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A nip in the air

Autumn is approaching - time for fleece pyjamas

Mint pyjamas

The mornings are preternaturally beautiful at present. Now that our puppy is seven months old and can hold his bladder for the night, my getting-up time has gradually moved from around 5.30 to around 7.15. It's still pretty dark then but by the time I've walked the dogs up the lane to the chasse coops to do their business, the horizon is pink and orange, with blazing contrails bisecting the landscape. 

Our neighbour's field, which held summer barley, has been stubble for some time now and give a huge, wide view of the district - wooded hills to the east and south, the village to the north, hidden behind rows of poplars, and our garden, looking like a dense, solid woodland, to the south. I usually walk the mutts up here for 20 minutes or so in the low-lying tree mist, where they can chase the rabbits, skylarks, and any of our neighbour's chickens dumb enough to stray too far. 

It's on these mornings that I really notice the nip that has appeared in the air. A couple of days ago I washed my Squall Stadium coat from Land's End - one of the great things about these fleece-lined, quilted coats is that they are machine washable - but I have also noticed, the past few days, how the wind is starting to whistle right through my cotton jersey pyjama pants.

Peach pyjamas

Hence I've just splashed out on a couple of pairs of fleece PJs for the coming season. Only Ebay jobs, but they're very pretty and in the sort of boudoirish colours that I hope will tone with both my pink bedding and my naked face.

When it comes to PJs, I like a conventional cut with a proper button-front and collar, so that I can flip the collar up to keep my neck warm. It always strikes me as a terrible design flaw that almost all women's nightwear covers your body but leaves your neck, arms and shoulders exposed - the very places you need coverage. Personally, I tend sleep in a cashmere poloneck in winter, though I have just also bought the new Alize poloneck from Finisterre, which I think will be a useful weight and length. Then the PJs go on the morning. 

I am also pretty thrilled with my new bathrobe from German brand Otto Werner by WeWo Fashion. No? Means nothing to me either, but I found it a local shop - one of the few that is very pretty and elegant - and snapped it up even though it's a mans, too big and cost 112 euros. I was so fed up of my piece-of-shit Habitat bathrobe that snags and pulls at every verse end and which, although quite new, looks 20 years old. Let us hope this one lasts longer. 

I feel, though, that it will soon be pensioned off as a dressing gown in favour of my Lands' End down. We lit a fire a couple of nights ago, and it's starting to feel really quite chilly in the mornings, though we usually try to hold of using central heating until October. This weekend, though, it will be time to put the curtains back up. We manage without in summer, as we're not overlooked, but I'm starting to feel the night's black eyes staring at me round about 8.30 now, so the windows could do with a bit of sweetening.  

 

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Another one bites the dust

I fear that one of my favourite labels has gone the way of all corporates

Anyone who has ever read this blog might have worked out that I'm a great fan of Lands' End. 

When you live in the countryside as I do, the order of priorities for clothing changes a great deal from when you live in the city. In town, it might be beauty, comfort, function, but out here, it's function, comfort, beauty - in that order.

Country clothing must, above all, be practical: if it looks nice, that's a bonus. I spend about nine months of the year trying to stay warm. I walk dogs, I get covered in mud, I scramble under barbed wire fences. I'm miles from a (very expensive) dry cleaner, so my clothes have to preferably be washable. The woodburner throws sparks, I cook two or three times a day.

Over the 18 years I've lived here, my clothes have therefore become less and less anything to do with fashion. Instead, I favour country labels such as Barbour and Orvis, and technical labels such as Craghopper's, Finisterre and Woolpower. A new discovery is Rohan (more of that later), but until now, I would have said Lands' End was my real go-to label for everyday, practical clothing that looks nice and suits my life.

I discovered Lands' End in 2011 when the DH bought the Insulated Squall Parka. It was a brilliant bit of kit - very lightweight, really warm, loads of pockets, including handwarmer pockets, a tough nylon shell that sloughs off the rain. It has an inner elasticated cuff to keep the draughts out, a two-way zip so you can undo it from top or bottom, a popper wind-stop closure and a removable hood. 

