Spring-cleaning your clothes part 2: Hosiery help (tights, socks & stockings)

April 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

I hope you enjoyed the first part of my current ‘Spring-cleaning’ your wardrobe series; a light-hearted insight into caring for your clothes from shoes upwards.  If you haven’t yet read the first part, check it our here.  We’ve covered boot, shoes and other now the spotlight’s on hosiery.  We’re talking all garments worn on your feet and legs encompassing leggings, socks, stockings and tights!

The easiest way to avoid hosiery depreciation – according to various tight manufacturers – is to handle with care.  Some suggest washing bags and protective gloves as a precautionary measure!  Realistically, who has time to handle hoisery gently, I know I don’t.  Usually my mornings are spent desperately seeking out a pair of tights that A. Don’t have any holes in the crotch  B. Don’t have ladders which are far beyond the realms of a coat of clear nail varnish and C. Oh, so I now have NO tights.  Great.  I decided to sort out my tight/sock drawer to avoid these morning issues and use the extra time to tend to my blooming flowers.  Yep, Im growing flowers in my room which will eventually (if they continue to grow) be replanted into bigger vessels and displayed beautifully on my window sill just in time for Summer.  If anyone knows where I might find rustic terracotta, possibly chipped, round plant pots please let me know!  So that’s what i’ll be doing instead of searching for a pair of matching socks.  What will you do with the extra time in the morning??

I began by sorting through a mountain of colours & an array of patterns and discovered that a serious scale-down was in order.  Im getting rid of any garishly printed socks as they have no use for me now.  I don’t need to consult my socks to determine the day of the week, whether or not I’ve ‘popped my cherry’ or for anyone else to discover who my favourite cartoon character is.  Leave those numbers for nearby Dads!!

I’ve kept 3 pairs of trainer socks for exercise, which I have been partaking in a lot of late since joining Edinburgh City Bootcamps which I can highly recommend to anyone keen on fast fitness and renewed motivation!  I also kept 3 pairs of short socks (ranging from grey t0 black in shade), 4 pairs of knee high socks (grey, navy, black, orange), 3 quirky pairs (black lace, black fishnet, white with lace trim) and 5 pairs of 100 denier tights.  I’ve figured that if I don’t do any washing for 2 weeks, I’m covered.  What will I do with the socks which didn’t qualify I hear you say?  I’ll be keeping a few odd socks for dusting purposes – they are brilliant because you can simply pop them over your hand and clean an array of surfaces – fits like a glove!  The rest I’ll pop into my local clothing bank as well as keeping 1 pair of inadequate tights for daylight robbery AKA driving lessons, train journeys, petrol etc…

I did come across one useful tip to take into consideration when caring for your tights, “do not dry on or near direct heat” ie the radiator, something which I have always done because I love the feeling of putting on warm tights in the morning, this is a habit I’m willing t kick if it means one less pair of tights to replace!  With socks, the key is to put them into their pairs as soon as they’re dry so you don’t end up with mismatched pairs, if this is something you can’t favthom you might want to consider purchasing THROX, the foolish idea from Edwin Heaven, “if tyres come with a spare, why not socks?”  Hmmmm.  Moving away from pratticalities and back to practicalities – socks and tights are supposed to be folded as opposed to tied in a knot, the elasticity becomes weaker when using this method so it’s not advisable!!  There you have it.

If you have nothing left to wear on your feet it might just be time to invest in some beautiful new leg-wear.  With tights you definitely get what you pay for, I find they hold their elasticity for longer, remain opaque and snag-free and don’t end up around your ankles.  I would recommend John Lewis’s own brand of 80-100 denier* tights but having recently splashed out on Wolford’s 80 denier matt opaque tights there’s no going back.  I have washed and washed those bad boys and they truly remain perfect – walk away from the £2 multi pack, you’ll not regret it!  On the web, my personal favourites are Henry Holland’s new fringed hold-ups, Asos’s mildly unwearable yet confusingly satisfying tabaco tights and Jonathan Aston’s sweet rose anklets.

