Fashion & Style

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Good and bad buys of 2013

You win some, you lose some.

Wall wrap top

Well, with the new year upon us, I thought I'd give a brief roundup of my fashion fails (and successes) in 2013. 

I'm planning a bourse for later this month, which should help to reduce my wardrobe a little, though now that I'm costuming short films, I also need to put things aside for that.

But for myself, my wardrobe is becoming ever-trimmer - mainly pull-on straight-leg pants, merino teeshirts and various top layers. 

In the spring, looking at my buying log (yes, I'm a nerd) it seems that I focused mainly on underwear, buying camisoles from M&S and various types of knickers. The knickers were mostly a disaster, other than my go-to pants, the Sloggi full brief. Europe's best-selling knickers, apparently, which made me feel a bit better about their hideous frumpiness. I now have about 10 pairs of these, in white, black and bright colours for a bit of cheer - great knickers, which are smooth, comfy and which don't climb up your butt crack as you move around. 

In the spring I also bought the first of my Eddy tees, which are now the staple tee in my wardrobe. They have the perfect neckline, a lovely skinny fit and the fine, dense merino fabric is a joy to wear. I've bought one whenever I could afford one (they're £45) and now have half a dozen. 

Other purchases were much less successful: I bought several pairs of trousers from Lands' End that I had to send back as the fit on every pair was hopeless; some of the camisoles from M&S were OK and I wear them a lot, but others, in lace, have remained unworn, and two were such odd shapes on me that I gave them to a friend's daughter. The lace knickers I got from M&S were utterly hopeless. I also repeatedly tried to order boots, without success at all, unable to find any wide enough in the calf to get up my sturdy swimmer's legs. 

seersucker dress

In the summer, I had a little splurge on dresses. The style that suits me best is vintage - a very shaped v-neck dress with a small waist and a full, A-line skirt. This seersucker Thelma Ritter-style shirtwaist could have been designed on my body, it fits so well. It has little shoulder pads made from the same fabric and I just love the clever use of stripes. A blue and brown shirtwaist I also bought is lighter in weight, in fine, crisp cotton and I also bought loosecut linen dresses from Orvis, which are very different - a blue one is superb quality in thick, heavy linen with a lovely drape, while a pink one is much lighter weight. I like both of them, though, and in the August heat, they proved invaluable as, having sleeves, they could be worn without a cardigan, giving that lovely feeling of having only one layer of clothing between you and the outside world. 

In the summer sales, I also stocked up on basic winter items, such as a poloneck fleece and fleece trousers from Lands' End, winter snow boots (bought the wrong size, like an idiot) and winter walking boots. The boots are fab but there's no point in showing them here, nor the trainers I bought, as they've been discontinued. They are, however, the footwear I wear on a daily basis, as my feet are now very painful with plantar fasciitis.

Orvis jumper dress

I also bought a couple of Orvis jumper dresses, thinking to wear them over a poloneck sweater in winter, but they turned out to be hopelessly frumpy. If I ever want to channel my inner Amish girl, they might come in handy, but otherwise, into the costume pile they go. And a wrap linen dress from Hobbs, and a blue linen jacket from Adini both ended up with my friend M, having proved way too big for me to wear, due to poor descriptions by Ebay vendors. 

Autumn found me buying merino vests and leggings from Finisterre in anticipation of winter. The vests are fabulous and I've worn them to death - slim-fitting, long and very comfortable. The leggings, not so much - too short in the rise by half, so I won't buy those again. I also bought a few pieces from Wall, such as the wrap top at top left, in my usual cotton jersey, and was able to enjoy wearing them before the temperatures dropped enough to make cotton an unattractive proposition. Wall is my go-to brand for 'posh' now. Among the items I got (a tenner on Ebay) was a pair of charcoal fine wool trousers, lined to the knee, tailored, with an elasticated waist and side zip. These have proved incredibly useful - they go with a nice Eddy tee and cashmere cardi for lunch outings, and can be topped with a sparkly cardi or urushi haori for evening. They are completely uncreasable and I've worn them for nearly every event over the Christmas season, as well as for trips into town. 

Dorothy Perkins boots

I also bought some boots in the autumn, as well as reheeling and resoling my existing 1990s boots at massive expense. Successes include a pair of burgundy leather mid-calf boots from Hogl and a turquoise suede pair from Rockport. Disasters include a brown suede pair from Monsoon, a burgundy suede pair from Dorothy Perkins and a black leatherette pair from Ebay, all of which proved way too tight on the apple of the calf, due to my gastrocnemius being too well developed. I have now given up on long boots altogether unless I can actually try them on - and at French prices, that will mean waiting a long time, as I doubt I'd find anything under 200 euros in this neck of the woods, even if I could find any wide enough. 

