Thursday, 30 June 2016

Quality over quantity: can a bargain hunter change their ways?

The quality over quantity great clothes debate

A bit more of an introspective post from me today... I mentioned at the start of the year that I was going to try to invest more of my money into experiences over 'things', by which I basically meant 'clothes' - by far my biggest area of spend when it comes to anything outside basic subsistence. Actually, I've gone one step further than that and have also been trying to take a whole new attitude to buying fashion - for the first time ever I'm trying to make a real effort to prioritise quality over quantity. Now, I'm a real bargain hunter and I can't resist a cute thing regardless of how it's made or where it's from, anything under £20 seems a good deal to me.

However, I think I just got to that point where I realised I was buying things primarily because they were cheap -  meaning I had money leftover to buy other cheap things - and not because I really wanted to wear them.  It turned out some of the items just weren't that nice due to poor construction of materials, or actually I just didn't like them that much after all. And after so many years of buying like this I've got nowhere to store anything, in a house that was rather lacking in options to start with. I wasn't wearing some of it because it was quite literally out of sight and out of mind, crammed into the back of a drawer somewhere. I realised that the solution to all this could be to invest more of my limited shopping funds into quality. It would mean less stuff, but maybe that was a good thing!

Irregular Choice Nick of Time shoes in pink

So while I didn't really 'do' resolutions this year, I had already started down this path to change my shopping ways and I'm still at it several months later. But is choosing quality over quantity really worth it? And can I keep it up?

The good

1. I really love the things I buy

Take it from me, there's nothing like dropping £100 on a dress to make you question whether or not you really want it. To even consider that spend of money on one addition to my wardrobe, I have to essentially not be able to live without it... oh ok, maybe I can live without it, but perhaps my life would be of a much poorer quality if I didn't have a dress with an Eiffel Tower print on it for my birthday. The great thing about spending money on quality goods is that it's a much more considered and therefore less impulse purchase and because I feel guilt at buying pretty much anything over £20, it's a process that takes many, many days before I persuade myself it's a good idea. The result is that by the time said item turns up, I've basically spent weeks imagining all the things we'll do and all the fun we'll have together, so by the time it gets here I'm practically considering eloping with it to Vegas. Actually, now that I think about it, that dress would be perfect in Vegas... Anyway, the result is I've got something I love and already know how I'll wear in multiple ways and can't wait to do so - in terms of life enrichment, quality wins.

Bernie Dexter Paris dress in Eiffel Tower print

2. The obvious - it's usually better made

Now, it's no guarantee that if you're dropping £100 on a dress that it will be worth every penny you spend on it, but it usually greatly helps. Admittedly, sometimes you're paying partly for the ethics of how the item was produced too (thinking of brands like Bernie Dexter and Tara Starlet, for example) - i.e. without harsh factory labour in China etc. That also feels good for me the buyer, but actually I don't know enough about where everything I buy is made to make that a deciding factor in my choices (I know, I'm the worst kind of person). The quality though - the living, breathing beauty of some of these more expensive pieces, is definitely something I can appreciate in very real terms. Take my Coast dress from last year; the cut of this dress, the thickness of the material, the lining - it all spoke of a higher standard of production than I'm used to and it showed in how it looked on me. It was what, in fact, got the wheels turning in my head about whether I should really rethinking my spending habits in the first place... These are pieces you buy to treasure because mostly, they're built to last. They're not things that will be crammed down the back of a drawer (in a random room of the house by this point) and forgotten about.

