Shaping Up Rather Nicely

I think I may have hit a new low. It started innocently enough, I was researching this blog and decided to check out the much talked about Alexa Chung collection for M&S. I already had my doubts having seen a few bits in the press but wanted to see for myself. As I suspected, there was nothing even vaguely tempting for the likes of me (I have a bust and some hips and stopped wearing school uniforms some time ago) so I was just about to move on to the Uterque website (far more grown up) when a link caught my eye. Editor’s pick on the M&S website was a gingham playsuit. Of course I clicked on it, why wouldn’t I? Gingham is hot this summer and I love a playsuit so the two combined sounded too good to be true. When it appeared on the screen I thought, oh how adorable, it’s gorgeous, I love it, it could be for a child!

Playsuit FOR KIDS £9-£12 at M&S

Then I looked across to the sizing chart. It was for a child.

This has nothing to do with anything, I just felt I needed to get it off my very non-Alexa Chung chest. So thank you.

This summer there is a wealth of lovely pieces to get your teeth into once warmer weather arrives and stays for longer than two and a half days. Unlike the past few seasons, there is choice across the board meaning no matter what your shape you can find something feminine, flattering and fabulous. If you’re not sure what you should go for to best suit your particular figure then look no further than these celebrities who have very kindly demonstrated what we should and shouldn’t choose.

Those With Curves… (Hourglass)

NO! Lisa Snowden: ruffles on top of boobs do not work

NO! Lisa Snowden: ruffles on top of boobs do not work

Not everyone has a waist so if you do have one then for goodness sake, show it off! Do this with belts and form fitting dresses and skirts and don’t do voluminous, it will simply make you look bigger. I’ve said it a hundred times before but an open neckline is always the best choice otherwise you’ll end up looking mumsy. Also best to stick to trousers and skirts without pleats, tucks or gathered waists as you probably don’t need the extra volume on your bottom half.

 

Those Without… (Rectangle)

YES! Kate Middleton creates the illusion of curves by adding a belt to this LK Bennett dress

YES! Kate Middleton creates the illusion of curves by adding a belt to this LK Bennett dress

Lucky you, if you’re a more straight up and down type. Not only are you slim but you’ll look great in this season’s slip dresses and floaty trousers. Anything which adds volume is fine for you and there’s a lot of this kind of stuff out there. Unlike your more buxom sisters you can rock ruffles and flounces without looking like a window pelmet. A full skirt will create hips and adding a belt to a dress will cinch you in at the waist too. Kate’s dress from LK Bennett is of course now sold out online but check out other similar styles on their website.

 

Those With More on the Bottom… (Triangle)

NO! Jennifer Lopez - it's impossible not to look isn't it?

NO! Jennifer Lopez – it’s impossible not to look isn’t it?

Keep it simple on the bottom and then go for it on the top. This season is made for you what with all the off the shoulder/one shoulder/cold shoulder tops out there. Experiment with lighter shades on your elegant top half and then keep the bottom half simple so attention is drawn to your gorgeous shoulders. It gets to a point when we spend most of our evenings sitting at a table anyway. Sparkle running along the outside of your hips is ALWAYS going to add inches and make everyone focus their gaze on the wrong bits.

 

And Those With More On Top… (Inverted Triangle)

NO! Kirsty Gallagher should swap the colours around and go for an open neck

NO! Kirsty Gallagher should swap the colours around and go for an open neck

The opposite rules apply here so keep the top half dark and clean and have fun on the bottom – in a manner of speaking. If you have athletic shoulders then avoid halternecks which will only emphasise the width here. However, you can wear a full skirt with complete confidence knowing it will balance out your shape, giving you a perfect hourglass silhouette. You’ve probably got great legs too so don’t cover them up!

Just one more thing, about this Alexa Chung for M&S collaboration. Be careful, it’s not made for you and me even if it is supposed to be inspired by the seventies archives at M&S. It’s designed by Alexa for Alexa and she is probably one of the very few people on the planet who will make it look cool. Just look at this dress:

Dress £45 by Alexa Chung at M&S

Dress £45 by Alexa Chung at M&S

Fancy giving it a go?

