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

Monday, 30 March 2015

Easter Sale Bargains & Outfit Round-Up

So this post started out with wanting to share the Mint Velvet mid-season sale which caught my eye yesterday, and ended up with a major fall-out with the laptop as I struggled to do fancy photo collages. I should have spent the last 2 hours ironing but instead I made up these 3 images. You know who to call if you need some graphic design work done...


I've not looked at Mint Velvet for a season or two...it just went under my radar a bit...but I saw one of those annoying Facebook ads and I had 10 minutes to spare so I had a quick peek at the sale and quite a bit took my fancy, starting with a light blue biker jacket. This is a new wish list item after seeing Mariah Carey in James Corden's car for The Late Late Show in the US - the video's on the link if you've not seen it yet. She looks fab in hers. I'm also loving the sequin jumpsuit, though purely for choir purposes...I'm always on the look out for black sparkly stuff in sales to wear at concerts. The khaki jumpsuit is a SS15 essential if you read the fashion press. I think it's a great day-time item that would look fab with a denim jacket and flat sandals in warmer weather (as a storm blows outside here...it's understandably hard to imagine this)
MV Easter Collage


1 - Blue Biker Jacket, 2 - Sequin Jumpsuit, 3 - Khaki Jumpsuit, 4 - Suede Boots (love the back of these!)

Looking at Mint Velvet got me thinking about other stores I've neglected in recent seasons. Gap is a case in point as I don't have a store that is easy to visit and I know there's an ongoing issue with their online vs in-store stock (and prices). But there are some amazing SS15 items in the online sale right now including these classic leather ballet pumps and some AMAZING handbags - how have I missed these? They're 50% off and the leather looks lovely in the photos. Has anyone seen them in RL? I'm going to order them for research (ha!) and will report back.


Gap Easter Collage


1 - Ballet Pumps, 2 - Tan Cross Body Tote, 3 - Striped Knit, 4 - Tan Wedge Sandals, 5 - Black Leather Cross Body


I've also neglected Boden in recent months thanks to the house move but this time of year is the best time to pick up their autumn/winter items for next year. The Ingrid coat always looks amazing on Nicki (check out her blog here) and bright statement wool coats will never go out of style. They look amazing with jeans and a breton on the school run but also work really well in a work wardrobe to brighten up a dark suit. I've picked out some going-out tops that are always going to be useful wardrobe additions - especially at these prices. Johnnie B is good for a punt in the sale and I'm aware that lots of mums have ordered the skinny jeans and the Honor top. Worth trying with a free returns label so I've ordered these too and will report back. Would love to order the coats but I'm afraid I'll keep them..and we all know I do not need more coats in my wardrobe.


Boden Easter Collage


1 - Claudia Coat, 2 - Embellished Floral Top, 3- Printed Vest, 4 - Honour Top (Johnnie B), 5 - Skinny Jeans (Johnnie B), 6 - Soho Boots, 7 - Perfect Party Top, 8 - Ingrid Coat


I would have done a 4th store if I'd not run out of steam...along with the iron...which stood unused the whole time :)


Finishing with outfits from the last few days...starting with a new scarf from the shop (which will open SOON I promise!)


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Jeans -  ℅ Replay
Grey v-neck - Benetton (AW14)
Grey Ankle Boots - Clarks (AW12)
Green/Grey Jacquard Scarf - SGS Shop (available soon!)
imageMac - Zara (via charity shop)
Jeans - Brooklyn Supply via TK Maxx (SS14)
Breton - Boden
Navy Suede Boots - Ash Jalouse (current season version on link)
Navy Scarf - Mango (AW14)
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G
rey V-Neck - as before
Burgundy Skinnies - New Look (AW14)
Scarf - Pull & Bear (AW13)
Patent Loafers - Van Dal ℅ Gray & Osbourn
Gunmetal Pendant  - SGS Shop new stock


Hope you are all coping with the school holidays - the days of rain forecast for the rest of this week are not filling me with joy....wishing you luck if you're stuck indoors with multiple kids.