Happy folding!

*Denier:  Technically denier relates to the weight or thickness of the yarn from which the tights are woven.  The lower the denier the sheerer the appearance and the more likely the material will snag.  Denier ranges from ultra sheer (10 denier) to mega thick opaque (don’t think that’s the exact technical term) which is 100 denier and my personal denier of choice!.  Tights are functional as well as asethically pleasing.  Nope, not only do they serve the purpose of hiding hairy, white or bruised legs but they keep you cool, warm and can even make you slim!  Wayhey!  Look out for Scala Bio-Fir leggings and tights which claim to slim hips and thighs by as much as an inch and are available in John Lewis.

An inspirational outfit for an Easter weekend Party

April 19, 2011 § Leave a comment


22 YEAR OLD FASHION DESIGNER/OCCASIONAL MODEL FROM MANILA

Inspiration is all around us and can be found in the most unlikely places,  but sometimes it’s nice to recreate a look that’s right in front of you.  I am particularly fond of this outfit because it can be so easily compiled using your existing wardrobe – which is what I’m all about!  Bring together city shorts, a lace vest top or body, granny chic socks & ANY heels and a piece of wide ribbon or a chiffon scarf tied in a bow for your hair.  Add some chunky accessories and wallah!  If you have a plain wooden chunky bracelet why not paint your own design.  The most unique aspect of this outfit is obviously the silk printed jacket which can be recreated using a short dressing gown or bed jacket – and if this is something you don’t have hanging around I found some here and here.  Quick, quick, quick though as bidding ends soon!  Another perfectly feasible idea might be to use a 100% silk men’s short sleeve printed shirt, something like this one!  Using sharp scissors, start cutting from the hem of the shirt up button stand (about 2″ in), up and around the neck (removing the collar) and finally down the other side (cutting of the buttons).  If said shirt doesn’t belong to you, just nip in at the waist using a safety pin and tuck the collar underneath.  There’s a chance of course that your experimentation might go horribly wrong and you’ll end up somewhere between Miami Vice and Hawaii Five-O,- neither of which should ever be considered inspiring – but it’s worth a try!  I may just have to try this myself and post a demonstration…   Good Luck!

i

Spring cleaning your clothes: Part 1. Shoes, boots &

April 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

All this talk of another recession – mere months after the last one – has us shaking in our boots.  So its high time we learnt how to make our boots last a lot longer with some tender love & care.  This series of posts will be sourced from various books, websites & Grans (as well as using my own noggin) and neatly compiled into easy to read and hopefully enjoyable posts!  Enjoy Part 1, I’m starting with shoes and working upwards to hats.  Hopefully just in time for the royal wedding, if anyone’s lucky enough to be invited.  Although I’d imagine a new hat would be required for such an occasion.  Nevertheless, on we go.

Your shoes are stacked up high at the bottom of a cupboard, yeah?  Thrown carelessly under the bed?  Uh-huh.  They’ve seen better days, right?   This post is for you.

I have decided to get all my winter boots re-heeled this year, before stowing them away.  It would be a great idea to have your boots fit and ready for next Autumn/Winter as you’re less likely to go straight out and new a new pair when the time comes.  If your boots are losing height or flapping at the soles no DIY job will do, I’ve tried super strength shoe glue but their just ain’t no gripping!  Take them to someone in the know.  Now Timpson’s will do this effortlessly and there’s probably one on every street but try to find a local independent cobbler.   However, if your boots are just looking a wee bit shoddy then a home-job will surpass.  Begin with a good polish.  Look for the correct colour tone and remember, shoe polish IS NOT a cleaning product so make sure your boots are pristine and dry as a bone before continuing!  If you’re low on polish I’ve been told that banana peel can have the same effect.  Also a useful alternative for yellow shoes, no?  Seriously, if you do need yellow, shoe polish is now available in an array of colours.  Once you’ve vigorously rubbed (easy) the polish over your shoes, allow to dry on newsprint then buff with a clean dry cloth.  If your forearms are throbbing, you’ve done a good job.  Stuff your boots with newsprint and store away in shoe boxes.  Follow the same routine with your high heels and don’t leave it too late – the ‘crunch, crunch’ as you walk into a swanky bar is not attractive.  I am guilty of this nonetheless.

