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Sunday 6 May 2018

Courage to be who you are

I love the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland. In particular, I like to sing "If I Were King of the Forest" as sung by the Cowardly Lion played by Bert Lahr. It's a sonic adventure duplicating his vibrato and little doggie woof sounds. In the movie, through a series of adventures, the Cowardly Lion eventually finds his courage. He is a role model.

I've had my share of scary adventures since I started Bag and a Beret in early 2012 - auditioning, schmoozing, modeling, using my tripod in public - and each time I do something new, I feel empowered and ask, What's next!? 

But getting to Bag and a Beret was a step-by-step process. Even though I dressed in things I loved, I loathed having my picture taken, and I didn't really understand how/why other women did it.

First, I launched a street style blog, Culture Serf, which focused on other people. A partial photo of me is featured in the masthead and just that freaked me out.

Then I opened a "blog" called Social Hangover, which was really a website that I updated manually, where I put stories, cartoons, and some art. My archives of that are on a USB stick somewhere "safe" (meaning, I can't find it). No photos of me, no way.

And then I opened a blog called Queen of Canada, where I did the same but added sketches of my outfits, pre-Turniphead days, taking me one step closer to actual outfit photos, although I would have denied it at the time. 

I made the initial drawings in pen, then coloured them in with pencil crayons, then scanned them, and then did touch-ups with a digital airbrush. My beret figured prominently. Again, no face.

That's a cartoon from Queen of Canada below. No disrespect intended, I just find it weird that Canada has a queen and I can't work in England even as a Commonwealth-er. I don't see much "common," or wealth for that matter, heh. 

I also did a series of paintings of the Queen living in the Canadian wilds, as a wandering pioneer, guarding her Corgis from wolves (so sorry to hear that her final Corgi passed recently), rinsing her gown outside her cabin.

At last I included my head but with a blurred face. Rarely would I include my face face. And I rarely wore any makeup at that time - didn't want it/didn't feel I need it - but that might be lipstick in the right photo. And I carried my camera at all times for the street style blog. These were in the sketches.

Social Hangover and Queen of Canada each lasted less than a year. During that time I got a better handle on my camera and tripod photographing my art. But what I was really doing was working up to join Patti's Visible Monday at her blog Not Dead Yet Style and all the other fabulous over-40 women who were having fun with style. 

And then, in early 2012, I was ready. I would soon hit 50 and that whole invisibility thing was really, REALLY PISSING ME OFF! I opened Bag and a Beret.

So here I am. Gimme an audience!! I'll woof, and I'll woof, and I'll roar. 

I've always been a creator/maker and bold in thought and style, but putting myself out in the virtual world required a shift. I mean, once you're out there, you're out there. I'm over it now. Besides, it's too late anyway.

And it's interesting that my current email is actlikeadiva, which, I noticed just now, is clearly an extension of the queen theme. As Cowardly Lion sang, "My regal robes of the forest, would be satin, not cotton, not chintz." Ah, Bert Lahr, he was a brilliant performer.

And next came Instagram. The following video is a fast-forward look at my outfits from my first year there, October 2015/16. I have to thank Sylvia of 40-plus Style and Suzanne Carillo for their encouragement to join. Now Instagram is my most popular social media platform.

So that's my story, my path so far. The key for me these days is unlearning many of the stifling unnecessary rules out there to reduce the clutter on my way forward and translating the scary things into power.

Which leads me to my next point. I have started doing what I call Style Boost Coaching.

Style Boost Coaching

One of the best things to come out of my style blogging has been hearing from a diversity of women about how I have helped them in their own style adventures, not in dressing like me, but adapting some of my ideas into their own style or giving them the courage to make a complete style change. Really, it's the best feeling.

Whether you need a little boost or a big, huge style change, I can give you tips and energy for change learned through my own journeys. It's up to you. But we definitely need to talk in a one-on-one Skype coaching session. Until now I've only done style consulting in real life, sample HERE, but this is a new thing. Come join me. It'll be fun. It may even change your life...?

Click HERE to read more.
And below is my outfit of the week, an orange top $4, Billabong jeans $6 that were custom-dyed by Annie, and a reversible heavy quilted coat/robe $9, all amazing deals from the West Vancouver United Church Spring Flea Market. Again, my personal shopper Yvonne, who found me a cool Moschino suit last time, picked out an Armani dress $18 this time. So good. Can't wait to show you.

