Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Worth a look...

There's a sale on at Dolly Dagger - a website with a part rockabilly / part artschool babe asthetic. The shoes above remind me (in a good way) of the eighties - I think it's the heel. They come in pink, red or black rosettes and cost only £11.25, reduced from £40.

I'm also quite taken with the knitted bow beret (£15) which comes in Red, Black or Grey and also have matching fingerless gloves (£12) and scarf (£16.50).
The rest of the sale tends toward the smaller sizes - but if you are petite, it's well worth a look for some fabulous discounts - particularly on rocakabilly frocks.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Bargain Boots!

Just a quickie before I head cross-country to the next stage of the family festivities: there's a sale on at Duo boots. For the uninitiated, Duo specialise in Calf fitted boots - I believe they cater for ladies with overly slender pins, but more relevantly, they are the bee's knees in making boots for larger calves.

They do have stores - but they started their buisness online, and have detailed instructions on how to measure yourself for the right fit. I've never splashed out - until today, when I picked up the impossibly smart Imperia boots above for £110.

Prices start at £60. Treat yourself.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

A first look at the sales.

Well, I'm still up in coldest, darkest Lincolnshire, so until now I've been only able to observe the sales online, and I have to say I was deeply unimpressed. Perhaps inevitably, after discounting so heavily in the run up to Xmas, stores seem to have left themselves nowhere to go.

Bravissimo may be an exception - they've literally nothing for me, but if you're a different size you may do well. I know my friend Sarah has scored two bras, and if I were a size 16 or smaller I'd certainly have a look at reductions in clothing, as they appear to have some massive discounts, including this wrap dress for only £7.

It's a bit busy - pattern wise, but a perfect price to try out how well cut Bravissimo clothes are, and how flattering a wrap dress will be for anyone with bigger boobs than their tummy. Their plain black version is reduced to £34, too - which regular readers will know is one of my favourite wardrobe staples - and I happily paid £50 for it!

Today, however, I went into Lincoln with my Mother-Out-of-Law and had a look at some of the sales 'in person' so to speak. M&S was a bit of a non event, although I was amused to see many of the Patricia Field (designer for 'Sex and the City') frocks selling for under £30. Not in my size or I may have had a punt. Sadly, the cerise pussy bow blouse/jumper I mentioned a few posts back is a little cheap and nasty looking in the flesh - so that's a no-go (and it wasn't in the sale anyway).

Dorothy Perkins suffers in comparison to its excellent website. The site is so easy to use, and the (truth be told) rather low quality clothes are photographed so well, that it feels like a completely different retailer to the store. I saw a couple of nice corsages, but nothing else caught my eye.

The saviour of the day was Monsoon. Forget their online sale - it's poor. The little shop in Lincoln though, was jammed to the rafters with stock, almost all of which was 50% reduced. Monsoon do colour so well, and this season have had some particularly jewel-bright offerings. I spent a blissful half hour loading frocks over my arm, and then trying them on. Sadly, the three I bought are all so long past season that they are no longer on the website. Suffice to say that along with a brown and white wrap dress for work, I bought a kingfisher blue and black patterned empire line dress in silk and a Schiaparelli pink sleeveless number with a darling bow just below the bust. There are a plethora of weddings on the horizon, you see... Anyway, I'll have to get someone to lend me a camera soon, so that I can show them to you.

What I can tell you, is that there are three black party dresses in the sale with sleeves! Two are still on the website here (with sequins) and here (with silver empire line detail), but in a greater range of sizes instore (I tried on the second one in a size 20, while the website only shows availability up to a size 12). The third was also black, in a burnout/devore finish, but with similar sheer sleeves. I know a party frock with sleeves is something of a holy grail, so grab them while you can!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

All I want for Christmas...

The boyfriend has finally gone out shopping, so I can comment on fantasy shopping without him thinking I'm hinting at things I think he should buy. Oscar Wilde may have been right when advising men never to buy anything for a woman that she can't wear in the evening, but I'm about to mention some truly costly things, and spending that kind of money doesn't come easily to him.

