Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The jumper that we all need in our Wardrobe

Honestly, you may not think that you need a pink jumper but you absolutely do. I promise. Even if you don't like pink, you really do need a pink jumper. This is even more so if you don't like sparkles, Christmas jumpers or Fair Isle ones - all of which are in abundance at this time of year.  They go so well with denim and all of those navy, black and grey pieces that we wear at this time of year.

I posted the above picture on Instagram a while ago and asked people if they had seen any fab pink jumpers this season.  And this is the response that came back...

The Oasis cable knit (£40) seemed particularly popular. If wearing it with a midi length embellished skirt of the party variety, just tuck some of the front of the jumper into the waistband in a nonchalant kind of way, so as to keep the proportions right. Equally this would look great with coated skinnies and wellies for those winter walks that we all avoid like the plague look forward to on a cold wintery day.

This Oasis pink turtleneck (£30) offers something slightly more lightweight for those layering occasions, or if a chunky style is just too heavy for what you're wearing on the bottom half. The scalloped neckline  and hem make for a really pretty detail.

For something a little sport luxe, this Burford cashmere hoodie from Kitted in Cashmere (£139) is just lovely. Again it can be worn with a party style skirt for a high/low look, or  leather leggings, or luxe track pants. This jumper also comes in this amazing shade of pink, which is really "Wow" in the flesh.

This Burfood hoodie is a "one size fits all" jumper too - making it the perfect Christmas present.

If a slightly more subtle shade of pink is more of your thing, then there's the HUSH Helen jumper (£69) which isn't quite as full on as some of the more neon ones that I've suggested above. This is a great, easy style to wear too. Layer something underneath it, or over it, tuck it in, leave it out, lengthen it with a white shirt peeping out from the bottom, add a scarf if you prefer a higher neckline, jazz it up with sparkly jewellery - it's just so versatile. 

I've noticed that chenille, that fabulous fabric with 80s and 90s connotations, seems to be having a revival. So for those who like the idea of some texture and would rather avoid anything with wool in it, there's this hooded jumper in cerise chenille from H&M (£29.99)

And I love this Chunky knit jumper H&M (£19.99). It's very insta worthy in a "wearing it with Mom type jeans and sky scraper heels" kind of way. Over sized, overly long sleeves with a great high neckline, it's fabulous.

For an investment piece in something luxuriously soft, there's the Mimi cashmere jumper from White Stuff (£89.95) which was also drawn to my attention. It's such a vibrant shade of pink - love it!

And then I just had to go and do it didn't I? I had to go and lower the tone by including a jumper that was not only pink but also sparkly and with a Christmas theme. As you can tell, this was all my own work! It's the Topshop Christmas sequin penguin jumper (£36) and I fear that it might just have my name all over it.

Now do you believe me? You see, you totally need a pink jumper....don't you?!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The Little Black Dress of Dreams from LK Bennett

Salena black dress LK Bennett (£325)

Last week I was lucky enough to be holding an event in the LK Bennett store in Birmingham and so, for one night only, I got to wear the most beautiful little black dress. 

There are so many gorgeous dresses in LK Bennett at the moment that they really deserve a post of their own. From fabulous dresses in the collaboration with Preen, to floral midi dresses, velvet knee length dresses and leopard print dresses, LK Bennett is definitely very strong in its "dress game" this season.

But for now I'm just going to tell you why this Salena dress is such a gem. First, it has a great length to it, so there's no issue as to whether it feels too short or not. Secondly, the volume in the skirt is really flattering for pear shaped figures as it just skims so beautifully. The lace detailing around the shoulders and neckline does a great job of drawing the eye upwards - a fantastic styling trick if ever there was one. And one of the best things is that the lace detailing around the waist is quite high, meaning that it falls on a narrow part of the torso plus it gives the illusion of legs going on forever. This is just one of those dresses that feels really elegant and glamourous when you're wearing it.

