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

 

 

 

 

Transitioning into autumn with Badger

transitional_badgerPlease note that this post is a product review, and the featured dress was provided free of charge by Badger Womenswear.

It’s warm.  It’s chilly.  It’s too hot for a coat but too cold for bare legs.  Welcome to autumn in Britain, a time when transitional pieces come into their own.

Dressing at this time of year is all about judicious layering and wearing those ‘transitional’ pieces: items that see you through, literally, the transition into a new season.

I have been getting a lot of wear out of a Great Plains dress from independent Brighton boutique Badger.  British brand Great Plains specialises in quality basics and easy to wear dresses and knitwear. In Sussex, but haven’t been to Badger yet?  You’re missing out.  Nadia and her team stock a great range of brands including leather jackets from legendary label Matchless, plus Scandi-cool pieces from Ilse Jacobsen, Becksondergaard and Numph.  Add tights from Falke (definitely one of my go-to brands) and funky jewellery from Hultquist, and your look, transitional or otherwise, is pretty much sorted.

This dress is a great easy-to-wear piece – and the essence of ‘transitional’.  It has long sleeves, so it’s warm, but it’s also tunic shaped so can be worn bare-legged with heels now (as I did last week in London) –

transitional_tube

Or with leggings and brogues, as I did today –

transitional_brogues

And later, when the temperature starts to bite, tights and ankle or knee high boots.  And it’s monochrome (regular readers will know that I rarely deviate from my fave black and white…) Best of all, it’s an incredibly forgiving shape if you’re having an ‘off’ day.  It’s not bulky either, so my trusty All Saints biker can be worn easily over the top…

transitional_bikerOther things to know:

  • it’s machine washable (yay!) on cold (max 30 degrees)
  • it’s a polyester / cotton mix (68% / 32%)
  • iron on the reverse only (not that it needs it)

transitional_pocket

Go and discover this and other great pieces at Badger – you won’t be disappointed. And if the man in your life is in need of something new, menswear is next door !

Badger is at 25-26 Bond Street, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1RD

01273 325421 (Womenswear)

 

 

 

 

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 3: making it easier to look great

making it easier_louiseMany 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 look awful. Nothing could be further from the truth.  In previous posts, I’ve talked about honesty and objectivity, and saving time and money.  Here’s reason number three: I make it easier for you to look great.

Yes, I’m an investment.  But I also make dressing well easier for you.

  • I help you to understand what works for you and what doesn’t.  That way you can disregard the noise and distractions of trends, styles and colours that don’t work, and concentrate on the ones that do
  • I help you to focus – equipped with your ‘gap list’ (that I work with you to produce) you will making it easier_gap listknow exactly which items you need to buy to make your wardrobe work harder for you. Shopping is easier, and this approach saves you time and money too !
  • If you absolutely hate shopping (or even thinking about clothes) I make the whole process easier by taking away the pain.  I do the research, I scout options for you, I bring you items to try on without you having to worry

One of my clients, Susan, told me she ‘dislikes shopping intensely’.  After we worked together she said, ‘On our shopping trip, [Samantha] had already scouted a few options for me and selected certain shops so it was very focused.  I achieved more than I expected:  a wedding outfit, an informal but professional work style and new basics to go with everything I already own.’

And Amy: ‘Sam had prepared a rail of clothing for me, full of pieces I probably would never have picked up and I ended up buying most of them because they looked great!  I now have a capsule wardrobe of clothes that really work.  Sam has such a great eye for pulling together a look that is modern in a classic way without being slavishly trendy.’

I can make dressing well easier for you, too. Contact me today.

lucy needs a stylist

It’s hot! How to dress for work when the temperature rises

After a dismal start to the summer, we are finally seeing some hot weather.  Which has been distracting me from blogging, as you may have noticed !  Now, we Brits profess to love it when the weather warms up, but somehow end up complaining soon thereafter, particularly about how hot it gets at work.

