Friday, 21 November 2014

Something furry from Zara for a chilly morning...


Coat: Zara, jeans: Whistles Maya; Boots; Dune, Bag: Kate Spade
So after yesterday's post, I've raided the Birmingham Oasis and relieved it of many of its striped jumpers. Ooops!
Today saw the inaugural outing of the Zara fur coat (£69.99), which I have had sitting in my wardrobe for about 6 weeks now. The timing had to be right and today was the day. It may have had something to do with the fact that I saw the much lusted after Shrimp coats in Selfridges yesterday which, on closer inspection, didn't feel any different at all in texture to this considerably less expensive Zara one. Or it could have been that because it was a Friday I was feeling frivolous. I know, living life on the edge or what? Or maybe it was just because, at long last, I felt brave enough to venture out in it, despite the reservations of the six year old as to its shape which I get, although not to its colour which is what was I expecting. Having said that, she did keep on stroking it as I walked her in to school.
I have spent more hours in the shops this week than I can count. Next week I'm working at an event at the children's school. We're holding a glamour night and we will have a talk from a skincare and make up brand, there will be a hairdresser there doing up dos, along with someone doing eyebrows. I have a teacher, parents and friends modelling for me. We're doing a metaphorical walk through the Christmas calendar together with the outfits that you may want for those events and I'm having a ball indulging my inner glam (which doesn't often make an appearance) buying all things silk, satin and sequinned. I can't really share any photos yet of the things that I bought but I hope to do so after the event. We only have about ten tickets left and if anyone would like one, please just drop me an email. I am soooo excited about it!
Look forward to catching up next week!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Anyone who loves stripes, come with me.....

I keep repeating to myself the mantra "I do not need it and I will not buy it. I do not need it and I will not buy it. I do not need it and I will not buy it." Except sod it, yes I do and yes I will. I'm going into town first thing tomorrow. Anyone want me to get them one?! (Oasis jumper £42)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A whizz around the High Street for a dress, some boots, jewellery, jeans and most importantly, chocolate!

Boden coat, Nike trainers, Kate Spade bag, Gap trousers, Topshop jumper

There are a few very non specific things that I would like to share with you today. Things that keep on popping in to my head that I keep meaning to write about and then I forget. So here goes

These GAP skinny high rise jeans (£44.95) are a must have in the run up to Christmas. Once they're on they don't shift. There's no hoiking them up, needing a belt or wriggling around. And if you do happen to have been left a little extra flesh curtesy of a baby, you can tuck it right in. Mine aren't as loose as this on the leg but I guess that's models for you!

Upselling is really annoying. After Clarks tried to flog us wellies and slippers that we didn't need, today BHS tried to flog me a teddy bear that I didn't need, or want. In fact it was impossible to move at the till for flippin' Teddy Bears. And they were hideously ugly. Chocolate, maybe (in fact come to think of it, that often works in WH Smiths) but a Teddy Bear. Really?

This Phase Eight dress (£79) is a really great dress for lots of different occasions. The sleeve length is flattering as is the length of the hem. It has some texture to it so it's slightly broken up and the ruching works. It's a great "dress up - dress down" type of dress - create the illusion of a V-neck with a long pendant, wear with bright shoes, metallics will work well as will sparkles, dress it down with knee boots and a long line cardi, layer a striped top underneath it and wear with flat pointy shoes. The option are endless!

This Kate Spade bag (£245) is a real beauty. I was looking at it in Selfridges today and was intrigued to know whether a bottle of Diet Coke would fit into it. So I took a quick look inside and thought about it. Then I concluded that there was quite a strong chance that they wouldn't really appreciate me shoving a bottle of coke into a brand new bag, especially given that I'm not always that great at putting the lid on securely. So I'll put it on my Christmas list and ask Mr SG to check out that very point instead.  Te-he.

