Monday, 31 October 2011

Workwear Dilemma: There is no dress code!

Today I started my new job (though obviously won't be discussing the company, as this is my personal blog, and I always think it's important to keep my professional life separate). The people seem nice, the desk is wonderfully shiny, but I am utterly baffled by the sartorial side of things. Why? Because there are no regulations on dress code. Although we deal with the public, this involves using the internet and social media rather than face-to-face encounters, so most of the staff have decided that they'd rather opt for something a little more casual than your standard 'career woman/man' look.

Obviously comfort is a key factor, and it should take precedence over style if you really want to be relaxed, but I find that there's something psychologically positive about making an effort before you head to the office. You just feel official and organised in knee high boots; you always get a buzz from applying red lipstick. You feel like someone with a vocation, rather than just a role. I didn't quite understand how some of the team members could stroll in with hoodies, 'cosy' shoes and jeans, but clearly it's not affecting their performance so they must be doing something right, and maybe I am too preoccupied with stereotypical ideas about employment and regulations.

The question is: will I be sloping into work in six weeks' time in my pyjamas, having been a little too inspired by the lack of regulations? And will anyone be able to criticise it? I'll let you know, should it come to that. In the mean time, I'm still enjoying the composition of an outfit and I've got about half a wardrobe full of 'smart' clothes that need to get an airing, so I'll stick with making an effort, thanks.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Remembrance Poppies - Patrick Wolf keeps the trend alive

[Image via the Patrick Wolf Palisade Tumblr site].

Here in Britain we have a great tradition of wearing paper poppies as a sign of remembrance for those who fought in wars since WWI. It's not necessarily about patriotism, more about the recognition of courage, peril and loss, with the poppy being chosen after its prevalence in the fields of WWI battle sites. I wear one every year, with particular thoughts for the members of my family who were involved in WWI and WWII, with traumatic and life-changing consequences. The singer Patrick Wolf, who is a favourite of mine, posted an image today on his Tumblr blog of his poppy being proudly worn for his 'soldier ancestors and all those who never came home', and he encouraged others to do the same - 'be sure to wear yours this November'.

I'm glad that Wolf has shown his support for this cause and promoted it to his fans, because it's slowly becoming more and more difficult to raise awareness and for people to properly acknowledge Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day. When you buy your paper poppy you are not provided with a safety pin to attach it to your clothes because that was deemed too risky by the health and safety police a few years ago, so now you are responsible for your own pin-related injuries. Luckily the Poppy Appeal has been gradually moving towards fashion alternatives so that people can incorporate the cause into their everyday wardrobe more effectively, and without a safety pin problem in sight. I also wanted to explore poppy-inspired looks that take the strong colour or image and use it with stunning results, because I felt it's important to translate this theme to daily life and fashion (the very angles that the Poppy Appeal has taken).

[Image via the Poppy Appeal's Shop].
This large crystal brooch, £25, by Buckley won't get damaged in the rain (a danger of the paper ones) and it's glitzy enough to make an impact. Brooches have been having a major resurgence in fashion over the past couple of years, due to the demand for vintage-inspired clothing and the return to a British heritage look. You could wear this well with a tea dress and brogues.

[Image via the Poppy Appeal's Shop].
At secondary school I used to pin two poppies in my hair, to make them stand out more. These Kleshna enamel hair slides feel like a more mature version of my idea, and they'd also be useful for coaxing your hair into pin curls. Setting you back £12.95 for two, they're more expensive than normal hair accessories but you won't find them anywhere else and you're also helping out the Poppy Appeal with your purchase.

For the ultimate in poppy-inspired decadence, get some inspiration from this Acne Moorea evening dress with eye-catching asymmetric straps. In 'poppy red', it's a stunning colour that would be complemented nicely by the hair slides. Available from

Vivienne Westwood's Anglomania range has made use of 'Poppy tartan twill' fabric to create a selection of pieces that would give you the figure of a wartime sweetheart. This blouse (£295) is curve-creating and celebrates the beauty of a feminine figure. It would look great topped off with a poppy necklace and a faux fur tippet. Available from Net-A-Porter.

