Derby Debrief: What’s next for Northlands

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This past Saturday, we hit up the Canadian Derby at Northlands Park – potentially one of the last horse racing events at Northlands if Vision 2020 goes ahead. Northlands has a bold vision for its future which includes creating an Urban Festival Grounds, converting Rexall Place into an athletic complex, and converting Hall D into a 5000-seat venue for sporting events and mid-sized concerts. The new plan also extends into a refurbishment of Northlands’ agricultural strategy, which ranges from creating an urban farm and repurposing old satellite dishes into bee hive hubs.

While it’s sad that the horse track may have seen its last Derby, I’m excited to see how this new vision will unfold, especially if it means Edmonton could host a Lollapalooza or Osheaga of our own. As for the horse races, Horse Racing Alberta has received bids from four separate groups, but fingers crossed that the track stays close to Edmonton.

This was mine and Breanna’s first derby, and as far as pro tips go, the only thing I would do differently next year is make a day of it and organize a Derby brunch at Hotel Mac prior to. Hello, mimosas. A lot of ladies had exquisite hats which probably cost them a fortune, but you can also make a headpiece like I did or buy a fascinator at a vintage shop like Breanna. It was as simple as buying some feathers from a craft store, attaching them to a headband, getting some tulle from Fabricland, throwing in a polka-dot scarf, and adding a ribbon. As long as you have a rigid headband, you can attach anything your creative heart feels like and find yourself Derby-ready.

If you’re curious about Northlands Vision 2020, you can check out the whole spiel here, complete with larger-than-life renderings.

THE HAUL

Dress – vintage ; Shoes – Vince Camuto ; Headpiece – Homemade (see above)

Marina Banister: On Women in Politics, Style & Personal Branding

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The first Pink Pencil Skirt interview

If there’s one type of writing assignment I love, it’s the interview. From interviewing people for Lazy Faire and The Gateway, I’ve learned about the tech scene in Silicone Valley talking to Lucas Matheson of Pinshape, about the challenges of putting out a first album after a super-successful EP from Wake Owl, or simply what it takes to succeed in a BCom degree from prominent business students. The overwhelming feeling I get after interviewing people doing incredible things with their lives is a boost of inspiration in my personal endeavors. It’s almost as if their success is a contagious feeling, and that they impart a little onto the interviewer.

And now, in pursuit of inspiration and stories from wonderful people, I’ve decided it’s time to interview people on Pink Pencil Skirt. I’ve always believed that in order to achieve great things you need to surround yourself with incredible people, and what better way to do that than by having an excuse to ask all the questions you want from people you admire?

So when I decided to start featuring incredible individuals on Pink Pencil Skirt, the first person I thought of was Marina Banister. Marina and I have known each other since high school, when we worked with each other on the Strathcona High School’s SU. She went on to become President of Scona’s SU, and since then has continued her political career into university. The reason Marina was an obvious choice for a feature was her vast array of achievements in her 4 years at university. The timing for this feature couldn’t be better as Marina begins her race for VP Academic in the University SU Elections. Before the calm of the storm (AKA the SU Elections), we found the time to sit down and talk about her style, personal branding, women in politics, and how to become politically involved.

Why she’s kind of a big deal: 4th year Political Science major at the University of Alberta, Chair of the City of Edmonton Youth Council, President of the Political Science Undergraduate Association and a Senator for the UAlberta SU. Phew, I’m out of breath. Marina has also sat on all levels of governance at the U of A and is now running for VP Academic in the current UAlberta SU Elections.

Marina Banister via Pink Pencil Skirt

Photo provided

The girl with the HBC Jacket – a case study on personal branding

Back in her second year, Marina was running for Arts Councilor and branded her campaign with the iconic Hudson’s Bay Company colors because she was so recognizable in her HBC jacket (featured above). “The girl with the Hudson’s Bay Jacket” campaign is still one of the best examples of effective personal branding I can think of. Now in her fourth year, Marina continues to be spotted around campus with this distinct jacket.

