Thursday, 31 May 2018

House of Fraser Personal Stylist | Fashion

Brace yourself for a massive try on session! I went into House of Fraser Belfast today to try out the Personal Shopping service as I'm always being asked about it. It's a completely free service that you book via a call to the Belfast store (also bookable online) and you can chose the type of consultation you want, e.g. wardrobe refresh, occasion, so that it's tailored to your requirements.
I chose the wardrobe refresh with the remit of affordable casual pieces for summer that can be dressed up or down and I have to say that Jacqui got it spot on.

I'm asked why go to a personal shopper whenever I'm constantly in the shops and know what I like  but I think every woman should go to a stylist at least once a year and with a complimentary service like this, why wouldn't you? Because having another person dress you is excellent for challenging you if you've got into a rut when it comes to your style. Not only does a personal shopped know the shop stock inside-out, they challenge you to try colours, shapes and styles that you might never have tried out yourself and they will help you integrate these new pieces into your wardrobe.

The main benefit of the service though is the fact that you get a massive private dressing room for 2 hours with armchairs, mirrors and a cup of coffee. Such a relaxing way to shop, away from the hustle and bustle.

So once I'd had my coffee and chat with Jacqui, I was ready to start trying on starting with a dress that looked like nothing on the hanger but was fantastic on. Very All Saints and reduced to £33 this weekend as part of the HOF Blackout Event (normally £55). Bad start as I forgot to take a picture...duh but it will feature on a blog post very soon and trust me, it looks better on me than it looks on this model. 
Next up, another Label Lab dress - fab fit and colour but I would have loved it to have been a bit longer on me:
Then a Maison De Nimes dress with a racer back and gorgeous handkerchief hem. Looked great with a denim jacket. I felt a bit bare on my top half but loved everything else about it.
Then a couple of denim dresses, shorter length on me as per my efforts to get the pins out a bit this summer....I've decided after 45 years that they're not as bad as I thought they were! This first one is made from a gorgeous lightweight tencel material. Hung so beautifully. 
And the second one is so versatile as you can wear it as a dress:
Or open as a cover up over trousers/tops etc
Big shout out for the jeans here - if I'd not already gotten my white jeans from M&S, these would have been bought. Amazing fit - from Maison de Nimes
Vest - Linked Below
Same jeans again, different top, this time a kimono style top. Loved the print and it looked great open or closed. 
A couple of jumpsuits now and this label lab one wasn't something I'd have ever chosen to try on yet it looks fab!
Though this next denim one was a more flattering fit I think. It looked unimpressive on the hanger but was great on - and it has pockets!
Next up and this Maison De Nimes skirt was an immediate hit - even before I tried it on. I love maxi skirts but this is even nicer for having a tie detail on the waist and slits up each side to keep you cool. I paired it with the Label Lab racer back vest (linked above).
Another gorgeous dress, this time from Label Lab. A great length on me - I'd add a tan leather belt to nip in my waist but it's a great shape unbelted if you're more apple figured than me.
and now for my favourite outfit of the session, and I need to give a massive shout out to these Label Lab jeans first. They are UNREAL....genuinely the best jeans I've tried on in ages. Proper high waisted, gorgeous soft denim and a really nice subtly distressed wash. Also a great length - they have an unfinished hem and I've turned them up but they would work really well on a longer leg than mine.
Worn with a fantastic basic v-neck t-shirt from Label Lab which is nicely loose and has some shoulder detail that makes it look a bit more special. Well reduced this week.
and topped off with a Linea jacket in a gorgeous shade of orange. I tried this jacket on in cream the last time I was in so I knew the fit would be great. Love the colour so much.

