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Fashion and beauty for sassy over 40 women


Friday, 30 December 2016

The Trends for 2017: Year of the Rooster

Picture of hydrangea paniculata Vanilla Fraise
Hydrangea Paniculata Vanilla Fraise: copyright Bakker.com

2016 was a tumultuous year and one that many of us will be glad to see the back of.  I'm always intrigued to hear what the predictions  are for the new year in terms of fashion, food and general prosperity. Here's my summary of trends for 2017 including flowers, fashion, colours and food.

Year of the Rooster

From Jan 28 we are in the Chinese Year of the Rooster. The Rooster is the sign of dawn and awakening. Triumph and success can only be achieved at the price of hard work and patience in 2017.

Green the Colour to be Seen In 

The influential Pantone Colour Institute were bang on with their predictions for 2016 of rose quartz and serenity: the rose pink and tranquil blue tones were everywhere, even if the supposed "soothing sense of order and peace" represented by the colours was absent.

For 2017, Pantone predict we will be in the green:  their shade Greenery will be all around us. This is good news for those who love green (myself included). It represents the colour of life, renewal, nature and energy, along with meanings of growth, harmony, freshness, safety, fertility, and environment. Green is also traditionally associated with money, finances, banking, ambition, greed, jealousy, and Wall Street.

The Fashion Trends

2016 was the year of the bomber jacket and the 2017 jacket will be a white blazer, apparently. They're in some of the hot new collections and style mavens like Alexa Chung and Emmanuelle Alt, editor of French Vogue, have been seen in them.  Below: Marella FENNEC longline collarless blazer from House of Fraser. 

The top handle bag will replace the cross-body bag. These are small bags which the trendy use without a strap. Below: Givenchy's's medium Antigona tote from Selfridges. 

Other trends on the horizon include the shirtdress, a looser tunic style designed to be worn with tights and ankle boots while the weather is cold, and then trainers or sandals in summer. 

Thankfully the puffer coat will be old hat  (do they flatter anyone) and the trench coat will be reinvented. Preen have a gingham version and Burberry's classic gaberdine had leopard-print sleeves. 

In The Garden

Madonna will hate this one but apparently hydrangeas will be big news this year.  I have always loved the paniculata varieties of later flowering hydrangeas rather than the mop head types. One of my favourites is vanilla fraise, pictured, top. I would love to see a Chelsea Flower Show that brings back cottage garden flowers like hollyhocks, delphiniums, love-in-the-mist. Personally, I am so over "prairie planting",  grasses, and all those clashing hot garden pinks and oranges.

Snack Atttack

Golden milk lattes will seduce us with their turmeric, celebrated for its anti-inflammatory properties. I find it works very well, although not in tablet or pill form  (which was validated by a recent study).  I add turmeric to home-made soups and drink turmeric and coconut tea.  It really helps with aching joints, particularly if you can't take ibuprofen.

Vegetable yoghurt is supposed to be the Next Big Thing. Varieties such as carrot, beetroot and sweet potato have proved an unexpected hit in the US and will soon be making a mark in Britain, according to Waitrose in its annual food and drink trends report.

Meanwhile poké,  Hawaii’s answer to sushi, is predicted by Waitrose to be the must-eat snack of 2017. 

Hawaiian poke on rice

The interiors trend for marble is creeping into food, too. Expect to see marbled icing, meringues and macaroons all over Instagram, made by bakers such as the Meringue Girls, aka Alex Hoffler and Stacey O’Gorman. 

Marbled meringues from The Meringue Girls
Marbled meringues: copyright Meringue Girls

Retro Drinks

Gin and different botanical variations was hot in 2016 and I'm glad to see that sherry will be becoming trendy in 2017  (I've been predicting this for a while). Trendy cocktail bars are adding dry types of sherry to their concoctions. Alternatives to prosecco, such as Pignoletto from Italy and Cava from Spain, will be joyfully guzzled.


Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Lip balms on trial

The one thing that most of us cannot do without is a lip balm. I'm always buying different ones, particularly if I'm out and find I don't have one on me. Winter makes my lips even more prone to dryness and cracking so a good lip balm is essential.

