Thursday, 16 May 2019

A M&S Try On | Style

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As part of my regular collaboration with M&S, I paid a visit to the Sprucefield store yesterday because let's face it, it's lovely to order online but nothing beats getting into the shop and trying before you buy....and I'd spotted some great dresses when I was in getting food last week and didn't have time to try on.
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Wednesday, 15 May 2019

What I've been Wearing | Style

[Some affiliate links used. Gifted items marked]
At last, another outfit catch up post. I try to do these every fortnight but I swear the time between those two weeks seems to get shorter and shorter! I think the combination of a busy period in work and 4th year exams both played a part this month. Work is still busy but the exams are all done now...roll on the GCSE's!!

Before I share the outfits, I want to thank everyone who got in touch with ideas and suggestions for London. I'm so grateful and thanks to all your messages, we now have a jam-packed itinerary for each day, discounted tickets to a show in the West End AND a couple of amazing view options without the cost of the Shard or the London Eye. I will blog about it all I promise...I know lots of you will find it really helpful too.
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Friday, 10 May 2019

The Perfect Mix of Trend and Comfort from Fitflop | Style

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The white trainer trend is going nowhere and they've become the go-to footwear choice for so many of us because they're so easy to wear and work equally well with jeans and dresses.

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Thursday, 2 May 2019

7 Heroes every Wardrobe Needs | JD Williams | AD

[AD - paid collaboration with affiliate links]
Wardrobe Heroes are those go-to items in that every woman needs in her closet - the items that work hard for you. For me, I know my wardrobe heroes because they're the things that I have more than one of. They're guaranteed to get lots of wear and it's important to have back ups - at least that's my excuse...so when JD Williams asked me to find 7 Wardrobe Heroes in their SS19 collection, I was keen to take on the challenge. I like that as a company, they're committed to changing how the world views fashion for women over 45. This is important as there aren't many brands out there focusing exclusively on this demographic. As part of their mission, they're declaring so-long to ill-fitting sizes, limited options, and one-shape-fits-all, and championing stylish, affordable, well-fitting products. Would I find this to be the case when my selections arrived?
The Wardrobe Heroes I selected are as follows:
Starting with the Midi Shirt Dress which is the perfect length on me. I'm not a massive fan of your typical midi length, preferring instead something that comes in at a 'mid-axi' kind of length. Just looks more flattering on my frame.
The fabric composition is Viscose, Cotton and Linen, making it lovely for warmer days. It's got enough linen to give it a crisp clean look but not so much that you end up a crumpled mess when you wear it all day. I actually could have worn it straight out of the delivery bag - I only ironed it briefly to get the collar sitting right.
Midi Shirt Dress
Black Flat Slider Sandals
I paired it simply for this first look with my second Wardrobe Hero - the Black Slider Sandals
 and these are such a find. They're close in look to a couple of others I shared on my sandal blog post last week and a fraction of the price. Made from real leather, they have a croc effect finish and cream stitching. Size wise, go up with these ones as they're neat.
Second look now and I'm sticking with the dress but this time I'm adding Wardrobe Hero number 3 - trainers. I'm asked ALL the time where to find a well priced plain white leather trainer and these are on the money. No go faster stripes or leopard, crystals or stars - these are understated and classic and pretty much perfect. They come up on the big side so size down if you're in-between.
White Leather Trainers
Biker Jacket (similar to my own on link)
Leopard Bag (similar to my own on link)
My third look sees me adding the 4th Wardrobe Hero, Infinity 4-Way Stretch Black Skinny Jeans. I'm wearing the size 10R in these and they really are a great fit. The website says they are the most comfortable jeans you will ever own and that they won't lose their shape after one wear or sit too low on the waist. I couldn't work out what it was about them that worked for me until I read the website blurb - they're cut higher at the back! Absolutely great for pear shapes - there's no gap on the back when you sit down and I've not needed a belt when wearing them. I would probably like them tighter around the ankle but I've been wearing them turned up anyway. That's more of an issue when wearing them with ankle boots. Fit wise, I'm wearing the 10R and they come to my belly button so aren't super high waist - perfect for a half tuck.
Black Vest (my own)
For this look, I wanted to demonstrate how great a fully opening shirt dress is. You can totally change the look by wearing it kimono style over skinny jeans and actually, I've done this look in warmer weather over a pair of denim shorts too. Not brave enough for that one this weekend.

