14 January 2015

All Grown Up In Leopard Print - My Birthday Outfit

Earlier this month it was my birthday, and this is the outfit I wore to mark the occasion. I didn't depart much from my everyday style as I still wanted to feel like me, albeit a polished version of myself. I wore a brand new blazer with a lovely fitted shape, which I'd first seen and tried on three months earlier, and was able to buy for much less in the post-Christmas sales. The leopard print peplum is a real life-saver in my wardrobe, and has been my most faithful top. It's made from a very forgiving material which is quite heavy and has a lovely stretch to it. I've worn it time and time again, from spring through to autumn. I love clothes that can serve me well for more than one season, and have that well-loved, familiar feel.  

Blazer - Oasis, Trousers - Principles Petite by Ben De Lisi (similar),Leopard Print 
Top - Miss Selfridge, Necklace (Vintage) Ebay, Handbag AmazonGloves - Tu 
(Sainsbury's), Sunglasses - Ted Baker at T.K Maxx, Footwear - Lonsdale

The swan bag has appeared on the blog before, in one of my favourite posts (Goth Love (Part 3) - Burgundy Lace, Sharp Tailoring, and my Winter Denial). The main difference to my style was that I wore an extra special necklace, my antique silver and marcasite fairy necklace, which I was very lucky to find on Ebay after a long search. I acquired it after a lively bidding war, which was quite nerve-racking but ultimately worthwhile. It's somewhat fancier than my everyday jewellery, and so I rarely wear it, but on my birthday it seemed appropriate to take it out. After all, it feels sad to have beautiful things stored away, which never see the light of day. 

My birthday itself was quite low-key, partly out of choice but also because of the cold weather. I opted for a small celebration, which consisted of going to the movies for a matinee screening, my absolute favourite thing to do, followed by a visit from family in the evening. I saw Birdman, which was very refreshing and witty, and quite unexpected, as I'd avoided reading any reviews beforehand that might give too much away. Aside from the plot, Edward Norton, who I've long adored, was looking mighty fine too. (Though the character he plays in the film is rather obnoxious). 

My favourite gift that I received for my birthday was a pair of stylish colouring books, which feature fashion drawings from the Art Nouveau, and Art Deco eras, along with a brief fashion history of how these styles developed, and the social context. I'm looking forward to rediscovering my childhood love of colouring in, which was always strangely soothing. I only hope I can manage to stay within the lines!

Art Nouveau Patterns to Colour
Art Deco Patterns to Colour (by Usborne)

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10 January 2015

Give it to me Straight - A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Poker-Straight Locks

I'm very excited to bring this post to you, in response to questions I'm often asked about my hair routine. I hope it will be helpful to those of you who, like me, have unruly, flyaway hair which never seems to co-operate with you. You see my hair is very fine and prone to getting tangled, and it never just dries nicely into a desirable shape. Instead, it's a kind of matted, flattened wavy texture, which requires continuous upkeep to maintain. But today I can put my years of experience and my labours to good use, by delivering this definitive guide to achieving straight hair. The products mentioned are the ones I use myself, and this is not a sponsored post. As with all good things, preparation is key. 
  • Start by washing hair with a gentle, cleansing shampoo. I prefer Boots' Naked range of shampoos, and my favourite is Naked Rescue Sweet Almond and Sunflower Intensive Care Shampoo. It's 97% natural so it's kinder to hair and doesn't contain damaging sulfates. For this reason it doesn't create lather so doesn't foam up the way we expect with shampoo, but it does clean the hair effectively. When shampooing, focus more on the scalp rather than the lengths of hair, which require just a small amount of shampoo and a quick once-over. Avoid being too harsh or using your fingernails on the scalp, or rubbing the hair up and down aggressively, as a gentle, downward motion is better. Rinse hair thoroughly.
  • Next apply a rich conditioning mask to the lengths of your hair only. I've been using Umberto Giannini Beauty Secrets Indulgent Beauty Moisture Mask for years, after a similar product by Dove was discontinued. You know this conditioning mask is the real deal because, when you turn the pot upside down, the product stays put (this is my unscientific testing method, but is completely bona fide as far as I'm concerned). Remember your scalp does not need conditioner due to the hair's natural oils, and applying conditioner to the roots of your hair can make them appear flat and dull. Once you've covered the lengths of your hair with conditioner, comb your hair gently with a wide tooth detangling comb, gather hair into a top-knot (if it's long enough), and put on a shower cap. The warmth from the shower cap, and steam from the shower will help hair to absorb the conditioner. Leave the hair covered for five minutes, then remove the shower cap and rinse hair thoroughly. If you can tolerate it, use cold water for the final rinse. This will seal the hair cuticle and make locks extra shiny.
Top - Oasis, Hair Bow - Superdrug (similar)
  • Now for the styling. Apply a heat protection product to the hair, again using a comb to distribute the product evenly through the lengths. My hair is fine so I use a lightweight hairspray from the V05 range. Those of you with thicker hair can select a product formulated for this hair type, such as GHD Straight and Smooth Spray for Thick / Coarse Hair.
  • Rough dry hair using a hairdryer, directing the dryer nozzle downwards, which also helps to seal the cuticle and prevent frizz. If possible avoid the hottest setting on your hairdryer, and finish with a cool shot. At this stage, I use straightening irons on the hair, and the ones I've been using in recent years have been by GHD. But you can find less expensive brands of hair straightener which will also get the job done nicely, such as Babyliss.
  • Before using the irons, make sure the hair is dry fully and there are no damp areas. Otherwise, when it comes into contact with the straightening plates, the hair will be boiled. Scary!
  • Divide hair into manageable sections, using sectioning clips. Beginning with the lower level of hair and starting from the back, take a section of hair about 1 inch wide, comb it first, before guiding the straighteners through carefully. Repeat this action for the whole of the head, starting from the back, and working your way to the front of the hair.
  • Remember, don't let the irons come into contact with any section of hair for more than a few seconds at a time. The ends of the hair do not require much heat and are easily damaged, so to avoid that frazzled look, don't linger on the ends for too long. I normally turn the ends of the hair under, but you can also flick the ends of the hair outwards with the straighteners, for a fun, sixties-inspired look.  
  • Finally, spritz hair with a finishing spray like VO5 Smoothly Does It, for added shine and hold. If you have stubborn flyaways around the hairline, use a drop of serum to seal them down. Another tip I've learned for this problem, is to use a large, clean powder brush to gently brush down static hairs so they lie flat.
  • A simple touch which makes straight hair look more elegant, is the addition of a decorative hair slide. In these images, I added a leopard-print hair bow which I bought very cheaply from Superdrug, as part of a pair. Unfortunately that particular pair is now sold out, but I've found a very similar style on Ebay
  • Remember, always switch off and unplug hair styling tools immediately after use. 
  • To get more mileage out of your sleek hair, try sleeping on a satin or silk pillowcase at night, as this helps prevent static. I also wear a shower cap on my non-hair wash days (that's during bath time, not all day of course!). This keeps hair nice and dry, and in my case, stops it reacting to bathroom steam and turning wavy again! 

