Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Racing looks - gyspy vamp

Sunshine, festival fever due to Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the Epsom Derby build up are all happening in my world. Despite the fact I would vote for a republic tomorrow I cannot help but enjoy the fact a party is happening. The party girl in me loves the splendour of streets, hight streets and houses being dressed up in flags and bunting. It just looks so cheery.

On Friday I shall be attending, for the first time, Ladies' Day at the Epsom Derby. The Queen will be kicking off her Jubilee celebrations the next day at the Investee Derby race. And the travellers are in town with their fairground and caravans amassing. It seems horse racing bridges all sections of the social classes. The Epsom Derby reflects this with its Queen's Stand, the Grandstand enclosure, the Lonsdale enclosure and then the Upper Tattenham enclosure not forgetting the common land where everyone has the right to go for free. All priced differently or not at all.

My outfit for Friday is very much a reference to the sixties. I am avoiding the WAG (for want of a better label) look and avoiding a Middleton look too. Black Prada bowed kitten heels will be teamed with a blue vintage dress bought from Penny Dreadful Vintage and a red Christian Dior clutch. No fascinator nor a hat will grace my head as my hair will be in a beehive with a black ribbon around it. Jewellery will be minimal apart from a pair of tiny gold studs and this Elizabeth bracelet 

I do have a plan B dress but it is fortunately a blue Moschino dress which still fits the 60s Mad Men vibe I wish to channel.  My nail varnish is causing me my biggest headache as I can't choose between Chanel's 'Blue Boy' or 'May'.

But what if I were going to sit on the common ground by the travellers fair? What would I wear? In the midst of the current Celine style chic a gyspy look seems kind of rebellious and against the grain!

 (image: IMDb)

My choice of  nail colour as a gypsy would be Chanel 'Pirate' in recognition of Judy Garland who starred in The Pirate (1948) 

This Tory Burch maxi skirt from Net-A-Porter (£370) is just the ticket for flouncing around and worn with a jacquard viscose top from Warehouse (£38) says free spirit. All that is need is a shawl, like this one from
 M&S for £29.50 and these fringe hoop earrings £40 from Stella and Dot. Of course I would go bare foot...

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Grow Your Own

As I tended my small patch in the garden of veg, namely peas, beans, radishes, spinach and rocket plus the wonderful no real effort required rhubarb and rosemary I was reflecting on a dress I had just dropped off to the dry cleaners. It is a dress I bought from Penny dreadful Vintage and it was a hand made 50s or 60s number I forget which. This dress is lovely and I will post pictures of it when I wear it on Friday at Ladies Day at the Epsom Derby.

The dress needed a new zip so I choose a modern one which, with its hard edge is a complete contrast to the heritage of the dress. I rallied against keeping it looking authentic by replacing like for like. But more importantly the dress reminded me how rubbish these days I am at making my own clothes. As a student I happily ran up anything, using the college's equipment or a friends machine. Then I had my own machine and continued my own creations plus cushions and quilts. When it broke so did my endeavours.

Singer 160 Anniversary Sewing Machine £399 John Lewis

I need to grow my own again not just in the garden but in the home. A. I could make cushion covers at a drop of a hat and B. trousers - I really need to make trousers again. Made to measure trousers are the best next to expensive well made trousers. And skirts are so easy to make too but I do realise I need to go on a refreshers course as my ability to run the material well in terms of tension will be a bit wobbly to start with, not to mention getting my waft and weave correct!!

Do you sew your own? Which home machine would you recommend?

Monday, 28 May 2012

Gardener's Choice

Last week I found myself immersed in a nightly viewing of BBC2's RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012. Not only was it pleasing on the eye but easy on the ear too, all hushed voices and soothing sounds.

Episode 11 was my favourite because one of the presenters was wearing a floral number that was bang on trend for now. Rachel de Thame's sartorial clothes choices were delightful. These trousers from Zara were the pick of the bunch so to speak.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

High Street Pick of the Week

The sun is out and it feels like the only way to go is white. Nothing is more chic than white in the urban sun. Not only does it keep you cool, the mere fact you are wearing white indicates you are cool and are cool with any dirt or stains that might happen.

There are a number of white frocks on the high street that are worth a punt but this one from Mint Velvet is great value for its simplicity, ease and design.

