Christmas Party Outfit for £100

I keep getting asked to take part in blogging competitions. You make up a virtual outfit and pitch your entry against a few hundred bloggers half your age and you don't win - so cynical in my old age!
Anyway, I've avoided them to date but this one from Fashion Vouchers appealed to me as I was already planning a similar post myself - A Christmas Party Outfit for £100.  
Out of the 100's of brands Fashion Voucher list discounts for, I chose Oasis as they have 25% off lots of party stuff at the moment. It meant I could get shoes and bag for the price and left me with about £8 for the taxi home! Here's my outfit..
Zip Detail T-Shirt - £18.75 (£25)
Snakeskin Effect Clutch - £22.50 (£30)
Metal Toe Cap Heels - £33.75 (£45)
Matt & Shine Leggings - £13.50 (£18)
I picked items that I could work with in other ways in my wardrobe. While I love dresses, I find going out dresses get limited wear. But if you get some good separates, you can recycle them much easier - sometimes even in daytime. Here they are in more detail - you can click on any of the photos to see the item on the Oasis website.

I picked this top as it's a wearable daytime top too
Loving the zip detail at the neck and the black piping makes it perfect for matching with black jeans, trousers or even tucked into a pencil skirt for work. It's got a dipped hem at the back and I would size up to ensure good coverage over the leggings - a bit outside the comfort zone these, but I've been keen to embrace the pleather look in a trouser and I figure these are a cost effective way to do it. Also, when you're on a night out, you can get away with something a bit more risqué so I would definitely try them for this. And after a few wears at night, I would try with a chunky jumper and ankle boots for daytime:
Every girl should have a great pair of black high heels for going out. When wearing with skinnies or leggings, I love something with a bit of dressy detail so these gold toe-cap stilettos are perfect. And I know they'll work really well to jazz up blue jeans and a blazer for a fashion show or a more casual night out with the girls:
And finally, what's not to love about this clutch? On trend with it's snakeskin, the colour will work all year round and I'm thinking it would be great for a wedding too.
With the 25% off I found on Fashion Voucher's website, the total bill (including delivery to Northern Ireland) is £92.49. But this discount is only valid until tomorrow night (30th November!) so get ordering!
I should point out that this is not a sponsored post. I was not paid or induced to do the post but I might (ha!) win a prize if it's deemed utterly wonderful. Let's not lose any sleep wondering about that but instead look forward to my wonderful 1000 Facebook Fans/Christmas competition coming up on the blog in a day or so (sick kiddie dependent - I have two at home right now coughing their little heads off). Once I get some blogging time to myself, I'll fill you on on the gorgeous prizes up for grabs!


The LONG wait for my Mad Shoes!

Some of you may have seen ranting tweets and Facebook status updates about my LONG wait for new shoes to arrive on Monday. Having missed a couple of attempts to deliver last week, I re-scheduled on the phone for Monday and stayed in ALL morning waiting for the Yodel man. I even (testimony to how long the morning felt) cleared out and tidied my wardrobe..which in my opinion is an activity only for the unwell of mind.
Fabulously tidy...for about a most
All that done (and it took AGES!) but still no Yodel man. I phoned to be told that as I am totally rubbish at being in my house to accept deliveries, my punishment is a 34 miles drive to the other side of the county of Antrim to pick up my shoes from the depot. Well, that started a social media rant-a-thon and I have to say, hats off to Sam on the Yodel Twitter Team. Yodel's Twitter presence seems to revolve solely around dealing with ranty pants like me (take note senior execs at Yodel - that says more about you than me). However, one thing they are doing right is recruiting great people to deal with the problems. Sam was professional and polite and worked with Emma at Office to sort a new delivery for Tuesday..oh and his follow up on Tuesday was impressive too! 
So, here are the shoes that made me tidy my mean feat feet (geddit??!)
Office Buckle Black Leather Shoe
I first saw these worn by Alex from Red Magazine, on her blog, The Frugality and even though they are totally out of my comfort zone and like nothing else I own, seeing them look so good on Alex and at half price (which they still are), I threw caution to the wind and ordered.
Firstly, they are comfy...I don't have many flat shoes for wearing at this time of the year so I'm loving that about them.
Secondly, they are a bit mad...and not perhaps entirely appropriate for an almost 40 year old mum and I LOVE that about them too. Mid life crisis perhaps? But if cool shoes are the bearers of mid life crises, then bring it on!
Haven't done mirror photos for a while but as today I'm feeling a grotty thanks to all the germs the kids have brought home this week, and I'm greyer than your granny, a wee mirror shot will do nicely thanks!

