Quick Style Fixes for Busy Mums

It's not vanity. It's self-respect.

Archive for the category “Effortless style”

Why Easter totally kicks Christmas’ butt. And pretty clothes.

Easter is my new favourite Holiday. I can’t believe it’s taken me 35 years to fully appreciate it.

It’s got all the good stuff – chocolates, rabbits, daffodils, two days off. And none of the bad stuff, like hyperventilating in Debenhams on Christmas Eve.

It’s easy to celebrate with a 2 year old, and it doesn’t have to  be expensive. Here are some things we’ve been up to:

MAKING CHOCOLATE CRISPIE CAKES.

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Man, these are fine. They take minutes to make, and even very young children will love stirring and spooning the mixture into paper cases. P. concentrated very hard on patting the cornflakes tightly into them, which made me feel like an AMAZING PARENT as I was encouraging her MANUAL DEXTERITY & CONCENTRATION. We had so many left over we gave a massive box to her childminder this morning. *pats self on head*

The health benefits are also manifold, because dark chocolate, as everyone knows, is good for everything, and cornflakes are enriched with Vitamin B, which is good for flagging energy. Oh I’m sorry – I’ve finished the lot. Total cost: about £4.00 Time: An hour – making and scoffing

BUYING GREAT STUFF IN CHARITY SHOPS

Like these decorative eggs, £1.00 for both. I know – criminal.

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They sit, somewhat reluctantly, next to P.’s mad home-made egg.

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And this flowery table-cloth for £2.75:

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Which ordinarily B. would never allow in the house. Luckily he is as desperate for sunshine and flowers as the rest of us, so I’ve exploited his temporary weakness and we now even have breakfast on it. It feels like eating in a meadow:

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Total cost of charity shop bargains: under a £5.

GETTING OBSESSED WITH SWEET-PEAS

I have thought about planting sweet-peas for years, but somehow never got round to it. Then, thanks to issue 7 of The Simple Things, which has SIX PAGES OF TANTALISING SWEETPEAS – and becoming a mother, and ‘between jobs’ – I just went right on and did it.

I now have four little teepees in the back garden:

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The kitchen windowsill has become a temporary incubation site:

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And in the summer, my house is going to be full of jam jars of the stuff. (Photo: The Simple Things.)

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Total cost: £15 – £20 to enjoy all summer.

Finally – if you’re in Bristol this weekend, you should go to the Chocolate Festival. It takes place over Saturday and Sunday, ENTRY IS FREE and there will be chocolate smeared over EVERYTHING. You can see pictures from previous events here.

If it was remotely warm, I would be wearing this Collins Avenue dress, £39.95, which would look fab with boots and tights.

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But as it is, I’m lusting after my favourite ‘mad 80s’ jumper from Therapy which I have already tried on and it looked great. Reduced to £17.50, I’m desperately trying to think of excuses to get it. Maybe it’s because I’ve got a job in children’s telly?

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As well as this stunning Ted Baker coat, which I spotted in House of Fraser. Gorgeous, no?

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A quick look online reveals it’s ‘only’ £229, so I may just admire from afar with a pained expression.

I just love it. One more glance? Go on then.

ted baker

 

Quick trip to Whistles – my oh my

Whistles is one of those brands that, alongside with Reiss, L.K Bennett and Jigsaw, I had consigned to the ‘Never Going to Wear anything That Smart Again’ bin of motherhood (along with ‘Blow-Dried Hair, High Heels, and Small, Impractical Handbags.)

But after a meeting earlier this week I decided to check it out as it was nearby and I fancied – let’s face it – trying on some new clothes.

I had the entire – admittedly small – Park Street store to myself and I was incredibly impressed.

The thing about Whistles clothes is, they may be expensive, but they’re beautifully made. Although the price tag is a bit steep, you can actually see where the money goes – into creating wonderfully tailored and thought-out lines. This is investment clothing at its finest.