Thought not. ‘Til next time…

 

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All The Pretty Things

The sun unexpectedly came out and as usual it took us by surprise. There is inevitably a knee jerk reaction here in the UK – just in case we never see the sun ever again. The menfolk immediately put their shorts on while the ladies repair to the nearest bar terrace to drink rosé and small children start whining about getting the paddling pool out even if actually the heating is still on. By April, so starved are we of vitamin D that it’s all we can talk about. So I should be starting to panic about my entire summer wardrobe being stuck behind many boxes and pieces of furniture in a storage unit in Merton. It should be a real worry that the only way to access my treasured strappy shoes and sundresses is to bribe someone (my boyfriend) to help me shift said stuff. (God forbid I mention all the winter stuff having to go back in its place).

The thing is though, I can’t recall when I was quite so excited about the forthcoming season. And summer clothes imprisoned in Safestore = no choice other than to go shopping. Far less chance of a box related argument that way too.

The high street has outdone itself for Spring Summer 2016 the and the timing couldn’t be better. Just look at all this gorgeous stuff! I am a girly girl and my default setting is dress and heels so I don’t mind the thought of resembling a Von Trapp family member. But even if you’re not so into the frills and florals, you can still do this look right through until October because even everyday pieces like bags, jeans and trainers have taken on a pretty vibe.

It’s not just the fabrics which dictate this look either, the shapes and cuts are feminine too so you can nod to the trend without going all out in head to toe Doris Day. It seems like forever since soft necklines and tapered waists were the thing and frankly it is high time. There is an overwhelming amount of tempting stuff in the shops at the moment, from the affordable V&A inspired prints at Oasis to the Liberty prints at Uniqlo, and after so many months of leopard print and leather, I can’t wait to get started on it.

And the colours! Admittedly there is still an abundance of orange out there which is no good for those of us with cool skin tones but check out the pinks, yellows and blues – mouth watering. Mix it up, channel Neapolitan ice-cream why don’t you? Or Jelly Tots!

Looking gorgeous is going to be impossible to avoid this summer. Take this morning for example – I left the house and headed for Costa, ostensibly to put the finishing touches to my book. I am now about to head home with an irresistible Stories dress covered in butterflies and petals. I did finish my book though too I promise*. Yes, this summer, everything will be coming up roses.

Broderie Anglaise insert jeans £55 at Other Stories

Broderie Anglaise insert jeans £55 at Other Stories

 

*‘Shopped’ is published by September Publishing and is out on 1st July 2016

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From Their Heads to Their Toes

Yes it’s been a four day weekend but it’s gone very quickly and even another four day week seems too long on a cold Tuesday morning doesn’t it? While I work on final edits for my book this week I have been seeking light relief in the form of research for this week’s blog. And while I realise it’s not big or clever to mock other people’s ill advised wardrobe choices, if they have lots of money, a stylist and a lot of Instagram followers interested in those choices, then I kind of feel they’re fair game.

So here it is, my own little contribution for a less gloomy day. I should probably give a warning – some readers may find the following images distressing. No camels were hurt in the making of this blog.

ohno1

Lindsay Lohan

First things first, I love a jumpsuit and own several. They are easy to wear, require even less thought than a dress and are appropriate for almost any occasion – usually I won’t hear anything bad said against them. However, there are limits. Mistakes have been made, mistakes so catastrophic I hardly know where to begin. So I might as well begin with Lindsay Lohan since she has been suspiciously quiet in recent months. I don’t think this jumpsuit would work on anyone by the way, the way the colours change at the thickest part of the thigh is just too unflattering. Lindsay looks happy enough, she’s never happier than without her bra I’ve noticed, but this is not a good look. Her body looks twice the length it is and her legs look like stumps, with no feet on the end. Disaster.

 

Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian

No jumpsuit blog would be complete without an entry from Kim Kardashian. Now please don’t think I’m being mean about her pregnant shape, I’m not, I just don’t think this particular garment is the best idea for advanced pregnancy. After all jumpsuits can be a problem for those of us without a small human being pressing down on our bladder. I look at this and immediately imagine Kim struggling to get back up off the loo with her stretchy jumpsuit around her ankles. You have that image stuck in your head too now don’t you? Sorry about that.