My 5th Wardrobe Hero is this classic grey sweatshirt with the added bonus of ticking another one of my Wardrobe Hero boxes - leopard print! These sleeves add a gorgeous feminine edge to this sweatshirt and are a perfect nod to the animal print trend without being too OTT. They're made from a blouse material whereas the rest of the sweatshirt is a soft jersey. It works great under a blazer and I'm also keen to dress it up with a midi skirt.
Grey Sweatshirt with Leopard

Sticking with the skinny jeans and white trainers, my 6th Wardrobe Hero is a slogan t-shirt  I really like this one - it's simple monochrome and hasn't got a controversial message. A perfect way to dip your toe into this trend. Such a youthful way to dress down a blazer.
White Slogan T-Shirt
Black Blazer (similar to mine)
I added my own red bag to this but there's similar colour pop bag on the link above. Any colour would work - blue/green/yellow. It just lifts the monochrome colour palette and makes for a much more interesting outfit.

Last outfit and last Wardrobe Hero - a cami top. I wear these lots over the warmer months, especially on nights out under a blazer. They're also great worn with denim shorts on hot days. Loose, floaty and flattering over the tummy area - what more could you ask? There are tons of colours and prints in this particular cami top but I opted for the animal print to tie in with my Wardrobe Hero colour palette. I'm wearing a 10 and I love that it's got a snug fit on the décolletage so you don't flash anything when you bend over (it's the little things!). I'm wearing my usual strapless bra underneath....always invest in a good one of these and look after it. I've had mine for 3 years now and it's still going strong.
Nude Heels (similar to mine on link)
Black Clutch (similar to mine on link)

So there you go! That's my 7 hard working hero pieces that I know will mix and match so well with other items from my wardrobe all summer long and beyond. I'm wearing the grey sweatshirt with blue faded jeans and a darker pair of trainers today - I think it's my favourite of the 7.

Thanks so much for reading and thanks to JD Williams for inviting me to collaborate on this. I was gifted the items I featured and I was paid for the time and effort spent creating this blog post and the social media content over on my Instagram account. All my links are affiliate links which means JD Williams know you came to their website from this blog post.

Ax

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Tuesday, 30 April 2019

What I've been Wearing | Life Lately | Style

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And just like that, the Easter holidays were over....the kids only went back today (Tuesday) but they're off again on Thursday for the elections and then again on Monday for the Bank Holiday. I have a feeling this term is going to fly by.
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Monday, 29 April 2019

An Honest Skincare Review | Beauty

I've harped on about Epionce skincare for a LONG time now. I've been using the products for about 3 years and they've made a massive difference to my skin. They're not cheap though and so every now and again, I take the opportunity to try out other brands. In my head I think it's a good way to give my skin a chance to try other ingredients or formulations but apart from in one case*, it's always been a regret.
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Monday, 22 April 2019

The Sandal you won't take off all Summer

So every year around this time I look for my investment leather sandals for the summer. Last year’s pair are looking quite good so I’m not going to buy a pair this year (yet) but when I wore my olon Instagram the other day so many people asked me where to get something similar. You see, they're the kind of sandal you'll not want to take off ALL summer. I know because I buy a pair every year and I wear them to death. Literally. They rarely get put away for the winter because they are done by the end of the summer. 
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Monday, 8 April 2019

What I've Been Wearing | Style | Life Lately

[AD - some affiliate links used/existing commercial arrangement with M&S]
I'm a week late with my outfit post, mainly because I took so few photos in the last couple of weeks...and life's busy as always. There's something about the end of March - it takes an age to get here and then, bang, you're in April and suddenly every school concert, GB display and sports event hits. My social life is not my own until sometime in mid June.

