Monday, 7 October 2013

Baroque and Roll

It's well and truly autumn here now and I have been turning to the dark side in my wardrobe more often to get dressed. Black, black and more black has been my armour to face misty, foggy mornings, dreary grey skies and a hellish couple of weeks at work.  In fact I've had a truly rotten couple of weeks. I've been coming back from work in late night taxis long after most folks would be sensibly tucked up in bed.  On top of that I have had early morning meetings stuck in my diary. Who sticks meetings at seven thirty in the morning? My boss that's who.

I've been walking around like a zombie the rest of the time and have been so shattered that last week I walked off the tube leaving my favourite parka behind on the seat where I'd taken it off.  I'm still mourning the loss. No thanks to everyone on the crowded carriage in rush hour who watched me walk off without it.

On top of that attendance at my flamenco classes dropped off a cliff.  After a good couple of years I am still struggling to get enough numbers of students to make giving up so many hours after work feel worth the time and effort it requires.  I'm wondering what the hell I am doing wrong and beginning to despair.  And I've started coming down with a head cold!! Another thing to add to my very black mood and so I am dressing accordingly.  Halloween has certainly arrived early in this household!

I wore this outfit to forget my troubles attending a concert at the Barbican over the weekend.  I tried to break up all black with some mannish brocade trousers, some tough girl leather, a rock and roll fringed jacket and gold toned accessories.  I thought that maybe by adding some spikey accessories I might ward off evil spirits as I'm feeling more than plagued by a few.

The concert was a magical and emotional combination of Sufi and Flamenco music which managed to spirit me away from my worldly woes for a couple of hours.  Strangely one of the flamenco singers performing used to be my landlord when I lived in Spain so it made it feel like a sort of homecoming.  And I have no words for how wonderful the music was!

Hope your weeks have been better than mine!

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

Brocade trousers: Raoul; Jacket: Topshop; Leather tee: Whistles; Necklace: Merle O'Grady; Shoes: Zara

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Angora, Suede and Silk

Boy is redecorating taking a long time!  We are still part way through having the walls and woodwork in the living room repainted and it feels like progress is happening at the speed of an ice flow.  Hopefully by the time I next post I can show you presentable skirting boards!  Meanwhile I've been pinning lots of decor inspiration on my Dream Home board on Pinterest - soooo addictive!  I should probably be doing less pinning and more actual painting!  Been discovering some great interior design blogs via Pinterest too.  Also enjoying the irreverent tumbler of FYNCT (although posts have dwindled of late) - if you can forgive the profanities the one liner observations expressing moral outrage at design overload are laugh out loud funny.  I, clutter bug that I am, whisper it, actually like some of the interiors featured.  Mr V and I are thinking for a laugh we might stack magazines and ornamental logs in our fireplace, stock up on miniature terrariums and identikit picture frames, get a pair of mantlers (mantle antlers) and go for a Super Sunday Combo.

We may be already part of the way there.  I mentioned we've been furniture shopping which resulted in the addition of a few modern design classics (or cliches depending on your point of view!) to our humble abode.  Have always wanted my very own Ghost chair!  The furniture and decor is starting to look a bit like my wardrobe - a bit of vintage, some pre-loved hand me downs, some travel finds, the odd upcycled freebie, a healthy dose of fashionable high street copycats with a dash of high end designers thrown into the mix.

I've also had an unusually social past couple of weeks to distract me from the issue of which shade of white we should be using for our walls and how best to restore a Victorian staircase to its former glory.  Last Sunday there was yet another afternoon tea with the girls, this time at the decadent Gilbert Scott restaurant at St Pancras.  Such a beautiful place to have tea!  Photos soon, but in the meantime this is what I wore.  No tea dress this time - it was pretty cold and raining heavily so I opted for baggy suede harem trousers for warmth and attitude.  Femininity was provided in the form of a romantic billowy sleeved silk blouse with a delicate dragonfly print.

And for extra warmth and because I always like my silhouettes to have a hint of the Dickensian about them, a long charcoal grey angora cardigan I've had for donkeys years. With its pointed down collar, narrow fluted sleeves and row of small covered buttons running down the front, it reminds me more of a frock coat than a piece of cosy knitwear. Because of the rain almost all the tea party attendees arrived in boots and changed their shoes for more dainty ones.  I was no different, swapping out of boots into my suede heels which I lugged in a separate bag to avoid ruining them in puddles - needs must! 

