Body Scrub

& Other Stories Body Scrub

Yummy for the body...
Yummy for the body…

When the new store & Other Stories was due to open, it was like Christmas on crack for fashionistas. The newer, more high-end version of our beloved H&M was met with a crescendo of enthusiasm but sadly I, sorry little wannabe style-setter that I am, was, ahem, rather at the back of the queue. To be precise, i only visited last week.

When I got there I was indeed bowled over by the store, the aesthetic, and the promise of a more streamlined yet individual wardrobe. At a price. This girl has & Other Stories tastes on an H&M budget (despite what the website says, I still can’t equate a £45 polyester scarf with ‘affordability’).

I did, however, manage to snap up some sparkly socks for a fiver (which I’m going to pair with black sandals for my work Christmas party – oooh, daring!) and this rather wonderful scrub.

Reasons to love a body product from a fashion store? Let me enlighten you:

  1. The packaging. I love the medicinal look for the jar and the label, almost like something your doctor might prescribe if they were concerned with aesthetically pleasing medication. Looks pretty nifty on ye olde edge of the tub (that is how the cool kids are talking, isn’t it?).
  2. The smell. Citrus doesn’t sound like it should work with brown sugar but it absolutely does. The citrus notes come through first with the gorgeous richness of the sugar following on. If they could make this into an identical scent, I’d buy it.
  3. The consistency. Lovely and rough, you know this will slough off dry skin like the proverbial hot knife through butter. Lovely for keeping your skin secretly soft underneath fluffy jumpers.
  4. It works! This is a genuinely good scrub, and I have tried many low cost ones. I only really do low cost on body exfoliants because if I weren’t so lazy I would make my own for practically nothing, so why I would spent serious chunks of my beauty cash on a pricey number is beyond me. Stick with this: at £7 it’s a nice little bargain price, touching almost into what I like to call the ‘baby luxury’ end of the market. In short, you won’t be ashamed for people to see this, which brings me to my last reason…..
  5. It’s from & Other Stories. C’mon, would you have read this far if I said it was from Poundland? OK, maybe you would, but the product is inherently more interesting because it comes from a store with genuine cache. And let’s face it, if you haven’t got the dosh for their wonderful neoprene clutches and £45 polyester scarves, then a £7 punt on a body scrub is going to afford you a bit of purchasing pleasure.

Yummy – but only for the bod!

*This product was purchased and used entirely without the endorsement or request of the brand in question. Pity Party will only review products we genuinely like, although we can be bribed with food to say silly things about celebrities. #justsayin

Category: Style

My Perfect Base

Bare faced, not chic...
Bare faced, not chic…

Flat and dirty-looking: this has, at times, been the unfortunate result of attempting to find a decent foundation.  On my face for all to see, and as a woman who thinks she lacks planes and edges on her visage, this is particularly Not Ideal.  I  have struggled for a long time to find a base that really suits me; from the minute my skin became dry in my early twenties, foundations have felt harsh, heavy, and drying, and I have always eschewed a matte look anyway, for the aforementioned flat/grubby effect.  Having a naturally round face and- I think- quite an uneven complexion, I have long enjoyed a lighter coverage foundation (RIP Prescriptives) and a sparkly, non-matte finishing powder, like the also-discontinued Clinique Gentle Light Powder.

I am now the happiest I have ever been with my make-up as I have discovered the joy of bareMinerals.  The best thing about BM is the buildable coverage, achieved with the type of brush you use- I like the Full Flawless Face brush but there is a lighter version (you’ll end up with a few of these if you buy the BM starter sets), and a kabuki brush for fuller coverage.  You really do need a tiny amount and less is more so swirl, tap, and buff away.

The range of colours for BM is very good, except of course there’s a but and that but is (predictably) when it comes to darker skins.  QVC has been a fantastic way to buy BM, selling awesome kits that save you mucho dinero, however go straight to bareMinerals if you have a darker skin, as the available range is far, far wider.  Feelunique do a lot of the shades too, and P&P is free.

Can't be beaten!
Can’t be beaten!

I start with primer, as I have for many, many years.  It just makes everything go on easier.  After that, I’m the average and predictable Medium Beige:  It’s got a nice neutral tone that hides the pinker tone in my skin, and Summer Bisque concealer complements the foundation.  Applied under the eyes in a ‘v’  shape, to the nose, chin, and cheeks, I feel more even straight away.

After foundation and concealer. How tired I look is not the fault of the make-up.
After foundation and concealer. How tired I look is not the fault of the make-up.

