Clothing, Dresses, In My Wardrobe, Skirts, Tops & Tees

The Best Things in Life Are Free(mans)

In order to celebrate the launch of their new TV ad, the lovely folks at Freemans got in touch to treat me to a few new wardrobe additions and the opportunity to have a bit of a pamper. Free time for pampering has been sorely lacking in the last few weeks so my bath bombs and beauty treats remain untouched, but I have been having fun with my new clothes (which, let’s be honest, is my favourite way to relax anyway).

I must confess it’s been a long time since I’ve had any experience with Freemans. I would pore over the catalogue and try to persuade my mum to buy me slip dresses and flares and platform shoes back in the ’90s; the irony is a lot of the stuff you can find there now is probably a dead ringer for the stuff I coveted back then. So perhaps it was fate that they came back into my life around the same time as all the trends from my teens. Of course now you don’t need a catalogue delivered to the house, you can just shop online. Much easier (though they do have a few of the old catalogue elements, like the ability to open an account and buy now, pay later). The ad reminds you just how many things they sell, from shoes to washing machines. There really is something for everyone. I’m guessing I can’t buy one of those lions, though. Shame.

I always remember Freemans stocking brands I loved as a teen (Shelly’s shoes, Kickers, Red or Dead) and things haven’t changed, they still stock a lot of household names, but I was also surprised to spot a few more cult labels, like Yumi, Darling, and Glamorous. Glamorous has become a fast favourite of mine in the last couple of seasons, so the first item I picked had to be from them. I went full on ’70s with a faux suede button-down midi skirt. I was worried it would be very thin and flimsy but it’s actually super heavy and quite stiff, making it perfect for Autumn with my tan Orla Kiely accessories and plenty of cosy black. I have a feeling I’ll wear this a lot in the coming months.


Next up was a wrap blouse, which I got in burgundy, or if you want to be posh and use the Pantone colour of the year…marsala.

Freemans Wrap Blouse

I wore this all weekend on a trip to Liverpool and it won me over for one simple reason; I never flashed my bra. That’s always been my fear with these draped tops. But the wrap is really smartly designed to sit in just the right spot and the shoulders are reinforced so it doesn’t sag. The open back and folded hem at the front makes it the perfect option for people (aka me) who are incapable of doing that nonchalant “half tuck” that street style stars can do. It’s all done for you.

Finally, we have the dresses (because of course there were dresses). The other one will come in another post but I had to show the blue polka dots.


I’m going to call this my “time machine” dress because it’s the kind of thing I lived in about 5 years ago. There was a time when a stretchy jersey dress and tights was my version of jeans and a t-shirt. Now I have finally embraced jeans (read: lost enough weight to fit back into them) I don’t opt for this style as much and because I wore it so much it feels a bit old-fashioned to me now, but I couldn’t resist this for old time’s sake as it felt very “me”. When I put it on, I remembered why I loved this style so much. I’s so easy-to-wear, it’s always flattering on a curvy figure, and it’s timeless.

I guess you could say that through this campaign I rediscovered an old faithful in more ways than one: both a retailer, and a dress!

Disclosure: Freemans gave me the products as a gift. I wasn’t paid to write this post.

Retro / Vintage, Sewing & Craft

That Time I Made a Skirt From a Duvet Cover

This month I made a skirt out of a bedspread. I know exactly what you’re thinking…

The Sound of Music

But let me start by saying The Sound of Music is one of my favourite films of all times, so I’m more than happy to take inspiration from the inimitable Maria Von Trapp. There is no shame in home furnishings-turned-outfits.

So to the story behind the skirt. A couple of seasons ago Asda’s George Home started producing affordable bedding sets with pin-up girl prints on. There have been a few iterations, the most popular being a sailor print with stripes and anchors. They look nice enough on a bed (though you may struggle to persuade a boyfriend or husband of that) but a few clever sewists worked out that they’re also perfect for dresses and skirts, and buying these bedspreads for under £15 worked out much cheaper than buying similar fabrics from the likes of Alexander Henry. Thus #ThatsSewGeorge was created!