“People always say to me ‘I saw you walking across Quad three days ago because I saw your jacket’. That’s what I like, I like being easily identifiable and I think that’s helpful in an elected official, I want you to be able to pick me out in a crowd, know that’s who’s representing you, you can go ask me questions,” Marina explains. At this point, her jacket has transcended its jacket-ness: it’s become a way of distinguishing herself from other candidates and representing her approachability.

But as far as jackets go, it doesn’t just stop at HBC, Marina laughs as she explains, “I love outerwear, I love a good coat, I have a green coat for spring, a white coat for winter… I have a lot of jackets.” Underneath her jacket, Marina describes her style as “girly and professional”. “I wear a lot of peplums, polka dots, patterns, high heels. I always say I’m like a Texan because I have a big head, I like my hair bigger and my lashes even bigger than that. Sometimes more is more.

Marina Banister via Pink Pencil Skirt

Is being a girly-girl possible in politics?

“I wear a lot of makeup, I love makeup, I have too much make up, I watch YouTube videos before I go to bed, Jaclyn Hill like yaaaaas” she jokes around. But for a young woman that is so serious about politics, this love for style and girly-ness may come as a surprise to some. When I ask her about this, Marina explains “there’s this ideal female candidate that’s just pretty enough but not too pretty” but that “because people in student politics take themselves so seriously it’s important to do things you enjoy”, which for her is getting all dolled up. Although she plans to go into politics after graduating, Marina tells me “I’m not going to do that at the expense of giving up who I am.” She describes most political candidates as trying to “fit cookie cutter A, B, or C” but that her positioning comes from “being relatable [which] ultimately means being [herself]”.

So this reminiscence pretty much sums it up: “Ever since my mom drove me to school in elementary school, every single day – this is illegal now – but she would paint her nails at the red lights, and every single day she would curl her hair and put on her drastically contrasting red lip liner on. And my mom is a super successful businesswoman and a great mom. I like getting ready and I have since I was little and I’m not going to tone down my look or wear a pantsuit – although all hail Hillary Clinton – because I think that’s what’s going to get me ahead.”

The question of personal appearance is a tough issue for many women in politics. Marina brings up health minister Sarah Hoffman, pointing out the fact that “people are constantly commenting on her appearance, her weight specifically, even though that’s not relevant to her job at all. Previous Health Ministers have been overweight, but they’re men, and people don’t notice as much.” In her political career, Marina has also experienced the challenges women face with appearances. She’s the kind of girl that looks perfect every day, so I ask her if that’s necessary to be taken seriously. “I do think that you need to look somewhat put together to be taken seriously, but it’s interesting, I think I cross a line that I’m not taken seriously because it looks like I spend a lot of time getting ready,” she tells me. Though we didn’t discuss this when we met up, a case in point is this past summer, when Marina made international news (and the front page of Buzzfeed) pitching for Edmonton’s city council to switch to vegetarian snacking options. Some of the comments on social media were personal attacks on Marina’s physical appearance, and not at all related to the ideas she was presenting. These types of reactions are likely why female candidates are told to tone it down when it comes to physical appearances, but kudos to Marina for rocking her big hair, fabulous makeup, and distinct style.

Marina Banister via Pink Pencil Skirt

Politics for non-politicians

We finished our meeting talking about political involvement. I told Marina that it feels like many people, myself included, want to be involved in the political process but feel powerless to do so. So get ready for Marina’s 3-points of advice on political activism, because these certainly were revelations for me.

#1: “In Canada we’re taught to be polite and keep our opinions to ourselves, and while that has its time and place, that won’t get you very far in terms of [having your voice heard]. Claire Edwards, she was in Avenue Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40, she’s one of my best friends, and she has a very active Twitter and Facebook and is constantly sharing her opinion and that’s one reason why she gets taken seriously. Ultimately regardless of whether people agree with her or don’t agree with her, they respect the fact that she has a voice. And it’s interesting because once you start sharing your views on social media, political parties and candidates will start following you, and that’s a really good way to get on the radar.”

