Tuesday, 22 July 2014

White Out

Come every summer and eventually the fashion chit chat will turn to the topic of how to wear white this season. White is almost always guaranteed to come down the runway in Spring/Summer collections in some guise or other.

When it comes to summer whites, I have to say I've always been more of the floaty white dress or skirt sort of gal.  But all white in a sharp suit with a masculine edge is another way I'm loving wearing white this season.

Too matchy matchy and I might start feeling like a John Travolta aka Saturday Night Fever wannabe.  So I thought I'd mix things up a bit and wear a white jacket and tee with some off white trousers to play around with shades of white together.  And of course all tones of white go really well together with gold, hence the shoes.

Pretty much all of it is from the flamenco and bullfighter inspired H&M Conscious Exclusive Collection which I loved so much I thought I'd just pile it on altogether for dramatic effect to attend a friend's wedding anniversary celebrations a couple of weeks ago.  Actually when the collection came out in April I managed to snaffle the matador jacket (worn here) and these amazing embroidered shoes.  Everything else had sold out online within the first half hour.  When I visited the Regent Street store in London later that day it had been similarly ransacked.  I was quite peeved because I had wanted to get these matador inspired trousers.

Interestingly most of the styles turned up on Ebay the same day or just after at shockingly inflated prices.  These trousers retailed on the UK site for £69.99.  Ebay sellers were listing it at sometimes twice that!  This particular and rather parasitical species of Ebay seller annoys me even more than the ones who misrepresent or overprice vintage clothing.

I personally refuse to hand over any money for that kind of profiteering racket.  High Street collections are supposed to be about delivering a little more luxury and design at high street prices.  It is fashion at its most democratic and inclusive.  Having a self interested third party wade into the process and make things unnecessarily more expensive defeats the whole purpose of the exercise.

There is absolutely no added value to you or me as consumers to someone simply getting there first and then ratcheting up the price purely for their own benefit and I'm staggered anyone is desperate enough for H&M clothing to cough up twice it's retail value, but believe it or not, I saw some of this stuff getting bids despite the blatant rip off prices the sellers were asking.  So please people, step away from the "Buy It Now" and "Place Bid" buttons.  Do not reward someone slapping on a hefty markup on goods that are already marked up for the benefit of H&M's profit and loss figures.

In such matters the value of patience can pay off.  I checked back regularly online and sure enough, items in my size turned up as more stock was released or returns were processed.  I even managed to order these trousers in a couple of sizes to check which size offered the best fit.  Handy as I can never make it into a store.  Did I attempt to ebay the spare pair at twice the price?  Of course not!  I returned it so it could be enjoyed by someone else without paying over retail because that is the right thing to do!

So take that evil Ebay people! My hope is that all the stuff coming back online went to other patient shoppers like myself rather than the Ebay black market and that it made your black market items twice as difficult to sell!

Linking up to Sacramento's Share in Style at Mis Papelicos where the theme is White.

Jacket, trousers and shoes: H&M Conscious Exclusive; T-shirt with bow neckline: Moises de la Renta for Mango

Monday, 14 July 2014

The First Night of Feria

Back to posting more holiday photos from Spain.  I've previously posted on how Spanish women get dressed up in traditional flamenco style dresses for "Women's Day" during the annual feria.  Apart from that one special day the event is as casual or as dressed up as you like.  Some of the women wear frilly flamenco dresses for the whole week but there are no hard and fast rules.  This year we managed to get to feria on four nights out of the week it was running so it meant four excuses for dressing up!  On the first night of feria, as an alternative to the normal overdose of frills and fringing, I chose to mix my white cotton corset and a jaunty floral print skirt as a more modern nod in the direction of Spanish style.