And the jeans were such a hit, I left them on for the rest of the try on to show you how amazing they look with everything. This patterned Linea top:
this plain Linea top, which is a great plain top option - comes in a few colours and is reduced to £24 this weekend:
and this fab bubblegum coloured cold shoulder Biba top - LOVED this...can you tell from my face?
And here's the woman herself - Jacqui. 
I had a lovely morning with her and she really worked hard to pull me tons of looks in just 2 hours. I tried on more than I've shown here - but I was changing so fast, I didn't always get usable photos! I the end I bought the grey mesh dress, the maxi skirt and the jeans and t-shirt.

Finishing with what I wore today - getting the legs out as I mentioned above. This Next dress I got last year in the sale was perfect for keeping me cool after all that trying on!
Dress - Next (past season)
Denim Jacket - H&M
 Grey Cross Body - Carvela
Hope you enjoyed my try on and remember the Blackout event runs online and in-store until Sunday.

Ax
Disclaimer : This try on session was part of my monthly collaboration with House of Fraser though I wasn't required to blog about it - just to share on Instagram. But as it was a #ad on Instagram, I need to tell you that here! I was gifted a voucher with which I bought the Jeans & Skirt. I paid for the grey dress and t-shirt myself. Some of my links are affiliate links which means that the brand knows that you've come to their website from here and they may pay me a tiny commission if you buy something and keep it. This modest income goes towards the running costs of this blog so I really do appreciate every click!





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Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Bargain Red Dress | Occasion Wear

People always think I have loads of formal dresses in my wardrobe but I promise I don't! Mainly because apart from choir gigs, I rarely go to formals so when the opportunity arises, I like to have something new to wear. It's more interesting for the blog and it's a chance to wear different styles and colours. So after I've worn a dress a couple of times, I usually sell it and put the funds towards the next one. As I buy most of my dresses pre-loved, either via eBay or DejaVu, it all works out well financially as I generally make back the costs.
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Saturday, 26 May 2018

Back in Ballymena | #Ballymenameansfashion

I was fortunate enough to be invited back up to Ballymena on Thursday to take part in their #Ballymenameansfashion initiative again (last year's post is here if you want a read). The shops in the town all contribute to a group called Ballymena BID and this group then invests the funding back into putting the town on the map as a great place to shop. Which it is - I knew that before they contacted me. We've been coming up to the town to shop there since I was pregnant with my 14 year old and we still have furniture and lighting we bought on those visits.
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Monday, 21 May 2018

*NOW CLOSED* Clarins at Clear Pharmacy | Giveaway

Last week I was invited in to the Clear Pharmacy in Newtownabbey to try out their Clarins skin bookable for just £10, which is redeemable against purchase 
(phone 028 9036 5828 to book).
Now I thought this would involve merely showing me product and recommending items to purchase but it was in fact a lovely mini-facial carried out by Kathrina who has worked at the Clarins counter for 11 years and knows everything there is to know about the brand.
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Thursday, 17 May 2018

Outfits of the Day | Fashion

Most days I add my #OOTD to Instagram but I'm conscious that many of you are not on Instagram and that many more again are suffering (as I am) from Insta-fatigue, and scaling back on how often you use it.

So for that reason, I've set up a new page here on the blog itself called #OOTD where I will upload my outfit photos from Instagram with links to the products. As well as being a good place to catch up on outfits, it also allows me to link to the items or similar ones in case you would like to recreate some or all of the outfit.

Now I will probably do this on a weekly basis rather than daily - depending on how work and home is going that week. Equally, there won't be 7 every week as there are always a couple of days where I don't get a photo or spend the whole day in my gym gear.

If you take a look over on the page, you'll see I'm almost up to date..just these few below to add in and I hope going forward, you'll enjoy this one stop shop for outfit inspiration.

Starting with an outfit I wore down to visit my friend Danielle in Banbridge. This photo was taken outside my favourite shop in the town - Woven. Thanks to Rachel for taking it...
Leather Biker - preloved (similar here & omg this is on sale!)
Green Leather Cross Body - TK Maxx (similar here & here)
Green Vans - JD Sport (wearing kids size 5.5)
Black Culottes - Warehouse (similar here)
White T-Shirt (kids PE from BHS!!)
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Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Bardot Tops & White Jeans | Fashion

In retailing, this time of year is the start of what's called 'high summer' where the warmer weather clothing arrives on shop floors. Two things that come to mind for me when I think about high summer are bardot tops and white jeans. For some reason, even though bardot style is my favourite kind of top and flatters my shape the best, I can't wear the style outside of high summer. It just feels wrong - same with white jeans.