 

 

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez

Props to Jennifer Lopez for having the nerve to wear head to ahem, toe skin tight metallic, but then confidence has never been in short supply on her block has it? I love the top half of this number, the colour is fab on her and it emphasises her toned shoulders. But really if you’re going to stretch shiny gold stuff like a second skin over your nether regions, you’re probably better off doing it in subdued lighting. That’s the trouble with shiny fabrics, you never quite know where the light is going to catch you but you can guarantee it won’t be your perfect cheekbones or your glossy blow dry.

 

 

Gwyneth Paltrow - take 1

Gwyneth Paltrow – take 1

I’m finishing with a double whammy and one I am still

Gwyneth Paltrow – take 2

reeling from the shock of. Gwyneth Paltrow has certainly had some funny ideas in her time, but none more so than the pale pink jumpsuit look of which she is clearly terribly fond. Most of us make a monstrous sartorial error and learn from it, Gwyneth decides to try it again – with added Lycra. Is she testing us I wonder? Will this turn out to be some sort of publicity stunt for her new vaginal steaming business? Just look at how uncomfortable the poor pregnant lady next to her is looking, this sort of thing shouldn’t be allowed out in pubic public. It makes me feel deeply uncomfortable on all sorts of levels. Mummies shouldn’t be discussing the issue that is the camel toe in the school playground but there we were, discussing it with carefree abandon. It’s a dark day dear readers, a dark day.

Happy Easter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Long and The Short Of It

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It’s been all about skirts for several seasons, and if the midi isn’t your thing then I have good news for you, this year trousers are back. And I’m not talking about jeans here, this is the actual proper grown up non-denim trouser.

Victoria Beckham in long and flared trousers

Victoria Beckham in long and flared trousers

Who doesn’t have a pair of tailored black trews in their wardrobe? There was a time when they were the go-to item for any working girl. Black trousers meant black boots and a simple shirt and jacket and you were good to go. Then things changed, work places relaxed and a more casual aesthetic became the norm. Black trousers started to look naff and very unexciting.

Diane Kruger does short and flowy

Diane Kruger does short and flowy

I’ve never really been a trousers kinda girl, it’s just too long a process finding the most flattering cut, length and fabric. However this year some funny things have been happening in the world of the trouser and my interest has been piqued again, if only because there are absolutely no rules.

Olivia Palermo does cropped and fitted

Olivia Palermo does cropped and fitted

I decided to investigate. If you must know, I even tried on a pair of elasticated ankle, pin stripe ‘jogger’ pants (who knew it was even possible to incorporate all those features in one trouser leg?) in Uniqlo last week, prompting my boyfriend to ask “What’s that about?” Annoyingly, I really couldn’t give him an answer. Consider this week’s blog a quest for answers in the trouser department, if you catch my drift.

Long and wide

£14.99 at H&M

£14.99 at H&M

Pros: Comfortable and great for skinny minnies.

Cons: Soaks up puddles, not good for shorter ladies.

Wear with: Bright white old school trainers.

 

 

 

 

Long and Skinny

£65 at Other Stories

£65 at Other Stories

Pros: Very leg lengthening (even without the debatable stirrup)

Cons: Ski pants belong in the ’80s don’t they?

Wear with: You really have to ask? It’s got to be boots. Just look at the alternative.

 

 

 

Cropped and Tailored

£75 at French Connection

£75 at French Connection

Pros: Works with any kind of top and footwear, formal or informal.

Cons: Shortens the leg.

Wear with: Trainers, ballet pumps, heels, the choice is yours.

 

 

 

Cropped and Skinny

£45 at Warehouse

£45 at Warehouse

Pros: You can style yourself to look like Audrey Hepburn.

Cons: You aren’t actually Audrey Hepburn (otherwise you’re fine).

Wear with: Flatties, platforms or trainers, again more or less anything will work.

 

 

 

Cropped and Wide

£79 at Cos

£79 at Cos

Pros: Errm… nice breeze up your trouser leg?

Cons: You can see what I can see, right?

Wear with: A lot of self belief.