So - if money were no object...

Diane Von Furstenburg wrap dress in Confetti Red, up to US size 14 (approx UK 18) £306

Why? Well this dress is the perfect shape for me. It enables my hourglass curves while disguising my heavy upper arms. It's timeless and smart, but cute and fun at the same time. My favourite colours too.

Gina Zeta sandals reduced to £185, but only available in size 3.5 - otherwise, Gina sandals tend to be around £350.

Why? I don't know about you, but when wearing red-carpet couture, I always struggle with what to wear on the end of my bare legs. Or maybe not - but the principle remains the same. Many glam frocks require bare legs - these sandals elongate the apearance of your legs and are effortlessly spectacular. Gina sandals became de riguer for A-listers way back in the nineties, and haven't changed much since, and of course there are hordes of more bargainous imitators. Go for the old gold colours - silver contrasts too much with your fleshtone.

Vollers call this corset V1114, 'Little Miss Mischief' and certainly, it does seem a lot of fun.

Vollers are the last word in corsets, but a traditional overbust corset doesn't pull many punches if you're a boobilicious girl and can leave the assembled company wondering where to land their gazes if you sport them as outerwear. This design has a little more coverage and the contrasting darker fabric may make the boobs look slightly smaller - I can but dream... £155.

Merry Xmas to all of you, and I'll see you for the sales.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Strictly Hideous

The dresses in the last two series of 'Strictly Come Dancing' (that's 'Dancing with the Stars' for my international chums) have been becoming increasingly hideous and unflattering - and while you may not be about to go out and buy yourself a Foxtrot Frock, there are some lessons for us all.

This first picture is a horrorshow of design. Firstly Leticia Dean (left). Poor girl doesn't have much of a waist and fairly 'sturdy' legs. So why is this dress bad for her? the ruching creates a series of horizontal lines across her thighs, which, as we all know, makes her look wider. The dark blue is too much of a contrast with her legs - effectively shortening them - although the asymmetrical hem and waterfall sash do work to lengthen, the hem itself should be less solid - perhaps a more sheer fabric, or a fringe which would break over her thighs. The voluminous sleeves do not disguise heavy arms - rather they add bulk to the torso. The poor woman looks almost square. She's got great boobs - and they should have been a feature.

Stephanie Beecham's frock (right) is a little odd. I love those long ostrich feathers but I don't think they work in vertical ranks. A fishtail shaped skirt in the satin fabric and then trimmed horizontally at the hem with the feathers would have looked less like she'd burst her stuffing mid -thigh. Beecham has an amazing body, but like many women of a certain age, probably seeks to cover up her arms, as the skin there can look crepey on even the slender. Tight, tight sleeves, though, make your arms look like sausages about to burst - particularly in a shiny fabric. If you're anxious about the size of your upper arms, by the way - look for cover ups with sleeves that end above the wrist. If you draw attention to the narrowness of your wrists by ending a garment there, it will only make your upper arms look bigger in comparison. 3/4 or elbow length sleeves - preferably loose - are more forgiving, or if you want a full length sleeve, look for a flare at the wrist (bootcuts for your arms!).

I leave it there for today, but I may return to vent more spleen on the subject...

Monday, 15 December 2008

A windfall.

I've just received £50 of M&S vouchers. An unexpected surprise, but nothing's crying out to me from the current line. I suppose I should be sensible and wait until the post Xmas sales - especially since I don't imagine I can redeem said vouchers online - but (confession) I hate sales shopping, so I might give in to temptation a little earlier. It's not the shopping per se - I just hate queueing for changing rooms and fighting with grannies for a chance to pick over the offerings.

I'm somewhat taken with the neckline of this 'Ponte' dress (£35) - Art deco structuring and Mouret-esque straps. It's a little bare to wear at work; the girls will call 'bingo wings' if they see them... The empire line is flattering, though.

