Travelling Light

Travelling light…..
This summer I followed the route of the Orient Express, and took a fantastic train trip all the way from London to Istanbul

Travelling light…..

This summer I followed the route of the Orient Express, and took a train trip all the way from London (Clapham South in fact) to Istanbul, with my dear friend Julie.

Revelling in a new phase of holidaying on my own, and J’s husband being away on a business trip, we decided to revisit our teenage years and go Interrailing.  It really was the best trip ever!

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We stayed briefly in Zagreb, Belgrade and Sofia en route.  Each time we booked a small hotel or B & B and downloaded a short 48 hour itinerary from the internet.  Open Top Bus? – did 3; Orthodox Church? – saw at least 5; local markets? – tick.  We visited synagogues, cathedrals and mosques, sampled the local food and wine, and basically had an absolute blast.

We took a week to get to Istanbul and then spent two and a half days there, exploring. It is a truly amazing place.  We saw and experienced so many things and met many lovely people.

I have always been an advocate of train travel, particularly for visiting family in Yorkshire and in Scotland.   But travelling into and across Europe on the train, where the journey is an integral part of the holiday rather than a means to an end, is a new kind of adventure.   Spending a whole day watching the changing scenery through the window, brings a new meaning to the term ‘headspace’.  Not once on our adventure did I feel like reading my book or plugging into the music I had downloaded ‘to make the journeys pass more quickly’.

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And the night train is an experience not to be missed.  The only thing I can vaguely compare it to is taking a cabin on the overnight ferry.  However, whereas the ferry is relatively quiet and calm, populated on the whole with considerate families and their pets, all hoping for a good nights’ sleep before the long drive through France – the night train from Munich to Zagreb is noisy, and loud, and slightly edgy.  The carriages rattle and shake with a constant, urgent progress and you feel every bend in the track and the braking of the huge engine. The beds are small and the top bunk is so high that you need Jack’s Bean Stalk to get up there!  I didn’t sleep very well – there were people shouting and arguing, strange bangs and shouts – but I didn’t really want to sleep and miss any of the experience!

So back to travelling light and in particular, to packing.  We were going to be away for nine days, in a fairly hot climate, with no real access to washing/drying facilites. We also had to consider the fact that we would be travelling on some pretty basic trains and would have to shift our bags through various cities.  Most importantly, we had to be able to lift them onto the overhead luggage rack!  However, not for J and I the typical rucksack and bedding roll.  Being of a certain age, we decided that we would try and retain a degree of sartorial elegance on our travels.

I initally plumped for a small wheelie suitcase and a lightweight handbag.   I found the absolute perfect bag in Arket – their travel range is perfect.  Beige, so it goes with anything, and made from lightweight nylon.  Main pocket for purse, reading glasses(!), keys, passport, currency, tissues etc.  Within that there is a small pocket which was perfect for my phone and another zip pocket for ‘essentials.’  Essentials is one of those words that can mean different things at different times.  But believe me, from tampons to lipsalve, this pocket is ideal.

The front of the bag has a further slim pocket in which I kept my Interrail pass and seat reservation – genius!

I then had a choice whether to wear the scarf (intending to visit plenty of mosque whilst away) and the denim jacket (for emergency purposes only), carry them in my hands (awkward) or take a further bag.

Thinking ahead to our time in Istanbul, I correctly predicted that we might make a few cheeky purchases, and I would need some way of carrying them home – so I plumped for the extra bag option.

Again, I found the perfect item in Arket.  Their packable tote bag (in purple – great for summer or winter?) was ideal.  Made from the same lightweight nylon as the handbag, it is durable and has a tardis-like capacity (increasing to take three times its original volume on the return flight to London?!)

As for clothes, one pair of shorts (Boden circa 2006 – stiill love them) and one short skirt (Banana Republic 2008) – plus 4 white t shirts were the starting point.

