Looking a Maxi Midi Dress...

Is it just me or are so many of the midi dresses in the shops at the moment just a little bit too short? I'm struggling to find a more 'maxi' midi....if that makes sense?
To illustrate what I mean, here I am in the kind of midi length dress I want. It's one I got before Christmas in Lurgan boutique, Alana Interiors and the length is just right - midway between midi and maxi. With an ankle boot, it makes for a great transitional piece.
Dress - Anonyme from Alana Interiors
Jacket - Alice Temperley (preloved from DejaVu)
Boots - Ilse Jacobson (past season)
Bag - Yoshi (gifted AW17)

But I digress...back to maxi-midi's and the first contender I've found is this amazing one from French Connection that Pippa O'Connor had on at one of her roadshows a couple of weekends ago. It's been in my basket since I saw it on her. It's the most perfect shirt style design for getting maximum wear as you can wear it as a dress, opened partly with jeans or denim shorts underneath, or opened fully and worn as a long kimono. Endless possibilities.

Yeah, it's the price that's putting me off...pretty steep for French Connection so I don't expect it to sell out super fast. I'm watching it on the House of Fraser site as they often have brand events so I'm more likely to get a 20% off there than on the FC site itself. 

 But I was keen to explore more affordable options elsewhere and I remembered that ASOS do a Tall range. My thinking is if the models are 5'11", then a midi length on them is going to fall 4 inches longer on my leg. Genius? 
Starting with this lovely floral one...
and this is similar in a different shade
or this black one in the sale
and another from the sale
finishing with this amazing one - expensive yes, but in my opinion you're getting WAY more dress than the first one from French Connection. It's stunning:

Genius possibly - but the obvious question remains that these dresses have been created for a longer body overall so the waistband is probably going to be too low and the arms too long. This is where my plan falls down...I don't know if this will be the case but I have a really long body so I might be ok with the first issue. I have v short arms though...

I'm going to order a couple of the ones I shared above and I'll update this post when I've tried them on. It's worth a go to get the maxi midi length I'm seeking but in the meantime, if you've seen anything that little bit longer in the shops, please let me know!

Disclaimer - some of the links above are affiliate links which means that the website knows that you came from here and will pay me a tiny commission (typically 3-4%) should you buy and keep the item. Feel free to google the items to avoid this but don't click on a shopping or 'ad' link on google or you'll just be giving them the commission! 


Slogan Sweatshirt with a Difference

While I love slogan sweatshirts on other people, I never wear them myself...until now. The heavier sweatshirt material and the tight waistband always look unflattering on my body shape so the couple of times I've bought them, I never ended up actually wearing them apart from as loungewear. Equally, the messages many slogan sweats have written on them don't always sit right with me. 

So I'm delighted to have come across FWP by Rae, completely by chance and I wore the Premier Cru sweatshirt yesterday for the first time and absolutely loved it.
Black Coat - preloved from DejaVu - Gerard Darel
Jeans - KOI from TK Maxx (old)
Star Trainers - Topshop - past season - similar here
Bag - Yoshi - past season (gifted)

I say by chance because I actually bought mine from an online friend as a preloved item, rather than from the company directly. I had been vaguely aware of other people I follow on Instagram wearing the brand but hadn't really considered looking at them because I assumed they would be the usual unflattering sweatshirt shape on me.

Rachel who was selling it, mentioned that it was a generous fit (too big on her) and nice and soft so I thought why not and I was delighted when it arrived because it's nothing like a sweatshirt fabric. It's a gorgeous soft lightweight material which reminds me of Pyjamas actually...and I mean that in the most positive way. It hangs beautifully and can even be tucked in.
It does come up big - I'm wearing the M and it's more like a 12 on me but I like that as I want to wear it with skinnies. And if Premier Cru isn't your cup of tea (or wine), there are a couple of different slogans, all referencing wine with a french twist. Not glamourising drinking or anything - just very classy and French. And who doesn't want to look classy and French? Especially while standing under the Tates Avenue bridge in front of a badly graffitied wall...

Hope your weekend has been treating you well. I've mostly spent it eating bad food and driving the mum taxi. Though I did go out with the Freedom runners this morning for the second time. Go check out Holly's Instagram if you're local. It's the most wonderful outdoor workout on a Sunday morning, suitable for all levels of fitness. Completely exhilarating...and fully legitimises an afternoon of eating more food...in my case, at my sister in law's - huge yay to not having to make Sunday dinner today.

Have a good one - back soon!




