Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Redirecting to new blog Twisted Skirt


Monday, 4 November 2013

That Was the Week That Was

Where has time gone? What happened to my life that allowed me one or two blog posts a day? Folks, I have to give you the round up. Essentially I'm selling you a pup with the past and a small insight into the future.

What Storm?

A weekend in Swansea did deliver clouds and a bit of rain but despite sleeping like a cat on a hot tin roof anticipating squalls and fallen trees in our room in Mumbles, zero, zilch, nothing. That Monday was a 20 minute down pour at 8am with barely a leaf out of place followed by sunshine as we drove back up the M4 to London. It was obvious the following day as I walked the dog that a battering had taken place but I didn't experience it. Oh well I had a very nice Joe's ice cream instead.


Excitement always abounds in our household when it comes to Halloween and this year was no exception. We had high hopes of the superman costume sent to us by Tesco's Pet Insurance for Patches to wear but aside from the cape it was too small, more Chihuahua than Parsons.

But being a good family dog he happily mooched round with myself and the petit garcon whilst we managed to trick and treat as well as be tricked and treated on. Hence Dracula mummy and Were Wolf son.

Revving Up

As I plan my strategy and think about my clothes fast next year, inevitably I'm lead to a few missing items that seem to have become wardrobe staples. It is exasperating how much I NEED a leather pencil skirt in my life. My research - asking twitter yes or no, resounded in an emphatic yes which has left me with the task of getting in a purchase before the 31/12/13. Who knew leather skirts were such a mind field but my best option is between a Dixie and Suzy both priced at £195 from Whistles (gulp). The rather wonderful reasonable priced £149 M&S Autograph one has sold out. Folks you are warned get in there.

But more importantly is the fact I'm looking forward to working my wardrobe hard and not spending money on clothes. I know my magpie instincts will be challenge but I have a distraction plan in place that mainly entails sorting our my wardrobe and gardening! Apparently gardening is the new fashion.
Plus there is the ever helpful Penny Golightly and her highly useful ebook series  of which How to Live on £10 a Week is a great motivational tool.

Christmas - gah, humbug!

I love Christmas, all the festive fun but this year I'm finding it hard to focus on presents. All I want to do is dress up and drink mulled wine. Are you prepared for Christmas? And please Mrs Fab, Style at Any Age don't answer that because not doubt you are wrapped!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Head to Toe

Remember those days of fashion pronouncements? The ones that were so rule driven you were scared to step foot outside in case you had FAILED. Well we all know those days are long gone. In fact most fashion rules have been debunked although there is always my personal favourite from Coco Chanel, 'It is always better to be slightly under dressed'. I find these words suit me most of the time but occasionally I think there is no harm in ignoring such wisdom completely.

Which bring me to the notion of not wearing a designer head to toe. Why not? Chanel did nothing but. I suppose the idea was to encourage more shopping across more labels. Behind every fashion pronouncement there is a marketing manager methinks.

When I saw this image I thought how lovely, what a great look and why would you not just do it all. I give Boden.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Sun dresses are go

Heat or heavy showers the trick to these sunny summer days is how to stay cool figuratively and literally. The answer my friend is blowing in the wind - a sun dress.

Of course I'm not suggesting a strappy sloppy roll up in your beach bag type of sun dress. What is required here is a structured cotton number for work, meetings and after work drinks. M&S's Autograpbh collection have this pure cotton number at £89 in a pretty pale pink. Max Mara Weekend have this one on sale at £143.

This one is a little more daring but a great price in the sale at £60 from £150

I loved this dress for its print and colour but sadly I think it is one that is either sold out online and in store but it does capture the joy of summer

Dress Debenhams

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Not birthday suit & fan

How to keep cool and stylish in the heat is a tricky one. It is not so bad when you are on the coast with a bit of sea breeze but in the city or town it is a different matter.

My favourite option of a weekend, where ever I am, is shorts, a shirt and a hat. My personal preference when wearing shorts is always to team them with a long sleeve shirt (happy to roll sleeves up) or a kaftan tunic top. Conversely at night on holiday I like nothing better than short tailored (even sequin) shorts with a silk short sleeved or sleeveless top plus heels or wedges!

photo at Borth, Cerdigion, Mid-Wales on 13/7/13
hat Accessorise, shirt M&S, shorts M&S, sunnies Polaroid

photo in Hong Kong South beach Sept 2012
shorts Oasis, top Juicy Couture (2004), sequin jacket Baukjen, bag Urban Outfitters, sandals Boden

It is a formula that works well in the same way jeans with t-shirt and Converse pumps is an easy default of a weekend or school run.