Starting with a workwear outfit from last week which was a surprise hit on Instagram. I don't look at stats on Insta and have no strategy in terms of when or what I post yet some take off and others don't. My view on it is that you can't play Instagram and I reckon they reward randomness on the algorithm-just fire the pictures out whenever you get a chance. I should really run an Instagram course sometime....
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Monday, 1 April 2019

The Original Brazilian 12 Week Blow-dry | Rogue by Jody

This has been a much requested post and a topic I get questions about on a weekly basis. About 2 years ago, I had a semi permanent blow-dry done in a salon in Belfast. You can read about it on this post but unfortunately the salon is closed now and there's no-one else in Belfast (that I know of) using the same treatment.
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Friday, 22 March 2019

M&S Gift Ideas....for Mother's Day and just because | AD

[paid collaboration/gifts/affiliate links]
As part of my regular collaboration with M&S, I was invited to pick some items that I think would make great Mother's Day gifts. Now I love Mother's Day as much as the next mum (I mean, breakfast in bed?) but every year when I'm asked to do a post like this I'm conscious of friends who have lost their mums or who have complicated relationships with them, friends who would have made amazing mothers but for whom life didn't work out that way. All told, it feels like a difficult one to blog about without making some people I know (and many more I don't) feel sad. 
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Thursday, 21 March 2019

What I've been Wearing | Style

[ad-some gifted items marked & some affiliate links]
The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind - we've definitely reached that stage in the year when the weeks start to fly in. I didn't get a photo every day but I did on the days worth sharing....starting with the loveliest trip to Newcastle to the Slieve Donard Hotel for the Walk in Wardrobe SS19 Brunch, an event I was kindly invited to by the owner, Laura.
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Saturday, 9 March 2019

Rocking the Nana Pants | Style

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The background to this post is that as part of my regular M&S collaboration, I was challenged to style up something from the Classic range. Now before you brace yourself, I'm using the pants term in a US context - it just sounded better to say Nana Pants than Nana Trousers. 
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Friday, 8 March 2019

What I've been Wearing | Style

AD - Gifted Product where indicated
Back with an outfit update and it co-incided with some of the lovely weather we had recently. Bare legs all round - definitely not the case this weekend!
The first outfit was a work outfit that I turned to a casual one with the addition of trainers. The orange blouse is from Warehouse and I bought it after my recent personal shopping session with Katherin in Victoria Square. Just adore the colour...
Biker Jacket - Topshop via eBay
Culottes - Warehouse (past season)
Trainers - Nike (current) - wearing a men's size 6
Bag - Hush (AW18 sample sale)

More culottes and more trainers...this time slip on ones that I snapped up in the Honey Lisburn Road sale. They're from the Kendall & Kylie range that despite the connection (I'm not a big Karsashian fan, can you tell?!), are actually super stylish and really well made. They retail at the higher end of the price point so it was a bonus to find them on the sale rail for less than £50.
The t-shirt and scarf are from River Island but the menswear section! I was hanging around while the teenager tried on some hoodies and came across both. It's hard to find a gorgeous scarf with khaki in it but this is it - and a bargain to boot!
Culottes - preloved Part Two
Handbag - hush as before

Another casual outfit using the Kendall & Kylie trainers from above and a pleather skirt from M&S that I found in DejaVu recently.
Skirt & jacket - preloved
Shoes - as before
Scarf - hush (AW18 sale)

Back to workwear and this dress is from a couple of seasons ago at H&M. It's got a heron print all over with yellow detail so my Marc O'Polo scarf works well with it.
Dress - H&M
Biker - Topshop via eBay
Boots - Seven Boot Lane (AW17) GIFT
Scarf - Marc O'Polo (AW18)

