Archive for the ‘style’ Tag

Posh Frocks

I’m really not much of a glamour girl – it’s all a bit too ‘high maintenance’ for my liking.

For the last seven years, though, one of the responsibilities I’ve had in my day job at the medical college has been to organise the bi-annual formal dinner for the New Fellows. This is a black-tie affair in a five-star London hotel. Hence, twice a year it is necessary for me to get into a ‘Posh Frock’.

I’ve come to the conclusion that these women that look fantastically glamorous all the time don’t actually do anything at all – they just sashay around looking gorgeous. When I try and get all glammed up, it really doesn’t work out well. Consequently, though I’ve gone through a few posh frocks over the last seven years, I don’t have a wardrobe full of them, which more glamorous women might have acquired.

A few years ago I had a lilac dress full of sequins. I bought a pair of spangly sandals with kitten heels to go with it (another point – me and fancy shoes don’t get on either, but more of that later). Every time I wore the dress, I managed to get the hem of it stuck in the spangles of the shoes, and the thing was full of loose threads. I also kept losing the sequins. Once, I managed to put the heel of my shoe through the chiffon inside lining. But this was hidden under the main layer of the dress, so you couldn’t see the rip.

I did manage to get about four or five wearings out of this dress, but when I had my wardrobe detox a couple of years ago with the stylist, she made me get rid of it. In fact she looked faintly horrified when she pulled it out of my wardrobe. I’m still not exactly sure what was wrong with it – apart from the fact that lilac is apparently not my colour.

Armed with new style knowledge, I went and got another dress for the next dinner. This was a midnight blue long number with Greek-like folds. I had been told this was one of my colours, and I thought the dress looked nice. It was quite expensive, too – first time I’ve ever paid three figures for an item of clothing. I wore it twice that winter – once to the dinner, and once to the formal dinner dance that Hubby’s scuba diving club put on every Christmas. We have to travel by public transport into central London for the latter. On the escalator down to the underground, the long dress got caught in the escalator mechanism, and fearing being pulled into the machinery I had to yank it out hard to free myself. Miraculously the dress didn’t rip – synthetic fabric is hardy stuff – but it was all pulled out of shape and ended up with a fair bit of black oil all over it.

I objected to paying over £100 for a dress I only got two uses out of so I was determined to wear it again. My mother in law managed to work miracles with white spirit and got the oil out of it, but nothing could be done about the rather mis-shapen hem line. As it happens I now can’t fit into this dress – it’s a size 12. I’m a size 14 nowadays and I can no longer get the damn thing zipped up. So I think I have to say goodbye to it, wonky hemline and all.

My latest posh frock is a black and white silk prom dress that I bought for a friend’s birthday party last year (she had a ’60s glam’ theme). Then I wore it to the dive club dinner last year. We had to take the train into London, as usual, to get to the venue. On my way to the train station I fell over because I was having trouble walking in the shoes, and now it has a couple of black marks on it. I deliberately chose shoes I thought I could walk in, because I hate having to take a bag full of shoes to change into when I’m going out of an evening. Clearly I was wrong. Is it too much to ask that someone invent girl’s shoes that it’s actually possible to walk in? And just how are you supposed to keep these damn dresses clean until the end of the evening? If I don’t fall in the mud, I end up spilling my dinner down them.

We’ve had a reshuffle of responsibilities at work and the organising of the dinner has now passed to someone else, so hopefully I won’t have to keep investing in posh frocks. Just as well, really. Evidently staying neat and clean of an evening is completely beyond me. I guess I’m just not a ‘posh frock’ kind of girl.

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Why I’ll Never Be a Glamour Girl

There was a weekend earlier this year when we were rather busy with social events – a 40th birthday party to attend on the Saturday, followed by a wedding on the Sunday. The birthday party had a theme of early 60s glamour.  Nothing in my current wardrobe seemed to be appropriate, so I was obliged to go out and buy a new dress. I eventually found a black and white prom dress from Bravissimo, which I thought was appropriate to the era. It was a nice dress, but it proved to be uncomfortable to wear. The bodice is quite restricting, so I had to sit up straight. There’s a lot of lace going on under the skirt to make it stick out the way it does, so sitting down requires a great deal of care.

