Fashion creative, sewing whizz and podcaster Karen Arthur is passionate about encouraging us all to inject more joy into our daily lives through the clothes we dress in. It’s not about following trends, it’s about wearing what you love.
In this episode we discuss:
Pressing Pause Episode 90 Wearing your happy with Karen Arthur
Welcome to Pressing Pause. I’m Gabrielle Treanor, a mindset and positive psychology coach and writer, exploring how we can create, find and feel more calm, ease and joy in our daily lives.
Welcome to episode 90. With Christmas about five weeks away how are you feeling about it? As someone who spent several years visiting four houses on Christmas Day alone – yes, really – I know just how overwhelming the festive season can be.
Understanding what was behind my Christmas stress, identifying what would create more peace and joy for me at this time of year and taking action to make it happen, revolutionised my experience of the festive season. Which I know sounds a bit grandiose but, really, it did.
The ripple effect is that everyone around me gets a much better version of me too, one that’s more relaxed, appreciative, present and happier! So it isn’t just me who benefits.
There’s plenty that’s out of our control in life, there always has been and we don’t know exactly what this Christmas is going to look like but, frankly, uncertainty has become something of a certainty in our lives now. Which is why it’s a much better use of our time, energy and brain space to focus on what we DO have control over.
Which is why I created something to help you move from feeling frazzled, exhausted and spread thin during the festive season, to having the calm, joyful Christmas you want.
So if this festive season you want to ditch the stress, the striving to meet expectations, the being responsible for everyone’s enjoyment, the people-pleasing, the guilt of wanting to do what you need – then I have created something for you.
It’s a self-paced online course called Coping with Christmas in which we explore what you find challenging, what you really want to do and how you want to feel during the festive period, and equip you with tools, information, inspiration and action steps to create the peaceful and joyful Christmas you really want.
To find out more about about the Coping with Christmas course go to gabrielletreanor.com/courses where you can read all about it. When you sign up you’ll get instant access to the complete course which you can read or listen to, whichever works for you, at your own pace, there’s no keeping up, no falling behind. So go to gabrielletreanor.com/courses to find out more.
Now, today on the podcast I am delighted to be talking with fashion creative, host of the podcast Menopause whilst black and sewing whizz Karen Arthur. We had a fabulous conversation about what wearing your happy means and how it affects the calm and joy we feel, as well as discussing how menopause and the growing conversation around it impacts not just those who experience it but everyone else too…
[00:00:00] Gabrielle: Thank you so much for joining me today, Karen.
[00:00:04] Karen: Thank you for asking me, this is exciting.
[00:00:08] Gabrielle: I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do please.
[00:00:14] Karen: What do I do? I’m a fashion creative. I am a sewing tutor. I am a podcast host, menopause whilst black. And I speak a lot about, well, I’d speak about whatever comes into my head, really at the moment, I seem to be talking a lot about menopause as are many women and people. I’m a mother of two grown-up daughters. I’m a grandma! Of a very energetic toddler. Um, yeah, That’s it. That’s it. Yeah.
[00:00:46] Gabrielle: That’s quite a lot. Yeah. And for the people listening, because obviously they’re hearing, they’re not seeing, but I can tell you that they might have seen you because you are one of the faces of Specsavers. They might have seen you on a bus or a billboard somewhere. Um, and honestly they might have seen you and we’ll come onto this later, but they might have seen you on Davina McCall’s program about menopause.
[00:01:09] Karen: Yeah. I was the colourful one at the beginning.
[00:01:14] Gabrielle: Yeah. Well, we’ll come onto that a little bit later. what I wanted to start off with is talking about wear your happy because you’re a big advocate of people dressing for themselves wearing their happy. Can you explain a little bit about what that means and the kind of difference it makes to us? I guess.
