“Walk Like You Have Three Men Following Behind You”

Oscar de la Renta was old school. He embraced glamour and elegance and he designed red carpet dresses like nobody else. His loss this week at the age of 82 will be felt greatly among those lucky enough to have worn his incredible creations.

Jackie Kennedy in ODLR

Jackie Kennedy in ODLR

For many, Oscar de la Renta was best known for having dressed many of America’s first ladies, not least of whom was Jacqueline Kennedy and they don’t come much more high profile than that. Hillary Clinton remained a loyal fan from first lady to politician in her own right while Michelle Obama finally bowed to tradition and wore ODLR just this month (despite his criticism of her wearing a J.Crew sweater to Buckingham Palace).

Oscar de la Renta Spring Summer 2015

Oscar de la Renta Spring Summer 2015

 

With a clientele such as this it would be easy to think that this elderly gentleman who was born in the Dominican Republic in 1932 and counted Balanciaga and Lanvin as just two of his employers appealed more to the middle aged lady. However to overlook Oscar de la Renta would be wrong. In recent years he has dressed everyone from Cameron Diaz to Taylor Swift. Actress Amy Adams may not have won an Oscar in 2013 but to my mind her dove grey Oscar de la Renta gown was one of the wins of the night.

Amy Adams in ODLR in 2013

Amy Adams in ODLR in 2013

Dress £495 at Coast

Dress £495 at Coast

The ‘Concorde Couturier’ as he was known, combined classical craftsmanship with a modernity that meant his designs are copied by the high street and his popularity has never dwindled. In fact when in 2004 during season 6 of Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw lusted after an Oscar de la Renta gown which she subsequently wore, suddenly the esigner was thrust into the spotlight once more. Sarah Jessica Parker herself was a friend of de la Renta and made headlines at this year’s MET ball when she wore an ODLR gown with his signature emblazoned across the hem of the enormous skirt.

Carrie Bradshaw in her Oscar de la Renta gown

Carrie Bradshaw in her Oscar de la Renta gown

“Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable. Style is more about being yourself” said Mr. de la Renta, the words of a man who cared little for trends preferring to stick to what he did best; flattering the female form whether that be with lace, ruffles, a train or a corset. It is difficult to date an ODLR design (the Jackie Kennedy dress above would not be out of place now) and therein lies the appeal – timeless, stunning and unutterably feminine gowns that make the wearer feel like they’re floating on air.

ODLR with SJP

ODLR with SJP

Oscar’s advice about walking as if you have three men behind you is perhaps not the most right on or feminist statement and if wearing an Oscar de la Renta gown, not really necessary either. With the passing of this fashion great we lose a designer with a genuine love of women, (it could’ve gone either way – he was the youngest of seven and the only boy) an old fashioned aesthetic and an eye for detail (he was married to editor of French Vogue Francoise de Langlade).

ODLR gown on the catwalk

ODLR gown on the catwalk

Miss Selfridge dress £150

Miss Selfridge dress £150

How fitting then that it should have been Oscar de la Renta whom the now Mrs. George Clooney, Amal Alamuddin, chose to design her wedding gown this summer, arguably the most anticipated wedding since Prince William married Kate Middleton.

As Sarah Jessica Parker wrote herself this week: “Others will come along and will eventually make ball gowns with pockets in them — with stripes and polka dots, garden party gowns. But nobody is meant to fill the void. They can’t. All I can think today is, ‘That’s it. That’s done, that extraordinary moment in time that he created.’ “

Today those fairytale gowns are that much further out of our reach.

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All I Want for Christmas is… a rashguard

Pearl body chain £45 Miss Selfridge

Pearl body chain £45 Miss Selfridge

Have you ever worn a garment like this? Do you have one in your wardrobe? Would it go on a hanger or in a box? Does knowing it is called a pearl body chain make it any clearer?

Last week I talked about those things you need in your wardrobe to be Of The Moment in terms of trends. Pleats, lace-up shoes and wide trousers are all well and good if they suit your body shape and your wallet but the crucial question is does this look suit your lifestyle? Because if it doesn’t then as much as you may covet the scarlet red spike heels or the slashed to the thigh maxi skirt, if you have no call for such a thing you simply won’t get much bang for your buck and there’s nothing more annoying then a huge unjustifiable cost per wear.

I don’t suppose there are too many women (let’s assume it’s intended for women) who would get a good return on the pearl body chain. Although only £45 and available at Miss Selfridge, this is surely a niche product. It’s the sort of item that might pop up on the Apprentice, the daft candidates going into a spin as they try to sell it on to bemused shop owners without knowing what it’s actually for. I’m fascinated by this piece of jewellery / clothing but one thing’s for sure, if I wore it the strings of pearls would end up either in a clump down the middle or like curtains secured by tie-backs on either side. Yikes.

Daisy ears hairband reduced to £4 at River Island

Daisy ears hairband reduced to £4 at River Island

Miss Selfridge is still charging full price for the pearl string vest but I have no doubt it will go the way of the daisy ears hairband – again, I’m not sure naming it makes it any clearer why it came into existence. Bunny ears were seen at London Fashion Week and they drew attention but that’s fashion week, it’s not real life. I’m trying to imagine the reaction if I wore these flowery mounds on my head in the school playground. I don’t really talk to anyone much as it is but I think turning up with an extra pair of ears might seal my fate for the next six years. Also, I can’t help thinking the ears themselves are so large, on a windy day it might start to control your sense of direction.

