Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Outfit: the holiday skirt en vacance

I'm back from my mini-break on the UK coast and all I can say is: congratulations, me, on picking the worst few days of summer to have a holiday in this country. After five days of wearing wellies just to pop out for lunch, I couldn't be more sick of water (and my old arch nemesis, The Wind)! Ok, the wellies were new, leopard print, and had little heels, and yes, I did buy them specifically for the awful weather forecast so a part of me was pleased... But I'd have traded them for a day of sunshine - and I love new shoes.

Anyway, while I pray for summer to return, now's a good time to remember when I did experience fantastic holiday weather. If you read my photo diary of my Marseille trip, you might have already guessed that after the 'Audrey Hepburn on holiday' look (thanks again, Bonita!), the one with The Skirt was going to be the other outfit I spent some time snapping for your viewing pleasure.

It wasn't much for my pleasure, that's for sure, as this was one of those times that taking photos of me was just proving to be the worst idea anyone has ever had. We couldn't get the lighting right for ages (it still didn't end up great) and the wind was so relentless for a moment I thought I'd never left the UK. (Although without the winter temperatures I've been enjoying this week.)

And then you add a boater hat into the mix. I think the maximum amount of time my hand left my head all day, when totaled up, is probably about 15 minutes. I pinned the hat using a kirby grip (bobby pin) to the back of my head, but couldn't get the same miracle to work on the front. So it wasn't going anywhere, but it was still desperately trying to fly back off my head nonetheless. Is there a way to get boater hats to feel secure, or is the idea you don't actually wear them on boats near the windy sea? Maybe mine wasn't tight enough or I was wearing it too far back off my head but... fashion.

Anyway, you all knew a post with this skirt was coming and I had the most fun thinking up what to wear with it to show it off. I also knew exactly where I wanted to take these photos and it wasn't where the first few shots are... We went down to Cassis to visit the port and the calanques as I've already mentioned, but the port was super busy, ridiculously windy and there was no shade to be found anywhere. I'm all for standing in direct sunlight, but my camera isn't that great with it. In that its owner has not found a way to stop photos from coming out really bleached and with half of herself in total shadow (the British constant cloud cover had its uses for blogging, let it be said). So I've thrown some token 'riviera' shots in at the end just to prove my good intentions (and how blinding the sun was - oh for a blinding sun again!) :D

Boater hat, bardot top, novelty print skirt and frame bag


Asda scenic print full skirt


Boater hat, bardot top, novelty print skirt and frame bag



Boater hat, bardot top, full skirt

Boater hat and yellow bardot top

Boater hat, bardot top, novelty print skirt and frame bag

Boater hat in a retro look

Boater hat, bardot top, novelty print skirt and frame bag
Hat: New Look (similar)
Top: New Look
Belt: Marks & Spencer (similar)
Shoes: Clarks (old)

Token coastal shots... isn't it just gorgeous?

Cassis port

Retro style at Cassis port

Calanques of Cassis



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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Outfit: I think I might have a summer uniform...

I've gone from owning no florals to suddenly having gardens-full of the things - and I have to say, I don't know why I was ever against them. They're just so darn pretty and what's more, what goes with a hair flower better than a flower print? Exactly. And hair flowers have long been a staple of my summer wardrobe, just like berets are for the winter. I always feel like my outfits are more 'finished' if I've put something on the top, like a cherry on a cake... (not that anyone ever actually does that, do they?)

You've seen this dress before because it was a gift from Voodoo Vixen to wear at the London Edge fashion show earlier this year. That time, I gave it pink accessories rather than white and I wasn't really loving the whole ensemble and kind of went off the dress. Turns out I love it with white and ivory though, so it's got a new lease of life now! However, I couldn't resist pairing it with that other essential part of my summerwear; clogs - and in this case, my new pink ones. 

