The reason the owners of the chain Zara have eclipsed Bill Gates as the richest people in the world is that they made this level of tailoring, finish and detail available to people with budgets like mine. This boyfriend blazer is fully lined, with a different lining on the sleeve turn-ups to the main body, and is accented by a single gold and enamel button. It is sharply masculine in the shoulder but tapered ever so slightly with precision placed darts to accentuate a feminine waist, and it hits just low enough between the hip and upper thigh to make it perfect to wear with a t-shirt and leggings. All this for thirty nine euros.
If there is one high street store that dominates my wardrobe other than Topshop it is Mango. The cut of the clothes has always suited me and their options for the office are fashionable, smart and never boring. Frequent trips to Spain over the years have provided plenty of opportunity to shop at slightly lower prices (that is until the pound crashed against the euro!) and fill my suitcase with fashionable treats. I would go so often to one particular shop in town that it got to the point where the shop assistants began to recognise me and greet me like a local.
Now in my self imposed exile from London with about ten percent of my wardrobe with me I am running low on clothes for a warmer climate. As the hot weather has finally arrived here I am now too hot and sticky wearing my London tregs. Due to the Icelandic volcano I had to cancel a brief return trip home which would have given me the opportunity to bring some more summery clothes back with me. It was not to be. The universe has decreed that I need to shop instead...
As I am in a small, quite traditional and generally sartorially challenged town in the south of Spain I am confined to getting my fashion thrills from such Spanish giants such as Mango, Zara, Bershka and Stradivarius. At first I wondered if I would survive without Topshop but I needn't have worried. This season in Spain there are plenty of thrills to be had and this blog might quickly turn into a catalouge of new additions to my wardrobe!
Out of all the competition I think Mango and Zara have come out on top. Zara has some excellent tailored pieces and basics and has produced a brilliant take on the whole minimalist Celine look that is dominating every fashion editor's attention this season. Mango is offering a fresh injection of colour, floral prints and feminine details such as ruffles and lace for Spring. I came away from the local shop wanting to throw away all my black and grey clothes. They have also produced a belted sleeveless trench dress modelled in their store catalogues by Scarlett Johansson which is very Burberry and which I am dying to try on. Quite a testimonial given that I couldn't think of anything more useless to have in your wardrobe than a sleeveless trench dress!
Mango's silk pieces this season are worth a look. I came away with this vibrantly colourful and elegantly draped silk skirt with a luxurious side tie which promises to keep me cool on hot days. The silk has a Moorish floral print reminiscent of the walls of the Alhambra and the skirt and tie are lined in a contrasting shade of periwinkle, a blue-violet shade which features heavily in their collection and a very popular colour on the street here at the moment. I'll be dressing it down for day with a cotton t-shirt and flats.
Digital prints have been made popular by the likes of Alexander McQueen and Peter Pilotto. Last winter Oasis did some of the best versions of this trend on the high street. I came across this Galaxy Print dress in the Oxford Street store while shopping with a girlfriend. The draping and the ruched, structured shoulders don't lend it much hanger appeal, in fact my friend instantly dismissed it when I picked it out. I thought the clever and vibrant print made it worth trying on and as I have become much curvier of late I find garments with a bit of draping are much more flattering on me. My motto when shopping is that however a garment looks on a hanger is not how it may look on your body so you always have to try it on before you know whether it suits you. When I came out of the change room my friend had to concede that it was actually very pretty once on.
The dress retailed for about £65 which is pretty reasonable for a party dress. I left it in the store that day because in the midst of a freezing winter I couldn't imagine getting much wear out of it. By the end of the sale season I found it online for a mere £15. It is surprising what sells and what doesn't sometimes. After all the celebrities photographed wearing digital prints and its endorsement by the cognoscenti as a major trend right through to Spring I would have thought a quality and relatively inexpensive version such as this would have sold out. Perhaps it takes a certain courage to wear bold colour and prints. I like the way Rosie Huntingdon Whitely (pictured below) wore her Peter Pilotto dress with a cropped satin tux and fierce heels. If its good enough for Rosie... Luckily there was a similar cropped satin tux on sale online at Oasis for £15 as well!