I think it is easier for women to dress professionally in the heat, as we have many more outfit options than men.  But it is important to keep a few guidelines in mind, as you don’t want to undermine your professionalism by revealing too much skin or wearing something inappropriate, however much you want to show off your hard-earned holiday tan.

hot in wide leg trousersThis summer, wide leg, fluid and cropped trousers are everywhere, giving you a surprisingly flattering and cool option.  These come in vibrant prints, stripes or solid colours, and can be worn with sandals, heels or flats (the ones I’m wearing here are from Whistles).  Add a cami and lightweight blazer, or a crisp white shirt for a sleek tailored look.  Or simply choose a good quality, pristine white t-shirt worn with a silk scarf – very 2016.

Dresses are a great hot weather choice – one piece and you’re done. But keep the fabric skimming (not clinging).  Winser London does a variety of chic sleeveless shifts (I love the monochrome version) and a lovely airy broderie anglaise dress that will take you from office to dinner with ease.  Finery London also does a very affordable wrap dress that looks sharp and will keep you cool.

Some final top tips:

  1. Keep it minimal. Don’t over-accessorise in the heat – you don’t want extra jewellery jangling and creating fuss
  2. If you’re going bare-legged, exfoliate and moisturise regularly – your legs will thank you for it.  If you do choose tights, invest in the best ultra sheers: Wolford Naked 8’s
  3. Opt for lighter weight, natural fabrics that breathe, particularly cotton, silk or linen blends
  4. Finally, always always wear nude underwear under white clothing, as it becomes invisible…

Enjoy the weather !

 

its hot

Making it easy to travel stylishly

Last summer I wrote about travelling in style and I thought this was a topic well worth revisiting, as so many of us are jetting off for our annual break.  We all aspire to look effortlessly chic when we travel, but it’s not easy now that so much of the glamour has gone out of it (particularly by air).  Long gone are the days when people dressed up to get on a boat, plane or train.  Add to that the extensive security, the sheer volume of people and the waiting times – even the most chic and put together woman can look a mess by the time she gets to her destination.

Here are my top tips to make it easy:

  • Dress well. By this I don’t mean you have to wear something dressy, but do make an effort to look put together. Dark jeans and a breton top are a foolproof combination – just make sure the jeans have some stretch. If you’re heading somewhere hot, wearing a lightweight knit (or light flowing trench) on your journey means you’ll have something warm to wear when you arrive back in the always-cooler UK
  • Wear shoes you can get out of easily. You’re not always asked to take them off – but it’s best to be prepared. Elegant flats, loafers, sliders or stylish trainers are best (I love my silver sliders and Ash and Nike Flyknit trainers). If you choose heels, keep them at a mid-height – remember you’ll be walking miles of corridors at the airport, and your feet will swell on the plane

easy_silver sliders

  • Carry your jewellery. I always carry my jewellery in my handbag or carry on – I never ever pack it in my case. Carrying it rather than wearing it also means I’m not fussing with necklace and bracelet clasps and having to drop them loose into the plastic trays when getting ready to go through security. Don’t go mad – stick to the pieces you love and will actually wear

easy_jewellery

  • Wear sunglasses for instant chic. There are so many reasons celebrities do this: instant glamour, hiding tiredness, not having to wear makeup, etc

easy_sunglasses

  • Don’t wear white or linen. They get grubby and crease like mad– you’ll look a mess at the other end !
  • Wear items that you will wear on your trip. That way, they do double duty and you’re not packing even more.

Make an effort to buck the prevailing trend of slovenly airport wear and who knows, you may even get upgraded.

