Friday, 30 May 2014

Outfit: when in Paris (part 1)

Anyone remember I spent my birthday in a certain famous theme park in Paris a few weeks ago? That's not all folks, I also did some token posing by the Eiffel Tower (of course). 

I think when you're in Paris, it doesn't hurt to dress a little bit Parisian...

Dress: ASOS, with elbow patches removed (petite / regular)
Belt: vintage
Shoes: Clarks
Bag: Oasis (old)
Scarf: Next (old)
Lipstick: Revlon Really Red (get at Boots)

When you're on a city break and walking miles each day from one tourist spot to another, I always think it's wise to prioritise comfort over style. But I also think there's ways to be comfortable and still a little bit stylish - I'm just not the outdoorsy/sportswear kind.

A waterproof trench coat not only looks wonderfully French, but is also great protection if there's a sudden shower (and boy was there a sudden shower on the first day!). A light-weight jumper dress is a great way to look 'put together', be warm enough in the breezy European Spring weather and eat many, many crepes without form-fitting restriction (I've thoroughly tested this theory). A headscarf is a good idea as once it's secure, your hair basically looks exactly like it did first thing, all day long. Doesn't matter how windy it gets, or if it rains, everything's nice and hidden. And of course, some flats are sensible, but don't have to be sportswear to be comfy (just good quality, padded and ideally let your feet breathe).

And as you might have guessed from the title of this post, we're not quite done with Paris yet...

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Monday, 26 May 2014

Make-up: orange-y lipstick - a new favourite

I'm not going to lie, orange lipstick is a difficult one. It's surprisingly hard to find orange shades in most lipstick ranges - and when you do, they're often virtually neon and have a lot of yellow in them. Of course, any lipstick with a lot of yellow isn't going to do any favours for less than perfectly white teeth (i.e. mine). More of an early 1950s type coral look, which I prefer, needs an orange with a definite hint of red.

So, I've been hunting for about two years for a lipstick to replace my beloved discontinued Ruby & Millie Orange 350 Cream tube that is the perfect shade in my eyes. It's what I think a retro orange should be - a lighter, summery alternative to classic red. It seemed the impossible task - I just couldn't find anything that came close to it, albeit a few glossy types and it probably goes without saying I was after a matte finish.

Then, when I was in Paris in early May and hunted down a Sephora, it suddenly dawned on me to continue the search there. And voila! A French make-up range finally put an end to it when I found this little beauty...

Make Up For Ever, Rouge Artist Intense in 40

For the first time, the below shots were taken with my SLR and not my phone, so the colours you see here are as close to accurate as it's possible to get... And note this is it worn applied straight from the tube in full - it's possible to apply it more lightly with a brush.

Rouge Artist Intense 40 bright orange

And in case you're still not sure about giving orange lipstick a try because of the yellow teeth thing, here's a glimpse of mine... I don't think it shows up their off-whiteness any more than some reds I own do.

  • Beautiful, hard-to-find colour
  • A mostly-matte finish (the company say it's a satin, but it's less satin than most), which is probably ideal as a truly matte orange would potentially look odd
  • Long-wearing - it largely stays on through meals
  • It's not moisturising, but it's not drying either - this is no Mac matte, although would benefit from primer before if you're prone to flaky lips like I am
  • If you live in the UK, you're going to have a hard time finding this and might have to resort to an online store (either this London store or Sephora, who have very recently started shipping to the UK)
  • It's expensive at £17.50 (although I'd argue that quality is on a par with Nars, priced similarly)
  • Fairly uninspiring case, but I don't tend to care about things like this!

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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

10 reasons to choose new over vintage

My regular readers might have noticed that while I love vintage-inspired style, especially from the mid century, I generally don't wear vintage clothes and instead stick to modern or reproduction (from online shops and the high street). It's essentially at the heart of what my blog's all about as it follows my outfit journeys, so I thought it might be time to explain my reasons. If any of my readers are new to this kind of retro look and are interested in an alternative approach to the one of building up a wardrobe of vintage pieces in order to achieve it, or a variation of it at least, I hope you'll find this interesting!

