My ‘best dressed’ list – of any year

What makes someone classify as ‘best’ or ‘worst’ dressed?  Ultimately, of course, it’s subjective, but the internet is chock full of lists of the best and worst dressed celebrities – lists that often change on a weekly basis. There’s intense scrutiny around awards season, of course, reaching a crescendo each February at the Oscars and then again each May at Cannes.

I have my own list of those celebrities, male and female, that I think tick the sartorial boxes.  So here is my list of the ten best dressed of the past half century.  Now you may disagree with some of these – in fact, I hope you do – and I’d love to hear your comments.  You’ll see that some of these people (my top five, in fact) are no longer with us.  As you have probably gathered by now, my taste is skewed towards classic style found in the mid to late twentieth century.

My ten best dressed

  1. Cary Grant: as I’ve written previously in this column, Mr Archibald Leach was often cited as one of Hollywood’s best dressed men. No-one wore a suit quite like him. Watch North by Northwest if you don’t believe me
  2. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: whether posing in pillbox hats in the White House days or rocking white jeans on Capri, the late great Jackie O always wore it well
  3. David Bowie: do I have to explain?
  4. Diana, Princess of Wales: as many others before me have said, it was fascinating watching her evolve from a gawky Laura Ashley-wearing Sloane into an international style icon
  5. Steve McQueen: the ‘King of Cool’, equally at home in a t-shirt and leather bomber, a polo neck and jacket, or ultra-sharp tailoring
  6. Queen Letizia of Spain: from newsreader to queen consort, this woman never puts a foot wrong. She’s often seen in Hugo Boss, but also in high street pieces, particularly Zara (obviously).  She’s a fan of Adolfo Dominguez, too (one of my favourite Spanish labels)
  7. Roger Federer: I love the fact that he’s created his own elegant post-match look by donning a crisp white monogrammed blazer.
  8. Sophia Loren: epitomises timeless Italian style.  At age 81, she still gets it right.  But then, she is Italian.  They are born with an innate sense of elegance, knowing that simplicity is key and less is more.
  9. Bill Nighy: evidently his favourite article of clothing is his light blue Margaret Howell shirt, and his favourite accessory is his dark blue polka dotted scarf (also Margaret Howell).  But I loved him best in the white and black splattered suit in Love, Actually
  10. Helena Bonham Carter: yes, really.  Stick with me on this one.  She often looks outrageous and quirky – but that’s the point – she has her own look and she is true to it.  And somehow she always manages to pull it off, due to her fabulous English eccentricity.

So there you have it, my ten best-dressed.  I’d love to hear who yours are.  Happy New Year !

Networking etiquette: six golden rules

We’re deep into autumn and the business networking whirl is in full swing.  Back in June, I delivered a training session to a group of entrepreneurs on the rules for ‘dressing for networking success’.   We talked about not only how to dress, but how you should behave when networking.

One of the reasons my business is called style&grace is because I believe how you present yourself is equally as important as how you dress.  How you speak, how you treat others and how you carry yourself matter.  Your manners and behaviour should complement and enhance your look, not undermine it.  In other words, it all comes down to good etiquette.

Here are my six golden rules for networking etiquette:

  1. Introduce yourself clearly, and bring people into the conversation
  2. Shake hands firmly – make eye contact and smile as you do so
  3. Keep your right hand free for that firm handshake
  4. If you forget a name – say so ! Don’t be British and embarrassed about it.  Repeating names back works for me (and many politicians)
  5. Don’t pig out or drink too much !
  6. Follow up with those contacts that you’d like to meet again by email, LinkedIn, phone, handwritten note – whatever works for you and is appropriate

And finally, take a genuine interest in other people.  This is demonstrating the best manners of all, and is sadly lacking these days.  You’ll be amazed at what you learn about them and the common ground you may find.

rules-for-networking-etiquette

 

 

 

 

Eleven steps to effortless elegance, every day

effortless-elegance-4Elegance is defined as being ‘graceful and stylish in appearance or manner’.  This is quite a feminine definition, but I firmly believe that elegance can apply equally to men too.  (In fact, I stepped into the beautiful Flemings Hotel in Mayfair this week, for a preview of Winser London’s A/W collection, and the man who greeted me simply oozed effortless elegance.)  Nevertheless, it certainly describes something that is intangible.  And elegance is not just about what you wear, it’s about how you wear it and, even more importantly, how you behave while doing so.

