Monday, 31 August 2015

A "to die for" J. Crew cardigan....(in my dreams!)

It was love at first sight. It had me at the navy, it had me at the white - but then I saw the price (£285).  

I have a shorter version of this type of cardigan which I bought from Cos several years ago but it's more of an Aspen/Wham "Last Christmas" type of cardigan than the one above, which I have fallen for hook line and sinker. I love how it's styled over a whimsical style of dress, rather than with the more traditional skinny jeans/leather leggings and boots look - although in fairness that's how I would be wearing it. If I ever owned one. Note to self: contact friend who regularly travels to the States to see if he fancies a trip to J. Crew.

Since seeing this image (courtesy of the Sunday Times Style Section) I have hunted high and low on-line for something similar. I've tried Banana Republic, Gap, Mango, Zara, Cos, Jigsaw, Atterley, Hush and even the men's section of some of those brands but the closest that I have found is this...

Topshop Starsky cardigan (£55) - which I would be quite happy to buy, just for the name. But no, these things cannot be rushed. I must wait a little longer to see what comes in the stores. For some reason I suspect that I may find one in Primark, when I'm least looking for it. And that's what I love about clothes and shopping!

Oooh and I just wanted to share this birthday present from my school friend Charlotte, over at Lottie's Interiors. It is gorgeous - THE perfect shade of pink for me (she knows me well) - but far too nice to go in the kitchen and be filled with biscuits - so instead it's keeping my beside table tidy. Seems that I need to acquire a few more bracelets. Ho hum. Life's tough.

Hope that everyone has a good day on Tuesday and that it's not too miserable to return to work after this lovely (!) bank holiday weather that we have been having. Beth x

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Skinted vs minted - Topshop vs Russell & Bromley. Who is going to come out on top?

I just can't go on any longer without saying something. It's just not right.

These Russell & Bromley shoes are EVERYWHERE at the moment. They are the one pair of shoes that those in the fashion know have identified as being this season's "must have" shoes and they are in every September issue, every weekly magazine and every supplement known to man. In fact it's virtually impossible to open a mag at the moment and not been greeted by them.

These are the shoe in question - the Russell and Bromley Collisee, which are £185.  (Please excuse the image, I don't think that the folks from R&B like us using them that much and for the life of me I can't link to them either, which makes me even more suspicious).

So what is is that I need to share? What is it that I have to get off my chest? What is it that causes me sleepless nights and much angst? (OK, slight exaggeration there).

It is this. That the Topshop Jive mid heel court shoe (£46) is virtually the same as the Russell & Bromley shoe and it bugs me to bits that those in the fashion know don't also share these shoes with us. I feel that it's pretty deceitful because if I know that they are out there (and they have been well and truly out there - since January infact) then they must know that too.

OK, so cards on the table time, just in case anyone decides to pull me up on it. I'll admit that the Topshop shoes have a moc croc finish, rather than a plain finish - but personally I prefer that. Also, they're not leather - although this could be seen as a good thing, particularly for veggies. They have an ankle strap, rather than a "across the foot" strap, but the R&B strap is so high as to virtually be an ankle strap. And whilst I understand that some will prefer to pay the R&B price for an R&B shoe and that they may well be better made, for those who covet this style of shoe but can't afford them, then I think (and hope) that these offer an acceptable solution. They also come in a wine/burgundy colour, which is going to be a huge colour for the season.

Phew! You cannot imagine how much better I feel now that I've got that off my chest. Happy Bank Holiday weekend everyone! Beth x

Thursday, 27 August 2015

They weren't a favourite and now they are. Fringed bags. Are you with me or not?!

When fringed handbags first came on the scene, I really didn't like them at all. They just didn't do it for me but as is sometimes the way with these things, they have steadily grown on me and now I'm on the look out for just the right one. Personally I prefer the softer shades of grey and camel - again I don't really know why that is but somehow I find them just a little less harsh than black ones.

This leather tassel hobo bag (£65) arrived in Topshop only this morning and the colour is gorgeous. The slight downside for me was that although the handle could be lengthened, it still wasn't long enough to be worn as a cross body bag. Also, whilst the fringing is 100% leather, the bag itself is made from nylon, which for its £65 price tag is not entirely surprising but I did feel a little bit conned when I rummaged under the tassels only to find grey nylon.

