Thursday, 26 April 2012

Made by hand

If there's one thing I can't resist, it's something that's made by hand. Whether it's a dress, a cake or a greetings card, the home-made edge gets me every time.

I was browsing in a local charity shop when I spied this dress. I don't wear a lot of pattern (I'm not including stripes in the pattern category of course. Stripes are not a pattern, they are a UNIFORM) but there was something very appealing about this dress. And when I saw the words "made by hand" on the label, I was sold. For £3, I'd challenge anyone not to succumb. 

{vintage dress, made by hand}

{covered buttons}

{a fabric belt helps to give it some shape}

Those of you who read my recent blog post Mellow Yellow will know that I am currently embracing yellow in all my outfits. I'll wear this dress with flat navy knee-high boots and a navy blue jacket for work, and dress it up in the evening with a pair of grey suede platforms, blue patterned Liberty shawl and blue clutch bag, red nails and red lipstick. Pile on some gold jewellery and I'm good to go.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Mellow Yellow

{my yellow haul}

I like to wear yellow as a bold hit of colour, often as part of a more subdued outfit. I have a couple of go to items which I have on stand-by for such occasions: my woven-leather shoulder bag (Topshop), my cropped jacket (charity shop) and my Richard Allen silk patterned scarf (charity shop). The charity shops are a great place to go and bag yourself a slice of yellow, as it's a favoured colour in the "Granny chic" palette, that so often ends up in the chazzies. 

The thing about yellow, is that it goes with everything. And even the smallest item can have the power to make an outfit. Also it goes brilliantly with bright red or pink lipstick, and bright red or pink nails. Pictures from the recent round of fashion weeks have shown a trend towards like-minded thinkers in terms of my yellow strategy - here are a few pictures to give you a flavour:

For those of you who might want to take on yellow in a more full-on way, here are some high-street options:

{jersey blazer, £49.99 Zara}

{jewel tulle prom dress, £225 Topshop}

{boyfriend roll-up shorts, £17.46 GAP}

{tank t-shirt, £15.99 Zara}
{cotton circle skirt, £69 Cos}

{large raw tote handbag, £85 John Lewis}

{silk safari tank, £45 Banana Republic}

And for those of you who are fancying a more strategic approach, here are some great options for a flash of colour, whatever your outfit:

Monday, 23 April 2012

Hell for leather

{handbags at fashion week}

A leather handbag is an essential part of my everyday outfit. Usually quite a large one, and always, always leather. And that's because it'll last you for years, with a little TLC. So, always go for a classic shape, and you'll have an accessory for life. There are lots of leather treatment products on the market, and I do think they make a difference - your handbag can bear the brunt of some pretty harsh weather. Don't shove your handbag in the back of the wardrobe after it's been out in the rain - make sure it dries out properly and give it a little polish if you can summon up the inclination.

Here are some classic high-street handbags to tempt you - I've tried to keep them all under £100, so the GAP one is a little over, but sign-up to their newsletters and wait for a 30% off voucher.

{Autograph leather panelled bag in coral, £85 M&S}
also available in tan

{textured leather zip hobo bag, £120 GAP}
also available in black

also available in black

available in yellow, green and coral too

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Paisley Print

I am a fan of the paisley print. I think this must stem from the endless visits to the Chester branch of Liberty I was dragged along on as a child. Those visits have stood me in good stead in terms of my appreciation for a good haberdashery department nowadays.

Already the proud owner of three Liberty shawls (all charity shop finds), I find that my eagle-eye is paisley-trained, to spot a richly-coloured pattern at fifty paces.

{Jil Sander catwalk show}

{Jil Sander catwalk show}

The recent resurgence of paisley onto the catwalks has pleased me endlessly. As someone who doesn't wear a lot of pattern, but is a print-aholic, I find that scarves and bags are my preferred way of wearing a print.

