How to Make Your Wardrobe Bubble and Squeak

The autumn term is here and as of today, the weather has obligingly fallen in line with the education system’s belief that the time for shorts, t-shirts and ice-cream vans parked outside the school gates is over. We had a fortnight’s grace to show off tans and squeeze a little more use out of sundresses and now layering season is beckoning. It’s a whole lot more complicated now and as in January when we reconvene after Christmas with a new set of ideals, September and the start of a new school year feels like time for a fresh approach along with bigger pencil cases and replacement PE kits.

Laura Dern, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Zoe Kravitz and Shailene Woodleigh in Big Little Lies

Having been a regular in the school playground for five years now, I have friends and allies and so the fear I once felt is but a distant memory and I’m happy to report I get invited for coffee these days (https://aftercarrie.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/my-old-school-run/) but the fashion fascination remains. Just me? Perhaps. There’s now the Insta Influencers, those perky tanned blonde ladies who show up at 8.50am in the fabulously expensive floaty number you’ve been drooling over in the window of your local boutique because where better to exert your influence than the small area with the highest concentration of middle class middle aged women in South West London – the playground of the most coveted junior school? It’s a bind when you’ve mentally spent the whole of the day ahead’s earnings before you’ve even started your commute – who knew a school drop-off could be so expensive?

So it was with relish that I settled down to season 2 of Big Little Lies. The first season of this sumptuous story of a group of west coast friends tied together at first by their offspring and then by a terrible secret, ended with a death witnessed by all five women dressed as Audrey Hepburn characters – no biggie, happens all the time in Battersea.

Laura Dern (Renata) ‘The Scary One’

Jacket by Julien Macdonald at Debenhams £69

Bowling bag by Uterque.com £180

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celeste (Nicole Kidman) ‘The One on the Edge’

Coat by Hobbs £349

Boots by Karen Millen £265

These ‘moms’ show up at their school gates polished to within an inch of their lives. Even Zoe Kravtiz’s hippyish yoga mom and Shailene Woodley’s beanied single mom, while missing the manicures and botox, manage effortlessly boho/rock chick style with aplomb. I found myself thinking – for the first time since Sex and the City – which one am I? I know, how shallow; but what with Nicole Kidman’s va va voom skirt suits and Reese Witherspoon’s selection of coats, it was more a question of whose wardrobe I would raid first. Rarely are these characters going to work (although Laura Dern provides a master class in how to give high flying female lawyers a bad name) but they exude the kind of pristine pulled togetherness that exists largely on the telly – American telly at that – because really, who has the time and energy to perfect a red lip line or tong a curl into place while repeatedly yelling “Have you done your teeth?”

Madeleine (Reese Witherspoon) ‘The Bossy One’

Blouse by Boden £70

Nubuck heels by Aldo £75

A girl can dream though, and a girl should because it’s not just designer clothes and tweaked bodies that achieve that expensive California glow. The best clothes for your shape, the most flattering colours for your skin tone and a good dose of sleep will add confidence that money can’t buy. Note to self: stop mucking about with sister on Snapchat when supposed to be going to bed.

Zoe Kravitz (Bonnie) ‘The Earthy One’

Cord blazer by Boden £98

Midi dress £49.99 at Zara

This autumn season is so varied in its trends that there is a little bit of all the characters’ style out there; corduroy, flowery shapeless dresses, wraparound coats, long boots and fabrics you want to roll yourself up in are all easy to come by on the high street and are fairly versatile for everyday wear. I know I take a little bit of each of these looks and mix it all in together most days. A kind of wardrobe bubble and squeak.

Shailene Woodley (Jane) ‘The Young One’

Suedette biker jacket by Warehouse £65

Beanie £20 at Oliver Bonas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So from this week I’ll be the one talking secondary schools and hangovers with my friends at the school gates in a long dress (possibly a nightdress but how will you ever know?) lip gloss and a beanie to cover my rubbish hair. I may even be wearing sunglasses in the gloom because, well, that’s what happens when you find yourself butt clenching your way towards fifty with your children still in primary school. The one thing I do have in common with the Big Little Lies five is a that I am a small part of a loyal and very fabulous band of like minded women who have my back and this is merely due to the good fortune of my boy arriving three weeks before the school year cut off point. We haven’t (SPOILER ALERT!) offed any of their husbands yet but there’s still plenty of time. I wish you a happy and healthy autumn but perhaps just wake me up when it’s summer again please. ♥

 

 

 

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How to be Spot On This Spring

Prints are so loaded aren’t they? Whenever I sit down with a client needing an outfit for a wedding or Ascot, we always discuss how they feel about prints because at this time of year the merest sniff of spring and the shop floor is flooded with patterns. It’s a rare thing to see head to toe florals in the autumn winter collections, but roll March out and you can’t move for it.

