Wearable heels: height, comfort and style

Wearable heels are big news again this spring.  And I think this is fantastic news. Why should we cripple ourselves in unwearable stilettos, or consign ourselves to flats when we’re desperate for some height?

Red dune block heelsFor me, height is particularly important. Sometimes your look needs some elevation (literally) and flats don’t quite cut it.  I’m only 5’3” and I love wearing culottes – but these demand heels, otherwise I’m in danger of looking short and, heaven forbid, frumpy.  My block heeled sandals and mules give me that added height without sacrificing comfort.  And they’re incredibly versatile.  My very wearable red Dune block heeled sandals get worn with dresses, boyfriend jeans, silky joggers and culottes all spring and summer long.

white block heel mulesWearable heels provide the perfect combination of height, comfort and walkability. They can be block mid heel sandals (like these monochrome beauties from Kurt Geiger), peep toe shoe boots (Russell & Bromley’s are fab) or even mules – there are loads of options to choose from.  The white mules you see here are from Autograph at M&S last year – but thankfully they’re doing them again.

Choosing wearable heels also means I don’t have to carry an extra pair of flats in my bag.  And, because of the heel shape, there’s no danger of sinking into grass or getting caught in pavements, grates or escalators (which I’ve done twice already this week in stilettos!).  Height, comfort and versatility – what’s not to love?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating a century of style

vogue100I recently had the pleasure of going to see the Vogue100: A Century of Style exhibition at London’s National Portrait Gallery.  This gorgeous exhibition celebrates the first 10 decades of the magazine’s history and includes photography by such legends as Cecil Beaton, Lee Miller, Helmut Newton, Mario Testino, Nick Knight and of course 1960s bad boy, David Bailey.  Their subjects were no less legendary: everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Tallulah Bankhead, the Beatles to Jean Shrimpton, David Hockney to Naomi Campbell.

vogue100_cecilOne of the most interesting tidbits I discovered was the fact that British Vogue started publishing its ‘Mrs Exeter’ column in 1949 (American Vogue had started it earlier). This column was devoted to style advice for women of ‘a certain age’ (she was ‘in her 50s’) who wanted to stay fashionable but didn’t want to stray into mutton-dressed-as-lamb territory (sound familiar?).  Even more interestingly, Mrs Exeter started off as an illustration, but then was represented by a series of slim and elegant models.  The woman most closely associated with her was Margot Smyly, who died in April 2005 at the age of 93.

It’s a sumptuous exhibition – a real feast for the eyes.  I particularly loved the elegance of the 40s, 50s and 60s.  There were beautiful photos of chic people wearing hats, scarves, suits, gloves.  The exhibition confirmed my view, however, that the 1980s were the most hideous decade of the twentieth century in terms of style.  Brash colour and unflattering silhouettes abounded – and don’t get me started on the hair.  No wonder we went all minimalist in the 90s!

If you love fashion, or you’re a fan of a particular decade, it’s well worth seeking out. But hurry – it’s only on until 22nd May.

vogue highlights cover

 

 

 

 

You can achieve elegant simplicity

Richard Branson once said, ‘Complexity is your enemy.  Any fool can make something complicated.  It is hard to make something simple.’  Now Richard may not have had clothes in mind when he said this, but he’s right – so many of us struggle to achieve elegant and effortless simplicity when it comes to dressing.

Working with my clients, ‘simplicity’ is a theme I find myself returning to again and again.  As you know, most of my clients are over 40, and simplicity is the key to avoiding fussiness and frumpiness as we get older.

Betty Jackson was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ last week, and she agreed – keep it simple, ladies, no matter your age, shape or size.

me in black Oct 2015 croppedYou can achieve elegant simplicity.  It requires paying attention to three important elements:

  • simplicity in colour: my golden rule is to wear no more than three at a time (excluding prints) to keep things streamlined and polished
  • simplicity in accessories: less is more.  Wear a statement earring or necklace, for example, but never both
  • simplicity in shape: know what cuts and shapes work for you and stick with them

I’m happy to help, of course. Give me a call !

 

 

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

What is the ultimate capsule wardrobe?

hanging rail editedI recently came across some interesting statistics.  Evidently, the average woman in the US had 36 items of clothing in her wardrobe in 1930 (making just nine outfits, according to Forbes).  Today, the average woman has 120.  Clearly a lot has changed in the past 86 years.