Shirt collar bib £10 River Island

Shirt collar bib £10 River Island

So how much more sensible on the face of it is the shirt bib collar, also dreamed up by River Island. But then consider it a moment longer. Do you wear this for lunch over the top of your actual top so that when you dribble your soup down your front you can whip the shirt bib off and look spotless for the rest of the day? Or do you wear it instead of a proper shirt under a jacket so you can sweat into your expensive dry clean only jacket? Or have I completely missed the point and this is in fact along the same lines as the pearl body chain and should be sensibly styled as jewellery? My mum used to iron only the front of my dad’s work shirts since that was the only part that would show in the office – she was clearly making far too much of an effort.

Rashguard $44.50 Victoria's Secret

Rashguard $44.50 Victoria’s Secret

I had to look twice when I saw the ‘rashguard’ listing on the Victoria’s Secret website. Whose idea was it I wonder to use the word ‘rash’ in conjunction with supposedly sexy lingerie? Interesting.

Although….

Cat bag £19.99 New Look

Cat bag £19.99 New Look

This bag looks like it might give you a rash if you held it too close to your chest. I love pink and I love cats and bags are useful but I’m quite sure I don’t want a pink cat bag. Whatever next? Well, if nothing else I’ve made a great start to my christmas present list – pearl body chain for my mum, bunny ears for my sister…

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What You Need in your Wardrobe Now

OK, first things first, you probably don’t actually NEED these things. Your life is not going to suddenly become immeasurably harder if you haven’t rushed out and found this season’s perfect skirt. You won’t experience the rush of panic you get when you wake up to find there’s no milk in the fridge or you’ve run out of loo paper. But, (and this is for my mum’s benefit because she always says about shoes, “I don’t NEED them” while managing to justify twenty summer skirts) you will shop as the weather turns colder so you might as well buy the most stylish stuff, right? If it was all about need then you could probably make do with just seven outfits. My friend Sarah worked in the city with a girl who wore the same skirt to the office ten days in a row. It wasn’t even that nice a skirt. Anyway, I think I’ve made my point – it’s about wanting something, not needing it, that’s why people shoplift.*

There’s a lot of great stuff out there and after seasons of ladylike chic and razor sharp outlines it’s all gone very relaxed. For the first time in ages the emphasis is taken away from the dress and separates are the thing. Skirts are generally longer, trousers are wider and boots are clumpier. Of course you will still find a plethora of contrasting styles – if skinny jeans and mini skirts are your thing there’s no need to panic – but things are a-changing and there is a far wider choice this autumn than last.

Don’t forget though that not all of these cuts work for everyone, you should still go with the shapes that suit you best and the colours that are the most flattering for your skin tone. I for one am not the best shape for a polo neck but it doesn’t stop me doing the 60’s look – there is always more than one way to do a trend justice. Here are my top ten wardrobe buys for the season ahead:

1.  Wide leg trousers

£39 Miss Selfridge

£24.99 H&M

£24.99 H&M

Think Katharine Hepburn and wear with a softly draping top. Wide leg trousers look good with flats or heels and are infinitely more stylish in the office than skinnies. This season’s take has a higher waist and a front crease. Not for those with short legs.

2. Biker jackets

This River Island leather jacket is a steal, when I think how much I paid for my Whistles biker jacket last winter – aaagghhh… This comes in a teal shade too and unlike many of the high street versions is actually leather rather than ‘leather-look’. This is a classic which has endured several seasons now because it is so darn versatile. Go for any colour other than black to keep it modern and to avoid looking like a T-Bird.

£130 River Island

3. Polo necks

£95 Reiss

£95 Reiss

Approach with caution if you have a fuller bust. This is a great way to work the sixties vibe that is currently in but can be a fast track to looking neckless. Wear under sleeveless dresses or jackets for work and consider a statement necklace to break up a dark colour. The lace insert on this Reiss piece reveals some flesh and is perfect for the evening.

4. Longer length skirts

£45 Miss Selfridge

£45 Miss Selfridge

£20 Lipsy at Next

I know I keep harping on about midis but MIDIS ARE GREAT and they suit everyone! This one from Miss Selfridge is stunning and has a vintage feel. Alternatively, go for a longer and more lean silhouette which this season comes with a dramatic slit (but not Angelina Jolie’s errant left leg sadly).

5. Fringes

Rose Byrne and her fringe

Rose Byrne and her fringe

This isn’t to have in your wardrobe strictly speaking but before you laugh, you know you can literally buy a fringe don’t you? You don’t have to have the chop, you can just clip one on. In a manner of speaking. I love my fringe but am backed up by a vast array of hair accessories and hats to cover any eventuality. Which leads me neatly on to no.6…

 

6. Hats

£20 Miss Selfridge

£20 Miss Selfridge.

£12.99 H&M

Hooray for hats! They cover hide a multitude of sins from forehead lines to overplucked eyebrows and frizzy fringes (see above). There are an abundance on the high street now so you can go relaxed and cosy in a cashmere beanie (H&M and Cos have some lovely ones) or more uptown in a felt fedora (try Zara or ASOS).