Ax

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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Knitted Jackets, Starfish & Starsky & Hutch...

I know - a random title. Hang on in there - it will make sense soon. The knitted jacket is in today's outfit - all old favourites apart from the necklace...more on that in a minute. Today, the sun was streaming in and I got overly optimistic about springtime but I was no sooner dressed when the weatherman said that it was going to be bitterly cold with rain and a sharp frost later. So my pumps changed to ankle boots for the school run :( but hey, nothing like a bit of optimism on a Tuesday morning...
imageJeans - Maison Scotch
Knitted Jacket - Boden (kind of similar here & here)
Navy Top - Boden (similar)
Navy Pumps - Anna Field @ Zalando
Rose Gold Starfish Pendant - School Gate Style Shop (pre-order - see below)
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I love my knitted jackets - they're perfect at this time of year. I've linked to a couple of others in Boden above but they are everywhere - some even on sale...
Knitted Jacket Collage


Mint VelvetHushH&MH&MDash (in HOF clearance)White Stuff (on sale), Dash (At HOF)Hush


And finishing with the necklace close up...a rose gold sparkly starfish. I have a bit of a thing about starfish...
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It's one of the new items I've just taken delivery of for the shop, which I'm delighted to say will re-open at Easter. If you can't wait until then, send me a message to be among the first to own this piece. It's coated in real rose gold and retails at £18 including UK P&P (EU postage £2 extra/US Postage £3 extra)


Feeling reflective this afternoon as 11 years ago today, I went into labour for the first (and only....the twins came out the sunroof!) time. He was born early on the 25th but I'll always remember being in the cinema watching Starsky & Hutch when the contractions started. It was too good a movie to walk out on so I persevered and even went for a quick drink afterwards. By midnight, I was in the RVH 8cm dilated. So every 24th March since then, hubby and I watch the movie again - thank goodness we went to see something decent...as well as starfish, it would appear I have a bit of a 'thing' about Owen Wilson ;)
Starsky-And-Hutch-2


Ax

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Friday, 20 March 2015

#littleloves - Gym, Gardening, Mother's Day...

It's been a few weeks but I'm back with my #littleloves again today and linking up with the lovely Morgana. This week I've....


Read


It's coming up to book club time again and this month's book is The Undertaking by Audrey Magee, which I read in two sittings. It's set in 1940's German and the story starts with the marriage of a German soldier, Peter Faber, to Katharina Spinell, the daughter of a Nazi party activist. It's a marriage of convenience - granting Peter a long awaited break from the front line in the form of honeymoon leave and Katharina the promise of a soldier's pension in the event of his death. But this enabled marriage also reflects Nazi eugenic policy: a man and a woman who should breed are enabled to do so. However, the common thread running through the book is how the poor and the innocent are hardest hit with war - on both sides...and nothing's changed there 70 years on...
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Watched


I'm not alone in the House of Cards Season 3 watching - we finished it this week at last. I didn't enjoy it as much as season 1 or 2  as it was much more political but Claire's style was perfection as always...glad she want back to blonde at the end :)
What's been lovely about the past couple of weeks is that we've been able to sit and enjoy our new home at long last..while watching HOC. There's still tons to do but we have a beautiful living space now that all the really hard work is finished indoors. We moved outdoors with the work instead and my arms are aching from sweeping, weeding and pulling up endless ivy this week. You'd think it would mean I'd never need to set foot inside a gym.....


Heard


.....except I *did* set foot inside a gym this week. My physio recommended that I start a strength programme to prevent further back issues, so I joined GymCo Belfast and have been hearing lots of 'go faster', 'push it' and 'keep going ladies', all while pumping chart hits play. As well as Pilates and Yoga classes, I'm trying 50-50 spin & core, legs/bums/tums and a conditioning class...all straight after the morning school run. I know it's so boring when gym bunnies say this but I've so much more energy, I'm sleeping better and most importantly, I feel stronger. Hubby is giving it 3 weeks before the novelty wears off -  watch this space...
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'waiting for spin class to start' (was the best part of that hour of my life)


Made


I've been baking again this week. This is my failsafe scone recipe - works a treat every time and they can be on the table within about 30 minutes.