I immediately went out and bought myself the non-insulated version (which is still extremely warm) and this is my standard on-road dog-walking coat, in bright daffodil yellow. And over the next three years I've dropped many hundreds of pounds in Lands' End's direction in the shape of fleece tunics, gilets and trousers; Starfish cotton jersey pants and tops; and numerous coats.

The firm, which was private, was bought by Sear's in 2001 and there have been complaints ever since about the declining quality of the goods, but I hadn't had a problem and it's always with pleasure that I greet a new catalogue dropping through the post. This morning I read it, as usual, in the bath. But I was dismayed - it immediately became apparent that something was amiss.

There are no pictures of active women in the brochure. Time was, I used to flick through this thing and see women who looked somewhat like me, doing things similar to what I do - women walking their dogs, rambling through the countryside, boating, etc. Suddenly, instead, all the models are pictured against a featureless grey background, posed like models from any fashion catalogue. The text is about fashion, not about features. The clothes are about fashion, not about features. The older models are nowhere to be seen. I got almost to page 50 before I could find anything practical - these flimsy little garments aren't going to keep a girl warm in the autumn chill.

Is my favourite label finally going down the tube and turning into a fashion house? God help us, because there are more than enough of those already - the last thing we need is another one. When it comes to fashion, I am kind of choosy, and willing to pay a premium to a company like Wall for organic, fair-trade, limited-edition clothing with an artisan streak. But these supposedly fashionable Lands' End clothes look pretty frumpy to me and there's an awful lot of polyester appearing where it used to be pure cotton. 

What a disappointment. I know that the company has been struggling recently, but a rush to the bottom isn't the way to sort this out, when every supermarket can produce low-priced sweat-shop labour clothing for those who like that sort of thing. I will be gutted if this is yet another label I can no longer trust.  

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Swings and roundabouts

Boy, have I made some mistakes in purchases lately. But on the other hand, I've had some successes.

I thought I'd quickly review a couple of the clothing purchases I've made lately, because to tell the truth, not all of them came off. It's always a bit diff when you have to buy mail-order, but locally, there's almost nothing available except cheap shit in shopping chains like Kiabi, or very expensive items from individual boutiques. 

M&S lace knickers

First up, the lovely lace knickers I ordered from M&S. When these turned up, I could see straight away that they weren't going to fit. I am normally a size 14 in knickers - I could get into a 12 but I like a bit of ease - but with the 14 in these, I had a choice of wearing them either low on my hips in order to get them to actually cover my buttocks, or pulling them up my hips, in which case, they were so low at the back they were almost down to my butt crack. The problem? No room in the arse, dears - not something you can tell from a photograph.

This is an increasing trend, not only as my arse grows ever larger - which it does - but also as goods are increasingly made in the Asia-Pacific region where women have flat bottoms. The average lardy, round European arse simply doesn't fit into these kinds of knickers. I'd also ordered a 16 to be on the safe side, and these fitted very well, but also felt as if they would fall off at the first step I took, they were so loose. So, back they go. 

M&S cotton rich pants

The size 14 black cotton pants, however, were perfect. This is the shape for me, with my 10-inch difference between waist and hip, and I'll definitely be ordering more. They are the same shape as my Elila control pants but without the control, and they properly come up to your waist. I'm delighted to have found these because it seems beyond the ken of manufacturers that a woman might want big pants that are pretty but NOT controlwear. I don't want control - I just want to feel secure, like my knickers aren't falling off or riding up or sawing me in half - you know, the kind of comfort MEN expect every time they get dressed.

Meanwhile, in a snit, back to Sloggi I went, ordering a three-pack of their maxi briefs, in which I will basically look like my mum. But at least my bum will be safe - there's no escaping a Sloggi.

Lands end trousers black velveteen trousersponte trousers

Next up, trousers from Land's End. Oh dearie me. I've ordered lots of fleece pants and cotton jersey trousers from Land's End and been really pleased with them, so I thought I'd take a punt on their tailored trousers, but despite my careful checking of the measures, not a single pair of these fits me. They are all so large on the waist that I could stuff a toy rabbit down there (his name's Thumper, since you ask...). So back go all of those too, and at international postage rates, more fool me.

