Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Does anyone else dislike slippers as much as I do? If so, how about these as an alternative?

Slippers? Yuck. Don't shoot me down in flames but nope, I am not a slipper fan. I think that it comes from feeling "undressed" if I'm wearing slippers - as if I'm about to go to bed and that's not good, especially if it's part way through the day. They don't really finish an outfit off.  If anything they kill it off. Huge socks are preferable to slippers in my view but they lower the tone of your outfit too. Did you know that there's an equation for slippers? Well there is and I really didn't just make it up:

OK outfit + slippers = totally ruined outfit PLUS you're wearing slippers  

I do have a pair of ankle height Uggs that I wear indoors but it's not quite cold enough for those yet. So currently I'm wearing my Stan Smiths inside and really that's not so good, largely because they come outside with me too. No, what is needed is a "house shoe". And skater style trainers make the perfect slipper alternative with my Topshop pure cashmere tracksuit bottoms (£250) that you will find me wearing about 90% of the time in the evenings*.

*Did I say pure cashmere tracksuit bottoms? In my dreams! Crikey I'd trash those before I'd managed to tuck my tummy in them. No, what I mean is these Topshop neppy joggers (£25), which I do wear a lot when I've done for the day. Interestingly the 3 reviews on the site all give them 5 out of 5. They are lovely - warm and fleecy inside plus they come in different colours and also in the petite and tall ranges too.

Anyway, until the time comes that I need to resort to the Uggs, I may well be heading towards the Marks and Spencer children's department for these slip on shoes (£18) which will work really well with my (non-cashmere) joggers and a chunky polo neck jumper. This style will also make a jumpsuit work inside the house, as well as tapered style trousers and jeans. So whilst they may not be your first choice of footwear with these clothes when going outside, they're a whole tonne better than slippers inside.

I know that these Clarks glove candy shoes (£30 in the sale) will be a real marmite item but I really like the combination of the colours. They tap into my obsession with grey felt and they just feel a bit Scandi. I'm going to nip into town tomorrow and try them on. They may not work at all but that's all part of the fun.

And surprise, surprise, I really like these Mint Velvet charcoal glitter Alice trainers (£89), also available at John Lewis. It's all in the sparkle of course, rather than the price - but perhaps they could be one for the sale. 

Some of you may already have skater trainers from the summer which you could revive as a slipper alternative. But for now, I'm off to investigate....

PS By the way, did I tell you that I don't like slippers?

Friday, 23 October 2015

One of my favourite outfits. Why? Because it's warm and it feels as comfortable as a onesie!

No your eyes aren't deceiving you. Clearly the 7 year old has been on the gin but in all honesty I'm quite thankful for the "blur". Winter skin at 8am when one is slightly tired is never a good look. However, ugly mug aside, I felt really comfortable in this outfit and as some of the pieces are currently available in store, I thought that I would share it with you and link to them (where possible).

First off, the boots. Well they aren't current but they are from Zara and you can find similar here (£39.99). In fact Zara in general has quite a few similar pairs.

Moving on up... (can anyone else here that song in their head with the same lyrics - the one by M People no less?) to the new billy bargainous jeans from GAP. Personally I think that they are more of a very heavy ponte legging but the fact that they were classed as jeans meant that I got 30% off - so I wasn't going to argue. Lots of stretch, good rise these are fabulous - other than the fact that they're not on the GAP website. They come in three colours though - black, green and burgundy and they have zips on the pockets, just like the ones below. In fairness the styling over the bottom means that they are better with a slightly longer top - unless of course you have a pert Beyonce type butt and then anything goes.

Jigsaw has a very similar pair in black, which again don't seem to be online but these Zara leggings (£19.99) are cut very much from the same cloth, if you'll excuse the pun. And for their price tag they are a pretty fine specimen. I'm not really a legging fan but when they are styled as more of a trouser - somehow I can get my head around them a little more.

Moving up again, I'm wearing the Warehouse sleeveless coat (£69) which I probably ought to take off soon but it's perfect for when I'm in the shops. A coat is generally too heavy but it's too cold to go coat less, so this is a fabulous half way house.

The jumper is a current one by Topshop but it's not on the site (sorry). However it is similar to this one, also from Topshop (£39). The only thing about this jumper is that it's probably too long to see the shirt peeping below.

The shirt that I'm wearing is an embellished denim one from H&M a couple of seasons ago. I really rate H&M for their silk shirts such as this one (£49.99) although I appreciate that the placing of the pockets may be an issue for some....

