Age is no barrier to style.

Are you over 40 ? 50 ? 60 ?

Yes, I too am on the ‘wrong’ side of 40. In fact, I am perilously close to 50. One of the reasons I gave up my ‘proper job’ and started style&grace was that I am in my 40s and I want to help my contemporaries (and older) who are struggling with shopping and dressing in our youth-obsessed age.

Many fabulously well dressed and elegant women around the world are in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. And yes, I know, many of those women are blessed with wealth, height and teams of stylists (or all three). But that doesn’t mean that us mere mortals can’t look great too, whatever our age.

So let’s banish these three ageist fashion myths once and for all:

  • ‘I’m too old to wear jeans.’ No you’re not. It’s about finding the right fit, length and colour for you.
  • ‘I’m too old to wear leather.’ No one is too old to wear leather. I met Gerry Gerry for blog_13 May_1this week, who looked amazing in her skinny jeans (rolled at the ankle) black brogues, leather jacket and chic bob. I told her how great she looked and she said, ‘well, I suppose it’s not bad for a 70-year old’. Enough said.
  • Trendy and fashionable clothes look ridiculous on ‘middle aged’ or ‘older’ women’. Too trendy – yes. Fashionable touches – no – these can look fabulous. The trick is to find the elements that work for you and introduce them carefully.

You can be stylish and elegant at any age. One thing to sort out first though – make sure your bras fit and support you properly (a common mistake among older women). It will change your shape and make your clothes hang much better. Now go forth and be stylish….. or call me !

Gerry for blog_13 May_2

Women: when considering accessories, listen to Coco

IMG_1102One of Coco Chanel’s most famous (and probably most ignored) pieces of advice was this: ‘before leaving the house, remove one accessory’. So many women either wear too many, and end up looking fussy and overdone, or not enough, and so look bland and lacking in any individual style. Focus is the key to success. Pick your point of focus and let it shine, whether that is your statement necklace, your fedora hat or your chandelier earrings. Heed Madame Chanel’s words, as it’s usually a rogue accessory that is the offender when you’re not sure if you’ve got it quite right.

Scarves are underrated in this country (which is always a surprise to me, given our unpredictable weather). They add instant polish and ‘je ne sais quoi’ to a casual outfit of jeans and simple cashmere knit, for example, but also add panache to a white work shirt or dark suit. Buy silk wherever possible, and consider the dominant colours in your wardrobe, as you want one that works with a number of pieces. When wearing a scarf, keep earrings and other jewellery to a minimum to avoid elements fighting for attention.

With jewellery, an elegant watch and a pair of diamond stud earrings will take any well-dressed woman a long way.   It’s also very modern to mix gold, silver and rose gold; don’t be afraid to combine and layer your pieces (without going overboard).IMG_1191

Brooches are often overlooked and can add a fun vintage vibe to hats, scarves or cardigans. Hats can make a stunning statement, but people tend to either be a ‘hat person’ or not (I am, by the way). If you want to give them a try, bring a friend and take photos to find the shape and height that works for you. Please, please avoid pastel-coloured stiff straw hats (the bane of wedding season) which look frumpy and are instantly ageing.IMG_1185

Belts can lift an otherwise plain outfit; think of a ponyskin belt with jeans and a shirt, or a chain belt with a black fluid shift dress. A monochrome suit for the office is instantly transformed by a skinny belt in a bright colour.

Turning to hosiery, nude matte tights or stockings are essential as we move from spring through to summer. And no shine please – you are not a showgirl (and they make legs look heavier). Invest in the best: Wolford Naked 8’s are fantastic (sheer and transparent with a sandal toe). If you do go bare-legged, exfoliate, moisturise and give your skin some help; MAC face and body foundation is great for this.

You can also add individuality through other accessories and small leathers, for example pens, notebooks, glasses cases and business card holders. All of these details say something about you and contribute to your ‘bigger picture’.

This is an edited version of my Platinum Style column in May’s Platinum Business Magazine.

 

 

‘All I ever see her wearing is jeans…’

Denim in all its forms is a huge trend for spring/summer 2015. Along with our old favourites (jeans and jackets) denim also abounds in skirts, jumpsuits, shirts and dresses this season.

