Come to me all you pretty things...

TK Maxx: you rock

Dear TK Maxx, you are awesome.

OK, perhaps occasionally awesome is a better description, but my last haul there was somewhat epic by my standards.

Having met a friend for lunch in a town about thirty miles from where I live, I decided to fill the rest of my time until the next train by having a mooch about the town centre. This is quite a risky manoeuvre these days as the amount of empty stores abounding most high streets leaves little incentive to rock out and have a grand out shopping trip. Nonetheless, England’s oldest recorded town, Colchester, does have one thing that deserves attention: a city centre TK Maxx (my local one is frustratingly on the outskirts of town).

Now, I know that ye olde TK Maxx can be a bit hit and miss, with some stores resembling extortionately priced jumble sales but this store was a scene of serenity and calm. Everything ordered and displayed rather attractively. The toiletries department in particular was home to rather a nice spot of colour coding.

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Anyway, the real point is that not only was I able to snap up a small DESIGNER treat for myself but positively cleaned up in the luxury-health-and-beauty-gift stakes (totes a real thing). With impending birthdays and Christmas, I like to get an early jump on things and pick up gifts that the recipients wouldn’t think of getting for themselves. And, thanks to my loyal readership of A Model Recommends, I think I’ve quite a good eye at spotting a beauty bargain.

So what did I get? Well then………..

Come to me all you pretty things...
Come to me all you pretty things…

First up, a couple of gifts.

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NEOM is a luxury organic range which not only looks rather nifty but smells pretty define too. They have a bath and shower oil that I have coveted for some time so I was familiar with the brand, and the Real Luxury Body & Hand Lotion was perfect for my poor post-op sis. At more than half the RRP, that alone was enough to make me feel smug.

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Also for post-op sis, a rather lovely Rituals Himalaya Wisdom body scrub. With a hit of fresh mint, this will do the job to buff the body before applying, oh I don’t know, maybe a luxury body lotion of some description……. Coming in again at less than half of the RRP, this was genuinely bargainous.

2007-07-05 04.18.04A lesser known brand for our final gift pick but one with a wee bit of cult status: Dr Bronner’s Magic Soaps. What really sold this to me was the almost olde-worlde medicinal look of the label, and the smell is amazing.

2007-07-05 04.17.26This hemp and peppermint organic soap is an excellent stocking filler or proper pressie for a cult-beauty junkie. This bad boy had about a third off so still a decent saving, and I’m rather looking forward to dressing it up with parcel paper-style wrap and a homemade Christmas tag.

But nothing really compares to the treat I got for myself. Not to sound narcissistic, but I was preeee-ty chuffed with myself.

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Oh yes, my Clements Ribeiro Portobello cotton and cashmere jumper. Oooh, it’s so lovely!

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In a classic grey with teal stars, this is the gift I will give to myself once baby bump has been born next year. It is so soft, and not totally unlike the gorgeous Chinti & Parker jumper from my Covetables post earlier this week.

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Yes, it’s from a diffusion line and, yes, it’s only 5% cashmere, but it was a mind-blowing £19.99. This is even more mind-blowing when one considers that this is CURRENT SEASON and still available on the website for £86. I would call this a WIN.

And that is why TK Maxx rocks. The end!



Category: Style

Covetables: A+EM London Visor leather ankle boots

Good grief, look at these beauties. Aren’t they rather stunning? I know that a website can use good lighting to sell virtually anything but these look The Business.


These leather ankle boots are from a brand called A+EM London (nope, never heard of them either) and were spotted during a routine inspection of the Red Direct site. Y’know the kind of thing: it’s Friday afternoon, everything work-related is dull and you’re just trawling your favourite sites in a kind-of this-is-what-my-life-will-look-like-when-I-own-my-own-internet-business-and-feature-in-lifestyle-sections-of-glossy-magazines. Or is that just me? As an FYI, I also find the fabulous homewares on Not On The High Street, handbags on The Outnet and the brand-spanking new inspo/shopping site Wardrobe Icons excellent for this type of browsing.

Anyway, back to the boots…..


I am a big fan of the back zip and the little cut-out above it. The boot has enough lift for an evening but looks like it would serve as an all-dayer, too.


The snaps from the site make them look more petrol blue than black but black is the only colour option.

At £230, they are certifiably Not Cheap, but who doesn’t need an excellent, high performing boot come autumn? In my dream life, I’d pair these beauts with a pair of ripped utility trousers from Topshop (not that dreamy at £36 but still not an inconsequential cost)…..


….. and a fabulous knit from luxury brand Chinti & Parker (totally dreamy at an eye-watering £360).



Well that’s autumn sorted then (and mortgage payments obliterated for the foreseeable future)……..

Category: Style
Happy in my waterproof!

How do you solve a problem like the rubbish British weather?