Mint Velvet Circle Detail dress £79 from John Lewis and House of Fraser

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Virtual Trunk Show

On June 4th one person will be a lucky winner of free jewellery and 40% off discounts as I will be drawing out of a hat, all the names of people who have bought on Stella & Dot from my Virtual Mystery Hostess Trunk show 

This trunk show is open to anyone in the UK, Canada or the US. The prize fund currently stands at £50 or the equivalent in dollars. The most popular item so far is the Elizabeth bracelet which retails for £26, the year our Lizzie was born and costs £2.95 to ship/post. The lovely Florabel who lives in California emailed me today to say she had received hers!

Place any order on my Stella & Dot website between now and June the 3rd and you will be in with a chance to win free jewellery from the lovely Stella & Dot range as featured in Vogue, Grazia etc.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Oh bless M&S

What do I say? I told you so is no good and no help. I wrote a blog post on M&S Womenswear ages ago when Bolland was appointed Chief Executive and I'm too goddam lazy to find it. Basically I can't face shifting through 6 years of blog posts. But your profits are down (again) most notably in Womenswear.

In essence my views haven't changed and I vaguely remember the points I made so here is my M&S overhaul proclamation part deux.
1. Get rid of Per Una now. I feel there is no need to justify this comment.
2. I would keep Autograph and Limited Collection they are good and can be built on think of them as your Topshop Boutique and Topshop Unique. Stop thinking of Autograph as competition for MaxMara Weekend. Starting thinking of it as cutting edge quality style with a fashion emphasis (see image above). Limited Collection is your bona fide nod to all things fashion.
3. Sort your merchandising out - when there is a run on something get more in and out on the shelves. Biscuit tins or shoes I care not but fulfil demand. Create waiting lists, anything that is a nod to demand and an attempt to satisfy it.
4. Stop playing music in stores. You cannot get it right to suit a broad spectrum of the population - desist at once it is annoying. Be leaders in this field of pointless noise pollution. M&S should be an oasis of calm, a place of serenity that we can pop into for soothing our souls.
5. Start delivering your food.
6. Stop those ads they are now nauseating it is time for a change. The last one was a step too far. We are in hard times and to see people flaunting their fabulousness in an egg and spoon race was a tipping point.
7. Other than Autograph and Limited Collection do not have any other collection titles just apparel in useful categories like jumpers, skirts, trousers and dresses well merchandised within the store. I think it is time for a return to those days of jumpers folded up on stands. An injection of the old would provide a focal point to clarify the heritage of M&S.
8. Relevance - find the relevance again not just when we carried away by biscuit tin appraisal in Grazia or your new A/W moody clothes shots, which I love btw. The relevance to me or to the other person and their needs. To the 20,30,40,50,60 and over person. How do you intend to deal with the fact we are more likely to be shopping for items in Zara than M&S when we are 70 and no Mary Portas is not the answer. She has a very good point but the spectrum is a broad one. There is a disconnect between what you do/offer and how. Those wonderful brooding new images will not be born out in store because the merchandising won't be that good and when the stock comes in won't be known by staff/customer services.
9. Why can't you have wardrobe staples that are executed in a way they are staples within the store for a 5 year period. The white shirt, the navy crew jumper, the white/grey/black t-shirt in crew and v neck options - you know what I mean. A focal point of mediocrity in one sense but a much needed certainty for a woman's wardrobe in another.
10. The changing rooms - they are dire. Both you and John Lewis have the worst changing room systems and spaces. Not an easy one to fix I know but it is to do with the store layout and I'm no expert but they need sorting, that deep red colour is too gloomy for starters.

Limited Collection Dress £49.50 Leather Gloves £39.50 Belt £25 Bracelet £12.50 Earrings £12.50 

[Image at top: Autograph Coat £129 Autograph Top £49.50 Autograph Skirt £29.50]

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Metal Guru

Yes I know it is all about diamond and gold this season what with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and a bit of gold fever for the fashionistas (that includes you Mrs Fab) but I had a sudden nostalgia for silver. Why I was a mere flag waving child when the Queen did her Silver Jubilee tour as my late Grandma held my hand. Not only that it was a lovely summer, yes a proper sun shining one.

Bring back silver I say and pray for a heat wave effect. And where better to get your silverware than at the temple of Boden. Yes, yes my conversion (thanks to Mrs H of Borth) to Boden still stands, the quality, the price points for most items and the reader reviews are a winning combination in these days of austerity fever and buying items for longevity. I've selected 3 useful items to wear all at once if you fancy with a white tee, a scarf or necklace and a pair of jeans. Shake off the shackles of fashion dictates and embrace your inner metal guru with silver.

