Saturday, 16 September 2017

Not Jeans

I'm not good at wearing trousers. I like what I like and I stick to it so my current trouser options are skinny jeans or culottes. But I know that my slimmest part is at my waist so in theory, a paper-bag style trouser should work? The website description for these trousers says that they're 'leg elongating'...I need ALL of that.

But first, let me tell you how I ended up buying them. Picture the scene - I'm in rainy London wearing a maxi dress and getting increasingly frustrated by wet hems and the trip hazard navigating tube stations with a suitcase so I ducked into Oliver Bonas to find something else to wear. I had a dress in mind but then I spotted these chinos...
Trainers - Seven Boot Lane (past season)

Fit wise, they're generous, so I'm wearing the 10. The material is lovely - an autumn/winter weight of chino material that feels smooth - if that makes sense? It means they hang beautifully and don't crease. 
Now I'll hold my hands up here and say that despite the nipped in waist, they're not *the* most flattering trousers on me. Yes, they nip me in at my slimmest part but they do add fabric to my widest part - my hips.
My blogging friend and photographer Marlene, agreed with me and so I got to thinking that a longer line jacket would better off-set this. Zoom forward a week and I'm wearing them again with my new M&S Navy Biker. Much better I think.
Trousers & trainers - as before
Stripe Top - H&M (past season)

And as an aside, I need to talk more about this biker jacket because it's such a find. The most perfect shade of navy and it fits like a dream. I'm looking forward to wearing it lots this autumn/winter.

So that's my foray into a different kind of trousers...maybe it'll make me braver? I'm actually looking forward to trying these with a killer heel on a night out...I think they could look pretty cool.

And a huge thank you to my friend Marlene for taking the top two pictures. It was just wonderful to have an afternoon with her in London eating dim sum and frozen yogurt. I even got to feature on her Instagram page - check it out on this link - 'mother with a drinking problem by a London canal'!

Hope you're having a lovely weekend,


Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Relaunch of Issa London - Exclusively at House of Fraser

Last week, I had to pinch myself a LOT. I was invited along to the re-launch of one of Kate Middleton's favourite brands, Issa London, literally in Kate's back garden at the Orangery in Kensington Palace!
It is a beautiful building, with massive windows overlooking the gardens and the set up for the event was stunning with a rainbow of colours along the long table. I sat at the Orange/Yellow section. You can see the effect (and the string quartet) on the next photo:

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Hanging out with Katrina in The Make Up Dept

Last Friday, the kids went back to school and I finally took up an offer from my friend Katrina, skincare and make up guru, to come see her at her place of work - the Make Up Dept. which is part of the At One Relaxation Space in Portview, on the Lower Newtownards Road.
Katrina is a make up artist for film and TV (Game of Thrones among others!) and also helps out with MUA training at Pamela Smyth's Make Up Dept., where you'll find short courses teaching Film/TV make-up, Special Effects and also a course covering the basics of make up application, ideal as a starting point for all.

Anyway, Katrina invited me to down to do my make up (she's always looking for challenging faces!) and take some photos. Her expertise in make up and skincare would ensure I got lots of info on the right things to use on my face and then her background in fashion styling would ensure fab photos! And of course, we would get to chat for hours and catch up after way too long.

My beautification started with Skyn Iceland Firming Eye Gel Masks, which were left on for 10/15 minutes.
While we waited, Katrina applied some moisture to my skin and then we talked foundation. I'm gutted that Kiko have stopped making my favourite foundation - the Anti Age - so I brought what I've got left of it to Katrina to see if she knew of another one that has a similar consistency and coverage.

Katrina felt that the Chanel Healthy Glow Foundation was a good alternative. The coverage is amazing and I am now going to try it out myself. The colour number 40 was the best match for me.
Over this, she used her 'if you only buy one thing' product - the Bronzing Makeup Base from Chanel - which I can confirm was used on Jamie Dornan in The Fall. If it's good enough for Jamie...
Next, some cream blusher which Katrina is a huge fan of. Her favourite? Rosie for Autograph. She chose Natures Blush for me and I loved it - it was much more coral than I would normally use.
Jumping on rapidly to the eyes and lips which didn't take long at all and looked so natural.
Until Katrina added some glamorous plum gloss from Flormar for my photo shoot...
And then we headed upstairs to the studio room for photos. I wore something VERY different for me - a shift dress in a scarf print, past season from Oasis. I picked it up in DejaVu last month with the intention of wearing with black tights when the weather gets cold but I'd had a spray tan that morning and I had new navy boots from Ash to show off so I thought I'd push the boat out and do a short dress with ankle boots for once.
I'm honestly not sure it's really me - I get away with it but it's not the most flattering thing I've ever worn. But on an aside,  I learned so much about how to stand and pose. Katrina is amazing at this stuff.
Dress - Oasis (Past Season)
Boots - Ash - The Dressing Room (sold out)
Denim Jacket - H&M (Past Season)
Then, a quick change and it was back on the school run albeit a little more glam than normal!!

