Category Archives: Fashion

Simple fashion: the cable knit jumper

Simple fashion: the cable knit jumper

Simple fashion makes you look better and feel better. It’s about finding timeless clothes that’ll keep working their magic year after year. It’s the opposite of fast fashion trends which come and go in the blink of an eye. 

This week, I’d like to talk about the cable knit jumper. There’s something magical about those intricate stitches. They conjure up everything I always dream of doing in autumn: rugged walks in the great outdoors, cliff-top walks and cosy afternoons in a country pub. Even if I don’t get any further than the supermarket or the school gates, wearing a cable knit still feels special. It’s the cosiness. Wearing one is like a big bear hug. They also go with everything.

Simple fashion: the cable knit jumper

One of my favourite ways to wear a cable-knit jumper is to layer it up with jeans, a denim shirt and ankle boots. I’m also loving mine with a teddy-bear jacket for extra warmth.

Simple fashion: the cable knit jumper

Cable knit jumpers are also the perfect partner for dresses and skirts. There’s something romantic and a bit whimsical about chunky wool and floaty fabric, isn’t there? Opposites attract and that combination of tough and pretty is captivating. Why shouldn’t you look like a windswept heroine while you do your weekly shop?

Simple fashion: the cable knit jumper

The buy it now jumper

Throughout this post, I’m wearing a H&M jumper which is no longer available. However, this one, also by H&M is almost identical. At £24.99 it’s affordable. Does that automatically mean it’s fast (and therefore bad) fashion? I don’t think so. In my experience, H&M make good quality clothes that last beyond one season. According to the Good Shipping Guide (an ethical clothing indexing site) they have good ethical credentials. I’ve already worn mine a lot since buying it, so it’s currently proving to be a good investment.

Investment jumpers

If you’d prefer to invest in a more expensive piece, then I’ve found this beautiful merino aran jumper (see below). It’s made in Ireland from organic and natural fibres, and it’s a beauty! I’ve also found this lovely, soft version by Boden. Again, at £80 it’s a bigger investment, but Boden knitwear is always very good quality. I often buy it second hand off eBay, which is a testament to its longevity!

Second-hand jumpers

If you prefer not to buy new, then it’s not going to be too difficult to find a cable-knit jumper in the charity shop. Try the men’s section for oversized, chunky knitwear. If you do buy anything made of pure wool or natural fibres, then just be careful about moths. Place your new jumper in a plastic bag in the freezer for a couple of days to kill off any unwanted pests!

Do you own a cable knit sweater already? I’d love to know how you’re wearing yours this autumn…

 

Think twice about fast fashion

Think twice about fast fashion

Have you seen Stacey Dooley’s documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secrets? It’s an important reminder of the human and environmental costs of our obsession with cheap clothes.

Before I go on, I want to make one thing clear. This post isn’t designed to preach to you, or to patronise you. It’s actually more of an admission of my own guilt: I get a buzz from buying cheap clothes and I don’t think hard enough about the true costs.

Here’s the problem: we produce too many new clothes. Most of them are made of cotton. Growing cotton uses a lot of water, and processing it uses huge quantities of pesticides and toxic dyes. In the UK we’re physically removed from this brutal and damaging process. Out of sight, out of mind. But the countries that produce our clothes pay the price. Watch Stacey’s documentary footage of the heavily polluted Citarum River in Indonesia and you won’t be able to bury your head in the sand any longer. Add to this the horrible working conditions and things are looking very dark

Think twice about fast fashion

What’s the solution?

The problem is overwhelming. How do you turn back the tide of cheap fashion? The answer is you can’t. Not on your own. But if we all make some small changes together, then change is possible.

For now, for me, the answer is simple: THINK TWICE.

Think twice before I indulging the LIKE, WANT, BUY impulse. I’m addicted to the buzz of buying new clothes. A decade ago, I’d think long and hard before buying a couple of new pieces each season, like a wool coat or an expensive cardigan from Boden. Now, my inbox and Instagram feed is full of cheap must-haves screaming buy me now. Before I buy anything new I’m going to check in with conscience and ask myself who really wants the new dress. Is it me, or is the clothing addiction?

