Monday, 21 January 2019

What I've Been Wearing | Style

As promised - a round up of what I've been wearing. Thanks so much for all the feedback on the last post. I've scheduled in to do one of these every couple of weeks. Just have to remember to take the photos now :)
Starting with another wear for my Hobbs trench - my Christmas present from my husband. I wore it with black this time - an old River Island jumper from a few years back, a shirt from H&M and my black M&S boots
Coat - Hobbs (bought in the outlet so no 
Boots - M&S (AW17 - have seen a few pairs of these in the sale currently!)
Jumper - River Island (years old)
Shirt - H&M

A changing room selfie next taken in local boutique Berlin. I'm wearing a t-shirt I got in Honey on the Lisburn Road last season....the most gorgeous cotton and the red dot on the front just gives it a bit more oomph!
Blazer - M&S (recent sale purchase - similar on link)
T-Shirt - Honey, Lisburn Road

I'm cheating a bit as this picture was on the blog last week...but just in case you missed it!
Boots - John Lewis (past season)
Jumper - Berlin Boutique (Newtownards / Carryduff)

This next outfit wasn't one that worked for me - but I share them all...good and bad! I think in retrospect, I needed to wear a shorter jacket and opaque tights. Still searching for this dress in the longer length - do contact me if you see one for sale in your local M&S
Dress - M&S (wearing a 12)
Coat - Hobbs (Tilda Coat - wearing the 10)
Bag - Mulberry (preloved via eBay)
Boots - Ilse Jacobsen (from a local boutique)

Another workwear one next....
Skirt & Polo Neck - M&S
Boots - Dune (2 + years old)

And another outing for the scarf the next day - I was at work and at an event in Queens (where the lovely Emer took this picture)
Biker Jacket - Claudie Pierlot (preloved via DejaVu - similar on link)
Culottes - Part Two (also from DejaVu - similar on link)
Bag - Zohara (currently in the sale) BEST ever work bag - I adore it!

And there you go...not as many as there should be in 2 weeks so plenty of outfits that didn't see the camera. Will do better next time!

Ax
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Friday, 18 January 2019

Active Wear at M&S | Tried & Tested

EDIT - I've just been told that some people have a £5 off activewear voucher in their Sparks App so check it before you order!
For my January collaboration with M&S, I'm a walking blogging cliche because I'm all about the activewear. I think most people have intentions of moving more this month and I'm one of them. Unfortunately, working life has impacted my gym visits - it's hard to fit everything in so my January aim is a hopefully achievable 1 weights & 1 pilates class per week. 
I'm also back running again, thanks to the running club at work. It's a lovely group of mixed ability runners and I've been out twice with them this month. Great for keeping you going if you're like me and keep stopping along the way when out running on your own.

But back to the gear and like many people, I find a couple of new bits of gym gear always help to motivate me to get active. However, much of the well priced gym gear outside of sports shops is actually pretty disappointing. They look good but don't perform and never last beyond a few months of washing and wearing (Tesco & Primark, I'm looking at you!)
But M&S active wear is, in my opinion, the best on the high street in terms of durability and design. I have a couple of pairs of their leggings from last year that I rotate weekly and they come out of the tumble drier just as good as new every time.
Socks (only disappointment of the order - see below)
So I based my new gym outfit around a pair of reversible leggings and what a revelation they were. They're plain black on one side - a lovely thick fabric too and not shiny so they're very flattering on the leg. On the other side, they have a subtle green/blue pattern (not as bright as the website) and most importantly it's not one of those patterns that changes or fades as your leg gets wider from the knee upwards. The only criticism is that they're not madly stretchy so aren't the best choice for something like yoga. However, the savvy amongst you will know that super stretchy leggings can be super clingy in all the wrong places. I'm always willing to trade stretch for decency. 
I bought a size 8 in these leggings after reading the reviews which said they come up big. They do fit perfectly but I think the size 10 would have fitted well too so I wouldn't go a full size down - just go down if you're in-between,
For running, I got this long sleeved half zip top, with the intention of wearing with the patterned side of the leggings. It's a lovely firm but stretchy fabric and has already washed and dried really well a couple of times. It's got runner thumb holes at the wrist and like the leggings, doesn't ride up but isn't clingy. I'm wearing the size 10 and it's perfect.
For the gym, I got this top with the intention of wearing with the black side of the leggings. So here are the leggings worn the other way:
This top is amazing for anyone with a long body and/or if you're conscious of your tummy. 
It's got a slightly tighter under vest - in a grey animal print - nice and long and it doesn't ride up. Then there's a sheer over vest that is not too see through and skims over your stomach and hips. I wore it to a pump class and to pilates and it was just lovely to wear. I'm going to order another one before they sell out. I'm wearing the size 10.
Finally, I tried out this sports bra