...and I like this one too, also from H&M (£14.99).  It may be a one season wonder but the neckline is un-fussy so it would sit well under a funnel neck jumper and a little bit of gold never goes a miss in the run up to Christmas. It's definitely more of a blouse than a shirt, without being too OTT so I think that it has legs.

Any outfit that ticks the warm, comfortable and slightly modern look is a winner for me. The first two criteria are the most important but the third carries some weight which is good as otherwise, left to my own devices, I would be wandering around in a Onesie.

Monday, 19 October 2015

The Birmingham half marathon - it's all done and dusted (with photos as evidence!) Thank you to you all for your support!

Yesterday it was the day of the Birmingham half marathon and to those who wished me well, who made a donation to Edward's Trust, who gave up their precious time and came out to cheer, who watched it on TV in the vain hope of spotting me (thanks Mum), who made banners, who ran with me for the last half mile, through the tunnel, through the crowds along Broad Street and up to the finish line shouting encouragement at the top of his voice (thanks Freddie) a HUGE THANK YOU!

This was where I saw the family, plus friends, just after mile 12. Clearly sunglasses were not required for the sun but they have a "rose tinted" effect on my surroundings. And they help me to channel my inner Paula. Something needs to!

Before every race I skim through my favourite book - Running Like A Girl" (£6.79) taking comfort and inspiration from some of the quotes in it, such as:

"The moments of anger or desolation that runners experience at desperate points of a lengthy race are basic physiological reactions to the situation. But once you have accepted what they are then you have learned to conquer them, and you will begin to believe that anything is possible" i.e. It's normal to feel really, really terrible at times. It's all part of the process. You've just get to get on with it and things will get better. And it's true, they do.

This is another of my favourite quotes: "[Running] is an honour, a privilege and a gift." And it truly is. When the going gets tough - and it does get tough, especially when slogging up a hill at mile 11 - I remind myself how lucky I am that I am able to do this and that I mustn't ever, ever, take it for granted.  

And this is the reason why I really like this book, especially for those women who think that running really isn't for them - even though they may secretly want it to be:

"This book is the one I didn't have but would have liked to have read before I went on my first (disastrous) run. Something for those people who think they can't run for whatever reason. For the women who think they aren't slim enough to wear running kit or that it's not worth it if they don't want to compete an entire marathon, for the women who think that running around in circles is an idiotic way to spend the best part of an hour. For those women who don't yet trust that it really is a source of immeasurable pleasure, self-belief and unexpected companionship, rather  than a necessary purgatory - that they might, just might, enjoy the confidence, the physical ease or the mental clarity that running brings."

Mr SG did a fab job of taking photos, especially given that I whizzed past at such a cracking pace (!!)

I think that I've yet to find a running outfit that is actually flattering but I do have favourite brands and one day I may do a post on them. One thing I do really like though are my Saucony Guide trainers (£110). These are about my 5th or 6th pair now. Earlier in the summer I went off grid and bought some Asics, really because I found the colours of the Saucony ones boring (hello, Mrs Shallow alert here) but I paid the price in more ways than one and I won't be making that mistake again. Although I should add that some people love Asics. It's just what works for you as an individual really.

I realise that the time has sort of passed but if anyone would still like to make a donation via my Just Giving page, it will be open for a while longer. I am so, so grateful to everyone who donated. Some of you know me only through here so once again, thank you! (And special thanks to Libby, my running pal who made every step so much more fun.)

I am hoping that next year I will be accompanied by a group of friends who will either be running a half marathon for the first time, or who will be running again having had a couple of years off. So, if anyone wants to join in, you know where to find me! In the meantime, London beckons....

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Bella Jane - A range of beautiful silver handmade jewellery, which definitely hits the spot!

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Annabel Davies at Bella Jane jewellery. Annabel designs and sources the beads and charms to make her sterling silver charm jewellery, which is utterly charming. (Guess what I'm watching on TV (under sufferance)? Yes, Downton!

When Annabel asked me whether I would like to receive a couple of her bracelets, I was only too delighted to. I loved what I saw on her site and I've barely taken the bracelets off since receiving them. They just seem to work with everything and I love how they sit with my Kate Spade silver watch. They are such an easy way to add a little bit of interest to my outfits. (Apologies for the slightly blurred photograph - I was all in a bit of a tizz at the 1D concert, which is where they had their first outing.)

There is a huge choice of bracelets at Bella Jane from anchors, to bees, to crosses and elephants, there's something for everyone but there are also earringsrings and some gorgeous necklaces too.  Annabel's bracelets have recently featured in OK! The Daily Mail online and  Closer Magazine.

