Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Outfit: fabulous flowers (and the not-so-glamorous side of blogging)

You know those times when you have one accessory that is so fabulous, you have to create an entire outfit around it? This is one of those times, you won't be surprised to hear. The accessory is the Harmonious Hydrangeas necklace from the new floral Erstwilder range. It's hard not to fall in love with all of the pieces in the collection, but something about this necklace particularly called to me.

It's probably the red and blue colour combination - one of my all time favourites in its many varieties. Because I love matching, my whole outfit followed suit... I'm actually really pleased with how it turned out - my favourite outfits tend to be those that balance girly and casual for easy day wear and this one does that perfectly, for me.

It occurs to me that I often rabbit on about what I'm wearing and don't often talk about the context of where and when I wore it. So, let me right that wrong by providing a glimpse into the dark side of fashion blogging... You see, when you have frankly enough going on in your 'spare time' that you are pretty much working a second full-time job, blogging gets a bit challenging. I didn't actually know that I'd turn 30, get engaged and be simultaneously buying a house, so I couldn't plan for a gap in services... But nor can I let down the companies I'm working with, like Erstwilder!

That's probably why I found myself wearing this outfit for as long as it took to drive and get photos of it... before I then changed in the back of the car into another outfit I needed to get snaps of! Yes, changed in a CAR in BROAD DAYLIGHT just to get another set of photos. Praying all the while that no one would pass by and see what was going on... I mean, we picked somewhere we knew would be pretty quiet at the weekend, but I live in a city! And I thought changing on a beach was tricky. I hadn't seen nothing yet. I'd like to say 'never again', but there's still an awful lot of wedding planning and house sorting to do...

Am I the only one that's done this?! It was a particular shame because I loved this outfit so much, but I'll definitely be wearing it again this summer!

Casual 50s inspired outfit with Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace

Casual 50s inspired outfit with Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace

Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace

Casual 50s inspired outfit with Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace

Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace

Casual 50s inspired outfit with Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace

Casual 50s inspired outfit with Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace

Casual 50s inspired outfit with Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace

Casual 50s inspired outfit with Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace
Hair flower: Retro Vixens (old)
Sunglasses: 'Judy' by Collectif
Necklace: c/o Erstwilder
Top: George @ Asda (old)
Skirt: Forever 21 (very similar)
Belt: Fever Designs (old)
Shoes: Heart Sandals, Swedish Hasbeens (still available in 'high')
Bag: Ollie & Nic (similar)



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Thursday, 19 May 2016

From the other side of the lens - the 7 steps for good photos

I've long wanted to give B more of a voice on this blog - he's so involved behind the scenes, but you'd barely even know it from what I say. Without his input, this blog's photography would probably still be dark shots in my bedroom! Neither of us are trained photographers and what we do here is definitely teamwork. Which is why I'm always surprised when people compliment my photos - we really don't feel like we know what we're doing! But maybe how we do things might be interesting/useful to others, so today, I thought I'd do something a bit different and have B tell you in his own words what he does for this blog and how he goes about it... A lot of work goes into producing the images you see here!

B, from CiCi Marie

Some time ago, CiCi asked me to write a post for her blog. At first I was a bit stumped - what do I know about vintage fashion? But then she explained that this would be more about the process of creating one of her outfit posts and the behind-the-scenes work that goes into it.

That didn’t necessarily fill me with inspiration, as essentially I’m just the guy who drives the car and takes the pictures. But as I had more time to think it over, I began to realise that there is perhaps a little more to it than I had first thought - and as CiCi often reminds me - my involvement in her blogging has helped her to keep it growing.

The best way to talk through the process behind one of our shoots is to break it up into pieces - so without further ado here’s my 7 step guide to a CiCi-Marie photoshoot:

1. Location
Usually this will begin with me asking CiCi if she wants nature or buildings for the shoot location. Sometimes the outfit will have more specific requirements - like being near water (the recent nautical dress was photographed at a marina) or including a specific prop (like the red telephone box we used back in January).

Having grown up in the Cambridge area I know the city and the surrounding area pretty well. So it’s never too tricky to find a good spot that we’ve not used before (I feel it’s best to keep all the shoot locations different) [CiCi: Although we do revisit some of our favourites - just maybe from a slightly different angle].

If we’re away on holiday we always make sure to get a shoot or two in - just to make use of the different/more glamorous surroundings. This isn't always easy, as being in unfamiliar territory can make it difficult to to find a good spot [CiCi: Like the time we walked to a part of Valencia to find a location without realising it was the dodgy end of town, resulting in walking all the way back and taking the shots 5 feet from the hotel!].