[00:01:33] Karen: So wear your happy is I guess it was born from tragedy in the sentence that I discovered it, I came across this, it’s fashion psychology, really. Um, when my aunt passed away in 2015, but wear your happy, literally means wear clothes to lift your mood. So clothes that make you feel good. So not wearing clothes because necessarily they are in fashion or because you want validation from other people, which is what, where a lot of women are, you know, we learn to do that, whether it’s validation from our men or, or, you know, our partners or our girlfriends, or I dunno, work colleagues, but just wearing clothes that you love. The reason I say it was born out of tragedy is because my aunt passed, as I said, suddenly my aunt Monica and I missed her and I was the executor of the will and I was person sorting out her remains and the flat and all the rest of it and she wasn’t, I wouldn’t go as far as to say she was fashionable in the conventional sense, but she liked good clothing. Caribbean woman who swore by British brands, like C&A that are no longer with us, sadly demised. And St Michael, which is now Marks & Spencers.
So there are a couple of her skirts that I was drawn to. One of them is a long red, A-line maxi from the seventies. And one is something I would never bought. It’s like a white pleated chiffon midi number with flowers. I love it. I just love it. And so I found that when I missed her, I would wear her clothing because it brought me closer to her.
I was also suffering from anxiety, depression. And so this was, I found that I’d fallen out of love with clothing. As I said, I’m a fashion creative. I fell out of love with sewing. I lost the zest for anything really. And the way I noticed that I was getting better was when I was making conscious decisions about what I put on.
And in order to get myself out of the house, I would wear things that had a happy memory or, clothes that had been given to me by people I loved or bright colors. I really love pinks and oranges and yellows and vibrant colors or, um, quirky shoes or bright head wraps, that kind of thing. And I found that consciously doing that meant that I could at least get from my house to the train station, which would get me to my destination where I knew I’d be fine. It was just the anxiety before that. And I started to talk about it on Twitter and I started to use the hashtag wear your happy. And for a long time, I was kind of talking to myself really.
I felt I was anyway, but Twitter’s is a bit like that anyway. Six years later, we have, Lala land and fashion psychology, and wearing wellbeing and wearapy and lots of people get that. And I think COVID has also, you know, the lockdown has also helped us to think more consciously about what’s in our wardrobe.
I suppose there’s two camps aren’t there. There are people who, you know, women who threw their bras away and, wore sweatpants all the time and that’s their thing. But I found that during lockdowns, the, how many of we had now three? In order to keep my mood uplifted, I would dress as if I was leaving the house every day, basically.
And so wear your happy, it takes a little bit of confidence because our bodies change as we get older and often, you know, fashion doesn’t necessarily cater for us, but I found, I suppose, you know, wear your happy came around at the same time as I entered menopause. And that gave me a real kind of, I don’t care what anybody thinks about me or certainly what I wear because it’s none of anybody’s business, what you wear by the way.
And so that helped. So I think it’s a combination of things, but mostly wear your happy is wearing what you beep like.
[00:05:50] Gabrielle: Hmm. Yeah, it’s funny. I was, I was more conscious of what I was wearing today than I am normally, because I knew that we’d be seeing each other because we’re on zoom so we could see each other. And the cardigan that I’m wearing is my favorite item of clothing. And I. I wear this cardigan in so many photographs.
So any of the photographs on my website, I’m wearing this cardigan. If I ever want to feel good about myself, I wear this cardigan
[00:06:16] Karen: But It’s a beautiful cardigan.
[00:06:18] Gabrielle: thank You
[00:06:19] Karen: You have to describe it now.
[00:06:20] Gabrielle: It’s green and sort of fair isle style and it’s warm and I’m big on comfort, but I do think to myself, I really need to wear some other clothing in pictures because people will the only clothing I have is this cardigan.
[00:06:33] Karen: But that cardigan will have so many happy memories for you. And so it’s difficult to, to put it down. I completely understand, you know, I’m wearing bright yellow because I love bright yellows. This also happens to be a hoodie, of an artist called Breis who’s a good friend of mine, so it’s kind of a double whammy thing, you know, plus it’s warm. So hey.
[00:06:58] Gabrielle: But it’s interesting that I have worn this cardigan a lot less, not just because I’m thinking I’m wearing it to death, but also because I’m definitely one of those people who does slip into that habit of if I’m not leaving the house, if I’m not going to be on zoom, essentially, if people outside of my husband and my dog aren’t seeing me it doesn’t really matter what I wear.