 

 

 

 

Patterned

£65 at French Connection

£65 at French Connection

Pros: A small print like these can be surprisingly flattering if cut well.

Cons: You may look like a toddler.

Wear with: Anything as long as it’s plain.

 

 

 

Yes, it’s a minefield but it’s also rather exciting. Best avoid very wide and very long if you’re not very tall and stick to body skimming cuts – without tucks or gathered waists and ankles – if you have generous curves you’d rather play down. Dark colours for those who are heavier on the bottom, lighter shades if you’re a more athletic build. So there we are – this spring, as far as clothing your pins is concerned, anything goes. What’s it all about? I have absolutely no idea, let me know if you find out.

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A Vintage Year

This isn’t the bold statement it appears to be. In the aftermath of all four fashion weeks, New York, London, Milan and Paris are in agreement about one thing; to be in style next autumn you will need to take inspiration from the history books. Designers weren’t rehashing looks from the seventies, eighties and nineties as they have for the past few seasons – and thank goodness because for those of us who can remember those decades, it’s too soon – they’d instead rummaged through the back catalogues of Jane Austen and Mary Shelley.

Chanel AW 2016-17

Chanel AW 2016-17

This pleases me enormously because while I love the ever changing face of fashion, I also suspect I was born in the wrong era (the seventies may sound like the ‘olden days’ to some of you but really it isn’t) and am far happier and more comfortable in a dress and heels than I am in jeans and trainers. It’s terribly un-PC of me, but I watch Mad Men and secretly wonder if I might have put up with sexist comments and smoking at the breakfast table if only I was doing it dressed like January Jones as Betty Draper. If you enjoy a costume drama and fancy yourself a gothic heroine or a whimsical romantic lead, then this just may be your time. And it’s not as if you even need wait until next autumn as much of these trends are already in the shops now. Given we are still in the grip of winter here in the UK, you could actually be ahead of the game. Here’s what to look out for:

Floral

Usually confined to the summer months, floral will stick around this year and be huge come the autumn. It’s not just adorning dresses either, trousers, boots, bags, it’s on everything. Buy now and chuck a knit over it later. Think 1940s tea dresses.

Slip Dresses

Yes it’s a crazy idea to waft around in London in your nightie when the temperature drops. Also, it’s an underwear minefield so get in on the act this summer and then you can be so over it by the time the clocks go back. Think Ophelia from Hamlet or Great Gatsby.

Off the Shoulder

Sense of deja-vu? Yes well, this trend is fabulous, everyone can wear it in some way, you don’t have to forego sleeves and it can be worn with anything from jeans to maxi skirts. The ultimate no-brainer. Think Gillian Anderson in War and Peace or Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita.

Ruffles

Another trend that can already be found on the high street, ruffles are on anything and everything so be careful where you put them. Gothic in black, Victoriana in ivory. Think Elizabeth I rather than Charles II.

Sleeves

Ruffled, puffed, ultra long, leg o’ mutton, take your pick. Wear while you can because as we all know, once this ship has sailed the look will date faster than you can say Princess Diana’s wedding dress. Think Cinderella or Deborah Kerr in The King and I.

Pussy Bows

You don’t have to end up looking like Willy Wonka but you will have to tread carefully. Probably best avoided if you have a substantial bust but what a great boost if you don’t! Think Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

I can’t wait to get going with the ruffles and sleeves and am so excited about the long floaty dresses – oh the multitude of sins that’ll be hidden! Shall we bypass summer altogether? We’ll only moan about the weather not being good enough and what a waste of money it is buying flimsy dresses in this country. Yes, 2016 is shaping up to be full of costume drama, a vintage year indeed.

Vintage style, pussy bow, sleeves - Erdem does 3 in 1

Floral, pussy bow, sleeves – Erdem does 3 in 1

 

 

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Oscars 2016: Style Winners and Losers

If you’re reading this on Monday morning on your way to work and you’re hoping to discover the winners and losers at this year’s Oscar ceremony, then I’m afraid you might be disappointed. While this blog is hot off the red carpet (it’s 1am and I’m sitting here in my pyjamas eating marshmallows) I have to be up in five hours so I’m not hanging around for the awards this year. I’ll stick my neck out and guess that Leonardo di Caprio takes Best Actor and Brie Larson Best Actress but that’s because they are the favourites.