Badger_denim5

Let’s start with jeans. Two shapes dominate at the moment: flares and boyfriend. Yes, I’ve said it before – flares are back. Try them in dark or black denim with platform heels or wedges – they can actually look sharper than tailored trousers.   Higher waisted flared jeans are surprisingly flattering and a fantastic option for day to evening. The boyfriend cut (slim or a looser fit) is the other big shape this year, particularly with ripped and distressed detailing. They look equally great dressed down with a white shirt and platform trainers or glammed up with a blazer and heels.

Denim and chambray shirts are extremely versatile, and work well paired with leather skirts or leggings, or layered with fine knits in the spring chill. Come warmer weather they look crisp with white jeans.

We all know ‘double denim’ can be a tricky look to pull off. The key is to think contrast rather than trying to match tones and fabrics. A pale lightweight chambray shirt, for example, works well with a dark pair of jeans (or a deeper blue denim with white or very pale jeans). Head-to-toe denim is also prominent in the form of jump- and boiler-suits. These can be casual with a pair of leopard or white platform trainers, or dressed up with some killer heels and a contrasting clutch. There are so many options for jackets too: kimono, tailored, military, bomber….

Whatever your choice of denim, we all wear it, and we wear it a lot. So how do you keep it looking its best – particularly your darker wash jeans? Here are a few pointers:

  • don’t wash your jeans unless you absolutely have to. Most denim on the market today is pre-treated and so doesn’t need extra washing to break it in. Raw denim is an exception (see below)
  • when you do, wash your jeans inside out on a delicate setting, in cold water
  • to freshen them up between washes, hang your jeans in the bathroom while you shower
  • if you want your denim to fade, wash it once in hot water (beware of shrinkage….only do this once)
  • raw denim hasn’t gone throught the pre-wash treatment process, so is stiff and heavy. It takes a while to break raw denim jeans in and loosen them up. They then mould to the wearer’s body, which aficionados say ‘personalises’ their look

Whatever you choose this season, it’s clear our love affair with denim is far from over. We always seem to return to it in one way or another. As shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis once said of Jacqueline, ‘What does she do with all those clothes? All I ever see her wearing is blue jeans’.

Many thanks to Badger Clothing for the image.

Shoes capture our imagination

This is an edited version of my article in April’s Platinum Business Magazine.

Shoe designer Roger Vivier once said that ‘to wear dreams on one’s feet is to begin to give a reality to one’s dreams’. Shoes capture our imagination and are a recurring cultural motif: ruby red slippers in Oz, Elvis’ blue suede shoes, Nancy Sinatra’s walking boots (the list goes on…)

Why are shoes important? A cheap or ill-fitting pair of shoes can instantly let down an entire look. It is the one element of the wardrobe that I would implore everyone to invest in. Good quality shoes lift your whole outfit, are (usually) more comfortable, and, they will last.SC_Shoes_0008

Men love shoes too

It’s a commonly held misconception (in my opinion) that women love shoes more than men. Many men love shoes too – they’re just quieter about it. And they tend to own fewer pairs…

The well-dressed man’s wardrobe should contain these ‘essential five’:

  • For work and more formal occasions: a pair of leather brogues (dark brown or black) and a pair of black leather derby’s (with or without broguing)
  • For off-duty days: a pair of loafers (leather or suede, neutral or colours), a pair of deck or boat shoes and a pair of desert boots

During the tricky transition from winter to spring, you may want to consider additional options. These work well with less formal trousers on ‘dress down’ office days as well as with denim or chinos at the weekend.

  • Suede brogues: can be alternative work shoes, depending on your office
  • Chukka boots: versatile lace-up leather boots that are less formal than brogues but smarter than trainers
  • Leather trainers in dark colours: increasingly popular in recent years and great for very casual occasions.