For a more literal interpretation, Topshop has this ombre-dyed blouse (£40) that contrasts vermillion with inky blue. It's a sophisticated piece, with bell sleeves and a high neck, though you wouldn't want to pin a poppy through the delicate fabric. As an alternative, the Kleshna hair slides would continue the theme, or you could opt for a poppy phone charm from the official Appeal Shop.

Lastly, Jonathan Saunders has gone print crazy with this poppy scarf at Harrods, which takes the motif and uses a variety of colours (everything from turquoise to moss green). It's a very modern take on this traditional flower, but somehow the mix really works. At £289 it's pretty pricey, so you might prefer to make a donation to the Poppy Appeal instead.

Armistice Day - 11th November.
Remembrance Sunday - 13th November.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Gareth Pugh for MAC - the sumptuous official shots

[All images courtesy of MAC, via Fashionista].
Be still, my beating heart... the MAC collaboration with fashion's Prince of Darkness, Gareth Pugh, is finally upon us! Launching in the USA on 23rd November and shortly after internationally (I heard 25th, but Fashionista states that it's December), it's all you could want from Pugh and from the cosmetics giant that does killer colours so well. This first promotional image demonstrates the power of a Pugh lash, which he created after being sent some typical MAC examples and cutting them up for a destructive anti-curve. I am so glad that MAC hasn't tried to water down Pugh's goth chic; I was a little worried that they'd try and lean him towards pink or bronze, which would go against the sumptuous depths and lights of the designer's palette.

With a brief look at the whole range, you can see how comprehensive it is. Although the make-up bag will set you back £46 (at the current US dollar exchange rate) and the Kabuki brush is £37, other items are going to be at pretty standard MAC prices, so you don't feel ripped off. When Pugh talked to Fashionista back in July, he spoke of the packaging being like armour, which you can clearly see from the simplified silhouetted cross logo. It's fair to say that if you were brandishing some of these coveted nail varnishes or eyeshadows on the launch day then you might be in for a fight with fellow customers.

The Flightlash lashes (£11) are just as dramatic when they're not on the model - with a triangular feel and a thickness that will make your eyes look beautifully edged, they're a great statement piece. If you really take care of your falsies then you can re-use them a couple of times, so it's not just a one night investment.

Possibly my favourite product, this lipstick is called Restrict - I love the punchy name and the solid bleached nude shade. It contrasts well with the other lipstick, an almost black purple named Fervent (both £14), which looks similar to the Lanvin for H&M shade that I own. Both of these options are likely to be popular with the fashion crowd, but I think that the nude will be more successful commercially as the high street shopper hasn't quite managed to embrace berry lips yet.

Lipglass is a staple MAC favourite so it's unsurprising that Gareth Pugh should develop two of his own. I've opted for Vacant, which is a sheer pale lilac (£14), but there's also a deep purple called Outrage. Vacant feels more wearable for day as it's light and would contrast well with eyeliner or a smokey eye.

Nail varnish that looks like an oil slick? I'm severely tempted. I always used to love really powerful metallic shades but found that they were often a let-down when you tried them on your nails. However I'm more confident with this grey based purpley-green Ascension colour and, at just £14, it'd make a great Christmas present too. Also available in a pale nude (Inert) and a blue-green metallic (Hyper).

Here's another comprehensive glance at the collection. Other products include beauty powder, mascara (a bargain at £9) and two shades of Technakohl eyeliner. I would have liked to see liquid eyeliner (perhaps in ghostly white?) and maybe some kind of cream shadow in a glossy black, but otherwise I'm really pleased with this collaborative effort. Gareth Pugh is one of my favourite home-grown designers and it's brilliant that MAC has made him more accessible without curtailing his creative freedom - the packaging and names fit beautifully and everything feels as if it's got Pugh stamped all over it. If anyone was worthy of a second MAC project, it's got to be him.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Maison Martin Margiela = More, More, More

[Image via MMM's e-boutique].
Having spent Monday in London galleries (the press view of the new Photographs Gallery at the V&A, and a trip to Gerhardt Richter's exhibition at Tate Modern), I'm feeling a bit analytical and craving some truly innovative fashion. Step forward, Maison Martin Margiela - a consummate provider of cerebral clothing, aside from some brilliantly bonkers ad campaigns. Even the humble white work shirt is transformed into a desirable piece, seen here with a top section that emphasises the bust, and an incredibly sharp collar. This is the kind of shirt that could make boardroom negotiations by itself.

