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!