Here’s my pick of what’s in store:

Their beautiful white 100% silk ‘Sylvia’ shirt, £95. I know –  totally impractical for motherhood, but it really was a thing of joy. The cut, especially around the shoulders, was perfect, and the cuffs had buttons – a small, quaint touch that made me feel like a 1950s movie star. It felt fantastic on my skin and I just LONGED to be transported to the Riviera, Hollywood, or Paris, even for a few hours, to wear this, drink a gimlet, and think deep thoughts. Yes, it really is that lovely.

Here it is online:

whistles sylvia

Here it is on me:

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 Sigh.

I also loved this very soft cashmere feel slub top which had sparkly studs on it. It felt so soft and flattering I tried to convince myself I needed it. This sort of jumper could actually work in motherhood as long as you went nowhere near your child. You just wouldn’t want snot, crayon, or food anywhere near it.

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Now although this was on the sale rail in store, I can’t for the life of me find it online. I still think it’s worth posting because it’s so beautiful. If you live in Bristol, I recommend you nab it.

Now this dress is online. It’s the  Gloria Lace Dress and it comes in a beautiful deep blue. Here it is online:

gloria lace

And here it is on me:

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Here it is in pink:

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And here it is in grey (sob)

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It felt, as I’d come to expect, absolutely wonderful, really comfortable, well-cut, and well-made. At £175 a pop, the Gloria dress don’t come cheap, but it was one of the loveliest things I have tried on this year and made me feel –  well – like a woman. A woman who doesn’t do any housework. Worth trying on if you have ‘an occasion’ this year.

My glorious half-hour in Whistles made me do a total u-turn on the brand. The clothes are so exquisite and comfortable that I will definitely be returning as soon as I gain disposable income. The styles are timeless and beautifully flattering. So jolly well done.

You can visit their stores online or buy some of their lines from House of Fraser, John Lewis, and Asos (and probably more I don’t know about.) But, as with most things, nothing beats going to the store itself and trying loads on.

In other news – I am going to Bristol’s Cabot Circus 48 Hour Fashion Fix this weekend!

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I’ll be able to feast my eye on some up and coming S/S lines, meet some other South West fashion bloggers, and let you have the low-down on Monday. Am very excited!

Have a lush weekend.

 

I fancy her clothes…

Today felt like the first proper day of spring, didn’t it? Warm sunshine that lasted all day, birds singing, the crocuses peeping out from their hiding places… what could be better?

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To celebrate, P. and I went to our local city farm. Now, I love looking at pigs and sheep as much as the next mum…but what I really enjoyed today was feeling everyone’s mood palpably lift in the sunshine. It was as if my entire community just shifted into a slower, happier gear. 

It’s easier to chat to strangers when it’s warm, isn’t it? It’s such a relief to notice people again after months of rushing past each other in massive jackets and scarves. That’s why it’s easier to photograph mums when there’s a bit of sun around –  I feel less guilty about making them stand still. Like Lucy, whose outfit I spotted at the farm. She’s so cool – I did this with one shot and it came out picture perfect. 

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This rakish but practical look is perfect for a mum with toddlers or babies because it’s low-maintenance and versatile but still stylish. There’s something about a black and brown palette that really works if you’re in a rush. Black jeans, black coat, tan shirt, brown boots – it sounds so simple on paper, and all you have to do is jazz it up with a metallic necklace like Lucy’s. It will take seconds but looks amazing.

In fact, this colour scheme is something that appears in this category again and again. Black and brown, black and brown – it’s all about the neutrals!

I also love this look because it feels like Lucy’s dressing to please herself, rather than conform to a mumsy ‘mum uniform’. I’ve made some awful mistakes when I’ve bought stuff I thought I should wear… Floral tops, awful jeans, terrible shoes.

Since my last post on these wonderful ladies, I’ve been thinking about how, in comparison, I am a real conformist when it comes to dressing. So I’ve started noticing mums around me if they’re confident and strong enough to let their own rock and roll nature peep out, and that, for me, really comes through with Lucy. 

Cuff bracelets are amazing.

