In Praise of the Navy Sweater…

Is it possible to have too many navy sweaters in your wardrobe?…

I can trace my love affair with the navy sweater back to my childhood. Long summers spent in rural France, it was worn by anyone and everyone, and seemed to me the epitome of laid back chic, pulled on over a cotton shirt or simply draped around the shoulders.

I recall returning home to Yorkshire after such a holiday and spending  my meagre clothing allowance on a Marks & Spencer navy round neck sweater – absolute classic – and I wore it everywhere, from school (no uniform in the sixth form) to the local pub for our Friday evening ‘socials’!

Twenty five years later, I have seven navy sweaters in my wardrobe.  This particular piece of clothing, in any form,  is one of the first things I will grab if I’m not sure what to wear, or need to hedge my bets over the possible dress code for a given occasion.

As we age (no getting away from that?!) navy is generally more flattering and softer on the complexion than black, and classic styles can be dressed up or down.

My current favourite is a simple, crew neck in cashmere that I bought from & Other Stories a couple of years ago. It sits just on the waist and is slightly shorter at the front than the back.  I wear it with everything from jeans to a smart pencil skirt and heels.

Then there is the v neck version I bought on holiday in the Canaries a couple of years ago, when I was caught out by the chilly evenings of late March. It was my first holiday alone with the children and packing my own clothes had not really been a priority.  The day times were fine – sunny, breezy but still ok to swim in the pool.  But the evenings…. I tried to brave it in a yellow sundress and a cashmere throw on Evening One, and had to have a hot bath when I got back to the room after dinner, to prevent the onset of hypothermia!  All those chic ladies I had seen bikini-clad around the pool in the afternoon were sensibly dressed in jeans, sweaters and jackets for their evening excursions.  Day Two, I managed to find a men’s, pure wool navy jumper in the hotel boutique, and justified the purchase knowing I could continue to wear it when I got home to London.

Cos Stores do great fine knit, round neck sweaters, and I have the navy version (and also the grey and the forest green).  With looser trousers, or my favourite boyfriend jeans, the slim fit is perfect.  I also have another Cos navy sweater, this one with a silk buttoned front, bought a couple of years ago.

  • COS image 8 of Round-neck merino jumper in Navy
    Round neck merino jumper, Cos Stores.

On another holiday, this time in Crete (there’s something about relaxing abroad that encourages me to shop?!) I bought a longer length, navy cotton sweater.  I was feeling slightly bohemian at the time(!) – a mixture of lazy days, beach, sunset and the occasional little glass of Raki.  It is a heavier cotton knit, more of a marine blue, and has a beaufiful round keyhole at the back.

If you are in the market for a new sweater, why not try something ethically produced, for example the Hand-Knitted Navy Blue Wool Sweater by ABURY Collection.

Abury sells unique handmade collections made by local communities all over the world.  It’s Foundation re-invests a part of profits back into education and community projects in the communities it works with.  Win win.

 

Navy wool sweater, Abury

Or, at the higher end, you could try Brunello Cucinelle.  Each collection features products that are made in Italy by craftsmen who live in a sustainable village in Umbria. Cucinelli believes that “money only has real value when it is spent to improve the life and development of people,” so he donates a large part of his profits towards restoring and renovating the hamlet in which his workers live, and supporting arts initiatives there. Most of his knitwear is made of ethically sourced, pure cashmere and merino wool

The virgin wool and cashmere sweater with stripes is beautiful, or the v-neck linen sweater, (see below).

Finally, according to colourtherapyhealing, the colour blue is calming, relaxing and healing and also the colour of communication.  It relates to self expression, and the spirit of truth and purpose.

Do you need any more reasons…?

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The Re-Worked Bridesmaid Dress

A long time ago, in what feels like another lifetime, I was ‘Chief’ (- obvs) Bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding. It was a brilliant day – sunshine, flowers and good friends. We spent months planning every detail, including the most important aspect of all(!) – what we would wear.

My friend looked amazing for her wedding – most Brides do?  We were both in our twenties, youthful and full of anticipation for what lay ahead.  But however much she loved her dress and veil, (and she did) I don’t think she could have been any happier than I was in my bridesmaid’s ensemble!  It was a rare joy to wear such rich, bright colours, and beautiful fabric. My skirt comprised metres of heavy, crisp silk, in rich blue, red and yellow.  It was gathered and voluminous, and brushed the floor as I glided up the aisle behind my dear friend, feel so proud and beautiful.  On the top, I wore a yellow silk bodice and a blue short-sleeved, silk jacket.  The skirt, top and jacket were all handmade.

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Fastforward 20 -plus years.  Sady, (or not), my friend and I are both now divorced. However – yes, you guessed it –  the clothes have outlasted both our marriages.