7. Pleats

£135 Reiss

£135 Reiss

I thought pleats would be a flash in the pan trend but they’ve been around for some time now. Combine the midi and the pleat and you have a piece that is surprisingly versatile. Wear it with knee boots and a chunky jumper for a breezy look. Or more dressy with a skinny rib polo neck and heels. Stop thinking school uniform – pleats are cool now!

8. Romantic cover ups

Not as clandestine as it sounds. In this in between seasons time, a coat feels too heavy so thank the lord there are many more interesting options to throw over your outfit. Kimonos are tricky but useful. Don’t go for a cheap print fabric or you’ll end up looking like you should be under a hairdryer in a 1940’s salon. With kimonos the floatier and longer, the better. Alternatively, try a duster coat which is equally as light but less girly and less likely to have tassels that will catch in your zips.

£9.99 H&M

£9.99 H&M

£60 Miss Selfridge

£60 Miss Selfridge

 

 

 

 

 

9. Laced up shoes

Strictly speaking, winter in the UK lends itself to boots and more sensible footwear but with party season just around the corner, you might as well be prepared. These shoes are no more sensible than they were in the summer and now they’re even more deserving of their ‘hooker shoe’ nickname than they were previously. They’re high, strappy and laced-up. And a lot of them are red. See what I mean?

£120 Kurt Geiger

£120 Kurt Geiger

10. Bags

Marc Jacobs £380

Marc Jacobs £380

It is a more slouchy season in general and the serious bags of recent years are not as ‘It’ as they once were. For me, the loveliest bag of the moment is from the Marc Jacobs collection designed by Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley. It is a warm grey, it is soft and squishy and it is reasonably priced. It won’t fit a poodle or a small toddler in it but it will hide the dirt and go with pretty much everything in your wardrobe. I want it.**

* I am in no way advocating shoplifting

** If I’m not bought it I may have to change my stance on shoplifting

http://www.missselfridge.co.uk

http://www.reiss.co.uk

http://www.warehouse.co.uk

http://www.kurtgeiger.com

http://www.hm.com

http://www.riverisland.co.uk

http://www.next.co.uk

 

 

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The New Season Iced Gems

According to the latest Starbucks promotion, their new Spice Pumpkin Latte is ‘worth leaving summer for’. Well I don’t know about that (although I highly doubt it, pumpkins are for putting in your window at Hallowe’en, not putting in your coffee) but there are a spooky number of wintery offers on our high street at the moment. In a desperate attempt to lure us out of this wonderful neverending summer and into the shops full of warm and snuggly pieces intended for far more miserable weather, there are discounts and ‘mid-season’ sales at every turn. Which season are we talking about now? It’s October and I am sitting in the sun outside Starbucks dressed like Megan from Mad Men during a balmy New York summer. Nothing could be further from my mind than pulling on a uniform of black and charcoal.

Warehouse scarf £22

Warehouse scarf £22

However, it struck me when watching the recent coverage of the Spring Summer 2015 shows, that there was an awful lot of black for what is usually a time of floral fabrics and sorbet shades. Collection after collection featured head to toe black and in some cases there was very little else. I’m sure it’s not the first time this has happened and there are stranger things than black in the summer, but I found it a little depressing, especially as in this country we have been teetering on the brink of Autumn for a few weeks now with it simply refusing to arrive. The suspense is killing me. Will it be cold enough for boots? Should I give up on the fake tanning and buy some new tights? Can I justify jeans and a jumper on the school run? The mornings may be darker but where I live they’re not cold yet and it’s certainly not coat weather even at 7.30am. On Saturday night I actually went out in shorts it was so mild (my boyfriend said they looked like french knickers but that’s a whole other subject) and the atmosphere on the streets of Clapham was more Spring Break than Back to School.

Head to toe pastels at Ralph Lauren

Head to toe pastels at Ralph Lauren

I’m all for keeping sandals and t-shirts out for as long as possible because here in the UK the winters can seem awfully long if you embrace it too early. However this year we have had an unusually long and warm summer and so the pretty dresses and city shorts have had a decent amount of wear. Dare I say I felt slightly bored with my summer wardrobe when I looked at it this morning? Imagine what it must be like to live in L.A. where vest tops and flip flops are de rigeur 365 days a year. Personally, I’d hate it – when would you do your bi-annual change of season clear out for goodness sake?

Whistles jumpsuit £255

Whistles jumpsuit £255

Back in the UK we’re a bit funny about colour. We tend to feel secure, smart and slim in black and shy away from the paler, lighter hues – even if they are more flattering to our complexions. Well for winter 2014 (if it ever materialises), there’s good news and there’s bad news.

