Friday, 31 January 2014

Mint and Lavender

I thought I'd add to my series of pastel outfits by adding mint and lavender to the mint and vanilla and lemon and lavender previously shared on this blog.  I am not actually in warm sunny Australia wearing a mint leather dress, a lavender cardigan and sparkly flip-flops.  I am of course sitting in foggy, wintry London freezing my butt off, wearing lots of layers of boring woollen things and feeling about as fashionable as a bulky bale of wool.

Trust me, my old holiday snaps are more interesting!  They also serve as an interesting wardrobe perspective now that all the "Shop for Spring" articles are coming out in the magazines.  Seriously?  It's January!  It was 5 degrees C when I arrived at work this morning!  Still, although I won't be trying on new season clothes on in the shops any time soon, I've been looking with some curiosity as to what new trends are being offered up and I noticed lots of repeats.

Along with the return of pleats, luxe sportswear, brights and monochrome (yes, those old chestnuts!), I also see pastel shades have now been re-branded as "fondant colours" for Spring.  Don't let that fool anybody!  This will be the fourth or fifth summer in a row that we've had these kinds of shades around.  They even leaked into winter with all those pink coats we've seen of late.  I'm wondering when saturation point is coming.  Anyway I'm glad, because I quite enjoy wearing them, enjoy them even more when wearing them layered up on one another, pastel over pretty pastel.  It also it means that when the sun finally decides to come out I can shop from my wardrobe, because the last thing I need really is more summer clothes when I live in England!!

My favourite pastel shade has to be mint.  It is also a fondly remembered slang word from my youth.  If you google the word "mintox", practically the only description that comes up on the internet of its use in the English language is this entry in the Urban Dictionary:
Mintox. An awesome word from the 80's.. meaning exactly that.. awesome / wicked / sick.. whatever. Mintox was commonly abbreviated to "MINT"
This was a bizarre adjective I used regularly in my childhood with friends, and mostly in the abbreviated form.  When we really want to emphasize how "mint" we thought something was, we would escalate this to "mintox".  Strange how a word can almost drop out of existence in one's own lifetime.  It's interesting to see that a word so commonly rolled off my tongue as schoolgirl, decades before "google" was an acceptable verb, now barely scores one entry on a Google search!  More specifically I would like to add that the escalation to "mintox" seems peculiar to Australia in the 1980s because when I asked Mr V. (who is English) if he had used the word in this context when he was a boy, he looked at me like I was mad. 

As a girl I used to think that this use of the word mint to glorify its subject matter was an allusion to the flavour of mint itself - as used in peppermint sweets and ice cream and after dinner mints - because anything that had a mint flavour had to be great.  So too with clothing - I find a tint of mint has done my wardrobe the world of good in freshening it up when it comes to colour and as a result, I've added several items in the colour mint in the last couple of years.  For someone who had a tendency to wear all black, all of the time, pastels have been a good way of breaking the habit.

And here is some mint with some strawberry pink for some good, pastel layering measure with the Perth skyline in all its cloudless blue glory in the background.

Have a wonderful weekend all!

Leather dress: Theskyn's Theory; Leather jacket: Joseph; Diamante flip flops: Betts and Betts; Bag: Marc by Marc Jacobs

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Pyjama Trousers

Because sometimes a gal just wants to be comfortable.  They're not really pyjama trousers of course but a pair of floral silk print trousers by Hermione de Paula that just look like pyjama trousers for the sake of being difficult and fashiony.  Last worn here and here with the matching tops, and arguably looking even more like pyjamas worn as a set, these pieces are still getting worn two years after purchase, so I'm doing well on the cost per wear coming down.

Despite the fact that fashion's love affair with bold prints appears to be over (everyone seems to be going on about minimalism these days) matching head to toe prints still seems to be going in some fashion circles.  Not that I mind - I've never been much of a fan of minimalism and my affair with wild prints is far from over.  To me the matching print set will always be the sort of look that screams "I lounge around on cruise ships circling balmy destinations or in palazzos with glamorous friends who totally get what I'm wearing!"  Of course I do neither, so turning up dressed in what looks like glamorous pyjamas at the sort of social events I'm normally invited to can raise confused eyebrows. You can see they're secretly thinking "Did we write pyjama party on the invite?" or "Why is she dressed for bed when this is a lunch time barbeque?"

