Monday, 28 January 2019

Brown is the new Black | Style

I'll put my hands up here and admit that I wear too much black. I love the simplicity and classiness of it and it makes it so easy to put an outfit together. Add the fact that I find overly colourful outfits a bit scary - they give me all the mutton/lamb anxiety. But recently, I've been following some amazing 40+ year old German bloggers who are so much more creative with colour and manage to look incredibly stylish without hurting anyone's eyes. So much of it is about tone on tone colours within a similar palette....here are two examples, Jagta8 and IndividuallyLivingOver50

So given my colour palette is warm, I've been trying to embrace a bit more brown into my wardrobe as an alternative to black. But it's not a colour I particularly like on its own so I've been combining it with a bit of leopard, khaki and black to create a warmer palate that doesn't scare me.

It all started with a pair of brown suede boots that I bought on eBay. I'd tried on some Cara boots a few months back and couldn't get over how comfortable they were. So when I spotted these ones on eBay in exactly the shade of brown I was looking for, I put in a bid and won them.
Then I chose this leopard star jumper as a Christmas present from my sisters in law.
I bought it in local boutique Honey but they're sold out there now. But I've found them online in a shop called Colmers Hill AND it comes in a gorgeous khaki green too which I might have bought since:
The bag is an old one from House of Fraser and it brings the whole look together nicely. I love this bag and it's sadly not available anymore but I will say that it's not worn that well and the side that sits against my body is completely worn through. It's good that the print is on both sides so I just need to be sure I wear the same side out to prevent wear on both.
Finishing with the hush parka from this previous blog post. One of the reasons I decided to keep this is because of the black fur..oh the irony! But that simple difference to all the other parkas I've tried means it's going to work better with the black pieces in my wardrobe...as well as with the warmer tones. 

So it's a start - I'm not going to stop wearing black completely but I can appreciate how a rich dark brown can soften and warm up your look & still look as stylish as black.

Ax
All items were purchased by me. No Affiliate links used.


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Sunday, 27 January 2019

To #AD or not to #AD | Blogging Stuff

Back in September, the ASA issued this document called 'An Influencer's Guide to Making Clear that Ads are Ads'. It's only become a thing on social media in the past week because a number of high profile celebrities were called out for lack of disclosure but it's a case of better late than never as there is much uncertainty out there around influencer content and how exactly it should be represented to readers.

I should say here, I hate the word influencer but it's the best term to describe the audience for these regulations because it's not just bloggers or celebrities, it includes pretty much anyone who has a following on social media and uses it to feature a gift from a brand or a trackable link, which in turn may influence you or I to follow or buy from this brand.

So it's all about making it absolutely clear to readers if a brand is driving content, either through payment or gifting or both. It also covers the usage of affiliate links, where the brand knows if a sale has come to them via an influencer and will pay said influencer a commission (typically 3-5%) through a third party, if the customer keeps that item.

Up until this, almost all bloggers would have used the word AD to indicate that a piece of content was being paid for. If an item had been gifted however, the guidelines were not clear about using the word AD. Nor was it clear in the case of affiliate links. It was always just good practice and fair disclosure to indicate gifting and affiliate links and most bloggers did this using words at the foot of the post or in the body of the text.

This most recent paper stipulates that content that includes gifts or contains affiliate links, even where no money has been exchanged, must also now have an AD indicator at the beginning of the content so that it's obvious to readers before they go any further or click through. 
On this blog, I've previously disclosed affiliates at the end of a post and if something was a gift, I'd include this information under the image or in the wording. So I'll be changing how I do this from her on in. I should say in the case of gifts, AD should be used when the brand has requested certain wording, pre-approval of content, hashtags or links so in theory, gifts without those requirements are a bit of a grey area and so you won't see all bloggers declaring them as an AD and that doesn't mean they're in breach of the rules. The flow chart does need to be clarified on this particular point.

There are also guidelines around referencing your place of work or your own business, if you're a blogger with another business on the side - say as an example, when I had my scarves/jewellery shop. Additionally, if a blogger is running a competition, it needs to be tagged as an AD even if you bought the item yourself or it was gifted to you. This is because competitions are classed as promotional marketing and the blogger is regarded to be the 'promoter'.

On the one hand, it's great to get more clarity on this to ensure that everyone is working to the same rules, however it's still down to the honestly and integrity of the blogger in the first place. Because how would you know if you weren't told? It's easier to spot if a group of bloggers are used for the same promotion and not all of them declare in the same way. But if a brand only approaches one blogger at that one time - which would be common in a local context - you're relying on that blogger to declare it as an AD.

The other bit I'm struggling with is that effectively, everything on social is a form of advertising. Anyone I follow, whether a professional blogger or my sister is usually showing me what they are wearing, what they've bought or what they're getting up to. Just because they paid for it or did it of their own accord doesn't make it any less of an inducement to buy. Mostly they're tagging the business involved. Instagram is really just a big advert machine, churning out brand name after brand name, some more subtle than others.

