Sunday, 30 August 2015

Home: my budget retro tv stand (and putting vintage touches on rental properties)

Time for something a bit different from me... I've long been pondering if I should show you my house, because there's a lot about it that isn't how I want it to be. Not only is it a constant work in progress, I'm in rental accommodation so I can't paint the walls, I'm generally living with the inability to add permanent things like cupboards for shoes (they're everywhere!!) or mirrors in places I want them (which isn't horizontal at waist height, but thanks anyway, Landlord), and there's rather permanent things that I wouldn't choose to have in my own home (electric fireplace from the 80s in the dining room, anyone?). I've also known for several months that I should be able to buy a house with B hopefully in the New Year, so it's all going to change and be more what I want soon anyway... But let's face it, that's still a long way away, so meanwhile I thought I'd share some of the ways I've been trying to put a 'vintage' touch on my home just through furnishings, homeware and working with what I've got. 

Part of what I've never got is a big budget, as all the money goes on the shoes that are strewn all over my floor (or so B would claim anyway). What I do have is an ability to find second-hand furniture that could pass for mid-century style, like this cute little table.

Mid century modern style teak tv table

Of course, it was probably never intended to be a tv table. I've got no idea when exactly it was from either, but I'm going to guess it's probably mid-late 70s...? It was probably meant to be a coffee table for a small room, but that magazine shelf makes a wonderful platform for modern technology.  And er, yes, we do have a bit of a wire and Wii-on-the-floor (heh) situation going on underneath that I haven't quite figured out how to make look nice yet, but let's ignore that and focus on the fact that it's the ideal width for this alcove in my living room and my TV.

Mid century modern style teak tv table

(And yes, those are some of the lucky shoes that aren't on the floor. I call them 'the chosen ones'. Er, I don't really, but I should as that's how fortunate they are to be tidied away on a shelf.) 

There's three things I love about this table 1) it's as sturdy as anything 2) it's that kind of teak colour you see a lot of mid-century furniture in and 3) the tapered legs make me think mid-century too. It was also an eBay purchase that I picked up for a mere £30 - making it an absolute bargain.

While I know it's not mid-century perfect, one of the things I think you have to do when you're renting properties is buy furniture that's good enough for as little as possible, because what if it doesn't fit in your forever home - quite literally, what if it's all the wrong size? There's not much you can do about that! Hence I've become a whiz at scouring charity shops and eBay to find exactly - or close to - what I want. If you put the time in, it's out there, just waiting for you to nestle in an alcove...

Mid century modern style teak tv table

In fact, I even have some tips for kitting out homes with budget retro options:
  1. Visit charity shops as often as you can - armed with all width, height and depth measurements for furniture you're looking to find saved on your phone and a tape measure if you've got one (although most furniture shops will probably have one you can borrow). There's nothing worse than getting it wrong, or missing out on something that's perfect. I've found even large charity furniture stores turn over almost their entire stock weekly, so you can't really pop in too often to catch a bargain, nor wait too long if you find something you like
  2. If you're not prepared to drastically alter something that's probably temporary, know in advance if certain wood finishes, colours etc won't fit with your existing furniture or fittings - it's not a bargain if it doesn't fit in how you want it to and you're not able or prepared to change it (and if you won't, don't kid yourself you'll get round to it like me with shortening the legs on trousers...)
  3. Set yourself a budget for each piece you're trying to buy and base it around how likely you are to take it to your next house; I knew I couldn't spend much on a sideboard as it's so large, chances are there may not be a space for it in my next house. Sort of cost per use for furniture
  4. eBay is great, but you can waste hours of your life trying to find what you want there and get suckered by people selling over the odds for vintage pieces - my advice is find the keywords of the crucial things you definitely want e.g. 'table' 'teak' 'shelf' and leave out period flags e.g. 'mid century' '50s' or you'll miss out on the cheaper pieces that are from the era but the seller didn't realise, or they aren't from the era but fit the criteria pretty well, or they could be easily upcycled by sticking some different legs on or a coat of varnish (but, again, only if you're prepared to actually do that! My limit pretty much stops at a layer of varnish)
  5. And if you're shopping on eBay because you have a budget, sort by price to avoid temptation!
  6. Compromise - something I find very hard to do as I'm such a darn perfectionist, but as in the case of aforementioned sideboard, I was ready to drop x5 what I eventually paid to get something perfect... And in fact I really like what we ended up with as its the perfect size and...
  7. ...Furniture can be dressed up with cheaper ornaments that are period authentic. It really makes a difference to see my starburst clock sitting right above my tv table. And maybe someday I really will get round to changing the legs and handles on my sideboard (yeah right), but until then it looks quite alright with a little retro radio on top
  8. Retro homeware can be picked up everywhere these days for cheap. Of course there's eBay and charity shops (although I never have much luck in the ones near me), but in the UK, I recommend checking out Dunelm Mill and of course Ikea can be relied on for unusual things, not to mention they occasionally reissue things from their archives for great prices (a piece of which you will see when I get round to showing you the rest of my living room). Also, if you are in the UK follow Retro to Go as they're always sharing cute house buys (among other things) in places you wouldn't think to look
This all feels like obvious advice when I say it like that, and no one who's already in the furniture thrifting game is going to have their lives changed by this, but it's how I do it anyway!