[Image via Net-A-Porter].
The idea of a jumper with built-in detachable gloves is the kind of thing that should've been invented years ago, to avoid that annoying draft up your arm when your gloves are too short. Yet Margiela has not only created something clever, but he's also kept it stylish and covetable. The ruched sleeves and the boyish fit means that this is the kind of jumper you could throw on over most outfits and it'd still enhance things, ticking the box for 'effortless chic'.

[Image via MMM's e-boutique].
The drapery on this cardigan, which would double up as a knitted dress, is very flattering. I love the double-breasted button fastening, giving a nod to traditional tailoring but not compromising on comfort. Pieces like this are the reason that I look forward to winter, because you just don't get the same buzz from wearing a few inches of fabric that have to be in a summery colour and require your body to be ridiculously toned.

[Image via Net-A-Porter].
Simplistic dresses are always on my wishlist, because they last so long and perform so well. This lavender number would look excellent with shoe boots, with heels and statement tights, with a long-sleeved black lace t-shirt underneath, or with an opulent faux fur coat. The cape section at the top adds a retro feel and conceals any potential bingo wings - my mum used to have a toffee-coloured evening dress with a similar detail, from the 1960s, and it was a reliable wardrobe staple for her.

[Image via Net-A-Porter].
Lastly, accessories. Obviously you can't expect a design legend to compromise on any area of product, and this cuff demonstrates how the ever-faithful buckle can be easily transformed into a repetitive feature. The tan leather looks warm and flawless, and it doesn't have the plasticky sheen of mass-produced leather goods. I'd wear this cuff with a draped t-shirt dress and ankle boots.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The House of Eliott: 1920s fashion inspiration

[All images my own, taken as screen grabs from ITV3].
Recently on British television, we've been treated to a re-run of a cult period drama involving two sisters who establish their own fashion house during the 1920s. The House of Eliott involves quirky costumes and sharp dialogue as the duo navigate their way through the ups and downs of the industry. As the above image demonstrates, the long hemlines and ever-present hats are actually quite relevant to today's style - maxi skirts have become the staple choice for many women, whilst headgear is perfect for A/W11-12, whether it's a bowler, a trilby or a cloche hat.

Beatrice Eliott, the older of the sisters, is seen here rocking a pre-Gaga feathered headpiece and a sheer dress. Much of the fashion house's early success comes from wearing the clothing to society parties and getting it noticed by potential clients. It's basically the 1920s equivalent of subliminal advertising.

Younger sister Evangeline (known as Evie) opts for a velvet halterneck dress and a metallic floral headband. Because of the age gap between the pair, with Evie being 18 and Beatrice being 30, we get to see how fashion can transcend age boundaries and how flexible it can be.

Ignoring the not-very-1920s lipgloss, this image is a great example of period dressing. Evie's high neckline is typical of the time, as daywear still contained a lot of references to Edwardian trends and often involved covering up. Her floppy hat, with its striped band, gives a nod to the tricorn shape but has been updated in soft black fabric.

Did I mention they like hats? Beatrice's statement piece is this matte black choice, which she's paired with a blazer and a pinstripe satin shirt. Her use of tailoring shows that she means business and it emphasises her determination to survive in a masculine world.

Long live the strong fashionable female!