How to take a ‘palette’ approach to packing

It’s holiday time !  And however much we look forward to this time of year, packing and preparing for it seems to be ever more stressful.  Taking an approach based on a particular colour palette can help you pack less, pack simply and pack well, ensuring that everything works together.

packing2It’s important to remember that packing everything but the kitchen sink will only result in heavy suitcases, and feeling overwhelmed with clothing choices when you get to your destination.  You’re on holiday to relax, so keeping your options clear and simple will help to declutter your mind and get you in the right spirit.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Choose a colour palette. And stick to it. What are the dominant colours in the clothespalette approach2 you love to wear?  If you have a favourite navy swimsuit, for example, build your holiday wardrobe around a palette of navy, white and camel: add denim shorts, white or breton tops/cover ups and tan or white sandals.  This approach will stop you packing too much, but only if you stick to it !
  2. Keep the shoes neutral.  Stick to neutral tones that work across your chosen palette – white, black, silver, camel – so that you don’t take too many pairs.  Ideally, all you need is one or two pairs of flip flops, a pair of sandals, a pair of white trainers and wedges for evening.  Don’t bother with other heels – believe me, you won’t wear them.
  3. Add a bag (and a hat).  Choose and carry a tote that works with as many of your outfits aspalette approach3 possible, and add a smaller clutch (carried inside it) to use for evenings.  And nothing says ‘chic’ like a beach hat in straw, navy or black.
  4. Make a list.  People think I’m mad but I always create a list of what I plan to take at least a week before.  This helps me group outfits by colour, and gives me time to buy any last minute flip flops or beauty products.  It also gives me a useful record in case my luggage goes astray.
  5. Consider the culture.  If you’re heading to the Middle or Far East, for example, check with your host or tour operator about any particular clothing etiquette you need to consider. A cashmere wrap (in a neutral tone that works with everything) is always useful (and great for cold planes).

Finally, make sure you label your luggage with your name and phone number (not your address) both inside and out, as sometimes outside labels get lost.

Have a fantastic holiday !

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Hats off to Wimbledon!

logoIt’s almost the end of the best fortnight of the year!  Yes – it’s Wimbledon – which surely remains one of the most civilised sporting events in the world.  And a great excuse for wearing hats!  As some of you will know, Mr W and I lived in the hallowed postcode of London SW19 for seven years.  During that time, we were really lucky in the ballot (they must have kept a batch of tickets specifically for local residents) and we had either Centre Court, Court One or grounds tickets at the All England Club for six years running.

texting in my hatThis year, although we are no longer SW19 residents, we were lucky in the ballot again (let me know if you’re not sure how the ballot works or how to apply…) and we headed to Court One on Saturday.

Given that this summer has been, frankly, autumnal so far, I was a bit worried about my outfit.  Which had been meticulously planned around my hat, designed and made especially for me by Joanna Zara at JZ Millinery.  Thankfully the rain held off for most of the day and I was able to wear the gorgeous Panama she had created.  Joanna shared her thoughts on the process and design:

CmHWH_JWEAAb10WI recently had the pleasure of creating a custom made Panama for the one-woman powerhouse that is Samantha Wilding of style&grace. She is going to Wimbledon and wanted something that would go with her outfit (and fit her – like most of the population her head is not a so-called ‘average’ size!!).

As with all my customers I started by looking at the best hat style for Samantha’s face shape, height and physique.  She is quite petite and has a slightly heart shaped face, so a very wide brim would not have been a good idea as this might have made her forehead look too wide and have swamped her. We could have gone for a classic trilby or fedora, but decided to be a bit different (there is always a sea of these to be seen at Wimbledon).  Down-turned brims are very fashionable at the moment – this is a style that works for Samantha.  So we chose a neat classic straight sided crown and a medium down turned brim.  The ribbon trim is custom made to pick up the orange and navy in the outfit, but as with any hat this can easily be changed at a later date.

I hope Samantha and Mark have a wonderful day (but I would have to say they should hedge their bets and take an umbrella).

So if you’re looking for a bespoke hat for your next special event, get in touch with Joanna. Her service, expertise and hats are truly unique.

carrying my hat

 

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

Democracy and high heels: the next steps…

democracy and heelsYou may not know this, but I have another great passion besides clothes – British politics.  And no, these two are not mutually exclusive.  Just because you love fashion and care about looking good does not mean that you don’t care about serious issues too.  But I digress.  I love it when our political system actually works and democracy is fully evident.  Tomorrow, of course, is a big day for democracy (no matter which side of the debate you are on) with the EU Referendum vote taking place.

