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)

 

 

 

 

Eleven steps to effortless elegance, every day

effortless-elegance-4Elegance is defined as being ‘graceful and stylish in appearance or manner’.  This is quite a feminine definition, but I firmly believe that elegance can apply equally to men too.  (In fact, I stepped into the beautiful Flemings Hotel in Mayfair this week, for a preview of Winser London’s A/W collection, and the man who greeted me simply oozed effortless elegance.)  Nevertheless, it certainly describes something that is intangible.  And elegance is not just about what you wear, it’s about how you wear it and, even more importantly, how you behave while doing so.

It’s telling that when we talk about elegance, we often cite icons from the effortless-elegance-3past, rather than our contemporaries. Now it’s true, there are incomparable men and women (particularly from the mid twentieth century) who practically embody the word (Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Mason, Katharine Hepburn… I could go on) but there are plenty of modern examples too. Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba are elegant. Mark Ronson has abandoned youthful trendiness for grown-up elegance. Mr Beckham certainly has it. And so do the Duchess of Cambridge, Joanna Lumley, Catherine Deneuve and Aung San Suu Kyi. Jane Fonda certainly has it at the age of 78.  Yes, many of these women are older; designer Bruce Oldfield once said that elegance comes with age: women in their 50s, 60s and beyond wear ‘simple good quality clothes… they just get it right’.

effortless-elegance-1But let’s face it, modern life is not exactly conducive to appearing or, for that matter, behaving elegantly.  It is all about comfort and convenience.  Eating on our sofas in front of the television.  Not engaging in meaningful conversation as a result.  Table manners are neglected (are there such things as sofa manners?)

Now I’m not suggesting we return to the stiff formality of years gone by. But in these uncertain and divisive times, wouldn’t it be nice to restore a bit of old-school propriety?  There are some simple things we can all do to up our elegance stakes.  Here are my eleven…

 Eleven steps to effortless elegance

  1. Wear clothes that fit you properly.  Without a good fit, you will never achieve elegance
  2. Get items altered if you need to, to make them fit (modern high street sizing is erratic and inconsistent)
  3. Keep it simple.  Less is always more – particularly when it comes to accessories
  4. Women: if you can’t walk in high heels, don’t
  5. Think about ‘polish’ rather than ‘flash’.  Covering yourself in designer logos does not suggest elegance – in fact it indicates the opposite
  6. Remember that clothes that are cheap, look cheap.  Buy less, but buy better
  7. You don’t have to be dressed up to the nines to look elegant.  A crisp white shirt and dark jeans often does the trick (for both men and women)
  8. Make an effort: pay attention to the way you dress (and behave)
  9. Watch your manners.  Going out of your way to make others feel comfortable will ensure that you are, too
  10. Always be gracious: courteous, kind and pleasant

and finally…

  1. Retain an air of mystery.  Don’t reveal everything (literally and figuratively).

 effortless-elegance-2

 

Everyone needs a stylist, part 3: making it easier to look great

making it easier_louiseMany 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 look awful. Nothing could be further from the truth.  In previous posts, I’ve talked about honesty and objectivity, and saving time and money.  Here’s reason number three: I make it easier for you to look great.

Yes, I’m an investment.  But I also make dressing well easier for you.

  • I help you to understand what works for you and what doesn’t.  That way you can disregard the noise and distractions of trends, styles and colours that don’t work, and concentrate on the ones that do
  • I help you to focus – equipped with your ‘gap list’ (that I work with you to produce) you will making it easier_gap listknow exactly which items you need to buy to make your wardrobe work harder for you. Shopping is easier, and this approach saves you time and money too !
  • If you absolutely hate shopping (or even thinking about clothes) I make the whole process easier by taking away the pain.  I do the research, I scout options for you, I bring you items to try on without you having to worry

One of my clients, Susan, told me she ‘dislikes shopping intensely’.  After we worked together she said, ‘On our shopping trip, [Samantha] had already scouted a few options for me and selected certain shops so it was very focused.  I achieved more than I expected:  a wedding outfit, an informal but professional work style and new basics to go with everything I already own.’