To get the look on the high street, try these:

  • Topshop is great for hats and hairpieces. Last year it had a popular range of woolen turbans that were worn by Kylie Minogue. This year there's plenty of floppy 70s styles (think burgundy and tan) and some knitted headbands.
  • Galibardy has plenty of intense jewellery that will make a statement, whether it's a cocktail ring or a vintage-looking necklace. Wear with satin and loose hair.
  • Marks and Spencer currently has a brilliant black pleated maxi-skirt in its Limited Collection that would work well with a tailored white shirt and hobnail boots, if you want to give a nod to early 2oth century dressing.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Versace for H&M: Menswear Looking Fierce

[All images courtesy of H&M].
What with Versace being incredibly luxurious and unobtainable for us plebs, and with H&M being a powerhouse of global high street fashion, it seems only right that the two companies should have a meeting of design minds and develop a one-off collection. Previous collaborators with H&M have included Viktor & Rolf (intelligent style), Madonna (quite chavvy, most ended up in the sale) and Lanvin (flirtatious and fun), so Versace is joining an illustrious list. As you can see from the image above, the menswear drop is looking particularly exciting - it's edgy and moody, without alienating the more mature man. You could wear that leather jacket aged 20 or 50 if you styled it right, i.e. no accompanying mid-life crisis motorbike and bimbo. I also love the cut-off shorts, but there is definitely an age limit on those.

I'm strangely attracted to this all-pink ensemble, even though it's quite attention-seeking. There's just something cool/vaguely OCD about being this freakishly co-ordinated, and the suit just looks expensive. It's a great cut.

There's something distinctly fun about this shirt and I like it, despite (or maybe because of?) its potential to make people's eyes hurt. The pattern is sharp and it would look brilliant with a dark jacket and some tailored trousers. Although not everyone would find this print wearable, it's a lot easier on the eye than much of the ladieswear, which was sequin-heavy and full of lurid colours that were a little hard to stomach.

Out of the female choice, there were two dark looks that I loved (the rest I would struggle to justify buying in Primark, let alone at the price of this collection, which tends to be £50+ per piece). The black dress seen here has a gorgeous bodice top with ribbon edges, and its flared skirt will be flattering for big stomachs or boyish frames.

A less forgiving number, this studded leather dress is highly dramatic and perhaps worth splashing the cash. With the studs arranged to highlight the body frame, it's going to make you feel special. Sadly the rest of the ladieswear was just too gaudy for me to enjoy, but if you want to invest in some Versace on a budget then head to H&M from 17th November for palm print leggings and bright orange.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Read My Lips

[Image my own].

This season is undoubtedly all about the power lip, whether it's shocking pink, fiery red or deep burgundy. I've been accumulating lipsticks and stains for many years, but most of my favourite products are recent purchases - in the image above, it was Accessorize's Really Red that got me going (£5, from Superdrug or Accessorize). The actual colour is a lot more sheer than the lipstick bullet would have you believe; it required a lot of layering to get substantial coverage, but after that then it somehow managed to stay put for several hours with no re-application.

Other great lip products that I can't live without:

  • Giorgio Armani Lip Ink in #2 (a dark berry-ish shade that isn't too drying) - £19.50, though currently sold out, at Selfridges
  • MAC lipstick in Russian Red (a deep scarlet with staying power) - £13.50
  • GOSH Long Lasting Lip Marker in Pink (a brilliant magenta shade) - £6.99 at Superdrug
  • Topshop Lip Marker in Popsicle (a candy pink for the ultimate girly look) - £6.50
  • Collection 2000 Lasting Colour Lipstick in Bubblegum (Gaga-esque lilac tinged pink that smells amazing) - £2.99 at Boots and Superdrug

Are you addicted to lip products, and do you have any favourites that you're constantly going back to? Get lippy and let me know.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Giles' Hosiery Hits for New Look

[Images via New Look's official Facebook page].
In between his own successful forays into the fashion world (as seen by my recent post on his Lady Jane Grey dress that's taken celebs by storm), Giles Deacon has been creating regular collections for New Look. Gold by Giles Deacon clothing has always been cutting edge, but now he's decided to take a tip from Henry Holland and move into tights as well. This first pair have got retro all over them, from the back seam detail (women in wartime used to draw a line with eyeliner to make it look like they could still afford hold-ups - that's how cool back seams are) to the glittery bows.

With a decidedly more 1980s feel, this elliptical-edged leopard print pair is pretty edgy. I'm not sure the plain upper section would do my thighs any favours, but I am a sucker for the old big cat pattern so I'm still leaning towards this design.

