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

 

 

 

 

Clothes maketh the man…

Kevin Duala edited for blog

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

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

Professional with a twist

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin’s rules for dressing:

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

 

 

 

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 !

 

 

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!

 

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.

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

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.

birthday shoes

 

Clothes coupons and ‘making do’

Version 2

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.

 

Time to buy a coat…

One of my new year fashion resolutions for 2015 was this: I will buy a new winter coat before the end of November when all the best ones are gone. Well here we are in November….

It’s tricky, because last year I barely wore a winter coat. Our recent series of mild wet winters have meant that I’ve relied on judicious layering rather than any serious coat investment.

But recent press reports have predicted that we’re due for 100 days of snow this winter – reminiscent of the brutal winters of 1963 and 1947 (not that I was there, you understand).  So it might finally be time to take the plunge.

Thankfully there is a wide variety of interesting options available this autumn/winter, including the cocoon, wool wrap and my personal favourite, the cape.  Here’s the lowdown:

  • The cocoon – with or without a collar, great for striking an androgynous pose with a white shirt, black skinnies and brogues.  Take inspiration from Jigsaw with their beautiful textured boucle coat, or Ted Baker’s ombre version in two colourways
  • The trench – a timeless classic, great for warding off the autumn chill before winter really sets in. Go classic – double breasted in taupe or beige, (or perhaps dark green at Ted Baker) or think soft suede a la Zara.  A Burberry trench is, of course, a failsafe English-made classic and a real investment piece
  • The wool wrap – this year the classic wool coated is belted with no buttons, in soft taupe or caramel tones.  Max Mara’s Goloso is the ultimate version in gorgeous camel hair if your budget allows….  The Fold also do a lovely belted claret version
  • The cape – capes are a great way to play with shape and proportion, and are particularly dramatic worn over evening wear or layered over fine knits and skinny jeans.  This season they are striped or checked, textured or embellished, fur trimmed or jewelled, but I love the simplicity of the ‘Vickiye’ taupe wool cape by Ted Baker and Reiss’ wool blend ‘Cavalier’ in navy.  The length varies too – short and boxy (above the hip) or longer line (similar to a coat or long jacket length)

Make sure you consider your lifestyle, existing wardrobe and your commute before you make a final decision on a coat.  It is, after all, a fairly significant wardrobe investment that you will want to wear for several years to come.