Thursday, 28 January 2016

Outfit: winter pin-up

First a princess, now a pin-up... is there no end to setting myself impossibly high female standards to live up to? Or another way of looking at it is: is there no end to my playing dress up? To which the answer will always be 'no'!

Whenever I'm asked to describe my style - which, let's be honest has happened about twice in my life  as not that many people care enough to ask! - I struggle to come up with an adequate response. The way I want to describe it is 'all over the place' - because really, that's what it feels like! I just like to dip my toes into everything and I can't really see how there's a particularly coherent theme between any of it. I mean, at the start of the year I was a flapper, then I was a bit mod, and now I've gone full 50s pin-up... and it's still only January. (Oh and in case anyone wonders what I usually say, by the way, it's usually something vague like 'vintage inspired' - and I'm all ears if anyone's got anything better...)

Anyway, I might flit around the eras and pinch bits here and there with reckless abandon (er, it's not really reckless, I just like that phrase), but my heart will always belong most firmly to the classic 50s looks. Which is why I end up liking a lot of modern vintage pin-up styles, even if I don't often dress head-to-toe in them myself. And actually, I'm probably still not here either, but it's as close as it gets...

And which brand could be better for the modern pin-up than one of the originals...? That's right, I'm about to tell you how much I love Collectif again for the 93rd time. The thing is, I love them even more now as they've started to release shorter-length swing skirts like the beautiful style I'm prancing around in here. This skirt is the length I would have all of my full skirts in, if I had a choice and is much more flattering on me than Collectif's average length. And they just get better and better at offering unique retro separates like this jumper. Together, they make such a lovely, feminine winter look, dont'cha think? Full disclosure, as so many of you seem to worry: my coat was about a metre away. Repeat: I had a coat; no bloggers were harmed in the making of this post (just a bit cold temporarily).

Collectif pin-up style outfit with Celina top and Jasmine floral skirt

Neckline of Collectif Celina knitted top

Collectif Celina top, bow belt and Jasmine skirt

Collectif pin-up style outfit with Celina top and Jasmine floral skirt

Jasmine woodland bloom full skirt by Collectif

Collectif pin-up style outfit with Celina top and Jasmine floral skirt

Collectif pin-up style outfit with Celina top and Jasmine floral skirt

Collectif pin-up style outfit with Celina top and Jasmine floral skirt
Hair flower: Accessorize (old)
Belt: Collectif
Tights: Pamela Mann
Bag: Ollie & Nic (no longer available)
Shoes: Marks & Spencer (very similar)

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Sunday, 24 January 2016

Essential retro knitwear - the good, the bad, the pretty

We got away with it for a while, but it's time for winter now. You know how you can talk about people as 'being born in the wrong era'? Well, I've always thought I was born in the wrong country. My country is perpetually summer and I don't own a single coat because it never gets cold enough...

But back in the real world... I've always found knitwear very difficult to get enthusiastic about. Give me a camisole over a cardigan any day of the week. Knitwear is inevitably in my life though and over the years, I've bought tonnes of it. But as I was going through my closet recently I realised that there's some pieces I own that I never wear, and others that I wear constantly - they form a key part of my winter retro wardrobe. Let's not call it a 'capsule' wardrobe as nothing about the amount of clothes I own is capsule-sized (or... sane), but if I had to make one this lot would be my starting point for knits, at least.

Let's see how far you agree with me... And considering I find it hard to get enthusiastic about knitwear, I've managed to write the world's longest blog post. I hope you like a lot of waffle about jumpers and cardigans...

Best retro style knitwear

1. Quality fitted plain cardigans
I'm just going to tell it like it is - the Hell Bunny Paloma cardigan changed my life. No, really. Ok, I probably won't be on my deathbed thinking 'and then, when I was 29, a certain piece of knitwear changed everything...' But then again, maybe I will. This is how a fitted cardigan should be. It's warm, soft, stretches to fit beautifully, comes in lots of colours you'll actually wear and is the perfect waist-length. I kept seeing Amber talk about how much she loves them and I still, stupidly, resisted for ages. Then I bought one and BAM - two weeks later I had four of them. They go with everything - swing dresses, tucked into pencil skirts, loose with high-waisted jeans; they are the perfect 50s-style cardigan and made me realise how darn rubbish the ones I already owned were (we'll come to that).