I've spotted a plethora of maxi dresses and skirts over the last week which is often a better look of an evening I find or for a weekend barbecue but all in all anything is better than too much flesh although it was so hot the other night ones birthday suit and a fan was the best one could muster!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

I heart NYC & Kim Cattrall

It should be no surprise that the prime motivator for purchasing stall tickets at the front for the Old Vic production of Sweet Bird of Youth was to see Kim Cattrall. As a fashion writer and stylist SATC was my must watch programme from the moment it aired on HBO and Channel 4 in the UK. It was Samantha in Sex and the City who enthralled, amused and shocked. It was in both the SATC movies (whatever you may think of them) that she out shone her co-stars. Whilst most women wanted to be Sarah Jessica Parker in terms of clothes, lifestyle and Mr Big, it is always Kim Cattrall as Samantha who was the scene stealer and had the best lines.

image: Old Vic photographer Jay Brooks

Of course as much as I'm meant to dislike the films, secretly I'm perfectly happy to watch them regardless of any high brow views on how dreadful they are. I love the feast of clothes, simple. But yes ok the Cary/Big story in SATC2 is utterly appalling. But doesn't Kim Cattrall look fabulous in her Wendy Brandes's Cleopatra earrings. You see it is all about New York.

However it was Kim Cattrall's performance in Channel 4' adaptation of William Boyd's Any Human Heart (2010) as Gloria Scabius which expanded the fact, in my mind, she is an actress of note. Given her acting skills it had always puzzled me why she was not cast more in films. At the opening night of Tennessee Williams Sweet Bird of Youth I grasped the full extent of why Cattrall is a great actress butnot a great Hollywood star. And despite someone trying to belittle this point, I stick to my guns given many 'leading' ladies are chosen to offset the male one and twos.

Imagine you are extremely excited to be seeing her perform on stage in London, imagine that at first she is lying in bed face down and remains so for a while. The play and the performance is led by the character Chance Wayne played by Seth Numrich. Numrich has all the attributes of a theatre actor in respect of looks, physique and training. Yet as much as wanted to like his performance it lacked an element of delivery in respect of characterisation which was required for the role. He came alive in the first part of Act II scene II in the Cocktail lounge and his demise was more expected than convincing. The physicality was exacting but there was a lack of depth and conviction to his portrayal.

Given it was the opening night I would suspect an element of nerves, adrenaline and uncertainty of the crowd hampers performance to some degree. If Numrich can combine movement with delivery and really become the character Chance Walker then his performance should improve which will improve his standing alongside the rest of the cast. Owen Rae, Charles Aitken, Brid Brennan and Lucy Robinson were exceptionally strong cast members in respect of the narrative and engaging with them as characters. My disappointment in Louise Dylan as Heavenly rests solely upon her short hair. The period, the setting and the play is not served well by a young women with short hair. Having not read the play for a number of years I'm happy to be corrected on this point but to my mind this detail was a visual mistake. Which further engendered the lack of connection with the two characters, Chance and Heavenly.

The stage set was exemplary with the exception of the top balustrades which screamed 'cheap new build' at me but this is a small insignificant matter and is more a reflection of my tendency to notice and absorb such detail. The design was outstanding in terms of use of space and creating atmosphere. It put me in mind of the wonderful hallway and staircase in Written on the Wind (1956) directed by Douglas Sirk such was it cinematic quality from my perspective in the third row in the stalls. Which must mean the lighting was magnificent, it was. It all lent well to good use of stage by the actors and the movement  never erred into the frenetic despite the demands of the narrative exuberance.

The sheer joy of the play is the era, the familiar thematic qualities of the fifties as exemplified by Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and the end of Classical Hollywood and the outstanding Sirk who directed Rock Hudson to great affect in All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind. It is to the productions credit of Sweet Bird of Youth that I was transported back to my English literature lessons at a comprehensive school with memories of To Kill a Mocking Bird, Death of a Salesman and Street Car Named Desire all studied and inspiring an appetite not just for literature and plays but a love of the cinema.