ES re heels rowIn another example of democracy in action, Nicola Thorp’s parliamentary petition on making it illegal to wear high heels at work (which has over 142,000 signatures) has now been allocated inquiry time by the Commons Petitions Committee.  Any petition over 100,000 signatures is granted parliamentary time.

You may remember that Ms Thorp was the temporary receptionist sent home for not wearing shoes with the required ‘two to four inch heel’.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (who she was temping for) have since issued an honest statement expressing their embarrassment about the situation and the steps they are taking to rectify it.  Interestingly, Portico the agency in question, have been suspiciously silent on the issue.

high heelsMs Thorp was wearing shoes that were perfectly adequate for an office environment.  It begs the question, why can’t women be seen as smart and professional wearing flat shoes?  Of course, they can, and I believe every woman has an ‘ideal’ heel height – it’s just a matter of finding it.  With so many heel styles and height options available these days, there’s an option that will work for almost any woman in almost any work environment (see my blog post on wearable heels for more on this topic).

The Petitions Committee will examine the issue and hear oral evidence from witnesses, working with the Women and Equalities Committee.  Unfortunately the deadline for public comments has passed but click here to see the comments and experiences other women have shared.   And check back on this page for dates and details of the oral sessions.

Have you ever been forced to wear high heels at work?

 

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

 

I was a lingerie model for a day

‘I studied at Chelsea College and weave romantic stories into silk treasures featuring my hand drawings and embroidery.  Growing up near the South Downs, I have always been inspired by the British countryside and my love for the outdoors and heritage can be found within my brush strokes.’ – StephieAnn Woolven

StephieAnn Woolven is a young textile designer who has recently launched her own lingerie business. Stephie asked me to participate in a photoshoot for her next collection, as she was keen to have a ‘real’ woman as well as a professional model. How could I refuse ?

IMG_2074We spent a sunny May day at a beautiful house in Storrington, on the edge of the Sussex Downs.  Makeup artist Jade Victoria worked her magic on our faces and hair, getting us photo ready.

I got to model Stephie Ann’s beautiful lingerie including silk camisoles, lounge pants and scarves.  It was really fun – and also scary as, let’s face it, I am 49 years old and not a professional !  The other model, gorgeous Amy Neville (find her on Instagram at @amynevfashiondiaries) is half my age and is a professional, and it was great to watch her work.

Sam Pansy Cami Low ResPansy Camisole £85One of the pieces I wore was the ‘Pansy’ camisole (pictured left, and worn with a denim jacket, right) from Stephie’s Hammer Through Daisies collection from S/S16 – it’s a classic style and is currently her best selling product.  The print is on a silver grey background with royal blue flowers created from Stephie’s drawings and photography.  The photos for the pattern were taken with a blurred 3-D effect, so there’s lots of movement in the print.

 

Midnight Jeans2low resI also wore several pieces from her Autumn Winter 2017 collection, which is not yet available on her website, so you’re getting a sneak preview !  The collection is called That Tender Light, from the poem ‘As She Walks in Beauty’ by Lord Byron.  Pictured here is the ‘Midnight’ camisole worn simply with my own jeans.

I couldn’t believe how exhausting the day was !  Even though there was lots of waiting around between shots, it was an incredibly intense process.  It was such a treat to have professional photos taken, and have my hair and makeup done – and it was incredibly flattering to be asked to participate.

More information about Stephie and her collection are available at www.stephieanndesign.com

Hair and makeup by Jade Victoria

Photography by Klicka

Sam eve PJs low res_croppedSam Rose Scarf

 

 

 

Semple dresses: quality, elegance and simplicity

‘Many other women shared my vision of finding the dream dress.  Yet finding well cut dresses, made from exquisite fabrics, that are sized and priced appropriately can often be hard to find’ – Maggie Semple

Images courtesy of Maggie Semple Ltd.