Here is an example of one of Annabel's bracelets, the large star bracelet (£38). Stars are continuing to have a moment, appearing on everything from cushions to rugs and bedding, to clothing and jewellery. They really have established themselves as a design classic (which is a bit of daft thing to write really as stars are millions of years old!)

Another favourite of mine (surprise, surprise) is the pink heart bracelet (£35)

And who doesn't love a little bit of personalisation? Cue the initial bracelet which is perfect (£35)

Or for a real impact of layered bracelets, there's the divine stack of five bracelets (£160)

As for a necklace, I love the star pendant necklace (£60)

In my new YouTube vlog (How to dress the part without losing the plot) you can see the bracelets at close quarters, so do nip over to see them in all their glory, together with three different outfits for a smart/casual event, in my case, last Sunday's 1D concert.

For Style Guile readers, Annabel has kindly offered a 10% discount which is valid until 31st October 2015 and which can be redeemed by quoting the code STY37. I do hope that you take a peek and spot something that you like, either for yourself, for a gift, or perhaps one to add to your Christmas list.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Having my hair styled on the blog....and introducing Luke Lehmann, the man who wielded the scissors!

Recently I was introduced to Luke Lehmann a London based session stylist, who has recently moved to Birmingham. When in London, Luke styles the hair of models who appear in Vogue and ASOS but now that he's in Birmingham, he's keen to build up a personal client base here.

We had a very nice chat in the pub which resulted in Luke very kindly offering to cut my hair for me and in return I offered to write about him on here. 

These images are taken from Luke's website. Can anyone spot Laura Bailey? Yep, I was glad that I didn't find out until after Luke had cut my hair that he had worked with Laura Bailey. Had I known beforehand I think that I may have just hidden in a cupboard somewhere. 

Bravely - more so for Luke than me as he had to take the up close photos, poor guy - we decided to do some before and after shots. And whilst I never use filters on any of the photos that I use on the blog or instagram, frankly I just couldn't inflict the close up photos of my wrinkles on you in colour. So here I'm appearing in black and white instead.  

So, here goes. This is a before shot, hair newly washed but without any product in it. I have masses of hair and it tends to grow outwards rather than down so suddenly I'll wake up one day and have a mushroom head. Sometimes I wake up looking like a lion. Or Ken Dodd. And that really isn't good. 

I would guess that my hair is probably longer than most people would imagine as I always tuck it behind my ears. I've been growing it since we came back from skiing in February. I hated how I looked that week. My hair, my skiing clothes - hated the lot. Yuck. So that's when I decided to start growing it. To start off with I did really well but then I got sick of it and a hairdresser lobbed most of it off  - so I'm not as far forward as I should be but hey, first world problems and all that.

Luke came to the house on Sunday morning. I don't see the trip to the hairdressers as the highlight of my day or a luxury trip and often I ask them not to wash my hair but just to spray it.  I hate my hair being blow dried with brushes too, so I get them to blast it with a dryer and off I go. Therefore, the idea of someone coming round appealed to me. It's time efficient and I don't have to look at myself in huge, brightly lit mirrors. Double bonus.

Luke started with a razor and we discussed the whole approach to using razors to cut hair. They're great for taking the weight out of my hair and Luke likened it to using a blow torch on a creme brulee. In the right hands it makes the dish perfect. In the wrong hands it nukes it. I liked that analogy.

This is the official version of what Luke did to my hair: "To loosen up the weight around the ears and back, I texturised. This gives a freedom to create flicks and different shapes and styles more easily. I blended the short layers on top to the mid-length with the intention of growing them longer. And I smartened up the perimeter to keep the elfin look for longevity as the top layers grow into the new style."

We did three different "After" looks, just to show the versatility of the cut, which was great for me because I always tend to wear my hair in the same way.

Number 1 - This is quite mussed up. It's worn longer at the front and is very different for me but I like how it sits.

Number 2 - Slightly tamed. It's partially tucked back here but still with lots of texture and individual pieces pulled in different ways, which you can see more in the second photograph.


Sleek and chic - Luke made everything really sleek for this look but, in so far as I remember, without really doing anything to it. I don't think that he used any more product but just tweaked it in a way that hairdressers do, making it look really easy.  Until you try and do it yourself and then you end up looking like Worzel Gummidge.

Apparently this is the "red carpet" look which is a favourite of ASOS.  Rather than just showing the back of your dress but with the head looking forward, you turn to the side slightly and look down your arm. So now you know!