2. Striped jumpers
I've talked before about how half the time, if I know I'm not going to be standing in the freezing cold for half an hour taking photos of myself for this very blog, I'm quite often found lounging about the house in jeans. I still don't really like not being a bit 'me' though, and a striped jumper is perfect for this because it's classically retro and adds enough 'something' so your outfit isn't dull. I particularly love my 50s style Collectif Marina and 60s inspired Fever Lacanau jumpers that I've pictured above (this one's good for work too). 

3. Leopard print cardigan
This is another one that helps to make a boring outfit a bit more exciting, with the added bonus of keeping warm. What I love about leopard print is that you can wear it like a neutral with so many colours and it instantly adds a fun 50s/rockabilly edge. And if it's in cardigan form, you can wear it done up like a jumper, or loose as an edge to your outfit. I've had my leopard print cardigan for years now and occasionally forget about it, but the instant I put it on again I remember all the reasons it's one of my favourite pieces of knitwear.

4. Neutral bardot jumpers
I had a great beige bardot style jersey top for years that I accidentally bleached (don't ask) and I still miss that darn top every single day. Well, definitely most weeks, at least, when I go to wear it and remember it went to the great wardrobe in the sky. It wasn't particularly warm though and that's where my newer jumpers come in. I've got a cream coloured one from New Look and a gold lurex one from Collectif (you just saw that in this post) and I wear both constantly. Not only are they snug, they're super feminine, go with pretty much all of my skirts and again hark back to retro shapes. The good thing is that unlike black or dark colours, they can really lift some wintry outfits in these shades too.

5. Fur collar cardigan
A newer addition to my winter wardrobe options and I really love this one. It's instant vintage glamour and the best thing is that faux fur is just so warm and soft. What's better than burying your chin into something snuggly when the wind is battering your face? What I like about fur just as a collar is that it's not too bulky for going under a coat too. I own this Voodoo Vixen cardigan pictured and I can highly recommend it if you're looking for your own (comes in lots of classic colours too).

6. Knitted pencil skirt
I've talked about my love of these before so I won't labour the point too much, but for me - these are good. They're super comfy and can be both casual or more dressed up. I love clothes that are multi-functional. Yeah, maybe they're not traditional vintage style, but a wiggle is a wiggle, whether made of wool or bengaline, as far as I'm concerned... And I know which is warmer.

7. Dark polo neck
This may be one of the most useful pieces of knitwear I've ever added to my wardrobe because it can be dressed in so many ways. It can go under a pinafore dress for a mod look, or with a midi skirt for a slightly more 50s one. And, bonus - warm neck. And if you get one in black like I did, there's no end to its outfit potential! 

Worst retro style knitwear

1. Cheap 'fitted' plain cardigans
I've already told you that you shouldn't bother with any other fitted cardigan than the Paloma, but if you ever need to understand why, just buy one of these cheap H&M ones that sell for about a tenner. Why not - I've bought five of the things in my time because I apparently needed that many to learn they really suck. They're baggy in weird places and they can't keep what little shape they have. Some things in life you can get away with buying the 'value' version, but a good fitted cardigan, in my opinion, is simply not one of them.

2. Short sleeved jumpers
What is the point of a short sleeved jumper? Apart from looking good - and I do love the style of them and how adorable they appear in 50s patterns. Usually how something looks is enough to sell me, but not the short-sleeved jumper (well not after the first two, anyway). And yes, I know they're often worn as part of a twinset in said patterns, but those aren't really my thing (or at least, not yet). Which leaves me with just the jumper and very, very cold arms. And no one wants that.

3. Short jumper dresses
I don't exactly wear a lot of mini length skirts even in warm weather, but now and then the 60s mood will take me and I'll put on one of the two far-above-knee knitted dresses I currently own. And then I'll spend all day with cold legs. I should, at this point, admit that I am someone who really feels the cold, which is perhaps why I am so judgemental about knitwear in the first place to even write a post like this...

4. Cable knit/thick jumpers
I want to love a thick jumper because they're so cosy but they just make me look so darn bulky. I've tried wearing them so many ways, and it's probably because I don't have a really decent one, but they just make me feel like an over-stuffed teddy-bear. I tuck nearly all of my tops into my bottoms so that my waist is still defined, but tucking a big knit into anything just doesn't work. Maybe one day I'll find a thick jumper I love, but that day hasn't come yet...