And of course my true love is the cinema, hence my obsession with costume and stage setting. Aunt Nonnie and Tom Junior were attired in the best costumes. Aunt Nonnie's shoes were delectable in detail as they ran past me in the auditorium. Overall the costume choice was pretty good with the exception of Heavenly's first dress, which again I found unconvincing. In all, the production, the set, and the costumes were hitting the right notes. The temptation to be clever never arose and the success of delivering a play that authentically captured the era and issues of that era gave it a Mad Men-esque quality.  Overall the production is a safe bet if you want to see a play from a playwright who excelled at characterisation and relationship drama. It is the sort of play that could within a school lesson be a vehicle for all sorts of discussion that would lead you off curriculum and into the true opportunity of education, the art of imparting or acquiring a thirst for knowledge through any learning. Gove wouldn't like the thought of that but he'd be hard pressed not to like the Old Vic's production of Sweet Bird of Youth because it stays true to the context of the drama and setting.

Yet it was Kim Cattrall who deserves the best accolade. Her performance was incredible. Not for one moment did I think 'Samantha'. I firmly believed she was her character and was actually amazed at her ability to be secondary to another cast member. Her acting was exacting in requirements of stage presence and physicality. Her physical presence took me by surprised. Cattrall is in good shape through her hard work, I know this information from her interviews. Yet her statue is her own, her height, her depth and movement regardless of her toned body is what surprised me. She is not one of those actors who is smaller in real life and her ability to dominate (unintentionally or with ease) is probably what sets her apart from most. Her delivery and her timing were impeccable for a first night performance, only Owen Rae was her equal, yet his part in terms of characterisation was more obvious. The fact Cattrall is such a presence made me realise why she hasn't had a great Hollywood career in respect of appearing in films as leading lady. Sometimes, some actors are too good for others.

Tennessee Williams as a playwright enjoys the cascading excess of emotion and agitation and in some ways sometimes fails to edit the excess. The part of Princess Kosmonopolis is a fractious example of fading starlet obsessed with fame, youth and status. Manipulative, selfish and rampageous her character does attempt to pass some semblance of wisdom onto the delusional and self centred Chance Wayne. Vanity of the person and power are psychological troupes Williams likes to play out in the context of his plays and to expose views which are at odds to the changing social settings and politics.

Unlike Williams, Cattrall reined in the excess of her role just when required and it made me wish I could see her act in a variety of roles in any media. Her ability to transcend media from tv to screen to stage suggests she is well cast in this role and a marvellous choice. In all the Old Vic are forging a forgotten genre by bringing Tennessee Williams back into the limelight. It is a reminder that history and wisdom consistently fail to be passed onto youth and also society. I'm glad the play is played straight and no attempt to figuratively set it in a modern context takes place. But the most satisfying element is that momentary decision acted upon, spurred on by an article in the Evening Standard left on a train, to see Kim Cattrall in a play did not disappoint. It was a satisfying as hoped and therefore I would happily see this production again. Take the opportunity to go, reacquaint yourself with old school drama and this is from a film buff not a theatre goer.

Sweet Bird of Youth is on at The Old Vic from June 1st to August 31st. 

Monday, 1 July 2013

Beauty basics

I gave in to the Times paywall malarkey. Subscribing is an necessary evil for my work and I've found it really handy and more satisfying than reading Femail and getting side tracked by what is and isn't moving out of the Saatchi home.

If there is one reason to bite the bullet and pay the one off fee rather than a monthly subscription then it is Sarah Vine's Best Beauty Buys (for when you are over 37).  Money and age aside the products really are in the main for any age. 

Some of the items are on the more pricey side but more in the mid price range rather than the high end. In amongst her list is a wonderful beauty basic which I've tried and can attest is the business and it is £8 from Sainsbury.

To cherry pick the full list here is the link to it on The Times - Best Beauty Buys

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Sales & Style

The only bonus of all this dire weather is the opportunity to stock up on basics. Sale shopping should only be undertaken on this basis. I'm in the mood for a summer items that scream longevity. Not one of my recent purchases shout trend or fashion, not even my Topshop Unique yellow trousers. They are yellow and very bright but I can see myself still entertaining the thought of wearing them in my 70s.

I have avoided printed jeans and trousers, anything floral and turned my back on peplum. I only indulged in one top from Zara but I wore it the other day and it felt wrong all of a sudden.

My purchases have been based on 3 thought processes. One could I look like Annie Hall in New York (without the tie), two could I look like an extra from Mad Men on the Amlafi coast and three my new favourite look which I call Paris/Scandi chic. The ability to mix all three is quite easy and ensures a good mix of outfits.

image: Diane Keaton & Woody Allan in 'Annie Hall'

image: Vogue 2005 shoot Gemma W & Josh Harnett

image: Karlie Kloss biking in Paris

What is your style solutions for successful sale shopping?

