Quick Fixes - things that make you feel good cheaply and easily!
My first experience with fake nails was about 25 years ago, trying the kind that have a sticker on the back. They were not a total success. After that I’m pretty sure I tried the ones that come with glue but they weren’t terribly stylish when I was a youth, often too long and some fairly vicious reds and pinks. And I got the nail glue everywhere.
I go through phases of trying to paint my nails and keep them looking smart but they smudge or chip almost immediately and I can never seem to get them to dry really hard, no matter what products I use. I have had gel manicures before and that, I love. Glossy, long-lasting, cool colours: just awesome. But I really can’t justify the cost of the upkeep.
Imagine my delight then, when I stumbled across the fake nails in Primark- in blue, purple, matte! And a practical length. Me and my big sister both bought some with a view to applying them before dinner that night, and apply them I did- with a glass of wine in hand and in a very slapdash manner. And they came out pretty alright, with the exception of at least one slight size mismatch. After two and a bit weeks, I’ve had to do running repairs- at least one nail per day- but the 36 in a pack has meant that I have plenty to replace the lost ones with. Being in Amsterdam for a few days with my best girls, it was fab to have ‘finished’ nails even as the balls of my feet screamed in pain. Then my lovely lady P suggested that I buy more expensive glue for longevity and it’s been a genius idea.
And that ‘more expensive’ is still only about four quid. You just have to be a tiny bit more careful with it as there’s much more room for sticking fingers together, so I would definitely start with the Primark glue until you get the hang of it.
So I went to Primark and bought lots of other colours! They’re all £1 a pack, but some of the fancier ‘Design’ ones have 24 in a pack instead of 36. Either way, I doubled up so that I had plenty for replacement nails. Yes it won’t be doing the nails underneath a tonne of good but I can’t find it in me to care- I have glossy, pastel nails!
Things I have learnt
- Be decisive: if you wait too long or are too cautious about placing the nail, you will get it stuck halfway on. This is not a good look.
- Buy nail varnish remover pots: Wilkinson’s do such things for £1. You don’t want anything fancy and I doubt the cheap pots are much good for nail polish. but they will dissolve problem nails (which is very handy when you’ve stuck one halfway up the nail instead of at the cuticle)
- The matte ones don’t stay matte.
- The nail sizes are really good, so I think most people could probably find these to fit, even if larger-handed ladies might need to buy a couple of packs to get as many larger sizes as they need. If you have unusually-shaped nails, they might not work tho (sorry Kathry..)
My poor little pup has faced a double whammy of being without me (some would say this is a blessing… some would need to shove that somewhere rude) as I return to work and of having a really-and-truly nasty cold. His coughing fits shake his whole little body – imagine an actual puppy in a tumble dryer and you have an inkling. Thursday was truly horrible with me having to come back from work, my husband having an uber crappy day, even without a poorly boy at home, and that general feeling of ‘holy f*ck, we’re screwed’-ness. We tried to restore our spirits with a KFC and the Downton Abbey Christmas album on the stereo which worked a treat until pup had a coughing fit and vomited THE LARGEST AMOUNT OF VOMIT I HAVE EVER SEEN onto his father’s shoulder. Seriously. Sometimes it is not better out than in…….
The aforementioned return to work has meant a reprisal of the dreaded commute. Ahh, the shouldering of others out the way and stomp towards the ticket barrier…. Such halcyon days *sarcasm klaxon*. Anyhoo, the commute demands a suitable soundtrack and for me that has been Andy Burrows’ Company, Florence & the Machine’s Ceremonials, and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack on shuffle. What I lack in musical kudos I make up for in complete randomness.
On the subject of music, cult mag NME is now being thrown at commuters along with Stylist and the Evening Standard. This is my new favourite though as the Katherine Ryan column is complete and utter class (sorry for the fangirl-ism). The current issue features a review of the year’s music, film and TV and I would be lying if I said that I don’t feel like a terminally uncool person as a result. Who is Grimes? Or Wolf Alice? Or Swim Deep? I have seen none of the ten films featured (not even Jurassic World which has ‘suitable for a sleep deprived parent’ written all over it) and am only just holding onto my credibility by having consumed the epic Channel 4 sitcom Catastrophe which features in the mag’s TV chart. With this seemingly comprehensive list of what I’ve missed, I might just have catch up by the time next year’s review is out. Mebbe.