I think we would all agree that 36 items would represent the ultimate ‘capsule wardrobe’ – something which many of my clients ask me to help them create.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the capsule approach, but it is difficult to achieve in a world dominated by cheap and readily available fashion.  It takes some commitment and effort to accomplish its promised ‘effortlessness’.

Of course, people also have different ideas of what ‘capsule’ actually means.  Some bloggers have written and talked about editing it down to only 10 items, or 12 or even 20.  (This usually excludes ‘extras’ such as coats, shoes and eveningwear).

My advice?  Don’t aim for a specific number of items, just plan to reduce your wardrobe down significantly, keeping in mind that most people only wear 20-30% of their clothes.  Examine what you actually wear (and what fits) vs. what you don’t (and doesn’t).

This is difficult to do yourself as we are all too emotionally attached to our clothes. Here’s where my wardrobe detox can help.  You may not get down to 36 items, but we will pare things back significantly and put together combinations you won’t have thought of before.  Contact me and book a session now!

 

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

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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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Give it the cold shoulder !

IMG_2383I love it when less-obvious areas become a fashion-focal-point.  And this spring, we see the return of the shoulder.

The new cut out shoulders, off the shoulder tops and Bardot necklines are so flattering, particularly if you want to hide your upper arms.  They come in stretch jersey, knit or floaty blouses, and there are a wide range to choose from – but snap one up quickly – they are selling out fast.  There are so many options to choose from, from high street choices such as M&S, H&M and Whistles, through to designers such as Baukjen, Splendid and Rosetta Getty.

I’ve just bought a ribbed knit one from Whistles which can be worn with the ‘V’ at the front or the back.  I wear mine at the front, as it’s more flattering, particularly if you are larger than a c-cup.

Wear yours with minimal jewellery as you don’t want to dilute the dramatic effect of the neckline.   It can be dressed down with jeans and trainers, or up with smarter trousers, skirts or cropped kick-flares (this season’s key silhouette).

So prepare to bare, in a distinctly elegant way.

Films and fashion

It’s Oscar season. Which got me thinking about my favourite fashion films.  Stylist magazine recently published a list of 45 iconic fashion films.  It included the usual suspects such as The Devil Wears Prada and Clueless, but also timeless gems such as A Single Man, A Bout de Souffle, Annie Hall and Belle de Jour.  I would add Iris to the list, although strictly speaking it’s a documentary.  But my very favourite is Priceless (Hors de Prix in its native French).

Made in 2006, Priceless is a lovely little film starring Audrey Tautou as Irene, a young golddigger (a twenty first century Holly Golightly, in the true Truman Capote sense) who mistakes bartender Jean (played by Gad Elmaleh) for a wealthy man.  The setting is the luscious French Riviera.

The film isn’t about fashion, but the clothes are a central element of the story.  Audrey looks, frankly, ravishing as she bleeds poor Jean dry in her pursuit of a wealthy husband, snapping up Chanel, Eres, Gucci, Prada and Helmut Lang in the process.  In one scene she tests Jean’s resolve to the limit, brutally ripping the price tags off her new purchases as the poor man mentally envisages his savings and pension funds deplete to nothing.  She simply drips cool insouciance – which makes her sound awful but you can’t help but love her – particularly when she realises that true love is more important than money and beautiful baubles.  I won’t tell you any more – seek it out and enjoy ! Oh, and have a look at the ‘films’ board on my Pinterest page for some gorgeous images.

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!

 

Mary Quant is 82!

Designer Mary Quant turns 82 today.  Quant was incredibly influential in the 1960s, creating fashion aimed at young people, encouraging them to dress for themselves.

She opened her first shop, ‘Bazaar’ on the King’s Road in 1955.  This led to a second shop (designed by Terence Conran), and to start creating her own designs such as white plastic collars to liven up jumpers, bright stockings and funky lounging pyjamas.  She then started to design and make more of the clothes she stocked, and by 1966 she was working with a range of manufacturers.

Mary Quant is, of course, most closely associated with the miniskirt (although others credit John Bates or Andre Courreges* with its invention).

Quant herself said later:  ‘It was the girls on the King’s Road who invented the mini. I was making easy, youthful, simple clothes, in which you could move, in which you could run and jump and we would make them the length the customer wanted.  I wore them very short and the customers would say, ‘Shorter, shorter’.’

Influential journalist Ernestine Carter wrote in the Sunday Times, ‘It is given to a fortunate few to be born at the right time, in the right place, with the right talents. In recent fashion there are three: Chanel, Dior, and Mary Quant.’