I debuted my Galaxy print dress at the theatre last month styled a la Rosie. I wore it with a black Balmain style jacket from Topshop. For a bit of extra warmth I teamed it with opaque tights and my Topshop Amelie black shoe boots with gold studded heels. To accessorise - lots of statement gold jewellery and my frilly chain strap shoulder bag from Review. I was barraged all night with enquiries by friends as to where I had got my dress! It is definitely going to get several more outings this season.
There is a theory I heard once that you are either into shoes or you are into bags and which is determined by the size of your feet. If you have small dainty feet chances are you will be a shoe girl, if you have large feet you will be a bag lady.
I think I am definitely a shoe girl given that the number of shoes I own far outnumbers my bags and coincidentally my feet are quite small. Recently though a friend said she thought I was a bit of a bag collector to which I protested I only had about five. She thought this comeback was hilarious as I think she just has two - she is also unaware of how many shoes I own. Then out of curiosity I counted all my bags and realised that I had closer to twenty! Why then is it that I have always complained about never having the right kind of bag to finish off an outfit?
Historically out of all other aspects of my wardrobe the last thing I have regularly paid attention is bags. I think it stems from my nightclubbing days when the prospect of dragging a handbag out was just annoying as having to throw it on the dance floor and dance around it was a far worse faux pas than choosing the wrong kind of bag. If you could go out without so much as a slim wallet in a pocket to put the essentials then all the better.
This is probably why the whole It-bag culture completely passed me by and to this day I find it hard to part with a lot of cash for a bag especially if it is going to be out of fashion within a season. The bags I had bought were fun, frivolous and fairly inexpensive which was fine for weekends and evening wear but not particularly appropriate for the office or just looking pulled together. I came to the realisation that my choice of everyday bag was letting my otherwise very carefully put together daytime outfits down. So a couple of years ago after getting a new job I began to pay more attention.
I picked this beauty up from a recent trip home to Australia. I love the chain strap and Valentino-esque frill detail. The style and size is ideal to take me from day to evening without changing bags. The fabric is not leather so it wasn't costly but it is so well made you can't really tell. It has a lovely satin lining in a girly print and gold pockets with frilly trims for smaller items like mobiles and purses. Whenever I wear it out I get compliments.
Pretty good approximation of what I wore last night to the theatre. Managed to cram in a facial before going straight there so went for something simple but smart. As I am mostly travelling by foot I pack a high heel option in my bag and wear flats so I get where I need to go on time without crippling myself! That is where my new Zara shoulder bag is coming in handy - I can even fit a small makeup bag in for a quick bit of mascara, eyeliner and lipgloss fix before the curtain call. So nice to finally be somewhere where the temperature allows me to get away with just a t-shirt and blazer.
Zara Boyfriend Blazer
Zara White V-neck t-shirt
Sass and Bide Black Rat leggings
Cos grey jersey scarf
Zara ballet flats
Zara nude shoulder bag
Reiss 1971 Lolita Multi Rope Wedges
The obsession with the perfect t-shirt continues this season. Bet you thought a t-shirt was just a t-shirt. Not according to Net-a-Porter who have just released a very useful guide to building your T-shirt wardrobe. Who knew the humble t-shirt would be propelled to become such a lustworthy (read expensive) item to which you should have a whole wardrobe dedicated. I thought it hilarious that Alexander Wang sleeps in his the night before he wears it to get the look just right. Talk about a cheap way to get an expensive look! And think of the time you'll save getting dressed in the mornings. According to this guide you should dry clean or hand wash your t-shirt to increase its longevity - well you would at those prices wouldn't you? As gorgeous as all the t-shirts featured in this guide all are is it really necessary to spend upwards of £60 on a t-shirt? There is one area I have found in which there is consensus in the style guides I've been reading: when it comes to buying basics like t-shirts the mantra is buy cheap and renew often.
Having left my new off-white pocket tee from Cos back in London I was feeling a little bereft. Well I have found a new love. This one is a pure white with a deep v-neck. These cotton tees from Zara are made out of lovely thin and very soft cotton that hangs beautifully. Just for good measure I bought a black in a size smaller to layer up. At just under six euros a pop I'll be building a T-shirt wardrobe for less than it costs to buy one on Net-a-Porter!