I rate a lip balm on three factors: 
  1. Does it moisturize and give a nice sheen to the lips? 
  2. Does it last on the lips or fade within minutes? I find that some lip balms, when they fade, leave a nasty residue, a "bittiness" on the lips.
  3. Does it taste good?
I rounded up my lip balms and found 8, two of which were free gifts in magazines. I've put them on trial and the verdict is in.

One of the more expensive ones at £17.00 for 7ml. I had a generous 10ml tube as a free sample in a magazine. Quite a strong rose flavour and smell. Gives a good glossy finish and camouflages lip lines (this must be the "3D filling spheres"!). It lasted for about an hour and disappeared in a clean way. Score: 4 out of 5. 

£3.49 for 15ml.
Picked this one up at Waitrose (as you do) as I had read a lot about the hydrating qualities of argan oil. A bit cloying and sticky on the lips. Score: 2 out of 5.

£1.50 from Tesco and other outlets
Ah, Lypsyl. Everyone of a certain age will remember this one. I see from the website it has a new formulation and comes in different varieties, but the one I have is described as the original and I buy them in bulk at Amazon. I absolutely love Lypsyl. It has a very distinctive taste and smell and sweetens the breath.  It's instantly hydrating and comforting on the lips and has good lasting power. When it does disappear, it does so without becoming sticky or leaving a weird after residue. Score: 4 out of 5, 

£4.49 from Holland and Barrett.
This one is in a category all of its own for tasting and smelling absolutely delicious. It reminds me somehow of a lovely cake. I used to keep it in the car so I could apply it at times of stress on the M25. Gives a nice sheen to the lips and lasts about two hours before doing a good disappearing act. Score: 3 out of 5

£1.99 from Boots
Nivea have long had lip balms in various permutations. This one is a big disappointment.  It doesn't really give your lips any colour and the flavour is very synthetic. It disappears quite fast and leaves an unpleasant residue on the lips. Score:1 out of 5,

£12 for 15ml from outlets including Space NK
This started as a nipple balm, as its name would suggest, but mothers were using it on their lips too. It's a multi purpose balm you can use anywhere. It's similar to Vaseline, gloopy, waxy and unpleasant tasting. I wouldn't wear it outdoors on any day where there was wind because your hair gets plastered to your lips. It's OK for wearing overnight. It gives a good glossy finish and lasts a few hours. The website is fun. Score: 2 out of 5.

£9 for 15ml from outlets including Space NK, Marks and Spencer
I believe this was another free gift. It has a slightly weird taste. Imparted a good shine but didn't give such a smooth lip as the Rodial.

Clarins Instant Comfort Lip Comfort Oil
I remember reading about the launch of this and trying several times to buy it, only to be told it was out of stock. When I finally got my hands on it I found it a big disappointment.  It's quite a thick oil with an unpleasant taste, and as it fades away it leaves a sticky residue.  Unpleasant.  1 out of 5.

Which is your favourite lip balm, and do you disagree with any of my findings?


Friday, 23 December 2016

The Decleor Advent calendar: how was it?

I've been a Decleor fan for years. I love their sublime facial oils and have found their products very effective. In recent years I haven't used their products quite as much so I decided to treat myself to the Decleor Advent calendar to see what's new.

Costing £60, there's a good selection of different products and a couple of them are good sizes for travel use (50 ml) rather than just being a sample size.

I put a high premium on "comfortable skin."  I don't have sensitive skin but I find a lot of products, particularly those with chemicals and acids  (AHAs, retinol and the like) very harsh and drying. Natural products can be equally to blame with high concentrations of active ingredients. But I've always found Decleor's products gentle and easy to wear.

Stand out product

I rediscovered what an amazing product the neroli oil is. Makeup artists often use it on models after long flights:  it re-hydrates and also reduces inflammation and redness. I was also impressed with the Aromessence Iris rejuvenating oil serum. I'm saving the Aurabsolu intense glow awakening cream and Proloagene Lift wrinkle filler for a big night out. I was keen to try Aromessence Mandarine and Aroma Lisse energising smoothing cream  (Decleor recommends using them together) as they're new to me and aimed at reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles. I didn't notice an improvement in that respect, but they left my skin nicely hydrated and smooth.

