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 !

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)

 

 

 

 

Guys: the ultimate guide to shorts and sandals

Mr W in his chino shorts and funky trainers

Mr W in his chino shorts and funky trainers

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

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

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

Let’s talk shorts

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

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

Sandals and socks – no !

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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 !

 

 

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.

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.

 

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

How to shop the sales…

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

Here are my five top tips for savvy sales shopping:

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

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

birthday shoes