Wednesday, 20 April 2011

I'm saving up for...

This overnight bag by Disaster Designs.
I already have the matching make up bag and purse, but this was the first item from the range which I saw and fell in love with instantly. Every time I see someone with it I have the urge to steal it! I may well have to restrain myself from buying the whole set. But then again, I think I'd look pretty good with a matching purse, overnight bag, make up bag, oyster card holder, compact mirror, satchel...

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Birds of paradise

If you perhaps stumbled upon my Spring Wishlist a little while ago, you may have seen this dress from John Lewis, which I absolutely adored.

Well, I was in London the other day, ambling along Oxford Street no less, when I spied an enormous John Lewis! It was too much of a temptation, so after fighting through crowds to get into the double doors and going on a seemingly endless quest through all the brands the store stocks in order to find John Lewis' own collection, I spied one lonely dress hanging on a rack with some dull blue T shirts. I looked around but couldn't see any others, so it seemed like fate when I picked it up and it was in my size!

I was fairly nearby the changing rooms at this point, so without hesitating I headed straight for the short queue of ladies waiting to get in. Finally, I was allowed to try my dress on. Oh, it was lovely...

I rather enjoyed the effect of having two mirrors in the changing room, so there are rather a lot of interesting photos like these, but this is my favourite.

Unfortunately, I didn't buy it. It's a gorgeous dress, but would probably be the most I've ever spent on a garment, so needs some careful consideration and probably at least one specific occasion which I'd wear it on. If only I was attending the royal wedding...

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Marianne's Dress

Last week, I was lucky enough to go to a talk with Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield who played Elinor and Marianne Dashwood in the BBC's 2008 3-part adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. It was held at the house where Jane Austen lived and worked for a great portion of her life, in Chawton. Along with discussing the highs and lows of filming in the rain, working with great actors and kissing the infinitely lovely Dominic Cooper (I had to ask Charity what it was like!) they also spoke about the costumes. 

I have to say that when I first watched the adaptation, I was enchanted by the dresses, and since the museum already had one of Charity's costumes on display, it seemed appropriate to discuss it. The one they had is shown above and you can see that Marianne wore it during the London ballroom scene, but there was another very similar one, worn during one of my favourite scenes: Willoughby (Dominic Cooper) and Marianne (Charity Wakefield) are having a picnic near the Dashwoods' cottage and reading poetry to each other. It looks like the same dress but if you look closely, the stripes are vertical in the ballroom scene and horizontal in the picnic scene.

The rest of the costumes were really lovely too. I particularly fell for Marianne's yellow dress with a pattern of little bouquets, which she wore with a matching yellow ribbon in her hair. I just thought it was perfect. The other thing you notice about the costumes is how dashing the men look! It really makes you wonder - why don't we dress like that now? I would much rather see a guy walking down the high street in breeches, a floppy white shirt and cravat than falling-down jeans, a T-shirt and hoody. Before I leave you with some lovely inspirational costume drama pictures (all courtesy of the BBC), I must first say this: They say that chivalry is dead, and it's no surprise when the average teenage boy is brought up on a diet of ill-fitting shirts bought for him by his mum. Let's campaign to bring back early 19th century menswear, and hopefully, early 19th century manners in the process.

All pictures from the BBC except the first two, which are mine.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Revising in style


If, like me, you are knee-deep in GCSE revision this Easter break, or indeed revision for any other sort of exam, you will probably be feeling the onset of chronic boredom. I have decided to try and combat this with my round-up of links, which you can use any time you need a break but really don't want to get out of the studying mood. They're mainly blogs, I hope you find them useful!

Garance Doré
Cirque de Papier

Les Mads

Lady Marshmallow
Miss B
Bar Tabac

Go Girl Magazine
Solo Female Traveler
National Geographic - Intelligent Travel

Write Anything
Jane Austen's World
Sarah Dessen

Teen Vogue Music Blogger
The Rest is Noise
Guardian Music Blog

Science & Technology
National Geographic - Breaking Orbit
Alice in Galaxyland

Paris Daily Photo
Igor & Andre
The Crafty Minx

Drama & Media
New York Film Academy Blog
Actor 11102
Doug Warhit's Acting Blog

Food Technology
Simply Breakfast
Sam Stern

And don't forget to look after yourself. You need to take regular breaks, eat and drink healthily, go for exercise and sleep enough. Your last few hours the night before are best spent making a pre-exam hot chocolate and reading a (non-study) book or listening to music, because you will then be well-rested and calm    on the morning. That means you can think clearly, which is pretty vital for exams!