Then it was my turn to have a play. I decided that (being as rubbish as I am at this malarky) the side bits were a little bit long for me and that I wouldn't be able to work with them properly, so Luke re-visited them and feathered them over my ears a bit more. And this was how it looked after that.

And from the other side!

And this is what I am aiming towards hair wise. Don't laugh! 

And you know what? The same night that Luke cut my hair, we went to see 1D. Amazingly, Flo and her friend and I were on the big screen at the side of the stage. So now Luke's hairdo has been seen by about 10,000 people.

For anyone who would like Luke to give their locks some attention, the cost of a haircut is £49 and he can be contacted on 07782 197646, or by email at

 NB: Products used:

L'Oreal Hair Mix Supreme Smooth - smoothing cream for dry hair (used on wet hair)

TIGI bedhead wax stick for texture

L'Oreal Ellnet hairspray for hold.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

An event to which you are all invited - and a sneak peak at a couple of pieces I will be using....

A few days ago I was walking around our fabulous new John Lewis, taking picture of pieces that I would like to use on the models I will be working with at an upcoming event in Birmingham. John Lewis have kindly agreed to provide the clothes for the event and next Wednesday I will be going around the store with a rail selecting the clothes, shoes and accessories for the event. You know the phrase "a kid in a sweet shop"? Well I think that may well be me.

There were so many pieces that caught my eye and which will fit nicely into the twelve outfits that I will be choosing and which will range in name from "Brunch with the girls" to "Cocktail hour", "Fancy pants" and "Winter wedding".  My aim is to tick as many boxes as I can, featuring outfits which are both casual and smart, with flats and heels, which include some big trends and some micro-trends, which cover a wide price range and which appeal to a broad age range. 

The day before I go to John Lewis, I will be in the Jewellery Quarter meeting with the jewellers who are exhibiting at the event and choosing the pieces to use on the models. It's great for us that the new John Lewis has chosen six local jewellers whose stock they are carrying in a display case. I love that they want to support the City. 

This dress from Ted Baker (£199) is one of my absolute favourites. It's perfect for a winter wedding. The navy colour works so well with most skin tones, the length means no pulling down of tiny dresses, the print is bold but not overpowering and it is also well placed. The dress is just supremely elegant. There's also a skirt in this print too, which is also lovely. I like the idea of it with a cropped fur jacket. As to the lack of sleeves? Even I can manage bare arms at a wedding (and you could still sneak a vest in underneath!!)

Fur coats were a huge trend last season and the colour of this Reiss Alba faux fur coat (£350) is fabulous. I also wanted to show you a long navy sleeveless fur coat, also from Reiss, which is in store but not on the website. It was just one of those pieces to which you are instantly drawn. There was no way that I could have walked past it without giving it a stroke! 

 I also love this Hobbs jacket (£149). For Hobbs I think that it's a pretty good price and whilst clearly it isn't sheep skin, it has a sheep skin look about it whilst the navy stops it being too "1970's football manager-esque". When I think of that, all I can see is Terry Venables in a sheepskin coat. 

I could go on but I won't! As a taster though I have my eye on a LBD from Jaeger, sparkles from French Connection, prints from Damsel in a Dress, stars from John Lewis weekend, bright coats from Maison Scotch and as for the shoes? Oh don't even get me started on the shoes!!!

For anyone who would like to come along, please email mat.lovell@jqdt for a ticket. It's on Wednesday 21st October 2015 from 6pm until 8pm at McIntyre House, Holland Street, B3 1PW, which is located on Birmingham's only cobbled street, which is off a one way street - a one way street which I happened to go down the wrong way whilst looking for it the other day. Ho hum. People in New Zealand and Texas - you are excused from coming! We are hoping for 150 to 200 people and we have some great exhibitors as well as the fashion show, so do please pop by if you would like to. 

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

An Oasis jumper that I really, really like - and I think that you might too!

I keep seeing this Oasis sequin heart jumper (£45) when I'm in the shops and I really, really like it. But I really, really don't need it. So I thought that I would share it because a) for some reason I feel slightly guilty knowing that this gem is out there and not sharing it and b) someone reading this may think to themselves "oooh, I really, really, like this and I really, really need it" and that would make them happy - and it's always nice to make people happy. Hope that you are all having a good week so far. x

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Sharing my favourite bra and in my new vlog I show you what to look out for when fitting a bra yourself.

