Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Friday Frocks - Long and Hot and Sixy

The sixth week of Friday frocks and we have a bumper crop.  Firstly, here come the boys:

pic removed by request (sept 2012)

Your eyes don't deceive you, and this isn't a distorted picture - this jacket really does feature the kind of pattern you see if you get too close to your TV screen.  I love it! I bet it attracts attention all day long.  On a design level, see how the pattern gets smaller as the jacket tapers in? That's pretty neat.

One of my colleagues, next - and isn't this shirt gorgeous? The print has quite a vintage feel, and it isn't too much for work because the tailoring is neat and close-fitting.  It helps too, that Hugo is quite a trim guy: that pattern over a much larger frame would look a little like soft furnishings, and what man wants to look like a sofa?

Lastly, for the gents @mikedixon honoured us with a new T shirt.  Cant say I'm much of one for slogans or jokes on clothes, but I do like the retro-americana styling with the contrast neck and yoked sleeves. And the moody look - you have to love a moody look.  He's a musician, you know, ladies...

Say hello to trashy. Trashy is a very, very close friend of mine and I truly love her, but this is the first time she's braved Friday Frocks.  What kept you, beautiful? Here she looks sophisticated and cool in a floaty-but-tailored black dress. I love the deep V neckline, it makes the dress sophisticatedly sexy - and it's enhanced by a simple silver necklace of exactly the right length.  Those Audrey Hepburn-style sunglasses? Divine.  The darkness and size balances out the dress against her fair colouring.

Rebecca lives in Ireland, and I guess it must've been a bit cooler there last Friday, because she's chosen to team up this simple black sundress (simple, but gorgeously flattering and boobtastic) with jeans and a cardie.  The dark denim works with the black dress - and of course jeans are practical for a busy mum - while the soft rose cardigan adds a flattering flash of colour and enhances her auburn hair.  Accessorising with a three year old in full Spiderman regalia? I love it. And if even toddlers can get on board with Friday frocks, what excuse have the rest of us got?

Speaking of small people, I know that lots of you loved Poppy, @BeBelongy's baby daughter last week.  Well here's mum! This is a lovely sundress, but styled up to look very swelegant.  Belting a dress can be a great way to show off your shape and add a certain something - and here that tan leather belt has been echoed by some lovely heeled sandals.  Then the chunky necklace gives the top of the outfit balance against that full skirt.

I need to apologise to a couple of lovely ladies for missing them out last week. I expect I occasionally will forget what photos I've been sent - please, please remind me if I do.  Charlotte looks so sophisticated here - this tailored dress is given a look of softness by the draped neckline, and the ballet pumps are the perfect retro-friendly option for people on their feet all day.

Less practical footwear from Megan, but I love the contrast of these twenties-style cutout 'tap shoes' against the black tights.  The eau de nil shade of the vintage-look dress (tiny pleats are such a lovely fashion detail at the moment) is picked up in the ribbons tying her shoes.  I adore this look - so cute.

Back to this week and another colourful frock from the woman in black: @Girl_In_A_Box... I may faint! This is a simple linen shift dress, but the idiosyncratic black jewellery, retro eyemakeup and 'up do' make the overall look unmistakably glam.

Maeve is rocking an actual skirt this week - which she tells me is a novelty for her. I don't know why, because she wears it well.  Immaculately colour co-ordinated as always, the little cardigan makes the outfit fun and is wonderful against Maeve's reddish hair colour.

Another turquoise cardie - this time from Trudi who is looking positively girly. Those silver pendants are just the most flattering length, and because of where they sit they break up the blackness of the top - tying it in to the patterned skirt.  I really love those ultra-pared-back sandals too.  Glitzy and practical.

I love the shape of Amanda's dress, here. The neckline is so flattering and respectably sexy, and the empire-line cut and A-line skirt give an impression of height and long-leggedness.  It looks really cool and airy, too.