Again, it's reversible - black on one side and coral pink on the other, with a mesh trim, which gives it a higher neckline. It's probably not great for bigger busted ladies and even for us less full in this area, it comes up small. I'm a 32 bust and I'm wearing the 12.

The only disappointment in the order were the socks. I thought they would be thicker and more cushioned but they're not. Very thin and not what I was looking for. Luckily my daughters are size 4's and needed socks as I had already opened the pack and couldn't have returned them.

All told, another great collection of active wear from M&S this season. Here are a few other bits that were on the shortlist, starting with these leggings which I LOVE but which went out of stock just as I was about to check out. The reviews say to size up. I'm going to check in store tomorrow to see if I can get them as they match the double layer top perfectly.
And this gilet is great for running in the colder weather...when you need pockets for gloves and your keys etc.
And before you accuse me of being so boring with my black (it's the colour I go back to every time - I just don't wear the bright stuff), I do love this blackberry colour that's across some of the collection. This hoodie is beautiful:
Thanks to M&S as always for their constant support of the blog and for the opportunity to work on a more regular basis with them in 2019. I was gifted the items I reviewed and my links are affiliate links, which means that M&S know you came to their site from mine and they may pay me a tiny commission if you buy and keep something after clicking through. This doesn't change the price for you and the modest income I make from these links goes towards the upkeep of the blog.

Back soon my friends...I'm well overdue a make up post and a post about going back to work. Still working on both but getting easily distracted by other things...

Have a great weekend!

Ax
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Monday, 14 January 2019

The Hush Britt Parka | Decisions

So as per my first sales post (on this link), I mentioned I bought the Britt Parka after it was reduced in the hush sale. This was after many times looking at and trying to justify it at full price...so I was excited when it was reduced. 
It arrived last week and I'll be honest I've taken longer to decide than I thought I would. It wasn't an instant ' I need this in my life'...more of a slow burner 'do I need it in my life?'
I think the issue is that I had to iron it when it arrived. I was expecting the cotton to be more sheeny - if that makes sense? But it's very much normal cotton and it was quite creased around the bottom and I don't know why, but I dislike having to iron something before I have decided I want to keep it. 
To help me make up my mind...top tip here...I took some photos of me wearing it in the garden. I sometimes ask the kids but mostly I use my trusty tripod which I got on eBay for about £5. Either way, it's worth getting some photos if you can't make up your mind about something. 
Plus points are that it's beautifully made - it's got a quilting effect on the elbows and across the shoulders. The fur linings is so soft & cosy and easy to take off and put back on, making the coat wearable all year round. Serious face alert...
It's also got elastic cuffs to keep your wrists warm and the hood is fur lined as well as having the fur trim around it.
The negatives are that it's still £125 in the sale and there's no sign of it going down further. The other negative is that I can't make up my mind about the fur trim. It's lovely when the hood is down but has the effect of a scary furry 'fro about it when you put it up.
But perhaps I'll be glad of this on the cold hockey pitch sidelines and I'm not a massive user of hoods anyway, preferring to wear a wooly hat. Which brings me onto the last negative, it's not waterproof at all...so the hood would only be for warmth. Of course, most classic parkas aren't waterproof anyway, I know that. But a bit of a sheen on the cotton would definitely make it a bit shower/drizzle proof.
All told however, I think I love it. I met my friend Clodagh the other day wearing hers and it reminded me how effortlessly cool a parka is and the fulsome black fur I think elevates it from something a younger person would wear, into something much more stylish and classy.....I think?
Having cleared out so many of my coats in the past year, including my Warehouse parka which had lost it's fur lining and wasn't much use without it, I've decided I'm going to keep this. The upcoming cold snap might have also had a part to play.