Margot Robbie came as Oscar himself

Margot Robbie came as Oscar himself

My first thought is that with all the talk of the lack of colour in the nominations this year, there is a variety of colour on the red carpet. There is no one shade that dominates, certainly last year’s nude is nowhere to be seen. There are some refreshingly different colours rarely seen – nominees Saiorse Ronan and Rachel McAdams are both stunning in dark green – while Alicia Vikander is in pale yellow.

If there is no stand out colour, then without a doubt the style of the evening is the plunge neckline. I don’t know though, does anyone else feel this has been done to death over the past few years? For this reason I am handing it to those ladies who are instead rocking the shoulder trend we so love – Brie Larson, Reese Witherspoon, Naomi Watts and Jennifer Garner, I love all these gowns.

Then there are those who look different merely by virtue of covering up. Nominees Charlotte Rampling and Rooney Mara are both in long sleeves and while I’m not keen on Rampling’s breast pockets, Mara has yet to put a foot wrong this award season and she has saved the best for last with this Givenchy number.

I’m giving the style prizes to Brie Larson in her gorgeous Gucci and Cate Blanchett in Armani, neither could be more perfectly girly – they both look heavenly from head to toe. And Julianne Moore unusually in black which isn’t the best for her colouring, is as effortlessly elegant as ever.

Finally, you know it had to happen, and this year I feel particularly bad about it, although they are few and far between – the not so great looks. Kate Winslet – aaagghhh! This Ralph Lauren strapless frock makes her look like she’s stuck in a drainpipe, I really don’t think this would work on anybody and I’m so disappointed because Kate usually looks great. Ditto Olivia Wilde who looked so amazing at the Golden Globes. This Valentino gown doesn’t do anything for her incredible figure, I don’t like it at all, the top half reminds me of those cheap tab curtains you can stick a curtain pole through. And Jennifer Jason Leigh, well she looks like the icing on the cake, literally.

I’m going to end on a high note, a show stopping lesson in red carpet dressing from Christian Dior and two former winners who know how to own a red carpet. Charlize Theron and Jennifer Lawrence, we salute you.

OK, it’s 2am, I’m off to bed, if I can get to sleep after all that sugar it’ll be a miracle. Sixth time lucky I reckon Leo – good luck everyone!

 

 

 

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Take A Look At Them Now

Over the past twelve months I have spent a lot of time researching the British high street. My book, which looks at how clothes shops and customer service has evolved since the 1970s, features a lot of our best loved brands both past and present, so I have been forced – against my will – to spend even more time than usual thinking about shopping. Sadly, due to having to actually write about my findings, I haven’t had as much time to actually shop so I have lived vicariously through the promotional emails I receive daily by the inbox-load.

During this time there has been a lot of retail talk which has inevitably led to reminiscences about the high street of our youth. One Facebook discussion recalled those fashions of our childhood and the places we all went with our mums to buy them. In those days it would be unthinkable to imagine a world without C&A or Lilley and Skinner. M&S was for special occasion wear and if you were lucky, you might get the odd item from Hennes or Chelsea Girl – H&M and River Island as they are now known.

We have grown up with these brands and in some cases, they are still relevant today. Some have fallen by the wayside and others, such as Oasis and New Look have sprung up in their place. And it can be a dilemma because entering your fourth decade makes you think. Should I be shopping somewhere more grown up than H&M? Is it odd that I am buying clothes for myself and my five year old son in the same shop? At what age is one supposed to graduate to Jaegar and Jigsaw? A lot of the time it slips my mind that I am no longer twenty four, so rarely do I feel self conscious shopping in shops aimed at teenagers. Recently my twelve year old goddaughter and her friend admired my suede ankle boots and I proudly told them I’d bought them for £15 in the Miss Selfridge sale. It wasn’t until later on that I thought maybe I should have been embarrassed instead of pleased. After all, approval from the Insta-generation is hard won – and here was two ‘likes’ without me having to even log in. Perhaps it’s a genetic thing because my mum frequents Hollister and I’m quite sure the loud music and gloomy lighting is intended to keep the ladies of a certain age out.