Margaret Manning of Sixty & Me also posted more transcripts of my Skype interviews with her in Sept. about how to boost your style over 50. So far:
  1. Vintage Clothing is Back for Women Over 50: Embrace the Past and Create Amazing Style 
  2. Fashion Over 50: Forget What Others Think and Express Your Eccentricities!
  3. Fashion After 50: The Art of Walking Like a Movie Star 
  4. I Love Floral Tights! Why Fashion After 60 is About Wearing What Makes You Happy
Feel free to comment! You can watch the videos at these links too. These were my very first Skype interviews, so scary but oh so fun too. Thank you again, Margaret! My original post from September is HERE.

And one final thing - I went to the Murakami exhibition at Vancouver Art Gallery as the guest of friends blogger Judith and her partner Handsome, whose joyful "May the Fourth Be With You" outfits stopped people in their tracks! You'll know why if you check out the pics on Judith's Instagram,

That's all for this time. I'll be linking to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style (thanks for the inspiration all these years) and Catherine's #iwillwearwhatilike at Not Dressed as Lamb when the time is right. See you there.

Have a great week!!!

This post is long - well done on making it to the end. When I only post once a week, I feel like I have to cram it all in. So question: Do you prefer shorter but more frequent posts or longer less frequent posts? I'd appreciate your thoughts on that.


  1. GAAAH!!! I'm so happy!!! Yay!!! Brilliant!!! I'm so damn excited I want to sign up ; P

    I really loved the background info you gave. How fab are your drawings? They always make me laugh.

    This shows your progression to fashion Queendom so well. Putting yourself out there in baby steps. It's scary letting the whole world in.

    Bravo woman! Bravo!


  2. Gosh, I loved this post! It was cool to read through more of your history blogging and to hear how you got to where you are now. It is encouraging and you are so inspiring. You inspire my work more than you might know. Your outfit of the week alone was enough to send me scurrying to combine awesome green jeans and an orange top with ROCKING heels.

    I hope gobs of ladies (and gentlemen? do they become invisible too?) take you up on your styling coach services. You're going to turn the world into a fashion runway populated with over 40 fashionistas! And what a wonderful, colorful world it will be! 👏👏👏


  3. Wow, so much I never knew about how you first got into this game! And woo, Mel, I am so excited for you to be doing fashion coaching! Vancouver will not know what hit them when all these newly-fashionable, fun women start coming out of the woodwork! So proud of you! I loved your 1-minute wardrobe flashback! I need an assistant to compile one for me.

  4. I don't mind the long once-a-week posts. Less clutter in my email. (Listen to me, pontificating about clutter. Hahahaha. Well, I guess I AM an expert. With clutter).

    I started with sketches too. Actually, I started SpyGirl with a fake persona for International Fake Journal Month. Now my IFJM fake persona is Enid, and, don't tell Mizz Bag, but Enid is now officially hired as my assistant. MB can't have her back.

    The self photography thing DID take time to get over. Perseverance, right?

    I'm SO glad that you joined Patti's Party, and that we've met in real life and that I'll probably see you TWICE in 2019! Woohoo! xxox

  5. Your courage to be yourself is the very thing that keeps bringing me back to your blog. In a world where everyone seems to copy everyone else it takes bravery to stand up for what you believe in and how you want to live your life. Our granddaughters are coming to spend a couple of weeks with us this summer and the oldest is just at that age where her friends opinions out weight her common sense. I feel like this might be a good opportunity to talk with her about what matters in her life and who she really wants to be. Of course her mother is turning into a "dumbbell" that only wants to spoil her joy (I was that dumb mother, once upon a time). I'm hoping that grandma can get through a little of the peer pressure and have her start thinking for herself again. She's too bright a star to not shine all by herself . . . maybe her friends see this and just want to bring her down to their copycat image.
    Anyway . . . off by soapbox . . . I love your blog and the colorful women that lives life on her terms:)
    Connie :)

  6. What great news, Melanie! I'm wishing you wonderful clients and tons of inspiration for your work! I loved learning about your journey in Bloglandia. It seems we all have some interesting stories to tell - but otherwise how we would become who we are, if we didn't go on all these explorations? I've always loved your art sketches - they are full of life, soul and humor, they make me smile! I just adore the Queen making snow angels!! And your green and orange outfit is fantastic - it's one of my most favorite color combinations!
    Good luck, dear Melanie! <3