I’m not big on patterns myself but that’s mainly because high street clothes are so very identifiable if they have a print. I’ve been witness to (and victim of) the whole turning up in the same outfit as someone else nightmare enough to know that it’s easily side-stepped by avoiding a pattern available in hundreds of shops across the country. However, sometimes a piece is all about the print and this season, arguably more than ever, it’s more of a challenge to put together an occasion outfit in a solid colour.

Hair band £9 at Dorothy Perkins

If you couldn’t get to grips with gingham last summer then the good news is that spring 2019 is all about the polka dot. Polka dots are great. I never realised quite how much I loved a dot of polka. Polka dots are timeless, ageless and almost sexless – although a bloke in spots is still a little too Mr Tumble for me but that’s my issue and probably a little sexist. Dots are never inappropriate; while horizontal stripes have a bad rep – rather unfairly in my opinion – florals scream ‘Mother of the Bride’. In my experience not even mothers of the bride want to look like Mother of the Bride these days but there are exceptions of course. Aztec and geometric prints require nerve and animal prints are on their way to being right back where they started (a bit naff) but the polka dot… well, I’d argue that a polka dot wouldn’t even look out of place at a funeral. They suit all shapes and sizes and they look great in any colour – although my sister will tell you that when I arrived in a red and white polka dot halter neck dress my four year old niece asked why I was dressed as Minnie Mouse. But APART from that…

• On Holiday •

Shorts reduced to £79.20 at Whistles

Blouse £34 at Oasis

Think fifties starlet for this casual beachy look. Tie your hair back with the Dotty P hair band, add a red lip and white canvas trainers and you’re practically Doris Day. This Oasis neckline is ideal for a larger bust and will look lovely with white Capri pants – this blouse comes up a big so go for a size smaller.

 

• A Day at the Races •

Yellow midi dress £69 at Warehouse

Midi dress £52 at Warehouse

This Warehouse number is a dead ringer for the one worn by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. The high neck is best for smaller busts and the asymmetric hem is flattering for every kind of leg. Add a contrasting belt to add interest. Gorgeous.

 

• At a Wedding •

Jacquard midi dress £55 at Very.co.uk

Midi dress with sleeves £250 at LK Bennet

You want sleeves? You got it. LK Bennet is hanging in there and this green midi looks very much like they’re trying to catch Kate Middleton’s eye again. Don’t be as predictable as KM though, choose citrus yellow or fuschia pink accessories with both these dresses.

 

 

• An Evening Out •

Cut-out maxi dress £69 at Warehouse

Jumpsuit £48 at Wallis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No time to shave your legs? Opt for a jumpsuit or a maxi. And if you haven’t had a look at Wallis recently, you should. This fab jumpsuit is just one of several polka dot pieces in their collection and most of them go up to a size 20. The cut-outs in this Warehouse dress come in just the wrong place for all but the most lithe but oh isn’t it heavenly otherwise? My favourite of all I think but darn it I’ve already invested in two spotted dresses…

• Accessorising •

Stiletto heels £49.99 at Zara

Kitten heels £29.99 at Zara

Don’t do pattern? Then play it safe and accessorise with spots, it’s an instant wardrobe update that needn’t cost more than £40. All over spots (unless you’ve got chicken pox) is absolutely fine, it’s a classic look that lends itself perfectly to midi dresses and jumpsuits so go for it, you can’t not suit a polka dot. Happy bank holiday weekend everyone!

Polka dot shopper £229 at Kurt Geiger

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The Call of the Wilder

First of all, a confession. I spent a large part of my childhood dressed as Laura Ingalls Wilder in the Little House on the Prairie television series. I loved dressing up and – this is all incredibly predictable – I didn’t really see the point of putting normal clothes on at the weekend. Why wear jeans and a t-shirt if you can wear a bonnet, smocked dress and a pinny? So yes, this is something of a disclaimer; I am not the most impartial person to be talking about a trend which really has no place in a city in 2019. Or in the wardrobe of someone over the age of 8. Except that, while even I started off wondering whose idea it was to revive the nightshirt blouses and the layered skirts, the sun came out in February while the country looked like it was going to hell in a hand cart and all of a sudden it seemed rather lovely. And I can’t explain it any better than that. Other than Michael Landon being an absolute dreamboat of course.

The Little House on the Prairie cast

Anyway, as usual it’s taken me far longer to complete this blog than I planned and now while the country is probably even closer to disaster than when I started, normal service has resumed as far as the weather is concerned so you may have to add an extra pair of bloomers to your prairie look until the sun comes out again. Until then, roll the theme tune and grab yourself a Penguin biscuit, here’s my beginner’s guide to working the prairie look in 2019 without being put in an institution.

