Wednesday 26 September 2012

Returning Back To Work ...

Prompted by a friend who has returned to work this week after a 9 year career break I thought about what you do with regards to clothes when you land a new job.  I won't even start on the whole debate about how you get the dream job that allows you to have a career/job you love and be a mother .. we won't go there today!

So, in theory,  if I had to go back to work tomorrow what would I wear?  Do I own any work clothes?  A few items but they weren't bought for 'work' so they don't feel like work wear.  I've not had to 'go to work' for 15 years now .. I've worked for myself for all that time so I don't own a classic 'work wardrobe'.  And things have changed lately ... everyone dresses down so it's not uncommon to have casual trousers mixed in with a smarter blouse or a skirt with a jumper and boots.  No wonder everyone is confused and it's the most popular question I hear from everyone I meet who returns to work - "what shall I wear?"

If, like me, you're on a small budget then you need to learn to mix and match and buy once, buy well and throw a few cheaper items in to mix it all up for some key looks for work.  If you're ok with buying slightly cheaper but changing frequently (me me me me me) then go for that too.

There is so much to talk about that I'm going to break it down and do different posts for each element that I see as key to building your work wardrobe.

Sequence of posts:
1 - The Staple Work Dress

2 - The Trouser Suit

3 - The Bags

4 - The Scarves

5 - Dress Down Friday (did you say mufti day?!)

5 - Put it all together - what do you get?

So, back to week one - The Staple Work Dress
No-one who works should be without one!  A simple item that is so easily dressed up or down according to the dress code of your office.  I'll add scarves and bags in a few week's time but for now it's all about the dress, shoes and cardigans for dressing down the look and layering for winter.  A staple black blazer would instantly dress all of these up - play around with cardigans and blazers for new daily work looks
Here are my top work dresses:
Matalan - Faux Leather Dress - £18 (perfect for dressing down for the day and jazzing up for the night)
So which cardigans would work?  A bunch of colours and mix and match them with the majority of dresses
What shoes?  I believe these would see you through the year with so many different outfits - dresses, trousers, skirts - the lot!
And there we have it - dresses, cardigans and shoes for your new work wardrobe.  Next time we'll show and tell with the trouser suit!

Have you returned to work recently?  How did you find organising your wardrobe for work?  Are you returning to work in the future and need some help?  There is a great facility on Avenue 57 which allows you to post photos as a 'help me choose' if you can't decide if something looks good - try it out, they're a nice friendly bunch!



Thursday 20 September 2012

Take 1 LBD - can it suit 6 different women?

When Mint Velvet and Avenue 57 decided to work on an article together I was sceptical and excited at the same time.  We wanted to see if one of their items of clothing would suit all women.  Mint Velvet clothes come in a range from 8 to 18 so it would cover a large section of the UK women today.
I asked for their suggestion of which item would suit us all and they chose their Black Bandage Dress.  This is not a style of dress I've ever really considered, have only seen on celebrities and never really thought that this style would suit everyone - so I was dubious inviting 5 ladies from Avenue 57 to road test this out.  However, the 5 ladies chosen were delighted to receive and style the dress according to their body shape/type/size.
I was very impressed with how goods from Mint Velvet are packaged - who doesn't love a hand wrapped tissue paper parcel?
When I took the dress out it felt heavy but not so heavy it would be uncomfortable to wear .. it was QUALITY heavy and I squealed with glee at the prospect!  It has a zip at the back so it was very easy to slip on and do up - and OH MY GOODNESS .. it's magical!  When the zip was done up the dress held me in, sucked in my waist and boosted my chest - it was divine on.  It actually felt so good that I didn't want to ever take it off.  The length was perfect, the tight feeling all over meant I knew it wouldn't gape if I bent over on the top half and it was just stunning all over.
I styled mine 2 ways - once with colour heels and gold and then a more simple nude look - either way would be good for so many occasions - winter wedding, Christmas office party, day at the races, special lunch out, birthday party etc - the list is actually endless when you think about it - a staple little black dress is needed in every wardrobe.
The only downside is the price.  It's £110 so it's not cheap but neither is the dress - this is one that you would buy once and it would sit in the wardrobe for years and could be worn many many times over.
So here I am in the size 8 and here's how I styled the dress in 2 ways:

And now on to the other gorgeous women in their range of dresses and how they styled it ....
Age: 39
Dress Size: 10
Comments: "I love the neckline and it allows you to wear a decent bra underneath (of any colour – always a bonus to not have to hunt all over the show for a black bra when in a rush out!). I love the pleated detail as it was so flattering to wear and hid a multitude of wobbles."
Avril has also blogged about her experience here
Age: 43
Dress Size: 12
Comments: "I saw the dress and thought UGH – Bodycon (not my thing), but the layering effect and the satin leaves in the sides make a huge difference to its look. I love the length and the weight of the dress as it makes it feel SO good on. I am a 14 more than a 12 – the 12 fitted like a glove. This dress is just the ticket for Christmas parties and evening receptions at weddings.