Mary Quant was appointed OBE in 1966 and DBE in 2015 for her contribution to British fashion.

 *Andre Courreges died on 7th January 2016, but his death was somewhat overshadowed by that of David Bowie.

 

Women love shoes

Samantha_in window smilingNext week is Valentine’s Day, and I’m sure many of you will be dining out with your beloved, or enjoying a romantic evening in.  But many women have another love in their lives: shoes.

Women have a relationship with shoes that men don’t quite understand.  There are several reasons for this.  Firstly, women’s shoes tend to be beautiful, with the ability to transform the everyday into something spectacular.  Secondly, they are the one article of clothing that remains constant – no-one has to diet to fit into their shoes! Thirdly, and this is vital, high heels make every woman look taller and slimmer.

But please don’t wear high heels if you are uncomfortable doing so.  I have a theory that every woman has their own personal ‘optimum’ heel height, whether that’s flat, four inches or somewhere in between.  Now that there are so many stylish flat options, (just see Hannah Rochell’s fab blog En Brogue for inspiration) there is more choice than ever before.

When shopping for shoes:

  • choose quality over quantity.  The one and only Marlene Dietrich advised buying one pair of good shoes instead of three pairs of poor quality
  • do not be seduced by a sensational pair of shoes in the sale that you know you will never wear, or that are cripplingly uncomfortable
  • remember your ‘optimum’ heel height – we all have one!

Unsure of what shoe styles and heights work for you? Give me a call – I’d be happy to help.

 

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.

New year, new style resolutions

Last year, I made five ‘style resolutions’ for 2015.  Did I achieve them? I have to admit that resolution number four – I will buy a new winter coat before the end of November – fell foul of autumn’s mild and wet weather. I just didn’t need one, so it fell off my radar. I did buy a lightweight COS long blazer/coat, but that won’t cut it now that the temperature finally looks like it’s going to dip below freezing….

So, that one stays put for 2016. I’ve also added a couple of new ones. Here goes:

  • I will wear heels more often. This one also stays for 2016, particularly in terms of my AG slim boyfriend jeans and Joseph blazer combination – a continued winner which I don’t wear often enough. The new Karen Millen heels I got for my birthday will make this resolution easier to achieve
  • I will focus more on accessories. Somehow I never seem to have quite the right jewellery, and I get tired of wearing the same pieces, but this is something that seems to slip down my shopping list. Accessorising well creates a more individual look, and a varied selection means you can make outfits look completely different. Which in turn means less clothes-boredom, particularly as winter drags on…
  • My Prada-buying days are behind me (at least for the moment), so I will need to be more creative in hunting for affordable designer treasures. Luckily, help is at hand via sites such as Vestiaire Collective, The Outnet, Very Exclusive and, based here in Sussex, EditSecondhand
  • I will buy a new winter coat before the end of November 2016. Let’s try this one again ! It might also be time to add some new boots by then, too….

What are your style resolutions ? Tweet me at @alwayschicUK and have a fantastic January.

birthday shoes

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.

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.

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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.

 

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’?

Meet Beryl: great style at eighty

Beryl 6Last week I had the privilege of meeting Beryl, a stylish, confident and outgoing woman.  Beryl has short blonde hair, wears funky round glasses, and accessorises like a pro.  Best of all, Beryl is eighty.

She loves life, and dressing well helps her retain her joie de vivre. She adores people, and will talk to anyone (hence our meeting, as I’m very much the same).  I loved her positivity, her loquaciousness, and most of all I loved her sense of style.

Beryl travels, and shops, widely – anything from H&M to high end.  She knows how to tie a scarf to best effect, how to wear black (or grey), how to keep it chic and simple.  She understands fabric and texture, and how to add interest to any look.  Beryl despairs of ‘granny perms’ and implores her older friends and neighbours not to fall into that trap.  She told me, ‘I ask them (usually over a glass or two) why they don’t wear their hair differently, why don’t they care about what they wear, why don’t they smile?’

When I met Beryl she was wearing her grey round glasses, a black textured scarf Beryl 3wound tightly around her throat, a black coat and black patent ankle boots. She was carrying a Sonia Rykiel bag, and was searching for the perfect black v-neck for layering, which I helped her find.  In turn, she helped me find the perfect grey beret.

Beryl intuitively understands that style is about much more than what you wear – it’s how you present yourself to the world and it reflects how you approach life – and it has absolutely nothing to do with age.