It's the first time I've sent stuff back to Land's End, but once bitten, twice shy - I won't be ordering tailored pants from them again. A shame, as the ponte fabric of the paler grey pants was absolutely gorgeous - I will definitely look out for that in future.

teal skirt

It made me realise, however, that I have also reached a crossroads - I will be 50 very soon and I have had it with uncomfortable clothes. I need ease. Ease in the waist - my favourite being the kind of smooth, stretch (not gathered) waist of Land's End Starfish trousers or this Wall pull-on skirt; ease in the knees, so that I can sit cross-legged or do my yoga without getting changed; and ease across the body, preferably in wrap styles, knitwear or stretch tops. I am renouncing tailoring - it is just not ME. 

In my wardrobe, the things that get the most wear are:

* Teeshirts, vests and camisoles in cotton jersey.
* Fleece pull-on pants with pockets from Lands' End, and their stretch fleece tops.
* (make unknown) bootcut jeans with 5 per cent lycra, and BHS pull-on bootcut denim jeggings with an elastic back waistband.
* Black merino knitted pull-on trousers from Pringle. 
* Pima cotton jersey pull-on trousers from Wall.
* Thick merino knit pencil skirts from John Lewis (I have five).
* Cashmere knitwear, merino knitwear, cotton knitwear.
* Cotton jersey dresses from Wall.
* Wrap viscose dresses from Boden.
* Bias-cut linen or cotton dresses for summer.
* Wrap skirts and trousers.  

As you may notice, there is no tailoring anywhere. The trousers don't, in general, do up with zips and buttons - they pull up and then have a flat, yoga-style waist. I also wear wrap skirts and Thai fisherman's-style trousers, which I can adjust as I see fit. Sometimes I put on conventional jeans then a few hours later I take them off and get back into my stretch items. You can't do yoga in jeans, can you? A few hours of sitting at a desk and I'm tired of pulling trousers out of my crotch or undoing the top button - women my shape are not designed for jeans unless they have serious amounts of stretch. 

Wall baggiesWall pima cotton trousersAmalfie dressHaving had my mini-epiphany, I parcelled up my failures and logged back onto Wall, where - to my delight - some items I'd been considering were now halved in price. So, I got these black cotton-drill baggy pants, which are just my cup of tea: wide enough in the leg to accommodate cross-legged sitting, fully lined, pockets, elastic waist (on me, dear reader, they are ankle-length!); these pima cotton pull-ons, which I already have in grey and which are brilliant - very slimming with their vertical tucks, lined to the knee and - listen up, manufacturers - also HAVE POCKETS; and this Amalie linen/viscose dress, which I've lusted after for ages, but which had been sold out in the blue colourway I wanted. I just love this, the asymmetry of it, the interesting use of the fabric, and it will be my first linen item from Wall.

Maybe, just maybe, with better weather forecast, I might actually get to wear it soon.    

wall jersey dress

I also got this jersey dress in viscose and spandex, which I've had my eye on for a while but never quite plumped for (bought a size up, so I can get thermals under it). This is more for next winter than this summer, and gives me a chance to try out another Wall fabric.  

 

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What your clothes say about you, part two

The second part of a three-part series.

Yesterday, I looked at the first part of the questionnaire from What your clothes say about you by Jennifer Baumgartner. That dealt with your past and your clothing influences. Today, let's look at what she asks about the present. 

Present

* How would you describe your style now?

* How do you feel when you get dressed?

* Why?

* How do you feel when you shop for clothes?

* Why? 

* How often do you shop? 

* Why?

* Who is your style inspiration?

* Do you find getting dressed difficult?

* If so, when did the difficulty start?

* What is the most difficult part of getting dressed?

* Do you find that you have nothing to wear?

* Do you wear the same thing all the time?

* Do you wear a new outfit every day?

* Do you dislike most of the clothes in your wardrobe?

* Do you have a specific style that is ‘so you’?