You can find Katrina on this link and find out more about the courses available at the Make Up Dept on this link. And you have GOT to read about the Head Melt treatment that Pamela offers upstairs in the At One Centre. Absolute bliss...I will be treating myself to this very soon.



Sunday, 3 September 2017

#Spenditwell AW17 with M&S | School Gate Style

Remember School Gate Style? I thought given the time of year, I'd resurrect it for a blog post or two because my favourite season is about to start and there are some absolutely amazing pieces coming into M&S. And I'm getting this in ahead of the game because already the shoes are limited stock!
You may remember I worked with M&S on the Spring/Summer ‘Spend It Well’ campaign and it was all about realising what's important in in life and enjoying it. My favourite line from the official blurb was something along the lines of burning the posh candle - not keeping it for best, so straight away, I knew it was right up my street.

For Autumn, it's about looking at making space and time for ourselves once the routine starts back and the season changes. About doing things that bring you joy and make us feel good about life. Now my first reaction to reading this was that all you need to do is book a ticket to the BCGC Christmas Concert where joy is a guaranteed! But I find buying shoes and coats comes a close second :)

One of the interesting aspects of the collection is the continued blurring of lines between smart and casual. As someone who works part time, I'm loving this - when I last worked in an office, it was formal wear all the way and I had two distinct wardrobes going on - work and casual. Now, with it being acceptable to wear trainers with dresses and skirts with boots, your wardrobe can work much harder for you, at work & at the weekend, allowing you to get much more wear from each piece.

With this in mind, I picked 4 pieces that have that smart/casual flexibility. 4 items that can be worn together as a complete outfit but also individually with so much of my existing wardrobe.

Starting with the item that's going to sell out first - the shoes. I've seen these on some instagram profiles over the past couple of weeks and in fact, I tried on the blush pink version during the summer.
I know burgundy is a big colour every AW but this season, it's bigger than ever. Along with forest green, you're going to find something burgundy in every shop this autumn so there's so much scope to make these shoes work with other outfits. I'm already on the look for a midi/maxi dress with burgundy - and a couple of scarves.
Comfort wise, these are great and they're especially good for me with my back issues as they give me a little bit of height without the heel.

Next up, I'm asked every AW about a coat that can work practically on the school run, while being stylish and I think this is a strong contender. It's a trench so it's a pure classic - effortlessly stylish and flattering and it will never go out of fashion but it's also got a hood (removable - I took it off for these photos) and Stormwear functionality which makes it waterproof.
As well as being a gorgeous coat, it completely ticks the smart and casual boxes because you could wear this over a fully corporate trouser suit and kick ass but then you can throw your skinny jeans and trainers on and you are good to go on the school run.
Oh and it's fleece lined - so so soft and lovely!
You know how much I've loved my midi skirts recently but lots of you have told me that the style isn't the most flattering given the amount of material around the hip area - especially with pleated versions. Well I think this skirt will appeal because it's got the cut of a pencil skirt, the ultimate flattering fit for a pear shape, with a bit of a 2017 update in the form of a frill hem, which brings it to a much more current length and allows you to dress it down with flats, boots or trainers. But add some stilettos and you're SMOKIN'! 
Finally, I read the reviews on this roll neck and realised this is a wardrobe basic I've missed out on up until now. Apparently people buy them in bulk every year? The range of colours is gorgeous and since it arrived and I tried on, I've ordered the winter white and the plum. Just the most perfect basic piece for your wardrobe and only £17.50.

I'll be honest and say that as I ordered it all, I wasn't sure if it would definitely work together. I loved how the shoes tied in with the roll neck but would the coat work over it all? I'm so happy it does.

I also thought I'd feel like a bit of a wally in the middle of August trying on winter clothes but luckily, the Belfast weather obliged and it felt like October - with even a few leaves at my feet!

You can find the first drop of the new Marks & Spencer AW17 range on this link and for when it gets cooler, the knitwear range is going to hit in October and I've heard it is worth waiting for.

Disclaimer - I was gifted these products for the purpose of the review but I wasn't paid to write this post, nor was I obliged to. The words are all my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog


Saturday, 2 September 2017

#HOFXmas17 | Competition Time

Back in July, I was invited over to London to preview the Christmas collection for 2017 at House of Fraser. I held off blogging about it until now because so many of the items I saw and fell in love with weren't due to hit stores until autumn....and well, it's a Christmas preview and I can't really deal with Santa stuff until the kids go back to school.
I also wanted to give away my goody bag from the event but it was way too Christmassy to show you before now - more on that further down this post!