I have considered sending it back and waiting to see if it gets reduced further....but the 10 keeps going in and out of stock so I think I could end up regretting this. And that brings me onto sizing - it's spot on in the 10. Enough room for a jumper underneath but not too big that it will swamp me when I take out the fur lining later in the year. Just have to remember not to lose said fur lining again....

Just for info, there are also a few shorter style parkas left in the sale including this khaki one with navy fur trim: 
and this black one - limited sizes left in both.
Let me know what you think....mutton or super stylish?! Maybe don't let me know if you think the former.. 
For info, this is not a sponsored post..I bought the parka myself. My links are affiliate links so hush knows you came to their site from this website.

Ax
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Thursday, 10 January 2019

The Best of the Sales | Part 3 | Ethical Fashion Brands

UPDATE - A reader has sent me this link to an article on 'The Pool' which contains lots of lovely brands I'd not found on my searches for this blog post. You can read it on this link.

This is it - I am stopping with the sales post after this but I wanted to do one final one featuring ethical fashion. I've completely changed my shopping habits in recent months since reading To Die For by Lucy Siegle. I've not set foot in Zara, H&M, Primark, Matalan, Tesco, Sainsburys...and many others along the same lines - if it's cheap, fast fashion, I'm not buying it anymore. It's been difficult at times but not impossible. The only shop I've struggled to avoid is Topshop...because of their denim. It's a work in progress like most transitions.

So in light of this, this post features a few brands that have the environment and sustainability at the core of everything they do. I think the perception (I'm as guilty as the next person) is that these brands aren't especially fashion forward and that they can be expensive to buy from but I hope this edit of the sales from 4 different brands will encourage you as it has me, to try sustainable style. Perhaps like me, you'll buy one or two pieces to see what you think. It's the perfect time to do so with many of them on 50% off. I should say at the outset that none of my links are affiliate and I've not been paid to write this.

Starting with a business called Gather & See, which was founded in 2014 by Alicia Taylor and Stephanie Hogg out of a desire to find beautiful, stylish ethical fashion brands that protect people and planet and don’t compromise on style. Frustrated by what was currently available, the pair began to gather a selection of like minded, forward thinking designers. And their sale is fab!
They've got workout gear too - by Satva

Next up, Mamoq who like Gather & See are stockists of ethical brands - some of which crossover. Their ethos is that brands must share the Mamoq love of fashion and their vision for a safer, fairer, more sustainable fashion industry. As well as having a sale on some of their winter pieces, there are also some gorgeous sale bits that would come in very useful this summer, like this first top...
This sweatshirt has a gold detail on the front - I'm also loving the dark indigo cut-off jeans:
Some wide leg trousers next - they do look long but great if you're taller. The model apparently is 5'8
And here's a simple white shirt that would take you from the beach over a bikini....to work under a blazer!
Finishing with my favourite, this oversized parka style jacket is perfect for spring...and I love the brand name too, for some reason :)

Thought Clothing next and they sell their own range on their site. I've seen some of the collection in a few local boutiques too so they seem to have wholesale agents out and about. Here are my favourites from the sale...excuse the image quality. Some websites don't let you right-click to save the images...which is frustrating for bloggers. I had to screen grab these so they're a bit blurry.

Starting with a corduroy pinafore. A blast from the past but I see so many of the younger girls in my office wearing pinafores and it's made me want one:
You'll need to click through to see the gorgeous detail at the back of this next jumper. Lovely warm shade of grey too..
and it goes perfectly with this reversible coatigan
Love the print on this short cardigan which has a jacket (cardiket/jackigan??) vibe going on and would be a great workwear piece. 
Moving onto a brand you'll probably have heard of before - People Tree. A pioneer in sustainable Fair Trade fashion, it started back in 1991 with the aim of creating stylish, innovative and affordable fashion while respecting people and the planet. Every product is made to the highest ethical and environmental standards from start to finish. My first pick is this stripe jumper - down to £25 with limited stock
The brand have a capsule edit with the V&A and this tulip print is my favourite one..
The print on this dress is stunning too
You know how much I love my jersey basics..
and finishing with these cosy wool lined boots...bliss!

