Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Beware Coffee Shops

It was in the 18th century that coffee houses were the hot bed of money, politics, intrigue, news and business - a veritable place for ideas to percolate. Today, a local cafe provides a few minutes of timely solitude for a mother of a two year old.

I've been training my son to sit with his peach juice and Italian wafer biscuits for months in Caffe Nero. He duly sits and scoffs while I read the paper. I'll grab any available one, not fussy as I enjoy 20 minutes of reading. As luck would have it, the one paper abandoned for the next customer was The Guardian. Skipping the main news section to G2 I tucked in greedily to Linda Grant's article on ethical shopping. The main draw was her questioning the price of luxury goods and a fab piccie of Anna Wintour (who I shamelessly adore despite her dreadful ways including wearing fur). Anna aside, (imagine!) the article was arresting and repelling in one go. http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/fashion/story/0,,2248591,00.html

I have one longing this season - specifically a Marni skirt and now I'm filled with doubt. Not just for said skirt but having to question everything. Fashion, production, pricing and where to buy. I felt very strongly when Burberry shut their South Wales factory to hot foot it off to Asia. Three hundred people dispensed with - just like that. So I don't buy their clothes, don't use their clothes for styling shoots and don't buy their clothes for my clients either. But now the net is widened. From High Street to High End, issues galore - only a Hermes Birkin bag and a Chanel couture number escapes the cheapness - alas mere mortals.
Pushing the young boy home I struggled with the options. I decided I needed to earn money so mustn't cut off my nose to spite my face ref clients and their needs/budgets. After all better to be dressed well than not. And, anyway I don't tell people what to do, just how to look good. But I'm stuffed, my conscience is going to win over my heart.

I need to figure out how and what I'm going to do.....and is the Marni skirt off the wish list....

Sunday, 27 January 2008


There is nothing like a trawl through the Daily Mail to cheer you up. A paper full of sniping at rich and poor alike. The paper has no fewer than 6 Facebook groups dedicated to taking the mickey of said daily. My favourite is their current obsession with Zac Goldsmith. Take a peek at this latest article on his supposed womanising ways.

It all makes me glad of my blissful unexposed lifestyle. Who cares what I'm doing or what I'm wearing. I can potter about at the allotment, shop for a client and make a loaf or two without a second thought. I actually am really not interested in the life of Mr Goldsmith but the surmising and commentary on him is fascinating because it is so sniffy and pompous. It seems the Daily Mail are hellbent on destroying people's marriages whilst equally condemning those who stray/divorce.

I'm sure Zac Goldsmith's only vice is being a bit of a posh, rich cheesecloth loving homemade bread maker who encourages people to think about the environment.

I don't listen to the wealthy and loaded - it's to easy to preach when you've got a health bank balance. Far harder to strive for better things while balancing the household budget. I, as a poor cheesecloth loving homemade bread maker can't be bothered to tell people what to do unless it concerns their wardrobe and shopping habits - then I'm particularly bossy and come across as a bit Daily Mail.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Channeling the land girls

Gordon Bennett this allotment thing is quite a task. Trust bloody Jamie to make it seem all chipper and a good lark. All I did today was mark out the plot with sticks and string - hardly taxing.

Granted, the sunshine and fresh air was a tonic in itself. And yes there was allotment bon aimee - lots of hellos and name introductions - so quite a community feel. I was suitably attired in hunters, a nice gentry jacket and some old Miu Miu sunnies. All in all it felt good but the sight of old carpets and tons of brambles with nothing but hands and grit to move them is quite a feat. Hubbie and I have drawn lots on shift work. Gone are my ideas of Margo head scarves - more like Amy Winehouse putting out the bins!

It is making a shopping session on Oxford Street with a client looking like a walk in the park. If you see a bossy stylist with what looks like a bramble attached in a random fashion - you'll know its me.