Now, this is @_idioteque's Friday frock look - but it raises the question... is a Friday night outfit a Friday frock? Well, technically, no... probably not.  BUT - I'm happy to feature them anyway. Grey is Hugely fashionable at the moment, but it can look washed out and dull.  This outfit pulls the grey into sharp focus by teaming it with black throughout - on different scales.  I'd love to see more of those shoes - the contrast platform sole not only works with the contrast pattern on the skirt, but is eyecatching enough to be a focal point for the outfit.

@Girl_In_A_Box again, this time with first time Friday frocker @LittleModChick - ready to paint the town red. @LittleModChick pulls off the difficult horizontal stripes of the current nautical trend - but in such a showstopping top, wisely doesn't go too short with her skirt. Conversely, @Girl_In_A_Box covers up her cleavage in favour of showing off her fabulous pins in a pair of daringly short shorts.

@BeBelongy looks tanned and sultry here in this flattering maxi dress for her Friday night. Once again she shows her eye for accessorising with those two simple wooden bangles  - natural materials enhancing the kind of glam-hippy look.

A headless Bonita next - she sent me this Friday evening frock last week, actually - but it fits in with the Party Frock theme. I know regular readers will recognise the fabric as being the same as my peacock dress from the summer party a few weeks back  - but this style, also from Collectif last year, is shorter and more flirty.  To avoid too much exposure, Bon is wearing a beautifully matched vest top underneath - always an option to make you feel more secure.

Lastly me, in a pair of dotty frocks. In my Friday frock I've inadvertently managed to channel the eighties - it's a bit Strawberry Switchblade, and that's no bad thing.  On the Saturday night, at my Mother-in-Law's birthday party, I rocked my new frock from Collectif, and very pleased I am with it, too

So there you go - week six: a bumper crop.  But keep sending them in - regulars and newbies; young and old; male and female. And keep spreading the word!

Monday, 28 June 2010

Short-and-Sweet and Super Slim Summer Smarts - A Mission

I received a plea for help from a lady known to me only as Hellsbells:

Can I ask for some urgent advice please?

I have an interview on Friday for a PGCE and don't know what to wear. It's been years since I had an interview of any kind and don't own any smart trousers or skirts. I was hoping to get away with wearing smart black jeans, but not sure this is a good idea. Plus, in this heat, I'd probably be stupidly uncomfortable.

I find buying trousers that fit properly REALLY hard. Practically impossible actually.
I'm petite - about 5 foot 1. And very slim. So for anything to look decent on me, it has to be pretty fitted. Don't know what's going on with sizes in shops, but trousers in Next (for eg), in a size 6 in the petite range - they just fall off me or look utterly ridiculous.
Should I wear a skirt instead? And if so, what kind of length/style etc?

Thanks for your help

Sometimes, we all need to look smart. Some jobs require an everyday level of spit-and-polish, while others - like teaching - are a little more relaxed day to day.  Some jobs are T shirt and jeans territory... but almost all of us need to look tailored and groomed for interviews, and although this is for a course (post-graduate teacher training, for the uninitiated), it's the sort of thing that demands a professional-looking appearance.  But then - wow, but it was meltingly hot today.  Looking the part may be important but if you're too flushed and flustered to answer your interviewer with your customary charm and sparkle...? Well, you may as well be dressed in your pyjamas. So we need to find a balance - on the one hand, smart; on the other hand we need to keep it cool.

The answer, my swelegant lovelies, lies in dresses.  If you weren't going for elegance and poise you could be cool and comfy in a loose linen trouser, but linen is too soft and crumply to give a super-professional impression.  The two dresses above will both allow cooling breezes to circulate around your bits and pieces, and while they are superficially similar, not all Little Black(ish) Dresses are created equal. The dress on the left is from Marks and Spencers' petite range.  It's £29.50 and available in sizes 6 to 18.  The dress on the right is also from the petite range, is £35 and available in sizes 6-18. So which is better?  It's the latter.  Hellsbells is a teeny size 6, so we can safely assume she doesn't need to worry about that high neckline making her boobs look matronly, as a more buxom girl would, and the benefit of that is the fabulous retro styling that the neckline gives (along with that perfect little belt). Think Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy - the slightly pointed low-heeled pumps add to the early-sixties look. Also, it's not black, but rather charcoal grey: an entirely more flattering colour for almost everyone. Dark grey also manages too look more expensive than black, even in a budget-friendly man-made fibre like this. Lastly, the lack of sleeve will help keep Hellsbells cool as air can get to the underarms too.  We can't all look smart when sleeveless - those of us with flabby arms can't help making the place look untidy if we let them wobble around freely - but a size six has no such problem.  Cover shoulders and decolletage, of course - but the arms can be exposed without compromising your smartness.