Can anyone please tell me why it is that I like these Adirondack boots by Ugg (£220)? They are so not me but they just look so sturdy and warm and comfortable and they are sheepskin lined (I copped a feel earlier). I can see that I'm going to have to drag our son kicking and screaming to more rugby training just so that I have an excuse to buy them and wear them. Although I must admit that standing on a rugby pitch, just so that I can wear a particular pair of boots is a little extreme, even by my standards.

This range of jewellery by Z for Accessorize is really lovely. Not everyone is a glitter bunny or a statement necklace queen and there are some lovely delicate pieces in this collection which could be layered together or worn on their own. It's reasonably priced too so would make a lovely Christmas present. Worth a look despite the shocking images!
Bracelet (£15)
Galaxy trio pendant (£15)

Hope that everyone's week is going well. I've made a great start to Christmas - a pink sequin tree decoration and a huge chocolate Christmas tree from Hotel Chocolate. Well, I figured that some families spend a fortune on joints (of the meat variety) at Christmas but we'll just spend it on chocolate instead. Oh and if children of mine are reading this, hands off, you're having Cadburys.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Running gear for when the temperature drops...

It was suggested to me by some readers that it might be a good idea to write a post about what to wear when running in the cold winter months, so I rose to the challenge and asked some running friends of mine for their tips and, together with my own tips, hopefully we have come up with some useful suggestions.

Between us we must have run thousands and thousands of mile. The friends that I spoke to have run marathons which include London, New York and soon to be Florence, along with half marathons which include Birmingham, the Great Parks, Stratford, Bath, Long Marston and no doubt several others.

Aside from what clothes to wear I would say that good trainers are a must. Generally trainers come up small so it's good to try them on before buying them. Running clothing can be picked up for a snip at Primark and until you get into longer distances, really great wicking fabrics aren't that important but from day one (I would say) that everyone needs decent trainers - not of the standards of Olympic athletes, but decent.

So what was the advice and what were the suggestions?

One friend always runs in compression clothing and in winter, that includes thermal compression clothing. She sometimes wears the leggings the day after a long run too. Her favourite brand is Skins. Beware, apparently the clothes can be tricky to get off though, particularly the tops!  Having never tried them I can't really comment but if I decided to train for a marathon I would definitely give them a go. With longer distances and colder weather, everything helps.
I wear capri length running bottoms all year round and I have a couple of GAP pairs that I really like. Something like these from GAP (£15.99) work fine for me, although I do like a splash of colour on them somewhere if possible.

Another friend said that she felt that the winter was all about layering. She has a thermal Nike Dri fit top which she loves as it's really soft.

I always start off with a very fitted running vest top, just to keep everything in place and snug - maybe something like this from GAP (£22.95)

On top of that I wear a long sleeved lightweight running top - maybe something like this from H&M (£24.99) or the Helly Hansen range of base layers is really good.

On top of that I wear a waterproof/windproof jacket, maybe something like this Gore windstopper jacket (£112.49) which one of my friends absolutely swears by. I have a Reebok one bought from an outlet in Brighton about 9 years ago now for £10 and it's brilliant. Another friend loves a jacket with detachable sleeves so that she can turn it into a gilet for those days when only core warmth is needed.

For less expensive options, H&M and as I mentioned earlier Primark, have a good selection of running gear as does Decathlon. Sports Direct has a huge choice of Karrimor running gear, which not surprisingly is made of great fabric.

As to hats, most of the girls find that they make them too hot when running but the neoprene or fleece bands are useful for adding some warmth and keeping unruly, curly, hair under control.

Lightweight gloves were suggested for looking after hands. When it's really cold I run in leather gloves. The pain on a cold day when the feeling comes back to your fingers can be excruciating so anything that can prevent that level of cold in the first place is a must.

Oddly none of us seemed to have different socks for summer or winter running but there again the most comfortable ones are padded and quite thick anyway. One of the girls preferred the double layered ones as they prevent blisters. I picked up four pairs of running socks in GAP when they were reduced to £1.99 each and they have been just as good as some running socks which have cost me £12. After wearing proper running socks there's no way that I could run in anything else. They are one piece of kit that, for relatively little investment, can make a huge difference. 

