Elli Leppä – Multi-Faceted Human and Lady Wrap Star!

Hi there! My name is Elli Leppä and I live in Finland, in the Northernmost part of Europe. I work as a pharmacologist and I also write poetry (my second collection is coming out in the autumn). I’m interested in mythology, folklore and various sciences like astronomy and ecology, and I try to incorporate these things into my writing. Some of my role models are Margaret Atwood, Ursula LeGuin and Neil Gaiman. I’ve read science fiction and fantasy literature since I was a child, and these literary circles, as well as the live role playing community are like my second family. I also sing in a small folk music ensemble.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with autoimmune alopecia, which lead me to wrapping. I have always paid quite a lot of attention to my clothes and accessories, and I wanted to find a new way of expressing myself to compensate for the unavoidable changes in how I looked. A wonderful Finnish friend pointed me to the Wrapunzel website and Facebook group, and right from the first moments I felt so welcome and cherished! Taking photographs of my wraps and posting them in the Wrapunzel group has really helped me to process my illness and to find a new kind of joy in choosing fabrics, textures, patterns and styles for my wraps. (I have also accumulated a truly hilarious amount of scarves and I despair of keeping them in order. I suspect they multiply at night when I’m not looking).

My friends, family and colleagues have been very supportive of my wrapping. Wrapping is not common where I live, and I felt self-conscious at first, but positive comments have helped dispel my self-doubts, and these days I don’t worry about standing out anywhere, be it in professional meetings, with my hobby friends or at formal events. Although I’ve had short hair for most of my life, wrapping takes me back to my teenage years when I had hair past my shoulders and wore it in a variety of styles. Choosing a scarf and a style every morning reminds me of doing my hair. I don’t consider myself very dexterous, and initially I found it difficult to find easy beginner styles. Wrapunzel tutorials on YouTube were a great help. I began with the Regal Wrap style and gradually increased to more intricate wraps. I still struggle with narrow pleats, but I’m confident there isn’t anything I can’t learn if I put my mind to it. Currently my favourite scarf type is the Harmony Sari (I won’t reveal how many individual sari scarves I have. You’d faint!). They have a wonderful versatility and flair, and they can be used to create so many styles, from formal to wildly eccentric.

When choosing a style for the day I often like to balance and coordinate my wrap with my outfit in several ways: patterns in my top or dress go with a wrap with little or no pattern. If I choose a completely black outfit, my wrap can be a firework of colors. And lots of detail in the wrap call for a simpler outfit. For the longest time I thought that high, turban-like wraps wouldn’t work for me, but currently a two-scarf turban (for example, a Petalsoft underscarf and a Sari for a sash) is my favourite combination. Sometimes I add a hair clip or a brooch for pizzazz. I dress somewhat eclectically, and it’s taken me a while to explore the whole gamut of ways of expressing myself with scarves. I like to think I can nowadays create both feminine, romantic ensembles as well as darker, edgier and more androgyne looks.

Having your hair visible is the standard way to look where I live. Deviating from this norm for whatever reason (for example illness, religion, spirituality, fashion statement) tends to make you reconsider beauty norms and societal expectations. That you don’t have to look a certain way to be appreciated. Although I’ve been very lucky in that I haven’t had to defend my choice to wrap to anyone, I feel a certain solidarity with everyone who has been criticized for their wrapping. The supportiveness of the Wrapunzel community is nothing short of amazing. I’ve been moved to tears several times, when someone has brought their sorrows over having had their wrapping aggressively questioned, and been consoled and empowered by the wonderful people there.

I strongly recommed the Wrapunzel community to anyone who has already started wrapping, anyone who has wrapped for years and wants some new ideas and anyone who is a little bit curious what wrapping is about. The inspiration, practical tips, advice and really just the warmth and kinship of the lovely Wrapunzelistas are like sunshine on a dark day.

And to wrap this text up (heh), here’s a translation of a poem I wrote that reflects some of my feelings concerning my hair loss.

I weigh these things in my hand

before throwing them away:

useless stuff

hopes regrets

combs brushes shampoo bottles

upon fields and courtyards I have shed
my hair eyelashes eyebrows
have birds nested in them?
have squirrel mothers made small blankets
for their babies

I know precisely the shape of my skull
the smoothness under my fingers;
not everyone has been granted this
exploration of downy hills
the wonder
to feel
questioning raindrops on my head
this gift wrapped in this loss

So tell us; what do you think?

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