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Budget Beauty Buys

In these hard times purchasing decisions are critical to making good use of your budget. Wise product buying can make all the difference to how you feel and your purse strings.

The best way to maximise your spend is to get a loyalty card - both Boots and Superdrug have one but Boots one has the edge with its 4 points per pound spent reward. Use the card to check any offers and build up points to use in the future to buy products. If you shop consistently at Boots (or Superdrug) each month you can count 1 - 2 months of your beauty budget as free or use the points for Christmas presents.

But which budget buys really pack a beauty punch? It depends on who and what you believe but in reality affordability should come first. The facts are with your skin the main ingredient is how good are your genes followed by the degradation effects of smoking, sun, alcohol and then food. What you put on only has a small impact. High price doesn't always mean high value but there are some consistently high performing low, mid and high price brands. Beware gimmicks and pseudo science and the rest is just what you like or works for you.

I think the trick is to blend the price points and use offers wisely. My current bargain basement favourites are a mix of low and mid ranged priced products:

1.Herbal Essence shampoos and conditioners, my preference lies with the hydrating coconut range.

2. Aveeno products (lots of offers on these i.e. 3 for price of 2 etc.) and the great thing about Aveeno is the benefit to your skin particularly if you have ezcema or psoriasis, in fact any dry skin condition. Aveeno does treat ezcema but not psoriasis but it does bring relief to the symptoms of it.

3. La Roche-Posey BB's cream which I use on top on my moisturiser which is currently the cheap as chips but highly effective as a base Astral all over moisturiser. Astral quite rich in some respects but if you have normal to dry sin it is a budget buster which works. I always apply a sun screen over my moisturiser as I prefer separate creams to those that include an SPF. Again I use La Roche-Posey.  

Stick to your budget, buy wisely, get points to make prizes and above all use up what you have before you stock up. Don't forget to save those freebie sachets from magazines as well, always handy to have a stock of those as well.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Pick of the Day!

Can you believe it, you try and wind down your blog and suddenly people get demanding and say 'please don't' or 'I rely on your picks'. Gosh that made me feel quite surprised and overwhelmed.

In the promise the bearer style, I will promise to blog affordable, good quality and high street (or internet) options selections as much as possible.

Today, I thought you know what the sun is out and perhaps we could all do with a bit of colour in our lives. By the way the M&S neon t-shirts sold out they were so good, which proves we all love a bit of colour when it hits the mark.

I thought a mix of a perennial favourite stripes in a bright colour execution would be just the ticket!

Monday, 13 May 2013

The dog days are over

People, we are in the midst of a middle class maelstrom not felt since Mrs Middleton knew Wills was coming to supper all those years ago. There is a convergence of a holy trinity comprising, Boden, John Lewis and M&S in a fashion moment coming soon, A/W13 to be precise.

How has this come about? Well to some extent the answer to this question is I have no idea. It has been long dreamed off I tell you, but dreams do they really come true? It seems so. If you reach for the stars sometimes you get the moon but in this case the moon is a great deal better than the murky clouds of middle England fashion we've been subjected to of late.

First the bubble burst well and truly on our champagne lifestyle. Ms Massent may have brought luxury shopping to a keyboard near you but even then most of us were more focused on the low to high option than ordering an Oscar de la Renta number (please correct me if I'm wrong so I can self flagellate with envy) when feeding our Net-A-Porter habit. And clever old Natalie knew this too and made sure she snapped up affordable but luxurious options and also delivered the taste of luxury to empty mouths with The Outnet.

But back to now or rather back to the future, because fashion folks the future includes pink and it is bright. Briefly the afore mentioned holy trinity will be providing you with real fashion options that scream stylish, affordable, grown up, good for proper female bodies and not likely to be tinge with the cheap stench of death aka Primark. More on John Lewis and M&S another time.

This post belongs to Boden, in fact Johnnie, it belongs to dear Johnnie. What can I say that will not be met with snorts of derision given my past views or the fact you might venture to think I'm in their pay. I am about to deliver an uncomfortable truth that although the collection will not be to everyones taste I defy you to not find one item that will be a perfect wardrobe hit in terms of fashion, price, quality, washability (wrong, but for copy purposes *coughs*) and colour.

Far more likely will be the fact you can find three pieces you will love and adore that will see you through next season with ease. My list is at 8, with a possible 2 more. The collection is the best yet. It hits all the right notes. My main beef has always been the fact the brand was too prissy/frumpy/obvious. I accept any fashion brand wants a signature, a deft sweep of the brush to define its being but whilst I liked the ethos I loathed the execution. And the fact was and is that in the background away from the hullabaloo of 'personality', 'being known' there I was quietly tip tapping away writing fashion editorial or styling for a number of magazines of no particular importance in terms of hierarchy I was positioning products to the buying public and still am.