If you do happen to be on the hunt for a dress for the festive season, or just because you fancy a new frock, I would definitely suggest heading over to LK Bennett for a look. Traditionally I think that it's fair to say that they had more of a formal/corporate/fitted Kate Middleton (in a good way) look about them but they are definitely rocking some cooler frocks this winter.

Monday, 20 November 2017

It's the sequinned top post!

OK - confession time, this is clearly an old photo - but I still have the top! 

If there's one top that screams Christmas it's my black - slightly naked of sequins - sequinned top from H&M, which must be going into its third or so year now.

True, it sheds sequins wherever I go but given that I love sequins - (not glitter....especially not when a child is shaking a pot of it. I still haven't got over our eldest spilling a pot of red glitter all over the house when she was about 4. I was still finding it in July) - then I don't mind at all.

Here's my round up of my favourite sequinned tops. Just add jeans, a pleated skirt, dungarees, wide leg trousers, coated skinnies, culottes - basically anything will go with one of these - and in any setting. Which makes it a really easy top to wear - despite it being all things shiny and not seeming, at first glance, to lend itself to anything other than fancy pants occasions.

Sequin top Warehouse (£42) which also comes in blue (below)

The trick to buying any sequinned top is to feel it on the inside before you buy it. Exfoliation is, as well all know, a good thing but not when you feel it being done all evening by something that resembles a brillo pad. Check for a lovely lining which will avoid that brillo pad feel. 

This same gorgeous top also comes in gold (below). I have given it a good once over and for me, this top is a real gem.

Now I love the idea of this asymmetric sequin top from Mango (£35) for a black tie event with some wide legged trousers and maybe even, dare I say it, with some trainers. Or if that's a step too far then some flat velvet shoes, if (more) sparkles aren't your thing. Then maybe wear it with jeans or with a skirt on Christmas day.

                               Assymetric sequin top | MANGO
Now there are sequins and then there are SEQUINS and this turtleneck from Other Stories (£49) definitely falls into the latter category. I love this top. It's just divine! Please someone buy it and send me a picture of you wearing it.

This Oasis sequin tinsel sweat (£38) is also a fabulous option. I first saw it when I went to visit the refurbished House of Fraser in Sutton Coldfield. It's slightly less fitted than some of the other options and maybe slightly* less bling than some of my other choices.

I cannot convey enough my love for a sequinned top, shining like a star in an otherwise dark and wintery wardrobe. It always holds such promise of a fab night out!

* this is a relative term because all sequinned tops, by definition, are bling.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Your arsenal of winter warmers....things are not quite what they seem

There are not many things in life that I would say that I'm the Queen of but when it comes to layering, that crown is well and firmly on my head thank you very much.

But this post isn't about the obvious that we reach for to keep us warm in the winter - the scarf/hat/gloves/thick jumpers/duvet. Oh no. It's more about those pieces that we can layer under, or over, what "normal" people wear, so that we still look like we're wearing a "normal" outfit and so that we don't have to go around looking like the Michelin man from October until April.

I've come up with an arsenal of weapons to help fight the cold. These I bring out year after year, literally, and they are a fail safe way of making summer clothes last into the winter and to stop us from having to wear winter clothes into the summer.

Modal long lace vest Jigsaw (£29)

Let's start with a vest. A vest is always a good place to start when it's cold. The Jigsaw vests are lovely and comfortable with a nice lace detail, straps which can be altered plus they come in about 9 different colours. They are particularly great if a bit of vest is going to be peeking through - say at the neckline of a denim shirt or something.

M&S cotton rich strappy vest (£5)

Then for the every day work horse type vest, you can't beat good old M&S, or H&M (who do long line ones), or Next. A vest is the first piece of clothing that goes on after my undies. You have to start layering early on in the construction of an outfit. 

Thermal ankle length leggings from Marks and Spencer (£12.50)

You may not know it yet but you absolutely need these babies in your wardrobe if you want to wear a midi dress and do an ankle flash at any point in the year beyond, say, mid September. I bought some from Primark and they key is to have them loose enough around the ankle so that they can be turned up. Thermals poking out from beneath the hem of your dress is not a good look. Nope not at all. But one sadly that I think I may have participated in inadvertently :( I had these on as part of the above outfit.