Ok, before anyone raises an eyebrow, I honestly wasn't planning to get another pair this year - even I can recognise one pair per year is enough when the summer in your country lasts about two weeks. But I'm never going to turn clogs down if they're offered - and these ones were kindly sent to me by Sandgrens. I'd never heard of them and all my previous pairs are Swedish Hasbeens, which I love, but Sandgrens pride themselves on being one of the oldest, if not the oldest, clog manufacturer in Sweden. Their styles come in a bit cheaper than Hasbeens tend to, so I was intrigued to see what they'd be like. 

Mostly, Sandgrens offer lower and mid heel styles but I like my clogs to have height otherwise I feel a bit clumpy, so naturally, I chose the highest pair on the website. They're actually higher than my 'sky high'  Hasbeens - the tallest that the brand offers. This has meant it's taken me some time to get used to walking in them - the first time I put them on with this dress, I felt approximately like one of the hippos in a tutu from Fantasia. I'd say they're not really for the inexperienced clog-wearer because of the height, although I've gotten more used to it now. Anyway, I really love the look of these - I love the curved semi-wedge - look at it below from the back; such a sexy heel! The colour is stunning too. The fit, however, wasn't perfect on me - I have a narrow, shallow foot and while the width was fine, the depth was a bit much on the front strap, although it's not obvious from these photos. None of my shoes fit perfectly, but in the clog world I find Hasbeens better for my shape of foot. If you've got wider feet than me though, Sandgrens may just be better for you than Hasbeens, which tend to come up super slim. The length I found pretty true to size, running slightly big if anything. What I do really like about them is how far forward the front ankle strap is, and it's wide so my foot stays in place and they really haven't needed the breaking in process my Hasbeens have.

So there we go: hair flower + floral dress + clogs = my summer uniform, apparently!

Voodoo Vixen Tilly dress and Sandgrens Rio Grande Semi-Wedge clogs

Voodoo Vixen Tilly dress and Sandgrens Rio Grande Semi-Wedge clogs

Sandgrens Rio Grande Semi-Wedge clogs in pink

Voodoo Vixen Tilly dress and Sandgrens Rio Grande Semi-Wedge clogs

Voodoo Vixen Tilly dress in black

Voodoo Vixen Tilly dress in black


Voodoo Vixen Tilly dress in black

Voodoo Vixen Tilly dress and Sandgrens Rio Grande Semi-Wedge clogs

Voodoo Vixen Tilly dress and Sandgrens Rio Grande Semi-Wedge clogs

Sandgrens Rio Grande Semi-Wedge clogs in pink

Voodoo Vixen Tilly dress and Sandgrens Rio Grande Semi-Wedge clogs
Hair flower: ASOS (old)
Belt: New Look
Bag: Collectif


I was determined to not be standing in a field for these photos, for once, but it's so challenging finding a part of Cambridge in the summer that's not overrun with tourists. B had long had his sights on this spot, which is a stone's throw from the famous Fitzwilliam Museum (only a handful of metres out of shot). "Don't worry," he says "there's nothing down here for tourists to see, it'll be quiet." Cue a group of tourists wandering into shot while they try to get photos of the plaque on the house where Charles Darwin lived. I think I should stick to fields...

...Or seasides - as I'm off for a short break to the coast tomorrow :)


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Sunday, 19 July 2015

Makeup: the best bargain brow kit

It's taken me a very long time to appreciate the good a well-defined eyebrow can do - particularly for a retro makeup look with strong lipstick. I've really only starting using product on mine for about the last six months or so (see my little picture on the right there - that's au natural). For years, while I kept them tidy I hadn't been very concerned with doing much more than that with them. They're quite thick and somewhat dark and I got it into my head that adding products to them = slugs on my face. Of course, now I realise that perfect, neat brows + red lips = makeup perfection! 

I just hadn't got a handle on the fact that just because you use an eyebrow pencil, doesn't mean you have to look like you've stencilled them on... Nor that you have to choose between pencils, powders, gels etc, but can in fact use a combination of products to get the right look for you. Lesson learned!