I didn’t want to go out and get shoes – I hate shoe shopping – so I wore my patent leather court shoes. I will say at this point I hate all women’s shoes. The only shoes I can wear that don’t hurt my feet in any way are trainers. If I wear shoes with heels, they make me fall over and I get burning pain in the balls of my feet. If I wear flat shoes, they rub my feet and give me blisters. At least they do for a couple of years, until the leather gets worn and soft, by which point the shoes are looking a bit shabby.

The following day, for the wedding, I wore a mauve dress I’ve worn to other weddings. And the same shoes – because I really haven’t got many pairs of shoes (for reasons cited above).

The wedding invite said the ceremony was at 12pm. So I had to start getting ready fairly early, to do the whole hair and make up thing, which I don’t normally bother with. There was a big gap between the ceremony and the rest of the celebrations, and since the venue was rather cozy, the group I was with decided they’d rather spend time in the gardens of the venue. We’d had a lot of rain the week before the wedding. Every time I walked over the grass, my stiletto heels sank into the mud, making it even harder to walk. By about 6pm Hubby was commenting that I was decidedly grumpy. Yes, I was. I’d been wearing the uncomfortable shoes by several hours by that point, and my feet were killing me.

I tell this story to illustrate why I don’t ‘do’ glamour. Shoes I’ve already mentioned. Having a reason to put a nice dress on once in a while is fine, but I find doing so a great effort. You can’t slouch in a nice dress as it’s unladylike, so I have to remember to sit up straight. If I have make-up on I have to remember not to rub my face, and I hate lipstick marks on tea cups and glasses, which is why I generally don’t wear it. Wearing make-up also means I can’t fall into bed at the end of the evening; I have to spend extra time taking it off and cleansing my face before I can go to bed, to a avoid waking up with a face full of spots – on top of all this I have sensitive skin, and it reacts to make-up if I keep it on too long. And have I mentioned I’m allergic to perfume? I just can’t wear it; it sets off the asthma.

A fancy frock also means tights. It seems I can’t wear a pair of tights without them getting laddered in ten minutes. I’ll snag them against something, or I’ll pull them up a bit too vigorously when I use the bathroom. And this is assuming I’ve managed to make it out the front door without one of the cats getting her claws snagged in them.

Then there’s nail polish. It takes half an hour to put on and dry properly, only for it to chip the moment I do anything with my hands. Opening the tin of cat food. Putting the door key in the lock. Even rummaging around in my hand bag seems to chip nail polish.

So on the whole I can’t be doing with this ‘glamour’ business. It requires far too much maintenance. I’m far happier slobbing around in jeans and a sweater, most of the time. At least I can be me then.

I learned a lot about colour and style when I had my style session a couple of years ago (which those of you who’ve been following this blog a while might remember), but I’ve been rethinking my attitude to clothes recently. All this ‘trying to be stylish’ business is just not me. Ultimately if I like an outfit and wearing it makes me happy, then why should I not wear it, regardless of what others think of it?

It’s this attitude that prompted me to buy some biker boots recently. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to wear them, but I am looking forward to doing so. They might not be stylish, but I think they’re cool. I will endeavour to post a picture soon. In the meantime, make the most of this picture of me in my early 60s glamour, ready to go to the party. I don’t think it’s an outfit I’m going to be wearing very often – it requires far too much effort.

Body Image

I’ve been battling with my weight all my adult life. Over the last 20 years, I’ve been varying from size 12 to size 18. It goes round in a cycle. I put on weight, I go on a diet, I lose the weight and feel good, but the weight always finds me again.