And so then I’ll keep the nice, so called, nice clothes kind of for best, you know, not exactly. They’re not the dressy up clothes. They’re just the clothes that I feel best in. I’ll keep them for when I’m out in the world. So, that’s kind of doing ourselves a disservice when we do that.
[00:07:33] Karen: Absolutely because what is best? We have survived so far, almost two years, 18 months of a global pandemic, that isn’t abating as fast as we thought it would be. We know people who did not make it this far, who are not able to listen to this. Or were not able to access anything anymore in that sense where your best is every day you draw breath.
I stand by that. Most of us are brought up to believe that you have to save clothes for the Sunday best of your best. And I, I rebuke that thought because I have to say, I am so grateful to be here at 59 knocking on 60 when I know full well, that one, I am healthy. And two, there are so many people who didn’t make it this far.
So I’m dressing. I don’t call it dressing up. It’s just dressing wear what you like. Boom.
[00:08:30] Gabrielle: That is such a good reality check because you’re right. I don’t keep things for best in lots of other areas of my life. I will use the glasses that we got for our many years ago. I will use the things that I have. I don’t want to keep things for best. And yet, somehow I haven’t been translating that to what I wear.
I don’t use the wine glasses every day, but I wear clothes every day. So why am I doing that? Yes. Right? You are. Yes. You’re giving me a good shift in my thinking. Thank you, Karen. So how do you see what we wear affects how kind of calm we can feel as well as the, the joy, can you have wear your calm as well as wear your happy, I guess.
[00:09:13] Karen: You might want to feel energized and uplifted, but you also want clothes that don’t jar you. That don’t, that aren’t necessarily, that are soft textures.That are clothes that just ground you, so that you can get on with the business of living. So even when we say we, we aren’t affected by the way that we dress, we are, even though we say we’re not into fashion, or we’re not, um, you don’t care about clothing, you kind of care enough to not bother, to put certain things on.
And that affects our mood subliminally. We don’t realise what it’s doing. I’m very in touch with my moods and how I’m feeling. Whether it’s an environment – I’m the kind of person who will walk into a restaurant and if it just doesn’t feel right, I’ll walk out again. That kind of thing. I feel the same way about clothing.
I can’t plan. It’s really funny on modelling shoots, because they might say, bring this time, provide to them or bring this outfit, or can you tell us what you’re going to wear? And I’ll say, no, I can’t not until the day, because I will take out of my wardrobe what I feel like wearing and what speaks to me whether it’s the texture or a colour or a memory . And so I feel that you really have to get silent with this because you really have to always put your hand on your heart and have a think.We are on automatic pilot when it comes to getting dressed, because we are so busy, there’s so much to do.
And a lot of people were relieved that they didn’t have to think about what to wear. You know, we have wardrobes that are curated. What we wear for work, what we’ll wear for church if we go to church, what we’ll wear out that kind of thing. And it’s, and we often wear the same things over and over again. The statistic is we were less than 30% of our wardrobe, you know, it’s bonkers. We’ve all got clothes in our wardrobe that we haven’t worn for ages that we’re saving. And yet you’re still here. You survived, you survived one hundred percent of your day on this planet. Celebrate it. So in a round about way when I’m wearing something that makes me feel good I’m already calm because it’s just one more thing that is enhancing the way I feel about the day, whatever I decide to do, whether I’m going to the studio, whether I’m, running around the park kicking leaves with my grandson, you know, that kind of thing.
Yeah, the power. I think fashion is so powerful and I think we do ourselves a disservice when we dismiss it. And I will also say that I only owned the title, fashion creative, and I say creative, not designer because I think fashion designer puts me too much in a box. And I feel like fashion creative opens me up to do the things I want to do some of which I haven’t thought of yet, if that makes sense. And I could only do that when I realised that actually I do love fashion. I’m not your, conventional the way you see a fashion designer, someone who’s making clothes for retail for, you know, for fast fashion, definitely not into fast fashion. I don’t know if that answers your question, but that’s the answer you’re getting!
