Getting the Full Picture:
choosing a full-length mirror





I've been wary of full length mirrors since I stopped twirling in front of them in my party dresses aged about 9. In fact, I don't think I've lived in the same house as one for getting on for 20 years. But as my Journey to Style begins to gain pace, there was no denying that a full length mirror is pretty much indispensable, and hence I needed to acquire one.

Having faced up to that fact, the first issue was: free-standing or wall mounted?

Wall mirrors are usually the cheaper option and simply require a well-lit area of wall space (or failing that, the back of a bedroom or wardrobe door). Fixing one at the optimal height for you, however, may make it tricky to use for those taller or shorter. And of course, you'll need to be handy with a drill - or know someone who is!

Ikea has a decent selection of wall mirrors, including a number of full length ones ranging from this very simple one to more substantial framed versions.

And then there's the wavy edged KRABB mirror:

Ikea KRABB wavy wall mirrors (2-pack): www.ikea.co.uk

This is apparently a worldwide bestseller. Personally I think they (yes, they come in a 2-pack for maximum effect!) would give me vertigo each morning, but it's been an Ikea staple for 17 years!

For maximum viewpoints - and that all important rear view - you might want to splash our and buy three wall mirrors and use hinges to attach them together like this:
Three Ikea STAVE mirrors, hung together: www.ikea.com
Three Ikea STAVE mirrors, hung together: www.ikea.com
Three of Ikea's STAVE mirrors hung together to give multiple views

I love this idea in principle! However, it would require a fair bit of wall space to make it work well, plus small children (mine at least!) would doubtless be oh so tempted to swing on the mirrors, bat them to and fro etc. etc.…

Anyway, not something that really works for me at the moment. And of course you can get a similar multi-view effect by using a handheld mirror in combination with your standard full length mirror.


Naturally, a free-standing mirror will take up more space than a wall mounted one, also but offers more flexibility - it can be turned to catch the best (most flattering!) light, moved from room to room, and cheval versions (where the mirror swings between two posts) can be tilted at different angles to suit different people.

Considering how many styles of wall mirror Ikea sell, it's odd that they appear to offer only one free-standing mirror (the ISFJORDEN), although they do have various mirror cabinets, interesting mirror and storage combos, and of course wardrobes with mirror doors.
Ikea ISFJORDEN free standing mirror: www.ikea.co.uk
ISFJORDEN free standing mirror from Ikea

Of course, there are loads of free-standing mirrors available from all the usual furniture and catalogue stores. But unless you're willing to pay well over £50, those on offer look pretty flimsy. An honourable exception may be these fabulously kitsch lipstick mirrors from Febland:
Free-standing Lipstick Mirrors from Febland: www.febland.co.uk
Lipstick Mirrors, 1.57m high, from Febland Group Ltd.

Love them or loath them (my husband certainly wouldn't want to give one house space), at least there's no danger of them collapsing or splintering, or of you tripping over the frame in the middle of the night!

So, having failed to fine a suitably sturdy free-standing mirror in my rather meagre price bracket, I did what I always do in these situations and turned to Ebay and search for mirrors available as 'collection only' (which always tends to keep prices down). Like me, you may have to bide your time, but sooner or later something just right will come up in your neighbourhood (search for full length mirror or cheval mirror and then sort the results according to 'Distance: nearest first'). And when it does, it's likely to be a bargain!

So here's my find - a sturdy solid oak mirror (it's very heavy!), nice and big, with the tilt adjustable to two positions:
My full length, free-standing mirror, bought on Ebay

While it hasn't revolutionised the way I get dressed (yet), it has made me so much more aware of how I really look (as opposed to how I imagine I look) from head to toe, how my clothes work together, my skirt lengths and hemlines, and how shoes make - or break - a look.

It's a learning curve, but one on which I can definitely say that my full length mirror is an indispensable companion.

Do you use a full length mirror? And if not, how do you manage?




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Colour and Opulence: a wedding dress Japanese-style



This iro-uchikake wedding kimono is not something that I'm planning on wearing any time soon (or ever!), but isn't it beautiful!

Just as in the west, the groom's outfit seems calculated to act as a foil to the gorgeousness of the bride. And she could hardly look more sumptuous than she does in this silken riot of colour!

(You can read all about this and other Japanese wedding ensembles here.)

