As I am having a mini-tis at Marks and Spencer and have banned the boy from buying flowers from there or going there to buy a Valentines-day meal; last year we rang up and reserved it the night before and it was lovely but this year Didsbury’s manager is a stickler and apparently “this is not something we would ever do.” So I have decided that buying their food, flowers or cards is not something I shall be doing. I am also a bit crotchety with them because I have tagged them and sent track-backs to them several times over the past weeks and never have I heard a word of thanks, harumph.
Anyway before I start acting like a diva about Marks and Spencers, charity shops who charge too much and other such grievances I would first like to thank those visitors from freecycle for their generosity in terms of dresses, two people have come back to me so far offering to rummage through their wardrobes or lend dresses for one wear. I would also like to thank the super star theatre lady that is Ms Anna Clayton, she has leant me two pretty dresses for the weekend and I look forwards to sharing them with you.
Well that’s now over and done let us get down to the business of today’s blog. As I could not justify my beautiful boy spending his hard-earned cash on overly priced flowers he has volunteered to instead buy me some dresses. I have told you in the past of dresses I have purchased from e-bay for minimal sums, many of which when inclusive of postage and packaging barely tip the £5 mark. Yesterday whilst searching for dresses, thinking I might be able to get for £20 at the most I was horrified to see how snooty many branches of charity shops have become. I noticed it before when I went to purchase books and was charged £5 for copies of Harry Potter that were so battered and smoke smelling you wondered whether they had been re-free-cycled five times over. i have no problem buying from charity shops, I enjoy knowing that when I buy things the money, well the percentage of it not given to expensive advertising campaigns, will be going to a cause. I also enjoy gifting clothing to them which is in a reasonable condition, clean and of good quality knowing that someone else will be a ble to get wear out of it and that it wont end up in a landfill someplace else.
Vivienne Westwood this week said she thought people should stop buying clothing for at least six months to stop the increasing landfill problem. Whatever your views about climate change no one can deny the harmful effects of excessive wastage. Wherever it end up every bag we throw out is one more to add to an increasing pile of crap in Scotland, China or even the local tip and the only way to stop this is to stop buying. However in an economy largely driven by consumerism to stop buying is to continue to damage the economy, so what can we do? Well we can have swap shop parties, or we can take our old unworn clothes to charity knowing they will go to a good home.
The problem we found however, is that charity shops, spurred on by the age of Vintage becoming cool have become carried away with their pricing and are somehow managing to justify charging up to £13 for a Next dress and around £7 on average even at times for Primark and George. It is a total joke because we went in yesterday ready to spend £20 and left in disgust at the fact this would buy us only two dresses and had we went to eBay we could have triple the amount of dresses. It is silly because people spend more when they feel they are getting value for money, less or nothing at all when they feel they are getting ripped off.
I wonder whether charity shops need to get with the rest of the fashion industry and realise the importance of discounting fashion otherwise they may find themselves getting left with people unwilling to give away old clothes when they know they are demanding an unreasonable amount for them. I wish charity shops would use a system of credits whereby if you give you get credits to buy new books or clothing, not a large amount just a quarter or a third of the proposed selling price, either that or they just stop ripping people off and get down off their high horse upon which they ride with Marks and Spencer’s Didsbury branch.
Today I am wearing a dress from Marks and Spencer which I wore to my graduation. I was a tad tubbier back then so it feels lovely and loose over my skin and I wish it was the summer so tights could be a thing of the past. I am also wearing a hat and some velvet gloves from accessorize which make me feel both french and a bit of an idiot at the same time.
I decided today; or maybe it was when I crawled into bed feeling rather tipsy la-la; that the time has come to challenge myself over my drinking. I am not as the kind young gentleman previously suggested an alcoholic, but of late I seem to be having a glass of wine too often and seeing as these tablets are ripping into my liver as it is it may not be a good idea to combine the two. I drink too much usually when I am low, to give me a lick of confidence its silly because it inevitably has a negative effect on my mood the next day and yet I love alcohol; particularly wine and Belgian beers. I love having it with dinner, I revel in locating a good wine on offer, and I especially love the warmth I get from Krupnik and blackberry vodka distilled by the boy’s mother at Christmas and the taste of rum on hot chocolate when I have had a life threatening fall on the slopes in the alps.
I love these things but I am trying to love myself and my family and friends more and I need to keep a check on my drinking. My personality has always been of extremes and so I find it easy to become hooked on things. This is why I stay away from gambling all together and why when I took up smoking at 21 I went straight to 20 Marlborough mediums a day with little trouble. I don’t do things by halves.
Partly because of how I got carried away and had a glass too much this evening, partly because of health and poor finance and also just because I need to prove to myself I can, I am thinking of giving up alcohol over lent. I may make an exception for our anniversary and the boy’s birthday but other than that I think it will do me good to give something up and with cigarettes a thing of the past alcohol, coffee and loving are the only vices I have left, and no one is taking away my coffee.