* Do you wish you could improve the way you dress?

* What is your favourite colour?

* Do you have that colour in your wardrobe?

* Is your style classic or trendy?

* Traditional or modern? 

* Clean or adorned? 

* Fitted or loose? 

* Short or long? 

* Do you wear what other women in your cohort wear? 

* Have you ever tried to get help in creating a wardrobe? 

* Is your closet full of old or new items? 

* Is your closet neatly organised or messy? 

* Is your closet empty or crammed?

* Do you wear your clothes? 

* Do many of your clothes still have tags?

* Do you feel that your clothes represent who you are?

* Do you feel that your clothes flatter your body?

* Do you feel that your clothes enhance your age? 

* Do your clothes function well with your current lifestyle?

* What is the most common fashion mistake you make?

* Have you tried to change that?

* Has your style changed with a time of major transition?

* Are you happy with this change? 

* Are you content with your current wardrobe. If so, why?

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And here, for the record, are my answers:

PRESENT

* How would you describe your style now?

Comfort dressing. Practicality HAS to come first, especially winter warmth. In winter I’m bundled up in thermals and fleece layers. In summer, I like a dress but it’s hard to wear dresses, because of the grass and nettles. Shoes have to be flat. I suffer from hot flushes, so I have to layer my clothes. Jeans, tees, vests, cardis, boots, wellies, waterproof coats and warm knits are my life - in summer, a linen dress with a blouse or cardi, or trousers with a tee. I don’t like to show my arms now that I’m older and I don’t feel comfortable in short skirts because I like to sit cross-legged and I also loathe tights. Jeans and a long-sleeve tee, or pull-on pants and a tunic, that’s me. 

* How do you feel when you get dressed?

Comfortable but often frumpy. 

* Why?

Because I’m not wearing the clothes I want to wear, I’m wearing the clothes my lifestyle dictates.  I’d like to look elegant, sophisticated and more urban but my lifestyle doesn’t support that look - not only are those kinds of clothes not practical for my life, I’d look totally out of place if I wore them. I thought when I came to the country that I could wear unsuitable clothing because I’d be in the house all day, but in fact the COLD in the house pretty much dictates what I wear. Even in summer, it’s cold inside the house -  I usually have to wear a cardigan. In summer I can wear prettier things, but in winter I yearn for things that don’t exist: stylish fleece, Viyella, knitwear that's actually warm enough. My indoor clothes are most people's outdoor clothes. 

* How do you feel when you shop for clothes?

In shops, frustrated: I just don’t bother any more - I buy nearly everything online. Half the time, the clothes in shops aren’t in my size, and choice is limited here, to either mall-style cheap things or expensive boutiques. I’m astounded by prices - 40 euros for a completely ordinary blouse, for instance. I can find things that I like and things I can afford but not both. French clothes aren’t cut for my shape either - they have very narrow sleeves and the French don’t wear full skirts. I tend to buy from the UK and stick to a few labels: Wall, Orvis, Boden, Land’s End, where I can guarantee the quality and have some idea of the cut. I get excited when the catalogues arrive and enjoy browsing around the sites. I’m quite good at interpreting a look at a lower price level. 

* Why? 

Frustrated because fashion isn’t designed for women my age, my shape or who live my lifestyle. French clothes are terribly, terribly expensive, other than cheap rubbish at the supermarket. I love my specialist clothes - my swimwear and my trekking clothes - they’re beautifully made and fit for purpose, but they’re not stylish. I find shoes a complete nightmare these days. 

* How often do you shop? 

Quite often, really, at least once a month. 

* Why?

Because I keep buying things that don’t quite work, then I end up having to buy more, different styles. 

* Who is your style inspiration?

Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. Tina Chow, and any of Balenciaga’s models - elegant, a little severe. Talia Shire in Godfather III with her beautiful velvets and wraps. The women in MadMen - so glamorous and beautiful. I love Inès de la Fressange, but her style wouldn’t suit me - she’s rake thin and six feet tall. I’m short and voluptuous but I don’t want to dress like an Italian bombshell. 

