Fashion Favourites: Comfy Converse

Fashion

I think Alexa Chung said it best when she made the claim that there is nothing geekier than clean Converse. Although, I am probably mis-quoting her. I have read her words so much now that her thoughts have somehow become fused with my own (and her musings on heartbreak have almost made me believe that I am ok). But, anyway, she is right. Always right.

However, once they are well worn in, suitably scruffy and perfectly pre-loved, there is nothing so effortlessly cool. Even my daughter agrees.

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It did take me some time to nail this look though. My first pair (a pair of postbox red hightops) were worn as a probably inappropriate footwear choice to my primary school sports day. Even with a final hair flick as I crossed the finish line and checked out the competition it is little wonder I failed to finish first. And, teamed with neon nylon cycling shorts and a matching crop top, I cannot say that I am sad to see the demise of VHS.

During my teens I failed to fully appreciate how one simple style choice could completely change a look and make an outfit appropriate for almost any outing. Instead I was busy lusting after the latest Reebok Classics or working out how I could get away with walking out the house on a Saturday afternoon in a pair of purple platforms. It may be cliched, but as you grow up you certainly find your fashion feet.

And ok, they may not be the most original choice. You are unlikely to be stopped in the street and complimented by a stranger for your shoe selection. But, sometimes, isn’t it nice just to blend in a bit? To find that comfortable fit and to feel free of fear of awkwardness or even an anxiety over making a statement that says too much.

They may only be shoes, but they are a start.

Fashion Favourites: Killer Heels

Fashion

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I have loved high heels for as long as I can remember. Long before I felt my stomach flip as I watched the older girls at school pass by in their platforms. Shoe envy. Maybe even as far back as when the sound of my Godmother tip-toeing down the street in stilettos barely made my tiny body stir in its sleep. Who knows? But it is in me. Love, real love.

I don’t consider it a problem. Never an addiction. Where is the harm? Who does it hurt? Certainly not me. However, others don’t always agree. My boyfriend often kindly suggests I wear ballet pumps out and carry my much loved heels in my bag until we arrive at our destination (he is too smart to simply question their comfort). But he wouldn’t understand. He has never worn them. And, when I was pregnant at work, the height of my heels even featured on my risk assessment. I was a good girl and complied (just) but it only made my desire deeper.

You see, the ones I really love aren’t even meant for walking, let alone work. The perfect heel is most definitely impractical. If you get it right, you will need a taxi. And maybe a day booked in bed with your legs elevated. If you are lucky. They should speak before the rest of your outfit and let the room know that you mean business. The colour is irrelevant, the style of the shoe is neither here nor there. You see, when you are searching for that beautiful boost; size matters.

Fashion Favourites: The Perfect Parker

Fashion, Uncategorized

So, when I became a parent I decided it was probably about time to grow up and consider practicalities when making my outfit choices. This resulted in some rather mixed results; sensible flats are something I still struggle with, I find myself all too often choosing between two pairs of nearly identical skinny jeans and I am yet to find the perfect colour to mask the multitude of messes a toddler might make on any given day.

However, this decision did lead me to make an excellent purchase; the perfect parker!

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Some questioned my choice of purchase at the start of the month of July but, fortunately(?), I soon developed mastitis and spent the summer shivering. Since then I have worn it almost every day of the last two years…bar those all too sparse days of British sunshine.

I cannot fault it. It is the quintessential khaki colour, has a huge fur trimmed hood, a detachable warm white lining and pockets large enough to contain a phone, purse, a muslin, gloves (mine and my daughters), a hat, a selection of small toys, keys and an all important bottle of diet coke. Impressive, I know.

And as I reacquainted myself with it of a rainy day I realised just how much I love it. The fur is starting to thin and the lining is not as white as it once was but I’m simply not sure I’m ready for a replacement…

Going to new lengths…

Fashion

Over time, I have come to discover that those last few weeks in August can be something really special. Growing up in a household full of teachers (and going on to continue that tradition), the summer break can often be quite a testing time with all that free time you really should be spending together. But as the holidays draw to a close and thoughts fast forward to the academic year ahead, I have learnt to find an opportunity to think selfishly and fall in love with all that might be…

And, for me, that always includes clothes.

As a teenager, my mum would make time to take me shopping at this time of year; often to Oxford Street where I would be able to project my small town self in to a world where I might be able to wear what I wanted and, in turn, be someone I dreamed I could be. She would (in the main) bite her tongue as I picked up shoes, dresses and skirts that were probably inappropriate and always impractical and then, over lunch out, listen as I endlessly weighed up the pros and cons before drawing my conclusions. I take shopping very seriously. If I was lucky (and I often was. Much luckier than I probably deserved.), I would return on the train clutching a few bags of favoured items to walk the streets of my home town in as if it were an international catwalk. (Thinking back, I remember a little too fondly a lilac Pineapple strappy dress worn with yellow Reebok classics which sadly tells you sometime about my fourteen year old style. But that is another story for another day…)

And yesterday, we re-embarked upon this tradition. Albeit a trip to Milton Keynes with my dad and daughter in tow, sandwiches consumed with a toddler having a tantrum on a bench and my hasty exit as I hurried off to view a house. Oh, to be a grown up! However, in keeping with tradition, I was much luckier than I deserved and returned with a new jacket.