Boots Seventeen Brow's That! Brow Kit review

And that's why I like brow kits like this one so much, for the range of product they offer in one handy container! But when there's kits on offer from highbrow brands (sorry), are the cheaper ones any good? Benefit's Brow Zings and Urban Decay's Brow Box are two well-known 'kit' products that offer various things - both containing mini tweezers, setting wax and powder - and at £20+ each, you'd expect them to! Benefit's offering is supposedly the bestselling eyebrow product in the UK - I've not tried it, but I did notice the reviews for today's product referenced it a lot, saying it was just as good as it's expensive competitor and in fact had more to offer in some respects... I do, however, own an Urban Decay Brow Box that I've nearly depleted, so can offer some comparison points on that one here.

And here it is, Boots own-brand Seventeen's Brow's That Brow Kit (sorry, global readers!).

Boots Seventeen Brow's That! Brow Kit review

What's good about Brow's That
  • Coming in at £5.99, it's less than a quarter of the price of its Benefit rival! While I haven't tried the Benefit kit, the makeup quality seems pretty much as good as the Urban Decay one...
  • I am particularly impressed with the pencil and the powder - the two main products that offer the colour and definition to your brows. The pencil goes on smoothly and is very pigmented and the powder does the same. I actually find the Urban Decay powder a bit faint in comparison, so I end up using more of it meaning faster replacement
  • It offers an awful lot for one cheap product, as it contains: a pencil, powder in one shade, setting wax, highlighter powder and a brush, along with a nice big mirror and a little instruction leaflet I haven't pictured here that suggests how to apply the products - great for beginners
  • The fact that it has both a pencil and powder is somewhat of a novelty - the Benefit and Urban Decay kits only have powder in comparison. I (now!) find eyebrow pencils really useful for getting precise edges and filling in any patches in my brows better than powder can, so I love having two products that are meant to be used together like this in one kit, perfectly suited to each other
  • The brush is surprisingly good quality and I find it a lot more precise and easier to use than the Urban Decay one, which is quite 'stubby' and hard to get a thin line with for the outside edges of your brows
  • The products stay in place all day - I was a bit worried the powder would smudge as it's a cheap brand, but it doesn't

All in all, it does what it's supposed to - it helps you create well-defined brows. But of course, for this price it's not going to be perfect...


Boots Seventeen Brow's That! Brow Kit review

What's not so good
  • The highlighter powder is almost invisible on me - it doesn't have particularly strong pigment, unlike the brow powder, and is so subtle it's barely worth using really
  • I can't really tell if the wax is doing much good. I've often felt like this with Urban Decay's wax too though - I think generally, waxes aren't as effective for keeping stray hairs in place as a little bit of hairspray smoothed over a brow is!
  • There's no mini tweezers like in the high-end kits... but I'm ok to use my regular tweezers for the price. I do find myself often using the Urban Decay ones though - there's something to be said for the convenience of having everything in one place (one of pet hates is trying to remember where I've put my tweezers)
  • The pencil is obviously quite small and is running down much faster than the powder is - it'll definitely run out long before, unfortunately
  • The biggest drawback of all: it only comes in one colour! Fortunately for me, as this is aimed at the UK market that colour is basically summarised as: mid brown. It's not too dark, it's not too light... it works just fine for my colouring, particularly if I go easy on the pencil and just use it for gaps. I've found that changing my ratio of pencil-powder results in a lighter or darker brow 

So there you go - I'm not sure how readily available this is outside of the UK, as with a lot of Boots-own products, but if you can get your hands on one and you're a brunette, I'd recommend giving it a go. For the price, it really is good value for money!

Any other brow product recommendations out there that don't break the bank? I might experiment with more pencils now I've come to like the one in this kit so much!



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Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Outfit: strawberries and cream (sort of)

Firstly, there's still one more outfit to show you from my Marseille trip, but this ain't it (this one does feature some Marseille sunburn though - which funnily enough wasn't deliberate red accessorising). Secondly, B really wanted to name this post 'strawberries and cream', but your eyes aren't deceiving you, the dress you're about to see is not cream, but dazzling purest white. Considering he takes all the outfit photos you see here and doesn't usually express a remote interest in post names, I thought I'd let him have this one!

