Sunday, 29 May 2016

The Revival Retro Boutique - the joy of 'real world' shopping

A review of the Revival Retro Boutique

I hold my hands up - I just don't like 'real world' shopping. There's few shops I can walk into, try a dress on, and leave not feeling like I've got an awkward body shape that suits no clothing in the history of the world ever. When you're petite (5'1") like me, with curves, you're just not going to fit into things designed for slimmer, taller people - i.e. most of Topshop. And don't get me started on changing room and checkout queues and those funhouse mirrors they install that make you look the worst you've ever looked in your life. Online is just so much easier, for me. I can shop all the non-high street brands I love and it's so easy to find the things I want to try. And I can do so in the safety of my own home without being under lights that make me look dead. 

But online, of course, brings its own frustrations. We've all ordered two sizes of something because we're not sure how it's going to fit (it always turns up being the one you thought was going to though, doesn't it?!) - and then had the hassle of going to the post office to return the unsuccessful applicant (or both of them, if you really get lucky). Shipping charges can be all over the place - if it's free you're winning, but most of the time it's not and that's before you get to return costs. And couriers - I hate them! The number of times I've had a parcel delivered to a random house down the road and no note left in my house - or a note that, on one memorable occasion, gave my own address as the one the parcel had been left at (it hadn't.). And then there's the times they don't even try to ring your doorbell and you actually watch the 'while you were out' card flutter onto your doormat.

Still though, all this being said, online is still my shopping method of choice because my hatred of the lack of choice and inconvenience of real world shopping far outweighs my grumbles with random sizing and clueless couriers. So, when I was asked to go along and experience what shopping is like in London boutique, Revival Retro, I have to say I had my reservations. Now that I've been though, I do see the appeal... And if you're not local, it's worth mentioning they do also have an online shop and I link through to some of the pieces I'm wearing below.

The Trashy Diva Deco Daffodil wrap dress

The Trashy Diva Deco Daffodil wrap dress

The Trashy Diva Deco Daffodil wrap dress

First off, the range that this little shop has is really quite impressive. But even more impressive than that, is the care that goes into choosing the stock. If something about the way an item fits is off, they won't stock said item. What you're left with is only the best quality pieces from the best quality reproduction brands out there. It means that when you try something on, chances are it's not going to make you feel bad about how you look because it's just not cut that way. Take this Trashy Diva Deco Daffodil dress I'm modelling here - my assumption was it was too long to suit me and there was just no way those sleeves and shoulders were going to sit right. Clearly, that assumption was entirely wrong - and I think that's in large part thanks to how fabulous this dress is. The material and shape work some kind of flattering magic on me here. And the low v bust doesn't gap away from me like they normally do, either. 

Beautiful vintage-style fan brooch

The Stop Staring Celebrity polka dot dress in red

The Stop Staring Celebrity polka dot dress in red

The Stop Staring Celebrity polka dot dress in red

The Stop Staring Billion Dollar Baby Dress in green

But it's not just the top quality stock that makes the difference here, it was also the work of the lovely store manager, Sarah. Here she is, making sure this dress was sitting as it should be on me. For the Trashy Diva dress, she showed me the most flattering way to tie it and explained why she didn't let anyone walk out of the changing room with the knot at the side 'I tell people it's not a bath robe so don't tie it like one!'. She really cares about people looking their best and she was a fab personal shopper - I told her my size and what I usually wear and she pulled dresses off the shelf that somehow all suited me despite being pretty different. It's like she's some kind of shopping wizard! I'm sure she's personally responsible for a lot of the sales that happen in the store, as I was all but ready to hand over my savings, until I realised I have to spend them on really un-fun things like my new house's stamp duty (ugh). Anyway, I'm a huge introvert and I usually hate speaking to shop assistants etc, but Sarah is so friendly and knowledgeable about the products that if you like clothes as much as I do you could spend all day talking to her.

If you're wondering why I'm sitting on a random stool above (in the Stop Staring Arabella Polka Dot dress), it's because this is the shop's dedicated stool for the 'sit test'. If you can't sit down in it, you can't buy it. When it comes to uber tight wiggles like this, it's a pretty important thing to figure out! Wasn't a problem at all in the case of this pretty dress, by the way.

