Thursday, 31 January 2013

Tackling the Winter-to-Spring Transition With Next

As part of the Next Guest Blogger competition, Next have posed 3 questions for bloggers to answer in return for a chance to guest blog for them, and choose an outfit a month for 3 months, so I've just had far too much fun (and stayed up far too late!) pondering my answer to the following question: What are your staple pieces to take you from Winter to Spring and what would you wear them with?

Staples: I have (more than) a few. As much as I savour the thrill of the new (and believe me, I do!), I also form intense emotional attachments to everything I buy - no new item is invited into my life unless I would go without hot water for a week to possess it (thankfully this is a dilemma I've never had to face), and dragging my trusty favourites from season to season, combining new with old, and old with older to form new ensembles and bring out different facets of their "personalities" is on a par with a shopping spree for me.

One of the things I've really come to appreciate about modern fashion of late is that, over the last few years, pretty much everything that has come into fashion has stayed in fashion - military, for instance, exploded in the mid-noughties, and has never really gone away since, and so many more of this season's key trends - the peplum, monochrome, neon, pastels, florals, '20s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s (um, well, most decades really - we can take our inspiration where we will), Western and sports luxe, to name a few... have been dead on point for several seasons on the trot now. Don't get me wrong - this isn't to say I believe there's any lack of imagination in fashion, quite the reverse - I love the new variations on old favourites consistently emerging from designers and the high street, and never fail to be unspeakably excited to try out the brand new trends that do periodically touch down from, seemingly, nowhere - but it's great for our purses and our sanity that we no longer have to risk an ASBO from the fashion police for refusing to compromise on our own personal style. Anything goes - one of the best examples, in my opinion, of the hugely positive impact blogging and street style have had on the fashion makers - we rule now baby!

But how do you take those faithful friends skipping through the snow and out into the sunshine, and what if you're in desperate need of some new classics to add to your personal treasure trove? I've chosen 6 key transitional pieces from Next's SS13 collection, encompassing some of my personal perennials - the peplum, leather, prints, the maxi, the shift dress and wedge high tops - along with the clothing and accessories I'd pair them with (a) whilst yellow weather warnings are still in effect (whilst still ensuring that you wouldn't have looked out of place on an SS13 catwalk, obvs), and (b) once the sun (hopefully) banishes those grey clouds. Click on item names to view on the Next website.

The Peplum

Peplum Top: £12
Winter - Stripe Pencil Skirt: £20, Zebra Print Scarf: £10, Toe Cap Ankle Boots: £42
Spring - Skinny Trousers: £24, Monochrome Tote: £30, Sheer Mesh Shoe Boots, £40 (All Next)

Ah how I love thee, let me count the ways - your curve enhancing and concealing properties, your flirty '40s feel... This polka dot version gives the ladylike silhouette such a fun twist. Wear it now with a pencil skirt, silky scarf and polished ankle boots for an architecturally authentic vintage vibe given an of-the-moment spin with monochrome print mixing. For spring, try pairing monochrome with pastel tones - these trousers present a subtly sophisticated take on candy sweet summer shades, and the similarly-hued shoes will lengthen legs.


PU Pencil Skirt: £28
Winter - Animal Print Peplum Top: £26, Cream Knit Sparkle Biker Jacket: £42, Black Studded Point Ankle Boots: £70
Spring - Boxy T-Shirt: £14, Sporty Mesh Shoe Boots: £38, Cobalt Neon Grab Bag: £28 (All Next)

The leather pencil skirt represents the perfect marriage of lady and rock chick (I use the term "rock chick" far too much, but no more appropriate epithet appears to be forthcoming). For chillier climes, a 3/4 sleeved peplum top and Chanel-esque knitted jacket collude with the ladylike silhouette whilst contrasting satisfyingly with the tough fabric. The animal print and fierce boots make plain that the lady has 'tude (along with the presence of mind to ensure her ankles stay toasty). For a slightly more free-and-easy-feeling spring look, a slouchy striped T-shirt is the perfect foil for the sculpted skirt. I'd tuck it in and team with these mesh shoe boots for a stunning sports luxe look. For a more relaxed feel, I'd leave it loose and pair with the wedge high tops featured below. The cobalt blue bag adds a fun pop of colour.