Night out now with the girls and it was a casual and walkable one so I wore my new Holly trainers from M&S along with some wardrobe favourites.
Jeans - MiH (preloved)
Bag - Boden

In a dress next and this was the day the weather turned...I was freezing in this outfit and it quickly escalated to soaked and freezing. But I loved it and I'll always happily suffer for my style!
Jacket, Bag & Trainers - as before
Dress - M&S (AW18) GIFT

Back to work now and I went for classic stripes with some gorgeous navy trousers I got in the Harrison sale the other week. I'd tried them on in black a few months ago in Jude Law Boutique in Magherafelt and regretted not buying them but I think I prefer them in navy. Navy trousers can look a bit frumpy sometimes but not these - they have a cute frill running down the side and are cut in an on-trend jogging trouser style. 
Breton Top - M&S (affiliate link)
Trousers - Great Plains
Boots - as before

Finishing with a final work look - it looks casual but once I've the biker jacket off, the fine knit is very much work appropriate (I work in a business casual environment which works out quite flexible for women, I'm finding). I adore this skirt - a complete find in DejaVu on the Lisburn Road a few weeks ago. I seem to be unable to go in there without buying...
Skirt - M&S from DejaVu
Jacket, Scarf, Boots - all as before.

And there's my fortnightly update done for another fortnight. It's kind of scary how quickly these posts come around. Where are the weeks going?

I've not much to share in terms of a life lately piece. Work has been much busier as the project I'm working on has lots of deadlines and decisions coming up so I've been working 4 days instead of my usual 3. That leaves less time for my other bits and pieces I do from home (social media for a couple of other small businesses/blog projects) and I'm not exaggerating when I say my house is a tip. I'm going to dedicate some time to getting it back in order this Saturday, motivated by the fact that I'm away on Sunday morning to an event and an overnight stay in a hotel. I'm really looking forward to some downtime with one of my friends but as you all know, this comes at a price for a mum....cue much cooking and laundry right up until I leave on Sunday! 
You can see the action as it happens (from the event, not my house cleaning!) over on Instagram, including the wearing of my new Phase Eight dress!

Have a lovely weekend and I'll be back soon!
Ax
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Thursday, 7 March 2019

REVIEW - Seven Seas Perfect7® Renewal | Beauty | Ad

Towards the end of last year, I was asked by Seven Seas if I would take part in a 60-day trial of their latest innovation, Perfect7® Renewal. The product is a UK first with a unique formulation using ceramosides™ for more hydrated looking skin from within.
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Monday, 4 March 2019

The Perfect Foundation for Older Skin | Beauty

As you get older, like your skincare, you need to change your foundation. Heavier, oil free brands make way for more luminous, moisturising formulations, better suited to mature skin. And I've been trying to find that magic new foundation for quite a while. It's a saga - grab a coffee - but it does have an outcome and a few suggestions along the way that you might find useful.. Because what didn't work for me might work great for you - foundation is so skin specific which is why there are a gazillion brands and formulations in the market.

The main frustration for me in my search though hasn't just been finding a product I like, it's been finding one that then doesn't get discontinued. Three times I've found one that works for me...and three times the product has been discontinued.

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Sunday, 3 March 2019

SS19 Occasion Wear at Phase Eight | Style

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You might remember that I went into Phase Eight last summer to use the complimentary personal styling service and tried on lots of lovely occasion wear. There was such a great reaction to that post that the team in the Victoria Square store invited me in again this season to do another try on and it suited well as I have a lovely event coming up next week that I was struggling to dress for.
Up front, I'm not expected to blog about this try on but I am asked so often about occasion wear so I thought it would be good to have the photos saved onto the blog for future reference - many of these dresses will be available to buy for the next 2-3 months. You can also see the video of the try on over on my Instagram highlights - really helps to get a feel for the movement of the dresses.
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Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Things I do now I'm older Part 1 | Personal Shopping

There are 5 things I've started doing now I'm older...and I've realised that many of the questions I get via the blog and social media relate back to these things. So I'm going to do 5 separate blog posts over the coming weeks to talk about each one. Today's is Personal Shopping/Styling.