It’s telling that when we talk about elegance, we often cite icons from the effortless-elegance-3past, rather than our contemporaries. Now it’s true, there are incomparable men and women (particularly from the mid twentieth century) who practically embody the word (Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Mason, Katharine Hepburn… I could go on) but there are plenty of modern examples too. Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba are elegant. Mark Ronson has abandoned youthful trendiness for grown-up elegance. Mr Beckham certainly has it. And so do the Duchess of Cambridge, Joanna Lumley, Catherine Deneuve and Aung San Suu Kyi. Jane Fonda certainly has it at the age of 78.  Yes, many of these women are older; designer Bruce Oldfield once said that elegance comes with age: women in their 50s, 60s and beyond wear ‘simple good quality clothes… they just get it right’.

effortless-elegance-1But let’s face it, modern life is not exactly conducive to appearing or, for that matter, behaving elegantly.  It is all about comfort and convenience.  Eating on our sofas in front of the television.  Not engaging in meaningful conversation as a result.  Table manners are neglected (are there such things as sofa manners?)

Now I’m not suggesting we return to the stiff formality of years gone by. But in these uncertain and divisive times, wouldn’t it be nice to restore a bit of old-school propriety?  There are some simple things we can all do to up our elegance stakes.  Here are my eleven…

 Eleven steps to effortless elegance

  1. Wear clothes that fit you properly.  Without a good fit, you will never achieve elegance
  2. Get items altered if you need to, to make them fit (modern high street sizing is erratic and inconsistent)
  3. Keep it simple.  Less is always more – particularly when it comes to accessories
  4. Women: if you can’t walk in high heels, don’t
  5. Think about ‘polish’ rather than ‘flash’.  Covering yourself in designer logos does not suggest elegance – in fact it indicates the opposite
  6. Remember that clothes that are cheap, look cheap.  Buy less, but buy better
  7. You don’t have to be dressed up to the nines to look elegant.  A crisp white shirt and dark jeans often does the trick (for both men and women)
  8. Make an effort: pay attention to the way you dress (and behave)
  9. Watch your manners.  Going out of your way to make others feel comfortable will ensure that you are, too
  10. Always be gracious: courteous, kind and pleasant

and finally…

  1. Retain an air of mystery.  Don’t reveal everything (literally and figuratively).

 effortless-elegance-2

 

Everyone needs a stylist: part 2

I recently wrote that people often think it’s negative to hire a personal stylist. That by doing so, they’re admitting that they don’t know how to dress.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Politicians know that what they wear is vital to their ‘brand’, (Hillary Clinton has a styling budget) and our own PM is starting to pay more careful attention. But that’s another blog post entirely…

There are a number of very positive reasons that people hire me.  I offer honest and objective advice but there are other reasons too.  The fact is, I can save you both time and money, and reduce the stress of shopping or putting outfits together.  How?

  • I do the hard work (so you don’t have to).  I research the items you’re looking for and build relationships with the brands and boutiques that matter.  This results in better service from those retailers – and often a discount too!
  • I save you time.  By doing that research I’ve pinpointed the items that are most likely to work for you.  So you don’t have to try on loads and loads of stuff, or waste valuable time ordering and returning things.
  • I take away the pain of changing rooms, of endless searching, of being afraid to try something new. When you shop with me, I bring clothes to you ready for you to try.  No fighting with armfuls of items you’re not really sure about, getting all flustered.  You can relax in the knowledge that you’ll be getting your own personal ‘edit’.

Don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what some of my clients say:

Steve: I’ve never had the confidence to shop for clothes properly.  The small investment with Sam has paid for itself, preventing me buying the wrong stuff and my new style has already been positively noticed, even by complete strangers.

Katharine: It really is an investment in yourself.  I was hesitant to ask for help – surely by now I should know what suits me and what to wear.  Wow…what a difference Samantha makes.  She makes you feel comfortable with your own style offers ideas, recommendations and suggestions with integrity and honesty.

Susan: This is the first time I’ve ever considered working with a stylist.  After all, I could spend the money on new clothes!  I can say unequivocally that feeling great about my clothes has been invaluable.  I continue to hold Samantha’s advice in my head… it stops me from rash, impulsive shopping.  Money very well spent indeed. 

So what are you waiting for? Contact me today.

 

 

 

 

 

Guys: the ultimate guide to shorts and sandals

Mr W in his chino shorts and funky trainers

Mr W in his chino shorts and funky trainers

After a positively autumnal start to the summer, the weather is finally warming up, and evidently we are due some serious sunshine in the next week or so.  And many of you will be thinking about shorts, sandals and other holiday wear as you prepare to jet off.

Unfortunately, we Brits do not have a great reputation when it comes to hot weather dressing.  As soon as the mercury begins to climb, all sense of decorum seems to go out the window, with acres of pale skin being inappropriately revealed.  We never quite manage to look ‘effortless’ in the sun the way our Continental cousins do, and men, unfortunately, seem to particularly struggle with shorts and sandals.  Here are my tips which I hope will help you up your game this summer, whether you’re heading to Bali, Barcelona or Blackpool.