Product placement is much easier and more successful when it is good and currently when it suits lifestyle, conscience, purse strings and age. Women in the 45+ age group hold the purse strings. They are the buying force and now they have somewhere to spend it without worrying are they trying too hard by striving to stuff their bodied in Reiss, Topshop or other brands which they want to love but can't quite connect with. It is a fact that the slimmer you are the easier it is to wear clothes. Damn annoying but true. However the tide is turning and women are reclaiming the right to be anything other than a lollipop with a head.

Back to Boden, the comfort factor, the trust, the excellent customer service, the personality all soothes the middle class soul, except for a long while it did seem like a #fail in the fashion or style stakes. No more. Maybe it is because I can now talk doggy to and with Johnnie. And I got to give lots of doggy rubs and snuffles to the adorable Sprout ( Mr Boden's dog) who is probably related to Patches Valentino as they are both Parsons and both very good looking. Maybe it is because I really do want a proper fabric, something that sits on the knee so my knickers aren't in danger of being displayed when I bend over and actually something that screams FEMALE but doesn't pin me in the corporate tribe. The Boden A/W13 collection delivers sexy. Not smut, not perversion, not subjugation, not stereotypes but honest proper loving, caring, admiration of the female form and womanhood in all guises.

The colours choices are vibrant and understated. I did actually think, with the exception of a few old hard to let go designs, aside from the setting that the rails said J Crew. A proper British offering that has come full circle because no doubt J Crew borrowed off Boden and got it right and now Boden have borrowed of J Crew and got it right. Lets not stop at J Crew, I'm thinking Marc by Marc Jacobs and some old school YSL to boot. There are options for the French/Scandi feel that chic Parisian young ladies pull off with ease and then there is a last top note of screen siren Sophia Loren with a few garments I've clocked.

Boden Press day, selection of forthcoming A/W13 collection and the gorgeous Sprout, photographed with permission of course!

If there is one point of criticism it comes to the models, isn't it about time to include some more older models. Helen Christensen last year was a wonderful inclusion for those of us who grew up with her but I feel some more are needed and styled and set in the right lifestyle concept. It is great to capture the younger crowd but are they really going to go for Boden over Topshop, Zara or Jack Wills? I suspect only if mummy or daddy are paying. I've been fairly hard pressed to leave Zara behind but regardless of Zara's style credentials the garments are often so shoddy after one wear/one wash I prefer H&M currently.

The great news is at last Boden is well and truly in the mix. You won't look like a mad aunt unless you really are a mad aunt, nor a lazy person for shopping everything off the catalogue. Most importantly it is  great product placement for the fashion pages.

My first attendance (yes I'm back in the fold) at the Boden Press Day was a delight. It was a pleasure to admire the fruits of a companies labour and meet new people while waiting for our nails to be done. One thing I did learn courtesy of the lovely ladies from The Sunday Express S Magazine, gin with raspberry and sparkling water is a winner but don't take up the offer of a free blow dry if you want to avoid looking like Mrs Thatcher.

UPDATE: This post is the second draft of a final version that got lost due to publishing problems with Blogger. I do feel my final version was better but now it is lost :( hence this version. One point I made in the new version was that I didn't think Boden was age based and it suited all ages, it just ticks a lot of boxes in terms of lifestyle.

Monday, 29 April 2013

The bag of death

Can we really blame Primark for the death toll of Bangladesh factory workers of over 350? This is the current total and after 5 days the search for survivors has ended. Now it is a matter of finding bodies.

The facts are the owner of the factory got greedy and added 3 floors to a building that should only have been 5 storeys high. The workers are paid very low wages and the economy is dependant on producing garments for the Western economies.

It wasn't only Primark whose goods were being made there, Mango was another retailer and also a Canadian high st brand. Yet Primark is the go to place for really cheap clothing.

This really cheap clothing is keeping people in poverty, it is now causing them to die and it is about time we stopped shopping like this. From henceforth the Primark bag is the 'bag of death'.


Sunday, 28 April 2013

Pick of the Week

Given the sunshine landed on our shores and these fair isles are partial to heading to the water when anything pertaining to heat is ahoy; the pick this week is mainly for land lubbers who enjoy a sea view rather than being all hands on deck.

