Category Archives: Fashion

Be a savvy sales shopper

Be a savvy sales shopper

I buy lots of my clothes in the sales. Usually, it’s a combination of impulse purchasing and forward planning – both clever in their own ways.

The buy-it-now, wear-it-now impulse purchase

This is where I indulge my inner magpie. Right now that means something fun and summery. Sales are the time to indulge in styles that probably won’t have that much longevity. We’re talking about the fun slogan bag for your holiday, an embroidered kaftan or some cute summer jewellery. You might not get a huge amount of wear out of it, but at sales prices, who’s complaining?

What am I looking out for? Cool dresses for my summer holiday, cute pom-poms and bright summer bags:

Summer sales picks

 Denim jacket, £18, Boohoo / Lucille Dress, £35, Boden / Tote bag, £14, Very

Why’s it clever? Buying throwaway summer pieces in the sale might be seen as wasteful, but I’m not so sure. They key is to limit yourself to a few, fun purchases. Don’t go mad. Buy a few treats to see you through till the end of the summer, but don’t waste your money on piles of things that’ll be useless come September.

Now, let’s talk about the clever buy-it-now, wear-it-later purchase

Right now, the savvy thing to do is to look towards Autumn. You’ll be surprised what you can find in the summer sales that will carry you right though to winter.

Look out for simple, transitional pieces that’ll ease you into the cooler months – navy skirts, Breton stripes and a cute coat for cooler days:

Autumn clothes from the summer sales

Sienna coat, £75, Boden / Skirt, £39.99, Benneton / Breton top, £12.50, Boden

Why not look ahead to next summer too? Choose staple items that won’t date, like jeans, linen, simple dresses and skirts. This is the time to invest in quality pieces that you can’t normally afford – things you know will be useful next year, and for years to come.

And thanks to online shopping, you can do it all from the comfort of your own home. Curated sales websites like Love the Sales, gather all your favourite sales in one place – meaning it’s now easier than ever to snap up a bargain!

Whatever you’re looking for, it pays to be clever.

This post is in collaboration with Love the Sales

 

My essential summer accessories

Wherever this summer takes you, there are certain accessories you should never be without. We’re talking about those classic pieces that’ll see you through your day – whether you’re sitting on a windswept beach, an island paradise, or a park bench in your lunch hour.

The French basket… You can’t do summer without a French-style market basket. They’re practical and laid-back – but also terribly chic. They’re also massively affordable: my basket was £21 and has already earned its keep, and then some.

French market basket

The hat… Everyone needs a classic sun hat for the hottest days of the year. Choose a simple, wide-brimmed style for causal summer style that’ll never date. Mine is by Oliver Bonas.

The statement earrings… Liven up simple summer outfits with a knock-out pair of earrings. I love the nautical style of these rope earrings from Weald Store (a fabulous online indie that I urge you to check out).

Statement summer earrings

The Denim Jacket… is my trusty friend through the summer. It goes with everything and the stitches that hold it together are imbued with summer vibes.

The Denim jacket

The make up… Tinted facial suncream is my new summer essential. This tinted gel by La Roche Posay not only protects, it also gives a subtly healthy glow – all whilst feeling light on the skin. All you need on top is a bit of blusher and highlighter and you’re ready to go! This palette from Charlotte Tilbury is packed with flattering, glow-getting, shades.

Summer make up

Oh, and your umbrella…You don’t want to be without that, do you? This is England, after all.

Clever occasion dressing

I’d love to hear about your essential summer accessories. What can’t you live without?

My guide to cycling, with Joanie clothing

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

A year ago I made a dream come true and bought a Pashley cycle. It’s bright, shiny and beautiful. Its bell makes the perfect ding-a-ling – and the wicker basket would be big enough for Toto, should he ever need a lift.

It’s my pride and joy, but it didn’t have a name – until now. I’ve decided to christen it Joanie, in honour of Joanie Clothing, who sent me some absolutely beautiful clothes to style this post. The Joanie Gals are full of light-hearted fun with a vintage twist – their clothes were made for cycling like strawberries were made for cream!