Name: Nicola
Age: 45
Dress Size: 14
Comments: This dress is a lovely thick material, and the stretch in it means it fits to the body really well. I love the neckline and the length.
Name: Gemma
Age: 36
Dress Size: 16
Comments: The dress was scary at first, very heavy and looked clingy, but once on it fit like a glove, and clung and skimmed in all the right places. The material held me in and smoothed my figure out. The neckline is fantastic and I love the width of the sleeves as I can still wear a bra underneath without revealing any straps. I love the layered material and the satin detail at sides. It was very easy to accessorise differently and change the whole outfit. The dress made me feel a million dollars and I felt like I was off to a red carpet do. I just didn’t want to take it off!
Name: Fiona
Age: 40
Dress Size: 18
Comments: I was initially very nervous about trying this dress on – but I fell in love as soon as it was on. I’m planning to wear it to a for my 40th birthday party!
So as you can see, there really is a little black dress out there for each and everyone of us and I am thrilled we all look so good in it - hats off to the Mint Velvet team for designing clothes for real women with real bodies.
Have you got a little black dress that you love?  Who above can you identify with most and is it a dress you wouldn't normally look at but now perhaps you'd give it a go?

Friday 14 September 2012

Top 5 stylish poncho's

Ok, so I thought I'd never be able to get away with a poncho again (have worn them for the past few years) but some things are just forever items.

I have a fabulous chunky knit green one but I KNOW I need more in my life .. so the search starts and ends here with my Top 5 best poncho's for A/W 12

Grey Poncho - BHS - £24
I think I should now confess that I love BHS - they have seriously grown up lately and now include the under 55's in their clothing range.  Prior to the past few years it's a store I would past and think of my lovely Aunty Ruth - sure she bought her skirts and twin sets from there - anyway, as of late I've found it's a store I DO go in on a shopping spree and I'm not alone in my age group whilst walking around!

Orange Polo Neck Poncho - M&Co - £30
This would be fantastic over anything with anything (trousers/jeans) underneath - I can't ever say I've seen a poncho look good with a skirt under but anyone can show me if they can prove me wrong!  I love the autumnal colours of this - I'm so seriously tempted .......

Black Poncho - White Company - £165
Oh this is just gorgeous - it's big, it's baggy, it's got some detail in the neckline - it's everything a black poncho should be! Takes some decision to buy though at £165 and it's not even waterproof!

Lightweight Poncho - Tesco - £10
I don't actually like how they've styled it over such a dark colour - it's too much, but I do love the actual poncho!  I would wear over a much lighter colour and it's a great piece to take us from Summer to Autumn.

Light Grey Poncho - Wallis - £30
I can barely type I love this so much - if you look close enough it actually has my name written all over it (ha that fooled you!).. If there is one thing I buy with my birthday money (in 2 week's time hint hint) then it's this - IT'S (insert language of my 8 yr old) EPIC!

Do you own a poncho?  What kind?  I think they're here to stay this year so get them out and start sending your look to Avenue 57


Thursday 13 September 2012

Animals on clothes – I’m in love

If I could I would – week 3 - Each week I bring to you my favourite items that I’ve spotted whilst browsing the internet.  I spend hours looking at the virtual shop windows trying to help the women on Avenue 57 who often request certain items.  This week the list is:
Tan Calf boots with a flat heel           Hipster Tights            Black cardigan coat
If you’re looking for something specific then just add it and let the crowd source it for you!
Back to what I started - OH MY GOODNESS – I’m in animal heaven!  Up until recently I HATED any logo/image on a tshirt/shirt etc but then I bought a dress with birds on it and since then I’ve gone all Dr Doolittle when it comes to animals on clothing.
I started writing this piece about collecting any animal on a jumper but I can’t narrow it down to just that as when I really started looking I saw so many FABULOUS things.  Horse print shirts, stags on jumpers, owls on tshirts, butterfly scarf, foxes on knitwear – honestly the shops are full right now of anything and everything – here is a short list of all my needs, wants and desires – my favourite items are the stag on a jumper, the owl on a jumper and the horse print scarf.



My conclusion is, animals on clothes are here to stay - HOORAH!  Do you like these items?  Do you think it’s all just novelty and you wouldn’t been seen dead in it? Do you own any animal clothing?  Don’t forget to upload your photo to Avenue 57 to showcase your latest daily look!
Next week I'll be looking around for the best novelty Christmas jumpers - I left it too late last year - I will not be defeated this year!

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Winter Chunky Knitwear - where to buy?