We didn't seem to chat about bras. I think it very much comes down to the level of support required. Some vest tops have a built in bra which will be sufficient for some.  I always wear a bra too, although not a sports bra which I know I should. However I've never found one that I'm comfortable with. I must investigate them again but frankly I'm not sure that they're going to rescue anything anymore! Here's a link to technical running socks and bras for those interested.

I have one friend who is a real ninja in the Sweaty Betty sale and she picks up some great running pieces. They are really stylish and look great. I haven't quite made it to the lofty height of SB yet, only having bought my first set of "matching" running gear last year, despite having been running on and off since the age of 15.

And one friend swears by leaving layers on her route and collecting them on her way back. Apparently no one ever steals anything from allotments!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Not quite 50 shades of grey...but there are definitely a few!

 "Click." That was the sound of the heating being clicked on to constant as Mr SG left the house for the day for his annual conference. The house is totally toasty now!

Today I took the youngest on her first shopping trip. Generally either I have chosen her clothes for her, or she's worn her sister's hand me downs but now that she has reached the grand old age of 6 (nearly 7) she liked the idea of choosing a few bits of her own.

She was so excited and I know that she loves it when I wear a skirt or dress so I wore this Whistles skirt from last year, with a Topshop jumper, flat Whistles shoes and a Reiss leather jacket that I bought in the sales at the end of the summer. It's the first time that I have worn it and it felt really lovely. I've always loved Reiss leather jackets and as my Oasis one was looking shabby it needed replacing but at about £450 a shot I didn't think that it would ever happen. And then, right at the end of the sale I came across this one for about £180 - not an insignificant amount I realise but I knew that it was now or never, so I took the plunge.
We did a one stop trip to M&S which came up trumps with some lovely pieces in the sale. The Autograph range was great and it's definitely worth a look, with some really pretty, age appropriate clothes. I loved this Autograph floral skirt (£16 to £18) - it's very Ted Baker - but I kept quiet and we came home with a skirt with cats on instead.

And this Autograph organza skirt (£12 to £13) is so ethereal...

I have just come across the silver Autograph boots (£40) online. They go up to a size 6, for anyone tempted with some silver Chelsea boots.

Next we went to Clarks for some shoes, where we were told that they didn't actually make any shoes in the size that our daughter had been measured as needing (12D), which kind of threw me, but would we like some wellies or slippers that we didn't actually go in for and which wouldn't have really fitted her anyway but which we might need because it was getting colder. Eh? That would be a no then.

This was one of our other projects for the day. Replacing the covers on the left hand chair with the new sausage dog oil cloth print which is available at John Lewis. You cannot imagine how much fun, and how satisfying it is, using a staple gun. It's much better than trying to build a gingerbread house. I shall be changing my name Linda Barker.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The fail safe anytime, anywhere, going out outfit...

Today I received an SOS email from a reader whose husband had sprung a weekend away on her. Lovely as the surprise was, she wasn't quite sure what to wear to the champagne bar her husband was taking her to.

For me there's always one fail safe outfit which I have tried and tested many times over so, if you don't have a huge amount of time to shop, to suss out the latest styles, fashions and trends, this won't let you down....I promise.

So, take one pair of fitted black trousers such as the Jigsaw woven jersey riding legging (£85)...

if they are a bit tight and scary, instead go for the GAP slim cropped pants (£34.95)...

Nip to Oasis and pick up this leather trim long line ponte jacket or something similar - there are plenty to choose from..

