A short fashion post – I love you Issa

Well, I’ll never have a pop at Kate Middleton again. She basically discovered Issa for the rest of the world (or those of us unfashionistas who are style-challenged) and for that I now want to send her bouquets.

Readers of the old unfashionista (and we are working to replicate it) might recall that one of my fashion rules is “Show your waist”. Whether thin or not. Waist to hip ratio is good to emphasize for everybody including plus sizes.

So I wanted an Issa dress but can’t justify spending that much money. Anyway, I finally cracked and bought one at http://www.theoutnet.com – and it looks terrific – and then, just as I was ending a spree of buying autumn work clothes, I catch a tweet from @GlamourMagUK raving about the new “Issa for Banana Republic” collection. Well, scarred by Kate Moss for TopShop and Missoni for Target – all those designer “collections” with five pieces in them so you get “sold out” right away – I did click on the US site for BR, and as it was 6am everything was still available. And I filled my boots. Awesome looking dresses for just $130, about £95. Following every rule I’ve had on the blog for office wear and What Men Want. Knee-length. Fitted, even with a flare skirt, because of the tight wrap waists. Often 3/4 length sleeves. Feminine. Elegant. The only dresses I didn’t buy were the too short ones.

Anyway, they turned up (me guiltily vowing to return anything I didn’t like) and I’m not sending back ONE ITEM. I may as well forget fashion blogging because it’s all Issa all the time for me now. The dresses pack a Forties glamour, they are SO feminine and elegant, they are the kind of dress that will have a man catching his breath whilst not being even slightly tarty or “daring”. Yes, Issa-the-label does some plunging vees and great if you can get away with that or if you want to, but it’s not for me. But the Banana Republic collection isn’t that way.

Here are a couple of shots of two of the dresses: and one with the dress smartened for work with a Hobbs jacket. So often a dress looks lovely online then hangs like a sack. Not these ones. They are keepers. So is the tote, the scarf and the bag.

LOVE. Anyway, if you can get them, get them. I didn’t buy the kimono ones or the short ones; other than that I bought every dress, top and cardigan; I also bought the bracelet and the tote and all three scarves.


Brown dress (all dresses with my favourite Jessica Simpson Given heels)

zebra with Hobbs jacket zebra dress IMG_0038 IMG_0033 IMG_0036 IMG_0039

No, the new Doctor shouldn’t be a woman…. (in praise of alpha males)


This is a photo of an otter. Otters starred in the most internet meme of all time, “Otters who look like Benedict Cumberbatch”

Benedict Cumberbatch is an otter-looking English actor of great skill who has played Stephen Hawking and Sherlock Holmes, but you would never confuse him with Arnold Schwarzenegger or Bruce Willis, say, or with a regimental sergeant-major, or Attila the Hun.

Yet in the most spectacular piece of mis-casting I can ever remember, somebody thought it would be a great idea to give Benedict Cumberbatch the role of Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Khan. As classically played by Ricardo Montalban, a man so hard, he flosses his teeth with diamonds. A man modeled on Genghis Khan. Who, to lead you round in alpha male circles, is the origin of Schwarzenegger’s deathless Conan the Barbarian line: “What is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women.” The last bit was censored; Genghis’ original was “and use their women as a nightshirt”.

Despite an acclaimed script and direction by J J Abrams, the Star Trek movie was a disappointment at the box office compared to the gigantic blockbuster it was expected to be. It did fine, but it was supposed to be the overwhelming hit of the year and it just wasn’t, with an opening weekend $25 mil below expectations.


I don’t give a stuff what they say over at Metacritic, Khan is meant to be a warrior, a genius, yes, but a warrior, all the same. He who in the original says of the swooning history professor who casts herself at his feet, so great is her longing for a real man, “a superior woman. I will take her.”

It is impossible to imagine this line being uttered by Benedict Cumberbatch. His cerebral Khan is about as scary as imagining your geography tutor getting really cross. And because every movie needs a great villain, this one tailed off as soon as Cumberbatch says the name “Khan”. I hadn’t read any reviews and could not suppress an open groan in the cinema.

Look, guys, I’m as enlightened as the next chick but there really is a need for dominant males in the world. For your alphas, your muscular, ambitious, driven, ass-kicking commandos who play rugby and/or drive Hummers and manage metal bands (OK I’m biased). For Darth Vader. For Klingons. For Terminators. For Khan.

I’m not saying I could take him in the weight room but nobody that looks like an otter should be playing one of the greatest, baddest, sexiest villains in space.

Alpha males don’t have to be all muscles, although it certainly helps. Indeed I have met many muscular males who I’d say were more gentle and beta-ish. I go back to my first crush Avon from Blake’s Seven, played by Paul Darrow. What a cynical, clever bastard that character was. An equal-opportunity offender. Sexist, unrepentant, marvelously foiled by Servalan (incredible sexual chemistry). Darrow was not a he-man but he was most definitely an alpha male.