Unnecessary housekeeping out of the way, let's introduce two of my favourite things this summer so far. I've had quite a few favourite things in the clothing department, mainly because I've bought so much I've got a lot of choice, but none can top exhibit A: the strawberry shaped wicker bag. Of course, it comes from my favourite shop, Collectif, and if I ever needed proof their designers are somehow reading my mind, this is essentially it. We all know that strawberries are the best fruit (don't even try to argue with me on this one) and in this country we even manage to grow them, which is amazing as there's a lot of fruit that would rather die than grow in our climate. Not the hardy, tasty strawberry. And their arrival is one of the first signs it's actually summer here, which is partly why I love them so, so much. That and they are one of the only fruits I can actually tolerate (give me vegetables over fruit any day). You don't have to love the fruit you're wearing, but it helps (that's a thing).

Something else we all know I love is a red accessory. How many times do I make you look at outfits of me with red shoes/red bag/red hat/red hair flower/red etc on this blog? A lot, that's how many. But yet, I only (only!) actually had two red bags before this and neither was this strawberry bag. I also had to refresh Collectif's website twice a day every day for over three weeks to nab it and it's hard not to love something you had to put that much effort in to acquire. I actually ordered it while I was still on holiday! If you did miss out again this time, I've seen Collectif saying more are being made, so just follow my lead and you'll get one - the page link is below. EDIT: Or buy this nearly identical one from Topshop (only difference is the absence of the shorter shoulder strap, from what I can see!). Or in the US, Modcloth are featuring a slightly more glitzy one by Betsey Johnson.

So that's exhibit A. Exhibit B is this white dress from Voodoo Vixen. I never knew I needed a white dress until I got this one. It is at complete odds with how likely I am to drop something down myself if it's going to stain appallingly, but I can't help but love how warm-weather perfect it is. It does feel a bit Wimbledon too, particularly with this strawberry bag! And what's more, it's one of those uber rare instances where I didn't have to alter a dress and it fits practically perfectly. The only other time I think that's ever happened was the petite Lindy Bop Ophelia. When these moments of dress euphoria come along for me I suddenly understand why everyone on the vintage scene (for want of a better phrase) loves dresses so much. Any dress that can make me feel this good is going to be a favourite forever. I think I owe it largely to the flattering length, gorgeous neckline and the back which is completely shirring.

Can I get a round of applause for the designers of dresses with shirring and wicker bags shaped like strawberries please?

Voodoo Vixen white Billie Blush dress and Collectif strawberry bag

Voodoo Vixen white Billie Blush dress and Collectif strawberry bag

Sweetheart neckline of Voodoo Vixen Billie Blush dress

Voodoo Vixen white Billie Blush dress and Collectif strawberry bag

Details of Voodoo Vixen white Billie Blush dress


Voodoo Vixen white Billie Blush dress and Collectif strawberry bag

Back of Voodoo Vixen Billie Blush dress

Collectif strawberry bag

Voodoo Vixen white Billie Blush dress and Collectif strawberry bag

Collectif strawberry bamboo bag

Voodoo Vixen white Billie Blush dress and Collectif strawberry bag
Hair flower: Retro Vixens (old)
Bag: Collectif (this Topshop version is virtually identical)
Shoes: Swedish Hasbeens (check eBay)


P.S. Did you spot the sunburn? Back of arms, yep. I am militant about suncream and hate, hate, hate burning but for the record B didn't burn - no points for guessing who was applying his cream and who was doing mine!


