Belfast-based, style loving mum of 3. Fashion, Lifestyle, Food & Fitness

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Fab Scarves @ Pull & Bear

Need somewhere new to get amazing scarves? I've found it for you - Pull & Bear. Owned by Zara, I was brought into the store in Belfast by Rebecca the Victoria Square Personal Stylist during my recent appointment with her.
As well as an amazing range of coloured skinny jeans (£19.99), I was particularly taken by their accessories - especially the scarves - long & full, super soft, with gorgeous vibrant colours and all priced between £9.99 and £17.99.
Here's the first one I want to show you - a gorgeous stone/blue animal print.
There are a few things I look for when I'm buying a scarf. It's easy to pick them up here and there and end up not wearing them much. I always look for scarves with either white or black within the pattern. I also look for (and hadn't been successful up to now) denim colours. If, like me, you wear lots of denim, you'll find more opportunities to wear scarves with navy and blue in them.
Finally, pattern wise, I avoid floral prints, finding them a bit ageing. Animal prints or prints of animals/birds are very on trend, helping to update last winter's wardrobe. Stripes or checks are also good classic patterns that will stand the test of time.
So I wore my new scarf today with stone A-Wear skinny jeans (similar), a white H&M t-shirt, denim shirt (similar) and River Island ankle boots (similar). I added my Primark blue mac coat when I went out. I got this coat a few years ago but haven't worn much as I didn't have a scarf with the right shade of blue...until now that is! 
And while I'm on the topic of gorgeous new scarves, don't forget, I'm giving away two Marks & Spencer bird-print scarves on the blog this week. Click here to enter - it runs until the end of the week!
See you tomorrow when I'll be filling you in on a great charity initiative called FrOctober. In the meantime please give the FrOctober Facebook page a like. It's going to be a fun frock-filled month!
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Friday, 28 September 2012

Win a Marks & Spencer Scarf! NOW CLOSED!

I have two wonderful Marks & Spencer scarves to give away on the blog this week...something told me you're all big fans of a nice scarf!
This is a gorgeous lightweight bird print scarf - you can read more about it (or buy if you can't wait to win it!) on this link. Perfect for wearing with the gorgeous autumn colours that are in all the shops at the moment.


To win, all you have to do is leave a comment below telling me what one item from the fab new M&S TV Advert you would chose as your AW12 must-have. I'll draw a winner at random from the comments on Saturday next, 6th October at 9pm.

Winners will be named on the blog and on the Facebook page on Sunday 7th October. Winners have 7 days to contact me on schoolgatestyle@yahoo.co.uk with their postal address. Another winner will be drawn if address details not received.

Thank you to M&S & ASG Ireland for sponsoring this post!
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Thursday, 27 September 2012

Macmillan World's Biggest Coffee Morning


I don't usually reproduce press releases on the blog but today, I make an exception for an amazing charity 


Friday 28th September sees the launch of the Macmillan World's Biggest Coffee Morning across Marks & Spencer in the UK. Why not get your daily caffeine fix at any M&S Cafe tomorrow where 50p from every coffee sold will go straight to Macmillan Cancer Support. 
You can also help Macmillan by making a donation when you pick up a copy of the 'Little Book of Treats', packed with 20 celebrity recipes from Joanna Lumley,  Dermot O'Leary and Stephen Fry, among others! 

And if you're in Northern Ireland, come along with me to Sprucefield, where Pamela Ballantine will launch a full morning of activities including:

Taste a selection of M&S CafĂ© products, 
Meet Peppa Pig and Macmillan’s mascot Muggy
Face painting & balloon modelling
Display of children’s art 
Performance by Wallace High School choir

Hope you can make it - come over and say hi if you see me! 


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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

By Request - Tunics

This is the first of a regular series of blog posts that feature requested items from readers of the blog. I get lots of emails every week asking me for fashion advice so I thought it would be a good idea to blog about common themes coming through in these emails.
Today, it's tunics/long tops to wear with skinny jeans & leggings - asked for by Stacey. This is a great look for busy mums - avoids the dreaded builders bum and skims over the tummy/hip areas. Firstly I'll share some links to my favourite tunic stockists and further down, I'll share some do's and don'ts when wearing this look.