Wore


Leopard for the Dara O'Briain concert on Saturday night...
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and green for St Patrick's Day...
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and finally....

I hope those of you who are mums had a good Mother's Day. I'll leave you with this photo I took on Friday morning in my local Tesco where the flower delivery had just come in on about 9 pallets...just beautiful and along with the sunshine this week, has me thinking about summer!
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Have a great Friday,


Ax

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Thursday, 19 March 2015

Clothing at Lidl - Launch vs Reality

And I'm not talking about wetsuits or anoraks - I'm talking proper school run clothes. Bretons, macs, jeans - clothes you'd actually want to wear that are priced really well. I honestly didn't have high expectations going to the press launch a few weeks back but it was impressive - here's a smattering of what they showed us...
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A lovely range of budget basics..my favourite item had to be the denim shirt - it's gorgeous and *will* be found. And I say that because the reality of Lidl is that you won't go in and see all these items laid out like so - enticing you to buy. You'll find them beside the onions and the gardening equipment and they will be wrapped up in dodgy French-styled packaging.
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BUT and here's the thing....you need to look beyond the lack of merchandising and not be afraid to have a 'hoke' in your local store as there are some great pieces to be found. Remember - this is how they keep the prices so low.
I looked in the 2 stores closest to me and there wasn't a huge range but I did manage to find the mac and the jeans. The coat was £10.49 and the jeans were £5.59...both reduced by 30%. I really didn't have overly high expectations but was very pleasantly surprised. The jeans are SUPER high waisted (which I like) and fit really well. They're a little long on me but they will shorten with washing and I can always turn them up too. But the fit is excellent - especially good for pear shapes who struggle to get jeans to fit both hips and waist.
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Breton - Boden
Chunky Cardigan- Hush (AW14)
Black Leather Ankle Boots - Seven Boot Lane (past season)
Skinny Jeans - Lidl :)


The mac is another surprise - I really like it! Very lightweight - it will be perfect in a month or so. One thing I will say is that the sizing with the mac is WAY off - I'm wearing a 16! The jeans were spot on though - I bought the 12.
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The rest of the range will be arriving gradually over the next few months - you'll not see everything on one visit...but that's the thing with Lidl - it's always a bit of a surprise what you see and for me, the clothing range will mean I'll make a bit more of an effort to check in once a week in my search for that denim shirt. Do let me know if you've seen any of the other items in local stores or indeed if you've bought anything.


I'll leave you with a video the Lidl NI team made - it will show more looks from the press launch and a couple of models on the street in Belfast (on an ABSOLUTELY freezing day!) and surprising people when they reveal where their outfits are from..


Ax

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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

My Street Style with Swoon Mag

At the end of February, I had a brief overnight trip to London. I thought it would feel really rushed and that 24 hours in the big smoke wouldn't be long enough but in fact, it felt like a longer trip as I squeezed in so much and shared the time with some great friends.


While I was there, Marlene from the award winning blog, Chocolate, Cookies and Candies took my photo for Swoon Mag, an online publication and shop that she freelances for. Her brief was to capture practical and wearable street style from some on-trend mums, so keep an eye on the site over the coming days and you might see one or two other familiar faces :)


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Mac - Karen Millen (past season- similar here & here)
Grey Skinny Jeans - 2nd Day (AW14 - similar here)
Camo Trainers - Zara (current)
Uniqlo ULD Layer (just seen)
Cross Body - Boden (past season - similar here & here)
Scarf - Zara (AW14 - similar here)


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My London outfit was all about comfort and layers. I knew a wool coat would be too heavy but it was too cold that weekend for the mac alone so I layered with my Uniqlo long sleeved ULD - hardly visible under the mac, super cosy and easy to pack away if I got too warm - which was the case while on the tube. Meanwhile, this style of trainer is the perfect mix of comfort and style. I wore them for the full time in London, walking 5 or 6 miles at least...all without a single blister.