2. Weather
Living in Britain and trying to take outdoor photos all year round carries an extra challenge that people in warmer climates might not appreciate - wind and rain. These are the two worst enemies of our photoshoots [CiCi: You'd never know this would you? It's not like I ever mention it. Ever.].

We usually have to fit our shoots around what the weather is doing. This means we have several weather apps installed on our phones which can sometimes show conflicting weather info. Once a break in the weather presents itself, we go out and get the photos done but can still be caught out by unforecast wind.

3. Parking
We live in Cambridge - a city notorious for its congested traffic and expensive parking fees. Sometimes we will use the city and its historic architecture but only if it’s somewhere we can park relatively close to and without paying a fortune in parking fees.

We’re often more likely to drive to the outskirts of the city or into the surrounding countryside/villages - which (with a bit of local knowledge) means we can still find picturesque locations without getting fleeced for parking charges or spend most of our time stuck in traffic jams [CiCi: It's worth mentioning we make good use of Google Maps to see what traffic is doing and which roads to avoid, as it's a waste of precious minutes of daylight to get stuck in a jam!]

4. Lighting
I’m certainly no professional photographer but I do enjoy taking photos - which helps and I like to think I have a reasonable sense of composition. But the single most important thing for making our photos look their best is lighting. We learned the hard way that a bright sunny day is actually far from ideal and produces lots of overexposed photos with CiCi blinking constantly [CiCi: To be fair, I'm bad enough on a gloomy day/indoors/in the dark]! Instead, our best photos are taken on overcast days (of which we have plenty).

Solid, consistent cloud coverage creates a giant lightbox effect - which diffuses a warm soft light that seems to make skin tones look their best. If we are stuck out in bright sunshine, we’ll often try and find some sort of shade (like a tree).

Photography in action for CiCi Marie

5. Focus
To get the nice looking portrait photos we use on the blog, CiCi’s camera is fitted with a portrait lens. Without going into lots of detail these are lenses specially designed for taking photos of people close up. They have a shallow depth-of-field which simply means that objects in the foreground are in focus and the backgrounds are blurred.

This is something we’re used to seeing in things like movies and fashion photography - it emphasises the subject and distinguishes photos shot in this way from the photos you’d get from a point & click camera or a camera phone.

However, this sort of lens is at its best when shooting portraits of of people from the waist up or closer. When you move out further to get the whole subject in, it can struggle as this isn't really what it was designed for. This means we can often get quite a few out of focus full length (i.e. whole body) shots which need to be sifted out at the end (once we get home) and also means that we probably end up shooting 2-3 times as many full lengths as we do for the other types of shots.

6. People, children and animals!
Apart from finding a location that fits the outfit we also try and find somewhere that’s not too busy. CiCi is by her very nature quite a shy girl, which is ironic considering her hobby involves standing around in public being photographed... [CiCi: A fashion blogger's got to do what a fashion blogger's got to do...]

But a little privacy does more than just placate CiCi’s modesty - it can be a little awkward and sometimes annoying when people either wander into the shot or children stop and stare as if they’ve never seen anyone having their picture taken before [CiCi: And sometimes the little darlings deliberately ride their bicycles in and out of shot on repeat the whole shoot, while their mother's watch like it's totally ok behaviour]

As for animals - I’m sure CiCi would love a dog to wander into the shot but (based on experience) insects and swans are most definitely not welcome!

7. Finishing touches 
When we get home from a shoot, CiCi has the task of sifting through 150+ photos to find the ones she wants to use. This is where she’ll discard all the unusable shots - for example, blinking, funny faces, out of focus or hair being blown by the wind [CiCi: I'd like to add laughing - I am not an attractive laugher in 2D].

She does this all by herself and though I initially showed her a few Photoshop tricks for things like removing creases and folds in clothing [CiCi: I really hate ironing], she’s quite a pro at it now.

So there you have it - that’s pretty much how we put together an outfit photoshoot. Somehow we manage to do them pretty much every available weekend, all year round - regardless of what the British weather or life in general may throw at us! [CiCi: And sometimes, like last week, we do two in a row which involves me changing in the car. Very glamorous.] And best of all we’ve never really fallen out or argued about it - this is part of our lives and I wouldn't change it for the world :)

B and CiCi Marie

I have to admit, I felt touched when I read that last sentence, as I had kinda assumed there was low level resentment from those days I drag us out in the depths of winter! This blog really is a team effort, and I couldn't do it without B - so a huge thank you to him, which I really don't say enough.