I will always champion the high street, the British high street in particular because it is the best in the world by a long shot. I’ve worked in it, shopped in it, tested it and written about it. I’ve also cried in it (school shoe shopping), cringed in it (bridesmaid shopping) and laughed uproariously in it (most occasions with my friends Clare and Kerry). I’ve managed to hitch my carriage to someone who turns out to be my shopping soul mate (my ‘shoul-mate’ if you will) so I never have to worry about a sulky impatient man waiting on the pavement for me. It’s all looking pretty flippin’ good on my high street. This is my homage to it, even those shops you may have thought you were a bit old for now. Take a second look because you know, you just might be surprised. Some of those places we grew up with? They’ve grown up too.

 

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Cold Snap, Crackle, and Colour Pops

Street Style at the Paris shows

Street Style at the Paris shows

The other morning when my five year old son woke up, he looked me up and down, smirked and said, “That’s a funny outfit.” Yes, he’s five and yes, he is still quite happy for me to dress him however I see fit but usually if he passes comment on what I’m wearing, it’s something sweet. On this occasion, despite the 6.30am gloom and the two of us being the only people present, I suddenly felt rather self conscious. And not in the way that I did a few weeks ago when I made the mistake of asking my boyfriend if he liked my new hat and he replied, “You look like Dr.Who.”

The annoying thing – especially since I didn’t have the time to change – was that when I had got dressed half an hour earlier, I too had wondered if I really liked the skirt I had fished out of the wardrobe the night before. It’s a very bright yellow, absolutely not my colour but a safe enough distance from my face which is currently sporting its fetching January hue. Everything else I had on was black, which these days is unusual for me but it was the only thing I had which goes with the yellow. I had in fact inadvertently dressed as a giant bumble bee.

Attempting not to appear too bothered, I asked, “Why do you think I look funny?” to which the boy in the rock star pyjamas replied, “Because black and yellow don’t really go together.” I decided to leave it there given yesterday at his Art Club my son came home with a piece of work ‘in the style of Alex Calder’ and I had to Google Alex Calder* to find out who he was.

A Winter pallet…

The thing about small children is, they have a very subjective view on colour and it tends to be that they like anything bright and cheerful and are wary of anything dark and gloomy. My son insists on referring to dark grey and dark blue as black too. This will be why pre-school television programmes and books are generally full of primary colours.

A Spring pallet…

It’s February, the weather is bleak and there is an awful lot of grey and black in the shops, more than usual it seems. So I’ve gone on a colour rampage in a bid to brighten everyone’s day. Here are my top picks of the (mostly) new in pieces in the shops currently. A word to the wise, if you’re an ‘Autumn’ pallet, you’re laughing, for the third year in a row, you’re totally in fashion.

An Autumn pallet…

If you’re a ‘Summer’ pallet you will have to search a bit harder for variation but trust me, you’re probably the most in need so put some energy into it and it’ll transform your February wardrobe!

A Summer pallet…

As for my ‘funny’ yellow skirt, I think we have come to the end of the road. It was nice while it lasted but life is too short to have your sartorial choices questioned before you’ve had your first sip of coffee. Today I am in my blue midi and cream blouse and it seems to have passed the test. The yellow skirt has been told it is going to live in a warmer country where it has much more space to run around. The bag is by the door ready for the H&M recycling bin.

 

*Alex Calder was an American sculptor who often produced figures using wire.

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Put On Your Red Carpet Shoes

If staying off alcohol and implementing a new fitness regime is getting you down this January then spare a thought for those poor souls in sunny California who were nominated for a Golden Globe award. As soon as the Christmas tree was put out to pasture, it was time to start getting ready for the first of the award ceremonies. And let’s not forget there are more to come. The BAFTAs and the Oscars are the big crescendo but before then the stars have to get through the PGAs, the SAGs, the ACEs, the DGAs and the WGAs. I am not joking. You can see how full length dresses, heels and diamonds might lose their novelty after all that.