Checks and Blush | F&F New Season *

Before an *unsponsored peep at what I spotted in my local Tesco on Thursday, here's what I wore yesterday. The main elements have been seen before on the blog, starting with this F&F checked coat I last wore here. There's a handful in a size 18 online and a few of you contacted me to say that you'd found it in-store on the sale rail.


Outfit Catch Up | Trip to Tipp

I've a few outfits to share and I was also down in Tipperary (including a visit to my favourite Penneys/Primark in Limerick) so I thought I'd do a quick catch up post to fill you in on both.

Starting with one outfit from Tipp - a cosy combo I wore into Limerick city on Tuesday. You'll have seen the leopard coat on this blog post. It's turned out to be a fab buy. I will say that it's a bit ball-y under the arms but it's not an expensive fabric and the print means it's not particularly noticeable:
Black Jeans - Selected Femme (preloved from DejaVu)
Boots - AQ Shoes in Magherafelt
Jumper - Benetton Sale (AW16)
Scarf - Zara (old)


Epionce Lite Refresh Peel Review | Woodford Clinic

Last month I had an Epionce Lite Refresh Peel at the Belfast branch of Woodford Clinic and I've purposely waited a few weeks before reviewing so that I could properly share how I found the treatment during, immediately after and a month after. It's not an inexpensive treatment so I wanted to be sure it made a positive difference before telling you more and recommending. 

To give some background, I've been going to the Woodford clinic to buy my Epionce skincare for a few years now. I first came across Epionce via a free sample and shortly thereafter, I was fortunate enough to meet Mervyn Patterson who is a NI born dermatologist and co-owner of the Woodford Medical Group. Mervyn and Kerry Blaine (who heads up the Belfast clinic) are for me the kind of people that you need to listen to when it comes to dispelling the skincare myths that form part of the marketing campaigns of many multinational cosmetics companies. They both have the clinical knowledge that comes from years of medical training and experience and they're passionate about using the right products on your skin. Not necessarily the most expensive ones but instead, the ones that are clinically proven to work. No jargon or fluffy, unproven claims from these two!

Although I mix things up now and again, I mostly use Epionce SPF50 on my skin, along with the Facial Renewal Cream & Lytic. I've blogged about the latter two on this post if you want to read more. 

After talking to Kerry on my last visit before Christmas, I decided to book a New Year Epionce Lite Refresh Peel. Mention peel to me and I immediately think of red, peeling, sore skin and hiding under a bucket for a week until you can show your face again. Not with the Lite Peel - it's just 5% Salicylic acid as compared to 30% in a full peel and it is a 45 minute treatment that you can return to work immediately after having.

The treatment relieve skin congestion, dullness, sallowness and improves acne. The ingredients comprise Malic Acid, which encourages cell turnover & hydration and reduces bacteria, Salicylic Acid which has anti bacterial and anti inflammatory properties and along with Willow Bark extract  deep cleans the pores. Finally there's Onion bulb extract which contains something called querectin to stimulate and encourage the production of collagen and elastin.

I took photos to show the step by step process the facial involved. These were lifted from Instagram as I covered the story of the facial live on my Stories....hence they're a bit blurry in places. It's not easy to take pictures when you're having a facial!!
So starting with Step 1 - pre-peel, which leaves your skin perfectly clean and primed for the peel itself. 
Step 2 - Barrier applied to lips and eyes covered.
Step 3 - Peel applied
Step 4 - Removal after 12 minutes
Step 5 - Epionce Enriched Facial Mask
Step 6 - Glowing skin
The entire treatment is carried out in a medical environment by a qualified prescribing nurse and it will only be done if Kerry is happy that your skin is suitable and will benefit from it. 

I'm fortunate that my skin is pretty good anyway and has benefitted from a couple of years of Epionce products, so would it really make a difference to me? Well, the best gauge is the fact that apart from a few nights out I've been on, I've not worn foundation all over my face since I had the Lite Peel done. This might not seem like much to some of you but I've worn a full face of foundation since my teens. A combination of poor skin, acne scarring and a lack of confidence has meant that I always feel the need to cover up. I don't really get breakouts anymore though but uneven skin tone was still stopping me. This treatment has made my skin much more even in texture and tone and I'm finding the Epionce tinted SPF50 and bronzer is all I need now. I still throw on some eye liner, mascara, brow pencil and lip but I'm not feeling the need to pile on the foundation. 

And whether it's the facial or the fact that I'm not covering my skin in foundation, or a bit of both, my skin continues to look great with or without make up and as a consequence I no longer feel the fear of not wearing my 'mask'. 