Kicking off with a bargain from Dorothy Perkins. Love DP's for longer tops - this one is a good mix of autumn colours with a touch of animal print. I'd wear with grey or black skinny jeans/leggings and a long black cardigan in the cooler weather. Only £9 too! 
Pebble Print Tunic - £9
Boden is always a good place to look for a tunic but they do tend to be long so in petite Stacey's case, it might not be the best place. However, have you ever considered buying in the Johnnie B (teenage) range? Provided you are small in the chest and no larger than a 12, you should be able to fit into a JB age 15-16. This gorgeous tunic is only £32.30 at the moment with the Boden mid-season discount:
Johnnie B Spotted Dress/Tunic - £32.30
Another of my favourite stores - Seasalt with another of my favourite shapes, the cowl neck. This nautical inspired tunic is perfect for throwing on with a navy cardigan and a striped or animal print scarf..
Seasalt Tara Tunic £39.99
Stand by for another Dotty P bargain. This tunic is so cute. Long sleeves too and only £16!
Pink Dainty Dolly Tunic - £16
Every wardrobe should have a cosy knitted tunic, especially at this time of year. Dorothy Perkins has this one in 4 different colours but this is my favourite.

Mocha PU Trim Slash Neck Tunic - £22
If you're petite or don't like your tunics too long, this scarf print beauty, also from DP's is perfect with it's high-low hemline. Great navy/camel colour way that will look lovely with navy blue jeans/leggings and brown boots
Blue Chain Printed Tunic - £25
I spied this ASOS tunic the other week and love the textured effect and exposed zip. It's a bit more rock-chick so would need black leggings and ankle boots just like it's styled here:
ASOS Textured Tunic £35 
Now this is the investment piece. My good friend and fashionista Claire H bought this last week and has done the best ever clothes mathematics with it to justify the cost, as it is really very wearable in lots of different ways. Needless to say, there will be a blog post about that but for now, here is a sneaky peek. Great shape, colour and quality and a little shorter which is great for petite frames. Use AB219 for free delivery and 10% off all orders over £75.
White Company V-Hem Tunic - £85
To finish, a few from H&M - great for an on-trend bargain. Firstly, check out gorgeous blogger Laura wearing her striped H&M tunic on this link - looks 100 times better on her than it does on the website! If you fancy any of these H&M ones, check out the School Gate Style Facebook page for the latest H&M discount codes - there are two I know of at the moment and you can use both on the one order!
Lace - £29.99
Knitted - £19.99 (3 colours)
So the guide to wearing tunics? 
  • Make sure they nip you in at the right place. If you're an hourglass or pear, wear a belt. 
  • A tunic should be shorter than you'd want a dress to be. If it's too long, it will look frumpy with jeans or thicker leggings
  • Ensure your jeans or leggings are snug fitting
  • Wear jeans/jeggings with side zips for a streamlined look
  • If you're petite, match your boots with your leggings for an elongated leg
  • I tend to avoid large floral patterns or anything that might work well as curtains - this is not a style rule as such - it just looks frumpy. Look for more edgy on-trend patterns or stripes. PU/pleather trims are very on-trend too
  • My number 1 dress rule also applies to tunics. Unless you have a wash-board stomach, wear a control vest or high waisted magic knicks underneath. People ask all the time how I regained my flat stomach after twins. I didn't - you know my secret now!
If you would like to see something on the next By Request blog post, leave a comment or send me an email schoolgatestyle@yahoo.co.uk. Thanks to Stacey for inspiring this one - hope you enjoyed it!