Oh, and if you need anything, stock up now while the sales are still on (you’ll find links to the key items I mention below).

Let’s talk shorts

Shorts can be a sartorial minefield for the average British man. But here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  1. First of all, get the length right.  Your shorts should end just a couple of inches above the knee – in other words, neither too short nor too long, and ideally, if they suit your frame, they should be slim cut.  If you choose denim shorts, no rips please – you are not in a boy band
  2. Tailored shorts will ensure you look the part. Make sure to choose heavy cotton (chino) rather than linen, which will crease like mad. Scotch & Soda and HE by Mango do some great options.
  3. Wear your shorts, whether they are denim or chino, with a good quality t-shirt that fits. Not a huge holey, baggy thing with a Hard Rock Café logo circa 1987, but a slim fitting, good quality version in a complementary colour.  Add a fine knit jumper (keep it fine, you don’t want to add bulk) or a stylish sweatshirt (again, no logos) when the sun goes down.  Chino shorts, by the way, look particularly sharp with a Breton striped t-shirt – this is a classic look that never dates. You can also add a casual blazer to this look to dress it up a bit.

Sandals and socks – no !

It’s hard to believe, but sandals and socks had a brief fashion moment earlier this year as Bottega Veneta styled dual strap sandals with chunky socks.  Thankfully that moment ended.  So what are the best sandals a stylish man should consider?

  • Soft leather sandals will keep your feet comfortable. Choose classic Birkenstocks (which come in a range of shapes, styles and colours) or woven sandals, which can be worn with chinos, jeans and shorts
  • Rubber pool sliders are waterproof and comfortable. These have been around for the past couple of years and will take you from poolside to bar with ease
  • Thong sandals are more substantial (and less sloppy) than a traditional flip flop. Kurt Geiger’s navy leather sandals would look great with the chino shorts-Breton t-shirt look and they’re on sale, so grab them now !

If you can’t bear to bare your feet (or invest in a pedicure), choose breathable trainers, canvas deck shoes or luxe espadrilles.  A pair of classic Converse in white or navy is an easy starting point if you’re unsure.  And to keep things fresh, invest in some footie socks that don’t show – they’ll keep your feet happy and your trainers sweet.

And remember, if you’re in any doubt about how to wear any of your summer items, or need some help with shopping, get in touch !

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone needs a stylist: part 1

men need stylist tooSome people think it’s somehow negative to hire a personal stylist.  That they’re admitting that they don’t know how to dress or that they don’t look ‘quite right’. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are a number of very positive reasons that people hire me as their personal stylist, and one of the most important is that I offer honesty and objectivity.

working hard as a stylistWe all have far too many clothes (me included), and we often have emotional attachments to them. Sometimes these emotional attachments are valid, but sometimes they are unnecessary (and can hold you back).  With so many clothes, often people can’t see the wood for the trees: it’s difficult to be objective and honest with yourself when your wardrobe is full to overflowing.  This is where a personal stylist like me can help.

And here’s something really interesting that I’ve discovered working with clients and observing people’s behaviour: sometimes our partners/best friends/spouses aren’t completely truthful about what suits us or what we should be buying.  I’ve witnessed more than one example of someone persuading his or her partner/friend not to buy something, even though that item looked great and he or she loved it.

lucy needs a stylistWhen you hire me, you get honesty and objectivity, built on a solid foundation of trust.  With my objective, non-emotional eye, I can help you:

  • make decisions about clothing that you may be having doubts about
  • get a clearer picture of your ‘style identity’, whatever that may be
  • recognise if your existing wardrobe is helping or hindering you in reaching your goals

But don’t just take my word for it.  Here’s what Katharine says:  I was hesitant to ask for help – surely by now I should know what suits me.  After all, I would be admitting to some shortcomings on my part. Wow, what a difference Samantha makes.  She makes you feel comfortable with your own style and guarantees you outfits that you have not thought of before. She offers ideas, recommendations and suggestions with integrity and honesty… I felt stylish, inspired and organised!   At a recent interview, I was easily the best dressed and it gave me more presence than the others.  I got the job…

Contact me today if you’d like to benefit from some honest and objective style advice.

creating gap list 2

How to dress for networking

I delivered a training session this week to a group of entrepreneurs on how to dress for networking.  It was a highly interactive session that prompted loads of questions and discussion, and I was struck by how many people struggle with deciding how to present themselves for networking events.