I can no longer account for the whereabouts of the bodice and jacket.  I’ve searched in all the usual places, but some things just disappear over time?  But I kept the skirt, hanging gloriously in my wardrobe.  Back in the day, it was probably squashed between several pairs of jeans, and a couple of suits that I had bought for my prospective legal career.

Eventually the skirt was moved to the ‘won’t ever wear again, but cannot bear to get rid of it’ pile on the top of the wardrobe.  Every now and again I would take it out and marvel at how much fabric had actually been used in its relatively simple construction. And so I decided a couple of years ago to take it to my local dressmaker, Patricia, at Cathay Original, Clapham South.  (Sadly, Patricia no longer has a business there, but back then she had a brilliant dress-making and alterations workshop).

Patricia  performed her magic on the dress, and re-worked it into the cool little shift dress I have now.  I chose the sleeves – a small cap, with a slight split over each shoulder.  And my favourite thing of all – the red silk lining.

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I’ve worn the dress several times since I had it re-worked.  I’d like to think that both the dress and I are wiser and more mature than we were back then – and with a little more attitude!

Love your clothes..

 

Retro Dressing, Now

I know how the saying goes – if you’re old enough to remember that decade the first time around, you really shouldn’t be wearing it now….

Few of us can have failed to notice the 70’s and 80’s influence in current fashion trends.

Culottes, jumpsuits, flares, blue denim (and even puffball skirts at YSL at Paris Fashion Week if I’m not mistaken?)!

I know how the saying goes -‘ if you’re old enough to remember that decade the first time around, you really shouldn’t be wearing it now’… but I do love these clothes. And to be fair, although I remember the 80’s vividly and had a fantastic puffball skirts and some enormous shoulder pads (see below, I have no shame…!) – I was only just born in the 70’s, and that decade is largely pre-‘conscious recollection’?!

For someone who is doing their very best to wear what is already in the wardrobe, rather than buy new stuff, dressing with a slightly retro look can be a sheer joy.  Keeping the look current, however, is more of a challenge.

Yes, I have older clothes and some I have had for a long time – but not originally bought 35 years ago…..

I had a good sort through my wardrobe the other day and came up with the following:-

Knee length camel leather coat (Cos Stores c. 2016)

Denim culottes (MiH jeans)

Denim shirt (H & M boys’ department – a ‘hand me down’ my 12 year old son!)

Gold bomber jacket (Cos stores, last year)

Knee high, square toe, black boots (purchased with what remained of my Erasmus grant when I first arrived in London, September 1996)

Leopard print dress (70’s,80’s, 90’s, 00’s…. for ever!) (Moschino Cheap n Chic)

Camel suede jacket ( holiday purchase in 1997 – see below)

White denim flares (Jil Sander – gifted to me by a dear friend, from her late mother in law’s wardrobe)

Leopard print velvet biker jacket with fur collar (Shrimps)

And I also have a Brora silk blouse, paisley print, in greens, orange and brown.  My youngest son wore it on World Book Day last year as part of his Gangsta Gran outfit (David Walliams) – which somewhat gave the blouse the kiss-of-death, but I’m thinking with the right outfit – it could still be a go-er?!

I’d like to tell you a little bit about the longest-hanging item in my wardrobe – the camel, suede jacket purchased in June 1997.  I bought it from an artisan vendor in Menorca on my very first holiday with my now ex-husband. I loved it and wore it continuously for the first twelve months.  Inevitably, it was replaced over time, but I never got rid of it.  It has been on various holidays with me, and seen me through every season.  I rediscovered it more recently, and in the pocket I found a couple of receipts. Not unusual, I know, but these are in fact ticket stubs from a trip to the top of the World Trade Centre in April 2000. I’ve put them away safely, but I feel as though they have given the jacket added significance and I’m excited to wear it again this season.

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Continuing with the 70’s theme, I watched ‘American Gangster’ (Ridley Scott 2007) the other night with my middle son. Great film, and the 70’s styling is brilliant. The parties Frank Lucas throws are a perfect showcase for that era’s glamour – deep v necks, glitter, sequins, satin. Exciting and inspirational.

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In deciding what to wear this season, a lot has to do with colour. Whilst I do still revert to black from time to time, it doesn’t feel quite right at the moment. Spring is finally here (I’m being optimistic – just ignore last weekend’s weather travesty!) which makes me want to dress more brightly.  There seems to be a definite shift towards softer colours, and a move towards browns, greens and orange – (those colours that ten years ago I may well have written off as rather aging?!) And, my current favourite – pink, in every shade and hue.

I wore the denim culottes last week with the knee high black boots, and a short jacket.   The culottes will work just as well with bare legs and sandals when the weather picks up.