Autumn Winter 2014: Pastels at L to R; Miu Miu, Gucci, Christopher Kane, Marc Jacobs and Tod's

Autumn Winter 2014:
Pastels at L to R; Miu Miu, Gucci, Christopher Kane, Marc Jacobs and Tod’s

I’ll give you the bad news first:

Pastels are everywhere and on everything. If you’ve noticed the beautiful Ralph Lauren adverts in the current glossies, you’ll have seen that knits, skirts, evening wear, coats and boots are all gentle, soft shades of cream, grey, blue and pink. It isn’t practical for getting caught in the rain or getting squished on the tube on the way to work. And it most definitely is not ideal playground or kitchen garb. And yet, and yet…

Here’s the good news:

& Other Stories dress £45

& Other Stories dress £45

Everyone looks good in at least one pastel shade. Yes, baby pinks and blues can be gorgeous on the fair haired but an icy pastel shade can be stunning on a brunette, not to mention the off-whites and soft greys. Don’t limit yourself by thinking wearing pastels means you have to look like a Battenberg cake. The cashmeres, silks and suedes out there are sumptuous so have a look and be comforted that you’ve got at least four months to go back to black.

Dorothy Perkins mules reduced to £20.30

Dorothy Perkins mules reduced to £20.30

The delicious pastels shown on the catwalk look luxurious and elegant and I defy you not to be tempted. And when you are, here are some high street pieces you can get your mitts on now – perfect for this not quite one season or the other period we are in at the moment. Black coats and boots just aren’t right in this muggy weather. Layer on the pastels and if you can’t get away from the sugary image, then think ever youthful Iced Gems, not old lady Battenberg.

 

Next coat £70

Next coat £70

Miss Selfridge coat £89.99

Miss Selfridge coat £89.99

It’s a long time ’til next summer so this autumn lighten up a bit – put spring in your step and some summer in your wardrobe. Bring on the pastels!

http://www.dorothyperkins.co.uk

http://www.stories.com

http://www.warehouse.co.uk

http://www.next.co.uk

http://www.missselfridge.co.uk

http://www.whistles.co.uk

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They’re Still There For You

Are you one of the few people who can claim to have watched the very first episode of Friends when it aired twenty years ago?

I am a devoted Friends fan but I wasn’t aware of it from the start. In fact, I only watched it because my friend Sara mentioned it and so when I came across it whilst channel surfing one evening, I thought I’d give it a go. I switched it off at the ad break.

The cast: That pose doesn’t look very comfortable

For me Friends was a slow burner, I don’t remember how I became addicted but like any addiction I soon couldn’t imagine life without it. Although the writing for the show is always brilliant, what drives the sometimes flimsy plots and keeps the audiences coming back for more, is the characters. Ross, Chandler, Joey, Rachel, Monica and Phoebe are at times ridiculous, often schmaltzy, but always loveable and that’s why the series has endured. Even now, ten years after the final episode aired (I watched it with friend Sara who got me into it in the first place and our boyfriends – there were tears) it continues to be shown daily on the Comedy Channel. It appeals to all ages – despite the main characters starting off in their twenties – and to both sexes. I once met the actress Kristin Davis (Charlotte York in Sex and the City) who guest starred in a Friends episode as a Joey love interest. She was positively high pitched about the experience and admitted to being a huge fan of the show herself. How we all swooned when Brad Pitt showed up as a disgruntled friend of Rachel’s and tried to decide if we too found the more ‘mature’ Tom Selleck attractive when Monica dated him. With these two exceptions, the male love interests are consistently low rent while the female versions are usually gorgeous (the afore-mentioned Kristin Davis, Sherilyn Fenn, Julia Roberts and Elle McPherson to name but a few). However it is usually the male characters who end up with egg on their face. Or lotion mixed with powder in the case of Ross and the sweaty leather trousers. My boyfriend turned his nose up when I mentioned the watching of Friends as a relationship deal breaker and yet even he laughed during the scene where Ross, Rachel and Chandler attempt to lift a sofa up a staircase. Whoever thought the word “pivot” could have so much comedy mileage? I have yet to meet a human being who can remain poker-faced while that scene plays out.

friends3

The cast of Friends have aged far better than their jeans

So why am I writing about a telly programme in a style blog? Well, twenty years is a long time in fashion terms and this anniversary got me thinking about the clothes and of course the haircuts on this popular multi-award winning sit-com.

…Or their shoes

Rachel

The character with the biggest career journey, Rachel starts off as a waitress and ends up climbing the ladder at Ralph Lauren. Jennifer Aniston might have looked cute in the mini skirts and aprons at Central Perk but she really came into her own during the Bloomingdale’s / Ralph Lauren storylines with the more corporate New York look. Rachel is the only one of the three female characters to really represent high maintenance New York style. The ‘Rachel’ hairdo became the most asked for style almost overnight and with it came the lucrative endorsements for Aniston. Those studios in L.A. must have been ferociously air conditioned because it’s not just the Rachel cut that steals scenes regularly.

The Rachel: Looks kinda done now doesn’t it?

Monica

Monica’s O.C.D. tendencies mean more often than not the character is kitted out in jeans and questionable jumpers and sporting a severe hairdo. And if you look really closely some of her footwear is very odd but then Monica is a chef and I don’t suppose marinara sauce is easy to get out of suede. Perhaps the costume department knew what they were doing. I always feel disappointed with Monica’s eventual wedding look – it’s simple but her hair is hippyish which doesn’t add up. However NOTHING can beat the scene where Monica is doing the washing up in Emily’s as yet unworn wedding gown, thanking her imaginary guests: “No, thank YOU for coming!” Comedy gold. But probably only for the female of the species. If only I had my own wedding dress I would wear it in front of the telly with a pizza. No brainer.

