Happy birthday Diane !

It’s the very last day of 2015. And it’s also Diane von Furstenberg’s 69th birthday.

Diane has had a huge influence on womenswear, particularly due to her iconic wrap dress, first introduced in 1974.  Elegant yet comfortable, the wrap dress comes in myriad colours and prints.  Made from beautiful silk jersey, the dress was a staple of many women’s wardrobes throughout the 1970s and ’80s, including my mother (she had the green and white Twig print).

Belgian-born Diane married into the German House of Furstenberg and continues to use the family name, despite divorcing Prince Egon in 1972.  Diane began designing clothes in 1970, explaining: ‘The minute I knew I was about to be Egon’s wife, I decided to have a career. I wanted to be someone of my own, and not just a plain little girl who got married beyond her desserts.’  Vogue editor Diana Vreeland declared her designs ‘absolutely smashing’.

Diane reintroduced the wrap dress in 1997, gaining loyal followers from a new generation of women (including me).  I love the wrap, but its proportions don’t work well on me as I’m short-waisted.  However, I have a number of her other dresses, including a fabulous shirt dress in monochrome Chain Link, and a green and white silk tunic in vintage print Gingko Dance.

Timeless and classic, Diane’s dresses can be worn for any occasion, which makes them a great investment.

Thanks Diane.  Happy birthday.  And happy new year everyone !

The age of elegance.

Tomorrow I will be 49 years old.  Which is, frankly, incredible.  It seems like five minutes ago I was about to turn 18!  Back then, a great family friend used to joke with me, saying ‘one day you’ll reach the age of elegance’.  I took this very seriously, however, and I would ask, ‘When? How old will I be? What will make me elegant? What will I be wearing?’  There were, of course, no easy answers to those questions.

In the intervening 31 years, I’ve learned a lot about what ‘elegance’ means.  I believe it comes down to two elements: acceptance and simplicity.  Accepting who you are now (not a decade ago, or an unachievable idea of who you might be one day), and embracing simplicity.

I use this approach with my clients too, helping them to make the best of themselves as they are, right now.  I get them thinking about simplicity – paring things back, investing in the best, transcending trends.  The goal is elegance, which demands wisdom and experience.  And that, of course, comes with age…

Happy Christmas everyone !

 

How to shop the sales…

lucy and bagsThere’s no getting round it. The sales have started – two weeks before Christmas.  Karen Millen, DvF, All Saints, Whistles and Kurt Geiger are all underway, not to mention my favourite independent boutiques such as Question Air.  So how do you ensure that you get the key pieces you’ve been waiting for, without being distracted by the dross or deals that are ‘too good to be true’ ?

Here are my five top tips for savvy sales shopping:

  • Do your research online and make a list of the items you’re after.  Stick to it!  If you know your size in a particular brand, go ahead and order it.  But remember, sizing varies widely across (and within) designers and brands, so it’s always best to try before you buy
  • Go early.  After the couple of weeks, all the good pieces are gone.  By the time January arrives, there will be nothing left but ‘bargains’ that no one wanted in the first place
  • Don’t get distracted by a ‘fantastic’ item at an amazing price that goes with absolutely nothing else you own – you’ll never wear it (see rule 5 below)
  • Think ‘investment’: the sales are a great time to snap up that fab winter coat, bag or leather skirt that you’ve had your eye on for weeks
  • Avoid costly mistakes by following the 3-7-14 rule.  American Glamour Magazine recently shared this.  Basically, if you buy something and you don’t wear it within 3 days (evening wear excepted) you clearly wearen’t that excited about it in the first place.  If you haven’t worn it in 7 days, you probably won’t.  Return it within 14 days or you will be throwing money away.  How’s that for focusing the mind ?

So elbows at the ready…  And remember, I’m always happy to advise you on building a wardrobe that works for you and your lifestyle, so do get in touch.

birthday shoes

 

The way Daphne wears it…

Please note that the images shown are scanned in from ‘The Way We Wore’.