Now I've had my eye on this fringed suede bag from Mango (£69.99) for quite a few weeks. Today, whilst in Birmingham, I found it in our new Mango store. I gave it the good once over but decided to look a little further before making a final decision, namely at this one from....

....The White Company which is £129 (and which a friend expressly told me NOT to look at as I would fall in love with it. She may just be right.)  Although it's described as a clutch bag it also has a strap, so it can be worn as a cross body bag - and I do like having two hands free. It also comes in stone too, making it doubly lovely.

Mint Velvet has this gorgeous fringed cross body bag for £99 which is also a contender, although looking back over the photographs, I think that I prefer the ones with the flap over them.

And finally on my hit list, there's this equally gorgeous Jigsaw fringed cross body bag which is £98. I haven't yet seen this one in the flesh but I'm sure that it's only a matter of time.

So, I'll keep you posted. There are fringed bags anywhere and everywhere right now so do let me know if you spot a gem somewhere on your travels. Beth x

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Wearing a lovely necklace from Yosa and some printed pants!

"Oooh, that's a pretty necklace" the seven year old observed several times during the course of the day, which I'm sure Rachel, who runs the online jewellery business Yosa would be delighted to hear. She kindly asked me if I would like to choose a piece of jewellery to feature on Style Guile and I chose this lovely Triangular Outlines Necklace which you can see below.

I love big, bold, bright, statement necklaces, and Rachel has a great selection of these too, but sometimes it's nice to wear something which is a little understated. If I'm not wearing a statement necklace, I tend to layer a few finer necklaces together but this necklace is a fabulous compromise between the two as it's substantial enough to hold its own ground without being too bling - and some outfits just don't need bling. Geometric shapes are going to be a huge trend for the upcoming season so this necklace also ticked that box nicely and will do a fantastic job of updating some simple dresses and tops.

Rachel has lots of lovely pieces including bracelets, ear-rings, bags and scarves as well as necklaces and she sends everything out beautifully wrapped. You can find her on instagram as well as twitter and facebook too. There are lots of amazing women out there running small businesses alongside running a family and it's fantastic if we are able to support them.

As to the rest of my outfit, I'm wearing the Felsted print trouser from  Baukjen (£69 in the sale) similar here (£109) which I bought just after Christmas, together with a Hobbs top, Whistles handbag and Adidas Stan Smith trainers. The trousers haven't had chance to make much of an appearance but I'm planning on changing that as they are so comfortable and easy to wear. Oooh and just look at that elasticated waist (which I'm hiding for that very reason)!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

My Style Evolution in conjunction with Marks and Spencer - and it involves dresses (with sleeves!)

Many of you will already be familiar with Marks and Spencer's current campaign entitled "Style Evolution". M&S is celebrating women who have embraced style change at certain milestones and phases in their life. The campaign started back in June,  with six bloggers, including Amanda (the Online Stylist) and Rachel (Lady M Presents) who I consider as blogging friends, being invited to spend a day at M&S Head Office. What they got up to that day can be viewed on the Marks and Spencer website here

For the next stage of the campaign M&S have asked several bloggers, including me, to write about their own "Style Evolution". In doing so, we were asked to choose some pieces from the M&S collection, to include at least one dress from the current collection.

My Midlife Forties and Fashion Mum of 40 have already written their posts which I so enjoyed reading as, although we aren't dis-similar in age or stage in life, the outfits that we have chosen are very different - and of course reading about other people's milestones is always fascinating.

The knitted dress that I am wearing above is from Limited Collection. Now, for some reason, this dress isn't online. I can't quite work out whether that's because it has already sold out, or whether it's because the site hasn't quite caught up yet but what I can say is if you do come across one in store, it's worth giving it a try. Knitted dresses are going to be a huge trend for the upcoming season but more than that it's a) warm b) incredibly comfortable and c) not the slightest bit scratchy - all of which make it a total winner!

For my second dress I chose the Autograph geometric print dress (£39 down from £59). I love print and colour and this dress could be styled in so many different ways depending on the occasion. A blazer and heels would make it perfect for a meeting, or a pair of block heeled knee high boots would give it a 70's vibe. Also the olive and coral colours make a refreshing change to navy and black for work.