For your well-being
The Sophisticate
1001 ways to be more lovely
Kirsty Helen

For fun
Fancy Pants Adventures
Ben and Jerry's
BBC - Slink - Quizzes


Sunday, 10 April 2011

Book Review: A Life in Frocks

I wrote this review for Amazon, but I wanted to share it with you as it's a good book for bloggers to read, especially if you like personal style blogs, because this is one long personal style blog:

As a book, this shouldn't work.

Normally one would expect the life of a respected but not well-known (out of her field) blogger and fashion writer, told through the pieces of clothing she has lived through, would be suitable for a 2-page article in a magazine, nothing more. That was, in fact, how this book started, as Doust explains in the introduction. Her article in Vogue about how music influences out style sparked her desire to keep on telling the stories of clothes in her life. I can only speak for myself, but taking a journey through somebody else's purchases was actually pretty fun. This book is brilliantly written and very entertaining, with something most women can empathise with on every page. It helps that she is a well-travelled, experienced person with lots of different stories to tell, but everyone has that kind of thing to a certain extent. The real pleasure that one takes in Doust's writing is the beautiful way she describes clothes. Even when you have already made up your mind that you dislike a particular kind of garment, her gorgeous description draws you in and forces you to reconsider. I also find it easy to relate to the way she can become obsessed with a particular trend or item, and her fascination with how you can change who you are in the world's eyes through what you wear.

However, I must say that the book would not have been nearly as enjoyable if it had not been for the stunning illustrations by Zoe Sadokierski which adorn the both covers and the dust cover, plus many more beautiful drawings inside. All of them just give the stories that something extra, and it helps to have something visual to refer to when considering clothing, which is a highly visual medium after all. I love how the dust jacket has clothes on the front, then when you take it off, dozens of sets of lingerie are revealed on the actual cover!

Overall, this is a fantastic read for anyone interested in fashion or personal style and perfect for keeping as a handbag read. I would recommend it to anyone, as long as you like clothes!

Read it if you like: personal style blogs, The Crafty Minx, autobiographies and just clothes in general really!

Marks out of 5: 4.2

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Spring Wishlist

This gorgeous bird print dress from the John Lewis Collection for Women. I love everything about it: the colours, the print, the shape, the length. Everything is perfect for Spring, and the addition of that blue Osprey bag or bright orange shoes wouldn't be objectionable to own either!

A bedroom in the attic room that looks like this. From a shoot of Nanette Lepore's Haptons home in Instyle.

This cityscape print skirt from Joules. There is an equally lovely top in the same pattern, but I think this skirt is just right for a picnic in the park, a shopping trip with friends or an evening garden party. Image from the Joules catalogue.

A royal wedding mug. I want one that looks tasteful, not tacky, but I dislike the boring design of the official merchandise, which lacks a picture of the happy couple. I prefer this one from Debenhams with an only slightly elaborate gold design and only slightly creepily airbrushed Kate and Wills.

The Magnolia tree from two doors down. It's bursting with blossoms and is the first thing I see, bathed in sunshine, every morning when I wake up. Our one is, in comparison, a little depressing...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

25 ways to live life glamorously

Sometimes life just needs that added bit of sparkle. It can often feel like this kind of magic is reserved only for those selected few who live in constant sunshine, in beautiful clothes and in front of a paparazzo lens. These people do not really exist! At least, not in the perfect universe created for them by clever editing and highly-paid publicists, and the slice of glamour which they have in their lives is available to everyone - even when you're on a budget. You just have to know how to go out and get it!

1. Fix yourself breakfast in bed

2. Take some pictures of flowers and make a mood board out of them for your bedroom wall

3. Spend an entire day in the house in your prettiest party dress

4. Have a bubble bath with extra bubbles

5. Bake a batch of cupcakes then put them in a box to look like they came from a boutique bakery. Then 
surprise a friend with them! Try these, these or these

6. Accompany the cupcakes with a bunch of wild flowers tied together with ribbon

7. Become a tourist in your own town for the day

8. Go to a free art gallery

9. Put 'ex libris' plates into all of your favourite books and sit in an armchair with them arranged around you, pretending you own a country manor with a vast literary collection

10. Fridge full of leftovers? Put them in your finest china and arrange a chic buffet at the table. Alternatively, place them in a wicker basket and take it down to the park to have a picnic.

11. Find a cheap piece of old but pretty clothing in a charity shop and tailor it to your size - voil√†! Instant vintage couture!

12. Have an artistic friend sketch you, then get it mounted or framed and hang it on your wall as an 'original masterpiece'.