 

I envisaged myself wafting elegantly around the roof top bar of our hotel in Istanbul in a long kaftan-style dress – so packed two beautiful, full length cotton sundresses with that in mind.  Did I wear them? – obviously not.   Often on holiday after a full day of exploring and sight seeing,  I find it’s easier to ‘go straight through’?  Returning to the hotel to shower and change, can break any momentum you may still have and brings the inevitable risk of actually falling asleep whilst awaiting your turn in the bathroom – thus missing the evening all together!  (Even on the nights when we showered and changed before going out, the full lengh ‘wafting’ thing seemed unecessary and inapproriate).

Three pairs of sandals – flat, lightweight – one pair on my feet, two in my bag.  Do not underestimate the joy of changing your footwear at the end of a long hot day, however comfortable your shoes are.

Then I rolled up and packed 4 knee length cotton dresses.  I had high hopes of wearing each item at least twice, but 12 hours on a train through Belgrade with no air con, and several 14 hour days on the streets of eastern Europe with an average temperature in the mid-30’s, soon put paid to that!

And I took one full-length, non-transparent nightie for the night train.  We had a small sink in our bunk room, but the toilet was quite a trek along the corridor.  And having been told by the Guard to keep our door locked, that night-time trip to the toilet took on a whole new level of intrepidation!

The denim jacket came out of my bag only once.  Our final train journey was overnight from Sofia to Istanbul.  At about 3am we reached the turkish border and were awoken by banging on the door and the Border Police ordering everyone to get off the train for passport control.  For the group of young men in the cabin next door, I’m sure it was no big deal climbing out of their bunks and queueing on the moonlit platform still dressed in their jeans and tshirts from the day before.  Cut to J and I, faces cleansed, teeth brushed, nightie and eye mask on and fully out for the count!  Luckily for me, as I eventually reached the bottom of the 25 runged ladder, I could grab the denim jacket and pop it sartorially over my shoulders….. you can never go wrong with a denim jacket – I carried it half way across the world for precisely that moment!

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Fashion Revolution Week – and Responsible Shopping.

How can we make socially resonsible clothing choices…?

As many of you will be aware, the last week in April was Fashion Revolution Week, a global campaign calling for more transparency in fashion supply chains. 

Fashion Revolution was set up by designers Cary Somers and Orsola de Castro, in direct response to the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in Bangladesh on 24th April 2013.  The collapse killed 1,134 people and injured 2,500 others and highlighted to the world the low wages and dangerous working conditions suffered by garment workers in India.

Clothing supply chains are complex and can involve many countries and many phases of textile production.  The Rana Plaza collapse made headline news, but for every ‘newsworthy’ story there are hundreds of other stories of poverty and abuse of workers within the fashion and clothing industry.  And unacceptable working conditions and ‘slave labour’ exist, not just in the developing world but in parts of Europe too.

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The team behind Fashion Revolution Week organised many activites worldwide including hosting ‘open studios’  inviting people into the workshops of Stella McCartney, Vivenne Westwood, Eileen Fisher, Veja and others who are happy to submit their processes to public scrutiny.

Their aim is a Three-Fold Change –

a. Change the Model, ie the way clothing is produced and consumed.

b. Change the Material – chemicals used in growing, dyeing and cleaning fabric are polluting rivers worldwide; tonnes of clothing is being taken to landfill every year; and through increasing mass production we are in danger of losing artisanal craftsmanship and human skills. In addition, according to the Carbon Trust clothing accounts for around 3% of the global production of CO2 emissions.

c. Change theMindset of the consumer.

Fashion Revolution’s campaign #whomademyclothes, is one way of encouraging a change in mindset.  The campaign has been trending on social media for some time now and in 2017, over 100,000 people asked brands this question. Putting a name and a face to the production of clothing is helping to humanise this fundamental part of the supply chain. Continue reading “Fashion Revolution Week – and Responsible Shopping.”