Long sleeved jersey top H&M (£8.99)

So then I quite often (no, pretty much always) have a long sleeved cotton top over my vest. Last year I bought a stack of scooped neck ones from H&M just like the one above. I must admit that on the day I wore the above outfit, I didn't have a long sleeved top on as it would have been a bit bulky under my dress and it might have shown through at the neck. But they are definitely necessary about 75% of the time.

Now a ribbed neck polo is the best thing against the cold. Fitted but not too tight is the order of the day. It's a great layering piece under all of those summer dresses that run out of steam come the end of September. And with a vest to go underneath it, plus thermal leggings, you're absolutely sorted. They're also fab under dungarees. 

Boden cashmere cropped cardigan (£98) or Boden favourite cropped cardigan (£50)

Trust me. If you feel the cold, you really need one of these cropped cardigans from Boden. There are two choices, the cashmere one and the favourite cropped cardi, which is 80% cotton. Mine is never far away from me and although it's rarely on show, it's working behind the scenes underneath a biker jacket, adding an extra layer of warmth. I'm wearing mine as part of the above outfit but it doesn't add bulk and no-one would ever know. A layer over the dress, as opposed to underneath it, also stops the dress from becoming too tight. 

Faux fur gilet Oasis (£55)

If you've got a coat that needs a bit of help in keeping you warm, a fake fur gilet like the one above does the job brilliantly. Coats can be hard to layer up because there's often not enough room in the sleeves, which is where the gilet comes in. It adds warmth to your torso but means that you can still get your arms in the sleeves. True, depending on the fit you may not be able to get your coat done up but if the gilet has a fastening that's that problem sorted. Equally they look good layered over a biker jacket. 

Uniqlo  ultra light compact jacket (£49.90)

Finally, although I don't have one of these jackets yet, I've always thought that they look such a good idea to have squirrelled away in your bag. I've seen my friends dive into their bag to pull out what I thought was going to be a tissue, only to produce, magician like, a coat. For those days out in London where it can go from freezing to really warm, one of these would be perfect.

There are various heat tech type garments available which I may investigate another time for those truly freezing days but for now, I've stuck to what is pretty much available in your standard shopping centre.

I hope that this post is helpful for those who, like me, long to look like everyone else whilst their fingers are in fact turning white and their nose, blue. It doesn't have to be about the bulk to keep warm and stylish, although on some days there's no denying that there's no substitute for a thick jumper. But the rest of the time, we can wing it. (Just like many things in life!)

Monday, 13 November 2017

Me & Em - winning basics in gorgeous fabrics

You know me, I'm not really a designer girl at heart. True, I love a good handbag and I can't deny that I love comfort and quality but I also like mixing those pieces with bits and bobs that make my heart skip a beat - and quite often I find those brighter, blingier, neon, pieces in places such as Topshop and H&M.

But I've always loved Me & Em and when it first started, I remember lying in the bath reading the catalogue and coveting the pieces. So when an opportunity presented itself in my day to head to Me & Em and try on a whole range of pieces that I've admired from afar for years - well it would be have been crazy not to take advantage of it. I must confess, it was a dangerous expedition and I came away thinking that life would be so much easier if I could just buy everything from there. The quality, the cut and the fit are fabulous.

Hello grinning idiot! I completely fell in love with this skirt and this jumper which I think I could wear pretty much all winter long. I've included some clearer images of both pieces, below.

Fluid front frill skirt Me & Em  (£169)

I love this skirt styled with these biker boots. It just makes it a little less girlie than if styled with heels - and a whole lot more edgy but also accessible on an every day basis. It scoops down slightly at the back too, also making it just a little less "twee". In the photo above, I'm wearing a size 8 so I'd say it comes pretty true to size. 