Think twice about fast fashion

Think twice about whether it’s needed. Is it offering something new, or is just a repeat? Or is it a one-off piece you won’t wear again? Remember those old-fashioned ‘fashion maths’ posts you used to get in magazines? You need to think like that about every purchase – will it be versatile, good value and have a life beyond one season?

Think twice about the ethics behind your favourite brands. Do some research. What’s their position on the dark side of fashion? And how does that make you feel?

Think twice about fast fashion

Think twice about quality. Buy cheap, buy twice. That’s what your granny probably said. And she was right. I know that there are certain shops that produce clothes which last for years, and others that don’t. If a company’s clothes always go baggy or shrink after one wash then don’t buy them any more. No matter how cute they look.

Think twice about how you invest your money. Ethical clothing is relatively expensive. My purse is limited, and find it painful to spend too much on one item. However, now is the time to be 100% honest with myself. If I add up all the money I spent on fast fashion in a year, then I could  buy myself a nice capsule wardrobe of ethical clothes. It’s about spending my money more wisely.

Think twice about fast fashion

Think twice about buying new. Before fashion got so damn cheap, I used to buy a lot of things off ebay. I’d choose a trend, or my favourite brand, and search for second-hand bargains. I took pride in it. I want to show you more of this. I’m also giving away more of my good quality clothes to charity shops for others to enjoy wearing, rather than hoarding them under my bed.

We can’t cure our addiction to cheap clothes overnight. It’s going to take time. I will almost certainly slip up and appear intensely hypocritical at times. I want to keep writing about this, but I also want to keep writing about nice clothes. The key is acknowledge that things need to change.

This post is my first step in a better direction, will you join me? And if you’re still not convinced this is relevant to you, then watch Stacey’s documentary.

Windswept island romance

Morris & Co x H&M dress

Do you ever dream of being by the sea? I do. My everyday life is land-locked, but every now and again the lure of the coast becomes strong. Blowing away the cobwebs. Such a trite expression, but it’s true. Being by the sea fills me with clean, clear feelings.

Morris & Co x H&M dress

Last weekend we flew to the Isle of Man, a small island in the middle of the Irish Sea. It’s always the windiest place on the earth, but sometimes that’s just what you need. I felt worn out, and a bit worn down. The air here is energising and intense. A few hours spent walking the coast here makes you feel like you’ve been blown inside out. There’s no place for stagnant feelings to hide – and my mind felt fresh and unburdened.

Morris & Co x H&M dress

I packed light with jeans and jumpers, but squeezed in one pretty, romantic dress to wear on the island. Because who says you can’t dress like a Pre-Raphaelite on the beach if you want to? The purply-red rocks and bright blue sea at Langness Peninsula were the perfect match for this dress from the Morris & Co x H&M collaboration. I was lucky enough to nab one in the Cambridge store on the day they came out and fell in love with its ridiculous floaty beauty. Be warned, when on the island it’s best accessorised with some thermals.

Morris & Co x H&M dress

The William Morris x H&M collection is mostly sold out online. Which is irritating, because I wanted to show you exactly where to find this dress. You may still find it in store though, as it was actually already sold out online when I bought it on the day it came out! Ridiculous, right? I’d rather brands just made more of these collections rather than making people rush to buy them – or miss out altogether. That’s the point though, I suppose. You can see the full collection here.

Morris & Co x H&M dress

If you fancy an island getaway of your own, then we flew from London City. We stayed at the George in Castletown – a friendly hotel not far from the airport. The rooms were gorgeous and not at all expensive (unlike the British Airway fights, sadly). Castletown is a great place to base yourself and there are beautiful coastal walks within easy reach – plus a lovely beach in the town.

Morris & Co x H&M dress

These photos were shot at the Langness Peninsula, which is a short drive from Castletown. You could also cycle or walk out here. 

The TK Maxx £50 challenge

TK Maxx dress

I love fashion and I love bargains. So, naturally, I was delighted when TK Maxx gave me a challenge. The brief was simple: visit their Cambridge store and choose a show-stopping dress for £50 or less. 