* Do you find getting dressed difficult?

On a daily basis, no - I just pull on my clothes and go. But I don’t look nice and I try not to leave the house in these clothes. Looking nice, I find more difficult. 

* If so, when did the difficulty start?

When I gained weight again after my illness. I hate being over 8st 7lb but am currently much heavier than this. I have large breasts and a pot belly. I don’t so much mind having a big rear and hips, thighs, etc, but I hate my matronly bosom - it spoils the line of clothing. 

* What is the most difficult part of getting dressed?

Shoes. My feet absolutely kill me and comfortable shoes require trousers when my body looks better in a dress. I cannot find flat shoes or boots that I like and can walk in. And bras are hopeless. What I really want is smaller breasts - an A cup would suit me just fine, thanks. 

* Do you find that you have nothing to wear?

Yes when I’m going out. At home, dressing is easy but when going out I often change multiple times to find clothes that are comfortable and flattering. I am too fat to wear the things I really want to wear. 

* Do you wear the same thing all the time?

At home, yes - either pull-on denim bootcut jeggings/jeans and a long-sleeve tee (summer), or thermals and fleece layers. Out and about I try to ring the changes, and I like to make an entrance with colourful, beautiful coats. Most of my coats are vintage - 1950s styles suit my shape better than modern clothing. 

* Do you wear a new outfit every day?

No - I very often gather the clothes from the day before off the bedroom floor and only change my underwear. 

* Do you dislike most of the clothes in your wardrobe?

Not really. I have some beautiful clothes, I just don’t get to wear them. But I’m bored with my everyday clothes. There’s only so much black, navy and chocolate brown a girl can take, but any other colours show the dirt so much... 

* Do you have a specific style that is ‘so you’?

When I dress up, I’m classical rather than frou-frou. Simple. Vintage. A little arty. I’m perceived as stylish by some of my friends, but they don’t see me at home, where I spend 90 per cent of my time. 

* Do you wish you could improve the way you dress?

Yes. 

* What is your favourite colour?

Sky blue. 

* Do you have that colour in your wardrobe?

A little bit. Not much because it quickly soils in our brown water. I do wear turquoise a lot, which is an easier colour to find and wears a lot better. 

* Is your style classic or trendy?

Classic.

* Traditional or modern? 

Traditional. 

* Clean or adorned? 

Clean. 

* Fitted or loose? 

Skimming - not loose but not tight either. I don’t like tailoring and anyway it would seem stupid to wear a jacket at home. I can’t bear to be restricted in clothing - I need to be able to sit cross-legged, do my yoga, etc, without getting changed. Jeggings work better for me than jeans. 

* Short or long? 

Long. I like to keep covered up. Even in summer, as I burn instantly.  

* Do you wear what other women in your cohort wear? 

No. Most of the women I know are horsewomen, smallholders, etc, so they are pretty scruffy - breeches, jeans, wellies, stained teeshirts, baggy sweats. One friend wears fleece pyjama trousers now instead of real trousers, as she can't get comfy otherwise. Many are short of money. Most aren't bothered by the lack of 'glamour' but some are and feel a bit disheartened by it. 

* Have you ever tried to get help in creating a wardrobe? 

No. Clearly I should....

* Is your closet full of old or new items? 

Quite a lot of new, actually, as I have bought more in the past year or two, as I’ve had more money. I am happy with most of them but I still struggle. I feel that I make a lot of mistakes. 

* Is your closet neatly organised or messy? 

Messy - I try, but I have too much stuff to be tidy. I do arrange things by colour and type though: stacks of vests, tees, polos etc. 

* Is your closet empty or crammed?

Crammed to bursting. There are clothes all over the house - in the office, in the sewing room, in the bedroom, in the living room. I have far too many. 

* Do you wear your clothes? 

Probably not most of them. Many of my clothes are ‘too good to wear’ for the life I lead. I hate ruining good clothes with dog hair and ash and fluff and soot, and yet that is my life. And I resent paying a fortune for more interesting basics, which is stupid, as these are the things I really wear. Many of my clothes hang unworn in the wardrobe, awaiting a suitable occasion, while I live in the same few things until they literally fall apart. 