So here are the things I completely fell in love with at the press show. Where they've come into stock, I've added a link but if they've not dropped yet, there's no link.
Loved the displays of Christmas party wear...
and the range of logo tees and sweatshirts are fab this year (not yet in stock)
This is my favourite one though...watching out for it to come into stock...
There was tons of Christmas decoration inspiration with different rooms done in different styles..
The giftware room was my favourite though..
And we got a sneak preview of the Charlotte Tilbury advent calendar!
There was more makeup and fragrance than I could take in...
And to celebrate the start of all this fabulousness coming into stores, I'm giving away my goody bag contents from the day along with a little extra I bought myself - a House of Fraser voucher. I really do appreciate that if it wasn't for everyone who reads this blog, I'd not get the chance to go to these events so I want to give a little back.
So for a chance to win a zipped clutch from Therapy, a Lilou et Loie body cream in black amber & saffron shaped like a Christmas bauble, a cute Christmas deer decoration AND a £50 House of Fraser voucher, simply follow the instructions on the rafflecopter widget below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Competition closes on Saturday 9th at 00.01(i.e. Friday night) and it's open internationally. Rafflecopter will chose a winner at random and they will be notified by email. No cash alternative.

Good luck!


Monday, 28 August 2017

Playing Safe on a Night Out | All Black

I had 10 minutes to change ahead of a night out with the girls but that rushed and safe outfit felt good all evening and it got me thinking about what we grab to wear when under time pressure and the tendency I have to go straight for black in these moments.

Bright colours and patterns are all very well but the reality is, when I think about the items that work hardest in my wardrobe, they're not coloured...they're black.

I think it's because I remember wearing the coloured stuff and instantly recall the event or night out that I last wore it. Is that just me?! My memory is rubbish at the best of times but I can remember outfits - and who saw me wearing them. Go figure.

Anyway, this is what I wore on the night out and if you scroll down, I'm sharing some black pieces that will work hard in your wardrobe:
Jersey Culotte Jumpsuit - Warehouse AW16 (this seasons version in red & navy)
Biker Jacket - H&M SS17 (similar here)
Loafer Mules - River Island SS17 (similar here)
Red Cross Body Bag - M&S SS17 (similar here)

Starting with these pleated culottes from Warehouse which I almost bought last season and I know I'll buy this. They seemed a bit wintery when I looked at them in June but I'm really feeling them now.
I've got this real leather cross body bag and it's been on my shoulder pretty much every day since it arrived. Brilliant size and an amazing price:
My slip on loafers have come into their own this past couple of weeks. They're the perfect transition shoes this autumn. The coloured embroidery though can feel limiting and I think I'd wear a plain pair more. These ones from Dune are stunning in real life - I saw them today.
This next item is my Christmas wish list investment piece - I've been looking out for a biker jacket with gold hardware and this one ticks the box. A bit more elegant than a standard biker with the sleeve detail too. I've seen it in real life and it's even nicer than it looks online. Here's hoping it's still in stock in my size in December:
And finishing with a top that will take you to many a 'do', with skinny jeans, tucked into a skirt, under a blazer...I've last year's version of this top and I'm asked all the time where can it be found. I know River Island can be hit and miss (quite often the latter) but they do great black tops. I have so many from there that I wear again and again.

Call me boring but all of the above would earn their keep in no time in my wardrobe and that is the most important thing for me. Anyway, if it's good enough for all those chic French women, then I'm not giving up my black for anyone.

But having said that, I'll be back with a little bit of colour on my next post. Did anyone else get the back to school day completely wrong? No, just me then? What a relief that a friend messaged today to tell me it's tomorrow (Tuesday) and not Thursday.  And that I'd bought the uniform a couple of weeks ago....and it still fits!

Happy back to school one and all...


Saturday, 19 August 2017

7 Tips - Embracing the Casual Dress

Let's talk about wearing dresses. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll have seen my collection growing by the week in my usual 'behind the curve' style but I think the reason I was slow to embrace the trend and possibly why so many women tend to avoid dresses, is that I didn't want to look too 'dressed up' in my casual daily environment. 

I think it was connecting trainers with a dress that won me around but even at that, I had to wear the look a few times before I felt fully comfortable. I urge you, as I do with all trends - get an inexpensive starter item and give it a go. Sometimes you just have to get used to yourself in the mirror with a different silhouette/proportions. I can guarantee you the compliments will flow because there's not a woman out there who doesn't look better in a well fitting dress.

If you're still on the fence, here are a few hints and tips for embracing the dress trend:

1. Opt for a dark print. This will ensure you don't feel too 'out there' on your first frock foray. Also, smaller prints will look less showy and will be less memorable than a large pattern.