No suitcase this trip - just a big handbag. I wore the same outfit on both days (with a change of black top). On the way over, I bought a small pack of face wipes and a tiny deodorant so all I needed to pack at home was my makeup. It was so enjoyable walking around London without traipsing a wheelie bag behind me.


STL Collage


Trench - ASOS
Scarf - Esprit
Leather Cross Body Bag - River Island
Grey Skinny Jeans - 2nd Day
Camo Trainers - Zara


Thanks to Marlene for taking such great photos and thanks to Swoon for the feature


Ax

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Friday, 13 March 2015

Action Cancer Breast Screening - My Mammogram Experience

This is WAY off topic but just so important so bear with, bear with...
Last year, a friend of mine told me about Action Cancer NI and their free mammogram screening for women aged 40-49 (NHS screening starts at age 50). We had a mutual friend whose cancer was found at age 50 on her first NHS mammogram. Had she been screened at a younger age, she may not have had to endure the treatment she did (thankfully all is good with her now, but it was a long, tough battle).


Anyway, the screening was in the back of my mind and as you do, I kept putting it off and putting it off. Until the team at Action Cancer got in touch and asked me to help promote one of their events. I was starting to get the sense that some other force was encouraging me to get my act together so back in February, I made my appointment online. Really simple to do...I was able to secure an appointment the following week and there were regular email and text alerts to remind me of the date and time and offering me the option to re-arrange if necessary.


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The screening takes place at the Action Cancer head office on the Malone Road/Marlborough Park (and also on the mobile Big Bus - which travels around the province), so I headed there a couple of weeks back to have the procedure done. I was really nervous - I'll not lie. I'm very squeamish when it comes to medical stuff and I wasn't looking forward to having my boobs squashed flat four times. But I focussed on the bigger picture and the fact that the appointments are 10 minutes apart so it was sure to be a fast procedure.


I was brought into a small reception area and given a short questionnaire to complete, which asked the usual personal information/medical history.
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Then I was brought through to the consulting room with a female radiographer and all I had to do was slip my top and bra off and stand in front of the machine. The radiographer assisted me throughout the process which involves two images taken of each breast. Each image takes about 10-15 seconds and the machine automatically releases the breast once the image has been secured.


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Was it painful? In my case, I'll be honest and say yes..though only for the briefest of moments. Now this is not always the case and I know some friends for whom it didn't hurt at all. It can depend on the time of the month and just generally your pain threshold. In any case, the pain did not sustain beyond the procedure itself though I did feel a little lightheaded for a while afterwards so once I got home, I had a huge coffee and a wagon wheel (or 2). I can recommend this remedy for most days - not just the ones you have a mammogram on :)


So - now for the practicalities. Action Cancer offers this service free of charge to women between the ages of 40 & 49 and those aged over 70. Between 50-70, you are eligible for NHS screening in your local health board. Now each mammogram does cost the charity £80 so you are invited to make a voluntary donation (of any amount) if you are able to. It's all very discreet - you're given an envelope and you can pop it in a box en route out of the screening room so it's genuinely whatever you can afford.


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Despite diagnosing about 6 cancers from every 1000 tests carried out, Action Cancer receives no government funding for this work at all and relies solely on donations.
Women aged under 40 are not offered mammograms as there is no evidence to show that they're beneficial in this age group - younger breast tissue is more dense and it's harder to pick up abnormalities. However, if you have a concern and you're aged below 40, your GP can refer you for appropriate investigations.


