School WASN'T the best time of your life, here's why

For the past few weeks i've been thinking - mostly about how content I am with my life and how lucky I've been feeling lately. I mean, how could I not be? I get paid for doing what I love, I live in a nice place (you know, despite my crazy neighbour), I'm surrounded by people - and animals - that I love and - more recently - I've seen more of the world than I ever thought a small-town girl like me, ever could. I travelled to Sweden with the guy that I love, experienced an entirely new culture, got the opportunity to shoot in some amazing places and - thanks to Zalando and Göteborg Tourism - barely paid a penny for it (check out my recent Gothenburg Photodiary to hear all about my new love for all things Swedish). Yeah, I'd say life is pretty great right now.

So when I think back to all those times that my teachers and parents told me that my school years were the 'best years of my life', I can't help but laugh, as well as feel maybe a little bit sad about the true meaning behind those few words. I mean, I'm no child-expert here, but shouldn't we be making young'uns excited about their future, not scaring them into thinking that - once they leave school - their lives are about to seriously go down hill?

Now I'll be completely honest with you guys - school for me sucked. It sucked hard. i was bullied, I hated rules (still do) and all in all I just wanted to stay at home and do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it (isn't that everyone's dream?!). I get it that some people had a blast at school, but - judging by the people i've spoken to in the past - those people are in more of the minority than anything else. Seriously though, how can five straight days of text books, soggy sandwiches and squeaky chalkboards be a part of the 'best years of my life'? I swear most of my positive memories of education revolved around school dinners. They just did mash potato so well, you know? Of course you know. How could anyone not love blended mash potato.

But despite the general lack of decent mash potato in my adult life, I think it's safe to say that pretty much everything else has only gotten better. They say kids have all the freedom in the world, but as far as I remember I had to ask permission to do just about anything up until the age of fifteen (when I became a rebellious devil child..sorry Mum and Dad). If I wanted to go out with my friends I had to make sure I was home at a certain time. If I wanted to see the latest Pokemon film (which obv I did) I had to 'borrow' a few quid off of my folks and ask them for a lift into town because - oddly enough - a ten year old isn't allowed to drive. Weird.

Now? Well now I have more freedom than ever as far as I'm concerned. Sure, there are bills to pay, and there are extra worries and stresses that I'd like to do without sometimes, but in my opinion the good things outweigh those woes without a shadow of a doubt. Around two years ago I quit my job on a whim to do, well, this! Could I have done the same back in Primary school? You know, just wake up one day, decide I want to be a professional Playstation player and never go to another maths class ever again. Hell, I couldn't even fake a sick day without teachers questioning me the next day. Sometimes a girl just wants to take a break from algebra and Pythagorastheorem (which, by the way, I am still yet to use since leaving secondary school).

Now I have the ability to turn my life into whatever I want it to be. Of course there are more pressures in adult life, but that's what makes it interesting. If I didn't have bills to pay, I wouldn't need to work so hard at achieving my goals. I wouldn't enjoy the rare time off that I have, because my entire life would be just one big holiday. And hey, if I decide I want to change my 'dream' into something completely different, I have complete control of doing that too. I no longer have to rely on anyone for money, permission or stability, which means I get to fully enjoy the company and relationships with these people. I never have to ask anyone, to have them turn around and say no to me, and because of that I never hold any teenage grudges like I used to. It's all down to me. And if there was ever a word of encouragement it's that: you can do whatever the hell you want. Forget 'embracing the now'. Fuck the now! Enjoy every day you have but never settle for anything less than you deserve. And let's face it, you probably deserve a lot more than those maths classes and soggy sandwiches.

ONLY Westa Denim Jacket from Ark *
ASOS two-toned shirt
Topshop ripped denim shorts 
ASOS pointed patent pumps *
Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses 

[Our trip to Sweden was kindly sponsored by Zalando and Goteborg Tourism!]

The reality of being a fashion blogger

So I'm sitting here, wearing head to toe Chanel (this season, obviously) with Anna Wintour on the phone (begging me to be on the cover of the September issue) and more money sitting in my Hermes bag than I know what to do with. Ah, the life of a fashion blogger, eh? It almost sounds too good to be true.