{£1 charity shop scarves}

{paisley close-up}

{silk scarves by Liberty, £1 each}
The secret to finding one of these £1 wonders is to find the basket or box of scarves, tucked away in the corner of your nearest charity shop, and have a proper, thorough rummage. A good scarf will generally be made of silk, and will have hand-finished edges - as opposed to machine-finished edges. Scarves will often have tiny labels sewn into the corners, which can have a maker's name and the fabric content on, so keep your eye open for these. Sometimes there isn't a label though, so be wary of good quality polyester which can feel like silk. Although saying that, if you love the pattern, and it's only a £1... then why not? The polyester scarves can be great candidates to use instead of wrapping paper, or to make into these drawsting bags.

Happy hunting.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Monochrome frock

This is just a little show and tell about a dress I found in a chazzy in Devon, on Easter Weekend. If you live  in Devon or are there on hols, it's always worth a visit to Hannah's At Seale Hayne. It's a fabulous old building in a beautiful setting, which is home to an art gallery, artist studios, a lovely bistro, cupcake shop and a charity shop specialising in vintage clothing and jewellery.

{vintage Debenhams dress}

{concealed zip down the centre of the back}

I picked up this dress for £3 - a vintage Debenhams black and white frock, which is really fitted into the waist. It fastens with a concealed zip down the centre of the back, which is genius, and make it a very sleek fit around the wait. It comes with a belt in the same fabric, but I'm going to update the dress with a more modern, leather belt. I might wear the dress with the same accessories as this outfit - am enjoying the black / white / blue combo at the moment.

Here are a couple of high-street options if you're after the monochrome look.

{Cleo dress by Motel, £48 Topshop}

{midi striped knit dress, £24 ASOS}

Monday, 16 April 2012

Is it all above Eve?

My love for Eve Lom Cleansing Balm has been well documented on this blog. But there's a new kid on the block, which is ever so similar, and EVER so much cheaper - Botanics Organic Cleansing Balm, £6.63 from Boots.

{Botanics organic cleansing balm, £6.63 from Boots}

I've been looking for a contender for my loyal Eve Lom for years - the nearest match I'd found was the Cleansing Balm by Bharti Vyas, which was part of the Skin Widom range at Tesco. It was discontinued a while back, and I have been bereft (and poorer, forking out for Eve Lom again) ever since. The similarities between this Botanics Cleansing Balm and Eve Lom Cleansing Balm are endless - the colour, the texture, the application - and if the reviews on the Boots website are anything to go by, then this product is a serious contender.

I've been using mine, and I love it. The smell is more like the Wild Rose Beauty Balm from Neal's Yard but it has the same grainy texture that Eve Lom has. I use this product in exactly the same way as Eve Lom, using this application method and think that the results are great, especially if you'e prone to the odd spot. When I massage it into my face, I do think that the texture feels thinner, and doesn't have the same greasy thickness which I enjoy about Eve Lom, but for the huge price difference, I can ignore this small issue. And so can the hundreds of people who have left glowing reviews of this product on the Boots website.

The one thing I will say though - the cloth is useless. Chuck it away, don't even look at it. Using it is not dissimilar to the feeling of washing your face with a wet piece of paper. But you could always try this cloth below from John Lewis and Waitrose, or these by Liz Earle, or just a cheap terry cloth flannel from IKEA will do - just make sure you wash it after every couple of uses.

{microfibre deep cleansing cloth, £3.25 John Lewis}

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Ode to Chanel

There's a jacket shape which I favour, which I have become known for, and that's the round-necked, short jacket, which has long been favoured by Chanel. 

{original Chanel jacket from 1954 Haute Couture collection}
{black & white jacket in Coco Before Chanel film}

{on display at a Chanel jackets exhibition}

But Chanel's a little out of my league right now, and I've since discovered that the little round-necked jacket style which I love can be sought out from many different sources.

So it all first started with a little pink jacket, purchased almost eight years ago now, from Zara, when I was on holiday in Madrid.

