Look Good, Feel Great, Be Inspired

March 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Whether you’re a rebellious teen trying to find your’ niche’, a busy mum struggling to find the time, a career woman intent only on success or a home-maker whose social outings include popping round the shops and down to the bottom of the garden to hang out the washing… (phew.., breathe.., that sentence was probably too long) IT’S IMPORTANT TO LOOK GOOD IN ORDER TO FEEL SPECIAL.  In my opinion at least.

I walk to work in the morning, on arrival I change into my uniform, after work put my own clothes back on and I walk home again.  Still, I would never feel happy walking out of the door in the morning, in anything less than ordinary clothing.  I would never leave in a tracksuit, fleece or trainers (but thumbs up to the office workers who choose comfort as opposed to heels in the morning – that’s OK!).  I enjoy clothing, it’s my art – as corny as that sounds – and I wouldn’t start the day as I mean to go on if I weren’t feeling creative or inspired.

There may be many reasons why you can’t be bothered to up your style in the morning:

LACK OF TIME:  This is probably a factor for the majority of people, preparation is key.  I hate rushing to get ready in the morning, any amount of free time I have is best spent drinking coffee, watching the news and eating a hearty breakfast – I couldn’t function with any less than two out of the three.  It makes a huge difference if you prepare an outfit for the next day, the night before.  You don’t have to try things on if you can’t be bothered, just pick one piece of clothing (or one accessory) and work around it.  For example, if I pick a beaded turquoise necklace to wear the next day, I would consider which colours might work well with it – orange or dusky pink perhaps – and turn to my wardrobe for complimentary items in those colours.  Add a scarf encompassing all of the colours in your ensemble and voilà, you have an outfit prepared.  If you’re feeling especially creative at that moment in time why not put a few outfits together and hang them in your wardrobe ready for another day.  The most vital piece of advice is dont stray from your original outfit – you will only waste time and end up going back to your first idea!!

LACK OF ENERGY:  Again, another factor which probably affects most of us.  I can’t pretend to understand the life and times of a busy mum, I have a HUGE amount of respect for them but if you don’t have to think too much about getting dressed then you’ll find more time to clean up the baby poop!  I think it’s brilliant when mums invest a little bit of time into preening themselves.  Use statement accessories (belts, scarves and jewellery) with a classic jeans and tee combo, easy, and I also think Harem trousers would be a great investment as they are so easy to wear and hide the post baby weight!

WHAT’S THE POINT:  If you’re not going out for the day then what’s the point?  Imagine yourself as a student.  If you lounge around the house all day in slippers and jogging bottoms instead of getting dressed and heading down to library, do you think you would get nearly as much work done?  No, it just makes you feel lazy and sloppy.  You never know what will come up during the day or who you meet so if you put on a lovely outfit you’ll feel much better about yourself and if you decide to go somewhere, you can just walk out the door.  Of course I love duvet days, lounging around watching films or reading a book, but those days are planned.  If you wake up and spend the day lazing around in your pyjamas when you could be ticking off a chore list, trailing around the the charity shops or visiting an art gallery that day is wasted, and you won’t feel great about yourself.  So, get up, get showered and put on something nice!

Unfortunately or not, we live in a society that defines people by their appearance.    It is impossible to look your best at every hour of the day, perfection isn’t the goal here.  Living a life that involves being dolled-up to the nines day and night is a recipe for stress!  What’s important is to live life to the full, learn to love your body as it is now and ENJOY dressing up.  Your outward image also encompasses everything from posture and self-image to body language.  More often than not, if you look good you feel great a positive self-image follows on naturally from that.  Brilliant.  It becomes unhealthy when individuals begin to compare themselves against unrealistic and unattainable icons, but I’m talking about knowing who you are and having the confidence to portray that on the outside.  In reality, each and every figure flaw you may have; the spot on your nose, a bootylicious bum, dreaded cellulite or a few extra pounds that week are NEVER really noticed by anyone other than yourself.  Really!

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Feel Good, Look Great in the Office

February 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

I don’t ever remember feeling comfortable in my John Lewis uniform.  It consisted of a scratchy polyester suit that was WAY too big for my small frame, a greying-white shapeless shirt and ‘comfy‘ flats reminiscent of a Clarks pair I wore to school back in the day.  It was £22 and I chose the option to pay for it over 12 months, out of my wages.  It felt as cheap as it was.  Boy, I must have looked a pretty picture.

I hated it mainly because I ended up looking the same as everyone else, which I gather by now you’ve realised is something I never endeavour to do.  I love to be different, and not to make a statement at all, I do it for myself.  In fact, if I’m bound by the constraints of a ‘uniform’ I don’t feel myself at all.  I used to relish each and every event of the John Lewis social calendar , of which there are so many it could be mistaken for a lifestyle rather than a job, but that’s another blog entirely.  At the office party I felt much more comfortable in ‘my own’ clothing (because of course the suit wasn’t quite mine yet, I was only a third of the way through the payments) – each and every personality shone through.  Image is important because it allows me to express myself creatively, but it’s also important if you want to get ahead, not only in business but in relationships too.  Office dressing doesn’t mean you have to leave your personal style at home, you just need to go about it in the right way.