No need to look shore side for a bailer whilst you put your feet up and think of maybe taking up sailing one day in Turkey in the calm seas. Would look equally stylish in the garden whilst sipping a G&T of an evening. 

Friday, 19 April 2013

Pick of the Week

One thing will remain for a while on this blog and that is pick of the week. I was bombarded by people (mainly friends and acquaintances on Facebook & Twitter) who it seems rely on these little picks of mine. So I promised to keep them going.

Meanwhile Twisted Skirt is live and I will be posting on there soon. Clients first, my work second, is the pecking order.

And lo! The sun it appears and then goes away but guess what it really really wants to play now. Which means it really is time to thing SUMMER. This week I am going to stretch your purse strings by £12.50. Yes £12.50 to inject a bit of colour and zing.

It is quite simply the M&S fluro tee.

It comes in 4 colours - yellow, orange, pink and green. The reality is the t-shirt is much brighter than the image but that doesn't mean over powering. I've gone for pink but I put a client in yellow the other day. They are all delightful sorbets in my book.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Old love New Ways

I've been a committed blogger since 2008 and before that I attempted to blog a couple of times; most notably in 2000. Yes that long ago when for six months I wrote a weekly soap opera online called Mobile Zone. Next year once I have finished my current and first novel The Star Ferry I will turn it into a book.

Back in 2000 I owned a website called www.mobilezone.uk.net or maybe it was .net.uk? Who knows but every Friday after work I would upload it with some html coding and there it was. I was obsessed by the idea that the internet just couldn't be a place of static pages that sat there. And how right I was except I wasn't a nerd or coder who knew what to do I just had the ideas.

There is often no money in ideas unless you can do something with them in terms of ability, passion and drive. My passion and drive always related to fashion, film and writing. Whilst not bored of fashion I am sort of over it except on a purely selfish basis of things for me. I'm still styling occasionally although of late there has been a flurry of personal styling work but I no longer do fashion shoots due to  the petit garçon. My main responsibility is to bring him up as nicely as possible whilst retaining my hand in work. Having been freelance since 2004 I'm seemingly an old pro at it all now, the juggling, the clients and the motivation to meet deadlines.

Writing has taken over and for that I am really glad. It is what I have always wanted to do and slowly but surely I am moving to working solely as a writer. I hope to get my new website up and running soon but time is the main constraint on this.

Twisted Skirt is my business - a publishing company that will be build slowly and organically. Although I would welcome any submissions from female authors now. Girlynomics is out already on Kindle and I am working on publishing in print which is more complex due to the mechanic of printing and distribution.

From now on Make Do Style will be edging towards Twisted Skirt so the blog post will be changing, probably very little fashion and a lot more cultural writing.

Which means the dog can lie by my feet and dream, much as I like to do to!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Pick of the Week

Due to school holidays, the cold weather (oh please may it be over!) and pressing magazine deadlines I seem to be lurching from one pick to another.

Do not fret there will be post a foot which take you the reader in the direction of my new blog which is still underway.

Now I know the fashion world is all about the label de jour but one such fashion house is a quiet influencer of high street products, namely Chloe. I was sad to see Hannah MacGibbon go but now Clare Waight Keller is in place I haven't really noticed anything much to upset the aesthetics and direction of the fashion house.

One main point of influence have been the sandals which were adopted from the main collection a couple of years ago and flaunted by See by Chloe. Now this style of flat sandal is everywhere from Russell & Bromley to Topshop.

But it is Clarks that I am sending you all off to! Yes for £39.99 of your hard earned money you can flaunt your feet in the style credentials of the season - these almost flats

Available in white (which are my favourite) or black these Clarks Sharna Balcony sandals are a breeze to stomp the streets in. 

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Pick of the Week

Where to begin? I'm actually meant to be writing about bikinis today for a magazine and I don't have the strength to contemplate setting about this task based on the continuing cold. I mean come on is it worth banging on about S/S13 clothes on any level given the weather. In my wardrobe there hangs taunting me the brightest yellow trousers from Topshop Unique.  It feels like I purchased them to hang as a wardrobe installation.

When it comes to picking something to purchase or wear I'm  considering forgetting the idea of seasons and thinking  purely in terms of something all year round. Which actually isn't that exciting although it is extremely practical given my best buys have been my thermals. Of which I am now considerably accomplished in how to create a look wearing them. However there is a longing, a longing to skip bare legged so this weeks pick is a skirt.