Japanese bride and groom in traditional wedding kimono ensembles



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Friday Find: New Shoes at fabulous prices!



Shoes have never been one of my passions. But making an inventory of my meagre shoe collection, plus buying a full-length mirror (so I can now actually see what an outfit looks like with certain shoes...) has piqued my interest.

So when someone mentioned the Shoeaholics website (thanks Viki!) the info fell on fertile ground.
Shoeaholics Kurt Geiger online outlet: www.shoeaholics.com

Shoeaholics is the Kurt Geiger outlet, so it's completely legitimate. It encompasses the KG brands (KG Kurt Geiger, Miss KG, Carvela etc.), and also Nine West, French Connection, Lipsy and others.

Loads of tempting shoes, and the discounts are dizzying! Much of the stock is priced at £29 or £19 (and sometimes less) and there are currently a whopping 1600 styles to choose from - lots of them in what I call the 'fancy dress category' of killer heels and massive wedges, but plenty of more normal shoes too. Luckily you can search by size (as well as style, brand, colour & price) which makes it all more manageable.

Everything is listed as 'ex display and may have some minor cosmetic damage', but this certainly wasn't an issue with any of the shoes I ordered.

My first order was for nine pairs (!), which arrived in the most enormous box. The shoe box lids had fallen off and the shoes were in a heap at the bottom. Not a great start, but once I'd retrieved them it was a relief to see that despite being 'ex display' they were all in perfect or almost perfect condition (one suede pair looked like they'd perhaps been tried on and handled a few times).

They weren't all hits (flats that looked frumpy on, a pair of sandals that were weirdly tight across the front...), but returns are easy (although not free and you have just 14 days to do it).

In the end, four pairs were definite keepers. They are:


Brown leather & suede WILMA boots from Miss KG, £49

Miss KG 'Wilma' boots in brown leather & suede: www.shoeaholics.com
These (the first pair of long boots I've ever bought) are just what I wanted for wearing with skirts. I like the style and the heel height, although I'm not totally convinced of the quality (the leather parts are kind of thin and waxy - possibly a leather veneer? And the suede shank of the boots is lined with foam fabric which may not wear well...) But I'm pretty happy with them for the £49 price tag. (NB the black Wilma Boots are now just £29!).



Turquoise suede FALLHARD heels from Nine West, £19

Nine West 'Fallhard' shoe in turquoise suede: www.shoeaholics.com
These have a heel that I can comfortably walk in and I just love the colour (plus I do actually have a couple of things in my wardrobe to pair them with...).



Navy leather POWERSURGE wedges from Nine West, £19

Nine West 'Powersurge' shoe in navy leather: www.shoeaholics.com
A: I can walk in them; B: navy is a useful colour... Yes, I'm playing the 'practicality card' on these!



Finally, purple suede SHIPSHAPE heels from Nine West, £29

Nine West 'Shipshape' shoe in purple suede: www.shoeaholics.com
What can I say? I just love these (and the mini platform makes the heel quite reasonable). And again, I really do have things to wear them with. Wait and see!

So that's - ahem - three pairs of Nine West peep toe shoes. I'd better start wearing them, hadn't I!

What's more, I've now got my eye on BRIDGE in gorgeous dark red suede, £29 (the synthetic snakeskin version at £39 is rather fabulous too...).
Carvela Kurt Geiger 'Bridge' shoe in red suede: www.shoeaholics.com

And I do like on trend (although I know I'd never wear them) ANNA in lovely daffodil yellow, £25
Carvela Kurt Geiger 'Anna' shoe in yellow: www.shoeaholics.com
I'm beginning to get a little glimmer of how shoes can become an obsession... But it's always fun to look, especially at Shoeaholics prices!



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A Boden Shopping Party, and a look at the Boden Spring 2013 Collection


Boden's Spring 2013 catalogue has been on my desk for a few weeks now, but nothing has especially leapt out at me from its pages crying 'buy me'. All the same, when a friend told me that her neighbour would be holding a Boden Shopping Party, well I had to go along and have a look!

Boden Shopping Party poster: www.boden.co.uk

I turned up with no idea what to expect, and - not knowing the hostess personally - a little nervous about knocking on the door of a private house (despite the fact that I could see the racks of Boden clothes through the window).