In the preceding mid-week I also had the rare pleasure of meeting a much admired style crush and blogging friend from across the pond. Mr V and I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening out having dinner with the visiting Aesthetic Alterations and her Mysterious Photographer.  As Mr V and I emerged from a tube station bustling with people heading home in the rush hour I was saying to Mr V that I wasn't sure if she'd know who I was and then I heard my name being called. She recognised me by my hair! 

Having gone straight from work to dinner I realised all too late that I'd forgotten my camera so sadly no photos but have to say that we were so busy talking I'd have forgotten the camera anyway as they are such a delightful and interesting couple.  Sometimes it's just nice to enjoy time with people without trying to capture it all on film!  The evening made me really glad I started this blog.  After three years blogging I have to say that the best perk of blogging is not brands sending you free stuff or paying you to write reviews.  It is having "met" so many interesting and inspirational women (and a couple of blokes!) with whom it has been thought provoking as well as a lot of fun to swap style stories.  Hopefully I'll eventually meet more of you in person in the future!

Heading over to Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style!

Cardigan: Chine; Suede trousers and nude vest: Cos; Silk blouse and suede shoes: Alexander McQueen

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Tee for Tutu

Autumn has well and truly descended upon us in London this week.  I may well have to dig out my coat soon!  How the summer has flown.  In fact how the year has flown.  Did you know, my long time blogging friends, that it has been about a year since Melanie of Bag and a Beret started off the tulle tea party with her autumnal portrait in a white tutu?  I was quite startled when I realised this because it still feels like yesterday that shortly afterwards I was following a long line of stylish women inspired by that post to style tulle skirts for their blogs, eventually even partaking myself in a healthy dose of tulle and tea.

In the end I lost track of where that particular blogging tutu train went.  Maybe it tapered off and disappeared and I'm left wondering who the last tutu wearer was, the last woman standing in tulle out there somewhere in the blogosphere.  Surely a tutu train deserves to come full circle so we can all indulge in wearing ours again!

Well tutu train or no tutu train, none of us should need an excuse to pull out the tulle when the fancy takes us.  And as part of the push to shop more from the wardrobe I've been eyeing the tulle skirt collection gathering dust in the corner of the wardrobe and conjuring up new ways to wear them out without waiting for an "event".  I've found a good way to tone a tulle skirt down is to pair it with the simplicity of a tee shirt.


So here am I wearing a pale pink tulle skirt to go furniture shopping!  I went for a white and nude palette, combining the skirt with a more luxurious off-white tee festooned with a grosgrain bow and a putty coloured leather biker to add a more casual feel.  The tee shirt was part of a design collaboration between Moises de la Renta and the Spanish chain Mango a couple of years ago.  This small collection of luxe tee shirts was launched with an event where the models wore them with long voluminous pink or black tutus.  They belted their tulle skirts with a luxurious wide ribbon sash tied in a large bow at their waists to mirror the bows on the necklines of their tee shirts, an idea I used as inspiration for this outfit.

My sash is actually a polyurethane imitation leather belt from Zara.   When I pulled it out of storage I found some blue ink marks had stained the tips making tying it into a simple double knot impossible without the offending marks showing.  Rather than throw it out I got creative with a brooch and took inspiration from Amber of Butane Anvil who does wonderful things with Obi belts.  A bit of origami folding skills and I'd hidden the marks with a different knot style and a strategically placed decorative brooch.  Viola!  No need to add more polyurethane to landfill.

When it came to shoes I had to pause for thought.  The obvious thing would have been to pull out a pair of pale pink ballet pumps. I decided not to go for the obvious and instead went for a pair of animal print kitten heel slippers with a diamante buckle.  It was a bit of a wild departure from the pink and nude shades to throw a bit of zebra in but I actually ended up liking the effect better.

Although I did get some disbelieving sideways glances and outright stares, mostly from other women it has to be said, I'm glad I made the effort.  Furniture shopping was much more fun in a tulle skirt.  I practically floated down the aisles, I got treated nicely by the staff, the chef obliged me with extra spinach on the side with my Eggs Royale and toast in the posh cafe upstairs and I'm convinced I made more elegant furniture choices as a result!  So calling all Sunday afternoon shoppers - don't just gawp in disbelief!  The sky isn't going to fall down if you wear something pretty to go shopping in.  I'm sure somewhere deep inside there is a frustrated ballerina in all of you just waiting to try a tutu on for size.  Join me!  Discover your inner tulle goddess!

