Confident nursing in public

It saddens me that this column might attract controversy.

The topic of nursing in public is, so unnecessarily, littered with landmines — from the over-sexualization of the breast in our culture to the lack of support and correct information for new mothers — and everyone has an opinion.

When I had my son, I fortunately lived in a supportive micro-community of fellow moms. We met almost daily at the food court to swap stories and advice, and we fed our babies whenever and wherever we needed to.

I nursed in malls, grocery stores, in front of male family and friends, out walking, on airplanes, restaurants, you name it. But I never sequestered myself in a bathroom stall or so-called family room.

Before going any further, let me make one issue 100 percent clear. If you have a problem with seeing a mother breastfeed in public, it is your problem, not hers.

Both federal and provincial human rights legislation protect a woman’s right to feed her baby anywhere. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding to six months and beyond with the addition of appropriate foods.

Why is a fashion columnist writing about this? Because style and our society’s concept of female beauty are intrinsically linked, and sometimes this connection has the power to harm women.

Look no further than the centuries-old Chinese practice of foot binding.

Fortunately, the acceptance of nursing in public has grown in the past several decades as we recognize the immeasurable benefits of breastfeeding for baby, mother, and our environment.

Still, every once in a while, a story will surface about some mother asked to leave a restaurant or cover up, and the debate gets kicked into high gear again.

Such publicity can put a lot of hesitance and fear in the minds of new mothers already distraught from lack of sleep and new responsibilities.

Confidence in publicly feeding your baby comes with two key ingredients: attitude and whatever physical nursing fashion or gear makes you feel most comfortable.

The attitude part is covered by the statutes mentioned above. Never doubt you are doing the right thing and that you are legally protected to feed your baby wherever and whenever necessary.

As for the fashion part, I can thank members of Kelowna’s Breastfeeding Cafe for sharing their tips and experiences.

Special nursing clothing is designed to help women keep themselves covered while feeding baby. They typically feature double layers with concealed openings so the breast is masked while the nipple is accessed.

Some also double duty as maternity tops for pre- and post-birth wear.

Breastfeeding Cafe members recommend the online brands Momzelle, a Montreal-based company that supports the Cafe, as well as Undercover Mama and Boob Design

Though not available in our local shops, Gap and Old Navy also carry nursing wear through their websites.

My personal experience with nursing fashion was fantastic. I lived in these clothes for almost two years and they allowed me to confidently breastfeed even when I was sandwiched between two strange men on a 14-hour trans-Pacific flight.

It wasn’t unusual for people to assume my son was asleep in my arms while he was actually eating. Using a sling, he could even suckle while I was hands-free.

It took a bit of practice to learn how to inconspicuously unsnap my nursing bra and position my son, but after that it was a breeze. No worry about packing bottles when heading out and about.

For those who don’t want to buy special nursing tops, some Breastfeeding Cafe moms find they can achieve the same affect by simply layering a tank under another top.

They recommend A-line tops with loose hemlines over an adjustable-strap camisole. The cami can easily be pulled down while the top pulled up keeps the chest area covered.

One creative mom uses an infinity scarf to keep her top area cloaked.

Or, of course, women can feel free to nurse without worrying about covering up. I know this statement will rile some people up, but honestly, you see more skin on any public beach these days.

Get over it.

I highly recommend moms-to-be and new moms connect with the Kelowna Breastfeeding Cafe to meet a group of supportive and informed women to share their mothering journey with.


Season of the bride

Okanagan summers are made for sunny get-togethers with friends and family, so it’s no surprise that June, July and August are the busiest season for weddings.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can expect to see a lot of white.

“White is over,” proclaims Cristina Graziano, co-owner of Bliss Bridal. “Now, it’s ivory or champagne, and often with blush or cafe underneath lace to highlight its pattern.”

Walking past Bliss’ windows is a feast for the eyes, with gorgeous gowns featuring tulle and embroidery in all pales hues, plus colourful special occasion and prom dresses.

Other trends in bridal wear include separates, back detail, and retro bohemian silhouettes.

“Separate tops and skirts have become popular as a way for brides to have more options, mixing various tops and bottoms for a personalized look,” says Graziano.

She also explains how many brides are looking for unique features on the back of the dress where most guests gaze during the ceremony.

Bell sleeves with a casual, carefree feel are also proving a big seller this season.

These looks fit with the Okanagan lifestyle. Brides don’t want to feel stiff and serious,” she adds. “And these styles are much more comfortable in the Okanagan heat.”

Bliss recently moved from downtown to a new space on KLO Road in the South Pandosy area. Graziano and her sister, Maria, have been helping Okanagan brides find their dream dress for over eight years.