Standard Friday night in

Standard Friday night in

Phoebe

The scenes where Phoebe looks the most disturbing are those where she is dressed in a downbeat and sombre way. They are few and far between but they do happen – meeting Mike’s parents for example – she has a bizarre British accent then too. All of the female characters are seen in wedding dresses at least twice but only Phoebe wears one whilst heavily pregnant, apparently from a shop called ‘It’s Not Too Late’. Oh let it be true! Phoebe overloads the hair accessories and rings most of the time and rarely wears heels. Her clashing look brings to mind the children’s television presenters of the seventies. She’d be a street style star at New York Fashion Week if she was a real person. ‘Nuff said.

"Phoebe for a girl, Phoebo for a boy"

“Phoebe for a girl, Phoebo for a boy”

So no, Friends wasn’t heralded for its style or its glamour like Sex and the City or Mad Men and it tends to look a bit dated if you pay too much attention to the clothes. We can forgive Chandler’s dodgy ‘sweater vests’ and Ross’s oil slicked hair because they are what make the characters real. And also because after all, that’s what friends are for.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Four Corners of Fashion World

London, Paris, Milan, New York. Is there a more glamorously promise-laden set of place names than this? Take any one of these cities on its own and it is exciting and for some, home. Lump them together and there is really only one subtext – Fashion.

A Toddler in Paris - London style

A Toddler in Paris – London style

Last week saw the Fash Pack gather in New York for the start of the Spring / Summer 2015 catwalk shows. They then decamped to here in London and are now in Milan. Last but by no means least (historically, the opposite is true) will be Paris. On the one hand, it looks like the most fabulous way to spend September, on the other… well for the American branch of the Fash Pack it means packing for three weeks of European weather at arguably the most unpredictable time of the year. And we’re not talking whether to pack cardigans or parkas, boots or sandals. Ohh no, this is the equivalent to planning twenty-one job interview outfits and actually the weather is the least of their worries. At fashion week there are cameras and bloggers everywhere, all with an eye for the next big thing. ‘Street Style’ type blogs are now almost as influential as the shows themselves as they tend to celebrate a mixture of high end and high street. Whether the Fash Pack admit it or not, being snapped because of how you look at fashion week is the ultimate recognition. Never has the bar been set higher – if you are familiar with the polished New York style of Olivia Palermo or the laid back London cool of Alexa Chung you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Milan Street Style: Black outfit - check. Sunglasses - check. Dolce & Gabbana make-up - check.

My Milan Street Style:
Black outfit – check.
Sunglasses – check.
Dolce & Gabbana make-up – check.

I live in London and have visited Milan, Paris and New York many times. Inevitably there are similarities, some good and some bad (traffic and polution anyone?) but I love all four places and will never tire of them. I have yet to travel to New York with my small son (mainly because six hours of commentary about how the aircraft is functioning is more than I can stand) but he has been to Milan and Paris and due to his passion for architecture rather than clothes, at four years old he too is a fan. If one of these beautiful cities stands alone – and not as the poor relation as is often suggested – it is London. Only in London is there no uniform, no one look or attitude identifiable from twenty paces.

In Milan you are not fully dressed without a black puffa jacket, add jeans and boots to this, even in the summer and you are practically a native. They wear black from head to toe. I was five months pregnant on one visit to Milan and I was constantly stared at as if I had two heads. When I questioned an Italian about this some time after, he laughed and told me that no Milanese woman would ever plan to give birth in August because it’s just too hot. Bizarre as it may seem, I had to admit that I had not seen a single pregnant woman in Milan that April. Visible bumps clearly not in style that season.

Where black is always the new black - Milan Fashion Week

Where black is always the new black – Milan Fashion Week

There is a reason there are books written about why French women are skinny and why their children behave well in restaurants. The French and especially Parisians, are particular. They simply would not stand for bad food, bad children or bad clothes. They even get to stay in hospital for a week after giving birth. I have a lovely funny friend, Naima, who lived and worked in Paris and was absolutely astounded that I owned a bag bought in H&M. “But why cherie?” she begged, “Zer quality eez sheet, non?”

Oh so chic - Paris Fashion Week Street style

Oh so chic – Paris Fashion Week Street style

Interestingly, New York is the most high maintenance of all. There, by breakfast time you have been to the gym, had a blow dry and taken a conference call. Manicures and pedicures are a weekly necessity, like doing the vacuuming; if you don’t do it you’ll end up looking like a bit of a slut. The preppy look of Ralph Lauren and Banana Republic is de rigeur and that, in a nutshell, is why the Carrie Bradshaw character was such a big deal. Put Carrie in London and she would fit in nicely.

Olivia Palermo does preppy at New York Fashion Week

Olivia Palermo does preppy at New York Fashion Week

In London it is not unusual to be unusual. In fact quite the opposite is true, in London an eccentric approach to an eclectic wardrobe is quite the norm. Perhaps this is why I can’t help feeling that the current ‘Norm-core’ trend is something dreamed up by a non-British person. After all a shirt and sweater with a pair of slouchy trousers and loafers is what the brand Gap has traded on since 1969. It’s very American and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s not much fun. And while I doubt that the more loopy fashionistas are wearing their bunny ears and yellow lipstick to work every day, oh how I love to think that they are…

London Fashion Week - can you imagine bunny ears in Paris?