And there you go - hopefully proof that you don't have to sacrifice style when you shop ethical - and that it's affordable too. I've ordered the white t-shirt and jeans from Mamoq so I'll update you when they arrive. I'd love to get those moon boots too but I have sheepskin boots already and it wouldn't be right...would it?! 

As I mentioned above, do share with me if you have any other stylish ethical brands you can recommend..

Ax
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Tuesday, 8 January 2019

The Trouble with Blogging

The trouble with writing a post like this is that it can be misinterpreted as a 'moaning/woe is me' kind of post. I hope you don't think so after you've read it. To be honest, it's been going around my head for AGES so for selfish reasons, I want to get it out of there to make room for more important stuff.

This post originated because within this world of blogging in the past year, I have experienced a couple of things that I'm uncomfortable with and I know I'm not alone. I don't see other bloggers referring to it openly but I've seen a few instances where it's been alluded to. Bloggers work alone and in competition with others so there's not always open discussion amongst us. I'm hoping my post helps other bloggers to open up and share their experiences.

Payment on Time

I get very little paid work from the blog - mostly because I've opted out of many of the organised schemes that you can sign up to. I'm not a fan of the blanket PR approach that these schemes encourage - you know when you go onto Instagram and everyone's going on about the same product? I'm amazed that brands think this is a good approach - all I ever hear is readers complaining about being tortured at every turn by the same #ad content.

The paid work I do take on is well researched and there tends to be a considerable amount of time spent preparing/discussing/agreeing content prior to actually agreeing to do the work. I always ask whom else is doing the project which can often result in me turning down the opportunity. It doesn't appeal if 10 other bloggers are also involved with content scheduled to hit the same week/month and it's one of the reasons I've actively sought an alternative source of income.  But at times of the year that my other work is lighter and in the lead up to Christmas or holidays, I'll often take on a couple of extra projects.

Payment is a massive issue though. We are obliged to declare the work as being paid with a #ad but there are more and more businesses that aren't actually paying or delaying payment to such an extent that you end up wishing you never did the job in the first place. My genuine endorsement of a product soon becomes a regret as I realise the business hasn't enough respect to pay me within a generous 30 day window.

It's a tricky one because if I call it out, I might never get paid...so I can't name names in this blog post but I will say that I'm working with a brand where I've created a considerable amount of content that's currently being approved by them. They've had it now for about 6 weeks. Apparently there's a backlog that they're trying to get through and I won't be paid until they approve mine. However, the work is done from my perspective.

It's not a massive amount of money to them. In fact, I know that the other bloggers involved got paid more than I did - there's that lack of discussion again! But it is a lot of money for me and I agreed to the project in August because I knew I would be glad of the income for Christmas.
I'm still waiting to be paid in January and the worst thing is that I feel the content I created will look like it's out of date by the time I do get approval. I've had my hair cut since for one thing. So I feel uncomfortable publishing it so long after it was created. But if I go creating it again, it's extra work for me and an even longer wait for further approval and payment.

You saw a #ad and maybe were disappointed that I sold out to a brand. Well, I've not got paid yet so I feel like a right mug! Which leads me nicely to my other issue with blogging....

Approval of Content

In 2018, this was my biggest bugbear. It goes against everything that blogging and social media has helped deliver in terms of transparency in the consumer space. I've been blogging for 8 years and for the first 6 or so years, when working with brands, I published whatever content and images I wanted to and the first time you saw the content was the first time the brand saw the content. That's the whole point of working with bloggers - it's the real person on the street's opinion delivered in their own style and you will have done enough research on the blogger in advance to know they've got enough integrity to create the right sort of content.

Over the past 18 months or so however, the paid content I've been invited to do has in 90% of cases, involved the brand approving the content before it goes live. I've pulled out of many many collaborations because this stipulation has been in the contract (yes...there are contracts now!). In fact, the brand I'm awaiting payment from above was a real 'will I/won't I' situation as I felt so uncomfortable about the pre-recorded stories and pre-written instagram posts. But Christmas was looming....I wish I'd not bothered.

