Wokingham Town Team Fashion Show – What a Success!

Photograph by Tim Davis

Photography by Tim Davis

As far as fully blown fashion shows go, we had a very short timescale to get this show up and running and we used every second we had.  It involved, among other things, lots of pavement pounding to find retailers who were prepared to give it a shot and afterwards finding outfits that could wow on the catwalk.  With these kinds of events, you’re never really sure how they’ll pan out.  You can put a ton of energy and enthusiasm into it, sweat blood and tears and sacrifice your soul, but if the atmosphere isn’t there it ain’t worth nothin’!

Tim Davis - George:EmmaSo, once everything had finally come together it was with eager trepidation (I know…oxymoron) that we opened the door to the event…  and what a reception we had!  Passersby had already texted me during the minutes immediately before we opened the doors saying that the atmosphere in the queue was already buzzing.  Something had worked which, to be perfectly frank with you, was a bloody relief! Part one of our plan had come together.  Now all we had to do was deliver…

 

It started well with canapes and fizz supplied and served by The Giggling Spring.  What a perfect opportunity to chat with old and new friends alike.

Tim Davis Olga Close-upWe had a terrific team of people involved.  Having had real issues with model availability, we had a core number of girls who stepped up at the very last minute just 3 days before the event.  They didn’t disappoint.  Barbara Easton’s two experienced models Olga and Jenny were fabulous and I must say that, lack of experience aside, our rookie volunteers Emily, Becky, Rachael, Kirsti, Freddie, Sophie and Beth were amazing, shedding their nerves and owning the catwalk like the best of them.

 

Tim Davis HairBut we can’t possibly forget the terrific contribution from the back room girls.  With Jen and her gang at M&Co on hair, make-up and dressing the models, alongside the wonderfully experienced Dolly (on hair) from the Retreat in Denmark Street, and volunteers from Doll’s house Boutique, Borrowed Blue and Lace, Barbara Easton, Louise Woods (and Mum!) and Georgina and her troop at Antique Rose, we had the best team possible making this event work.  It was a testament to what can happen when you work together.

 

Tim Davis - RachaelWhat really made it shine was Patrick and Stan’s amazing set-up with
professional lighting, a superb sound system and chairs that could have been arranged by the Queen’s footmen had I not known better.  The event was then photographically captured in all it’s hectic glory by Tim Davis and Sue Phelps who did a fantastic job at dodging chairs, hair rollers and flying fascinators.

 

Sue Phelps JennyWe learnt much from the process.  With such a short timetable we were bound to miss the mark occasionally. However, we believed that it was crucial that we do something now and not let it wait for next season.  When this happens again, and it will, we will have an improved plan in place to make the event even better.

So if you want something to look forward to in October, watch this space!

E x

Wokingham Boutique #1, Bridal Bliss at Borrowed Blue and Lace

BBL dress2Perfection!  Isn’t that what every girl wants from her wedding dress?

The act of choosing and buying my wedding dress 17 years ago is as clear to me now as it ever was.  The feel of the fabric, the smell of the silk… such powerful memories that  I doubt will ever fade.  I eventually found my dress in London having exhausted the local (and not-so-local) boutiques.  Some of the service I received was good, but in many establishments I felt rushed.  It would have been nice to have had the time to really enjoy the experience and share it with my closest confidantes.

So where would I go now if I wanted to find a dress in Wokingham?

 borrowed blue laceA new place to add to your must see bridal boutiques is Borrowed Blue and Lace. Helen Lord opened her studio at Cedar House, Eastheath Avenue, Wokingham in February this year.  She is an extremely experienced woman when it comes to weddings, having been a Wedding Planner for 15 years – a service she still offers to her clients today.  She is perfectly placed to offer advice and guidance when it comes to getting things right for your big day.

Borrowed Blue and Lace offer a stunning setting with 2 dedicated private studios where you can enjoy all the delights of wedding dress heaven.  Having visited the studio and having had the pleasure of working with Helen at the recent Wokingham Town Fashion Show, I can give testament to some of the wonderful confections she has to view and her passion for her business.

Sue Phelps 1I particularly love the dresses from the “Chic” range by Hollywood Dreams, a modern and sophisticated collection inspired by the glamour of  Hollywood.  These dresses are beautifully made in a range of divine fabrics including chiffon, organza and soft tulle that belie their price range.