Duty free shopping at the airport is always a big temptation. Recently I was at the airport wondering what to do about not having packed any shoes for going out while abroad due to weight restrictions. Having pared the one hundred pairs of shoes available down to one pair of work shoes, a pair of very ugly practical mudproof boots and two pairs of flat shoes in the suitcase (no mean feat), it was then very annoying to discover that I had came in one kilo lighter than the maximum allowance. That is two additional pairs I could have brought! What is a bereft heel addict to do? Why shop of course! Then I spotted these cool wedges. I like the contrast between the suede wedge and the leather uppers. They still carry the tough vibe of heeled gladiators of the past season, but the intricacy of the braided suede roping lend them more of a summery nautical feel. I am hoping that wedge heels will be a tad more comfortable on the medieval cobblestones of my destination than normal six inch platform numbers. I plan to wear them with leggings, jeans, dresses and shorts.
My ballet days are long gone but they have left me with a nostaglic fondness for that particular blush pink shade of ballet tights and shoes. Blush tones are in again this year. Blush, nude - you name it - if it is in that particular pallete its looks terrible on me. I do love those tones however and over the years I have come to the somewhat crushing acceptance that the only way I can wear them is through accessories. I found this slouchy shoulder bag in Zara. Roomy enough to hold all a dancer's gear! I like the chain strap detail that toughens it up a little and I discovered it has the added bonus that the colour matches the ballet flats I bought (also from Zara) last year.
Yes I was invited. Yes I registered. Yes I tried to access the site when I got the email. (Admittedly I slept in.) Yes it crashed just like their March pop up sale the month before did. Yes I was annoyed (especially after later seeing the Alexander McQueen dress I wanted had gone on sale!). But really, the debacle people have complained about could hardly be unexpected now could it? You don't line up outside the Selfridges sale on Boxing Day expecting
No I did not waste my Friday trying to log on all day - learnt my lesson after the March sale - I just stopped when it became obvious it wasn't going to happen (after my second attempt). And no I am not outraged that I didn't get anything. Maybe it is because I had to spend much more time with the more pressing issue of trying to deal with the aftermaths of failed travel plans due to volcanic ash!
The Outnet is a business after all, not a charity. Not a great PR stunt if that is what is was but I wouldn't rule out buying from them again.
The changeover of a season is always a frustrating time. Especially when that changeover is from Winter to Spring. The big transeasonal dilemna. My own personal dilemna is this: I love the clothes in the autumn/winter collections and tend to buy from these but hardly get to wear them because its just too cold!! I only get around to wearing them in spring or summer as even then it is still too cold for me to wear any of the spring collections. I am only now beginning to forsake a winter coat for a biker jacket. I am still cursing I didn't buy over the knee boots to keep me warm for winters to come.
One of the reliefs of the recession was the disappearance of that irritating type of fashion article that always emerges around this time of year of what you should be buying and what you should be throwing out. It is carefully crafted to make you feel as unfashionable as possible to be even thinking about continuing to wear your last season's purchases and pressure you into buying next season's pieces now at full price even though it is still freezing. This shrill and nagging voice was blissfully silenced and replaced last year by one imploring you to make investment purchases on keep forever items you would treasure forever (which extended to practically everything in season ironically).
Well that old harpy is unfortunately back. With scant regard for the fact that we aren't really out of a recession yet, fashion editors are clearly blissfully unaware of the possibility (let alone definition) of a W shaped recession as they return to their old Buy/Keep/Delete guides. What are they saying about those treasure forever investment purchases now?
If some of the new style guides for Spring/Summer being run in the magazines are anything to go by I should be ditching my:
sharp shouldered jackets
anything in black leather
wet look leggings
gladiator sandals/heels (though Harper's recommended black gladiator heels as the best thing to wear with pale floaty dresses - come on girls! Which is it?)
anything with sequins on it
one shouldered pieces
That leaves me with nothing to wear!
And yet notable online fashion retailers are awash with current season stock in every one of these categories. There is barely a blazer or tuxedo jacket without an extended shoulder. There are also several leather jackets and even the odd leather biker sporting them - one such biker jacket by Supertrash is already sold out at my-wardrobe.com.
So to illustrate the disparity between what fashion does and what fashion decrees here are a few examples of Spring/Summer collections featuring items from the above no-go list. Some even cross more than one no-go catergory! Skyscraper high, sequin-covered statement heels anyone? Now, where did I put my leather leggings?