Thursday, 24 January 2008


Quite a few people have emailed of late after reading my book and queried my wardrobe lists!
The point of contention is the specified work outfits.
When I compiled the wardrobe list for work items in Winter or Summer, I had a typical person in mind, principally an office worker in a town/city. The typical person also tended to work in a school, customer services or as a receptionist at a GP surgery, for example - these are all just examples!!

I wanted to get the reader to plan a smart working wardrobe. The clothes for work were entirely separate to clothes they wore in a informal/weekend/going out context.
And yes I'm all for people dressing properly for work and if I had my way would ban dress down days. This is a reaction to number of years of working with engineers mainly sporting fleeces. They thought I was a brand/marketing luvvie, one down from fashion police. Enough asides....

The point of wardrobe lists is to provide a structure to stop over spending, keep you on track with your budget and to have a wardrobe of items you can mix and match.
So those of you who've got the book and don't want to wear shirts to work that's fine. Just choose tops instead but stick to same amount and make sure they work with your other items.
The same is true for those of you who work in environments which are more creative/casual. Plan your wardrobe accordingly and enjoy the freedom this work environement affords but still try to make the effort to dress up. If you need help Mrs Fashion's blog (working 9 - 5) puts together some great outfits you could copy but perhaps limit net-a-porter to a treat! Once I've mastered this blogging malarkey I might be able to help too!!
Adapt the lists accordingly to your needs and your budget - but don't lose sight that less is more when planned and executed well.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

A Helping Hand....

Warehouse have a line called Retro Chic. In the midst of this nothingness is a red dress that immediately made me think of Katharine Hepburn and a film she made in Venice in 1955 called Summertime. It is one of my favourite films to while away an afternoon with, along with Aunt Mamie. Both utterly trivial and great fun.
It is a shirt dress and has a lovely wide skirt - the only image I could get of it was the black version. At £45 it seems a good buy or is it? Does this dress look out of step with the modern cuts we've become accustomed to? Am I just lovin' it on the basis of Ms.Hepburn?
What do you think? Imagine red.......

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Creative influence

So far this year has been about practical influence - getting one's house in order. A fresh and frugal start to the year. What with an allotment and baking bread a reader of this blog could be forgiven that I'm more likely to be found sporting dirt under nails than Chanel's White Satin on them. Actually, today I'm wearing Blue Satin, with a dusting of Azur (#465) for added sparkle in these dreary days of January.

Trawling through the magazines and some shop stock checks, I'm finding my creative fix hard going with the exception of nail polish experimentation. I'm wanting to embrace S/S 08 but in reality I'm not sure there is much to really embrace. I will as usual plumb for a 1930's/1970's influence whatever this season's new name for this reworked and reworked trend is. Call it Miami, Riviera or Studio 54 - it all boils down to a few key items, wide leg trews, stripe number, hooped earrings, a white sac or tote/basket, bejewelled thonged flats and some great shades. The two main inspirational interpretations this season are Atonement (ref that dress) and Charlie Girl (ref 1970s perfume ad). With the re-emergence of Halston as a brand you choose hippy chic, out of Africa prints, Japanese influence and surrealism (strange prints) to be radical.

Happily this season leaves you with lots of choice with colour, (yellow to beige to lilac for starters) fabric (sheer and flowing) and the odd splash of florals as a nod to the knowing (pleats a la sportswear might be a step too far, more P&O Cruise than Great Gatsby). You can choose gold and try some prints (think Marni esque) as if Jackie O wafting through Capri/St Tropez/Greek Island.

I like to think of myself as a modern tomboy with a penchant for lady like elegance, this would render me fairly conservative and predictable if it wasn't for some inner Patricia Field given to statements and ensembles which are more am dram at times than sartorial statement. I am probably the only person I know who this season would wear a floral jumpsuit/all in one without a care in the world - and last season I was muted by several friends as the person most likely to wear the Prada turban, either hoovering or shopping at the greengrocers. Yet I've been hard pressed to get back my fashion mojo which I need to sharpish for work!

