Too much of a bargain! Neoprene bomber jacket: £23 in sale

Kin by John Lewis- how have I missed this?

Over the last year, I have been trying to evolve my style a little, investing in pieces that are better quality and carry a timeless element of design with them, and which fit in with existing pieces that I own. I love adding in elements that are ‘of the moment’ and ASOS is my absolute go-to for a quick fix, but my aesthetic has been changing from the bright-and-garish of my 20s, to a more Scandinavian-influenced, monochrome look. As a tall woman I really feel that buying good quality trousers is almost impossible; far too often they’re overpriced, with underwhelming fabric, so I tend to stick to Next and ASOS’ tall ranges and then spend a bit more on tops and dresses from COS. My uniform is usually a boxy or oversized top, with skinny trousers or ASOS Ridley high-waisted super skinny jeans. In the winter I throw some Uniqlo heat-tech tops on underneath and a Whistles coat on top, in the spring it’ll be a military or Gap jacket and a voluminous scarf.

Evidence of me wearing voluminous scarves, and also being really quite tall...
Evidence of me wearing voluminous scarves, and also being really quite tall…

I think COS is well worth the money in most cases as the design element is just brilliant, the fabrics are lovely, and the only real downside is that you have to have a good knowledge of COS’s product to buy from their website as the plain nature of the clothes tends to make it a little bit tricky to know what you’re buying sometimes. I would also argue that the sizing is quite unforgiving- I’m eternally thrilled that their clothes go up to a size 18 but it’s not generous, and I couldn’t fit into certain styles in an 18 as a size 16, since the cut is very androgynous. That’s fine for my small chest, not so great for my womanly hips.

Anyway, I am utterly amazed that a range of clothes that evokes a similar reaction in me to that of COS, that I can see fitting in to my existing wardrobe, and that is affordable in a ‘considered purchase’ sort of a way, has escaped my attention for over a year. But googling leather backpacks today, I came across Kin by John Lewis and it’s magic. Fair warning: I haven’t bought anything yet so I will report back later on the quality, but it being John Lewis, I don’t foresee any issues. And I have high hopes for the John Lewis size 18.

One of my favourite things in the collection is this Reverse Seam Jumper, which I can really see with blue jeans or cigarette trousers. It’s effortless, tasteful, and at £49 it doesn’t break the bank for a beautiful bit of design. I don’t love it in black or green, but the charcoal looks great.

This is just timeless. Reverse Seam Jumper, Charcoal (£49)
This is just timeless. Reverse Seam Jumper (£49)

Two pieces I love that are currently in the sale are this neoprene bomber, which is £23.00! If I didn’t have a whole host of birthdays coming up and a nephew about to spring forth into the world, I would be buying it right now and frankly I still might.

Too much of a bargain! Neoprene bomber jacket: £23 in sale
Too much of a bargain! Neoprene bomber jacket: £23 in sale

This oversized textured jumper is also an ace piece on which to build, and is £48 from £69. It works in spring, autumn, and winter- which is exactly what I want if I’m spending fifty quid on one jumper.

A great all-rounder. Oversized Textured Jumper (£49 from £68)

A great all-rounder. Oversized Textured Jumper (£49 from £68)

I also like that Kin does splashes of colour to cut through the neutrals and darker winter palate. I don’t think this dress would suit me at all, but I like the fact that it nods to Whistles but would be double the price there. With a blazer and ankle boots you can go from meeting to drinks, and that’s another requirement for my purchases, when I’m not in Nike and a boyfriend-cut sweatshirt. The print is available in a top too, which is kind of cute.

 Artwork Print Dress (£89)
Artwork Print Dress (£89)

Finally my favourite item in the current collection: a diamond print jacket. Part smart, part off-duty, quite a lot impractical: I love it! I’m unlikely to spend £79 on something I couldn’t fit under my coat but I can also imagine about 40 different outfits this would go with, and navy is so ridiculously 2015 that it would update everything.

I COULD NOT LOVE THIS MORE! So versatile.  Diamond Jacket (£79)
Diamond Jacket (£79)

The range’s big selling point, according to The Guardian is that it stretches across men’s, women’s, and children’s ranges, selling neatly to middle class families who want to co-ordinate presumably. A quick look confirms that it’s a very nice range all-round, but that means bugger all to me. The women’s range is clean, vaguely Scandinavian-looking, and has great everyday pieces at less than you’d pay at the shops it’s directly competing with for customers. It’s only a matter of time before I’m clicking-and-collecting my first item of Kin.