* Do many of your clothes still have tags?

No. But I do keep my new clothes to wear ‘out’ on the first occasion because they never look as good once they’ve been washed.

* Do you feel that your clothes represent who you are?

No. They are a mixture of what suits my lifestyle and what I can afford rather than what I truly like. 

* Do you feel that your clothes flatter your body?

I don’t think my current body CAN be flattered - it’s too fat. But I do think I choose clothes quite well for my body. I don't think people realise I weigh as much as I do. 

* Do you feel that your clothes enhance your age? 

I don’t know. Sometimes I think I dress quite well for my age. At other times, I think I’ve lost the plot. Dressing advice seems to be so much about looking sexy and that’s not really something I want to convey in my clothing - I'd rather my clothes say 'hands off', to be honest. 

* Do your clothes function well with your current lifestyle?

My everyday clothes are perfect - I just don’t like them or am bored sick with them. And the clothes I want to wear don’t suit my life - they’re too delicate.   

* What is the most common fashion mistake you make?

A: being unwilling to buy an expensive basic and wear it and potentially ruin it. I try to protect my clothes as if they were art objects, and in practice, that often means not wearing them.

B: I also still buy clothes that aren’t suited to my practical country life - I like glamorous, impractical clothes that don't suit my life. 

* Have you tried to change that?

Yes to A:, no to B: I long for the glamour that would go with my clothes. When I dress up, I tend to overdress compared with everyone else. I get a lot of compliments but often feel out of place. 

* Has your style changed with a time of major transition?

Yes, menopause. My body has changed a lot this past year. 

* Are you happy with this change? 

No. I feel fat, frumpy and mannish. Huge boobs that spoil the line of everything. Sweaty and disgusting. I can't wear cotton any more and have to dress in layers for when the flushes strike. I'm constantly pulling jumpers on and off. 

* Are you content with your current wardrobe. If so, why?

No. I can’t seem to marry what I need with what I like and find clothes that are beautiful, flattering and practical all at the same time. 

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Well, clearly I am in a bit of rut to say the least! I've put on a lot of weight this winter, as I do every winter, but it is hanging around more than usual, partly because I am rubbish at cutting down on grub when the weather's so cold. But also I am utterly sick of my winter clothes now. It's nearly April, for God's sake. I tried wearing a cotton teeshirt yesterday (under a fleece polo) but soon headed upstairs to change into my usual ski thermals. It was 5 degrees outside, with a wind that could take your face off. This time last year, we were in the high teens. Still, could be worse, could be a sheep farmer, poor sods. 

I am also in a period of transition with my style, casting about to find things that suit me as I head into my 50s. Last summer I longed for pretty, floral things but when I put them on, I felt a bit like a man in drag - I prettied up the house instead, with chintz curtains, etc, as if I felt like I myself was past redemption. 

I have in my head what I want - beautiful wide-leg or bootcut cotton velvet, cord and tweed trousers in shades of grey, pewter and plum, with lots of grey and pink cashmere, pashminas with beads or sequins, sweaters with contrast detailing or beaded necklines, etc - something a little more glamorous than my everyday wear. Well-fitting indigo denim bootcut jeans with slender white shirts and cotton cardigans with some interesting detailing. Beautiful flat shoes in bright suedes and velvets. I just find them very hard to track down....

Still, at least this exercise has made me think about all this a bit more. I am now heading for Boden for a look round.

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Tomorrow, the Future.  

 

 

 

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Clothes stash: dresses from Wall

I've treated myself to another trip to Wall London for New Year.

Pleat front dress

This New Year I have treated myself to another roam around the website of Wall London, one of my go-to clothing companies for women over 40. 

Wall is a high-end company that makes clothing for grown-up women in flattering matt fabrics such as Pima cotton jersey, merino and alpaca. The clothes are aimed at women who have an intellectual as well as social life, and who regard their pieces as investments which stay in their wardrobe for a long time.