Today's window revealed a Hydra Floral BB cream which was a surprise as I didn't know Decleor made make-up products.  Will be intrigued to try it.

Body Products

Decleor's body products are lovely. The Aroma Cleanse toning shower and bath gel has a zingy, invigorating fragrance guaranteed to wake you up. Smooth the 1000 Grain Body Exfoliator over your limbs before you shower and then rinse it off. Skin is left silky and smooth. Aroma Comfort moisturising body milk gives skin a nice glow and the hydration effect lasts for hours.

I was a bit bemused by the two 5ml bottles of body oils because it hardly seems enough for an arm.

Was it worth £60?

All in all I'm very happy with what the little windows have revealed, and will definitely be buying some of these products as keepers.  It's a good value calendar, filled with high-quality products, and you can certainly never go wrong with Decleor.


Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Bargain red tartan and a classy reindeer jumper

Two more outfits for Christmas

Browsing among the groceries at Sainsburys, I had a quick look at the TU clothing, having seen an article where their clothes were said to be much improved. I've been itching to wear something in red and so this tartan skirt and jumper leapt out at me and before I knew it, were in the trolley along with the fruit and veg.

A word about the minimalist Christmas tree. I couldn't face putting up the normal Christmas tree this year, even though I usually love the ritual of getting out the treasured decorations and adorning the tree to the background of Nigella Christmas on TV. John urged me to rethink and perhaps get a smaller tree  (he always complains about the TV screen being obscured by branches). The tree in the picture is the easiest tree ever.  It was in a remarkably small square box and is simplicity itself: you simply put together the metal frame and then unfold the tree and lower it down over the frame.  It is already pre-lit with decorations.

The red tartan ensemble will probably be my Boxing Day outfit, although with temperatures in London predicted to be as high as 14 degrees, it may be a bit too warm indoors for the chunky jumper.

Red tartan skirt, £16, Sainsbury's;  roll neck jumper, Sainsbury's; black boots, LK Bennett past season (similar here);  gold chains, Accessorize, past season.

For Christmas Day I'll be wearing my classy reindeer jumper, if that isn't an oxymoron.  I bought it last year at John Lewis and decided it was a keeper, which is unusual for the festive jumper genre. You know how you get a bee in the bonnet about wanting a particular accessory for an outfit? I really wanted a pair of gold lurex tights but a Google search revealed that only M&S had the type I wanted, and they were in the children's section.  I planned to dash into town to buy the tights targeted at 14 year olds but decided against it because I knew Oxford Street would be the stuff of nightmares.  

Cream reindeer jumper, John Lewis, past season;  gold shoes Boden, past season; cord skirt, Boden, past season; furry gilet, Virgo fashions, past season.

All clothes and accessories bought by me.

Sharing with Style Me Wednesday at Shopping My Closet. Nancy's Fashion Style  for  
FANCY FRIDAY LINK-UP PARTY and Not Dressed As Lamb, #IwillwearwhatIlike link up.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Five great blog posts from December

Hello all! 

I'm starting a new monthly feature today which is selecting for you some of the best blog posts I've read recently. I have concentrated mainly on the women / style / fashion genre but in future may choose different categories. Check out Bloglovin - these are some fantastic writers out there. 

Here is my round up of the best of what the blogosphere has to offer.

1. Create an outfit inspired by art. This is such a clever idea! US blogger Jen at Librarian for Life and Style has been setting a challenge for bloggers with the last one for 2016 based on Edward Hopper's 1929 painting, Railroad Sunset. Here's the image: 

And here is Jen's outfit:

copyright: Librarian for Life and Style
To check out what other bloggers came up with, visit the post: SIA Round-up: Railroad Sunset.