Floral Print Jacket: £55, Floral Print Trousers: £35
Winter - Sparkle Tape Vest: £28, A-Line Tote Bag: £24, Sheer Mesh Shoe Boots: £40
Spring - Navy Floral Laser Vest: £30, Bowler Bag: £32, Neon Cut-Out Sport Shoe Boots: £32 (All Next)

Florals have been part of my AW wardrobe for the first time this season - pieces with dark base tones like this drool-worthy suit are the perfect investment for year-round frolics! I think I would go without hot water for a week for this... For winter, I'd add a snuggly plain knit, ankle boots and a bright block-coloured bag to up the fun factor. For spring, I'd go for all-out floral overload with a printed shell top and bag in similar (but not matching) tones - if you can't have fun in a floral suit, when can you? I (reluctantly) drew the line at floral shoes, however - these cut-out shoe boots add a funky graphic touch.

The Maxi

Lace Maxi Dress: £78
Winter - PU Biker Jacket: £55, Cream Enamel Buckle Waist Belt: £12, Black Glam Western Boots: £65
Spring - Martine Western Tassel Earrings: £30, Martine Western Tassel Pendant: £57, Tan and Yellow Double Wrap Belt: £12, Black Fringe Across-the-Body Bag: £28, Patent Demi Wedges: £45
Evening - Silver Clutch: £22, Glitzy Mid Heel Peep Toe Shoes: £32, Silver Embellished Waist Belt: £24 (All Next)

Another thing I didn't believe anyone but flamenco dancers wore all year round until a year or two ago... the maxi dress is so much more versatile than it first appears - keeping you cool in summer, warm in winter (no one will know if you sneak a pair of tights underneath!), full length and fabulous in the evening and oozing boho chic during the day. Great with cowboy boots and a leather biker in cooler weather, accompanied by wedges, fringing and long-and-danglies for a summery '70s feel, or set off by a few carefully-chosen glitzy accessories for optimum glamour, whatever the season.

The '60s Shift

Apricot Shift Dress: £45
Winter - House of Holland Polka Dot Tights: £12, Long Sleeve Chiffon Mix Top: £14, Black Lace Shoots: £45, Black and White Spot Scarf: £10
Spring - Pink Laser Across-the-Body Bag: £28, Neon Chain Earrings: £12, Multi Printed Block Heel Sandals: £35 (All Next)

Effortlessly chic, endlessly cute, and the perfect day-to-night staple for all seasons. Cold arms? Never fear - layer this long-sleeved lovely underneath and they'll be safely encased in chiffon all day long. Quirky polka dot tights, a matching scarf and cut-out lace shoots complete your weatherproof retro look. When it warms up, bare those arms and maximise the fun go-go girl vibe with neon earrings, a candy-toned bag and a statement floral platform.

The Wedge High-Top

Wedge High-Tops: £40
Winter - Geo Lace Sweater: £16, Zip Detail Chinos: £26, Lime Teardrop Necklace: £12
Spring - Chiffon Mix Shell Top: £12, Animal Print Jersey Trousers: £22, Holographic Clutch: £18 (All Next)

Unlike many doubters (you know who you are), I've loved these from day one, despite my romantic vintage-inspired tendencies - urban funk + long legs = win! Great with a military-inspired khaki look for winter - just add a neon necklace to spice things up a bit. For effortless sports-luxe cred when it heats up a bit, a sheer panelled shell top and animal print harems will take you anywhere (minus achey feet - yes!). This must-be-mine holographic clutch will add some new season dazzle.

What winter staples will you be taking into spring? Will you still be sparkling in sequins or living it up in leather?

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Saturday, 26 January 2013

Snow Style...

I've actually spent much of the last 2 months complaining that it's been far too warm - temperatures should not be in double figures in the UK during "winter" months, it's just wrong. Before I ditch my 100 denier mustard tights and midnight blue velvet in favour of floral playsuits and cat-eye sunnies, I want to make the most of faux fur and full-length coats! My "prayers" were answered when snow finally hit my part of London last week (making me eat my words just a little bit, because it was so heavy even I didn't fancy shopping in it). Here are a few of this year's below-freezing outfits... I still have many more waiting in the wings, but apparently we're shooting back into double figures tomorrow, pah! Is it just me, or has the UK become permanently stuck on autumn? We barely need summer or winter clothes at all these days!

I do kinda wish I'd managed to get some pictures in the snow, but I didn't really fancy sliding around in the car park with my tripod! Maybe next time...

