Fashion, style, beauty, hair, health, fitness, life issues, lifestyle, home, garden and anything else that matters to the woman in her prime of life.

Wonderous Wall

I have been stocking up at one of my favourite vendors.

Wall plum jersey dress

As I promised myself recently, I have made another little trip back to Wall London. 

Wall is one of my favourite companies for quality clothing. I tend to go for the pima cotton clothes, as I can wash and dry them at home - not only is dry-cleaning expensive, it's bad for the environment, so I avoid it as much as possible. Also, I am trying very consciously these days to upgrade my basics, since basics are what I dress in most of the time. It's pointless to spend money on evening wear when I never go out and life here is very casual, for instance, so I am, these days, choosing much higher-end teeshirts, trousers and knitwear. 

Wall's pima cotton separates are very easy to wear. The jersey is thick and substantial and has a lovely drape, and furthermore they had a sale on, as if anyone could resist that...

Wall wrap top

Although I would dearly love a limitless budget, I plumped for just three items in the end: this plum-coloured plain jersey dress, which can be dressed up or down virtually endlessly. I fancied it in grey but it was sold out, but the plum is interesting and will stretch my winter wardrobe a little. I tend, like many women, to wear rather too much black in winter, so this winter I'm keen to see if I can add in a bit of teal and plum and chocolate brown to liven things up.

Pima cosy twin

Second up was this wrap top in Lobelia, above. I'd ummed and ahhed about this earlier in the season, but now it was half-price, so I bought it straight away, and in this pink colourway too. Again, I would have preferred it in a quieter colour such as marled grey, so I hope they introduce it again next year in different colours. The wrapping style strikes me as very forgiving of a bit of a gut, which I am certainly carrying at present. 

Pima cosy twin

Finally, and not in the sale, but I was fearful it would sell out so decided to get it now, I got this pima cosy twin in midnight blue. I just love this thing and the different ways it can be worn, and it will go brilliantly with my knitted merino pencil skirts, black jersey pants and Wall baggy pants. Note to Wall, incidentally, I would definitely buy this in more colours if they were available - luckily, this shade of blue is right up my street.    

Wall pima cosy

It's my theory that when you just see an item like this and it calls to you that you should go with your instinct - the clothes you love, within reason, are the clothes you wear. I'd been looking at this top and keeping my fingers crossed it hadn't sold out, for some weeks now, and that told me that I should get it.

Wall pima cosy

Well, I say finally, but it wasn't entirely finally because I was still on the hunt for a pair of wool trousers, preferably crops, for winter and, not finding what I wanted on Wall, I hit Ebay and found last year's Wall trousers on sale there, so got them in grey wool. With a 26in inside leg, they are meant to be crops, but sadly, I am such a midget that that is my inside leg measurement, so on me they will be pretty much full length.  



In temperatures like these, natural fabrics are worth their weight in gold.

I'm sitting in the shade of the pergola and it's 31 degrees (about 88 degrees in farenheit). I shudder to think what it's like in the sun. 

This heatwave is now possibly due to be the longest since 1976. It's a shock to think I have friends who don't even remember this far back, they were so young. It was the first and only year that I got really burned enough to peel, racing a buggy on the sands in Lincolnshire, back in the days when 'sun block' was nothing more than olive oil and vinegar.

It is hard for a menopausal woman to find anything cool enough to wear in this heat, especially when, as I do, you prefer to cover your arms. So I thank heavens for the investment I made in Hobbs nearly 20 years. A two-layer black linen shift dress, a blue linen balloon dress that floats away from the body, a white linen Nehru jacket and three long, linen split-back jackets have been worn again and again, including today to go out for our anniversary meal (18 years, since you ask).

Linen is really the only thing that will do in this weather, unless your budget stretches to hemp, bamboo or ramie. And a single layer of linen at that - the thought of anything more than one layer thick gives me the heebies at the moment. Cotton is hopeless, as it takes your sweat and holds it against your body, and normal clothing like jeans and t-shirts is purgatory in the heat. This weather calls for long, loose layers. 

Since the heatwave struck, when at home I've been living in kimono - whisper-thin cotton yukata or the 'usumono' summer silks called Ro and Sha. Sha is rather like organza and stands away from the body, while Ro is a cool, slippery silk in a leno weave - full of rows of thousands of tiny holes that allow the air to pass through.

The Japanese endure hot and humid summers, so they know a thing or two about staying cool. Because women's kimono are cut with a large opening under the arm and at the back of the sleeve, they allow a free passage of air to your underarm area, while the thickly folded collar protects your vulnerable neck and throat from the sun.