Work in a plain top - either silky, or a vest top or a fine knit. Just nip to M&S if necessary and pick up a fancy vest! This slinky mesh trim vest for £5 should do the trick. Tweak it as necessary depending on your shape and size. Something less clingy or with more bust support may work better for some but you get the idea.
Then work in the fun bits. Trawl through your wardrobe and see what you can find - the sparkly shoes, the statement necklace or finer necklaces layered together, the cocktail ring, the chunky bracelet, the painted nails, the lippy and a clutch. And believe me, you're ready to go. Whether it's to a cocktail bar, a gastro pub for a meal out, a night with the girls at one of their houses you won't feel out of place. Stylish and simple with a bit of colour or sparkle as a talking point is all that you need. As they say on the Apprentice "it's not rocket surgery" (I know, the mind boggles) but it works.
If you need to add a few bits in, here are my tips...
Hit New Look for a clutch. Whether it's yellow, sparkly, embellished or plain, they have a great choice. This box clutch for £15.99 will work with lots of things. Just turn it on its side if needs be!
Dune has some great shoes for the party season. I love the Alina (£69) which comes in 11 styles to include sparkly ones, bright colours, suede, metallic snake skin and leopard. They are a mid height court, so not massively high but of course places like NEXT and Oasis have some great styles for this time of year too.
Alina leopard print...

Alina bright pink...

Alina sparkle...
And then for a necklace.  I love this one from Oasis (£10). It's not too much but it's got nice sharp lines about it.
For something a little more statement like, nip over to Alice's Wonders for some serious bling! This star necklace is £14. But equally you may prefer ear-rings and a cocktail ring to a necklace, or a chunky bracelet instead. Just go with what feels comfortable.
Don't worry about mixing silver and gold or black and navy and don't worry about getting exactly the right "shades" of black together. It's about wearing things with confidence and giving the impression that every part of your outfit is well thought out and intentional even if it's all been put together at the last minute. Seriously, if ever anyone came up to me and told me that they thought that my navy and black didn't quite go or that I'd mixed silver and gold, I quite possibly think that I would tell them to go and get a life (in a nice way of course.)

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Yeeee-haaa! Slappa my thigh in my knee high burgundy boots!


Although I've been writing Style Guile for over four years now, I think that you would be hard pressed to find any outfits where I've worn knee high boots. For the last few years I haven't really been a fan of them - not on me at least - but slowly the tide is turning. I guess that ankle boots just took over for a while but then I came across this La Redoute pair of heeled/slightly slouchy boots that were gifted to me by them last year. I always loved the colour of them and with burgundy/ox-blood being a big trend this season it prompted me to give them a whirl. In theory (or in my head at least!) they should also work with my striped navy and white Whistles skirt - time will tell!

For similar try these from La Redoute (£169)...

Or there's this pair, also from La Redoute which at £44.50 are half price.

Let me know what you think and how you get on!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Outfits that make me happy and keep me warm! And a little something for my wardrobe...


"There's nothing worse that tights that don't fit properly" were the words of wisdom imparted by the 6 year old on the way into school this morning. And you know, she's absolutely right. I replenished her tights stock at John Lewis yesterday but clearly I got it slightly wrong. I like it when the girls have lots of new school tights. It makes me feel like a competent and organised mother.

I even looked at buying one of those gingerbread houses to make at Christmas as that would have made me a competent and organised mother but in an entirely different stratosphere. A domestic goddess no less. But then I looked at the instructions, realised that all that icing bag and piping nonsense was probably way beyond me, that it would look like a two year old had done it, that no-one would eat it and that I would finally put it in the bin mid January cursing what a waste of time it had been.  And then where would my well performing mother role be? No, sometimes knowing your limitations in life is a good thing.

I spent a huge amount of time in the shops last week and these were a couple of the outfits that I wore. They're not drastically different to one another and largely comprised of basics to include navy Whistles trousers, boots (black or navy) a jumper (sparkly or roll neck) and a jacket (Whistles: top photo, or Oasis and Zara: bottom photo).

On my rounds I came across too many things to mention but this Oasis snowflake jumper (£42) caught my eye. It's much nicer in really life - more vibrant and sparkly and the longer length will be preferred by many.

I also absolutely love this New Look fur duffle bag (£22.99), to the point that it may be finding its way into my wardrobe sometime fairly soon.

Hope that everyone's week has got off to a fabulous start!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Can I wear tracksuit bottoms for a meal out? And a few sparkly purchases...