When I do go on holiday it is usually to Australia to visit family and friends who don't live on cruise ships or in palazzos and social gatherings are usually simple affairs with lots of home cooked food and jovial conversation on offer.  The atmosphere is very laid back and flip flops and shorts are the order of the day.  It doesn't stop me taking nice clothes to wear when I come to visit.  Sometimes, however, for these sorts of things, you want to wear something in your closet that could be a big fashion statement as less of one.  Just to be comfortable say, which these trousers are, and relaxed, which a full matching set of the print would not be.

The great thing about buying matching separates that are attention grabbing when worn together is that you can always opt to wear them separately.  Especially if worn with less shouty items, like a soft white tee and a pastel knit say, you can instantly tone down a piece in a statement print into something more approachable.

I went for the theme of flowers and lilac when getting dressed with this jacaranda tree in mind.  I was staying with my sister in Australia while we were over and this tree was in the neighbour's garden and in full bloom.  Every day we would be greeted by the sight of it's magnificent purple blooms aflame against an azure sky and covering the grass and pavement in a carpet of mauve.

 Am linking up with Patti and friends over at Not Yet Dead Style this week.  See you there!

Trousers: Hermione de Paula; White tee: Cos; Lilac cardigan: Cue; Espardrilles: Bought in Spain

Wednesday, 22 January 2014


Every Wednesday over at Thorne Garnet's it is Weird Doll Wednesday where she features a different specimen from her burgeoning collection of dolls in traditional costumes from around the globe.  Name the most obscure country you can think of and I'm sure Thorne has a representative.  Thorne is of course, a costume designer, so such a collection is a perfect archive of design resource and inspiration in all its 3D minutiae glory.

So here is a post dedicated to Thorne and in fact all my US blog friends and readers.  Here representing the United States of America...Raggedy Ann and Andy!  Albeit looking very raggedy indeed.  My mother pulled these dolls out to show me when I was over in Australia for my sister's wedding.  Raggedy Andy belonged to my sister and Raggedy Ann to me.  My father went out to the States when we were toddlers for work and returned with a Raggedy Ann and Andy doll.  We literally loved them to death, dragging them around everywhere until they were so worn that we were eventually bought  replacements.  Yes, these two here are Raggedy Ann and Andy Mark II.

As well as being the very first dolls I remember having as a tiny girl, they were the first ones we had with clothes and that we were able to undress and dress back up again.  Way before I had an inkling who Barbie was, there was Raggedy Ann with her little cotton floral dress and white apron.  Here began early experimentation with clothes on figurines.  Ann lost her dress to a teddy bear eventually and then altogether.  I remember early sewing projects to make her a replacement, first by my mother, and then later by me, none of which have survived, leaving her bereft of any clothes, her candy heart with "I Love You" on display for all to see.   Andy managed to keep his shirt and trousers to this day, probably because my sister always was and still is to this day, less obsessive about fiddling around with clothing.

I remember being a young girl at school and coming across a book about the adventures of Raggedy Ann and Andy in the library which had such enchanting illustrations and stories.  I loved it so much that I took it out continuously for weeks.  I was already at an age where I had given up playing with rag dolls for Barbies but I remember the book so captured my imagination, that it reignited an enduring affection for Ann and Andy and even had me returning to play with them along with my sister to re-enact the adventures I'd read.

It was only as an adult that I learnt that they were created in the United States.  I was sad to learn the creator John Gruelle made Raggedy Ann for his daughter Marcella, who then died very young at the age of thirteen.  He went on to write the Raggedy Ann and Andy books in her memory.  Here then am I, now an adult, marvelling at the endurance of a couple of rag dolls over almost four decades and remembering that one of the great joys of childhood was reading this man's stories about them.

I was trying to remember which book it was that I read.  It was just the one.  After some Google searching tonight I think it could have been Raggedy Ann and Andy in the Deep Deep Woods.  If you have a young child this is a beautiful book.