Cashmere slim fit roll neck Me & Em (£249)

And this red cashmere jumper is just beautiful. I've been looking for a red jumper for a while now and this was the perfect shade of cherry red. It didn't come home with me - but I'm still plotting! I'm wearing the size 6, which was great as I didn't want anything too oversized. Sometimes over sized is good but only if I'm balancing it with a fitted piece elsewhere - and generally heels of some description too. Otherwise I can look like I'm wearing someone else's clothes. Not that I'm averse to wearing other people's clothes - my friends have some lovely pieces.   

Detachable scarf knit dress Me & Em (£189)

I have a knitted dress that I dig out every winter, particularly when it gets really cold and I love the versatility of it. This dress is 86% merino wool and 14% elastane and it's not in the least bit itchy, which is always the danger with wool dresses. Nor is it too thick for those who are concerned about over heating in wool. This dress would work well for a smarter event with statement jewellery or with a leather and biker boots, or with a blazer for work. And the detachable scarf enables several different looks to be created, which is always handy in a "no I'm not really wearing the same dress again" kind of way. 

And with the scarf, below. Now I know that there's no denying that this dress is fitted but it didn't cling, or fall, in such a way that I felt that I had to breathe in when wearing it - which is always a relief. I'm wearing my usual size 8 and it didn't feel too tight.

Oh and the trousers are just amazing. I've been looking for some wide leg trousers for several winters now but I've found either that they're really baggy around the hips and bottom as well as in the leg - thus giving the impression of a clown, or they look more like a boot cut than a wide leg. These though are fitted around the hips and waist, slightly slouchy and with plenty of width in the leg.

Pinstriped tux jacket Me & Em (£299) Pinstriped wide leg belted pant Me & Em (£169)

I'm wearing the jacket here, together with the trousers. The jacket is slightly too long for my frame /with this style trouser but I haven't worn a suit in years so it was nice to try one on. And I think that the combo of the sparkly top and pinstriped trousers makes them more wearable for the everyday. Well, provided that you see sequins as "the everyday". Doesn't everyone?!

These trousers are obviously way too long for me but I loved them, so I've bought them and they have been shortened so that I can wear them with flats. I'm just waiting for the right moment to get them out and about. Again, they came up true to size, which is a real bonus given how much the sizes can vary both across, and within the same, brands.

These trousers are the same style as the ones above but they're called the "Flannel wide leg trouser with belt" Me & Em (£169). I'm sooo tempted by these too. They are so comfortable, a fab colour and just a refreshing change from skinnies.

I would say that these are my favourite picks but honestly, everything is so beautifully designed that I have many favourite picks from the collection. If you're ever in the area, I would definitely recommend going into a store for a try on. Everything that they say in the brochure is so true.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Shock horror - it's the return of the 80s

I think that the 80s may be having a comeback but not in the way that I thought....

Help! Whenever I go into Whistles I'm strangely drawn to this Iva Casual Colourblock Puffa (£149). In reality, it's called the "Colorblock" Puffa but I can't bring myself to type the word "Color". Maybe I'm showing my age but it's just not right - and Whistles, if you're listening, that's not how we spell "colour".

I think that the reason that I like this jacket is for reasons of nostalgia. It reminds me of the Kappa cagoules that all the lads at school wore in the 1980s. Do you remember those? Together with the Sergio Tacchini tops that they wore? Although having said that, most of the boys at my school were idiots.I also find it quite funny that 80s fashion is having a revival. But it's not so much the lace fingerless gloves, the fluoro leg warmers, or the frosted lipstick "Bananarama/Madonna/Kylie style" that are being worn.  Rather, the girls are adopting the clothes that the boys wore in the 80s, which to be honest is quite refreshing.

Or look! You can go to Topshop and get a Fila Sweatshirt (£55). Does anyone remember Fila? I have a Fila watch. A boyfriend bought it for me and he turned out to be a right arse. But the watch was nice. Although to be honest I haven't worn it for years - literally tens of years.  Maybe I should dig it out again.

Or, heavens above, look at this track top by Adidas from Topshop (£52). I'm not kidding, my husband has one of these that he bought recently. Really recently I hate to admit. I try to ban him from wearing it but I thought that he might "just" get away with it at the 9 year olds gym competition today. I may have to eat my words. And borrow it. Obviously I won't be telling him that he has something in his wardrobe that may be considered vaguely cool.