And, unfortunately, it kinda is. I mean,don't get me wrong, I bloody love what I do beyond belief, and I feel insanely lucky each and every day that I get to wake up when I want, and write about what I want. But man, it's definitely not as glamourous as us gals make it out to be. There's no Hermes in sight - or head to toe Chanel for that matter. Instead, it's more like empty MacDonalds boxes and head to toe Primark pyjamas. But if I'm being completely honest, that's more my kind of thing. So understated, you know?

So anyway. We all know I like to keep it real (always wanted to say that) here on the blog, so I've decided to make a post all about what really happens behind the scenes. That's right guys, I'm not the sophisticated, composed, completely faultless human being you all thought I was.. *cough*. In fact, I'm writing this whilst wearing a tomato stained vest top right this second. Oh the glamour! Speaking of which..

You blog about pretty clothes, but spend your life in your pyjamas

Wait, did you really think I wore heels all day long? On these cobblestone English streets? Hell. No. Sure, I wear my nice clothes when I'm out and about, but as soon as I get inside off go the dresses (and the bra) and on go the tracksuit bottoms. Sitting at a desk in skintight leather trousers gets...itchy, to say the least. Elasticated waist bands are where it's at. 

And what about days off? There are no days off

I guess this is all relative depending on how strict you are with what you do, but I'm one of those people that just keep on trucking no matter what. I guess when you work for yourself (or even just like to blog, a lot) there isn't much that can stop you from posting, whether it's illness, school, sleep, or even a holiday (gotta get poolside snaps). Would you judge me if I told you I skipped Uni sometimes just so I can blog? I hope my lecturer doesn't read this.

The most menial things will seem like a day out

Since days off are pretty much non-existent, you end up getting super excited whenever you leave the house. Today I went to the post office and bought some milk. It was probably the most fun I had had all week. I wish I was lying.

But despite all this, people will never believe you're actually busy

I wish the majority of my day was spent shopping and taking selfies, but the fact is is that most of the time I'm just replying to emails and filing out paperwork. Self assessment tax forms are the devil - s'all I'm sayin'.

Friends will think you're a millionaire (you're not)

Sometimes my bank balance will look really, really nice. Sometimes I'll be living off of Super Noodles. The fact is is that freelance work is never steady money, no matter how successful you are. There have been times where I haven't earned a single penny for months, and there have been times when I've felt like one of those cool pimps in MTV music videos making it rain over the sexy naked ladies. Only they dress better than I do..

Most of the money you earn will go back into what you do

Cameras, laptops, memory cards - I hate to think of how much I've spent on 'equipment' over the years. It's not even just useful things either. I'm forever spending money on new photo props just to make sure my flatlays don't all look the same. If I come home with a fresh bunch of flowers, you know I'm about to shoot some blog pics. Why else would I buy them!?

You'll start noticing (and hating) pointless things about yourself

For every decent outfit shot there are fifty more terrible ones. I guess on average we shoot around two hundred pictures of each outfit, each time - and guess who has to go through all of them at the end of the day? Yup, me. You'd think I would have gotten used to seeing photos of myself, but every new #ootd makes me cringe just as much as the last. I have a bump on my nose that I never noticed before, I have a vein that sits around my mouth that I never noticed before and my ankles are bigger than I'd like them to be. I'm aware I sound deranged. I guess with this you can either let it bring you down or you can just laugh it off - which is exactly why I've spent the past few weeks saving all of my best/worst outfit shots for a future blog post. Heh.

You'll either be cold, or really really warm

So you know that thing about fashion always being a season ahead of itself? Yeah, it's kinda the same for us bloggers. In the outfit snaps above you can see me wearing French Connections A/W collection (which is insane, btw) and - whilst I might look fairly comfortable - I was sporting this RSVP wool jumper on one of the hottest days of the year. Same goes for shooting Spring/Summer collections. The amount of times I've worn a swimsuit in the peak of winter is, well, chilling..(sorry).

And finally, no matter who you are, you'll always get weird looks from the public

I often wonder what people must think of me when they see me getting my pose on in the streets. They must either think I'm super important or just really, really weird. We both know the answer to that one. Obviously the first option is the right one. Obviously.