Working the Landon

Shirt reduced to £37 at KitriStudio.com

Striped shirt £50 at French Connection

This nightshirt look is perhaps the most wearable of the lot but you’re best off going without braces unless you are as sunkissed and ripped of chest as the Michael Landon character. I had to wear bright red braces when I worked at Pizza Hut and it was a constant battle of wills between my boobs and the elastic. No winners in that scenario.

 

Midi – western Dresses

Dress reduced to £38 at Other Stories

Dress £24.99 at H&M

If you’ve been doing midi dresses all through the winter then you’re already halfway there. While it’s still cold just add a cardigan (this season’s must-have) or a biker jacket and boots and you’re good to go. Wear tights or go for chunky socks. Do not accessorise with a dog on a string or daisies in your hair.

 

Pretty Little Things

Blouse £16 at Asda

Blouse £45 at Oliver Bonas

These blouses look great with denim. Don’t be tempted to team them with a long skirt or you really will look like Ma Wilder. With something this little girlish you have to go urban on the bottom. Think jeans, denim skirt or shorts. Steer clear of bonnets and milk urns.

 

The Bootie Call

Suede boots £149 at Massimo Dutti

Lace up boots £115 at SteveMadden.com

There is no reason why cowboy boots can’t be sensible girl about town footwear. Where I live in South London people drive vehicles with cattle grids on the front so I see no reason why a cowboy boot shouldn’t be seen as de rigeur. Why not go the whole hog and do the school run with a horse and cart this summer?

 

Dress £110 at Other Stories

Cardigan £145 at Iris boutiques

When the weather finally improves, I think this is going to be a really versatile trend, not to mention comfortable – you can wear your big pants underneath and you won’t need to worry about grass stains or food spillages because that’ll only add to the aesthetic. And if we do suffer food shortages after the 29th March we will be appropriately dressed for ploughing the land.

Happy March everyone and thanks as ever for following!

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The Way They Wore (2018 edit)

I don’t know about you but by the end of 2018 I felt completely done in. It got to the point where it seemed like only the onset of a new year would renew the energy. It didn’t quite work like that but I do believe a change is as good as a rest and January was at least a change of pace – I have thrown out some old bras and shoes, forked out a fortune on niggly things to do with my car and agreed stone cold sober to go on a camping weekend – run of the mill perhaps but all things absolutely inconceivable in December.

December can be fun but it’s exhausting and so I quite enjoy the look back over the past year. It’s comforting to see how much has gone on in the previous twelve months, somehow justifies the lack of energy, even if none of it had anything remotely to do with me. The news in general was fairly depressing all year so we’ll stick to just fashion shall we? In the interests of sustainability, I’m wondering about which fashion moments  and ideas from 2018 are reuseable enough to be carried over to this year.

The Markle Effect

The Megan neckline

Who doesn’t love a wedding? The first of the two royal weddings came at a time when we most needed it. It was like something out of a Richard Curtis film – American bride, sunny day in the country and Robbie Williams in attendance – it was heaven sent. And then from somewhere up there Victoria Wood had a hand and threw in some trouble making relatives and a caricature preacher. And I’d thought I was watching to see the dress. Nobody expected the Givenchy, some (me) preferred the evening do’s  Stella McCartney but whichever your leaning, it was the start of a thing. I could have done with a bit more Megan doll before the maternity wear kicked in but either way, it’s a great show. The boat neckline will definitely be with us in 2019.

Boat neckline sweater £89 at Hobbs

Killing it

Jodie Comer in Molly Goddard as Villanelle

If Grey’s Anatomy didn’t make a Sandra Oh fan of you, then Killing Eve will have. Full of spectacular leading ladies accompanied by the enigmatic Danish actor Kim Bodnia (if it was bugging you, you saw him in The Bridge) it was horribly violent, slightly slapstick and “yeah, we’ve got this” in a non-threatening feminist way. And yet… and yet, what was the real star of the show? Well it was the pink frou frou Molly Goddard babydoll dress, so ridiculously over the top and impractical it seemed perfectly reasonable for a multi-lingual serial killer to be wearing it in Paris. If anyone actually wore a dress like that on the streets of Paris, a local would have a heart attack within minutes. And have you noticed how already the pink frothy frocks are appearing on the red carpet this season? Needless to say I’m in love.

Pink tulle dress £44 at ASOS.com

Animal Overkill

Spotted (in more ways than one) on Oxford Street

The lengthy summer hadn’t even petered out when it became clear that far from being what fashion editors refer to as “a neutral” (did anyone ever really buy that?), leopard print had in fact gone completely the other way. It had become the Burberry check overnight – without the help of Daniella Westbrook. It became the wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen as everyone bought head to toe leopard print and then went out in it thinking they were somehow the only person to catch onto this thing. All I can say is, if Theresa May wearing leopard print didn’t put you off, nothing will. Having said that, I am still wearing my Dolce and Gabbana leopard print heels and my River Island belt. If you take one thing with you after this blog, let it be this: Everything In Moderation.