If you haven’t been to TK Maxx before, let me explain how it works. It’s a discount store – everything you find will be up to 60% less than the RRP. There are rails and rails of clothes and accessories. There’s everything from Stella McCartney and Jaeger to high street favourites like Dune and French Connection – plus great brands you won’t have heard of before. You never know what you’ll find.

When bargain hunting, the thrill is in the chase. The Cambridge store is spacious and uncluttered so it’s easy to start your search. Everything is divided into simple sections: coats, dresses, handbags and so on. I headed straight to the dress section and quickly found a huge armful of dresses to try on.

TK Maxx dress

I quickly found ‘the one’. A floaty autumnal number with a sparkly elasticated waist and cuffs. Perfect for early autumn, and great for later with polo necks underneath. Like all my favourite dresses, it’s easy to dress up and down. It’s by Love Is, a brand I’ve not come across before and it was only £29.99. No brainer.

TK Maxx dress

What to spend with my remaining £20? The ideal choice would’ve been this gorgeous clutch from Jaeger for £19.99 which I stood stroking for ages. HOWEVER, at the last minute I was tempted by a glimpse of a bottle green winter coat. At £39.99, it meant spending an extra £20, but I think it was worth it and it’s lovely.

TK Maxx coat and dress

You can shop online at TK Maxx too and there are lots of gorgeous dresses to be found. My exact dress isn’t online, but I did find it in a different colour. You can find my coat here. I’d always recommend visiting in person though so you have a good rummage and try lots of things on.

TK Maxx coat and dress

TK Maxx coat and dress

I wear: Green Coat, £39.99, TK Maxx

 Dress, £29.99, TK Maxx (available online in a different colour)

I was sent a £50 gift card for the purposes of this post. Thanks, TK Maxx for giving me such a fun challenge! 

 

Wear bright pink and stop blending in

Wear pink and stop blending in

You can’t disappear in a crowd when you’re wearing bright fuchsia pink. It’s impossible. 

I’ve shied away from pink for years. Too girly, not me, attention seeking… I like to blend in, it makes me feel safe.

But here I am having a pink-coloured epiphany. I’ve worn it twice this week.

Pink jumper and grey trousers

What’s changed? Probably not my personality, but definitely my capacity for caring what others think. I’ll probably be the only one wearing bright pink at school pick-up time, but actually there are more important things to worry about in life. Plus, four years of blogging and taking photographs of myself has beaten down a lot of my natural awkwardness. If someone thinks I look stupid, then let them – at least they noticed me.

Wear pink and stop blending in

How am I wearing bright pink?

I don’t want to look like Delores Umbridge, so I’m avoiding any pink-on-pink action. I’m combining bright fuchsia pink with classic neutrals.  By which I mean denim, a soft grey or camel coat, an oatmeal jumper and some black boots. There’s nothing twee about that.

Feeling shy? Dip your toe in the water with a jumper

I bought this super-soft jumper from Marks and Spencer for £12.50. Such a nice flattering shade – perfect for autumn when the cold weather starts to bite and your tan is fading!

Marks and Spencer fuchsia pink jumper

Feeling brave? Wear a pink coat

A smart, structured pink coat is a useful thing. It’ll brighten up, or smarten up, most outfits. I’m still not brave enough invest lots of money on a pink coat, so I bought this Dorothy Perkins coat second-hand. A shy leopard can’t entirely change her spots, after all. I felt pretty empowered wearing it though and I shall make myself wear it as much as possible. It’s like pink body armour!

Wear pink and stop blending in

That’s why I’ll be wearing pink. Will you join me? 

Here’s the details of my looks, plus some other pieces currently available on the High Street:

Pink coat and jeans

I wear: Pink coat, Dorothy Perkins (second-hand) – similar here / Jeans, £60, Boden

 Jumper, £17.99, H&M (online only) / Black boots, £35, Marks and Spencer

Pink jumper and grey trousers

Pink jumper, £12.50, Marks and Spencer / Grey coat, H&M, similar here

 Black boots, £35, Marks and Spencer 

Checked trousers, Joanie Clothing, similar here

Lisa Snowdon Necklace, £60, QVC (gifted to me) / Ophia Ring, £35, QVC (gifted to me)

 

 

New season trends you already own or can buy second-hand

Fashion goes in cycles. You might not realise it, but you probably already have most of this autumn’s must-have items lurking at the back of your wardrobe. And if you don’t, you’ll be able to find most of them in the charity shop.