I’m working away this weekend and I know that it will involve running about and between buildings, and heavy rain is forecast all weekend in Belfast. And when I opened the wardrobe to peruse suitable outerwear I saw a gorgeous Harrington jacket by Merc, a structured coat from COS, and a wool coat from Whistles, but nothing that was going to carry me through showers and worse.

I’m really not an outdoorsy person. I can definitely appreciate natural beauty, and one of the highlights of going to Yorkshire with my girlies is driving to Whitby through the Yorkshire Moors; it’s breathtaking. When called upon, for example when I had a weekend on a narrow boat once seven years ago, I can be practical, unfussy, and surprisingly useful. But in general I hate it, and I have never once camped anywhere. Not once. I like proper showers, and comfortable beds, hairdryers and Malmaisons. So I don’t really own anything as practical as a waterproof jacket, and I’m a bit anti anything that looks too fit for purpose.

But rain at this time of year is unavoidable: my jacket was soaking by the time I dashed for a bus the other day, and it’s supposed to be showerproof. Well I’m assuming it is, it has a hood. Also, I have put on some ‘happy weight’ recently, the kind that so often accompanies settling into a great relationship, and walking is my secret weapon. I need to do more exercise in general, but getting my 10,000 steps in is a great start and did used to help control my weight before summer hit and I drank all the beer. So being able to walk in inclement weather is a must. It was time for a new waterproof jacket…

I started with the usual suspects as Ma recently bought quite a nice jacket (may have been Trespass?) with a superior, almost mac-like finish. But this still really isn’t my look, and a quick peruse of outdoorsy-type websites revealed that I didn’t want to pay those prices for something I barely even like.

Raising the issue with my very clever, very clothes-savvy significant other, I was made aware of Thjorsa, an Icelandic brand that specialises in handmade waterproof coats. I swooned, almost literally. They are so beautiful, so Scandinavian, and a bunch of them are unisex so would even fit my height/awkward proportions/happy weight without compromise. Sadly, they’re also €299, and I absolutely cannot run to that. Still, they’re the dream.

I LOVE this. Probably even more in the neutral colours.
I LOVE this. Probably even more in the neutral colours.

I had also been looking at yellow macs as I met a woman at a meeting last week whose entire outfit I wanted to steal, and she was wearing a gorgeous yellow mac. But I managed to track it down (it had quite a distinctive lining) but it was Petit Bateau and I won’t buy from them because a) they make clothes for tiny women, and b) if you try to buy something from the website you can only select Mrs or Miss, not Ms. For that reason, I’m out.

I checked the other usual suspects- Joules, Boden (for research purposes, I’m otherwise boycotting), ASOS- but found nothing I was willing to part with that much of my heard-earned cash for, and barely anything at all on ASOS. Doing a quick Google image search, I did find yellow macs that I liked however, and a lot of them were men’s. The benefit of being flexible on colour, or considering brighter shades, is that these are often the least popular with men so you can find wider sizing and sometimes lower prices. So back to ASOS I went! Men’s jackets in general, and outdoors or waterproof styles in particular, have taken on quite a Scandinavian twist in the last year or so, worn with brown boots and turn-ups by bearded men, but as this is an aesthetic that I love for myself, I decided to head in that direction. Back to ASOS I went, and my search for ‘waterproof’ resulted in a brand I hadn’t heard of before, Another Influence. The brand seems to be part-hipster, part vaguely ‘urban’, but I fell in love with this waterproof jacket in yellow and ordered it immediately. Down to £38 in the ASOS sale, I ordered the blue as well in XXL, just in case the cut was slim. But the XL fits with room for a jumper underneath, and I get a bit more length because it’s a men’s jacket. The only slight issue is the sleeves but I’m going to assume that a little turn-up at the cuff will look cute. All in all, I’m pleased (and am a very enthusiastic ASOS Premier customer) but I will report back after Belfast on its efficacy.

I will look, as Kathryn said, like an 'absurdly tall toddler'

I will look, as Kathryn said, like an ‘absurdly tall toddler’

Update: It really didn’t rain in Belfast! But I’m still very happy in my waterproof…

Happy in my waterproof!
Happy in my waterproof!
Category: Style
my shaggy dog story!

It’s autumn! Wrap up in faux fur!

So I have begun thinking about coats , prompted mainly by Kathryn’s post about her bargain pink purchase, and The Frugality post recently on light blue (which included a very fetching M&S coat as well).  I’m a bit of a mucky pup so the thought of a pastel overcoat frightens me somewhat, and while the M&S coat wasn’t too pastel (the colour is actually ‘smokey blue’, apparently) one of the things I like most about it is the texture and structure. And texture is everywhere at the moment, especially in the new season’s outerwear.

See, Kathryn loves a faux fur too...
See, Kathryn loves a faux fur too…

The form of texture that is getting me most excited is fake fur. Furry jackets have been hanging around for the last few years, usually with an animal print, both exaggerated and more realistic.  But it’s really been the growing popularity of high-end fake fur brand Shrimps this past few months that has prompted a resurgence of bold, obviously-faux scarves and jackets.