Sadly, this Raggedy Ann and Andy were off to the rag trade, so this photo was our goodbye really, my way of keeping a memento of the wonderful times we once spent together long ago.  My mother, like me, is an overly sentimental creature and has held on to many of our old dolls since we left home as a reminder of all her children.  I could understand she felt she would be saying goodbye to the memory of my childhood if she threw them away, so kudos to her for finally letting Ann and Andy go.
If you have a Raggedy Ann and Andy memory I'd love to hear it!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

High Rolling

A couple of my favourite bloggers have been doing some retrospective analysis of what they did wardrobe wise last year and how it is shaping their wardrobe plans for the new year.  Pret a Porter P and Aesthetic Alterations I'm looking at you - how I wish I could be as organised as you ladies!

Inspired by their thought processes I've been looking back on the last six months or so of 2013 and at least mentally pondering successes and failures.  Major failure?  Easy - despite resolving continuously to shop less I gave in big time into temptations at the summer sales even though summer clothes end up being the least used items in the wardrobe.  Bad me! Bad!

There were however some successes in 2013 in shaking up that 80% unworn, 20% worn rule for me though.  It helped we had a hot summer last year to pull out long neglected summer frocks and on our last two trips overseas to warmer climes I made a pact to pack and wear several items that had either not been worn in a long time or had never been worn.  This worked quite well I have to say.  When I'm travelling to warm destinations I tend to throw the same old trusty favourites in the suitcase.  This time around these were banned and alternatives packed in their place.

When I went to Australia I knew I was going to be going out socialising in the evening quite often so I packed some of the unworn party dresses.   This printed strapless cocktail dress by Mary Katrantzou for Topshop was one of them.  I'm a big Katrantzou fan and was all over this collection when it came out.  I bought this dress at the time as I love the smattering of bejewelled flowers on the skirt and am quite happy to have a dress that does all the work to make me look like I have an hourglass figure even though I actually don't.  I did however, delude myself at the time of purchase that it would be the perfect dress for a summer party sipping cocktails on a warm balmy evening.  Yes, I invented the party I would go to wearing it and bought the dress.  Yes, I am one of those, a woman who has bought more party dresses than she would ever have parties to go to.  Don't hate me, invite me to your next party.

Turned out that the perfect cocktail dress opportunity beckoned when my sister and new brother-in-law invited us for drinks at the High Rollers room at the Crown Casino in Perth.  The casino in Perth was always the last place to close in the city when I was growing up and often after a student ball one would end up wandering around the casino in a ball gown.  Despite having a "smart" dress code, this was never a very dressed up casino in the way that European ones are.  Perth is a very casual city and its regular gamblers that frequent the main casino tend to dress to meet the minimum standard of smart i.e. whatever gets them in without making too much effort.  It was always the casino tourists, the ones who wandered in from nights out elsewhere, that tended to be in evening wear.

On this occasion, as we were going to drinks at the High Rollers room, we were advised be on the smarter side of dress code.  I don't really hang out with high rollers it has to be said, but the new brother-in-law's boss happens to be one and the evening was kindly organised by him as a post- celebratory get together for the newly weds.  I didn't really know what to expect as the rules of smart dress in Australia are so light touch as to be laughable, but given these were brand spanking new rooms that the casino had luxuriously refurbished with no expenses spared, and the casino website screamed "High Stakes meets High Style!" as its mantra, I thought to myself, okay so cocktail dress it is then.  If it was anything like a London casino I had once been to, where you would not look amiss wearing black tie, then a little dress with a punchy print with some added sparkle would surely fit the bill.

I could have let the dress do all the talking by going very plain on accessories but that wouldn't have been half as fun.  I actually added the sparkly bolero for the more practical reason that the evening ended up being a bit chilly.  And when choosing accessories there was some method to my madness!  I picked turquoise accessories in my earrings and shoes to reflect the turquoise in the print and I went for a snakeskin clutch to match the snakeskin heels on my shoes.