George bedding and handmade skirt

Recently, George has been challenging bloggers to make clothes, accessories and other exciting things out of their cute and affordable bedding sets. I’m already the proud owner of a palm tree printed duvet cover (see here!) which I think would make a killer maxi dress, but when George offered to send me some more bedding to work my sewing magic on, I had to go with those pin-up girls. I picked a print with a polka dot lining, threw one straight on my bed, then used the other to whip up a modified circle skirt.

Pin Up Skirt and Gingham Shirt

I thought a dress might be tricky with the large print so decided to do a skirt first. The pattern was a bit of a mish-mash. I used the skirt panels from the Gertie for Butterick dress I made a couple of years ago, as I didn’t want to lose all the detail in a gathered or pleated skirt. This did mean I had some tricky pattern matching to take into account: in the end I only worried about this on the front of the skirt so it’s not perfect, but it did mean I could easily get the whole thing out of one duvet cover. I made my own wide waistband from the polka dot fabric used on the underside of the duvet, and put in a hand-picked zip at the back. I still love a hand-picked zip, not just because it’s much easier to keep tidy, but also because I like to sew in front of the TV so the less I have to use the machine, the better.

Hand Made Pinup Skirt and Gingham Blouse

The skirt is a little see-through and could do with lining, but other than that, I’m really happy how it turned out. Since I’m an old lady I own a beige slip so I just popped that underneath for a bit of coverage. The gingham blouse is from Mango, and the very old sequinned shoes are from Kurt Geiger. I hope you like my finished look, now if only it would stop raining so I can take it outside!

Disclosure: The bedspreads were a gift from George to allow me to get creative.

Striped dress
Clothing, Dresses, Skirts, Ways To Wear

It’s Time to Think Twice About Stripes

“Horizontal stripes make you look wider!”

How many times have you heard that? In fact, how many times have you said it?

It’s one of fashion’s biggest myths. It’s been proven time and time again that it’s a load of rubbish, but many people still seem to be convinced that the moment they put on anything striped it’ll somehow completely alter their body shape. Luckily, despite the unnecessary fears, stripes still manage to be one of the most enduring style essentials. This season, the vertical stripe has risen up the ranks, so if you really, truly can’t get it out of your head that horizontal stripes are evil, there’s a look for you too. Everyone should have something fabulous and striped in their wardrobe, so to help you choose your perfect partner, here are five of my favourite striped finds to wear right now.

ASOS striped dress

This ASOS dress (£65) has been haunting my dreams ever since I first saw it. Sadly, it’s one of those dresses that falls into the “if only” camp because the backless cut means going braless, and that is just not something I can do. But would I love it as much if it didn’t have the low back with the bow? Probably not. If you’re able to go without a bra, please buy this and send me photos of you looking wonderful so I can live vicariously through you.

Missguided striped jumpsuit

Combining my two great loves for this month, stripes and culotte jumpsuits, this Missguided number (£35) would definitely make it into my basket if I had any occasion to wear it (I really don’t, I’m an old lady and I don’t get out much any more). Maybe I could get away with it for work if I put a blazer over the top? For those who like a runway-inspired bargain, it’s worth noting this is a dead ringer for an Alice + Olivia number that’s still selling for £150+.

Chicwish Striped Maxi Skirt

I have a couple of Chicwish skirts and they are fabulous, so I’m sure this amazing maxi (£36) would follow suit. Yes, it’s absolutely bonkers and there’s a serious limit to the amount of occasions you could wear it, but given the price, aren’t you tempted? For those wishing to be just a tiny bit more practical, there is also a midi version (£30).


You may not think this is a true stripe but Boden calls it “multi retro stripe” and since I’m basically having an affair with Boden right now, I will take anything the website says as gospel. There aren’t many days of Summer left to wear a sundress like this one (£45) but when has that ever stopped me buying dresses before? Someone please drag me away from my laptop before I do something stupid.