To be honest, I'm not quite sure that I'm ready for all of this. Coats that the boys at school wore in the 80s having a moment? And (even more shocking) my husband having something vaguely trendy in his wardrobe? Girls wearing Kappa tracksuit bottoms in nightclubs, where before they wouldn't have been seen in anything other than the shortest and tightest of dresses with the highest of heels (I've witnessed it!) It's more than my brain can take on a Sunday night. Next everyone will be pinching VW emblems from cars and wearing them Beastie Boy style.

Image from definitely motoring

Saturday, 11 November 2017

The coolest collab on the block - Air & Grace and Zoe De Pass

Me with Claire, the founder of Air & Grace (Photograph by Dana of Dana and the Red Shoes)

Yesterday I was lucky enough to go to Stylist Live at Olympia in London. I'd not been before but this year, I decided, was my year and having kindly being offered a ticket by Air & Grace I felt that my ducks were being well and truly lined up for me.

Yesterday also coincided with the launch of the collaboration between Air and Grace and Zoe de Pass of Dress Like a Mum - and these are the two styles that the Queen of shoes and the Queen of cool designed together. First of all there are the rainbow leopard print (£169), along with the fuchsia leather (£149).

Both styles are available for pre-order, with the rainbow leopard print being ready for dispatch on November 27th and the fuchsia leather on 13th November. And the thing with these is that once they're gone, they're gone. So if you're even vaguely tempted - and I'm not trying to whip everyone up into a frenzy here - get your order in quick!

If like me you're finding heels increasingly uncomfortable and annoying to wear, I can't recommend Air and Grace shoes or trainers enough. Other than the odd pair of boots, if I'm walking more than, say, 1km I'm in trainers. I love my flutters and wear them pretty much non-stop and with a pair of the cow print Copelands on the way I'm pretty sorted. Well nearly.....

Friday, 3 November 2017

House of Fraser - but not as you know it!

When I've shopped at House of Fraser in the past, I'm not entirely sure that I've thought of it as a shopping "experience". Generally it's more of a functional and box ticking experience - which is fine, that's what lots of department stores are about and in fairness, I wouldn't necessarily expect much more than that.  

So when I was asked to pop along to the newly refurbished Gracechurch store in Sutton Coldfield, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But, and I know that some might think that I'm bound to say this, I absolutely loved it. So I'll explain why - but obviously as many of you quite possibly don't live close to Sutton Coldfield, I've included images of some of my favourite pieces that I think might appeal, irrespective of where you live.  

Luckily I arrived just in time for "elevensies" or really "half-past ninesies" but let's not split hairs. As Caffe Botanico was situated on the ground floor (like your thinking there House of Fraser) I thought that it was a very good place to start. In my humble opinion you can always tell a lot about a place from its café - and if at the same time you can get interiors inspo, even better. I've definitely got a thing for herringbone at the moment, so I loved this area.  And if it's grey herringbone with a splash of bright yellow, even better.

And as well as the gorgeous cakes on offer, I loved the grey metro tiles, which is handy as we're having our bathroom re-done next year so that's two lots of tile ideas that I now have. 

Now this is one mighty cake display. I must admit to having a couple of Italian pastries but I kind of accidentally ate them before photographing them. You will obviously be pleased to hear that they were delicious though.

And although I am absolutely not a coffee fan, I do love a frothy milk - the frothier the better because actually I don't really like warm milk - just the froth. This one was spot on and the girl brought it over to me which I thought was a really nice touch, particularly for elderly customers or for those struggling with children and pushchairs. And the girl was lovely "You're having a cappuccino without the cappuccino aren't you?" 

What a great display courtesy of Dune!

In keeping with other House of Frasers stores the shoe department is  now situated on the ground floor along with bags and beauty which is refreshing for the staff as previously they were located in a dark corner upstairs.