The biggest game changer for me since I hit my 40's is discovering the benefits of going to a personal shopper/stylist and I'm amazed more women don't do it.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Holly's Must Haves - The Denim Edit | Style | Ad

[Ad - Paid Collaboration with Affiliate Links]
Once again, I've been in to try on the new Holly Willoughby range at M&S ahead of the launch and I've been working hard since my visit to get this post ready to go live at the same time as her range drops onto the website so that you are armed with my honest opinions (and you get to see that boiler suit tried on!!) before purchasing online.
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Saturday, 23 February 2019

Getting Back into the Workplace | FAQ's

I mentioned a while back that I would write a post about my experience of getting back into the workplace proper after long break. I've done bits and pieces of social media work on a part time basis over recent years but this is my first time back in a role similar to what I used to do before the twins were born. When I talked about it on an earlier post, I had so many emails and messages from women who wanted to reignite their careers but didn't know how to. So here goes - I'm not sure if this will help massively because so much of the jobs game is about luck, timing and connections and no two situations will be the same. It's taken me an age to write it but hopefully bit and pieces of it will help a few of you out there.

I'm conscious that there are many of you reading this who never took more than the bare minimum off work and who work full time juggling work and home. Career vs Kids is such an emotive subject especially if you don't have a choice in the matter for financial or other reasons. It's a massive privilege to be able to stay at home with your kids and to have the choice to go back to work. Equally there are many reading who regret giving up their career and may feel envious of women who didn't, who are now flourishing in the workplace in their 40's. We're all in different situations and every woman out there is doing her best. No judgement. I've personally done all three - full time mum, full time working mum, part time working mum and I couldn't chose between them - they're all difficult and rewarding in their own ways.

Confidence
What I've found speaking to friends and reading your emails and messages is that the main barrier to going back to the workplace to do what you did before kids, is confidence. This can be for a few reasons. Some of us had a bad experience when we worked before. Maybe it was the motivator for you to leave. Others feel they've spent too long in a caring role to be able to function in an office environment again.

Confidence is your willingness to try....this was so helpful to read recently. Confidence is like a muscle - sometimes you have to get out there and push it to make it stronger. 

Like exercise, you can start to grow that confidence muscle with just one baby step. It's not about actually getting the job, that one step might just be sitting down with your computer and typing that word CV on the top of a page. Or calling out to a friend or an expert whom you know can help you with this because like exercise, it helps to have positive encouragement behind you from a coach, a friend or a life partner.

If you're really struggling, ask around for coaching recommendations. I had a session last year with Hollie from The Freedom Method and while it wasn't career specific, she did help me tease out what motivates me in my work life and it really helped focus my mind. She also helped me recognise my strengths and see the time I spent out of the workplace as a positive in that regard.

Shouting it out
Once you've decided you're ready to start looking, I urge you to call it out. Tell your friends, mention it on social media. Drop friends and ex-colleagues a friendly email asking them to keep you in mind if they hear of anything. Start a Linked-In profile and reconnect with work colleagues from way back when. So many temporary and contract roles are filled by word of mouth and if people don't know you're looking, they won't think of you when something comes up that needs filled fast. And a temporary job so often becomes a permanent one.

Applying for a job
Of course, while waiting for all the lovely referrals from friend and family, you'll have to start searching online applying for all the jobs that fit the bill. After a break, especially one as long as I had, you might have to pitch a bit lower initially and accept less money than you were hoping for, just to get your foot in the door. Also, don't get hung up on essential criteria - if you think you come close to meeting them, give the job a go. I was told recently that men are more inclined to disregard the criteria specifics and apply anyway in the hope that they can wing it at interview!

Register with a few agencies so that they come to you immediately if a suitable role comes to them but don't get too excited about any roles you see advertised online by agencies. My experience is that they're not great at updating online adverts and I came across so many that were already closed or even filled!

