Thursday, 26 June 2014

Outfit: gypsy top and a bookish bag

I've realised I've been stockpiling new summer clothes for those four weeks in the UK (tops) we're actually able to wear them. Something I've now acquired three of (three!) is gypsy tops. I've clearly had some sort of lack of shoulder exposure crisis in my subconscious.

Along with lovely loose-fitting and a little bit provocative tops for the hot weather that never comes, I've also got a new bag to show you today and it's very special indeed (with far better cost per use). It beautifully marries my love of red accessories with my love of books. (For those of you who don't know, my day job is in book publishing - and you don't work in publishing for the money!)

A red book bag needs matching shoes, lipstick, nails and hair flower for the perfect warm weather ensemble. Which in this case was for a picnic in the park.

Disaster Designs book bag

Top: Collectif
Jeans: ASOS (Rivington - all available colours)
Sandals: Swedish Hasbeens (via ASOS - currently on sale!)
Bag: Disaster Designs (via Modcloth)
Hair flower: Retro Vixens

This post reminded me how time-consuming it is to take your own blog photos and not have a helpful boyfriend snapping away for you. Not to mention much less scenic. First world problems. Thankfully this situation will be rectified as we're off for a long weekend by the sea. The very cold, rainy sea - this is the UK, after all, and the forecast is as reliable as ever!

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Sunday, 22 June 2014

Make-up: Revlon Really Red (a better alternative to Mac Russian Red)

Ask most vintage beauty enthusiasts about their favourite classic red lipstick and there's a good chance you'll hear about Mac's Russian Red - the classic deep red lipstick from their matte range.

I, however, really have a problem with this lipstick - it just makes me look ill. I've come to conclude over the years that it's because I'm slightly yellow-toned and rather pale and this lipstick is very deep and blue-based and the resulting look is all a bit sick-bed. It's also very drying and has my lips flaking in about an hour without a primer. And I just don't want to wear a primer all the time (partly because I always lose it so literally can't wear it all the time).

Revlon Really Red

For a long time, I've gone completely the other way and favoured lighter, warm-toned reds with a fair bit of orange lurking beneath their surfaces, from the almost neon Mac Lady Danger, to the almost true-red Nars Heat Wave. But there's still something very classic and striking about a darker red and lately I keep finding myself reaching for a tube I first bought years ago but never wore because I never really gave it a chance after the Russian Red debacle.

The irony is that Revlon's Really Red is almost identical to Russian Red, but where it's not, I think it's a deep red that I can finally get to work for me... so if any of my readers have felt similarly disenchanted with Mac or have the same colouring, I recommend you give this one a try!

Revlon matte red lipstick

Revlon Really Red matte lipstick

Revlon matte red lipstick review

  • This lipstick really is matte - but, in my opinion, it's not as drying as the Mac matte range and I find it soft and comfortable to wear
  • It's also not as expensive as the Mac matte range! Very good value for money
  • It is nearly an exact dupe for Mac's iconic Russian Red, but I find it marginally lighter and less blue-based and therefore easier to wear for most people and the more classic, true red of the two
  • Pretty amazing staying power - I'm always surprised how much of it is still on me after I've eaten
  • I rather like the lid - it's clear at the top so you can see which shade it is clearly
  • It's not perfect - it will still, eventually, dry your lips out over the course of the day
  • If cheap packaging bothers you, you won't like this

But really, those two very minor cons aren't worth not giving this lipstick a try if you're in the market for a classic matte red.

The only real shame here is that Revlon don't make more shades in this range. The rest are rather light and no other reds at all to choose from. They used to make a beautiful shade called Strawberry Suede that I didn't get chance to buy before they discontinued it. To eBay...

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Sunday, 15 June 2014

Outfit: crop tops + high-waisted jeans

So, the crop top's back. Some of us hoped we'd seen the last of all that at a school disco c.1998... (showing my age!). The irony is that back the first time around, my lovely flat midriff was hidden under a layer of puppy fat and now the crop's returned, there's a danger I'm a bit too old for all this nonsense (and I certainly don't have the washboard abs thing going on this time either).

But there's such nice short styles out there I thought I'd give it a go, borrowing a leaf out of the 50's book and styling one with a high-waist, thus reducing the amount of tummy that can actually escape. I deliberately started with a cheap top in case it all turned out to be a very bad idea (!).

Sitting down, it kind of looks like a normal length top, but when I stood up you could see the difference.

Sunglasses: New Look
Jeans: ASOS (Petite, 'Rivington')
Belt: vintage
Shoes: Clarks (old, but still found on eBay)
Lipstick: Boots No7 Stay Perfect in Gay Geranium

I'd have quite liked a slightly higher waist on the jeans to feel more comfortable about how much middle was on display (although the first full-length shot above is a bit misleading because of how I'm standing, they come up a little bit higher than this). But it's worth noting I really quite like them and they were pretty cheap for the quality - not to mention the style comes in lots of different colours. I liked this pair because they have the 5-pocket jeans detailing, but technically ASOS classes them as jeggings (I've never been clear on the distinction). One bad thing about them though - they are leaking inky blue dye like crazy and have dyed my ankles, thighs, fingertips (!) and half of one of my favourite bags. Tut tut, ASOS.

I had to include this shot, it would have been rude not to with this bird posing so nicely.

What do you think of crop tops - could us vintage style lovers be embracing them more? Personally, I've got my eye on a lovely bardot design with a kitsch lemon print at ASOS...