3. The beautiful designs

Sometimes you get lucky and find a cute novelty-print skirt in a supermarket, but most of the time if you want something extra special you can expect to pay for it. I guess it makes sense; if you're a brand making clothes for a budget, you want to mass produce, cheaply, the kind of things that the majority of people will want to buy. When you apply this logic to clothing, it starts to become clear why particular patterns, styles or finishes might cost a bit more. And while I did find an amazing pattern in a supermarket, the skirt wasn't even close to the fullness of a high-end repro brand's. It feels like for the truly beautiful pieces of clothing, the ones that are as pretty as they are well-made, you need to pay more to a brand that produces higher-quality items. Take my pair of pink glittery Irregular Choice bridesmaid shoes - you'd be unlikely to find such an original and equal equivalent from a cheaper shop; and if you did, you could bet the glitter wouldn't be of the same finish - perhaps it would even fall off. It certainly wouldn't have the same high quality lining on the inside or the suede heel. It's the extra touches that can take an item from everyday to extra special and you're just more likely to find those from a brand that charges for them. Sometimes, owning something that is that bit more extraordinary now feels more worth the price to me.

Irregular Choice Nick of Time shoes in pink

4. The excitement of saving for 'best'

A pattern I've noticed emerge since investing more in quality pieces is that I'm particularly doing so to wear them for special occasions. This just seems to be the way it's working for me so far, although I wouldn't rule out e.g. investing in a winter coat I'd wear every day. What I've realised is that having something really special to wear for a particular event or activity just makes me look forward to it all the more. Perhaps this is something to do with how interconnected my confidence is with my appearance, but hey, us introverts need to take what we can get where we can get it for enjoying leaving the house, right? Along with all the social anxiety and dread is a feeling of looking forward to wearing something really special. I should probably clarify that I'm not buying expensive things just to wear them on one occasion once, more that this is the first time I'm allowing myself to wear them. 

The bad

1. When the price isn't justified

Sometimes when you spend a lot of money on something, it's worth it because you get what you paid for. But there are times when even quality is overpriced and there are times when a price tag isn't justified at all. I don't want to name and shame this particular brand, but there is currently a dress in my closet that thankfully I didn't pay full price for, which would have been £80. It's covered in good quality sequins that don't come loose - great; it's got boning and fits like a mini-corset up top; excellent; it's got an elasticated inside strap so that with the boning as well you can ditch the bra; amazing... or at least it was amazing, until on only the second time I did it up the strap snapped clean in half. Oh, and one of the sides of the dress hasn't been stitched correctly, so there's a weird lump of fabric on the hip (I swear it isn't my body). And you know what else? The hem is wonky. As I say, I didn't pay full price for it so when I complained to the company and they didn't reply (!) I kind of gave up. But it really made me wary. This was a shop that rarely has discounts, so I expect many ladies bought that dress full price. If I had, I would have been even more upset. Unfortunately, it's not the first time I've heard of a brand not living up to its prices, particularly in the repro world. I genuinely think I'd send something back that wasn't worth the money, but what a lot of hassle for all involved! It can be very hard to tell if something is overpriced before it turns up.

Pretties from PUG, Bernie Dexter and Victory Parade

2. When it goes in a sale eventually anyway

It's all well and good spending £100 on a dress, but there's nothing like that feeling of dismay when it turns up on Zulily for £66 a few weeks later (looking at you, Eiffel Tower dress, gah!). I've so far tried to be savvy, and particularly invested in those brands where I know their discounts or sales are few and far between. Case in point for the pieces in the picture above - Pinup Couture, Bernie Dexter and Victory Parade don't usually come down that far in price. Until Bernie decided to partner with Zulily, anyway. PUG will have the odd 15-25% off for special occasions, Bernie Dexter often has 25% off deals but (apart from Zulily clearance - no I can't get over it), that's it and Victory Parade pretty much never. Something I always do with these high-priced brands is put them in my basket, go through checkout until payment and then exit the site. PUG and Bernie Dexter both sent me discount codes when I did this, so it can be a handy tactic. But if things get knocked down I'm gutted. Particularly because I've had to pay custom fees and international shipping rates on top of the item prices in these cases. I just don't think I can accept that I haven't got the best price for something - that part of the bargain hunter in me will never go away, I'm fairly sure.