I needn't have worried - the party holder was charming, and while she went off to make me a cup of coffee I got stuck in looking through the five large racks of Boden clothing, plus shoes and accessories. It was mostly womenswear, with just a dozen or so items of menswear and a single rack of Mini Boden and Johnnie B.

A Boden Shopping Party feels a bit like a boutique, but it actually works like a showroom: you can't buy the clothes on the spot, but instead get to look through a good selection of styles and colourways from the current collection - and try them on if the samples are in your size (a bedroom had been designated the changing room for the event). You then order any items you like the look of via the party host. There's a discount on everything (15% on my order, but higher if you're a new customer, or if you bring a new customer with you), free delivery & returns, and - if you arrive early enough - a free gift. You can read a detailed account about how it all works on the Boden blog.

There was an impressive amount of stock to look through, but inevitably there were styles that I would have liked to have had a look at that were not there, and others that I would have liked to have tried on that were not in my size.

It was interesting how some items I had quite liked the look of in the catalogue simply didn't do it for me when I saw them in person, and vice versa - some things I completely overlooked in the catalogue really caught my eye when I saw them on the rail. Top of this list was the Modern Pencil Skirt which I'd hardly noticed in the catalogue, but which jumped out at me from the rail in the 'ivory cow parsley' colourway.

Not something everyone will like, I imagine, however it's a fresh pattern and colours, a nice heavy textured cotton, and fully lined too.

Boden Modern Pencil Skirt, ss2013: www.boden.co.uk
Boden Modern Pencil Skirt, ss2013: www.boden.co.uk
The Modern Pencil Skirt - the catalogue photo (with those shoes? Hmmmm...) and the actual skirt.

Ivory cow parsely' colourway, close up: www.boden.co.uk

The other item that really caught my eye - although sadly not for me, as they're from the Mini Boden range - was these fabulous Mini Boden Glitter Ballet Flats. I would be so tempted by these if they came in my size! (They do go up to size 37 though, so if you have fairly small feet, you may be in luck...).
Mini Boden Glitter Ballet Flats, ss2013: www.boden.co.uk

As for disappointments, well the Modern Woven Top had caught my eye in the catalogue with its on trend stripes and fresh colours. With 'Woven' in the name, I was picturing a fairly substantial fabric, but in reality it's a silky little slip of a top, and - dare I say - very overpriced at £49! Still, I shall keep an eye out for it in the sales.

Another was the Cashmere Textured Jumper, which - although well out of my price range at £135 - was something that I was prepared to fall in love with, especially in 'vintage yellow'. But the knit is disappointingly thin and insubstantial, so another miss.

Boden Modern Woven Top ss2013: www.boden.co.uk
Boden Cashmere Textured Jumper ss2013: www.boden.co.uk

So what did I order? Well, I have to admit that I let myself be swayed by the atmosphere of the shopping party, and instead of just sticking with the pencil skirt I also ordered the Elgin Jacket (in navy), the Chepstow Blazer (in greengage - this was not on display, but in a fit of hopefulness I chose it as an alternative to navy), and the stripy Essential Tee in both long sleeve and short sleeve styles (in 'pewter/marshmallow' - again based on the catalogue picture).
Boden Elgin Jacket ss2013: www.boden.co.uk
Boden Chepstow Blazer ss2013: www.boden.co.uk
Boden Essential Short Sleeve Tee ss2013: www.boden.co.uk
Boden Essential Long Sleeve Tee ss2013: www.boden.co.uk

My parcel arrived a couple of days later - no faulting Boden's customer service! The skirt is just as nice as I expected, although a touch tight (which probably says more about my hips that Boden's sizing, but anyway I'll be exchanging it for a size up).

The other items turned out to be mistakes, which I guess I kind of knew when I ordered them. The Elgin Jacket has a nice heavy feel to it, and I do like the flat notched collar. But it's somehow a bit shapeless and ordinary on, and while the hook & eye fastening gives a clean line, it's also fiddly...

The Chepstow Blazer is too short in the waist and too wide at the shoulders for me, and the colour (although actually quite nice) to my eye doesn't suit the raw-edge, slightly 'deconstructed' look of the jacket. As for the raw edges, my husband asked why it had been sewn together inside out!

Finally, the two pewter/marshmallow stripe tees didn't make the cut either - the pinky marshmallow colour is just too close to my skin tone to look quite right. Don't let this put you off though, because they're well made, nice fabric and (especially with the discount) a good price for the quality.