Once in a while I get flashes of inspiration so powerful I feel like Brian Cox must feel ALL THE TIME, especially when he’s looking into a sunset, contemplating life’s energy.

Or posing next to a tiger cub… look. It’s hard to say what’s cuter.

Brian

Anyway, what? Oh yes. Flashes of inspiration.

I had one this week and here it is.

Cuff bracelets.

They are so cool. Why have I not realised this before?

This very cool street style tumblr has, obviously.

I love the contrast of the slouchy luxe jumper with the metallic cuff. Then it’s all set off by the red polish. Divine.

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It’s also such an easy look for a busy mum to pull off. If you have a massive oversized jumper lurking around somewhere and some bright nail polish, all you now need is a metallic cuff and you’re away.

(If you’re looking for a huge grey jumper like the one above, check this one out.)

Women, embrace metallic cuffs, and watch in amazement as:

1. Your arms look thinner.

2. You feel yourself getting stronger and more assertive, as you feel a bit Amazonian. Harper’s Bazaar said it best: “Worn on one wrist or both, statement or subtle, the cuff has the ability to toughen an outfit whilst retaining luxury and sophistication.”

SHINE ON, YOU CRAZY DIAMONDS

If your wardrobe is plain and utilitarian, so much the better. These cuff bracelets need a simple canvas from which to shine.  And, as Harpers & Queen reckon a metallic cuff should be in every woman’s top 10, what more convincing do we need? I am on to a good thing.

Here are just a few I found online to kick-start you off:

UNDER £10:

River Island Gold Tone Minimal Cuff, £8

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Embossed Mango Cuff, £3.99:

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UNDER £20

Top Shop Metal Layer Cuff, £12.50:

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UNDER £30

These cuffs are hammered for a more rustic look. Approx £20.30 from this Etsy seller:

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MONEY NO OBJECT:

Aspinall’s Cleopatra Cuff is a bit gorgeous. £125.

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Stella & Dot’s Petra Bracelet, £85:

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Do you know a wonderful source for cuff bracelets I haven’t mentioned? Tell me here – I’d love to know.

Have  a great weekend and hope you get lots of sleep, lie-ins, breakfast in beds and the odd cuddle.

My Christmas list

I’m feeling festive! This may have something to do with the mulled rum a friend brought or the tonne of orange and pistachio stollen which I am slowly munching my way through made for presents.

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Or it could just be that after a year which brought a few challenges, I can’t wait for a fortnight of eating, drinking, hugs, quality family time, and playing Monopoly.

And my gift to you is a top 10 Christmas present list for wonderful mums. Why not treat a friend, yourself, or send on to your nearest and richest if they have asked what you want for Christmas?

1. “How to be an idle parent” by Tom Hodgkinson. In an age of anxious parenting, this book says doing less does more for your children. Inspirational, well-written, intelligent. Will change your life.

2. Garnier’s BB cream. Do not wear this if you are going for the sympathy vote with husband, friends, grandparents, or anyone else you want to tap up for babysitting duties. They won’t believe you when you say you’re shattered.

3. A great pair of pyjamas. In the mornings when my daughter is breakfasted, washed, and dressed, and I am still in my pyjamas and doing the dishes, the only compensation is that at least I don’t look like a trog even if I feel like one.  Must be cotton.

4. Coated M&S jeggings. These are flattering, do all sorts of great suction type things to the thighs, and look a bit edgy. I tried on their olive ones (they’re called Forest Green online) and loved them.

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They also had a black pair which I loved. Definitely recommend these. Must try on in-store ( M&S things much better in-store than on-line.)

5. A Clarks gift voucher. Have you seen Clark’s range of boots recently? I can’t decide between these :-

Musky Marloor their ‘Norley Wood‘ boots which are a bit more ‘sensible’.

Norley Wood

It’s a mute point as I can’t afford either, but that doesn’t stop me from pondering. If your rich uncle Barry can buy these for you, then waste no time.

6. A statement necklace.  These are fashion’s way of saying “It’s alright darling, let me do all the work today.”  Kate Moss knew this when she sported the gold necklace on the day her cocaine scandal broke. No one cared about her morals, all we wanted was her necklace. Will absolve a woman of all sins – bad hair, egg on face, etc.