The Golden Globes coverage always comes at a time when us lesser mortals have hung up our sparkly jumpers and are relying mostly on thick socks and pjs, so far be it from me to criticise the wardrobe choices of the stars. However there are lessons to be learned and it’s a bonus to be able to learn from the mistakes of others don’t you think?

Here are the right and wrong way to do some of the red carpet trends this year:

BLACK

I just don’t like Kirsten Dunst’s dress, she has a great figure and this is doing nothing for it. Meanwhile Dame Helen, who has a similar hourglass figure to Kirsten, looks simply perfect. Booby frocks are all very well but Kirsten’s Valentino one looks like it’s on back to front – and not in a good way. Soz Kirsten.

RUFFLES

I love that ruffles are having a moment and I’m not even averse to a bit of meringue but oh Jane, that wavy top half looks like my mum’s roof. For someone who managed to make leotards and leg warmers look cool and sexy in the ’80s, I’m disappointed in Jane Fonda. Coming up on the inside is Alicia Vikander who looks cute as a button, ruffles an’ all.

BURGUNDY

Right at the start of his career in the sixties, my dad wrote a whole article about the virtues of the colour burgundy. It’s not something I could write much more than a paragraph about and it wouldn’t be my first or even second choice for an evening gown but here we have two actresses in it. While Olivia Wilde’s gown is slinky, shimmering and simply cut, the fabric of Zendaya’s makes her look like a sofa in an Oscar Wilde play. An IKEA sofa would have been less ageing.

CUT-AWAYS

I love Jennifer Lawrence and rarely does she put a foot wrong on the red carpet but this Dior number is not good. It’s unflattering and stiff looking and makes her look a bit square when usually she’s the perfect hourglass. Brie Larson however has pulled out all the stops and the cut-aways on her Calvin Klein number are in just the right place to draw attention to and highlight her amazing abs, rather than distracting from the rest of the look.

FRINGING

I can’t look at Heidi Klum in this dress without feeling a bit itchy. There’s just too much fringing. Fringing, by definition, should be just a fringe. This is actually a hairy dress and it’s completely disguised the incredible Klum body. In complete contrast, Rooney Mara’s flesh coloured dress looks less like Jeremy Corbyn’s beard and more like the most delicate piece of cobweb imaginable – she looks breath taking.

It’s a long haul to the Oscars on February 28th. As you count the days down to the end of dry January, pity those nominees who will have a further month of working out, facials, fasting and depilating. Suddenly Blue Monday doesn’t seem so bad.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Sales: How Low Can You Go?

Happy New Year! How was it? Did you get what you wanted? Or have you had to take an extra day off work to stand in a snaking Zara queue made up of disgruntled shoppers wanting to exchange unwanted gifts? I’ve backed out of my local Zara branch twice already this sale period, at the sight of the endless queue. I’m not sure how they manage it, but the misery on the faces of the staff behind the counter suggests they’re not very happy about it either. I blame the staples; they’re very preoccupied with stapling receipts in Zara and I’m not sure why.

It’s tempting to go home and simply browse the January sales online, particularly when you have a small child who likes to get into shop window displays and hide in amongst the hanging rails. But online shopping isn’t half the fun that doing battle on the high street can be – pressing the return button on your laptop doesn’t come close to the thrill of handing your credit card over and carrying your purchases home in errm, a grubby old fabric bag you got free with a summer magazine.*

So how to approach the sales? Early in the morning obviously, and in comfortable shoes and good underwear. Regular breaks for refreshment are a must but the most important thing is to remain focused (easier said than done I know. I am always, ALWAYS distracted by sparkly shoes and piles of DVDs) so you don’t waste time. When I finally braved the Zara sale with veteran shopping friend Clare this week, we both went into the fitting rooms with seven items. I’d picked out a jumpsuit so unflattering, even a plumber wouldn’t have touched it, a cream blouse which would have been ideal if I was about to be led from the tower and beheaded. I also had a skater skirt fit for a seven year old, just because well, it was reduced to £12. Everything Clare tried on she admitted she had at least five versions of at home, before pronouncing it potentially “really useful”. She’s a bad influence, is Clare, but it was her birthday and I didn’t like to spoil her fun. She had set me straight right at the outset when I almost ruined our spree by declaring “but I really don’t need it…”. With a curt “I don’t think it’s really about NEEDING things at this point though, is it?” I was reminded that we were there to have fun, not to actually achieve anything.