Oasis Striped Palazzo Pants

Wide-leg trousers are a big deal right now, and you don’t get a better way to try the trend than these Oasis trousers which are only £10 in the sale. Everything about this style is leg-lengthening and super chic. The only problem is the fact the hems will get grubby within seconds of putting them on. Also, nude underwear at all times!

panache anya bikini

You thought you were getting out of here without a bikini? Oh no my friends! Panache’s strapless bikini tops are the stuff of absolute wonder for anyone with a larger bust, and the Anya striped bikini is the latest addition. These cup sized styles aren’t the cheapest but they’re really well-made, and manage to be both supportive and comfortable. The above image is from Bravissimo, which has the bikini in the sale. If you can’t find your size there, Figleaves has more options but they’re all low stock so get a wriggle on!

Clothing, In My Wardrobe

You’ll Be Surprised What £50 Will Get You

A little while ago, Think Money set me a challenge to see what kind of outfit I could put together for under £50. Using Love 2 Shop vouchers (which are accepted at a whole host of high street shops) I went on the hunt for a daywear look that would work throughout the Summer.

I started off in Oasis, where I picked up a pair of purple printed culottes. I’m all about culottes at the moment; it took a while to succumb (they reminded me of Brownies and Guides) but now I love their practicality, especially if it starts to get windy! This pair was £15 when I bought them but they’ve actually now been reduced to only £10. They’re such a bargain, I’d definitely recommend them.


I teamed them with a simple camisole top with a crossover back that I found for £4 in Matalan. While there I also grabbed a matching pink clutch bag for the tidy sum of £7. So far so good, I’d spent £26.

Then came the shoes. Cheap shoes are a tricky thing, and there’s only really one place I trust to get bargain shoes I know won’t tear my feet apart, and that’s New Look. These wedges give the lift that’s needed with the mid-length culottes, but they’re also comfy enough to wear all day and are a Summer classic. They’re £20 from the wide-fit range. I don’t usually need a wide fit but because they’re sandals I was able to strap myself in tight.


This is where things get naughty, because with a total of £46 spent, I really should have stopped. But when I noticed Oasis make a matching blazer to go with the culottes, I couldn’t resist one last purchase with my own cash. This baby was £25 in the sale, and will take the whole look through to Autumn. It’s not strictly within budget, but I wanted to show you anyway as it really brings the look together.


Overall, I’m pretty proud that I was able to put this outfit together without a) getting it all from Primark or b) taking the easy option and buying a dress and flats. I was really surprised with some of the bargains in the Oasis sale, and (shhh) ended up going back for some more stuff not long after. I’ve always loved hunting down bargains, so my only issue with this was narrowing it down to one outfit that I was going to settle on. But I’m happy with the results, and I will definitely be getting wear out of this co-ord!


Disclosure: The £50 Love 2 Shop vouchers were a gift from Think Money. I wasn’t paid to write this post.

Curvy Kate Bikini
Swimwear, Tried & Tested

The Other Reason I Went On Holiday Was to Review This Bikini

It will come as no surprise to you that I have too many bikinis. But despite the fact I have more two-pieces than I do days a year to wear them, I’ve never actually shared a photo myself wearing one before. I’ve talked in great detail about my struggles to accept my less-than-perfect body, but I worked hard before my wedding to really get to a good place. And when Bras and Honey offered me the opportunity to review a style from one of my favourite brands, I decided it was now or never.

I own a couple of Curvy Kate bikinis already, and they’re some of my most comfortable and supportive styles, so I was excited to try one of their newer styles. Bras and Honey picked out the Luau Love style for me, in hot fuchsia pink. I tried the bandeau top which has detachable straps, and the skirted bottoms. There are three tops and three bottoms to choose from in the range, so there’s something for everyone.


As expected of Curvy Kate, the top is super supportive and well made. I can’t fault the construction. I think the strapless top is cut using the same (or a very similar) pattern to their famous Luxe strapless bra. As such, it gives a very rounded, forward-facing shape and is quite narrow across the front in comparison to some of the brand’s other bras and bikini tops. I tried the top in a 32E and I think I would have actually done better in a 34DD, as my bust is quite wide-set and I could have done with an extra inch across the front of the band. Getting into this top took a lot of “swooping”, but once I was in the support was incredible, with or without the detachable straps.