Turns out the high rollers were not high dressers at all and our party were all way overdressed.  Talk about awkward.  Apart from the brother-in-law's boss and Mr V, I didn't see any other men wearing a jacket.  It was quite surprising for a room full of people who were gambling mind stupefying amounts of money in one sitting.  We watched the gambling tables for a little while, which does get boring very quickly.  I had expected and hoped for a bit more glitterati to provide some sartorial entertainment for the evening - some designer gowns on other ladies to ogle, a parade of enviable shoes, a walking exhibition of gorgeous jewellery perhaps.  Nope.  None of that.  Just a few expensive bags of the predictable LV, Gucci et. al. variety hanging off the arms of some of the ladies gambling.  The most striking thing we noticed about the high rollers was that they all looked mighty miserable.  Thankfully the majority of our evening was spent away from the gambling tables quaffing cocktails and having a bit of a laugh before heading on to dinner at a French restaurant.

Should I have worn the dress?  Should I have even bought the bloody thing?  Should I have gotten this dressed up to go to a high end casino for cocktails?  What would you have done?  Because these are the thoughts I had after that evening.  I was initially really happy that I had an opportunity to get dressed up in something I had not yet had a chance to wear, actually just to get dressed up period - so I took it, but sometimes it really isn't fun if you are the only one rising to the occasion.  Ladies I don't want to be in a cocktail dress by myself!  I want to see a bit of glamour and rub sequined shoulders with it.  These days I feel like it takes either courage or foolhardiness or a healthy dose of both to get really dressed up to go out.  I find myself thinking twice about getting really dressed up anymore.  Yes me!  The stalwart overdresser!

I'd love to hear your views! In the meantime I'm linking up to Patti's Visible Monday (while I'm still visible...).

Dress: Mary Katranzou for Topshop; Beaded bolero jacket: Aminaka Wilmont; Snakeskin clutch: random shop in Australia; Earrings: bought in Spain; Shoes: Aperlai Paris

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Winter Pink

If you live in the UK you could not have missed the fashion frenzy that was whipped up about the coat to be wearing this season - the pink coat.  The pink coat is not actually a new concept - think Raf Simons voluminous coats in pale sugary pink hues for his final collection for Jil Sander last winter.  These creations were not any old cashmere coats, but more the promise of being enveloped in a warm cocoon of soft pink candy floss as you floated along, princess like, wrapped in your exquisitely tailored folds of pink wool.

Jil Sandler AW 2012/2013, Source Vogue

Women the world over collectively swooned and when those Jil Sander pink coats subsequently sold out, designers must have collectively rubbed their chins and thought to themselves, hmmm... Raf is on to something.  A trend was born, not a one season wonder that lives fast and dies young within the space of a single season, but one that starts to snowball into something bigger, until it rolls down the runway again a year later and bowls us all over with even more force.

This season came the Rochas version - cosy, over-sized, more reminiscent of a snuggly house-coat, and in the kind of girlish candy pink that would make Barbie blush.   Despite its hefty price tag of £1100 it was an instant sell out on Net-A-Porter.

Coat by Rochas. Source: Net-a-Porter

Suddenly it seemed every designer in the mid range priced luxury lines was also releasing their own version of the must-have pink coat with offerings from labels like Carven, By Malene Birger, Red Valentino, Sportmax and Joseph, in shades spanning the whole range of pink, from baby to bismuth to hottest fuchsia. It was only a matter of time before the British high street followed suit with pink coats from Jigsaw, Hobbs, Topshop Unique, Zara and ASOS, all in over-sized cocoon or masculine cuts.

Source: Jigsaw

Fashion editors seemed divided on the pink coat.  Some were highly enthused, professing it the only colour to be seen in this winter.  Others wagged their fingers and warned of spending a fortune on a passing fad, and a Daily Mail journalist suggested rather less kindly, that we could end up looking like little girls or giant marshmallows.

That didn't stop every pink coat released at all price points selling out within days of them hitting the stores though! (Yes, that's right - watching how fast the must have item of the season sell out is a spectator sport for the more nerdy fashion observers amongst us).  The reason?  Personally I think that when Raf Simons sent out all those blush toned beauties on the catwalk last winter he reawakened a latent desire in women to wear something a bit more feminine during the long dreary months of winter, because lets face it, - day after day of pulling on a coat in dark, sombre colours like black, navy or grey can get a little depressing.  Pink done right can be ladylike, elegant or just a whole lot more fun.

