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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.  



Fashion splurge

Well, clothes more than fashion, but you get my drift.

Eddy Base layer Something miraculous happened to me the other day - I got paid. It's been a long time. 

I think I last got paid before Christmas. Or between Christmas and New Year. A long time ago anyway. It's all a long and complicated story to do with a company takeover and a change of invoice system, etc, and then my invoice not being processed, but one way or another I was without income for several months.

Usefully, it gave me the opportunity to think about what I most needed in my wardrobe. Given that I lead a practical life, mostly in jeans and tees, boots and sweaters, I have decided to up my game a little and elevate my basics rather than buying more formal clothes that I end up never wearing. 

Elena bootFirst and foremost was boots. With my hopeless, poorly feet, I am on the hunt for knee-length boots (to go with skirts) that are either flat or have up to a 1in heel, riding-boot style, but in colours. There's the rub. I fancy red and purple and teal, etc, in leather or suede, but nearly all flat boots seem to be in black or brown, and coloured boots have heels I can't walk in. But most of all, they must have a thick, comfortable sole, so I can walk about without feeling like The Little Mermaid.

"Why not try DMs?" said the DH one day, as I was whingeing on again about the lack of comfortable footwear for women.

I must admit, DMs had never crossed my mind. I still think of them more as skinhead gear than as anything a respectable person would wear, though I remember my old friend Charlotte wore nothing else back in the 90s. 

I did a search for Doc Martens and quickly came up with the Elena boot from Brit Boot. This was the only stockist that still had my size (6, to wear with socks), and I fretted they would be gone by the time I had enough money to buy any, but yesterday, oh joy, I found they were still there, and £168 later, they were mine.

Ouch. I have never paid so much for boots before, but comfortable footwear is becoming such a necessity that it's time to stump up. I got them in teal, which was the colour I wanted, but in any case, the other colours were gone. The sole is a little obvious for me, so next month I'll be trying the DM Haley boot, which doesn't get as positive write-ups but is a little neater in appearance. 

Eddy base layer Next up, a couple of teeshirts I've had my eye on for ages. Our brown, acidic well water not only stains everything rust-coloured, it actually eats cellulose fibres such as cotton and linen alive. Wool, silk and microfibre cope much better in our water, so I went on a hunt for wool teeshirts, should such a thing exist.

The Eddy baselayer from fair trade UK company Finisterre is made from merino wool from rare-breed British sheep that are non-mulesed. At £45 for a tee, they are whoppingly more expensive than I would normally pay, but I hope they will last much better than my simple cotton tees. They also, apparently, have the advantage of being wearable for days without picking up any sweaty smells - a lot of people seem to wear them for trekking as they can be worn day after day without washing.

lace boxerstaupe vest

Next, to undies. My sis bought me some great, comfy boy-shorts from M&S for Xmas that actually come up to your waist and hug your arse without heading straight up your crack and sawing you in half, so I logged back onto the site to look for similar pants in other finishes. I plumped for these lace ones and similar cotton ones (the patterned ones I wanted weren't available in my size) and while I was at it, I bought a bunch of vests, leavened a little by lace edges.

In summer, when I'm not wearing a dress, I like a cotton cardi or blouse over a vest, so this bit of lace detailing, I hope, will lift my basics a little and help me to be less bored with my daily uniform.

Velveteen trousersponte trousers

And finally this month - it is finally, as it's nearly April and I just dropped 400 euros on more wood for the endless winter we seem to be having - I logged onto Lands' End and got a couple of pairs of velveteen trousers in a jeans cut, along with their ponte jersey trousers (because I had a coupon). I haven't tried proper trousers from Lands' End before, so it will be interesting to see what they're like. 


New boots and panties

Oddly enough, I seem to have both...

Burgundy FlyFlots

Every January I try to decide what I really need from my wardrobe and makeup in the coming year.