Preparation is everything

First of all (and I’ve said this before) dressing well for an important occasion (whether that’s networking, a job interview or new client meeting) requires preparation.  Putting in the prep will ensure you look your best, and give you the confidence to face any gathering with ease.   Is your suit clean ?  Do your shoes need reheeling?  Are you missing the ‘right’ top or tights ?  We all know that business is stressful enough – let’s take any last-minute clothing stress out of the equation.

Venue, format, grooming

Other points to keep in mind:

  1. Consider the venue, time of day and format of the event.  If you’re going to be standing around at an evening drinks event you may not want to wear your highest heels.  Likewise, you don’t want to be dressed to the nines for a casual coffee-shop environment
  2. Your mantra should be ‘smart, professional, appropriate’.  Always.  Don’t undermine your professional expertise by revealing too much flesh or wearing sportswear (unless that’s your business, of course)
  3. Pay attention your grooming, particularly your hair, teeth and nails.  It’s astonishing how many people neglect these small details

Remember that what you wear speaks volumes about your lifestyle and status, and you certainly want to ensure that it is sending the right messages when you’re dressing for a networking event.  If you’d like further advice, contact me for a free, no-obligation 15 minute consultation.

dress for networking

 

A trio of spa treats

I never seem to relax.  I’m not very good at it.  So when the Spa at the Grand asked me to review their Trio of Treats treatment, I jumped at the chance.  Three treatments in one and seventy minutes of ‘enforced’ relaxation !

swing_chairThe Trio of Treats is great if you can’t decide which spa treatment to choose, or don’t have time to indulge in more than one full treatment on a particular day.  It gives you three shorter (but no less effective) versions of the Spa’s most popular treatments: the back massage, express facial and body scrub – so you are pampered from top to toe.  The package also includes full use of the spa facilities, including the luxurious relaxation lounge with its fantastic day bed and seventies-style swinging chairs.

Jessica, my therapist, asked me what oils I would prefer, to tailor the treatments specifically for me.  I chose the relaxing ylang ylang oil for my back massage, and the ‘Illuminate’ products for my facial. All of the products are from the Natural Spa Factory, and contain no nasty chemicals or parabens.

geranium and grapefruit scrubI’m usually wary of back massages at spas, as they don’t usually even begin to address all my knots and tension, but Jessica was ruthless – she really got to work on them, using a sensitive massage oil.  My face was then cleansed, exfoliated and massaged, along with my decollete, and finished with a toner, serum and moisturiser.  The finishing body scrub began with a full body brush – invigorating and relaxing in equal measure – and great as it’s so hard to reach all areas yourself.  She then polished my skin with the Geranium and Grapefruit sea salt scrub, which smelled delicious – my skin has never felt so buffed and smooth.

cakeTo round off the experience, I was treated to coffee and a trio of beautiful mini patisserie as I relaxed in the café area.  It was altogether blissful ! Go on, treat yourself…

Trio of Treats is available at the Spa at The Grand, Brighton, and costs £88 for 70 minutes (Monday to Friday) or £100 on Saturday and Sunday.  To book email spa@grandbrighton.co.uk or call 01273 224300.

spa slippers

Clothes maketh the man…

Kevin Duala edited for blog

I am passionate about clothes (well, obviously).  But I also have a particular appreciation for stylish men, and it’s great to see that Brighton’s Platinum Club (of which I am a member)  certainly has its fair share of them.  They say clothes maketh the man, and that’s certainly true for Kevin Duala, Relations Manager at Overline.

I sat down with Kevin recently, to hear more about his unique style and what inspires him.

Professional with a twist

Kevin takes dressing very seriously – it’s important to him and supports his multifaceted role at Overline, which involves meeting clients, generating business and training staff.  But his passion for looking good started years ago.  He says, ‘My Dad always said you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  He instilled in me that no matter where you go or what you’re doing, make sure you look presentable.’

Kevin likes to look sharp at the office.  He told me that in previous jobs he wore what he wanted, but didn’t feel ‘ready to work’.  So he took his casual look of dark jeans and a jacket, and elevated it.  His style has evolved, and he’s now much sharper – he knows it helps him to be taken more seriously.

But Kevin also likes to add a twist to professional look.  His signature item has become his knitted ties.  The Overline team often tease him, saying ‘Kevin’s got a sock on again today’ but people notice, and they remember him as a result.

You may find it surprising that Kevin often buys from secondhand shops, picking up vintage ties, pocket squares and waistcoats.  His suits are from M&S or Debenhams, but he always gets them altered to fit exactly the way he likes – he never settles for a poor fit.  Jackets must be tapered at the waist, trousers must be slim-fitting and resting on the front of his shoe, and his tailor helps him achieve this.  In doing so, Kevin personalises his look without spending a fortune.