Many are surprised to find how easy and affordable the process can be.

“It’s not supposed to be hard. Some reality TV shows and movies perpetuate this stereotype that it’s stressful and all dresses cost thousands of dollars.”

I was shocked to find several beautiful gowns on their sample sale rack in the under $500 range, and Graziano says that the average Bliss bride finds her dress for between $1,200-$1,800. 

Some engaged ladies opt to order special occasion attire, typically worn by bridesmaids, in ivory or cream. These dresses retail for significantly less because they usually don’t have the intricate embellishments and train of a bridal gown.

“We carry 13 designers and everyone here is trained to help you find the colour, size and silhouette that you will love,” she says.

For newly-engaged ladies, her advice is to start the process a year before the wedding. This is because each gown is made to order and typically takes about six months to arrive, and then will likely need alterations or customization.

With intricate embellishments and costly fabrics, it doesn’t make sense for designers to keep a large stock of pre-constructed dresses, but rather wait until orders come in. 

Graziano suggests brides-to-be check designers’ websites to get an idea of what shapes they like before coming in, such as ball gown, sheath, mermaid, or fit-and-flare.

Although it is not uncommon for women to change their minds once they actually try on some dresses.

Typically, brides will stick with the tradition of not allowing their fiancés to see their gown before the big day, so they bring family or friends to provide feedback on what looks best.

“Bring your decision-makers, whoever that is for you,” Graziano advises.

“But think about how much input do you really want. Don’t dress for others. After all, you are the bride and this is your day.”

There are also options for more spur-of-the-moment brides, such as purchasing from their sample rack, using the in-house seamstress for any customization and adding unique accessories.

As for accessories, belts have become a popular adornment as a way to add sparkle to the look. 

“Cathedral length veils are making a comeback thanks to Meghan Markle,” she says.

Long veils can add drama and interest to a simple gown, just as the new Duchess of Sussex demonstrated, without a lot of cost. 

Wandering through the boutique, I couldn’t help fantasizing about trying on dresses and picking a glittering belt and necklace to go with it.

Despite saying “I do” more than once, I’ve never worn a bridal gown. Well, there is always the option for a lavish renewal of vows ceremony...

Grey is the new blond

If you are starting to see more white threads cropping up on your head, guess what? You’re in vogue.

The past year has seen a huge surge in the popularity of silver and white hair as older women embrace their natural locks and younger women dye for the “granny” look.

“I call them sparkles that run through the hair,” says Kimberly Robart, owner of Moi Studio hair salon.

"Our society has made going grey seem like a bad thing for women. Even the word has a negative connotation. I much prefer to use the terms platinum or silver.”

She knows from experience, sharing her own struggle with accepting what has traditionally been an unpopular hair colour.

Robart noticed sparkles in her mane at age 18 and spent much of her twenties and thirties darkening her hair. Finally, she decided to go with it and now rocks a white pixie cut.

“It used to be that men with silver hair were ‘distinguished’ and women were just old. Now we’re realizing that women are gorgeous silver foxes too,” Robart says.

Maye Musk, mother of tech mogul Elon, and Carmen Dell’Orifice are successful models in their seventies, and 96-year-old Iris Apfel and “The Accidental Icon” Lyn Slater have become international style titans, all with platinum crowns.

If you are tired of dying your hair a darker shade, Robart offers suggestions for a healthy and stylish transition to natural silver.

“I use a mix of lowlights and highlights to soften the transition into blonde or white. It will take several salon visits and some patience, but is very much worth it.”

The other option is to simply cut all the dark hair off if you don’t want to go the chemical route.

“Sadly, some women have come to associate dark hair with beauty, so if they feel if they don’t colour, they won’t be pretty,” she adds.

“I encourage women to feel foxy in their silver. Your haircut has to be a centrepiece, an expression of who you are.”

The silver trend is so strong even women without a single white strand are lightening their locks.

It started when Katy Perry and Lady Gaga experimented with pastel colour rinses that required a white base. Now, all-over grey or ombre is the hottest hair colour for 2018.

Robart advises that if you are interested in this look, be prepared for a big investment and commitment to ensure hair stays healthy.

“Lifting pigment from hair can be damaging, so white and pastel hair requires a lot of upkeep for perfection. This really is taking hair to the extreme.”

Each time strands are exposed to bleaching agents, it breaks their natural protective bond. Done too often without proper maintenance and your hair can literally break off.

“Then scissors are the only remedy,” Robart says.

Be wary of any online articles or Pinterest promotions that suggest you can achieve these looks in one sitting or with drugstore kits.

“It’s my job as a stylist to educate clients and I want to ensure they are happy.”