{the original imitation by Zara, circa 2004}
This jacket is a head-turner. I've lost count of the number of compliments I've received for it, or times friends have borrowed it. It even makes friends, all of it's own accord - when I left a job at the BBC, there was a very fierce Argentinian lady, who never spoke to anyone on a fixed-contract, because she knew we'd be gone almost as soon as we arrived. She barely registered my existence, and I don't think she even knew my name, but she wrote in my leaving card, "I will miss your fabulous pink jacket". Of all the other 6-monthers I joined with, my jacket was the only one she put pen to card for.

Soon a pattern emerged for my jacket-buying trend, and I realise that the charity shops are rich hunting ground for my obsession. Here are some of my finds:

{grey tweed by Windsmoor, found in charity shop}

{burgundy tartan/tweed by Viyella, found in charity shop}
{black with front pockets, found in charity shop}

{green woven check by Basler, found in charity shop}

{blue wool houndstooth by Eastex, from charity shop}

{a bevy of beauties...}

The reason I love this type of jacket? It's easier to wear than one with lapels - more relaxed, more comfortable to wear. I don't work in an industry where suited and booted is the required look, but I do like to look fairly smart, and this jacket is a style which doesn't need a matching skirt or trouser to go with it - it's a real mix and match look. And also any jean will do - there's not a pair of jeans out there which doesn't look great with this jacket.

So whilst I'll keep dreaming of Chanel, and keep scouring the charity shops, there are also some corkers on the high street:

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

What's the benefit?

{They're Real mascara by Benefit}

My mum was in the market for a new mascara, and succumbed to They're Real mascara from Benefit. Claimed to be the UK's no. 1 best selling mascara, I've just tried hers, and I'm impressed. It claims to lengthen, curl, volumise, lift and separate - a big claim for such a little wand. But I think this mascara really does deliver.

{ball of spikes for those invisible lashes}

It has a ball of spikes on the end of the wand which are great for covering the tiny 'invisible' lashes which exist at the outer and inner corners of the eye, and the main wand gives good coverage to the central lashes. The mascara is quite wet, and takes a confident hand to apply and give a couple of coats - those less skilful might take a bit of getting used to it. If you're having problems with lashes clumping together, hold the wand vertically and use to separate and curl the lashes. But the mascara lasts, and doesn't drop.

A rare occasion where a product actually lives up to its hype. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Liz Earle

I met up with my mum and a friend of hers recently, who I hadn't seen for a long time, and she came along laden with gifts galore. From Liz Earle. Lovely. 

I was intrigued to try them, as I've only tried three other products from the range so far: the much-lauded Cleanse & Polish, Botanical Shine Shampoo and the Sheer Skin Tint - the latter being the brand's first foray into make-up, with more make-up products to follow, all in good time. All three of these products were impressive, and at a good price too.

{Liz Earle's Hand Repair and Energising Body Wash}

The Hand Repair is good - it's in a pump dispenser which I like, and contains anti-oxidants to prevent ageing, and Vitamin E to nourish, plus echinacea and beat-carotene. If you like your hand creams light and non-greasy then this will be perfect for you - and others obviously agree as this hand cream has already won two industry awards. If you like a heavier, more emollient hand cream, then you might find this one a bit light.

The Energising Body Wash is a pleasantly scented, kind on the skin shower gel, particularly good for those with eczema - one of the drivers behind Liz Earle launching this range, was her quest to find natural products which didn't aggravate her own eczema. The scent is from pure essential oils, including Sweet Damask Rose, and is a fresh, invigorating, stimulating fragrance which is a perfect morning pick-me-up. If you re-act to chemical foaming agents, then this is a great option, as the foaming agents are from corn and coconut - completely natural options.

And rumour has it that Liz Earle's Superskin Concentrate is a real winner - that's next on my hit list. And when you order from their website, the products arrive beautifully packaged, and with samples galore. A nice touch.