Kevin says, ‘I love being original.  None of my clothes are designer or flashy, but they are unique to me. And I’m good at finding classic pieces.  I recently bought a camel cashmere overcoat from Rokit vintage clothing in Covent Garden.  It was absolutely huge on me, but my tailor altered it to fit perfectly at the fraction of the cost of a brand new coat.’

Kevin’s rules for dressing:

  • don’t settle for ‘that will do’ – get things altered to fit properly
  • be original and express your personality
  • think beyond the high street – look in vintage, charity and secondhand shops (and online) to create your unique look

 

 

 

Time for some spring (wardrobe) cleaning

It’s officially spring.  The weather here in the UK is (slightly) warmer and the clocks go forward this weekend which, happily, means more light.  Spring is a great time for cleaning and decluttering, but don’t forget your wardrobe.  Here are are my top five tips that will help you keep your wardrobe under control all year round…

  1. Review it quarterly. Keep your wardrobe organised and wearable by re-examining it every few months.  What are you wearing most?  What are you not wearing?  Do you have too much?  Do you need a full detox?
  1. Make sure everything has a home.  Keep shoe boxes, for example, for storing shoes and small accessories such as belts and scarves, and dust bags for protecting handbags and clutches.  Drawers should be organised by theme (underwear, nightwear, socks and hosiery) and shelves stacked with easily folded items (jeans, jumpers).  Every item in your wardrobe should have its own ‘home’.
  1. Put items away after wearing or washing.  Once everything has a home, make sure you return the item to it after wearing or washing it.  This will help you keep things tidy.
  1. Take care of your clothes. Get items dry cleaned or repaired when they need it. They’ll look better and last longer.
  1. Pack things away seasonally. This will give you more space and you can actually see what you’ve got.  It also gives you a chance to regularly ‘edit’ things.  When packing away knitwear, make sure you protect against moths and other nasties –  Total Wardrobe Care do some good products.

Happy spring cleaning ! If you think you may be in need of a more complete wardrobe detox, contact me today.

Samantha_in window smiling

Cary Grant’s rules for dressing

Images courtesy of Simon Carter menswear.

IMG_1010_cravatCary Grant had a reputation for being sartorially superior, as it were, and was often cited as one of Hollywood’s best dressed men.  His preference were for the clothes of (in his words) a ‘well-dressed, sophisticated chap.’  Of course he even managed to look elegant when being pursued across a midwestern plain by a crop duster in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (which, by the way, required six suit changes and dozens of ties…)

Mr Grant was often asked about his ‘rules’ for dressing, and in an article for GQ/This Week said, ‘I can’t think of any rules about clothes, since there really aren’t any….’.  But he did go on to advise the following (although these are aimed at men, the first four can apply equally to women):

  • Buy [shoe] trees to conform to the shape of your shoes, and keep your coats on curved hangers
  • Don’t stuff your pockets with heavy articles and bulging wallets filled with seldom-used cards.  They ruin not only the neatness of your appearance but the actual tailoring of your suit.  (Ladies: take note where your handbags are concerned)
  • Don’t overbuy.  When you contemplate an article, judge whether or not it harmonises with items you already own
  • Take care of your clothes, keep them clean and in good repair
  • Do see that your socks stay up.  Nothing can spoil an otherwise well-groomed effect like sagging socks

IMG_1005_socks

Whether you prefer formality like Cary Grant or are happier in a more casual look, pay attention to the details.  Care about your look.  Be a style icon.

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First impressions count

This is an edited version of my latest article in Platinum Business Magazine.

first impressions quoteWe all know the saying, ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’. Will Rogers was right – first impressions count. Especially these days, when everything is so instant and image driven. Did you know that you only get about three seconds to make that impression?   That’s how long it takes for people to make a judgement about you, based on what you look like and what you’re wearing.

I’m sure you want that judgment to be as favourable as possible whether you are heading to an important meeting, networking event, job interview or meeting your future in-laws. So what are the things you should think about?

First impressions and confidence

Research tells us that when you meet someone for the first time, your eyes, your hair and your smile are the things they notice first. But they also notice your clothes. What you wear conveys specific messages about your lifestyle, status and personal style preferences. How you wear it says a lot about how you feel.

Taking pride in your appearance does not mean that you are vain or shallow. It means that you care about how you present yourself to the world. Dressing well not only enables you to alter your appearance, it can improve your mood and boosts your confidence, which is, of course, vital to making a good first impression.