Whether natural or not, you will see more silver vixens of all ages in the coming year. White hair is a dramatic and affirming statement, and I’m sure they have more fun.


Thrift shop treasures

When I was growing up, our family got a lot of its clothes from second-hand stores. At the time, I was embarrassed thinking it marked me a poor.

Now I realize the wisdom in my mom’s shopping habits. Buying from thrift stores not only saves money, it also helps the environment.

But more than that, I have now learned to appreciate the thrill of the hunt, scouring these outlets for hidden treasure. If you know what you are looking for, you can uncover unique items that will give your wardrobe a completely individual look at a fraction of designer prices.

There are different kinds of second-hand shops, and there are steals to find at each type.

Thrift shops are typically large stores that accept donations of used goods, like Value Village, Goodwill, and those run by churches.

Thrift stores are definitely my go-to for denim. On a recent trip to Value Village I found hundreds of pairs of jeans in all sizes, colours, and styles, including high end brands.

The great thing about jeans from thrift stores is that they are already broken in, and you don’t have to worry about shrinkage or dye loss from a first wash (although I did even spy some pairs that still had brand new tags on).

Furthermore denim is one of the most environmentally damaging materials to produce, so buying used vs new is good karma.

Look beyond the jeans section for other denim - dresses, jackets, shorts, and overalls. I found my classic Gap jean jacket at a Goodwill for $6.

Also don’t forget to check the men’s section. “Boyfriend” jeans are produced by all the denim makes, supposedly to mimic the comfy looseness of well-worn jeans. Why buy these new when there are tons of pants out there already broken in by guys?

This is where one of my favourite pairs came from, featuring an embroidered koi fish on the leg. I only had to cut off some length to make them fit me perfectly.

Beyond denim, I also find large thrift shops great for finding costume jewellery and unique vintage handbags.

Straw and raffia bags are having a huge moment in the fashion world right now, with top designers crafting woven totes costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars. You can find the exact same thing at Value Village for $3.

There are lots of summer-perfect straw hats at thrift shops too.

The other main type of second-hand store is based on a consignment model, with people bringing in their gently-used items for a return upon sale.

Several consignment stores operate in the Kelowna area catering to different types of clientele.

If you are looking for professional suiting and special occasion dresses, your best bets are to visit LC Fashions on Springfield and Rosebuds on Kirschner.

When I was starting out in my career and couldn’t afford new suits, these shops saved my budget.

Fancy occasion dresses are another thing I couldn’t justify spending lots of money on, and still can’t, especially when it’s likely I’ll only wear it once or twice.

Though some of the styles may not be completely current, minor alterations can ensure the items fit and look stylish. I took a flowy chiffon print dress that cost $10 and altered it into a very on-trend high neck jumpsuit.

For more current looks and designer goods, check out Frock and Fellow on Bernard Avenue. This store carries curated consignment, only accepting modern styles with some retro items thrown in.

On a recent visit I found an array of gorgeous designer shoes including Jimmy Choo pumps. While some may turn their nose up at pre-owned shoes, often these pairs are given up for consignment after only a few wears and are practically new.

They also carry a good supply of Lululemon for those who want high quality workout gear without the high price tag. 

Frock and Fellow is one of the only consignment shops carrying men’s clothes (the other being Second Tyme Around on Spall) so if you are searching for affordable on-trend looks for your man, check here.

If you are a true vintage aficionado, Georgie Girl on Ellis is your place. Every day they add to their stock of retro designer clothes and accessories. 

Think colourful paisley fabrics, pin-up dresses, and kisslock bags.

Additionally they stock earth-friendly new lines such as Triarchy, a Vancouver-based company that specializes in sustainably produced denim, and organic cotton by Groceries Apparel.

Today’s thrift and consignment stores are the antithesis of fast fashion consumerism and are truly changing the way we look at style. With ever-revolving stock, visit your favourite second-hand shops often.

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About the Author

Marla is best known for her 19-year career in the local charitable sector as a fund development and marketing manager with the Okanagan Regional Library, United Way, UBC Okanagan, and Kelowna Community Resources. 

In 2014, Marla and her husband decided to take a break from the work world, and, four years, later they are still enjoying Okanagan summers, winters in Mexico, and extensive travel. 

Marla has had a life-long passion for fashion, designing her own graduation dress and formal gown for the 1990 Miss Interior competition before age 20.

In 2014, she was named one of nine Style Ambassadors for a year-long marketing campaign at Orchard Park Mall. Her motto is “Life is short...you might as well go through it looking good."

If you have a style question or topic you’d like Marla to cover in this column, contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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