0844 873 0000

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Looking Ahead

Dash this weather and the 'it is going to be a rubbish summer' predictions people are so fond of sharing! I'm forgetting the summer and will be making do with what I have given the excitement that is around the corner. I was writing a few pieces for some magazines and had no room to use this wonderful brooding gloomy but glorious model shot from the forthcoming M&S A/W12 collection.

Autograph top £65 Autograph Trousers £59 Shoes £49.50

How exciting will next season be if M&S are producing such great garments. I love that the top and trousers are black but with a fantastic floral motif. At this rate I'll be wearing this combo in July.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Don't worry sunshine is around the corner

Well, fingers crossed, hey! I'm sure it is, we'll all be able to dust off those sandals and pretty frocks soon enough. However given we are not tripping the light fantastic with those heady days of after works drinks to relish the warmer weather, why not get some preparation in instead.

What really makes a look is the finishing touches and for starters the lovely Mrs Fab has a wonderful DIY Pedi post on her blog. 
Now is also the time to get your hair cut and apply a hair treatment to get it in great glossy mane shape. Why not apply a home made potion on you locks. Sali Hughes did a great review of hair masks for all budgets in The Guardian

When it comes to your wardrobe I suggest you really re-evaluate what you have and get rid of any items you are never going to wear again. These are usually items which are worn and need repairing or you've had them since 1994 and seriously you are never going to wear them again.

Make a list of what you need and look for items that are discounted or wait for the sale as they will be very soon as retailers have been badly affected by the weather and are going to want to shift stock.

In the meantime you can help me decide which sandals to buy. The choice is between a pair from New Look (top) or Zara (bottom) and no I can't get both! Please leave your vote in the comments box as I seem to be inept at adding a voting button below!

Update: I put a voting thingy on the side!
UPDATED Update: 66% of you said 'aye' to the Zara ones. Thank you for helping me in my shoe hour of need. I ordered the Zara sandals into my local Zara store in Kingston. The order into store thingy is marvellous btw!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Fashion & Politics a Nautical issue

There is something about tradition when it comes to fashion that gives us certainty. Nothing carries a greater sense of tradition in terms of work and fashion than the Breton stripy tee. It's reference with the sea, sailors and fishermen was appropriated by the grand dame of fashion Coco Chanel as she modernised the dress codes of women. There's not many of us who at one time or another who haven't adopted a white trouser with deck shoes and stripy tee look. For some it is the default look albeit updated now with skinny jeans, boots or converse and a black jacket.

And as it is a tradition of the fash pack, might we not be called upon to assist the future fortunes of sea faring folk by signing an e-petition to save the closure of Coastguard stations. Their work will be transferred to call centres. I know who dreams up these things. The poor Coastguards are desperately fighting a proposed modernisation that in fashion terms is akin to removing the stripy tee in all its permutations and insisting we make do with something else instead - imagine!

Let's stand up for the tradition that gave us the stripy top and sign the e-petition to stop the closures

Friday, 11 May 2012

High St Pick of the Week

Betwixt and between is the sum total of our wardrobe experience at the moment. The idea of skimpy summer clothes seems unimaginable as downpours, cool winds and meagre sunshine are the current order of the day. Retailers have been suffering with appalling April monthly figures due to the weather. Normally you would be inspired or carried away in the heat of the moment, sunshine gives people hope and you would be happy to add a few summer pieces to your wardrobe as part of the longer days and warmer months.

When it is like this, forget fashion as a trend moment and look to build some useful additions that have longevity. Basics, layering items or anything useful that you feel is missing from your wardrobe that can pull looks together.

The cardigan is one such item that falls into the exceedingly useful bracket. It's versatility lies in its ability to be worn as a layer of warmth which can easily be put on or taken off. To act as a jacket or cape. Add a skinny belt over an open v neck cardigan and it has more structure and formality. Wear a cardigan over your shoulders and it says 'nonchalant' in many ways. It can when buttoned up pose as jumper and when only half buttoned up it is exploring it's options as a style item. A crew neck, a boyfriend and a v-neck is all you need.

To add variety a Breton style cardigan can add the X Factor to an outfit. A step away from the traditional top or jumper, it is to be enjoyed for work or weekend. Isabella Oliver 365 Collection are a good stop for quality and cut so your cardigan has legs in years of wear.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Style & Stuff take back seat due to Puppy Days

It is true puppy days is where it is all at currently. Although puppy Patches Valentino did have a fashion moment yesterday attending a bra video shoot. I am truly amazed at how doting, soppy and in love I am with my our new puppy. He consumes my waking and *ahem* sleeping.