Posing a similar 'too dressy for work?' dilemma is this fabulous mock-layer pussy bow top. (£29.50). It succeeds where the 'what I wore to work' dress failed - in that it has wonderful longer-length sleeves - but whereas royal purple satin is restrained opulence, this cerise is all rather 'Studio 54'. The black V neck styling is flattering, though - and I am still loving the sexy-secretary look. This would be great with a black pencil skirt.

But of course, M&S is synonymous with undies - and although it doesn't quite come in my size, I might try on the closest size available to see if I can get away with this firm control multiway body (£39.50). M&S don't tend to be wonderfully reliable on larger cup size bras, so fitting in person is essential but with a body, where there is support all the way up you torso, you can sometimes play a little bit fast-and-loose with sizing. Using the fairly reliable equation that if you go up a back size, you can go down a cupsize and still get a bra to fit, if not support as well, I might have a bit of an experiment with this item.

Friday, 12 December 2008

More Shoes

There are some pretty good discounts in the Kurt Geiger website sale at the moment. Here are my top picks:

Only in sizes 40 and 41 (or I'd buy them) but these pink sculptural beauties by Agent Provocateur are reduced from £280 to £69. Bedroom shoes. Yum. Speaking of sculpture - how about these Kurt Geiger bobbly heels? They're a bit Barbarella, and reduced from £200 to £79 - sizes 37 and 38 only.

But we can't always wear such stilts, and there are some very practical work shoes in the sale. If you don't have a pair of red mary-janes (shame on you), and are size 36, 40 or 41 snap up these beauties by KG (the diffusion label) reduced from £90 - £39. Also available in black patent (in the inconceivable event that you don't have any black mary janes) size 37 only. In the pink, these pyramid-heeled shoes - also KG would look ace with black or better purple tights (£90 - £39) and also come in black and vivid sunflower yellow. Lastly I love the chunky stylings of these KG pewter mary janes - they'd look fab under trousers, and I belive the wide banding and rounder toe will help larger feet look smaller. Wide range of sizes here, and they cost £39, reduced from £85.

Lastly boots. There are some really good discounts on boots in the sale - worth a look if you have the kind of calves that allow you to buy boots off the peg. That said, not all styles of boots are out for the rest of us. Biker boots, coming not so far up the calf, are more accommodating. I love these, in size 37 only, by KG. £150 reduced to £89. I'm also fond of these Victorian style brown lace-front boots. Sizes 37, 38 and 41 - the laces allow you to ease the fit a certain extent (or indefinately if you buy longer laces and colour match your tights to the tongue of the boot.) £320 reduced to £79 - which is amazing - from the main Kurt Geiger label.

There are dozens of styles of shoe and boot in the sale, but the website handily allows you to search by size. Happy shopping!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Retro shop discovery

I stumbled across http://www.bigbeautifulbarbarabrown.com/index.html today. It's clearly a business in its infancy - and the site features some of the worst photography ever - but it's a hit-and-miss treasure trove of retro fun, apparently from the people behind Lady Laudanum (for those who may be familiar). Prices are reasonable for handmade stuff, and certainly comparable with or even cheaper than frocks from Pin Up Girl, Vivien of Holloway, Mode Merr, Stop Staring or Bettie Page clothing - all of whom stock similar stuff.

So - some items that caught my eye:

The Agapantha dress (above) is £56 and available up to a size 20. I just love the stand up collar and dramatic neckline.

The red and black 40's Casino Dress has wonderfully flattering sleeves, goes up to a 22 and is £50.

There's a whole section of dresses inspired by Monroe, including one copied from the fringed dress she wiggled down the platform wearing in 'Some like it hot' (£65).

Some of the gorgeous shapes have been made in rather fabulous modern fabrics - I particularly like this 40s tea dress made in Mexican 'dios de muerte' fabric (up to a size 22). I know from my own previous investigations that this fabric is quite pricey: hence the £73 price tag.

There are separates and also swimwear designs, including this adorable swimming dress with attached shorts and matching headband (£59). Cute as you like, but only up to an 18 - but then, it is December - by summer the site may stock bigger sizes or I might have shrunk.