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I love this Autograph multi-chain necklace:

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and have also spotted some lovely necklaces on Etsy this year, like this one :

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7. A dress from People Tree. Every time I go on their site I fall in love with a new one. At the moment, it’s their ‘Rosabel‘ dress which looks flirty and yummy. It’s also lined with fleece. I KNOW.

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8. Not so much a gift as a tip. Pixi-Woo are make-up artists who post online tutorials. Now I understand why they are called ‘artists’. To see what I mean, check out their videos here.

8.5. Bourjois Liner Pinceau Liquid Eyeliner in brown. The easiest liquid eyeliner I’ve used. Makes me feel like a proper woman.

9. A make-up mirror. The day I started applying my make-up SITTING DOWN, IN FRONT OF A MIRROR was a big one.

Finally….

10. Ryan Gosling in a festive jumper.

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Actually – jumper optional. I debated with myself about whether to include this pic as it’s gratuitous nudity. Then I thought – who am I kidding. It’s Christmas.

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Hope your children sleep through the night, you get all the help you need, and you have a wonderful holiday with your nearest and dearest. God bless us everyone.

Great post-baby clothes

Oh, Reese.

I love you. You have a two month old baby and you look NORMAL. In a good way.

I like Reese because a) Like me she is short b) she has a completely normal post-baby body c) I loved her in ‘Legally Blonde’. Shallow? No.

The tailoring she has employed here, and the chic yet practical monochrome look, is a lovely alternative to jeans + t-shirt.

And those beautiful shoes – sigh. I bet she did a little fist clench when she found those bad boys.

This look is also perfect because you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money to replicate it. Most of us have a white shirt kicking around, but if you don’t check out this beautiful one at Dorothy Perkins for £20:

You could team them with these H&M black capri pants, £15:

Or if you were feeling a bit more confident or just didn’t fancy wearing solid black head to toe, these beautiful Next trousers, £42, would hit the spot.

Who doesn’t love a black baggy jumper? This knitted one from Top Shop (£45) looks great and forgiving. Would look fab with some blood-red nail polish. It is a bit pricey but would look good year after year.

I have also been thinking a lot about…..slippers. ( I know, I know.) I may do a post on stylish ones (are there any to be found?)

Where were we? And a ridiculous amount of Boots.

Oh my sweet lord, I haven’t written for a long time.

Over the last few months I have been focusing on leaving an old job behind and embarking on a new one. It’s taking up a bit of time hence the rather long silence. But I still love writing this blog. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll aim for one post a week, rather than the three or four I was doing. It’s more manageable and means I won’t be staring at this screen for hours while a ravenous toddler crawls around my legs saying: ‘Bad Mummy’.

Anyway, the time has come to ask: Who the hell designs Next’s boot collection? The boot fairy of 200 ideas? The cavernous cave of boot ideas?

The website has literally made my head implode. I went on looking for one measly pair of black biker boots. I came away bedazzled. They have 233 boots on sale.

That’s right.

Two hundred and thirty three.

Ladies, if you are looking for a pair of boots for this Autumn, you could do worse.  There’s this little glittery pair for £68…

 

Some flat pointy shoes that remind me of my first ever Pixie boots, bought in Watford at the tender age of eleven (thanks Mum): £30

 

Any shoes called ‘Sludge’ are winners in my book. Black Sludge Boots, £65, and they will go with anything.

To see the other 230 boots, visit this page.

There’s something to be said for a brand with this much choice. They might not be cutting-edge trendy, but it saves you time. And time, as we all know, is the elixir of LIFE.

And they do next-day delivery.

That, my friends, is bootiful.

(Yes, the crap puns are here to stay.)

 

 

 

Dresses for a modern bride, or a flustered mum.

Someone in my family is getting married in November. We’re all very excited and looking forward to drinking all day, crying in the toilets from emotion, and saying ‘Isn’t this lovely?’ repeatedly to anyone who’ll listen. That’s me, on the far-right, in the future.