Pre-approved content gets me on a few fronts. At a fundamental level, it's dictating what the blogger says. It's all going to be true and factual of course, but blogger opinion is definitely constrained. I know that there things I can't say or things I need to craft carefully if I want to get the content approved. For instance, you can't ever refer to another brand in your content.

But a bigger issue is that it devalues the blogger. It demonstrates a complete lack of trust in the person you're asking to work with you. The brand is overlooking the honest, quality content which that blogger has been creating for years. I should say here that with these collaborations, we are given a brief to explain what things we can and can't say. Even with this clear guidance, the brand STILL can't leave it up to the blogger. It's insulting and I'm actually disappointed that so many bloggers agree to this. As long as bloggers keep agreeing to submit content for pre-approval, brands will keep asking for it. If you are a blogger, I urge you to push back - I have done every time I'm asked and in about half the approaches, the brand has agreed to new terms. There are enough influential bloggers out there who can change this carry on - for the benefit of our readers and our integrity.

Because what's worse about approved content is that it's so easy to spot as a consumer and it makes me want to switch right off. I don't mind my fellow bloggers mixing paid content with organic content but if I see the telltale signs of fuzzy instagram stories (quality degrades when you save stories down and re-publish them) or bloggers in the sunshine when it's raining outside...or bloggers who are sitting in the daylight saying 'good morning' on a story that gets published that evening, I'm going to swipe onto the next story. That's a lot of wasted marketing spend. A blogger might tell you X thousand people saw their story but how many people swiped away during or after that first story? I'm never asked for that statistic interestingly enough but it's supplied to the blogger by Instagram for every story.


What's next?

Many people are lamenting the future of blogging. Both from the point of view of bloggers maintaining a site like this one - quite time consuming when there's so much demand for content on social media too - and from the point of view of it actually being a viable marketing channel.

In terms of maintaining a site like this, I urge all bloggers reading to not neglect your URL in favour of Instagram. This website space is precious - it gives you a voice without competition, it's google gold and it will still be here long after Instagram falls out of favour.

In terms of influencer marketing, I can't see it existing in its current form 12 months from now. In fact, it's changing already. Consumers are switching off from the #ads and bloggers and brands need to be more creative going forward. I think partnerships and collaborations are the more effective way to work together in 2019. For example, instead of a blogger having a facial at a different place every month, that blogger becomes an ambassador for one place - going on a journey with this business and showing loyalty to it. Consumers want to trust the content and the people behind it and this trust will need to be earned over a longer period of time. Equally the brand needs to stop rushing to get as many bloggers as possible on board. Be picky and work closely with a few credible ones who are a good fit for your business.

2019 will also see a continuation in the push back on consumerism generally with a bigger focus on buying less and buying well. Bloggers who embrace this will protect their integrity. Working with fewer brands on a more loyal basis - brands that are themselves making an effort in the sustainability space - will be the sort of content readers will respond to.


Over to you...

This has been a cathartic post to write...I'm simultaneously exhausted and relieved I've finally got it down on paper and out of my head. And now I'm looking forward to your views and opinions. Especially if you're a consumer...a blog reader. I know lots of other bloggers will read this and I want them to understand the view from the other side. To know how readers of blogs feel about the industry...and to help us all to determine what content will be appreciated by you in 2019.

If you can't comment below for techy reasons (one downside of my site is that it can be tricky to leave comments), please drop me an email to avril@alifetostyle.com and with your permission, I will cut and paste the comments here (anon if requested) to add to the debate.

Thank you for reading,

Ax
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Monday, 7 January 2019

What I've Been Wearing | Style

It's been a while since I did an outfit roundup so here's a few from the past couple of weeks. As always, they're on Instagram most days but I know many of you wise readers are not using Instagram. And there's actually one outfit on here that I didn't share on there...to give you an exclusive of sorts. Oh the excitement!

I'm starting with one of my Christmas presents and what I wore on Boxing Day - a khaki green trench coat from Hobbs. Sadly not showing online because I got it in Kildare Village. It was a gift from my husband to me that I bought myself back in early December. It's just easier that way - he's had too much experience of me returning items over the years!
White T-Shirt - Bought at a gig
Handbag - Preloved Mulberry Antony (new version on link - on sale!)