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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Outfit: summertime blues

There's a lot of blue in this outfit and the location, but of course, my 'summertime blues' really come from only one place... the darn weather. 

I think we've seen me harp on about how disappointing I've found this country's 'summer' not just this year, but probably every year before I've been writing this blog, almost as if I've forgotten I live in the UK... but, ok, just one more thing. You're looking at these photos and thinking 'what's she on about, it was clearly the most glorious summer weather EVER'... No, my friends! These photos were taken on our holiday in late July to the coast and the weather was so bad, that this sudden burst of sunshine you see below was the only two hour break of nice weather in five solid days of torrential downpour that exactly coincided with my trip. We had to time this shoot with military precision - and then the awful raging wind threatened to throw it off altogether, again.

Ok, it's not just one thing, I lied. Feel free to skip to the photos now, I won't mind... So, I read an article recently that said Brits are getting so little sun this year that we're becoming deficient in vitamin D and will all soon have to pop pills to avoid depression and health problems. That is how bad it is. On the plus, we're nearly in autumn and then at least the rubbish weather is expected, so I'll stop feeling so bitterly disappointed all of the time. 

However, every (rain) cloud has a silver lining. This post's silver lining is I managed to actually take some photos in the sun without them coming out too overexposed to use. Being determined to not waste the blue skies I was being offered, I was forced to keep at it with angles and camera settings until it finally worked. And I really, really loved this location. You can't see it, but there's a windmill a few feet away on the other side of me. Super picturesque and one thing I will say about obsessively blogging what you wear is that when you get a two hour break of nice weather, you've got a reason to immediately get yourself out in it.

Like I say, every cloud... Of which there are none in these photos - hurrah!

Collectif Sophia Gingham Top and Lindy Bop Peggy Midnight Blue Full Circle Skirt

Collectif Sophia Gingham Top in navy

Collectif Sophia Gingham Top and Lindy Bop Peggy Midnight Blue Full Circle Skirt

Mad Men style hairdo

Collectif Sophia Gingham Top and Lindy Bop Peggy Midnight Blue Full Circle Skirt

Collectif Sophia Gingham Top and Lindy Bop Peggy Midnight Blue Full Circle Skirt

Collectif Sophia Gingham Top and Lindy Bop Peggy Midnight Blue Full Circle Skirt

Collectif Sophia Gingham Top in navy

Collectif Sophia Gingham Top and Lindy Bop Peggy Midnight Blue Full Circle Skirt

Collectif Sophia Gingham Top and Lindy Bop Peggy Midnight Blue Full Circle Skirt

Collectif Ivory Kiss Lock Bag and Swedish Hasbeens Fredrica in Ivory

Collectif Sophia Gingham Top and Lindy Bop Peggy Midnight Blue Full Circle Skirt
Top: Collectif
Skirt: Lindy Bop 'Peggy' skirt (altered to a shorter length)
Bag: Collectif
Shoes: Swedish Hasbeens 'Fredrica' via ASOS


Anyway, I'm a pro at this weather thing now. The wind wasn't going to ruin MY hair that was pinned and hairsprayed to within an inch of its life!


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Thursday, 20 August 2015

My secret talent... and the death of my creativity

Originally I started off thinking that this would be one of those posts where I tell you 10 things about me you don't know and it would all be very witty and interesting. The reality was that I just didn't think half of it was actually even slightly witty or interesting, but I started rambling about the first thing on the list for long enough that it needed its own post, so here we are! (I'm not sure if it's just me, but every time I write posts about myself and not my outfits etc I do wonder who on earth would read it. Clothes feel much more exciting.)