Joining Candela of Mis Papelicos for her Share In Style blog hop were the theme this month is animal print and Monday DC in Style.  And as the shoes have shiny buckles and made the outfit I'm also linking up to Bella's Shoe Shine: September Bling blog hop over at the Citizen Rosebud.

Tee shirt: Moises de la Renta for Mango; Tulle skirt: H&M; Belt: Zara; Brooch: from Rome; Nude Leather jacket: Topshop; Kitten heel slippers: Dune (old)

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Minted Memories

Photographic evidence of my mint craze.  Mint leather to be precise!  These were taken in the grounds of St John's College at Cambridge University where Mr V was an undergraduate and later also a graduate.  That's when he met me.  I was providing entertainment by flamenco dancing at a party in his student digs believe it or not.  Yep.  True story.

We were back at our student stomping ground recently to see our friend the Other V get married.  It was gloriously hot weather and the summer blooms were out in force.  Going back brought back all sorts of memories of being a student here.  I have particularly vivid ones of when I first started dating Mr V.  Soon afterwards I had college friends sidling up to me and saying "I heard you're dating the best looking guy in St John's."  There's the pulling power of flamenco for you!

Here are a couple of quaint things about St John's. A college member is referred to as a Johnian and they retain the title until death.  Old male college members are referred to as Old Boys, a throw back to the days when women were not allowed in the University.  But there doesn't seem to be a similiar term of endearment for the ladies who attended John's.  How sexist is that?

Soon after we started dating Mr V invited me to accompany him to St John's annual May ball.  Called a May ball it was actually in June after the end of the exam period.  Many of the college balls were themed and that year St John's was hosting a masked ball!  Mr V was on the scenery committee and decided to take the post very seriously.  A couple of months beforehand he organised for us both to go to Venice for a few days on a reconnaissance trip so he could take some photos and get some inspiration.  His idea was to turn St John's into a little Venice.  It was a wonderful trip which we spent touring around the islands of Venice in awe.  We returned armed with photos, sketches and plaster masks which we hand painted to wear for the ball.

The link was of course, a bridge, or to be exact, two very famous bridges.  St John's has a covered bridge over a river that links two courtyards which was christened the Bridge of Sighs after the famous Bridge of Sighs in Venice.  Whilst the sighs in the Venetian bridge were of convicted criminals walking to their cells, the sighs in the St John's bridge are fondly attributed to students trudging to tutorials or exams.

I remember arriving at the ball on the night and seeing the fruits of Mr V's labour. It did in fact look like a little version of Venice. When you walked into the grand courtyards the first thing you saw were large colourful stripey poles flanking the stately entrances into the college buildings, recalling the mooring poles of the boats and gondolas on the grand canal.   There was a large Plaster of Paris mask hanging at the end of the Bridge of Sighs.  The punts on the River Cam were manned by punters dressed as gondoliers and everyone was wearing ballgowns, black tie and masks.  It was a certainly a night to remember.

This is a view of Mr V's riverside room window which looked right out onto the River Cam and directly at the Bridge of Sighs.  If you take a paid tour by punt down the Cam the tour guides will tell you some story about how the students would shoot water pistols at tourists trying to punt.  Punting is harder than it looks and tourists who rent their own punts often end up colliding with other punts or at worst capsizing.  Most make a lot of noise screaming and shouting excitedly as they struggle past these riverside windows behind which many students may be trying to study for upcoming exams.   Hence the legend grew of students taking matters into their own hands with water pistols.

If you ever take a punt tour in Cambridge I would say take any story that a punting tour operator tells you with a pinch of salt.  Half of the stories are fabricated.  Mr V assures me that according to College rules they were not actually allowed to aim any projectiles out of their windows at tourists.

Not just a pretty face my Mr V and he's pretty handy with a camera too!

I maybe offline and away from blogland quite a bit over the next couple of weeks due to pressing work deadlines but in the meantime I'll be joining all the other stylish ladies for Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style.

Leather laser cut top: Raoul; Leather shorts: Theory; Espardrilles: bought in Spain; White brodierie Anglaise jacket: Kate Moss for Topshop; Gold Snakeskin Bag: Botkier

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Lavender and Lemon

Ever since I wrote about neon I've been endeavouring to work it subtly into my wardrobe.  Well, that was a bit daft really as there's no real way of being subtle about neon!  First I bought these shoes and then I started sneakily wearing them to work.  Not really work appropriate I know, but it was hot and sunny and that's about all the excuse I needed really.  It was funny getting into the elevators with people, first watching their chins drop and then their eyes bug out at my shoes.