All in all, I'm a bit sad that the party host won't be making much in the way of commission on my purchases after making so much effort with the party generally. But for me, 1 out of 5 isn't a bad final score!


NB: Full dates & locations for Boden's 2014 Town Hall Clearance Sales are here.

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My shoe inventory leads to a rather obvious realisation: I have a shoe problem!


OK, so 'tomorrow' has taken 3 days instead of 1, but I've finally dragged together every pair of shoes that I own.

And I have to admit that I have a shoe problem.

Not, I hasten to add, in the standard 'girl with a shoe problem' kind of way (i.e. too many shoes, nowhere to store them…) but rather the opposite: I probably don't have enough shoes and I certainly don't have the right kinds of shoes.

In summary, I have 17 pairs (for a complete set of mug shots see here!)
My rag tag 'collection' comprises:

2 pairs that I wear constantly: utilitarian brown suede & leather lace-ups (great for running around town, being out and about with the kids etc.) and my old and battered black Clarks ankle boots (at least 8 years old, and only still with me because a cobbler literally bonded them back together!).
My everyday footwear: brown Semler lace-ups & black Clarks ankle bootsMy everyday footwear: Semler lace-ups & Clarks ankle boots


4 pairs of 'smart shoes': all bought at the last minute for some kind of 'do', and none of which I'm completely happy with.
My 'smart' shoes, from Clarks, Gabor and M&S
My 'smart' shoes, from Clarks, Gabor and M&S


5 pairs of sandals: two pairs in the same style from Ecco - wonderfully comfortable and practical, but too 'clumpy' to wear with anything other than jeans and trousers; two rather impractical gold pairs; and one holiday buy (faux leather) that I know will fall apart if I actually walk anywhere in them!
My sandals from Boden, Ecco, Bally & a holiday buy from South Africa
My sandals from Boden, Ecco, Bally & a holiday buy from South Africa


And also:
  • 1 pair of red flats which I bought on impulse in a sale and have only worn once.
  • 1 pair of black Ecco flats (bought on Ebay) that are slightly too small, and are used only as driving shoes.
  • 1 pair that are really 'fancy dress shoes' - lacquered wooden geta from Japan.
  • 2 pairs of wellies
  • 1 pair of hiking boots

The result of all this is that I have almost nothing to wear with skirts and dresses - no smart flats/mid-heel shoes, and no long boots.

In fact I've been looking for boots all winter, but either heels are too high, styles are too clumpy or - most often - the £150+ price tag scares me away.

Likewise, nice low or mid-heel shoes seem really hard to find. I don't much like the ballerina style - too flimsy-looking, plus I like a bit of a heel to make my shortish legs look longer. Similarly I tend to avoid ankle straps and T-bars as they make my legs look shorter too. Anything slip-on tends to slip straight off as I have narrow feet. And high heels are out (except for 'car to bar' occasions) as I have weak ankles, regularly twist my ankle and have been known to fall over in the street even in flat shoes!

Compounding the problem is the fact that I want my shoes to be decent quality, but not too expensive. I just can't bring myself to pay a lot of money for shoes. Unreasonable I know as they get used every day. But nevertheless, I'm just not interested in them enough to happily pay more than, say, £60-£70 a pair.

So, where do I find stylish shoes that are neither sky high heels nor frumpy-looking flats?

Any ideas gratefully received!


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My belated first post of 2013:
In which my husband has major surgery... and I go shopping.


2013 has had an exciting start. A bit too exciting really, and certainly not in a way we would have chosen.

Just a few days into the New Year my husband was admitted to hospital in the middle of the night for emergency - and major - abdominal surgery. Fortunately he's on the mend now and life is settling down once again. But for a while I was in need of some industrial strength stress relief.

So, what did I do? Well, I'm slightly loath to admit that I shopped! (All online, of course. Battling through the shops wouldn't have been any stress relief at all).

The third or fourth night into this habit I began to feel worryingly shallow. How could stock changes on the Boden clearance site hold my attention so minutely?

But then a friend pointed out that many people in my situation would slump in front of the TV, or comfort eat... or both. She herself, she said, would likely be consuming large quantities of hopelessly trashy novels. Is stress relief in the form of online shopping really any different?