21 pairs and counting

I believe women have a more explicit (if I can put it that way) relationship with shoes – one that men don’t quite understand. Women’s shoes tend to be beautiful, with the ability to transform the everyday into something spectacular. They are also the one article of clothing that remains constant – no-one has to diet to fit into them! And high heels make every woman look taller and slimmer.

shutterstock_louboutins

Ignoring the fact that most women have, on average, 21 pairs of shoes, my ‘essential five’ for women are:

  • A pair (or two) of flat shoes (ballet pumps, loafers, brogues, etc) in neutral colours that go with everything
  • good court, mid or kitten heel shoes for workwear and more formal outfits
  • two pairs of evening shoes – slingbacks, peep toes or strappy sandals
  • knee high boots for wearing with skirts, dresses and under trousers
  • a pair of wedges for height in warmer weather

Obviously you can add to these, but in doing so, please choose quality over quantity. Marlene Dietrich once advised buying one pair of good shoes instead of three pairs of poor quality. And finally, 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. Say goodbye to them and let them go. There’ll be another pair along soon enough…

 

 

How to create a stress-free working wardrobe

This is an edited version of my article in March 2015’s Platinum Business Magazine.

All a woman needs to be chic is a raincoat, two suits, a pair of trousers and a cashmere sweater.’ So said the great Hubert de Givenchy, who clearly had his muse Audrey Hepburn in mind. Audrey obviously didn’t face the same daily wardrobe dilemmas we mere mortals do, particularly when it comes to dressing for work.

With more options than ever before, dressing for work can strike panic into the heart of even the most organised woman. We’ve all been there – stressing on a Monday morning, despairing that we ‘have nothing to wear’ while the pile of discarded outfits grows ever larger on the bed….

Building a coherent yet versatile working wardrobe requires taking a ‘strategic’ approach: gathering pieces that suit you and building on them to create a personal ‘uniform’.  Stella Gibson in ‘The Fall’, played by Gillian Anderson, is a great example. She wore silk blouses in pale colours with neutral skirts or trousers, heels and very little jewellery – a look that was instantly recognisable as ‘hers’.

First, understand your existing clothing and identify the items you repeatedly turn to. Are these suits, trousers, skirts or dresses? Do they have a dominant colour and shape? What basics can you add to create outfits? Once you’ve got outfits pulled together, add accessories to inject colour, texture and character.

The following are essential to any stylish woman’s working wardrobe. Embrace (or disregard) them, depending on your circumstances, to create your ‘uniform’:

  • A suit: the definition of a ‘suit’ has changed dramatically. It can be worn classically or as separates to create multiple outfits
  • A white shirt: the quintessential classic. For wearing alone or layering
  • Dresses (shift, sheath or shirt): the ultimate easy and versatile option – one piece and you’re done !
  • A pencil skirt: another classic that emerges each season in different textures. It can be part of a ‘suit’ if worn with a jacket or cardigan, and is best worn with heels
  • Trousers: choose carefully, as trousers date quickly. Stick to slim cuts and neutral tones
  • A good tailored jacket: preferably in navy, black or grey (depending on your palette) that go with the pieces listed above. This can be part of your suit, of course
  • Fine knit / cashmere jumpers or cardigans: in colours that complement your key pieces and shapes that suit you
  • A structured leather bag: for hauling all your essentials while still looking tidy. Do buy the best you can afford.

Wardrobe success means looking smart, feeling confident and being true to your individual style. Know what you like, what to avoid and don’t be distracted by passing trends. Building a polished working wardrobe takes time and investment. Take pleasure in the process and the results will be sensational.

My guide to the new season (women)

Spring/summer 2015 heralds a few big change in shapes and silhouettes, which may look a little scary at first glance. Here’s my quick overview of the new season and how to navigate the options…

  1. Flared jeans are back. Yes, it’s true. If you’re not sure, try them in dark or black denim with platform heels or wedges.   Higher waisted flared jeans create a surprisingly flattering silhouette and are a fantastic day-to-evening option. And if they don’t suit you, don’t wear them. Simple.
  1. Denim (including flares) is everywhere. But it’s not just limited to jeans. If jeans aren’t your thing, or you want to explore other options, check out the plethora of denim shirts arriving in shops now – these are great with a leather skirt, by the way. Denim dresses, boilersuits and A-line denim skirts (see M&S’s version, featured in Vogue) also abound, as a key part of the…..
  1. ….1970s trend. The ‘Me’ decade is back with a vengeance, not only influencing denim shapes, but also through prints, luxe languid blouses, suede jackets and fringing. Fringing adorns everything – be careful here unless you want to look like a cowgirl – keep it limited to one item or accessory
  1. Cropped trousers/culottes are also big (and big in volume). It’s a distinct move away from slim and tailored, which has been with us for a while. This is a tricky look to pull off, unless you’re blessed with height (which I am not). If you’re wearing volume on the bottom half, keep it streamlined on top.