However, over the last couple of years I’ve come to terms with my body and all of its imperfections. Confidence has made a huge difference to my life recently. I believe confidence comes through maturity and wisdom, and there’s no short cut to finding it.

This picture was taken by my dad on the day before my 41st birthday, and I am including it because I think it’s a good contrast to the picture in my last post. There’s over 35 years between this picture and the previous one. When I think about that, it makes me realise just what a long journey it’s been between my being the little girl in that picture and the woman in this one.

The skirt in this picture is a recent purchase. I used to have several similar ones in my wardrobe, that my stylist made me get rid of during my wardrobe detox. So I know that she wouldn’t approve, but I bought it anyway. Part of this confidence in the contemporary me is the conviction that if I like the way something looks, that’s a good enough reason to wear it.

It’s been over 18 months now since I had my styling session, and I’m a size larger now than I was then. So much of what the stylist picked out for me no longer fits. But I am comfortable with who I am, and I can say with confidence that right now, in my 40s, I’m at a good place in my life. I can probably count myself lucky because not everyone gets this far.

Life is short. You have to make what you can of it, and in the grand scheme of things, many of the trivialities we worry about – like putting on a few pounds – are really not important. The recent natural catastrophes in various parts of the world over the last few months have made me think about this quite a lot of late. None of us knows how many tomorrows we have left – so why waste today worrying about them?

On Not Being “Trendy”

As someone who’s spent her whole life “not fitting in”, I am suspicious of anything referring to itself as a “Trend”. There’s something on Twitter called “Trends”, which seems to refer to whatever the popular topics of the day are. I wish they wouldn’t call them “Trends”.

The mere word is off-putting. “Trends” are about everyone else being into something that just doesn’t interest me. “Trends” mean whatever I want won’t be available. My favourite TV shows get cancelled because of poor ratings, while more money is poured into rubbish reality shows because that’s what everyone else watches. I go on holiday in December and can’t buy sun cream or summer tops because everyone else goes on holiday in August and there’s no demand for these things when I want them. And I shall probably never be a best-selling writer, because I do not write in the genres that everyone else seems to like reading.

Going with the majority opinion is the cornerstone of democracy. And I’m not actually complaining about this – this is the fairest way. But in a vote of popular opinion, I will always be in the minority.

I have accepted the fact that this is the way life is. I am quite happy in my own un-trendy world. The population here is small, but select.

But can’t we find some other word for that Twitter thing than “Trends”?

Fashion Fix – One Year On

It’s now been a year since my fashion fix. If you haven’t been following this blog for that long, click here to gain an understanding of what I’m on about. I thought it might be a good time to revisit this subject (well, it works for Gok Wan).

I’m not the kind of girl who buys a new wardrobe every season. I think I’ve probably mentioned this before. I wear clothes until they fall to bits – literally, in many cases.

So, I am still wearing the clothes Joy picked out for me last year. I didn’t have an option to lapse back to my old wardrobe – it all went. I do, however, occasionally wear other things to work these days – things I suspect Joy would consider to be a bit too casual for the office. I’m not really a high maintenance kind of girl. Some days I really can’t be arsed faffing around with make-up, hair and jewellery – I just want to brush my teeth and go.

When I shop for clothes, I try to remember the lessons I learned about the colours and styles that suit me. Immediately after my style session I was afraid to go shopping, because I had no idea what to look for. But I now have more confidence, because I’ve got a little more rebellious. I will buy things because I like them – not necessarily because they are things the stylist would approve of.

With regards to accessories, well it was fairly obvious that wasn’t going to last. I don’t wear the chunky jewellery much these days. Big beads click together and bang against my chest in a way I find really annoying. I still prefer my own jewellery, unstylish though it may be. I’ve stopped using the ‘stylish’ handbag, and gone back to the old faithful brown shoulder bag that I can sling over my head to keep it secure on my daily commute. The ‘stylish’ bag doesn’t hold everything I need to take to work with me, and it keeps sliding down my arm in a most annoying way.