Usually it's hot all through the night so the main considerations when getting dressed for feria are keeping cool and wearing something that allows you to move easily so you can dance endless rounds of Sevillanas with your friends all night.   Choice of footwear is paramount!  When in the feria in Spain do as the Spanish women do, which is to eschew your fancy heels and befriend the humble espadrille or flats.  Not only will you be able to cope with dancing Sevillanas until the sun starts to rise, but you will save yourself the heartbreak of ruining your good shoes.  The entire site is covered in fine yellow sand which quickly covers your footwear in yellow dust and should it rain (believe it or not it does happen!) it quickly turns into yellow mud!  Expect to be dodging horse manure regularly throughout the day too.  It is after all, still a regional horse fair!

I have to admit that I learnt the hard way during a couple of ferias that the terrain was not heel friendly.  The ground is uneven and sandy and by three or four o'clock in the morning after dancing all night in heels and traipsing around from one caseta to the next I found that my feet were completely shredded.  So these days it's flats or an espadrille with a slightly raised wedge heel.  My big tip for going to feria is to get a pair of espadrilles.  Apart from being very comfortable and chic, fabric espadrilles can be found for as little as ten euros in local shoe shops and markets and come in every colour under the sun and in a variety of styles.  If they end up completely ruined after a week of feria at least you won't be lamenting your choice of footwear for financial reasons.

In my last post on the feria I didn't show you the feria lights illuminated at night which is one of the prettiest sights of the festival.  On the first night of feria everyone gathers at the grounds for a display of fireworks that light up the night sky.   When the last of the fireworks have finally faded away the lights are switched on to the cheers of the crowd, revealing a multitude of colourful Moorish arcs lining the grand avenues of the feria and announcing that the festivities are now officially underway.

My final tip for feria is to bring a little light jacket or shawl with you for the walk home as in the early hours of the morning the temperature does tend to drop quite quickly.  You don't want to catch a chill on the first night of feria when there is a whole week of feria fun lying ahead!

Linking up with Patti's Visible Monday at Not Yet Dead Style.

Cotton corset: Chine; Floral Print Skirt: Vivienne Westwood Anglomania; Broderie Anglaise Jacket: old Kate Moss for Topshop; Flip flops: Betts & Betts; Bag: a present from my Mum; Earrings: bought in Spain

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Picnic Outfit


Today I'm joining Jill of Everything Just So and Adrienne of The Rich Life on a Budget for their series "How I Wear My...." and this month's theme is a Summertime Picnic Look.  I usually only get to go on picnics when I'm on holiday in warmer climes.  When we go Spain we often take a picnic lunch to the beach.  We make up some sandwiches with sticks of Spanish bread which soft and white on the inside and crunchy on the outside.  We drizzle them with olive oil, stuff them generously with slices of jamon serrano, ripe tomatoes and some lettuce.  We also pack some fruit and a packet of local biscuits called torta de aceite which are thin rounds of flaky pastry dusted with cumin seeds and sugar.  We also freeze a bottle of water and a refreshing drink (lemon flavoured Fanta is our favourite) the night before to stick it in the bag with the food to keep everything cool in the hot weather.

When it comes to my holiday wardrobe I've always tended to rely on a few favourite bits and pieces every time I go away.  The last few times however, I've made more of an effort to change things up a bit and replace something I rely on too much with something I either haven't worn at all or for a long time. I've had this pastel striped skirt adorned with pale pink flowers in my wardrobe for years and years and it had always been a summer favourite back in the day. 

I realised when I came to pack this time that I hadn't worn it in a few summers.  So it became my beach skirt this holiday and in doing so I rediscovered why I loved it so much.  Not only does the combination of stripes and florals tick the print mixing box in a way that is palatable to me, but the tiny rows of frills with raw unfinished hems is a very pretty and feminine touch.

This is definitely a "girlfriend" skirt, in that my gal pals always go oooh and aaah over it when I'm wearing it, whereas I recall Mr V expressing reservations about it being too girly when I was trying it on it the shop deciding whether to buy.  I bought it anyway!

On this trip I wore it with romantic white summer tops and my choice of holiday footwear was either diamante flip flops, white wedge espadrilles or these very pretty flat espadrilles in a dusky rose lace I found in a local shop.  Very Lanvin I thought, but without the Lanvin price tag!