Prepare, be yourself, and check the details

Whatever the occasion, and whether you are male or female, keep my three golden rules in mind:

  • Preparation is everything. Please don’t leave it to the last minute to decide what to wear to an important meeting or event. Nothing is more panic inducing than discovering a broken zipper, missing button or not having the right socks/jumper/bag etc. Try your full outfit on in advance – this will give you time for any last minute cleaning or repairs
  • Dress as you, for you. Don’t try and be someone else or what you think others expect. Ladies, if you never wear heels, don’t wear towering stilettos – you will feel (and look) very uncomfortable. Guys, if you feel most comfortable in a suit but are going to a smart casual event and don’t want to look out of place, keep it smart with dark jeans or chinos and a blazer.
  • Pay attention to the details. It goes without saying, really, but it’s surprising the number of people who neglect the small details. Clean teeth, hair and nails, please. Enough said.

Follow these and you’ll be sure to make a great impression, every time, no matter the occasion. Let me know how you get on!

 

Think fit (not exercise)

my hanging clothesEvery January, we are encouraged to go through some miraculous transformation through diet, detox and exercise, as if somehow the turn of a year demands it. (I personally think spring is a better time to do this).  But what about your clothes? They are the most visible way you present yourself to the world each day.  The most important thing to think about is ‘fit’.  And I’m not talking about exercise.

Ladies: ignore the numbers

Topshop size label 2First of all, ladies, I implore you to ignore the numbers. Today’s sizing varies widely between (and even within) brands and designers. The important points to consider are: 1) does it fit you properly (particularly at the shoulders, bust, hips and hem length)? and 2) are you comfortable wearing it?  The numbers on the label make absolutely no difference (and no-one sees them anyway).

Guys: it’s important for you, too

Fit is also vital for men.  I see so many men wearing shirts, t-shirts, jeans and trousers that are at least two sizes too big for them.  Proper fit = clothes that look better, hang better and last longer.  And consider Fashionbeans’ wise words: recognise that the fit of your clothes is just as important as how comfortable they are (Jeremy Clarkson, we’re looking at you).

Use your steely new year’s resolve to get rid of any items that you promised yourselfKaren Millen size label you would diet to fit into.  This rarely happens, and when it does, the item’s moment has usually passed.  Instead, focus on the here and now – make the best of yourself as you are today.

As always, I’m here to help, so do get in touch.

Fashion, turn to the left…

‘An artist for the eye as well as the ear’ – Jeremy Vine, BBC1, 11/1/2016

Much has been written and posted about the late, great David Bowie in the past week.  Bowie was, without doubt, a significant cultural icon – a man through whom music, art and fashion converged.  I love Bowie’s music, but I agree with Jeremy Vine, his visual appeal is just as important.

Bowie understood that his look was an essential part of his (very-theatrical) performance.  A follower (and inspirer) of fashion both onstage and off, he adopted and discarded personas, becoming rock’s greatest chameleon and paving the way for Madonna and Lady Gaga.  The great man said it himself back in 1974: ‘One of my great loves is clothes…I’m really mad about them’.

In his quest for new looks, Bowie also supported new talent. In 1996 he commissioned the then-relatively unknown Alexander McQueen to design the union jack frock coat that he went on to wear on the Earthling album cover and subsequent tour.  The coat was then displayed at the David Bowie IS retrospective at the V&A in 2013.  He was also loyal to chosen designers.  He wore Paul Smith a lot, for example, who said on Radio 4 last week that Bowie ‘had such good personal taste’.

From the glam appeal of Ziggy, to the stark Berlin-inspired elegance of the Thin White Duke, from the yellow suit for the Serious Moonlight tour (which, incidentally, was the first time I saw Bowie in concert) designed by opera costume designer Peter J Hall, to the minimalist cool of the early 2000s – no one quite wore it quite like him.

Unfortunately I don’t have the rights to any images of Bowie, but the New York Times has helpfully published a great slideshow showing some of his most iconic looks here.

Detox your wardrobe too…

colourful wardrobe

2016 is upon us, and, as usual, everyone is focusing on diets, detox and exercise. But what about your clothes?   Your wardrobe may already be full to overflowing. Perhaps you are saving clothes to wear ‘for a special occasion’ that never seems to happen, or that you’ll wear once you lose that ‘last half stone’. Or perhaps you buy too much of the same types of item and are stuck in a style rut.

Before you hit (what’s left of) the sales, it’s a good idea to take stock of your current wardrobe and declutter it – I call this ‘detoxing’ your wardrobe – and it’s a great way to not only clear out the old and make way for the new, but to regain a sense of control over your clothes.