3. Feeling pushed to invest when I can't afford it

If I've got to the point that I love something so much that I'm considering spending a fair amount of money on it, the next thing that will happen is the 'But what if it goes out of stock before I have the cash...?' fear. I have so far found I can only tolerate this for about a week, before I crack and put it on my credit card. Earlier this year, this happened with three separate, pricey things and suddenly my credit card had nearly £250 worth of debt on it. I felt dreadful about this all month and it took me a few pay days to recover from such a hit in one go. I just don't have the kind of disposable income to be able to spend this kind of money on clothes in one month, but in all cases I couldn't bear to let the item go, particularly as I am planning to wear them on my birthday weekend. Often these expensive brands have high prices because their pieces are limited, and knowing this does nothing to help my worry...

PUG and Victory Parade pretties

4. Genuine fear of damage

Seriously, what will I do if I drop something down my Bernie dress?! It's not like something I've spent less on. I've emotionally and financially invested in higher quality pieces and can't stand the idea that I might accidentally ruin one. I mentioned I'm a chocoholic before - you have no idea how many pieces of clothing I've dropped chocolate crumbs on. I don't let myself have Cadbury Flakes anymore because I end up wearing more of it than I eat. Mostly, these wash out just fine. What doesn't help though, is when I panic and try to get the stain off before it goes in the wash and smoosh it into a light fabric. I'm definitely going to panic if I get something on an Eiffel Tower... And that's just chocolate. I don't tend to be a clumsy eater, but if I've got something new, the spillage risk is, for some reason, about 90% higher in the first week of its life vs a year. You can up that to 95% if the item is light coloured - like when I dropped something in my lap while wearing white and black patterned trousers the other week the first time I wore them (yes, on a white bit). I don't like stressing like this about expensive clothes, so I'm less likely to wear them casually over something I don't feel as attached to. Which just seems a shame!

So, all in all, I've definitely changed my shopping habits this year but I don't think I'll ever feel that happy investing in pieces. If I love them I'll get over it, until they go in a sale that is! Then I tend to look at them like they've personally conned me and it takes the happy buyer edge off a bit... So, maybe a few more higher price items will join my wardrobe this year, but with buying a house and a wedding to pay for it's now a bit less of a priority again.

What about you, what are your thoughts on the quality vs quantity debate?

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Sunday, 26 June 2016

Outfit: little navy dress

This is my first post since the results of the EU referendum, but I'm not going to talk about it at length here. This blog has to stay a place of pretty dresses and superficial things, and apart from that I'm not sure I can express myself all that eloquently about it. All I'm going to say is that I'm absolutely gutted about the result and I think we've got scary times ahead.

And back to the pretty dresses. Hopefully, there will always be pretty dresses as a pick-me-up for when times are bad and I'm very glad to add this Emily and Fin beauty to my collection. Emily and Fin are probably best known for the quirky prints of their good quality dresses, but this broderie anglaise style really caught my eye for its simple elegance (and slightly shorter length skirt, which I knew would suit me better). Having added Voodoo Vixen's white dress to my wardrobe (which I still love) last year, I opted for the navy. I was pleased to be able to get this dress in the XXS (size 6), which is not because I usually am a size 6 (ever), but because this brand does come up big and I found the 8 of the snowflake dress I wore last year a bit too big on the waist. The 6 was definitely snug, but being 100% cotton it's now given enough to be comfortable after a day's wear, so I would advise sizing down from your usual UK size for this one if you want it to be properly fitted.

I actually love navy as a colour to wear - it seems to go with pretty much every other colour. I find it much more useful to have classic navy dresses in my wardrobe as a go-to than black, which feels more boring and washes me out anyway. I wasn't sure how I was going to style this dress until I put it on and no surprises that I opted for my favourite red. I am just that predictable. But hey, the classics are classics for a reason. I don't have any more weddings to go to this year (and omg I think the next wedding I go to is my own!!), but if I did this dress would be first choice for one. I'm not wearing any kind of petticoat here, but it would probably be rather lovely with (a not-too-full) one as without.