What have I learnt after a year with my bike?

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Cycling gets me from A to B, but it also makes me feel happy in a way that walking or driving never does.

There’s something uniquely wonderful about gliding along under your own steam. Cycling is very democratic – you don’t have to be particularly fit to do it and it’s great low-impact exercise. With minimal effort, you can push those pedals around and feel the wind in your face. The sound of the wheels swishing, that blissful feeling when you free-wheel for a few seconds: it’s good for the body and good for the mind.

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Yes, you can wear a dress while cycling!

I’m never going to be a lycra-clad gal. It’s just not going to happen. Cycling in loose skirts and dresses is much more me – and it’s surprisingly comfortable and practical. Of course, windy days can be a bit challenging – sometimes a bit of knicker flashing is inevitable! Try wearing cycling shorts under your dress, or if the fabric is loose enough, hold the two halves together with a peg to turn your skirt into culottes.

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Worried about safety? 

The best advice I’ve ever had is to remember that you have every much as right to be on the road as a motorist. In return, you need to behave like a motorist too. Remember those hand signals you learnt in cycling proficiency at school? You need to use them. Always be aware of what’s going on around you and never forget to check over your shoulder before you pull out or move across the roads. I basically assume that drivers won’t see me, unless I make it absolutely clear what I’m doing.

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Maintaining your bike

Cycling is much more fun when it doesn’t feel like hard work. A bike with flabby tyres and a rusty chain is never going to bring you as much joy as one that glides effortlessly along the road — so use some simple maintenance tips to help your bike work with you instead of against you. Even if you don’t want to DIY, knowing what to look for means you know when to ask for help from a bike shop.

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Keep your tyres properly pumped

Firmer tyres help prevent punctures — but more importantly, they make cycling much easier, and you can go faster for the same effort. Spend £15-30 on an upright track pump with a pressure gauge: it makes it really easy to get this right. Look on the side of the tyre for the maximum pressure, then aim to get them that hard. You’ll probably need to pump them up once every week or two.

Firm tyres go hand in hand with a smooth-running chain

If yours is rusty and stiff, get it replaced, then treat it to a weekly dose of chain lube. Not too much, though… if you use something like this Finish Line product then you want no more than one drop for each link of the chain. Turn the pedals backwards whilst you drip it on — and put something underneath so the stray drips don’t end up on the floor!

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Check your brakes

If they don’t work properly, don’t ride the bike. Pull them on and try to push your bike along; the wheels shouldn’t go round if you’re squeezing the lever hard.

Hate punctures?

Try a different tyre. Puncture-resistant brands like Schwalbe Marathon are really tough — they’re great for city cycling because they’re very hard to damage. A bike shop will help you choose (and fit) the right ones for your bike.

If you haven’t ridden your bike for a while, or if you’re not sure it’s properly set up, then get it serviced by your local bike shop. It’s much easier to keep everything running properly once it’s in good order: just follow the tips above and you can’t go far wrong. You shouldn’t have to put up with problems that stop your bike bringing you pleasure. Fixing bikes is much, much cheaper and easier than fixing a car!

Joanie Honor Bicycle Print Collar Top

What I’m wearing:

Maurice chambray shirt dress, £40 / Carly striped Dress, £30 

Bicycle print blouse, £28 / Rattan handbag, £28

 All c/o Joanie

My bike is a Pashley Sonnet Ladies Hybrid Bike

Thank you to Joanie for sending me such beautiful and comfortable cycling clothes! 

The halcyon days of summer, with Winsor Bishop

Halcyon Days bangle, Winsor Bishop

halcyon / ADJECTIVE / Denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful

If anywhere is going to evoke thoughts of halcyon days, it’s Cambridge.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to an evening at Winsor Bishop, an independent jeweller in the heart of the city. It was the summer solstice, and one of those balmy evenings when Cambridge was at its best. Bicycles, blue skies, students in evening dress lounging around outside colleges – it’s a city that’s perfect for making our own halcyon days right now.