I’ve worn the leather coat recently, too, with jeans and a polo neck – (and several layers in between!).

As for accessories – this is the way to keep your look as current as possible.  Try to avoid head to toe retro dressing, unless you want to look like a) you’re stuck in a time warp or b) you too are heading to a fancy dress event.

A pair of 70’s shades would update things for now.  Or mix a slogan white tshirt with your denim skirt.

Footwear can sometimes be an issue. My personal favourite right now is trainers by Brazilian company Veja. They ethically produce great looking trainers, using raw materials from organic farming. See their website and Project information at www.project.veja-store.com.

Clogs are cool – try Swedish Hasbeens (the fashionistas amongst you can pair with socks for now). And flatform sandals (give the weather a couple of weeks ladies!) look great with flares.

Happy Dressing… x

Dressing for extreme cold – practicality or style ?!..

Answers on a postcard please….

I have asked myself this question several times this week but yes, I know the answer. Who really wants to be uncomfortable, shivering and potentially have hypothermia by lunchtime?!

I have trekked across Clapham Common every day, early in the morning and late in the afternoon – bundled up from head to toe and wearing so many layers, my arms won’t bend!

Every possible personal access point for that bitter Siberian wind – neck, ears, ankles, cuffs – has been blocked or wrapped, with quilting, cashmere, wool, or elastic.

My mittens (black leather from COS) have been invaluable and have kept my hands as warm as possible. (Mittens are great. As a friend said to me – once your fingers are isolated from each other, then you’re in trouble….).

And my boots (bought from Burberry many years ago) are partially fur- lined and definitely worth the fifteen minutes it takes me to get them on and/or off!

But I’ve just about had enough of it now. A glamorous red lipstick will only take you so far?

I’d like some ease of movement? I’d like to be able to raise my chin and drop my shoulders? And I’d like to feel that little bit of air between fabric and skin, that makes me feel more feminine than tucking vest into pants, trousers into socks, jumper into trousers and cuffs into gloves!

I’m also dying for some colour. I know there’s a lot of colourful ski wear out there that can keep you super warm and dry, but all my warmest clothes seem to be black or grey? And even the bravest of fashionistas would struggle to pull off sunshine yellow when it’s minus 6, the sky is grey, and there’s a mini snow storm blowing off the top of every roof and wall.

So – I’m hanging in there, as we all are. It feels a few degrees warmer today. Maybe there’ll be a heatwave this summer, as compensation?

Remember, its March already – spring can only be just around the corner?!

The Re-Worked Wardrobe, Month Six

It’s now five months since I pledged not to buy any new clothes for a year. How’s that going, you may well ask?…..

It’s time to catch up, recap, take stock of the Wardrobe and of life in general…

Yes, I know I should possibly have done this in January… but January seemed to pass for me in a blur of cashmere hat and scarf, a thick overcoat, a daily renewed intention to be more Mindful and the odd glass of red wine or two to ease through from Monday to Sunday.

It’s now almost five months since I pledged not to buy any clothes/shoes for a year.

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How’s that going, you may ask? Well, it’s harder than I thought. And in a spirit of absolute honesty I have strayed slightly from the path….but not far enough to constitute a whole change of direction?!

Firstly, I bought a little Chanel style jacket from the Ann Taylor outlet store on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, in December. What a fantastic holiday we had, and what a great place Fulton Street is to shop! Outlet stores, discount stores, a great range of products and everything further discounted for Christmas. All with a cool, edgy Brooklyn vibe. It was heaven.

 

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The Ann Taylor brand itself is involved with various charitable causes and is a partner of the St Jude Thanks and Giving Campaign (see Anncares.com). I wore the jacket all over Christmas, with everything from ripped jeans to a black leather and suede knee-length skirt.

Whilst in Brooklyn, I also did a little Duane Reade pharmacy sweep (obligatory for those US cosmetics that come with the same number on the ticket as in the UK, but a little $ sign instead of the usual £)!

That afternoon was rounded off with a fat slice of homemade cheesecake from Juniors – I cannot recommend it highly enough, if you happen to be in downtown Brooklyn anytime soon.

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The second purchase was made upon my return, when I succumbed to a beautiful silk jacket in the Zara sale. Black and florals, round neck, bracelet sleeves – it looks just as good with smart black trousers and heels as it does with jeans, a white T-shirt and Stan Smiths. (Yes, I’m seeing a theme here, too, but like the Ann Taylor – I’ve worn it a lot!)