#2: “A different way to get involved is through volunteerism. Specifically in this city, I’m the Chair of the City of Edmonton Youth Council right now, and I have a big heart for this organization. I think it does a lot of great things and I wish more people knew about it, because if you’re in between the ages of 13-23 this is an excellent way to get involved. You apply to the council, there are 20 people on it but there are also committees that anyone in the entire city between the ages of 13-23 can drop into. We have a committee for mental health, city planning, arts, engagement, and social equity. These committees meet with city council and tell them their ideas, and ultimately these councillors are very supportive and want us to be involved in the process. It’s hard to find these things, you kind of have to search for them, but if you go to the CEYC website and click on all the different committees, there are ways to get involved.

#3: “I say this a lot to my politically active friends: don’t die on every hill. One way to start getting taken seriously in politics is choosing 2 or 3 issues that you care about and want to make a difference on. One of my biggest passions is the animal agriculture industry, so over this summer I made a big fuss about it and it was ultimately international news. It was on the cover of BuzzFeed, National Post, on the CBC. People respect an expert, so if you can research 1-2 issues, and it could be anything, it could be youth homelessness or the Palm Oil Crisis or the Syrian Refugee Crisis, if you read a lot about that, it becomes clearer what the pitfalls and successes of those movements are. I think politicians get cynical that citizens don’t care, and citizens get cynical that politicians don’t care. It’s this hugely evolving cycle and I think the way to break out of that is to ask questions, throw something out there.”

I never have high hopes when I ask people what are good ways to get involved. Usually people will mumble something about writing a letter to your local MP, yadi-yadi-yada, but here Marina gave 3 very practical, concrete suggestions for being heard. I walked away from this first interview feeling pretty damn inspired.

Twitter: @ban_marina

Revelstoke Photo Journal

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Thank you to the University of Alberta Ski & Snowboard Club and Backside Tours for organizing an amazing trip to Revelstoke. In planning a ski trip over reading week, my friends and I were looking at getting a group of friends and renting out a cabin to ourselves in Banff. When we started looking at prices, we noticed that we could get all the way to BC, explore a new mountain we’ve never explored before, and meet new friends on the ski trip, all for less money and hassle than organizing it ourselves. You know people our age- sometimes they’re flakey-  and with this ski trip we could all sign up ourselves instead of trying to coordinate splitting a huge expensive cabin.
The bus ride over was a blast, and the ski club execs make sure to be as inclusive as possible: everyone ends up hanging out in the hot tub after riding and then partying in the exec’s rooms and heading out to the local pub together. [Side note: the hot tub was pretty dank and opaque. You just try not to think about these things.] The best part is you can go on these ski trips by yourself, with a friend, or with a large group and have an amazing time.Although we went with a group of 12, we also had 40 other friends to hang out with in the hot tub, on the hill, and at River City Pub. Even though I love Sunshine, Revelstoke was an amazing mountain to check out, especially this season with all the snow. It can be difficult to drive all the way down to BC, so going with a tour group definitely made that process a lot simpler.  Cheers to another great ski trip!

Why it took me 2 years to start a blog

If you’re thinking about starting a blog, tell your insecurities to step aside.

Every Wear Edmonton via Pink Pencil Skirt

Thank you to Every Wear Edmonton for the Best of 2015 style feature. This got me thinking about how 2015 was such a special year because I finally started my blog, after years of humming and hawing. This may sound ridiculous, but starting a blog absolutely terrified me. I remember posting the first blog-related Instagram post, and my heart racing. “This was it, there’s no turning back now”, I thought. Making a Facebook page? I had an adrenaline rush the entire night. Changing my Instagram name? The horror!

Ultimately, it was scary to share with the world because I wanted to commit to blogging, but was scared that I would get bored or run out of ideas (or clothes). But I also knew that I had been thinking of blogging for 2 years (blogging is kind of like shopping in that sense…If you can’t stop thinking about that blouse, you should probably buy it). After brainstorming a name for several weeks, I  bought the Pink Pencil Skirt domain a year before I went public with it, and posted some posts on it sporadically throughout the year and kept it a secret from most people I knew.