Now onto the bottoms. A lot of swimwear guides push bigger briefs and shorts for curvier body shapes, I guess the idea being that if you’re larger, you will want to cover up more. But it took me a long time to realise that sometimes, less is more. For my body at least, I feel like a fuller bottom actually just accentuates my widest part (my hips). As the years have gone by I’ve tended towards slightly skimpier bottoms which accentuate my waist, or something low-cut with a little frill.

So despite suiting my retro taste, this skirted brief was actually a bit of a departure for me. Luckily, the style is much more flattering than boy shorts (which I hate – camel toe ahoy!) and once I’d worked out where to position them on the hips, I grew to really like having the extra coverage around the bum and hips. The ties are adjustable and there’s a lot of fabric to play with; I preferred them pulled up relatively high on the legs, but if needed you can loosen them right down to an almost knee-length skirt if you prefer. I’m wearing the size 14 / L here. I’d say they run a little on the small side, as with most swimwear, but the shape is fairly forgiving so there’s some wiggle room (literally).


The good news if you love this set? It’s in the sale! The bandeau top is £29.75 and the skirted briefs are £21.25.

Disclosure: Product sample provided free of charge for review purposes.


Reader, I Married Him

I’m a married woman. After almost seven years together, we took a trip to Antigua with 8 family members and my oldest friend to tie the knot at Cocobay resort, the same resort we stayed at (and fell in love with) in 2013. I’ve explained our reasons for a destination wedding before, so I won’t go into that again, except to say that I have absolutely no regrets about our decision. The location was brilliant, the staff at Cocobay were fantastic, and there’s nothing about the day that I didn’t love. Plus, in July we get to have a whole other day of fun when we celebrate with all our friends in London. Yes, somehow I managed to wrangle two weddings.


Since this is mostly a fashion blog, I’m basically here to talk about the dress, so let’s get right to it. If you’d told me a year ago that I would get married in a strapless gown I would have laughed in your face, but the more dresses I tried, the more I understood why strapless is so popular. Everything else just seemed too fussy and frumpy on me (especially as I knew I would wear my hair down). Plus, hot weather and sleeves? NOPE.

In the shop, they called this the “swan dress”, because the tiny tulle layers look like feathers from a distance. It worked brilliantly for a beach wedding – the tulle dries quickly and tiny rips along the hem are easily hidden, which was a good thing given how often I was in the surf, catching shells, driftwood, and other things along the way. It also travelled really well, which was a big concern for me. I had this dress carefully packed (read: squished) into a hand luggage case for the journey, and it didn’t even need steaming on the day. This was far easier than struggling round the airport with a huge garment bag that screamed “Look at me, I’m a bride”.


The gown itself is by Galina Signature, from David’s Bridal. I tried it in the UK store on my first bridal shopping trip, but actually ended up buying it from the USA where it was almost half the price (hooray for international offices and twice-yearly training trips). I thought I would spend a lot more than I did, but after trying on maybe 50 dresses, this was the one I kept going back to. I just couldn’t justify three times the cost just to say I had a designer gown when none of them were quite right. This dress felt completely different to everything else I tried and I think that’s why I knew it was “the one”. Because the detail all came from soft texture, not embellishment, it had a lightness I knew would be important in the heat. Knowing I was likely to get it dirty on the beach, I didn’t want a £3,000+ dress that was too delicate to cope. Honestly I think I knew this was my dress the moment I saw it, it just took some further persuading to get there.


