Friday 31 January 2014

Valentine's Day Romantic Red Dresses

Pink Lace Hearts, £15, Dragon on the Fly on Etsy

Saint Valentine has a lot to answer for, don't you think?

Whether it's cards with squidgy Cupids telling you you're 'the one' or bunches of extortionately priced roses, the event now sparks much animosity from singletons and couples alike.

But I can't help getting sucked in. I blame Valentine's Day 1991 which saw a boy in my Reception class give me eleven cards throughout the course of the day. It kind of set me up for years of disappointment, but also years of expectation. Needless to say I never received eleven in one day again; clearly I peaked at the age of 4.

But I've never been upset by the day - the possibility and mystery keeps me entertained. And furthermore, I never perceived it as validating in any way. 

For years I would receive beautiful cards, postmarked from various locations in the UK, and I vividly recall opening the pannier on my bike to discover a red foil covered chocolate heart. For years I didn't wonder who it was; I just enjoyed the excitement and the knowledge that someone was thinking of me. I later discovered it was my grandad (Poppa Ridley) - charmer to the end - who had arranged these acts of kindness. And such events kept my belief in romance alive.

February seems to encourage a relationship rush; the NEED to be with someone. February 14ths of old have seen me with a few boyfriends; one who sent a garish metre tall card; another who made me walk to his house to pick up a bouquet of roses because he was too hungover to get out of bed; and one who mistook me for a burglar and nearly knocked me out.

Which one do you think I stayed with? The correct answer is C. I had skived work and travelled to his parents' house to cook him a meal and surprise him in my finest brand new lingerie. He saw the light on, recruited the help of his neighbour, and swung for me with a log. The neighbour hasn't been able to make eye contact with me since. That was our first Valentine's day, and since then, we decided to be more low key for health and safety reasons. 

A meal at home; swing music playing and perhaps a small gift is all we do. And it's lovely. 

But it wouldn't be Valentines Day without a suitably romantic red dress - So whether you're with someone or not, put on your prettiest frock and deliver chocolate hearts. Happy Valentine's Day ladies xo

Heritage Bicycle - Jane, £990, Heritage Bicycles on Etsy

Innocence Dress, Topshop £48

Nadia Peplum Dress, Hale Bob, $150

Shrug effect dress, Notte by Marchesa, £670

Pout tulle dress, Alice + Olivia, £610

Free People, £178

I just love this! Second star to the right and straight on till morning...John Lewis £120

Fabulous, Ganni, euro149.90

Spicetree Dress, Anthropologie, £238

Red Poppy Dress, £110, Katastrophic Design on Etsy
Red Lace 1950s Vintage Party Dress, £132, Foxy Brit Vintage on Etsy
Satin Jacquard Vintage 1950s Dress, £57, Floria Vintage on Etsy
Vintage 1940s Silk Taffeta Dress, £76, Manic Vintage on Etsy

Tissue Pom-Poms, £13 on Etsy

“What are you going to do with your life?" In one way or another it seemed that people had been asking her this forever; teachers, her parents, friends at three in the morning, but the question had never seemed this pressing and still she was no nearer an answer... "Live each day as if it's your last', that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn't practical. Better by far to be good and courageous and bold and to make difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. 
Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance.” 
― David NichollsOne Day

Thursday 30 January 2014

Our Engagement Story and LoveMyDress Lovette Application

Did you know that the fabulous wedding blog LoveMyDress is on the look out for bride bloggers? The team of four will be known as The Lovettes (how cute!) and will share their wedding journeys with the readers of the blog. If you're new to LoveMyDress, it provides an invaluable source of inspiration for weddings - and I have them to thank for my wedding stationery and wedding photographer! 

I have applied to be a Lovette and I thought I'd share my application with you, my readers. It's nearly a year since James proposed to me (9th February to be exact - and the same day the competition winners will be chosen!) and it truly has flown by. So it was lovely to have a reason to recall our 'story' in full and put it into words. I hope it entertains you... xo

How did we meet?

He knocked on my door. Really! And in a serendipitous chain of events, I happened to be home early and opened the door. I saw his rosy cheeks and was smitten. He tried to canvas me, (nothing rude - he worked in politics back then) and I, in a desperate attempt to keep him on my doorstep, challenged and argued with him. And that was it...

For our first date he took me canvassing around the streets of Exeter, (I was studying there to be a teacher). Talking to disgruntled Devonians about their parking issues might not sound like the stuff of Austen, but after our toils we ended up in a pub. One by one the others went home leaving us sitting by the crackling fire and drinking cheap red. We talked and talked about nothing and everything; from childhood adventures, to scariest moments, to missed loved ones, to our aspirations. And as cheesy as it sounds, I remember looking at him and suddenly a feeling washed across me - I could see us sitting like that and talking and talking forever. I knew I'd marry him.