Vintage or modern? Two pairs of glasses - one vintage (top), one modern, both giving a similar touch to an outfit

Top 10 reasons I choose new over vintage

1. Minimal trying of patience

I am a super, super impatient person and never is this more apparent than when it comes to clothes shopping. I don't have the patience to spend hours in high street shops finding things I like (99% of the shopping I do is online), let alone in vintage or charity shops where what you like and what will fit you is in even shorter supply. I just don't. If you do have patience, you might win big in the vintage clothes game and I take my hat off to you (or I would, if I could be bothered to find one I like ;)

2. Preferring separates to dresses

I've noticed that vintage shops in particular - especially online - usually have a great range of dresses, but a much smaller selection of separates to choose from. This girl likes the multiple possibilities of buying and pairing different separates. Not only can you create more outfits this way, it also helps with the fit - it's much harder to fit a dress in all the right places than two pieces of clothing you can mix and match the sizes of.

3. Liking to stop at vintage inspired

In a nutshell, I'm not trying to look like I stepped out of the 50s, but would rather incorporate elements of 50s style into my outfits. I never go out of my way to have 'authentic' clothes or hair and make-up because it just doesn't suit me and I personally prefer my own style to be a unique blend of flattering vintage shapes and modern designs. That way I get to pick and choose the best of both worlds and create a look that's perfect for me. This is partly why when I do wear vintage, it's usually accessories like glasses or handbags that finish an outfit off, or give it a retro spin (as above and below!).

4. Gap-filling my wardrobe

I always know what I want to buy next - it's a constant train of thought in the back of my mind (because I have a shopping problem). For example, I'll know the next thing I want to buy is a pair of red peep toe sandals with an ankle strap and heel because they'll go with x, y and z outfits. The internet lets me find them with a few keywords - amazing! Job done, money parted with, lovely new shoes in my wardrobe. And repeat. Shopping in vintage etc stores don't suit me because I'm never hoping to stumble upon the odd item that I buy just because I like it - if anything, that's a sure-fired way to blow my clothes budget for a month... and I still won't have my red sandals. I think if I was a little wealthier I'd be able to spend more on things I would wear more rarely, but that's not right now. Leading me on to...

5. Being on a budget

The nicest vintage clothes I see I can't justify the prices of. For the price of one beautiful vintage dress I might buy 2/3 modern ones. Admittedly they won't be unique, which is one of the best things about vintage buys, but I'm yet to ever bump into anyone wearing the exact same outfit as me, so I'm pretty unconcerned about this.

6. Laundry loathing

I am a chuck-everything-into-the-washing-machine-and-hope-for-the-best kind of girl. Whether its light, dark, has care labels that threaten the world ending if it so much as touches a household appliance, it all goes in on a 30 degree wash, together. This is because I hate laundry more than almost any other household chore and working/commuting for 12 hours of my weekdays mean I can spend my whole evening on it by the time I'm home. This is not a good attitude to have if you have some lovely and somewhat delicate vintage pieces in your wardrobe. Some of them will take care and kindness and need a much more responsible owner than me!

7. Loving - and relying on - elastane

I love stretch - it's nearly the only way I ever get a dress to fit me (and even then I often have to pull the waist in with a belt). I can't deal with the disappointment of something not fitting right and/or having to pay to have it altered as I have no sewing skills whatsoever. I also prefer fitted clothes because I'm small and have a bust that makes a mockery of empire lines (i.e. turns me into a tent) and legs that magically vanish under most full length midi skirts. This is not a good preference to have if you want to wear vintage from the mid-century. If you can alter clothes this is a very hand skill to have if you're buying lots of vintage!

8. Being a bit of a copycat at heart

This is a big one for me - one of the first blogs I consistently read the blogger posted a mix of outfits, some were new buys, some were vintage. I found myself getting increasingly frustrated when I saw outfits I couldn't buy or even get a similar version of because they were vintage. It's in fact what led me to start this blog - I like sharing outfits that are fairly easy for anyone to source and making this blog into a kind of guide to the best new pieces out there - because that's often why I read and enjoy blogs myself! So, because I'm easily led, it's better for me to admire new clothes than old, so at least then I can buy them too.

9. Enjoying new things

I hold my hands up to being materialistic and I really like owning brand new things. Asides from this, I get a tiny bit grossed out by 'vintage smells'. Some people really don't mind or in fact like the smells of old clothes etc, but that's not really me. I have a handbag that still reeks of something indescribable 3 years after buying it and it puts me off using it (it's on the left in the picture below, be grateful you can't smell it!).

10. Having no reliable source of amazing hand-me-downs

I notice a lot of bloggers get hold of amazing items from mothers, grandmothers, aunts and so on. The only thing I've ever come into is a belt - and it's one I could have bought a similar version of now so it's not exactly unique. So, without this as an option, that's one less avenue open to vintage clothes loveliness.