Trainers, plimsolls and fabric based shoes are wonderful because you can simply throw them in a pillowcase and into the washing machine at 30 degrees.  Take out the laces first and wash separately otherwise they’ll tangle around the shoes and fray, but if you’ve made this mistake already – tut-tut – not to worry, just pop in a fresh pair of laces for a nice ol’ change or some pretty ribbon.  Burn the ends to stop them fraying, but please be careful!!

Next.  What’s the point in having beautifully shiny shoes if they smell like crap inside… Use some lemon and bicarbonate soda, just kidding, don’t.  Really.  Otherwise your hard work vigorously polishing shoes will result in a foamy, lemony mess headed for the bin.  The real shoe fresher in question has changed my life for the better and can be found here.  I won’t spoil the surprise, but let’s just say all your shoe related bowling alley wishes will come true…

Did I forget anything?  If you have any er, shoe related queries… please don’t hesitate to contact me!

A Rough Guide To Vintage Shopping

March 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

This morning I caught up with Lily Allen’s quest for anonymity under a pile of (rather expensive) clothes.  She and her party animal sister, Sarah Owen, are setting up shop together with the help of my favourite fashion consultant, Mary Portas.  The unique concept is that while couture pieces from the likes of YSL, Ossie Clark and Dior are for sale at sky-high prices, shoppers with more flash than cash will be able to hire items at a subsidised rate.

I love vintage clothing for it’s one of a kind appeal and the feeling of being transported back to the decade you’re wearing.  My personal favourite vintage is 20’s, I love the glamour surrounding each piece and imagine myself in a smoky jazz club dancing the Charleston.  But back to 2011,  it’s not always easy if you don’t know what you’re looking for.  I have decided to compile a very quick guide to vintage shopping, by each decade, in the hope that you might find something beautiful.

If you are looking for a glamorous 1920’s ensemble, look for beaded dresses, feathers and fur.  This look is best kept for evening when you can go all out and have fun accessorising with layers and layers of pearls, pretty headbands, beaded clutch bags and a decadent fur stole.  Wear with round toe Mary Jane’s and shimmy the night away like Mr Bojangles.  30’s pieces are glamorous again but longer in length and made with sumptuous fabrics.  Look for cute hats and tailored riding jackets to wear with jeans for daytime. If you enjoy ladylike trends seek out 1940’s tea dresses and wear with pearls.  1950’s vintage dressing is all about creating womanly curves with figure hugging items such as pencil skirts and ¾ length fitted cropped jackets.  Accessorie with pretty neck-scarves and clutch bags.  Vintage prints are absolutely beautiful especially 60’s retro prints which are bold, bright and colourful.  Offset these prints with mini shapes (skirts and dresses) or pretty blouses.  Accessorise with plain, narrow, patent belts, classic knee-high boots or a statement chunky bracelet.   70’s hippie styles have unstructured and draped silhouettes, while the colours are often soft and muted which makes them great for your summer wardrobe.  This decade has been a major source of inspiration for designers this season and the high street has gone mad for hippie chic, so as well as hunting down original pieces why not seek a peep of what Phillip Green’s team have to offer.  Again, with 70’s dressing KEEP IT SIMPLE; think middle eastern touches with tan bag/shoe combos.  80’s dressing can be difficult, if you lived through the 80’s as a teenager it is more than likely that this is a decade you’d wish to completely forget about, fashion wise.  If you love the style look for shoulder pads and glitzy fabrics adorned with sequins and shimmer.  And that’s as far as vintage goes, I don’t think the 90’s qualify just yet!  So you’ll just have to wait a few years before scousers, Adidas poppers and lycra become vintage…