I've been living off my wits and have had only one trusted friend for shopping/outfit debates - that is until the world of blogging opened before my very eyes. Oh joy the day of discovering Mrs Fashion, useful tips from Flashy Shades and detail and information of Style Bubble. They provide me with food for thought and have woken me from my slumber of seeds and yeast to galvanise me.

Today was out with the old -a few worn items and a check on my trusty spring, summer items packed away so carefully in September. A few key items will update the lot and with the right sunglasses choice, thank you Erin, some healthy views of Susie-Bubble and the darn delights of Mrs F I'm feeling quite chipper about it all...now if only I could find the perfect dress.....

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Flexible Friend

In the interests of saving money without compromising on style, product testing is vital to check usability against relevance. It is no good buying a cheap mascara if it looks awful, feels awful and reduces your lashes in the process of application.

To date, I have been very loathed to compromise on mascara. At the least I'd go down to Clarins or Lancombe. At my height of splurging I fell in love with Chantecaille's silky little wand thanks to Space NK.
So when a helpful fellow mascara devotee mentioned Maybelline's define-a-lash, I was sceptical.
The price was right - it's currently discounted in Boots, retailing approx for £5.70 although r.r.p is £7.89. And after reading the blurb I woke up and applied the mascara. It is great!

Basically the mascaras is made of the IFX rubber they have on Max Factor's masterpiece mascaras (yes well random science smonkeiness). The Maybelline define -a-lash brush has a very slight curve in the straight brush. It's also loaded with spiky rubber spikes to properly separate the lashes. Oh the tube also only lets out the perfect amount of mascara on the brush, so unlike Rimmel mascaras you won't pull out a gloopy string of the stuff.
The mascara is the right consistency for at least three coats of mascara . I would like to point out that this is a lengthening mascara not volumising... it would be god sent if it could do both. However you can create more volume if you curl the lashes before hand. All said and done for a high street offering you can't go wrong.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Easy tiger!

Sometimes I read about a new direction or the latest thing and completely dismiss it - nope, no way, never. In the back of my mind Vogue muttered something about pale denim. In fact any number of fashion editors or columnists might have been alluding to the new look for denim and I've happily ignored them.

Pale Blue Hulsey Glides by Sass and Bide

In fairness pale denim does have a poor history, most notably in M&S and BHS, both specialists in the high waisted, large cut, straight legged pale denim number in size 16 and over. I've witness many a person rave over these shapeless numbers as they opt for comfort over style. These women love the fact M&S do jeans in a size 20. I spend countless hours willing myself not to comment, look and concentrate on my client who is trying on some Limited Collection number, as I'm stood in the changing rooms in Marble Arch. I don't think I can set foot in M&S again, as too many dear old ladies ask me does their bum look alright in their shapeless trousers. I'm always telling them to go down a size! I don't flatter myself they are asking me because I'm a stylist. Nope its mainly because I'm there and in their radar or they think I'm staff.

The other barrier to pale denim is my next door neighbour. He is Ray Winstone. Well, actually he's a character Ray Winstone has/would play. My neighbour is a right Cockney geezer, runs a pub in Fulham, traditional number, does karaoke for the punters, his exercise of choice is boxing and he's definitely ducked and dived. He wears very pale denim jeans, straight legged almost tapered. They fit and he's not a fat boy. OK so the trainers and black leather jacket don't help. The first time I saw him in said ensemble I was visibly shocked to the trained eye, hence blanking out the whole move towards pale denim.

This summer I am likely to be sporting a pair but I'll start cheap as chips with some skinny ones from UNIQLO at £24.99. Worn with wedge espadrilles and a nice tee it should come together alright. Best check before I step out in them - don't want next door complimenting me on my jeans!

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Johnnie Boden is back!

After a couple of weeks of all quiet in my in box - (well who gets email these days when you're on Facebook?) Johnnie couldn't resist and proudly proclaimed the arrival of his new collection. God the man is prolific - pages and pages of the stuff.