I have been living in a very cheap and somewhat cheerful coatigan this week, courtesy of the sales in Primark. I’m not sure there’s anything more depressing than buying from the SALE in PRIMARK but at £7 for a camel coloured oversized cardy-thingy, I’m not complaining too much. The colour and slouchy fit have meant that I’ve worn this in lieu of a coat this week, which has proved foolish for several reasons: first, it is entirely manmade fibre so way too warm in the mild December mornings, and second, it is, essentially, a big ol’ cardigan so in no way warm enough now that proper December temperatures have descended. I wish I could say I am suffering from fashion but I fear Wintour herself would smite me if I dared align myself with the F word.
Want to do some shopping? Me too! I still have loads of Christmas pressies to buy but who cares? Let’s shop! Top picks for a rather girly state of mind and all under thirty quids:
I have fine, fine, baby hair. If you have such hair and you’re ok with it then I’m thrilled for you, but I can only describe my hair as thin and also crappy. Realising the LIE of most famous women’s hair- that even a full barnet is usually enhanced by extensions, I’m looking at you Kate Middleton- has helped my pain a little. But the fact remains that my hair is poker-straight, ‘lank’ is not too harsh a word most days, and it’s prone to being weighed down by product so it’s a constant balancing act to get the combination right. And even when that happens, an hour later it’s flat-to-head.
When I went for a haircut November last year and asked for ‘shoulder-length’, I was nearly inconsolable when she cut it to my chin. It’s not a flattering length on me, having such a round face, and it meant losing a good 6-8 inches, around half of which I had not intended to lose. “Oh well”, I thought, “at least I’ll be able to get some volume in my hair again”. NU-UH. Taking care of my hair, regularly colouring it, and using decent products means that my mane is as healthy as it’s ever been, which makes it even more difficult to style. If that sounds illogical, just think about how much easier it is to get volume and texture into hair with broken bits and messed-up hair shafts. Stupid healthy hair was doing me no favours.
With the exception of following the advice of the hairdresser who proclaimed to 15 year old me that “only a perm will help!”, I have tried almost everything. I dry my hair upside-down, which for me has always got the closest to root-lift that I’ll ever see, but for a special occasion I’ll get the Remington Big Hair out. It’s not a game-changer but I find it using at the just-drier-than-towel-dried stage, with a blowdry lotion or spray can have a good lifting result. Never use mousse with the Big Hair though, or you’l end up with a knot the size of your fist.
When it comes to volumising shampoos and conditioners, I have used A LOT of them, cheap and pricey. Whenever I think something is making a difference, it’s not long before the effect wears off and I’m back to limp hair. I have tried all the usual suspects: Bumble & Bumble, Ojon, Philip Kingsley, Percy & Reed, most of the brands they sell in Boots. Until recently, I was exclusive with TIGI Bed Head Epic Volume and we were very happy together. It makes my hair marginally more voluminous than not using it, and by buying the large 750ml sizes, it’s actually insanely cheap and convenient too. But it’s not the change I want to see in the world.
In the last month (six weeks probably) there have been two main things that have changed. The first is that after a year of trying to grow my hair to shoulder-length, I’ve realised that I need to give in and live with the bob. I got the first haircut that I’ve been happy with for aaaages (thanks weird Chris at the Toni & Guy near work…) and I finally tried L’Oreal Fibrology. I’m not going to go on about it but after Sali Hughes recommended Firbology and I realised that I’d been using the Thickness Booster too often in the shower (it’s only supposed to be twice a week), I am now very impressed by the results. But shampoo and conditioner alone can only do so much. I need much, much more…
The much more is styling product. Before I do anything, I prep with a primer. I know this sounds like a needless step but I genuinely have found that it helps my ‘style’ to have staying power. It’s not a cheap product but a very small amount goes a long way (yes, really) and although the Living Proof one has achieved cult status, lots of people prefer Percy & Reed Perfectly Perfecting Wonder Balm and I bloody love it.
Too much mousse will overload my hair and ultimately make it greasy, but lotions, sprays, volumising oil, and the like just aren’t enough to get any real hold into my hair. I’ve tried combinations of products for years but when I finally stumbled across TIGI Bed Head Small Talk (currently £7.99) and gave it a go, I realised that the consistency is different to anything I’ve tried before. It’s got a sticky, elastic quality to it that bouffs up my hair; the first time I used it was a revelation and it has been ever since. You can even get a mini travel version for around a fiver, but you have to keep looking as it often sells out.
Just before I blow-dry (upside down, and after my fringe has been done separately) I use a teeny bit of the L’Oreal Fibrology Serum on my ends. It makes me feel like I’m fully committing to the Fibrology regime, and having my ends a bit silkier so I can straighten them helps give my hair the illusion of thickness. I want root lift, but wispy ends can undermine your whole effort.