Cost and frequency I hear you ask? The treatment costs £95 and although some people have them monthly, the usual frequency is twice or three times a year. Kerry advised that the times people will usually book a peel are after a sun holiday/suncream usage, and in the New Year to wake up the skin after the excesses of Christmas. 

Incidentally, Woodford offer a range of aesthetic procedures and I can absolutely recommend them should you wish to explore the world of Botox or Fillers etc. It would be the only place I'd happily have these treatments done, given the medical background of the team there and the quality of the branded products used (did you know there are different types and brands of botox? I had no clue!)
And this isn't just my recommendation, a number of friends and readers of the blog have attended the clinic since I first mentioned it on here way back when and I've had such fantastic feedback from them all. Kerry's professionalism and lovely personality is always the first thing people tell me when they report back. Such a lovely person and a consummate professional. Which is important when you're investing in the skin on your face - you don't want to take any chances with injectables or peels. 

As always, if you've any questions, please comment below or email me in confidence at avril@alifetostyle.com.


Woodford Belfast

Suite 1B 1st Floor
Marlborough House
348 Lisburn Road
Northern Ireland

0845 602 1161

Disclaimer - I booked this treatment myself with the intention of paying for it however Kerry asked me if I'd write an honest blogpost in return for my first treatment being gifted - provided I was happy with the treatment. I was not therefore under any obligation to write this post and the words are all my own. Thank you for supporting amazing local businesses like Woodford.


The Bargain Woven Circle Bag from Topshop

First up, full credit for this find goes to Sue over at SusieSoSo - my long time blogging friend whose blog posts I always read. In fact, she and Bean at Small Town Threads are the only bloggers I immediately click through to when I hear they have a new post. Because both Sue and Bean have the most amazing eye for finding the new season must haves before everyone buys them and they sell out.

Which is what's going to happen to this bag. If you've been waiting for an affordable round rattan cross body bag for the summer, as I have been, you will want to get this £24 bargain from Topshop. 

Kelly Green 💚

For the last few years without fail, this green coat comes out and it's like my 'spring is coming' coat. Even if it's baltic when I wear it (as it was in this photo), it cheers me up because it's such a fab colour.
Coat - Zara
Jeans - H&M
Trainers - Seven Boot Lane
(all past season - all purchased by me)
Navy Cashmere Knit - M&S (gifted - current season)


The Great Plains Hayden Biker Jacket | Burgundy or Green?

I'm such a fan of biker jackets now - where did that come from? I used really struggle with them but when I realised how fab they look with dresses, I was all over them. But is black your only option? I've tried yellow (slightly too mad) and navy (jury's out) and had begun to think that maybe classic black *is* the only really versatile year-round option. But then one of my friends got an All Saints leather biker jacket in the most gorgeous shade of burgundy/brown and suddenly, this was the missing link. 
I had to have one.....but at a less spend price and then I spotted this beauty in local boutique, Harrison Fashion and tried it on. Perfection. For £50. It's sold out in Harrison now but I've a link below to the same jacket in House of Fraser. I bought the S which is a pretty accurate 10.


Cleansing Balms Reviewed

This has been a LONG post in the making. I've been using Cleansing balms to take off my make up for over 10 years and in that time, I've used several of the well known brands across all the price points.

It was just a few months ago when I got to thinking that I could probably do a pretty comprehensive review of all the ones I've used, particularly focusing on the ones I've re-bought (or not) over the years.

 But first, what is a cleansing balm and how do you use them? 

Cleansing balms are usually semi solid in texture with a thick, sometimes slightly grainy (though not scratchy) consistency and come in a jars, pots and less frequently, in tubes.
They are oil based and once you rub the product between your dry hands, the consistency turns smoother and oiler to allow you to spread it all over the face.
You simply massage the balm in all over a dry face where it has the dual purpose of moisturising your skin and removing your make up effectively. Many balms can be used in the eye area too for removing eye make up though I find you still need a specialist eye make up remover if you're wearing eye liner or heavier/darker shadows.

After you've massaged the product in, you remove it (and your make up) using a warm flannel. Many products come with their own muslins but I prefer to use a standard face cloth as many of the flannels you get are quite flimsy.

As well as being really effective at removing make up, cleansing balms have the added bonus of being paraben free. Parabens are used as a preservative in many creamy beauty products, including cleansers and moisturisers and they're something I avoid using on my skin. Balms by their nature are oil based though they have a shorter shelf life for this reason and should be used up within a couple of months.