Return of the Spice

The way they were – the Spice Girls

Never for a minute did we think that Victoria Beckham would rejoin the Spice Girls so we didn’t really pay much attention to talk of a reunion tour. But then pictures emerged of the other four reconvening at Geri Halliwell’s house and all of a sudden it was back on. And didn’t they look good? I’m all for it as the Spices are around my age and I want to think  a) they look really young  and  b) it’s not inconceivable that they could get away with prancing about onstage in union flag dresses and sequin catsuits. While most of us comfortably in our forties are forging second or even third careers, this lot are going back to the first one. Imagine! They don’t even appear to have changed their outfits much. The thought! I personally won’t be wearing those massive trainers this year but I’m all for everyone else doing it. They are very much back whether it’s thanks to the Spice Girls or not. One word of advice though, if your feet are over a size 6/39, probably best not.

Big ol’ trainers £79.99 at Office

Wearing the Trousers

Victoria Beckham doing all trousers and no mouth

Meanwhile over at Beckham HQ, there was news of DB cash injections into the VB fashion line, an imminent divorce announcement and a Beckham Vogue cover without the founder member. Whatevs. I was far more interested in Victoria’s style about turn – could it be true – she of the plunge necklines and hooker shoes was now doing louche androgynous trouser suits? Not since Madonna took to the stage at Wembley in 1990 (I was there and so was my now boyfriend whatever he might tell you) in her pinstripe trouser suit and conical bra, had a trouser suit looked so tempting. This is so going to be my thing in 2019 I thought. I won’t be borrowing my dad’s old work suit to wear to anyone’s 21st this time around (more’s the pity on both fronts) but I will be wearing one.

Trouser suit £79.95 and £139 at Massimo Dutti

The Waistcoat

England manager and fashion icon Gareth Southgate

There are no words. But I’m going to put some down nevertheless. I’ve carried Gareth Southgate dressed in that awful grey England kit and his ill fated penalty somewhere in my heart since 1996 so while I was pleased when he took over as England manager, I was also worried for him, it is after all the most thankless job in the UK in recent history. And then the waistcoat happened; he looked hot, he looked cool, he looked in control and then somehow while we were all ogling Gareth and his impossibly lean navy clad torso, the England team reached the semi finals. It was a magic waistcoat and I miss it. Don’t ever change Gareth.

 

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Top of the Frocks 2018

The one statement I hear more often than not from my lovely clients is “I hate shopping.” It’s a shame. Whether this has always been the case or these men and women have fallen out of love with the experience because it is no longer fun, I don’t often find out. But what with long working days, kids and the frantic pace of life, the days of a leisurely stroll around the town centre with a friend, stopping for a spot of lunch when your feet start to throb are long gone for most. Shopping tends to be a necessary evil, something to dread and put off until it has to be done for a special occasion. By the time I get to stick my oar in it may have become a pressurised situation with only a handful of days to go.

Sequin evening dress £89.99 at Zara (sizes S,M,L)

The problem can be simply not knowing where to start. I also hear a lot of concerns about not knowing how “to put stuff together” and “how to dress for my shape”. Add to this the enormity of the choice both on the high street and online and what we are faced with is a barrage of endless brands, trying and testing, pokey fitting rooms, inconsistent sizing and at the end of it all a load of stuff we are unsure about and have half a mind to take back a week later. I understand, I get it. You’d rather be anywhere else. Especially now department stores have started playing the Christmas songs.

Multi coloured dress £65 at Top Shop (sizes 4-18 )

With all this in mind you may be pleased to hear then that I have taken matters in hand and done all the traipsing around for you (both literally and metaphorically) and have collated what I consider to be the best occasion dresses out there. The criteria was simple; it had to be full length, a piece you could wear for a black tie do but also if you fancied for Christmas day because, why the hell not. I looked at online and I looked at the high street, from the cheapest of the cheap (H&M) to the higher end of the affordable market, (Ba&Sh and Reiss). I considered British, Spanish, Scandinavian, French and Polish brands and what I have come up with is here – prices range from £49.99 to £395, sizes from 6 to 26.* This list isn’t exhaustive and it isn’t completely objective either ( I like all those I’ve chosen as well as considering them excellent for the job) but I have covered over thirty retailers so it’s taken the majority of the hard work away. Grab yourself a drink, put your feet up and don’t forget you can click to go straight through to the retailer’s website!