After blow-drying, I tip my head upside-down and spray some VO5 Plump It Up Dry Backcomb Spray (a bargain product that lasts forever) or Colab Dry Shampoo, which I’ve stockpiled at home. I also really like TRESemme Texture Style Devine Definition Spray for adding a little definition to my layers, but you must be sparing with it. A light spray, at about half arm’s length, leave it a few seconds then run your fingers through your layers. I then, of course, finish with hairspray. I’m a die-hard TREsemme Freeze Spray fan but a lighter hairspray in this case is no bad thing. I like Fudge Skyscraper, which is around £9 but cheaper stuff will do just as well, I’m sure.
And finally, the acid test. Does my hair, after the commute, windy London, and a day in the office, still have a bit of oomph left? Yes, for THE FIRST TIME EVER, I can confirm that my hair actually has some life at 5pm. Those with genuinely fine hair will know how rare this is. I am going to stockpile all of these babies! Never. Going. Back.
Ok, so I’m in the middle of drafting a way longer piece on plus size fashion from my point of view. Which is to say the point of view of someone who likes new, shiny things, and to inject a bit of life into an otherwise potentially dull work wardrobe. But that’s another story: today I just want to mention the wonderful Carmakoma.
I usually use the Covetables spot for one item that I’ve spotted and has made me swoon, but that’s how I feel about Carmakoma. Just click through to their main website and you’ll instantly see that the branding and the way the clothes are styled not only scream high-end, but they also have an attitude to them. Something that is painfully missing from the likes of Evans and Simply Be, even if the latter has debuted some fairly impressive new brands recently. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Available at ASOS and not exactly cheap, you probably also won’t be surprised to hear that Carmakoma is a Danish brand. I wore one of their dresses for my birthday swank-den dinner out and felt fab. I feel that a lot of their stuff channels COS-like minimalist styling and they play with proportions, which I like.
I’ve mainly picked examples of dresses here (although they do lots of other fab things too, including sexy-as-eff leather trousers) because I enjoy the fact that the brand doesn’t assume that a plus size woman is desperate to hide every inch of herself. I understand the tricky line that brands catering to size 18+ walk to appeal to all takers, and I like that Carmakoma have positioned themselves as a little rock chick.
I don’t know why we keep writing about coats, I really don’t. I guess it’s because they’re an investment, a considered purchase, so it’s good to know what’s out there and it’s brilliant to see where you can find a style and save a few bob. But I also love the way that a good jacket can really finish an outfit- coats are great but they cover your outfit, whereas a good jacket can complement what else you’re wearing and really become part of the look. Like my beloved military jacket.
One thing I’ve been spotting as the online retailers start trying to sell us spring 2015 are longer styles with a lot of nice movement to them. There’s still loads of beautiful coats to buy too, because it’s still bloody cold at the moment, but thinner jackets that you can layer are making an appearance, and they’re perfect for marrying casual and formal in that way that fashion has been for a few seasons now. The sort of jackets that you can put over a dress and block heels, as well as jeans and sneakers.
I love this & Other Stories Cotton Parka (£125) as I can see chunky jumpers fitting under it as well as being able to sling it over a dress and sandals on cooler summer nights too. Vaguely sporty but the drawstring adds shape: sold.
This ASOS jacket in denim taps in to one of the key trends for early 2015 as denim will be big. Yes, for most of us, denim is less ‘2015’ and more ‘our entire lives’ but this trend is all about layering denim and choosing pieces that showcase the fabric. I don’t know who came up with the awful idea of calling this a shacket but I do like the structured look and longer length- just so versatile in a way that a formal coat just isn’t always.
I usually would avoid mentioning J Crew because I love their stuff so, so much but it’s really quite inaccessible for the majority of us. I feel a certain amount of brand loyalty to them in that their clothes are aspirational and very stylish, but the company doesn’t stop at a size 12/14 like so many in a similar position could and would. I have been lurking and lusting after this resin-coated cotton twill jacket for a number of months as it has just the write level of Scandi-inspired cool and a touch of nautical influence. I can see it in April showers and sunny-but-cool spring days. It’s topped only by my beloved Thorjsa brand, which at €299 is a little bit out of my price range.
As things warm up a little, I’ll keep my eye out for other transitional pieces that can work in both spring and autumn, with a variety of outfits as there’s bound to be loads in the shops. But for now, it’s nice to gaze upon some swish new outerwear and believe that there is an end to the rain, cold, snow, and slush…