Now the Doctor is different, and interesting, but he should be male, because sex is a defining part of who we are, and males and females are different, and the Doctor is a male. (small note: I detest the use of “gender” when people mean “sex”, and am guilty of it myself, but that’s just weakness because everybody else does it. I will man up.) He should not only be a male, but he should be a male with a sense of massive power behind him, not some befuddled teenager or student beta type as of late. Tom Baker [edited: not Colin Baker ffs, posting late at night) was somebody whom you never quite understood; he was mysterious; he knew far more than you did; he gave the sense of being extraordinarily strong, and born from darkness, and of having battled impossible terrors. That was why Dr. Who was so frightening; and I would love to see the BBC cast an actor who could take viewers back to that sense of power. It has gone missing from our screens, replaced with heroes and villains with interesting backstories and “childhood issues” that made them what they are. I don’t give a monkeys about Anakin Skywalker’s pod-racing; I do like “I find your lack of faith disturbing”.

If you’re feeling your hand is being forced by the commentariat into a female Doctor, BBC, just remember: Star Trek: Into Darkness = Star Trek: Could Do Better.

No women. No Matt Smiths. No Sylvester McCoys. No Peter Davidsons. No David Tennants. More Tom Baker, Christopher Eccelston and Patrick Troughton. TIA.

photo by pixel addict

What Men Want – Dress

So what do men want from how you dress?

Of course this article comes with all the normal caveats; some men are different, some want tattoos and biker leathers, that’s all true. But what do most men want?

I think the answer is simple enough.

1. they like their women feminine. Consider wearing dresses if you usually stick to trousers. A dress these days is rare enough that a woman in one always looks elegant. It says “I bothered”.

2. They like you and want to see you. This means fitted clothes that flatter your shape, including plus size. No hiding away. Men are more visually stimulated than women and are attracted to the female form, so display it by form-fitting clothes.

Make sure whatever you wear shows your waist. Waist to hip ratio is a scientifically proven quotient of attractiveness to men throughout the ages, no matter what your size. Many plus size pieces are cut to show that waist.

3. They operate a double standard and don’t want to see you in anything too revealing. We can debate all day long as to why this should not be so, but the fact remains for most men it is, in fact, so. Don’t go too short, too low-cut, or too clingy or see-through.

4. They want to see you look pretty, elegant and groomed. As well as appreciating you, men are territorial. There is a big part of them that wants to be proud of the woman they are with. Rightly or wrongly, they feel she reflects on them. The unlovely term and concept “trophy wife” comes from this basic idea; a man wants to be proud of the woman he’s with.

5. This means, good fabrics and cuts, blow-dried hair, simple make-up that looks like a more polished version of you.

And that’s it. The basic, elegant, feminine look most men want. They envy another man whose wife or girlfriend looks like that. Yes, I believe women should dress for the man they love. This fundamental idea of caring about, and acting on, what your partner wants is attacked by many as unfeminist. Nothing could be further from the truth. Feminism is about equal rights and opportunities for women. It is not about seeing men as an enemy; it is nor about denying the urge women have to please the men they cherish.

And of course, it is not a one way street either. You expect your man in a suit at your sister’s wedding. I like men who lift weights. In a love partnership, each does not consider themselves alone, but what the other likes and desires. Women are less visually stimulated than men, so you may not have an opinion on Hugo Boss for him, but he will be obliged to do things for you purely and solely because you are into it.

What Men Want: Relationships

wmw auroBOOK REVIEW:

Self-help books are one of my great pleasures. I read all kinds; success manuals, time management tomes, style bibles, stress reducers, exercise and weight-lifting guides. Much of it is total guff (self help people LOVE lists – the Seven Rules to Time Management, the Twenty Laws of Manifesting Wealth etc etc) but you occasionally get a nugget of insight you can use. Like “Eat That Frog” by Brian Tracy on procrastination (do the most important thing first in your day).

Besides, you get more of what you focus on, I believe, so constantly looking at various ideas to help you do more, be more and achieve higher will help you get there, by osmosis, even if the individual bits of advice don’t work.

So here in the What Men Want series (that perennially annoys those self-identified feminists who, in the face of all basic logic, believe it is unfeminist for a woman to wish to please a man) – a book review.

His Needs, Her Needs has sold 3 million copies and is an unusual relationship book.


Instead of telling you the normal relationship stuff like “active listening” etc, it has an interesting thesis: that men and women have a “hierarchy of needs” that they are looking to have met. If you meet your partner’s needs in these five areas you will have a great relationship.