5. Cropped knits
Could a cropped jumper be the most annoying piece of clothing in the world? You're all nice and toasty warm, then you lean over and... COLD! Why is everything so cold?! I've never yet found something that is high-waisted enough to prevent the shock of that gap becoming exposed when your short jumper slightly moves up (which amazes me as I have some very high-waisted things). I'm all over cropped tops in the summer, but it doesn't matter then. If you slightly expose some skin to the elements it doesn't feel like the world's going to end quite like it does in winter.

6. Fairisle pattern
Talking of things I want to love, we have fairisle. And actually, I do love fairisle and will happily wear it... any time between late November and December 25th. The problem is, it reminds me of Christmas so much that it feels wrong in my head to wear it at any point outside the festive period. It doesn't help that my jumper, above, has rather large snowflakes on it either. I realise this is very much a me thing, but I need to stop kidding myself I'll wear these knits when I know I won't and stop thinking about buying more. They're just not for non-festive me. Or maybe I just need to find a more subtle one...

7. Knitted berets
You're probably shocked to see this here, if you've been following me for any length of time at all. I'm all about the berets in the colder months. They're my easy way out of doing my hair properly and still looking stylish. I thought I wasn't picky about what they're made of, but I now own three knitted berets and unless I force myself to, I wear none of them. My felt ones win every time. And why? They keep their shape so much better. Knitted berets just fall so flat on my head they don't look like berets at all really. Unless I've created volume with my hair for them to perch on top of. I haven't quite given up on them completely, but they're no felt hat.

Wishlist retro style knitwear

Well, we've all seen enough tacky Christmas jumpers to last us a while, so rather than dwell on 'the ugly,' here's the things that I'd love to get my hands on some day...

Long jumper dresses
Collectif have been torturing me with the Olive dress. It seems everyone but me got one and oh, I could have, but while I'd love a knee-length or just-below-knee-length jumper dress, ankle-length is a bit too Victorian for me. Seriously, that dress would be hilarious on me. But how do you even alter a knitted dress? If I knew the answer I'd have snapped it up... But it's probably for the best I don't, eh? I'll keep hoping for that Collectif petite range (if I wish it hard enough, maybe it will happen), meanwhile, as I'd really love to add one of these dresses to my collection.

Neutral polo necks
Seeing how much I love my neutral bardots, I think I may just wear some jumpers of the higher-necked variety too, if I had them, that is. Imagine that - something that goes with everything, but still keeps your neck warm? It's the dream...

Patterned/embroidered cardigans
I really like wearing cardigans like jumpers, buttoned up and tucked into skirts. You can put layers underneath and the best thing is that, unlike a jumper, if you get hot during the day you can just take the cardigan off. Practical and cute, what's not to love? If you've got a plain skirt, though, it's nice to have a bit of variety up top, which would be wear lots more pretty cardigans with patterns etc on would come in really quite useful. These two Voodoo Vixen lovelies are top of my list, for sure.

All the bardots
I've accepted that it is my purpose in life to own all the bardot jumpers. If I have them in every colour, perhaps I'll never need to buy another knitted top again? Right? Right. So now that we're all agreed, you'll have to excuse me while I complete my collection...

But what do you think? What knitwear can't you live without in the colder months?

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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Outfit: winter princess

Ok, if you use the word 'princess' to describe your outfit you're setting yourself up to have to deliver something extra special. And actually, all I've really done here is borrow an idea from Nora... some would say 'copied', but we're all friends here right ;)

Mind you, I've never been shy about admitting that I take some of my biggest inspiration from other blogs (I wrote a whole post about my favourites, after all). And yes, that does mean pinching bits and pieces I like from them. In this case, I fell in love with this whole outfit of Nora's but specifically 'borrowed' the furry hat worn with a pretty feminine look. I never saw myself in a hat like this until I saw Nora's styling and then I was in the shop a few days later picking up my own. I had just the skirt to wear with it too in the shape of this full, flocked Voodoo Vixen beauty. This skirt is big - particularly with an underskirt as I'm wearing here - and I love it. I'm wearing my usual S in Voodoo Vixen here, and I'd say it's pretty true to their size guide. 