I happily played buy the item (mentally, no parting with money!) and within minutes I'd racked up over £300 worth of stuff with a pair of Prussian blue leather slides, pale denim wide leg jeans, a jersey crinkle shirt in rose. A stripey long tee and a stripey vest top. Adding a navy grainy leather handbag, a tank top in orange and a turquoise halter neck bikini top and bottoms I was all packed ready for me to have a sunny weekend away. Just add passport, a skirt and a towel plus toiletries.

That done I felt quite cheered up on a miserable blustery January morning. Wrapping my 100% pashmina round me while I Bodened out for 5 mins was even nicer.


Best place for reasonable top quality ones.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Knead it!

The verb 'need' is the only one I've used of any significance. Oh I need that dress etc.etc. Except now I have a new 'knead' in my life - kneading bread.

Despite a few peoples scepticism or even disbelief, I'm now making my own bread. What's more it is very nice indeed - having home made bread. No two loaves are the same in size but every loaf to date has tasted wonderful.

I'm really shocked how easy it is to make, how much cheaper it is and how nice the smell is of freshly baking bread. The saving is 50% compared to an equivalent supermarket number making the loaves a great earner for me - over a year it is £104 saved. Which is one twelfth of a nice Chanel bag!

Sunday, 13 January 2008

In and out

I'm always quite impatient for the paperboy to arrive on Sunday. It is a new phenomena having the paper delivered as for many years I had the luxury of living next door to a shop. At 8:30am I consider him to be late. A routine has developed, I keep one ear out to hear him drop The Sunday Times on the mat outside the front door. I open said door (usually in dressing gown), Gareth (he gave us a Christmas card - ingenious as you leave one out for him with a tip or else how would you enjoy your Christmas lunch) re mounts his bike and mutter some unintelligible comment - it could be morning or p*ss off, who knows. I think (about G.) 'couldn't you have bought yourself an ipod with your Xmas tip money'. He annoyingly cycles round delivering the papers with his mobile phone playing tunes.

Cup of coffee in hand, I sit down to read the paper for the next hour before my run. My routine follows the same pattern, Style magazine, Money and then News Review. Not every single article is digested I do that later and also move onto the Sunday Times magazine and then main news bit - by Tuesday. Now, I realise my habits, reasonable or otherwise are of no earthy consequence to you. The reason for sharing my morning's method of procedure is to take you to the point I almost leaped in the air with delight. I certainly exclaimed 'Oh yes!'. Because - with must gusto and a more forthright manner than I could muster, AA Gill stated exactly the same point as I made in my book Make do & Mend, in this weeks Table Talk article.

Now I love AA Gill - he is as direct as Jeremy Clarkson but with more panache and fortitude. Well, they both have an equal firmness of mind, just Jeremy tends to employ stream of consciousness - unthinkingly!

Mr Gill was pouring forth on the banality of diet and certain peeps relationship with their bodies. Anyway one paragraph says it all:
'So, here is my broken resolution, and a final word on size and food. Pay attention. All diets work. When I taught cooking, people used to say that recipes didn’t work. Well, all recipes work, if you know how to cook. The Kama Sutra works, if you know how to shag. It’s not diets that fail, it’s you, you miserable, spineless, sticky-fingered fridge magnet. All diets come down to the same sentence: more in than out, you get fat; more out than in, you get thin. It’s not rocket science, it’s bicycle science.'

For the full version ...

Ah happy days, see page 32 of my book which reads, 'Basically the same principle of income and expenditure is translated to food. What you put in and what your expends equals your weight.'

And for those of you who won't stop badgering me about sales bargains, count to 10 and think about if you'd still love said item in 6 months. If you have to cave into your weak wills, then on-line Matches.com offers plenty of designer handbag bargains. If your lucky enough to live near Esher nipped to Bernards of Esher - yes ignore the name it is a great little emporium, more stockbrokers wives than footballers. That said if you want a great bargain of a Marc Jacobs bag - Bernards is your destination. But please do read Hunter Davies in Sunday Times money first and then think about your credit card bill.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Designer insight

Ah yes the heralded "topical discussion" took place at the Design Museum last night.