Aran Crafts merino sweater

Late autumn found me on holiday and thus able to enjoy the rare experience of buying something in an actual shop rather than online. Having saved my pennies, I jumped on this beautiful hooden aran cardigan from Irish firm Aran Crafts (the DH bought it for me in the end), and a brilliant wool and fleece toque-style hat from Armor-Lux, which I've lived in ever since. I also bought a new Armor-Lux tee in grey and black stripe, to wear in the spring. Armor-Lux tees are a big investment at 55 euros a pop, and I haven't bought one for two years. For daily wear, though, I've found the Essential Crewneck Tee from Boden to be very good - I bought three of their grey ones in the summer, and tried to buy more recently, but found they were out of stock. A shame, as I loathe summer-weight tees and prefer my cotton to be substantial. 

Oxford collar cardi

Come winter, I bought myself a cardigan I've had my eye on for a long time - this long, Oxford-collar lambswool cardigan from Woolovers (but in black). It ticked all the right boxes: long, pockets, pearl buttons, etc, and I thought would prove a good replacement for my ageing grey cashmere boyfriend cardigan, which is now about 15 years old. It was a disaster. Not only was the fabric rough and the cut very roomy, on the following day I broke out in a rash around my neck that has taken weeks to heal - I'm guessing something like formaldehyde on the surface. I've since washed the garment twice and aim to do it twice more before risking wearing it again.  

Chastened by this experience, I headed back once again to Finisterre. This small, niche company has been the principal beneficiary of my spending this year, not in terms of items but in terms of money, as each piece is relatively expensive. I've bought the Eddy tee in black, grey, beige, jade, blue and pink; the Eddy longline in pink (wish I'd bought grey, as a more useful colour); the new Fiske heavyweight tee in navy (should have gone down a size); the Fiske hoody in teal; a man's Portland Henley in burgundy (hideous on me - will have to dye it grey); vests, leggings and even Portland men's boxers in merino (fabulously comfortable). 

At the close of the year, I bought more thermals - the 200 zip-neck top and leggings in red, from Swedish specialist Woolpower, which are merino woolmix with a towellette-weave inner surface, fantastic for bitter weather. Of course, following that, it's been mild and our alterations to the house have made it the warmest we've ever been, so I haven't worn the leggings at all (in fact, I'm not wearing thermals this winter, which is unheard-of). But there they are, for a rainy, or vicious day, just waiting to embrace me with their woolly softness. 

Leopardskin coatTeal velvet vintage coat

And finally, ahead of the party season, I went for some new coats (well, new vintage). This velvet leopard print with black collar and cuffs, is fabulously chic and has gorgeous buttons; my second purchase, a golden corduroy that looked great in the photos was a hideous mess in real life and turned out to be shabby and frumpy - in an almost unprecendented step, I sent it back to the vendor despite the high cost of postage; but the third, this deep teal velvet, is really lovely and almost psychogically replaces my old green one which my psycho ex-boyfriend destroyed 30 years ago. 




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Costuming a movie

I've just been doing the costumes for our second movie, Albert.

Here in France, a group of us have got together and begun making short films under the company name Zolascope. Our first, Impasse, is currently in post-production, and last week, we shot our second, Albert.

Since everyone knows me as a fashion-wallah, I get to do the costumes and makeup for the movies. It's great fun doing costumes because you're telling a silent story, but of course there's no budget, so I have to scrounge what I can out of my wardrobe and everyone else's. 

There were only two characters for Albert (other than an out-of-focus 'visitor' at the very end), so costuming was easier than for Impasse

The Woman
Minnie Lott, who played The Woman, is a vivacious and stylish lady in real life, given to elegant shift dresses and pretty shoes, so my main task was to make her look dowdy. After discussion, we had decided that the character was a 'good woman', possibly Christian, tending to her brother out of duty rather than love, and that she was probably a widow, which meant Minnie could keep her ring on.

We therefore dressed her as a woman who had basically given up trying: frumpy and shapeless.

Minnie's wardrobe proved  unsuitable for this - even the clothes she'd bought specially for gardening were too elegant - but in my wardrobe we found a rather battered Aran cardigan made for me by my late mother in law and a 1960s tweed skirt that I bought many years ago to make a cushion cover and never got round to cutting up. The fabric is beautiful but makes a very stiff garment.