A fair few of you commented on the flocked peacock design on my Christmas dress and I was thinking to myself how lucky it was it went down so well, as I had something else with the exact same pattern on to show off soon too. Variety is the spice of life, but if you find something you really like why not get all the pieces... Well, that's certainly how I seem to approach fashion sometimes! But when it's this pretty, who can complain (please don't get bored and leave me!!)?

Feminine 50s winter outfit with fur hat, bardot top and Voodoo Vixen Andrea skirt

Black fur hat, gold bardot top & gold vintage dog brooch

Feminine 50s winter outfit with fur hat, bardot top and Voodoo Vixen Andrea skirt

Black fur hat, gold bardot top & gold vintage dog brooch

Chronically Vintage gold dog brooch

Feminine 50s winter outfit with fur hat, bardot top and Voodoo Vixen Andrea skirt

Black fur hat, gold bardot top & gold vintage dog brooch

Black fur hat, gold bardot top & gold vintage dog brooch

Feminine 50s winter outfit with fur hat, bardot top and Voodoo Vixen Andrea skirt
Fur headband: Next (similar)
Jumper: Collectif
Brooch: vintage c/o Chronically Vintage
Belt: Marks & Spencer (similar)
Skirt: 'Andrea' c/o Voodoo Vixen
Bag: vintage
Boots: Tamaris (available here)

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Thursday, 14 January 2016

Makeup: Bourjois Rouge Velvet lipstick in Hot Pepper

I think it's time for another red lipstick review, don't you? Nope, my quest for the perfect matte red lip is still not over, I'm still buying them. I've got many reds I really, really love, but none of them are what I'd call that true, bright, neutral red. They all either lean warm, cool, dark or light. Until this lipstick. This is the shade of red I have spent nearly ten years looking for. 

I bought it on a total whim, because I was in Boots and got suckered in by another one of their wallet-destroying 3-for-2 deals. And I'd already been suckered by the TV advert for this product too. So just all-round suckeredness. But I don't care, because it's a truly pretty red. And it nearly ended my search...

Bourjois Rouge Velvet lipstick in Hot Pepper review

Bourjois Rouge Velvet lipstick in Hot Pepper review

Bourjois Rouge Velvet lipstick in Hot Pepper review

You all know there's a 'but' coming though, right? Of course there is... 

But let's go through the good stuff first!

  • This is the first liquid matte lipstick I've ever owned that doesn't make my lips flake after a few hours and the first matte lipstick under £10 I can say that about (but it does get you in the end, see cons). 
  • It is properly matte in that way that liquids seem can really nail (but lipsticks, not so much)
  • Again, unlike other liquid matte lipsticks I've owned (I'm looking at you, Lime Crime), you can top up natural wear straight on top of existing colour, without it going all patchy and weird. Hooray for not having to reapply the whole lot!
  • It's pretty long-wearing and far longer wearing than I was expecting for the price - after eating, a little bit will fade away here and there but it's not horrendously noticeable and you can touch it up anyway, as I've said
  • The texture is kind of balmy when it first goes on, it's very... pleasant. That's the best word for it - it just feels nice! (Although there is a but coming...)
  • The colour is my perfect, perfect shade of red. Neutral, bright, pillar box red. That perfect phone box (you know what I mean) shade. I've never found another red like it
  • It's pretty good value for a liquid matte at £9.99
  • I love the simple, clean, elegant packaging
  • This is the but: it is a giant pain in the ass to apply
    • The formula, because it's balmy, is quite thin which makes precise edges difficult
    • And because it's thin, you'll need more than one coat to get the colour to apply evenly - one coat and the colour will be patchy in places and it looks rubbish
    • And also, it takes an age to dry properly - and before it has, you better hope you don't smudge it
    • And if you layer it up like I do, you lose some of the nice smooth texture and get tackiness. This annoys the heck out of me, but I put up with it because I love the colour so much
    • And I'm going to predict it lasts about 10 wears the rate I'm layering (this isn't proven!)
  • The colour is a bit too long-wearing - try as I might I can never quite get it all off and my lips end up with flecks of red particularly on the inside of my lip the next day too
  • Although it doesn't seem to dry my lips out at all throughout the day, I gradually realised that random flakiness I was getting for seemingly no reason, was, in fact, occuring the day after I wear it... strange, but true (but perhaps I should have covered myself in balm after I removed it?)