This week featuring Matalan
Whilst aimlessly wandering around our local retail park after coffee with a friend this morning I fell into Matalan.
I think Matalan have grown up so much over the past 18 months and now it's a shop I would go to if I were on a shopping spree.  Some of their clothes are too young for me and the style I have but some are just amazing.
Here are some of my favourite items from their knitwear section (which was massive by the way)
This has such a retro feel about it - it was VERY soft to touch and I had to step away for fear of looking strange!  I would wear with straight leg dark denim jeans and a pair of converse or similar trainers.
This comes in navy and grey also.  I'd wear over a ditsy floral dress or with a simple vest top underneath.  The colour of this is amazing.  I know it's a hard colour to wear for some which is why it's good it comes in both navy and grey too!  I do love a good cable knit as it reminds me of my grandad - just need elbow patches to complete the memory!
This is a really versatile jumper.  Easy to put a shirt on underneath for layering and warm or a long line tshirt so the bottom hangs out and the sleeves slightly ruched to show off the layer underneath - I have a stripey long sleeved tshirt that would look ace with this.  I'd team with black skinny jeans/cargo trousers and boots
Like the grey above, this is so simple and yet so versatile.  I would wear over my summer maxi dresses to get as much wear out of them all year round. I'd also wear this with slouchy jeans and Timberland boots or Converse again.  I love navy (sign of my age?) and I love simplicity - this jumper ticks both those boxes.  I'd also add a scarf if I wanted to wear it on its own to jazz it up a bit.
No wardrobe is complete without one of these.  It's a staple item and if you buy one you will buy more and more and more - they are perfect for elongating the body, throwing over your summer floral dresses and complete the look with a pair of knee high boots - it's a look I repeat many many times in the winter.  The cardigan is actually quite light in weight which is perfect because if you're layering for warmth then you don't want too many heavy layers (restricted movement and extra width is not good!).  I know I'm writing about chunky knitwear but I can't NOT include a waterfall cardigan - I own 5 in total and that's not without buying any for the season ahead!
I've saved the best for last - this is DIVINE .. I don't like it done up as its shown here but undone it's gorgeous - I can see this worn so many times in so many ways I don't know where to start!  It reminds me of one I already own but I'm guessing there is room in my life for 2?  If you want to wear your summer dresses then layer them with this.  A simple tshirt/jeans/boots look is what I would for too.  I would want to cuddle up with myself all day long if I wore this - it screams OPEN FIRE, RUBBISH FILM and BOTTLE OF RED wine on a cold, grey winters day!  
Which is your favourite?  I've only picked out my favourite ones but there are hundreds online - take a look and let me know which chunky knit you're going for this season.
I'm really struggling to choose a favourite - I think I need all of them in my life for this winter!

Monday 10 September 2012

House of Fraser - wish list outfit

I am taking part in the House of Fraser style blogger challenge.  The prize is £200 and it's something I would love to win.  It's simple, all I have to do is put together an outfit of my choice and put it together here.  The not so simple part is choosing what to put together!  They have so many items that I have found it really hard to not spend hours on the site looking.  So to make it easier I've put an outfit together that I would wear for a function coming up next weekend.
We are off to The Painted Heron in London to celebrate a family members 50th birthday.  It's a long lazy lunchtime celebration with lots of amazing Indian food and fine wine on offer, so it has to be an outfit I'm comfortable in for sitting down and eating lots.
This Mary Portas dress would TOTALLY fit the bill for stylish and comfortable and just look at the oversized tummy bit - means I can eat and breathe and enjoy all at the same time!
I wanted to add boots as the weather here in the UK looks set to change so I need something practical as well as stylish (wonder how many more times I can use that word in this blog?!)
If the outfit is all black then there has to be some 'jazz' added in so I went for these funky tights.
I love tan and black and whilst I wanted to add tan shoes to bring the outfit alive I didn't think it would work in stark contrast with the black so I've opted for tan accessories.  This bag is gorgeous - it OOZES quality even from the picture and it's a great size as I'll be taking my 2 small children so I can fit in all their requirements as well as my own.  I have added the bracelet in similar colours to compliment the bag choice
No fashionista is ever without her sunnies so here's my choice for Saturday.
Here it is all together
So what do you think?  Perfect outfit choice for a lazy long lunch in London with family?  If I win the £200 I'm going to buy that dress for sure - it's EPIC and would work for so many events/ocassions (work, rest and play)

Friday 7 September 2012

Transform one boring dress

I bought this dress in the Sainsbury’s half-price sale a few weeks ago.  I also got 25% off as they were running an extra promo in my local store.  Originally it was a bargain at £22 , so for £10 it was a COMPLETE bargain and I couldn’t leave it on the shelf for someone else to buy!  I thought it would be a good dress to wear for meetings, going to work, just throw on and wear with flip flops and in the winter I could add a blazer, tights and heels for a smarter work look.

I put it on this morning and couldn’t decide what shoes to add that would liven up the outfit.  I tried it with flat ballet pumps but due to the length I didn’t think they worked – it was too frumpy on me.  So I tried with all sorts of colours (tan/nude/red) and finally decided upon the purple wedge heels.

After taking the photo I still didn’t really think it was pulled together as a whole look

So I added a necklace
And then a bag

And voila – one great dress, with some little coordinated accessories and now I have a complete look. 

What do you think?  Should it be shorter?  I’ve hitched it up here so you can see … I think it might be worth taking up a few (lot) inches as it would suit my figure better.

Dress was £10 – Sainsbury’s

Shoes were £7 – Tesco sale a few years ago

Necklace – Next (years ago)

Bag – Vera Wang from an outlet in America years ago 

Have you ever worked your magic with a boring outfit and made it something special by adding a few things?