Tie me up, tie me down... this last pair has got the bandage-meets-bondage look wrapped up nicely. You may recall that Cheryl Cole wore similar tights about a year ago and suddenly the high street was awash with copycats. What's different about Giles' design is that the black bandage-style sections are more angular, ending in an almost pyramid type pattern at the ankles.

Knowing how well-loved the Gold by Giles range is, I'm sure these tights will bring his work to a whole new crop of New Look shoppers, and it's nice to see diffusion lines expanding during the recession; just because we're on a budget, doesn't mean we don't appreciate the work of British designers.

The tights will be available soon, in selected stores and online via:

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

H! By Henry Holland for Debenhams

[Image: Debenhams online].
I'm a massive fan of Henry Holland, as regular visitors to this blog will know, and I have been fond of his H! diffusion line for Debenhams for quite some time. When I visited my local branch, I couldn't resist earmarking a few pieces that you might be tempted by as well. First off is this 50s-style prom dress in fuchsia pink - it's eyecatching, relevant to the spot trend that's been everywhere from Stella McCartney and Marc Jacobs to Topshop, and it's £60 (perfect Christmas list option, people).

[Image my own].
My trip to the Guildford branch found me amongst a well-stocked department, with items paired for different occasions. Some products have been carried over for this season, such as the utility duffel coat on the left, whilst the new additions blend in seamlessly. I love the simple detail of multiple studding on those canvas hi-tops.

[Image my own].
Eveningwear is also looking sharp, with autumnal hues of scarlet creeping through, and Henry nicely working the preppy look. There are several different styles of satchel to choose from, including plaid and leather. Take your pick...

[Image my own].
Cosy knitwear is paired with tea dresses for a very British wintery feel. The spotty theme has been continued with bobbles on jumpers, whilst key colours of mustard and tan have meant that these pieces will nicely integrate with other current high street buys.

[Image: Debenhams online].
This bag is a gorgeous faux-vintage binocular case and it is brilliantly quirky. You don't have to even own a pair of binoculars to understand the appeal; it's small enough to take out for the evening, but sturdy enough to survive a good few adventures. At £25 it's reasonably priced, especially considering you'd be unlikely to find anyone with the same bag as you. Top marks for Mr. Holland, and long may this diffusion line continue!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Taking It Higher: Bargainous Heel Time

[Images my own - please ask before reproducing].
With the nights drawing in and the weather turning colder, I've been leaning towards suede shoes for a long time. I've also become increasingly tempted by wedge shoe boots and chunky heels, which has lead to two bargain purchases in the past few weeks. Seen above are my new favourite pair of shoes ever - no exaggeration (£45 at Debenhams, in case you're wondering). With a considerable heel height of at least 3 inches, I didn't expect them to be comfortable, but they're incredibly easy to wear, and I can troop all the way round Ikea without so much as a blister or an aching foot. What's more, they're lace-up (nice detail that brings them into the current trend of ladylike dressing) and very practical - no peep toe, no bright colours. As long as I can keep them out of puddles, they're a definite investment. I paired them with my new book, Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot, which I can't wait to start reading.

As seen on my kitchen scales, here is my other new footwear purchase - chunky shoe boots in grey imitation suede. They've got lovely details, such as the visible stitching and contrasting heel, which caught my eye, and they were £5 in a local market. Obviously I was a bit dubious about why they were so cheap, but then I am not exactly rolling in money, so it's quite nice to be able to find affordable pieces on a small budget. I'm not going to treat these as a throwaway product, either; they'll be useful for a night out or a job interview, and I can get them re-heeled if they start to wear away (most re-heeling costs between £10-£15 and will last years).

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Art and Fashion: Delaroche meets Deacon

[Image via]
When Ajak Deng modelled this figure-hugging Giles Deacon dress back in February as part of his AW11-12 show, little could we have imagined it would catch the eye of so many celebrities. Based on the protagonist of Paul Delaroche's seminal painting, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, it was perhaps a more intellectual choice than your everyday satin slip for a red carpet event. Personally I've always loved the painting and it's one of my must-sees if you ever visit the National Gallery in London, so the fact that it's been transformed into a wearable piece is really exciting.