If you want Sleeves…

Fluted dress £79 at Arket (sizes XS-L)

High neck ‘Julietta’ dress £120 at Phase Eight sizes (8-18)

There are many more designs with sleeves these days, in fact the other day I even struggled to find a dress in a certain colour without sleeves. Go for a style like this Arket one if you have boobs, the Phase Eight one if you don’t have quite as much.

 

 

If you don’t want to do Black…

Fuschia dress £89.99 at Zara (sizes XS-XL)

Floaty burnt orange dress £89 at Other Stories (sizes 6-16)

This one is a bit harder this particular autumn as black is back as the new black after a year off. If your skin tone is cool or you’re very pale then the crimson Zara number will be lovely on you, if you’re a warmer skin tone or a red head then go for the Other Stories burnt orange dress which by the way is the shade of AW18.

 

If you’re small on top…

Ruffle ‘Marissa’ dress £139 at Coast (sizes 6-20)

Asymmetric neck hem £225 at Reiss (sizes 4-16)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucky you, you can fully embrace the ruffles and high neck detailing. This red Coast design is a dead ringer for one Nicole Kidman wore on the red carpet and is stunning on (I’ve seen it) while the brown Reiss dress is more of a Jennifer Aniston. The one shoulder look is made for you – go for it.

If you’re bigger on top…

‘Despina’ chiffon dress £395 by Ba&Sh at Iris (sizes 1-3 EU)

Pleated ‘Violetta’ dress £179 at Coast (sizes 6-18)

Necklines are dramatic this season and thankfully unlike previous years there are plenty of open styles which are gorgeous for a more generous bust. Not having to wear a strapless or multi-way bra is a big plus as far as I’m concerned because really, who wants to spend an evening hoisting up their underwear? I need both hands to hold my Prosecco and brie and cranberry parcels.

If you’re bigger on the bottom..

Alanis Empire line dress £169 at Monsoon (sizes 8-22)

Asymmetric hem dress £176.25 at Karen Millen (sizes 6-16)

This is the hang up I hear about the most! It’s easy for me to say focus on the bits that don’t worry you (“thin ankles sweetie”) but honestly, a frock such as this beautiful Monsoon number will have everyone envying your shapely shoulders or daring décolletage and not what’s going on to the south of them. The bottom line (sorry) is to go for something that gently floats over your hips (avoid a cinched in bunched up waistline which will add volume) with a bit of detailing at the neck, shoulders or bust to draw attention upwards.

If you’re bigger in the middle…

Halter neck dress £49.99 at Stradivarius (sizes S,M,L)

Pewter dress £88 by Little Mistress at Simply Be (sizes 12-26)

It may feel as if there is nothing out there for you but there is, there’s never been a better time so have a second look. You probably have good arms and great legs so that’s what you need to be dressing – don’t worry about the bit in the middle that makes you reach for the layers. This dress (a steal) from Stradivarius highlights the top half and the split elegantly reveals a bit of leg. Meanwhile the Little Mistress show stopper showcases the neck and ankles. Who’s looking at the mid section now? Not me.

And if you want to dress your shape, have sleeves and do colour…

‘Alexandra’ jersey dress £99 at Coast (sizes 6-18)

‘Rebecca’ green satin dress £198 at Boden (sizes 6-22 )

Then here you are. This Coast design is a comfortable jersey fabric, the colour is stunning, neckline ideal for smaller busts and the price is plain daft. Done. The Boden is a classic with sleeves and the Monsoon is a bit of old school glamour for a curvy girl – very Marilyn Monroe. I didn’t say it would be an easy choice now did I? Be sure to let me know what you go for. Happy shopping everyone!

‘Stevie’Fit and flare dress £119 at Monsoon (sizes 6-18)

 

*Not all styles available in this size range

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The Season of Extreme Dressing

This weather is all very confusing isn’t it? You’ve packed your t-shirts and flip flops away and replaced with knits and boots and then what happens? We’re basking in sunshine and feeling overdressed in jeans and a leather jacket. And if it isn’t possible to get a bit of a bronzing in this unseasonal weather (woe betide you omit the SPF moisturiser though) then really, is it even worth the hassle of the constant taking on and putting back on again of various layers?

It’s been a year of extremes and the autumn winter collections are no exception. For every simple strappy slip dress there’s a balloon sleeve and for every pair of black skinnies there’s a wide legged, high waisted pair. And don’t get me started on the colours; mustard versus electric blue versus gold, it’s even OK to wear them simultaneously apparently.