I will be 50 in the spring, and I feel that my style, such as it is, is condensing ever more tightly: clean lines, knit skirts, stretch trousers, block colours and a bit of vintage interest.

However, I'm pretty well catered for in my daily uniform of long-sleeved tees, jeans, cashmere knitwear and winter fleeces. What constitutes my principal, over-riding sartorial problem is shoes. 

Footwear has become a bloody nightmare over the past few years, as I can find very little I can actually walk in. Not only do I seem to have absolutely no padding in the soles of my feet any more, so I feel every step as a jarring pain, especially down the outer edges of my feet and in my second toes, I am also plagued with surgical scars on my left sole. And wearing Crocs, as advised by my podiatrist, means my feet have spread.

Heels above 2in are now out of the question, but it is very hard to find heels under 3in, and many flats are just too flat - a 1.5in heel is about perfect, but they seem so very hard to find. The soles on women's shoes are normally paper thin, so you can feel every grain of sand on the pavement, so I now need thicker soles, and I also need support from my shoes - something that actually grips and supports the foot (you know, like MEN wear every bloody day without even thinking twice about it).

Dainty little shoes like ballet slippers are no use at all and even my Lands' End loafers are only good for short periods, as the heel is too low and there is no way of tightening the shoe across the foot in order to provide support. I feel brogues heading my way...

The only shoes I now feel really comfortable in are my Aigle wellies, Ecco trainers, Trex walking boots, Crocs and Fly Flot sandals, which have a shock-absorbing conformable sole. All very well, but - other than the sandals, which are fine for summer - what does one wear with a dress?

It looks to me very much like I am about to have a complete change of style and become that dress-with-biker-boots chick I've never been in my life, dammit.

Turquoise suede knee boots

The thing is, I crave girly boots like this green pair, which have been my best boots for a fair few years now. They're everything I love - suede, coloured, pointy toed, stiletto heeled. The only problem is, I can't actually walk very far in them any more. They're fine for car to bar but utterly useless for anything over a few minutes walking. 

What I would like now is something styled like this but with a cushioned sole and a lower heel or a wedge. And affordable, otherwise I'd be heading straight for Arche, but sadly, at $400 a pop, these are way out of my price range.  

So the other day, I bought myself a pair of Fly Flot boots (top right) - far more affordable at about £70 in the sale, including postage (you can take it as a given, btw, that I will not be buying footwear here in France, where it is two or three times UK prices).

Fly Flot, with their conformable soles, are a brand I trust. These little babies in burgundy Portuguese leather can be tightened across the top and I think the shade is kinda pretty and will go with most things, including jeans and my new jersey dresses from Wall. The sole is an Air Function anatomic wedge and the boot gets 4.7 stars on the Pavers website, which is where I ordered from. 

M&S VPL pants

Panties was just something I put in to have a headline, but come to think of it, big sis bought me some pretty near perfect new pants - M&S no VPL low leg full briefs. Laser cut microfibre, a bit of lace, plenty of coverage and they don't head for your bum crack as soon as they're on - just fire and forget. 


Ten top lingerie tips

If you're a male buying lingerie for a female for Valentine's, here's some food for thought

lingerieFollowing on from my pre-Christmas blog on buying lingerie for your girlfriend, a male reader recently asked if I had any further advice for Valentine's Day.

The original tips were:

* Look in your partner's underwear drawer to get an idea of what colour she normally wears.

* Think about what style she - as opposed to you - likes.

* Think about her skin tone. 

* Know her size.

And here, after a bit of a think, are 10 more tips.

* 1 Buy something else instead. Lingerie is a very personal thing and most women have two sorts: everyday stretch stuff in black, white and flesh colour, and sexy stuff. If you buy her the former, she'll think it's boring, and if you buy her the latter, you're telling her how to express her sexuality, which is a no-no.  Instead, get her a beautiful nightgown or dressing gown or scarf, or chocolates, or dinner out, perfume etc. (And if you get perfume, don't get her what your ex used to wear just because you liked it). 