So there you go. This lipstick nearly ended my search. It was so close. It definitely joins my favourite lipstick colours of all time, but I'm sad I can't just throw it on and walk out the door. Unless your idea of throwing on is 20 minutes, a lot of blotting and 2-3 temper tantrums. I'll wear it when I have the time and patience, but I'm a bit too lazy for it to become an everyday favourite.

The search for red lipstick will be back...

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Sunday, 10 January 2016

Outfit: all things Bright and Beautiful

New Year's Eve glitz aside, it's time to properly kick off the 2016 outfit posts and I'm excited to share this one as I love the location and how well it suited the look. In fact, I'm a bit concerned that less than a fortnight into the year I've already peaked too soon, but c'est la vie...

B actually found this cute little phone box for me, after I got it into my head it would be the perfect companion to this 60s-style dress. We genuinely spent about half an hour scouring Google streetview to find one in a decent location, because blogging can be fun like that. Having found this one, B being B, another 30 mins later and he'd googled the entire history of the red phone box and insisted I shared a little of it here. So, for those of you who don't know, what I'm modelling here is the K6 design, first introduced in 1935 and the most common red phonebox in the UK, with most of them installed in the 1960s and 70s (which perhaps I knew subconsciously!). It's a K6 from the glass pane design (one bigger square in the centre panel) and its general size. So there you go. As far as we could find out, red phone boxes haven't been commissioned since the 80s, so any one you find in the UK is 'vintage', if you like!

This particular one is rather special as you'll see, as inside it's been converted into a mini library! This has happened to something like c.150 of the thousands and thousands of them, and I couldn't believe that the one we'd picked quite literally from dropping a pin on a map was one of the special few. This has happened because the local parish council will have 'adopted' the box and this also means that it can't be used for making phone calls anymore, somewhat ironically. Anyway, I was pleased to find a familiar favourite in the box, as you'll see... (but how could someone give it away?!)

So that's B happy now and I can talk about the dress as the box isn't the only thing bright and beautiful in this post! 'Bright and Beautiful' is also the label this dress belongs to, which is Collectif's still-quite-new 60s-inspired line. Somehow, until this point I hadn't twigged that Collectif owned the brand, rather than it being a third party they sold, and I feel a bit silly about that now. All the hallmark signs of Collectif quality are there with this dress - it's fully lined, a great cut and of course, a gorgeous unique design you would be hard-pushed to find anywhere else. My usual size 8 fit just like it usually does too. My only criticism is that the belt is your typical fabric belt in that it will gradually work itself loose as you move about, but easily solved with a safety pin if I was that bothered.

Bright and Beautiful Ruth dress for a 60s style winter look

Bright and Beautiful Ruth dress for a 60s style winter look

Bright and Beautiful Ruth dress for a 60s style winter look

K6 phone box converted to a library in Cambridgeshire

B&B check dress with red phone box library

Bright and Beautiful Ruth dress for a 60s style winter look

Bright and Beautiful Ruth dress for a 60s style winter look

Bright and Beautiful Ruth dress and red heart bag

K6 phone box converted to a library in Cambridgeshire

Bright and Beautiful Ruth dress for a 60s style winter look

K6 phone box converted into a library

Bright and Beautiful Ruth dress for a 60s style winter look

Bright and Beautiful Ruth dress for a 60s style winter look
Dress: c/o Bright and Beautiful 'Ruth' (by Collectif - currently half price!)
Jumper: H&M (old)
Bag: Skinnydip London (now out of stock)
Tights: M&S (old)
Boots: Tamaris via Zalando

I have to point out that the standy-up collar is entirely the fault of the wind for blowing it up there (it was super breezy this day) and my photographer - eh-hem - for not spotting it had moved. And yes it was like that in every single photo. D'oh!

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Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Making the most of 2016: a goal, not a resolution... (and your help, please!)

CiCi Marie 2016 goal - the experience challenge

So, in 2015 my resolutions were all things I thought I'd have a good shot at keeping that would improve my blog/life in small ways - and what do you know, I mostly did them. All bar that pesky 'master basic sewing' one. After one botched hem attempt and deep puncture wound it became very clear that YouTube alone could not teach me the fine art (I'll need to do actual lessons one day to avoid stitching myself to something).