But there's another fabulous way to support the charity - one I wholeheartedly approve of! Action Cancer have revolutionised the charity shop concept with their 'boutiques' and I've been in two of them in recent weeks and they are amazing! The Something Different shop on the Lisburn Road has been a regular haunt of mine since December as I trawl Belfast for quirky bits and pieces for our new home. It's a treasure trove of vintage furniture, decorative items, clothing and books/records with very reasonable prices.
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Then I discovered that there's a new clothing store in Lisburn that's been fitted out in a similarly quirky/vintage way. It looks nothing like your usual charity shop with trend-driven merchandising, lots of mannequins, fabulous wallpaper and spacious changing rooms.
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AND it's the store where I found a Burberry Mac, which you will have seen if you follow the Facebook page.


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So if you want another way to fund this incredible service, do a massive wardrobe clear out and bring it down to your nearest Action Cancer shop... There are 17 in total across NI and while you're there, pick up some new bits and pieces. It's a win/win.


8 days later my letter arrived and I'm happy to report that my mammogram results were normal.
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Cue a huge sigh of relief....but a huge sense of how worthwhile the process is for peace of mind. How blessed we are to have such a service available to us free of charge?


I hope this (slightly curveball) piece is helpful...please PM me or leave a comment if you've any questions at all and if I can't answer them, I'll pass them on to someone who can. In the meantime, if you're in the vicinity of Hillsborough Forest Park on Saturday, Action Cancer are holding a Mother's Day walk for all the family - full details on this link.


Thanks


Ax


 
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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Grey on a Sunny Day

Yesterday was a great day. Sunny, warm and lots of ticks on the to-do list. Here's what I wore....
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Grey Silky Blouse - Deja Vu, Lisburn Road
Coated jeans (look black but they're a dark dark navy) & Coat (on bed) - Mango AW14
Black boots - Clarks past season
Scarf - Zara AW14
Cross Body Bag (on bed) - Boden past season
A21 Pendant - see this post for details


After the school run, a grocery delivery and a quick whizz around the house making beds, I went over to a coffee shop on the Ormeau Road called Kaffe-O. My friend Olwyn bought me vouchers from the shop as a house warming present knowing I loved the mugs that are sold there.
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And Belfast being the size it is, I bumped my friend Peter Love - Love Fitness NI...who inspired me to book a PT session and a gym viewing. Time to get into shape for summer.


Next up, I had a deep tissue massage with another friend - Kate Morrow from Harmony Holistic Healing. I've been having a session with Kate roughly every 6 weeks or so since late last year when I had residual sciatic pain that wouldn't shift, and I really feel the benefit of her treatments. I have her under strict instructions to give it some welly so it's pretty intense but relaxing too. Kate offers a wide range of treatments and is based at Core Physiotherapy at The Arches if you're local and feel the need for a chill-out session. She's the sort of girl who will put you at ease immediately and doesn't talk throughout the treatments....I know that's a bugbear of many a busy mum who just wants silence for that precious hour of pampering.


Quick whizz to Lidl in Castlereagh then to see if they had any of the new clothing range. The good news is that I struck gold - blog post to follow - and finally on to H&M for yet another return. Not having much luck there. That's 3 tops, a jacket and 2 pairs of jeans I've returned in the past 2 weeks.


Then the sofa search continued....my head is melted with sofas. I literally would buy anything after 3 weeks of going to every sofa shop in the vicinity of Belfast. I have 43 different sofas photographed on my phone and cannot see the woods for the trees so a strong cup of coffee was required once I got back to the house and bless them, the kids gave me 15 minutes to myself to flick through a few magazines that a friend had given me.
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Love this quote from a Marie Claire interview with make-up artist Wendy Rowe...maybe the sofa isn't meant to be?? :O
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Ax


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Monday, 9 March 2015

#FindTheOne with Triumph

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Go on - fess up. How many of your bras don't fit you properly? If you Google 'women wearing wrong sized bra', you'll get a plethora of stories ranging from '80% of women in the US' to 'a third of women in the UK' wearing the wrong size. I'm inclined to think it's closer to the 80% - I know I'm currently wearing one that doesn't fit me properly.