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Monday, 24 September 2012

Rainy Days & Mondays - Merrell Wakefield & Ellenwood

It has not stopped raining all day. Our garden has slowly turned into an outdoor pool and we have been indoors all day (apart from my super enthusiastic 8 year old who insisted on going to outdoor athletics at 6pm - with just 3 other brave children). I've just seen the forecast and gales are about to hit. Sigh. BUT as a wise woman once said, there's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing...
Merrell Wakefield in Heather Marl
Navy Jersey Top - Dorothy Perkins
White Vest - Primark
Jeans - H&M
Grey Patent Boots - Clarks (old)
Navy Quilted Bag - Vintage from Vintage Pintage
Necklace - Vintage from Jacob Street
The Merrell Wakefield has made its autumn winter debut. Lifesaving coat. That is all. It was last featured here and here and a few other times too but I won't bore you with too many old posts. 
What I love is it's got the shape and fit of a regular coat, with a flattering nipped in waist and it comes in neutral colours that don't fight with the rest of your wardrobe. However, unlike regular coats, you will not get wet wearing this. I've tested it rigorously...including at the now famous playgroup trip to the farm where it rained for the whole visit AND the bus broke down (not that the broken down bus tested the coat much - just my patience). 
For AW2012, the Wakefield's been rebranded as the Merrell Ellenwood - in case you're wondering why it's not widely available. I've listed some stockists of both the Wakefield and the Ellenwood at the bottom of this post as well as some pointers on buying one yourself. 
Today's photos were taken in the House of Fraser changing rooms as I waited for Mr SGS to try on some shirts. Nice mirrors..could do with one at home! Here's what was under the wonder coat:
It's a simple outfit today in classic navy. I love this jersey top from DP's. It's loose in the body with tighter arms and is slightly sheer - perfect for this in-between weather, especially when wearing the insulated Merrell. My ankle boots are past season Clarks. I am strangely drawn to grey patent..
My necklace was a bargain from the Lisburn Road based vintage store, Jacob Street. The pendant is made from mother of pearl - a neutral stone that will work with lots of outfits, but it can be taken off, allowing the solid necklace part to be worn alone or with another pendant. Walking into Jacob Street, I was like a child in a toy shop but my kids were like bulls in a china shop so a revisit is on the cards...sans enfants..
A Few Pointers on the Merrell Wakefield
Insulation: There are two types of Wakefield, insulated and un-insulated. The latter is less expensive but given the offers on many sites, it can sometimes be difficult to work out which coat is being offered. Mine is insulated so is super cosy in winter time. The un-insulated version is going to work well year round but will need a fleece layer in colder months
Sizing: I wear a size 10 (S) in the insulated version. I'm a 10 on top and 12 on the bottom half. It's a perfect snug fit on me though I cannot wear a thick jumper underneath (but am not a jumper wearer anyway and it doesn't really need it in our climate). If you are larger in the bust or want to wear heavier knits, size up or consider the non-insulated version.
Stockists:
Outdoor Mania - £119 possibly the uninsulated one but I cannot tell from the website 
Country House Outdoor (XL only) £166.50 - this is the insulated version
Shop Outdoors - best price for the new Ellenwood insulated - £139 with free delivery!
JUST ADDED: 
Let's Hike: as Shop Outdoors is running out of stock! also has Ellenwood for £139
Black Leaf - £136 for uninsulated Ellenwood, £152 for the insulted version.
This is not an inexpensive coat and I'm not suggesting any cheaper alternatives. I've foolishly spent £50-70 on rubbish coats, 2 and 3 winters in a row, that did not keep me dry and warm AND I've spent similar money on ski-style coats that come out when it snows but I'd never want to be seen in at any other time. This is your one-size-fits-all coat. Stylish, bum-covering, totally waterproof. Suitable for the school run, coffee with the girls, toddler group, walking the dogs and making snow angels. AND I reckon it will still be keeping me dry in 5 years or more....that makes it utterly bargainous in my books :)