Wearing it with the Autograph open front cardigan with cashmere (£45) and a Marks and Spencer cross body bag gives the dress a different feel.

Autograph open front cardigan with cashmere (£45)

There was another outfit that I loved but I wasn't sure that I could pull it off, in the sense that it is very slim fitting and quite possibly a little unforgiving. I'm still going to give it a whirl next time I'm in town though - just in the safety of a changing room!

M&S Autograph funnel neck dress (£55)

Autograph open front line cardigan (£55)

As many of you will know, I turned 45 last month and I consider that to be a little bit of a milestone. Half way between 40 and 50. Hmmm. As to my Style Evolution? The older I get the more confident I get about my style choices. After all, what is there to lose? Women my age no longer have to wear pearls and a pleated skirt and there are plenty of women older than I am who are forging the way - still looking great, modern, fresh and as if they are having fun with their clothes. As long as I'm not treading on any teenage toes along the way or embarrassing my children (or not too much at least, that's what parents are for after all) then I'm happy. And I hope that you all are too.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

I've been "blog bombed" by my photographer and artistic director!

I don't often hand the blog over to anyone else - although I'm very happy to feature anyone who would like to be on it. However, after it was suggested by Donna at I won't wear sludge brown that Matilda should take the blog over, I thought that I would introduce you to my seven year old photographer and artistic director - because without her things wouldn't run as smoothly as they do. 

Interestingly she's really not fussed about clothes. She just checks the weather, gets dressed and often tops the outfit off with her favourite M&S cardigan (above). She was most cross with me today when I was sorting out some of her older sister's clothes which I had kept for her. "Stop trying to make me interested in clothes " she said. (I wasn't. She has one pair of jeans that fit and that's not enough trousers for Wales, which is where we are headed next week.)

Matilda also dislikes taking photos. She says my shots are boring so to make them less so, we always do a "funky" shot at the end. "THIS is how you're meant to do it." she says. Sometimes we have to do a "fierce" shot or a "pop star" shot. I agree with her. They're much more fun and I think that a few more will be making an appearance on here. Although she doesn't really like taking the photos, she takes her job seriously. So seriously that she pulls ridiculous faces when she's taking them so that my grin - ridiculous as that also may be - is genuine. Which it is. She's great at going cross eyed. A trick I've never been able to master.

Her Onesie is another favourite outfit. We like our cosy things in this house. In fact I would go so far as to say that Onesies have influenced a lot of my fashion choices recently. But more about that in my next post.

And the best shots are the fun ones. This dress is one that she chose from M&S on our one and only shopping trip ever - the same trip that she chose her cardigan - and the cat print green dress in the top right pic below. I think that she looks like some slightly mad creature from a Roald Dahl book, which is quite apt really, given her name.

Now I know that many of you will be in the same boat as me tomorrow - finding out the GCSE results, so I hope that goes really well for everyone. Additionally I am tasked with the job of going down to school, collecting them, opening them and telling NO ONE the results (other than Mr SG) until Flo gets home from London tomorrow night. It's all under her direction and I'm terrified of cocking the whole thing up. I expect that I will have a stress dream tonight - turning up late, the wind whipping the results out of my hands, opening them and tearing them up inadvertently. I'm more nervous than if they were my own. And what I've realised is that, unlike most things in life that cause us stress, there's no point doing any kind of prep because it's all decided, which is weird. Often doing some research, getting a good night's sleep, wearing a nice outfit, having a good breakfast, listening to words of wisdom or the right music - all of that might help but not tomorrow. I can turn up naked and it won't make any difference. And now I'm waffling. See how nervous I am? I think that I had better go.....

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Trying and reviewing the M&S leather ponte quick, before they sell out!

Last year there was a lot of coverage in the press and amongst bloggers about the Autograph leather ponte leggings (£99). So when they arrived on the scene this season, I thought that I would give them a try before they sold out. And I only just managed it because, the size 8 has now....sold out. Given their popularity last year though, hopefully M&S will be on top of this and fingers crossed, they should be back in store again soon.

The leggings aren't completely leather but rather leather at the front and ponte at the back. And you know I really liked them but what I found slightly strange was the fit.