My expectations were zero - I was attending to get myself out of the house (away from bread making - more of this another time) and dress up.

A trouble free journey into Tower Hill tube, a pleasant saunter over Tower Bridge and along Butler's Wharf were a further plus. I dutifully lined up with gathered attendees as a 'billy no mates' and then we entered the Design Studio where said fashion industry talk was being held. As I walked in I beheld a vision in white (Anna Garner - head of fashion at Selfridges), a mane of hair (Alexandra Shulman - Editor of British Vogue) and a gleaming tanned feature (Joseph Velosa CEO of Matthew Williamson).

I sat down and waited. A lovely faux but better vision of Agyness Deyn sat next to me and across the small gap we were shortly joined by a man and his companion. I looked down at the Johnny Depp pirate boots and saw the glass of red wine in hand and realised it was Matthew Williamson himself.

I was of course sans vino of any description as not a VIP. It was all I could do to stop my hand grabbing my phone and taking a photo - in the interest of blogging of course. Happily I sat demurely and restrained.

The talk kicked off with an eloquent intro from Joseph - who remained so, for the duration of said talk. He was an immensely interesting and clever man. Clearly a marriage of creativity and business acumen enabling the 10 Years of Matthew Williamson that is being celebrated at the Design Museum.

Anyway back to the talk. The format undertaken entailed two design students posing the initial q's for the panel of Anna, Alexandra and Joseph to answer. What struck my immediately were that both the female and male student were not British. Their names seemed Scandinavian or Northern European and their accents were heavily pronounced. The questions were contrived, predictable and at times quasi design student intellectual. Matthew and his bon ami were very naughty and kept pulling faces and sniggering at times. I had to stop myself from shouting out 'this is London calling can we please have the results of the Helsinki jury'. Whilst the panel conducted themselves very professionally. I didn't gain much additional insight into the fashion industry although I did note how stick thin Matthew's legs were.

Joseph Velsoa struck me as the person you'd want to manage your business and your budget. Unhappily I couldn't ask him for any make do top tips or discuss balancing the budget, nor Matthew style advice, although he excuded individuality and creativity.
Given my close proximity to Mr Williamson I refrained from asking a question when Norway and Germany had given up and the opportunity was opened to the floor. I have no ides what q's were asked as they were duller than the ones by the students. From the talk itself, I can tell you that a notable Italian Fashion house didn't advertise with Vogue for a year as they got huffy about lack of editorial coverage - my guess is it was Dolce & Gabbana. Based on a flick through past Vogue issues. All's well that ends well, they are back as advertisers see February's issue!

Another irrelevant fact is that Paul Smith generates the least column inches as a designer/fashion house but achieves one of the highest sales as a fashion retailer. It was a whole hype versus reality debate - serious student issue along with the cut of the fabric recognition matter. It's all about drapery.

In short I had an agreeable little sojourn. I duly thanked the panel on my way out, being polite and all that but spoilt the demure, elegant exit by tripping over the taped floor lead. Durr, no excuse in flat boots! Mind you it wasn't as good as MW's companion scuttling behind the maestro as he made a sharp exit right away from the hoi poloi.

Don't ya just love a man who wears a black very fluffy fake fur jacket.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

The new florals v the new vegtables

The deed is done! I am now the proud owner of an allotment thanks to Gary the Ranger.
The thought and reality of it all is truly daunting but thanks to Jamie and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, plus armed with organic allotment book by Susan Berger - I am up for it!

The potential is there, not just for producing vegetables and fruit but having a bolt hole. Somewhere to escape to and be immersed in digging and toiling. Let's face it I haven't got a Cotswold number nor a dream place in France. So allotment it is.