But of course it wasn't as simple as that. We were only 23 and I did my best to put him off. I moved to Bournemouth and then to Alderney in the Channel Islands. But in our case the old adage was certainly true: absence made the heart grow fonder. And so I returned; we bought a small but cosy flat in London, rescued an opinionated cat and took in my brother as a lodger.

Then on a disgusting and soggy Saturday morning in February last year, James announced we were going on an adventure; we were going to Chawton to visit Jane Austen's home.

I packed with hurried excitement and we jumped on the next train. Visiting Jane Austen's home has always been on my bucket list. As an English teacher it's a must, but I've been a devotee ever since my ten year old eyes first gazed at a damp Colin Firth from my grandparents' armchair. I have lived my life with the conviction that that sort of legendary love can and does exist in the chaotic modern era.

We arrived at a sweet B&B in the sleepy village of Chawton and quickly put on our boots and ventured out into the rain. Instead of visiting the Austen museum James took me on the Austen trail, a walk that takes you over hills and along disused railway paths...and also through an industrial estate and a field with not one, but three bulls in it. If I had any indication that he was planning to propose, it was snuffed out as I squealed my way through cow-pats and leapt over the fence.

That night we had dinner in the local pub. I was eagerly anticipating pudding when James came back to the table, picked up his coat and told me to follow him. I thought he was mad (it was raining and I was wearing a Parisian flapper-inspired dress - it's not waterproof). I refused and said I wasn't going anywhere until I got my rhubarb crumble and custard. By this time, a few people were looking at us suspiciously and I was beginning to feel very conspicuous. I followed him sulkily.

Instead of heading back to the B&B though, he crossed over the road to outside Austen's house. Now, one thing that must be understood if this is to be seen as particularly remarkable,is that James is a 'good guy'. So imagine my surprise - and horror - when he began scaling the wall into Jane Austen's garden.*

"What do you think you're doing?" I shrieked, aghast. To which he replied nonchalantly,
"I fancy taking a look. Come on."
"You don't break into Jane Austen's garden. I'm an English teacher. It'll be on the news!"

By now you'd imagine him to be on the other side of the wall, but as I said, James is a good guy. Unused to this sort of activity he's still legs-akimbo on the wall.

"Why don't you just use the gate?" I asked.

"Don't be ridiculous," he retorted (pride wounded), " it won't be open".

I pressed on the latch, opened the gate and walked in. I looked up at him from the other side of the walled garden,

"You can tell you went to a private school," I laughed.

With that, he came over the wall - a la Hugh Grant in Notting Hill.

Whether or not it is my perception of the place I don't know, but the garden felt alive. It was as though I could see Jane Austen and her characters laughing on the lawn and sitting reading on the chairs in the shade. I was mesmerised and so failed to notice that my fiancé was down on one knee.

I just remember laughing, then crying, then laughing some more. And of course saying 'yes' a lot.

But owing to the darkness I hadn't seen the ring. I took it and ran across to the house - James calling behind me to stop - and danced around to set off the security lights. A blast of dazzling light was thrown across the garden and I saw on my finger the most beautiful sapphire and diamond engagement ring.

I looked around the garden and said a silent thank you to Miss Austen. I owe my HOPEFUL romanticism to her - and all those years of lovesick diaries, passionate outbursts and the headstrong refusal to accept anything short of 'ardent admiration and love' have paid off.

We returned to the pub where we were greeted with a round of applause, a bottle of champagne and, best of all, rhubarb crumble and custard on the house.

*Disclaimer: We paid to visit the house and museum the next day! :)


Sunday 26 January 2014

January's Dress - Allium B

Dress of the Month: January 
SoManyDresses Reader exclusive PROMO DISCOUNT CODE: Take 20% off using the code SARAH20 at the checkout! 

The Dress

Colette by Allium B

The Deets

Slip into a luxurious Italian silk shirtdress and go from the boardroom to bar in effortless style. Colette's noteworthy features include contrast piping in navy silk and a detachable tie belt. £160 and free delivery.
The Designer
We're a sister team with spookily similar tastes, who've built our careers working in the buying offices of some of the high street's biggest, most fashion forward brands. Finding grown-up, affordable dresses increasingly difficult to come across - not too young, too old, too short or too long - we launched Allium B in March 2012. Having worked for huge brands for many years.we knew we had the expertise to fill this gap, but we have been amazed by the incredible response we've had to our go anywhere dresses.
The idea behind our collection is that each dress can be worn lots of different ways, on lots of different occasions. We create simple shapes that the wearer can style up as they wish: layering over a t-shirt and tights, belted or loose. 
When deciding if a dress makes the final cut, we always ask ourselves, "Is it easy to wear?" and "Do we love it?" If the answer to both these questions is yes, then we know it's a definitely a keeper.
Stylist Tips
Every girl, woman and goddess needs a shirt dress in their wardrobe and this one is super elegant. Team with cosy tights and boots for weekend mooching, or plum-shade stilettos for after-hours chic. I defy any woman to look at these timeless designs and not think 'Thank God!'. x

Saturday 25 January 2014

Bargainista Challenge at the London Designer Outlet and Competition!