* 2 Never, never, never buy a woman shapewear of any kind unless she specifically asks for it. 

black print lingerie* 3 Camisoles and slips are nearly foolproof and so are nighties (except baby dolls) - most women will appreciate a pretty camisole, a slip or a nightie with a matching negligee. Unless it's see-through - in which case, you've boobed again. All of the slips shown on this page are from Figleaves and are sexy without being sleazy. Buying this kind of clothing also mean you don't have to worry so much about bra size or degree of push-up - she wears the same size in a slip or nightie as she does in a dress.

* 4 Buy silk lingerie. Many women don't treat themselves to this kind of luxury.

* 5 Listen to her. Does she complain that thongs cut her in half? Does she complain that lace itches? Not much point in buying her a lacy thong then, is there?

pink lingerie* 6 Buy her a voucher to spend at Figleaves, Victoria's Secret, Agent Provocateur or somesuch. The thought really counts, and you're not telling her what to get. If their prices make you wince, try British Home Stores - it has a fantastic lingerie department.

* 7 Leave lingerie advertising lying around and see what she says. Or, gazing at an Aubade ad, say whether you like it and see what her reaction is. PS: don't try this trick with Playboy...

* 8 Note what she wears on her top half, especially colour and transparency. There's no point at all in buying a coloured bra for a woman who lives in white blouses. 

* 9 Buy something she can wear outside the bedroom. If she can't, it's really a present for you...

* 10 Take it down a notch. If you like her in red, buy rose pink. If you like her in black, buy silver grey.  If you like see-through, buy something with lots of lace. Above all, buy a print - hookers don't wear prints.


Knicker tips for the clueless

Peter Jones has set up a men-only section in its lingerie department to help the guys sort the boyshorts from the thongs

Did you know that every major lingerie range brings out a black and red bra for Christmas?

No, neither did I. 

The customers they're aiming at, apparently, are clueless men, who at this time of year, high-tail it to the department stores at the last minute to get something for the wife or girlfriend. 

A red bra, points out Peter Jones saleswoman in this promo video on the Guardian site, will be worn by very few women, as it's not a practical colour.

I must be an exception here, though, because most of my bras are brightly coloured. Living, as I do, a rather grubby life, constantly covered in mud, soot and dog hair, my outer clothes all have to be dark or they're completely ruined in five minutes. I pretty much live in black, chocolate brown, khaki and various shades of taupe, beige and denim blue.

But to make up for it, my bra drawer is zinging, with bras in red, yellow, green, coral, shocking pink, black, white, lemon, sugar pink and lilac. They all go perfectly well under a black t-shirt, if you ask me - a white blouse is something in my dim and distant past...

The Guardian video highlights the Peter Jones department store, which has set up a men-only section this Christmas, where - it is hoped - men will not feel intimidated and can get some advice. The saleswoman featured says men get three things wrong:

* Size

* Colour

* Level of sleaze. 

So here's a clue, guys: crotchless knickers, boned basques, Santa Outfits and knickers with cartoon characters aren't generally women's cup of tea.

She then adds several tips:

* Look in your partner's undie drawer to get an idea of what colour she normally wears.

* Think about what style of undies she - as opposed to you - likes.

* Think about her skin tone. 

* Know her size.

Happy shopping, fellas. Still one day left to get it right. 



Elila knickers available in Europe

As you may know if you read this blog, I have been trying to chase down a particular pair of pants for some time now - well I've finally found them.

Boyshorts have changed style in the past five years. This is the kind of thing that drives me nuts in fashion. I know why it's happened too - it saves the manufacturers money.

To thong or not to thong

Check out this mid-life take on thongs. Made me laugh, anyway.

"first of all it is important to put the thong on with the wide part in front. if you don't, and many have made this mistake, you will, i promise you, get far more than you bargained for...."