Anyway, truth be told, I don't have many hidden talents. I can't even wink. In fact, apart from what I'm about to talk about I can't think of much I can do that feels like a special skill - other than retain endless encyclopaedic knowledge of online clothes catalogues. But that's probably because I spend too much of my life looking at online clothes catalogues... and I bet the information about where to buy a red skirt has pushed out something useful like... maths.

Anyway, the one thing I can do that I don't think I've ever mentioned on this blog: I can draw. I particularly love drawing people - I love capturing expressions and the immense satisfaction of getting a good likeness. It's something I've had a knack for since I was little and it was always that one thing that marked me out among my classmates (er, apart from how notoriously bad I was at any kind of physical activity/sport and my outstanding ability to be picked last for every team).

15 minute sketch using pen
A 15-minute sketch of B from the other week

But while I can draw, I rarely ever do it now. In fact, the first time I've sat down to draw in over three years was for the above picture, sketched on holiday entirely because I'd just won a sparkly pen in an arcade machine and couldn't work on my blog for either writing or taking photos (internet connection and weather being too bad). Isn't that a curious coincidence...? And it turns out I technically was working on my blog as now it's become a visual in this post (is nothing sacred?!).

I think I'm one of those people who can't have too many hobbies - not creative ones, at least. That exists right? Or am I just lazy? I love writing this blog, but if I'm honest it is completely all-consuming when it comes to my free time. I'm constantly thinking about it, or content creating, or tweaking code, or answering emails etc etc and by the time I've spent hours at the weekend doing bits and pieces for it, all I want to do is internet window shop and Netflix. I currently think of it practically as a second job - just one I love doing (well, apart from the crippling boredom of alt tagging pictures - but no job's perfect). But nonetheless, I already have a full-time job that I additionally spend a lot of time commuting to, so when you add my non-official blogging job in, there aren't many hours in the day.

Let's compare the quick sketch above with the last artistic thing I did, just before this blog began, for effort levels...

Painting of Marilyn Monroe
Apologies, she doesn't photograph very well and looks washed out here, but you get the gist...

Yeah. That one took a while. (And unfortunately didn't completely succeed on likeness, so points if you know who it is without having to go through an elimination process. I'm not as good with paint as simple sketching! Take my word for it that the sketch of B above is far more accurate.)

So while I might now try to consciously pick up a pencil a bit more so that I don't lose the knack completely, there's a part of me that knows that while this blog's around and I'm working I probably won't be making the most of my one real talent that until this point in my life was one of the defining things about me. Unless you count putting the occasional cute outfit together as a talent...? 

Do any of my fellow bloggers feel like your blog has pushed out things you used to enjoy doing? Perhaps it's not unique to bloggers - maybe it's an adult thing when life gets in the way...

Although, not all of us seem to be deterred, as fellow blogger Bonita's proved recently! Running a blog and having three children hasn't held this lady back from her artistic pursuits... Frankly she's putting my one-sketch-in-three-years to shame - she's even found time to draw me, of all people! Not to mention Jessica (Chronically Vintage), Nora (Nora Finds) and Harlow (Vintage at Heart) too. I simply couldn't talk about art in this post without applauding this project and her superior multitasking skills!

© Teacup Girl Art

And if you think these illustrations are as cute as I do, you should check out Bonita's brand new Teacup Girl Art website and find out more about what she's up to. I love the idea of celebrating stylish ladies like this (am I allowed to refer to myself as stylish??) - and that you can buy all manner of merchandise with the illustrations on. Quite frankly, why wouldn't you want me on your iPhone/mug/cushion? (Don't answer that.)


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Sunday, 16 August 2015

Outfit: re-mixing the rose skirt (and some hindsight)

So, the last time you saw this skirt it was being used in my Back to the Future costume. But of course, it was never intended to just be fancy-dress! Far too pretty for that.

I actually wore it again immediately after that adventure - photographed it, then did that thing I like doing of not posting the photos for over a year because the weather didn't feel appropriate at the time (like it matters!). It's funny how looking at these images now I pick up a few things e.g. that my lens was poorer, that I hadn't yet learnt to appreciate a petticoat and that I was much less confident in front of the camera. I also don't know if I'd wear this exact outfit again now, a year later...