Head over to Jill's and Adrienne's to check out the other summertime picnic looks!
Floral and striped cotton skirt: very old Jigsaw; Corset top: Chine; Embroidered Bag: gift from Mum; Mother of pearl drop earrings: Brigette Bijoux; Lace Espadrilles: bought in Spain.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Ballet Skirt

I've said before on this blog that my wardrobe is a bit tutu-tastic.  I certainly love me some tulle and the weather was good enough a couple of weeks back to pull out this pale blue confection which I've had for a number of years.  In fact I went the whole hog and put it with a matching tee with lace inserts and a pink ballet wrap to indulge my inner ballerina, only stopping short of matching footwear.  I went for a diamante flip flop instead of ballet pumps to break the ballet look up just a bit.

I wore this to lunch out in London with Mr V and it poured with rain.  When we came home it cleared up just enough for us to have tea in the garden where the flowers are in full bloom.  The giant red oriental poppies were out, our white climbing rose is heavy with blooms and there are daisies galore lining the garden path.

It's been ages since I last wore this skirt and I felt very feminine wearing it.  At first I did wonder whether I would be too dressed up, but these days if I have that kind of doubt about whether to wear something dressy or not I call to mind some bloggers for inspiration.  The tulle skirt I will always associate with Melanie of Bag and a Beret, who has a rather nice saying that amazing things happen when you wear amazing clothes.  Now there was a strange coincidence here when I pulled out this skirt on this day thinking of Melanie's tutu post of old, the global tulle movement it inspired and the inspiration it gave me to wear my tulle skirts more often, whatever the occasion.

Whilst on the bus ride home from lunch Mr V and I copped an eyeful of dozens of naked cyclists pretty much all of them men.  They were riding along the road side at top speed completely starkers, some covered in body paint, and some blowing whistles to attract as much attention as possible.  Everyone on the bus burst out laughing.  We could not believe our eyes and nobody on the bus had any idea what it was all about.

A couple of days later I checked into Melanie's blog.  She started her post with "Remember how I said in the last post that amazing things happen when you wear amazing clothes? This is what I saw today.." and there was a picture of a group of naked cyclists.  Apparently she'd seen this phenomena too but all the way over in Canada, whilst wearing something amazing of course.  We're all connected in mysterious ways it seems!

You could say it was the fact that it was World Naked Bike Ride day that day so it wasn't that much of a coincidence that one blogger in London wearing a tulle skirt inspired by another all the way in Canada both saw the same parade, and that it's not particularly scientific to attribute said coincidence to a mutual choice to wear amazing clothes on that day.  But I still like to think it was the tulle skirt and Melanie's print trousers!

Linking up to Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style.

Also linking up to Spy Girl's 52 Pick Me Up where the theme is Fairy Tale because the ballet loves a good fairy tale!

Tulle skirt and lace insert tee: Chine; Ballet wrap: Max Mara; Embellished diamante flip flops: Betts & Betts

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Vintage Unbranded

This post is in solidarity with Vintage Vix - some of you may already know that she was in the running for Vintage Personality of the Year at the National Vintage Awards.  If anybody embodies the spirit and ethos of vintage shopping and dressing it is Vix.  Despite leading the public vote she lost out because the judges got the final overriding say and were judging on very spurious criteria for a competition supposed to be about vintage.

The thing that depressed me the most was points being allocated to candidates for "representing vintage brands throughout their work".  I'm sorry but since when was vintage ever about brands? Unless we are talking vintage YSL and Chanel here I assume the re-appropriation of the term vintage in this sense is solely for commercial purposes to promote repro clothing.  Well that is not what vintage was ever about surely?  Vintage is originality and history, it is anti-brand and anti-consumerism, it is about reuse and recycling.  It is not cookie cutter design and consumerism which is what repro reeks of.  Anyhow, see Vix's post here - although I thought she was an extremely good sport about it all I'm floored as to how someone so utterly fabulous, and moreover someone who always champions real vintage, could not be a winner.

