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 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.

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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!

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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

Scent and scent-suality…

It’s time for a new scent – something enticing but environmentally friendly….?

As I’m no longer buying any new clothes, I’ve decided that maybe a new perfume is just what I need to (literally!) spice up my wardrobe. Something that’s not too overpowering, as kind to the environment as possible, but still, in the words of Kelis, ‘brings all the boys to the yard’?!

Scent is hugely evocative.  Of all the senses, it has the greatest power to re-create memories and bring back thoughts and pictures, with such force it can be quite overwhelming.

I have clothes in my wardrobe that hold memories of past events. Highs and lows of my life, tucked within the silk folds of a favourite blouse or the sparkle of a sequinned dress. But it’s the scent I wore that really takes me back to places and events that have shaped my life.

It can be both positive and negative.  The other day I came across a perfume sample in my drawer and absent-mindedly dabbed it on my wrists. I used to love that particular fragrance, but as the smell drifted to my nose, I was instantly back in St. George’s Hospital and overwhelmed for a split second with the grief and trauma of seeing my child in intensive care. My oldest son is now 16 and full of the joys of imminent adulthood and independence(!) but for a short while at the age of 2, he was in an induced coma fighting for his life against meningitis. The scent, which a dear friend gave to me all those years ago as a small comfort to take into hospital, transported me straight back to that time.

On a lighter note, I bought myself a small bottle of body spray from & Other Stories earlier this year, for a (rare) girls’ weekend in Marbella.  Small so that I could take it in my hand luggage. For me now, the remains of that bottle hold the scent of anticipation!  Of a weekend of joy, laughter and female camaraderie.  Of being picked up in the early hours of the morning by a friendly neighbourhood police officer and driven to a party, because we couldn’t find the apartment we were looking for.  It is the scent of sunshine, skin, cocktails and dancing. Continue reading “Scent and scent-suality…”

The Joy of Socks…

Socks, socks socks……and what to do with old ones?!

…there are so many to choose from!  Sports socks, woollen socks, knee-high socks, sheer socks, stripy socks, sparkly socks.  Low rise socks with trainers; woolly socks with boots; ankle socks with brogues; delicate lace socks with sandals?

At school my friends and I used to wear thick, ribbed ‘over the knee’ socks, held up with a small band of white, knotted elastic.  The trick was to get the garter just the right size – too tight and it left a big ring around your upper thigh; too slack and you had to resist the urge to run across the playground for fear your socks would end up around your ankles.

Now, I really hate having cold feet! My favourite socks at present are Falke – dark grey, wool socks with my ankle boots, and Cotton Touch black socks with brogues.  My other ‘go to’ brand for socks is & Other Stories.  Their Leopard nylon socks, in black, go with practically all my shoes.  And if you like the whole ‘socks and evening shoes’ thing, you can’t go wrong with their black, rolled edge nylon sock.

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& Other Stories leopard nylon socks

 

For glamorous socks I would recommend looking at Wolford  – the Lace Up Knee High or the Lurex Net knee high would look great with a mid-calf length skirt and heels.  They also have beautiful sheer ankle socks embellished with Swarovski crystals (the Love Letter).

And for less glamorous footwear, (but equally as important!) – I love Uniqlos heat tech that handily come in packs of 2 (pairs, that is… not socks!)

 

But here’s the question. What do you do with your old socks? Does anyone darn socks any more? Or do you simply get rid of them when they wear through? Continue reading “The Joy of Socks…”

Kicking the Shopping Habit – Wk 4 (and counting!)

One month, so far, without buying any clothes – it’s a hard habit to kick!

So far, I have managed to survive a month without buying any new clothes.  I admit, I have been tempted.  I fell in love with a pair of boots in Other Stories last week (black Leather Snow Boots with a heavenly, faux fur lining), and suggested to my youngest son that he went into town with my credit card and pin number, and bought mum ‘a little treat’?!

I also went as far as putting a black Uniqlo down jacket into my basket, online.  It sat there for a while, calling to me in all its lightweight, simple, puffy glory – until I regained control and closed the page and logged out of my PC.

How does it feel?  Continue reading “Kicking the Shopping Habit – Wk 4 (and counting!)”