The thing is that most very tight things - let's take tights for example, or normal leggings, or skinny jeans - are rather stretchy. So they expand whilst you're getting them on and then they fit snuggly once on - the power of lycra and all that. However these leggings are quite unforgiving when you're putting them on - a bit like jeans used to be before lycra was included in their composition. So it takes a while to get them on. There's no give in the leather at all, particularly as they are lined with polyester.   However, gradually they warm up and give a little so that you can then pull them up another couple of inches. Or perhaps this pair are too small - which is why I've ordered a size 10, just for comparison, although the size 8 felt fine once they were finally on. But it's important that they're not baggy in the leg - nah, that's not a good look.

I also fancied trying a sleeveless tunic jumper. This cable knit one is from Limited Edition at M&S but the website doesn't seem to have quite caught up with the stock yet. Whilst I like the idea of the jumper, I'm not quite sure of its wearability/versatility. It may only have a window of opportunity in my wardrobe of about four weeks. But anyway, sometimes it's good to try these things just to see what you think. Do any of you have your eye on anything? Is the High Street managing to tempt you yet or are you hanging on to summer clothes for as long as possible? x

Monday, 17 August 2015

Using the Online Colour Analysis Service by Donna at " I won't wear sludge brown"

Donna says: "Navy is actually in everyone's colour palette" - phew, that's a huge sigh of relief from me!

A few months ago I read about an Online Colour Analysis service offered by Donna over at I won't wear sludge brown and more recently I thought that it would be fun to write about it on here.

But before we start, my own approach to people and their colours when styling them can generally be summed up as follows:

  • The colours at either end of the spectrum - ie black or white - are probably the hardest colours to wear next to your face and most people don't think twice about wearing those colours, so let's not get too hung up on which colours do and don't work;
  • We all have a fairly good instinct for which colours work for us. For example, whilst previously I didn't know exactly which colours were "my" colours, I knew that certain neutrals and certain yellows and greens made me look as though I belonged in a coffin;
  • Whilst colour is an important feature of a piece of clothing, it is only one of about five important features, the others being fabric, fit, shape, washing instructions and cost. Dressing head to toe in colours that are right for you is fine but if the outfit is  made of nylon, in a shape from the 80's and it's two sizes too small, it's going to look pants, irrespective of the colour being perfect;
  • A good lippy, or a scarf or necklace, in a colour which you know suits you can work wonders with a top that is in a less than perfect colour for you.

Donna says "I absolutely adore the teal on you, it's so right on every level, really complimenting your own colouring."

That aside, I had always had a little niggling voice that wondered which colours, exactly, would be right for me, so I contacted Donna to ask her if she would be happy to undertake an Online Colour Analysis for me and also to ask whether she would mind me writing about the process. Luckily she agreed on both counts. 

Donna says: "This is a fabulous example of how to add one of your secondary palette colours to your outfit to bring it alive. The orange really does warm up the navy which can be quite a flat colour." [I have a friend to thank for the scarf - she has a fab eye!]

Before we started I explained my approach to colours and found, to my amazement, that we were singing from the same hymn sheet. This which was very refreshing as in the past I have come across colour consultants who were very rigid in their approach which I found limiting and slightly old fashioned. Donna's final words to her report were these:  "Remember, don't be a slave to the rules. It will make you completely miserable." Words to my ears! 

So this is how Donna's Colour Analysis Service worked;
  • Donna emailed me and asked me to send a couple of selfies over - make up free and in natural day light. Now I must admit that this was pretty horrific - more for her having to take a look at the results rather than for me having to take them in the first place. Luckily the 7 year old chose to photo bomb them which gave a much better result;
  • I completed a short questionnaire sent over by Donna which addressed my current hair colour, my natural hair colour, how easily I tan, my eye colour and so on;
  • Two days later Donna sent a report through. I cannot tell you how excited I was to see it ping into my in box. It's not that often in life that we get something that is tailor made for us and which contains information that we can use on a daily basis. It was like receiving a pair of handmade shoes - or I imagine it is - but without the cost. The report covered my personal colour palette, my neutrals, my fashion colours, how to wear my colours, how to rescue colours that aren't in my palette and so much more besides. Donna also attached images of the colours that would suit me and advised me that I could order the colour swatches from Colour Me Beautiful.
  • A day or so later I called Donna to ask her about a couple of things that had occurred to me whilst reading the report. During that conversation it very quickly became apparent that she is a lady who not only knows her stuff but that she knows it inside out.  She whizzed around the world of colours and we chatted away as if it was second nature to her. It's clear that there isn't anything that she doesn't know about the world of colour!