The wine fizzed and the diamonds glittered.

Winsor Bishop, Cambridge

Winsor Bishop, Cambridge

It was the perfect night to be introduced to Halcyon Days, an established English brand who specialise in beautiful enamel bangles and bracelets. I was lucky enough to take one home with me and I’ve been wearing it ever since.

Halcyon Days bangle, Winsor Bishop

Even if the sky isn’t always blue, the flash of bright enamel on my wrist is enough to remind me of those halcyon days of summer. For me, it’s a concept that conjures up images of long summer days – blue skies, golden sunshine, fruit-picking, Pimms in the garden… I bet at least one of those is on your list too!

Halcyon Days bangle, Winsor Bishop

Thank you to Winsor Bishop for helping me create some halcyon moments of my own! If you’re in Cambridge I recommend calling in to their beautiful and friendly Trinity Street store.

Want to see more? Here’s a mini video of my evening!

Culottes…and a lesson in self-confidence

Culottes, would you could you?

I last owned a pair of culottes in about 1991. They were brown, voluminous and I wore then to Brownies. Just like mules and high-heeled jelly shoes, these were one trend I was happy to leave behind. Until now.

Warmer weather makes us more receptive to new things, doesn’t it? In my last post I mentioned that I’ve been trying different styles lately – things that defy the way I normally dress for my shape. Last week, I tried the cold-shoulder top and loved it. Now feels like the time to welcome culottes back into my life.

Culottes are a great choice for me. I love skirts and dresses, but hate shorts. Culottes are the perfect middle ground. So in the spirit of trying new things, I ordered a pair in the Joules sale, and waited with trepidation for them to arrive.

Culottes, would you could you?

Why the fear? I’ve become so conditioned to only ever wearing skinny jeans, that anything baggy or voluminous feels wrong. Won’t it accentuate my curves, and make me look short and dumpy?

When I first tried them on, I liked them, but then the doubts crept in. All I could see was the lack of flat stomach and the emphasis on my hips. But then I showed my boys and my husband and they all immediately said how cool they looked. Which made me realise that the perception of how a pair of culottes should look was really just in my head.

They’ve taught me a lesson in self-confidence. If I slump and look down at the floor, then they will look awful. But if I smile and hold my head high, they’ll look amazing. Every time I put them on, I get that little voice of doubt, but then I remember what the boys said. I like them, and trust this feeling, rather than looking for things to criticise.

Culottes, could you, would you?

On a purely practical note, they really do feel amazing to wear. This pair is light and soft – and I love the pattern. They’re smart, but laid-back. Pretty and versatile – they feel just at home on the school run and they do in a meeting. They’re also going to feature in my holiday packing.

As with most loose trousers, I prefer a defined top half – so, for me, it’s always going to be a tucked-in top. A simple white shirt or vest would also look amazing.

Culottes

My culottes are by Joules. They’re in the sale at £29.95, but are selling fast. My tee is by White Stuff and my necklace is past-season Joules (try eBay).

Culottes

Luckily, there are lots more to choose from! For a classic look try these…

Nancy culottes, £80, Boden / Lennon culottes, £49.95, Joules

Or, how about a floral pair? I love these two…

Wild garden culottes, £36, Warehouse / Floral culottes, £19.99, New Look

So, cullotes: would you, could you?

 

 

Shake your pom poms!

Make your own pompom accessories

I have an enduring love for pom poms. I’m so drawn to the little fluffy balls of colour, you might as well call me a pom pom magpie. So I’m excited that they’re having moment this summer. You’ll find them on bags, tunics, scarves, earrings and anything else you can think of. 

Have a go at making your own pom pom accessories. Like most summer trends, this one’s probably not going to endure beyond the end of August. Why spend lots of money, when you can decorate the things you already have?

And was there ever an easier craft to make? Invest in a pom pom maker (trust me, this is one purchase you’ll never regret) and you’ll be churning them out in no time. It’s the perfect craft for hot summer days when anything more fiddly is too difficult to contemplate.