This gave me the bug.

When I woke up this morning to the best bit of the day I picked up my phone (as I always do) and began browsing. Soon I discovered I have a new favourite must have item: midi skirts.

So here are a few of my favourites…

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This full skirt in washed blue is simple, affordable and in a soft colour to see through those remaining summer days.

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The button down the front of this make it just beautiful!

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I have never been able to resist tartan!

As I looked at skirt after skirt I saw why this length is for me; long enough for work, no flashing my pants as I play with my daughter and no doubts over age appropriateness that leave me feeling old.

The I remembered I had already bought one before I left for holiday! A full skirt made of a stiff fabric in a lovely mink colour with pockets! What could be more perfect? And it even matches my new jacket! Bliss!

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Permission slip

Fashion, Uncategorized

Fellow girls,

I want to share a secret with you. Something more like a confession. Something you may find shocking. Something I’m a little ashamed to admit;

I have let my standards slip.

I have always been a little high maintenance when it comes to my appearance. And, ok, I don’t spend thousands on nail technicians or hairdressers. Essentially because I am too much of a control freak, but also because I don’t have the money. But I always did have the time. And the inclination.

I would spend hours getting ready for a night out. Often the best bit (and certainly the part I could remember), I would painstakingly apply product after product with expert precision. Primer and base and powder and bronzer and blusher and shadow and highlighter…the list is endless.

And I loved it all.

I planned outfits to within an inch of their life. Entire phone conversations, taking place days in advance, would be devoted to discussing the outfit options. Always accessorised appropriately; complimentary shoes and bag, statement jewellery, well fitting (and, yes, always matching) underwear; a look for every occasion.

And hair. Hair was always my favourite.

I am proud to say I am a perfectionist. But perfect is a problem.

At first others told me this. Apparently getting up at 4.30am on a work day Wednesday to wash and style your hair before trying on every item of clothing in your wardrobe, rejecting them all and then refusing to go to work because you have cried so hard your make up is ruined is not normal behaviour. I didn’t believe them.

And then it happened. Time was no longer on my side and so it started with the eyeliner…

Terrified, I ventured out with tired eyes . Too sore. I simply couldn’t look.

And do you know what happened? Did the universe implode upon itself? Did strangers stop, gasp and recoil in horror as I passed them in the street? Did friends pretend not to see me and turn the other way?

No. Nothing. No one even noticed.

They failed to notice the day I got up late and opted for dry shampoo. Or when I forgot to buy a new foundation. Or wore a skirt with slightly stubbly legs.

And that made me sad. Why, you may ask, was I sad that something dreadful, terrible or horrific failed to happen? But it is my hope that I am not alone in knowing the answer because that would simply be sadder still.

The truth is this: I have wasted over fifteen years of my life believing that how I looked made an impact, that how I looked mattered, that how I looked even changed the world. Wasted time.

And I may not be ready to ditch that make up bag completely. And I can’t ever see myself opting for sensible shoes. But that decision may now be driven more by love than fear.

So this is me giving myself and, in turn, you, permission to lower the standards. To give yourself a day off. To forgive yourself for your flaws.

Permission to be imperfect.

Because who knows what else doesn’t really matter?

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The best dress I never wore

Family, Fashion, Love, Uncategorized

I am single.

Yes, I have a child and am in a, generally loving, mainly stable, relationship with her father. We live together and share a Tesco clubcard. I wash his dirty clothes and he kisses my make-up-free-face goodnight at 8.32pm when I tire of small talk and head off to my clearly defined side of our shared bed.

But give me a form to complete and (married/single/divorced) I can’t argue with the facts. I’m single. Miss.

And, most of the time, I am fine with this. I see the escalating costs of the average wedding and rattle off a list of everything I could do or buy if I had that sort of money. I remind myself of how utterly useless I am at parties; how I wouldn’t know how to talk or behave, would get drunk, do something I would undoubtedly regret, make a complete fool of myself, remember nothing of it the next day and spend at least a fortnight berating myself for everything I had ever said or done. I tell myself that it is just a meaningless bit of paper. I laugh when joint post arrives with my would be married name printed proudly next to his. And, most of the time, I am fine.

Most of the time.

At Christmas my brother got married. And almost every day since my daughter has insisted on watching the video of their first dance. Mariah Carey warbles those opening lines as the photographer clicks away in the background and the happy couple launch in to some very dubious moves. Then, the other day, as the video froze to a still screen, she looked down at her white muslin draped across her chest and asked me the question:

Mummy, where’s your princess dress?

And the words sounded like they had travelled straight from my distant heart.