So while we're here, if there's anything else you want to know about how we go about getting pictures, do feel free to ask!


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Sunday, 15 May 2016

Outfit: touches of mint

Well, things have gone pretty crazy since my 30th last week. You all know I got engaged - so we're hunting for venues to make sure we can book one up for next summer. Meanwhile, the purchase of our first house is going through! Anyone who's bought a house in the UK (and/or probably everywhere else!) knows how stressful that is and how much paperwork is involved. And then paperwork for your paperwork. Both of these things happened kind of suddenly (long story about how buying a house can happen suddenly!), so there was no time for planning or preparation and my mind is currently running between furniture and contracts on a hectic loop and not a lot of blog content is coming out of it right now! I'm also not commenting as much on other blogs - I am still reading though when I get chance.

Fortunately, I'm a hoarder and have some photos in the archive, including this set. The photography isn't top notch as these particular ones probably pre-date my newer lens (and my 30s!), but I still kinda like them for their hazy quality. This outfit was also created with lots of bits I already had in my wardrobe and features the denim jacket I wear constantly in spring, but hardly features on this blog. It was about time it showed up here! I really like wearing it buttoned up with my full skirts, because it's just the right length that it doesn't squash them down.

These shots were taken on a typical breezy, overcast spring day here in the UK in a field full of buttercups. There's something classically British and lovely about that, even for a wind-hater like me.

Casual 50s look with denim jacket, headscarf and polka dot skirt.

Casual 50s look with denim jacket & headscarf


Casual 50s look with denim jacket, headscarf and polka dot skirt.

Denim jacket and headscarf

Casual 50s look with denim jacket, headscarf and polka dot skirt.

Denim jacket and headscarf

Mint green vintage style shoes and camera bag

Casual 50s look with denim jacket, headscarf and polka dot skirt.
Headscarf: eBay
Jacket: New Look (very similar)
Top: ASOS (similar)
Skirt: ASOS (old)
Bag: Jo Totes camera bag (similar)
Shoes: BAIT via Zulily

Right, back to the furniture hunting...


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Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Outfit: birthday belle

So, just what do you wear for a special birthday? I didn't have to think too long and hard on this one - in fact, I bought this dress in January. The blogger part of me struggled a little bit with my decision, because this dress has been around for years and consequently has shown up on many a blog so yeah, I'm a bit late to the party. 

Ultimately, though, no other dress was going to do for three reasons 1) it's in light blue and red, which is my favourite colour combination 2) the pattern is Eiffel Towers and anything that reminds me of my favourite city is wonderful in my eyes and 3) it's a Bernie Dexter dress and I've never been able to justify the cost, shipping and customs charges, but always wanted to try one. From what I know of the real life Bernie, she's pretty much exactly my height - so I had a hunch that the proportions and skirt lengths would fit me well, as she models all of her own products. It proved to be a good one; this dress fits as though it was actually made for me, I couldn't be more pleased with it.

So I had the dress but that beautiful ruched, low-cut neckline needed a necklace. Not so easy - I searched for weeks and nothing was right. Then I stumbled on an adorable necklace on an Etsy shop's Instagram feed - it was perfect; it had red Eiffel Towers dangling from it! But, woe, it had long gone out of stock. It was too late, I knew what I wanted, but no one sold anything like it. So, after a bit of thought I decided to use my new knowledge of jewellery making as acquired on my friend's hen do in March and I bought the pieces to make what I wanted. Me? Making stuff I can actually wear? I really am an adult now...

Although not too much of an adult, having finally ticked something off my blogger bucket list - I've always wanted to pose with a bunch of balloons! Balloons that are highly co-ordinated with my outfit, of course. If you're going to do a thing, do it right... I seemed to have a momentary memory lapse about the wind in this country though - all 6 balloons wasted no time beating me about the head. 

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print

Eiffel Tower necklace

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print

Alternate Normality triple rose hair flowers

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print
Hair flower: Alternate Normality
Necklace: me made


I was so happy with this outfit - and no less than four separate strangers gave me compliments. That never happens! Even more amazingly, considering I'd potentially jinxed myself by buying a sundress for my birthday (on which it usually rains every year without fail), the sun actually did come out and stayed out all day. And for only the second time this year it was warm sun - ergo I didn't freeze taking these photos. Hurrah!

Weather aside, the birthday itself wasn't so bad, seeing as it featured a very special moment indeed...