Emily and Fin Emma dress review

Emily and Fin Emma dress review

Alternate Normality red hair bow

Emily and Fin Emma dress review

Emily and Fin Emma dress review

Emily and Fin Emma dress review

Emily and Fin Emma dress review

BAIT Jenny red kitten heels shoes

Emily and Fin Emma dress review
Dress: c/o Emily & Fin
Bag: Skinnydip London (no longer available)
Shoes: 'Jenny' by BAIT via Zulily

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Tuesday, 21 June 2016

My best friend's vintage inspired wedding on a budget

Is there anything quite as incredible as seeing one of your best friends get married? That's what I did back in April and it was honestly such a great day and all the more amazing for the fact that so many elements of it were DIY, as the bride worked within with a tight budget. And for the fact it featured a steam train!! It also had some lovely vintage touches, so it's only right I share some photos with you... and stay tuned to the end for the wedding video B made (he did me so proud!).

Vintage inspired wedding - bride and bridesmaid outfits

The bride's dress was one of the elements that wasn't budget, before anyone gets too excited. Having now also done my own trip to a bridal shop, I completely understand why people want to invest in what they're wearing - you're paying for a superior fit, construction and layers and layers and layers of material. One of my favourite things about our looks together is the matching Irregular Choice shoes - aren't they darling?

Irregular Choice Pink Nick of Time Irregular Choice bow shoes

Darling and quite simply the perfect match for my bouquet. You know how much I like matching.

Vintage wedding transport

Also a non-budget option - sorry folks - but mostly because the bride's step-dad's car wasn't ready in time!

Arriving for the wedding via steam train

One of the best entrances to a wedding ever, quite possibly, we travelled in by vintage steam train!

Wedding steam train transport

Bride arrives by steam train

Pre wedding ceremony at station house

My dress would not stop creasing, which was a real shame. I spent ages the night before ironing it and look at it! Also not a budget part of the day, it wasn't really on for the price (and it was entirely man-made materials). So while I think you should think carefully about investing in a wedding dress, I think there may be some just-as-good bridesmaid options from the high street, so my advice would be to shop around. (I may just write a post on this some day - there's a few wedding themed posts I could write now so feel free to say if you'd be interested!)

Signing the register

B and I were the sole witnesses to the marriage registrar signing, which was really special :) Also, you can see my 60s-inspired do here, which was the very quick work of the hair stylist with no former planning/discussion, so hats off to her. Not my usual style, but it suited the day.

The blissfully happy couple

I just love the look on the groom's face here - I think this is what you'd call 'blissfully happy'?!

Irregular Choice Nick of Time shoes in ivory

Bark themed wedding cake

A family relative just happened to be an amazing cake-maker. I do wish I knew someone with such skills!

Station house reception

The day before the wedding, myself and a host of friends of the couple spent hours making the pom-poms you see hanging here and pinning up bunting and fairy lights. One of the bride's friends created all the signage, putting the boards into secondhand frames sourced cheaply - like the one at the front of the above pic.

The newlyweds on their maiden voyage

This might be my favourite picture of the two of them taking their maiden voyage as a newly-married couple.

A 60s updo for the bridesmaid

Yeah I know, really elegant, but it just happened to be a great shot of my hair. The irony is I didn't even finish that drink, although it looks like I'm downing it, as I'm still being very careful about how much wine I drink as it makes me so ill from so little.

Vintage suitcase card collection

Battered vintage suitcases are quite a popular choice for the card and gift collection these days and you can see why - totally gorgeous.

Wedding reception at a station house

The bride through the train window

We had a miracle with the weather - the day before was non-stop rain, as was the morning of the wedding. Then, just as we arrived, the heavens cleared and there was bright sunshine, just as the bride walked down the aisle to 'Here Comes the Sun' by The Beatles. And it meant this amazing photo could happen - stunning.

It also gave us the perfect backing track for the video B made. I cried at this video when I saw it and I'm not one to get teary at emotional stuff usually! He did a really fab job, for someone who'd never videoed a wedding before, don't you think? As when he usually makes these videos, he filmed on a camcorder and applied filters & super 8 effects afterwards. He's hoping to do more events in future, as he enjoyed putting this together so much, so if you're in the UK you know where to find us...