Donna says: "As I’ve mentioned, white is a strong colour hence the reason why some palettes find it difficult to wear. I love the red on you too - you really should wear it more often!" (Noted).

Am I happy that I used Donna's service? Absolutely I am! Already I've used the knowledge that she's given me on several occasions, not least when it came to choosing some clothing for an up and coming post with Marks and Spencer. Will I be a slave to my colours? Definitely not but when I'm not, I will know it and I will be able to make the necessary adjustments to my outfits so that things work as well for me as they can. Will it mean that I try different colours? Definitely, safe in the knowledge that I'm heading down the right track but always with Donna's words ringing in my ears. Oh and for the record, I may well be wearing more sludge brown!

Note: Try as I might, Donna wouldn't let me pay her for her service but I would have happily paid her fee of £35, plus some, for the work that she did and the advice that she has given.  

Donna says: "I feel that you could probably add a slightly brighter coloured top or scarf to this coat to really make the most of it." - Yes, I agree!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Are you ribbing me? Today we're looking at one of the biggest trends for next season....

If you type the word "ribbed" into the Topshop website it comes up with 269 results - which is a sure sign that ribbed clothes are going to be huge this season - or next season - whichever way you look at it. From ribbed cropped tops, to ribbed cropped trousers and from ribbed jumpsuits, to ribbed swim suits anything and everything is ribbed.

All things 90's are in the midst of a huge revival, so be warned! By its very nature ribbing is not terribly forgiving. On the other hand, it can add curves to a chest where perhaps there are none and it also gives a really nice neat silhouette. With a little careful styling, ribbing can work beautifully. So before you write it off as a trend that's not going to work for you, there are a few tips worth bearing in mind...

  • One of the easiest ways to wear ribbing is as a layer underneath something else. A ribbed top would work fantastically well under a faux fur gilet or suede waistcoat (fringing isn't compulsory) with just the sleeves peeping through.  I recently bought this jumper from Topshop (£28) which I will layer under all sorts of things when the colder weather arrives. The other great thing is that it will add warmth without lots of bulk. 

  • Another way of layering a jumper like the one above is to wear a jacket over it, maybe a leather one or a blazer, just leaving a vertical strip of the jumper showing at the front. With some smart culottes it's a great work look - still smart but very modern. Layering a Peter Pan collar underneath it on a bib makes for a preppy look. Or, a ribbed top can make a statement in its own right, such as this asymmetric top from Topshop (£32)
  • Long line cardis are a huge trend for the season and buying into a ribbed one of these isn't so much as buying into a "look" as adding a cardi to your wardrobe, which just happens to be ribbed. Given the fact that they can be quite fine knits, it's necessary to watch what peeps through from beneath - jeans for example can leave bumps where the buttons are. Leather leggings would give a smooth silhouette. Another offering from Topshop is this cardi, for £39.
  • For anyone who fancies it, ribbing can be embraced as a full on look in many ways, from a jumpsuit to a dress. I love this two piece outfit from Topshop (£78) which comprises ribbed cropped trousers and a long line tunic.

  • Or Zara has this ribbed dress (£15.99) which reminds me of Kate Moss in her early modelling days. See what I mean about the 1990s?
  • Autograph at Marks and Spencer has this two piece ribbed dress and long line cardigan in olive. Somehow, seeing the outfit on a more mature model makes it easier to relate to as a trend. The cardigan is currently sold out and the dress is available in limited sizes, presumably because it has featured in Vogue. Not so good for us but I'm happy for M&S! Each piece is priced at £55.
  • And another little gem from Autograph - this fabulous ribbed jumper and trousers ensemble. Now if I could wear this from October until April - and look as good as the model in doing so, I wouldn't mind winter approaching. The tunic top is £49.50 and the trousers are £45.
  • Or maybe try a jumpsuit? Zara has this great option. Yes? No? Maybe with a white shirt underneath??