And I'm aware that because I have a following on social media, anything I do whether it's brand driven or 'me' driven, falls into the less subtle camp. For instance, I was in Craigavon yesterday. My kids were at a party in the ski centre so I went to visit Frances in The Bottom Drawer in Portadown. She's a Field Day stockist and I used to visit her in that capacity when I worked there. I also follow the shop on Instagram and Facebook and love the content they create.

So I visited the shop, showed some favourites from her different ranges, tried on in the fitting room and bought a couple of things. And shared it on Instagram. Is that an AD? Is it more about the person sharing the content and their 'role' on Instagram rather than the fact that the content was paid for or brand driven? I was effectively advertising The Bottom Drawer - I'm doing the same on here. But no money was exchanged - apart from my own when I bought what I bought so under the ASA guidelines it's not an AD.

It melts my head because I can't really see much difference between it and me going into M&S and selecting the items I wore on this last post. For the M&S post, I wasn't paid but I was gifted the items and used affiliate links. So that is technically an AD under the guidelines. 

I guess my point is that it's all one big AD....I know that, you know that. I don't follow people on Instagram thinking any different and I know being on there drives much of my purchasing. But I'm ok with that because it's the one channel where I can chose whose adverts I see....and I get entertained at the same time by these people. I follow lots of good accounts that are a source of information, inspiration and friendship as well as bits and pieces of brand led content. 

What does all this rambling on boil down to? I think it's this - do you trust who you follow and do you like their content? If you can answer yes to both, then keep following. For me, the new rules will make me more inclined to follow people sticking to them. At least I know they are being completely upfront and taking this seriously. And there are implications for those who don't via a simple reporting tool on the ASA website.

And on that, I'm inclined to unfollow where people have been taking the proverbial or moaning about the guidelines. I have definitely seen a bit too much of that over the past week. If you're a blogger on here, READ the guidelines, stick to them and don't mock them...no matter how frustrating you find them. Your followers will respect you for it and without them, where would any of us be?

Ax
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Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Jude Law Boutique | Sale Bargains & SS19

[AD - travel costs covered] I headed up to local boutique Jude Law in Magherafelt this week to check out the new collections that have started coming in for SS19 and to check out the sale as it moves to the magic 70% off.
Magherafelt is a great shopping town and Jude is an amazing buyer so I love to get down once every couple of months to check out what she's brought in for the new season. I can highly recommend her Facebook and Instagram videos where she showcases each delivery.
As soon as I set foot in the shop, I started trying on sale and non sale items.....I was like a child in a sweet shop! I'm going to show you the new season first and if you keep scrolling down, you'll see the sale stock.
New season begins with this lightweight jersey coat from Sandwich which comes in a warm light grey marl with a stunning yellow lining that you can show off by rolling up the sleeves. But if you prefer to keep it as a discreet pop of colour, you can leave the sleeves down. It's my favourite piece from the new collection - casual and soft enough to wear like a coatigan yet with a bit of structure which will allow you to dress it up too.
Next, it's a lightweight raincoat from Part Two in a lovely blush/salmon shade - it comes in cream also.
Checks are going nowhere this season it would seem - this is also Part Two and has a lovely cornflower blue stripe that can be picked out with a matching blouse (see behind me!)
Back to the yellow and I had to try on this jumper - it's got slits up the side so it's very flattering to wear and perfect for layering. I love how Jude has layered it with the black striped top as per the mannequin behind me.
More stripes and again from Sandwich, this is a jersey style biker jacket in a breton stripe fabric. Works well with an opposite stripe as I'm wearing it, or to wear with a bright colour.
Still plenty of warmer pieces in the SS19 arrivals including this coat from Marc O'Polo. It's made with a new thermal filling called Sorona. An ethical alternative to down and feather fillings and just as lightweight and cosy.
There are tons of pastels in the new ranges coming in. I was particularly taken by these blush culottes that look like a midi skirt. It's a great way to incorporate these colours into your wardrobe if, like me, you can't wear this blush colour close to your face. So comfy and will go with stripes or a slogan t-shirt. Add a biker jacket or a denim jacket and some trainers for a perfect dressed down outfit this spring.
Back into the skinnies and this is a sleeveless leopard top from Maison Scotch. The colours are great and I love the contrast stripe around the base - clashing prints are still very much a thing and this is the perfect nod to this trend.
This next top won me over massively - so much so, I ended up buying it! It's got jersey sleeves and a more blouse like material in the body but it was the sports luxe stripe detail that I loved. It will work so well casually and at work. It's by a German brand called Monari.
Another great basic top - Jude is so good at stocking tops like this that will work really hard for you. This one is by Great Plains and is a good option if like me, you benefit from a bit of nipping in at the waist.
And this coat is cool - it's like a traditional bomber jacket but with a longer line. Effortless style at the school gate or pitch side....in my favourite khaki green. And cosy to boot.
And this top is back in - it was a MASSIVE hit last season. It the ultimate layering top with jersey arms and body but with shirt material on the collar, hem and cuffs. Making it ideal for layering under closer fitting jumpers. No annoying buttons or seams showing through - it gives you a gorgeous clean line. It's £49 and I'm wearing the size 2 which feels like a 10-12.
And here it is layered with this lovely short sleeved gold knit from Great Plains:
And that's the new season try on....time to move onto the sale which I can exclusively announce will move to 70% off as of Thursday morning, 24th January. In everything I tried on, there are limited sizes left and they will fly out once this extra discount hits.
Jude will have to give priority to face to face customers on the day so if you're local, I'd advise trying to get up to the shop but do drop her a Facebook message or give the shop a call if there's something you're desperate to get your hands on and she and Glenda will do their best.
Or do what I'm doing and ask a local friend to pick an item up for you!! Yes...even though I tried on half the shop and bought a few bits, there is always that item that gets away. But my friend Anne is on the case first thing Thursday!!
Starting with Marc O'Polo, which is a great brand. Lovely quality and always so timeless. This is an ochre coloured gilet that will see you well through spring, summer and beyond. Down to £61.50.