Minnie found an olive green blouse, a cross and chain, thick brown tights and Ugg-style boots so that she could clump around the place.

We also decided that the character should wear a coat and once again my wardrobe came to the rescue with a vintage Burberry raincoat in navy nylon - beautifully made but hopelessly frumpy. We also added a fleece gilet underneath to layer up Minnie's naturally slim figure.

Albert-32-woman-watchingThe pièce de résistance, however, was a hat - Minnie has her hair cut in a sleek grey bob that looked healthy and swingy no matter what we did with it, so we had to cover it up entirely. Some years ago I commissioned a number of beanies from a local knitter. We tried several Aran and cableknit versions of these in shades of grey, but they created a strobe effect under lighting, so we settled on a beige chenille one that had a flatter finish. It's meant to be worn with a rolled brim, and looks quite cute this way, but pulled well down over Minnie's ears, and with her hair tucked up and out of the way, it suddenly aged her 20 years, much to her chagrin and our amusement. "You're mean," she said. "You're enjoying this!"

IMG_0107Next came the makeup. In colour tests we tried a white-faced makeup but it was too noticeable in close-up, so we went in the other direction and made Minnie's complexion blotchy by dotting scarlet lipstick onto her cheeks and blending it in slightly.

I used a pink lipliner as kohl on her lower inner eyelids, to give her red-rimmed eyes, after which Minnie looked in the mirror and exclaimed in dismay: "You've turned me into my mother!!" I also brushed her eyebrows downwards - the exact opposite of what you'd do normally, and added a few downward-pointing hairs.

I then covered Minnie's lip-line with foundation to disappear her lips and make them look smaller and  asked her to apply a slightly 'wrong' orangey and out-of-date lipstick without looking in the mirror, so the line would be a bit haphazard.

As a face powder, to create a slightly chalky, unhealthy effect, I used a lilac powder from Shu Uemura, which is applied with a brush. We also used this as a top-up powder during the shoot to prevent shine under the lights.

The Woman would probably only wear lipstick and powder, being a lady of a certain age, but we still used mascara for the shoot because - as Michael Caine once said in a masterclass - if you don't wear mascara in a movie, you might as well be in a radio play.

After all this treatment, Minnie not only looked like her mother, she looked startlingly like mine, who was given to kilts and corduroy jackets on a 'smart' day.  It's interesting to note that Minnie did feel at the end of a day of all this dowdiness that it affected her sense of herself and made her feel older. "It does make you feel differently about yourself," she said. 

IMG_0081The costume for John Hallam, who plays Brian had to indicate a man who might be ill with a disease such as Alzheimer's. John himself, however, like Minnie, is very elegant, usually dressing in fine quality knitwear and scarves and carrying beautiful soft leather accessories. He therefore didn't own a jumper or cardigan that were baggy and disreputable enough, but Clare, the director, pinched one off her husband and John teamed this with multiple layers of t-shirts (to be honest, they were a bit pristine, but it was too late to do anything about that). John pulled the cardigan forward over one shoulder, giving himself a hunch.

IMG_0097John also provided black pyjama trousers (we had decided that Brian would be only half-dressed, with his cardi over his nightwear) and he also hit on the idea of white long-johns underneath, with the long-johns showing on one leg. This was a brilliant idea, though it did cause some continuity problems as the pyjamas refused to stay put and had to be constantly tucked back in and checked. As footwear, we used a pair of thick sheepskin slippers that John could shuffle about in.

We used no makeup on John other than lilac powder on his face and head to prevent shine under the lights, which had to be reapplied frequently.

The Visitor
Albert-44-visitorThe final character - The Visitor - was a last-minute decision and I stepped into fill the role. We shot it once and then realised that the dark cardigan I was wearing made the teapot in the final shot less noticeable, so I changed the cardigan for a light-coloured jacket that we'd brought as a prop and didn't use. It's actually a man's jacket and is huge, but since the whole thing is out of focus anyway, the shape and fit were unimportant, and also no makeup was required.






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Outdoor gear

My outdoor gear is really my favourite sort of clothing, when fashion gives way to function.

Stadium Squall coat

I'm fresh back from a holiday and photographic trip to Brittany and thought I'd do a quick blog about how our outdoor clothes performed.

We were rambling, out in the rain, wind, blustery weather - sometimes coldish at 2 degrees, sometimes warm at a ridiculous (for November) 17 degrees. On the Atlantic coast, you're pretty exposed to gales, and it's always windy, even on a fine day, so you need to dress snugly, and we were mainly on the beach and the coastal path, though also in town, so didn't want to look too grungy. 