After kimono, which you just wrap to fit you, wearing Western clothing seems very restrictive, but today for lunch out, I opted for the Hobbs balloon dress in pale blue linen, topped with the long white Nehru jacket (not knowing if we would be in shade or sun, the density of linen was a better bet than anything too thin) and it was perfect.

Lately I've also been wearing a copy I made of this dress many years ago in pintucked chambray, light as a feather. And so hot has it been that I'm thinking of copying it again, possibly in some sari silk I have indoors, which is so thin it's almost not there. These dresses have the distinct advantage in this weather of dropping straight from the shoulders to the hem, not touching the body at all due to an unusual cut.

On Tuesday, for our writers group meeting, I also turned to Hobbs, to a denim-blue wrap linen sundress with another unusual cut that wraps from back to front and buttons, then front to back and ties. Worn with a short white jacket/shirt in linen with pintucks at the shoulders, I felt as cool as a cucumber. Today, however, even the thought of something wrapped around my waist is a no-no.

On Wednesday I wore a djellabah I made some years ago from striped handwoven cotton. It faded in the wash and I dyed it navy, which brought out the beautiful grain of the fabric. Again, a djellabah is a very cool garment, designed with front and back sections that push the fabric away from the body and allow cooling air to rise from the hem to the neckline.  

Night-time is always tricky in a sweltering summer, but currently it finds me in a silk ro kimono that I altered many years ago by putting loose ties at the waist. It is the perfect thing for sleeping in - completely wicking and cool in our attic bedroom. It's been about 30 degrees when we go to bed, dropping to around 24 by morning - rather hot for sleeping, so I'm not looking forward to next week in that regard, as temperatures rise even further. 



Clothes stash - blue Pirouette dress from Wall

I like this dress so much I bought it in two colours.

Pirouette dress from Wall London

My latest Wall purchase arrived today, back-ordered from a batch of things I picked up recently. 

I bought the same dress from fave company Wall London a month ago in dark red and when it arrived, I liked it so much I logged straight back on and got it in this blue-grey shade. This is one of my signature colours - almost the exact colour of my eyes (and as we all know, don't we girls, a third of your wardrobe should be in your eye colour).  

I love this dress for several reasons. First and foremost, as must immediately strike any over-40s babe, it's got SLEEVES. Why don't more manufacturers offer dresses with sleeves? Well, cost, mainly. It takes quite a lot of fabric to make the average sleeve because of the depth of the armscye (the bit that goes in your armpit). If you ever have the chance to make your own clothes, the shape of what you might have thought was a tube might come as rather a surprise - it's far wider at the shoulder end than you might imagine, so costs the manufacturer about an extra two yards of fabric per garment (for a long sleeve) - all of which cost will be passed onto you, the customer. 

The second reason I love this dress is the massive cowl. It is just huge, like something off a monk's habit, which makes it drape in an extremely flattering way. Cowls by other manufacturers no longer suffice - for me, it has to be Wall. As you can see, it's almost the width of the shoulders on this garment - a very very generous cut, and its weight means you can drape it wide, long and narrow, let it fall to the back or even pull it up over your head. 

The third reason is the smooth, thick, heavy cotton jersey fabric - hand-picked long-staple Pima cotton from Peru, cultivated in Fair Trade conditions, with a proportion of the profits going back to benefit the producers. And because it's cotton, it's easy to wash at home, and there's no ironing involved, thus cutting my carbon footprint massively.

And the fourth reason is the cut, with its elegant fall at the sides and flattering waist seam, and a skirt length and width that enables me to sit cross-legged, or with my legs in front of me without feeling self-conscious. 

I have never been disappointed with a garment from Wall. They are beautiful, classic, slightly unusual and arty clothes for women with brains as well as bodies.

As I negotiate what sometimes feels increasingly like a fashion minefield of garments that are unsuitable because they are too short, or sleeveless, or frumpy, or badly cut, Wall stands like a beacon of elegance that gives me hope that as I trundle towards 50 and beyond, I might actually still be able to find something to wear. 


Wall preview

I've been in conversation with my favourite clothing label.

Jessica dress from Wall

I was having an email conversation with Wall London the other day and they have pointed me at a couple of dresses from their new summer catalogue, which isn't out for a couple of weeks yet. Check them out - the Jessica in both long and short, with interesting cut-outs at the neckline. These have my name written all over them. 

Jessica short

The reason we were in touch was I'd received my first haul of clothes from the company on Thursday and worn the first of the new dresses - the 'Pirouette' dress in the red umber colourway - out to our monthly book club meeting.

