Style Crushed

So with the fashion world abuzz at the opening on the UK’s very first J Crew store tomorrow, all eyes are on the brand’s legendary creative director who took it from zero to hero in the blink of a boldly bespectacled eye.

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Yes, I’m talking about none other than Jenna Lyons. The blogosphere is awash with fashionistas proclaiming her to be their ‘style icon’ and ‘girl crush’, so like the contrary little madam I am, I’m stepping up to be the lone voice of dissent.

Actually, that’s not fair, I do admire her style and I have A LOT of respect for any high-profile unabashed glasses-wearer. She is also evidently a pretty savvy business woman, who certainly knows what people want. However, the madness has gone too far.

My copy of Grazia was waiting on the doormat when I got home last night, Jenna as cover girl, promising to disclose her style secrets within. Oh yes, such gems as ‘dress for your body shape’, ‘nick your fella’s jumper’ (I’m paraphrasing, natch) and ‘try and stick to a limited colour palette when travelling’. I mean, god love her for trying, but it’s hardly new material, is it? I know we’re all reinventing the wheel when it comes to fashion, and yes, I concede, Jenna does a better job than most, but she does have the slight advantage of being over 6ft tall, extremely well paid and with one of the world’s most celebrated clothing brands at her disposal.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have my own girl crushes – Kristen Stewart, for example – I bloody love her. Never afraid to be seen without make-up and wearing a hoody, she’s a girl after my own heart. She refuses to get tarted up to nip to Starbucks, but when she does the red carpet, man, does she rock it? But the fact still remains that celebrities have it easier than mere mortals.

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The people I most admire are the ones who don’t get sackloads of free stuff everyday or have an army of hair and make up artists trailing in their wake. Like my fabulous friend L who dresses entirely to please herself in a mish-mash of bright prints and textures that should never work but always do, on a primary school teacher’s salary. Or the lovely K (*waves to Germany*) who always looks effortlessly beautiful and chic in her blues, greys and pinks. Or my colleague E, whose style could not be further from my own – think pastels, pearls, tidy chignons – who looks so sleek and immaculate she makes me feel like Medusa. I know so many stunning, stylish women that this list could go on for the rest of time, so I’ll leave it there. My point is the women I really admire are the ones figuring out their own style everyday, without any help or fanfare. So pay it forward folks, if you see a woman at the bus stop in a fabulous coat, tell her! If there’s someone at work you think has great taste in shoes, let her know. I know nothing makes my day like an unsolicited compliment, especially from a relative stranger (shallow? Me?)

P.S. I do love Jenna really, I just know that if I tried to dress like her i’d be like the Danny DeVito to her Arnold Schwartzenegger (Twins, great movie).

P.P.S. can someone let me know when it’s safe to go to J Crew on Regent St? I have kids to think of so I don’t want to die in a stampede like Mufasa (Lion King, also great movie).

Monday Morning Lust List – Boden A/W 2013

Well, who would have thunk it? A Boden lust list post. But I tell you what, they’ve got it going on for Autumn-Winter! A gorgeous collection full of colour and quirky detail, it’s like they read my mind…

The braiding and pocket detail on this Brompton jacket is so cute, and I love the bright green. Excellent wool content too.

Brompton Jacket

The printed trouser trend shows no sign of abating, and this pretty tiled pattern pair would be perfect with a white tee and the Brompton jacket. These are definitely going on my shopping list.

Bistro Crop Trouser

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know I love a statement skirt, and how Marant is this beauty? I’d wear it with a hot pink cashmere knit.

Printed Cotton Pencil

I have a T by Alexander Wang top with this same cross-over detail and I find it extremely flattering, so it’s great to see this long-sleeved version in a beautiful plum colour.

Emma top

This dark denim shirt will be the perfect update to my mid-wash one for the new season. Boden cut their shirts brilliantly, so I have high hopes for this one!

Denim shirt

I’ve fancied a pair of loafers for quite a while now, and I love this tasselled navy pair. I’ve only ever bought two pairs of shoes from Boden, but I’ve been thrilled with both, so I’m extremely tempted to try these.

Tassel Loafer

Another thing I have been looking for is a drawstring bucket bag. In an ideal world this would be a Louis Vuitton Noe, but this gorgeous plum version is a lot more realistic!

Leather pouch bag

Boden have really pulled it out of the bag with their knitwear for A/W. I have a few bits from previous seasons and it just lasts and lasts while looking brand new, so I have no hesitation in ordering this lovely Honeycomb knit. The only issue will be choosing which colour!

Honeycomb Stitch Jumpe

These pointy flats are just fabulous, they’ll be perfect for work and with jeans. It is unbelieveably hard to find a leopard pointy flat on the UK high street, so I’m mightily glad Boden have obliged!