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And finally, I spent my ‘Christmas cheque’ (thanks Mum) on a beautiful, mustard yellow saddle bag from Coach – a joy to purchase in the Fifth Avenue Store, (and an excuse to escape from the cold and snow outside, and the hundreds of people queueing for the Rockefeller Centre skating rink)!…The bag looks great with black and grey now, and with my camel leather coat. And will look just as good in the summer with shades of yellow, orange and white.

So – to (sort of) compensate for making a couple of cheeky purchases, I did take two tops, a pair of trousers and a dress to the charity shop in January.

And I gave away a parka (bought for my oldest son and scarcely worn), to a homeless man at the tube station the other night. I literally put it on him so that it wouldn’t get stolen. To say ‘his need was greater than mine’ would be the understatement of the century.

And that’s where I’m at, February 2018. Limited purchasing, and trying to think more about sustainability and maintaining the clothes I have. My long coat is currently at the tailors because the hem has come down; and I’m in the process of shortening a well -worn pair of flared trousers, to wear with flat shoes and boots, (once the mud has dried out on my school run-route across the Common).

However, I’m still very conscious of upcoming trends and I want to keep my look ‘current’. The new collections are starting to drop in the shops on an almost daily basis, and it’s so exciting to see all the new colours and shapes.

As February rushes towards March, and thoughts turn to warmer days – what would I like to buy? Or recommend that you consider, if you want to update your wardrobe?

Colour, definitely. I love yellow (see previous blog post) and have my eye on the beautiful yellow Casting Pants by Kowtow  (available from The Keep Boutique in Brixton). They are made from 100% ethical organic cotton, at an accredited factory in India.

In Theory

I’m also really hankering after orange. Maybe Baum Und Pferdgarten’s flared Nandini trousers or beautiful Agnetha dress. Orange and navy, or orange and royal blue look great together – see the german designer Steffen Schraut for some great colour combinations.

Agnetha dress

The Hilda Trousers in orange bhandani silk from the Ethical Collection London are beautiful and can be dressed up or down.  The Ethical Collection curates sustainable clothes and jewellery from designers around the world.

Cos has some great new pieces in orange and in green. Both colours look great with navy or camel basics.

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Draped cotton cardigan, Cos

And if you don’t feel that colourful yet, there’s always denim. In any form and any shade – although I would probably avoid anything really dark, now that the days are getting longer and we’re all desperate for a little bit of ‘spring’ (literally and metaphorically!).  Nudie Jeans has a great range of jeans in 100% organic cotton.

I know it’s still cold out there – but you can slip a pair of sheer tights under your jeans for now (the silkier the better – obvs!). Or I like to wear a pair of knee high thermal socks underneath. That way, the only really chilly bit is between your knee and the bottom of your coat?!

Last weekend, I ditched the black and grey I’ve been swaddled in for some considerable time, and road tested the ‘winter whites’. I have a pair of Current Elliott white jeans that I wear season after season, various white t shirts and a beautiful cream, cashmere, v neck cardigan that I’ve hardly worn. It came from Other Stories and I think the mistake I made was keeping it for ‘best’? (Not wanting to have to dry clean it too often). I was warm, comfortable and felt somewhat uplifted!

Ralph Lauren Fall 2014 Collection Wool Harrison Jodhpur
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Try all white with a camel coat or animal print rather than black, (although really anything works). Mango Committed organic white cotton jeans look great and are currently only £29.99 in the sale.

Happy Weekend xx

A Stumble, A Pause …..and a Little Holiday.

This December, I needed a little break….

It turns out I didn’t feel that sparkly during Advent despite my best intentions?! The reality was slightly different to the gloss!

I was unwell in December, and then I had one of those little ‘health scares’ that seem to be a part of mid-life. All fine now, I’m pleased to report. Continue reading “A Stumble, A Pause …..and a Little Holiday.”

Advent Sparkle!

….I am going to wear at least one item of ‘bling’ from my wardrobe every day until Christmas!

Not long now?! Advent starts in two days, and then it’s here – the ‘Christmas Build Up’!  From the 1st December onwards I intend to listen to all my favourite Christmas music (‘Now’ Christmas Album, of course – few things can top singing along to Maria Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas,’ whilst prepping dinner?); eat mince pies at every possible opportunity (I have already had several, but don’t tell anyone); and fill my house with as many fairy lights as is humanly possible!

In addition, this year, I intend to ‘self-sparkle’! Yes, that is a made-up term.  I don’t mean metaphorically, (although it has to be said, I can be quite good company) but I mean quite literally.  I have fished out of my wardrobe everything that is vaguely or fabulously sparkly, sequinned or has a silver sheen and I am going to wear at least one item of ‘bling’ every day until Christmas. A gold skirt, a spangly jumper, glittery socks or a completely over the top necklace.  I’m getting it on, it’s Christmas after all!

Continue reading “Advent Sparkle!”