Old vs new again

So there you have it, those are the main reasons behind my choices. In my opinion, it's totally ok to mix vintage and modern or go entirely one way or the other as long as it makes you feel good. I have a lot of respect for people who've built up beautiful vintage wardrobes and manage to wear it all in constant rotation - it can look fab (e.g. someone like Marianne from Esme and the Laneway, whose blog I love). I often wish I could be more bothered, just to have the odd really special piece, but for now, I'm quite happy with things the way they are. And if I'm a bit wealthier one day, then we'll see...

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Sunday, 18 May 2014

Outfit: pale blue, red and making full skirts work

So far this year I have been on a something of a skirt discovery... I'll admit I am someone to get stuck in my ways and when I find something I like I'll keep buying it/variations of it forevermore. This has been my deeply unhealthy relationship with the pencil skirt until now.

This year has been all about experimenting with full skirts. It's not always worked, as in the case of the skirt in this post. When I first got this skirt, it was 27.5" long - quite a typical midi length as you can buy from most high street shops right now. 27.5" is nearly as long as me... it hit me at mid-calf on my 5ft 2 frame. In a pencil skirt, which are fitted and often below the knee, this doesn't look quite so much like a little girl raiding the dressing up box. So, two days, £10 (to a tailor) and 2.5" later, it's now just below my knee. Happy days! A pretty inexpensive way to give me a wardrobe basic that's going to work with a lot of outfits. If you're petite like me, I'd say 25" is your cut off point for a midi skirt or it's going to look odd.

The plain black colour of this particular skirt is in the dull danger zone, though - when you wear solid black like this I think the only thing to do is pep it up with some bright colours. Hence this pale blue and red combo and a very exciting pair of new shoes...

50s look with red heart sandal by Swedish Hasbeens

What better to make red work in an outfit than to have pretty red shoes... and this is the post where I'm going to introduce my New Favourite Things - my second pair of Swedish Hasbeens! I can't get over how much I love them and their kitsch heart design. Swedish Hasbeens make my day because they tend to come up on the narrow side; they feel like they're made for me! Tip if you buy the same style, the length is pretty true to size, but if you're between sizes like me, if you don't go a size down your toes ain't going to be peeping outta that hole! If your foot is normal to slim, go a size down and break them in - it'll be worth it. If your feet are on the wide side, you might find an alternative style more comfortable/looks better.

Swedish Hasbeens Heart Sandal in red review

What I really like about this skirt, by the way, is that it has belt loops! The way to make any full skirt look better is to pull your waist in as much as is comfortable.

Swedish Hasbeens Heart Sandal - red
Cardigan: Oasis (old)
Top: Warehouse (old)
Skirt: Peacocks
Shoes: Swedish Hasbeens (mine were from ASOS)

I love the fab detailing on this top and I'm not sure how it's never featured on this blog before. It was a £5 sale bargain two winters ago - the only one on the rack. It has such a great casual 50s vibe about it.

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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Photo diary: playing with a vintage Polaroid

My boyfriend B is a fan of vintage photography and by all accounts far more skilled at the art of photography than I am (hence why he is so often lumbered with the job of my personal paparazzi). Last summer, he used a Super 8 to create this little video of me picking strawberries in a field (it originally had Strawberry Fields Forever as the music, but copyright laws weren't very happy with that, so now it has sort of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind music... which makes it feel a bit sad, but I quite like the idea of poignant strawberry picking!).

More recently, we took his 80s Polaroid out with a special coloured paper pack, on a day we went walking by the river earlier this year - you might remember my much more modern SLR photos. The coloured paper is a fair bit brighter than how it looks when it's scanned. Polaroids can do some interesting things to contrast and exposure... a very arty effect, that in one of the below makes me look like I've stepped out of a L'oreal shampoo advert. Which I'm not complaining about.

The nice thing with being limited to 8 shots per pack is that you really think about what should go into each photo and end up with a nice little collection of all the best bits. It's a shame we didn't quite get the lighting right as these are probably on the over-exposed side - but again, half the fun with these old cameras is practice making perfect!

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Friday, 9 May 2014

Photo diary: Disneyland Paris and a birthday outfit tradition

It was my birthday on Monday and what better way to desperately cling on to the remaining years of your 20s than to spend it wishing you were a Disney princess? And also to be in Paris more generally, which is one of my favourite places in the world...