For that reason, I favour roles that are advertised directly by the hiring company. If you see something on an agency's site and it indicates who the employer is, go and look on the employer's website to see if you can apply directly.

When it comes to applications, there are still lots of companies that take a CV and covering letter. But it's become more commonplace to have to complete a competency based application form and in these situations you mustn't forget to answer to all of the essential criteria or you won't get an interview. Even if your application form has already detailed that you have a degree or 3 A-Levels in the education section...you will still have to talk about it again on the criteria section if it's one of the essential ones.

I can't say too much about interviews as I've only had one recently. I used a google list of typical interview questions and another google list of good questions to ask as an interviewee. I made a note of examples where I demonstrated the criteria  - initiative, leadership, team work etc - and brought them with me written down in a notebook, which I referred to a couple of times. And I smiled lots....I think that helps a bit!! No one wants a gurney bake opposite them in the office :)

Job hunting is a numbers game and you'll get better at the process the more you apply so keep at it and as difficult as it is, don't take the rejections personally.

Starting a new job
The practicalities of starting back in an office are another source of worry in your messages to me. With a good manager and team, you will adapt to your new surroundings quickly. Being in an office and being a full time carer are not greatly different. Negotiating, planning, communicating, finding ways around things and working hard. Only difference is in an office, you'll have peace to drink that coffee...and adult conversation.

Yes, you're going to struggle with the basics of logging in to a PC, working out how to do a spreadsheet again....and using printers hasn't gotten any easier in 10 years. Thankfully, I had a patient and knowledgeable 21-year old placement student to answer my endless questions and I had a manager who was clear in her expectations of me and the role for the first few weeks. It all really helped me to find my feet. I will assure you that not much has changed in the world of Windows since I was last in an office - 2 days in, and I was flying!


Coping when the going gets tough
And that's the thing - the first few weeks are actually comparatively easy because you're learning. People are making allowances for you and helping you. It's when you're a few months in that shit gets real. I've had a particularly difficult couple of weeks because I moved onto a new project and was struggling to get my head around it all. The goalposts were shifting and my manager wasn't available to help me. 

But it's back to the confidence thing again...it needed another kick up the backside to shift to the next level. I was so encouraged by lots of funny comments and DM's on Instagram where you told me you also felt like you were winging it every day and that this is ok. It's about reminding yourself every day that you've got this - you can do it....
......and perfecting the 'I am in control' face for meetings. 

What to wear
And finally....what on earth to wear. It's all business casual these days and it's a flipping nightmare! I've been relying on pleated or pencil skirts & jumpers, all worn with ankle boots or brogues but beyond that, I was really struggling - especially with trousers. So I set up a session with Katherin Farries at Victoria Square and she got me 3 pairs of work perfect smart casual trousers. Do consider asking for help from a stylist. Katherin does 1 hour express sessions ideal for this kind of thing.

A few tips beyond that:
  • If in doubt, dress up a bit. Always better to be over than under dressed. 
  • Don't show your toes in work. I have a MASSIVE bugbear about this - it looks so unprofessional.
  • Watch for cleavage and transparency of your tops. If in doubt, wear a vest
  • Another thing that hasn't changed in big offices is air conditioning...it's SO temperamental. Layers for the win - cardigans or light knits over a blouse are ideal.

Finally..,
I've not sussed it - I'm absolutely winging it in every respect. Down to writing this blog post in a convincing way. My house is a tip since I started and I have moments of panic every day when I think I can't do this. And I'm only part time in the office - though I am doing a day of self employed work too. But I keep reminding myself that I CAN do it....or at the very least, I'll do what I can and wing the rest.

Please do get in touch if you have any further questions or want to add to this blog post...you can comment below or email my on avril@alifetostyle.com.