Revival Retro's shoe display

The Stop Staring Billion Dollar Baby Dress in green

The Stop Staring NY Lady Dress in navy

This navy Stop Staring NY Lady dress is going to haunt my dreams. It didn't impress me on the hanger. In fact, I almost didn't try it at all. Plain dresses just aren't my bag usually and I completely expected the length of the swing skirt would look wrong on me, seeing as so many of them usually do without shortening. But I trusted Sarah and duly put it on and fell swiftly and deeply in love. Look at it - it's beautiful! So classic, so well cut and I love those lapels and again how well the wrap v-neck bust hugs my curves. But the big question is, who wore it better; me or the model?! (Don't answer that.)

The Stop Staring NY Lady Dress in navy

Bettie Page stripe wiggle dress

A cute display in Revival Retro

The layout of the shop itself is so perfect for being able to see everything that's on offer easily - too easily, really, if you are having any kind of cash flow issue when you walk in (you'll surely have one by the time you walk out, if not!). Spacious, well lit and with mirrors and cute displays everywhere, there was lots of photo fodder for my helper that day. I haven't even used a fraction of it! I particularly like the three-sided mirror you can see at the start of the post, for helping to see the fit from all angles. And for generally being a great photo opportunity for this post, ha.

Miss L Fire Loretta Shoes in red

Brief mention for these amazing Miss L Fire shoes - so pretty! If you're a half size, like me, you can probably afford to size down (you can see my foot isn't filling this size properly). I'm not sure I quite had the hang of the tie straps, but I don't think it really mattered...

CiCi with store manager Sarah

When you're a fashion blogger, it's important to send the memo ahead to make sure that shop staff are coordinating with your outfit... Or something.

CiCi at The Revival Retro Boutique

So there you have it, I really enjoyed my time in the shop and can only praise the lovely staff for their excellent taste in clothes and how amazingly helpful they are. If you're ever in central London, I strongly advise stepping in. You'll be transported to clothing heaven...

It's worth noting that I haven't been compensated in any way for this post, so opinions are my own. If you choose to buy any of the items linked to here through my links, I may earn a very small commission (me and my stamp duty fees would thank you!).



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Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Outfit: fabulous flowers (and the not-so-glamorous side of blogging)

You know those times when you have one accessory that is so fabulous, you have to create an entire outfit around it? This is one of those times, you won't be surprised to hear. The accessory is the Harmonious Hydrangeas necklace from the new floral Erstwilder range. It's hard not to fall in love with all of the pieces in the collection, but something about this necklace particularly called to me.

It's probably the red and blue colour combination - one of my all time favourites in its many varieties. Because I love matching, my whole outfit followed suit... I'm actually really pleased with how it turned out - my favourite outfits tend to be those that balance girly and casual for easy day wear and this one does that perfectly, for me.

It occurs to me that I often rabbit on about what I'm wearing and don't often talk about the context of where and when I wore it. So, let me right that wrong by providing a glimpse into the dark side of fashion blogging... You see, when you have frankly enough going on in your 'spare time' that you are pretty much working a second full-time job, blogging gets a bit challenging. I didn't actually know that I'd turn 30, get engaged and be simultaneously buying a house, so I couldn't plan for a gap in services... But nor can I let down the companies I'm working with, like Erstwilder!

That's probably why I found myself wearing this outfit for as long as it took to drive and get photos of it... before I then changed in the back of the car into another outfit I needed to get snaps of! Yes, changed in a CAR in BROAD DAYLIGHT just to get another set of photos. Praying all the while that no one would pass by and see what was going on... I mean, we picked somewhere we knew would be pretty quiet at the weekend, but I live in a city! And I thought changing on a beach was tricky. I hadn't seen nothing yet. I'd like to say 'never again', but there's still an awful lot of wedding planning and house sorting to do...

Am I the only one that's done this?! It was a particular shame because I loved this outfit so much, but I'll definitely be wearing it again this summer!