Now I know I may be a bit of a designer label diva and high street brand whore in equal measure on this blog and I have never attested to buying second hand only, but vintage makes up a significant and much loved part of my wardrobe.  I love a good vintage shop and when it comes to dressing in vintage, let me tell you, I can vintage things up with the best of them.

Buying vintage is about the thrill of finding an original garment that nobody else has and being sure that when you are wearing it you'll never been seen in the same thing as someone else.  It is about finding a piece of sartorial history to treasure and marvel at workmanship that often no longer exists.  For the record I'm not someone who wears vintage head to toe or adheres to trying to recreate a period look religiously.  For me most of the fun of wearing vintage is the challenge of making it relevant to your own personal style and wearing it in a way that makes it as relevant today as it was when it was first made.  I like to mix up my vintage clothing with modern bits and pieces or just throw a few different eras together.

I pulled this strappy fifties prom dress out last night in honour of Vix to wear to a friend's birthday party last night.  Her motto of "a day with dressing up is a day wasted" is one I often recite when I'm debating whether or not to go the whole hog dressing up.  Actually the fifties is Vix's least favourite era but it was actually a post on her blog about fifties dressing that was the first post I found on her blog and she was wearing an amazing fifties outfit that floored me.  I was impressed with her knowledge of vintage clothing throughout the eras, and guess what, she can rock any era she chooses!

I've had this dress in my wardrobe for years but believe it or not, last night was the first time I wore it out.  I think I was naively waiting for some sort of special occasion of the grandiose variety to wear it to.  Great expectations indeed.  I shouldn't need a summer ball or wedding every weekend to wear my nice clothes and if the birthday celebrations of a dear old friend isn't going to be special occasion enough than nothing ever will be.  So determined was I to wear this dress it that even when a stitch came away between the bodice and the strap while ironing, causing the bodice to flop down where it met the strap, I just pinned it back together with a vintage pearl brooch and wore it anyway.

The dress was a charity shop find by Mr V's sister who nabbed it for under a fiver with me in mind.  Eerily it fitted like a dream!  The fabric is a stiff taffeta in a gorgeous shade of teal shot with gold and black metallic stripes.  The bodice is lined and boned and the skirt has a wonderful full flare to it.  You can see that the hemline and seams are all hand stitched which leads me to believe this is the real deal vintage wise.

Despite the weather being quite glorious at the moment it is still a bit nippy in the evenings, so I decided to cover up with a vintage beaded cardigan in duck egg blue, however the shape of the cardigan over the dress ruined the latter's lovely feminine lines.  So I belted it to maintain the nipped in waist and flared skirt and got a profile typical of the era of Christian Dior's "New Look" in the 40s and 50s.  My favourite thing about fifties dresses is the swishiness of the full skirts and this one has some serious swish factor!

Whilst I'm rabbiting on about vintage you might note a couple of vintage items adorning the flat.  My love of vintage extends to home furnishings as well.  Why buy all new furniture and decorations for your abode when there's plenty of vintage and antique beauties around to lend your home a more eclectic look?  They are likely to be be better made than modern cheap furniture given that they are still in one piece and entirely usable after decades or in some cases centuries!  And like buying vintage clothing, in choosing vintage items of furniture over new you play your part in reusing and recycling and ensuring that less Ikea MDF ends up in landfill in the long run.

A lot of our vintage furniture pieces are hand me downs.  The Victorian vintage dressmaker's mannequin next to the hearth and the wooden gun chest propping up a Moroccan lamp you can see in the corner are heirlooms we've inherited from Mr V's parents who are downsizing.  Also taking pride of place in our home from them are a vintage Victorian kitchen table, a vintage seventies chrome and lacquered wood dining table, a Victorian wrought iron umbrella stand and some vintage cantilever chrome and leather dining chairs.

The money we've saved on having to purchase those items meant we could get a fireplace insert and surround installed in the dining room.  To be in keeping with the architecture of our Victorian flat, we sourced an antique Victorian cast iron insert from an architectural salvage yard which had been restored.  We had to go repro for the Victorian corbel style marble surround as original antiques were way out of our price range.  But rather than buy totally new, we got it made out of reclaimed marble that apparently came from some mansion in Belgravia!  Honestly the things people throw away!