Ax
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Tuesday, 19 February 2019

What I've been Wearing | Style

AD - Affiliate Links & Gifted Products as marked.
I've made a real effort with the photo taking over the past two weeks so there's a good selection of work and casual wear to share with you this time around...as well as a 'what's been happening in my life lately' bit at the end of the outfits. Hope you enjoy and as a reminder, I've marked anything that was a gift. If there's nothing noted beside the item, then I bought it myself. There are some affiliate links in the blog post too - hence the post is marked as an AD up front.

Starting with this outfit from a couple of Sundays ago when I attended the local blogger brunch:
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Monday, 11 February 2019

My Dermaplaning Experience 8 Weeks On | Woodford Medical

AD - Gifted treatment in return for this review
Before Christmas, Kerry who manages Woodford Medical in Belfast (where I buy all my Epionce products and highly recommend their lite peel - see link), asked me if I would review their newest treatment, dermaplaning. No obligation to blog but at the time, I shared it on Instagram Stories and in the 8 weeks since the treatment, I've had constant questions about it so I thought it would be good to have the process and the after effects all documented on here for people to read.
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Wednesday, 6 February 2019

The trouble with Zara.....

A journalist friend of mine was told by Zara this week that they were not re-opening their Belfast store. Well talk about panic as her friends (and mine) reacted to this news. It turned out to be the work of an ill-informed social media executive...more on that in a bit.

To give a bit of background, Belfast Zara closed in late August following the fire in Bank Buildings, right beside Zara's premises. The Primark store in Bank Buildings was completely destroyed and the building rendered unsafe so Zara was forced to shut up shop until Bank Buildings were stabilised and the safety cordon removed. 

So since August, Belfast's main retail thoroughfare has been split in two by a cordon, which didn't allow any traffic through, including pedestrians. In December, a pedestrian tunnel was created and some of the units further away from Primark reopened. However, Zara and the Tesco Express on the other side of Bank Buildings remained shut.

The fire has been really tough for the city - I hold my hands up and say that even though I made a concerted effort to support the city centre with my Christmas shopping, I didn't spend any money in the shops on the far side of the cordon from where I normally park or get off the bus. It's not intentional - more because there's this sense of divide, of difficulty to navigate, of sadness walking past the burnt out shell that was the beautiful Bank Building. Being really honest, there's not the same selection of shops the other side. Zara and Primark made that part of town a bit of a destination I guess so you were more inclined to keep going and maybe pop into H&M or Debenhams, while you were down there.

My immediate reaction to the news that the store might not be opening again was indifferent. It had begun to gall me that a store like Zara continued to get away with the most rubbish customer service on the high street and with creating poor quality clothes that fed our fast fashion addiction. They were the ones that started the speedy turnaround on collections. Short runs of clothing and multiple drops on a monthly basis drove an addiction to the brand for many. If you didn't get *that* Zara 'must have' today, it would be gone tomorrow. And everyone else on Instagram would be wearing it...the torture!
I know it's true because I got sucked in too. But strangely, every time I went into the shop, I found myself a bit disappointed. The fit and the quality was so hit and miss and it seemed I was almost forcing myself to buy something...just because it was Zara and that's where all the cool bloggers and stylish people get their stuff.

I often bought items that I rarely wore, that didn't fit that well or that I ended up returning. And don't get me started on their less than cheery approach on the till when you wanted a refund. Time after time, I found myself faced with grumpy faced team members who were mostly irritated by your presence. How dare you interrupt their very busy and important job in uber stylish Zara to look for money back or do an exchange? You indecisive woman!

I realised I was buying into a lifestyle, following a crowd, thinking that if I bought something from Zara, I had style...I was on-trend. It mostly wasn't. Maybe I bought badly but the amount of awful stock hanging on their sale rails last February (at still relatively high prices), confirmed to me that Zara wasn't what it used to be when it opened first.