All you need to do is make a few pom poms and leave their long strings (the ones you tie them together with) intact. Then, you can then tie them to every possession you own.

Have a go at making your own pom pom accessories.

I’ve decorated my French market basket

Have a go at making your own pom pom accessories.

…and my favourite summer sandals. There’s no sewing involved, just knot them on. You can cut them off when you get fed up of them, and change the colours according to your outfit! 

Have a go at making your own pom pom accessories.

Don’t fancy getting crafty? Here’s my pick of the best summer buys. Please forgive me the momentary lapse in taste – I think we all need a pet pom pom parrot for summer.

Summer pom pom accessories

Sandals, £25.99, New Look /  Parrot keyring, £4.99, New Look / Earrings, £7.50, ASOS / Basket, £21.99, ASOS

make your own pom pom accessories

Are you ready to shake your pom poms?

 

 

Make a blazer your new best friend

Summer blazer

I’ve always overlooked blazers. It’s easy to do. They’re a bit unassuming aren’t they? Always in the shadows, they were never going to win the popularity contest to be my best friend.

That’s a bit mean though, isn’t it? I’ve decided it’s time we made friends. My fear has always been that blazers are a bit dull. But this perceived weakness is actually the blazer’s greatest strength. Its simple, utilitarian style is pretty cool.

Summer blazer

A simple navy blazer goes with everything – pleated skirts, floaty dresses, ripped jeans… But my favourite way to style it is with wide-leg linen trousers and a Breton – classic summer attire for those days when you want to feel a little more pulled together.

Summer blazer

Summer blazer

Keep things low-key by choosing a slightly stretchy, jersey fabric for a more unstructured look.

My jacket is from H&M. It’s now sold out online, but it’s worth trying your luck in store. If you’d prefer to shop online, let me point you in the direction of this gorgeous jersey jacket by Boden:

Image: Boden

Or, if you’d prefer something more loose and unstructured, this jacket from New Look is perfection:

Image: New Look

My t-shirt is by H&M, and my trousers are last summer’s linen wide-legs from Marks and Spencer – who do fantastic linen at brilliant prices. This pair from their current collection are very similar.

Do you have a blazer lurking at the back of your wardrobe? Get it out and make it your new best friend! 

Summer blazer

A very clever dress

Clever occasion wear

It’s June, which means it’s time to get ready for the Great British summer of events and occasions. Like most things in Britain, it’s complicated.

Whether you’re going to a wedding, a garden party or the races you’ll face a few challenges. Not least of which is the notorious Great British summer weather. Yes, that. The days that go from scorching hot to soaking wet, all at the drop of a hat.

And it’s not just the weather that’s changeable. Summer events can vary hugely – genteel one minute, and raucous the next. You need to be flexible.

Outfit indecision is rife. As is the fear of getting it wrong. You need to get smart and choose a clever outfit. Something that’ll feel great, and take you anywhere. Step forward the shirt dress, the most versatile of outfits. It’s smart in every sense of the word. Dress it up, dress it down – it’s up to you. 

Clever occasion wear

And I think I’ve found the perfect one. When Simply Be invited me to try out their summer occasion wear, I knew immediately that this was the dress for me. I toyed with flowers and maxis, but kept coming back to this dress. It’s a classic.

Why’s it so good?

Firstly, it’s flattering. The fluttery sleeves hide my upper arms, and the belt accentuates my waist. The longer length helps me feel taller and slimmer. Add on some comfortable heels and I’m ready.

Simply Be shoes

But more importantly, it passed the weather test. On the afternoon of these photos it encountered a Great British rainstorm and survived to tell the tale. And it still looked chic for a glass of fizz.

Clever occasion dressing

And that’s the very definition of clever dressing, don’t you think?

This post was written in collaboration with Simply Be. 

 

Low-key denim for sunny days

Relaxed summer denim

Do you wear denim all year round? 

Denim on hot days always reminds me of being a teenager – sweltering in thick jeans because you couldn’t imagine being seen in anything else. Too hot, too tight, too stiff. These days my jeans get pushed to the back of the wardrobe in summer time. I like lighter, floatier fabrics.