(Photo, right, by Sue Phelps Photography, Wokingham Town Fashion Show, modelled by Rachael)

The designers from another of Helen’s ranges, Callista,  have created gowns specifically for the fuller figure bride, accommodating bust sizes from 46 to 57 inches with dresses in sizes 18-24.  These dresses have been made to flatter and support a more curvaceous figure.  It’s so nice to see ranges that go above a size 16!

It is also worth mentioning that they have a fabulous range of bridesmaids dresses for all ages from 2 years to adult.  They also have a terrific selection of prom dresses so that your young lady can look amazing on her big social event.

So what could possibly be better than this?  I’ll tell you what, their designer dress sale that takes place this weekend only.   Helen and her right hand woman, Elaine, are holding a designer sale rail on Friday 7th and Saturday 8th June 10-5pm with dresses selling between £450 and £950. You will need to book an appointment so that you can have the dedicated space, time and attention that Borrowed Blue and Lace pride themselves on.

So, if you have a big day coming up, get over there tout suite and experience the glorious items they have to offer.

E x

  • Borrowed, Blue and Lace, Cedar House, Eastheath Avenue
    Wokingham, Berkshire, RG41 2PR
  • Tel: 01189792768
  • www.borrowedbluelace.com

This Week’s Looks for Summer

M&Co Orchid DressDespite the current weather, I am determined to get in to Summer mode.  I may have a frizz-fest party going on on my head today (gonna need a wider door), but I feel summer is just waiting to happen.  I’ve been spending time planning and fitting for the Fashion show in Wokingham town hall on Thursday evening and have come across some fresh looks for the summer.

(dress on Left: M&Co Orchid Dress, £25 during dress event)

With major high street retailers like Fat Face, New Look and M & Co. involved, alongside local boutiques such as Antique Rose, Barbara Easton, Doll’s House Boutique and Mishyboo, I have had a lovely array of pieces to work with.

I love this maxi dress at New Look.  It’s extremely flattering with a little puff sleeve. Another bonus is it is available in sizes 6 to 20.  At £19.99 it’s a great piece to add for daywear that can be glammed up for a summer party or bbq.

New Look MaxiMaxi dresses seem to be here to stay for a while longer.  No surprise really as they’re flattering for so many body shapes.  This particular dress will be perfect for anyone with a pear shape as it emphasises a tiny waist while widening the shoulders to balance out the hips.

Look out for more of my summer recommendations coming soon.

E

x

 

 

Wokingham Town Team Fashion Show with Yours truly

I have my head down and am putting my all into the planning of the show this coming Thursday.  Today is very much focussing on outfit fittings with our fabulous troop of volunteer models.  We’re looking at over 30 outfits to fit with some great accessorising opportunities.

I love Wokingham and I would love to see it thrive.  I believe it has amazing potential and I am going to do my damnedest to help raise the profile of the retailers we already have so that we may attract more to offer even more choice to the customer.

Would you like to come along?  You would?  Great!!!

Email info@wokinghamtownteam.co.uk to reserve your ticket – just £10 which includes a glass of fizz and canapes.  There are only 100 tickets and we have had a wonderful response so far.  We don’t expect to have any left for sale on the evening, so get yours fast!

E x

Fashion-Show-Poster

Capsule Piece #5 – Cashmere Jumper

I have never liked wearing wool.  When I wear wool against my bare skin it’s as if it becomes electrified with sparks, hair follicles smarting at the irritation. Scratchy school jumpers and over-tight 70′s polo necks you could barely stretch over your head, memories that reeked of hours of discomfort and clock-watching until you could get home and tear the offending articles off your poor rashed body.

However, those were the days before I discovered cashmere.  Ah, cashmere… My first experience of real cashmere was a genuine pashmina.  I couldn’t believe how beautifully soft it was, how it enveloped my chilly neck so gently.  I waited for the itching to start, but it never did.  It was a revelation!  I was hooked.  Until that point I had always resorted to man-made fibres for softness, but they never provided the warmth I needed.

Cashmere has wonderful properties, but it’s ability to keep you warm while remaining refined and lightweight is it’s ultimate benefit.  I trawl many wardrobes that contain drawer upon drawer and shelf upon shelf of well-worn polyester polar fleece jumpers.  Their existence is defended rigorously by their owners who cite “comfortable, warm, cosy” as the reasons they keep them.  I get it.  I understand.  If you’re climbing Snowdon as part of the Three Peaks Challenge this kind of garment will show it’s worth.  But, when you’re dressing for work, school drop-off or lunch with some friends, they don’t cut the mustard.