I was lucky enough to come across a fantastic blog the other day in which a girl who is really into flea markets has given herself a budget of 365 American pounds to dress herself for a year by scouring flea markets and re-working dresses she finds there. I saw a brilliant post where she took a faded lavender nightgown, dyed it and reworked it into a stunning dress worthy of London Fashion Week. This is a worthy example of how re-working a dress to make something far cooler and most importantly more suited to yourself; the dress I am wearing today is an example of why one should be careful of assuming DIY dress design is not for everyone.
When I was head bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding her incredibly talented mother made my bridesmaid dress from a vintage Vogue pattern from the 1950s. Being involved in the process of creating a dress is a brilliant experience. You might get the occasional pin in an unexpected place but I got to watch as what started as a pair of old cotton curtains got turned into a fantastic fitted silk dress with a tiered petticoat which was carefully stitched and crafted by my friend’s mother. It was an absolute honour being maid of honor and having a dress which wasn’t being worn by every other bridesmaid around the country added to this privilege. Dress making is tragically a dying art in the majority of households. Back in the day mothers used to make the majority of their children’s clothing; my grandmother would knit us cardigans for school and indeed one of my friends received matching booties, hats and cardigans for her baby from a wonderful elderly friend of hers.
The difficulty with dress making and indeed clothes making is that with clothes available now so cheaply there is no incentive to spend considerable amounts of money or what is more important for most of us these days, our time, in creating something from nothing but material, needle and a love of design. In our time then it makes far more sense to take the clothes we have, particularly those which have gotten a little frayed, loose, tight or faded and create something new. Stitch and Bitch classes are at large all around the country and for my Manchester followers I know of one taking place at Fuel Cafe on a Sunday. What you have to be aware of though is that re-working a dress is not as easy as taking a pair of scissors to a demure hemlines and turning it into something suitable only for showing one’s smalls.
This danger is I am sorry to say illustrated by the dress I am wearing today which was purchased from a girl on eBay. Though I thought it looked quite cute when I brought it I failed to look carefully enough at the hem of the dress. Bare in mind, a bad hemlines and stitching will ruin an outfit and can make one look crumpled and cheap. Whether you buy your clothing from Primark or Prada make sure you check the quality of the stitching on the hemlines, cost is not necessarily a guarantee of quality.
When this little frock arrived I was a tad worried for two reasons; first it was not as I had originally thought a hand-made frock, it was brought by its previous owner from Bay Trading and re-mastered into a foxy little bustier dress/ boob tube. It is undeniably sweet looking and reminds me of Manga but has unfortunately been cut so short it would only be suitable for someone who is around the 5ft mark. At 5ft 5″ I am hardly tall but on me, as the boy takes great pain in pointing out it looks as though it is designed for a 13-year-old girl.
As I packed in a hurry last night and had not previously tried it on I only realised the unsuitability of the outfit this morning. As with the T-Shirt dress of last Sunday I felt as though once chosen I have no choice but to wear a dress till the day’s end and ignoring the boy and struggling into a pair of form-fitting 60 denier black tights and my life saving M & S T-Shirt I bit the bullet and went in search of a full length mirror. To be fair it has been a reasonably nice choice and once I got used to having to keep my back to the wall when in company I started to warm to it.
It is so brilliantly cheerful even though I was woken four hours after i got to sleep by the enthusiastic alarm clock that is the best friend’s son, I felt rather chirpy. After I had gotten up and persuaded him to wake the boy as well we spent the day pleasantly telling stories, taking it in turns to snooze and fighting off the hoards at M & S to get the dine in deal. In spite of my disheveled experience me and the boy had a lovely dinner date together and got to relish in a rare opportunity for it to be jut the two of us to dine. When you are in a long distance relationship and both have a dream you want to pursue the time you do get to see each other can I find at times be rather stressful as you are so concerned about fitting a weeks worth of dates into one weekend; we try to see our friends; go out to gigs and restaurants and movies all the while trying to make sure we look our best and don’t end up having a tiff and ending the weekend on a bad note. Perhaps because of this then it is when we get to just chill out on our own together, catching up on the week behind us lazy eyed and unkempt with my panda eyes and his weekend stubble that we often have the most fun together. When you get a night to relax in it can sometimes be the nicest thing in the world, even if you are disheveled and sleepy it can be really great slowing down with someone especially with someone with whom the clock is always ticking on your time together.
Day 19 – The wonder of tights, a tight squeeze at Laura Veirs and the importance of saying ones qs and ones ps.