But I miss my jeans and I’m always looking for an alternative. Step in the Tencel jogger by White Stuff. As soon as I saw them in my local store I knew I had to try them. They look like denim, but feel light, soft and drapey. They’re everything I want a summer jean to be. Loose and low-key, and reminiscent of camping trips and days in the park.

Relaxed summer denim

The denim jogger is a new shape for me. It’s tight on the waist, baggy on the thighs and tapered round the ankle. It’s not the easiest shape to wear, but it’s everywhere this season.

If I’m wearing these trousers my top half has to be close-fitting and minimal. A pretty, floaty top looks unbearably dowdy (on me at least). A basic stripy tee feels more at home, tucked in if you fancy.

Relaxed summer denim

Trousers, £49.95, White Stuff / Tee, £6.99, H&M / Basket, £21, Kosmopolitan

I  know these are going to be my easy-peasy, throw-it-on, trouser of choice this summer. A little bit crumpled, but a whole lot relaxed – just the ticket for school runs, park runs and ice cream runs! 

Beauty favourites for May

Now I’m in my thirties my beauty routine needs an extra helping hand. I used to wear hardly any makeup, but motherhood and age have taken their toll. Barely there now looks barely decent!

But that doesn’t mean I don’t still crave the fresh-faced look. I’ve never liked lots of foundation, and I’m not ready to start just yet. So I’ve been trying a tinted base coat instead (which basically means a tinted moisturiser). I’ve invested in this one by Liz Earle. It’s my first foray into her make-up, and I’m impressed. It’s very light and I put it on over my daily moisturiser. It creates a nice base for my blusher, concealer and BB powder to sit on and really evens out my skin tone. It makes me look subtly better – like I’ve had a great night’s sleep!

I’ve always been afraid of tinted moisturisers – wouldn’t they make my combination skin even greasier? I’ve been using this one for a couple of months now and I haven’t noticed any real difference. So I’ll be sticking with this clever base, which also has a SPF. When the weather’s hotter I might mix a little stronger sun block into it for extra protection.

I’d also really recommend Liz Earle’s concealer too. It works really well with the skin tint to cover blemishes and redness.

I’ve already mentioned my combination skin. It seems to be getting worse as I get older and my pores are getting bigger (and more blocked!). I’ve read about the benefits of Origins Clear Improvement clay mask on numerous occasions and I’ve finally invested in some. It’s not cheap – my purchase was made during a prosecco-fueled shopping spree at the airport.

Origins face mask

I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and I’m beginning to see improvements. I’m also trying to be good about not poking and squeezing my pores too much as I’m sure this makes them worse. I’m using it weekly, followed by those sticky pore strips a few days later.

Now, let’s talk about hair. Mine is thick, wavy and coloured. Conventional shampoos do very little for it. I’ve been reading about the co-washing trend for a while and recently took the plunge. I’m using Lush’s Avocado Co-Wash, which looks disconcertingly like a piece of cheese, but smells like heaven.

Lush Avocado Co-Wash

It’s completely different to normal shampoo. I take a little piece and rub it into a lather in my hands, then work it through my hair. It’s a very different way to wash your hair. You don’t get that squeaky clean feeling – instead my hair feels soft and moisturised and much less frizzy and fluffy. My hair is very thick, so it can take this. I imagine if you had fine hair, it would feel unbearably greasy.

It’s hard to explain, but I prefer my hair this way. It retains more of its natural oils, but it still feels clean. My hair also smells amazing after I’ve used it! If you have very thick hair give it a go. It’s quite expensive but, the lovely girls in the Cambridge Lush gave me a small piece to try for free before I committed to buying a big piece. Their customer service is great, I’m always really impressed.

Have you tried anything new lately? I’d love to hear about your new finds! 

And one last thing…It would totally make my day (year?) if some of you lovely people would like to nominate me in the Inspire category of the Britmum’s Brilliance in Blogging Awards 2017!