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Sunday, 23 September 2012

A Personal Styling Appointment

It's Style September in Victoria Square, Belfast and as part of the special fashion events going on every week, Rebecca McKinney, the VS Personal Stylist, offered to show me some gorgeous new autumn/winter outfits. No matter how happy you are about shopping for yourself, it's a great idea to once in a while to use a personal shopper. 
Before I visited, Rebecca sent me a questionnaire about my vital statistics, preferred colours & shops, lifestyle and most importantly, budget. Two days later, I headed to the private styling suite in Victoria Square to try on my outfits and enjoy a glass of wine! The first outfit was from River Island..
Black Plether Detail Skinny Jeans - £40
Suede Ankle boots with Zip Detail - £40
Tweed/Pleather Biker Style Jacket - £60
(White Vest - Primark - my own!)
Firstly, the jeans. Perfect if you want to introduce a little bit of the leather trend into your daily wardrobe. They are regular stretchy skinny jeans with a panel of pleather running down the side.
Secondly, the boots. A great heel height for the school run but the zip and heel detail just makes them a little bit different. They would work great for a night out too.
But it was the jacket that won me over. It brings a bit of rock chick to the school run but also ticks the leather/tweed trend boxes this autumn winter. If (like me) you find a blazer a little bit too dressy for daily wear, this is a fantastic alternative. Here's a close up..drool...
Sticking with the green theme, Rebecca suggested I try on a mint green top - part of the Lana del Rey collection for H&M. It's not a colour I would chose for myself but I was pleasantly surprised...
Mint Chiffon Shirt by Lana del Rey (not yet available online)
Outfit number three addressed my requirement for a few sparkly but age appropriate pieces for fashion shows and events that I would go to now and again...and also for the upcoming party season..
Stone Chiffon Embellished Top - £45
Jeans - as before
This top is so flattering as it's a little longer at the back. I just wanted to swish around wearing it all morning! And I'm guessing you've noticed the Kurt Geigers pewter studded beauties...they get a whole photo of their own..
General by Kurt Geiger - £135 because every girl should have a pair of sparkly heels!
Necklace - H&M £14.99
These shoes are a wish list item and most certainly not a school gate option but I could see them coming out again and again for nights out over the years. Going to watch out for them in the sales. But isn't that necklace fantastic for £14.99? I wore it with the shoes for another outfit involving some daring patterned jeans..
Patterned Jeans - H&M - £9.99
Shoes & Necklace as before
Jersey Tee with Chiffon neckline - H&M - £7.99
Black Blazer - H&M - £29.99
These jeans are not for the faint hearted but despite being a bold pattern, it's actually quite flattering as it's going in the right direction to elongate the legs. And the £135 price tag for the shoes seems less of an issue when you consider this whole outfit comes in under £200.
I kept the top and necklace but changed the trousers for the next outfit - incorporating this autumn/winter's must have - burgundy jeans..
Burgundy Jeans - H&M - £14.99
Checked Scarf - H&M (not online)
Nude Pumps - H&M £24.99
Loved these jeans and the scarf Rebecca chose to wear with them. It's a perfect cosy shawl style scarf that can be worn in lots of different ways (I feel another scarf blog post coming on!). I also was amazed at how comfortable these nude patent pumps are..here's a close up..
If you're in the market for a Kate Middleton-style pair of platform nude courts but don't have her budget, I can highly recommend these bargainous beauties.
For a daytime look, Rebecca styled the burgundy jeans with a super-cute cream sequin collar top from H&M and a tweed blazer. I loved this nod to the heritage trend.
Blazer - H&M - £29.99
Sequin Cream Short Sleeved Top - H&M - £14.99 (not online)
Shoes & Jeans as before
By now I was sold on my burgundy jeans so Rebecca produced her most daring outfit and another one most certainly for nights out only...gold lame trousers..
Gold Trousers & Coral Blouse - H&M (not online)
This was the only combination I was unsure of when I saw my rail of clothes upon arrival but I have to say, it looked better on me than on the hanger. If you dare to be different, I think they are a great night out option and a change from boring black.

My verdict on the experience? Fantastic! Budget aside, I would have happily bought and worn regularly everything on the rail. And with one or two exceptions, I would have walked past ALL of the items if I was out shopping myself. If you are someone who dislikes or has limited time to shop, this is perfect for you. 
For 2 hours of Rebecca's time, you pay just £30. This can be entirely spent in the style suite or walking around the stores in Victoria Square, or a mixture of both. Rebecca is not aligned to any of the stores and there is no pressure to buy anything. However, her talent at picking what suits your colouring, body shape and lifestyle is so good, you'll struggle not to want to buy all of her choices.
If you're not in Northern Ireland and like the sound of this, check out your local shopping centre to see if they offer this service too! And if it seems a bit daunting, ask if you can bring a friend. Rebecca told me she is happy to cater for small groups as well as individuals.
For more information, check out the Victoria Square website on this link. 