For what feels like a long time now I have stopped wearing t-shirts except as workout gear and pyjamas. I blame this also on the weather. The UK hardly provides ideal t-shirt weather. But in my quest to renovate my basics they have suddenly become an obsession. Up until recently most of the t-shirts I did own that weren't workout gear or pyjamas were either embellished, printed or had some interesting design feature that called more attention to them as a standalone piece. What I lacked was something simple and obsequious that would allow a dressy jacket to be the focal point of the outfit.
It might have something to do with that laid back layered look that has taken over fashion of late - its hard not to notice how dressier items suddenly look much more wearable worn with a simple tee or vest. Net-a-porter has been combining everything with the Kain range of slouchy pocket tees or vests or with Alexander Wang's t-shirt range. These have just the right amount of slouch and draping to act as a casual counterfoil to dressy waistcoats or gilets, smart jackets and blazers and statement leggings. But at those prices I think I'll pass.
I did venture into the expensive tee territory last year with a purchase of a couple of items from American Vintage. A slate grey crew neck t-shirt dress and a fine knit short sleeve t-shirt with a draped neckline in a more silvery shade. Although they do look great and the fabric is supersoft, the stress of finding holes in them after little more than a few wears did make me reassess whether their quality was worth the money I paid for them.
For a while it seemed that such elegant simplicity in t-shirt design was only available at designer prices. Now though, I have noticed that the High Street has caught on to this and reacted with its typical lightning reflexes. I have been delighted with the choice of t-shirts that has been on offer recently. They can be found in classic shades of white, grey, navy, black and nude, in various necklines and fabric weights, and at prices that do actually allow you to stock up in different colours.
Cos has to be first on my list. They first enticed me back into t-shirt wearing last year with a dark charcoal cotton cap sleeve tee which has kept its shape and colour until today despite constant wear and washing. There I also found the perfect tran-seasonal pocket t-shirt dress with three quarter length sleeves and a gentle flare, as well as some very Kain-esque scoop neck pocket tees in an extremely fine viscose in off-white and navy.
I complain like anyone else every morning when faced with dressing that I have nothing to wear - much to the chagrin of my beleaguered boyfriend. Part of the reason for writing this blog is to convince myself otherwise of this clearly gross misconception. In my attempt to reduce the whole process to an exact science I even bought some advisory text books on the topic and have been consulting articles on the web to help me out. According to every style manual I have read recently the key to solving the dilemma of what to wear is to invest in good basics so I am dedicating some posts to these.
I admit my research has left me more confused on what constitutes a good basic. What is a basic? Depends on whose talking it seems. Conventional wisdom seems to agree that basics include those classic items that take you from season to season and accessorise to bring your wardrobe up to date - the little black dress, a good suit, the crisp white shirt, the trench, the simple jersey pieces. Cast your net a bit wider and it becomes more difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff in terms of advice. According to the Guardian's guide to 10 brilliant basics for Spring there are "basic clothes (jeans, jumpers, T-shirts) and then there are fashion basics, (the right jeans, the right jumpers, the right T-shirts): the difference dictates whether you look stylish or not." To augment the latter category in your wardrobe they recommend a pale powdery pastel blazer, a sweatshirt in a boxy fit, a denim shirt (to do the double denim trend), chinos and quite hideous ankle boots.
Really? Powdery pastels, through pretty, tend to make me look washed out. A boxy fit makes one look exactly that - boxy. A denim shirt and double denim are nanosecond trends that I'm sure the very same fashion writers will be telling me to delete from my wardrobe come July. You won't catch me dead in chinos and surely ankle boots needn't make you look like a lumberjack in stilettos. I know there must be a certain obligation to plug products but this kind of gospel decree on what to buy according to the new trends can grate after a while. I may be being churlish but what happened to the concept of buying clothes on the basis that they suit and flatter you? Isn't that the first hurdle a basic should clear? Don't get me wrong - I love following fashion and working a trend can be fun but lets call a spade a spade. I read the difference in this definition of "fashion basic" as dictating as to whether you look trendy or not rather than stylish.
And to complicate this issue further the debate rages as to what one should spend on basics. There seems to be two schools of thought saying exactly the opposite. One says that this is where you should spend a lot of money as these items are meant to be classics that last several seasons and that you will wear often. The second (in which the Guardian seems to be camped) is that you should not spend much money at all and renew often (especially giving that this season's denim shirt that is currently classed as a basic will be so last year next season). Help?