General Hair Care Tips

  • Treat your hair with the utmost care when handling it, and avoid being too heavy-handed
  • Clean your hair tools regularly.
  • Remove strands of hair from the back filter of your hairdryer regularly, as a build-up of hair over time can lead to fire risk.
This guide is a detailed one, as I've included all the main things I've learnt about hair care over the years, for my particular hair type. But even if you don't follow all the steps, I hope you find at least a few helpful hints about hair care to take away!

If you found this post helpful, have any pressing hair questions, or would like to share some hair care tips of your own, please leave a comment below!

1 January 2015

Checkmate - Monochrome Style, Foxy Necklace

Happy New Year everybody! 

I'm back earlier than expected with an outfit post on a monochrome theme. I liked this check print gingham top instantly when I saw it online, especially the exaggerated peplum shape and pointy white collar (see below). While the check pattern is a little bolder than the usual delicate prints I'm drawn to, when I received it in the post I was pleased to find it lived up to my expectations. I was even happier to discover the material is thicker than it looks for slightly colder days and is fleecy on the inside, and the top has a wonderful stretchy quality.

The outdoor pictures here were taken at the end of summer before the season changed, and I was going to wait until spring of this year to showcase the outfit, in the interests of being weather-appropriate. However, there is currently a Black & White Tuxedo-Inspired Style Contest taking place on Lookbook which invites members to showcase black and white looks (which don't have to be strictly Tuxedo-themed, and can be more of a homage). So I decided to make use of these images earlier than expected to enter the contest, just for fun (see below for contest details). 

For the complete outfit shown outside, I paired the top with classic black trousers, and wore a fox pendant necklace which was an unexpected supermarket find from a previous season. Continuing the black and white theme, the handbag is holographic with a glossy surface and features different fashionable images. The images change when the bag is turned at an angle, an effect I've tried to capture in the photos. It was bought from Pylones (formerly Octopus) boutique in Covent Garden years ago. Despite searching for another bag like it in the time since, sadly I've not seen a style quite like it again. 
Basic black top (layered underneath, sleeves just seen) - H & M, Trousers - Principles Petite by Ben De Lisi (similar), Check print peplum top - Mary Jane Fashion, Trainers - Lonsdale, Handbag - Pylones (formerly Octopus), Sunglasses - Ted Baker at T.K Maxx, Necklace - TU collection Sainsbury's, Watch - Sekonda

You can find out more about Lookbook's Black & White Tuxedo Style Contest, and enter here.

Or if you like my monochrome look and wish to vote for me, that would be fab!
(Truly Madly Deeply Fashion on Lookbook)

Good luck to all the entrants!