Pointed Pump

Being the lucky owner of a pair of shorter than average legs, I’m always looking for ways to lengthen them, which is where these Brasserie trousers would come in handy. The contrasting side stripe acts as a great optical illusion, drawing the eye down.

Brasserie Trouser

Wow, this list is a bit longer than I intended, but honestly, there are so many lovely things to chose from. On to my final pick now, and this was the item that I knew I HAD TO HAVE…

Desert Boot

Pink Desert Boots – yeah, baby! I literally cannot put into words how much I love these utter works of art. They are incredible. I’m already picturing myself kicking through the Autumn leaves in these, rolled up skinnies and the Honeycomb Stitch Jumper above.

And for a limited time, code PRUK will get you 20% off your order and free delivery! Right, I’m off to place mine – what will you get?

Happy Monday everyone!

Graduate Fashion Week with Next

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Graduate Fashion Week gala show and awards ceremony with the lovely Ellie from Next, Natasha from Jam and fellow bloggers Lauren and Ngoni.

After a delicious, calorie-laden lunch at Byron we headed over to the exhibition. The various universities had stands set out displaying their collections and lookbooks. The innovation and talent were evident and inspiring.

The gala show was just breathtaking. Here are a few of my favourite picks:

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Lauren Dutton’s (UCA Rochester) sporty collection was how I wish my school uniform had looked.

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Juliena Siqueira’s (Istituto Marangoni) colourful kilts really lifted her monochrome formal menswear collection.

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Josephine Pettman (Ravensbourne) showed a bright, punky collection. I particularly loved the jacket covered in badges.

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Hannah Williams (UCA Epsom) has been widely touted as ‘the one to watch’, and on the strength of this offering I have to agree. Her painstakingly embossed, pastel collection was crafted entirely of latex. The result was a slick, achingly modern collection which could well be Celine’s heir to the minimalist throne. No surprise then that she took away both the Womenswear and Innovation awards.

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From one award winner to another, Kirandeep Bassan’s bold collection took home the Zandra Rhodes Textile Award, and deservedly so. I loved the gorgeous colour clashes and oriental shapes – so vibrant.

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Patricia Williams (Ravensbourne) showed clean lines, sharp pleating and a daisy-fresh palette of yellow and white. Simple and very effective.

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Lauren Smith’s (Edinburgh College of Art) print and applique collection took home the George Gold Award and a £20,000 prize. This collection was full of contradictions; leather and tulle, sharp yet fluid, bold yet ethereal. The judges called it an emotional collection, and I absolutely loved it.

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Adam Jones (Manchester School of Art) showed a grunge-influenced womenswear collection. I loved the biker jackets and textured knitwear but, as much as I like a touch of whimsy in my outfits, I don’t think I’d be brave enough to wear the ‘Pussy’ skirt.

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The last collection in the show was also my favourite. Nicolas Wirth’s (Istituto Marangoni) dark, romantic eveningwear collection was so, so beautiful and eminently wearable. The simple dresses really stood out in a sea of attention-grabbing designs.

It was a fanastic day and I’d like to say a huge thank you to Next for having me. Former winners at the awards include Stella McCartney, Christopher Bailey and Matthew Williamson, so it’s very exciting to think that I may have just seen the start of some very big careers!

And to the naysayers who think fashion is cyclical and unoriginal – keep your eye on this lot, I think they have a lot to teach us!

P.S. In all the excitement I completely failed to get a photo of my outfit, but I wore this fabulous Zebra skirt with a simple grey tee and a black blazer, and I loved it!

Zebra Skirt

A Short Story…

Everybody has their own personal body demon, don’t they? Y’know, that part of your figure you really don’t like, that you’re always wishing could be different. For as long as I can remember I’ve hated my legs. While doing ballet at the age of five I was conscious of my plump thighs. In secondary school my classmates glided along on coltish limbs while I lumbered on stumpy triangles.

Today, at the age of 28 I’m not quite that girl anymore. I’m objective enough to see that, really, my legs aren’t all that bad. My knees are chubbier than I’d like and I have cellulite, so no-one’s ever going to ask me to be the face of Gilette, but my legs are strong and they get me places, which is all you can ask of them really.

But then summer rolls around, and all that good sense flies out the window at the first hint of sunshine. The last few years have been a god-send to me. Maxis and midis have been all the rage, so there has been no need for me to bare more than my (actually quite decent) calves. I have spent years looking on enviously at women going about their business in shorts, seemingly free of the shackles of insecurity. Of course that’s not true, those women are probably cringing about their arms, stomachs, breasts or goodness knows what other imagined disfigurement, but thats how it seems. I’m straight back to my 9-year old, 34b wearing self, comparing my curves to pre-pubescent sylphs in the changing rooms. And it doesn’t feel good.