Both those dresses are very plain, though.  It is possible to look more 'fashion forward' (to use a revoltingly fashionista phrase) while still communicating grown-up intelligence. My least favourite high-street shop seems to be having a little moment of style.  The navy dress above (available in a size 6, petite length - but also in regular and tall length and sizes up to 22) is rather fabulous.  The matte, businesslike fabric is enhanced by feature seaming and silver buttons to create a suitably subtle but unmistakably stylish military feel.  It's £28.

So far all the dresses have been super-sober, but this is an interview for a potential teacher, and teaching is all about personality - so how about some colour? Also from Next (I know...!) and available in the same range of sizes and lengths is this soft raspberry pink dress - a colour muted enough to be sensible but bright enough to fit the season (£38).  In terms of cut, this dress is in the same family as the charcoal Marks and Spencers dress above - more contemporary (with the draped skirt) but also not quite as smart at the waist.  For that reason it's not a clear winner: you'd have to decide whether fabulous tailoring or gorgeous colour is more 'you'.

Regarding the rest of your outfit - I'd accessorise with black: even with the navy dress as matching blues can be hellishly hard.  A low 1 - 2 inch court shoe or mary-jane would be ideal, but a well polished ballet pump would do (no sandals or peeptoes, though), and a plain black bag or slim briefcase. Keep jewellery minimal, and probably silver for all of these outfits. If you want to take a warmer layer, a black, lightweight fitted cardigan in the twinset style would be better than a jacket.  Despite ettiquette I think, in extremely hot weather, that you needn't wear tights: so long as you aren't self conscious of your legs being blotchy or some other such thing.  If you do choose hosiery, go to the locale bare legged and take two pairs of 10 denier, non-shiny, skintone (not tan) tights in your handbag.  Put one on in a cafe loo just before you arrive - the second pair is in case you ladder the first through nerves or plain old cack-handedness... or is that just me?

And good luck! Teaching, eh? Why anyone'd d want to do a thing like that I'll never know...

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Friday Frock Factor Five

Lots and lots of new visitors to the blog this week, so if that's you: welcome, and let me tell you all about Friday Frocks. Just over a month ago I launched a manifesto to spread a little happiness through making an extra effort with what you wear on a Friday.  It doesn't have to be a frock, boys can join in, and it's all relative to your own everyday standards of glam.  For you, Friday Frocks might be a whole showstopping look, or it might just be a clean T-shirt... so long as you made the extra effort in honour of Friday, and doing so made you feel good about yourself.

 Last Friday was the fifth week of Friday Frocks and I know through checking the hashtag #fridayfrocks on Twitter that lots and lots of people in the UK, and also several in New Zealand and in Ireland are now dosing themselves up with Friday fabulousness.  But it's the usual suspects who are sending me their pics.  Can we make it a mission for next week?  If you are or know a Friday Frocker who we haven't seen here before, capture their image and sent it to me! (Email address is on the left of the page) Of course, I do still want to see the hardcore loyal swelegencia... and why wouldn't I when they look as fabulous as Maeve in a dotty outfit I could die for.  Gorgeous with her colouring, too.

Making good on her promise of colour, @Girl_in_a_Box here looks fresh as a country garden, despite the service-station loos backdrop!  If you don't feel the ditsy, floral type, something more down to earth, like this chunky leather belt can make the outfit more 'you'.  It works because the light floral fabric is juxtaposed with the solidity of the belt, which accentuates the femininity without making it feel 'too much'.