The key to being stylish is to wear these key pieces in new ways. It’ll bring a subtle originality to your wardrobe, without costing you a fortune. It’s also a far more thoughtful and sustainable way to shop – meaning you have more money for coffee and cake (or whatever).

I’ve taken some of my favourite looks from the new season which can all be created with things you already own or which can be easily found in a charity shop. I’ve also included good quality, but affordable new alternatives. 

Corduroy. We’ve been here a few times already, haven’t we? And now it’s back for autumn 2018. All the cool girls are wearing cord trouser suits – preferably in pink – although a simple blazer is a good starting point. I had rather a lot of cord in the early noughties – including several blazers. Sadly, I got rid of them all, but I bet some of you hung on to yours. Corduroy happens to be on-trend right now, but it’s always been around in the background. Which means it’s easy to find in charity shops or on eBay. Just remember to factor in a bit of money for dry cleaning. Make it 2018, choose blush pink or brown. 

New season pieces you already own or can buy second hand

Pink cord jacket, £39.99, H&M (bottom right). All other images via Pinterest.

A classic camel coat. Another perennial favourite that is having a moment in 2018. This trend has been around for a few seasons now, so luckily I already own two. My favourite is actually one I bought in the charity shop last year and wore and wore. It’s gone a bit bobbly, but I’m hoping to give it some TLC. I’ve seen some beautiful new versions at &OtherStories, but before you spend your cash try looking for something second-hand. Good quality wool coats are a perennial charity shop staple – especially those long, beige belted ones. If that fails, then do try eBay and search for classic brands like Boden and Hobbs. Make it 2018: choose a belted coat.

New season pieces you already own or can buy second hand

Main image: belted coat, £169, &OtherStories

top right: my favourite £10 charity shop coat / bottom right: Pinterest

The beret. Back again for another season. Did you buy one last year, or do you (like me) have one you bought years ago? Dig it out and wear now for jaunty autumn style. It’s not an expensive piece, but do take a look in the charity shops for a cheap and cheerful vintage buy. Make it 2018: choose blush pink like this one by H&M. Or, if you hate berets then try a baker boy!

New season pieces you already own or can buy second hand

Main image and top right: both via Pinterest / Bottom right: me in my old beret

Knee boots. Almost all of us already own a pair of these. They’re a classic that never go out of style – although in recent years have been eclipsed by the ankle boot. They look great with all the camel coats and corduroy we’ve already mentioned. My favourite way I’ve seen them worn is with long midi and maxi dresses and skirts. Inspired by the 70s, but very now. If you’ve got an old pair that are a bit battered, give them a makeover. I’ve had a pair of brown leather Hobbs boots for 15 years which I recently had re-soled and it’s given them a whole new lease of life. I took them to a small local cobbler and he gave them an amazing polish at the same time and made them look like new! Make it 2018: wear your boots with a high neck midi dress.

Main image: classic 70s vibes via Pinterest / top left: Erica Davies looking fabulous at London Fashion Week 

Leather boots by Hobbs, £299 (expensive, but Hobbs really do know how to make boots that will last for years).

What are your top tips for find new season style at the back of your wardrobe?

Make a wax jacket your best friend – featuring John Partridge & Co

John Partridge ladies wax jacket

A well-made wax jacket is a great thing. It’ll keep you warm and dry in just about any storm life can throw at you. 

I was recently sent a lovely wax jacket by John Partridge & Co. All their wax jackets are handmade in Britain and if you look after them they should last you a lifetime. I love how even a brand new wax jacket feels somehow lived-in – like an old friend, almost.

John Partridge ladies wax jacket

Traditionally wax jackets are a bit of a country uniform, but I’ve always loved them in the city too. Like all classic wardrobe staples, they’re versatile and look good in a variety of settings. They’ll also see you right though the seasons – from summer dresses through to chunky knits.

To prove just how versatile the humble wax jacket is in the town and city I’ve tried it three ways…

John Partridge ladies wax jacket

Casual coffee date with added leopard print. Yes, you absolutely can wear your favourite animal print with your wax jacket. It’s a perfect example of how versatile this classic piece can be.