One guide recommends that for a versatile and practical wardrobe one must have "long-sleeved t-shirts or tops in varying weights but in basic colours such as black, white or cream". Well clearly no shortage of long sleeved t-shirts and tops in many colours (with some short sleeved thrown in for good measure), except I seem to be lacking in the white and cream category...
On the odd occasion (usually when I am trying to have a wardrobe sort out) my boyfriend will accuse me of having a million little black vests. A million may be an unfair exaggeration but having stacked them up I see he has a point - there are a lot. I mostly use them like thermal underwear to provide an extra layer of warmth. How else to stave off the eternal English winter? Some fall into the realm of the pretty embellished camisole but most are of the plain strappy little black vest or singlet variety.
I do not seem to be as fond of little white vests - just three - one of which is now not so pristine although it was barely worn. Maybe this is the key - black doesn't fade to a dirty grey as fast as white. One of these white singlets was a recent purchase after the realisation that my wardrobe was short in supply of good jersey basics. White versions of these should feature in any wardrobe and what's more I actually look good in white. My recent quest when hitting the shops has been to find classic versions of the vest and t-shirt in white. The vest I found in Topshop Boutique - in pristine bright white and made in a lovely soft mix of modal and cashmere.
More camisoles and vests. Olive, sage and shades of grey. Most of these I have picked up on my travels to Spain. While I am there I always come away with one or two little lacy camisoles from Mango or Oysho, Zara's lingerie chain. They often do very sweet styles in several different colour swatches.
The mantra of organising a wardrobe according to conventional wisdom seems to be:
1. Organise by item - i.e. jackets together, blouses together, t-shirts together.
2. Organise by colour
The logic is this - your wardrobe looks more like a shop because the order and alignment of colours makes it pleasing to the eye and thus a pleasure to select items from.
Who does this kind of thing on a regular basis? Please, if you exist contact me and let me know your secret. I'm convinced this sort of system is only possible to maintain with hired help and three times the amount of hanging space I currently have at my disposal. I have attempted to implement this kind of system in the past but found it was in disarray within days. I found that putting all my jackets and suits together ended up being too heavy for my wardrobe rail and it has remained distressingly bent while my jackets have returned to being dispersed in the mix. All my t-shirts and vests go into drawers rather than on open shelving with the result that after the effort of organising by colour only the top colour is visible to you on opening your drawer. And despite being presented with a neat rainbow of shirts in the morning my boyfriend eventually mutinied because he hated not seeing which were his work shirts and which were his casual shirts.
On going through this process once again I have noticed this time how much grey has crept into my wardrobe. It has been a popular colour in fashion lately in all its incarnations from silver through to charcoal and the fascination still rages on with the comeback of grey marl this season. I wonder though if this is somehow a reflection of my psychological state. Slightly worrying if you look at the meaning of the the colour grey!
One of my favourite sweets as a child was coconut candy, a confection made with creamy condensed milk, sugar and dessicated coconut. A kind aunt use to make huge batches of it and deliver it by the tupperwareful to my family. Aunty Val used to make two versions which she would cut into small bite sized diamonds. There was coconut ice which had a creamy white bottom layer and a top layer tinted pale pink with food colouring, sometimes delicately flavoured with rosewater. And then there was coconut candy which had a dark brown chocolate flavoured layer and a dark hot pink top layer. It was divine and we ate it by the handfuls.
As you can see, even as an adult, in some ways I am still very much an addict of the colour combination of cream, pink and brown, but I have replaced the small sweet delights of coconut, condensed milk and chocolate with sweet little camisoles instead. Blame Aunty Val.
Packing for three months away in a warm climate with a 23 kilo weight limit. This is quite a challenge for me. Out of my sprawling options (now strewn across our bedroom) what on earth do I take and what do I leave behind??
It has been so cold in London that I have resorted to wearing a uniform of several layers of wool topped up with the warmest coat I can find with scant regard for style. As I hail originally from warmer climes I am super sensitive to the cold and feel more at ease in light summery clothing. Ironic then that I am always more inspired and excited by the Autumn/Winter collections in Europe. Nothing gets me palpitating more than a beautiful coat or a perfectly cut wool suit and don't get me started on boots. Having to dress for cold climates does encourage better dressing. I generally find I buy more of the Autumn/Winter collections and pass on Spring/Summer trends as I find I never get to wear them unless I go on holiday somewhere where good weather is guaranteed.