Clever girls will call in the professionals to re-style them as a super brand.  Image consultants and personal stylists are reaping the rewards of the current economic climate as lawyers and bankers alike strive to hold onto their jobs and further careers in a what has become a more competitive environment.  Not only do applicants need better qualifications, intensified social skills and multiple other assets, but they need to look the part.  Now more than ever.  Image has become a powerful tool when it comes to gaining the competitive edge both at work and in the pursuit of Mr Right.  More often than not it’s possible to source the two in one location!  Office party anyone…

Calling on all employees – you have to wise-up to the fact that constantly redefining your image can edge you ahead of colleagues with similar qualifications and experience when it comes to interview and promotion opportunities!  And if you negate what you wear to work playing a part in how well you perform as shallow, the evidence is astonishing.  Research from a Work Foundation think tank reveals that women who wear make up can expect to earn 25 per cent more than those who don’t.  And 80 per cent of employers said appearance was one of the top three qualities they looked for when recruiting.  So I’ve put together a few tips, categorised by age, to get you through that all important job interview and in the right career direction…

16-25 In the early stages of a career it’s important to get noticed, but not for the wrong reasons – a skirt that’s too short or a low cut top will have female colleagues gossiping and your male counterparts gawking .  Navy has trustworthy connotations which perhaps explains why it’s often worn in banking environments (?) but avoid red because it can be seen as aggressive. You may not have a big budget at this stage in your career so H&M, Primark and TK Maxx are ideal shopping locations.  Raid your local charity shops for cufflinks to customise your shirts or even clip-on earrings which work just as well!  Look out for structured handbags in charity shops too as slouchy handbags can look sloppy and aren’t great for storing files and notebooks etc.. Keep accessories to a minimum and avoid anything ‘cheap’ looking such as a huge flower ring or sparkly headbands.  It is also advisable to stay away from jewellery that jangles (chandelier earrings or stacks of bangles) very annoying as you walk through the office, Opt for stud earrings or a single bracelet instead.  A doughnut ring worn high on your head looks neat and trendy and is more youthful than a low bun or French roll.

25-35 No doubt you’re settling into a promising career and are after a promotion by now.  You can have fun while expressing your personality and professionalism through what you wear.  A pencil skirt below the knee (remember no panty lines!), paired with round-toe stilettos show you mean business.  Zara has some great work-wear and is mid-price range.  Save a few pennies by taking over-worn heels to your local cobbler for a revamp or re-style an old shirt with cufflinks.  If your shirts don’t have button holes for cufflinks take them to the tailor who will add an extra button hole for a mere few pounds.  Most of what constitutes a polished image is in the details; scruff-free shoes, perfect tights, polished nails, neat hair.  Experiment with French rolls and sophisticated chignons sweeps and treat yourself to a French manicure every once in a while.

35-50 You are by this point at the peak of your career and may be stuck in a rut or worse in the 80s.  Lose the shoulder pads and power dressing for starters and it is oh-so important to avoid clingy fabrics, lace, spaghetti straps and short skirts.  Also best to be avoided are garish colours such as hot pink or animal print fabrics.  Lilacs, pinks and creams are best worn with black or grey suits and add a touch of femininity.  A grey or tweed printed suit from the likes of Hobbs, Jigsaw and John Lewis are great while a white shirt from Anne Fontaine is a great investment.  Whatever you do choose well made garments, free from obvious designer labels for the most professional look.  Now is also the time to invest in a good handbag with the sole purpose of serving you through Monday to Friday.  Choose a structured style (make sure it can stand alone because it will spend most of it’s life under your chair or desk), with internal compartments and big enough to fit an A4 sized folder.  Complete your new purchase with an emergency kit for last minute meetings and appointments (lipstick, floss, anti-shine papers, Vaseline and mints etc…).

50+ Now it becomes important to stand out and stay ahead of your game – you don’t want to fade into the background.  Ageism is rife in the office and in my opinion it needs to be stamped out!  Invest in well-cut tailored styles that fit you perfectly so you look and feel great.  Smart mid-length skirts look great with a cropped ¾ sleeve jacket (perfect for hot flushes too J) or perhaps a smart pair of trousers with a ruffle cardigan and silk scarf worn around your neck in a chic bow.  Chic is the look you’re striving for here.  You can experiment with soft hairstyles swept loosely off your face rather severe buns held in place with lashings of hairspray!

Even if you get the clothes right, it’s just as important to carry yourself well, smile walk tall!

Having trouble deciding what to wear to work each morning?  What are your personal office wear tips?  Let me know your thoughts…

Teaching your old clothes new tricks.