I've never understood the attraction of 'shopping as therapy' before. But maybe I simply haven't been stressed enough?

Toast Bron wooden & metal inlay necklace: www.toast.co.uk
Bron necklace from Toast
Of course there's the issue of shopping costing money (which I don't necessarily have, or at any rate want to spend, at the moment). But true to all those magazine articles counselling us to avoid buying things when we're stressed or emotional, I made some rather 'experimental' choices, the result being that everything has now been sent back, with just one exception - Toast's Bron necklace of polished wooden discs with metal inlay. There's something very comforting about it (I had one rather like it years ago, from a craft fair) and at £12 is a keeper.

Another consequence of my daily vigils at the hospital was that after the first few days (when I threw on whatever first came to hand), it started to focus my mind on getting 'properly dressed' every day. This is something I don't do enough of as I mostly work from home where - generally speaking - yoga pants rule!

I quickly became aware of some glaring gaps in my wardrobe (shoes to wear with anything other than jeans…!), and it's galvanised me to get on with this project and do something about it.

So watch this space - an inventory of my rag tag shoe collection coming up tomorrow!


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The Sales... continued


Shop window SALE sign

My trip to London's West End sales resulted in a total expenditure of just £15. So, successful in terms of my bank balance at least!

Maybe I looked in the wrong places, but I thought much of the stock looked tired and dull, and the discounts were disappointing. All in all, I have to agree with the woman I overheard in John Lewis: "Nothing here that's exactly rocking my world!"

Selfridges' sale windows, though, raised a smile:
Selfridges 'Sale now on' sale poster, 2012
Selfridges 'I didn't find it, it found me' sale poster, 2012
Selfridges 'So many beautiful things, so little time' sale poster, 2012
Selfridges 'It's such a good investment... I'd better get three' sale poster, 2012
Selfridges 'It's almost free' sale poster, 2012


So, what did I come home with? Well, two pairs of earrings (my first ever Primark purchases), two cheap and cheerful 'pashminas' (100% viscose ones of course!) and a lovely snuggly fake fur hot water bottle (from Monsoon).

The 'pashminas' are mostly for travelling (nice to have on long plane journeys), and very useful in more conservative destinations.

The diamante earrings were completely irresistible at just £3, and although it's possible I'll never actually wear them, I'm sure to get my money's worth just by enjoying looking at them! The red hearts were similarly irresistible at just 50p. Will I wear them? Hmmm... well I do have a hen night coming up.
Diamante earrings, and glittery heart earrings, both from Primark
Diamante earrings and glittery heart earrings, both from Primark


I was particularly looking for boots, and although I didn't come home with any, ones in Russell & Bromley, John Lewis and Gudrun Sjoden all caught my eye.

The Russell & Bromley ones (which unfortunately I can't find on their website) were flat, knee high suede ones, in a beautiful purple, bright blue or forest green. They wouldn't be much use in my wardrobe, and are still well over £100, but are very lovely all the same.

The John Lewis ones are really unusual in that they combine an ankle boot with a kind of 'gaiter' or shaft that buckles on to make a knee-high boot. What a brilliant idea!
John Lewis Verano suede two-in-one ankle/knee high boots in chocolate: www.johnlewis.com
John Lewis Verano ankle boots: www.johnlewis.com
John Lewis Verano boots - the detachable shaft or 'gaiter': www.johnlewis.com
They're the Verano Suede two in one ankle/knee high boots, and are available in chocolate or black. Really versatile and they look great on, plus not a bad price at £72.50 (down from £145). Sadly, however, they are just too high for me (and I did try to convince myself otherwise). Party shoes I have trouble walking in are one thing, but winter boots are quite another!

Last, but not least are Nubuck Boots from Swedish designer Gudrun Sjöden (I can't link directly to them, but they're on page 4 of the Accessories sale page).
Gudrun Sjoden Nubuck Boots in indigo: www.gudrunsjoden.com/uk
Gudrun Sjoden Nubuck Boots in indigo
These are much nicer in person than they look on the website. Being made for Scandinavian winters, they are felt lined and have a serious sole, plus an optional insole for even warmer feet. They're also 1/2 price at £88 (down from £175).

My problem is that I can't decide which colour, if any, makes sense for me - 'Indigo' blue, 'Ash Grey' or reddish tan 'Curry'. Difficult...