Deciding what clothes to take in such a changeable environment is always a little tricky. We're out all day and can't pop back to the house, and I'm also never sure how easy it will be to get things dry in the gite, but after years of doing this, I've got my uniform pretty well sorted out - I take fewer clothes every year and this year only took a kit bag. 

Undies were an Ahh bra and Sloggi full briefs, so you can just put on your clothes and forget about them. The great thing about the Sloggis is that they don't budge - when you're in multiple layers, you don't want to be endless picking your knickers out of your butt crack. For socks, I wore the Woodlander from Corrymoor - a long, mid-weight merino sock. I took along my Explorers too but it wasn't cold enough to wear them, though I did wear my spare pair of Companions (like the Woodlander but shorter) on one day. Aired overnight and alternated, you can keep two pairs of Corrymoors going almost indefinitely, as they're naturally antibacterial.  

The big change for me this year was my thermals. In the past I've relied on the Five Seasons ClimateControl thermals, either the Superwoman set or the Adini set. I now have eight of these, and wear them very often at home in winter, as our house is a bit chilly. One issue when travelling, however, is that they're slow to dry, so washing and wearing is a tad difficult, especially if you're staying somewhere that you can't spin them. My normal method is to handwash, wring out, roll in a towel and stand on it to squeeze the water out, but it does still leave clothes wetter than you'd get in a washing machine and they take a couple of days to dry completely. Therefore you'd need at least three to get through a week. 

Zephyr vest

This year, however, was my first winter holiday wearing merino underwear and base layers from Finisterre, and I have to say they were bloody fabulous. I wore the Zephyr vest under the Eddy tee, and I was as snug as a bug. No sweating, no overheating, no chill. On one day, I wore a Five Seasons top instead and lived to regret it, as I felt sweaty all day. The Five Seasons are great if you're not exerting yourself, but if you're sweating inside them, they don't wick as well as the merino.

Using the merino also meant that I could take fewer clothes. I took two vests and alternated them, but they didn't need washing all week, and I also alternated two tees, favouring the grey one. Washed out in the evening, they were almost dry by the next morning, even just left on a rack over the bath.  

On my lower half, I stuck to Five Seasons longjohns, as my Zephyr merino leggings hadn't arrived by the time we left. These worked just fine and I didn't need the spare pair I took in case the first pair got wet.  

Craghoppers microfleece

On top of the thermals, I wore a Craghoppers half-zip microfleece, mainly a grey Fusion (no longer made) men's fleece with a zip pocket on the front (incredibly handy for tissues, though it's designed for an MP3 player). I also took along a women's Miska microfleece in a lovely bright jade but quickly realised this bright colour is not the thing to wear when you're pee'ing behind bushes on the coastal path. Therefore when we got home I quickly bought, on Ebay, a taupe-coloured Craghopper's microfleece with a zip pocket on the sleeve, which will hopefully render me a bit less conspicuous. I will also always, from now on, wear fleeces with a zip pocket - they are incredibly handy. 

The half-zip fleeces do leave you a bit exposed at the neckline, and I found a Heavenly fleece scarf from Lands' End very useful when I wasn't wearing a balaclava. A fleece scarf is a useful beast on holiday - not the most stylish of garments, but it keeps you warm even when wet, and is never itchy.  

For trousers, I stuck to two pairs (the second pair 'just in case') of Crivit walking trousers from Lidl. These are great things - a tough, stretchy, slightly rubberised-feeling fabric, showerproof, elastic waist, and with extra leg pleats so you can bend your knees easily. One pair have zip-up pockets and also a zip pocket on the leg, so I mostly wore these - it's crucial that when you sit down, you don't lose your house keys... 

I also took along my lovely Craghopper thermal Kiwi trousers with built-in fleece lining, but I cannot get on at all with these pants. They are totally the wrong cut for my shape, which is a huge shame - too tight at the front over my pot belly, way loose at the back, very uncomfortable for travelling in, though just about bearable for walking. I'm gutted. My DH lives in his Kiwis each and every day - with their brushed fabric and eight pockets, he finds them the perfect garment but they don't suit me at all. 