Things to hang on to:

  • leather – leather bikers, skirts and leggings are still with us, and great for chilly March/April weather
  • sports luxe – the sweatshirt and cuffed sweatpant vibe is still going strong. Don’t be afraid to dress them up with heels and a clutch
  • skinny jeans – they aren’t disappearing yet
  • anything white. A big colour for spring/summer

I’ve said this before: do not follow trends for trends’ sake. If something doesn’t suit you, you will look ridiculous wearing it. And if you’re unsure of a particular colour or trend (e.g. fringing), inject it into one or two accessories first. Most of all, wear whatever you choose with confidence and a smile.

 

What’s underneath is important.

This piece appears in February’s Brighton Style Magazine (www.brightonstylemag.com)

This week, we’ll see the annual stampede of men rushing out to buy flowers, chocolates, or even underwear for their partners for Valentine’s Day.  Many of these men have no idea of their beloved’s size, preferred colour or shape !   Neither, in some cases, do the women. About 70% of British women are wearing the wrong size bra.  Why is our attitude to underwear so slapdash and uncaring ?

French women, on the other hand, know that beautiful, supportive, well-fitting underwear is vital, as it creates a foundation for the overall look.  As Nic, owner of Brighton boutique She Said (see below) explained to me, ‘French women view lingerie as part of being a woman, and girls are taken to be fitted at an early age.’  We tend to take the opposite approach: beautiful underwear is only for ‘special occasions’ and not considered integral to our style.  Not so.

Some women dream of the perfect lingerie drawer, with matching sets of bras, knickers and chemises.  But it’s important to make sure you’ve got the right basics before buying fun or sexy pieces that may not be suitable for everyday wear.  Here are three golden rules to get you started:

  1. get a bra fitting regularly, and have several sizes.  Brands and shapes do vary, and your body changes throughout the month
  2. your basics should include the following bras: nude, black, strapless/convertible
  3. and please, hand or delicate wash (in a net bag) only ! Believe me, they’ll last much longer

As a newcomer to Brighton I am frequently delighted by the lovely independent boutiques that abound in our city.  When you are ready to invest in some fun, sexy (but not trashy) pieces, check these out (and tell your partner):

  • She Said – this is the place to go if you’re after something unusual or a little racier.  They stock an amazing selection of designer lingerie (including suspenders, camisoles and corsets) as well as burlesque wear and toys for the more adventurous
  • Lavender Room:  pretty gift shop and boutique that stocks colourful Princesse Tam Tam bra and knicker sets, and delicate Eberjey chemises
  • Another discovery is Ayten Gasson.  Ayten Roberts creates beautiful silk lingerie made in the UK, designed in her Brighton studio

Now go and tell your man…

She Said, now at 32 Ship Street, Brighton BN1 1AD

Lavender Room, 16 Bond Street, Brighton BN1 1RD

Ayten Gasson – available online at http://www.aytengasson.com

Who’s your style inspiration?

January’s Red Magazine contained a lovely interview with Claudia Winkelman, talking about family, ‘Strictly’ and of course her quirky style.  She revealed that she has been channeling Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith, since she was about 18.  Hence the fringe and eyeliner.

I felt the same way about Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders way back in 1978, and my ‘grown up’ casual look has evolved accordingly.  It now centres on skinny dark or coated jeans, ankle boots and silver jewellery.  And black eyeliner.  But sadly I can’t wear a fringe.

Claudia’s words got me thinking about style icons and who inspires us.  Whistles are doing a series on their website on style icons including the inimitable Charlotte Rampling (click on ‘Journal’ and scroll down).  My personal favourites (besides Chrissie) are Edie Sedgwick and 1970s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.  And the BFI are launching a season dedicated to the legendary Katharine Hepburn, the Oscar winning actress who had a groundbreaking and completely individual style.