The next step is my secret weapon: All-Over Face Colour in Warmth.  Boom.  It’s recommended that this is applied as a bronzer would be but it’s so light and flattering, I bung it on all over.  A tiny amount goes a long way and just makes your complexion a shade, well, warmer.  Bronzer in the 3 formation (a sweep on the forehead, cheekbones, and chin) and a touch on the nose adds a nice glow and stops the Warmth making you look too flat.  Now, the important question: what powder to finish with.  This is so important I’m splitting my infinitives!  The Mineral Veils by BM are awesome, and while I didn’t see the point for the longest time, they do finish your face off, and hide imperfections, and as by this point I have five products on my face, a nice powder to finish it off is in no way a bad idea and we might as well.  Depending on my mood, I use the Ready Mineral Veil in a compact, or the awesome illuminating veil which is harder to get but so worth it, for that lighter, more ethereal look.  Ethereal on a woman of almost six foot is probably a bit of an ask but let’s go with it.

Bronzed! But neither grubby-looking nor flat (I hope)
Bronzed! But neither grubby-looking nor flat (I hope)

I have done this face on my sister for her wedding, friends for a night out, and it is of no matter whether you have a more olive skin or are a paler darling, the old warmth trick makes you look healthy and glowing in an uber-subtle way, and finishing off with a Mineral Veil totally brings everything together.  My gorgeous Aussie friend Zoe said that it barely looked as if I was wearing any make up, which is EXACTLY WHAT WE ARE GOING FOR and also allows for a polished but not over-done look in five minutes on which to then build cats’ eyes and huge lashes.  Cos the eyes are the stars of the show, obvs.

It is best to check your base from a few angles and in natural light, especially when you're layering
It is best to check your base from a few angles and in natural light, especially when you’re layering

One parting shot then, aimed at all those beeyootiful women who have mastered their foundation and feel flawless and awesome: do not forget your blusher.

After blusher; makes a difference, no?
After blusher; makes a difference, no?
Blusher from a different angle (I call this Tragic Heroine)
Blusher from a different angle (I call this Tragic Heroine)

This is well worth another post, but the amount of wimmin I see who have a gorgeous base but have forgotten to add the natural blush back in.. Well, it’s criminal.  A sweep of a super-fine blush will add a dimension back into your face that you may have lost when perfecting your base.  Worth thinking about, is all I’m saying.

Finished face, basic other make-up done. Eyebrows may be a little heavy but you get the idea, hopefully. I'm happy!
Finished face, basic other make-up done. Eyebrows may be a little heavy but you get the idea, hopefully. I’m happy!
Category: Style

Sneaker Problems

Kicks, strides, sneakers, trainers – whatever you call ‘em, I gotta problem with ‘em.

It’s not that I don’t like them. No, it’s that I LOVE them. Having been reared on a diet of movies like Heathers and Clueless, the notion of wearing a trainer for leisure, especially with jeans (God forbid), was entirely alien to me. Of course, I had a flirtation with L.A. Gear trainers after going to Florida in 1992, and again in 2001 when I went to New York and discovered that skate shops actually existed, but that was it. Trainers were synonymous with a lack of style or with exercise, an unholy alliance if ever there was one.

But that all changed when Converse All Stars started popping up all over the place, and especially on the feet of the parka-wearing yummy mummies that were my secret heroes when reading magazines about women who live in Primrose Hill and have their own online businesses selling kaftans from Sri Lanka. Since then, well…..

Scary thing is, that isn’t even my whole collection! I have three pairs of trainers for sport, another pair of wedges caught under my husband’s work boot (ewww, stinky) and a pair of plimsolls that I can’t find. Oh, and the emergency pair at work for when my shoes become stabbing little torture devices after a day of work.


The main problem is that there are just too many choices around at the moment, as the monthlies have started to attest to.


My problem is that I like every flavour on offer. What trainer tribe am I? Ummm, all of them?


I started with the classic Converse, my first beloved pair accompanying me to Egypt and India. My new Christmas pair will hopefully give the pinkies a wee rest.


Then I got all into the wedges, even wearing this ASOS pair to the Vogue Festival last year (when I met Sasha Wilkins of the Liberty London Girl blog *major swoon*).


And then I got all up in the face of the Vans-style plimsolls although I was typically too cheap to indulge fully. This red pair are from Primark and got rather demolished during my trip to Mexico last year (it was an all-inclusive hotel. What more can I say?).


I took a little dance past leopard print, with diamantes no less…..


…. Until I arrived at my current destination at the slip-on trainer. These are by Zara (the monotone) and Next, no less!


These are just too easy to wear, looking cute on tight-covered feet with skirts or dresses, and perfect for the commute. I am going to try not to buy anymore which should be easier now that I’m feeling a more sporty vibe…..


The hi-tops are quite old but the New Look pair just seem to pull a cool shirt + skinny jean outfit together perfectly. And now that big sis has been seduced by a proper sporty Nike Air Max pair, who knows what’s going to happen next?

What do we think, eh? A sneaker too far or, in the immortal words of MJ, don’t stop ‘til you get enough? Yeah, you’re right. I pity the fool that disagrees with a classic MJ toon. OWW!*

*As Michael used to say. No, I did not stub my toe. Philistines.