Shrimps: bit rich for my blood!
Shrimps: bit rich for my blood!

M&S has a fetching, and fluffy, rust-coloured jacket at £149, which comes in up to a size 22 and avoids the pitfall of going too light with faux fur and ending up looking juvenile. Of course, if that is your bag then Whistles’ delightful Kumiko Faux Fur Coat isn’t exactly budget at £275, but the pink is kind of amazing and not too sugary.

M&S. Mmmm, rusty!
M&S. Mmmm, rusty!
Oh Whistles, I do love the colour of this coat...
Oh Whistles, I do love the colour of this coat…

I make no apology for loving ASOS and how responsive they are to trends so I was naturally a bit disappointed that they don’t have any attractive furry confections at the moment.  The faster fashion brands don’t seem to have jumped in with both feet yet, and some of the faux furs on offer look as if they might sit quite lumpy on the body. Probably this offering will improve over the next month or so but at the moment the emphasis is on luxe faux fur and anything under about £100 is looking a bit, well, less than luxe. I spotted a rather yummy French Connection coat in quite a baby pink, the Polar Teddy, but again, it’s £195. Only time will tell whether we’ll see any handsome reproductions of this trend at a lower price.

Polar teddy indeed!
Polar teddy indeed!

If you want to go budget- which in this tricky case I’m saying is under £100- then a more traditional, animal-print fur is going to be the way to go. One of the absolutely awesome things about traditional faux fur is that it’s automatically glamorous, and great over going-out wear, but also gives a grungey I-bought-this-from-a-flea-market feel too. You lose this with the coloured faux furs as the aesthetic is much more extravagant and obvious, and also kind of whimsical. But this more traditional faux fur coat in leopard from & Other Stories is selling very quickly at £95 and has a more structured, coat-like feel, but I still find it very appealing. For a more fur-like coat, this ASOS one is damn sexy.

& Other Stories
& Other Stories, knocking it out of the park as usual
ASOS magic..

In general, paying a few extra pounds will mean a more ‘realistic’, better quality faux fur, but if this is a piece that you’ll enjoy a few times but don’t really want to invest in, a fair option seems to be the Tesco Florence & Fred coat currently overpowering billboards everywhere. It’s only £39, although the range of sizes is pretty disappointing; perhaps the advertising is working.

The reasonably-priced F&F job
The reasonably-priced F&F job

For now, I’ll be sticking with my ASOS faux fur, which is beautifully shaggy but also fine and a less obvious animal print. I invested a reasonable sum in it (around £70, I think) and it’s got long-term appeal. It even has an element of (relative) realism to it, and the fur isn’t too stiff. In fact it”s very easy to wrap up in!

my shaggy dog story!
my shaggy dog story!


But I may well add a Helen Moore-style fur scarf to my existing jackets as a transitional piece; it’ll take my jackets into autumn and make my Whistles winter coats ultra-cosy. In fact, I will probably have ordered this ASOS racoon collar by the time I’ve posted this article!  Yummy.

I want this Helen Moore bad...
I want this Helen Moore bad…
But I will make do with this delightful ASOS bit of racoon!
But I will make do with this delightful ASOS bit of racoon!

(All photos stolen from the respective websites)


Category: Style
Lolly Dawson 1

Covetables: Clarks Lolly Dawson boots

Too many times recently I’ve found myself in one of two quandaries:  either I want to put smart footwear on and the weather forecast puts me off, or I want something comfortable to wear but I know I look scruffy in most of my trainers. Seemed to me like a pair of smart ankle boots would be the answer, but they needed to be leather to withstand the rain, and as I work in a very casual office, they also needed to be versatile.

And I’m an old woman so they needed to be comfortable too. ASOS is often a go-to for me for reasonably priced leather boots but I wasn’t taken with anything, and they all felt a bit pricey. And then I stumbled across these Lolly Dawson leather boots from Clarks! And I bought them! And man, I am in love.

I just think these look ACE
I just think these look ACE

Firstly the leather is great, so they look classy straightaway. And they’re lovely and low on the ankle, which keeps them looking dainty and makes them way more likely to suit being put with skirts and dresses, as well as jeans. But I think the thing I’m most excited about is the sole: it looks like a fine, classic boot sole, but those clever sods at Clarks have made it rubber and padded, so pounding the pavements without having to resort to sneakers or DMs is easy.

These boots instantly smarten up my jeans so that adding a shirt, silk tee, or blazer makes me look ‘finished’, but equally they could go with a casual tee-shirt or sweatshirt, plenty of which I plan to wear this autumn and winter. I realise that a chelsea boot is not exactly a ground-breaking choice, but for under sixty quid these are a great, quality basic to go into cooler weather with. And the taupe suede is pretty sexy too…

Clarks Lolly Dawson boots, £56.99

Category: Style