2.  Why it's OK to "do it for the Instagram"

You'd be mistaken in thinking that all the fashion and style blogs do is present outfits and shopping opportunities. Many have thought provoking articles and start discussions.  Martha Jane Edwards is a 21 year old student and singer-songwriter with a beautifully photographed blog; her post on Why it's OK to "do it for the Instagram" resonated with me because although we're decades apart in age,  I too found myself dressing up for my blog in party outfits when actually I have no parties to go to. She explains why it's perfectly fine to do this and how it is a personal development opportunity.

3. Meanwhile in The Prosecco Diaries, Sarah, a lifestyle blogger and event organiser in London, attracted my attention with What Were You Thinking Woman's Hour! Bridget Jones Isn't Real. She challenges Woman's Hour for including the fictitious heroine in their Power List. It reminded me of the time, back in 2011, that the BBC included Sweetie the panda in their round-up of 12 women of the year. It's depressing how far we have not come!  I loved the first Bridget Jones film and book but I would never describe the hapless Bridget as someone to aspire to. She is only validated by her relationships with men and while she appears to be doing well career-wise in the latest book, we're never given an inkling as to how and why.

4. One girl who's never afraid of colour is Samantha from Fake Fabulous  I loved her post "3 ways to wear orange (or any bold colour)". Orange tights for example - what a revelation! She has inspired me to find an orange shirt (or orange tights and necklace) so that I can wear the cobalt blue dress that is languishing in my wardrobe. I wrote about it three years ago, Cobalt Blue, but haven't worn it because it exposes too much bony clavicle. I couldn't see a scarf working, but an orange shirt like the one Samantha wears would be ideal.

Samantha Blair from blog Fake Fabulous
Copyright: Samantha Blair 

5. I've only ever worn leggings at the gym - I've never tried them with an outfit, but having read How to wear leggings over 40, an extensive guide by Sylvia, I am tempted to try.  Inspired by Chanel and their cream leggings, Sylvia has put together several different looks with leggings and gives some great do's and don'ts. This is what I love about fashion on the blogosphere: it's real fashion and women of different shapes and sizes with no judgments.

The thing with nailing the legging look is to wear a tunic or short dress, and not wearing them as trousers. I'm on the look out now for the right leggings and the right tunic. Stay tooned!

So those are my top picks for December, and I'll be back at the end of January with another round-up.


Friday, 16 December 2016

Remember these beauty products from the 70s and 80s?

I've been enjoying Sali Hughes' book "Pretty Iconic: A Personal Look at the Beauty Products that Changed the World". I am somewhat obsessed with finding the beauty products I grew up with, and it makes my day if they're still around today.

It was great reading Sali's recollection of products like the Toni home perm (I remember the Tweeny Twink too, which had a lot to answer for); Rimmel's best selling lipstick heather shimmer - I remember wearing damson shimmer -  and Sun In.

Sali is probably too young to remember: Flicker ladies' razor, Anne French cleansing milk and Glow 5 mask, and some forgotten perfumes.

Others I've since remembered, which weren't in Sali's book, are Bergasol, which used ads featuring two models, one very pale and the other a deep sun tanned brown  (you can still get a reformulated Bergasol, shipped from France, at Amazon, and it is very good); Henara henna powder, which came in a drum and was a dry powder that you used with water instead of dye on your hair, and Harmony hair colourants, semi permanent colour in a tube.

70s ad for Bergasol sun lotion

60s ad for Harmony semi permanent hair colourant


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

5 outfits for Christmas

I haven't bought many new pieces this Christmas and the reason is linked to the fact I'm currently not working, for the first time ever.  I haven't had any office parties to think about. If I did, I have a rich seam of dresses that have only been worn once or twice. Here are five outfits for Christmas. I have left my Boxing Day outfit for another post (yep, it's the jumper.....).

Christmas shopping with Mum 

I always go to Plymouth a couple of weeks before Christmas to spend a few days with my mum, who's 84, and to see my brother and his family. Mum is a widow, very independent and enviably sociable: she's social secretary for a couple of organisations and is on a constant whirl of lunches and day trips. She loves buying clothes, usually in bright colours: she hates the idea of being a "beige old lady."  Here she's wearing a collarless coat and teal polo neck jumper. I'm wearing my green coat from Marks and Spencer and an embellished jumper from Boden which I absolutely love  (it is about three years old).