There are caveats, so don’t all jump on him if the 5 needs aren’t your personal top five needs; the author advocates finding out your own top five from a basic list and ensuring you get them met. But, like all relationship books, it necessarily generalises on MOST men and MOST women.

Women’s Top Five Needs are:

1. Affection
2. Conversation
3. Trust/Honesty
4. Financial support/a provider
5. Good father/ family commitment.

Men’s top 5 needs are

1. Sexual fulfillment
2. Recreational companionship/ playmate (non Playboy sense) – doing activities together
3. An attractive or well groomed spouse
4. Peace and quiet /domestic support/ tranquil home
5. Admiration.

Clearly, this is not a politically correct list, but I believe there is an awful lot to this. The chapters under each heading go into details – how women talk more than men and men express affection through doing stuff together – he wants you to ski with him, go to movies with him, walk the dogs together etc – that in “financial support” he is not saying women marry men for their money, but reflecting the reality that most childcare still devolves on women, working women tend to earn less than men, most women are at maximum stress levels and need support – and in “attractive or well groomed spouse” he is reflecting a reality of male thoughts on a partner bothering to look well for him, reflecting on him etc..

It may seem very controversial to put “Sexual fulfillment” at the top of masculine needs, Clearly both men and women need to feel loved first. You note that “loved” is not listed here. The author’s thesis is that these are different ways in which the sexes receive the feeling of being loved.

A man who is sexually rejected or deprived will feel rejected *as a man* and *as a person* and not merely sexually. There is no division. Before you all start screaming, of course, if the woman is disabled, depressed or traumatised there are exceptions, but without these serious reasons, men want to be desired and not merely to desire others themselves.

It might be a bit uncomfortable, but I think there is an awful lot to be said for this list. The top 5 needs for women aren’t my own personally, but I think I’m somewhat different from most.

It never really struck me until it was pointed out what a massive male need it is to have a woman as an active companion. He wants a permanent friend and whereas women will “grab a coffee” together, men pretty much never do that. They meet for tennis/bowling/a play/ a movie. Just imagine three men sitting in a cafe over tea and cakes chatting. It’s an amusing image, no? Yet women do it all the time.

With his life partner a man wants a woman who will throw herself into it. Skiing (which I hate) I do because Peter likes it. Walking the dogs late nights not a favourite either, but he likes the companionship. Plays, listen, I am a homebody who likes reading and posting and other solitary pursuits but I go to them and enjoy them because he wants me to. And reciprocally, he does masses of stuff he isn’t particularly into for my sake.

Each of the needs has a chapter exploring it in depth and it is honest, not the normal psychobabble. A man does judge himself against other men and does feel proud when his wife is elegant. A woman has a deep need to feel her man is not playing her, that she can totally trust him. A man needs admiration – not necessarily Nancy Reagan type adoring looks all the time, but yes, he wants to be proud of you and you to be proud of him. He doesn’t receive the daily compliments women get “You look great”, “Nice dress”, “I love you hair”. Often his wife is his primary or sole source of expressed admiration. We all need a fan. And as the book points out, this isn’t a tip to massage his ego “oh sweetie aren’t you clever” – it’s advice to go for a man you actually, genuinely admire. Men can tell the difference; it’s on their sexual radar.

In sum, I think this is one of the most useful relationship books I’ve ever read, because it doesn’t lie about what men need as opposed to what modern society would like them to need.

And as for myself, I am a fairly meat and potatoes sort of girl. I like strong men, alpha males, and would not be happy with any man I didn’t both desire and admire. I need to look up to him and long for him. In essence I don’t believe in settling, I think you should marry your fantasy. Settling leads to a mundane and miserable life, with that aching thought that there is always more out there.

Give it a read – challenge your preconceptions. I hate the trope that we are all just looking for a “best friend”. I have two best friends (one male, one female) and I wouldn’t want to marry either of them. A spouse is a lot more than that, and attraction and electricity matter immensely.


photo by auro

What Men Want – Identity

There have been a rash of articles in the media lately concentrating on men, and what they want. Not “from women”, but in life.

There was Janice Turner’s (@VictoriaPeckham) piece in the Times, which asked the amazingly spurious question “Why do men commit almost all the crime?”


There was Laurie Penny (@PennyRed) in the Guardian, with a typically well-written piece on the “crisis in masculinity” apparently discovered by Diane Abbott, including the equally amazing counter-factual line “The big secret about the golden age of “male providers” is that it never existed.”


and there was, less importantly but perhaps totemically, another mixed-up piece in the Times about how awful it was that teenage boys are becoming bodybuilders, with another false on its face characterization: ‘The “hyper-male” look first appeared on the cinema screen with Sylvester Stallone in the Rambo films and Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator in the early eighties…but most men thought them laughable, like the Chippendales, the male strippers..’