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.   Continue reading “In Praise of the Navy Sweater…”

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. Continue reading “The Re-Worked Wardrobe, Month Six”

Do you really need a new dress?!

Buy less, shop wisely and love the clothes you have!

Party Season is officially upon us and the joy of dressing up! Dresses, skirts, trouser suits, jumpsuits, sparkles and heels! Black or brightly colored, shiny, silver, sequined, velvet, animal print. Add make-up, hair, jewellery and a glass of bubbles …and you are transformed into that kick-ass princess who could floor Prince Charming with a glance from twenty paces…

But before you hit the shops, whether in a last minute panic for an event that night or with a more leisurely approach (list and budget pre-agreed) – take a good, hard look in your wardrobe.

What clothes do you already have? Which pieces already in your wardrobe make you feel a million dollars? What do you rarely get the chance to wear but absolutely love?

For a basic Party Edit take out all your ‘best’ clothes. I generally advice clients not to keep clothes for best – everything should be worn and loved – but you know those things that are ‘proper’ Party?!

Now, sort through them. Take out anything you don’t particularly like. This is party dressing, after all, and you want to go out looking and feeling great! Try things on if you have time – vague memories of how you think you look just don’t cut it. Put away anything that doesn’t make you look at your reflection and think ‘yes – I am going out!’

Anything that needs cleaning can be put into a separate pile – (you know, the dress you slipped back into the wardrobe that night when you staggered home from a particularly good event, but can’t really remember hanging up?!). These clothes are still there for you – just not yet.

Also, put to one side clothes that no longer fit. I have on occasion followed the mantra ”Pride must Abide’ – but it’s going to be a long, fabulous night and you have to breathe, eat and dance (at the very least?!). If you still love these clothes and can have them altered to wear now, get to the tailor’s. If it’s you that needs a little alteration rather than the clothes, just put them away for the time being and don’t worry about it.

Then take a really good look at what you have. You may take hold of that perfect sparkly dress and know instinctively that’s what you will wear. Otherwise, think about mixing it up a little.

Try putting a favourite top that you usually only wear with black trousers, with something completely different? Mix together as many different colours as you can? If you have an amazing skirt or beautifully cut evening trousers – try wearing them with a simple, fresh white t-shirt. Add jewellery – silver cuffs on bare arms look beautiful, or buy a totally over the top necklace, or fabulous earrings to lift the outfit to ‘party status’. If, for example, you have a dress you love but that feels a little too short ( I alternate these days between thinking ‘what the hell, I like my legs’ to ‘are you sure Andy, you’re not 25 any more’?!) – try wearing it with skinny black trousers. Coated, black, skinny jeans look great.

It sometimes helps to start with one thing that you really want to wear and build the outfit from there. Enlisting the help of friends or a stylist (that’s what we’re here for) can also help you to see your clothes in a completely new light.

You may need to buy one or two things, (depending on the relative abundance of your social agenda) – but remember, where possible, ‘Buy Less, Shop Wisely and Love the Clothes You Have’.

Fashion is Rubbish?…

Have you ever thought where your old or unwanted clothes end up?…

It’s Wednesday, and this morning one of those little charity envelopes, containing a large plastic clothes bag, dropped through the letter box.  Another kick up the backside to get on with my wardrobe edit!  How easy is this method of disposing of unwanted clothing?! All I have to do is put everything I no longer want, need or wear into the bag and take it to the front gate.  Bingo – gone by lunchtime! I don’t really mind which charity takes my clothes, although I have ‘favourites’ like everyone else, based on my own life experience (Meningitis Now or Parkinsons UK, please).  But if we don’t recycle our clothes, where do they actually go to?
According to an article in The Guardian in April, 235m items of unwanted clothing, from the UK alone, were expected to end up in landfill this year, as a result of our annual wardrobe spring clean.  Yes, 235 million… that’s a lot of clothing!

Why don’t we routinely donate our things to charity? Continue reading “Fashion is Rubbish?…”