London Fashion Week – can you imagine bunny ears in Paris?

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The Old School Run

I’ve lost a lot of sleep over the last couple of weeks and to add insult to injury it turns out I’ve been lying there worrying about the wrong things. There I was mentally making lists of things to do and the logistics still to be worked out before my son started school for the first time, when all the while there was a far more pressing issue that apparently 64% of women in the UK had resolved weeks ago. Yes, while I was fretting about whether the school breakfast club started early enough for me to get to work on time and whether my only just 4 year old son would fall asleep over his lunch, according to the Daily Mail the majority of school run mums had planned first day outfits, bought new coats and booked in for hair cuts. FOR THEMSELVES.

Elle Sport top £34 and bottoms £38 at Next

I live in the area in South West London known as ‘Nappy Valley’ or ‘Between the Commons’ where if you don’t have a loft conversion and twins you are in the minority, so I’m aware there are many blogs devoted to the fashions and politics of the school gate. However as until now I have only had a pre-schooler, I have never read one of these blogs. Once, as a green around the gills new blogger I posted this blog address on a Mumsnet thread only to be shot down in flames and then removed entirely. I’m still terrified of Mumsnet and doubt I’ll ever go anywhere near its pages again. I worried the school gate would be something of a Mumsnet franchise, drop-off time merely a pre-cursor to coffee and conflab in one of the many cafes nearby. However my concern was for my son and I making friends, not whether or not we would pass muster on the fashion front.

nikenext28

Nike running tights £28 at Next

So it was with some trepidation that we walked the short distance to school on Monday morning. The sun was shining brightly and so the last minute panic that my son (who has grown alarmingly over the summer and is attending a school without uniform) would have to wear trousers hovering around his ankles – quelle horreur – was unnecessary. Of course I wanted him to look clean and cared for because I’m fairly responsible but recalling the head teacher’s request not to send the cherubs into reception class in their best clothes only for them to get spoiled, he was less Romeo Beckham, more Shiloh Pitt. Off we set; Daddy smart casual as he was going on to a casting afterwards and me in Miss Selfridge skinnies, Oasis t-shirt and my lovely new Reiss heels which happened to be the shoes by the front door (honestly they were) and anyway having taken the day off work I was coming straight home to have a weep and to clean the bathroom.

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Sweaty Betty shorts £45

The first thing I noticed was that a good handful of the mums were in gym gear. And not just any gym gear – everything matched, these women looked good. If they had make-up on then it was expertly applied to look au naturel because I couldn’t tell and I’m pretty good at doing the ‘full face of slap/no make-up’ look. (I am after all the person who got out of bed first thing in the morning after a C-section to apply mascara and Touche Eclat before my new baby’s dad arrived). Four days into the school term and I realise the mums must be in the gym straight after the school run most days. Their buttocks are testament to this. On Wednesday I decided to go for a run around the common myself after saying goodbye to my little one. I managed to find two pieces of lycra that were the same colour (sale rail Sweaty Betty top and long Pineapple leggings from the ’90s – you think I’m joking, I’m not – my legs needed waxing) and pulled back my dirty hair into a ponytail. All of a sudden I looked the part! I was one of them! Except I wasn’t really because I don’t know anyone to shout, “Darling, how ARE you, how was Biarritz?” to across the playground and I have neither a deep tan nor a newborn in a pram. On the way back from my run, I suddenly understood why so many coffee bars manage to survive in one small stretch of road – at 10am on a weekday they are full to bursting with mums chewing the cud after offloading at the three or four primary schools within walking distance. I found myself wondering (with a dollop of judgement) if anyone around here had a job. Which was unfair because I have a job and yet there I was merrily running around town without a care in the world, I simply hadn’t been invited to have coffee.

Sweaty Betty top £85

Sweaty Betty top £85

Anyway I don’t want to launch into a tirade about the parents at my son’s school when I don’t know anything about them and they may be my best friends by Christmas. But it will be interesting to see how the outfits change as the nights draw in and the temperature drops. If the Daily Mail article is anything to go by, over half of them have a new pair of boots, a coat and a new bit of make-up waiting to be shown off; this rather lovely Indian summer put a spanner in the works in one respect but in another offered an opportunity to show off the expensive tan.

It’s back to my usual working hours next week when my son starts full days so I will probably be in my work clothes when I collect him in the afternoon. I always dress smartly for work so that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about. As for the upkeep of highlights, tan and glutes, well I couldn’t be better placed, surrounded as I am by hair salons, beauty parlours and chi-chi gyms. And if the pressure all gets too much then I shall simply buy myself five fabulous workout outfits and keep them for wearing on the school run. No-one will ever know I’m going straight home to change and eat pastries.

My new Reiss shoes - well you wouldn't you?

My new Reiss shoes – well you would, wouldn’t you?