Who has inspired your look ?

@redmagdaily   @thisiswhistles

 

Let’s pare it back (sartorially speaking).

I gave my lovely friend Louise a cookbook this week for her birthday.  The cookbook was on one-pot dishes – the ultimate food simplicity.   The introduction really caught my eye, as it recounted an experiment posed by the legendary Jack White (of White Stripes, Dead Weather and Raconteurs fame) who is renowned for his anti-technology, pared back approach to music.

Jack’s experiment was this:  take two singer-songwriters.  Put one in a state of the art studio with a full mixing desk, production team and no limit on time.  Put the other in a room with a four track tape recorder and a guitar for two days.  Who will produce the better song ?  The singer-songwriter with the four track.  Jack’s theory is that creativity requires constraints, and that the world is often better when pared back.

The same applies to stylish dressing.  Too many clothes, too many choices and too much clutter often result in a sloppy undefined style and a lot of early morning stress.  Let’s embrace Jack’s theory and pare it back, sartorially speaking.

How ? Here are three of my golden rules to achieving simplicity:

  • wear a maximum of three colours at a time, to keep it simple and uncluttered
  • question those items that go with nothing else in your wardrobe
  • get rid of anything you haven’t worn in the past two years (excluding coats or evening wear)

Want to know more ?  Book a consultation.  You don’t expect me to give away all my secrets, do you ?

Embrace elegance, not trends


Photo Credit: ierdnall cc

Readers of this blog may notice that I don’t tend to focus heavily on specific trends, or what’s ‘fashionable’.  My aim is to help you think about your overall style and elegance – concepts that have much more longevity. I believe we live in a graceless age, and I’d like to inject some grace and elegance back into it. There are some basic principles that anyone, male or female, whatever their budget, can adopt to up their style and elegance stakes. Here are my top three:
1) make ‘simplicity’ your mantra. Keep the number of colours to a minimum, limit your accessories and keep layers fine so as to not add bulk
2) think ‘tonal’. An elegant look involves wearing different tones of one colour: grey, navy, cream, black or camel look particularly polished. Colour can be added with accessories – grey with a pop of yellow, for example, or navy with a touch of fuchsia
3) add height and length wherever you can. I’m only 5’3″ so this is a key one for me, but it’s not just about shoes. This can be achieved by following point 2, making sure things fit properly and paying attention to the overall ‘silhouette’ created by your outfit.
Contact me for further advice on being more stylish and elegant today.

Let’s make some style resolutions instead…

It seems crazy to me that we make resolutions at the start of the new year. Yes, it’s ‘new’, but January is also the darkest, dreariest, I’m-feeling-fat, we’re-all-broke-after-Christmas month. Wouldn’t March be a better time to resolve to be happier, lose weight and reinvent ourselves, as spring is truly a time of rebirth?

So if we have to make resolutions now, why not make some style resolutions. Much easier to stick to! And no guilt if you don’t!

Here are mine for 2015:

  • I will continue to be true to my style in 2015 (yes, I know, this one’s a bit of a cheat as I have discovered a style that works for me…). I will not be diverted by catwalk trends (ok, maybe one or two…)
  • Neither will I be distracted by so-called sale ‘bargains’ that end up as outfit ‘orphans’ in my wardrobe
  • I will detox my basics and revamp my underwear drawer at least once this year (this one is my husband’s favourite)
  • I will buy a new winter coat before the end of November when all the best ones are gone
  • I will wear heels more often. And follow the advice I give to my clients by wearing them with my boyfriend jeans and black Joseph jacket – a great combination

Tweet me with your style resolutions at @alwayschicUK and have a fantastic January.

Top tips for party dressing (revisited….)