To explain the ending - B and I gave the couple a polaroid camera and photo album as a wedding present :)

So there we go, an utterly gorgeous wedding, pulled together by a lot of love, hard work and imagination. It also helped that the venue is new to the wedding scene so there was a big saving on the hire cost for that reason. What a find! It was the perfect day and I hope my own wedding next year is half as amazing!

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Thursday, 16 June 2016

Outfit: I fought the wind - and the wind won

This post could have also been called: 'Every time I go to the Norfolk coast I almost get blown away' with either of the following subtitles; 'So why do I think it's a good idea to wear a big skirt and take photos of it?' or, my favourite, 'So why am I choosing to get married there?!'... Clearly, I'm mad. And clearly I also like really long titles (or at least, I've had to come to like them, working in academic publishing as I do).

Mad or not, I do seem to keep forgiving/forgetting how breezy this part of the country can be. It's such a romantic idea to get photos with a seaside backdrop, but the reality is the photos below + the 100-odd I couldn't use, largely for reasons of indecent exposure. Do you want to know something even more crazy? These photos were taken on the side verge of a very busy road - one of those roads in the middle of nowhere where cars constantly go by. Should I be offended I didn't get beeped, even after flashing my underwear at several of them? Yeah, I kind of am offended about that, actually. Hmph.

That's what this year has been like - photos for this blog are taken in and around our hectic schedule by the side of the road for running out of time to find somewhere better. But yes! That is the sea you can vaguely see in the background of some of these shots. Romantic though...? Nope. I have to hope our wedding will fare better for romance, even in the face of extreme winds - which, I'll admit, I am meticulously planning for, because I'd rather have a battle plan next time... 

So, wind, you haven't won the war yet...

Casual 50s inspired outfit with headscarf, full skirt and ghillie shoes

Casual 50s inspired outfit with headscarf, full skirt and ghillie shoes

Headscarf and breton cardigan

Casual 50s inspired outfit with headscarf, full skirt and ghillie shoes

Casual 50s inspired outfit with headscarf, full skirt and ghillie shoes

Carvela ghillie red shoes

Casual 50s inspired outfit with headscarf, full skirt and ghillie shoes

Headscarf and breton cardigan

Casual 50s inspired outfit with headscarf, full skirt and ghillie shoes
Headscarf: c/o Chronically Vintage
Cardigan: Jane Norman (old)
Skirt: Lindy Bop 'Peggy', shortened to 26" (all available colours)
Shoes: Carvela

The last time I wore this skirt for the blog, by the way, I was in the same town and it was just as windy. Yet, somehow, the pictures came out much better then? Oh well, if you want to see this skirt when it's not around my thighs, check it out.

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Sunday, 12 June 2016

Makeup: NYX Matte Lipstick in Pure Red

Yep, I'm back to buying red lipsticks again. But, you see, now I have some motivation - my wedding! I've known for a while that if I got married I'd wear red on my wedding day, but I want the right shade, for it to be matte and, crucially, as kiss-proof and long-lasting as possible! I'm just not there yet...

I found my ideal shade of red in the Bourjois liquid matte, but the more I used that one, the more frustrated I became because the application was just so difficult due to its weird thin consistency that needs layers upon layers for decent colour. It's so easy to go wrong with it - it's too high maintenance for my wedding day for sure. And then I lost the bottle, so won't be wearing that again soon!

Then I came across NYX Cosmetics earlier this year. It's a brand that hasn't been in the UK that long, so I couldn't resist scoping out their lipsticks. To my delight, there were four red contenders in their matte range and reviews online indicated that one could be the colour I'd been searching for: that bright, pillar-box red that didn't lean too warm or cool. Step up, Pure Red.