Long slashed polo neck £95 at French Connection

The trick is to wear your statement pieces one at a time and keep everything else low key. The look you want to achieve is edgy rather than outlandish. Take the winter coat – a staple in every wardrobe – this season it is oversized, bright, patterned, possibly all three. You’ll struggle to find a sensible black full length overcoat this year but then you’ve probably already got one. Why not live a little and splash out on a huge puffer which will keep you far warmer than your safe pea coat and have everyone else green with envy too.

Green ankle boots £80 at River Island

Large tote £59.99 at Zara

Talking of green, if last year was the winter of the red boot then a year on it’s a free for all of colour when it comes to accessories. Being a little bit more outrageous with your accessories is an easy way to modernise your look and totally cost effective since we get so much use out of our them. These green boots look more Prada than River Island and will go with most things in your wardrobe, from boho dresses to sleek trouser suits.

If you prefer to play it safe with the colours you know suit you best then experiment with asymmetric hems, textures and lengths. It’s actually quite a challenge to find an ordinary straight skirt on the high street at the moment as everything is slashed, wonky or pleated or a complete mixture. You’ll be surprised how flattering an asymmetric hem can be though, at any age or size. I’ve had a job persuading my older clients of this but I promise I wouldn’t lie about it – the jagged hems give a mere hint of leg making it a flattering, lengthening style for a heavier bottom half.

If skirts aren’t your thing then the alternative to the safe skinny or tailored pant is the wide leg trouser. Great with flats and a shirt for a Katharine Hepburn vibe or a heel and camisole for more of a Great Gatsby look. It can be louche yes, but also effortlessly sophisticated – so much fresher than the skinny jean and blazer combo.

These pieces are wearable, versatile and dare I say it, comfortable. This may be the last time in a while that I talk about comfort (we’ve got party wear and the annual Strictly Come Dancing posts coming up don’t forget) so enjoy it while you can! Go to extremes this autumn and make your statement without saying a word.

Mismatched earrings £27 at Other Stories

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The Real September Issue

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Click on products to buy! (how can you resist?) It’s been a long time, I know. I have no excuse other than life getting in the way – work and all the stuff that gets squished in around it, usually … Continue reading

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Fash n’ Carrie

It’s hard to believe that last week marked twenty years of Sex and the City. I forget I have been an adult for over twenty years and yet I know I was well into my twenties when SATC started; not quite old enough to fully get the low points of the thirty something friends but old enough to appreciate the high ones. I can’t help but wonder what I’ve done with myself in the years since it ended, I certainly haven’t watched anything on television with such relish – Mad Men had the style but it didn’t resonate. Sex and the City always resonated in some way, whether with my own life or one of my friend’s: an ex who gets engaged to someone else way too quickly? Tick. A date who never calls after what seemed the perfect evening? Tick. Unable to get over the One Who Got Away? Tick. Repeatedly going for the commitment-phobe? Tick. Spending money you don’t have on too many pairs of shoes? Tick tick tick.

Those were the days when you had to wait a week for your half hour dose, when (as my friend Sarah has just reminded me) you stopped your gossiping in the communal hallway to run back into your flat upon hearing the familiar HBO signal and when you knew you could call a friend to comment on the storyline/outfits without fear of spoiling it because you knew she’d be at the same bit. You knew in your heart which character you were most like and you were either pro ‘Big’ or pro ‘Aiden’, there was nothing in between. Back then dating in London was far simpler (it wasn’t even called dating) so the antics of these four New Yorkers – in a pre-online dating age – seemed outrageous and thankfully unfamiliar. We should have known that it would end up over here too.

Carrie Bradshaw appealed to me, I instantly liked her and I loved her dress sense. Where others found her selfish and her wardrobe ridiculous, I thought it refreshing to see a character who dressed according to her mood, the day and just because, well, why not? One minute she would look chic and pulled together, the next utterly bizarre. It was as fascinating as it was entertaining. You may not have liked what Sarah Jessica Parker and costume designer Patricia Field did with Carrie Bradshaw, you may think of yourself as more of a Charlotte York,  but you have to admit they made an indelible mark. There are trends we are influenced by to this day, even if you don’t realise it. I’m here to remind you of the Carrie Bradshaw lurking in your closet…

Flowers

OK, so Carrie’s corsages may have grown bigger than her head by the last series but the idea was a good one. Why should we save flowers for weddings and funerals and Remembrance Day? Admit it, you do flowers, like them even.

Tulle

Right from the opening credits it was there. I’d always wanted an excuse to dress like a five year old and this was it. The tulle was another theme of the show, by the time we followed Carrie and her Russian to Paris in the last series, the Carrie necklace was back and so was the tulle, huge froths of it. I bought an enormous tulle skirt to wear to my sister in law’s 40th last year and it was much admired. Is it just me? I don’t think it is.