Regarding online sales, other than my Boden purchases (here and here), I love this Peruvian Connection Mirage Sweater in crème, although probably not at that price (£115)!

Peruvian Connection Mirage Sweater in crème: http://www.peruvianconnection.co.uk
Peruvian Connection Mirage Sweater in crème

And I was rather hoping to get my hands on the Toast Felted Knit Biker Jacket in 'dark chocolate' (yum!), but it sold out online in minutes, despite not being hugely discounted.
Toast Felted Knit Biker Jacket in dark chocolate: http://www.toast.co.uk
Toast Felted Knit Biker Jacket in dark chocolate

And then there's this Wool Felt Coat, also from Toast:

Toast Wool Felt Coat in tawny orange: http://www.toast.co.uk
Toast Wool Felt Coat in tawny orange
I think it's the colour I like (it's also available in dark teal) as neither do I need another coat, nor am I convinced that the hooded duffle-like style would suit me... Still, I might be tempted to order it if it goes to clearance.

Otherwise, I think I'll just wait for the spring collections.

Happy New Year everyone!


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Wellies again, a new skirt...
and the New Year SALES!



Just before Christmas my new wellington boots (see this post) got their first outing - a very muddy walk following a festive lunch.
Black croc effect wellies: www.shoezone.com; Boden Emily Skirt in navy forest: www.boden.com
Wellies: Shoe Zone; Skirt: Boden; Fake fur jacket: Baukjen; Textured scarf: C&A (Germany)

I have to say, they're great wellies! They look so much nicer than standard gardening wellies, keep my feet just as dry, and are surprisingly comfortable too. My only quibble is regarding the strong chemical/plastic smell that has emanated from them since they arrived - it's pretty powerful (and unpleasant) and even leaving the boots outside for a day before wearing them didn't help much. Thankfully it is now starting to wear off...

These particular wellies are not reduced in the current Shoe Zone sale, but still well worth a look at £14.99.

Another new item that made its debut the same day was my Boden Emily Skirt, bought in Boden's current end of season sale. The 'navy forest' colourway caught my eye right at the beginning of the season (actually, it's more of a black then a navy, and the predominant colour is anyway russet red), but I wasn't sure about the slightly flouncy style, and also thought the £59 price tag rather high.

Boden Emily Skirt in navy forest: www.boden.co.uk
Boden Emily Skirt in navy forest

Reduced to around £40 it suddenly seemed a much better proposition and I'm really pleased with it - it's nicer in person than in the product shot. There are currently only very limited sizes still available, but if you like the look of it, then check back every morning as returns often mean that additional sizes come back into stock.

New Year Sales
On the subject of sales, today - Boxing Day - is reputedly the biggest shopping day of the year, with retail experts predicating that hundreds of millions of pounds will be spent during the day, predominantly on fashion and homeware.

Should you be tempted to join the bargain hunters over the next few days be sure to read my 10 top tips for shopping the sales before you go.

Happy shopping!


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Friday Find: A beaded cape perfect for the party season


'Tis the season for parties, and - at least for me - the challenge of pulling together an outfit that isn't simply a re-run of the one I wore last year (typically black velvet trousers and a sparkly top).

There's no shortage of advice online and in the media about how to accessorise a little black dress for Christmas and New Year, but it does all tend to be of the statement shoe/necklace/earrings variety. Nothing at all wrong with that, of course, but if you fancy something a bit different, then I recommend that you head over to Rosa Bloom's gorgeous dressing-up box of a website for some ideas for shoulder adornment - namely her fabulous beaded capes:

Rosa Bloom Beaded Cape in ruby red: www.rosabloom.com
Rosa Bloom Beaded Cape in ruby red

Handmade in Java, Indonesia, and fairly traded too, these delicate capes are real works of art. As it says on the website, they can be seen as blurring the line between clothing and jewellery...

Worn over a sleeveless - or even strapless - top or dress, I think they can be relied upon to take your party look to a whole new level. For such a special item, the price - £50 - seems pretty reasonable.

The dozens and dozens of strands of beads move with you when you walk or dance, and the detailing is beautiful, especially on the shoulders:

Rosa Bloom Beaded Cape in heather up close: www.rosabloom.com
Rosa Bloom Beaded Cape in heather, up close

Check out, too, Rosa Bloom's dreamy sequin capes (£45), which are made of big iridescent sequins hand-stitched onto a scallop-edged backing. (Her even more fabulously over-the-top feather capes are sadly sold out, but if we're lucky they may reappear next season...)