CiCi Marie engagement ring

I don't know why the stone looks so blue here (it's very clear in person), but anyway, it's very pretty in real life and the boy did very good indeed and I'm not sure I could have done better myself :) We don't have a date yet but are going to be aiming for next summer, so watch this space as I'm sure it's not the last you've heard...

All in all, turning 30 has been awesome. My murder mystery dinner party went off without a single hitch, despite how stressful and frantic the planning and execution was! Check out my Instagram to see my queenly costume...


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Thursday, 5 May 2016

Born to be a blogger - the making of CiCi Marie

So here we are, today is my 30th birthday! I feel pretty excited about what this decade will bring - I'm only 7 hours in as I write this but I've already got a feeling this will be my best one yet. I like to get all reflective on my birthdays and special birthdays are no exception. I've had three decades of life and so much good stuff has happened - not least this blog (and all the friends and opportunities that have come with it) coming into my life. 

But what led me to this point where I'm posting pictures of how I dress myself for the world to see...? I had originally thought that the desire to be a blogger was a recent thing, inspired by reading other peoples' blogs for years, however, it actually turns out I've been a fashion blogger in the making almost since birth. Seeing as it seems to be tradition to share pictures of when you were much younger and cuter for landmark life events, what better way to explore my path to outfit posts than to look back...

CiCi Marie turns 30

I've been nailing poses since I was 1
Speaking of looking back, how's this for a backwards glance (to show off the back-of-outfit details) and not to mention the perfect model pout? And you know what else? Look what's on the TV in front of me. Me. I've been staring at myself on screen since long before I took photos for this blog. No doubt I was reflecting on that mega-cute ruff and planning what I'd next wear it with.

CiCi Marie turns 30

I wore whole outfits based around cute novelty-wear
Take a look at that Christmas jumper and tell me if you own a better one now? And check out that perfectly coordinated skirt. Even my tights and slippers match the jumper. I mean, I like matching now, but I don't often match my slippers to my lounge-wear. This might actually mean I was a better fashion blogger before I became a fashion blogger.

CiCi Marie turns 30

I knew how to work a prop and a background
What a pro - the model gaze, the delicately-placed fingers, the one leg to the side and the matching prop, for that pop of mustard. I still like a floral backdrop to this day for adding some romantic whimsy and colour... It's just that now the flowers aren't usually above my head.

CiCi Marie turns 30

I was re-mixing clothes at 2
That's right, this is the dress from the last photo. You can hardly recognise it, can you, with that striking pink, over-sized bow and those knee-high socks? This dress has suddenly gone from the pop sock 50s styling of before to something altogether more 60s. Although, even then, I liked to mix my decades, judging on those Bettie bangs. 

CiCi Marie turns 30

I knew an awesome skirt when I saw one
The adult me loves nothing more than an outfit composed of co-ordinated separates, especially one based around a fun, statement skirt. Does it get more statement than a pink, patterned ra-ra skirt? In fact, why don't I have one of these now? Just look how cool I was. I even have a matching ribbon. In fact, as you're probably gathering, I have always been a fan of matching. I've also always blinked in photos, apparently.

CiCi Marie turns 30

Told you I've always liked matching
Funnily enough, red and white is still one of my favourite colour combinations. I also still have a thing for stripes. Great photo location here too - why has the adult me never thought of taking photos on a swing? It's playful, it's cute and it manages to show off the whole outfit. Nice work, young CiCi.

CiCi Marie turns 30

I wasn't afraid to revisit poses
You're just rubbing it in now, younger me. I get it, you were a pro. You knew that if you found a pose that worked for you, you just keep working it. Also, you look good in bunches - the adult me certainly couldn't pull that off. Note I was all about the tea length even at this age (we'll come back to this).

CiCi Marie turns 30

I was rocking nautical before it was cool
Er, shall we just overlook the fact I'm sitting in Ronald McDonald's lap when there's a whole bench I could have sat on to the side there? Thanks. Because really, this photo is all about the outfit again (and not my dubious choice in men). Little did I realise my love of nautical dresses with great necklines started at such a young age. Thankfully, after experimenting with hair crimping I left it firmly in the early 90s where it belonged. Good to get those hair mistakes out of the way early...

CiCi Marie turns 30

I was years ahead with tea-length floral dresses 
Told you I was all about below-the-knee even back in the day. This was largely accidental; child me was a great beneficiary of being below average height - every dress that was meant to be knee length was altogether more vintage appropriate on me. However, did I complain? No, I worked it.