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Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Outfit: when in Paris (part 2)

The last of my photos from my Paris trip in May and this time I'm posing near another tourist hotspot,  the very pretty Place des Vosges. Essentially this is a park, with many water fountains, lots of lovely trees, a statue and gorgeous tall iron railings all the way round. I remembered this park as being fairly quiet, but it's definitely not on a Saturday when the sun's out!

Continuing the theme from part 1 of these posts, this is another example of staying comfortable while doing lots of walking around and generally being a tourist. Here I owe my thanks to a stretchy tube skirt, a pretty but again stretchy cotton cardigan and the comfy leather flats that saw me through the whole holiday. Clarks are a good idea if you want cushioned flat shoes that are going to let your feet breathe. Go for leather styles and whatever you do, make sure you break them in pre-holiday (carry blister plasters on all city breaks just in case)!

Denim jacket, leopard print skirt

Clarks Alicia Ava in black snake

Elasticated bow waist belt

Denim jacket: New Look
Cardigan: Oasis (old)
Belt: New Look (old)
Skirt: Warehouse (old)
Shoes: Clarks

A denim jacket helped to keep this outfit casual while adding an extra layer of warmth and wasn't a problem to fit into my suitcase as a second coat option... And I couldn't resist adding a belt to help cinch in a waist that wasn't particularly well defined, encased in all that stretchy material!

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Thursday, 5 June 2014

Dressing up a 'vintage' garden bench

Although I'm too lazy to be a real upcycler/restorer of vintage furniture, when an old bench became free to a good home, exactly in the style of what I was looking for, I couldn't not take it. My 'garden' (small paved patio) needed some love and, more importantly, somewhere to sit. My bank account needed me not to be spending £100+ on a few slats of wood.

But taking on an old wooden bench - or any old wooden garden furniture for that matter - isn't easy if you like everything to be just so. As you can see, it was discoloured, had more than a few chunks missing including several big holes on one arm and generally looked battered and sad.

My heart aches a little just looking at this picture... which is why I went to such lengths to get it restored in the name of finally having somewhere to have a cup of tea in my backyard.

The good news is, if you ever find a piece of wooden garden furniture going cheap, it's so easy to make it into something stronger, prettier and more unique, with a bit of hard work and some decent paint. It really is a case of if I can do it, anyone can. I came at this whole project with the knowledge of one who knows nothing about these things, so spent some time googling best ways to go about it... if you know more than I do feel free to skip to the end result picture ;) The revamp was completed within the space of one weekend, working at it on and off.

Dressing up an old garden bench

1. Wash thoroughly
Get as much surface dirt off as you possibly can with water. Look out for cobwebs in every single corner (shudder). Either use a power washer if you have one, or a soaked cloth/kitchen towel and elbow grease will do. If you do get the wood properly wet, you'll need to factor in at least 2-3 days for it to thoroughly dry out, possibly longer in the cold weather. If your wood is particularly old or damaged, you might find parts of it have rot, like I did (be gentle). In this case, it will take even longer to dry out but do let it because if you paint over rot you trap the fungus causing it and the problem's only going to get worse from there (rot spreads!). The best thing to dry out rotting wood, I found, is to put it in direct sunlight and leave it there for several hours, until dry to touch.

2. Get sanding
Again, a power tool is only going to help. I didn't have one, just good old fashioned sanding paper and muscle (ha). Put the time into this step - you're trying to get rid of splinters and any bits of flaky wood that are going to fall off anyway. No one likes a splinter in the bottom. Make sure you wipe off the dust when done with a damp cloth/kitchen towel, you don't want to paint on that.

3. Repair holes
Before you start this step, it's a good idea to get some newspaper down underneath your object now. If your wood is old, then like me you might find some nasty chunks missing that not only look awful, but also threaten more splinters in future. Invest in a relatively cheap tube of wood filler and go crazy. Pipe it directly into the holes and use a flat knife, ideally a putty knife, to press it in and smooth it across the wood. I also found using my fingers helped get into really tough spots (it washes off, don't worry). Be prepared to fill the bad holes with more than one layer - and if you need to do that factor in the couple of hours or so you'll need to let the layer before dry. Once the filler is dry, sand down across the surface until it hopefully makes a smooth surface with the wood. At this stage it's going to look awful, but you're going to paint over it so don't worry.

4. First layer of paint
The above sanding and filling steps might take you the best part of a day, but if you're able to, get the first layer of paint on all over because it's always best to leave paint to dry overnight if you can. Make sure your paint is specially for the outdoors but I personally didn't use primer and for the colour didn't need to - this paint was very thick and pigmented and covered everything brilliantly. The above picture is of the first layer and you can just make out a tiny bit of wood poking through the end of the arm and patchy green on the leg, but one more coat and that's gone. Tip: paint the underneath of your object first so that any drips made that land on the top side can be corrected.

5. Second layer of paint
As obvious as it sounds! Only do this once the first layer is dry and again work from the underneath to the top.

6. Add a coat of polyeurethane protector
I haven't actually done this yet, but I'm going to before I put my bench out in the big wide world (it's currently under shelter). I know if I let the bench get too wet the rot will set in again, so it's worth taking the extra step to make sure it has a fighting chance of lasting more years to come.

And here it is, in a fetching shade of green I always associate with 'vintage'... This paint, by the way, is Cuprinol Garden Shades in Willow.

Garden bench painted in Cuprinol Garden Shades Willow

And a pretty bench deserved some pretty flowers... the first my garden has ever seen!

And this is my very own strawberry plant - I'm excited to see if these little green fruits ever turn into delicious red ones.

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