Sunday, 5 September 2010

Charity Shop Challenge

As I explained here, while I was on holiday in Edinburgh recently I took part in a challenge from the British Heart Foundation as part f their 'Big Donation' campaign.  From the stock in one of their branches, could I style a great, swelegant look?

Could I?  It was surprisingly easy.  In fact I was so spoiled for choice I styled two big looks for Autumn / Winter.  The first is a very big trend this autumn - the New Luxe.  Neutral colours and luxury fabrics: it's a return to a tasteful, elegant, grown-up aesthetic.  Not very me (I prefer things a little rougher around the edges), but a great look.  The key piece is the camel coat.  Look for beautiful, soft natural fibres and broad lapels - think dressing gown and kimono shapes.

To be right 'on trend' (sorry) belt with slim brown leather: the fancy knot here is very catwalk.  Elsewhere in the outfit, seek draped necklines, pencil skirts or high waisted trousers with wide legs or cigarette slim, in tones from caramel to cream. Knitwear, as here, should be lightweight.  The boots had quite a high heel, which you can't see - but ideally I'd want something with a little more detailing and a slightly slimmer profile.

The second outfit is much more me. Velvet coats and blazers are huge this winter - I know Boden and Monsoon both have them in their collections, but this classic vintage jacket also works. With rich colours, getting a match can be hard - so combining different tones in the same opulent palette is a good solution. 

The corsage and the pearls in this look, and the gold knotted necklace in the first one are part of the BHF's collection of accessories that they sell in their branches - not donated, but new.  The berry tones in the corsage marry the purple of the dress to the wine red jacket. Layering pearls is a slightly irreverent way  to wear a more traditional style of jewellery - they look great looped around the wrist, too.

I had a really fun time styling these outfits: it made me realise how easy fashion stylists have it, though - it's easy to dress a slim mannequin (or model).  It's size, though that makes charity shops a little tricky - of course, each item is a one-off, it doesn't come in a range of sizes.  But that said, it's well worth persevering.  Shopping is a speculative activity: you don't always come away with anything... but in a charity shop you can find vintage gems that are the ancestors of today's couture looks. It's sustainable because you're saving clothes from landfill, and not creating a demand for more new garments whose production will use resources and pollute the environment, and it helps a good cause.  But more than that, it's cheaper than buying new.  Especially when we're talking about new winter coats and jackets in good quality fabrics, a reduced price can make all the difference.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Friday Frocks - A new way of frocking.

While I've been on summer holiday, I've been scheming up a new way of bringing Friday frocks to you. A victim of its own success, the Friday frocks way of life has become so popular that writing the weekly roundup takes hours, and is getting in the way of my writing the other aspects of the blog - which is a shame.  So this is what I'm going to do: on or just before the first Friday of the month I will bring you a roundup of ten of my favourite frocks submitted during the month before. But it will only work if you keep sending the pictures every week.  As ever, you can either use the email address (left), post them to the facebook group, the thread on Urban75, or to Twitter with the #fridayfrocks hashtag.

I hope that will make it more manageable - I know some people have felt a bit pressured to keep coming up with new outfits, and no one's wardrobe is endless. I probably won't feature anyone twice in one month, so feel free to re-send me pics of outfits  if I haven't used them the first time.

Kicking off this week is an impressive frock made by wayward bob with her own fair hands.  The retro, forties tea-dress style is innocently stylish and it's given a amusing, surprising edge when you take a closer look and realise that the pattern is one of beautifully illustrated toadstools. Notice too that the belt and collar are the mushroom shade of the mid tone of the pattern - a less obvious choice than the red or cream, but that adds a subtle interest to the look.

Sexy musician @little_mod_chick is living up to her Twitter name with this sharp, monochrome look.  White tights and that high neck top aren't easy to ear, but they work here because firstly, she's very slender, but it would work on someone with a less slim figure because the look is cohesive - we buy into the overall theme and therefore don't pay too much critical scrutiny to the individual parts.

The blooming @mrsfran really made an effort here - this empire line dress flatters but also emphasises her bump, the colouring enhances her hair and she's even braved heels.  Wedges are a great option for increased comfort and stability in a high heel.

Making the effort at the Edinburgh fringe festival, @_idioteque jazzes up an easy-wear combination of leggings and slouchy cardigan with some gorgeous turquoise pieces.  The little dress is dark enough to cope with all the black around it - but the short length looks feminine and fun.  The scarf gives coverage and at the same time an injection of complimentary colour close to her fabulous bright hair.