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Put Your Neck on the Line

I’ve got a thing about necklines. It’s a relatively new obsession which peeked when I trained as a stylist. As a teenager I had a thing about my bottom and shopped for it over and above any other part of my body. Now, I’m too busy to worry about those parts of my anatomy I can’t see (which is why I’ll never regret my tattoo) and so my focus is on the top half – the frontage rather than the erm, backage.

I used to be more fleshy than I am now and being a student then the answer was to swamp myself in baggy clothes that started near my chin and ended at the knees. I didn’t mind my calves and so perhaps that’s why I developed a love affair with footwear; by way of drawing attention to the bottom third of my body. Anyway, feeling confident one day in my early twenties (having just arrived back from a filming job in the Caribbean where I met the man who would some 14 years later become the father of my child, but that’s a whole other story) I bought myself a new outfit in H&M. I’d dieted madly before the shoot and so I was maybe half a stone lighter and instead of my usual cover-up attire, I bought tight black pinstripe trousers and a scoop neck top in light jersey. This became known as my ‘Pulling Top’ and not for the reasons you might think – I was actually in a long term relationship. This £14.99 piece that you wouldn’t look twice at on the hanger, got me serious attention. I held onto it for many years and I slowly realised, as I tried to emulate its effect with other similar styles, that it was by far the best neckline for my curvy shape. It flattered me and that made me feel good which in turn made me walk taller. Although I didn’t have huge amounts of confidence, wearing this top I could fake it. It probably wasn’t coincidence that I won more roles around this time too.

So it made me feel very sad when I saw Kim Kardashian wearing a wedding dress which was possibly the worst possible style for her well documented figure. Admittedly Kim has had wedding dresses before so perhaps her remit was to go for the complete opposite of what she’d chosen before. However, the previous dress worked beautifully (I’ve looked it up and it was strapless) whereas this one did not. She obviously wanted to detract from her bosom but in the process she only drew more attention to it.

Kim's too high necked wedding gown

Kim’s too high necked wedding gown

The rule is: Boobs need air! Or as my styling mentors put it “let them breathe!”

That’s not to say, have them out on show – I’m so not a fan of that – but if you have a decent rack on you then don’t stuff it into a polo neck or a crew neck. Always go for a scoop or V-neck and you’ll avoid the balloon smuggling silhouette which Kim seems to favour.

Soo much better!

Soo much better!

Don’t worry, there’s a rule for the small chested too…

While it’s true that a straight up and down body tends to be a better clothes horse, a bony chest is often not a very attractive look. Flatter chests can wear all kinds of interesting (and fussy if you fancy) necklines that booby types really can’t; boat necks, halter necks, one shoulder, ruffles, bows, these are all the flat chested girls’ friends. Not so the corset top or the sweetheart neckline.

Lily Allen looking great in sequins AND a polo neck - busty types BEWARE!

Lily Allen looking great in sequins AND a polo neck – busty types BEWARE!

Lara Flynn Boyle not filling her dress

Lara Flynn Boyle not filling her dress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course necklines are dependent on fashions and some seasons it can be trickier than others to find what you need. For the last two years dresses have been quite classic in style meaning a more open shape is harder to come by. For the forthcoming season the sixties look is in again so polo necks and shift dresses are in abundance. But persevere because other styles are out there – try H&M, Oasis, Hobbs and Karen Millen for cuts that flatter curves. Other Stories, Cos, Whistles and Zara are better for the straighter figure.

Go on, stick your neckline out. And don’t forget, whether you’re working at a desk, eating at a dinner table or driving your car, pretty much the only thing people will see is your chest – work it!

Best for a more boyish physique £19.99 at H&M

Best for a more boyish physique £19.99 at H&M

Ideal neckline for curvaceous bodies £7.99 at H&M

Ideal neckline for curvaceous bodies £7.99 at H&M

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A Summer to Remember & the Trends to Forget

I hold my hands up, even I have started to think about winter wardrobes. Well, with what appeared to be the missing rain from the whole of the last two months falling on one bank holiday Monday, it’s hard not to yearn for scarves and cardigans. This is not good news. We’re still in August for goodness sake and apart from anything else all my warmer clothes and shoes are stored at my mum’s and getting it back requires planning. I’m simply not ready to wave goodbye to the summer yet, it’s been such a good one and having just returned from a holiday in Spain, I don’t want to hide away my limbs when for once they are naturally bronzed. Besides, I have it on good authority that the warm weather will be back so reaching for the tights would be premature at this point (although I have to say I’ve been amazed by the number of London girls who never shed them in the first place, despite the prolonged heatwave).

So, I’m using this temporary blip in the August weather to do an edit of the summer trends. Which is another way of saying, with the benefit of hindsight, certain looks don’t work as well as they might have on the catwalk. There are plenty that have epitomised this fabulous summer we’ve had – full midi skirts with cropped tops, 50s starlet playsuits with platform sandals and sheer and eyelet panels on anything and everything – and these will undoubtedly filter through to the next season. But for every elegant lace dress there’s a pair of denim cut-offs with an inner pocket hanging below the hem and a muffin top hanging over it.

Here’s what I’m relegating to the historical clearance rail with the hope that if such trends should ever appear again I will be way too old to care.