I was quite hoping to find a tiara to go with my birthday beehive, but alas, the ones I found seemed to be designed for the under 10s (I wonder why) and wouldn't have fit my big head without snapping into tiny plastic gold pieces. 

I like taking a bit of extra time with my appearance on my birthday as a) if you can't then, when can you? and b) photos tend to happen on birthdays, so best to be prepared. As well as a bit of extra time on hair and make-up, I have a birthday tradition of always wearing at least one new item of clothing on the big day - and this year's I am particularly pleased with (more on that later).

Just a few pictures to demonstrate just how pretty some of the park is - to be honest, most of the day we spent walking around rather than on rides and the things to look at never disappoint.

Bonus picture of B looking very manly (er, ignore that metal pole thing).

And now, I promised I'd talk some more about this year's new birthday clothing of choice. It was actually a summer basic I've been dying to get my hands on for over a year now, but finally found thanks to fellow blogger Porcelina, who included it in a post about high street buys. Thanks to her tip off I swiftly snapped it up (and was kind of smug when my size sold out a few days later).

Ta-da, meet my new white broderie tie shirt (an absolute bargain at £12)! I'm planning to wear this little beauty with everything - it's the perfect 50s style basic. I was so lucky for this year's birthday, it was beautifully sunny and warm so I didn't even need to cover it up during the hottest parts of the day.

50s cropped tie shirt

Also note that this outfit is generally very comfy and easy to spend all day walking in, which is going to be a running theme of my Paris posts (yes, there's more to come!). In particular, these Clarks flats are going to make a reappearance - and I didn't get a good close-up here but they're subtly snake print. Which just can't be a bad thing.

50s broderie knotted shirt

Top: Peacocks
Jeans: ASOS (petite / regular)
Belt: New Look (old)
Shoes: Clarks

But before I go, it's important to thank the person who actually treated me like a princess all day (the crowds certainly didn't) - and tolerated, yet again, being my personal paparazzi (although I think he rather enjoyed playing with my birthday present new portrait lens). Not only did B tolerate my princess diva rage at the ridiculously long lunch queues, he also bought me a charming little ring as a keepsake (note: the below is NOT my ring finger - and I don't think I expect my engagement ring to have mickey mouse on it). I can't think of many better people who're equally scared of all of the best rides and similarly hateful of small children being generally irritating to spend my birthday with.

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Thursday, 1 May 2014

Vintage style: 50s casual via modern leggings

Things I love: 1) being comfortable and 2) not looking like a sack of potatoes while being comfortable. Some vintage styles don't lend themselves to absolute comfort with their structure, fitted waists and general lack of elastane (if you're doing 'proper' vintage, that is).

When I'm not prancing around taking (quite frankly ridiculous) photos for this blog, my favourite loungewear of choice is to pull on a pair of leggings and a jumper/long top. Which got me thinking, is it possible to wear something as modern as a stretchy pair of leggings and look a bit retro (for want of a better phrase)? On their own, they can be the nemesis of a curvier figure - and while I'm petite, I do have a hip measurement that's almost 10" bigger than my waist... i.e. I have a sizeable rear end.

I think it's possible, but see if you agree with me...

What I think is key to this look:
  1. Make sure your leggings are both thick (and not the cheap, practically tights (pantyhose) kind) and high-waisted
  2. This is always going to look better with darker colours, as a) darker colours are more flattering which is key when something's skin-tight and b) I'm not convinced lighter colours would pass as trousers (unless you're 5 and pink's your thing)
  3. Turn up the inside of each leg to make a slightly shorter, cut off length and voila - suddenly they look like capris!
  4. Leggings are equally stretchy all over, so you could probably use some extra waist definition; if you want to stay comfy, take a leaf out of my book and go for an elasticated belt
  5. Choose a pretty top to tuck in, preferably one more of the 50s variety (more details on my cardigan below)
  6. Slip on some ballet pumps
  7. Put hair in a casual 50s do - I've gone for a ponytail, but tucking it up under a headscarf would also look fetching here
  8. Lipstick. Of course. My picks for a casual look are orange-red, bright red or coral.

Outfit details...

Cardigan: Hell Bunny (from Tiger Milly)
Leggings: Topshop
Belt: Miss Selfridge (old)
Shoes: Clarks (last season's, but still all over eBay)
Lipstick: Ruby & Millie (discontinued)

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