ScifiSam always gives good photo - here she's showing off another beautiful, bright maxi dress.  The floral design against the white is so summery and fresh and those vintage-looking duck-egg-blue mary-janes, and the large white earrings are the perfect finishing touches to the outfit.

Another beautiful maxi dress, this time worn by Queen of Goths. The halter top here gives enough emphasis to her fabulous boobs that the otherwise heavy, dark hem is balanced out.  Maxi dresses aren't for everyone - you want to avoid the dalek look at all costs - and drawing attention to a full bust can help, as can a substantial necklace, as here.

This is my favourite effort so far from @hayleyjgreen.  It's actually a top and skirt with the wrap tunic over the top - but you'd never know as the reds are well-coordinated.  So, the red top and bottom, with the straightness of the skirt gives a kind of elongating column effect, and then the diagonal lines of the crossover are flatteringly slimming.

Bee looks fresh and sexy in this primrose yellow frock from American retailer Modcloth.  The sixties-sleek black boots and handbag add a grown up, retro edge to what would also work as a very girly, pretty frock.  It's another way to wear light, summer frocks in cooler spring and autumn weather.

My penultimate frock for August is from first timer Iguana. The shape is pure Joan Holloway and it's a silhouette that looks really good on most bodies - thighs hips and bums are all fine whatever the size (don't go too tight), but it doesn't really work with a large tummy.  Not that Iguana need worry - she looks fabulous.  The neat, inch-wide belt is very this season, and the pattern is stylish and tasteful.  The colours here will work right through winter: try it with seamed stockings and the new Autumn/Winter shoe shape (pointed toe with an overheight kitten heel).

Lastly, peerless coordination from @BeBelongy.  The stylish cream and black of the cute dress is matched with the knitted beret with pearl brooch to trim, and the perfect pumps (below).  Notice too that she's kept her lips pale, which works with this slightly mod-ish, retro look.  She even co-ordinated her baby in a cute knit outfit, but I think Mum is more stylish this week.

It's been really hard narrowing it down to ten outfits - I hope no one who was left out is discouraged.  The main point of Friday frocks is, I hope, the feeling you get when you dress up.  Viva Friday frocks!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Sooner or later you need more wardrobe space - Donate!

A quicky today - on a borrowed computer from leg two of my holiday.

This Saturday the British Heart Foundation are encouraging people to donate to their charity shops... but while I'm sure they'd be glad of all good quality second hand clothes - imagine how fabulous the collected donations of the Swelegant Style Shopping readership would be.

Have a think: is there something lovely you bought for an occassion but now doesn't fit?  That sale bargain that you've realised doesn't suit you?  The shoes that were so painful the only time you wore them that you can't bear to look at them?  I'm not talking misshapen old jumpers and skirts with broken zips...  the British Heart Foundation charity shops are there to raise money: last year they raised over £20 million to help fight heart disease (the UK's biggest killer), and the better quality your donations, the more they can raise. 

Go on...  your nearest BHF shop can be found here: any day is good, and as you can see from the image at the top of the page this campaign is pushing to the end of September, but this Saturday is the big day. I'll be at the Dalry Road branch in Edinburgh because I've been set a challenge. I've been asked to style a gorgeous outfit out of the stock in the shop. I'll write it all up when I'm home next week and you can see the photos of my efforts.  Of course, when you donate, it's the perfect opportunity to pick up some fabulous pieces of your own, not only helping a brilliant cause, and being eco-friendly but also paying a fraction of the 'new' price...

Thursday, 12 August 2010

A Bumper Compendium of Friday Frocks: Part Two - Week Eleven

I'm on my holidays, and despite being assured that there'd be internet access, I've only been able to get online today. Picture the scene - husband and I arrive at our gorgeous cottage for a relaxing, romantic escape, only for me to wail 'But what about the blog?!'

So - week eleven. First we have Nicola looking very sporty but no less glam in this cute blue and white frock.  The regular summer visitation of nautical fashion themes isn't to everyone's taste, but navy and white can look fresh and flattering. Look for spots or simple floral prints to bring these colours into your own style.

A beautiful, glam-dressed-down look from 'wayward bob' next. For many of us this would be very dressy indeed, but Bob tends to rock a more tailored, vintage look. It's still Friday frocktastic, though - the button-detailing and the collar give a hint of 1940s tea dress, and the soft red shade of the hoody makes the outfit look sexy, in a well-behaved, taking-the-kids-to-the-park kind of way.