Collar less coat from Marks and Spencer

Christmas carol concert

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the wonderful BT Christmas Concert at the Royal Albert Hall. We had dinner beforehand at one of the venue's restaurants, the Elgar Grill. The concert includes singalong carols, the Royal Marine Band, Chris Hollins (as MC), an orchestra and choirs, and two guest opera singers. It's an exuberant celebration ending with a rendition of "Merry Christmas Everyone", fake snow and indoor fireworks.

Green is my favourite colour and as it's so mild I didn't need to wear a thick coat with gloves and scarf. Out came the M&S green coat, a green jumper from Boden, necklace from Etsy, burgundy boots and navy trousers.

Green coat from Marks and Spencer, green jumper from Boden

Christmas party dress 

I love a sequin like most women. I've only worn this dress from Hobbs once - I feel it's a bit too short on me.I paired it with a white faux fur stole that I've had so long it has the label "St Michael"  (which used to be a brand name of Marks and Spencer).

I have a bit of a shoe crisis.  I decided a few weeks ago that high heels were no longer for me. I gave away several pairs to the charity shop.  But my usual ankle boots and flat shoes don't look great with my party dresses, so I had to improvise with sandals I normally wear in summer. I wouldn't usually wear tights with open toe sandals, believe me.

Black sequin dress from Hobbs with silver sandals and white faux fur stole

The LBD every woman needs 

You've probably got a dress like this in your wardrobe, whether it's from Vivienne Westwood, Aleia or in my case, Marks and Spencer. It's designed to flatter the figure and is conservative enough to wear to more restrained functions, but can be dressed up for more ritzy parties. Here's a similar style from M&S.

Mine is a little longer than I would like. The mid calf, midi trend, was not one I greeted with enthusiasm. I find knee length a more flattering length.  The block heels are a good substitute for high heels when you need something more than a flattie. Mine are from Dune. 

Black crepe figure flattering dress with Dune block heeled shoes

Here I have added my glamorous black velvet coat - bought more than 15 years ago.

Black crepe figure flattering dress and black velvet coat

Sequin skirt and ruffle sleeve jumper

This skirt still has its label attached because in the two years I've had it, I've never found a top to go with it.  I wanted something in a vibrant pink but this is a colour the stores forgot this year. I finally found a ruffle sleeve jumper by Lost Ink which fit the bill.  I had sore misgivings to start with: I feared it was going to be a crop top and ride up.  Wearing tops loose doesn't suit my shape - I need to create definition at the waist or with my big shoulders and bust I can look like a fridge. Fortunately the jumper tucks in OK.

Magenta sequin skirt and Lost Ink pink ruffle sleeved jumper

So those are my main picks for Christmas. I've had fun looking at all the lovely outfits on different sites. In particular I loved Lizzy's red dress and Michelle's blush pink number. Nikki adds the wow factor to a jeans and velvet top combo with gorgeous gold heels and jewellery (I need those gold shoes in my life!). 

Sharing this post with Style Me Wednesday at Shopping My Closet, Catherine at Not Dressed As Lamb #SaturdayShareLinkUp and Patti at NotDeadYetStyle for Visible Monday.

* all outfits bought by me 


Tuesday, 13 December 2016


The winner of my Christmas giveaway beauty bag is @vanityandmeblog

You should get the bag before Christmas. Thanks for entering!


Monday, 12 December 2016

Sequin bomber jacket

Any reservations I had about buying a bomber jacket the second time around have been dispelled by the purchase of a second one.  This black sequin bomber from Lipsy was bought specifically for attending Elton John's concert in Belfast.  I figured Elton would appreciate a sequin or two. Not that he got to see!

Lipsy black sequin bomber jacket and Office gold boots

I'm wearing the bomber jacket with a simple black cashmere jumper, gold boots from Office (similar from Mango, here) and spinning drop earrings from Marks and Spencer. I don't normally wear earrings - my hair covers them - but I was taken by these and they look more expensive than they cost.
The gold sequinned bag is an old purchase.
Lipsy black sequin bomber jacket and Marks and Spencer drop earrings

Sharing with Patti at Not Dead Yet Style, Visible Monday;  Not Dressed As Lamb, #IWillWearWhatILike


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Christmas beauty giveaway!