And Amy: ‘Sam had prepared a rail of clothing for me, full of pieces I probably would never have picked up and I ended up buying most of them because they looked great!  I now have a capsule wardrobe of clothes that really work.  Sam has such a great eye for pulling together a look that is modern in a classic way without being slavishly trendy.’

I can make dressing well easier for you, too. Contact me today.

lucy needs a stylist

It’s hot! How to dress for work when the temperature rises

After a dismal start to the summer, we are finally seeing some hot weather.  Which has been distracting me from blogging, as you may have noticed !  Now, we Brits profess to love it when the weather warms up, but somehow end up complaining soon thereafter, particularly about how hot it gets at work.

I think it is easier for women to dress professionally in the heat, as we have many more outfit options than men.  But it is important to keep a few guidelines in mind, as you don’t want to undermine your professionalism by revealing too much skin or wearing something inappropriate, however much you want to show off your hard-earned holiday tan.

hot in wide leg trousersThis summer, wide leg, fluid and cropped trousers are everywhere, giving you a surprisingly flattering and cool option.  These come in vibrant prints, stripes or solid colours, and can be worn with sandals, heels or flats (the ones I’m wearing here are from Whistles).  Add a cami and lightweight blazer, or a crisp white shirt for a sleek tailored look.  Or simply choose a good quality, pristine white t-shirt worn with a silk scarf – very 2016.

Dresses are a great hot weather choice – one piece and you’re done. But keep the fabric skimming (not clinging).  Winser London does a variety of chic sleeveless shifts (I love the monochrome version) and a lovely airy broderie anglaise dress that will take you from office to dinner with ease.  Finery London also does a very affordable wrap dress that looks sharp and will keep you cool.

Some final top tips:

  1. Keep it minimal. Don’t over-accessorise in the heat – you don’t want extra jewellery jangling and creating fuss
  2. If you’re going bare-legged, exfoliate and moisturise regularly – your legs will thank you for it.  If you do choose tights, invest in the best ultra sheers: Wolford Naked 8’s
  3. Opt for lighter weight, natural fabrics that breathe, particularly cotton, silk or linen blends
  4. Finally, always always wear nude underwear under white clothing, as it becomes invisible…

Enjoy the weather !

 

its hot

How to take a ‘palette’ approach to packing

It’s holiday time !  And however much we look forward to this time of year, packing and preparing for it seems to be ever more stressful.  Taking an approach based on a particular colour palette can help you pack less, pack simply and pack well, ensuring that everything works together.

packing2It’s important to remember that packing everything but the kitchen sink will only result in heavy suitcases, and feeling overwhelmed with clothing choices when you get to your destination.  You’re on holiday to relax, so keeping your options clear and simple will help to declutter your mind and get you in the right spirit.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Choose a colour palette. And stick to it. What are the dominant colours in the clothespalette approach2 you love to wear?  If you have a favourite navy swimsuit, for example, build your holiday wardrobe around a palette of navy, white and camel: add denim shorts, white or breton tops/cover ups and tan or white sandals.  This approach will stop you packing too much, but only if you stick to it !
  2. Keep the shoes neutral.  Stick to neutral tones that work across your chosen palette – white, black, silver, camel – so that you don’t take too many pairs.  Ideally, all you need is one or two pairs of flip flops, a pair of sandals, a pair of white trainers and wedges for evening.  Don’t bother with other heels – believe me, you won’t wear them.
  3. Add a bag (and a hat).  Choose and carry a tote that works with as many of your outfits aspalette approach3 possible, and add a smaller clutch (carried inside it) to use for evenings.  And nothing says ‘chic’ like a beach hat in straw, navy or black.
  4. Make a list.  People think I’m mad but I always create a list of what I plan to take at least a week before.  This helps me group outfits by colour, and gives me time to buy any last minute flip flops or beauty products.  It also gives me a useful record in case my luggage goes astray.
  5. Consider the culture.  If you’re heading to the Middle or Far East, for example, check with your host or tour operator about any particular clothing etiquette you need to consider. A cashmere wrap (in a neutral tone that works with everything) is always useful (and great for cold planes).

Finally, make sure you label your luggage with your name and phone number (not your address) both inside and out, as sometimes outside labels get lost.

Have a fantastic holiday !

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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 !

 

 

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.

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

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.