Category: Style
French Connection

Wearing cheap clothes well

Some people have an eye for a bargain. Kathryn is one of those people; she can see the one item in Primark that will go with a bunch of stuff she already owns, and the whole outfit ends up being way more than the sum of its parts. Whereas I am the sort of person who picks through the dregs of the Next sale wondering why nobody else loves this burnt orange polyester shirt that I have taken a shine to (true story).

However, even I have managed to pick up a few tips and tricks for choosing items that look more quality- and therefore expensive- than they actually are. And I will share these in just one moment but first, a disclaimer. I realise that some people feel very uncomfortable about ‘fast fashion’, that hurry to get catwalk-inspired pieces into shops that can lead to the very real concern over the pay and working conditions of people manufacturing them. Buying clothes from the high street is the only option for a lot of people and this is a complicated issue for another post. But the tips and tricks I mention below can just as easily be used if you’re buying from a charity shop, having a wardrobe organisation, or swapping clothes with your friends.

Take out the vest that comes with your blouse!

I realise that this is a very specific tip to start on but it does have wider application. I’ve bought a number of blouses that come with a vest-type layer underneath (for decency’s sake), but so often I’ve found that the shirt or blouse is great, but if you’re buying from a cheaper shop, the layer underneath is either without any stretch and so is really restrictive, or is a funny length, or makes you sweat. So throw it away and invest in vests! Primark vests at £2 each are a good buy but I also go for Uniqlo Heat-Tech camisoles (£9.90) when it’s a bit chillier, or even a Spanx vest for a smoother silhouette. Or appropriate the layer from another piece of clothing. The point with this is that a vest with the right length and fit will sit properly under your shirt and often looks much smarter than the crappy cami it came with.

You don't have to pay Spanx prices, but a smoothing vest can provide a great under-layer for blouses
You don’t have to pay Spanx prices, but a smoothing vest can provide a great under-layer for blouses

Abandon ballet flats!

It’s really difficult to buy reasonably-priced shoes that look quality, but the first mistake so many women make is to reach for the ballet flats. But these devil-shoes give little support, tend to look knackered quickly, and undermine the smartness and style of everything else you’re wearing. If you’re happy to buy it and can afford it, leather always looks better and your shoes will last longer. But this isn’t always an option so my advice is to steer clear of ballet flats at all; try brogues instead, or loafers. The heft of them looks better and they are still available at all the places you’d probably buy your ballerinas from. However, if you can’t go cold turkey….

…Go patent

If all else is lost, faux patent leather is much more convincing than faux leather. This goes for handbags as well as shoes. And there’s a smartness to patent that lifts the rest of your outfit. Patent finish, t-bar, a pointed toe: all good ways to go smarter with flats.

Leather isn't always accessible, but one pair of more expensive boots is worth more than three pairs of cheap ones...
Leather isn’t always accessible, but one pair of more expensive boots is worth more than three pairs of cheap ones…

Tight looks cheap, and so does short

Blatantly not all tight looks cheap, just ask Roland Mouret. But in general, considering your hemline and the fact that cheaper shops (or vintage clothes) can sometimes come up a bit smaller will take you a long way. Going up a size can look luxe and sexy, allowing the clothes to skim your body. And while a very short dress in a 60s style can look ace, that length may look like the manufacturer has skimped on fabric in a different style. Consider wearing (good quality) leggings with dresses that come up short, or avoid items that come up too short altogether. Honestly, even if you love it, sometimes it just isn’t worth buying if you end up having to tug at it all the time, lest you flash your frillies.

On the size thing, this is simple: if in doubt, go up a size. Cheap clothes usually don’t look better tight as the material is less forgiving, so just ignore the label and trade up.

This dress cost about a tenner from Primark but it's got a thickness and drape that looks edgier and pricier
This dress cost about a tenner from Primark but it’s got a thickness and drape that looks edgier and pricier

Think fabric, through thick and thin

When you’re sifting through rails of stuff, the quality of the fabric is something well worth bearing in mind. So much is a matter of taste, and opinion. But if you take one rule with you when shopping, think ‘thick or thin’. Fine knits and jersey can look way more expensive than they are, flowing over the body and looking v classy indeed. Equally, I have a shift dress from a very budget high street retailer that lives and dies on the fact that the material is thick enough to avoid showing bulges and underwear lines. So think about thicker-than-usual, and thinner-than-usual fabrics to fool the casual observer.