"Can I go out to dinner wearing my tracksuit bottoms?" I asked the family last night. It was our wedding anniversary and I was taking counsel from other family members because, as much as I love going out to dinner, I like being comfortable even more. "Not unless you want to look like a chav and only if you're going to McDonalds" was the general consensus so I cheated and replicated the look in a more acceptable way with luxe track pants from Topshop and the Victorie top from Reiss (£89). Taking a photo at the end of the evening minus lippy and minus most accessories is not generally a good idea but hey ho, you know how these things go.

It was the first time that I had put the Reiss top through its paces and it did the job it was designed to do well, namely keep me warm, look slightly fancy but not too fancy and not cling anywhere that I didn't want it to. This top was way more than I would normally pay but after having a good wardrobe clear out, there was a gaping hole for tops and having tried it on and having deliberated for quite some time I concluded that it would serve me well over the years.

And here's another crappety crap crap photo but again, hey ho, you know these things go. I don't like all this clock changing business. There's just no time to get any snaps during the week. The early morning ones are blue and the evening ones - well there's no point taking any. Luckily our son's school finished at 1pm today, so that was good of them.

Anyway, the reason for the photo was to tell you about the slim cropped pants from GAP (£34.95). I've had these for longer than I can remember but I seem to recall that at one time they were too loose to wear so I put them away. Thankfully my new found addiction to M&S cashew nut butter has resolved that particular problem and now they fit really well. They are so comfortable and a great length with trainers - just enough ankle flash to work but not so much as to be cold. Best of all they are  95% cotton, 5% elastane and they are machine washable. At £34.95 they are a great price too and having felt the Joseph equivalent a few seasons ago, I wasn't convinced that there was anything in it.

And now a couple of snaps of things that I picked up today in preparation for a style event next week. First off some bags from New Look (£22.99). I love this black back pack. It's a sharp shape with simple styling and a great place to start for anyone contemplating one. It also comes in burgundy and with burgundy/claret/ox-blood being such a big trend this season, it's an easy way to tap in to that trend too.

You can't beat a good sparkly bag for the evening but there's no need to spend a fortune on one. These sparkle box clutches are also from New Look.

Finally, most converse lovers will probably know about the leather ones that they do in the winter but for those who don't, these metallic ones from Schuh (£60) are just great. They go with everything and offer a little more warmth and protection that the canvas ones. I love the returns policy at Schuh too - it's a whole year. Can't argue with that.

I have a house full of goodies so I will share one or two of my other fabulous buys over the next few posts.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

A sparkly skirt, shiny shoes and a silver bag for a day in the shops...

Boden jacket, Warehouse jumper, Topshop skirt, Dune shoes, Oushka bag, H&M necklace
When a friend and I were out running last night we were talking about clothes. I know. Shock horror, can you imagine that?  Amongst many topics we discussed, we were talking about how re-working older pieces with newer bits and bobs can make all the difference.  
Today I was working with a lovely lady for a third time. Knowing what a fan she is of all things sparkly, I wore this navy sparkly skirt which I bought from Topshop last year. It's not old but not new either, so it sits somewhere in the middle. However I have had the navy Boden jacket for about four years now and the Warehouse navy jumper with sparkly shoulders, for even longer. The Dune shoes are new this winter as is the (much used) silver bag - so it really was a case of mixing something old with something new and a few bits in between. 

I knew that it wouldn't be long and at last the Christmas jumpers have started to arrive in the stores. The Primark ones have been around for a while and I love the one in the men's section with the built in Santa belly. However luckily it's just been pipped to the post on my list of "Desirable Christmas Jumpers" by this Warehouse sequin Robin jumper (£42). I know that there are Christmas jumper detractors but I LOVE them and anyone who doesn't is, and I know I'm going out on a limb here, is a misery pants.