I chatted to the staff in the shoe department and they explained how the store was so much better organised now with all womenswear together, rather than over two floors. The menswear is no longer on the same floor as womenswear and everything is just better organised. In fact the store was buzzing with excitement - everyone seemed to love the open plan feel of the store, the new wooden floor as opposed to the traditional carpet and also how light it is. And importantly, there were plenty of staff around.

Can you imagine my distress, albeit short lived, at Whistles being cordoned off with red and white tape whilst they set up? I was almost as distressed as if I'd witnessed a scene out of Casualty. It was fantastic to see Whistles in a smaller West Midlands town. Whilst it happens in the south of the country, our Whistles' are generally located in the major cities, so this is a real coup. 

It wasn't long before things were definitely starting to take shape in the Whistles department. Plus the store also stocks Joules, Mint Velvet, French Connection, Oasis, Warehouse, Phase Eight and Barbour along with their own house brands, which are really strong.

What I really liked about this store was the size and shape of it. It's very symmetrical and because it's now open plan, it's possible to see from one side to the other. Plus the modern styling of the concessions and the lovely pale grey wood flooring (more interiors inspo) make the womenswear department feel like a large boutique, as opposed to a department store.

There is also a menswear department stocking Hugo Boss and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as a children's department with brands such as Barbour, Ralph Lauren and Joules.

I love this jumper from Mint Velvet (above) and this sweatshirt (below) from Maison de Nimes (£39)

Below you can see a little bit of Joules. I always love Joules for some jolly wellies and their general bright and cheery colour palette is always welcoming on a dark wintery day.

Plus there's quite a lot of sparkle at Biba. I love a bit of Biba - you always know where you are with it and there's nothing shy and retiring about Biba.

Ooooh and with all things "floral maxi dress" being so big at the moment, I thought that I'd share this lovely one from French Connection.

After having a good look at womenswear, I headed up to the second floor, which houses another café and the interiors section. I've always rated the homewear at House of Fraser as it has such a great selection of well established brands. Plus Linea always has something exciting to offer.

I have a bit of a thing for coloured glasses and I thought that this set from LSA (£32) were just lovely for when friends come round for drinks - or even when they don't. I have some displayed on a shelf in the kitchen and they make me smile every time I look at them.

There was also a great selection of fake fur cushions and throws. I've been after a grey sheepskin rug for a long time now and they had just what I was after here, so I snapped that up with 20% off at £36.

And there's just something so lovely about new dinnerwear. Again Biba comes up trumps with this range of Biba Starburst Dinnerwear which would look fabulous on a Christmas lunch table.

And this was the other dinner set that I really thought was really rather special. It's the deco peacock range, again from Biba. I realise that my shots aren't quite as good as those on the site but I keep reading that life is all about celebrating the imperfect, so I'm going to run with that. And there was a danger that I may well have had a Calamity Jane moment and knocked everything over, had I moved things too much.

I was also really excited to come across this range which is a collaboration between Ellen de Generes and Royal Doulton. The assistant there was proudly dusting the range, which we had a good old chat about for quite a while.

This has to be my favourite's just all about the message really. We all love giving, and receiving, a bit of kindness don't we? (Kindness mug £10) but equally the "Joy" and "Be Amazing" mugs are stunning too.

And I can't help but love this "Love" range, also from Ellen DeGeneres and Royal Doulton (£35). The tablewear collection is "inspired by both Ellen and Royal Doulton's love for artisanal, yet simple designs." Hello Santa are you listening?

Now some of you may think that this is ever so slightly odd but before I left the store I went and checked out the bathroom. Now I have specifically used the word "bathroom" because, as I mentioned earlier, I am gathering bathroom inspiration. And it sounds better than saying that I decided to go and check out the loos. Anyway, that aside, they're lovely aren't they?

The official launch event takes place on Thursday 9th November and if you're anywhere near to Sutton Coldfield I would really encourage you to go along for a spot of retail therapy in the nicest possible setting.

Just so that everyone is aware, this post was written in conjunction with House of Fraser but all words and thoughts are my own. I wasn't given a brief as to what, or what not, to include. Which they may well be regretting now....