If you have oily skin, don't stop reading. Cleansing balms are incredibly gentle and work on all skin types. They offer great comfort to drier skins but even oily skin needs moisture and continually stripping the skin of oils with harsh products can make the skin create even more oil. You can follow up your balm cleansing routine with a tiny amount of toner or gentle face wash to remove any excess oil and make up. Also note that for problematic skin, the Moa balm, mentioned further down this post contains yarrow and tea-tree, both excellent for congested oily skins.

For this post, I've divided all the cleansing balms I've used to date into three price points - luxury, mid-price and budget. There are MANY more products available and I'm hoping you'll give me your own recommendations in the comments but this post contains just those I've bought and used myself.


The Last of the Hush AW17 Sale

I know, I know, I said no more sale stuff but I saw something on Instagram and before I knew it, I was over on the Hush site being seduced by loveliness in their sale.

I'll be honest, I find Hush on the pricy side most of the time but I usually pick up one or two bits in the sale and this time, I think I found quite a few nice pieces that will work well into Spring and Summer. Hence I'm sharing them now before they arrive with me, in case the sale drops off before I have a chance to tell you about them. 

Hush sale ends quite abruptly if previous years are anything to go by so don't delay if you like something. They just launched their pre-spring collection today so I suspect the sale will end this weekend and there's never a permanent sale section on their website. Anything that's left goes into townhall sales.

So here's what I ordered starting with this dress which I've admired since it came out first. In fact, it's the only thing that I added to my basket at full price and almost bought. So I'm delighted that it's a more palatable £40 now.

I also adore this dress but there's only size 6's left and there's no hope of that fitting. I'm going to keep watching for returns though..

Next, I ordered this top. My love of off the shoulder tops has been well documented. The hero item in any pear shaped girl's wardrobe. Again, I've admired this from afar. I don't really do shoulders out in Winter so it's not something that I would wear at this time of year but it's going to be perfect for wearing on nights out when things warm up a bit..

The only other top that grabbed me was this gorgeous sheer floral one which has been reduced by £99! Didn't put it in my basket in the end but I'm kind of sad I didn't...

Jeans wise, I decided to give these skinny jeans a try in a size 10

But the turn up jeans worn so beautifully by Nikki over at Midlife Chic are also still available in most sizes

Jackets and coats-wise, I covered my eyes....there is no way on earth I need another jacket or coat. Especially not this black one which is GORGEOUS and would look amazing with midi skits, dresses, culottes..... 90% merino wool and look at that reduction!

So I zipped over to accessories and ordered this scarf....because I need more scarves. I've always admired this one but really wanted it in the charcoal/camel colour way. But I've a new cobalt cross body bag (from this post) and I think this scarf will be a lovely accompaniment.

Last item I dithered over was these boots. But I didn't order. They are however stunning - shearling lined and a classic shape. You'd have them for years and your cold feet would be so grateful. Only left in a 39

And there you go - a very quick dip into the Hush sale. I'll update this post once the items arrive - hopefully at the weekend. I should say, I'm not planning on keeping it all....really hoping at least one item is awful on and goes back...

Oh and before I go, there's free delivery over £75 on all orders though you do usually have to pay to return. Again, I'll update this post if I happen to get a returns label in the box.

Happy shopping...back tomorrow with another beauty post!

Not a sponsored post. I paid for all the items myself. The links are affiliate links which means that Hush will know that you've been redirected to their site from mine and they may pay me a small commission if you buy and keep the item.



Algorithms & Visibility | Instagram Frustration

This post has been brewing in my head for a couple of weeks now and last night, the brain dump happened. It's driven from the stress and frustration I feel coming across in so many people's Instagram content these past few weeks.

But I left it until the cold light of day to edit, amend and publish so I hope it's useful, balanced and less ranty(!) than it was last night. Mainly I hope it helps some of you to slow down the Instagram treadmill a little and start to enjoy that grid again.



Bargains Galore | Red Boots (again)

This outfit is one big bargain all made from a ton of little amazing bargains secured in the sales over the past few weeks.
Starting with the boots - the red boots that I thought I'd not really wear and have worn in two blog posts in one week. That's £3.45 per wear right there. Yes, I said it on the other blog post - £6.89 in the M&S 90% off red ticket sale. Need I say any more?


Denim Midi Skirt & Cashmere | M&S

For this month's Marks & Spencer post, I went in store thinking I'd probably incorporate a bit of red or pink but the first thing I spotted was this indigo denim midi skirt from Autograph - with pockets!! I just loved the shape and the fabric and so my outfit ended up being built around it.
Cotton Rich A-Line Midi Skirt with Belt - Autograph - £45
(limited sizes available online but full range of sizes in store when I was in)
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