I didn’t get rid of any of my shoes, in spite of them all receiving a ‘thumbs down’ from the stylist. I keep the ‘work’ shoes she picked out at the office, but I hate wearing them. I just can’t walk in them. I do wear the ballet pumps, however. A year on they have now sufficiently softened up to not rub my feet.

It’s safe to say that I have lapsed somewhat. I think there’s an irony in the lesson I did take away from my style session – the most important thing about your clothing is that you feel good in it. It doesn’t matter how you look to everyone else. If you look in the mirror after getting dressed in the morning and think you look good , hold your head high and step out, and ignore what everyone else thinks.

And this, for me, reinforces the most important lesson in life. Be true to yourself.

Rainy Days and Mondays

Most of the UK has had more snow the past few days. Here in London, we’ve been quite fortunate. We’ve had no more snow. We are, however, getting rain. Lots of it. Heavy and unrelenting. And carrying an umbrella doesn’t help much. It might keep the rain off your face, but the rest of your body gets soaked, and the pavements are all so wet you get a lot of splashback to soak your trouser cuffs. The drains are clogged – the rain runs in rivers down the side of all the roads, and avoiding getting splashed by passing cars is a tricky operation.

The rain has been falling, more or less continuously, for about four days now, and it is forecast to continue for the rest of the week. Although I much prefer rain to snow, it is hard to stay upbeat when you’re being relentessly pounded by rain. I have discovered I don’t own a coat or a pair of shoes that can cope with such unremitting rainfall. My nice stylish wool coat is still drying out, after it got a soaking during my journey home from work on Thursday. My unstylish Parka – allegedly waterproof – got drenched when I wore it to walk to the sports centre for my usual Sunday morning swim yesterday, and it’s still wet.

So now I am down to my wax-coated rain coat, which is atrociously unstylish. It doesn’t have a hood, but it does cover most of my body. So between it and my brolly, I can keep mostly dry apart from everything below my knees.

As I seem to possess no waterproof shoes, I have resorted to commuting in my hiking boots, which are at least thick enough and sturdy enough for the water to not penetrate through to my feet. Yes, I probably look like a bag lady as I trudge through London this way. At this point, that’s the least of my worries. My aim is to stay as dry as possible.

It’s hard enough to face down Mondays as it is, but rainy Mondays are even worse. Maybe I should go the whole unstylish mile and get myself a pair of green wellies to commute in.

Substance over Style

We’re not in winter yet, but we’re close. I think I must be part bear and part lizard – I want to hibernate when the cold weather sets in, and I feel the cold – I’m the one shivering in two sweaters when everyone’s peeling off layers.

But it’s got decidedly chilly in London over the last couple of weeks, and I’ve been digging out my winter coats. I have three coats that I wear in winter. I’ve got a rather stylish wool coat that we bought in Paris a couple of years ago. It’s warm but not waterproof. I also have a long rain coat – also reasonably stylish. Good for keeping the rain off, but not very warm – it’s more an Autumn coat.

And then I have my trusty old parka, with its unflattering furry hood. Even I can tell it’s really not stylish at all. It’s warm and it’s waterproof, and the hood makes me feel like a Shire horse – it has the same effect as a horse’s blinkers and I have no peripheral vision when it’s up – but it keeps the rain off my head.

There are some days when I think it’s more important to be warm and dry than stylish. I keep this old parka for these days.

Generation Gap

I was at my beautician’s earlier today, taking care of some depilation before the party. I was telling her all about my birthday party, and that it’s an 80s theme. When she asked me what I was going to wear, I told her I was going as Joan Jett.

“Who’s that, then?” she asked cheerfully.

I just thought, My God I’m old. It’s one thing to be unable to connect with teenagers – most people over the age of 21 can’t do that. It’s something else to discover there’s a generation of ‘grown ups’ that are so much younger than you are, they are moving in a different world.