Jeans - H&M
Long black jumper - Warehouse
Scarf - Hobbs
A looky-down shot!
Despite husband calling them 'bondage shoes', I really like them and can't wait to try them with a skirt. Watch this space..
A note on sizing for anyone else interested, they are on the small side so size up. Mine are a 7 and I'm normally a 6.5. 


One Day Out - Two Coats

We took a run down to The Argory as part of our 'Maximise the National Trust Membership' initiative. Hubby is determined to make the absolute most of our annual fee and The Argory was the next closest to our home that we had still to visit. After a quick caffeine fix at the The Fat Gherkin in Moira, we continued on down the M1 where we practically had the whole of this beautiful estate to ourselves.
The post is called One Day Out - Two Coats and it's where where you learn a little about what it's like to go on a day out with a blogger. Endless outfit photo opportunities in a new location - perfect for showing off something you've not worn before. BUT you need to dress practically for a country walk! A dilemma, especially, as you've seen my Merrell more times than you need to. Lightbulb moment - wear one outfit down for the blog photos and then change!
Here's the first non-walk appropriate outfit:
Coat - Press & Bastyan
Jumper - H&M
Shirt - Gerry Weber
Jeans - Gok4Tu at Sainsburys
Boots - River Island
Handbag - Radley Cross Body
I don't wear this coat enough. I bought it about 10 years ago in a sale in Glasgow. Its pleather trim is bang on trend for this season - as is the black/white check. It was a great coat for wearing over a suit when I worked but I've struggled to wear it much casually. Here's another posey shot…8yo was taking the photos and prefers it when I'm not looking at him! 
Once the nice location photos were taken, it was straight to the car, ankle boots off, coat off, replaced by wellies and Merrell. Perfect for the mucky walk on which I found my new favourite front door!
Wouldn't this be fab for my daily photos? The outfit here is the same as the first photo apart from the Merrell and my Karrimor wellington boots.

If you like the look of my checked coat, here are some similar ones in the shops at the moment:
Marks & Spencer
Debenhams - Ben de Lisi for Principles
And just in case you've not seen my many many posts on the Merrell before - here's the latest version of the Wakefield. It's stocked in many places - just DON'T buy from Sports Direct as other fans of this blog have warned me. This is the same colour I have and mine is a size S which is about a 10.
Merrell Ellenwood in Charcoal Heather
Do keep warm and dry this week - lots of wintery weather about! See you on Thursday :)


Footwear for Walking the School Run

Or perhaps that should read '..the School Walk'?! I've been asked a couple of times to give footwear advice to mums who walk each morning to school. However, as I am lazy drive the school run, I didn't feel qualified to advise on this. But one of the blogs I follow is Mummynotmumsy, written by Helen who does walk the school run every day so I asked Helen if she would give the School Gate Style girls some advice on the best footwear to wear in all weathers. Take it away Helen!
Hello School Gate Style readers! Avril's asked me to write about footwear for the school run - it's a topic close to my heart! With three young children, a buggy and numerous school bags, hats and associated 'stuff', the ten minute scramble to school always poses a challenge for whatever shoes or boots I choose.

I live in a semi-rural little town and my walk to school involves passing through the park - lovely, especially at this time of year with all the fallen leaves but a bit muddy and wet. And of course there's always the odd child stomping on my nicely polished foot with a muddy school shoe to deal with! 
This means that my school run footwear takes a serious bashing so I need something practical and hard wearing, but which also looks smart and stylish for the rest of the day. 
My number one purchase this autumn has been these M&S boots for £79. I really can't recommend them highly enough. They're brown leather so they go with most outfits, and they have proved to be so versatile. The fur lining means you can zip them up so far and turn the top over to form a cuff, but I also like to change the look by leaving them up as a mid calf length boot.
They seem to have disappeared online but I have seen them in the shops still. 
The heel height is just high enough to allow me to wear them under bootleg jeans too. I originally bought them as my 'wet muddy weather' boot, and thought I would just put them on when the conditions underfoot were really bad, to keep my other boots looking decent, but they have proved really hard wearing and are still looking good as new. 10 out of 10 for them!!
Now I know that Uggs tend to be a bit love or hate, but I still like mine and I do turn to them when it's bright and dry but cold - you really can't beat them for keeping your toes warm! Mine are dark brown which I hope makes them less obvious, but the only thing that irritates me is the zip up the back which keeps sticking - I'd welcome any tips to solve that!! 
Ugg Kensington (now discontinued - similar on this link)
I also find wedges are a good choice - I have these shoes from Clarks which are also available as a boot - I've been wearing them with skinny and bootleg jeans and they keep the hems of the latter off the wet pavement. Super comfy too.