This lipstick is inexpensive as they go, so I wasn't expecting to be blown away, but for the price I'm impressed. This is the only red lipstick I've ever put on and B has - unprompted, and we know how rare unprompted is - said 'I really like that lipstick!'. (To my irritation, he always compliments every coral, nude or pink I ever wear, but has never seemed to like the reds on me.) So in terms of colour, we do have a winner... It's bright and it really is red. Not orange-red, not brown-red, not blue-red; red-red.

NYX matte lipstick in Pure Red review

NYX matte lipstick in Pure Red review

(And yes, this is another pair of the lovely vintage earrings Jessica sent me last year that I've since sadly lost one of, as it fell off without me realising :( )

  • The colour - this is as close as I've come to finding the red I've long pictured in a lipstick, other than the Bourjois
  • The price - it's £6.50 and for what you get I think it's a bargain
  • It's not remotely drying. I was really expecting to have flaky lips as it's cheap, but having worn it several times now it's never happened!
  • The other thing I was expecting was patchy/weaker colour but nope, this is pigmentation power! One swipe and you're there
  • The packaging is cheap looking, yep, but that's never what I care about. I care if it looks the same as all my other lipsticks so I can't tell them apart without opening them. It's cheap, but you can see the bullet through the side (see first photo), so thumbs up
  • One of the worst things about this lipstick, which is why it simply can't be an absolute favourite, is the transfer. This lipstick gets everywhere. Probably even places you haven't been, it's that transfer-y. If B does kiss me while wearing it, he looks like he's applied it directly straight after
  • As you can see from these photos, my light is causing a shine, which is because this is definitely not a true matte. I wouldn't mind, but the name kinda implies otherwise!
  • It's my belief that a really good lipstick will have a constitency that means you forget you have it on. This has a very slight 'feel' to it, which is worth mentioning but it doesn't bug me at all actually 
  • It's a bit 'slippery' - i.e. it's really easy to smudge it outside of your lines without a lip pencil helping (and even with)

If you're in the UK and haven't tried these yet, they're worth the few £s to have a go if you find a shade you like and don't mind the transfer thing, because otherwise for the price I can't really fault it. I've tried worse that cost a lot more!

Ultimately, though, this isn't The One. I'm definitely accepting recommendations for a matte lipstick that lasts in a neutral, bright red, if you have them... And I've got a couple more I'm road testing but still not there yet, I don't think...

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Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Outfit: here comes the sunflower

Do you remember how I told you I got changed in a car recently? Yeah, I know, how could you forget. So here's part two of the changing saga - hair flower off, earrings on... complete change of all other clothes and we end up here, featuring another stunner from the Erstwilder Beauteous Blossoms collection.

It seems a lot of ladies have love for this sunflower brooch, but is it really a surprise? Who doesn't love a brooch of such a bright and cheerful flower? I can picture it featuring in so many outfits, as there's little yellow doesn't go with, but I wanted to start with something as summery as the flower itself. Our weather might be seasonally challenged, but my outfits don't have to be!

It was about time I found the perfect look for this cute vintage handbag that Jessica of Chronically Vintage gifted me last year when we collaborated. It's the ideal finishing touch here, picking up the sunshine shade of the brooch just as I hoped it would. What impeccable taste that lady has!

Summery vintage inspired outfit with Erstwilder Sumptuous Sunflower brooch

Summery vintage inspired outfit with Erstwilder Sumptuous Sunflower brooch

Bow & Crossbones tiki hoop earrings

Summery vintage inspired outfit with Erstwilder Sumptuous Sunflower brooch

Summery vintage inspired outfit with Erstwilder Sumptuous Sunflower brooch

Erstwilder Sumptuous Sunflower brooch

Summery vintage inspired outfit with Erstwilder Sumptuous Sunflower brooch

Summery vintage inspired outfit with Erstwilder Sumptuous Sunflower brooch

Tara Starlet leaf print skirt

Summery vintage inspired outfit with Erstwilder Sumptuous Sunflower brooch
Earrings: Bow & Crossbones
Brooch: c/o Erstwilder (available at Top Vintage)
Skirt: Tara Starlet (eBay outlet - no longer available)

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