From Russia With Love

Coat, gloves and ear muffs: All Primark (Past Seasons), Bag: Accessorize (Past Season)

I believe this 2-year-old full-length military style coat was genuinely a lifetime investment purchase - it was the most expensive item Primark had ever sold at the time (£50 - I think this year's version was about £5 more!) but sooo beautifully cut - I think of it as a cross between Edwardian army officer and governess! The accessories lend it a Russian vibe - furry ear coverings are definitely one of the primary bonuses of sub-zero temperatures.

Dress: Warehouse (Past Season), Belt: Primark (Current), Boots*: Boohoo (Current)
*Part of my #PartyPose People's Choice Winner's Haul

Underneath, I was wearing another staple which has served me well through numerous winters past - this 4-year-old Warehouse sweater dress plus super thick tights is my go-to instant outfit in cold weather - so classic and easy to dress up or down with accessories, but with a bit of personality stemming from those amazing puffed sleeves. I chose the boots as part of my Boohoo win - after a couple of winters stuck in wellies for weeks (albeit wedge-heeled wellies), I was determined to find at least one pair of stylish snow-resistant boots this season! I'm happy to report that these fit the bill perfectly - really comfortable, with no seepage!

Jean Genie

Jeans: Miss Selfridge (Past Season), Jumper: Jane Norman (Past Season), Jacket: New Look (Past Season), Headband: River Island (Current), Belt: As Above, Boots: As Above

You may or may not have noticed that you don't often see me in jeans (if I wear them too often, I get attractive white seam-lines imprinted in my tan!), but jeans, jumper, over-the-knee boots and fur jacket comprise my other typical "really frickin' cold" ensemble. The velvet headband locks in a bit of warmth and adds some boho chic pizzazz without overwhelming the outfit as a hat might.

Disco Parka

This is about as casual as I ever get... The mummy of all the lifetime-of-service staples I seem to have featured in this post, this parka is 6 years old and still the most useful coat I own (- it has a hood! and loads and loads of pockets!) I can never do casual without a bit of a glam twist though - disco pants trumped jeans, patent wedge hi-tops trumped matte flats, and the tee just had to be rhinestone-encrusted!

Disco Pants: Boohoo (Current), T-Shirt and Trainers: Primark (Current)

Have you been styling out the snow wherever you are?

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Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Shoes, Glorious Shoes...

It's not an exaggeration to say that shoes were my first love - before I gave a fig about bags, belts or the nuances of necklines, my heart used to skip a beat when I came across an Office ad in Just Seventeen. My growing obsession with clothes and accessories in all their forms has eclipsed my footwear-mania in recent years, but my shoes and boots are still my babies - asking me to choose a favourite pair from my collection of c.100 is like asking someone to name their favourite child! But, having being challenged to do just that by Next and Laura from A Daisy Chain Dream (for the chance to win £500 worth of new ones!), I've given the unthinkable some thought...

My collection spans all heel heights and the gamut of styles, from Marilyn Monroe to Lady Gaga (I really wanted to show you more of them, but I think I need my own photography studio for that... or an aircraft hangar). There are so many different forms of shoe love - for the ones that go with anything, the ones that add half a foot to your leg length, the ones you can barely walk in but are content just to stare at (and occasionally sacrifice your sanity to wear), the ones that let you trudge through puddles and snow without stripping you of your painstakingly sharpened edge...

But in the end I decided on the pair that allow me to shop (my most basic need, besides food and sleep). Despite more than a decade spent clambering into all manner of wondrous creations, my feet stubbornly refuse to acclimatise to the lowest of heels for longer than about 30 minutes of sustained walking/meandering - which is clearly a major obstacle to my favoured 8-hour-long shopathons. In this respect, these super-soft Topshop ballet pumps have been a lifesaver. I picked them up on a shopping trip with my mum in Croydon a year or two ago, when, only a couple of stores in, the deceptively torturous pumps I was wearing were already making me want to cry. They saved the day, and I've relied on them more times than I can count since, on so many days when boots or trainers would have been sartorially and/or meteorologically inappropriate.