Now I realise they are suede (!) but it's not that really fine suede, more a type of nubuck which feels a bit more resilient. And I've given them a whopping coat of rain protector.
Finally, my top tip for when the weather is so bad only wellies will do. I found some cheap, plain black ones which, at a distance could pass for regular leather knee length boots. Personally I much prefer these to brightly coloured wellies, and somehow they feel less clumpy. These mock croc ones were from Stead and Simpson of all places and just £15 - now that makes me feel like I'm back at school! 
Croc Effect Wellies - £15
I'd love to hear what everyone else wears for the school run - do you find that balance between style and substance as difficult as I do?



Hot Squash & 20% Off Code!

Wow - this week has been more than hectic. So much so that I'm about a week behind in outfit posts. On the upside, it means no pressure to dress up next week - trackie bottoms all the way. But before all that (and I'll not share the trackies, I promise!), I want to show off my new Hot Squash top. 
I first heard about this brand on Twitter and Facebook and was intrigued firstly by the name and then by the combination of on-trend styles/colours with built-in technology. Basically, the range keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer (or warm in summer as was required in summer 2012).
From the current autumn/winter range, here is my top -  the Pleat Front Top in green:
First off, I can confirm that it is toasty warm to wear. It's been so cold this week and I feel the cold more than anyone else in our house. The top is no heavier than a regular cotton long sleeved top yet it's got the same effect as thermal wear. Warmth without bulk - love it! 
But if I'm going to invest in a gorgeous top like this, I need to know that I'm going to wear it lots so my challenge was to style it a few different ways. So here goes - 1 top 6 ways!
Look 1 - worn with H&M bootcut jeans and brown boots. Perfect for showing off the pleating detail on the front, the buttoning down the back and the detail on the cuffs and shoulders
Look 2 : for extra cosiness, I added this brown Monsoon fur gilet (from last winter)
Look 3 : Changed the boot cuts for skinnies and ankle boots and I added this cute New Look necklace which has a row of beads in exactly the same shade of green.
Look 4 : Frocking it in my navy Benetton wool dress, spotty scarf and black Hobbs boots.
Look 5 : With a black skirt, black tights and black ankle boots - an edgy office look
Look 6 : Nothing worse than being freezing on a winter's night out. I bought this sparkly scarf a few years ago and usually wear it to brighten up an all black outfit so I'm so pleased that the greens match up and I can take my Hot Squash top from day to night! 
Now for the best bit - Jenny from Hot Squash is offering all readers of School Gate Style a 20% voucher code! Simply type SCHOOL at check out to get your discount.  Yay! So to help you make the most of your voucher, h
ere are some of my other favourites from the current range:
Waterfall Top
Drape Cardigan
Tie-Back Knee Length Dress
Toasty Warm Long Socks!
Have you heard of Hot Squash before or do you own anything from their range already? Send them some School Gate Style love by liking/following the Facebook & Twitter pages and/or signing up to their regular email (by clicking here) for styling advice, sales notifications & special discounts.
Disclaimer: Jenny from Hot Squash
 gifted this top to me. I was allowed to chose the item I liked the most from the current A/W range and was not obliged to blog about it.  



A Titanic Day Out

Monday was an exceptional closure day in my son's school but nursery was still open so we took the opportunity as a family of 3 to visit Northern Ireland's newest attraction, Titanic Belfast. It opened earlier this year and has been a resounding success, so much so, we avoided it over the busy summer season. Surely it wouldn't be busy on a November Monday morning, first thing? 
We arrived early and enjoyed coffee and a scone in the coffee shop:
As we sat enjoying our coffees, bus-loads of people were arriving - the place was buzzing! Great to see on such a miserable cold day.
We spent a good 2 hours or so walking through the exhibits-Callum enjoyed the interactive screens and kid friendly activities. And he paid his way by taking photos of mum for the blog.
Jumper, Scarf & Neon Vest - H&M (last seen here/here/here)
Jeggings - Warehouse
Boots - Hobbs (similar)
Handbag - Vintage Pintage
Coat (just seen) - Merrell Wakefield
I wore my H&M open back jumper with a neon top underneath, as it tied in really nicely with the neon stripe on my H&M scarf (picked up at my personal shopping day in September - see this link). Hubby told me it looked like a giant mouth on my back!
Here's a close up of the colours and how they tie together with my vintage necklace from local shop, Jacob Street, on the Lisburn Road.