CiCi Marie turns 30

I've always believed in the transformative power of make-up
I really did like a good face paint in my youth. Probably a lot more than my mum did, who had to get it all off my face at the end of the day. This love of face painting has carried right through to adulthood - only now I'm the one scrubbing it all off at night. And I go in less for the tiger look, these days, but I stuck with a catseye (ba-dum tish!).

CiCi Marie turns 30

I liked a good costume too
Speaking of cats... Surprising that I'm such a dog lover when you look back through old photos where I'm dressing like a cat every 5 minutes (although hats off to my first dog, Sam, who has managed to photobomb another photo here). Anyway, you thought Daphne was good? Yeah, I had some practice at the costume thing. Even if I'm a bit confused about my animals, as I think I'm actually doing a bunny pose. Those ears are kind of bunny too... but not the tail. Well, like I say, get those mistakes out of the way while you're young.

CiCi Marie turns 30

But above all else, I've always loved vintage (and fashion generally)
This top (along with the matching black trousers you can't see), is the first memory I have of having complete freedom to choose my own clothes. I'm fairly sure this was my 11th birthday and I remember the pure joy when I got this top. Which has a rather 60s, Mary Quant vibe to it, don't you think? Nice bob, too. It seems a fitting photo to end on (especially as it was my birthday), particularly as no one wants to see me in my teenage years. Two words for you: 'puppy' and 'fat'.

So there you have it, my formative years were just practice for being the blogger I am today. With this much early natural talent, how could I have done anything else...? Here's to the next 30 years...

Oh and yes, there will be a birthday outfit post, so stay tuned :)


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Sunday, 1 May 2016

Outfit: staples from Sourpuss

Sourpuss Clothing is a brand that I've been aware of for years, but never actually taken a good look at. On the more 'alternative' end of vintage inspired fashion, I was more familiar with them for their punky stuff, and didn't really realise there might be things I'd like the look of too.

I'm really glad I did now though, as it's taught me one very important fact: Sourpuss make some of the best frame bags out there. I'm not sure I've mentioned this recently, so for anyone who doesn't know: I am a framebagaholic. Some day I'll show you my collection I'm sure - I just can't get enough of them. I won't stop until I have one in every colour! But it wasn't until I looked at Sourpuss's website that I realised one crucial thing: I have never come across a good-sized, leopard print frame bag. Until now!

I'll be honest, this whole look started with my love for this bag. It was a fun challenge to come up with an outfit to wear with it - but admittedly an easy one as, let's remember, readers, leopard print can totally be a neutral. It can also be an outfit detail too if you want, so a leopard print bag is definitely a wardrobe staple in my eyes. This one is a decent size, I love the strap length (I can squeeze it onto my shoulder) and it's wonderfully lightweight. And furry!

This outfit started office-y, then became more weekend thanks to a trusty beret. You totally could wear this to work though. This blouse immediately joined my Shirt Hall of Fame for being that one in a million that actually fits me and doesn't gap or pop open at the bust (I'm not even that gifted in this area, but I've still managed my fair share of embarrassing chest-related incidents nonetheless). Also, the scallop details and puff cap sleeves are too cute and make a boring white shirt a bit more exciting. The skirt is a great basic too - it's a bit too big in the waist for me but nothing a belt couldn't fit. I like that it's not skin tight, it's far more flattering than some other repro wiggles I have. I can see it going into frequent rotation! Although it is that material that creases as soon as you look at it - so excuse the wrinkles.

Together these items look great together, but on their own they're awesome staples too. And if you like a frame bag as much as I do, be prepared to be blown away by the many beauties on the Sourpuss website! I want them ALL.

Sourpuss Lolita shirt, classic pencil skirt & leopard print Betsy frame bag

Sourpuss Lolita shirt in white

Sourpuss Lolita shirt in white

Sourpuss Lolita shirt, classic pencil skirt & leopard print Betsy frame bag

Sourpuss Lolita shirt in white

Sourpuss Lolita shirt, classic pencil skirt

Sourpuss Lolita shirt, classic pencil skirt & leopard print Betsy frame bag

Pinup Girl Couture leopard print waist belt

Sourpuss Lolita shirt, classic pencil skirt & leopard print Betsy frame bag

Sourpuss Betsy leopard print bag

Sourpuss Lolita shirt, classic pencil skirt & leopard print Betsy frame bag
Hat: Primark


I haven't moaned about the weather much lately, but rest assured folks, it's still terrible. This day it was so cold and windy I had a bit of a blogger diva strop, so kudos to B for enduring that tantrum. But come ON weather, it's nearly MAY and it's still exactly the same as winter was around here. I just want to take outfit photos without risk of pneumonia, is that too much to ask?!


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