Thankfully I didn't feel the need to elbow my way into the scrum to fight for a pink coat and be rushed into the wrong purchase by dwindling stocks and waiting lists, smug in the knowledge that I already had one hanging in the wardrobe.  Back in 2011 I did a post on the colour pink and expressed a wish for a pink coat, an item for which I had been hunting for some time and of which there was a dearth in the shops.  Hey, it was very much in the days before Raf Simons sent the fashion world crazy for pink!  Little did I know that a kind fairy blogging godmother by the name of Vintage Vix was listening and granted my wish by sending over this vintage pink wool beauty in the post.  I was over the moon as I just love the colour!  There is a lovely warmth to the pink just like those old fashioned peppermint candies.

Ever since, as soon as the weather starts to get colder, this coat comes out to play.  I've have whipped it out on many a windy weekend and this outfit photo was taken on one of them, just after a walk to our local farmers markets and through the local park.  It looks fab with blue jeans and has been the perfect cold weather topper for my neutral or pink toned outfits.  Although I've been wearing it for a couple of years now its slouchy, relaxed fit on me is right on trend at the moment.  It is also now a very well travelled coat - it made it the journey with me to Australia as I wore it to the airport when we left.

Source: Zara

And don't think pink can't work for a working woman either. So enamoured was I with my vintage pink coat that I found myself often wanting to extend what has been mainly a weekend affair into the working week as well.  Sadly I can't really get away with wearing vintage in my job, so towards the end of last year I decided on the Zara version for the office and it has been a great success.  I chose it for its more streamlined masculine cut and icier shade of pale pink which keeps it work appropriate, but in a size up from what I normally wear to get a bit of that over-sized look that is fashionable at the moment.  Coincidentally this coat is now on sale if anyone's interested!

And finally, this week it's How I Wear My Coat week hosted by Jill at Everything Just So and Adrienne of The Rich Life (on a budget).  Head over to see the fashion parade of everyone in their fabulous winter coats, and guess what, next month they are featuring the colour pink!

Pink Wool Coat: Vintage courtesy of Vintage Vix; Boots: Bally courtesy of my ex-boss; Pink cashmere sweater: Uniqlo; Rose print scarf: 20% Lino

Saturday, 4 January 2014

How Not To Blog

Greetings and a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!  I hope everyone is well and apologies for the long absence.   I hadn't really meant to take a sustained blog break at all but life had other ideas for me these past couple of months and made sure I had barely any time to get online.

Over the holiday season I've slowly been getting back into blog related activity - reading, commenting and now finally... an actual post!  I've been reacquainting myself with my Google reader and it still seems to be working despite the threats that blogger would pull it.  I've been noticing a pattern of post titles since the dawn of the New Year, with these two themes trending - New Year's Resolutions and that old chestnut, the "How To Blog" post.

Well I don't really do New Year's resolutions and given how I've singularly failed to manage blogging in the last couple of months I'm hardly an expert on how to blog.  Rather, it would be more appropriate to be the maverick and share some anti-blogging advice, how not to blog if you like.  So, courtesy of my own recent experience, here are ten really fail safe ways to throw every proverbial spanner in the blog works!

1.  Bugger Up Your Technology Big Time
Start with tripping over the cable of your laptop to send it crashing to the floor.  It's a great way to give it a faulty hard disk and a visual display that looks like it is going through permanent pixelated meltdown.  Pack away all your computer software in a safe but very forgettable place while you send your computer to get repaired, so that when it is returned with everything wiped off you can't reinstall ANYTHING.  That includes that useful little photo editing feature you relied on to get your pictures processed quickly for blog posts!

2. Drop Your Favourite Camera
...the one you habitually use to blog with.  Best to drop it directly on it's lens.  It really is the best way to stop a digital camera working.  Take it from me, I've done it twice already!  Once to a Nikon and then to my beloved little Canon.  Still need to send it off to get it fixed!

3. Do Really Well at Your Day Job
A demanding day job is probably the biggest spanner you can throw at any blog, especially when it starts to become a demanding evenings and weekend job as well!  Put some serious time into your career and the last thing you will want to do is spend more time on the computer at home after eight hours or more on one at the office.  Have you noticed that the "How to Blog" posts are often full of the same mantras oft repeated to spur you on to achieving excellence at work? Be Committed! Be Enthusiastic! Be Passionate! Be Professional! Add Value! Deliver people what they want!