Rosa Bloom 'Kate' Sequin Cape: www.rosabloom.com
Rosa Bloom 'Kate' Sequin Cape

In fact, the whole Rosa Bloom site is a kind of fantasy land of burlesque bustles and bloomers, stripy silks, frills, sequins and sparkles...

Lovely, lovely things and absolutely perfect for this festive time of year!

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My first dress in 20 years... and a pair of wellies



So I've broken my spending ban, and with not one but three items (only two of which are revealed here - I'm saving the other one for later).

It all started when, idly flicking through the Boden sale, I bought a dress.

Now this may not sound particularly surprising, but bear in mind that it is the first dress to grace my wardrobe for nigh on 20 years! What's more, I'm even likely to wear it (gasp!) as I've bought it for a very specific purpose - a wedding I'll be jetting off to in the southern hemisphere in February. Yup, can't wait!

The dress in question is Boden's Nancy dress in rose, £55.60 reduced from a whopping £139.

Boden Nancy Dress in rose: www.boden.co.uk
Boden 100% silk Nancy Dress in rose

While I certainly wouldn't have paid £139 for it, I'm very pleased with the dress at the sale price. With so many of them left (good stock in pretty much every size) I had my suspiciouns that it would turn out to be universally unflattering. But actually it's rather lovely - the pleated not-too-low V-neck is very pretty, the little gathers over the stomach hide a multitude of sins, the very lightly padded shoulders sit well, and the rear zip is nicely concealed (call me off-trend, but I don't like the current fashion for exposed zips, which I think will date).

Close-up of the Boden Nancy Dress in rose: www.boden.co.uk
Boden's Nancy Dress: pleated V-neck & bodice, lightly padded shoulders & flattering gathers over the stomach

Less good is the fact that it is dry clean only (well, it is 100% silk...), and rather shorter than I would have liked, although to be fair, it is sold as an 'above knee dress'. I bought a 12L and it just covers my knees - I would have preferred a little more fabric in the skirt (or in Boden-speak, the skirt to be a little more 'flippy') but overall, I'm happy.

I WILL do an outfit post, but not until I've figured out what I'm going to wear it with. "Accessorise for maximum impact," says the Boden website. Well, indeed, but accessorise with what?

What colour shoes/accessories would you wear with a rose/coral dress? Brown or tan? Gold, silver or bronze? Nude? (gulp!) Or, something else completely different?

Well, I have some ideas but I'm going to test them out before I go public. Suffice to say that as the shoes will be worn for the wedding and possibly never again I've forsaken my usual shoe sources and I'm exploring cheaper options including shoebou.com. At £9.99 for the shoes I have in mind, I don't *think* I care that they're not leather... but I'll let you know when I see them!

Continuing my uncharacteristic foray into cheap shoes - I couldn't resist ordering these rather fabulous black mock croc wellies from shoezone.com after seeing them featured in a guest post on schoolgatestyle.com.

Black 'Welligogs' croc effect wellington boots: www.shoezone.com
Black 'Welligogs' croc effect wellington boots from Shoezone

With a touch of fashionable Hunter / Le Chameau styling - specifically the curve to the shaft of the boot, and the buckle detail - they're certainly a cut above my bog standard green gardening wellies. They're a pretty good deal too at £14.99 (and delivery is free!).

The material, of course, doesn't compare to the rubber used for high end wellington boots, but unless you're going to use them very regularly I don't think it really matters. I did find that the sizes run small - I'm generally a UK size 6 or 6.5 (39), but the size 6 pair I ordered were tiny, and even the size 7 replacements are on the small size when worn with thick socks. So if you're tempted to order, it may be worth sizing up.

The good news is that returns with Shoe Zone are a doddle - just take them back to your nearest ShoeZone store within 90 days for an on-the-spot refund. Altogether I have to admit to being rather impressed.

As with the dress, the wellies were purchased with a particular purpose in mind: we have a rather smart annual get-together coming up on Sunday that always involves a seriously muddy country walk after lunch. Pulling on gardening wellies or hiking boots together with my festive outfit is always a low point of the day. But this year I'll have my new wellies instead!



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