I've put together a dreamy bag full of brand new, unopened samples from many cult brands, and it'll go to the first comment selected at random on Dec 13, midday GMT.

It's got everything you need for a big night out: cleanser, hair conditioners; body scrub; face treatments; a body lotion; fake tan; eye shadows and products to remove it all before you go to bed. List below.

For your chance to win, all you have to do is leave a comment (not anonymous) saying which of the products you would most like to try. 

Happy to ship abroad!

Is This Mutton dot com Christmas beauty competition prize

Good luck and share the love with your friends.

The bag itself

What's in the bag?
Decleor Hydra Floral light cream, 15ml
Decleor Micellar Oil 5ml
Lancome Energie de Vie 5ml: smoothing and glow boosting liquid care
Ouai hair treatment masque
Sanctuary Ultimate Salt Scrub 60g
Benefit They're Real! remover
January Labs restorative tonic mist 30ml: alcohol free toner that minimizes the appearance of pores and prevents breakouts. Designed to tone, rehydrate, and balance all skin types.
Omorovicza Ultramoor Mud Mask: transform skin’s appearance in just a few minutes with this flash-lifting anti-ageing mud mask.
Inika mineral eye shadow, gunmetal: vegan pure and vibrant mineral eyeshadow, pigment-rich, that will last all day.
Nudestix Magnetic eye color, angel: über long wearing eye shadow pencil that highlights, provides intense luminous colour, precise lining and primes lids for all day wear.
Lypsyl original lip balm
Emma Hardie Protect & Prime sachet: light weight, non-greasy skin protecting and priming cream with a broad spectrum sun protection SPF30,
Frederic Fekkai Protein Rx hair repair strengthener: treatment that mends brittle damaged hair.
Sienna X instant bronzing gel
Australian Bodycare tea tree oil hair conditioner: detangles and restores natural lustre leaving hair manageable and healthy.
Weleda evening primrose age revitalizing body lotion: firms and increases skin elasticity
Melvita argan oil for face or hair

Terms and conditions can be found here.


Monday, 5 December 2016

A fantastic weekend in Belfast

Gail Hanlon in cape on Game of Thrones tour

You could say I'm wearing what I like in this pic - it's a Game of Thrones cape! We had a fantastic weekend in Belfast, starting first at the Titanic Experience which has quite rightly been voted the world's top tourist attraction. Nine galleries, all very evocative and interactive, take you from the history of Belfast's shipbuilding and other associated industries (linen, rope) to the discovery of the wreckage and retrieval of some of the artifacts.

The gallery which took you quietly into the moment where the ship was lost was very moving. Survivors' voices told their story and the last distress messages were shown. "We are coming as fast as we can" (Carpathia);  "We cannot last much longer" (Titanic).

After the tour a quick freshen up at the hotel and then it was off to the SSE Arena to see Elton John, the main reason for booking the weekend. Not a moment too soon, as he will apparently announce his retirement in March, his 70th birthday.

For the first hour I thought he and the band were a little stilted, but the Belfast welcome soon got to them and they were laughing and lapping up the atmosphere.

For Elton I was wearing a new black sequin bomber jacket but we didn't get any photos as planned, so I will post some pictures of this later.

The next day we went off on a Game of Thrones excursion, two baby boomers and a coach full of millennials! The tour leader was an extra who's been in every season so far (and never been killed), who had some amazing anecdotes. Originally they wanted the people of the north in Winterfell to have a Northern Irish accent, but when asked, Sean Bean simply said "Noooo," so the Winterfell folk had to adopt a Sheffield accent instead!

The locations were marvellous: the Belfast region is rich in ancient monasteries and abbeys. We also met a couple of dire wolves (as you do).

Game of Thrones dire wolf

I won't win any prizes for style: it was very cold and at times like this you need a Sherpa woolly hat and a North Face jacket!