Casual 50s inspired outfit with Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace

Casual 50s inspired outfit with Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace

Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace

Casual 50s inspired outfit with Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace

Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace

Casual 50s inspired outfit with Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace

Casual 50s inspired outfit with Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace

Casual 50s inspired outfit with Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace

Casual 50s inspired outfit with Erstwilder Harmonious Hydrangea necklace
Hair flower: Retro Vixens (old)
Sunglasses: 'Judy' by Collectif
Necklace: c/o Erstwilder
Top: George @ Asda (old)
Skirt: Forever 21 (very similar)
Belt: Fever Designs (old)
Shoes: Heart Sandals, Swedish Hasbeens (still available in 'high')
Bag: Ollie & Nic (similar)



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Thursday, 19 May 2016

From the other side of the lens - the 7 steps for good photos

I've long wanted to give B more of a voice on this blog - he's so involved behind the scenes, but you'd barely even know it from what I say. Without his input, this blog's photography would probably still be dark shots in my bedroom! Neither of us are trained photographers and what we do here is definitely teamwork. Which is why I'm always surprised when people compliment my photos - we really don't feel like we know what we're doing! But maybe how we do things might be interesting/useful to others, so today, I thought I'd do something a bit different and have B tell you in his own words what he does for this blog and how he goes about it... A lot of work goes into producing the images you see here!

B, from CiCi Marie

Some time ago, CiCi asked me to write a post for her blog. At first I was a bit stumped - what do I know about vintage fashion? But then she explained that this would be more about the process of creating one of her outfit posts and the behind-the-scenes work that goes into it.

That didn’t necessarily fill me with inspiration, as essentially I’m just the guy who drives the car and takes the pictures. But as I had more time to think it over, I began to realise that there is perhaps a little more to it than I had first thought - and as CiCi often reminds me - my involvement in her blogging has helped her to keep it growing.

The best way to talk through the process behind one of our shoots is to break it up into pieces - so without further ado here’s my 7 step guide to a CiCi-Marie photoshoot:

1. Location
Usually this will begin with me asking CiCi if she wants nature or buildings for the shoot location. Sometimes the outfit will have more specific requirements - like being near water (the recent nautical dress was photographed at a marina) or including a specific prop (like the red telephone box we used back in January).

Having grown up in the Cambridge area I know the city and the surrounding area pretty well. So it’s never too tricky to find a good spot that we’ve not used before (I feel it’s best to keep all the shoot locations different) [CiCi: Although we do revisit some of our favourites - just maybe from a slightly different angle].

If we’re away on holiday we always make sure to get a shoot or two in - just to make use of the different/more glamorous surroundings. This isn't always easy, as being in unfamiliar territory can make it difficult to to find a good spot [CiCi: Like the time we walked to a part of Valencia to find a location without realising it was the dodgy end of town, resulting in walking all the way back and taking the shots 5 feet from the hotel!].

2. Weather
Living in Britain and trying to take outdoor photos all year round carries an extra challenge that people in warmer climates might not appreciate - wind and rain. These are the two worst enemies of our photoshoots [CiCi: You'd never know this would you? It's not like I ever mention it. Ever.].

We usually have to fit our shoots around what the weather is doing. This means we have several weather apps installed on our phones which can sometimes show conflicting weather info. Once a break in the weather presents itself, we go out and get the photos done but can still be caught out by unforecast wind.

3. Parking
We live in Cambridge - a city notorious for its congested traffic and expensive parking fees. Sometimes we will use the city and its historic architecture but only if it’s somewhere we can park relatively close to and without paying a fortune in parking fees.

We’re often more likely to drive to the outskirts of the city or into the surrounding countryside/villages - which (with a bit of local knowledge) means we can still find picturesque locations without getting fleeced for parking charges or spend most of our time stuck in traffic jams [CiCi: It's worth mentioning we make good use of Google Maps to see what traffic is doing and which roads to avoid, as it's a waste of precious minutes of daylight to get stuck in a jam!]