Since then I graduated to a dress lined entirely in neon yellow.  I took the plunge after a discussion with a very stylish girlfriend with similar undertones to her skin colour as mine, but who wears neon dresses with the utmost aplomb.  Always concerned about neon looking just plain wrong against my skin colour, I asked her for her take on neon.  Her opinion was that actually neon probably didn't suit anyone's skin tone.  Neon, she told me, is a state of mind.

Neon is a state of mind.  Now that my friends is an interesting take on neon.  So I duly changed my state of mind and took the plunge with this dress which I found on the sale rack at Whistles.  A confection of lavender lace overlaid over a lemon yellow lining which I thought was a lovely feminine take on neon.  I then wore it to said girlfriend's birthday tea party a few weekends back.  Yes, my life has been full of tea parties this year.  No bad thing - except perhaps for my waistline!

Here's a sneak peak at what the birthday girl treated us too and which I chowed down with great enthusiasm.  Petit fours, cupcakes, chocolate dipped strawberries, scones and clotted cream - all washed down with tea and champagne.

As mentioned in a previous post, I have been adding a few ladylike touches to my outfits of late and for good measure I accessorised with pearls here.  You might only just be able to make them out but I'm wearing a necklace which is a fine smattering of tiny pink pearls that sits in a cloud of pearly fairy lights around my collar.  I also covered up with a lavender cardigan when the evening turned cooler.

Overall I was surprised at how easy the shade was to wear after all.  It helps that it's combined with one of my absolute favourite shades - lavender, and my absolute favourite fabric too - that being lace. My neon-is-a-state-of-mind girlfriend was well impressed!  Just goes to show you - never say never!

I shall be joining up with the ladies participating in Adrienne's (The Rich Life on a Budget) and Jill's (Everything Just So) How I Wear My Neon series this week which is sure to be a fab celebration of neon.
Dress: Whistles; Cardigan: Cue; Shoes: DVF; Necklace: Claires Accessories; Brooch: Vintage

Sunday, 1 September 2013

And the Bridesmaid Wore...

...Pink and Gold.  Sort of!  I was recently bridesmaid at the wedding of one of my dearest friends, the Other V, and here is what I wore. The theme was pink and gold but I was given quite a large amount of freedom to interpret that - my friend was a very modern and open-minded bride - hence this dress in a digital floral print with orchids in shades of pale rose and candy pink mixed with roses in a deep golden olive.

The Other V is Spanish and her parents, who I've met many times over the years, came over from Spain for the ceremony.  Here I am with the proud Mother of the Bride resplendent in gold sequins and feathers.  The Spanish don't do dressing up for weddings by halves!

The Other V and I met at Cambridge where we were both studying and were members of the same college, Trinity Hall, one of Cambridge's oldest colleges.  She chose to get married in the college grounds with a reception in the picturesque college gardens, part of which is pictured behind me.  That little door pictured above in the wall dates from about the twelfth century if memory serves me correctly.

I wanted to get a dress I would get some wear out of after the wedding ceremony so I quickly ruled out a dress that was too much like full on evening wear. I was always a big fan of Alexander McQueen and the historic references to previous eras the house incorporates into modern designs. I loved the drama of the corsetry and pannier hips in this McQ dress but at the same time the unusual modern floral print means it could be dressed up for evening, or down for daytime events and garden parties.

Although it wasn't a traditional Spanish wedding as such there were a few lovely Spanish touches thrown in on the day.  I got to wear a flower in my hair as if I was going to a Spanish feria.  I wore large flamenco style earrings in pink and gold which I bought to go with the dress.  I found out some time afterwards that they were actually designed by a Spanish jewellery designer.

The Mother of the Bride also bought me a lovely present of an elaborately painted, carved wooden fan, a lovely traditional touch I thought.  Although she hadn't seen my dress beforehand the colour of the fans painted flowers matched it exactly!  With fan, flowers, big earrings and coiffed curly hair all in place the Mother of the Bride marvelled that I looked just like the flamenco dancing Andalusian I regularly pretend I am.  "Que Jerezana te has puesto!" she exclaimed when she saw me (I'll take that as a compliment!).