In the meantime, the future bride and I met up last week and as she left the house she said: ‘If you come across any nice dresses you think I might look good in for the wedding, let me know – don’t go to any effort though.’

Er, hello? Tidying P.’s eating trough three times a day – effort. Looking at pretty dresses for 20 minutes on-line – no effort. In fact, a joy.

The following dresses are suitable for a modern bride who doesn’t want to go down the whole traditional white dress path but just wants a beautiful dress she can wear again and again. She’ll need a dress that stands out enough to make her look the belle of the ball, obviously. I think these fit the bill:

Nude Pink 50s dress, Mint Velvet, £89.00. I love this label and have written about them on this previous post – they can basically do no wrong.  This is perfect for a modern bride.

L.K. Bennett Anais Silk Shift Dress, Sunflower, £225. If you want to be a shimmering lovely bride of incandescent beauty  – which you might – this is the dress for you. One to hand down from generation to generation.

A cream dress, yes, but so versatile you could wear it to get married in, and then drink cocktails in all night, and then wear on your honeymoon. Every day. Why would you wear anything else when you had this? Bastyan Embellished Dress in Nude, £236

Oh god it also comes in navy! Buy both! Why not? We’re all going to hell in a handcart anyway.

People Tree Miriam Red Fleece Dress, £65.

I love People Tree – and have written about them previously here. The fleece element of this dress makes it perfect for a chilly November day, and I love the idea of a bride wearing red to get married in. Women in India get married in red as it signifies fertility and prosperity. (Am reading ‘The Far Pavilions’ at the moment and obsessed.)

Anyway, shuddup, back to the dress:

“I’m already married,” you may be thinking. “Don’t taunt me with dreams of my lost youth.”

Get one of these anyway!! You’ll be able to dig them out and fling them on with wanton abandon every time you need to forget you’re a mum and remind yourself that you are every inch A WOMAN. They are unashamedly beautiful and every woman needs a little bit of that in her life.

Ps – thanks A. for letting me put these on-line.

(Image Sources – wedding photo from here.)

If I was world leader…

When it comes to clothes for women, a good combination is sexy/classy. But this is actually a hard combination to find. Sexy/tasteless yes. Sexy/acryllic everywhere.

But sexy/classy? An elusive beast.

Unless, of course, you have this Phase 8 dress. In which case bring in the dogs, call back the squad. The search is off.

I can mentally put every woman I know – including some in their 60s –  into this dress and it will make them look amazing. Ok, maybe not my old PE teacher, but, you know, there are boundaries.

At £110, it’s not the sort of dress that you just chuck into your shopping basket without a moment’s thought – but it is the sort of dress that will look good for a decade or more.

Will I buy it? No, because I’m skint, don’t have a full-time job, and have bought all sorts of dresses this year already. Would I buy it if I had the funds?

Put it this way. If someone rang me tonight and said all the world’s leaders had died mysteriously and I had been made ruler of the world, this is the dress I would wear for my first press conference. (So that’s a yes.)

Let’s have one more look:

If you like this dress, and you haven’t bought yourself one in a while, I suggest snapping up this seriously beautiful number.

I will be jealous, and I may not speak to you for a while, but frankly, when you have the best dress at the party, why should you care if a short girl keeps giving you daggers?

The only shoes you’ll need for Autumn…

Oh lordy, it’s happened again.

Just when I think my shoe collection is complete, along comes trouble.

The latest shoe crush comes courtesy of Next. Look at this little vixen of a brogue. Suddenly there is one huge gaping hole in my wardrobe and it is animal-print brogue shaped.

This would go with – oooh – everything I have ever owned, past or present. Jeans, pencil-skirts, dresses, the lot.

And £45 for a pair of shoes to take a gal through autumn, winter, and next spring is pretty good indeed.

There’s also some blurb on the website about how these shoes are good for our health because they are load-bearing. Quite frankly though, these shoes could be lined with razor-blades and I’d still buy them!

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