Yet I find my creativity in putting together outfits has been completely stifled by a fear of feeling cold. This fear is only quelled when I exit the house looking like the Michelin tyre man with rainproof footwear rather than one of those style savvy Londoners who would probably be comfortable in far fewer layers and open toe shoeboots. My new years resolution was to be more creative with what I wear - and then the mother of all winters hit the country and I fled to Australia till the worst was over.
Now although it is British summertime I am still in layers of wool and contemplating what to take with me to the south of Spain. A complete about face of climate and culture. It is doing my head in. Opening up suitcases in which I store all those floaty summer dresses and tops I never get to wear eight months of the year I am overcome with a desire to take all of them. No more of the dilemna of what to put over a thermal. And yet I can take so little!!!
Up until now I have been wearing nothing but black and grey. Now as I survey my summer archive I am struck at the cacophony of colour before me - turquoise, crimson, violet, lavender, tangerine, blues, pale mint, aqua and bright whites in soft silks, brocade, cottons and chiffons - and a feast of girly details like silk fringing, floral embrodiery and prints, beading and lace and broderie anglaise trims. Some of these pieces I have owned for over a decade.
This little pale aqua chinese silk blouse with floral cut out embrodiery pictured above is one such piece. I found it in a vintage clothing store in Paris and it became one of my favourite items in my wardrobe. I wore it so often that the silk is now shattering at some of the seams and at the edges of some of the embrodiery. Despite this it is of such sentimental value to me that I cannot bear to part with it. My grandmother died some years after I bought this blouse and around the time of her funeral my family dug out some old photos of her in rememberance of her life. I discovered a photo of her as a young woman in which we bear a striking resemblance. She is wearing a very similiar blouse to this one and in almost exactly the same colour.
It is not often I am ahead of the curve in fashion, let alone years ahead. Trends come and go and I dip in and buy the things I like - often I don't get to wear them during the season but pull them out some time later when they are probably way of out fashion. Or I keep them stored away with the old adage in mind that they will eventually come back into fashion one day. Probably every style advisor with an opinion about wardrobe management will tell me I am doing it all wrong. Well sometimes it actually does pay off.
I bought these clogs by Carvela some years ago for £19 in a summer sale. I thought they were cute then - I had always wanted a pair of cow print ponyskin ones I'd seen somewhere - by Marni I think. These clogs remained unworn to this day mainly because of the onset of what has seemed like an eternal winter and then they really haven't had their fashion moment again until now. Suddenly after Chanel put them down the runway they are being touted as the shoe to be wearing. An extra bonus of these are that the heels are of that new definition of kitten heel height - that is so say rather higher than the original kitten heel height I recall but an inch or so lower than the towering five inches or so we have become used to seeing in the past couple of years. I am currently packing for a stint away from London in warmer climes - these will be coming with me.
Lanvin Pre Fall 2010 Leather Shorts. Photo from style.com
Yes. I admit it. I bought a pair.
I am not oblivious to the fact that this could go horribly wrong. Perhaps in the future this will be my the subject of the next "What was I thinking?" moment but in the meantime they have been deemed de riguer in fashionable circles and have actually been featured in designer collections since AW 2009. They have been doing the rounds on fashion blogs with photographs of celebrities and fashion editors wearing them and have been shown various degrees of enthusiasm both very much for and also very much against them. In the right hands I think they can look both edgy and classy as demonstrated by the above images.
Oasis has done some great leather pieces recently and today I caved in and bought their tailored black leather shorts with a stitched waistband and turn up cuffs (pictured below with a few fantasy versions of things in my closet). They are more of the ilk of the Lanvin ones in cut than hotpants. I don't like the high waisted look favoured by the likes of Chloe Sevigny as much for myself and I certainly can't wear a super short length or do the nude leg (opaque tights for me). I bought them a size up so they sit below my waist and that way they also give me an extra forgiving inch or so of leg length. Now lets see if I have the courage to wear them!
Well hello there from post partum sartorial pergutory! As my days are spent attending the crazy feeding regime of a three month old baby ...
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