January 15, 2011 § Leave a comment


Ribbons

Originally uploaded by stof enzo

Although I studied clothing design at University level, and have learnt the skills you need to make your own clothing, right from the paper to the finished product – I much prefer to customise existing articles! Maybe I’m just lazy, as customisation certainly involves less skill, but I find it provides just as much scope for creativity. Modifying something you already own – that might just be ‘alright’ – and transforming it into something really unique that you love gives you a pure sense of satisfaction and doesn’t cost the earth. If anything, you are saving money and instead of trailing the high street for a new outfit, a bit of tweaking here and there works a treat! Customising comes in especially handy during the transitional change from Winter to Summer or vice versa. Although remember, once you’ve turned those winter skinny jeans into summer cut offs – there’s no going back!! I think ought to start this topic by introducing what I think is the perfect ‘customisation kit’:

SCISSORS – of the sharp, fabric cutting and dress-making orientated variety. You can find a well priced, good quality pair from HobbyCraft.

WONDERWEB – generally thought of as the generic term for iron on hemming tape, an ingenious invention that allows you to hem shabbily cut garments with ease. It should be available from your local haberdashery and can also be found in John Lewis. A wonderful alternative to a needle & thread!

SAFETY PINS – in all sizes, they are ideal for temporary adjustments. I’ve been on many a night out whereby my outfit has been held together by masses of safety pins – not ideal if you’re travelling by aeroplane and need to get through security!!

ODDS & ENDS BOX – buttons, transfers, broken jewellery, ribbon, scraps of fabric – a treasure trove of goodies!!

If you’re struggling with an outfit or are having an “I’ve got nothing to wear” crisis, get your customisation kit out and get creative!! Once you’ve started customising your clothes, there’ll be no looking back and before you know it you’ll be adding puff sleeves to a plain-tee and pintucks to a well-worn skirt.  If you have any ideas of items that could be added to my current customisation kit, please drop me a line! 

In my next ramblings, I will be transforming an oversized charity shop bought heritage hacking jacket into something more unique and exciting that will be a great addition to your current wardrobe…

Mince pies, mulled wine and pleated collars.

November 29, 2010 § 4 Comments

So everyone’s talking about the weather, and I say If you can’t beat them – join them!  Technically I didn’t say that, but it was said nevertheless.  I, sadly, had to forego a pre-planned trip to Anstruther  – a wee Scottish town by the shore – because of the snow and missed out on freshly caught fish & chips, mid-afternoon beach walks, a half-pint with friends by a roaring fire and the prospect of finding a local charity shop full of goodies.  Boohoo, but everyone has their own snow related sob story.

As well as transport cancellations and salt shortages, suitable attire and slip-proof footwear poses a bit of a dilemma at these times.  Personally I have embraced the chill.  Freezing temperatures allow for new clothing ventures – hit or miss, but fun regardless.  I have enjoyed wearing my ridiculously oversized Russian hat and faux fur coats, and found that layering a heritage blazer under an open camel coat is a great take on winter layering and helps to give your over worn winter must a much needed freshen up, as well as keeping you cosy of course.

Moreover, layering up to the max means you can let your mince pie middle hang out!  Yes I’ve had a few boxes already and no I won’t turn the mulled wine off.  Although I think I need a bit of practice in that particular culinary department.  As one of my flatmates pointed out, “surely frying the wine burns off the alcohol”.  Ok, so the pan was a bit hot, but a mulled wine or two warms the soul and makes it that bit easier to walk in three inch heels. Scoring the soles of your shoes with a grater or serrated edge of a knife helps too but please be careful!  Legwarmers are a good investment at this time or year, worn over knee high boots or with ankle boots and woollen tights.  These chunky cable knits can also double up as arm warmers when worn with a drafty cape!  Everyone has their favourite Fair Isle winter knit and luxurious leather lined gloves but I have something entirely different to shout about.

I have also stumbled upon my winter 2010 wardrobe’s saving grace.  Here it is… take note and get one in your life…are you paying attention… how’s my grammar… ok sorry this must be getting annoying.  The article which has revived all winter coats from 2008 to the present day is none other than a double layered, softly pleated camel collar. Astounded?!  But in all honesty, I didn’t realise just how much I loved it until we were separated on Saturday night for a fleeting moment.  Without realising, I dropped the collar on the dance floor as I was leaving a club!!!  Panic set it when I’d discovered it was gone and my knight in shining armour ran back into the abyss and five minutes later returned, proudly wielding the collar.  Phew, that was close.  I don’t plan on letting it out of my sights again anytime soon.

A friend told me recently that she too lost a much loved glove (she still has one thank goodness) to a bin bag containing dog poo, thus it couldn’t be rescued – at least not without a pair of gloves.  The collar I very nearly lost was purchased from an independent boutique in Lisbon, so It may never have been replaced!  Mind you, the cost of a Ryanair flight to Portugal’s capital would probably be equivalent to the article in question.  If you don’t fancy going any further than the internet for your own collar then there are many alternatives for sale on eBay and a beautiful one at New look which would look great with a bold blue ladylike pea coat.  If fur isn’t your thing why not visit the Antique Lace Place for a vintage variety.  Rather than buying yet another coat this season, invest in a collar or two to revive your existing outerlayers, and save the extra cash for a bottle of mulled wine and a box of mince pies!

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