So this year, I made a decision. I was going to buy a pair of shorts (while exercising regularly, body-brushing for England and drinking enough water to fill the Grand Canyon). And yesterday, the transaction took place, so I am now the proud owner of not one, but two, pairs of Gap’s finest shorts.

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I bought the ‘Boyfriend roll-up shorts’ in a lovely grey (not on the website, natch), which are very flattering and a great length for chasing after children – no risk of over-exposure.

I also bought the ‘Sunkissed shorts’ in bright blue (also not online). These are quite a bit shorter and will take some working up to but, hey, in for a penny, in for a pound!

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I wore the boyfriends today for a day at Brighton beach. And, guess what? No-one died. No children were traumatised. No elderly women fainted. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that no-one gave a monkey’s. No photos, I’m afraid – Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I’ve definitely laid the foundations.

Butter Me Up

I’m always a bit skeptical of multi-use products.”Jack of all trades, master of none”, usually springs to mind. So when the Dressing Room sent me the Signature Butter by Nadia wrap dress to style as part of their Great British Dress Off campaign (more about this on their blog), I was curious to see whether it would live up to the promise.

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I’ve had a fondle of these dresses before, so I expected the jersey would be soft, weighty and fluid, and indeed I was not disappointed. It’s an interesting dress in that it’s really just a skirt with two very long ties attached to the waistband, and it is this design that gives it the versatility to be worn so many different ways. The most enjoyable part of this trial was playing around with the dress, seeing how many ways I could style it. And, wow, there were a lot of ways. I’m showing you three here, and I’ve gone for quite formal styling as we head into wedding/christening/graduation season.

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Firstly, I’ve gone for a simple halterneck style, twisting the straps together down the back and knotting at my waist, leaving the long ties hanging to one side. I’m usually a bit shy of halternecks as I have quite broad shoulders and can sometimes look like a prop forward, but I think the broad straps counter this quite nicely.

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I’ve gone for a Grecian look for my second style, taking both straps across one shoulder, crossing them at the back and then again at the waist before knotting to the rear. I really like this asymmetric style; really elegant, perfect for an evening engagement.

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For my final look, I’ve gone for a crossover halter style, crossing the straps at my chest, then again behind my neck, wrapping the straps around my waist and tying to the rear. Another incredibly simple yet chic style.

Outfit:

Dress – Butter by Nadia
Bag – Anya Hindmarch Valorie
Shoes – Russell & Bromley
Cuffs- George at Asda (c/o)

And I’ve barely scratched the surface here. This image gives a better idea of the myriad ways this dress can be worn:

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Hopefully I’ve proved that this dress works really well for the curvy contingent, but I also think it could work just as well on a sleeker silhouette. It would look amazing worn as a strapless ballerina style, and those of you who don’t need a supension-bridge-like structure keeping everything hoisted could try one of the more daring backless styles.
If you want to know more, the team at The Dressing Room have put together this excellent video showing how to tie the dresses to achieve various styles.

This dress could also be the answer to a lot of occasionwear woes. How many times have I dropped a bomb on a dress for a wedding and then angsted about wearing it again? This dress isn’t the cheapest, but it’s around the price point I’d buy at for a big event and you get a lot of bang for your buck. Swap the accessories round and style it a different way – Hey Presto! New dress!

Hmmm, I think I’ve talked myself into it…

Disclaimers:

  • This dress will be winging its way back to Dressing Room HQ tomorrow morning, and I have not been paid for this feature. I have done it because they are all round good eggs with a great range of products and give superb CS. Oh, and I like wearing pretty dresses.
  • I haven’t taken up cage fighting, as the bruising to my leg may suggest. I actually fell over a slide at the playground. God bless the mum standing nearby who tried to temper my humiliation by telling me she does that ‘all the time’. Course you do, love.
  • My lawnmower is not, to my knowledge, broken. I can’t be sure of course, as I haven’t taken it out of the garage for about 8 months.

Monday Morning Lust List – Monochrome Stripes

After a week of patchy blogging, I’m hitting the ground running today. A slightly different sort of lust list today as I am focussing not on a single store, but on a particular trend that is really tickling my fancy at the moment. Monochrome was all over the S/S13 catwalks and this has naturally filtered down onto the high street, but I particularly love it in stripe format. Maybe it’s my inner burglar, I don’t know. Anyway, luckily for me, I’m spoilt for choice!