Bras can be tricky devils can't they? As part of my styling course nearly six years ago now, we were taken to Selfridges in London to be fitted with a bra and you know, there wasn't a single bra in there that fitted me. Although what I had been left with after having breast fed three children was pretty horrific, I'm not sure that the staff had to convey their horror to me too.

Somehow, and I can't remember how, I was pointed in the direction of the Calvin Klein Customised Lift bra and then all was well with the world. I haven't looked back since - well apart from once when I was invited to go to Rigby & Peller who fitted me with a Marie Jo bra but at £70 a go, they weren't really a runner on a grand scale.

So what is it that works so well about this bra, when all others failed?

  • The smooth cups mean that there are nice lines under your clothes. But that's the easy bit. They're pretty easy to find;
  • There's a small amount of padding at the base of each cup on the inside, which gives the necessary uplift, without being too much;
  • The wiring is really comfortable. I've never had a problem with it digging in;
  • Delicately put, the shape of the cups just means that this bra succeeds where others, which are quite possibly designed for a slightly (ahem) younger, fuller bust, don't! 

The Calvin Klein Customised Lift Bra is available from Figleaves (£35). Interestingly out of the 24 reviews, only 2 were slightly meh. One because the person didn't like the colour and one because the fit didn't suit.  They are also stocked at John Lewis (£35) and House of Fraser (£35) has a great selection, with quite a few styles in the sale.

Lots of women find fitting bras quite a tricky business, more often than not buying a bra which is too big around the rib cage and too small in the cup, which can end up being uncomfortable and unflattering. So, to help when you're out and about, in my latest vlog I show you what to look out for when fitting a bra yourself. I hope that my tips are practical and useful in your future bra buying expeditions!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Grey felt - one of my favourite fabrics of the season. From hats, to coats and shoes, I have it covered.

There's something about felt, particularly grey felt, which I find really appealing in a winter fabric. Not only is it heavy and warm but it feels luxurious and smart whatever its price tag - plus it doesn't crease. Now clearly I'm not wearing grey felt above but I am wearing a sort of camel felt, by virtue of this sleeveless coat from Warehouse (£69).

But anyway, back to grey felt. As you can see from the Pinterest images below, virtually every piece of clothing imaginable comes in grey felt - from hats (Fedoras are still a huge trend this season)... coats and trousers...thanks Olivia, you're a beauty in your felt! shoes...

And whilst out and about on my travels recently, I've come across these grey felt pieces.

First off, Next has this amazing grey brushed wrap skirt (£40) which is fabulous. Tapping into that whole wrap skirt look, which is having a massive revival this season, it feels much more expensive than its £40 price tag. That's one thing that I really do like about Next. Each season they have  a few pieces which are just so perfect that they look as if they have walked into the shop from somewhere else and jumped on a rack waiting to be found. (Sorry Next but you know what I mean!) With boots or Mary Janes it's a really versatile skirt. Wear it with a chunky roll neck or a finer fitted jumper and biker jacket and it's a really wardrobe work horse.

Zara has these wide leg trousers (£39.99) which I've had my eye on for a while. Whether they would quite work for me as trousers I'm not sure but I'm very tempted to buy them and have them made into midi length culottes as so far, I haven't managed to find any grey felt culottes that I like. Both Whistles and Cos have some but they're not quite right. These however, I can imagine working.

Completely impractical I will admit, but I've loved these Whistles felt sandals (£165) since I first saw them a few weeks ago. Worn with thick black tights, they would do a great job of giving some pieces in your wardrobe a kick up the butt - dragging them kicking and screaming into this season and all for the price of £165. Convinced? No, me neither. Maybe if they were £40 I would be.

And this is my latest find - a Primark bag (£18) within Selfridges which just makes the shopping experience a whole lot more pleasant. This bag is grey felt with black mock croc on it AND it's a back pack which is great for our Monday morning scooter rides to school when we have the following to carry: Rucksack, PE kit bag, swimming bag, flute. Yep, I often arrive in a hot and sweaty state having carried most of the bags whilst running alongside the scooter and this could help with that. How I'm not quite sure but in the interests of research, I'm prepared to give it a go.

Are you sharing the grey felt love or steering clear of it?  If you find any grey felt pieces on your travels, please do share them with me. I'm always on the look out for more!

Oh and before I forget, I've published a new vlog which you can watch here. So many women are wearing the wrong bra size and in this vlog I show you what to look for when fitting a bra yourself. It's not so much about the measurements (we all know how brands vary!) but more about how it should look, where it should sit and so on. I'll expand on it a little more tomorrow (if you'll excuse the pun!) x