Category: Style
trying on clothes

the clothes-purchasing embargo of February 2014

It’s probably fair to say that I’m not great with money.  Oh my, yes, I do realise that this doesn’t make me a unique snowflake, or even remotely unusual.  When I earned less I was disciplined and wrote everything down, but then as I continued to work in the City and my salary grew, I just seemed to spend up to it.  I was no Wolf of Wall Street, this was a life assurance company, so my ‘spending up to it’ was nipping to New Look of a lunchtime and Pret sandwiches.  Oh and loads of wine, obviously: nights out definitely did for me.

I loved my team, and I was passionate about managing people, mentoring them and seeing them poached by other teams.  And I’ll probably explore why I was so unutterably miserable in my old job in another post, and that’ll be delightful, but suffice it to say that the last year and a half I spent in the City was Not Good, and I definitely indulged in retail therapy to stave off the misery.  Which worked a treat!  Ha.  So when I moved to the charity sector, I had a lot of baggage (and weight) to shed, and while I can barely recognise that person any more she was a very sad Loz I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that I ‘deserve’ treats, that payday is for nice bits, and that when I have an event or an occasion, an ASOS bargain can and should be just around the corner.  I’ve used clothes to cheer myself up and it’s been wonderful, but I don’t need to do that any more and it’s time to take back control.

It’s not hard to imagine that I have accumulated quite a few items of clothing.  And while I’m not buying compulsively and stuffing bags under the bed in Channel 5 documentary-style, I don’t need anything.  So I’m not buying any clothes until I get paid again in a month’s time, as of yesterday, and when I put it into words that sounds like the stupidest statement because really, who can’t go four bleeding weeks without purchasing a bloody piece of clothing?  Well here are the three things that are going to challenge my resolve:

Exhibit a: Skirts.  Lovely swirly skirts.

I can’t do skirts terribly well- I’m too tall for them to sit where they need to most of the time, and I feel like my tummy gets in the way of the line sometimes.  I have a large-ish arse, which is thankfully quite high but prominent nonetheless, so skirts that flare from the waist be they A-line or pleated do nothing for me.  I can pencil skirt at a push but that’s with the help of a system of levers and pulleys I don’t even want to think about.  There’s more engineering to me in a skirt than the Clifton Suspension Bridge.


But!  But. I’m seeing a few of these bad boys around and they’re nodding to a structural, covetably Scandinavian look.  Like this H&M crinkle skirt that Kathry has already ordered: black, not too flared, with pockets, and a bargain.  Ladylike?  Yes.  Vans-style skater shoes and sweatshirt (as spotted by Kathry on this blog)?  Don’t mind if I do.  And ASOS have a lovely fresh, minty collection of skirts they’re currently hawking about, in some neoprene-style fabrics, which to my mind keep everything looking contemporary.

Exhibit b: Super-skinny jeans with a 34” in-seam

This is my current go-to item, and the thing I’m most likely to let the N-word (need) slip when thinking about it.  I live and die in super-skinny jeans.  When I look at my figure, and squint, I can see that I probably have what someone might generously call an athletic frame under this layer of winter warmth, evidenced by slim limbs, small boobs, and not much curve to me except for the aforementioned derriere.  So cladding my stupid legs in very tight jeans and going a little looser on top to hide the tum is a good call for me, especially as other cuts of jean (with the exception of a traditional skinny) can drown or add weight to my legs.  And since the boy bought me the magnificent Nike Air Max 90s for Christmas and I’m wearing them to get my steps up every day, I feel that super-skinny jeans keep me from looking too casual/frumpy.


I like acid wash (these Topshop beauts have been worn almost to death) but these ASOS lovelies with a bit of fading and a little rip would be ace for casual and smart, and would look cute with the Nikes, biker boots, flip-flops in the summer, and flats for spring.

Exhibit c: all the sweatshirts

Sweatshirts and jumpers are a slightly new concept to me.  I have a pathological hatred for the plain, V-neck jumpers worn with black bootcut trousers that I used to see all the time in the City, and I have often wondered why I would bother buying jumpers when I can wear the things I actually like all year round with a cardigan.  Except that they never look quite right, and cardigans seem to fall off my shoulders, and I feel much the same about a black cardigan as I do a V-neck jumper…  But this year’s seen a whole host of structured, heavier sweatshirts that I love, and find enjoyably practical without feeling like I’ve compromised completely on style. This plum ASOS sweatshirt with quilting at the shoulder another item nicked off Kathry, who bought it in the khaki is a bargain in the sale at £14 but I really, really love this Just Female sweat.


The contrast quilting, and the Danish pedigree, make it a hottie for me, and the structure of it makes the piece acceptable for an evening, maybe even with one of those lovely pastel skirts…  It would also go with ultra-skinny jeans but that is of course beside the point.

Right now, I feel strong and righteous and good, and this little bit of window shopping has sated the beast within.  Still want a skirt that looks like an ice cream though.

Category: Style