There was the dreaded back fat to contend with given the tight fit of the bodice (one of my strapless dress fears) but provided the size is right, good posture puts pay to most of that. I did veto a couple of photos when they came back, but overall I was impressed by how well the dress fit in the end (with some help from my sister-in-law, who laced me up like a pro). Because I bought the dress abroad, I actually did all the dress adjustments myself. The length was perfect anyway, but the back needed some changes. Originally, the dress had a zip, which I turned into a lace-up back using a Laceeis kit. This also allowed me to take the dress in to fit as I lost weight. I honestly wouldn’t recommend doing your own adjustments unless you’re a very confident sewist (with your own dressmakers dummy). My mum made her own dress from scratch, but I’m not that confident. The first time I put the needle into the dress, I did so with shaking hands. It worked out, but it’s by no means perfect (especially from the inside).


I wore mostly sentimental accessories. A gold locket necklace that came from my grandad’s mother was my something old. My something new (other than my dress) was my Aspiga starfish sandals. These were one of the first things I bought, having seen them on a wedding blog and fallen in love.


My something borrowed was a diamond ring from my husband’s granny. My something blue (and a little bit green) was a hummingbird brooch that my husband found in an antiques shop, which paid tribute to all the hummingbirds that fly around the resort’s gardens.


I also wore a gold bracelet engraved with the coordinates of the beach you can see in these photos, which came from Mignon and Mignon on Etsy. The sash was from Jenny Packham No.1 at Debenhams. It looks darker in photos than I would have liked, but finding something that was both gold and silver, to match my jewellery, proved tricky. My lingerie also came from Debenhams, and proved to be one of the most difficult parts of the whole look. I tried dozens of strapless bras before settling on one from B by Ted Baker. If there’s one piece of advice I could give to all brides to be its this: think about the lingerie you need, buy it early, wear it for fittings. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can go without a bra if you clearly need one. Work with your body, not against it.


Our wedding day was truly perfect, and (other than maybe going a bit lighter with the bronzing powder) I wouldn’t change a thing about it. If you’re considering a small destination wedding but can’t bring yourself to take the plunge, do it. I promise you you won’t regret it for an instant.

Oh, and did I mention there was a second dress?


More on that soon!


Win a glamping trip plus loads of Summer survival goodies & spending money

A very exciting looking box arrived a few days ago. It contained a whole bunch of treats that will make Summer trips and festivals just that little bit easier. Containing everything from a solar charger to an energy bar, bluetooth speakers and a filter water bottle, this is Get The Label’s Ultimate Glamping Getaway Kit.


It’s been created to promote a pretty fabulous competition the brand is running in which you could win a chic Glamping holiday (like camping but with more creature comforts) plus £150 to spend at Get the Label and, of course, one of these boxes for yourself.

You might be thinking “you? Camping?!” but you’d be surprised how handy I am with a tent (or indeed a yurt, which I once put up as part of a hen do). I had a fair few camping holidays as a kid, not to mention guide camps as a tween, and even spent two weeks on a campsite in Cornwall in my early 20s. I’ve even had the festival camping experience, albeit only once (V 2002, and I have the sun damage to prove it). I actually like roughing it occasionally, though I have to confess the idea of a posh wooden wigwam with heating and power sockets does sound a little bit more suitable for me now I’m old and grouchy and less able to sleep on nothing but a ground sheet.

If this sounds like your kind of thing too, and if you fancy a new pair of Havs, a bunch of cash to spend on impractical clothing, plus a two night stay at a Wigwam Holidays site, get a wriggle on and enter now – the competition closes on 14th June.

Disclaimer: The box was a gift, and I also have the chance to win a holiday in a separate draw.

Retro / Vintage, Swimwear

This Year’s Retro Swimwear Rundown

My passion for vintage-inspired swimwear has been well documented. When I started sharing my favourite retro styles each year, it was difficult to find more than a handful. Now everyone is embracing high waists, polka dots, vintage florals and halter straps. Obviously this is good news for fans of the look, and since this is still something that people come to this site for frequently, I felt it was time for a 2015 update. Hopefully there’s something here to suit every wannabe pin-up girl, no matter your budget. So let’s just get right into the good stuff, shall we?