What with blubbing at Hugh's chicken programme on Channel 4, reading Jamie and Susan I've completely forgotten about my day job. To get back on track I'm off to the Design Museum to a talk on Thursday night billed as a 'topical discussion relating to the fashion industry'.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Paper round better alternative?

I thought having a baby one year, followed by a wedding the next was enough. Hell no....two months before our first anniversary we'd moved lock, stock and barrel from Bristol to London. Three years of non stop STRESSors.

Financially it has all taken its toll and that's before petrol went up to a million squid for a droplet. Normally at this time of year I would be planning my spring/summer wardrobe. Oh yes before the March magazines make it in to the house for evening of flicking and picking with the full weight of the collections, I'd normally be on cruise control. I will still be looking at trends, thinking which translates best into 2008 and a women's everyday needs. I will be checking the shops stock from high street to high fashion stores but I am really going to have to be inventive this year with my alterations and dying. If see someone dressed head to toe in black in the height of summer chances are it will be me or this could be the year of the burka.

Having got into this making do mindset I need our household sheets to be balanced and healthy. I don't function well now with minus accounts, I prefer black to red - red is still my number one choice for lipstick though! Foolishly,to help the household budget, a few days ago I publicly announced allotment fever. Now the reality is beginning to dawn.

The book is here, Allotment Gardening by Susan Berger. It is informative, useful and looks like it will be my bible instead of my glorious collection of style books. I am really having to gloss over the descriptions of the people who are allotment peeps. I know I'm going to channel Margo not the Felicity Kendall character from the Good Life and I have a pair of old Gucci sunglasses that I will wear come rain or shine. Most of all I know I've got a lot of digging and doing ahead. My husband luckily is a willing accomplice in this adventure.

Alternatively I could just get a paper round.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

To sale or not to sale

Sale purchases are hotly debated amongst stylists and fashion journos. Some are for, some are against and no one agrees on anything. The for camp think you can bag some key pieces by designers at a fraction of the price, all are agreed these pieces have to have some 'classic' appeal or longevity. The against camp think why would you buy things no one wanted and save your money for the new season, buy cruise now.

I'm of the opinion that unless you are solvent, have no debts other than a mortgage, have saved money specifically for the sales - then forget it regardless of bargains and desired items. Why add to your debt, why start the new year with money going the wrong way. The next three months are key to changing habits and stemming any cash flow issues. Clear you debts first start saving second then thirdly if there is anything left over you can do with what you like.

I read the other day that a financial consultant believes you should save a percentage of your earnings based on halving your age! If you are 30 then that's 15% to go into savings, 25 then 12.5% and so on. You can do the math and you can choose to curb your spending and think credit not debit.

Friday, 4 January 2008

New Year, new objectives

I was rightly asked what I would be doing this year to cut expenditure. My first investment was in Jamie Oliver's latest book 'Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life'. I got it for £12.99 in Sainsbury and it is for sale at £12.49 on Amazon - see not just pluggin' my own little number!

The point of getting the book was to follow up my long held desire to get an allotment. I've always doubted my commitment, time or ability to have one. However, Jamie (bless his chubby cheeks) spurred me on to dump the £14.90 a week delivered organic fruit and veg box and get my hands dirty. A ranger is taking me to choose a plot!

Then the second money saving idea came to me today when reading The Independent - bake my own bread! The paper had an extract from essays by Dr Tom Allinston. Very interesting!

Here is the link:

I'll let you know how I get on both financially and time wise.

If you really need to cut the cost - stay in, don't shop and make the most of the dullness to avoid all temptation that is January, February and March!

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Good Habits for 2008

Thank you to everyone who has encouraged me along the way and also to fellow bloggers Mrs Fashion, Fashion Addict Rehab and Flashy Shades.

This blog will bring you top tips to save money, keep you stylish on a budget and make you smile too xx

Today's top tip - this is the month you cut up your credit card. No more excuses. Sit down, pour a glass of wine, (unless you are in detox mood) take a deep breath and work out your budget.

If you need help then buy my book via this link

Shameless I know but it's reasonable and a great investment.