So let’s just take the kite string and guide it gently back towards the ground of reality, one where sexual differences between men and women are real, proven, and in fact bloody obvious, and affect all the cells in the body, not skipping the grey matter of the brain.

Almost all crime is committed by men because men have higher levels of testosterone. (You’re welcome, Janice).

What? You want a bit more? Well, testosterone leads to many differences between males and females. It includes more aggression, more physical strength, more happiness, and more comfort with risk-taking. “Most crime is committed by men” is not of course the same as saying “Most men commit crimes”. Not much crime is committed by old men, where testosterone has dropped, for example.

And as for Laurie Penny’s, and Diane Abbott’s, arguments, they are quite wrong. Take the mind blowing “the golden age of male providers never existed.” Well, if you exclude every age and culture from the dawn of human history up until the present day, everywhere in the world, that is true. But if you include any human society anywhere at any time, it is of course false. Men have always been the primary breadwinners. They remain so today in overwhelming numbers.


Articles about “the decline of the male breadwinner” refer to a model where only one partner worked. Most women today, over 2/3 of mothers, work outside the home. Women contribute to family income. But they make a far lesser contribution than the male spouse. There is no first world society anywhere in the world today where women’s earnings are anything like those of male earnings.

And as to men “laughing at” Schwarzenegger and Stallone and “comparing them to strippers” as the author of the piece risibly argues, the films she cites were of course giant, epochal box office smash hits, and Schwarzenegger (and to a lesser extent Stallone) carried on making many hundred million dollar smashes right through the decade and into the nineties, the 00s and on up to this decade’s Expendables, each one going global on an audience of mainly spellbound men. (“Escape Plan” is coming this autumn.)

Now none of this is to argue that the picture hasn’t changed. The model of the paterfamilias of 1910, say, is indeed dead. Western wives love and honour, but they do not obey. There are two contributors to earnings in most households. Women have employment, legal and divorce rights; no longer do they need to be married or stay married in order to secure their basic survival. All this is the triumph of feminism and the liberation of women. At the same time, masculinity is no longer frozen out of child-rearing. Fathers spend more quality time with their children and feel more free to offer hugs and overt emotion. All this is wonderful, and it is progress.

Laurie Penny is surely right when she follows her epic line about “Male breadwinners never existing” with two more sensible arguments – that women have always worked, and that some men are, as she puts it, “too poor, too queer, too sensitive, too disabled, too compassionate or simply too clever to submit to whatever model of “masculinity” society relied upon to keep its wars fought and its factories staffed.”

Well, yes, sure. Of course. There are gay women, too, and disabled women, and women with no desire for either children or a mate, and both sexes provide endless variety, but what we are discussing here is the average, straight, male and female.

The fact is that men remain the primary breadwinners, and women remain the primary carers. Men care for their children more, and women work far more, and earn far more, and press their advantage all the time compared to the picture in the 1950s, but men remain better paid, better promoted, better represented and so on and so forth. We need more women aspiring to leadership positions. But men – MOST men, not all men – grow up expecting to have to be the main providers for their future family. And I believe this is an honourable, indeed noble, and entirely biologically explicable impulse.

So what do men want? In fact, I think we have come a long way. Men are still expected to “step up” and they still want to do so. At the same time, they have more friendships with women, more time with their children, and more ability to express their emotions than ever before. They are, in fact, in a pretty cool place. And when we read all the articles about Ariel Castro, and the Oxford gang of child rapists, and the Indian bastards who gang-raped and slaughtered an innocent woman, we should not lose sight of the fact that testosterone fuels these outlier monstrosities, but it also fuels the men who bust their asses working to pay most of the bills, who defend us on the field of battle, who drive into burning buildings to save us, and who land planes beautifully in the middle of rivers saving everybody on board because they have nerves of steel.


Janice Turner is comfortable asking “Why do men commit most of the crime?” It is a permissible headline, because it takes a truism, and it is a pro-woman truism. Would an article have sold with the title “Why do men still create most of the great art?” Or “Why do men still make almost all significant scientific discoveries?” Or “Why are all the great composers male?” Or “Why have men won 807 Nobel prizes whereas women have won 44?”

Men want to work outside the home – 76%. Only 22% would rather stay home. Frankly I am amazed it is that high. Of women, 51% – just over half – want to work outside the home, and 44% would stay home if they could.


Don’t cry for the end of masculinity just yet. It really isn’t going anywhere. Nor is the man as higher earner and main breadwinner. We are getting a more even partnership, where both sexes get in touch with their opposite side, but we are not eliminating sex differences in temperament, not will we ever.

That Y chromosome matters. Feminism is about equal rights and opportunities with men – not pretending most men and most women want the same things. They don’t.

bodybuilder highstrungloner

Photo by highstrungloner