Personally I could quite happily be persuaded on any of the above. But as to a ribbed swimsuit? Maybe that's a 1990's Baywatch type step too far. So, to rib or not to rib, that is the question? I love the clean lines and muted tones of these outfits which are all quite Scandi looking. What do you all think? I predict quite a cosy winter. x

Friday, 14 August 2015

Can you wear a blanket poncho? Yes you can and here I show you how...

Outfit: Gap trousers, Jigsaw boots and poncho, Warehouse top, Oushka bag

So I have to admit that I was dubious about whether I could pull off a blanket poncho but then I bought one on impulse ("oooh, it's navy and white and I've never tried one of these before - let's give it a go) after which I missed the deadline to return it, meaning that I was forced to wear it.  And guess what? I really liked it. Luckily.

In fairness I did try it on before I bought it but it was a very quick try on. Then as the summer holidays approached a whole host of work came in and it sat, mildly neglected for a while. I wore it in Guernsey with shorts and then today, given that the temperature had dropped by about 10 degrees, an extra layer was needed. So out it came for its first official outing.

Having had a little play with it my conclusion is that, even if you're fairly petite it can work without swamping. Equally if you're slightly curvier it's great for skimming without clinging. I'm also going to belt it when I have a chance and see how that works too. As with anything with some volume to it, the rest of the outfit needs to be quite fitted so that it looks as though you're wearing an outfit plus a poncho, rather than....a tent. And, as in most cases, a slight heel does help. It just helps to lengthen those legs.

Here's the Jigsaw summer blanket poncho (£38 down from £129) in cream. It's no longer available in navy on line but I love this cream option too - and it's a great price now.

And these are the Jigsaw ankle boots that I'm wearing (reduced to £69 from £139). I've worn them so much already that they definitely qualify as a necessary purchase. Yep, most definitely.

Wishing you all a lovely (and dry) weekend - whether you're in a poncho. Or a tent. 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

How a few tweaks and a knot can take a top from the beach to the town...

The last time that I wore this J. Crew dress I wore it on the beach and at its full length. With it being such a beautiful day yesterday, I really wanted to wear it again but it just looked all wrong for a trip to Waitrose.

On the beach the dress was fine but out of context I felt as though it looked as if I was wearing a dress that was far too short for me, even though I had denim shorts underneath.  Not one to be defeated, I tucked the back of the top underneath itself, grabbed the front, tied it in a knot and off I went. Now admittedly, having made the top shorter I ended up with more leg on show than if I had worn it as a dress but somehow it worked better. I think that it looked more intentional and less like I had left the house without really checking the length of my dress.

I'm also wearing Amirah flat shoes from Banana Republic which had their first outing yesterday. I bought these when I was in New York in June for about £20 and there are similar here in silver for £49.99, reduced from £75.

I also really like these Aiden D'Orsay flats from Banana Republic (£69). What I hadn't appreciated until I wore my shoes for while is that they have padding under the ball of the foot and a memory foam system, which makes them really comfortable.  As in really, really comfortable so I will definitely see what Banana Republic have lined up for next season.

Re-working pieces is a great way to make your wardrobe work harder for you - whether it's layering something underneath, or over, something else chopping your old jeans into cut-offs (which mine are above), belting an item to change its shape or length, or committing an act of sacrilege by knotting a a J. Crew dress to make it into a top, thinking outside the box opens a whole host of wardrobe options.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

A cheeky pair of shoes for a cheeky night out...(and they may just be a slight Aquazurra copy)

[Satin Topshop joggers, leather Iris & Ink top, Accesssorize bag, La Moda shoes]

Friday night saw a cheeky night out with some friends for tapas and having seen these shoes in Look Magazine a week or so ago, I treated myself to them.

These "Bad to the bone black" shoes from La Moda which are £24.99...

...are an unashamed copy of the Aquazzura Wild Thing tassel heels, which are £515.

I suppose it is a little bit naughty really but there are some things in life that wouldn't sit well with my conscience and there are other things that I am able to reconcile. This one I can. For some bizarre reason I'm really looking forward to wearing them at Christmas. Why that may be I have no idea, particularly as the thought of the summer ending fills me with dread - although one small consolation is all the new clothes coming into the stores. Soooo lovely!