DaphneLast weekend I had the privilege of hearing Daphne Selfe speak about her recent book, The Way We Wore, at the Lewes Speakers Festival.  According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Daphne is the oldest working model in the world, at the age of 87.  You’ve probably seen her in the Sunday Times and in campaigns for Dolce and Gabbana and & Other Stories. You can also see her in ‘Fabulous Fashionistas’ on Channel 4.

She trained as a dancer, as it was one of the only ways in the ‘40s and ‘50s to go abroad regularly. Daphne was also very good at making dance costumes, having learnt sewing from her mother and at school; her sewing skills have kept her in good stead for years. She explains, ‘If you wanted something during the War, you jolly well had to make it.’

The really interesting thing about Daphne is that this is actually the second phase of her modelling career.  She did what she calls ‘bread and butter’ modelling in her 20s (in the 1950s) – lots of promotional and commercial work – and then, age 70, was asked by Red or Dead to do a catwalk show.  This led to a Vogue shoot on ageing, and she has worked solidly ever since.

Like the irrepressible Iris Apfel, Daphne isn’t afraid to wear what she wants to wear. She scours charity and second hand shops for interesting pieces and knits her own jumpers, as she can’t find new ones she likes.  As her feet aren’t as good as they once were, she favours long skirts and wide legged trousers – fabulous on her tall frame.

Daphne 4 1Her advice for a long and happy life?  Eat properly (nothing out of a packet).  Exercise (she does yoga and ballet stretches every day).  Drink water.  Keep going and enjoy every minute.

Daphne’s book chronicles her life in clothes; it’s full of fashion anecdotes and is a lovely read.  Her next project? Launching an online academy to share her modelling expertise.

 

Guys: focus on festive elegance

The festive season has arrived, arguably the most social time of the year.  Sparkling occasions abound – Christmas drinks, office parties, New Year’s Eve – it’s enough to make anyone have a wardrobe crisis!  Whether planning a special date, heading out for cocktails or hosting a soiree at home, everyone wants to make an impression.  Dressing up is becoming increasingly rare in our casual 21st century world, but nothing beats it for injecting some glamour into a gathering.

Gentlemen, even if it’s a casual occasion, you still want to look like you made an effort, don’t you?  A pair of dark wash jeans and a simple shirt worn with a v-neck jumper is a good starting point.  Add some ‘oomph’ by topping it off with a black leather jacket or contrasting blazer (in wool or tweed).  For evening, keep the colour palette neutral – think black, grey and navy – it will be more than appropriate and inject a bit of elegance.

pocket square. copyIf you’re heading straight out to a more formal festive do, by all means wear your office suit, but don’t make it look like one.  What do I mean by that?  Well, lose the tie, for starters, and unbutton your top button.  You will still look sharp (assuming your shirt and suit fit well) but less like you’ve just left work.  A suit with some pattern or texture (grey check or tweed, for example) will also be more interesting, especially if you add a pocket square.

Stepping up the formality a bit, a dark grey or navy suit will take you almost anywhere, particularly when worn with a classic French cuff shirt fastened with cufflinks (every man should have at least one in their repertoire).  Oh, and worn with a tie, of course.  For sharp tailoring options on the high street, try Jigsaw menswear, Reiss, J Crew or even M&S.  Better yet, seek inspiration from men’s online clothing and lifestyle destination Mr Porter.

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For black tie events, choose a dinner suit in black or midnight blue (the Duke of Windsor’s favourite) in wool.  A velvet jacket in navy or bottle green is also very contemporary, and can be worn with (or without) a richly coloured patterned tie (not a bowtie), pocket square and plain trousers.  If you’re going to buy a full dinner suit, look to Austin Reed or Reiss.  For velvet jackets, take a look at John Lewis.

Here’s to festive elegance. Enjoy !