Their classic style and neutral shade work with nearly any outfit, but, sadly, "real" ballet flats like these don't last forever... So, on the lookout for my next foot-saving pair, I've been tempted by these gorgeous T-bar flats, £30, from Next - again, their elegant style and tones make them the perfect base for nearly all sartorial accompaniments, but their vintage-chic twist would also be a boon for those occasions/outfits when ballet slippers just aren't "grown-up" or special enough, and the gorgeous metallic touches would even see you through dinner and drinks! I've always loved the classic '30s style T-bar heel, but I'm even more in love with the new wear-anywhere versions - first the M&S wedge, and now flats, thank the Lord! Whilst they would work with a billion and one outfits, I've also put together my perfect throw-it-on spring/summer shopping-to-evening ensemble to go with them...

Aaand just for good measure, here are my other top lust-haves from Next's new collection - I've always had a soft spot for their shoes - have cherished the pewter ankle cuff ones, above, for about 5 years now!

  1. Mesh Shoe Boots, £40: You can't beat a good shoe boot - the mesh detailing gives these a sexy edge, perfect with a sports luxe look or leather, or to funk up an LBD. They also come in nude, perfect for more summery ensembles.
  2. Glitzy Mid Heel Peep Toe Shoes, £32: Glittery midi heels - what a wonderful idea - feel like Cinderella without hobbling around like an evil witch by closing time! These would probably withstand low intensity daytime activities too... fancy adding some sparkle to your summer dress anyone? Also available in black.
  3. Black Lace Peep Toe Court Shoes, £35: I'm a huge fan of black lace, and of the platform peep-toe - together they make the perfect elegant-but-sexy heel - great with formal wear, or to dress up an office-y outfit for a night out.
  4. Shimmer Noodle Strap Sandals, £38: The ultimate killer heel - I can see these with pale lace for a twist on a sweet spring/summer look, or with a leather pencil skirt for the ultimate knockout combo! Also available in silver.

To be in with a chance of bagging yourself a £500 Next gift card to spend on a new shoe-drobe, check out the details on Laura's blog.

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Monday, 21 January 2013

Review: Philip Kingsley Elasticizer vs Elasticizer Extreme

Philip Kingsley's Elasticizer products really seem to divide opinion - the original and "extreme" versions have both won numerous awards and afficionados, but also (more than?) their fair share of detractors, so, for what it's worth, I wanted to give you my take.

I first popped the original Elasticizer (created for Audrey Hepburn - you learn something new every day, hey?) into my basket whilst browsing the newly revamped M&S Beauty Hall last summer - I was desperately searching for something to take the edge off my increasingly dry, brittle and unmanageable hair, and magazine article upon magazine article had conspired to imprint me with a vague but unmistakeable impression that this was one of my best bets, crystallising when I first caught sight of it in real life.

As I told you in one of my first posts, I found it a lifesaver (or at least a mane-saver) - I'd thought my only viable option, if I wasn't prepared to continue to spend over an hour a day detangling, was to lop a foot or two off my hair length, but, instantaneously, my hair became much more manageable, with dramatic decreases in breakages and brushing time. Once I'd squeezed out the last scrap, I decided to try the Extreme version, rationalising that, if the standard version was that good, surely the "extreme" option would be even better... However, as with the John Frieda Full Repair range, I actually found that the standard version worked better for me!


How Do They Work?

Both products are pre-shampoo conditioning treatments and come with identical instructions - work into damp hair, cover with a plastic cap (I also wrap a turby towel around the cap), leave for 10-20 minutes, rinse off, and follow with shampoo and conditioner as usual. 

Manageability During Washing and Drying

After using the original Elasticizer, I noticed no difference in my hair whilst still wet, or during blow drying. When using the Elasticizer Extreme, I did find my wet hair much easier to manage, comb and dry, with fewer breakages.

Winner: Elasticizer Extreme

Appearance and Manageability After Drying

I was never unhappy with the appearance of my hair, only its lack of manageability, so, although neither of these products really made a visible difference in terms of shine or anything, that wasn't really my goal anyway. I was pleased that neither weighed my hair down or compromised on volume, although I do feel I slightly prefer the appearance of my hair after using the original Elasticizer vs the Elasticizer Extreme (which I think may just be adding the teeniest bit of frizz). 

My hair was significantly easier to manage until my next wash after using the original version - fewer tangles and breakages, and vastly reduced brushing time. With the Extreme version, to be perfectly honest, I noticed little to no improvement over regular shampoo and conditioner in terms of manageability, however much I used!