This strong red is new for me - in the days when I had dyed black hair, I could wear scarlet, but since returning to my natural blonde, I normally stick to 'spring' shades like baby pink and baby blue. But both the colour and the dress itself garnered a lot of compliments, even from my normally immune husband, who said I looked 'very elegant'.  

pirouette dress

I loved the actual wearing of the dress too: heavy, swirling, substantial jersey with a great drape, a comfortable and becoming cut, pockets (thank you Wall) and a draping cowl neck that not only flatters my substantial bustline (to my surprise - I always think of cowls as too bulky but this one is deep and fluid) but can also be worn as a hood, Valentina-style. This will be in my wardrobe until it falls to bits.

I logged back onto Wall to get it again in grey (a choice I'd only subsituted for the red at the last minute) but sadly it was no longer available, but I did buy the Lantern dress in black, along with a skirt (in teal) and cowl-neck top that I hope will go together to make an outfit.

Then I emailed the company and suggested a few ideas about their range: that it would be nice to see the Lantern and the Pirouette again next winter, in different shades; that the Issy dress would be great with sleeves for winter; that the cowl neck top might also work well as a longer tunic; that the pleat-front dress would also be nice in a longer length; that the gored dress - on me - was too wide at the neck and showed my bra straps so would be better with a v-neck, and that pockets on any dress are very welcome.  

To my surprise, they emailed back to say thanks for the feedback and also for the coverage on this blog, and so we fell into a short exchange of emails whereby my ideas are being referred up to design level (and one or two, they'd already put into production, oddly enough, so we are clearly on the same wavelengh). Well ooh err.

It's nice to get such responsiveness from a company and it also serves to remind that it's a two-way street. Companies need feedback from us too, and the more that we do that, the better are our chances of actually getting the kind of goods that we want.  


Summer yukata

If you fancy something a bit alternative this summer, check out the delights of yukata

yukataTemperatures are back to 'normal' in France the past couple of days - a bit lower than normal, actually - but we had been basking in a heatwave for a while this past week or so.

Thirty-degree heat for days on end gave me the opportunity to rediscover the delights of wearing yukata.

Yukata are a form of Japanese kimono that are worn as bathrobes, sometimes for sleeping, and for casual wear in spa resorts and at the coast. Made usually from cotton, though sometimes hemp, and often in the colourway blue and white, they are the most wonderful, comfortable, airy garments you could imagine. Japan has a hot, humid climate in summer and the Japanese know a thing or two about how to keep cool.

yukataI have a sizeable collection of vintage kimono, but until now, only two yukata - one in polycotton, a gift from a friend, and the one shown above, in a cotton 'ro' - a fabric woven with thousands of tiny holes that look like hemstitching and allow air to pass right through (see bottom picture).

Having lived in these for a couple of days, along with a silk ro kimono that was almost equally cool, I splashed out on three new ones - two worn vintage and one overstock from a shop clearance. I've always wanted a yellow yukata (the one above was 10 dollars); the floral one below (four dollars) is just gorgeous and has these lovely curved sleeves, and the stencilled one (99 cents) is in cotton Ro for maximum coolth. 

Floral  yukataCotton ro kimonoOne of the reasons yukata are so comfortable in the heat is that - as with all genuine women's kimono - they are open under the arms. From where the sleeve meets the side body, the body is open for about eight inches, and the back of the sleeve is also open to the wrist. This is to prevent the kimono from binding when you wear a deep obi sash, but it also allows the free passage of air where you would otherwise be the most sweaty.

Sha kimono with yabaneKimono are traditionally worn wrapped left over right (in Japan, only corpses wear them wrapped right over left), but since I'm a westerner I feel no need to uphold tradition in this way, and I wrap mine right over left because it feels more natural to me. I hitch up the overlength, sash it with a narrow cord around the waist, drape the rest freely around the hips and sash it closed around the waist with a long silk scarf. I close the neckline with a brooch.  

stencilThe kimono at right, with the long sleeves is a different kind of summer kimono - silk gauze, known as 'sha'. This stiff, transparent, featherweight silk stands away from the body rather like silk organza, so it feels like you're wearing nothing at all. Sha silk kimono are far more formal than cotton yukata, and in Japan would always be worn over an underkimono, but since I work from home, I wear mine as yukata. Nothing is more comfortable when you're working at a desk all day. 

You might think that the sleeves of kimono would get in the way, but personally I don't find this. The shorter, curved sleeves stay out of the way, while the longer sleeves can be tucked into the side body when you're working, or tied back with a cord.

male yukataThe big surprise is to see how addicted the DH has now become to kimono. Back in the winter I suggested that he wear a wool 'juban' - a kind of underkimono - as a top layer, and he found it so comfortable that he now practically lives in it, swishing around the house from morning to night. So I've just ordered him a yukata as well - this 1950s number in splashy cotton.  Note the different shape of the sleeves - indicating a man's style. The side body and sleeve are also closed, for those of you who prefer to be more covered up. 


No documents found.