So when M&S gave me a High Summer remit for my monthly collaboration this week, I chose three bardot tops - one each from Per Una, Autograph and M&S Collection to try, along with some pretty amazing white jeans and a pair of tan sandals that keep calling to me every time I'm in store.

A quick word about the jeans first as I've featured them in every photo. These are the high waisted super skinny jeans and I purposely ordered them in the short length as I like my summer jeans to be a bit shorter on me. I ordered the size 10 - my usual and the fit is spot on. They are a good weight and properly opaque.
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Sunday, 13 May 2018

Slieve Donard Climb | Travel & Fitness

Last week I climbed Slieve Donard with my blog husband (not my real husband!), Jeff from Belfast Times. It was momentous because one year ago I was in my bed, high on drugs and in a scary amount of pain so much so that even contemplating the climb, I was worried that I'd not be able for it. I'd been training well up until Easter but then was struck down with a chest virus which left me unable to work out for 3 weeks. But encouraged by Jeff, I decided to give it a go on the date we'd agreed. 

And we'd agreed that date because when the NI Cancer Fund for Children heard we were thinking of climbing the highest peak in NI, they asked if we could give their sponsored climb on the 27th May a mention to encourage others to sign up. We knew we had to climb the mountain in early May to allow us to help with this....but that turned out to be a good thing - it stopped us rearranging or backing out!
It was a bright day but cool and showery and we headed off at about 8.30am from Donard car park in the town.
There's lots of parking at the base of the mountain along with public toilets so you can get organised before commencing the climb. From the car park, you have a lovely dander through the trees and alongside the river which warms you up well for the tougher climb ahead. 
All kitted out in our new Target Dry coats - thanks to the team in this local outdoors company for dressing us appropriately for the walk
Various Fleeces, underarmour, leggings and funky boots 
(all borrowed or dug from under piles in the garage!)
Within about an hour, we reached the tree line and the wind really picked up from here onwards.
Jeff having a sneaky sit down

We had a lovely climb for the next 30 minutes or so and the rain stayed off but it was getting colder so we stopped for coffee and to add an extra layer, a hat and gloves before starting the more serious climb up to the saddle - the curved bit where you can see the sky in this next photo:
The view to the saddle
The view from the saddle to the summit

From the saddle to the top comprised 20 minutes of pure hell. There's no other way to describe it. It was relentless and rough underfoot so you had to really concentrate. We ended up doing wee spurts of climbing followed by quick stops to catch our breath. There were more than a few times when Jeff had to push me on but we made it to the top and it was definitely worth it.
Not only did we have the most amazing views but we had the entire summit to ourselves. Just magical. 
We spent about half an hour on top taking photos and congratulating ourselves....not thinking of the descent that was still ahead of us!! The climb down was much harder than expected. The terrain was slippy and we had a few showers on the way which made it harder to keep our footing.
But we had some friends along the way - a cautious horned mummy sheep who was giving us lots of warning not to come near her and her lamb.....we took an extra detour around her!!
Both of us took a tumble on the way down - Jeff's was worse than mine and he hit his head but he was ok thankfully and after about 5 hours, we were back on flat ground in the car park - a pretty decent time considering how long we spent on the top.