  7. So interesting to read this survey of your Social Media/Style Blogging Career, your path to Stardom. I wish you much success in this new venture -- I know you and your clients will have oodles of stylish fun. xo

  8. What a fantastic inside in your blogging history!Always Nice to know a bit more about the person begind the blog!

  9. I learned so much about you in this post, and your road to Oz, I mean being a Queen of the internets! Your sketches alone, if that's all you ever published, are dizzyingly great. Then we got to know and see YOU in all your colorful genius. I would love to hire you as a stylist, oh maybe I will! xox


  10. thank you for giving me some historical context on your fabulous career. You do not strike me as someone with self doubt. so I was a bit surprised. You’ve certainly hit your stride and are inspiring many people, worldwide .
    Hats off to your fabulous style and keep roaring. I too am loving Instagram. The instant gratification part , or not, suits my high energy level and sometimes impatient self.
    2 minutes verses 3 hours... hmmm.
    You are crazy talented, wish I could sketch.

  11. It's great to read about the gradual evolution of your blog, and how you got this far. The latest chapter seems like a natural progression - you're an style inspiration to many and those who need a gentle nudge in the right direction will surely blossom with your input. Great idea!

    Love seeing you on instagram as well as here Melanie - how frequent isn't a deal breaker, just so long as you keep posting.

    Anna x

  12. I loved reading this post. I still struggle with being in front of the camera, but since I'm my only model {I have 4 beautiful daughters who won't set foot in front the camera}, I have no real choice. Well, I do. But... Anyway, I digress. Your journey and your outfit are inspiring! xoxo

  13. a quilted coat that looks amazing? Now that's saying something. My brain wants those shoes, my feet say "Get a grip, woman!"

  14. Your blogging journey is especially interesting to read/view Melanie. I think this is because you are so uniquely talented and have an enviable, free spirted confidence that I just assumed you had hatched out fully fledged!! Learning that you didn't like self photographs was somewhat surprising but clearly your artistic talents and sense of humor were there to aptly fill in the gaps while your photo confidence and the fashion blogging genre evolved. I LOVE your history!
    I also viewed the fashion montage video and the vintage clothing interview with Margaret Manning. Good grief!! You're such a treasure Melanie. Your enthusiasm for fashion as a way to explore, know and dramatize ourselves is clear and it literally sparkles in your eyes.
    I always love your stairway moods. That long quilted vest is wonderful and those lime green pants give new meaning to the adjective "citric". Love, Jude

  15. You started your blog in the same year as I did (2012), although I really started in November of that year. I always thought you started much earlier than that. Funny thing is, I have never been afraid of anything. Not of taking my own picture in public, not of photographing (and I knew nothing about it), not of publishing photos of myself. Yet you have come much further than I have. I am in awe that you will be giving styling advice. Applause.
    And I love your outfit again. Especially with that coat. These pieces seem to be made for each other.
    Oh by the way, isn’t it about time (way over if you ask me) to change from Google Blogger to Wordpress and register your own domain name?

  16. the green, the orange, the blue...amazing!!!

  17. I fucking love seeing u----- thank goodness u decided to go visible!

  18. I'll admit it: you, Anne Bray, and Pao have made me dress for myself. There's a certain level of "let's Bag and Beret it today" going on in my late 50s I gotta thank you for.
    Thank you thank you thank you.
    As a former arts writer who blogs, I'm struggling with the photography, and appreciate this post from the bottom of my heart. Self portraits hard for lighting and background here; family is not good for photographs because WHY ARE YOU WEARING THAT mom/wife/sister? At the end of it all, I'd rather just lay the clothes on the uncluttered floor and photograph them. Certainly better lit.
    And again, thank you.

  19. What a fantastic your blogging history! Cool styling it with the trench coat top ornange and pants green.

  20. I think I may need a Style Boost session with you. I don't seem to know what to wear anymore and I feel like I've lost confidence in my style choices.
    That video just makes me grin like a fool - I love seeing all those marvelous outfits together! I am sooo diggin' the green pants and that marvy coat.

    Thanks for sharing the history of Bag and a Beret. I really like the outfit sketches you used to do for your Queen of Canada blog. You are brimming with artistic talent my friend!


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