4. Lighting
I’m certainly no professional photographer but I do enjoy taking photos - which helps and I like to think I have a reasonable sense of composition. But the single most important thing for making our photos look their best is lighting. We learned the hard way that a bright sunny day is actually far from ideal and produces lots of overexposed photos with CiCi blinking constantly [CiCi: To be fair, I'm bad enough on a gloomy day/indoors/in the dark]! Instead, our best photos are taken on overcast days (of which we have plenty).

Solid, consistent cloud coverage creates a giant lightbox effect - which diffuses a warm soft light that seems to make skin tones look their best. If we are stuck out in bright sunshine, we’ll often try and find some sort of shade (like a tree).

Photography in action for CiCi Marie

5. Focus
To get the nice looking portrait photos we use on the blog, CiCi’s camera is fitted with a portrait lens. Without going into lots of detail these are lenses specially designed for taking photos of people close up. They have a shallow depth-of-field which simply means that objects in the foreground are in focus and the backgrounds are blurred.

This is something we’re used to seeing in things like movies and fashion photography - it emphasises the subject and distinguishes photos shot in this way from the photos you’d get from a point & click camera or a camera phone.

However, this sort of lens is at its best when shooting portraits of of people from the waist up or closer. When you move out further to get the whole subject in, it can struggle as this isn't really what it was designed for. This means we can often get quite a few out of focus full length (i.e. whole body) shots which need to be sifted out at the end (once we get home) and also means that we probably end up shooting 2-3 times as many full lengths as we do for the other types of shots.

6. People, children and animals!
Apart from finding a location that fits the outfit we also try and find somewhere that’s not too busy. CiCi is by her very nature quite a shy girl, which is ironic considering her hobby involves standing around in public being photographed... [CiCi: A fashion blogger's got to do what a fashion blogger's got to do...]

But a little privacy does more than just placate CiCi’s modesty - it can be a little awkward and sometimes annoying when people either wander into the shot or children stop and stare as if they’ve never seen anyone having their picture taken before [CiCi: And sometimes the little darlings deliberately ride their bicycles in and out of shot on repeat the whole shoot, while their mother's watch like it's totally ok behaviour]

As for animals - I’m sure CiCi would love a dog to wander into the shot but (based on experience) insects and swans are most definitely not welcome!

7. Finishing touches 
When we get home from a shoot, CiCi has the task of sifting through 150+ photos to find the ones she wants to use. This is where she’ll discard all the unusable shots - for example, blinking, funny faces, out of focus or hair being blown by the wind [CiCi: I'd like to add laughing - I am not an attractive laugher in 2D].

She does this all by herself and though I initially showed her a few Photoshop tricks for things like removing creases and folds in clothing [CiCi: I really hate ironing], she’s quite a pro at it now.

So there you have it - that’s pretty much how we put together an outfit photoshoot. Somehow we manage to do them pretty much every available weekend, all year round - regardless of what the British weather or life in general may throw at us! [CiCi: And sometimes, like last week, we do two in a row which involves me changing in the car. Very glamorous.] And best of all we’ve never really fallen out or argued about it - this is part of our lives and I wouldn't change it for the world :)

B and CiCi Marie

I have to admit, I felt touched when I read that last sentence, as I had kinda assumed there was low level resentment from those days I drag us out in the depths of winter! This blog really is a team effort, and I couldn't do it without B - so a huge thank you to him, which I really don't say enough.

So while we're here, if there's anything else you want to know about how we go about getting pictures, do feel free to ask!


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Sunday, 15 May 2016

Outfit: touches of mint

Well, things have gone pretty crazy since my 30th last week. You all know I got engaged - so we're hunting for venues to make sure we can book one up for next summer. Meanwhile, the purchase of our first house is going through! Anyone who's bought a house in the UK (and/or probably everywhere else!) knows how stressful that is and how much paperwork is involved. And then paperwork for your paperwork. Both of these things happened kind of suddenly (long story about how buying a house can happen suddenly!), so there was no time for planning or preparation and my mind is currently running between furniture and contracts on a hectic loop and not a lot of blog content is coming out of it right now! I'm also not commenting as much on other blogs - I am still reading though when I get chance.

