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!

Weird and Wonderful Footwear

April 14, 2011 § 2 Comments

I stumbled upon some interesting footwear while researching for the previous post:

Feet shoes? If you like it au natural without the pain...

One step further...

Next time you think you have no shoes to wear. Think again.

Ill have mine to go

Try sliding into these babies

Ouch

Out with the new(ish), In with the old. A seasonal guide to organising your clothes

April 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today I decided enough was enough.  I’m through with winter and the hats, gloves, scarves and coats it has entailed.   No longer will we cover our perfectly put together outfits with a big winter coat.  The sun is shining and surely three days of wearing sunglasses in a row is as good an indication as any that Summer is here baby!!  Plus, I saw a bee only yesterday, a sure sign.

Does everyone endure the yearly ritual of ousting winter apparel in favour of floral prints and playsuits, rattan and straw items deemed only suitable for Spring/Summer wearability?!  I certainly do, and it’s jolly well exciting too.  I reminisce over the life and times of each article as it’s placed neatly in drawers or suitably hung on vintage padded hangers.  I feel like I’ve gained an entirely new wardrobe in a number of minutes.  If you don’t partake in this systematic process, it’s time to begin!  Trust me, as you nervously stow away the jumper that is definitely too thick for a warm summers day but might be suitably cosy around a camp fire  – PUT IT AWAY, there are no ifs in this game.  Think about how each piece has brought you joy, and PUT IT AWAY.  You’ll feel better for it, forget about it and next year you’ll fall in love all over again.  For example there’s the FAUX fur coat which I wore to death.  It kept me warm on those cold and dark mornings and on one occasion got mild abuse from a passer-by in the street; “fur kills animals”.  Erm… I think you’ll find firstly, that im not wearing real fur, and secondly that fur does not kill animals.  No idea.  Then there’s the collar, my one true love… I am cautious about stowing away this beauty, but over-worn is an understatement.  There’s no point wasting valuable wardrobe space for items that probably wont be worn until the fist hint of snow, which in all honesty could be next week.  Fingers crossed that isn’t the case.

Storage is key here so you may want to invest in vacuum pack bags or simply utilise an old trunk.  And don’t use black bin liner – they are THE worst idea for both storage and transportation!!  They take up huge amounts of pace and look bloody awful and can be mistaken for rubbish, which is what they’re for.  So don’t use them, and I’ll tell you why…   As I was heading back down to Uni after a Summer at home, I’d left all the bags I wanted to be packed away in the car at the top of the stairs for my Dad to move.  The car was so full I had to leave a number of things behind which was rather annoying!  Anyway, we arrived in Glasgow and began unpacking the car and I spotted a bin liner and a box which I didn’t recognise.  It turned out to be utter rubbish, not belongings that were unessential in my new abode but literally RUBBISH!  We’d driven 400 odd miles with rubbish that had taken up valuable space in the car.  Ridiculous.

So, begin by packing away thick WOOLLEN CLOTHING ie jumpers, polo-necks, winter-knits, cardigans, knitted hotpants?  They were around for a bit, no?  It’s best they’re at the bottom so that the other items squash them flat.  Aha.  Next, pack away any LEATHER CLOTHING which you definitely won’t be wearing at the height of (a very sweaty) Summer!  I have leather trousers, a skirt and shorts which will be sorely missed but i’ll have the pleasure of them next winter.  Keep the leather jacket though!  You may also want to put away any PRINTS such as brocade, tartan or anything that’s more suited to Christmas parties etc…  Lastly pack away accessories such as scarves, winter hats, gloves, ear-warmers, muffs, ski-bands, thick legwarmers/tights.  Obviously if you own any FUR garments, chuck em’ in there too!  I tend to pack away very sparkly accessories too, which are more suited to Christmas time.  Pop a couple of lavender bags in there to keep the moths at bay and you’re all set.

Of course it’s brilliant to have a wardrobe which takes you season through season and from day to night, but I pack away my things mostly for the excitement of opening them up again next year.

Is it too early to fish out my flip-flops?  Yes, yes it is.

Next post:  A guide to looking after your clothes…

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.

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!

John Galliano – The Show Must Go On

March 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Everybody’s talking about it so,  I googled ‘Galliano’ and stumbled upon the video in question.  The Sun had what I was after – shock – and I swiftly hit play

Well, well, well – what a naughty boy huh?  My feelings on the matter are as follows:

The slurring of his – almost inaudible – speech and his defensive stance as he uttered the words “I love Hitler…” (eek), indicate intoxication that much is certain!  He is as flamboyant in his mannerisms as he is in clothing design and dress sense.  The words are shocking and there is never an excuse for anti-Semitic behaviour.  However, in this instance I am not supportive of the couple being targeted.  Controversial or what.  Well, they do say a lil’ controversy ups the visit count to a blogger’s site!  That isn’t my motivation however…

In this situation, I can’t help but feel sorry for Galliano himself.  The couple involved are quite clearly taking great pleasure in capturing what is being said on their home video camera, most likely with the intention of selling the material for a hefty sum.  And that they did!  The pair giggle at points and utter blasphemous slurs.  Yes, they’re suffering a wave of abuse but if you use the Lord’s name as just another expletive, you are breaking the 3rd commandment right!!  I’m trying to demonstrate the point that these arguments aren’t always black and white.  The words coming out of Galliano’s mouth are quite frankly ridiculous, absurd even.  I don’t believe for a second it’s his religious stance.  I personally think this was an aggregated attack, which has led to the downfall of an extremely talented individual.  The incident obviously left Dior with no choice but to part ways with Galliano.  Since the 50 year old’s sacking last week, it was not clear whether his Spring/Summer 2012 collection would be shown to the press at all.  However, after negotiations, Galliano’s people settled on holding a low-key presentation instead of a big-budget runway show.  This is not the first time that a celebrities bad behaviour has been ousted, and i’m not sticking up for them!  I especially don’t rate celebrities as trend-setters as you well know!!  But this incident does demonstrates the extreme pressure celebrities are under to keep their guard up at all times, whilst remembering that someone out there with a camera might just be filming their atrocities.  Fame?  No thank you.

John Galliano is rumoured to be in a rehabilitation centre in Arizona on the advice of his close friends in the fashion business.  I wish I could just jet off to rehab each time life got a little tough, wouldn’t that be nice!  I’m sure after a couple of months, all will be forgotten and John Galliano will be snapped up by another fashion label.

What’s your opinion?  I’d love to know…

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…

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