Sunday 7 September 2014

The Hat Maketh the Woman

I like a good hat.

I've rambled a little about them before on here, but those were always for specific events, (races, weddings and the like). But, a hat isn't just for social events. Hats can make an outfit.

Every winter for the past three years I've bought myself a hat. I've lost count of the number of times I've been stopped in the street to ask where I bought them (which I always love). I think because they went out of fashion for so long and were replaced by sidewards caps circa 1988, there exists a legacy of uncertain women. I was encouraged by someone I bumped into in Liberty a couple of years ago. She was wearing a wonderful pink felt hat with her mac and boots. The hat took an ordinary outfit and made it phenomenal.

'Everyone was looking at her with serious chapeau-envy. And she knew it.'

The first was a tweed and velvet creation and I bought it because it reminded me of the outfits in A Little Princess. Seriously.

 The second was a wool and velvet navy cloche from, rather unexpectedly, John Lewis. It was a nod to Downton Abbey series 2. Are you seeing a pattern here?

 Well, I just bought this year's addition. And, in a slight departure from the other two, I opted for a beret.

 Think 1960s mod rather than garlic and breton stripes. I chose the Winter Beret from Cabbages and Roses. I want my life to look like a scene from the Cabbages and Roses photographs, so over the past couple of years I've been amassing a collection of their clothes and accessories. I now own a tartan dress, a massive tartan cashmere scarf, a wide brimmed straw hat and now this. The quality is second to none, so I don't regret the price tags. If you want quality and craftsmanship, this is the company for you.

 I'll be teaming this hat with a black roll neck top from Boden, a red wool skirt from eBay, black tights, and black ankle boots from Shoe Embassy through the week and with a slouchy oatmeal jumper and a navy mini skirt at the weekend. Autumn clothes are the best.

The big bow in A Little Princess
Beret Bombshell
Lady Mary's cloche
Gorgeous slouchy velvet from TurbanDiva on Etsy 
Winter Beret from Cabbages and Roses


Monday 11 August 2014

A Stroll Through St James' Park

Nothing says 'wedding countdown' like an engagement/pre-wedding photo shoot. We weren't originally going to have one, but I got swept up in all the excitement and contacted the lovely Rik Pennington. And so it was that we met him on a sunny July evening in St James' Park... 

After guffawing and giggling for the most part, (to my shame the fiancé was far more sensible), doing battle with midges, nettles, chasing herons, being shouted at by men in Mercs (well, we were stood in the middle of The Mall), we said goodnight. It was honestly really good fun and I'm fascinated by how he managed to take such beautiful images. He made it look so easy...and I can promise you we did not make it very easy for him! 

Having been on the fence about having these photographs taken, I'm glad we did it. We know we'll have beautiful wedding photographs, but we also wanted something that was just us, in normal places and normal clothes. 

I chose my favourite Allium B dress. The colour is warm and decadent and makes me think of plums and raspberries. The design is feminine and delicate and the dress is feather-light, so I didn't have to worry about it. It was featured in Stella magazine, which is where I first heard of Allium B, and it was love at first sight. 

I accessorised with electric blue courts from Carvela, 1920s sapphire earrings, (which the fiancé bought for our second Christmas - bless!) and an antique necklace from my parents. I plan to wear both of these at the wedding, so it was fitting to wear them for these photos, but the blue worked really well with the deep hue of the dress, too.

For more on Allium B click here or here.
To see more of Rik's work or to contact him, click here.


Rik Pennington photography

Rik Pennington photography

Rik Pennington photography

Rik Pennington wedding photography

Saturday 9 August 2014

The Hiatus

The last time I wrote anything here was before we travelled to Vietnam and Cambodia. That was in April...and now it's August. But, I think that is the way of writing. I began a few posts and then they dwindled in my mind and I lost my way.

In the meantime, I got a new job, continued to plan our wedding (10 weeks to go!) and we did the craziest thing of all: we moved to the countryside. 

That's right. We left London - roaring, chaotic, heady London - and bought a house in a village in West Sussex. I still haven't quite got used to that and I keep sneaking back into town just to remind myself that it's still there, though the extortionate rail fares (I'm looking at you, Southern) are doing a good job of keeping me home. 

My friends received the news of our flight from the city with mixed emotions. Some envied us and the unlimited fresh air which will eventually unclog our sooty lungs; others bluntly enquired as to the state of our mental capacity to make such a decision. I don't regret it for an instant. Whereupon I used to wage war with angry shoppers, I am now embroiled in a bloody - mostly mine - battle against bindweed. Not heard of that? Move to the country and you soon will. We now have a garden with a heavily laden apple tree; we collect raspberries to put on our breakfast and we have fresh mint for our Pimms. 

So, you see, I've been lost in the pretence of pretending to be a member of the Bloomsbury Set sojourning in Sussex...only without the writing part. But I have not forgotten. And once I have cooked all the apples and blackberries I will be back to share the loveliest of dresses and, of course, our wedding plans. 

Winging your way soon:
the yummiest apple and blackberry pie recipe
our engagement photographs, taken by Rik Pennington, on location in St. James Park. 