Palm House at Belfast Botanic Gardens

Finally we went for a quick walk around the Botanic Gardens. Very well kept, and the rose garden must be a fragrant haven in the summer. I enjoyed the palm house, and it was all free of charge.

Belfast Botanic Gardens

Sharing with Catherine, Not Dressed As Lamb, for the #IWillWearWhatILike link up.


Sunday, 4 December 2016

A tale of two wedding dresses

Author Raffaella Barker recently wrote in the Mail on the dilemma she faced as a 51 year old second time bride in choosing her dress.

I had exactly the same challenge six years ago when I married John.

For my first wedding in 1987, I had walked into a bridal shop in Exeter and the right dress jumped out at me almost instantly. 

In those days dresses were big, like our hair and shoulder pads. The "Little Bo Beep" look was popular. I didn't go exactly down that road. Just halfway. My dress did have a hooped petticoat and huge sleeves but it was by up-and-coming (then) brand Pronovias and I loved it. It was around £450 which seemed a lot of money then. I had a veil studded with pearls to match the tiny pearls on the sleeves.

I regretted later that I hadn't taken my mum with me to help to choose it.  She seemed disappointed when she knew I had already got the dress, veil, pearl headdress and everything else.

1987 wedding dress by Pronovias

So when I knew I was getting married again in 2010, I took mum with me.

Like Rafaella, I had been feverishly studying websites and buying bridal magazines. (I still would if it didn't seem strange - I just love bridal magazines!).  I was not keen on wearing white or shades thereof, but wanted something special. But a lot of the dresses I saw were a bit "mother of the bride," or too young looking.

The Dress turned up in an unexpected place, Monsoon in Plymouth.  I'd spotted the dress online but I didn't know how it would look in real life. Even when I tried it on, it was difficult to tell if it was really right for me because it was January and I was carrying an extra 7kgs. It was tight around the middle.

But I loved the fact it looked glamorous - particularly with the feather boa that Monsoon helpfully provided - and felt "me."  I didn't try it on again until about three weeks before our big day.  I had been dieting diligently but was afraid the dress would still not look good. I was thinking I had enough time to find another one. But it slipped on like a dream. And the colour was perfect, even though my mum had had sore misgivings, silver not being one of my colours according to Colour Me Beautiful. The silcer looked great with my chosen purple and violet flowers. I had some dainty sandals from Boden and a grey clutch from M&S. 

So there you have it, a tale of two dresses. I'd love to see your wedding dress (es).

Linking to Catherine, Not Dressed As Lamb, for the #SaturdayShareLinkUp and Patti at Not Dead Yet Style for #Visible Monday 


Monday, 28 November 2016

Surprise! It's from Laura Ashley

Laura Ashley is probably not one of your go-to's for fashion.  Their cluttered rails of dingy, ditsy prints don't encourage browsing. They do a better job of displaying furniture and home wares.

The website isn't much better: everything is styled in such a drab way, with tops always worn outside of the trousers or skirts.

It's a shame because you can find some good things if you browse the site at the immediate start of each season.  These pieces seem to sell out very quickly.

My all-time favourite summer outfit came from Laura Ashley, bought about three years ago and still worn on holiday: a print skirt and green bow blouse. This winter I bought several pieces back in August when they first appeared on the website. The trench coat below is great quality and is a classic design that won't date.

Women's trench coat from :Laura Ashley

I picked up this tulip shaped Laura Ashley print skirt, below, on eBay and I'm wearing it with a Peter Pan collared navy top from their autumn collection (I have a thing for Peter Pan collars).

Laura Ashley navy top with Peter Pan collar

Laura Ashley navy top and silk floral skirt
Finally, and on the subject of Peter Pan collars, this cream jumper from Laura Ashley has a pretty lace collar.  Furry hat from M&S. 

What are your experiences of fashion at Laura Ashley?  Leave a comment or tweet me @gail_h
Laura Ashley cream jumper with lace collar

Linking to Patti and Not Dead Yet Style, Visible Monday and Catherine, Not Dressed As Lamb, for #IWillWearWhatILike 


Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Get ahead with your summer swimwear

"What? Swimwear in November?"I hear you cry. But it makes good sense. Some of the 2017 collections have just landed - and the best items sell out fast - plus you can find some great sale bargains.