Suzi here is working a summery, preppy look for a day at home - and helpfully proving that frocks are optional.  The soft blue cardigan looks rich against the more utilitarian fabrics of the rest of the outfit, and lends an air of luxury.  I love those simple black birkenstocks too.  You can wear black sandals with bare legs, but avoid too much foot coverage: these are perfect.

She also got creative and treated herself (and us) to an elegant updo.  It's the kind of thing that Friday frocks is all about: a little extra effort that makes you feel a little bit special all day.

After last week's gorgeous maxi dress, Bonita is a hot contender once again for frock of the week in this fabulous monochrome number.  The angel sleeves and deep V neckline are super-flattering, even for those of us not as slim as Bonita, and the addition of the broad black belt gives shape and finish  to the look.  This kind of stylised floral pattern is a great way to 'wear summer' even if you're not the flowery type
My offering this week (and please ignore the somewhat sulky face) isn't a frock either.  I bought this skirt in the sale at Monsoon a few years ago, but have only worn it a couple of times as I'm really not fond of navy.  I don't know quite how it can have taken me so long however, to notice that some of the flower appliques are red which is definitely a favourite colour. Loved this outfit, and got loads of compliments around school.  Sometimes you need to know what works for you.  For me, there are summery colours - pastels make me look ill!

In the end, though, we were all outclassed by @BeBelongy's eleven week old daughter.  As a new mum she felt Friday Frocks was something she could best express through her delicious babe, and I think we'd all agree that the youngest member of the swelegencia wears it very well.

So - that was week five.  Get planning for Friday and don't forget to send me the evidence!

Monday, 21 June 2010


An enticing idea today.

An American company, Spoonflower, offers something quite unusual: the opportunity to have fabric printed to your own design. You can have your design printed onto a range of fabrics, ranging in price from $16.20 to $28.80 per yard (£10.98 to £19.52) which you can then sew yourself - or persuade / pay a talented tailor or seamstress - into the clothing of your dreams. There's even a cotton knit, a soft t-shirt fabric which would make darling baby clothes.  There are lots of ideas on the site, but I've had a little play with some photos and pictures to give you an idea of what you could do.

The built in design software allows you to repeat your pattern with a horizontal staggering - as at the top of the post - a vertical drop, as above, or a simple repeat, as with this old map of London below.

You can choose a single design to cover the whole width of the fabric, but it would have to be at a minimum resolution of 150dpi. Alternatively, you can easily reduce the size of the design for more repeats on the fabric. There is also the mirror effect, which reverses your image through its horizontal and vertical axis and creates something quite unusual.

I'm not sure photographs would look quite right, but there's all kind of scope to get creative - scan in a child's drawing, alter an image using one of the many effects engines available online, make a collage out of the concert tickets, keepsakes and ephemera of your life...  And turn it into... a bag, a skirt, a headscarf, a cushion, a dress, a shirt... anything you could imagine. 

Yes the company is in the states, but postage is reasonable.  For a fat quarter (that's a yard divided in half lengthways and widthways, as opposed to a thin, quarter-yard strip) of the lightest weight fabric it's $1 domestically and $2 to the rest of the world - that's experimentation price!  To ship a whole yard of that weight is only $7 internationally - which is £4.75.  I should point out that there is always the risk of your package attracting a customs fee too, but that's always a risk when buying from overseas... it's the luck of the draw, essentially.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Summer Party Style

What with Friday Frocks, I'm doing a lot of analysis of real people's looks lately - but I think that's no bad thing.  Part of the point of Swelegant Style Shopping is that people see what will work for them: not an eighteen year old with a figure my father used to describe as 'racing snake'.

On Saturday, I went to a birthday party (which of course didn't really get going until after the England match...).  The birthday girl is known as a bit of a style icon, and her guests really rose to the occasion too. This is birthday girl Lesley, looking the picture of relaxed elegance in a much-less-expensive-than-it-looks intricately knotted ribbon shift dress from H&M. The photo doesn't do this dress justice, sadly - it really was fabulously textural and the pale tone suit's Lesley's colouring in a really flattering way.  Those sandals are pared back elegance too - striking the right note between 'garden' and 'party'.