Did a mirror shot in the gift shop showing the vast amount of Titanic related stuff for sale…some of it verging on tacky and some tacky with a capital 'T' :
But all in all, it was a great day out, reasonably priced and made me feel very proud of my home city…especially when I read this quote from National Geographic:
Off now to plan another wee giveaway on the blog. Watch out for more information at the weekend..especially if you're a handbag fan! Have a good evening. I'm heading to choir later. Nothing like a bit of singing to wake you up when you're feeling exhausted. See you tomorrow..


Twincess-Fest in Primark Pleather

My twins were 4 this weekend! Finding it hard to believe that this time 4 years ago I was recovering from a c-section and the shock of having two actual babies to look after. Not that I didn't know it was going to be twins - the ginormous bump would have been a giveaway had the scans not picked up on it:
On a weekend break at 36 weeks -
wondering if walking into the sea and getting swept away would be a good option!
but despite scan pictures and a Tamba twin preparation course, it was still a shock to be handed two babies
Happily, I soon perfected the twin baby juggle and zoom on 4 years, we're planning princess parties with Hello Kitty cakes. I know all mums say it and it's a bit boring but seriously, doesn't the time fly by?!
Anyway, the party was a great success. My friend Alicia from Bliss Nails came and did nail art for me and I got to explore face painting as a second career..
Unfortunately, my repertoire extends to butterflies only but luckily most of the kids were happy with that…by the time I did this last wee girl, I was flying it!
There isn't really a proper outfit photo - the one above and this next one will hopefully show off this dark teal/navy coloured Primark pleather fronted top that I picked up a couple of months ago for a bargainous £7. Being wipeable, it was a perfect choice for a messy party.
Pleather Top - Primark
Necklace - Vintage (last seen here)
Black Skinny Jeans - Gok 4 TU at Sainsburys (last seen here)
all worn with black River Island Ankle Boots
Oh and I get to show off my cake too (allow me a brief proud mummy moment). Looks impressive but it's a dead easy chocolate cake from Tana Ramsay's book enhanced with two boxes of Chocolate Fingers and a large bag of Maltesers. It was demolished before the day was over - anything with that much chocolate cannot be delicious!
So that's the twincessfest over for another year…let the Christmas planning begin!


Cold Weekend - Cosy Coat

Do you remember this last post where I featured the Vila Effie down coat from Room 31 in black? Well in true Jackie O style, I bought it in both colours and the cold weather this weekend has given me the perfect excuse to wear the caramel colour.
On a Saturday morning, my girls go to Girls' Brigade. Now, I'm not really sure what GB is but it's held in a church near where we live and the girls LOVE it so that's enough for me.  And the gorgeous church provided a nice backdrop for today's photos..
I'm loving this colour in the Effie coat. It's perfect for wearing with greys and browns so today I wore it with my TK Maxx silk top I picked up a few weeks ago, French Connection grey skinny trousers (last seen here), Marco Polo ankle boots (last seen here) and a neutral H&M scarf.
Unfortunately, all colours in the Effie coat are sold out but as always, I've got some alternatives. Firstly, Zalando have the newer version of this coat in a few colours:

Vila Joela Down Filled Jacket £75-80 from Zalando
Uniqlo Down Coat
Esprit - available in several colours
and finally a Tommy Hilfiger one in a gorgeous shade of brown. I've got a cream TH one like this that I picked up in the sales a couple of years ago and it's excellent - so cosy though difficult to keep clean. I should point out that all of these coats are washable. Check out this post from Sharron over at Style At Every Age regarding caring for your down coat. Tennis balls and Tumble Driers are key! 
Tommy Hilfiger (also available in Black & Navy)
With down coats, just a few other pointers:

  • Always look for proper down filling - the synthetic stuff won't keep you warm!
  • Look for belted or waisted options to give you a figure within the down
  • Buy neat fitting to maximise warmth and minimise michelin man effect
  • Remove faux fur on hood before wearing and place in the bin :)

Please share any other great buys in the comments below and have a great weekend x
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