Friday 28 March 2014

Easter Dresses

Easter brings back such happy memories of parades, Easter bonnets and sunshine. It's perhaps the most mellow and relaxing celebration: you just know that the long, dark nights are over and sunshine and happy days lie ahead. 

As a treat, my grandparents would buy me a dress to wear with a handmade bonnet. While others went to the fair or the beach on Good Friday, we were always in our new outfits and - come rain or shine - at the parade. Easter was not for the beach or the fair; we were always taught that it was a time for family - and food. Easter Sunday tea was always at our house. My mother would cook a roast and then we'd have sandwiches, sausage rolls, celery and cheese for tea, followed by an enormous piece of gooey Simnel cake. Indeed, the focus on family is something I still very much believe in. Whenever I hear the throb of the drums, my heart still flutters and brings the memories of these bygone days to the forefront of my mind. 

And one tradition I've naturally been very keen to preserve is the new dress for Easter...

I'd still make and wear an Easter bonnet, too, if I didn't suspect that the fiancé would disown me. 

As always, I'm only interested in timeless pieces. This should be a dress to stand the test of time and bring with it fond memories. 

So, what do you want from this dress? Channel literal dressing a la the Duchess of Cambridge. The logical solution therefore: mini eggs. 

No, I'm not going mad - and I'm not suggesting you wear an egg-printed outfit (but if you do, please send me a photograph!) - the colours are perfect for this season. If you prefer, look to seasonal flowers: lilac and purple crocuses, pink and cream tulips, and bright yellow daffodils (otherwise known as the colours of mini eggs! A-ha!).

Vintage styles work well for this, too. Channel tea parties and parades of old: keep the neckline decent, the hem around the knees, and ensure the skirt has sufficient swoosh, (you'll be grateful after all those Easter eggs!).

Happy Easter everyone; here's to a glorious weekend of family, sunshine and cakey delights.

As it should be.


P.S. I've included a Florence and Fred (Tesco) dress. I wonder if you can spot it...

1: Vivienne Westwood £315
2: Zara £39.99
3: Hobbs £129
4: F&F at Tesco £25
5: Hobbs £139
6: People Tree (Orla Kiely) £85
7: Hobbs £139
8: Orla Kiely £648

Sunday 23 March 2014

Dress of the Month March

The snowdrops have melted into daffodil fields; the clocks go forward next weekend, (don't forget, sweet peas) - all this  can only mean one thing: summertime is nearly upon us. Squeak! 

To celebrate this glorious new chapter in the annual calendar, the dress of the month must be charmingly light and subtly bright. And this ethereal creation is just that.
The dress

The Florida Bloom Mesh Dress, £150

The designer

French Connection. With their finger well and truly back on the beat this season, the S/S2014 range sees FC doing what they do best. The palette is refreshing; the shapes are structured with a feminine flutter; and the styles are timeless. 

I saw this dress only today and immediately decided to share it with you. It's a bit of couture-inspired frothiness which will enhance any wardrobe and see you through summer parties, weddings and social events for years to come. If it's a little too girly for your tastes, sharpen it a la Carrie Bradshaw. Try teaming it with these on-trend pointy gold flats by Russell & Bromley or clash it with oversized chunky floral accessories.


Tuesday 11 March 2014

Good Morning Vietnam: what to wear on holiday!

I hate February. There, I said it. February, I hate you with all the fervour I can muster. No wonder it's the shortest month.

And I'm not terribly keen on March either.

But all this hatred does do one thing. And that is it makes me ever more grateful and appreciative of the days of sunshine ahead. 

If you're like me and have been suffering from serious Vitamin D deficiency and pissed-off-with-rain-itis, this post will be your light at the end of the tunnel. Because this week I'm talking holiday clothes.

The fiancé and I decided we'd had enough a couple of weeks ago and booked extortionately priced flights to Vietnam - and it was the best decision. I'm officially on holiday countdown - 6 days to go.

I have realised one problem, though, and that is I haven't got a stitch to wear!

Okay, slight exaggeration. I do, in fact, have far too many clothes. 

But holiday clothes are different. They must transform me from weary worker to beach bum...I mean, babe.

So, I've taken inspiration from sunnier days: as a four year old I was an enormous fan of 1980s Kylie Minogue and there are far too many photographs of me singing into nail polish bottles to 'Hand on Your Heart'. To be perfectly honest, not an awful lot has changed since. 

But I digress! It's no coincidence that we tend to look to our past when choosing home decor - and the same is true of clothing. We associate happy, stress-free times with our childhood, so that's what I'll be channeling this year: Sarah, circa 1989. What does that mean? High waists (super flattering on almost everyone - no more Britney-esque low rise), denim, knotted shirts and lots of smiling. Add to this a nod to Scandi-style (read: crisp whites and cool blues) and my backpack is happy.