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Sunday, 12 July 2015

Create Vintage Inspired Wedding Hairstyles - a book of beauty

Create Vintage Inspired Wedding Hairstyles review

I rarely ever, ever review books on this blog. This is actually a bit strange, as books are a big part of my life - from the constant reading of them to the day job in publishing. However, back in the days when probably not even my mum was reading this blog, a book review was the very first thing I ever posted here, before I took a 3+ year hiatus from my blossoming literary critic career to focus on my need to share pictures of myself in dresses. So, as it stands, the only other book I've ever reviewed was also by Lauren Rennells, therefore it's pretty evident that a book either has to be exceptionally special for me to blog about it, or it has to be written by Lauren Rennells. Fortunately, this book qualifies on both counts. 

Create Vintage Inspired Wedding Hairstyles by Lauren Rennells book review
© 2015 HRST Books

It really is the most gorgeous book that could ever grace your coffee table, from the cover's matte finish and french flaps to the stunning illustrations on the inside. And that's before you even get to the hairstyles themselves, which are no less than works of art. Surely, Lauren is the Rodin of hair - the styles she creates are nothing short of sculptural genius! It was through reading this book that I learned that sewing your hairstyle in place is an actual thing... Yes, you heard, sewing.

Create Vintage Inspired Wedding Hairstyles by Lauren Rennells book review
© 2015 HRST Books

You'll also never look at a playing card in the same way again once you've seen what it can do as a hair tool... Hence I had to include this spread of all of the various implements and what they do (see - needle and thread!!). Generally, throughout, everything is as clear and explained as possible and Lauren lets you know which era she's taken inspiration from...

Create Vintage Inspired Wedding Hairstyles by Lauren Rennells book review

... However, you would probably be fooling yourself if you thought you could pick this book up and overnight would be able to create the masterpieces within its pages. These hairstyles are formal styles intended for all-day events like weddings, so they are immaculately crafted to the last hair with the intention of staying very well put. If you've read Lauren's previous book, Vintage Hairstyling, you'll know that this one is aimed as more of an 'every day' style guide and the styles are definitely less complicated and easier to follow than what's on offer here. However, they're also still fairly advanced for your average person - or, well, for me anyway, who is terrified of curling tongs (the accidental burns, the rubbish curls at the back of your head, the insane amount of time they take to use - the horror! The top picture's curls were achieved with Lauren's very own sleep-in Rockin' Rollers - a review of these is coming!). A lot of Lauren's styles use heat styling and having a phobia of such equipment isn't particularly ideal for using her books and definitely won't help you out in using this latest offering. Nor will it be helpful if you're not someone who likes following instructions... Each style has a lot of instructions!

Create Vintage Inspired Wedding Hairstyles by Lauren Rennells book review
© 2015 HRST Books

Like I say, these are generally complicated styles and they're going to take patience and following the rules to make them look like the photos. So why would a girl like me covet a book like this, considering I'll probably never follow a single step in its pages? 

Create Vintage Inspired Wedding Hairstyles by Lauren Rennells book review
© 2015 HRST Books

Because I can still appreciate this book for the beautiful feat of publishing that it is, regardless of my lack of talent as a hairstylist! I'm totally ok with the fact the pages are essentially paper eye-candy for me... I kind of feel this book is some sort of wonderful hair window shopping. My own copy is also particularly special as it was gifted to me by one of my best friends, who is getting married next year. I love the idea that we could use this book as inspiration for what we might do with my hair as the bridesmaid - and hers as the bride! In a nutshell this book is basically summarised as: life hair goals. Life hair goals that I would happily pay an actual hairstylist to achieve on my behalf for a formal event.

Create Vintage Inspired Wedding Hairstyles by Lauren Rennells book review
© 2015 HRST Books

So if you can use a pair of tongs and have more patience than me (think of my levels as being on a par with a child having a temper tantrum's), what are you waiting for? But even if you're not, I still think this is a book to own just to own it, it's that stunning and the passion that's gone into it is completely clear in every single page. You'll certainly learn something about hairstyles in different eras too.

And might I suggest that if you are daunted by Lauren's hair guides, that you give Retro Makeup a try? I adore this book as even a novice like me can follow every step and it opens your eyes to the history of makeup as well as the beauty. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Lauren herself for allowing me to use the above images.


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