As New Year’s Eve is almost upon us, I thought it was worth revisiting my five top tips for party dressing:

  1. The basics matter: Well-fitting and supportive underwear are the foundation of your look – get this right and the rest will follow. Check that everything fits, supports where necessary and that no lines or hooks show. Do wear nude underwear under white, and if your outfit calls for tights or stockings, seek out Falke or Wolford. Their colours, patterns and quality are unrivalled.
  1. Be prepared: Don’t leave it until the last minute to decide what to wear.  Nothing is more panic-inducing than discovering your dress has a broken zipper or you don’t have the right tights, bag or jewellery. A good rule of thumb is to gather your full outfit (including underwear, shoes and accessories) and try everything on at least a week in advance, giving you time to get any last minute dry cleaning done or to fill any gaps. Then try everything on, again, two days before, to make sure you are happy with your look (and comfortable in your shoes!).
  1. Mix it up:  It doesn’t have to be designer… the high street has a wide array to suit all budgets. Mixing high street and designer, new and vintage will create a look that is uniquely yours. Think beyond the little black dress: navy, for example, is chic, suits most skin tones and looks less harsh than black. Wearing red, with confidence, is a great way to make a statement.  A tuxedo style jacket or full trouser suit (reminiscent of YSL’s iconic ‘le smoking’) can be very elegant – just ask Bianca Jagger or Kate Moss.  Jumpsuits are also a flattering option as they give one long fluid silhouette, and are best worn with heels.
  1. Accessorise with care:  Invest in key pieces that will work with a number of outfits, such as a statement clutch bag or shoes. I have a beautiful pair of black Miu Miu heels that I keep purely for dressy occasions. You can transform a look for several events by changing or adding jewellery, belts, jackets or wraps. Keep your look polished by heeding the wise words of the immortal Coco Chanel: ‘check the mirror once more before you leave the house and remove one accessory.’
  1. The finishing touches:  I love treating myself to a professional makeover the day of a party. A number of places offer this service free of charge – Space NK is a good option, along with MAC and Bobbi Brown. This is not the time to experiment with a brand new look, however – you may not like it, and you want to look like you!   Don’t feel pressured into buying anything, although investing in the lip-gloss or lipstick of your new look is a good idea.

Finally, whatever you choose to wear, do so with confidence and a smile– nothing says elegance quite like it.

Dressing for the occasion

As we hurtle headlong into the party season, it got me thinking about how much we all love this time of year, with its glitz and sparkle. Social occasions abound – Christmas drinks, office parties, the big day itself – it’s enough to make even the most organised woman have a wardrobe crisis!

Dressing up is becoming increasingly rare in our casual modern world, but nothing beats it for injecting some glamour into a gathering. This season, there are so many interesting textures to add a touch of the extraordinary to your look – sequins, beading, molten metallic fabrics and leather.  Animal print and faux fur are also abundant but keep these limited to one element of your outfit. If you’re heading out straight from the office, a simple black dress with worn with boots for day can be transformed by adding heels, a metallic belt or jacket and a clutch for evening.

Here are my five top tips (for women) for achieving effortless elegance this party season:

  1. The basics matter: well-fitting and supportive underwear are the foundation of your look – get this right and the rest will follow.
  2. Be prepared: don’t leave it until the last minute! Nothing is more panic-inducing than discovering your dress has a broken zipper or you don’t have the right tights or bag. Try everything on at least a week in advance, giving you time to get any last minute dry cleaning done or to fill any gaps.
  3. Mix it up: It doesn’t have to be designer… the high street has a wide array to suit all budgets. Mixing high street and designer, new and vintage will create a look that is uniquely yours.
  4. Accessorise with care: invest in key pieces that will work with several outfits, such as a statement clutch bag or shoes. Transform one look for several events by changing or adding jewellery, belts, jackets or wraps. Keep your look polished by heeding the wise words of the immortal Coco Chanel: ‘check the mirror once more before you leave the house and remove one accessory.’
  5. The finishing touches: I love treating myself to a professional makeover the day of a party. A number of places offer this service free of charge – Space NK is a good option, along with MAC and Bobbi Brown.

And finally…if you are unsure what to wear to a party or gathering, ask your host. It is much better to ask than to risk embarrassment. Whatever you choose to wear, do so with confidence and a smile– nothing says elegance quite like it.

 

Let’s reclaim our elegance.

In this week’s Sunday Times, a woman wrote in to the wonderfully witty Mrs Mills with the following conundrum:

My boyfriend loves Italian food, so we often eat in restaurants where it’s hard to avoid the pasta course. I am ruining loads of my clothes with little splashes of the ubiquitous tomato-based sauces. How can I stop these splashes?