Fortunately, I'm a hoarder and have some photos in the archive, including this set. The photography isn't top notch as these particular ones probably pre-date my newer lens (and my 30s!), but I still kinda like them for their hazy quality. This outfit was also created with lots of bits I already had in my wardrobe and features the denim jacket I wear constantly in spring, but hardly features on this blog. It was about time it showed up here! I really like wearing it buttoned up with my full skirts, because it's just the right length that it doesn't squash them down.

These shots were taken on a typical breezy, overcast spring day here in the UK in a field full of buttercups. There's something classically British and lovely about that, even for a wind-hater like me.

Casual 50s look with denim jacket, headscarf and polka dot skirt.

Casual 50s look with denim jacket & headscarf


Casual 50s look with denim jacket, headscarf and polka dot skirt.

Denim jacket and headscarf

Casual 50s look with denim jacket, headscarf and polka dot skirt.

Denim jacket and headscarf

Mint green vintage style shoes and camera bag

Casual 50s look with denim jacket, headscarf and polka dot skirt.
Headscarf: eBay
Jacket: New Look (very similar)
Top: ASOS (similar)
Skirt: ASOS (old)
Bag: Jo Totes camera bag (similar)
Shoes: BAIT via Zulily

Right, back to the furniture hunting...


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Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Outfit: birthday belle

So, just what do you wear for a special birthday? I didn't have to think too long and hard on this one - in fact, I bought this dress in January. The blogger part of me struggled a little bit with my decision, because this dress has been around for years and consequently has shown up on many a blog so yeah, I'm a bit late to the party. 

Ultimately, though, no other dress was going to do for three reasons 1) it's in light blue and red, which is my favourite colour combination 2) the pattern is Eiffel Towers and anything that reminds me of my favourite city is wonderful in my eyes and 3) it's a Bernie Dexter dress and I've never been able to justify the cost, shipping and customs charges, but always wanted to try one. From what I know of the real life Bernie, she's pretty much exactly my height - so I had a hunch that the proportions and skirt lengths would fit me well, as she models all of her own products. It proved to be a good one; this dress fits as though it was actually made for me, I couldn't be more pleased with it.

So I had the dress but that beautiful ruched, low-cut neckline needed a necklace. Not so easy - I searched for weeks and nothing was right. Then I stumbled on an adorable necklace on an Etsy shop's Instagram feed - it was perfect; it had red Eiffel Towers dangling from it! But, woe, it had long gone out of stock. It was too late, I knew what I wanted, but no one sold anything like it. So, after a bit of thought I decided to use my new knowledge of jewellery making as acquired on my friend's hen do in March and I bought the pieces to make what I wanted. Me? Making stuff I can actually wear? I really am an adult now...

Although not too much of an adult, having finally ticked something off my blogger bucket list - I've always wanted to pose with a bunch of balloons! Balloons that are highly co-ordinated with my outfit, of course. If you're going to do a thing, do it right... I seemed to have a momentary memory lapse about the wind in this country though - all 6 balloons wasted no time beating me about the head. 

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print

Eiffel Tower necklace

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print

Alternate Normality triple rose hair flowers

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Frenchie print
Hair flower: Alternate Normality
Necklace: me made


I was so happy with this outfit - and no less than four separate strangers gave me compliments. That never happens! Even more amazingly, considering I'd potentially jinxed myself by buying a sundress for my birthday (on which it usually rains every year without fail), the sun actually did come out and stayed out all day. And for only the second time this year it was warm sun - ergo I didn't freeze taking these photos. Hurrah!

Weather aside, the birthday itself wasn't so bad, seeing as it featured a very special moment indeed...

CiCi Marie engagement ring

I don't know why the stone looks so blue here (it's very clear in person), but anyway, it's very pretty in real life and the boy did very good indeed and I'm not sure I could have done better myself :) We don't have a date yet but are going to be aiming for next summer, so watch this space as I'm sure it's not the last you've heard...

All in all, turning 30 has been awesome. My murder mystery dinner party went off without a single hitch, despite how stressful and frantic the planning and execution was! Check out my Instagram to see my queenly costume...


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