13. Throw an impromptu tea party with pastries, varieties of proper tea and croquet in the park/garden

14. Cover just one wall in your room with feature wallpaper

15. Wear real pearls or diamonds

16. Make the one coffee in a pretty little cafe last for hours as you write the first chapter of your best-selling novel

17. Go for a bicycle ride in country lanes or city side-streets, find somewhere you've never been before and sit and read a book there

18. If you're in need of a holiday, ring up a friend who lives abroad or by the sea or in another city and tell them how long it's been...

18. Wear a hat. If you don't do it often, you may well feel like everyone is looking at you. This is a good thing - it means they are admiring your chic hat

19. Wear enormous sunglasses everywhere

20. Host an in-house spa day with friends. Try face masks, hand and foot massages and yoga. For lunch, have an anti-oxidant-rich dish and herbal tea.

21. Set up an easel by your window, or balcony if you have one, and paint/draw/collage the view over a period of time 

22. Splurge on a perfume that you really love and wear it all the time

23. Add something shiny to your outfit - sequins, diamonds, silver, all that glitters. Heads will turn.

24. Change your Facebook profile picture to something moody and artistic

25. Drop a classic movie line into every day conversation. There's nothing quite like brushing off a cold-caller with “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”

Saturday, 2 April 2011

In-store Magazines

There has been a huge spate of magazines produced by brands to promote their wares recently. Some are decent publications with quite good editorial features and good layouts, whereas others are thinly veiled catalogues for the shop, with the sole intention of attracting publicity to their clothes by cramming as many pictures of their products as they can onto the page.

Some people will argue that magazines are already one big advert, so what difference does it make for a store to produce their own? Well, the main difference is that, while the average fashion magazine is far from impartial, it can include clothes from a broad spectrum of high street and designer brands, which is how you end up with a £7 Primark satchel on the same page as a £760 Ralph Lauren one. Of course the lines can be blurred when you get things like celebrity interviews where they are obviously plugging the cosmetic which they are the face of.You now also come across supplements like InStyle's Get Smart a workwear supplement in association with LK Bennet, which meant there was a high ratio of LK Bennet products to other brands. The thing that made this readable was the way it was well put-together, nicely laid out and still featured enough text and articles for the reader to know that they've put the normal amount of effort into it.

It is this balance between presenting your merchandise and making a quality magazine that in-store mags should really strive to achieve. I only have knowledge of the ones available in the UK, but let's take a look at some of them anyway.

New Look Magazine

Not much more than a leaflet really. 28 pages of pure New Look, placed surreptitiously into your bag at the counter by a sheepish shop attendant. On the bright side the actual content isn't bad, it bears the style of a weekly fashion fix magazine like Look or Grazia: street style pages, a fashion spread across a few pages and various suggestions of outfits. This is a good one to pick up if you need something to read on a short train journey or want some pictures to cut out for a mood board.

John Lewis Edition

I don't tend to get this from John Lewis, but instead from Waitrose, the food store in association with it. There have been about 8 or 9 issues by now, and I have to say that I still love getting a new one each month. It probably helps that John lewis is a department store, so not all of the stuff is own brand. The best things about it are the regular articles and interviews, which include colmns by Luke Leitch from the times and Jess Cartner-Morley from The Guardian. The editorials are also of a high quality and the subjects covered venture past fashion to include food, travel, motoring, technology and interior design. It's just the right balance!

Your M&S

Considering the fact that M&S is equally a seller of clothes and food, it's hardly surprising that their magazine is largely a provision of free recipes. Unfortunately, the fashion pages which they do include are reminiscent of a shop catalogue. It's OK, but the real reason to pick this up is if you're stuck for ideas for Sunday lunch, not after advice on what to wear to a party.


I've been reading the ASOS magazine online for a wile now, but I don't feel that's an ideal medium for magazines. Anyway, we can have a debate about that later, the point is that yesterday a print version arrived in the post which allowed me to properly look at it, and realise that it is THE definition of the perfect in-store magazine (which is ironic considering there is no store, just a website). It has proper interviews, a comprehensive culture section and an abundance of shoots. What's even better is that they go for some more well-known yet classy and intersting people to interview, rather than a big name who they know will cause a flurry of attention. In the May issue for instance, the cover is owned by Josephine de la Baume. There follows interviews with Kinga Burza, music video director, Shiloh Fernandez, the up-and-coming star of Red Riding Hood and Paz de la Huerta, from Boardwalk Empire. In addition to that, there are reams of style pages featuring not only ASOS own brand but also the other brands they stock, including: See by Cloe, Peter Jensen, Jonathan Saunders and French Connection. If you read one brand-produced magazine, make it this one.