They say hindsight is a marvellous thing, but writing this blog I feel all it ever does is make me question every choice I ever make - well, at least, aesthetically speaking! I've never scrutinised myself in the way I do now. Sometimes it's a positive experience, but it can be very demoralising too. Particularly if you wear an outfit that you think looks great, until you see the photos and are suddenly looking at 100+ pictures of your fabulous muffin top that you had no idea was even there. And then you realise you just didn't notice it in the mirror and it's been there all day long - and if you didn't see that, what else did you miss?! I've seen other bloggers talk about the fact that outfits can look different in the mirror vs on the camera too and I think there's some truth in that because of the whole 3D vs 2D flattening thing that photos do... But as much as you know that, it doesn't stop you seeing a bad photo and thinking you must just look terrible in life generally.

Anyway, that all got a bit reflective. Back to the outfit - essentially, there's nothing wrong with this ensemble - it's cute! It's just very CiCi Marie 2014, in hindsight... although the muffin top, thankfully, wasn't in sight. (The weird arm skin was though.)

50s style summer outfit with Hell Bunny Cannes floral skirt

50s style summer outfit with Hell Bunny Cannes floral skirt

50s style summer outfit with Hell Bunny Cannes floral skirt

50s style summer outfit with Hell Bunny Cannes floral skirt

50s style summer outfit with Hell Bunny Cannes floral skirt

50s style summer outfit with Hell Bunny Cannes floral skirt

50s style summer outfit with Hell Bunny Cannes floral skirt

Lulu Guinness Mary croc bag in black

50s style summer outfit with Hell Bunny Cannes floral skirt

Lulu Guinness Mary bag and Clarks Alina Katelina sanals

50s style hair bun with ribbon

50s summery outfit with Hell Bunny Cannes floral skirt
Top: Topshop (old)
Belt: Marks & Spencer (similar)
Skirt: Hell Bunny Cannes skirt (Amazon)
Shoes: Clarks (check eBay)
Bag: Lulu Guinness (check eBay)
Hair ribbon: ASOS

Perhaps, in classic CiCi style, I'm just overthinking it?


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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Makeup: Besame Red Hot Red - Marilyn's red lipstick

Doesn't virtually every woman on the planet want to look like Marilyn Monroe? To be frank, if I looked 1/10th like her I'd consider myself a very lucky girl. And yes, I realise she did have some cosmetic surgery and I'm not suggesting we all go around chopping our noses up, but hey, each to their own and I can appreciate a masterpiece of a face when I see one.

What I'm getting at is if I'm told Marilyn wore it, I've probably handed over my money before I've found out what 'it' actually is. In this case, it's clever marketing as while Besame claim this was 'Marilyn's 'favourite' what they actually mean is 'this is a shade we created that copies as closely as possible what she wore during Some Like It Hot'. Besame themselves are a modern company so weren't around when Marilyn was, but they do strive to make genuine reproduction products, which is probably why everyone on the vintage scene loves them.

Besame Red Hot Red lipstick review

That and the packaging. Oh, the packaging! Even if you have no interest in lipstick whatsoever you'd find it hard not to be drawn to these glamorous gold bullets. They also come in little red velvet cases. I honestly didn't know whether to wear it or frame it and I genuinely felt a little teary when I realised I'd ruined the corner of the lipstick itself. Then I got a grip and realised it's a lipstick. (And ok, maybe the dismay was partly to do with the price, which I've touched on below.)

Besame Red Hot Red lipstick review

Anyway, this is Marilyn's shade because it's bright, bold and has warm undertones, unlike most of Besame's other reds which seem to be bluer. However, despite the fact it supposedly has orange in it, on me it applies as quite a neutral red that is a lot richer/deeper than most of my others, so I think it might well work on those that have more pink in their skin than me too. 

Besame Red Hot Red lipstick review

I could go on at length about this lovely little lipstick but let's make things shorter with my usual bullet points. I do enjoy a bullet point.

Pros
  • One swipe of colour and you're done - it is super pigmented
  • It's pretty hard-wearing, only minor touch-ups are needed throughout the day
  • It doesn't feather or bleed
  • The texture for a semi-matte is very good, I'm barely aware I've got it on and it doesn't remotely dry my lips out (a rare, rare day in lipstick wearing indeed!)
  • As it's a semi-matte, it's got that slight sheen that is flattering on most people, without being remotely glossy. I think semi-mattes might be my favourite...
  • The packaging, of course - not just for prettiness, but also sturdiness; the lid snaps securely into place and you know there's no way it's getting knocked off in your bag
Cons
  • These lipsticks ain't cheap - it took me two years of lusting to own this one and even then it was a gift! It feels quite hard to justify the risk if you can only order these online without testing first
  • You don't get a lot of lipstick for your money - these are fairly small; I've deliberately shown me with the lipstick above so you get the idea
  • I realise the square shape of the bullet is probably historically authentic, but I just can't get on with it; without a lip brush I'd be wearing this over most of my chin as well as my lips, I find it that hard to get precise
  • Anything your lips touch will be wearing it too - spouses be warned