MaggieSemple_permission to use for blogI recently wrote about an evening with Maggie Semple, and last week I had the pleasure of being invited back to her atelier to take a closer look at her dress collection and to find out more about what inspires her.  Maggie’s client is the discerning professional woman, who is looking for quality, elegance and simplicity.

The Semple Collection is a range of beautifully made shift dresses made with the finest Italian natural fabrics including wools, cottons, silks and linens.  The dresses exude elegance, and can be made to measure with your own custom colourful, bespoke touches, or bought ready to wear.

Maggie Dress MTM_1There are two original shift dress styles: 1) the Ophelia, with a round neck and short sleeves, and 2) the Bianca, which is short sleeved with a button detail. However, each dress can be tailored to the individual client in terms of sleeve style and length and neck line.  You are invited to choose from a range of hand picked fabrics in a variety of colours and patterns.  To make the dress extra special, you can also choose a contrasting coloured lining (in 100% cupro – there’s absolutely no polyester) to add another individual touch.

Maggie Dress RTW_2All of the dresses are made on the premises.  It takes twenty hours to go from the initial client consultation through to measurement and the final fitting.  Clients include athlete Tessa Sanderson (who was featured in Hello! Magazine this month wearing her made to measure fuchsia dress) and opera singer Katerina Mina

When choosing a Maggie Semple dress, you’re not just ‘buying a dress’ – it’s a full experience.  And like Maggie herself, the dresses are elegant, vibrant and unique.  Find out more here.

 

Dressing for our predictably unpredictable weather

biker jacket01The weather is being decidedly unpredictable, to say the least – one minute it’s (sort of) warm and sunny, the next minute chilly and/or raining.  One of my clients recently told me how much she struggles with this transition – especially as warmer temperatures often mean revealing unwanted pounds gained over the winter .

So how do you dress for our predictably unpredictable weather?  ‘Smart’ layering is the key.  Here are some pointers to get you started:

  • Don’t just add layers willy-nilly.  Layer carefully, ending up with no more than three.  Go beyond that and you risk adding unwanted bulk.  Start with, for example, a basic white t-shirt.  Add a chambray shirt or a lightweight spring knit. Top it off with a fluid sleeveless blazer, a tailored jacket or a trench or duster coat.  This bamboo print duster coat from Topshop would look great paired with a simple white t-shirt and black jeans, for example.  Likewise, this sleeveless trench from Mint Velvet at John Lewis, in on-trend khaki.
  • A leather biker jacket can be your best friend.  Throw it on over almost anything to add a bit of an edge (and warmth).  Mine’s the ‘Bleeker’ by All Saints, and it’s actually the cheapest item in my wardrobe based on cost-per-wear.
  • If you worry about your bottom half, keep your jacket length to fingertip length or longer.  This will help to elongate your frame and hide a multitude of sins.  A long white shirt is also great for this – here’s a simple but chic longline white shirt from COS (pair with skinnies), and a drop shoulder fluid shirt from M&S, this time in pale pink (another on-trend colour for spring/summer).
  • Add a scarf to keep off the chill !  But think beyond woolly winter versions – try an oversized linen scarf or a bit of silk instead – it’s surprisingly warm.  The one in the photo below is by StephieAnn, who makes luxurious silk lingerie in beautiful prints.

In Stephie scarfFinally, ditch the dark tights and knee high boots !  They just look wrong now that we are in May.  Switch to sheer nude tights (Wolford’s ultrafine Naked 8’s are my go to choice) or prepare your legs to bare if you dare (body brush, exfoliate and moisturise should be your mantra…).

However unpredictable it may be, enjoy the weather !

 

Workwear: heels hit the headlines

ES re heels rowThe debate around dressing for work hit the headlines again last week, with high heels taking centre stage.