One reason I kept it a secret for so long: I was really nervous that people would judge me, especially since my blog focuses on personal style. What if people think I’m not fashionable enough? Do I have to dress up every day now? Do I know enough about fashion to blog about this? But the truth about blogging is that you can re-invent yourself as a guru. You don’t have to be an expert to blog, but you can become an expert while blogging. And the truth is, blogging has made me become more knowledgeable about fashion, more style-aware, and I continue to learn more every day. You can learn as you go, you don’t have to know anything and everything about your chosen topic when you first start out.

Going public with blogging has been what’s kept me writing. When it was a secret, it’s like I wasn’t held accountable to anyone. I could post every couple of months and it didn’t matter, because no one was reading it anyways. Even now, it’s hard to post regularly (because yadi yadi yada), but I am still motivated to keep going with it. After all, Pink Pencil Skirt is my baby… and because I’m secretly afraid that everyone will judge me if I don’t keep going. I wish I could say I’m solely motivated by my internal will-to-power, but the truth is, sharing your blog (or whatever it is that you’re working on) with your social network is a great means of support, but also an incredibly powerful accountability mechanism.

I’m still trying to figure out what exactly I’m doing, how often I should be posting, what I want to write about…basically everything, but it’s been an incredible adventure so far. I was so scared to start at first, but I’m glad that my fears didn’t stop me from blogging forever. So if you’re thinking about starting a blog, I’d say do it: definitely do it, and don’t take two years like I did. Don’t let the fear of judgment, the fear of not being “expert enough”, or other silly, inconsequential insecurities you have stop you. Trust me when I tell you that it was one of the best things I did in 2015, and that I wish I’d done it sooner. Do your research, take your time, but at a certain point: just jump in and start writing/photographing/drawing/etc. And another thing: don’t keep it a secret like I did, because your social network is the best launch tool you have, and a great pool of support. And so far, the only people to insult my blog to my face were in my nightmares. Everyone in real life has been quite swell.

If you’re interested in blogging and have any questions/comments, leave a comment or shoot me an email at nicole0023@hotmail.com

Silver Star Photo Journal

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Spent 5 gorgeous days hitting up some mad pow at Silver Star Mountain Resort (not featured in Vogue’s Under The Radar Canadian Ski Destinations, even though it totally should have been). I always believe that how you start the year (and finish it) sets the tone for the rest of the year. So, since I spent the 31st and the 1st going on double black runs that scare me to my bones, I’m dubbing 2016 the year of adventure.

To an adventurous 2016!

The handmade bralette: a guide to homemade gifts this season

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“I just bought underwear from Superstore and sewed it into a bralette. The whole thing is just chunks of underwear.”

If there’s one thing about my friend Emily’s style you need to know, it’s that she love love loves bralettes. She has a leather one, a velvet one, and about 12 other ones. So when it was Emily’s birthday, her best friend Lauren thought it would be a good idea to make her a bralette.

Lauren, crafty as ever, decided that it would really add to Emily’s collection to make her a bralette with hand-prints. Now, you may not be able to tell from the photo, but the beige-detailing that kind of looks like flesh-colored seaweed is actually a hand-print. Aside from its humorous value, the bralette (paired with a gold chain, of course) looks pretty neat-o on Emily but was too risqué to display to the public.

In return, Emily also got Lauren some pretty ingenious gifts (their birthdays are back-to-back) including slippers hand-made out of feminine pads and an hollowed out Breaking Dawn book, for storing secret goodies.

Just in time for the holidays, my friends have reminded me that there is no better gift than a hand-made or thoughtful gift. People always think of hand-made as being inaccessible if you’re not crafty or creative, but what about the homemade gifts that make us laugh or bring a smile to our face? Channel Lauren and Emily this holiday season and I’m sure you too will be able to make thoughtful gifts for your loved ones out of underwear chunks.