The descent was possibly rushed because we knew as soon as we got there, we would be heading to use the spa in the Slieve Donard Hotel as guests of the Hastings Hotel Group - to ease our weary muscles.
It turned out to be a gorgeous experience with a healthy lunch on arrival
followed by the most blissful time spent upstairs in the more private spa area, reserved for customers having treatments. I found the sauna particularly soothing on my sore legs and it was just so nice to not have to rush home again to the school run etc. 
I don't normally go for spa days like this as I never seem to be able to fully relax. It's probably a bit of mum guilt at the fact that I'm swanning about doing nothing for a few hours. Maybe this visit I was so exhausted after the walk that I didn't have the energy to be guilty? Whatever it was, I truly felt myself unwind and it reminded me of the importance of a little bit of me-time. I came home like a new woman!
There's actually an offer on at the moment where you can go for the afternoon to the spa, with lunch for just £45 on a weekday. All the spa offers are on this link - I'm dropping major hints for my birthday!

What a way to end an amazing day - I was more than a bit emotional heading home. Grateful to my body for healing so well and bringing me safely up and down the mountain and grateful to Hastings Hotels for giving me the most blissful relaxing experience in their spa afterwards. If Carlsberg made Wednesdays and all that...

If you would like to conquer Slieve Donard this month, you can sign up to the NI Cancer Fund for Children climb on the 27th May on this link. There's a registration fee of £20 and the charity ask that you try to raise £80 before the climb which I can help with as I'm going to donate to the first 3 people who sign up and contact me. Just drop me an email on avril@alifetostyle.com and on completion of the walk, I'll donate £30 to your collection!

Ax
Disclaimer - I was not paid to write this blog post. My trip to the Hastings Hotel Spa at the Slieve Donard was complimentary though I wasn't obliged to blog about it.


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Saturday, 12 May 2018

A Day in Dublin | Hush Camo Jacket

What to do when one child has an exceptional closure day and the other two are at school? Well organise some childcare for the two in school and take yourself and your teenager off to Dublin! Because while we were on holidays at Easter, I realised that none of my kids have actually been in Dublin city centre. We've driven around the city endless times en route to visit family but never stopped and had a look around. I thought it was about time I showed my first born the city I worked, lived and studied in during my late teens and 20's.

We headed down early morning on the bus with no fixed plans other than to do the Kilmainham Gaol tour, which is number 1 on the TripAdvisor guide to Dublin. Before we headed to find a bus to take us to Kilmainham, we had time to walk around Trinity College grounds, where I had my graduation ceremony some 24 years ago (😱) and my son, who is obsessed with the iPhone portrait mode, took about 50 pictures of my outfit for the day. 
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Friday, 11 May 2018

Next Blue Midi Dress | Fashion

Just a quick post today to share my new blue dress from Next which has been getting all the Instagram love. I've worn it twice over the past week - once on a hot day and once on a cold day so I thought it would be useful to share both looks on a blog post...
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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

May Empties | Beauty

On a beauty theme again, I thought it might make for an interesting post if I shared my beauty product empties from this month. I really enjoy these posts on other blogs as they’re a great gauge of whether a product is worth buying or not.

Now I've called this 'May Empties' as if it's something I'll do on a monthly basis but truth is, it'll be a more sporadic kind of post. I don't use a massive amount of beauty stuff - I'm quite loyal to certain things and so it's rare that I have more than one product empty at once. But I'll see how it goes...you never know!

So here are the items all together - looking a bit sorry for themselves in their well worn packaging (apart from the Clarins Serum...but I'll explain further down)
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Monday, 7 May 2018

Wardrobe Basics | Starting from Scratch | Part 2

Apologies for the delay between my two posts. I was busy climbing mountains and trying on endless dresses. But I'm back with the second part of my Starting from Scratch series. I should say here that the list is in the order that I wrote it down...in case you were wondering if there was any logic to it. There's not.
Starting this part off with a huge wardrobe must have for me though it's one that took me a LONG time to get on board with. Now I can't be without them....


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Saturday, 5 May 2018

Studio by Preen | Try On Session

I promise you that part 2 of Starting from Scratch is almost ready but I've parked it for a day to show you a try on session I did this morning in Debenhams in Belfast. 
I've seen the Studio by Preen range all over Instagram and loved the video look book online so when I got wind this week that the whole range is in my local Debenhams, I was straight down this morning to try it all on.