Now if you'll excuse me. I have to go and do really important blogger things like change the cat litter and take the rubbish out..

Can you guys relate to any of these misconceptions at all (please tell me I'm not alone)?

French Connection RSVP Knit *
French Connection Marie Skirt *
French Connection Mules from Cloggs *

WIN a £200 ASOS voucher & Vans Disney goodies!

Sooooo, how do I say this without getting really, really, overly excited? Here goes. ASOS AND I HAVE TEAMED UP TO GIVE ONE OF YOU GUYS A £200 ASOS VOUCHER AND A BIG BUNDLE OF VANS X DISNEY GOODIES AND I'M SO JEALOUS I WANT IT ALL MYSELF. Yep, nailed it. Smooth as ever Steph. Smooth as ever.

Anyway, a few months ago Disney and Women's Vans teamed up to create a magical collection of shoes, clothes, bags and accessories featuring old faves like Winnie the Pooh, Ariel and good old Mickey Mouse. Basically, it's like one of the coolest footwear companies and your childhood came together and had a baby. A shoe/clothing/bag baby. My favourite kind of baby.

So that got awkward quickly, but either way you look at it, winning £200+ worth of ASOS goodies is a pretty great thing no matter who you are. As for what you have to do to win, well, you better start looking through those family photo albums

To enter, all you need to do is scroll down and upload a cute or funny photo of yourself as a child, and add a little creative caption to go along with it. You'll all be able to vote for each others (or ask your friends and family to vote for yours!). After two weeks, ASOS will choose the winner out of the top five people with the most votes, and that winner will get the big fat ASOS bundle. So, what are you waiting for? Get sharing those baby snaps!

Why it's okay to not have a lot of friends

UK Fashion and beauty blogger
UK Fashion and beauty blogger
UK Fashion and beauty blogger
UK Fashion and beauty blogger
UK Fashion and beauty blogger

Before we get down to the nitty gritty stuff, I think it's important that I stay completely honest with you guys, and make a little confession. So here goes. The truth is, is that these pictures have absolutely nothing to do with what I'm about to talk about. I know, I know, it's shocking. I mean, just look at me, walking in the rain by my lonesome (apart from Ollie who was behind the camera at the time, but hey, who's taking note?) with nothing but nature by my side. Seriously, in the picture of me looking out into an open field you can practically hear me crying out 'friends, friends, where art thou friends' (although I'm not sure an empty field is the best place to find anything other than cows and/or the cast of A Bugs Life). Ugh, this all seems so depressingly poetic in the most perfect way imaginable. Buuut the reality is is that in actual fact we had to shoot an outfit, it started raining and I was moody because I was cold and damp. Shakespeare, eat your heart out.

Okay so we've managed to open this post on a fairly light hearted note, but the premise behind what I'm saying is very, very real. See, the thing is, is that I don't have many friends - and I never have done! In primary school and secondary school I had a small group of girls that I hung out with, in College a lot of us went our separate ways and in turn I spent the majority of my time eating lunch in the IT rooms whilst Tumblr-ing my life away. After a while I made a few pals but they soon moved away to go to University, and I stayed where I was. I made acquaintances in the workplace but never any solid friendships, and then when I decided to go to University myself I moved away and made a few friends in London. Then (I'm nearly done with this story, promise) I left London after a year, and I guess those friendships just dwindled, despite good intentions. I'm now going into my third year of University with a few good pals under my belt, but potentially less than I've ever had in my life. And you know what? I'm actually really fine with that.

I feel like it's pretty much imprinted into our brains from a young age that popular people equate to happy people, and that we all have to be outgoing social butterflies otherwise, well, maybe we're just a bit weird. I always recall my Mum telling me from a young age that you 'can count your true friends on one hand', and I remember thinking to myself that she just told me that to make me feel better about being a bit of a loner. I mean, everyone else at my school had swarms of friends - real life friends - whilst I was always a bit of an outsider that seemed to have more luck making Myspace friends that any thing else. These days, I guess the story hasn't really changed that much at all - only instead of spending hours writing Myspace bulletins asking for 'pc4pc' I spend my time (slightly) more wisely and write copious amounts of words for the whole internet to see.