John Partridge ladies wax jacket

Client meeting in town. I wore this smart dress for an office meeting. It was a breezy day and it looked like rain, so I threw my trusty wax jacket on over the top. I love the smart/casual result.

John Partridge ladies wax jacket

A trip to the market on my bike. My John Partridge jacket felt so at home at Ely Market. I kept cosy with a thick knit underneath. The mid-length Landowner jacket is perfect for cycling.

John Partridge ladies wax jacket

I wear the Landowner wax jacket by John Partridge & Co, £185

I know I’ll be reaching for this jacket again and again. It’s a brilliant investment piece and even has the name of the person in Staffordshire who made it sewn into the label!

A big thank you to John Partridge for sending me this jacket as gift. 

Re-learn the art of good shopping with John Lewis & Partners

John Lewis & Partners purse

In 2018, fashion is fast and furious. Traditional department stores are struggling to capture our attention. Will there ever be a place for slow, considered shopping again?

With just a few taps of your finger you can have that must-have piece from Instagram sitting in your online shopping basket. It’s like one eternal race to the bottom – quick, get it before it sells out and watch your bank balance diminish on the way down.

I miss proper shopping

Remember when you used to make an event of going shopping? It was fun and sociable (most of the time). Now I often get my shopping fix while squinting at my phone screen and shoving a sandwich down my throat. Elegant stuff, hey? The nicest of the big department stores still have the potential for something more civilised. I think it’s time more of us embraced that.

John Lewis & Partners culottes and purse

How can John Lewis & Partners help?

My invitation to see the new John Lewis & Partners women’s collection at their Cambridge store came just at the right time. Note the new name. It’s part of a larger re-branding exercise, but it’s also the store’s largest own-label fashion offering to date. This multi-generational collection has been designed to sit well in the stores and make shopping easier. It’s best viewed in person, the old-fashioned way.

A new lay-out

I’ve always found department store fashion to be very bitty – everything is spread out and it’s hard to find what you want. The new John Lewis & Partners collection is different. In larger stores, like Cambridge, exploring the range is like stepping into a giant walk-in wardrobe. Everything is together in one place and imaginatively sorted by colour. Like a giant paintbox, it’s easy to spot your favourite colours and styles.

John Lewis & Partners Collection

Learn how to shop again

Denise, a personal stylist at John Lewis & Partners Cambridge, reminded me that it’s far more clever to shop for whole outfits in one go, rather than single items. Impulse buying doesn’t always lead to the most cohesive wardrobe. The theory is: invest your money wisely and you’ll always have something to wear in the morning. It’s easier to do this when you’re shopping in person – you can see straight away whether something works rather than having to wait for the postman.

John Lewis & Partners capsule wardrobe

A capsule wardrobe made easy

Everything in the colourful new John Lewis & Partner collection is designed to go together. Don’t be afraid to mix bold colours. They’ve done the hard work of making sure everything works – all you have to do is pick out your favourites. I particularly loved the colour-drenched outfits the Cambridge staff put together to show us.

John Lewis & Partners capsule wardrobe

Three steps to style

A good outfit transcends fashion and age. John Lewis & Partner’s advice for putting together the perfect look is to mix three pieces: one basic, one hero and one accent. So we’re talking a classic knit mixed with a bold trouser, perfectly accessorised with a gorgeous scarf. Or a simple wool coat with a bright pink hero dress, accessorised with a gorgeous pair of heels.

Easy, right?

I’ve picked out my favourite outfits from the new collection, all following their three easy steps to style…

John Lewis & Partners Collection

Basic: Crombie coat, £249 / Hero: Midi dress, £99 / Accent: Slingbacks, £89

– all John Lewis & Partners

Basic: Navy cords, £49  / Hero: Rib Stitch Sweater, £39 / Accent: Scarf, £26

– all John Lewis & Partners

John Lewis & Partners Collection

Hero: Wool culottes, £99 / Basic: Grey ribbed sweater, £39 / Leather backpack, £125

– all John Lewis & Partners 

Some of the items I’ve linked to above are sold out online, however there was lots of everything in the Cambridge store. So, ditch the computer and take some time out to do some good old fashioned shopping! You can even book one of their free personal style consultations.