[00:12:27] Gabrielle: it’s great answer. I’m intrigued. So while going with your instinct with your kind of intuition as to what it is that you want to wear that day, when you go to your wardrobe, within that, do you find yourself going towards favourite pieces or, when you’re in a certain mood you reach for this a bit like comfort clothing, I suppose a bit like, you know, comfort books and comfort movies and comfort food. Do you have comfort clothing, or that’s going to make me feel confident I know, because that always makes me feel great or…
[00:12:56] Karen: if I’m nervous. I wear orange. I have many head wraps. I have almost 50 head wraps and scarves, so I will, yeah. They make me feel put together. Orange is a color I’m constantly going to. I have a lot of orange in my wardrobe. There are pieces I tend to go for, I Love a jumpsuit.
Oh my God. I love a jumpsuit. I have several. And at some point I’m going to design a jump suit that has a zip that goes all the way around the back so I don’t have to get half naked when I’m in the public loo.
[00:13:31] Gabrielle: Love the idea of that.
[00:13:33] Karen: One of the few things I did, I bought a jumpsuit in the summer. I took myself to Margate for a vacation, and I found at a vintage place that I can’t remember the name of. Um, and that there was an orange jumpsuit hanging up as I walked past and I walked past again and I walked past again, and the next time it was mine, you know, cause that color is, is energy giving it’s life-giving. Um, and it instantly makes my pupils dilate.
[00:14:02] Gabrielle: So an orange jumpsuit is two joys combined in one.
[00:14:06] Karen: Definitely, definitely.
[00:14:09] Gabrielle: Aside from clothing, what else gives you calm and joy, Karen?
[00:14:13] Karen: Uh, calm on joy. Not necessarily at the same time, my grandson playing with my grandson, he’s hit two and he’s turned into a two year old, literally overnight. So he has a lot of energy. I love that when I’m with him, I have to be fully present. It’s almost like I exhale. I mean, I’m still running around and I’m still with him and playing with him and that kind of thing.
But children, you know, their joy is your joy in a sense. And he’s a particularly happy little boy. So that brings me joy.Calm is when I sit at my sewing machine, walking into my studio, I have a studio in Southeast London and it had a big white wall. I was going to fill it with art. And then I decided to paint this colorful mural, which is now in this program, Sex Myths and the Menopause and Statues Redressed actually the latest thing I’ve been on TV.
And I’ve when I walk in it calms me, plus it has this massive window, which when the sunset, oh my goodness me. But yeah, I exhale once I sit at the sewing machine, because it means I’ve cut everything out. I know what I’m about to do, the sewing together in a sense it’s the easiest bit. Cause I’ve done all the working out.
So when, yeah, that’s a combination between the two.
[00:15:40] Gabrielle: Yeah, I’ve seen on your Instagram, I’ve seen the wall and I’ve seen the
huge window and I can imagine how amazing the sunset would be. Absolutely.
[00:15:49] Karen: I’m very, very lucky.
[00:15:51] Gabrielle: So we mentioned that it start about, you being on Davina McCall’s program’s sex myths and the menopause, and you have a podcast called menopause whilst black.
The menopause is something that is now being talked about, but for a long time, it wasn’t, which is mad when you think that half of the population experience it for potentially half of their lives.Through the work that you’re doing, what impact do you think. This has had and is now having, I guess, as the discussion is taking place some more on women’s calm and joy?
[00:16:25] Karen: Okay. So first of all, it was Kate Muir’s programme. Um, she wrote a book called everything you need to know about menopause and were afraid to ask and Davina McCall fronted it. But I understand why everybody calls it Davina McCall’s program, I get that.
The menopause forces you to be honest, it’s a transition into another, I want to say realm, but that sounds really meurghhh, but it is a phase into another part of your life. And so you have to be honest about your diet. You have to be honest about the things that you do that no longer serve you. And I feel that once you’re able to find a way to manage and meet your symptoms, whether it’s whichever route that you decide to take or both, you know, whether it’s hormone replacement therapy, holistic methods, or all of, you know, everything, Chuck, everything at it.