In fact, it's kind of funny that the majority of my close friends have actually come from online relationships. Even Ollie and I met online, and in the past three years of us being together he's - without a doubt - become the most important person in my life. I think it's so important to remember that - when we're kids - we don't have the stresses and commitments that we do when we're adults. Eight year old Steph had all the time in the world to play with her friends, but twenty two year old Steph has (multiple) jobs, a relationship to maintain, a home to look after and two whole eyebrows to pluck (I was the monobrow queen in the 90s, which probably didn't help my popularity when I think about it).

So now, I guess it's time to adamantly admit that my Mum was right - you really can only count your true friends on one hand - but when they're true friends, why do you really need more? The relationships I have with these people are solid. If we don't see each other for a while, there are no hard feelings, we work through any differences as opposed to just brushing each other off, and we're there for each other without even having to physically be there in person. Eight year old Steph needed people to play at the park with her, whereas twenty two year old Steph needs a combination of that, as well as someone to rely on when times get tough, and for that you need quality over quantity. You need people that will stick around no matter what, that will help you in whatever you choose to do with your life and - to put it bluntly - be worth the time you're investing in them. Time is obviously such a huge thing as you get older - since we seem to have less and less of it as we go on - so you need to spend that time with people that help you, rather than hurt you. It doesn't happen over night, but once you've cracked that perfect handful of friends, you'll be set for life. 

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that not having many friends doesn't mean you're a loser, and it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. To me (and this has taken me far too long to figure out), it simply means that you've taken your time to perfect your own little group of friends. And that, ladies in gentlemen, is the ultimate #SquadGoal.

Bershka Black Blazer *
Bershka Grey Midi Dress *
Bershka Tote Bag *
Bershka Cut Out Boots *

Can you guys relate to this at all?

The best blogger networks (that will benefit your blog)

With last weeks Tip Tuesday being a bit of a belated fail, I decided to give you lot a bit of a double whammy blog post - an outfit of ze day alongside a Tip Tuesdays post that - wait for it - is actually being published on time.

So anyway, for all of you that follow me on Twitter you may have seen me post a little something abut a new network I've recently signed up with called The Blogger Agent, which is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. Not only that, but last week Etail PR announced that they were re-launching their own network to make way for a brand new, shiny website. Needless to say, the ol' blogger networks are having a bit of a moment right now, so for today's post I've decided to narrow down the best of the bunch that'll not only boost your blog following, but also send a lot more opportunities your way. Huzzah!

The Blogger Agent

The Blogger Agent is the newest kid on the block in terms of networks, but it's already partnered with some of the biggest names in high street fashion. Claudia (the founder) works directly with bloggers and brands, and hand picks all of the bloggers on the network. Right now there are around fifteen girls on board - including yours truly - which means there's enough work to go around for everyone. Plus, they give out the most amazing goodie boxes in existence. Head on over to my Youtube channel for a sneak peak of what was in my welcome box!

The Blogger Programme

The Blogger Programme is probably my second favourite of the bunch. First up, the website itself is just insanely easy to navigate. Secondly, TBP actually allows you to talk to brands and PR companies as opposed to just applying  for various campaigns. It means you're able to fully discuss various opportunities and form a close relationship with a brand, as opposed to just accepting a product and posting about it. Some of their best advertisers include Very, River Island, Debenhams and The Body Shop.

Etail PR

I'll be honest, Etail PR hasn't always been my most favourite network in existence, but since the re-launch they've seriously upped their game in terms of user-friendliness (?!). They work with a huge variety of brands including Motel, Wildfox and AX Paris, and they work with bloggers on both a gifting and monetary-gain basis. Katching.

The Bloggers Hub

The Bloggers Hub is fairly similar to The Blogger Programme, only it works with more niche, upcoming brands. Every season they hold their own Bloggers Love Fashion Week which allows brands and bloggers to come together and discuss collaborations in person. They've also just made their own (amazingly Instagrammable) blog planners for pretty much any occasion.

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Hearts and Bows open back top *
Hearts and Bows cord mini skirt *
Eastpak padded black backpack *
Ark lace up sandals *

Are you a part of any of these networks yet?