Next up and I paid a visit to the Boulevard in Banbridge last week to check out the new Guess store (which is on sale at the moment). Genuinely blown away - it wasn't what I expected at all and I could have bought half the shop! I wore the famous M&S Duster coat from about 3 years ago that I missed out on at the time. I stalked it on eBay and finally got one last winter. It was a bit of a nightmare thought as it's got such an oversized fit so I had to have it altered twice before I was happy with it. Lesson learned. It's a beautiful colour though...
Coat - M&S
Boots - Seven Boot Lane (past season - similar here)
There was a fair bit of walking during the Christmas break Christmas to address the consumption of food & drink. I'm wearing another Christmas gift in this photo - my sisters in law together bought me this leopard star knit and I LOVE it. It's a cashmere mix and it's from local boutique Honey. Clodagh has them year round though this colour way is sold out - I've spotted one on another website though and have linked it below. It's the same jumper really well priced from a lovely small business across in England. I should say,  they're a one size fits all knit.
Coat - Preloved Gerard Darel (about 3 years ago)
Trainers - New Balance (past season - similar here)
Bag - Preloved Mulberry (new version on this link - on sale)
A pop of colour next from Benetton - we have an amazing one in Belfast and their sale started on Christmas Eve. I managed to get this sherbert pink knit with £10 off. Such a great colour to brighten up New Years Day. The trainers are new too - I was on the hunt for white leather trainers as my current ones have gone a bit off-white looking and for some reason have started to rub on the top of my foot. These are Nike Grandstand - with a bit of a tennis vibe going on. They were in the men's area...despite having baby pink stitching and insoles and they're a size 6 - Nike trainers always come up a bit small. I got them in the sale in Lifestyle Sports on Boxing Day.
Jumper - Benetton

Wearing my new Guess purchase in this next photo, a fabulous and beautifully made faux fur coat. I've been trying to find one of these for years - it's always been on my non-essentials sale list but I've never found one I liked enough..until now!
Faux Fur Coat - Guess (not online)
Grey Knit - Benetton (past season)
Cross Body Leopard Bag - Preloved (similar here)

We took a trip down to Lurgan the other day and I had this photo taken at Oxford Island. Such a lovely place to go walking in - the kids were fascinated with all the birds, especially all the song birds we saw in the woods beside the Lough. Wearing my Hobbs jumper again and a neat little black cross body I got in the Aldo sale. Everything else is old.
Coat - Benetton (past season - similar here)
Jeans - Tifossi One Size from Alana Boutique, Kurgan
Biker Boots - John Lewis ( from their sale last January)
Bag - Current Aldo Sale
Hat - Christmas Gift - bought in Menarys and it has interchangeable bobbles!

Finishing with your exclusive - I took this the other day and completely forgot to post to Instagram so you're getting to see it first! Wearing my other purchase at Guess in the Boulevard in Banbridge - a red hoodie...LOVE the colour. It's not a look that you'd think mums in their 40's can pull off but you can if you layer them under a classic coat like this Hobbs one. Even the teenager approved...
Hoodie - Guess Outlet (not online)
Jeans - Topshop Jamies (I wear size 28)
Trainers - as before
Bag - preloved (similar here)
That's the outfits all caught up on...if you're happy for me to do this on a twice a month basis, I'll continue to do so. I know it's easier on here as I can link to items and it's a nice look back on. I'm also going to add them to the #OOTD tab on this website (above). I've been a bit rubbish at updating this website since I started the new job..but hopefully with my more fixed work hours this month, I'll be able to get some regular blog time scheduled in.

Have a great week - I'm back to work today...had an amazing 2 weeks off but I'm SO ready for it.

Ax
Disclaimer - some of my links are affiliate links so the brand knows that you came to their website from my blog and they may pay me a tiny commission if you buy and keep something after clicking through. This doesn't change the price for you and the modest income I make from these links covers the cost of maintaining this site. Feel free to google the items if you prefer not to click through from here - just remember that if you click on an AD link from google, they will earn the same affiliate income and I'd really rather they didn't add to their millions on the back of my content....thank you! 


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