a shoulder, I know it would end up in the rugby changing rooms and it wouldn’t be fair.
One person suggested “more fashion and less about you. A more professional approach would be a way forward.” If that’s how anybody is feeling I suggest you stay with magazines. Blogs are, by nature, personal. This isn’t my profession, I don’t write it to make a living, it’s an outlet for whatever I’m thinking and so one day I might share analysis that I’ve been doing for retailers as part of my consultancy work but in the next post I might talk about what’s going on at home. I will always take constructive criticism seriously but this comment was missing the whole point of what I’m doing here. I don’t want to be one of those bloggers who says “if you don’t like what I do then look elsewhere” but…
At the other end of the spectrum are those who say they miss the blog at the beginning when there was more about the things I got up to with the boys – I do too! The trouble is that they’re now fully engrossed in their own lives. The eldest’s free time is currently spent training for his rugby tour in March. The middle one has parts in plays with two different theatre groups so he’s rehearsing like mad and when he isn’t, he’s working hard at Primark to pay for his first boys’ holiday in June. The youngest met a lovely girl on his outward bound course last summer, they’re still going strong and spend as much time as they can together. So I think my place in their lives is probably on a par with their beds – something comfortable to come home to when the exciting stuff is over. And that’s exactly as it should be… but if you currently have younger children at home for half term make the most of every minute, they’ll be looking outwards before you know it.
I’ve been quite overwhelmed by the number of people who in one way or another have said that Midlifechic makes them feel less lonely. We talked about midlife loneliness on here in some depth three years ago (follow up post here) and it remains my most commented upon post. It’s a topic that is starting to be discussed more openly and Radio 4 Woman’s Hour did a programme on loneliness across the generations a couple of weeks ago that’s worth catching up on.
One of the things that really struck me when Jane Garvey was discussing it is the way that conversation has changed. She talked about the fact that even if people were alone, they used to have long telephone conversations whereas now we tend to deal in one-line interactions across text or social media. I hadn’t thought about it before but I used to have a half hour chat with my mum on the phone every single day. I told myself that I was doing it for her but I now realise how much I got from it too and I really miss it.
That got me thinking about the boys and their friends – they seem to be constantly engaged in a number of simultaneous conversations that make them laugh and growl and smile as they flick through them but they’re all very topline. When I got home from school I used to wait until six o’clock when local calls were free and then rush to phone my best friend Deb – we’d been together all day of course but there was still so much to say and we’d talk for hours. In fact I remember my mild mannered dad once being so frustrated that he unplugged the phone and sat on it all evening. It does make me wonder whether the reports of increasing mental health problems are related to the lack of proper talking that goes beyond just chat.
This, you see, is where I think the nub of loneliness lies. It isn’t that we’re alone, we’re often surrounded by people but we’re not having fulfilling conversations – or not enough of them anyway. Managing friendships through social media is like living on a diet of junk food, it just doesn’t nourish you.
For me, writing this blog often fulfils that need for conversation about something that matters and so I’m really pleased to hear that it’s doing the same for some of you too. Lots of people said that they look forward to the comments as much as the posts and even though they don’t take part themselves, they feel less alone when they read them. Of all the lovely things that were said to me in the survey this was perhaps the most rewarding. It makes me determined to progress with the meet-ups too because I’ve seen how we all dive straight into proper conversation when we get together, it’s as though we already know each other well enough not to bother with chitchat.
Thank you to everyone who replied to the survey with such helpful comments. It’s the most difficult time of year to blog – there’s nothing much new in the shops and the weather’s miserable so some of the lovely things you said have really kept me going as well as giving me lots to think about. I’ll keep on reading them until I reach the end and I’ll be back on Tuesday with another try on – I’m praying for good weather over the weekend so that we can take some photos outside at last…