Last time I was down with Jude, I tried on this next coat and loved it. This is the last one - so it won't last long now it's down to just under £70. I adore grey leopard - I have all the buyer regret...
Next up, another great piece for spring summer, a lightweight oversized coatigan from Naya in burgundy with black trim. So versatile and with gorgeous detail. With 70% off, it works out at about £55.
Next one is for the Joules fans out there - a gorgeous floral short padded coat. Again a great one for spring summer.
Next up, this coat has been crying out for me to buy it all season. It's from Sandwich, it's padded so it's super warm and the red pop of colour elevates it to something really special. Just over £70 in the sale. There were 2 left when I was in - a size 40 and a size 34. I'm wearing the 40 here and it's a bit too big for me unfortunately. I'd say it feels more like a 14.
This next jacket is another lightweight one - along the lines of a coatigan too, with a bit of stretch. Love the colours here - it could be worn with so many combinations. It's by a Dutch brand called Kyraenko and is down to £50 in the sale.
This is not the best photo of this jumper - it's a bit big on me but oh my, so cosy and perfect for wearing over jeans or tights. It's a Great Plains one again and is down to about £26 in the sale. There were 3 or 4 of these left.
This jumper was also frustratingly too big for me - I would have snapped it up otherwise. Just one left. Love the colour combination.
I headed to the changing room for the next few items, starting with this Part Two blouse - stunning print. £27 in the sale:
Wearing the most perfect skinny jeans next from MosMosh - Jude has some fab denim in the sale from a couple of great brands. All in or around the £30-50 mark in the sale. This red jumper is a favourite too. Comes in a burgundy colour way also. It's down to £30.
This dress is another great mix of trends - the clashing print with a sports luxe stripe. A couple of these were left when I was in. I'm wearing the M/L and it is £27.
A longer length dress next - in a great colour and with pockets! Perfect for now with tights and a roll neck jumper underneath. Add a denim jacket and some white trainers and it will take you happily into summer. It's by Sandwich and is £30. Brighter in colour than my photo.
I always say that sale time is when you should pick up your jersey basics and this is another one of my purchases. It's from Part Two - a lovely warm cream colour that will work with so many outfits and coats/jackets.
Case in point for my final photo as I wear the basic jersey top under this grey bomber style jacket. A fab jacket because it's formal enough for work but also so wearable casually. I love it because the elastic isn't all the way around the hemline - a blessing for the pear shapes like me. Just the one left in this colour way and one in the black. Down to £40.
And there you go...I've run out of steam! If you want to see videos of all the items, they're over to my Instagram account today. It does help to give you a better feel for the fit and flow of the pieces.

If there's anything you want to buy, you can give Jude a follow on Instagram on this link or on Facebook on this link. Or click through to her website on this link, where you can get an email address & phone number. But mostly I recommend heading to Magherafelt early doors, shopping to your heart's delight and then going to Mauds for soup and a sandwich. It took me 40 minutes driving from Belfast and a little longer coming home as there are roadworks between there and Toome. All worth it for a day well spent shopping local...thanks Jude!

Ax
Disclaimer - not a paid post. Jude covered my petrol/mileage costs to come up this week to cover the sale on Instagram but a blog post was not part of the arrangement. I just wanted to showcase this lovely local shop on here too so that those of you who don't have Instagram still get to see the bargains! 
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Monday, 21 January 2019

What I've Been Wearing 2 | Style

[AD - Affiliate Links] 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!
[AD - Affiliate Links] 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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