And here is the blushing bride, the Other V, resplendent in pale cream lace and a carved wooden white fan of her own.  She made a truly beautiful bride!  I shall have to post on the nuptials in more detail in another post.  We were both grateful for the fans in the end because the Spanish touch extended to the weather - it was absolutely roasting that day, with gorgeous sunshine and delicious afternoon heat, just perfect for a wedding.

Linking up to Monday Bloom over at DC in Style where there is a wedding guest theme this week and Verizon Voices Fashionista Style Hop over at Modly Chic.

Bridesmaid Dress: McQ; Pink suede heels: Alexander McQueen;  Earrings: Anton Heunis; Embroidered Clutch: Kate Moss for Topshop via Ebay

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Vintage Style Chair: An Upcycling Project

We're in the slow process of redecorating and furnishing our new home.  As it is a period flat I've been trying to find some suitable furniture.  My love of vintage extends from clothing to furniture.  If it was totally up to me, the starry eyed Australian who romanticises anything older than this century (because we just aren't surrounded by it in spades back home), then I would stuff it to the brim with antique furniture.  As any vintage and second hand loving blogger pals will attest, going the vintage or second hand route in our wardrobes helps to recycle and reuse.  Well so too with furniture!

Mr V. however, having grown up in a period property stuffed with antiques, doesn't relish the idea of living in a museum of Victoriana. So we've settled on going for a mix of modern and old as a compromise.

So far though I've scored several items of furniture for free. You'd be amazed at what people throw out here.  I found four Ikea dining chairs down the road the week we moved in that are now as good as new after getting a clean and new seat covers. Then I found this vintage style balloon back chair outside a house we were driving by. It was stacked amongst other items of furniture on the pavement with a note saying that anything there was free to anyone who wanted it.  So this chair came home with me.

Mr V. was a bit dubious.  It was pretty grimy and in need of doing up but the shape and the condition of the wood was pretty good.  I'm not proud and I could instantly see the potential in my freebie street find.  Inspired by transformational upcycling DIY projects by blogging pals I was itching to see what I could make out of someone else's cast off.  So here's how I upcycled this chair from this... this!  All for the cost of £3.95 and using where possible, things I had lying around at home to do it.

Firstly I painted the wooden base of the chair with paint primer that was left in the shed from the previous owners.  Cost - zilch.


The seat cushion which just sat in the frame was easy to remove. It was covered in a stained and dirty cream satin brocade that had clearly seen better days.

The fabric had just been folded over the cushion and MDF base and stapled in place with a staple gun.

Nothing a staple remover and a pair of pliers couldn't deal with!

Dreadful hoarder that I am, I realised I had a length of old period style curtain fabric in a bold yet feminine stripey pattern of scarlet red and a floral embossed cream.  I'd bought it over fifteen years ago at a curtain shop in Sydney.  Originally bought to be turned into an item of clothing and deemed too pretty to get rid of every time I had a clear out, it has been waiting for a suitable project ever since.  Cost - whatever I paid for this fifteen years ago in Australian dollars adjusted for inflation - i.e. next to nothing.

I used the old seat cover as a template to cut the shape of a new one by just laying it on the new fabric, lining up the stripes and cutting around it.

Once that was done I placed the cushion seat with the side I wanted to cover facing the wrong side of the fabric and flipped it over.  I didn't have a staple gun but I have plenty of old fabric glue lying around.  Cost - nada!

Using a plastic knife I spread glue around the perimeter of the seat.  Then working my way around and taking care to keep the fabric taut, I folded over the fabric at the edge and pressed it into the glue, forming pleats to follow the shape of the cushion.

The corners were a bit fiddly and a bit of origami folding skills were needed to tuck the corners in so that they sat neatly.  I trimmed off any excess with pinking shears so the ends wouldn't fray and glued down any bits that were sticking up to finish it off.

Voila!  One cushion seat cover as good as new.  The only cost of transformation being my time, some old bits and bobs and my imagination.

As we are redecorating we had some sample pots of some very nice Farrow and Ball paint in shades of white lying about. It seemed a shame to waste them so I took a sample pot of creamy white called Dimity that was deemed too dark for the walls, but it was just the shade to go with the creamy stripes in the cushion fabric. A small sample pot costing £3.95 was enough to get two coats on the entire chair frame.

Waste not want not! I'm very pleased with the final result and even Mr V. was amazed at the transformation.  Quite excited to find the next project!

Have a wonderful weekend all!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...