Oh and if you're NI based and fancy a girly night out this Thursday, there are tickets available for the Victoria Square Style Soiree at the Elmwood Hall. A great night of fashion is promised. Yours truly will be there reporting for the blog...cannot wait x
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Saturday, 22 September 2012

Styled By You - School Gate Special!

Thank you to everyone who entered my Styled By You - School Gate Special!
It was lovely to see all your photos - what a stylish lot you are! Here is a selection of the gorgeous looks, starting with Jane who blogs over at The Small Fabric of My Life:
Cheryl who tells me she's dug out these wider leg jeans in an attempt to get away from skinnies every day - you've inspired me to do the same on the blog next week!
 Claire H in her burgundy skinnies - more to come on this AW12 essential..
 Claire U - who was very kind and told me how School Gate Style has helped her to enjoy shopping and dressing up again, after 3 babies in 4 years...looking good Claire!
 Emma next who took this on one of the first days back when there was a brief Indian summer...remember that? Seems like MONTHS ago!
 This photo travelled the furthest...all the way from New Zealand. Thank you Helen and love that satchel
 Another blogger - it's the stylish Anna behind Ash's Rural Mum Style
Lisa told me about how much she now enjoys shopping since losing 4 stone - what an achievement
 Another long distance photo - this is Liz from Norway who blogs at Everyday with Tig Tim & Tae. Liz told me about her favourite scarf brand, Beck Sonder Gaard. Thanks for the tip  Liz
 And speaking of great scarf outlets, here's Rebecca from Scarf Envy rocking her own Map Print scarf. There are some lovely benefits to having your own scarf company
 Loving Regina's laid back style in this photo. She know's how to rock a panama hat and check out the gorgeous bike
 Sue W is looking stylish in her nautical style blazer from M&S...such a gorgeous classic look
Can you believe that Rachel in the next photo had her third baby boy only 9 weeks ago? Super-mum or what?
 Finally, a gorgeous casual outfit from Sue who blogs at Susie So-So. Another lovely Indian summer look...how quickly the weather has turned :(
So who's the winner of the Neal's Yard goodies
I put all the names into the spreadsheet and the randomiser picked Sue W as the winner! Well done Sue. Drop me an email with your address details and I'll get the items to you  in the next few days.

Thanks again to everyone who entered. My next competition combines one of my favourite brands and one of my favourite accessories. Watch this space!
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Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Mint Velvet Wonder LBD

You want a wonder dress girls? I've found it for you! I'll be honest, it's not at all what I expected from a brand known for relaxed day wear but trust me, it's a keeper! Twin wobbly tummy flattened in an instant, no miracle knickers needed underneath, perfect length and neckline - tis the LBD of your dreams! Meet the Mint Velvet Bandage Dress and thanks to Fiona from Avenue 57 for introducing me to it...you can see Fiona wearing hers today too, on this link:
Not Bondage as my husband thought...no you cheeky man, BAndage! So named because it's inspired by a certain designer's body con dresses but this Mint Velvet one has a more ruffled effect going on which is way more flattering to wear. 
I styled this for a night out - it's got some satin down the sides so it's most definitely a going out dress, perfect for a dinner date or for a glam girls' night out. Just like a wardrobe staple LBD should be.
I also styled it for a day at the races, wearing a headpiece from Debenhams..
and it looks great with my ASOS blazer...as do most things in my wardrobe, come to think of it..
And you know the best bit of this dress...you don't just get to see it on me...because 5 other women from Avenue 57 (real women - not just bloggers) got to try it out too. All different sizes, shapes and ages and I think you'll agree when you see the photos that it works brilliantly on everyone! Click on the image to read more...
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