As a tall woman (about 5’11” to be far from exact) I struggle with trouser lengths, among other things. Our office is very casual, but when I go to conferences, I often choose a dress, which I’m afraid for the most part I can’t get super-cheap. But one cheap item that makes all the difference is the quality of your tights! I hate these damned leg prisons but they finish off a smart outfit and opaque tights hide a multitude of sins, so a necessary evil they remain. I like M&S when I’m near one and can afford their tights, but otherwise I will usually go for Primark. My absolute, 100% top tip is to go for control top tights- they don’t really control anything, but they tend to come up higher on the body, creating a smoother silhouette and making your clothes fit and sit better.

And a serious point on leggings: they are not trousers and they won’t give you the coverage you need, so cover the majority of your bottom, and your mimsy, please!

And finally, be a canny sale-shopper

I ask you to cast your mind back to the beginning of this article- I know that seems a long time ago but bear with me- to my reference to an orange polyester shirt I once bought in the Next sale. As a terrible magpie up until fairly recently, I used to love lairy, loud clothing that I thought reflected my personality. These pieces can be fun but if you’re getting them in a sale then often they’ll be coming to the end of their fashion life and probably don’t have longevity on their side. Instead look for classic bits that you’ll be able to wear later, even if you put them away for now. This is a blog post in itself but here are a few ideas to whet your appetite: faux fur jacket; camel coat; brogues or loafers; Breton tops; a denim shirt; plain jumpers; any kind of neutral basic. Sales are a great time to get slightly better quality items for less, but you still have to be clever about it. Lots of shops act like they have the right to charge more, but the quality isn’t really there. A grey fine knit J Crew vest for £18 though? Why thank you very much!

Cashmere on a budget, why yes please! (stolen from Kathryn)
Cashmere on a budget, why yes please! (stolen from Kathryn)

Have you got any tips for snazzy dressing on a budget? I WANNA HEAR THEM!


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
main 2

Accidentally awesome hair

It’s quite a big boast to say that I had awesome hair the other day. Should I made that boast to, say, Kate Middleton or similar (incredibly likely to happen) then I daresay there would have been a fair amount of scoffing. But my interpretation of awesome is somewhat different to them: I don’t want swooshy and smooth; I want dishevelled and Parisian. I want Caroline De Maigret after she’s been caught strolling through the Tuileries on a particularly blustery day. Geddit?

From Caroline De Maigret Tumblr
From Caroline De Maigret Tumblr

The hair gods smiled upon me on Thursday. They felt for my plight in waiting an hour JUST TO GET INTO THE TRAIN STATION and then having to stand on my journey to work before arriving late and realising that a rubbish morning of commuting doesn’’t exempt you from actually having to do some work. The hair gods saw me painstakingly straightening my hair this morning and added just the right amount of heat and windy weather to give me something akin to De Maigret dishevelment as my reward. So surprised was I with my wavy locks that I snapped a few bathroom selfies. Sad but needs must, right?

filter 2

main 2 filter 3

The fringe was a bit separate-y, but not too much; the front was wavy but looked intentional; it had that slightly volume-y quality that means you can fluff it with your fingers a bit and it looks sexily messy. This style I could never achieve if i actually tried to do so. Tongs don’t work on my mane as it all just goes a bit frizzy and eighties. My fringe precludes the mermaid waves fashion folk are so keen on. My only hope is to either wear it straight or hope that a similar hair miracle happens. The word i’m probably looking for to characterise the whole look is ‘ratty’, but ‘undone’ or ‘gently tousled’ sounds rather more appealing.

Classy bathroom selfie
Classy bathroom selfie

Undone hair looks nonchalant, easy-going, cool, casual – many of the attributes that ladies who are anything but want to emulate.

Images from Pinterest
Images from Pinterest

As anyone with fine hair will know, all you can really do is try to add volume and hope for the best. It’s difficult to contrive dishevelled without ending up with lank and greasy, attractive as that is. My current tools to try to inject a bit of joosh into my locks are the L’Oreal Elvive Fibrology Double Serum and some Pantene Volume Booster Spray Gel, which I actually picked up in Poundland and have been spraying like mad ever since. I use the latter first, lifting sections of wet hair and spraying at the roots before smoothing the L’Oreal serum on top. Then it’s fun and games with a hot hair dryer and a round brush.

product collage

I know my accidentally awesome hair may not look like much to some but it made me happy. I felt relaxed and French for the rest of the day, and therefore got absolutely no work done at all. Hey ho!

Any pro hair tips to achieve the look every day? Please feel free to share – I need all the help I can get! Photos of me tweaked using Fotor filters & effects. Don’t judge: I was taking snaps on my phone in a toilet.

Category: Cute, 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