My wardrobe detox serves three important purposes: 1) it gets rid of the clothes you don’t, or never will, wear. This includes anything that no longer fits, can’t be altered or repaired, is desperately dated (and can’t be updated) or that you simply hate ! 2) it clears valuable wardrobe space, enabling you to actually see what you’ve got, which means you can then make informed sale shopping decisions; and 3) most importantly, it clears head space – there’s nothing like decluttering a physical space to make you feel lighter, refreshed and ready to tackle anything.

This is not something that is easy to do yourself as few of us are objective about our own clothes, and we’re not good at challenging ourselves out of our comfort zones. You need someone to be honest and unemotional yet supportive. In most cases, I am able to put together outfits from your existing clothes that you may not have thought of, instantly revitalising your wardrobe without you having to spend a penny.

Contact me to find out more.

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 !

Clothes coupons and ‘making do’

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Saturday 28th November would be my beloved grandmother Mary’s 104th birthday. She came from a solidly middle class background; her father worked in insurance, and she grew up in a modest house in Darlington, County Durham.  She was not underprivileged in any way, but neither was she spoilt or over-indulged.  Looking at what she and her generation owned and the clothes they wore, we would think they were completely deprived.

People didn’t have a lot of clothes back then, and World War II obviously had a major impact. When I was a child in the 1970s, I remember Mary having about 10 day dresses, 5 pairs of shoes, some knitwear (Marks & Spencer’s St Michael label, of course), blouses and two coats. That was it.  Clothes were mended and recycled, darned and remade, and worn and worn again.

My grandfather Egan’s wartime letters to Mary reveal a bit about how people really did ‘make do and mend’ and how precious and exciting it was when they acquired something new.

In April 1945 he writes: ‘I read with great interest of all your activities: sun-bathing in an easy chair, dashing about the house, going out in a scarlet frock and black coat – edge to edge style – and looking a perfect picture. Do I get browned off out here, so far away from my pin-up girl, oh boy, do I get browned off!’  (Don’t you just love the language?)

In September 1945 Egan was about to be demobbed, and was facing a bit of a clothes crisis himself:  ‘The position regarding clothes-coupons is rather precarious now, isn’t it? I shall have to try and get a suit made for myself as soon as possible, for even with the outfit I’ll get on demobbing I shan’t be too well off with suits:  the one I used to wear when on leave is threadbare by now.’

What would they make of our bulging wardrobes, filled with things we hardly ever wear?  Is your wardrobe in need of a ‘detox’?

Lagerfeld: age, experience, excellence

Age and experience are often overlooked in our youth-obsessed world.  This month, legendary fashion titan Karl Lagerfeld will be presented, at the age of 82, with the Outstanding Achievement Award at the British Fashion Awards in recognition of his ‘unrivalled contribution to the fashion industry’.  And it truly is unrivalled.

Lagerfeld was born in Hamburg in 1933 and educated privately and in Paris.  His career began when he was hired to assist Pierre Balmain, after winning a design competition in 1955.  In 1958, he moved to Jean Patou, designing two collections a year for the next five years, and began freelancing at Chloe in 1964.  Since 1983 he has, of course, been creative director at Chanel, although his career has been multifacted.  Lagerfeld has worked as a photographer (V, German Vogue, Harpers Bazaar), theatrical costume designer, publisher and art director.  At the age of 82, he shows no sign of slowing down (why should he) and he still designs for Chanel, Fendi and his eponymous label.  He is a living example of how age and experience can amount to great things.

Natalie Massenet MBE, Chairman of the British Fashion Council, commented on the award by saying, ‘Karl Lagerfeld defines outstanding.  He is the champion of excellence, the master of the exceptional and one of the most iconic figures globally from our industry.’

Previous winners of the Outstanding Achievement Award include: Anna Wintour OBE (2014), Terry and Tricia Jones (2013) and Manolo Blahnik CBE (2012).

 

Grooming and gadgets for guys

Grooming is no longer just for women. Savvy guys already know this, and in fact, men’s grooming is now big business. Mintel reports that the men’s personal care market in the UK was worth £574 million in 2012 and is expected to rise by 6% by 2017. Why? Well, you may be dressing well, but you certainly don’t want your hair, skin or eyebrows to let you down. American entrepreneur Daymond John says it best: ‘Good grooming is integral and impeccable style is a must. If you don’t look the part, no-one will want to give you time or money.’ Furthermore, being well-groomed demonstrates attention to detail and enhances your professional image.