What I am seriously tempted by is this gorgeous tartan frock - (£60). I don't know yet whether to go for the red or the blue/green option.

Decisions, decisions...

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

£200 working wardrobe challenge.

The school I teach at is about to introduce a 'business' dress code for sixth formers - and because the students didn't know about it before they signed up, the school is going to give each of them £200 towards their new wardrobes (it is a very small sixth form, but even so...) Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to see how far £200 would go and what I would pick were I starting from scratch.

First of course, are shoes. I've chosen these fabulous mid-heel T-bar shoes from Marks and Spencers. They are only £19.50 - which is a steal - assuming the quality we've all come to expect from M&S. I see the girls tripping around the school in skyscraper heels - but these are low enough to be practical for even the faint-hearted, and the retro styling will look smart and funky at the same time - especially since I'm allowing £50 for a selection of fun tights from Dorothy Perkins (£4 - £8).

So - £70 spent already, and what next? Well how about some tailoring. These girls are young; we don't want to stuff them in a standard suit, but this jacket (£16) from Peacocks has three-quarter length sleeves and cute, Victorian-style puff shoulders. Predictably, while I'm in Peacocks, I'm going to pick up this pencil skirt for £8 - available up to a size 22, too: my girls aren't all slim little things by any means. And that takes us to £94 down, £106 to go.

Next to New Look. Buying on the cheap side might be a false economy in the long term, but these girls might not need their smart clothes after they leave the sixth form, and they can always upgrade to better quality pieces one at a time as they afford it. So two pairs of trousers, adding up to £30, and we'll 'splash out' a whole £20 on this fun pencil skirt with animal print belt.

Lastly, tops. Our opportunity to inject some colour - I like these scoop necked tops (above) from Top Shop at £10 each, so we'll have all three. Finally back to Dotty P's - where £12 will buy you two of their £7 basic tops - so we can have four of them for our remaining £24.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Bit of skirt

Hey Ms Charlotte, I need a skirt. A plainish black one that comes to just below my footballer's knees that I can wear with woolly tights and bike boots, and that doesn't shout at whatever I wear on the top. I've tried a few on, but they had too much volume and make my derriere look even larger than it is. Oh, and I don't really have a waist as such, but I do have longish legs.

I love the look of a skirt with bike boots - very funky: utilitarian but girlie. My first choice will probably come lower than the tops of the boots - but they'll still be visible when you sit and climb stairs, etc - you might even take the chance to inject a flash of colour with some funky tights. This skirt is expensive (£48.90!) - but it's definitely long enough for our girl, as it comes from Long Tall Sally. I use it to illustrate a really flattering shape. Remember how bootcuts balance out weight above the knee with a flare below? This does the same thing - but the close fit to the knee is less bulky than a skirt which is full all the way down. I like the corduroy here, and the jeans-type styling at the waist. Cheaper - and more versatile due to a less 'casual' fabric is this similar skirt from Anna Scholtz at Simply Be (£35).

Also from Simply Be - and at a very reasonable £18 is this pencil skirt. Forget the secretary look in the picture. A pencil skirt with biker boots will look a little bit 'rock chick' - but in a dignified, flattering way. It won't disguise your bum - but it won't add any bulk at all, and the emphasis - especially given the longer 32" length - is on the vertical line, drawing the eye down the leg and not across the bum.

But once again it's Dotty P's who come up trumps with the easiest skirt to wear with biker boots. Unfortunately the plain black is pretty much sold out - but this grey and black striped 'witchy hem' skirt is a good buy at £22. The dippy, irregular hemline will contrast with the no-nonsense biker boots. If you wanted to take that look further you could look for something gauzy or floaty: pretty-hippy chic contrasted with heavy boots - it's a great look.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Bombproof Makeup

I'm not dedicated to the careful maintenance of my makeup. I like to put it on at the beginning of the day or evening, and then not give it a second thought until I wake up the next morning and take it off. In between times I want it to stay looking fresh and glam.