It turns out my posting on front bottom exposure has caused some difficulty for the boy. Until yesterday he had not been aware of the front rump phenomena caused by oblivious legging lovers all over the country. Following the post he says he is unable to leave the house without seeing the distinct outline of a woman’s most private of parts. At the train station he became greatly animated and, pointing directly at a ladies crotch said in his quietest voice, which is unfortunately quite loud: “Is that what you were on about?” Luckily the lady on display was ignorant of his outburst thanks to her headphones but I did find myself wondering whether it would have been better if she had heard him. If she had she would at least know how much she was revealing to strangers who she was not prepared to share eye contact with as she left the building. When I walked round TK Maxx in December with my dress tucked into my purple fish net tights I was very pleased when a blushing shop assistant quietly advised me to “Adjust your skirt accordingly Madam.” I will be eternally thankful to him and I am sure the residents of Nottingham not scarred by my exposure would be just as thankful if they knew of the public duty he so duly that day performed.
The alternative to leggings as an integral part of one’s outfit is tights. One episode of Goodnight Sweetheart gave me the shivers when I was a girl as I had no idea women had once had no hosiery choice other than stockings. Although I enjoy wearing stockings from time to time, they are extremely restricting on how short one wears one’s hemlines and if others can see the tops of your stockings; always look at your outfit from behind before leaving the house; one tends to find cars and not taxis stop to ask. I found this much to my embarrassment when wearing a red and white checkered pleated skirt with black stockings adorned with pink ribbons to a lecture one morning . I had to go past the science department on my way to the bus, where English undergraduates (the subject not the nationality by the by) were most unwelcome. If it wasn’t for the fact I realised what all the fuss was about by the time I got to the physics department and duly macced up I may have satisfied my mothers wish for me to marry an engineer, or attracting one for all the wrong reasons at the least.
Tights, like leggings now come in every colour, denier and pattern and are the saviour of girls heading straight from work to a date with friends, lovers or family members. Even swapping black tights for tan can transform an outfit instantly and make it suited to a light-hearted cinema outing. Opaques lined up the back lend one’s legs a 1940′s starlet quality which has the effect of attracting every eye in the restaurant to your pins whilst you shed your coat into the arms of the maître d’ (please imagine circumflex over “i” as I can not work out how to use accents on word press).
When wearing tights there are a few basic rules to remember. Try not to go too crazy with colour clashing; when done right, (think colour blocking and not teaming bright vivid prints with shocking green tights) this look is breath-taking but very few people can pull it off and other than an old university pal of myne who was an expert at colour clashing most women who carry this trend off only do so for the time it takes to get from one end of the runway to the other. Some tights, like the ones I own which are covered in French revolution soldiers, (I promise they will make an appearance) are statement pieces which border on being art. When you wear them you must have absolutely no insecurity issues, at least for the day, as they are bound to attract as much resistance as they will praise from friends and strangers alike. When I wore these tights in London, somewhere I would consider to be open-minded to unusual pieces they caused rather a stir and upset some girls on the tube. It may have been however that the girls were descendants of French royalty and only took offence at the sentiment and the subject of the tights and not the accessories itself.
Tights can serve as a wonderful way of wearing a trend which you like the thought of but can not bear to part with too much money to follow. I love metallic and shiny glittery pieces at the moment as I am missing Christmas. The tights I wore today however are wonderfully sparkly and allowed me to look like a Christmas tree when I stepped out for the night. I failed to find a star hair clip so settled instead for wearing silver dangle ornaments on my ears and spilling a pot of blue glitter eyeshadow down my front.
Last night I did my first big review for City Life at a Laura Viers concert at Manchester Academy. I was excited and terrified in equal measure as gig reviewers are usually of a very high calibre and I was to attend the gig with the music Nazi or the boy as he is more commonly known. On the way to the gig he bombarded me with helpful tips about gig reviewing, the genre of which LV came from and the kind of questions “us musicians” like to be asked. The last straw came when on returning home from the gig I stumbled across a review on the screen written by The Boy before we left. I tartly told him that regardless of what he may think of my musical taste, I was the reviewer and he was my companion at the gig and insisted unless he immediately ceased to pepper conversation with awfully snobbish musical vocab’ he would never again attend another gig as my plus one.
One thing which did strike me about the night, other than the poor woman was having to balance her guitar on a second trimester tummy, was how rude some of the audience were when moving forward to the front. Though the music was at times loud it was hardly impossible to hear an excuse me, and having someone elbow you in the back whilst trying to absorb the vibe is very distracting. Thankfully for once I had no need to excuse my way to the front as I was wearing my most wonderful Kurt Geiger shoes ever; my purple, navy blue and gold “Africa” stilettos. They are extremely comfortable and put me at a height from which I had no need to stand on tippy toes and was even able to make eye contact with a real life giant who was at the gig. If giants are over 6ft 6″ that is?