The first Friday frocks couple are @christhewinter and @wintersgroupie. he looks very smart from what I can see - I love that marine blue wash of the jeans - but Ms groupie looks simply stunning.  The gladiator sandals work with the maxi dress because there's no leg-line to cut off, and of course the two together combine in creating a classical look.  The detailing on the dress is well chosen too.  The chunky scale of the buckle ring is flattering, and the pale colour of it helps to lend a certain lightness to the otherwise overwhelming black: important with such fair colouring.

This is 'madzone' and it's her first Friday frock offering - doesn't she look great?  We've seen a lot of black and grey combinations over the weeks, and you can expect to see many more.  The leggings and the cardigan give comfort, coverage and practicality, allowing the sexy lower neckline to feel 'daytime'.  The belt is flattering, emphasising the waist, and the width of it is in proportion to the fullness of the skirt.  The chunky pearls are effortless glamour and the eye makeup is a little bit rock-chick sexy.

A similar look this week from Maeve - but the cherry-red gives a completely different feel. I wear a lot of red, but from an unbiased perspective, red is associated with passion - and so it's sexy, but it's also bright.  Bright colours draw attention: they look vibrant and suggest energy, so there's an association of fun too.  Not all reds suit all people, but it's worth finding the ones that suit you.

Lesley is wearing the most gorgeous vintage dress this week - all tailored darts and seaming, showing off her trim curves. Lovely as it is, she's wise to let the dress be centre of our attention - with bold florals it's best to keep accessories simple, as we see here (cat optional).

Another week and another torso shot from 'strumpet'. It's a beautifully detailed top covered with a cardigan, and a good example of how you can Friday frock even if, as here, you're going to be busy moving house and lugging boxes all day.  Notice too, how a closed fitting cardigan can make the waist look tiny.

It's the blooming, beautiful mum-to-be @mrsfran next.  The tunic worn with wide-leg trousers is a perennial favourite, but this one's particularly lovely, and flattering to a larger bust with its crossover, kimono-style neckline. The wave-shaped line at the hem and neck edges  is feminine and soft, too.

There's a really energetic-geometric pattern on the dress @hayleyjgreen is wearing this week. The longer lines and closer fit of the dress are flattering as is the crossover neckline and long sleeve.  The whole effect is smart but also quite fun, especially with those cute green mary-janes.

No frocking by me this week (I was ill in bed), so I'll let @Girl_In_A_Box have the last word. A simply swelegant, summery, stylishly-casual look, dressed up by that showstopping dragonfly necklace and the detailing of the scarf used as a belt.  The lemon pastel palette tones without being too matchy, and although you wouldn't see much of it as worn, I love that 'retro illustration' design - is that Nicola on her bike?

Friday, 6 August 2010

A Bumper Compendium of Friday Frocks: Part One - Week Ten

The wait is over - I've tested your patience long enough and now I've recovered from my illness I can, over the next 24 hours, bring you up to date with a double helping of Friday Frocks.

Let's start with 'ScifiSam' who looks elegant and fresh in this peacock-patterned maxi dress.  It's a great choice for her, it flatters her long legs and the top has sufficient construction to enhance and support her boobs.  The gladiator sandals add to the whole 'greek goddess' thing, too.

Edie says that she didn't feel very pretty, so this isn't a pretty dress.  Well it maybe not 'pretty' but - wow! When you have legs like this you don't need to worry about the vertical line being interrupted by the straps on these dynamite sandals, and the effect is just stunning.  Apparently she put on some lace leggings for the school run. I bet she was a sensation: fabulous!

Miss-Shelf had the day off, and therefore had the luxury of sporting two contrasting Friday frock looks. The red kaftan is glorious: dark hair means you can get away with such a bright display. Then the pretty pink summer dress with vintage-style cardigan adds up to a real sense of innocence... although perhaps an underskirt would be advised if one were really worried about modesty!

Rozi says this is her favourite skirt ever, and what the extra length does from my perspective is to emphasise her height. It's all down to those uninterrupted vertical blocks of colour.  I love the flower in her hair, too. It pulls in the red top and makes the look feel cohesive, but it's also fun.

The lovely, but shy 'Strumpet' has taken the plunge and sent us a photo of a rather gorgeous monochrome paisley patterned frock.  I love the structured empire line here: it defined the boobs and makes them look higher.

@Girl_In_A_Box went for my favourite: the dotty frock. It's really nicely tailored which flatters and emphasises her curves.  The little black cardigan makes it look smarter and more grown up - more businesslike: pale colours can look a little 'playtime'.

It seems to have been the week for fabulous pins. Nicola is showing off some very shapely legs in this sexy, tulip-hemmed wrap dress.  The way that line curves up the thighs is red hot - but the look is kept daytime and fun by those cute little round-toed shoes.