Land's end boots

For shoes, I wore winter walking boots from Land's End (now discontinued but other styles are available). These were fantastically comfortable, waterproof, supportive round the ankle, non-sweaty inside, with a cushioned footbed. Wish I'd bought two pairs... My only other outdoor footwear was my trusty Aigle neoprene-lined wellies, which are about 15 years old now and still going strong. Long may they last, because a new pair would be nearly 200 euros. I also took along Uggs for wearing indoors and some lighter weight trekking shoes, which I didn't wear.

I took three coats but only really wore one - the Lands' End Stadium Squall coat in black (top left). This is a longish coat in tough nylon, with loads of big pockets, which kept me dry even in Brittany's occasional torrential rains. It's perfect, as it says, for squally, blustery weather. It's fleece-lined in the upper half and sleeves, then has quilted padding on the lower half (in a really cold wind, however, you can feel the difference - the lower half is not so snug), and it also has a decent fleece-lined hood. The handy two-way zip meant it didn't get in the way on steep sections, and I liked that it was long enough to sit down in, whereas the DH had to take off his Squall Parka to avoid getting a wet bum. 

I also took along (all from Lands' End) a down gilet, fleece-lined waterproof gilet (discontinued), Squall Parka and Sunshower Parka, and wore all of them, but really didn't need them - I could have managed with the Squall Stadium alone. Also, all these items are bright, screaming yellow, which I find useful for dog-walking, especially in low light, but I wish in retrospect that I'd bought them in darker colours, as I could always wear a high-vis vest.  

A cheap fleece balaclava from Intersports, a corduroy bucket hat from Lands' End and fleece-lined gloves from Lidl completed my usual daily ensemble, while to relax in, and for travelling home, I wore stretch fleece pants and a fleece polo from Lands' End - stretchy, warm, lightweight, comfortable, and still smart enough to get away with as long as you keep the colours dark.

Aran Crafts sweater

The DH, as usual, took too many clothes (far more than me) and those he did take were too warm, especially his Insulated Squall Parka, which has never yet encountered cold enough weather to be feasible. He ended up in fleece longjohns from Regatta, Kiwi trousers from Craghoppers, short-sleeve teeshirts from Lands' End and fleeces from French brands Cap Marine and Lafuma, bought at our favourite shop, Comptoir de la Mer.

The Lafuma top is particularly gorgeous (a present from me) and is in thick marled grey fleece that looks like knit. He hasn't had it off his back since he got it. Meanwhile, he bought me the dream cardigan that I have been searching for for two years - a charcoal merino Aran knit, knee length, with pockets and a hood. A fabulous garment, it's by Irish firm Aran Crafts.








Pink is the new black

Pink coats are apparently the in thing this year, much to the rage of some commentators.

I read with some amusement the other day this article in the Guardian by Hadley Freeman

M&S pink coat

In it she rails against the current fashion for pink coats. I must admit to being blissfully unaware of this trend. Buried here in the French countryside, the fashions, shall we say, are somewhat different from what you might get on a London street. More mud than Mad Men. 

The pink most in favour, though, is rather paler than the one shown here from M&S - more of a flesh pink - and generally has a finish to the fabric that strikes me as very likely to pick up dirt quickly, with its matt surface and unbroken texture. I once had a summer raincoat this colour and it was great, but you could chuck it in the washing machine whenever it got soiled. 

Pink mohair coat

I have a weakness for pink coats. In fact, to my shock, I realise that I currently have six: a magenta silk velvet 1950s swing coat; a screaming magenta Boden moleskin tailored coat; a pale pink tweed coat from Next with slubs of green and blue in the weave; a shocking pink silk coat from 1960s US department store Bullocks, with rhinestone buttons; a magenta 1960s silk and acrylic coat with a red lining that came with a matching dress; and this lipstick pink 1960s bouclé mohair coat (right).

I love all of them. They go brilliantly with black, grey, chocolate brown and colours such as red or burgundy. And yes, whenever I go anywhere, I am always the only person in a pink coat, and yes, I do get a lot of compliments.

God knows, we need some colour in winter. I once sat in the window of a café and counted the colours of the next 100 coats that came by. All but two or three were black, and those that weren't black were navy. God, how depressing is this? Not even a red one? Never mind aubergine, plum, purple, forest green or half a dozen other perfectly practical colours that might have livened up the grisly scene.

Although I have the usual selection of cream, brown and blue coats for when I don't want to draw attention to myself, I do generally prefer to stand out, especially when everything else is so miserable. My favourite winter coat, when we lived in London, was a saffron dressing-gown wrap by Alistair Blair for Jaegar, with black velvet collar and cuffs - a fantastic splash of colour on a grey day. I also have coats in lime green fun fur, emerald tweed, scarlet mohair, burgundy mohair, primrose yellow wool and almost fluorescent orange wool. They are all wonderful for livening the winter mood and they all cost peanuts on Ebay.