You can become a lot calmer and a lot more joyful. It kind of allows you to do that. And I think that the work I’m doing and lots of other women, amazing women, Diane Danzbrink who’s hashtag and petition #makemenopausematter Davina speaking up, I have a podcast episode that dropped today, which is presenter Angie Greaves talking about it as a black woman.
The more stories you hear, then the more you feel that you’re not alone, which means that you’re more likely to prepare earlier, which means that it won’t hit menopause won’t feel like, you know, you walked into ran into a brick wall, which has for so many women, including myself. So I feel like any taboo subject, t he more people talk about it, the more we normalize menopause, which is another hashtag, the easier and the more fulfilling it will be for so many women, not just now, but coming up, you know, my daughters, younger people, the millennials of the world, that kind of thing. I think it’s incredible what’s happening. There’s a seismic shift around the way menopause is being spoken about, and yes, that comes with its negatives. For example, you know, less scrupulous, let’s just say brands are, cottoning onto a way to play off women’s fear, but on the whole it’s a good thing. It’s a great thing that we’re all talking about it. And I don’t mean just, people who go through menopause, the people who don’t go through menopause directly, like, your partners and kids and you know, that kind of thing. So yeah, more power to it, man.
More stories, the more diverse stories, the better I’d like much more people to talk about it.
[00:19:09] Gabrielle: I could not agree more. And I completely agree that it isn’t just those who go through the menopause that are benefiting from this conversation happening and from more bringing into the light, I suppose it’s actually everybody. I mean, our whole society is benefiting from it. Yeah, absolutely. So my last question for you, Karen, is what are you going to do today to give yourself a moment of calm and joy?
[00:19:33] Karen: I’m going to my studio. I’ve been with my grandson all day, so, um, whilst a lot of that wasn’t calm. We did go to the park and There is something about watching a toddler run. They’ve discovered their legs. Okay, he was running away admittedly and discovering the rustle of leaves and realizing that if he kicked leaves, they make this incredible sound and he’d make them move, man, that’s calm.
That is calm, but he’s gone now. And I am going to go to my studio. I will probably catch the sunset and do a bit of sewing. So yeah, that is what I’m going to do. You know, I start my day with calm because I have to, I journal, I stretch, I, you know, try to meditate. It doesn’t always happen, and so I managed to do that today and I think, um, that often sets me up.
But if I get a chance to have more calm in my day, my studio is usually the place to go. Even during lockdown when I had, no, I couldn’t see my clients studio, the studio was still open, so I was able to just go and sit and breathe and eat my lunch and not do a lot else. And it was nice. So yeah, that’s what I’m doing.
Long answer to a short question.
[00:20:57] Gabrielle: Sounds wonderful to me. Sounds like you’ve got a gorgeous mixture of the two in there. So where can listeners find and connect with you?
[00:21:07] Karen: If you Google the karen arthur my name comes up. I am often on Instagram. That’s my weapon of choice as @thekarenarthur and my podcast account is @menopausewhilstblack.
[00:21:23] Gabrielle: Wonderful. Thank you so much for joining me today, Karen.
[00:21:27] Karen: You’re welcome. It was fun!
I thoroughly enjoyed my chat with Karen and I hope you did too. I’ve got a burning desire to get myself a jumpsuit now! If you found this episode 90 interesting or helpful feel free to share it and hop on over to iTunes to leave a quick review so that other people can find Pressing Pause and hopefully gain something from it too.
For the show notes and links mentioned in this episode 90 go to gabrielletreanor.com/podcast. And as I mentioned at the start, if you want this Christmas to ditch the stress, the striving to meet expectations, the being responsible for everyone’s enjoyment, the people-pleasing, the guilt of wanting to do what you need take a look at my self-paced, online course called Coping with Christmas. All the info you need is at gabrielletreanor.com/courses so take a look and you can have the calm, peaceful, joyful Christmas you want.
Thanks again for listening, until next time, lovely people.
Throughout this website and my work when I refer to women I include people identifying as women.
If you have, or think you may have, a mental health problem that requires professional diagnosis or treatment, please consult a mental health care professional and your GP.
You can also talk to the people at Mind on 0300 123 3393 or SANE on 0300 304 7000 or Samaritans on 116 123.
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