A simple cashmere jumper has a sophistication about it and just as much warmth as any knackered old fleece.  You can wear pearls or a silk scarf with it.  You can wear it like Betty Draper from Mad Men with a pencil skirt, or like Audrey Hepburn as a beatnik with black cigarette pants in “Funny Face”.  It can soften a leather jacket and indigo jeans, or provide protection over a flimsy summer dress as the sun goes down.  Now be honest, would your fleece be as versatile?…I didn’t think so.

So, which piece should you add as an essential wardrobe item?  What about this jumper by Chinti and Parker exclusively at Net a Porter at £285.  Classic design that will earn it’s place in your capsule wardrobe.  A black cashmere jumper will work no matter what the season and can be dressed up or down whatever the occasion.

 

 

 

If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, what about this gorgeous piece at the Pure Collection.  Their Gassato Cashmere Sweater is a perfect item to add to your collection, and at £109 it’s a pretty good price for good quality cashmere.  They offer three colour ways that are perfect for a chic understated look.

So will you take a look in that wardrobe of yours and banish those bobbly old fleeces?  It’s worth it, I promise you, if you want to go from eek to chic!

Later.

E x

A/W ’12 Fashion Week – London

It has been said many a time over the years that London Fashion Week is the poor relation to Paris, Milan and New York.  For reasons unknown to me it has often been felt that London is just too off the wall to be recognised as an all-round influencer of fashion, that it is solely the destination of the quirky and the eccentric.  That’s not a bad thing in itself – who wants to be too mainstream anyway?  But this attitude by the elite in the fashion world denies the fact that London fashion has, for many years, been envied around the world for it’s imaginative re-inventions.

But it’s not just eccentric re-invention that we are good at.  This experimental aspect of British fashion grows out of strong design and manufacturing foundations and a thorough understanding of what can and can’t be achieved.  We have amazing traditional roots and an amazing design heritage that speaks for itself.

London Fashion Week (LFW) AW12 has been a wonderful affair.  I found New York a fairly sombre affair in all with New York displaying far more black than was necessary.  So when LFW started, it was with an explosion of bold print on print combinations, imaginative silhouettes and a blatant disregard for the otherwise miserable climate the media in general would have us wallow in. Economic crisis… yawn!  We all know what’s happening and that is exactly why this kind of escapism is so desperately needed at the moment.

There were some stand out favourites for me.

  

Antoni & Alison had a collection made up of dresses – yes, just dresses.  The prints on each of the dresses were of the drawings of the dresses themselves.  Sketched belts and waistcoats, prints of fabric swatches and a lovely 2D patchwork of colours and textures.

 

Burberry Prorsum (see their end of show in the picture above) is a favourite for so many reasons.  Christopher Bailey is a genius when it comes to amping up traditional design elements, making fresh new looks each season.  Peplums on trench coats, bow trimmed belts, baker boy caps, all wonderful elements of a powerful yet feminine collection.

Vivienne Westwood Red Label.  there were a couple of great pieces in this collection.  I especially like the “School Ma’am” feel to this particular outfit.

 

Issa are such a commercially appealing label, with the added weight of being a favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge.  The models seemed to be modelled on her and were sporting some very flattering and easily translatable pieces.  Kate’s “Signature” dress in green will work well for so many body types.

Finally I will mention Temperley.  I love Alice Temperley’s design aesthetic.  She is so quintessentially British in her approach and appeal.  She has something for everyone, but my particular favourites are always her full length dresses.

 

This is just a little insight to the LFW shows for AW12.  When the season comes upon us we will be able to see exactly how the high street will pick and choose their favourite silhouettes and trends.

Keep coming back if you would like my run-downs of NY, Paris and Milan.

E x

 

Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter – Where do I start?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know, I know… Winter isn’t even half finished yet and the magazines are bursting with the fabulous Summer trends.  Those of you who aren’t familiar with how the fashion calendar works  may well be a little confused as the fashion publications and stylists will also be commenting on the A/W ’12 fashion week trends very very soon (they run through from January until March with the Men’s Paris A/W12 shows progressing as I type).

At any one given point I will be looking closely at 3 seasons.  I aim to pick up the best pieces from last season at bargain prices looking at how they can be used this spring.  Then, by looking at shows for next Autumn, I can anticipate what’s worth investing in this summer, the silhouettes that will be staying around and the fabrics, colours and detailing that can transcend seasons.