Toast's Tippi skirt says sunny days and skipping. It is a glorious mix of colour and whilst my other half might cough 'tablecloth' I think it says Provence, lavender fields, walking in Richmond Park, picnics, individuality all whilst skipping. All I need now is the film set.

Tippi skirt from Toast £135

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Gotcha Gucci!

In my world the moment a shop assistant tells me the piece I am buying is a best seller, it becomes the moment I walk away from the purchase. When I was still a full time jobbing stylist I used to want to scream, especially when they said that in front of a client. Those days it was worse because I might have put five client in the same piece especially if it was a great item for them to have, so I would hear the same thing said again and again. In my head I would be thinking 'yes because I've been putting everyone in this piece,' and incredulous at the stupidity of saying it. When actually 'nice choice' or 'great selection' would do and flatter all.  

Of course my clients were getting the item because it was a fabulous piece and suited them, their lifestyle, added an injection of style and was on budget. My job as their personal stylist was to create a great look and a useful working wardrobe. That certainly meant a good mix of high street brands with maybe a few carefully selected designer pieces if their budget ran to it. My most enviable item I selected for a client was a Miu Miu coat. There was no doubt it was the business and the client still has it all these years later. But actually that year Toast had something very similar which was great for clients without the Miu Miu budget. 

However if like me you have the desire for individual pieces and maybe the cache of a designer piece but not at exuberant prices then Barnebys is a fantastic auction site that is coming to the UK soon. When they approached me to write a piece I was reluctant but got drawn in by the fact it was currently a Swedish online auction house. Then I looked at the Fashion and Vintage selection in all countries and boy was I hooked.

My first love was a Gucci bag which some lucky person has managed to snag for £240, yes sorry this is a case of going going gone! How cool is this bag, probably not as cool as me dancing to a live band playing Abba’s Waterloo on Saturday night (but that is another story).

Then I spied a fabulous retro late 70s/early 80s suitcase. If you have seen Argo then this suitcase would fit right into the film as Ben Affleck portrayed Tony Mendez carrying one very similar.

The choice on online auctioneers Barnebys is rather delectable. Lucky you if you have size 3 feet as these beautiful Christian Dior pumps could be yours. 

In all there is a great deal of wonderful stuff to bid on across the auction houses of Europe and as more auctioneers come online in the UK then Barnebys is going to be another option in the style arsenal of 'finds'.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Old School Glamour

If I had money to splurge (and unfortunately I don't) then top of my list would be this dress from Caost born of a collaboration with the V&A museum.

The Lottie Maxi dress is a beauty of a ball gown and honestly I would wear it round the house for any occasion as well as any balls I might perchance be invited to. It is the complete antithesis to the modern day dress code. Yet the gown has a modern look despite its fifties inspiration.

Yours for the sum of £695 from Coast

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Splurge or Squirrel

Hold that hope...spring is nearly upon us and that means sprucing up oneself. The easiest way to inject a bit of what is to come now is with nail varnish.

It seems the colour of the season is upon us and it is a splurge-tastic Chanel number called Fracas.

At £18 it is a total splurge. But if you'd rather save the pennies then coming in at a marvellous £3.50 is M&S's Limited Collection Polish in Carnation. Three coats of this polish will give you the same deep coral pink glow of Fracas at a fraction of the price. Carnation seems only to be in store at the moment and not online and it may well be that the colour is not part of the new season ones so hurry and get it now before it goes.

UPDATE: I made a mistake the Limited Collection Polish colour is PLASTIC PINK 

Friday, 8 March 2013

Why good news for John Lewis is good news all round for retailers especially Marks and Spencer

Yesterday I made an exception to attending press days. In the main I don't have time what with promoting Girlynomics and writing my novel as well as delivering copy to earn my crust. But I really couldn't resist going to the M&S high summer one. I am a big fan of M&S but equally a harsh critic.  My criticism stems from love, truly it does. And boy did I feel the love yesterday.

The samples on view were simply terrific. Totally terrific in terms of design and price point. This is good news for the consumer. I admit I loitered over the Limited Collection and Autograph samples more than any other but that was for a good reason - it is because I think these collections are coming back to a point of veritable consumer excitement! I can also highly commend the M&S Woman stuff in parts. Per Una remains an anathema to me and I suspect, although horrified to admit it, I'm in their target market or slowly moving that way!

Not only was there a nice cup of tea if one wanted on arrival but a gorgeous little nail bar where the lovely Lizzie Court of Lizzie Court Makeup made my nails rather perfect with Limited Collections Polish in Ultra Violet which is really a delightful forget me not type of colour.