Besame Red Hot Red lipstick review

The beauty (even with the ruined corner)! Has anyone else tried lipsticks in Besame's range? I'm eyeing up Carmine and Tango Red next... so in another two years I might own one of those too :D


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Thursday, 6 August 2015

Outfit: make hay while the sun shines

So, in the UK fashion blogger world I think we can take 'make hay while the sun shines' to mean 'put on a dress as fast as you can because it's briefly stopped raining - GO GO GO!!'... That's, of course, precisely what I did on Sunday when summer made a meek reappearance. I had the perfect dress for such an occasion, as it happened, and the ideal location for some sunshine too. 

The dress you're about to see was custom made by Manuela, who owns the new online shop The Apricot Rose. When she got in touch to ask if I'd like to review one of her pieces I could hardly say yes quickly enough - I've never had anything custom made for me before, let alone a gorgeous vintage-style dress. The best part of this for me was being able to specify the skirt length. I spend far too much time going back and forth to my local tailor to get things shortened, but with this dress it was perfect for me from the word go - a petite girl's dream! Obviously, the fit on the waist and bust was correct too, but I've covered up some of the lovely yellow lacing with a belt because I didn't explain to Manuela just how petite I am, hence the waist didn't hit me in quite the right place and the shoulders are a touch too broad... I also slightly rolled the sleeves up to make a more flattering length on my stubby arms. But I don't think the slightly wrong proportions are a dealbreaker - and hey, it's not like I'm not used to that with dresses! Manuela is very happy to take extra measurements and guidance over email so you don't make my mistake. And if you haven't already seen it yet, check out Helen Mae's review of another of Manuela's styles to see how they should fit average-sized ladies!

Another great thing about this dress is that unlike so much of the cheap reproduction styles that are out there right now, it's fully lined. It's a rare dress of mine that has lining - what a luxury! It really does make a difference to how the skirt hangs, but I did, in case anyone wonders, add the PUG canvas underskirt to give some extra oomph. Something I'm not used to, however, as so much of my wardrobe is modern, is what it's like to get out of a long-sleeved dress with zero elastane. Let's just say I nearly had a panic attack. Still, totally worth it.

And yes, the moment I chose it I realised I'd gone from owning zero white summer dresses to two (see the first one) in the space of a couple of weeks, but I've decided I'm a fan. They just look so good in fields - who doesn't want a dress that looks good in a field?

50s Inspired Vintage Broderie Anglaise Dress by The Apricot Rose

50s Inspired Vintage Broderie Anglaise Dress by The Apricot Rose

50s Inspired Vintage Broderie Anglaise Dress by The Apricot Rose

Vintage 50s wicker barrel shaped bag

50s Inspired Vintage Broderie Anglaise Dress by The Apricot Rose

50s Inspired Vintage Broderie Anglaise Dress by The Apricot Rose

50s Inspired Vintage Broderie Anglaise Dress by The Apricot Rose

50s Inspired Vintage Broderie Anglaise Dress by The Apricot Rose

50s Inspired Vintage Broderie Anglaise Dress by The Apricot Rose

50s Inspired Vintage Broderie Anglaise Dress by The Apricot Rose

50s Inspired Vintage Broderie Anglaise Dress by The Apricot Rose
Belt: Dorothy Perkins (similar)
Bag: vintage via IvanaSVintageGallery @ Etsy
Shoes: Clarks (old)

And now it's time for another of the short videos that are popping up on here from time to time. When the whim strikes B, we just go with it, although usually he springs the camcorder on me as we're heading out the door, giving me no time to think about you know, actually filming something interesting rather than me just walking around. So you get me walking around a lot. On the plus, you get to see more of this pretty dress and the amazing wheat field we were in... I pass this field nearly every day on the train to and from work and it was quite surreal finally standing in it. This country can't do good weather well, but it's got fields covered. You can also see my friend, The Wind. The sun might be out but you can bet he'll still be there, messing my damn hair up at every turn. I don't know if I'm imagining it, but I feel like it's been really windy this year and I'm so ready to never feel a breeze again at this point.



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