This letter took me straight back to a sunny piazza in Rome, several years ago. Mr W and I were sitting in a small café, enjoying lunch and soaking up the sunshine on our last day in the city. Seated at the table next to us were two Italian men, who worked in the nearby parliamentary offices, enjoying a leisurely lunch hour (something that seems to have been lost forever in this country). We watched in awe (as surreptitiously as we could) as one of them tucked a pristine white linen napkin into the collar of his equally pristine white shirt, and proceeded to eat an enormous plate of spaghetti pomodoro. And, dear reader, not one splash of tomato soiled the napkin or the shirt. Not one.

Many of us secretly envy the Italians for their effortless style (well, I do). But this gentleman had more than style; he had manners, panache and most of all he had elegance. Elegance that went beyond his clothes – elegance that permeated his manners, his behaviour, his conversation.

I would love the British to reclaim elegance (we had it in years past). It has little to do with income, profession or social status. It is about caring how we present ourselves, how we behave in public, how we treat each other, and yes, it requires a bit of thought and effort. As Coco Chanel once said, ‘elegance comes from being as beautiful inside as outside’.

 

Is the ‘capsule’ wardrobe an elusive pipe dream?

Fashion editors and style mavens regularly exhort us to create a capsule wardrobe (or ‘essential edit’) in order to achieve wardrobe nirvana. Yet for many of us this remains an elusive goal. The word ‘capsule’, of course, implies a relatively small number of items, and that’s the problem. Today we (women and men) have so many clothes that it is almost impossible to know where to start. I’ll happily admit that it’s taken about three years to achieve a fairly consistent colour palette in my own wardrobe, and yes, I am guilty of owning pieces that I never wear or that are ‘outfit orphans’ (they don’t go with anything else….)

Last week’s Stylist magazine reported that women spend about £4k a year on clothes, but yet wear only a small percentage (I wonder what the corresponding figure is for men ?). They cite the capsule wardrobe as the foundation of dressing ‘strategically’, alleviating weekday morning stress, preventing impulse or panic buying and saving you money. Many fashion insiders talk of wearing a ‘uniform’. Less scary than it sounds, this simply means wearing a ‘template’ of clothes in a specific colour palette, which they stick to closely. Why? For these women, the benefits are saving time, having clothes that ‘work harder’ for them and knowing their look is flattering and stylish.

How do you discover what works for you in the first place ? Where should your capsule start?  I would advise you to tackle this in stages. It won’t happen overnight – and most mere mortals can’t afford to make it happen immediately !  A good first step is to ‘detox’ your wardrobe (see ‘my services’).   It sorts the wheat from the chaff, as it were, enabling you to see what clothes you’ve got, to identify gaps needed to create outfits and it starts to reveal your style personality (for example, you may already have a predominant colour palette or ‘uniform’ of key pieces). From there, you can see what to discard, what to build on, and what your priority purchases should be.

Please contact me if you’d like help with detoxing your wardrobe, defining your ‘uniform’ or building your capsule collection.

@stylistmagazine

 

Yes, autumn is finally here.

After a mild September and a positively balmy October, there’s no escaping the fact that autumn is finally here.

I love autumn. To some it means ‘leaves on the line’, shorter days and lower temperatures, but to me it encompasses the promise of……great accessories. For it is in autumn that accessories really come into their own – scarves, gloves, sunglasses (for chilly but clear days), hats and socks all start to take vital supporting roles in our wardrobes.

And because these items are on show when we’re out and about, there’s no excuse for them not being as well thought out as your other items of clothing. In fact, they help pull together your look, creating polish and coherence.

I like to take a tonal approach to accessorising. My favourite hat, for example (hats are a fantastic way to inject individuality into your outfit) is a black and grey tweedy check. I aim for the majority of my outfit to tone in with this – either going for all grey or black – and then add a pop of colour with a bright red or pink glove or scarf.

Keep it simple. Keep the number of colours down. Add one key ‘pop’ of colour to add some zing. And remember the sage advice of the immortal Coco Chanel: ‘Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.’