For those who love fashion, this kind of planning is almost irrelevant.  Fashion isn’t meant to last, it’s meant to be fleeting and frivolous.   The whole point of subscribing to the latest trend is that it’s fun, short lived, transient, being replaced by fresh new looks just as boredom sets in.

However, if you are looking from a personal style angle where it’s not all about fashion but about creating a versatile wardrobe that can work well for you, how do you distinguish between items that will last and those that will die a death, so that you can make the most of your investments?

You need to think long and hard about the image you are creating or developing.

  • Do you have a particular style that you love?
  • Can it work for your figure or do you need to interpret it differently to work better?
  • Do you want to reflect different aspects of your personality through clever dressing and accessorising techniques?
  • Would you prefer a smaller collection of clothing, but better quality?
  • Would you like to tighten up your colour and print palettes?
  • Would you like to learn how to be able to do this and still have a trend driven aspect without having to buy in to the whole “look”?

It is all about setting priorities.  If you are going to part with your hard earned cash make sure that you are gaining true pleasure from the items you are buying. Buy items that make you look great, items that you can’t wait to wear because they make you look so good.

I have my own personal rule where, after making any new purchases, I hang them on the door of my wardrobe and wait for the urge to wear them.  If this doesn’t happen in the first 24 hours then I high tail them back to the shop they came from.  I apply this to both the basic items and the riskier pieces.  I look for an emotional reaction because I live my life wearing these clothes and want to enjoy doing so.

This summer looks exciting, especially on a grey and rainy day like today.  I’ll be glad when the shops are full of delicious colours and summer weight fabrics, even if it’ll be a while before I can wear them.  The wait will be worth it.

E x

 

 

Capsule Piece #4 – Blazer

I am again drawn to write about yet another capsule piece that has an androgynous air to it – the Blazer.

What is it about these masculine items that make them so appealing?  Perhaps it is the apparent simplicity of the shape that works, the clean, uncluttered lines that can help to showcase the more  intricate blouse or dress underneath.  There are plenty of variations depending on your body shape and particular style.

 

 

I have a bit of a crush on Zoe Ball – there, it’s out.  She is a woman who understands  what it takes to wear a blazer with the kind of assertive, feminine air that I love and admire.  She rarely subscribes to a typical way of feminine dressing and always has a rock-chick air about the way she presents herself.  A blazer, skinny jeans, sublime shoes and a bit of sparkle underneath, be it a rock T or satin blouse.  I am an avid Strictly fan, but this year she was the star of the whole series hosting the accompanying Strictly “It Takes Two” on BBC2.  I loved every outfit she wore – without exception.

It’s as if the most important aspect of dressing like this is what you leave out, what you don’t wear.  It should be about the tailoring, the structure, the fit.

To wear a blazer well, make sure you keep a feminine touch.  That is where the skill comes in.

  • As with the trench coat, turn up or push up the sleeves in a slightly irreverent way.  This looks even beter if the lining is a different colour.
  • Don’t wear it too formally.  Jeans look great, as do Converse All Stars and an ageing Rolling Stones T.
  • Belt it.  When a blazer fits well, a skinny belt worn over the top and tied or knotted can look fantastic.
  • Check the proportions.  If you are going for a looser boyfriend fit make sure that the shoulders don’t resemble those of an american footballer.  The cut should be looser and slightly less structured than a classic fitted blazer, but not cavernous.  This style looks great with slim or skinny fit trousers.
  • One or two buttoned single breasted styles are great classics and will last for years.

A tailored jacket is a great staple for any capsule collection.  Wearing a tailored jacket can be an instant posture improver, pulling your shoulders back to where they should be.  They are also great for masking any little figure flaws, smoothing the silhouette and avoiding cling.  It is certainly worth considering investing in quality – as is the case with many of the capsule pieces I write about.  

Until the next time…

E

 

Capsule Piece #3 – Trench Coat

Inheriting a house is a good thing, but inheriting an iconic trench coat is something else, especially if it’s a Burberry.

I haven’t inherited one myself, although my Mum does have a beautiful Aquascutum trench waiting in the wings, but there was a wonderful serendipitous moment when I spied the perfect Burberry in the window of a charity shop in Wokingham five years ago.  I couldn’t quite believe my eyes: size 10, classic beige, horn buttons, leather trim belt and the style number label intact in the pocket.  At £25 I made a bee line for the nearest bank and came back cash in hand to embark on a hopefully long lasting relationship with my new best friend.  I immediately had the length adjusted by my other best friend (seamstress) and changed the buttons to chocolate brown to give it a new twist and there we have it – perfection!