Also elegant, in a gorgeous midnight blue satin dress with fabulously feminine but structural waterfall-style shoulder detail, was this lady.  The dress was all grown up eveningwear, but the choice of accessories here subtly changes the message to something a little more fun. The feather hair clip is from Accessorise, and all those fabulous bird-of-paradise colours are picked up in the glass ring.  It's an injection of colour appropriate for the occasion but not taken too far.

More casual, but fabulously put together, Fay's longline Topshop jumper is so flattering to her petite frame.  For knitwear, this too is really structural and almost space-aged, and the necklace is the perfect length and solidity to draw the eye down from that otherwise quite severe neckline.

A masterpiece of colour coordination next, from the wonderful Hattie.  All the colours in that scarf are gorgeous jewel tones that flatter her complexion - and she's chosen the jade-turquoise shade to create the backdrop against which to show the scarf off.  Wearing a patterned scarf in this way adds interest, and by having one end trailing down there is a lengthening, slimming vertical line created.  Such a scarf though really needs the plain backdrop Hattie has provided.  The accessorising here is faultless too: those glasses in a mock tortoiseshell of exactly the same shade of greeny blue. The colour of glasses frames can really help an outfit look cohesive - but be aware that the colour probably needs to be subtle, as here, if it is to flatter your complexion.

More coordination here.  This gorgeous royal purple and pale gold silk dress is dressed down perfectly with the well-fitted indigo denim jacket.  Again, the effect is 'party-dress-but-informal-too'.  The jacket also helps break up the purple, allowing the lovely patchwork leather bag (which I think this lady said was by Marni) and the purple cocktail ring to add to the cohesive nature of this look, without being to overwhelmingly 'matchy'.

See those lovely shoes in the background?  Guess whose?

You've seen both these items before (dress and shoes) but I was quite pleased with this outfit so I wanted to share.  Indulge me.  The dress, by the way is by Collectif, who I mentioned on Wednesday.  Although that fabulous peacock fabric is sadly no more, the dress itself is the 'stella doll' style which is still available in lots of fabrics and is also essentially the same cut as their sailor frock.  I've repositioned the halterneck to make shoulder straps, is all.  Flattering, no? Of course unlike everyone else, I totally failed to get the balance between dressy and casual.  I always tend to err on the side of glam...

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Good News for More Retro-Loving girls.

 A couple of my very favourite dresses were from the online boutique Collectif.  They specialise in retro looks with a slightly punky edge, and at pretty reasonable prices... But about eighteen months ago, with no explanation, they stopped stocking anything over a size 16.  I was disappointed - I sent an email on behalf of the blog - but no response was given (which I still think is pretty shocking customer service). To the present day, though, and not only have Collectif begun to reintroduce sizes up to a 22 (in a very limited range of stock now, but the website seems to have been set up to suggest that bigger sizes will become the norm) but also until 21st June you can get a 20% discount if you enter the code SUGAR at checkout.  I can't lie - I did just that, buying the frock above.

The polka dot dress (£50 - various colours and prints) I bought is basically the same shape and style as the cute sailor dress (£55, also available in black and navy).  It's flattering to hourglass shapes, disguises tummies, bums and thighs, and can be worn with a flouncy retro underskirt (available in many other retro stores) for more fifties-tastic impact.

If you have a more flat stomach, there are plenty of pencil skirts and wiggle dresses in the range (although not yet in the larger sizes). I love the 'Lust' dress, above, for its dramatic portrait collar and asymmetric buttons (£50).

There are separates too - of which the Dolores top (£25) is my buxom favourite.  The curves of this clever neckline will enhance small boobs, while flattering the fuller embonpoint because of it's diagonal lines.

There is also a new range by  Bordello Shoes on the site.  All fantastically impractical, I particularly love these 'too fabulous to be true' Teeze platforms (£49.95).

If you're new to Collectif, I think it's well worth a look - generally reasonable value, and with a 20% reduction as well, you may find something to treat yourself with.