Let's turn this on its head for a moment.  What if you actually did apply these principles to your job rather than your blog?  Well chances are you would probably do really well at it. What's more, if you do really well at at your job, you might become a victim of your own success and get given even more work to do because people think you're more than capable of rising to the challenge.  Bye bye blog but hello pay rise and promotion?

4. Have a Demanding Night well as the day job.
If life wasn't busy enough I teach flamenco three times a week and still perform from time to time.  In the last couple of months I had two shows to rehearse for on top of my teaching hours.  One was a fusion piece with a khatak dancer which was performed to a black tie dinner for dignitaries, the other was in a rather famous London jazz club, so I had to drop absolutely everything to rehearse for them.

5. Endure the Commute From Hell on a Daily Basis
I've seen suggestions from some that the severely time strapped should make use of their daily journey to work to get more done.  Possibly even use that time to squeeze in some blogging.  These people clearly do not live in central London, because if they did have to travel during the peak hour crush here they would quickly realise that this is a daily battle for survival!  I usually spend the majority of my commute being crushed from all sides with my face pressed into either someones back or if I'm really lucky, their armpit, both to and back from work.  I wouldn't be able to move enough to slip a smart phone out of my pocket let alone a tablet!

6. Have A Life.
Significant other? Children? Friends (of the offline variety)? Pets? Extended family? All those pesky assorted sundry loved ones who require, nay demand attention, thus encroaching on your precious blog time.  Hobbies? Who needs theatre, live music, travel, exhibitions and books?  You get the picture...

7. Renovate Your Flat
For maximum chaos, do this whilst also living in said flat.  There has been a huge amount of unpacking and repacking as we move things out of each room that is being worked on, meaning I can never find anything when I need it without trawling through a mountain of boxes.  And then there has been tackling the dust left behind afterwards from sanding floors and stripping paint.  I realised that the dust got all the way into my wardrobe when I noticed all my black jackets suddenly had a two tone look with one black side, and one not so black side!  Cue the mother of all laundering operations...

8. Prioritise Your Health
A niggling dance injury I've been struggling with finally forced me back into regular weekly pilates sessions in order to manage it.  Pilates was something I used to do regularly a couple of years ago but I lapsed when I felt I didn't have time to fit it in anymore.  Daft really because I'm sure that had I kept it up I wouldn't have sustained this injury in the first place.  Well I changed my thinking and am now making the time, but obviously that time has to come from somewhere.  Less time on the internet means more time on the reformer!

9. Go on Holiday
Go for a long time and to somewhere far flung, warm and sunny where you will have zero motivation to spend time blogging.  How about Australia for three weeks?  Cram your calender whilst there to ensure that time spent on the internet is kept to a minimum.  My schedule packed in being bridesmaid at my sister's wedding, taking my parents up North for a few days, catching up with various family and friends, seeing a Muse concert, celebrating Mum and Godmother's birthdays and squeezing in a flamenco course.

10. Unplug
Spend a decent amount of time without laptop, mobile and blackberry.  This one was kind of forced on me.  In the time that my laptop was away being fixed I went to Australia, so whilst I usually take it travelling I had no choice but to leave it.  Same with my work blackberry - four out of five password fails on the morning we were due to leave meant it ended up staying in the UK too.  And I kept my UK mobile off the whole time in Australia to avoid a hefty bill from picking up messages.  I have to say that limiting my time on the internet and hand held devices was actually quite a revolution.  Apart from freeing up time to do other things, my eyesight improved and the RSI in my fingers and wrists almost disappeared!

There are all times when we have to be very present offline rather than online and the last couple of months have been exactly those kind of times for me.  Despite it all, I'm now back, albeit on a more limited basis than before.  I've been really missing everybody in blogland and although I'm still being hampered by tech problems, I hope to be catching up with everyone eventually.  In the meantime - over to you!  Share your own ways how not to blog with me!
Photo: a feathered flapper dress by Australian designer Aurelio Costerella - in a display from the Aurelio Costarella 30 Year Retrospective, an exhibition at the West Australian Museum in Perth


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