When I was getting dressed this morning for some reason my printed scarves from the last few years just didn't appeal to me. I'm not sure what it was and no doubt they will again but I think that it's because secretly I'm harbouring a desire for a fur scarf. The trouble is that most of the ones that I have seen in magazines have been hugely expensive but then I came across this one in  Next (£20) and somehow everything just fell into place. So that's one for the Christmas list then.

I'm back in the shops again tomorrow and for the rest of the week so I'll keep my eyes open for some other gems.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Something to banish the Sunday night/Monday morning blues...

I've said it a million times and I will probably say it a million times more but I'm a huge fan of a coloured coat for the winter. There are so many dull, dark days during the winter months that it's lovely to see a bright pink, blue, red, yellow or coral coat.

In this post I'm taking a look at blue coats. I've seen lots of them on my travels over the last few weeks and months and there are some great ones to choose from.

French Connection has two of my favourite blue coats. There's this imperial wool coat (£169) which I used  on a model at a style event a couple of weeks ago. It has a great depth of colour to it so is easier to wear than some of the lighter blue shades. It currently has  20% off with Grazia (OCTFC20 which continues until midnight on 2 November

This French Connection oversized wool coat (£225) is a lovely soft blue. It's more oversized than the style above so arguably may have a shorter shelf life but if you're after a coat in the shape of the season, this could be a winner. The wide collar and simple styling are also a nice touch.

The Great Plains wool funnel neck coat (£120) is a real gem. It is slightly oversized without being swamp like and the funnel neck is a real winner. It has a strong nod to the 60s trend which is so big this season and as with anything that is based on a style from times gone by, it won't date - because it already has, albeit in a way that is trendy once again - if you get my drift.

Despite the oversized styles that dominate at the moment, lots of ladies still prefer a fitted style of coat, feeling that it is more flattering and waist defining/bust minimising - which quite often it can be. Sometimes with fashion trends there's a trade off between wanting to wear something that is new, fresh and different vs wearing a shape which is known to be flattering. The classic example is the trade off between boot cut jeans, which tend to be more flattering on lots of women, vs skinny jeans which are more modern. Some things can be styled in such a way as to overcome their limitations and sometimes all that is needed is a period of adjustment and time to get used to a different look.  So really what I'm saying is don't rule anything out - not without giving it a proper try first as that's how we get stuck in a rut.

However if it's still not possible to get one's head around a looser shaped coat, the Boden Ingrid Coat (£179 down to £143.20) has a semi fitted style so it may tick all of the right boxes.

This Country Casuals blue fold collar coat (£249 but currently with 20% off) has a clearly defined waist and is also has a nice detail across the back, also adding to it's shape. It's one of the few double breasted styles out there at the moment and in the flesh it's a really pretty blue shade. I was quite surprised when I came across it in CC but in actual fact they had quite a lot of nice clothes (don't tell anyone I said that!) I like looking at lots of different brands as without fail, all brands have some great pieces - even if only a few - and all brands have some rubbish pieces. The weight of some of their dresses, particularly their wrap dresses, is really good. Far better than equivalent priced brands, or even those that are more expensive. They also have a fairly extensive petite range.

Warehouse also has a couple of options. There's the brushed drawn hair coat (£95) which currently has  25% off with this week's Grazia. Having said that there aren't many double breasted options look at this - another double breasted option. Lovely colour, nice fabric and a good price with the discount.  

Or there's the Warehouse boucle coat (£85) which obviously has more of a texture to it. I'm not entirely convinced how well this one will wear given its finish but it's worth taking a look at it to see how the fabric sits once it's been tried on and rubbed over a couple of times - not that I'm suggesting that anyone should go and try clothes on and give them a hard time before deciding whether to buy them or not.

Lastly Coast has this Soho Crombie Coat (£175) which is a lovely mix of a classic style but with a modern edge, thanks to the zips above the pockets. I think that it would work just as well for work as it would with jeans and trainers at the weekend.

So, what d'you reckon? Is anyone tempted by a blue coat of any shade at all? My Boden spotty blue coat, now heading into its 9th winter, may well be making an appearance sometime soon.