A trench coat should look like it’s been yours forever, the skin you live in.  Originally designed and developed for officers in the trenches of WW1 (do we all know the story?), the trench coat was created for a specific purpose – to protect and galvanise it’s wearer against the most hideous of environmental elements.

We have remained faithful to this classic design for a number of reasons:

Patriotism plays a significant part.  It is a symbol of all that is great about British design, something of which we are tirelessly proud and that is envied around the globe.

The aesthetic.  Beautifully balanced proportions, a double breasted design that seems to defy many traditional styling rules by not widening your frame.

Great craftsmanship.  When you look at the construction in detail you see exactly what it is you are paying for:  seams that can withstand enemy bombardment and fabrics that can repel the worst that the wheels of any articulated lorry can deliver.

Versatility for both sexes is another thing.  It’s universal appeal is undeniable.

So, how do you wear it? My advice is don’t be prim and proper.

For women it needs to look nonchalant, so push up the sleeves and tie the belt, don’t buckle it. What do you wear it with?  Everything of course!  This is the one coat that can go over anything including your jeans, LBD or the most glamorous of evening dresses.  And we’ve all seen the femme fatale wearing it over the briefest whispers of lingerie.  Just be careful not to look too “classic” in it with twinsets and frumpy skirts.  It’s a lifestyle piece, a statement, not simply a piece of clothing.

Men should wear it with the same ease.  Layer it over a t shirt and blazer with dark indigo jeans.  Wear it smartly with Chelsea boots  and cashmere scarf or with converse sneakers and a zip neck sweater.  Thrown over a tux and you’re on to a winning look.

You can find versions of the classic trench coat all over the high street from supermarket retailers to the highest of high end designers.  Look at your pocket and see what you can stretch to.

Having owned an original at a bargain rail price, would I be prepared to pay the hefty £850 + price tag for a new Burberry?  I believe I might be persuaded. Granted, it would take me some time to save for it (gonna need a bigger piggy bank!), but knowing that it will probably last me for the rest of my days could make it the wisest of investments, an investment that my daughter might even enjoy.

What’s Your Resolution?

Happy New Year to you all!  I am planning on making this a blindingly good year – how about you?

But have you started the year by making rash resolutions?

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.  I learnt a long time ago that the promises we make at this time of year are by far the easiest to break, as they are usually promises made by ourselves, to ourselves and about ourselves.  The only person we usually let down is ourselves.

The promises we make during times of pressure and obligation are doubly hard to keep.  You awake on New Year’s day, invariably filled with remorse over the copious over-indulgences and excesses of the preceding fortnight, experiencing levels of guilt surpassed only by that of a mother, feeling compelled to make immediate amends.

When it comes to my business there will be countless people subscribing to the following promises:

  • Lose a stone (2 stone, 3 stone , delete where applicable…)
  • Start a diet tomorrow – yeah, right!
  • Drop 2 dress sizes – in 1 month!  Nothing like pressure…
  • Get into their “skinny” jeans
  • Give up chocolate – just one question – WHY?
  • Detox their wardrobes
  • Spend less on clothing
or even more difficult…
  • Spend less on shoes!  Alien concept I know…

There are a few points on the above list that I can help you with.  Detoxing wardrobes, as you know, is a speciality, as is helping you to spend less on clothing and shoes (I know you can do it).  I can’t help  you to lose weight, but I may be able to help you dress in a way that makes you look like you’ve lost a dress size.  I can also help to boost your confidence and help you see all your good points more clearly.

However if you are going to insist on making New Year’s promises, try one of these:

  • Find a good seamstress, hand her the pile of clothing you’ve been meaning to repair since the summer and save yourself hours of time.
  • Hang your clean clothes up after wearing them and save yourself the time wasted re-ironing clothes that have been strewn over the end of the bed.
  • Polish your shoes.
  • Stop beating yourself up for not getting into your “skinny” clothes and pack them away instead.
  • Don’t give up chocolate – sometimes it’s the only answer!

I can’t wait to get my teeth in to my routine and a brand new year full of mystery and, as yet unknown, opportunities.  Make yours a good one!

E x