For a second I froze before finding my smile. From there I explained how Mummy doesn’t have a dress like that. How Mummy doesn’t need one. How one dress and one day aren’t important. How Mummy is special anyway.

Too much information for someone not quite two.

And then she turned and headed towards the wardrobe to pull skirts from their hangers and climb amongst high heels.

And I’m fine with these too.

Most of the time.

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Retail therapy

Family, Fashion, Uncategorized

I love buying presents. I love the buzz of seeing something and just knowing it would make someone you love smile. And, at this time of year I have quite a few good excuses.

But maybe that buzz is just the excuse for some guilt free shopping!

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Once upon a time I used to spend half my life traipsing round shops. It didn’t matter where I was, I could find something to buy. Lengths of Oxford Street or the local newsagent when popping out to pick up a paper, it didn’t matter to me. I could never tire of, in the words of a friend who doesn’t quite share the same passion, ‘looking at objects’.

But, as a mum, the experience is now a little different. It was almost no trouble when she was a baby (although I didn’t realise it at the time!). Strap her in the pushchair and off I would go. In minutes she would be asleep and I would be free to roam anywhere with aisles wide enough to accommodate us.

But taking a toddler is simply more trouble than it is worth. For one, she simply doesn’t have the pace or stamina. And anyone who has wrestled with an eighteen month old on the floor of Topshop whilst carrying an armful of neon crop tops and being judged simultaneously by a group of school girls for a) being a horrid mother and b) having no sense of style (I’m not sure which feels worse!), will understand why this is an experience you are unlikely to want to repeat.

So, that leaves online shopping. Hardly a new discovery but something I was very dubious of at first. When would I feel the buzz? But now I am fully converted. My mobile phone has become a one-stop solution to all my purchase needs. And wants…

Because that is what online shopping has become for me; escapism. Online, money is no object and I need no excuse. But that has now become the problem. I’ve no sense of focus. I begin with a simple search on Amazon and soon I am lost. Too many options. Too much choice. I begin to doubt myself and that feeling of certainly I once had when I saw the thing, the item, the object that was just right.

And that’s escapism for you. A sense of losing yourself that feels great as you wander off down a different road. But, once you are lost, you are lost.

And finding your way back can be a very difficult journey indeed.

An obsession begins…

Fashion, Uncategorized

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I have been obsessing about this Mango jacket since last week.

I spied it whilst killing time at Barcelona airport last Thursday and haven’t been able to get it off my mind. I scoured ASOS for it the second I got a 3G connection when I returned home so I could put it’s purchase down to a ‘one click’ impulse buy. But it wasn’t there. So, I found it on Mango’s online website and have walked around with the web page open on my iPhone ever since. I could buy it (I’m not made of money but, I the words of my friend Rebecca, I’m not poor) if I really wanted or needed it. And I probably will. (In spite of some rolled eyes and comments when it arrives home about the excessive number for clothes I already own!)

But really needing or wanting it are not what this story are about….

When I was 13 I used to bug my mum like crazy for clothes. Again, not poor, just reliant on her handouts! My teenage BFF and I had expensive taste too. But, I repeat, this isn’t about the money. Like most teenage girls, we spent out Saturdays trailing round the shops and (in the days before an ASOS app at our fingertips) flicked through endless magazines to sources our latest styles. I’m not sure there are quite the right words to describe these!

It was beginning to be about transformation.

And when the 1995 local sport centre’s Saturday Night Valentines Disco rolled around (not literally, the roller disco was held there on a Sunday) I knew exactly who I wanted to be.

Now, I have already stressed that this is not about money and so I hope the 13 year old me’s outfit of choice serves to highlight this; a Miss Selfridge aqua blue camisole nightie, costing approximately £5 in the sale, worn as a dress.

Now, based upon this description you may have a very clear image of the person I would be and, let’s face it, in retrospect, your impression is probably the accurate one. But, in my head, I was stylish. In my head I was unique. In my head I was sexy. In my head this outfit would make my night, change my life and, primarily, make Dax Brand fall head over heals in love with me.

I left the disco (collected promptly by my mum at 11pm) with heavy panda eyes slipping down my cheeks (the risk I chose to take experimenting with the smoky eye look as an emotionally unstable teen) and sobbing in to my BFFs lime green, chain belted mini dress (apologies to Amy as this dress may not have been worn on said night but serves the purpose of my story well and definitely existed!)

The spell was broken. The magic didn’t work. But that wasn’t the end.

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Since then (and possibly even before. I recall the pain of longing for a pair of Clark’s magic steps.), I have believed a purchase could make my day, change my life, make me who I want to be. And, I could tell a handful or so tales where the outcome felt very different and like it had. But this is about the obsession.

What makes me feel that I need something to help me be someone else? What makes me believe I need to be someone else at all?

But, for now, back to that jacket….

Postscript – The 15 year old Dax did fall in love with the 15 year old me and we spent that summer blissfully happy!