Prom Skirt, £22 - Dorothy Perkins

Prom Skirt, £22 – Dorothy Perkins

I love the slight volume to this skirt, and the fact that it is 98% cotton is a real selling point – it is so hard to find natural fibres at a reasonable price! I have just ordered this with code DPVC20 (valid until 19 May) giving 20% off. I will report back.

Trench coat, £99.99 - Banana Republic

Trench coat, £99.99 – Banana Republic

I have liked this trench for a while, and it’s now on sale, but of course it has sold out in my size. I will have to do a trawl of the London stores. I’ve not had a Banana Republic trench before but, as I understand it, the quality and cut are among the best on the high street.

Striped knit blazer, £49.99 - Banana Republic

Striped knit blazer, £49.99 – Banana Republic

While I’m on the subject of Banana Republic, here’s another stripey little bargain. I think this would definitely need to be a try on in-store enterprise as I’m not sure the cut would work on me, but I can see it being a really verstaile office cover up.

Striped dress, £39 – Kaleidoscope

I’ve never bought from, or even really ever looked at, Kaleidoscope before, but I LOVE this dress. I think I’m going to have to order it because it ticks all my boxes; crew neckline, slimming side panels and cinching waist band. Click on the pic and check it out on the model, because I’m not sure this shot does it justice!

Cotton striped T-shirt, £22.99 - Mango

Cotton striped T-shirt, £22.99 – Mango

For a more casual take on the trend, how about this tee from Mango. I like the slight twist on the stereotypical Breton top, and I think the relaxed shape makes it really easy to wear.

Tibi Camisole, £195 - Net-A-Porter

Tibi Camisole, £195 – Net-A-Porter

I have my heart set on this cute cami by Tibi. It will have to go into the sale, because even I draw the line at spending the best part £200 on a vest, but I’m pretty sure it would be something I could bring out year after year, and as we only get about 6 days of camisole worthy weather a year in this country it would probably last me into my dotage…

T by Alexander Wang tank, £80 - Harvey Nichols

T by Alexander Wang tank, £80 – Harvey Nichols

A still pricey but slightly less absurd option would be this T by Alexander Wang tank. I’m a big fan of the brand and am building a bit of a collection, but the thing that puts me off here is the ‘off-white’ description. I’d have to see it in the flesh to determine just how far from white it really is.

 

Stripe patent court, £85 - Dune

Stripe patent court, £85 – Dune

Ok, so these aren’t quite black and white, but aren’t they fab? I’ve seen these pop up in a lot of fashion shoots, alongside some real big-hitters. I think the blush/black combo just about edges it for me, but it’s close! They’d dress up a simple shift a treat, or look great with jeans.

So, are do stripes do it for you? Or are you more into florals or colour-blocking? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I love hearing your comments, so do let me know what you think!

Charity begins in my wardrobe

Since the tragedy of the building collapse in Bangladesh, I’ve naturally noticed a great deal more discussion surrounding dressing ethically. It even came up on a girls’ night out last week (in between discussing which member of One Direction we’d like to corrupt). The general feeling was that it’s very difficult to know how ethical a retailer is, and that known ethical retailers (for example, People Tree) don’t exactly cater for our demographic. Now, without doing extensive research or a trend-led, affordable ethical fashion brand popping up (which would be great, by the way), what can we do?

Well, one option is to buy second hand. eBay and dress agencies are great for this, but does anything beat the thrill of finding a gem stashed away in a charity shop. Not only good for the environment and your soul, charity shopping is kind to your purse too. Yesterday, on my way to collect my children from my parents’ house, I popped into a few. They live in an affluent area, so donations are impressive. Some great buys I spotted yesterday included Jimmy Choos for £30, a Vivienne Westwood Anglomania dress for £9.99 and J Brand jeans for £8! However, I came home with this:

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Not the best shot in the world, but it’s a DKNY silk shirt dress, which I paid £14.99 for. It is in immaculate condition and fits beautifully. I’ve been looking for a shirt dress for years and never found on that’s quite right; they’ve always been too long, skirt too full, sleeves not quite right etc. But this one is exactly what I wanted, and so versatile.

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Here I’ve styled it for work, adding a skinny patent belt, white tots a ballet pumps. It would would equally well with courts, but all my sensible work-y shoes are in my desk drawer!

20130510-102532.jpgThis is the dress as part of a wedding look – a bold necklace and simple clutch glam it up a treat.

20130510-102903.jpgAnd how about some sightseeing on holiday? Beaded flat sandals, gold cuffs and a cross body bag make it the perfect outfit for pretending to be interested in cathedrals.

All that for £14.99 and I’ve done my good deed for the day? I call that a win! Why not check out your local chazza – you never know what you might find!