So, I am firm in my defence of this year's pink coat from M&S - I hope it sells in the hundreds.  


Thermals on...

It's that time of year again.

finisterre vest

I've succumbed today. 

The DH started wearing his thermals on the 1st, and I decided to hang on a bit longer, but the temperatures didn't rise above 6 degrees yesterday and I began to feel slightly frileuse. Not that I mind being 'frileuse' so much - a girl would rather be frilly than chilly. 

Yesterday, as I walked around town, a cold wind was blowing up my bootcut cords, past my ankle socks and freezing my shins. Mmn, I thought, maybe it's time. For dog-walking, I changed swiftly into my Lands' End Stadium Squall coat (one of my best buys EVER) and that made the wind blowing off the lake far more bearable. 

I have treated myself to some new thermals recently, as I do pretty much every year, though they won't arrive for a while, as my sis will have to send them on from the UK. They are the Zephyr vest and merino longjohns from Finisterre, bought via their Ebay store (last year's colours, half price). In colours such as Rapture Pink, Berry, Teal and Coral (shown), they should liven up getting dressed this winter (and it is, of course, best to wear thermals in warm colours like red and pink, as they keep you warmer).

To be honest, they would be better to wear right now than what I have on - my Adini set of Five Seasons ski base layers, which are a bit much for right now. I've had to turn off the paraffin heater as I'm too hot. Not sure how warm it is in here this morning, but certainly not 20 degrees, at which point the machine would shut off. About 15 degrees, I would guess?

Finisterre leggings

My thermals wardrobe, which when we moved here comprised just one set of merinos from M&S, is now pretty extensive. Half a dozen sets of Climate Control ski base layers from Five Seasons; fleece base layers from Regatta (dirt cheap and very warm - these are what the DH wears); thin silk jersey sets from Winter Silks that are ideal for when you're active, and which double as sleepwear; tight synthetic motorcycling thermals by Crivit from Lidl, which are great for walking and garden, though a bit tight for sitting around in; thick, fluffy angora thermals, also from Lidl, which extend the life of cotton layers into winter; ribbed mulberry silk thermals direct from China via Ebay (a bad buy as they went saggy after a while, but they're still OK as sleepwear); and now my new merino base layers from Finisterre - designed to be dragged on over cold, wet skin and therefore very stretchy. I have given away my thick wool sets to friends who keep horses and I know they wear those day in, day out in winter. 

Not everyone needs this kind of investment, of course, but our house is about 14 degrees or colder most of the winter, unless you're sitting directly in front of the wood burner, which we don't keep lit all day, and life without thermals is unbearable. Even so, I sit wrapped up in my velvet hippari - a Japanese wrapover jacket - all winter in order to work, and we keep blankets, quilts and fleece slankets on the sofas and chairs for snuggling. But if you are in good health, you can save £300-£400 a year on an average fuel bill by turning your heating down to around 14 degrees (if you are disabled or have a respiratory complaint such as asthma, you will need it warmer). As you can see, thermals very quickly pay for themselves in reduced heating costs as well as increased comfort - just as well for us, as we can't afford to heat this house more than we do already. 

Down dressing gown

My sister too, in her brick-built 1940s house in Yorkshire, has just invested in the Finisterre base layers, and stretch fleece items from Lands' End to keep her warm. She says you can feel that the air you breathe in is cold, even when the heating's on full belt in her house.

Hence, for her Christmas present this year I've bought her a down-filled dressing gown, much like the one the DH bought me a few years ago. Again from Lands' End, it rates as among the best items of clothing I own - it's like wearing a duvet - and has rendered winter mornings something no longer to be feared.  




Customer service

Excellent service again from Finisterre

Boots made for walking

Why are decent boots so hard to find?

Remembrance of clothes past

I can remember these clothes, but not this event.

Autumn colours

Even though the weather's still warm, I notice I'm changing colours with the season.

Frosty tips

Jesus, the temperatures have dropped...

Wonderous Wall

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

Between seasons

What to wear in this indeterminate weather?

Time for a bourse

The urge for a clothes swap is upon me.

Thirty-three things

Could you reduce your wardrobe to 33 things for the next three months?

The 100-thing wardrobe

Is it really possible to have a wardrobe of only 100 things? It might be fun to try, if only as a mental exercise.