 

 

 

In praise of good jeans and epic sleeves

Boden Bronwen shirt and Cavendish girlfriend jeans

What do a good pair of jeans and some epic sleeves have in common? Happiness, that’s what. 

First, let’s talk about the mood enhancing qualities of a good pair of jeans. My body shape changes depending on the time of day, the month or the phases of the moon (or whatever) and a bad pair of jeans makes that a very bad thing. I have certain pairs of jeans I can only wear on good days (by which I mean slim days). And I hate that.

Boden Bronwen shirt and Cavendish girlfriend jeans

I want jeans that feel good and look good. It’s a tough gig.  Just occasionally you’ll meet a pair of jeans that fits the bill and, WOW, it certainly gives you a boost. The Cavendish Girlfriend jeans by Boden have everything I’m looking for: a slim, flattering leg combined with a generous enough cut to accommodate my decidedly ample bum and tum. It’s so refreshing to feel good and be able to breathe while wearing them.

Boden Bronwen shirt and Cavendish girlfriend jeans

If jeans are the bread and butter of any outfit, then a fabulous shirt is definitely the Morello cherry jam. The Bronwen shirt by Boden with its frilled collar is simplicity itself, until you get to the wonderfully flamboyant sleeves. They’re  the happiest bit of gold-coloured, embroidered frippery possible. Perfect for a bit of wow right now, but also later peeping out of your winter knits. I’m in love.

Boden Bronwen shirt and Cavendish girlfriend jeans

Boden Bronwen shirt and Cavendish girlfriend jeans

Boden Bronwen shirt and Cavendish girlfriend jeans

Cavendish girlfriend jeans, £60 / Bronwen Broderie Shirt, £70 – both c/o Boden

My five minute make-up routine

My quick 5 minute make-up routine

I only really started wearing make-up in my thirties, and even now I’ll have stretches of time when I won’t bother. But then I do and I remember why I love it. A little bit of make-up makes me feel like a better version of myself. I do it entirely for me, not for others. 

These days my two key requirements are time and quality. I like a quick five-minute (or less) routine that’ll give me a glow with minimum effort. To achieve this I’ve learnt that it’s worth investing in good quality products which seem to go much further and look much better.

Here’s my dream team:

Mini Miracle Eye Wand by Charlotte Tilbury (shade 2), £29. One end contains a moisturiser, the other a concealer. Applying the moisturiser first stops things looking cakey. I do a quick sweep then rub it in with my fingers.

Light Wonder foundation by Charlotte Tilbury (shade 3), £32. Yes it’s expensive, but a little goes a long way. I use a 5p size piece and either use my fingers or a flat-bristled foundation brush to apply it. It evens out my skin tone without looking (or feeling) heavy. I had my colour matched in the Cambridge John Lewis store.

Instant Look in a Palette by Charlotte Tilbury, £49. These limited-edition palettes are the dream. They contain blush, bronzer and highlighter – plus eyeshadows. I sweep it all over quickly for a light, flattering look. It’s so easy and looks great!

Cloud Paint by Glossier (beam), £15. I use this cream blush when I want a bolder colour on my cheeks. A tiny dot of this on each cheek creates a gorgeous rosy glow. I just rub it on with my fingers.

Mac Blotting Powder, £22.50. My mascara kept smudging, so I invested in this stuff. Putting it on under your eyes is supposed to help, and it has! Something to do with moisture. Anyway, it works. A quick dab before my mascara means no panda eyes.

Sumptuous Bold Volume mascara by Estee Lauder, £23. A nice to apply mascara that makes my lashes look gorgeously thick. I only use a quick sweep of the brush for daytime.

Secret Selma lipstick by Charlotte Tilbury (£24). My perfect neutral shade. Not too dressy or red, it’s just the perfect natural pink. You’ll find me wearing it in almost all of my photos.

My quick 5 minute make-up routine

These are the products I reach for each day. There’s a lot of Charlotte Tilbury as this is a brand I now really love and trust – and that’s important when you’re buying make-up, isn’t it? I’d love to hear about your favourite products – drop me a line in the comments below!