Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Ooh - another quicky...

Just stumbled across this Oh-so Jackie O coat at Boden.

Perfect for athletic / less curvy girls, but apple and pear-shapes can also wear this well, so long as They want to show off their pins. The length makes it really realistic and chic for just about every height too, although petite girls will need to shorten the sleeves - a simple enough job for your local alterations place - even repositioning the trim looks like it would be straightforward.

Wear this with a similar-shaped and length dress or skirt to style-up a work look or add panache to a wedding outfit (I'd advise the aqua) - it won't sit well over fullness in the skirt or a long hemline. Alternatively show off your legs with cigarette-cut trousers or capris. Gorgeous and classic - you'll wear it for years, so the £110 price tag seems fair.

Smart Dressed Man

So, you may be a dapper chap with a wardrobe full of fine tailoring, or you may have a partner who fits that description. I, however, don't. My fabulous fiance is actually really stylish in his own way, but suits are not his thing. Recently, he bought a rather lovely suit in the Moss Bros sale for around £200 - but I shouldn't imagine he'll be repeating that experience very soon.

However, it won't do for my sister's wedding next month, because that's black tie. So we assumed he'd hire a dinner suit - maybe from the hire section of the very retailer who sold him the other one. But then my sister discovered that Marks and Sparks are doing dinner jackets and matching trousers for just £49.50 for the set! We're waiting for the suit to come, and of course - for that price you have low expectations in terms of cut, fit and fabric. But how low? This is still Marks and Spencers, after all: sensible quality is practically their brand identity, and while this suit may be the sartorial equivalent to a supermarket's no frills brand of beans - it's still going to be better than if, say, it had been bought from Primark. We shall see. Certainly I expect the cut and fit to be no worse than one would reasonably expect when hiring a suit.

Also available is a dress shirt for £15 (polycotton, but with those all-important swoonsome french cuffs), and a silk bow tie for £9.50. Incidentally, M&S have 14 different bow ties or bow tie and cummerbund sets, but only one of them is 'self tie'. Now quite apart from bow ties not being much harder to tie than your own shoelaces, if you get a ready made one, what are you going to do after dinner when you open your top buttons (always two, lads - one button looks like you've burst out). If you have a proper bow tie you can undo it for that dishevelled James Bond look. Yum.

Assuming you'd have bought the shirt and tie anyway, the suit costs around the same as hiring would do - so if he wears it once more, it's completely paid for itself. And this way, if he tears it or some other mishap befalls the thing, there's no deposit to lose either.

If I were a bloke I'd be tempted to get one anyway, just for a rainy day. But maybe that's the kind of attitude that's left me up to my eyeballs in clothes...

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Who are you, and what do you want?

I wonder, if you wouldn't mind and have a spare few minutes, answering this 10-question survey I've created to try and find out more about the readership of this blog.

It's not (just) that I'm nosey - it's because I make a lot of assumptions about the kind of people who are reading this blog, and it would help me to make in more interesting and meaningful if I knew more about you.

It's just for women (or people who want to wear clothes made for women), and more specifically, women who have read this blog more than once (or think they're likely to come back - if this is your first visit (welcome, by the way)).

You'll need a password to take the survey, and the magic word is...


Please only take it once and be as truthful as you can, but feel free to miss out any questions you don't want to answer.

If I can get some stats under my belt, I can start asking companies why they're not giving you what you want... but it would sound a bit feeble until I know who you are and what you do want!

Monday, 13 April 2009

Back to the missions...

Hi! I just wanted to say how much I love your blog - and as a result have bought a dress I would never even thought of from a shop I never go into - Wallis!! Everyone says how good it is - so thank you very much! If you need a new challenge for those of us with non standard bodies, wondered if you could advise me on what I should buy next - am an odd shape! I am 5'8" with really short and fat legs - that are made even shorter by the presence of a long and huge bum... I have a waist that is two sizes smaller than my hips, and quite a flat stomach - 32DD top half - so find it hard to find things that fit, never mind look good... My legs are really bad - I can only wear the dress with tights and boots to hide the lack of leg. What would you suggest? Thanks Sharon

Ok - so first I must apologise to this lovely lady, because I've been sitting on this email since 16th March - quite forgotten in all my wedding self-obsession.

Right, secondly- to the task in hand. This really is quite straightforward: almost everyone can identify themselves as either having a short body and long legs (can be hard to find a waist) or having what I seem to recall someone from my childhood calling 'duck's disease' - where your bum's too close to the floor. As a fellow short-legger I sympathise with Sharon - although she's five inches of height on me - so perhaps not that much!

The silhouette we're looking for is empire line - cinched in under the bust, with a more free-flowing skirt part and then straight-legged trousers worn underneath. This picture is a good representation of what I mean, but sadly it's a back view - couldn't find the front shot - but you should get the idea. Look at the overall silhouette - don't her legs look lonnnnnnng?

Firstly: play to your strengths. Nice boobs and a small waist / back, plus flat tummy. Not all empire lines follow the body in their underbust tailoring, and can look smocky - that's fine if you have flabby abs: I can look pregnant if I wear too close-fitting an empire-line, but if you don't have my problem, then show off that difference between boob and ribcage. If you don't want your boobs to look too big, remember to go for a deep V or kimono neckline, modesty preserved with a vest underneath.