Statement Shoes

Sex and the City made it acceptable to have more shoes than qualifications and what Carrie didn’t know about shoes you could fit on the tip of one of her skinny stilettos. She wore her heels anywhere and everywhere and while Lily Allen was in London coupling her trainers with her prom dress, Carrie Bradshaw was accessorising her Jimmy Choos with her running shorts. You wear brightly coloured shoes with dark outfits now don’t you, we all do. Even my mum has a pair of red ankle boots she wears with swishy skirts. It’s a thing and Carrie Bradshaw started it.

The White Dress

After the billboard campaign introducing the four main protagonists of SATC in Little Black Dresses, you rarely saw Carrie in an LBD again. However, watch closely and the white dress is a recurring theme which reappears whenever Carrie has a seminal moment with either Big or Aiden. We never saw her marry (that didn’t happen until the feature film) but the romantic white dresses were there adding to the exquisite agony. Sarah Jessica Parker can pull off pretty much anything it’s true but this summer I bet you’re tempted by all the white dresses aren’t you?

Dressing the Part

My favourite Carrie outfits were those where she dressed like a child would – a Heidi outfit complete with basket for a picnic in the park, a nurse’s costume to tend to a convalescing Mr Big. We’ve all done it in some small way; who hasn’t agonised over what to wear to meet the ‘in-laws’ for the first time and ended up in something a million miles from the norm? When Carrie did it she hadn’t even been invited which only added to the school ma’amy dress. I can only say that when she wore pin striped Vivienne Westwood to her meeting at Vogue Carrie looked fabulous. When I wore white nylon high street for my meeting at Vogue, I did not.

That concludes my case. Except to say that since recently returning from a long weekend in New York I have dusted off the SATC DVD box set I borrowed to watch it all over again. Not much has dated, interestingly the clothes least of all, and I’m loving it even more than the (ahem) third time. But then this stuff inspired not just two films and SJP’s shoe collection, it inspired me to be a bit braver, to put my love of clothes out there and turn it into my profession and then finally to write my own book.

I ♥ SATC.

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How To Dress for a Royal Wedding (or any wedding)

Where were you on Saturday morning? If, like me, you were sitting on the sofa in your pyjamas watching the royal wedding from the moment the coverage began, then this post will be a welcome second/third/fourth/fifth look at the proceedings. If not, then it won’t.

I loved it. From Oprah being one of the first to arrive, as if she was the least important person, prompting an immediate worry about how she was going to survive that many hours without food, to the Beckhams sparking a Twitter debate about whether they’d had a barney on the way – this was top notch entertainment. I was interested in what everyone wore naturally – my working life is currently 75% dressing women for weddings – but it was what Meghan showed up in that was the real reason behind my taking the iPad all around the house with me. But how differently it all played out; by the time I had seen that Meghan was in a boat neck number, I had seen so many beautiful, surprising outfits file into the chapel, I’d already peaked.

Amal Clooney timed her entrance to perfection. A ray of absolute sunshine on an already bright day, she was a willowy buttercup in a field of daisies and made George look like a rather third rate accessory to her Stella McCartney asymmetric midi, his role very much the supporting one. Arriving as they did just ahead of the Beckhams, it was almost like watching the long dark shadow of a cloud creep over the walkway as the spiky silhouette of Victoria tottered over – her orange stilettos the one pop of colour in her head to toe navy – her face set in misery (or agony, she did appear to have trouble walking), the flip side of Amal’s sunny side up.

Lady Kitty Spencer in Dolce and Gabbana

Posh wasn’t the only one who opted for a more wintery shade though, in fact there was something of a trend with forest green, berry and claret (is there a difference in those last two, who knows?) appearing as often as the baby blue and lemon, almost as if the guests had planned their oufits for crap weather. However the dress styles – midi again – saved the day because they were just so darned fabulous. I Googled which designer was responsible for Lady Kitty Spencer’s corseted flowery frock, possibly my favourite of all, but I should have guessed that Dolce and Gabbana were behind it. Chaste yet sexy is what they do best for the hourglass figure, once again an orange shoe turning up the heat. I can only hope that H&M or Zara act quickly to bring out a copy of this dress for autumn.

If Kitty Spencer represented the autumnal pallet then actress Carey Mulligan was championing the summer in every way. Her dress by Erdem was on the cusp of being a maxi, the delicate floral fabric gently twisted at the neckline and falling in ruffles to her ankles, nothing else needed but heels and a clutch. You could almost see Carey pulling this out at a later date to wear with flats and a cropped denim jacket for the school run. With her currently ash blonde hair and pale skin, she reminded me of a young Marilyn Monroe – absolutely gorgeous. James Blunt’s wife Sofia opted for a similar style, a column of flowers, this time in bolder colours. The only downside being it seemed to make JB look even shorter alongside, if you half closed your eyes they could be Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman back in the day.