Needless to say I've been shopping recently - and here's what I'll be packing: 

Kylie! Woo!
Casual Chambray Shirt, £29, Topshop
Amelia Dress, £40, Allium B
Hepburn Midi Dress, $275, Erin Fetherston

Lottie Dress, £55, Seasalt

ASOS Tiffany Midi Dress, £85

Sunflower Sun Dress, £110, French Connection
Leaf Print Organza Dress, £234, Geeks and Stitches

MOTO Bleach Shorts, £30, Topshop
Powder Blue Top, £24.95, Joules
Monte Carlo Dress, from £69, Boden
Short Sleeved Dress, £52, Jack Wills
MOTO Fit and Flare Dress, £38, Topshop

Boheme Dress, Ganni, euro139.90
Crinkle Frill Dress, £28, Topshop

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Beyoncé Dazzles at the Brits in THAT Green Dress

Did you watch The Brits last week? Of course you did. 

Did you swoon when Beyoncé took to the stage in THAT dress? Abso-bloody-lutely!

The dazzling emerald dress looked electric and Mrs Carter was every inch the Goddess of Music.  

No stranger to the sequin, Beyoncé challenged the opinion that all over sequins belong on Joan Collins circa 1978. And good for her, too.

It makes me so sad to see vintage glittering dresses and tops stranded on the rails of charity shops. I rejoiced when the sequin dress made a come back two years ago, but my elation was marred by the fact that the majority of dresses were fashioned from dull non-shiny sequins. I know we're in the age of austerity - but what sort of message does it send? Wear sequins, but make sure they don't sparkle. Make sure they look like they've lost their lustre and vivacity. Symbolise a generation. Bleurgh. 

Fashion and politics are intrinsically linked, so Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne should consider making more of it in their speeches. 

I long for the good old days of velvet and taffeta a la Laura Ashley - I'm sure life was all sunshine and garden parties then! 

So, Mrs Jay Z, I applaud and thank you for bringing sequins that sparkle back into our lives. I can't wait to see Theresa May and Harriet Harman sporting them...

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Dress of the Month February Susy Harper

The Dress

White Poppy Dress

The Deets

Sleeveless fitted bodice with front ruched flower detail. Gathered skirt, finished to give volume at the hem. £275. This dress is gorgeous - the fabric is light enough to make this your go-to summer frock, but substantial enough to provide structure in the bodice and skirt. You're paying for craftsmanship and creativity here, so while it's not cheap, it is the perfect investment piece. 

The Designer

Susy Harper is the label of designer Michelle Anslow.

The idea is to make beautiful, thoughtful, uncomplicated clothes, for women looking for something different.

We use natural fabrics; where texture, structure, movement lead the design into cuts that work; to create wardrobe staples you'll wonder how you did without.

Our cross seasonal 'favourites collection' is because we believe that if you have a favourite thing it's nice to be able to replace it, or have one for the wash, or in different colours.

In addition we bring out two Seasonal collections each year in Spring and Autumn, often featuring our own limited edition prints.

Our clothes are lovingly made 'in house' at Camden Passage. Production is artisan, small scale and concise.  We make what we need, we do not over produce, which helps towards how we think the world should be; and also helps keep our prices fair.

Whether shopping in store or online you will find most of our collection is in stock and 'Ready to Send', however some pieces are only available 'Made to Order'; this way though, you get something lovely specially made for you.


Alexa Chung at New York Fashion Week FROW

As celebrities, socialites and fashionable types draw a quick intake of breath in anticipation of Fashion Week, I tend to be a little more interested in what they themselves are wearing. 

And this year has been no exception. Paris, New York and London have showcased some absolutely dazzling designs (Oscar de la Renta, anyone?) on and off the catwalk.

To celebrate, I was invited back to the London Designer Outlet and given another bargainista challenge. One hour; one hundred pounds; one FROW-inspired outfit. My muse was Alexa Chung in this beautiful floral dress, which she wore to the Miu Miu show. I just love the crisp and fresh colours, the delicate feminine tailoring, coupled with the sharp black ankle boots/sock combo. 

 Rex Features

Armed with the £100, I set off on my quest. For those of you who don't know the London Designer Outlet, shame on you because I've already written about it! It's right next to Wembley and, in terms of fashion, is home to M&S, Phase Eight, Gap, H&M, AllSaints, L K Bennett and Guess among others, (more will be opening throughout the year). Unlike most other outlets, it's not a sprawling area, so I didn't get too tired running between the different shops!

I really didn't know if I'd be able to do it; £100 for a FROW worthy outfit is tricky indeed. But, the prices at the outlet really are a bargain-hunter's best friend. I chose the Fleur Check Dress by AllSaints (£198 down to £78) and black ankle boots from M&S (£18.99), leaving £3 to spare for black ankle socks.

What AllSaints say about the dress:

A soft silk yarn, specially sourced in Europe, creates a dress with an easy fluidity. The Fleur Check Dress has an oversized silhouette, formed by draping on the stand in our London design studios and features a feminine print combining a mixture of delicate photographic florals, all applied on a hand stamped and painted check base. Detailed with asymmetric rib detailing on the neckline and given a seductive edge with a slight sheer finish, our dress leaves a classic AllSaints impression.

I don't know about you, but I reckon Alexa would be proud.