I like to add one "good" kaftan a year to my collection from Melissa Odabash or Vix. They last for years and the quality is superb. I also buy cheaper kaftans and cover-ups from Seafolly, Phax and Moontide. I don't like them too short (mutton alert) or indeed, too long, and don't like them being see through.
On the debate of bikinis for the over 50s: too mutton?, I am in the "go ahead and wear what you like" camp. Every year I agonise about being bikini body ready, yet when I get to the beach, I see women of all shapes and sizes enjoying the sun in bikinis and not giving a hoot. I bought some swimming costumes one year but they definitely have an older and more matronly vibe. The more daring varieties with cut outs are best left to Elle McPherson (and she is over 50). 

With bikinis, it's more flattering to wear cup sized tops, and bottoms which are not too big. Don't make the mistake of buying a size up in the hope it will be more forgiving. If you've bought a cheaper bikini, the bottoms will stretch very quickly and your backside will look the size of a small country. 

Most brands produce several types of bottom so you can choose the most flattering. Some, from the likes of Fantasie, have fold down waists so you can adjust how big your pants are. Side ties are also flattering because they don't cut into the flesh. 

My favourite brands for bikinis are Freya, Bravissimo and Fantasie. I like bandeau styles which liberate your shoulders from tan lines. Both the brands I mention excel in underwired bikini tops which allow the larger busted to wear bandeaus and look great. 

Sometimes, when I really love a particular bikini, I buy it again at a reduced price from the wonderful Belle Lingerie, or I choose a different bottom. 

Beach Kaftans and Cover Ups

Seafolly Bandwave Memphis kaftan in magenta
Kaftan by Seafolly

These Seafolly kaftans appear in different colours every year and they're so easy to wear. One size, £53 from Cocobay.

Elizabeth Hurley Beach kaftan in aqua
Indira kaftan by Elizabeth Hurley Beach
Here's an example of how you can get some good reductions buying now. This kaftan with flattering drawstring waist is reduced by 30% and now costs £175.70 from Elizabeth Hurley Beach.  Still quite pricey, but something to add to your Christmas list? Also in apricot.

Bikinis and Swimsuits

The stylish Freya Tootsie bandeau bikini and shorts (sold individually) are at knock down prices at Belle Lingerie: the top is now £14.40 and the shorts £9.60. Other items including a tankini top and a swimsuit are available, as are other colours.

If you can't find the matching bottoms that you want, my tip is to try eBay. 

Fantasie and Freya both produce a few co-ordinating kaftans but they're not always my first choice: the Fantasie ones are a bit too floaty and remind me of Abigail's Party.

Freya Under the Sea bikini top and bottoms
Freya Under The Sea 
This Under the Sea bikini from Freya was one I bought this year and I absolutely love it. Still available, with two choices of bottoms, from Bravissimo.

Seafolly Blue Coast retro bikini from Figleaves
Seafolly Blue Coast 
Seafolly's new Blue Coast Ruched Side Retro bikini separates are reduced for Black Friday at Fig Leaves. The bottoms are £29.25 instead of £39, and the bandeau is £45 instead of £60.

Latest swimsuits 

If it's a swimsuit you're after, Figleaves has some new styles which are on offer. This Stella McCartney Iconic Print One Piece Strapless Swimsuit is 25% off at £116.25. 

Stella Mccartney iconic print one piece swimsuit
Stella McCartney Iconic print swimsuit 
A figure flattering one piece in black or navy always looks elegant. This Gaby padded costume by Huit in evening blue is on offer at Figleaves, £45 instead of £60.

Huit Gaby one piece
A key part of the look is of course the accessories:  beach bag (with charm!), towel, sunglasses, flip flops, sun hat.  I tend to buy these nearer to the holiday take-off date, so more on these later. 

Linking to Catherine, Not Dressed As Lamb, and the #SaturdayShareLinkUp

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