Given the myriad of products, gadgets and even apps on the market today to help you look your best, there’s no longer an excuse for not looking tip-top. Read on to find out more…

Go online…

If you are in need of some help but prefer to remain anonymous, there are a number of online resources that can help you look your best (not that I’m trying to do myself out of a job, you understand).   In recent years, the number of websites and apps geared towards men’s style and grooming has exploded. They can help you put outfits together, advise on how to tie a tie (or shoelaces), and keep you up to date with the latest grooming gadgets, techniques and outlets. Here are a few particularly useful resources:

Apps:

  • Mr Porter: a shopping app (and website) allowing you to browse and buy clothing from international designers. The website also contains The Journal, with articles on a variety of lifestyle issues and styling subjects (free on iTunes)
  • Philips Grooming App: to help you find everything you ever wanted to know about shaving and beard styling, including ‘how to’ and personalised advice (available at Philips)
  • How to Tie a Tie: one of a number of apps available, covering a variety of knots (free on iTunes)

Websites:

  • Fashion Beans: a fantastic source of advice on men’s fashion, lifestyle and tips on grooming. They also regularly rate their ‘top 10’ products (fragrance, skin care, etc)
  • Niven & Joshua: a very grown-up men’s skincare website, featuring exclusive and high-end brands, along with advice for the modern gentleman on specific issues such as acne, hair loss and rosacea
  • Mankind: site selling products for skin, hair, shaving and body. They also have ‘masterclasses’, giving step-by-step advice on dealing with ingrown hairs, combating oily skin and a range of other skin, haircare and grooming issues

Great gadgets

A quick caveat before I begin: I haven’t tried any of these !  But they’ve all had great reviews…

  • The Luna Cleansing System by Foreo: this non-abrasive silicone FOREO_LUNA_trade__Anti_Ageing_and_Facial_Cleansing_System_for_Men_1385466553device uses T-Sonic™ pulsations to remove dirt and prep skin for shaving. It also claims to lessen the appearance of fine lines, and is great for travel. Available on Mr Porter
  • Braun Series 7 799 electric rechargeable wet and dry foil shaver: This was recently reviewed by the Telegraph as one of the five best men’s grooming gadgets. Evidently it can ‘read your face’ and adjusts its micro vibrations according to your hair density. It also has three shaving modes and only needs a five-minute charge for one cordless shave.  Available at Tesco
  • Panasonic ER-GN30 Nose & Facial Hair trimmer: I know, not a ER-GN30-K_1particularly pleasant item, but unfortunately, one that becomes a necessity as the years pass. This one uses a rotary cutting mechanism (so no chance of cutting yourself). Available on Amazon
  • Philips BG2036 Bodygroom – for hair below the neck. Self-explanatory really. I’ll leave you to check this one out. Just let me add that men’s body hair removal has now become mainstream, with a wide range of products available and many salons offering specific waxing services for gents. Available at Boots

Guys, it’s in the bag

Black HoveWhere women’s fashion leads, men’s eventually follows. Did you know that the sale of men’s bags has increased by more than 25% in the past decade?  And that they are now a firm fixture in every designer’s menswear collection?  In fact, when Mark Carney gave his first speech as Governor of the Bank of England, he carried what most people would call a ‘man bag’.  Not a briefcase, but a soft grey, black-leather trimmed number with long handles.

Are you constantly stuffing keys, wallet, various bits of paper and who knows what else into your pockets ?  Not only does it look messy, it also ruins the line of your clothes.  Or perhaps you are carrying a ‘one-bag-fits all occasions’ number that has seen better days.

Let’s say you are ready to choose the right bag for you. First of all, consider your lifestyle.  Where and how do you spend most of your time – in the office, out with clients, do you need to carry bulky documents, do you travel frequently – take all of these into account when choosing.

SC_Lookbook_AW14_0010Once you’ve considered how and where you’ll use it, invest in one or two that work for your lifestyle.  If you work in a sharp, corporate environment, I’m guessing that you already have an appropriate leather briefcase.  But there are other options too, particularly if your working life is less formal, or you are looking for something to use on casual days.  These include:

  • Folio / Pouch: the sleekest option out there. It can have a zipper or be a simple pouch. Do not overstuff it !
  • Crossbody / Messenger: small zippered styles or roomier messenger bags. Both, as you’d expect, can be worn across the body, but should be carried no lower than the hip
  • Tote: Mark Carney’s bag of choice. A roomier alternative to the briefcase, with space for your laptop, documents and whatever else you need that day. It encompasses a number of shapes, including shoulder, sports and bowling bags
  • Duffel / Holdall: the roomiest option of all. This looks great in leather, but can also be found in tweed and canvas. If it’s no more than 55 x 35 x 20cm it can also serve as carry-on luggage
  • Backpack: self-explanatory, and having a bit of a fashion moment. Best kept for casual wear.

Did you know there were so many options ?  I can help you find the one that works best for you – contact me today.