Maeve has summoned the spirit of the eighties with this black and pale pink colour combination.  The hair flower is old-world feminine, and that's why it works with the ladylike pearls.

Then she's married the two with these cute pale pink pumps with a pearlescent finish. Sometimes I wonder how much accessory storage Maeve must have... I'm so jealous!

It takes patience and dedication, but if you're uninspired by current trends, ebay is the place to track down bargainous, vintage pieces. It's also very sustainable, of course, to give existing clothes a new lease of life rather than consuming more and more brand new resources. This kingfisher blue sundress is just the thing for a warm summer day.
It's also the place to look for older vintage pieces, like wayward bob's gorgeous 1940s tea dress (which she's styled here with a hand knitted cardigan for authentic Blitz-era style). Bob wrote something about Friday frocks that I really loved, and with her permission I'm reproducing it here.

"I really think it isn't. it's about taking chances and wearing stuff that makes you happy. I realise lots of people might not feel happy out of a comfort zone of jeans, or get self-conscious about showing bits you'd rather not, but to me it's partly about pushing comfort zones and finding that maybe it's easier than you thought.

Last week I mentioned feeling self-conscious about the whole 40s thing, yet today I went to sainsbos in full forties (minus the hair), something I would never have done if I hadn't been doing the frock thing (if I take the pic I feel I have to wear the frock all day). I would have found it so much harder to get over the hurdle of wearing things that I feel might draw attention outside the house otherwise, maybe I would never have done it.

It's about spending a little time thinking about what makes you feel - for want of a better word - a little more "special" than usual, and ignoring the fact that you haven't got an occasion to go to, just for the sake of it."

Trudi is showing off her brand new pirate-print tea dress from Vivien of Holloway here. I love the way it takes the traditional shape of the garment and juxtaposes it with a modern, fun fabric.  She's wearing a blue belt as an accent colour here, which coordinates with her tattoo and the streaks in her hair - she's on the look out for some blue shoes in exactly the right shade, but in the meantime, nude will do.

It's a Friday frocks debut for 'weepiper' - and she treated us to two very glamorous looks (tights in July? Must be a Scottish Swelegant type). Both these dresses flatter her petite frame through their trim tailoring.

She's accessorised them with this gorgeous swallow necklace.  The swallow here is part of the same aesthetic as the recent trend in traditional tattoo art - which makes it both feminine and slightly arch.

@BeBelongy looks fabulously cool and breezy here in this strapless maxi dress.  The sexiness of the strapless bodice is somewhat softened by the neutral verdigris colour, and the lightweight fabric is given some grounding by the sold, chunky belt.

Mum and daughter here. We've seen 'foamy' before, and here she's showing off her simple black outfit with luxurious metallic sandals and an attractive necklace.  I have to say, though, that her mum is in danger of outshining her with this outfit: the white linen trousers are light and summery, and the rest of the outfit is beautifully colour coordinated.

Another beautifully coordinated outfit, this time from 'Queen of Goths'.  Grey is really big in the shops this summer, and will only become more prevalent as we move into Autumn/Winter. It coordinates perfectly with black, as we can see here - and those little pumps show that neutral colours can still be playful and cute.

Another look that's very popular in high street stores at the moment is what are called 'tribal' prints. This dress capitalises on that trend, and is in a lightweight summer fabric, but the more autumnal colour palette suits @hayleyjgreen's colouring and makes it easier to wear with dark trousers.

Amanda was concerned that she wasn't making enough effort for Friday frocks, but since I know that she wears trouser the rest of the week, this beautiful skirt is all the effort she needs to, hopefully, feel a bit special.  It's a lovely skirt - I adore the colours, and once again the darker background makes it ideal for combining with something dark - in this case a black top.

Finally, Friday frocks week ten was the last day of term at my school.  Clare celebrated in this gorgeous, military-style dress from Next (you may remember it from my recommendation a few weeks ago). The buttons accentuate her fabulous curves, without exposing any cleavage. Very swelegant.

My beautiful friend Dunni is leaving us to work in Dubai. She looked stylish on her last day in this simple but glam dress from Marks and Spencer, and picked up the metallic detailing on the shoulder with some subtle shimmering eyeshadow.Gorgeous.

Megan has a large collection of beautiful dresses, and this dotty green frock is one of my favourites. People avoid bright green, but this jade tone flatters most pale skins. And on top of which, you can't knock a dotty frock.  That's two so far this week...

What can I say?  I love this dress - and although it's really a bit too small at the moment, it still looks quite flattering.  Notice the little half-hive too. Well... it was the last day of term!