We don't want to fit all the way down to the waist, though, small as it may be. The reasoning here is we want to give the impression of longer legs. With a fitted empire line we get the impression of a trim waist, but without giving away where that waist actually is. It's also very hard to fit to the whole underbust-to-waist area without drawing attention to that bottom.

To length. You don't want a dress that's too long, or the trousers underneath will look like you've thrown the frock on over your pyjamas. Pink here is committing a second error in having two shades of black - this look can work with jeans, but I think you'd want a patterned dress to make the jeans look tied-in. The shorter the top layer, though - the harder it is to sustain the optical illusion of legs that go on forever. Once we start to see the shape of the leg, the game's up - and even with straight leg trousers, that becomes evident not far above the knee. So we're probably not looking for tunics. The other thing that will give the game away is a sheer fabric. diminutive 'Madmen' actress, Maggie Siff nearly gets it right, but due to the sheer fabric you can see that she too, is a duck's disease sufferer. Those flares don't help, either.

Which trousers should you go for? As a rule of thumb, the more trouser on show, the wider-leg you can wear.

These by Wallis would be a good purchase at £35, but I'd stick to no longer than knee length frocks. The right hand pair are more streamlined - don't be afraid of the snug fit, you'll be covering everything from the waist to below the knee with a loose dress. Marks and Sparks, £29.50. Both pairs are black, but you have to start somewhere, and true black trousers (as opposed to jeans) should work under other colours too, so long as they're vivid or have black in the pattern.

An absolutely brilliant everyday standby for work and play is this jersey dress (above left) - £35 from Evans (see what I was saying?) It doesn't photograph well, because it's black - but if you follow the link you can see it on a model, and get a better idea. It is, of course, just like those frocks Dotty P's were doing so well last season - but a little longer it seems. The dress on the right is available in black, but I think is just gorgeous in the pale pink and black print. It's £50 at French Connection.

This dress would go perfectly with straight-cut jeans, and those full sleeves will help to balance out your boobs and any fullness over the bum. It's by Great Plains (£45) and is also available in green. Which means you'll need some jeans to wear under it. Leave skinny straight jeans to the kids - besides which the wrinkled ankle look will not work for this silhouette. I adore these jeans from Monsoon, because they have such elegant lines. They're relatively pricey for jeans at £45, but worth it, I think.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

My sister's search for shoes.

My eldest sister is (also) getting married soon - her dress is a subtle shade of silver, and she's been looking for the right shoes. Firstly she found these, which at the time were only £26 in the January sale. (Now £60). They are gorgeous - very red carpet glamour, which is just right for her dress - but when they arrived:

"they were 1) a lot more mink than the photo (not silver at all) and 2) the 5" heel was a bit optimistic so thought I would get some lower shoes for later".

So she bought pair number two:

"cheap and cheerful and not so stylish lower shoes from BHS - a bargain at £20"

Well, it's a long dress - I suppose they don't have to be completely gorgeous, but then things changed:

"finally saw dress last week and knew minky shoes would not go so found the Lulus on ebay and thought I'd see if they fitted. Bought for opening price £39.99, unworn and much more glittery and vintag-ey than the picture. Also leather soles etc :-)"

and well she might smile - Lulu Guinness, she of the most covetable handbag fame, has produced some beautiful shoe collections, with a retail price in the hundreds for each pair. A bit of canny ebay research, and my sister has found the most perfect designer shoes for her wedding for less than you'd pair for a pair of bog-standard high-street heels. And as she says:

"Total spend £85 with just a couple of shopping errors on the way! Still cheaper than a pair of Choos!"

Although I say that she'd be well advised to get the first two pairs on ebay post haste. Even if they sell for no more than £20 between them, that's still one more bottle of champagne on the hen night!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Things change

Last season, I was all over Dorothy Perkins, but recently they seem to be setting their cap at the late-teen / early twenties market, wheeling out all the unflattering, cheap-looking, eighties-influenced trends that those of us old enough to remember them first time around wouldn't touch with a bargepole. Which is Topshop's territory: they do it very well, and I'm not sure where Dotty P's market is.

What is coming up, though, is Evans. Unlikely as it may seem, there are several good pieces in Evans' current collection, and now they go down to a size 14, maybe there are a few new customers out there who are yet to take a look. Frocks are often a good indicator of the quality of a collection, so let's have a look:

These two are great for summer - the blue is good for fairer colouring, whereas the pink is probably best left to brunettes. Wear this dress if you're anything up to around a D cup - it's more forgiving to boobs than a super-high neckline. £50.

This dress, though is much better for buxom ladies. It's a jersey fabric, and cut to accentuate hourglass curves, while the vertical pleating across the tummy is good for disguising your belly. £40.

Lastly, I rather like this dress for all kinds of reasons. I love the spots, the empire line is supremely flattering, and the bodice area is just gorgeous for all but the smallest or hugest boobs. I do think it needs a bolero or cardigan to balance out the fullness of the skirt, though. It's a great length for shorter girls, too. It will sit on the knee for someone of average height, but then becomes more sophisticated and dressy the shorter the wearer.

It's £50, and I'd definitely buy it if I were invited to an august wedding...

A new venture

Those who wish to follow my sartorial journey through wedding-land may like to take a look at Swelegant Style Wedding, my new spin-off blog. The idea being that I can channel the overwhelming over-excitement that's been keeping me from blogging, and get me back in the blogging habit.

Anyway, in the event that anyone is still reading SSS, I promise to come back to you. And apologies for the interruption in service.