1920s1930s1940s1950s1960s1970s1980s

When shopping for vintage goods there are a few things to keep in mind.  More often than not a size 10 back in the day is more like a size 6 these days.  The average woman in Britain is more like a curvy size 14 now.  So when you’re looking at the finest vintage piece, YOU MUST TRY ON.  Vintage shops don’t have favourable returns policies so you may find yourself stuck with something you won’t ever wear.  When considering how much a garment costs think about the quality and condition.  LOOK AT THE LABEL, You may be surprised to find most vintage clothes are made closer to home or are even home-made.  Think of the time and care which may have gone into making one of those garments and remember anything made from wool, silk or cashmere is definitely worthy of a higher price tag.      Most importantly HAVE FUN!  Make a day of it with a friend or even better your mum, who will act as a walking encyclopaedia for vintage dressing in the 80’s, 70’s, 60’s and maybe even as far back as the 50’s!  Plan a vintage shopping route map before you leave and schedule time for afternoon tea of course.  Happy shopping!

If you haven’t seen it already, catch up with Lily and Sarah here.

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…

Ooo, er, missus!

January 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us and whether you’re single, looking, attached or other it’s good to – dare I say it – get in on the action…

While I’m not in favour of the commercialisation of saints or confessing your love for another only once a year,  I do enjoy being spoiled.  All feminism thrown to the wayside – traditionally men are supposed to spoil while the fairer sex are spoiled.  However, the internet presence in our daily lives encourages the use of methods requiring little, if any, effort come the 14th of February.  Although I’m not much of a traditional romantic, I am still traditional and would prefer not to find a token gesture e-card in my inbox come the big day.  It’s simple, no gimmicks – a home-made card and I’m anyone’s.  Men however don’t want flowers or chocolates and I’m pretty sure only the more sensitive demographic will appreciate a card.  But I think I’ve hit the nail on the head here, and I really had to think hard.  One word.  Lingerie.  I dream of silk, lace, frills and frou frou while most men are bound to choose crotchless over crocheted.  So, why not buy your own lingerie?  This leads to feeling good about yourself and securing numerous favours in the long run.  Eek, I here you scream.

Listen, It’ll be alright on the night.  Gok  rattles on and on about how to look good naked and I think it’s safe to say he’s proven – while annoying the hell out of us – that once you accept and learn to love the skin you’re in, you radiate confidence and poise on the outside.  I have so many beautiful friends who go on and on about minor body issues which in turn interferes with their daily lives and what they will or will not wear.  We all have them; scars, stretchmarks, pimples, puckering – myself included – but I find that focusing on and shouting about these imperfections eats away at you, while not improving them at all!!  Why waste your breath.  You are not your imperfections they are merely part of you.  Perfection is generally the ultimate goal among us gals, and as I write this I’m sure there are many women vigorously spooning Special K into their unsatisfied mouths.  And If you are on a diet, February the 14th is the perfect opportunity to showcase your bod.  A halfway point if you will.  Have I convinced you yet?!

Though impractical and no alternative to the humble seamless t-shirt bra, I love the idea of a 1920’s bullet bra & French knickers combo a la Madonna circa 1980.  If you don’t fancy donning an authentic pair of panties from the likes of the salvation army or your local vintage emporium, What Katie Did has some beautiful replica vintage satin sets.  SockBox is a haven for all things girly from the thigh down but if you are handy with a needle and thread why not add bunches of chiffon roses to existing hold-ups to make them more unique or simply stitch on a bow.  Try dyeing and adding satin roses to the straps of an outdated bra to give it a new lease of life, put on some pearls and you could be Carrie Bradshaw.  Should you wish to be Bradshaw.  Enjoy!

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…

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