2. Start with a shirt dress with buttons down the front. This is the most casual style of dress and one that can be worn in lots of different ways, including over your skinnies kimono style, if you decide the dress trend isn't for you. I've shared a few suggestions down at the bottom of this post.

3. Keep your shoes and jacket casual - a dress is just that...dressy. So off-set this formality with some informality, be it a denim jacket, trainers or some flat sandals.

4. Opt for a midi length - much easier to wear than maxi and less of a faff with car doors, steps and puddles. Overall, I prefer a longer midi - something below mid-calf but the best length will depend on your height & footwear choices. Don't let the length put you off though because ⬇️ point 5!

5. Your tailor is your friend. Dresses are generally easy and inexpensive to shorten so don't be held back by your height. If you love a dress but it feels a bit long, know that it can so easily be shortened to the length that perfectly suits you.

6. Get your jacket length right. A dress generally suits a shorter fitting jacket, ideally one that nips at the waistline of the dress. I invested in new denim and biker jackets that sit much higher on my top half than any others I own. But this allows you to extend the wearing season of your dresses beyond summer.

7. Find a great pair of trainers. My Adidas Stan Smith trainers are probably the most widely available, neutral, dress-approporitate trainers that I own. I recommend the plain white but you tend to get offers on the ones with a colour on the trim. I wear the boys size 5.5 - cheaper than the ladies ones!

So before I show you some great dresses available online, here are 4 (eek) of my recent dress purchases, starting with a Marks and Spencer sale steal from Per Una - I know, PER UNA!? Which is why it was probably in the sale. If it had been in the Limited Collection, I think it would have been snapped up super fast.
I ended up buying the 14 in this dress as I loved it so much and it was the only one left but it must be fairly neat fitting (or I put on more than 5kg since April) as it fits me fine. Here I am wearing it on a night to the theatre with my blogging friend Emer D.
Dress - M&S SS17 Sale - similar here
Jacket - H&M SS17 Sale - similar here
Orange Clutch Bag - Yoshi - similar here & here

The next one is from TK Maxx and was only £14.99. It's a bit of a nightmare to wear from an indecent exposure point of view and so I wear a slip underneath. Love the print and the wrap style. I've worn this one with a denim jacket and the biker and it works really well with both.

Next up is the absolute find of the summer - from Peacocks. Unfortunately, last time I looked, it was sold out in all sizes bar size 16. Size wise, it does come up big. It's a gorgeous gorgeous dress that is going to work so well in Autumn too as it's gone long sleeves. It's VERY long but I refer you to point 5 above! I may shorten this to midi length actually...mulling over:
Jacket - H&M - similar here
Bag - Accessorise - similar here & here

Finally, this Zara sale find has proved to be a hard worker. I bought it without trying on and was full sure I'd have to return but the colours are great and it fits perfectly.
Dress - Zara Sale
Sandals - Topshop SS16
Tan Cross Body Bag - David Jones - similar (on sale) from Whistles here & from Modalu here 

As all of mine are frustratingly out of stock, here are a few that are in stock online at the moment. And never fret about buying dresses at this stage in the year because they will all work with ankle boots in autumn. The first few aren't shirt style, but I adore the prints. Scroll down for a few button down ones.

Don't be put off by the open back on this first one. Simply wear a vest underneath it. The print is stunning and it's only £10. There are no size 10's left so I've ordered a 12 to see what it's like and I'll report back.
This next one is in AW's hottest colour, forest green so it's absolutely going to work beyond summer. Simply layer it over a slip on cooler days
This Mango one is in the sale too - their prices have really shot up recently so this is just about affordable in the sale. Limited sizes left
Irish company, iClothing (who deliver to the UK too) have some gorgeous AW options too. It's difficult to properly assess this one without a model photo but I adore the print and I think would be amazing with long boots in winter
This Boden one is firmly on my wish list - it's pricy but absolutely stunning. Thinking about having a Boden party this year but I'm unsure if their prices are generally getting a bit too high? 
Sugarhill Boutique at House of Fraser here and finally, it's one with buttons down the front so it would be perfect worn kimono style too!
Finishing with another shirt style dress for the shy of pattern - from M&S
And just to show you what I mean about wearing the dresses kimono style, here's me in the Zara one (from my last post)
Dress - as before
Jeans - Tesco (old)
Cross Body Bag - Mint Velvet - similar here

Oh and to finish....if you're still on the fence with the dresses and think it's a bit late in the summer to be buying one, don't forget that you can layer a jumper or sweatshirt over your dresses when the weather starts to cool, turning your favourite dress into a skirt! I'm already planning a few outfits in this vein...

Hope you're having a fab weekend....I'm packing for a trade show in Dublin and guess what's in my bag? Dresses - 4 of them. There's another reason why they are item on and you're dressed!


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