Quality vintage is truly timeless

I was sitting in my favourite café, nursing a cappuccino and battling writer’s block, when a flash of leopard print caught my eye. A woman walked in wearing a fantastic leopard faux fur coat (neatly nailing two A/W 14 trends in one, I might add). This coat was subtle and elegant – which in itself was notable for animal print – without a trace of any Bet Lynch fluffiness or bulkiness. It was smooth and sleek, with a sparse leopard spot, a silk lining and princess sleeves. An understated showstopper, if you like.

Statement coats are once again a focal point this autumn/winter, and a piece like this would be a welcome addition to any stylish woman’s wardrobe. The styling options abound: draped over a fine knit black polo neck and trousers (or skinnies) for the weekend, or providing the finishing touch to a sharp white shirt, black skirt and heels for work. The key (as with all animal print and most faux fur) is to keep the rest of the outfit simple and uncluttered.

It turns out that the woman in question had bought the coat about 15 years ago in a vintage shop in L.A. for the princely sum of $10 !!! Although I have pointed out in previous posts that fashion moves ever faster, sometimes you can find pieces that are truly timeless. Animal print returns again and again. As does faux fur. The key of course is the quality of the cut and fabric.

As a newcomer to Brighton, I am astounded by the number of vintage and second hand clothes shops the city has to offer. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to find as lovely a coat – I live in hope.

Two local favourites:

Hybrid Boutique for quirky vintage pieces (follow the lovely Natalie at @hybrid_ boutique for details of pop-ups and events)

The Dressing Room, 75 Trafalgar Street, Brighton BN1 (@dressingroomBN1)

A one-woman revolution

I had the privilege of hearing Carry Somers, Patchacuti MD and founder of Fashion Revolution Day, speak at Brighton Fashion Week.  The audience listened in awed silence as Carry explained how she had created a socially and environmentally responsible brand, as well as launching Fashion Revolution Day in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster in April 2013.

She founded Fairtrade hat company Pachacuti back in 1992.  The word Pachacuti means ‘world upside down’ in the Quechua language, and symbolises the company’s efforts to redress the inherent inequalities in the fashion industry. Fairtrade hats are woven by 165 women in their Panama hat association; Patchacuti is able to track their progress and measure the impact on those weavers, as well as having traceability throughout the supply chain.

The idea for Fashion Revolution Day ‘popped into’ Carry’s head a few days after the Rana Plaza disaster.  She says, ‘everywhere I looked there were newspaper articles calling for a more ethical fashion industry.’  She contacted Orsola de Castro, founder of Esthetica at London Fashion Week, which led to interest by Lucy Siegle, The Observer’s ethical living columnist.  They agreed that an annual Fashion Revolution Day was needed to channel concerns into an ongoing campaign.

So mark your calendars for 24th April 2015 and get involved.

www.panamas.co.uk

www.fashionrevolution.org

@carrysomers     @pachacutiUK      #insideout

 

 

Biker girls rule…

I love the whole edgy biker girl/rock chick vibe going on at the moment. Leather jackets, studded biker boots (Ash do a fab pair – ankle or slightly higher), mesh t-shirts (love Alexander McQueen’s version) – it’s all great for bringing out your inner tough girl. Mix this look with some feminine touches to soften it a bit. I particularly love Maje’s sequinned jacket that I saw in their King’s Road shop last week – it would be equally great over a t-shirt with skinnies, or an evening dress. And best of all, the sales are starting early……

That ‘new school year’ feeling…..

I love this time of year.  Not only because of the (mostly) sunny days and turning leaves, but also because of the new autumn/winter collections really hitting the shops.  I blogged last week about some of the lovely pieces for the new season shown at the Question Air fashion show.  But it also got me thinking about other ways to ‘refresh’ your look for the new season.  One easy (and inexpensive) way is by updating your makeup.  MAC has teamed up with Carine Roitfeld (former model and editor of French Vogue) to produce a great new set of palettes for autumn – think smoky eyes and pale lips – the eternal way to bring out your inner Parisian chic.  See the collection at

http://www.maccosmetics.co.uk/whats_new/9385/New-Collections/Carine-Roitfeld/index.tmpl