Hello lovely readers!

For the first time on my blog, it's COMPETITION TIME. I'm giving away this gorgeous Stella McCartney for Adidas running top. Read on to see how you can win...

The Bargainista Challenge 

I was invited to take part in a shopping challenge at the London Designer Outlet. Located in Wembley, the outlet is home to top sports brands, including Adidas, Trespass and Nike - as well as lots of other top high street names. 

Four bloggers; one hour; one hundred pounds - the challenge: sportswear outfit.

When I do deign to go for a run, I usually 'sport' an oversized t-shirt, (one of which tells the world how many cocktails I drank in one night during my glorious uni days. I like to think Jane Austen would appreciate the irony).

And as the reader will know, my real focus is dresses. But, with the new year and my wedding rapidly approaching, running really is something I ought to get back in to. And I was so surprised when I walked into the shops - the range of products was vast, current and BARGAINACIOUS!

I took my cue from Lucas Hugh (the designer behind The Hunger Games: Catching Fire training outfits) and I wanted my outfit to be supportive, stylish and empowering. I hope you like what I put together; I can honestly say I am seriously excited about going for a run tomorrow. I might not get too far, but I'll certainly look the part!

Thank you so much to Gemma and Jessy for a fantastic day. I'll definitely be going back! x

Stella McCartney running top
Nike grey layering top (as modelled by Sharapova)

Asics running shorts

Adidas Adizero Mana running shoes

And all this for £97! If you haven't visited the outlet yet, get going. I also found some LK Bennett wedges for £50. Well, you can take the girl out of the dress... x


How to enter the competition to win the Stella McCartney running top...
Go to my Facebook page and like and share the competition post. Competition closes 28th February. Good luck! x
Twitter: @spruceorpine

Thursday 23 January 2014

Cara Delevingne Chanel Karl Lagerfeld Bride

Cara Delevingne. The name itself has become ubiquitous, and the model, who once graced the pages of ASOS, is now the face of a fashion era. 

Love her or not, there's no denying her ecclectic and excitable persona has earned her supermodel status. Such is her enormous influence that Karl Lagerfeld made her his muse for his first show for Chanel. 

Delevingne opened and closed the show, which was styled as a nightclub, and all eyes were on...her feet. 

To see models in Chanel couture walking in trainers was fairly astounding. Do I love it? There's tulle and diamantĂ©, but too 'commuter chic' for me. Nevertheless, it's been an impressive stunt and I look forward to seeing fashionistas strutting their stuff in similar creations... 

My eyes, however, were drawn to Cara's head in her closing walk in the bridal piece. The feathers are striking and elegant and absolutely perfect for an autumn/winter wedding or event. The curve is flattering and demure, but it's a bold statement piece.

The dress was a world away from the one she modelled in 2013, where feathers also made an appearance. The gothic was replaced by skater simplicity and the vintage superseded by ultra-modernity.

So ladies, the question is: which one do you prefer? 

Chanel 2013
Chanel 2014
Chanel 2014
Chanel 2014

Images: Getty

Friday 17 January 2014

Pink dresses for spring days and beyond

I refuse to let this inclement weather dampen (ho ho) my spirits. Prompted by your messages about the lovely pink Boden dress I featured last week, I've decided that pink is clearly the way to happiness. 

Styling tips: Pink shades work well on most skin colours as it's very forgiving. But it's important to choose the right shade. For darker tones, avoid pastels as this will make you look wishy-washy. Similarly, bright shades will drown out pale skin. Pink will ease you gently into spring and beyond. But while bare legs remain a distant dream, team these dresses with a pair of quirky tights - see my for the best range.

Better still, because it's STILL not pay day, I've included lots of affordable options. 

Enjoy x

Twitter: @spruceorpine

Pink Shift Dress, River Island, £35

Pink Dress, Dorothy Perkins, £20

Crepe Dress, Topshop £47

Skater Dress, ASOS, £22

Belted Midi, A Wear, £38

Invitation Mildmay Dress, Hobbs, £84

Batwing Dress, ASOS, £42

Drop-waist Dress, Sonia Rykiel, ASOS, £355

Wool-crepe dress, Armani Collezioni, Selfridges, £605