Winner: Original Elasticizer

Long-Term Effects

Any effects obtained initially last until the next wash - I do think that, as claimed, using the original Elasticizer over a prolonged period of time may have given my hair more long-lasting strength though - a moisturising shampoo and conditioner alone now give almost the same effects as I could originally obtain only with the treatment (I suppose this may go some way to explain why the Extreme version didn't then affect me so dramatically?!). The original version also provides some UV protection and is meant to help retain colour.

Winner: Original Elasticizer

Would I Recommend Them?

I would have no hesitation in recommending the original Elasticizer to anyone suffering from dry, brittle and/or unmanageable hair. If you've tried the Elasticizer Extreme and it hasn't worked for you, don't be put off testing the "standard" version! Having said that, don't necessarily let my experiences put you off trying the Extreme version either - different products have different effects on different hair, and I assume at least some of those beauty editors who spend half their time raving about it must genuinely believe in it!

Where to Buy

You can order directly from the Philip Kingsley website - they stock several sizes of each product, including 20ml samples for £3.70, and offer a reward scheme, useful if you do become an addict - you can also read tons more customer reviews... Or there's always good old M&S!

Disclaimer: I have incorporated some affiliate links within this post, so, if you do decide to purchase any products after clicking on them, I will earn a few pennies, but I promise that, as ever, this has in no way compromised the honesty of my review - I had planned to write this post long before I was even aware of the existence of an affiliate program.

Have you tried either of these products? Do you swear by any other hair treatment gems?

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Saturday, 19 January 2013

Midi Mania - 5 More Ways to Wear

I think my original How to Wear the Midi post still retains the honour of being my longest-ever post, but I thought it was about time for an update, featuring a few new and old favourites!

Feline Fabulous

Dress*, Boots* and Hair Band: All Boohoo (Current)
*Part of my Boohoo #PartyPose People's Choice Winner's Haul

Having been craving a sleeveless roll-neck burgundy midi for a good couple of months, I'm over the moon with this £10 beauty I picked up as part of my Boohoo win. For a playful feel, I teamed it with the Lita-dupes that I grabbed at the same time, and the pearl cat ear hair band which I'd already begged mum to buy me for Christmas. My own cat was incredibly disturbed by my wearing this, so it must be, um, realistic?!

Vintage Vixen

Dress: As Above, Shoes: Dolcis (Past Season), Scarf: Accessorize (Past Season)

For a more ladylike look, I played up the vintage feel of the shape with a beehive (see my tutorial here if you missed it earlier this week) and classic-but-playful printed silk scarf and courts. For a slightly different twist, I'd like to try tying the scarf around my neckline instead, and leaving the beehive plain, or dressing it up with a simple Alice band or comb.

Two Shades of Grey

Dress: Primark (Current), Boots: Forever 21 (Current), Cape: Primark (Past Season)

I wore this outfit out shopping a couple of weeks ago when, believe it or not *looks out of the window at 6 inches of snow*, I was sweltering, but so desperate to wear my new Christmas boots that I didn't care! Perfect for a snowy London-in-January though (with over-the-elbow gloves!). This unassuming-but-pretty-much-perfect Primark dress seems to be quite the bloggers' "it" dress at the moment - I'm starting to see it everywhere I click! A lot of people seem to be teaming it with chunky ankle boots, so I decided to try a sleeker, more ladylike look by tucking long fitted boots under the hemline.

Caped Crusader

Skirt and Belt: Primark (Past Season), Top: Primark (Current), Cardigan: Monsoon (Past Season), Shoes: Marks & Spencer

Some more tonal colour blocking, based around an old favourite this time - the knitted pencil skirt featured back in my original post. You can't beat a good peplum-pencil combo! This ensemble was actually created purely for the purposes of enabling me to wear a cardi as a cape, since I'd just read in the Vintage Style book I got for Christmas (to be reviewed soon) about Grace Kelly wearing hers this way and was desperate to try it out!

And to Wrap it Up...

Dress: Very (Past Season), Shoes: Faith (Past Season), Jacket: Primark (Current)

I rediscovered this beautifully classic wrap dress when I was digging around in my "eveningwear" wardrobe for my Party Dress Archives post, and promptly replaced it in my "one-pieces-to-wear-any-time" wardrobe instead. I asked for this for my birthday 5 years ago, but it's something that will just be eternally stylish... The faux fur jacket plays up its vintage vibe, and dresses it up for evening, but it would work just as well with a swing jacket or blazer for day.

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