Here I share with you my 'tried and tested' brands for maximum longevity.

The quest for kiss proof lipstick has been a long one. I was a devotee of lipcote in my teens, even though is stings on application like lemon juice on a paper cut. It was worth it, because I was a goth - and no sacrifice was too great for black cherry lips that didn't leave myself and my paramour smeared, like bingeing vampires, after a rigorous snogging session. I dallied with lipstains, but when I next embraced lip colours, Maxfactor had created Lipfinity - a new breed of lip paint, to be rendered wearable by a silicon gloss coat. Maybelline have a similar product, and they do work, but the glosses are unpleasant and the colour ranges limited.

Then I discovered Pro Longwear Lipcolour by MAC. It isn't cheap, and many of the colours are unimaginative, but the gloss coat is gorgeous and most importantly of all, the 'Lasting Lust' shade is a perfect, versatile, classy red. On Friday I applied it at 7pm, went out, ate tapas, drank all manner of booze and talked my head off - and woke up from my hangover on Saturday lunchtime with perfect scarlet lips. £15-odd, and you'd want to buy it in person rather than online because I find the colour representation on the MAC site to be way off - but this is a truly winning lipstick. Now all they need to do is introduce some really vivid berries and pinks.

To eyes. I wear liquid eyeliner and have done almost every day since I was 16 years old, these days I wear it - retro style on the top lid only. Believe me when I recommend liquid eyeliner by blinc - and their mascara - for unbeatable longevity. My biggest problem with other brands isn't so much lack of staying power, but a grubby grey build up that comes after a few days on my upper and lower eyelids if I don't use a super-powered eye makeup remover.

With blinc there's no need; it comes off with water and light friction. It's effectively waterproof (unless you rub your eyes) and smudge proof (unless you have wet hands). When you do remove it, it doesn't dilute into greyness - it comes off in strands - which takes a little getting used to, but it means there's no grey build up. Try it. Blinc isn't widely available in stores, but on their website you can order a trial size of the eyeliner and the mascara for £2.21 each. With each trial sizer you receive a 20% discount voucher for the full size, which sells for £17.62 - thus making the trial size effectively free.

My last recommendation is for nails. Once upon a time I was prepared to spend time doing my nails every day - which seems like something someone else would do when I think about it now. At any rate, for many years I haven't been bothered because after one good rummage in my handbag, I'd end up with horrific chips. Recently, my friend Amanda recommended L'Oreal's resist and shine - and I must say: I'm impressed. Four full days without chipping. Available all over the place for £4.99, or try eBay. Branded cosmetics can often be picked up cheaply on eBay.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Feet of Fabulousness

Notwithstanding my own advice on buying shoes, it's the best time of year to find gorgeous, glorious footwear in the shops. And since there's not much point owning shoes that aren't gorgeous and glorious it would be remiss of me not to have a look at what's around in the pre-xmas ranges.

A recent trend is the covered platform. It gives stilettos a more curvy profile, and balances out weight above the ankle. I also find platforms slightly more comfy than normal heels - not only is your foot at a less extreme angle, but there's an element of shock absorbtion going on. These red beauties above are reduced to £40 at Faith, and would look fab with black sheer or opaque tights, or peeping out under trousers.

Irregular choice make some splendid shoes, and none more sweet than these Cherry Courts. They're reduced to £50 from £79.99 at Schuh - I think you know straight away if you're going to love these or hate them, so I won't try and explain their appeal...

There are lots of animal print shoes around this winter - but these are my favourite for sheer glitz factor, since the zebra print is created with sequins! They also feature the same concealed platform as the first pair, but this time have a peeptoe front for extra sexy pinup style. I stumbled across these shoes on the Barratts website, and I may have to rethink my opinion of Barratts as a result. My first ever paid employment was as a Saturday girl in Barratts and I've never really experienced them to be big on design. Until now. These shoes also come in plain cerise or electric blue sequins, for £30 - with an extra 20% off until Sunday.