Anyway, I did start writing a similar list for this year and then I realised that actually, I'm generally happy with where I am at the moment and don't want to make many changes. So, this year I've decided to instead set the goal of having a monthly fun 'experience' that I maybe wouldn't have otherwise had. And unlike an unrealistic resolution that requires me to magically master a skill I have zero talent at, I might have a shot at actually doing it!

You see, this challenge will require some diversion of funds somewhere other than the Collectif website and thus a change in attitude is needed. (Er, please note I am setting this goal having got my raid of the 50% off sale out of the way.) I'm not talking about going skydiving every month (ha! Not in this lifetime), I mean things like e.g. going to a nice restaurant when normally a) I don't have the spare cash for that because... clothes and b) if I do my mindset is that it's a 'waste' blowing it on food because... clothes again and c) I might come to a compromise where I go to a cheaper place instead because... you get the idea. And as well as quality, the quantity of things I do that don't involve shopping could be better too - so I'm going to add activities wherever I can, even if I'm - gasp - already quite busy that month! (The old me is also unsociable and lazy. Actually the new me is too, but I'm going to try to fight it!) 

So far, I'm already making good headway with this goal... B and I have just celebrated our third anniversary of being a couple (we call it the first Sunday of the year). We lined up shopping, a cinema trip and quick meal out on the day. 2015 me would have stopped there, but 2016 me has also decided to go for a special meal this weekend, where I can wear one of the ridiculous number of dresses bought in 2015 before I set this year's goal to stop buying them (well, all the time, at least). We even know where we're going, as we're returning to the gorgeous little gourmet restaurant that threw the NYE Gatsby bash, so here's a bonus picture of us there (bad quality, B isn't really that shade of beetroot). That's January taken care of, at least for now...

CiCi and B on NYE 2015/16

February we haven't quite figured out yet. It's my least favourite month of the year though - it's the coldest it gets, work is always manic and it feels like it goes on forever even though it's the shortest month of the darn year. Of course, I could propose on the 29th... (B is hopeful I'm joking about this, to which I say, 'if you like it then...'). How's that for an 'experience' - although not sure it'd qualify as 'fun'? Joking (or not joking) aside, I'm half thinking I should do something around Pancake Day, as that's, conversely, one of my favourite days of the year. I'm suddenly realising most of my 'experiences' are going to be around food. I'm ok with that.

March, on the other hand, we've already got sorted. My parents kindly gave B and I a fab gift of a two night hotel stay with afternoon tea thrown in as a Christmas present (told you food was a theme). We've already booked it up and will be heading for Harrogate (I've never been, but B assures me it's nice) towards the end of the month. B's birthday is also in this month, so I'm sure we'll do something fun for that too and I've got one of my best friend's hen dos, which I'm pretty much solely organising. Nailed it.

B drinks tea

April is also in the bag already, as B and I will be heading to Wales to stay with the lovely Porcelina and her husband! I already can't wait (the picture below is of when we met for the first and so far only time in 2015). She's promised us the full tourist experience, and for someone who hasn't been to Wales for a very long time, this is extra exciting (I'm not counting December when I went for work and didn't actually see daylight; long story). And it's my friend's wedding, but I can't take the credit for that 'experience'!

CiCi and Porcelina at London Edge

And then there's May. If you're wondering why there's a picture of a small child here, see if you can read the badge? It says 'Birthday girl' and of course this adorable ball of cuteness who didn't quite grow up that way is me, on my 2nd birthday. Fast forward a few years and you'll find someone who's going to turn 30 this month. So of course I need to have something amazing lined up for that! At the moment, though, I'm not sure what that is... So...

CiCi at 2 years old

Can any of you help me? Have you already turned 30 and if so what did you do? If not, what would you want to do? I'm all ears as I try to figure out how to see in such a landmark year. Note I did nothing for my 21st and it's something I've always regretted ever since...

Anyway, all this aside (and there's lots more planning to do!) I do have one more goal, while we're on the subject of de-prioritising acquiring yet more material goods. I've dreadfully neglected one accessory that I've had for years... I'm going to do my best to learn to love and use my smile!

CiCi's smile challenge

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