[Image via]
With a waspish waist, this version of the print plays into the painting's themes of being trapped and bound, as well as turning the idea of innocence on its head somewhat. The wearer of this dress is very much in control and flaunts her silhouette, unlike poor Jane who is being guided to the executioner's block. It's an undeniably dramatic choice as a dress. In case you're wondering who Lady Jane Grey was, she had been handed the English crown as Henry VIII's son Edward lay dying. An aristocratic girl with plans for female empowerment, Jane's rule lasted just nine days before she was ousted by Edward's Catholic sister, Mary Tudor. History lesson over.

[Image via]
This time Deacon has bound the image in a layer of nude that mirrors his previous contouring attempts, but is perhaps more futuristic and angular. The addition of a polo neck also means that the wearer's head floats above their body, which is perhaps cruel considering the beheading that the original picture is preparing us for. Yet, in this tiny excerpt, we cannot see the other figures or the fate that Jane awaits, so she is merely presented as a blindfolded girl. The context of Delaroche's painting is lost here, and it's certainly an unusual interpretation.

[Image courtesy of Empics].
I think Lily Cole (left) had the right expression with this dress - it's hard to smile when you're working execution chic. Pixie Geldof suits the shape best, and the peep toe heels she's chosen are a better addition than Lily's basic courts or Li Na's clumpy shoe boots - the band of the peep toe mirrors the band of the blindfold in the print.

[Image via Google].
Here's the Delaroche painting in all its glory. It's scary, macabre and historically important, and it ensures that Lady Jane Grey isn't confined to paragraphs in history textbooks; she's remembered as a tragic but pivotal woman in the story of the English monarchy. And she looks great on fabric.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Motel Does Indeed Rock

[All images via Motel Rocks].
I have a thing about searching for the perfect bralette. Being curvy myself and not suited to some of these flat-chested trends (I look terrible in 1920s dresses, for example), the humble bra-style top is definitely on my style radar. It's feminine and flattering, but without putting everything on show. As you can see, Motel have come up trumps with this Lolita bralette (£22), which is available in a range of colours and has this fantastically sexy multiple strap detail on the back.

Here's the Lolita top in mustard. With a plain front, it's easy to pair with a number of different options, from high waisted skirts to floral harems. The black heels they've used are a great example of how to add glamour to this look and keep things vintage-inspired; think 40s and 50s prints and maybe put your hair in a victory roll.

For a more modern option, the Winnie playsuit with a gorgeous yellow floral kick (called Black Placement Rose) is a great investment at £42. It's wearable and the shape is kind to those of us who aren't blessed with womanly hips - the nipped in waist does the hard work for you. I'm going to put it on my Christmas list and hope that Santa is feeling particularly stylish this year.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

H&M's Conscious Collection AW11: Eco Fabulous

[Images via H&M online].
Now available online and at Selfridges London, the current Conscious Collection from H&M is heavy on florals and soft fabrics but light on environmental impact. H&M is really into its stride with this deep patterned dress, skirt and shoes, which use organic hemp. At under £50 for the dress, it doesn't break the bank and yet it could be designer.

I cannot describe how much I love these ankle boots - they're flirty and feminine but they could easily be worn for a crucial meeting with headstrong, minimalist tailoring. The background colour on this print is a gorgeous blue-green and it feels really fresh. Meanwhile, the sturdy heel isn't going to snap off and it will give your feet plenty of support. I'd wear these with cream ankle socks and a midi-skirt, or maybe a t-shirt dress in a plain colour.

It's safe to say that the lace effect won't die as a trend any time soon. We're still being given bright colours on the high street, but this ivory shade is much more grown up. Made of a delicate organic cotton, it boasts a scalloped edge and 3/4 sleeves which give it a 60s vibe. If only my hair wasn't so blindingly platinum blonde then I'd give this a go.

The full range can be seen (and bought) at:

You can also see a behind-the-scenes video with the models from the promotional shoot, and find out which pieces they had their eye on. I really feel that H&M is investing properly into this initiative and I'm so glad that it can combine ethical fashion with the high street shopper's price point.
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