Wishlist Wednesday #1: Fall transitions

Warm winter outfit via Pink Pencil Skirt

THE HAUL

Warm (Vest) – Patagonia $179 // Cute (Crop Sweater) – Urban Outfitters $49 // Recycled (Jeans) – Urban Outfitters $139 // Cozy (Booties) – L.L. Bean $109

Presenting…Wishlist Wednesday! On Wednesdays I’ll be posting an assembled outfit like the one you see here. It’s called Wishlist Wednesday because I don’t own these items to actually create an outfit post, so I’ll just have to resort to fantasy online shopping.

About this look: As fall transitions into winter, this outfit allows you to keep warm in the am and de-layer in the pm. I discovered the Patagonia brand while in Halifax and was very impressed (Patagonia please come to Edmonton!). The quality and uniqueness of their designs definitely deserves a visit to their website, especially if you are into an outdoor lifestyle. Fall is all about layering, so with a warm vest you can still afford to wear a crop top with high waisted jeans. Just zip & unzip accordingly. The jeans, asides from being amazing, are made out of vintage and surplus materials, so you can feel good about buying them too. And finally, I’m glad to see the cozy & cute L.L. Bean boot making its way to becoming the winter shoe of 2015/16. Definitely on my Christmas wish list!

So ethical at Dalhousie University

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Representing the University of Alberta at the Scotiabank Ethics in Action Case Competition. We got 3rd place!

The case consisted of a 10-day prepared case that we worked on before going to Halifax, and a 3-hour case at Dalhousie University. The 3-hour case is intense: they locked our 4-person team in a room and we had 3 hours to read the case, come up with a solution, and make a PowerPoint. Shortly after we prepared the case, we were live in front of the judges presenting on a solution made up just a couple hours before. As this was an ethics competition, the solution was even more difficult because it had to be solid from an ethical perspective as well as making good business sense. Balancing the moral and monetary stakes in the solution made this one of the most challenging and rewarding cases I’ve ever done.

Although there was a huge academic component, there were also two wonderful dinners and an after-party where our team got to meet other undergrad and MBA teams from all across the country. After the case competition, our team decided to extend our stay in Halifax for three more days. From Alberta it’s an expensive flight that we wouldn’t be making any time soon, so it was totally worth it to stay the extra days.

We spent our time renting a car and visiting Peggy’s Cove (the most photographed lighthouse in the world!), taking a ferry to Dartmouth (another city just across the waterway), and walking around downtown Halifax. Coming from Alberta the buildings in Halifax were just incredible. The oldest buildings in Edmonton are pushing 100, so it was neat to see the architectural style of the 200+ year-old buildings.

Speaking of history, we took a tour of the Alexander Keith’s Brewery. Let me tell you, this is no ordinary brewery tour. Right before we started the tour, Derek was a bit skeptical and said “once you’ve seen one brewery tour, you’ve seen them all”. In this instance, boy was he proven wrong. The brewery tour turned out to be more like an interactive play, with all the tour guides in historical costumes guiding you through Keith’s brewery. The guides even performed a beautiful song, told us an anecdote, and taught us an old-fashioned card game. I was a bit grumpy about paying $20 for a brewery tour, but it was totally worth it. We all loved the tour so much that we drank nothing but Keith’s the rest of the trip!

But my favourite thing about Halifax is the nightlife. With 5 universities in Halifax alone, the bars stay open til 4am (compared to 2am here, which feels like a race against the clock!), and they are busy every night of the week. Our extended trip was from Sunday-Tuesday and we went out to bustling bars all three days of what I thought would be the slow part of the week. In fact, our flight was at 6am on Wednesday, so we ended up not paying for a hotel room that night and staying out all night and catching a taxi to the airport at 4am. Now that’s what I call smart travelling.
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THE HAUL

Blazer: Suzy Shier // Top: Workhall // Skirt: Zara // Shoes: Ralph Lauren