In the end, early last year, after witnessing that sale rail fail and at the same time I started reading Lucy Siegle's book ' To Die For', I made the decision to stop buying from Zara. And it's not been too hard to stick to this. Admittedly, the closure of the Belfast store at the end of August took the opportunity away from me but I've not even looked online in that time and I don't think I've missed much. I've enjoyed buying unique, less ubiquitous pieces from local boutiques instead. Putting a bit more cash into less frequent purchases and supporting smaller businesses...and it feels good.

So I wasn't mourning the loss of Belfast Zara but then I was notified via my Facebook page that it IS in fact opening again in April 2019. In fact, they're currently prepping the unit ready for the stock to drop. Cue many happy comments!

I'm not going to be rushing in anytime soon but I am happy for Belfast and the surrounding businesses which will no doubt see footfall increase once Zara is open again - especially when it becomes possible to walk easily between it and the new wing of Primark (which wasn't damaged in the fire and has re-opened recently).

I'd like to finish with suggesting Zara's marketing team does a better job keeping their social team informed but I've a sneaking suspicion their employee communications are as bad as their customer communications.... :)

Ax


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Monday, 4 February 2019

What I've Been Wearing | Style

AD - Gifted Items - see each photo for details. If nothing noted, then this means I bought the item. In the case of House of Fraser and M&S, I've had a commercial relationship with both of these brands in the past year. If an item from either of these is not marked as a gift, I bought it myself. 

Before I get going, just to clarify on the AD tagging. In line with the ASA and CMA guidelines, bloggers must tag AD at the very beginning of blog posts if any of the following applies to their post - Paid for Blog post, Gifted Items, Affiliate Links or a commercial relationship exists with the brand in the past year, even where it doesn't involve the item being featured. So for every post, I'll tell you in the first sentence what applies in that post. I hope it's as clear as you need it to be - tell me if it's not. 

I'm back with another set of outfits from the past two weeks...I've been struggling with work outfits so they're mainly casual. The reason for the workwear issue is that I'm walking to work so my options are so limited. I can't really wear dresses or skirts unless they're short with opaque tights and jeans are too casual. But I have a plan...stand by for a post to come in the next week!
Coat - M&S (current sale)
Jumper - Berlin Boutique (current sale)
White Top - M&S (current)
Jeans - French Connection (past season)
Boots - Dune London (past season)
Parka - Hush Sale (AW18)
Handbag - House of Fraser (past season)
Jeans - F&F at Tesco (years old)
Boots - Cara via eBay
I paid a visit to The Bottom Drawer in Portadown a couple of weekends ago. I was in the town for a kids birthday party and just had to call in to check out the end of the sale....as you do!
Blazer - M&S (Current sale)
Jeans - as before
Boots - John Lewis
Bag - Boden (old)
Hanging out on the patio in the next photo - an all navy one, apart from this great scarf that I got a couple of winters ago from a local online boutique which isn't in business anymore sadly.
Jumper - LK Bennett Outlet (SS18)
Jeans - as before
Boots - Ash (AW16)
Parents' afternoon at the school and I went for a jazzy skirt...love this one I bought in Newtownards at the tail end of the summer.
Scarf - Hush Sale (current)
Boots - Primark via eBay (first wear...have them over a year!)
Skirt - Sarah Alexandra Boutique, Newtowards (SS18)
Faux Fur Coat - Guess Outlet, Banbridge (gifted)
Scarf - Zara (old)
Grey Jumper - as before
Jeans - Topshop Jamies
Trainers - Nike Grandstand 
Bag - Boden (old) 
Coat - eBay (past season M&S)
Hoodie - Hush (SS18)
Trainers & Bag - as before
Jeans - Coated Joni's - Topshop
And finishing with yesterday's outfit featuring my new bag which an Instagram friend bought on my behalf at the Hush sample sale last week! It's the Lucile bag which retailed at £139 and she managed to find me a sample for £40. Amazing. 
Coat - Hush (current sale)
Bag - Hush (sample sale)
Jeans & Boots - as before

And there you go - I'll try to show more workwear on the next one! Hope you're having a good week so far and I'll be back soooooon,

Ax

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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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