Esther Williams Rock Lobster swimsuit £65 at For Luna

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was when I discovered that the Esther Williams brand has embraced my love for lobster prints. This literally combines two of my favourite things. These swimsuits are brilliant, and worth the cash if you can afford to splash out. They’re cut to proper vintage patterns and the fabrics are good quality and long-lasting. Be careful with sizing as they can be tricky to wriggle into, if you’re unsure, size up.


Hollywood gingham bikini top £28 and high-waisted frilled bottoms £20 at Boux Avenue

The red gingham is the most traditional version of this great retro-inspired bikini from Boux Avenue, but they also make a pink gingham version and two different florals. So if this is a shape that you love (and I’m betting with the cute frilled bottoms that it is) you can snap it up in various different colours. The moulded top is available up to a F cup.


Yellow lemon print longline bikini top £16.99 and high waisted bottoms £16.99 at New Look

I love the combo of retro and modern in this bikini, with the strappy cutouts on the high waisted briefs that give it a bit of modern sexiness to go with the full-coverage vintage shape. The strappy detail is a lot more flattering than you think, but only if you buy the right size. Bikini briefs always come up small, and there is nothing worse than a woman in a bikini that’s a bit too tight!


Contrast gingham swimsuit with black bottom £36 at Topshop

Three cheers for Toppers for combining one of the season’s best retro trends (gingham) with a really wearable shape. I’m basically recommending this swimsuit (or New Look’s £26 chevron version) to anyone, but particularly those who say they won’t wear a bikini because they’re conscious of their tummy. Who said a classic swimsuit had to be boring?


Floozie Green flamingos underwired top £26.50 and skirted bottoms £20 at Debenhams

The Floozie by FrostFrench brand at Debenhams is an absolute goldmine of gorgeous retro bikinis, and picking just one to feature was tricky…but it had to be the flamingos. As a bonus, this range comes in cup sizes, and while that range only goes from 32A to 38E, it’s a lot better than being forced to buy a ‘one cup fits all’ top by dress size. Debenhams cups always run big, so F cup ladies shouldn’t overlook this range either. You might get lucky!


Navy polka dot vintage boyleg swimsuit £53 at Boden

They don’t come much more classic than Boden’s polka dot vintage boyleg swimsuit. It’s the simple approach to retro swimwear, with none of the frills, ruching, or skirting that you see on some of the more dramatic looks, but the classic shape and print make for a tried-and-tested winner. If the idea of putting a swimsuit on fills you with dread, invest in one of these. Boden doesn’t scrimp on quality, meaning you’ll get plenty of wear out of it before it begins to sag or go thin, provided it’s rinsed and dried properly between wears.

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 17.11.25

Retro high waisted bikini, from around £3 at AliExpress

If you’re willing to order from China and wait a while for delivery, this baby (which a lot of retro retailers also stock) is floating around both AliExpress and eBay at the moment from a whole host of sellers. I took a punt to see what it was like, and I was pleasantly surprised. The top is not the greatest fit and probably works better for someone with a wider back and smaller bust, but the briefs are a really nice fit and will go with plenty of my other bikini tops. If you’re new to this style and want to test it out without spending a fortune, here’s your naughty bargain!


Fuller bust Marilyn Caribbean floral print bikini £34 at ASOS

I’ve become a huge fan of ASOS’s brilliant trend-led swimwear, and surprised by the quality and fit of their fuller bust range. This is one of the best retro-inspired styles for this year; if nothing else I love the name! I love the extended band under the bust that gives it a longline appearance, and the classic high waisted briefs are full on 1050s. That said, if you prefer a lower-cut brief (which can actually look a lot better on someone who’s pear-shaped like me) there are options for that in the same range too.


Resort diamante belt playsuit swimsuit £29 at Very

This style works really well on athletic body types or those with straight torsos, as it instantly adds (or enhances) curves. Full coverage shorts are often recommended for pear shapes, but I actually find they look worse (at least on me) than a higher cut style because the straight line across the bottom stops at the widest part, emphasising it. That said, this is a look that deserves a try by everyone, if only so you can dance around your bedroom pretending you’re in a Beyonce music video!