Now I wasn't invited into the shop and no-one working there knew I was coming but when I got to the changing room with my 12 or so items and started explaining why I had so much to try on, Sheila who is one of the Personal Shoppers in Belfast, offered me a booth in the Personal Shopping suite instead of a standard fitting room. As well as some shoes to accessorise with AND a bottle of water to keep me hydrated during my marathon session! What a lovely surprise - I felt like a VIP.

So here goes with the try on starting with this spot/stripe one which I didn't think would look as good on as it did. It's one of the keenest priced ones from the range too at £65. Fit wise, the 10 was perfect and I loved the mix of prints, especially the striped belt and the occasional blue and red spot which lifts it a bit. It's a wrap style though so you do need a slip underneath. It wraps quite high on the cleavage though so a vest isn't required.
Next up, more stripes and this red/blue stripe on ivory midi dress has the look of a wrap with the asymmetric hemline but it's got a complete skirt and it's lined, hence the higher price point. I'm wearing the 10 again and it fitted perfectly. 
I also tried the skirt in this print though it was only available in a 12 which was too big. I forgot to take a photo so this next image is a screenshot from my instagram stories. Apologies for the quality but hopefully you can get the gist of what it looks like on. I think the skirt is a more practical option for me though if I worked in an office, the dress would be a definite purchase. So work appropriate.
This next dress has the nicest print from the collection and I LOVE the top but not the skirt. It's just too short for me - such a shame as the print really is beautiful. I think this one would work well on a petite person as it would look more like a proper midi length. It's shirt style on the top half with a lovely ruffle detail - very flattering.
I'm wearing a 12 here so I'd say size up if you're in-between sizes.

Next is the silk shirt dress that's been on celebs and bloggers all over instagram - just last week on Christine Bleakley and also recently on Lisa Snowden (see link). It's 100% silk and has the price point to match but it truly is a beautiful dress and very designer inspired. I tried it with a heel and then with flats. I'm wearing the 12 again - definitely needed it.

And I also tried it open over jeans though I wasn't wearing exactly what I would wear it with. It would look much better with a white vest and skinny jeans. Perfect for dressing down a bit and getting a few more wears out of this more expensive option:
Another skirt now and this one is most definitely for the taller girls - it was just a tad too long on me with flat sandals and I'm unlikely to wear heels with it. I'm wearing the 10 here and it was uncomfortable so I'd be sizing up here too.
If you click on the link below, you'll see it worn with the matching blouse which makes it look like a fab maxi dress...too much floral for me but fab if you're tall and can pull it off.
I did try the blouse and skirt option in this next print but I took 10's to try on and I definitely needed 12's. It all felt too much with the high neck and the skirt wasn't as appealing as the blue/white one above. But I do like the blouse on its own..
But the blouse didn't get a look in after I tried on this next dress in the same print.
This is the 12 and again, it fitted perfectly. Another one that will look great casually as well as formally, wrap style with a fashion forward mixed print. Needs a vest underneath...too booby for me for day to day!! 
Unfortunately it's not showing online anymore as it's sold out. But for anyone local, there were several in stock in the Belfast store.
And there you go - I made the most of my 90 minutes of kid free time didn't I? There are more dresses, blouses and skirts in the range and a really quirky mac too but I didn't have time to try on anymore. 

So can you guess which dress I came away with? It's going to be a birthday present as I definitely don't have budget to buy any more dresses at the moment so I won't be able to show it to you until June. Stand by...

You can see the entire Studio by Preen range online on this link, including a video of the range (with the worst music accompaniment....recommend muting while watching!!)

Ax
This post as it's not sponsored in any way. Some of my links may convert to affiliate links which means that Debenhams will know you came to their site from here and may pay me a small commission if you buy and keep anything. This doesn't change the price for you and the modest income I make from this helps to cover the costs of maintaining this blog.
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