"". November 2016 | Is This Mutton?

Fashion for the over 50s with books and beauty

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Monday 28 November 2016

Surprise! It's from Laura Ashley

Women's trench coat from Laura Ashley, AW 16Laura 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.

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


Monday 21 November 2016

Four must-haves for winter

Before each season I do an audit of the essentials I need. They're faithful staples that may not be the height of fashion but I know they'll be worn time and time again.  The top 4 this winter: 

1. The Crop Cashmere Cardigan

I always buy at least one of these: the black one above is from Pure Collection, currently £74 reduced from £99.  In winter I like to snuggle back into black and grey, whereas in summer I go for bright colours and my crop cardis are pink and lime green.

Utterly invaluable, particularly in summer for chilly evenings. Look for little details like mother of pearl buttons.  I also recommend Boden's crop cardigans. 

2. The gassato cashmere poncho

Ponchos are great for bridging the gap between summer and autumn, when you need a bit of extra warmth but you don't want to wear a coat yet.  Well, as we're definitely wearing coats now - and hats and scarves - I'm now carrying my lightweight gassato cashmere poncho in my bag to wear in offices that have been too aggressively air conditioned.  This one came from Pure Collection.

3 and 4: A silk top and indispensable little jacket 

The silk roll neck top in duck egg goes very well with so many colours, while the cropped ponte jacket gives a nod to the mode for checks and houndstooth. Both from Pure Collection  (you'd think I was on commission - sadly not!) and both at reduced prices right now.


Tuesday 15 November 2016

5 Christmas Jumpers and Colin Firth

actor Colin Firth in Christmas jumper from Bridget Jones film

Colin Firth in that memorable Christmas jumper

I'd like to say it all started with Colin Firth and the first Bridget Jones film, but I had a very similar reindeer jumper back in 1987. Here's my quick round-up of Christmas woollies. Nothing too subtle here! I like my festive jumpers to be garish and seasonal, not tasteful Fairisle.

Marks and Spencer pale blue reindeer Christmas jumper

This jumper from Marks and Spencer is very similar to the one I had last year, which was cream;  it has a reindeer motiff and sparkly antlers. £29.50.

Yumi robin knit from House of Fraser

If robins are more your thing, this is a cute jumper from House of Fraser, £28 reduced from £35.

Who doesn't love a sequin at Christmas?  Here's a sequinned gingerbread man jumper from Top Shop, £36

Finally, if you blanch at the expense of buying a jumper that may only be worn a couple of times, there are plenty of "decorate your own Christmas jumper" kits out there with prices starting from £3.99.

Saturday 12 November 2016

A tale of two coats

Winter white Banana Republic cashmere coat
I normally buy one or two coats each year depending on what's in fashion. But this winter,  I'm thrilled to find two of my oldest coats are now back in style.

Thursday 10 November 2016

Beauty heroes: Hair products

My approach to hair is low maintenance. I've never been able to successfully use electrical styling products or even create fancy up do's or buns when my hair was long. I want products that deliver shine and manageability.

Here are my four hero products. For washing and conditioning I like to use products that are parabens and sulphate free, but not so worthy they don't work. I'm afraid I don't like products that don't foam up in that reassuring way. And as my hair is highlighted, I like to use products that protect the colour. I've found that spending more on shampoo and conditioner is not a false economy. I've tried other cheaper products for colour protection but they don't work as well as the Pureology range. I use the Perfect 4 Platinum shampoo and conditioner.  My highlights stay buttery, right through to renewal time, and my hair has volume and is manageable.

A deep conditioning treatment

When I have time, I like to use a deep conditioning product.  My hairdresser sells the luxurious Italian range Davines and I love the Minu Illuminating and Regenerating Mask for Coloured hair, £18.50 at Cult Beauty. Apply it to damp hair, comb through with your Tangle Teazer and leave it to work for 10-15 minutes. It makes me hair silky smooth but not so slippery I can't style it. And it smells gor-juss.

Blow dry primer 

I'm not keen on mousses - find they dry the hair. Redken's Pillow Proof blow dry express primer is my choice, It somehow reduces the time that a blow dry takes, and protects hair from the blast of the dryer. Currently at the reduced price of £13.60 at Look Fantastic

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Saturday 5 November 2016

Latest beauty heroes: face

My beauty heroes change quite often. I rarely buy a second bottle! But I made an exception for four of the products shown here, so they must be good.

First up, Alpha-H Liquid Gold smoothing and perfecting mask, £48 from Cult Beauty.
Now I've tried several products containing with alpha hydroxy or gycolic acid, including 
Alpha-H Liquid Gold and also Pixi Glow Tonic and Sunday Riley Good Genes. Although they made my skin brighter and smoother, over time I found them all very drying and stopped using them. I think they're fine for younger skin but maybe a little too harsh for mature skin.

So it was with trepidation that I bought the mask. But the mask is great. Very authentic lavender scent and smooth, luscious cream that you rinse off after 10 mins.  It really does brighten the skin and dial-down dark circles and tiredness. And it doesn't cause any long-term dryness. I'm still on the first tube but I think this one is a keeper.

I rarely wear foundation but occasionally you want a flawless base and to forget about all those darn pigmentation marks  (you still get them even if you sunbathe using Factor 50 - that's my warning to you girls). Clinique's Beyond Perfecting foundation & concealer performs both functions most excellently. I liked it so much, reader, I have it in two shades. It doesn't look mask-like and it isn't too matte, which I find quite ageing. I haven't liked a foundation so much since Estee Lauder's much lamented Lucidity.

Next:  Cult51 immediate effect serum, £95 from Cult Beauty.  I've never rated any serums. I've always thought them over-rated and a cynical attempt to exhort more money out of us. But I was pleasantly surprised by this serum, As always, I applied it to one side of my face for a few days to see if it made any difference.  It was quite noticeable. I applied some on my crow's feet and the wrinkle between my eyebrows, and around my top lip. Definitely plumped up the skin. It looked and felt good enough not to wear moisturizer but that's a step too far. So I'm getting a second bottle for my birthday.

I'm on my third pot of Charlotte Tilbury's Magic Cream, £70. I've used dozens of moisturizers over the years but this one, for me, is great. It provides a great base for make-up, feels very luxurious and sinks in quickly, and gives a dewy finish that lasts for hours. Tilbury's products are now available at Cult Beauty, yay  (it's my go-to site, as you may have gathered!).

So those are my latest beauty face heroes: have you used any of them?
Next week: hair heroes

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