PricewaterhouseCoopers came under fire for sending a temporary receptionist home for not wearing shoes with the required ‘two to four inch heel’.  The debate rumbled on in the press and on social media, culminating with Julia Roberts leading a ‘barefoot rebellion’ at the Cannes Film Festival (which, incidentally, has refused entry to women not wearing heels in previous years).

heelsIt’s not an issue of ‘fashion’, rather of gender equality. Why should women be told to follow such anarchic rules? And I don’t mean that men should be made to wear ties (as I read in one newspaper); ties don’t have the same physical impact on the wearer. High heels can cause a myriad of back and foot problems.   The receptionist in question was wearing shoes that were perfectly adequate for an office environment. And it also begs the question, why can’t women can be seen as smart and professional wearing flat shoes?

JimmyChoosThe key to footwear success in the office is finding your ‘ideal heel’, and I believe every woman has one (it may be flat).  It’s determined by your height, balance, and whether you can walk in them.  Yes, high heels can boost confidence, but this is rapidly undermined if you are struggling to walk, needing to sit at regular intervals or look like you are about to fall over at any minute.  Thankfully there are so many heel styles and height options these days – from loafers to ballet pumps, kitten heels to wedges, block heels to stilettos– there’s an option that will work for almost any woman in almost any work environment (see my previous blog on wearable heels).

A parliamentary petition calling for a law making it illegal to require women to wear heels at work has now reached over 100,000 signatures, so this debate is not going to go away any time soon.  I’d love to hear your views.

 

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

Keeping it ‘Semple’

MaggieSemple_permission to use for blogLast week I was invited to attend one of Maggie Semple’s ‘Keep it Semple’ events at her gorgeous atelier. A diverse group of professional women who share a love of beautiful clothes chatted over drinks and nibbles in a gorgeous 17th century building hidden away in Covent Garden.  Maggie founded the brand in 2010, to coincide with the publication of her book Women, Fashion, Stories which documents the treasured items of six high profile women.  She produces both ready to wear and made to measure investment dresses for professional women.

We all know that clothes tell a story – particularly when they are bespoke and handmade as Maggie’s dresses are.  We had a tour of the workshop – all the dresses are made by skilled seamstresses on the premises – and then had a lively discussion about ‘Our Digital Selves’ and what that means to us.

Maggie has invited me back in May to hear more about the brand, the beautiful dresses and how they are made. Watch this space….

Photo kindly provided by Maggie Semple Ltd.

Let’s reclaim elegance

hilary in stripesMany people (my clients included) tell me that they love dressing up, but rarely have the chance to do so anymore.   We live in an increasingly casual world, where we seem to look the same no matter what we’re doing – going to lunch, the theatre, the opera or Wimbledon.  Comfort seems to have taken first priority and frankly, I think many people look sloppy as a result.  So let’s reclaim elegance. This was the theme of my event this week at beautiful Langshott Manor where I hosted a lunch and fashion show, with clothes modelled by real women.

hanging rail editedI spoke about reclaiming elegance when dressing for occasions, including those where the dress code may be the much-dreaded (and misinterpreted) smart casual.  Sharing my thoughts on what dressing well actually means, I gave an overview of the traditional dress codes, along with hints and tips on how to look chic and elegant no matter where you’re going.

models in smart casual 2 cropped

Five real women modelled beautiful clothes covering dress codes from smart casual through to black tie.  The clothes were provided by JoJo Boutique, and encompassed a mix of British, local and unique premium brands.  Many of the shoes shown were by German brand Paul Green. They are truly beautiful handmade shoes and JoJo is one of the largest suppliers of them in the UK.

Susan in black editedAlong with wearing fabulous clothes, the models were made to feel extra special thanks to the magic touch of Claire Wallace who did their hair and makeup.  And the food?  Simply delicious, especially the chocolatey dessert.

It was a really special day and everyone had a great time. I am planning further events with the Alexander Hotels Group later in the year – sign up to my newsletter to find out more