1. If supermodel Natalia Vodianova can’t pull off this look then no-one can. There is nothing that works about this dress – the shape swamps her tiny frame, it’s too long, the fabric is heavy and middle-aged and it looks like she is wearing it back to front. Dolce and Gabbana (whom I love by the way) have continued this theme into Autumn 2014 but please don’t be tempted – you’ll end up looking like a ‘Where are They Now?’ picture of Heidi.

The 'Folksy' look

The ‘Folksy’ look

2. I was never going to buy into the footwear trend that is ‘the slide’ because to be frank, they look like part of a lifeguard’s uniform and the only way that is acceptable is if you are Pamela Anderson in the infamous red swimsuit. And only then on a beach. This item does not translate to London living, or any city for that matter. If you bought a pair then at least you can console yourself by using them as gardening shoes – my friend’s husband gave her a pair of genuine gardening shoes so hideous (think Crocs with the holes filled in) they make slides look like Cinderella slippers.

The Slide - these are actually a decent pair

The Slide – these are actually a decent pair

3. Clashing prints should be approached with caution and I’m beginning to think it simply shouldn’t be tried at home without professional supervision. J.Crew make it look easy (at a price) and some sylph-like celebrities and small children can make a stripe and a floral worn alongside each other look whimsical and charming – larger non-celebrities without the benefit of an expensive blow dry and a famous other half tend to look as if they got dressed in the dark. In a charity shop. In deepest Scandinavia. Just don’t.

Clashing prints - aaagghh!

Clashing prints – aaagghh!

4. Aqualandia in Benidorm is not the most stylish of places and only a fool would go expecting to see bodies clad artfully in designer swimwear when those bodies are there to be thrown down vertical drops and stuffed with rubbery crepes and ice-cream (not necessarily in that order). However, Pocahontas style bikinis? On a female older than six? No, I’m sorry, it’s not right – tassles hanging from an unsupported bust look wholly unflattering and remind me of those plastic strip curtains people had in the 70s.

Primark bikini

Primark bikini

5. I live near Clapham Common so I see a lot of festival revellers in the summer and festival revellers = Underbum. It would be alright if the miniscule shorts were confined to the skinny teenagers on the common but this summer the hottest of pants have been on every bottom of all ages, shapes and sizes and all over town. And they really shouldn’t be. Perhaps the sooner it’s tights season again, the better.

The End.

The End.

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How the Boiler Suit Became Jumped Up

My mum had a burgundy zip up jumpsuit in the 1980s. She wore it with calf length boots and a bubble perm and I thought she was the coolest thing on two legs. In those days jumpsuits were very zippy – main zip up the front (so much easier than at the side or the back when you need the loo), zips across each thigh and occasionally the odd zip on a sleeve or an ankle.

Miss Selfridge jumpsuit reduced to £20

Miss Selfridge jumpsuit reduced to £20

Jumpsuits were also elasticated in all sorts of places – at the waist, at the ankle and sometimes even at the wrist. Then of course there was the most obvious difference between those boiler suits they wore then and those we wear now – they were called boiler suits. Not the most alluring label for a supposedly glamorous item of clothing aimed at fashionable young women.

Whistles jumpsuit £225

Whistles jumpsuit £225

The very first incarnation of the all-in-one trouser suit for women was the 1960’s catsuit designed by Courreges. The body stocking, which was lycra enhanced, was its more slutty cousin – the clue is in the name. Next up was the androgynous zippered jumpsuits by Pierre Cardin in his ‘Space Odyssey’ phase. And then finally the boiler suit in the 1980s, all baggy and oversized and “as seen on the million dollar man, which is the only acceptable place for it”, according to my boyfriend proving yet again that sometimes men just don’t get it.

1960s catsuit by Biba

1960s catsuit by Biba

Reiss jumpsuit £245

Reiss jumpsuit £245

Rehashed trends always get re-branded with a new name but the boiler suit looked exactly like the sort of thing you might see on a plumber so it was well named, this century’s version does not. Enter The Jumpsuit. An item of clothing so ubiquitous it now has its own section on most fashion websites. Like the dress, it is subject to trends and so last season’s jumpsuit may not look quite so current as the latest offering. Looking ahead to autumn winter 2014, jumpsuits are smarter, more tailored and slightly more serious. Whereas this summer’s look has been more girly with lots of florals, ruffles and low necklines.

My Oasis playsuit reduced to £35!

My Oasis playsuit reduced to £35!

I have several jumpsuits and just last month took the plunge and graduated (or downgraded?) to my first playsuit. I know, I wasn’t sure either and actually after I bought it in the sale I worried I couldn’t get away with it. But when I showed my boyfriend he thought it was lovely and that when I’d said ‘playsuit’ he’d imagined something far skimpier (imagined? Or hoped for? Yikes, suddenly I’m thinking of those rompersuit things that babies wear) and that this was in fact not obviously a playsuit. So anyway, while that slightly defeats the object, you can happily go arse over tit in a playsuit without showing your knickers. Also, I wouldn’t wear a dress this short but for some reason, like shorts, in a playsuit it’s acceptable. The wind can’t blow a playsuit up in the middle of a busy street either. The benefits are endless. When one day someone comes up with an answer to the loo problem, this will be the perfect garment.

Miss Selfridge playsuit £39

Miss Selfridge playsuit £39

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