My beautician is in her 20s. I suppose she must have been born at the end of the 1980s. She will have no memory of the world I was young in.

I’m starting to realise that this is going to happen to me more and more often, and that’s a sobering thought. It’s not that I’m getting older, to my mind. Just that everyone else is getting younger…

‘P’ Minus Six Days…

The celebrations for my aforementioned imminent 40th birthday include a party, which I have actually been planning for a long time. For ten years, in fact. I had a party for my 30th birthday, and it was so much fun I decided I couldn’t wait for my 40th, so I would have an excuse for another one.

It’s also very fortuitous that my 40th birthday happens to fall on a Saturday, so I can have the party on the actual day.

I decided to give my 40th birthday party a theme – “Back to the 80s”. This was the decade during which I was a teenager, and I think the music you listen to as an adolescent you identify with more than the music that’s around at other points in your life.

With my being a bit anally retentive about these things, the arrangements have all been in place for some time. The venue has been booked since March. The pub whose function room I am hiring for the party will lay on a buffet, and that’s all arranged and paid for in advance. The DJ is booked, and he will be getting my 1980s play list later today. Invites were sent out in September, and I’m expecting about 40 people to attend. I am intrigued to see what everyone will turn up wearing, as 80s fancy dress is being encouraged. Though I don’t think costumes will be hard to get hold of – it seems that 80s fashions are popular again at the moment, and the shops are full of ra-ra skirts and leggings (I feel old. Don’t they say if you can remember a fashion the last time around, you’re too old to wear it this time around?).

I myself have decided on an ’80s rock chick’ look, and I have now managed to acquire all costume pieces for it (including 80s wig, as I decided going back to an 80s hair style for real was a bit drastic).

All that’s required now are balloons and other such adornments to decorate the venue with, and I am rather counting on getting some help with that on Saturday afternoon, as it’ll be a bit strange hanging “happy 40th birthday” banners for my own birthday party.

Apart from that, now it’s just a matter of waiting for the big day. Sadly, I feel I’ve been waiting so long for this event, it’ll all be over before I know it. I guess I should make the most of the anticipation.

Six more sleeps!

Approaching Forty

I now have less than three weeks left as a 30-something. On the whole, I feel comfortable with turning 40. When I look back on pictures of me from 20 years ago, I think actually I probably look better now than I did then. Part of that is down to confidence, which affects the way you carry yourself and the way you come across to others. I feel very comfortable with myself now, and as a teenager I had no confidence whatsoever

The other reason I might look better now than then has to do with my dreadful fashion sense in the 80s. If my stylist thinks I don’t have much of a sense of style now, she would have had heart failure if she’d have known me then because there has actually been a great deal of improvement!

I find myself in a philosophical mood as I approach the 40th anniversary of my birth, and have been reflecting on the life lessons I have learned in my years on this planet.

1. The most important lesson is that it doesn’t matter what other people think of you. I have my dad to thank for teaching me this one.

2. Closely related to 1, never be afraid to be yourself.

3. Own up to any mistakes you make and take the consequences for them. Then learn from them.

4. You can’t change the world single-handedly. However, if you can do one small thing to change someone else’s life for the better, in some tiny way, then it’s probably worth doing.

5. Life is too short to waste on reality TV.

6. Reading is never a waste of time.

7. Everyone’s body is beautiful, and no one’s is perfect. Learn to love yourself, including your imperfections.

8. Try not to worry about things you have no control over (I still struggle with this one).

9. Let go of the past. It does no one any good to hold grudges.

I’m sure there are more. These are the things that have been in my mind of late. I find myself more reflective as I get older.

And although I wouldn’t go back to being 20, and am embracing being 40, there are still times when I am reminded that I am getting old. Like the fact it takes me longer to recover from a few glasses of wine these days, for instance. But if age is the price we have to pay for wisdom, then I can accept that. I guess that’s another life lesson right there.