I've picked out  a selection of items that start hitting the stores from late March, early April. Starting with childrenswear my eyes spotted a gorgeous little scarf with flamingos on it - so cute I might get it for me.

Look at these lovely retro romper suit set for girls. I know someone who will be a recipient of these!

Not forgetting the boys, some nice alternative print shorts for the little man in your life, tres chic.

And these beach cover ups for girls need to be sized up for us big girls as well.

Back to womenswear the accessorises continue to go from strength to strength...

And these were some of the garments I snapped and believe me there could easily have been more.

Limited Collection shirt - two trends ticks for this one graphic stripes and yellow.

A great splash of neon with these M&S Women tees.

A simple shift dress from the Autograph range.

 I love this purple metallic shirt from Limited 

And actually this image doesn't do this gorgeous Limited skirt justice 

I really had to tear myself away from the press room as it was a haven of loveliness and I so easily relax in these circumstances. I was so relaxed that when taking the lift down I nearly followed someone out to the first floor. Realising my mistake I immediately said to another person in the lift 'Opps need to concentrate more' and then went on to say that actually was what my school reports used to say. Luckily the fellow person in lift was kindly disposed to enter into school report banter of 'should try harder', 'if made more effort would do well' and obviously 'needs to talk less in class.'

Which brings me neatly to M&S going forward and of course the current A* pupil John Lewis. John Lewis, whatever anyone might think currently, was the worst store in the world about 8 years ago. You couldn't fault it for white goods and kitchen stuff but everywhere else was a bit dull. In fact it was all round dull and the sight of managers with clip boards (which occasionally still happens) was too frequent and very depressing. What did they do? Their move much earlier into a new purpose built John Lewis store at Cribbs Causeway from their old Bristol city centre store afforded them a view of what they could be like. It was probably true for M&S. Both were poised to draw lessons of how to remodel and refit their existing stores. It gave these businesses with flagship stores to examine in this environment what new buying patterns might yield and then... the internet hit. Suddenly areas like womenswear were hit very badly, access to beguiling garments away from the high street offerings really hit a cord. John Lewis stepped up to the mark and improved their buying. It still isn't right but along the way they improved every other bit of the store and started to join the dots with Waitrose and their online business. Now you can look online, check out in store walk away and order at your convenience to your local Waitrose. Where once I had to schlep up to Oxford St to get what I wanted (mainly Eve Lom cleanser) I now order online and pick up with my copy of Grazia and some bread. 

John Lewis build up a brand mix of accessibility, mixed in clever things like Little Home and made the internet work for them which conveniently is the way the consumer wants it to work as well. M&S has yet to get that exactly right. The shops are still over stocked, not enough clarity of merchandising or rather where there is, it is stuffed to the rafters. They still need their stock system to understand supply and demand to make the necessary adjustments for the future not necessarily just to restock best selling  items (which they seem to fail to do to). M&S still seems hell bent on pushing items in womenswear and woefully getting it wrong (a lot). In fairness this is true of John Lewis womenswear, there is a lot of irrelevance there too. However John Lewis happily reported great trading and great trading in these difficult times must give hope to everyone. I am particularly happy for the partnership staff who can enjoy the fruits of their labour as 9 weeks of wages, although taxation will dent that a bit. The only downside in this news is the tragic fact that the cleaning staff are woefully underpaid and are not partners and the possibility that a layer of management amounting to 300 redundancies is imminent . Maybe Mr Selfridge would have something to say about that - the tv version of course.

And in conclusion methinks M&S are watching and learning because it really feels as if they have turned a corner. My advice would be to get the good womenswear stuff, pieces that are modern, current and edgy out to the suburbs and towns. Why on earth hasn't the M&S at Epsom got Limited - H&M are cleaning up in that town with every age, having invested in a bigger better womenswear store. Get faster at collections in store from the website. Stop playing music in the stores, this is trashy and John Lewis is testament to how peace from unnecessary noise aids buying. Really look at how you stores are laid out and the fitting rooms need sorting - no music, more homely less harsh and no asking 'was it any good' or 'how did you get on', forgive me but it obvious when you are being handed everything back, it is a no!

Because M&S, John Lewis has proved that everything needs to be just so and seemingly effortless for customers. Having seen your High Summer collection you should be very proud of what you can do and further my recent experiences in your lovely food halls and the helpful staff there at Marble Arch and Tolworth are proof that you can do it - everywhere. Just turn off the music, step up the fashion and I'll be at the front of the queue every time as I know you can be the best.