So Vix this outfit is for you - you'll always be a winner to me and the best example of the vintage ethos.  Now I'm off to soak up more sunshine in the garden.  In the meantime I'll leave you with a few of my favourite vintage garments that take pride of place in my wardrobe:

Do you buy or wear vintage?  Are you a head to toe vintage wearer or do you mix and match with modern clothing?

Teal Taffeta Fifties Prom Dress: Vintage; Gold tone Brooch with Pearls: Vintage; Pearl stud earrings: gift from Mum; Cardigan: Vintage; Satin Kitten Heel Shoes: Aldo; Mint Belt: Jigsaw Australia; Basket bag: bought in a market in Thailand
Linking up to Monday Bloom at DC in Style.

Monday, 16 June 2014


Guess what arrived in time for me to take it with me to Spain to wear at the feria?  This amazing rendition of a bullfighter's jacket by H&M's recent Conscious Exclusive collection.  As this was a collection apparently inspired by flamenco dancers and bullfighters I was always going to be all over it.  And it was an environmentally friendly collection to boot being made out of recycled or sustainable materials.  I actually bought this jacket to serve as a flamenco costume but it was also just perfect for a bit of Carmen inspired drama on Ladies Day.

Ladies Day at the Feria de Caballo in Jerez (essentially a horse fair) is when the women dress up in a traditional traje de gitana (gypsy dress), a romantic confection of Andalusian flamenco frills much like the red lace one my friend is wearing in the photo above.  Women prepare for weeks before the feria for this day. They either make their own dress, shop for one at numerous stores that bring them out in endless variations around this time of year, or to ensure they have one that nobody else will be seen in, they enlist the help of a tailor to custom make one for them.  Woe betide you if you arrive in Jerez in the run up to feria and expect the attention of a tailor!  They'll all be booked!

This was my fourth feria which according to the locals now makes me a veteran.  And I always relish the opportunity to dress up on ladies day! In the past I've worn my own version of a traje de gitana using things in my own wardrobe, such as the outfit in my last post, or one of my flamenco costumes.  This year I thought I'd add an element of the gypsy torero to my outfit.  Now I've never been to a bullfight, nor do I ever intend to go to one and nor do I support it.  But strange as it may sound, in order to understand flamenco you have to understand bullfighting as both have strong links with gypsy culture.  There is a good article here for those interested in understanding more.  I actually recently performed wearing the jacket at a concert having choreographed a dance around the idea of the bullfighter because it went with a particular piece of music.

I have some wonderful photos of what the women were wearing on Ladies Day that I hope to share with you at some point.  In the meantime I'm joining Patti over at Not Yet Dead Style for Visible Monday. Was I visible?  Hell yeah!

Also linking up to Share In Style at La Moda Vita where the theme is Gold. 

Jacket: H&M Conscious Exclusive Collection; Skirt and top: Chine; Espadrilles and accessories: from Spain.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Frills and Fringing

Well hello there!  What's been happening in blogland?  I've been away in Spain for some time, had my parents descend on me in London for a week and had a flamenco performance with a concert pianist to prepare for which has put a stop to any regular online activity for a good while.

A longer break in Spain was just what I needed.  I managed to pack in my dance classes, get a couple of new costumes made, catch up with old friends, show my parents around Andalucia and attend the local feria (more of that in posts to come!).  I'm feeling recharged and inspired and have some wonderful moments from our trip to share.

In the meanwhile here is what I wore to the feria one evening.  A lesson I've learnt from Andalusian women about how to dress: regardless of whatever the current fashion may be, learn the art of wearing frills and fringing to flatter the female form and they will always make you feel womanly in a good way.  So I'll go for both together.  More is always more in my book.

Joining Patti and the ladies over at Visible Monday!

Dress: old Topshop; Jacket: Kate Moss for Topshop; Bag: gift from Mum; Earrings: Bisturia Brigette; Espardrilles: bought in Spain


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