So no Clare’s right (dammit), rarely do we need anything right after the excesses of Christmas (except maybe a revised fitness plan), but discounts do funny things to people so let’s just have some restraint and allow for some rules. Rules are good, People! Humans need boundaries. Here are some:

Although it’s getting colder and it’s a long way off, you need to Think Spring. There are always some trends that continue on into the next season, some that even survive from the previous Spring and inevitably those that don’t. I find ‘70% off’ signage irresistible too but seriously, count to ten before you hand over the readies for anything with the face of a mammal on it. Also, you know how you get a lump in your throat when you see Christmas trees stripped of their finery and left for dead in the gutter, post-New Year? Well, I’m a bit the same when it comes to piles of un-sellable clothes – I feel sorry for them and want to offer them a home. DON’T DO IT! The people at Brandalley and/or TK Maxx will be very kind to them and they’ll get to mix with all sorts of interesting clothes from all over the world. It’s not your job to give a home to all the ill advised fashion trends out there.

I digress. If you spot any of the following trends on the sale rail, sharpen your elbows:

The long coat.

Cardigan coat down from £265 to £160 at Reiss

Cardigan coat down from £265 to £160 at Reiss

Always worth investing in a classic coat, in this country it’s a no-brainer. I’ve hardly worn a coat yet this season but you know it will happen eventually. This coat/cardigan hybrid is lightweight yet still cosy.

Gingham.

Checked dress down from £195 to £80 at Reiss

Checked dress down from £195 to £80 at Reiss

Started to appear last summer and was a big presence at the Spring Summer 2016 shows. It’s cute and fresh and looks great with denim obviously. Probably best to avoid cowboy boots with this unless you want to look like Doris Day in Calamity Jane. Strangely, this was exactly my mum’s justification for a new pair of Hollister trousers this week.

Suede (it just won’t go away will it?)

Suede bag down from £49.99 to £29.99 at Zara

Suede bag down from £49.99 to £29.99 at Zara

I’ve picked out a brightly coloured clutch as I’m bored of the suede skirts. It’s still impractical but it’s also a great all year round fabric and this colour is gorgeous. Suede is as useful as denim, only much more expensive to get ice-cream out of.

The midi or maxi skirt.

Maxi skirt down from £199 to £75 at Karen Millen

Maxi skirt down from £199 to £75 at Karen Millen

A longer skirt in a lighter fabric will serve you well as we approach spring. Dress down with a leather jacket now and then a denim jacket later. Heels only with the midi length please. Pleats look lovely on straight up and down shapes, not so lovely with curves – go for a smooth line skirt instead.

The shoulder baring dress.

Silk dress down from £110 to £54.99 at Banana Republic

Silk dress down from £110 to £54.99 at Banana Republic

There were lots of strapless and off the shoulder styles again on the catwalks which is very good news. Wear this one shoulder 100% silk piece with white trainers for an effortless cool. Great for pear shapes.

The Sleeve.

Fluted sleeve blouse down from £85 to £54.90 at Uterque.com

Fluted sleeve blouse down from £85 to £54.90 at Uterque.com

I know I’ve been harping on about them, but trust me sleeves are going to be a feature this year – unless of course you’re going strapless in which case their feature is being entirely absent. No-one said fashion wasn’t ridiculously complicated at times.

Underwear.

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You see here’s the thing. Underwear isn’t a slave to trends and so I fail to see the point in paying full whack for it. For something so small and largely unseen, I figure you might as well wait for it to be reduced. But, I also think underwear should probably be thrown out more often. Having eaten myself up a whole cup size this Chrimbo, personally I have no choice, but I reckon if a bra works hard in its lifetime, then it should be offered early retirement.

Lecture over. Having applied these rules to my own shopping this week, I am now the proud owner of four new bras, a coat, some Anthroplogie hairbands and a packet of rhubarb and custard sweets. Clare on the other hand, who didn’t need anything, bought almost everything she tried on. Happy sale shopping everyone!

*This 5p charge for bags is pissing me off already.

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