They offer a discerning buyer some rare qualities, such as a comfortable cut and sleeves on dresses, as well as beautiful and unusual fabrics.  

It takes quite a lot these days for me to buy clothing, as I only buy something if I can't make it, but since I am rubbish at sewing stretch fabrics, I absolutely love my first purchase from Wall, which I made last March, of this Pima cotton jersey dress (mine is black, not burgundy). With its v-neck, long sleeves, A-line knee-length skirt and beautiful pleat details, it skims over every troublesome area and accommodates itself to every occasion from work to cocktails to dinner out. 

On me, being short, the v-neck is considerably lower than it was shown on the model, so I have to wear a vest under it, which enables me to ring the changes with a flash of colour at the neckline. I've regretted, ever since, not getting it in two different colours. 

Issy dress

For New Year 2013, I decided to treat myself to this 'Issy' dress (presumably for Issey Miyake), which is something I've had my eye on since last spring. It was available in black and a lipstick pink, but I opted for it in grey to show off the fantastic bodice seaming while not calling too much attention to itself.

Sleeves on a dress like this would have been great, but sleeveless is also useful, to go with numerous cardis and shrugs. The asymmetric skirt, I think, is really beautiful and unusual and I can see myself getting a lot of wear out of this garment.

Pirouette dress

Once that was bought, I also decided on this cowl-neck Pirouette dress - this time sleeved, with this interesting shape of skirt, which I chose in 'umber' - not a usual shade for me but the grey altenative struck me as slightly too nun-like. I am a tad concerned it will be too long, but it will be an easy matter to ruch up the side seams of the skirt if necessary and created a more gathered look. There is something about it that makes me think of the great French couturier Vionnet. 

Teal Lantern dress

I now have my eye on a couple of other things too: this Lantern dress in teal, with its asymmetric bodice and very unusual bag hem, and this nifty little princess-seamed jersey dress with kicky gores at the hem, which will go with just about everything. 

Grey Wall dress

This is what I'm aiming for, then, as I approach my sixth decade - simple, elegant, comfortable, well-made clothes in flattering colours that can be dressed up or down, but have a bit of an arty twist that lifts them above the run of the mill.  

  

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Forward to the past

There's a distinct timewarp about the latest fashions being pushed at us.

Dressing for grown-ups, part one

Your 40s is the decade to upgrade your choice of fabric and cut.

One of the things that bugs me a bit about dressing 'advice' for grown-up women is that it assumes you've let yourself go and your main objective should now be to disguise your enormous pot belly and disgusting wobbly thighs.

The definite dozen

If you have these items in your wardrobe, you'll always have something to wear.

If you have these 12 items in your wardrobe, you'll always have something to wear...

Pyjama game

With my old flannel PJs finally biting the dust, the hunt is on for something - anything - that I want to wear in bed

thumbWhy can't European retailers make decent, warm pyjamas? Thank God for the Americans.

One woman's vintage is another woman's heyday

Check out this nice vintage site, but make sure you buy from the right era!

Retro Chick thumbnailVintage chic for those with modest budgets

The swimdress - another beach alternative for women over 40

Further to my article on swimwear I found these babies the other day - swimdresses

If you can only pack one cossie and you like a bit of cover, you could think about a swimdress. A swimdress is a more forgiving alternative to a swimsuit, and if you pick your design right, you can have rather looser coverage than wearing a swimskirt - useful if you've got tummy issues.

Nice while it lasted? That depends on your perspective

The end of cheap clothing is nigh, and bloody good riddance, say I

The end of cheap clothing could be a very good thing

Deconstructed fashion - part three: independent designers

Deconstructed fashion has some pretty big names, but it also has many smaller players

If you're fashion-conscious and over 40, don't despair - take the deconstructed approach.

Swimsuits for the over-40s babe

If you've got a great figure that you're proud to show off, read no further, but if you've got anything to hide, read on...

Buying  a swimsuit can be purgatory but there are now some fantastic offerings online

Beyond fashion - vintage style

We all have to wear clothes, but not all of us are in love with fashion. That's where vintage comes in.