The dress I wore was a wrap around green number from another sample sale. It is ridiculously low-cut and perhaps would have looked better on reflection with a necklace to draw attention away from the cleavage. I love the colour but it does have a tendency to cling and if you fail to stand correctly bad posture has a habit of revealing every lump and bump. Though thankfully due to my lack of leggings the only hump revealed was the one taken by the boy when I forced him into retirement from his short career as a musical journalist.
As a child I used to love travelling by plane. Me and my sister used to marvel at the air hostesses, giggling about the amount of make up they wore but being secretly impressed by their constant smile and cheery nature. There was something so brilliant about getting on a plane, and with our father carrying our boarding passes and often carrying us to the car there was no stress in travelling at all. As I got older and started to travel by myself I always had an idea in my mind of travelling by plane as being a very glamorous kind of adventure. In magazines I read at the time, celebrities would lend their tips on how to emerge after a long flight feeling refreshed. I dutifully carried white T-shirts in my bag to change into prior to touch down to give off the appearance of cleanliness, drank nothing but water on the plane and even invested in Evian spray for my face; it seemed very luxurious but I was dissapointed when I checked the label and found its only magical ingredient was H20.
I still feel the magic of flying and always try to make an effort to look presentable when I leave the country and arrive in another. There is obviously some ingrained memory of teachers on school trips reminding me and my schoolmates that we were representatives of our school and should look and behave as such. It is this perhaps which inspires me to try and look my best when landing. Usually I like to wear pretty but neutral coloured heels, a tan mid length skirt and a black cashmere polo neck or long fitted cardigan with a black or white t-shirt underneath for when it gets hot in the cabin. I like to carry a leather bag big enough to fit in a book, a pair of soft socks, some make up and any duty-free purchases.
The problem with flying with a budget airline is that although it gives you the opportunity to fly more often and spend more on your holiday when you get there; freeing you from spending hundreds ona part of your holiday which takes you only several hours on average; it does rather remove the romance of flying which I so loved as a child and teenager. When confronted with miniscule baggage allowance you have little choice; other than to check your bag into the hold of course which is plain madness by anyone who has watched baggage handlers at work; but to bring little and wear much. You spend much of your time at the terminal feeling semi naked in spite of wearing as much weight as possible due to being handbagless. You must also show your toiletries to strangers on demand. I have a gorgeous red patent YSL toiletries case which now lies at the bottom of my wardrobe gathering dust. If it had feelings I imagine it would use them to resent the plastic sandwich bag which has replaced it.
Prior to budget airlines I remember rejoicing at the arrival of the meal with its warm rolls, miniature chocolates and choice of tea or coffee to end. We looked forward to the time after take off where the drinks trolley came round to gibe my parents a tiny bottle of Gordon and a mini can of tonic whilst we had nuts and a can of coke served with ice and a napkin. Although the cost of these little pleasures was of course incorporated into your ticket they still felt special and part of the experience of going abroad. When traveling by budget airline, your drink is usually delivered in plastic sachet which at least have the effect of ensuring you chase down several to banish the depressing realisation that your alcohol is coming from the same place as a condiment. Although much can be said for the cheapness, reliability and availability of budget airlines there is no question that whilst standing at security, removing one’s boots, laden with layers of warm clothing whilst simultaneously attempting to work out how best to use the pockets of a coat which you never noticed were even there, the last thing to come to mind is that you are traveling in style.
Virgin Atlantic seem to have style at the forefront of their commercial conscience when they designed their current advertising campaign. The smartly dressed women, the styled hair and make up all scream luxury to the other passengers lazing sluggishly about the terminal. They do not scream cheap tickets for certain but they do all look like they are about to board a flight which will be a lot of fun and if I could find the designer who made their uniforms I would plead for them to make me a dress.
And so we come at last to the dress I wore to travel in and give me a boost on board. I went with a tartan silk dress from Marks and Spencer for the last day of our holiday which is fitted but not clingy and rarely creases. Tartan is a difficult trend to wear without looking like an aged schoolgirl or St Trinnian’s trollop but I think whoever designed this particular style hit the right balance with this dress. Although it is ever so slightly lower cut than I would usually wear with such a short skirt, the frills and dark pattern prevent it looking too garish. I apologise for the styling, I had to have a nap after the trauma of this mornings flight and was rather dishevelled by the time I woke up having had to abandon my Evian spray and moisturizer due to it being a threat to the over 100ml legislation.
Tartan has made its way on to the runway for Spring/ Summer with Louis Vuitton combining thick tartan material into one dress, with pink silk and leather worked in to the body to prevent the pattern being too overwhelming or wintry. The effect is strong but feminine and has a great punk edge with those who are keen on such a look. If you do decide to merge it into your wardrobe, note that you wear pig-tails at your peril and should only wear a tartan kilt if you are Scottish, of school age or going to a costume party.