While there were many pretty prints on show, fitting in neatly with the carefully placed foliage around the chapel door, those who chose a block colour – mostly the older ladies for whom perhaps floral is historically too ‘mother of the bride’ – went for a pastel and the greens chosen by the Queen and the actual mother of the bride looked fresh and stylish. Meghan’s mum Doria Ragland was the epitomy of grace and sophistication in Oscar de la Renta mint from her pillbox hat to her pretty vintage style clutch. No huge brooches or daft ostrich hats for her; you could immediately see from where Meghan Markle gets her poise and understated elegance.

This wasn’t the red carpet, it was far more interesting with so many hats and fascinators and a level of anticipation not even the Oscars can evoke. The celebrities added excitement but the glamour was already there in spades, so I was all primed for Meghan’s former Suits cast mates to add the giggle factor, to get it completely wrong with some kind of Googled version of what one should wear to a British wedding. As my dad always said, a wedding isn’t a wedding until someone causes a bit of trouble.

Sadly, it was not to be, not even Princess Charlotte mucked about. The Suits actors were show stopping, yes, but for all the right reasons. Contrasting styles and a masterclass in how to dress for your body shape – the Alessandra Rich governessy navy and white polka dot was another of my favourites.

We couldn’t have asked for more – perfect weather, stunning venue, a beautiful happy couple and the best dresses available brought together to mark the occasion. There’s only one thing left to say and it’s controversial so I’m going to say it and then leg it.

The new Duchess of Sussex in Stella McCartney

I preferred this one.

 

 

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Your Summer Style Steals

Click to buy!

Following my last post where it was all hot weather and floaty cotton dresses, I am back in my jumper and socks feeling fairly smug that I didn’t waste any time slathering on the fake tan. I have discovered over the years that not only do tiny splashes of the tanning lotion flick all over my bathroom only to be discovered when it has stained the wall/floor forever but that also somehow the excess washes off in the shower and stains the grouting. I KNOW! They don’t warn you about that on the bottle.

The original Cult Gaia bamboo bag retailing at £92

Bamboo bag £45 at Very

Anyway, I digress. Undecided on what to write about this week, I had a scroll through Instagram and came across a lovely bag modelled by an in-the-know fashion editor. Said bag turned out to be from fashion website Very and was a quite brilliant rip-off of a style by Cult Gaia who also produced one of last year’s summer It bags. I was onto Very.co.uk faster than you can say “definitely don’t need another impractical summer bag” and there it was – my next accessory and the inspiration for this blog all in one.

Prabal Gurung SS18

Mini dress reduced to £32 at Very

Very is worth a look because it’s not just bags they shamelessly copy from the pricier brands. I have found dresses, knitwear and even a console table on one of my nights in on the sofa with my iPad and as you know I don’t usually go a bundle on online shopping.

Another high street name who has sought designer inspiration is Warehouse. There’s lots of chambray, A-lines shapes and button details, it’s all rather seventies in feel, totally wearable and will work for all ages. Just don’t team with wedges (too predictable) which will make the overall look a bit mumsy, a pair of box fresh trainers will add a splash of cool instead.

Dress £52 at Warehouse

Dress £49 at Warehouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

The husband and wife team who make up label Preen have been designing for Debenhams for several seasons now and their collection is always hotly anticipated. This summer the pieces are an explosion of colourful florals and the similarities to their main line are plain to see. You’ll have to be quick if you fancy any of the silk or blue and white confections because they are flying off the rails and with another bit of warm weather on the way this bank holiday weekend, the shoppers will be out.

Dress £120 Studio by Preen at Debenhams

Dress £69 Studio by Preen at Debenhams

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, if your feet still aren’t ready – I know, it’s been far too chilly to have your toes out long enough for the varnish to dry – then invest in a pair of this season’s must-have white ankle boots.

Maison Martin Miguela $675

Ankle boots reduced to £56.25 by Faith at Debenhams

Yes, they’ll be useful with your denim pieces but more importantly will add the edge to these girly dresses and skirts. Think Debbie Harry mixed with Stevie Nicks and you’re on the right track this summer. These Faith copies of the extreme cowboy style by Maison Martin Miguela which retail for around £700 are a bargain in comparison but they’re also far less scary a prospect to actually wear out in public.

Valentino studded heels £650

Studded heels £45 at Dune

The much Instagrammed Valentino studded stilettos aren’t technically new but they have survived to see in another season and are available in other colours. If you have a wedding to go to and you don’t want to fork out for a new dress then think about updating with the most outrageous designer copy of them all – I defy anyone to spot this £45 Dune pair aren’t the real £650 thing. Now there’s a really good reason to feel smug.

Happy bank holiday weekend everyone!

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