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 !

Everyone needs a stylist: part 2

I recently wrote that people often think it’s negative to hire a personal stylist. That by doing so, they’re admitting that they don’t know how to dress.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Politicians know that what they wear is vital to their ‘brand’, (Hillary Clinton has a styling budget) and our own PM is starting to pay more careful attention. But that’s another blog post entirely…

There are a number of very positive reasons that people hire me.  I offer honest and objective advice but there are other reasons too.  The fact is, I can save you both time and money, and reduce the stress of shopping or putting outfits together.  How?

  • I do the hard work (so you don’t have to).  I research the items you’re looking for and build relationships with the brands and boutiques that matter.  This results in better service from those retailers – and often a discount too!
  • I save you time.  By doing that research I’ve pinpointed the items that are most likely to work for you.  So you don’t have to try on loads and loads of stuff, or waste valuable time ordering and returning things.
  • I take away the pain of changing rooms, of endless searching, of being afraid to try something new. When you shop with me, I bring clothes to you ready for you to try.  No fighting with armfuls of items you’re not really sure about, getting all flustered.  You can relax in the knowledge that you’ll be getting your own personal ‘edit’.

Don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what some of my clients say:

Steve: I’ve never had the confidence to shop for clothes properly.  The small investment with Sam has paid for itself, preventing me buying the wrong stuff and my new style has already been positively noticed, even by complete strangers.

Katharine: It really is an investment in yourself.  I was hesitant to ask for help – surely by now I should know what suits me and what to wear.  Wow…what a difference Samantha makes.  She makes you feel comfortable with your own style offers ideas, recommendations and suggestions with integrity and honesty.

Susan: This is the first time I’ve ever considered working with a stylist.  After all, I could spend the money on new clothes!  I can say unequivocally that feeling great about my clothes has been invaluable.  I continue to hold Samantha’s advice in my head… it stops me from rash, impulsive shopping.  Money very well spent indeed. 

So what are you waiting for? Contact me today.

 

 

 

 

 

Hats off to Wimbledon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

carrying my hat

 

Everyone needs a stylist: part 1

men need stylist tooSome people think it’s somehow negative to hire a personal stylist.  That they’re admitting that they don’t know how to dress or that they don’t look ‘quite right’. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are a number of very positive reasons that people hire me as their personal stylist, and one of the most important is that I offer honesty and objectivity.

working hard as a stylistWe all have far too many clothes (me included), and we often have emotional attachments to them. Sometimes these emotional attachments are valid, but sometimes they are unnecessary (and can hold you back).  With so many clothes, often people can’t see the wood for the trees: it’s difficult to be objective and honest with yourself when your wardrobe is full to overflowing.  This is where a personal stylist like me can help.

And here’s something really interesting that I’ve discovered working with clients and observing people’s behaviour: sometimes our partners/best friends/spouses aren’t completely truthful about what suits us or what we should be buying.  I’ve witnessed more than one example of someone persuading his or her partner/friend not to buy something, even though that item looked great and he or she loved it.

lucy needs a stylistWhen you hire me, you get honesty and objectivity, built on a solid foundation of trust.  With my objective, non-emotional eye, I can help you:

  • make decisions about clothing that you may be having doubts about
  • get a clearer picture of your ‘style identity’, whatever that may be
  • recognise if your existing wardrobe is helping or hindering you in reaching your goals

But don’t just take my word for it.  Here’s what Katharine says:  I was hesitant to ask for help – surely by now I should know what suits me.  After all, I would be admitting to some shortcomings on my part. Wow, what a difference Samantha makes.  She makes you feel comfortable with your own style and guarantees you outfits that you have not thought of before. She offers ideas, recommendations and suggestions with integrity and honesty… I felt stylish, inspired and organised!   At a recent interview, I was easily the best dressed and it gave me more presence than the others.  I got the job…

Contact me today if you’d like to benefit from some honest and objective style advice.

creating gap list 2

Democracy and high heels: the next steps…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I was a lingerie model for a day

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Hair and makeup by Jade Victoria

Photography by Klicka

Sam eve PJs low res_croppedSam Rose Scarf

 

 

 

Semple dresses: quality, elegance and simplicity

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

Images courtesy of Maggie Semple Ltd.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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!

 

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

 

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.