Really I should be sharing the Louis Vuitton press day stuff with you but instead I bring you Patches. I just promise you will never catch me wearing a doggy top or cardigan.

The day we got him!!

Patches on location!!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

No place for Pucci prints

 In my heart I live in a warm climate and rarely worry about what I put on. A typical day would be to wear some sandals, slides or flip flops. I'd have a wonderful kaftan and jersey dress wardrobe to throw on with ease and a Pucci number would be my pride and joy.

In reality I live in a country that demands wet weather gear for cold and warm weather. As an island the UK doesn't have the perfectly defined seasons of larger countries or land locked areas in the Northern Hemisphere.
Sometimes getting dressed is based purely on needs must and currently needs must is long sleeve top or t-shirt with cardigan then a trench coat or other lightweight coat with or without a scarf depending on the wind. I've been living in my high top Springforms which are the French equivalent of Converse.

How I long for some sunshine and its carefree ways. Until then I'll be dreaming of sun, sea and sand. Keep popping those Vitamin D tablets!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

High St Pick of the Week

It is a small, compact lightweight item which fits easily into your bag. You need this item as there is no point in even thinking about buying anything else this month! Make do with what you have and start hoping this item will be redundant shortly!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Jubilee Jewels

Last Friday night I got the mother of a Jubilee hangover! How can 6 neighbours planning a day of fun for the kids and the neighbours end up drinking and chatting till 3 am? I'm no Royalist, in fact if there was a vote today or tomorrow to get rid of them I'd be putting my X in the Yes box. Liz, it is nothing personal. In fact I really like you, Philip, Anne, Wills, Harry and new addition Kate. I love that you all provide me with entertainment, it is simply I am not a hierarchy type of person. I recognise that there will always be top dogs, that with or without Royalty the predilection of humans is to gain power and status.

Probably the only thing I truly love about Royalty and Dynasties through the ages is the pomp and ceremony. The fact they like a good pile of jewels. One of the reasons I love Wendy Brandes Fine Jewelry is her wonderful creative inspiration from history particularly those inspired by past Queens. My favourite is the Marie Antoinette ring, the Queen who famously did in the French aristocracy with her excess. Of course it was a lot more complicated than that but her contribution to it all is more interesting due to her clothes and jewellery!

I love Wendy's jewellery because she is the creative driving force, she is an independent and produces great quality items. The only point of departure for me is the skull and vampire stuff because it just ain't my bag. Her pop culture range is fantastic! It is F@#! amazing. How I would love to get me some silver or gold swear rings to wear to our Jubilee bash. Well it seems as if Topshop thought so too and intentionally or unintentionally 'ripped off' the design and made some cheap versions of which I'm not going to link too. The notion of swear rings or designs borne of historical context is nothing new. Creativity is often aligned, but seriously in this case 'ripped off' is the only explanation given the exactness of the cheaper version execution.

All Wendy can do is persist in a shaming campaign against Topshop. Much in the same way my 3am fun has resulted in me not being able to face the thought of wine again for a long long time. Sometimes you overdose on good times and Topshop you need to rein in the excess of covering all bases and perhaps ask for or pay for creativity.

Wendy has a range of jewellery of which most is higher end products but having seen the designs and the quality in real life I'm spoiled by the knowledge. I would choose to buy from Wendy all the time if I could afford to and I'm saving up for a higher end piece as it will a wonderful piece to own.

Meanwhile I'm preparing my world for the arrival of puppy Patches and still selling a jewellery range that has its own fine jewellery design team, collaborates with jewellery designers and is a mid range offering. Stella & Dot thankfully doesn't attempt to steal the crown jewels of another designer but it is offering a Jubilee jewel in the form of the Elizabeth bracelet priced at £26 as HRH was born in 1926.

Whether you are joining in, flag waving and getting into the spirit or thinking B*!!@#^$ to it all there is a piece of jewellery to suit you mood and your price range - just don't go down to Topshop and waste your pennies you all!

* 20% of proceeds from the Limited Edition Elizabeth Bracelet to help raise proceeds for The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. The Trust aims to distribute all donations across a wide variety of charities ensuring many small charities across the commonwealth receive the support they so need.

UPDATE earlier this evening Topshop tweeted an apology to Wendy Brandes and have withdrawn their rings!!