So I've joined forces with Triumph, for this blog post to tell you a little bit about their “Find the One” campaign - part of an ongoing mission to help as many women as possible to find their perfect bra. The right bra = no more pinching, weightless support, total comfort and a beautifully shaped silhouette. What's not to love?


Last year’s Stand Up for Fit campaign, also run by Triumph, measured a staggering 380,000 women for the right bra – beating the original target of 100,000. This overwhelmingly positive response pushed Triumph to raise the stakes even higher with a global “Find the One” campaign and an aim to fit half a million women with that very special, super comfortable bra, the one that they will share the rest of their lives with. And that's the good thing about Triumph bras - they will stand the test of time.


“Find the One” is being launched with the following video,  directed by the acclaimed Ivana Bobic, featuring women from across Europe, playing on the idea of finding the “The One” in love. The movie is edited so that each lady appears to be describing their search for the perfect partner, when it is revealed they are actually talking about the perfect bra. There are so many jokes I could make here about husbands but I'll resist!


So how can you go about finding your 'one'? Well, there's a “Find the One” Hub – where you can get advice, book a bra fitting, and buy the ideal bra so do check it out if you're sitting reading this and (like me) can feel your bra digging into you.


Thanks to Triumph for asking me to get involved with this campaign and thanks to you for supporting the brands who support this blog.


Ax

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Sunday, 8 March 2015

You know you're ready for spring when....

....the ankles are out. Yes, I'm officially over winter boots. Back in August, I was dying to get them on and looked forward to cooler days but now I'm listening to the weather forecast in the morning willing it to be a bit warm and dry so I can wear shoes. The good news is that our local weather woman announced this week that the long range forecast shows no more freezing weather for March (though I would say don't send the boots to the attic yet as we had snow in April 2013)


This spring I'm all about the slip on trainer. A look I thought I'd never be able to carry off but it turned out it was a look that I just needed to get used to. I bought my first pair in New York in June and all through the summer when my back was at its worst, I couldn't have managed without my black ones from River Island. I felt this spring, I could justify spending a bit more on a leather pair. Meet my new Zara camouflage slip on trainers:


imageCamouflage Leather Sneakers - Zara (I'm wearing a size 6 so they're pretty much true to size)


I know these are a marmite item but so if you hate them on everyone, they're probably not for you but if you like them but can't see them working on you, I urge you to get an inexpensive pair and try them for a while. If all else fails, you can always wear them as slippers. Overall, I find them more wearable than proper trainers and they're just a bit funky - and incredibly practical on the school run.


So here I am wearing them a few times this week...
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There are tons of slip on trainers in the shops at the moment. Here are some of my favourites, starting with these Dune ones which are in the sale at the moment (limited sizes). The reviews suggest they come up big so to size down.
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Dune Ladies Lamarr


or how about some metallic ones with a chunkier sole? I've seen these in the flesh and they're lovely
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Gold Snake from River Island


you can't go wrong with black leather from Next
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and while you're on the Next site, check out the into Clearance Shoes here and scroll down till you see these 'Borg Skaters' available in lots of sizes for £12. I can't share a direct link but I bought these back when the sale started and I've been wearing them also this week. They're made from a kind of felt material - hopefully you can see it in my photos.


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or how about gorgeous grey with studs, also from Dune?
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Steve Madden Studded Slip-Ons


New Look have these great quilted ones - very Chanel-esque!
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New Look Black Quilted


Finally, some designer gorgeousness...
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Gucci Slip On Trainer - a relatively affordable way to inject some Gucci into your wardrobe perhaps?!


Hoping to get back into the blogging routine again this week after months of absence because of the house. The good news is that we're nearing the end of the major work and I now have an office space - no excuses anymore! I'm looking forward to getting some gorgeous new stock for the shop and getting all the half written blogs out of my head and on here. Have a great Sunday...


Ax

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