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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Wedding

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.

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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”.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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More on that soon!

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Competitions

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Shoes, Sponsored Posts

These Sandals Give You Wings

I’ve had my eye on a pair of Ancient Greek Sandals for a couple of years. It took me a long time to succumb to the whole gladiator sandal fad in the mid to late 2000s, but when I finally did buy a pair I wore them to death and I think they’re definitely due a comeback. They’re comfy, practical, and look great with all the boho maxi dresses and fringed shorts that are filling the rails for Summer. The trick is to pick a good leather pair that’ll wear well (and be less likely to rub). These babies definitely tick all the boxes. Plus, what’s not to love about a pair of sandals with wings? They may be a bit much for some, but the good news is there are plenty of other options that are a little more understated.

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They’re created by designers Christina Martini and Nikolas Minoglou. The former was born and raised in Greece, has worked at Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton and studied at Cordwainers College (part of my alma mater, the London College of Fashion). The latter was raised in London, but moved to Athens to run his family’s business (shoemakers, obviously).

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With a pedigree like that, you can expect the very best craftsmanship, which is why a pair of Ancient Greek Sandals will set you back upwards of £100. But these are built to last. Celeb fans include Beyonce, Kate Hudson, Zoe Saldana, Jessica Alba and Candice Swanepoel, so if you do invest in a pair of these, you’ll be in good company. Head over to the Ancient Greek Sandals page on Avenue 32 to buy. I’ve got my eye on the black and gold Nephele sandals for Summer, though the waterproof version, in an array of bright coloured rubbers, come a close second. So fun!

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Disclosure: In association with Avenue 32

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Uncategorized

My Skincare Regime

After many years of struggling, I’ve finally got my skin to a place where I can happily leave the house without makeup. What I learned along the way is pretty obvious; if you want good skin, you have to put the effort in. I now know that all the products in the world can’t battle the worst hormonal acne, but the contraceptive pill can, and beyond that, it’s all about good habits, good moisturiser, and learning to take your makeup off no matter how drunk you are. I was not blessed with perfect skin, but I’ve learned how to make the best of what I have. Here are my current skincare favourites.

Balm Cleanser

I used cleasing wipes for years, but when my favourites (the Kleenex ones) were discontinued I decided to grow up and start removing my makeup the proper way. Let’s be honest, cleansing wipes are crap. Yes, they’re easy. But they’re also cheap, scratchy, and they do NOT remove all traces of makeup, no matter what the ads say. They are for lazy people who don’t want to make a proper effort. If you want good skin, you have to indulge it a bit, and a balm cleanser is perfect for this.

There are loads of great balm cleansers on the market, and I’ve tried many of them. Liz Earle’s Cleanse and Polish was my first foray, and I’d still happily recommend it for normal to dry skins. However, having experimented more, I now prefer an oil-based cleanser. This works on even the oiliest skins, despite what you may think. Monu Cleansing Balm is beautiful, but I found I got through it quickly because the texture was a little sloppy. Eve Lom’s famous cleansing balm was my next foray into balm cleansing but mine split and ended up all grainy (due to temperature changes, apparently). My favourite by far is Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm, which has the most incredible melting texture and smells insanely good. It’s almost a treat to cleanse with this at the end of a busy day. A little goes a long way so while it’s expensive, you’ll get your money’s worth. I don’t actually use it in the recommended way; the packaging says to mix it with a little water, but I just slap it right on my face, including the eye area, and massage it in gently before removing it with a wrung-out clean flannel soaked in hot water. It removes makeup easily and leaves my skin feeling fabulous.

Face Wash

After getting into cleansing balms, I quickly became a fan of the double cleanse to ensure all residue is removed ready for the next step. Once I’ve used my cleansing balm, I finish with a tiny dab of a liquid cleanser, massaged then rinsed with lukewarm water. This leaves my skin completely clean ready for my moisturiser. I use good old Cetaphil face wash, a classic that doesn’t foam, thus doesn’t irritate the skin. I usually buy mine on trips to the US as it’s cheaper, but you can pick it up at Boots too. I also use this in the mornings, as I only balm cleanse at night.

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AHA Exfoliating Liquid

Like half of the internet, I have Caroline Hirons to thank for introducing me to the concept of acid toners. I’m loathe to use the word ‘toner’ though, because this product does so much more than the expensive scented waters I was fooled into buying in my teens (and flogging as a twentysomething). These liquids contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) which are chemical exfoliants that replace those absolutely awful gritty physical scrubs (stop using St Ives apricot scrub NOW). They gently dissolve dead skin to remove dryness, renew the skin underneath and generally make your face look awesome. I use Pixi Glow Tonic every other day, sweeping it all over my face with a cotton pad after cleansing. It is by far the product that’s made the biggest difference to my skin. I also use it on the tops of my arms to reduce the appearance of my stubborn Keratosis Pilaris.

Face Oils and Serums

I’m not particularly loyal to any one oil or serum. Depending on how my skin feels, I’ll use a different one to treat different issues. Basically, this is where I play around a little. My favourite oils are by Darphin, a brand that’s aromatherapy-led. Its jasmine oil is insanely beautiful, even if it is really designed for older skins. When I need a real treat I massage this into my face. I also love the L’Occitane Immortelle range. God knows if the claims are true about the ingredients, but the feel and scent of the products are gorgeous. In the morning, I use Estee Lauder Idealist Skin Refinisher, and have done for the last 6 years. It’s like a combination of serum and primer, and really smoothes out the skin.

Moisturiser

I love moisturiser. I’ve been known to apply way too much and cause my skin to break out, but I’d rather that than have dry patches. My aim with my entire skincare regime is to have skin that doesn’t need foundation day to day. I’ll always have red patches due to my pale, pink-toned skin, but through sticking to a regime I’ve banished spots from my life entirely. At night I use the r/skincareaddiction-approved CeraVe in the tub, a does-it-all gentle moisturiser that works not only on the face but on the body too. This is another product I pick up in Walgreens or Target on trips to the USA. In the day I use Clarins Multi-Active Jour for a bit of wrinkle protection, followed by the most important step…

Sunscreen

…sun protection. I wish I’d realised much earlier how important sunscreen is when it comes to your skin. It’s not about sunburn, it’s about anti-ageing. The sun is in the sky 365 days of the year, regardless of how strong it is or how much cloud cover protects you from it. When I hit my 30s I started using an SPF daily, and I wish I’d done so a decade earlier. I have pale skin that burns easily. I have moles on my forehead and below my eyebrows. Once I got a sunburn on my face that was so bad my nose blistered and my entire face basically peeled off in the following days (long story). Put simply, I need sunscreen. Every single day. I don’t want to get wrinkles, and I don’t want to get cancer. I use Murad Oil Free Sunscreen SPF 30 and it’s worth every penny. If I’m happy to spend £15 on a new lipstick at the drop of a hat, I see no reason why I shouldn’t spend the same on protecting my skin.

What are your skincare musts? Let me know what I’m missing out on!

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Wedding

Why We Chose to Have a Destination Wedding

You’d be forgiven for wondering why someone who doesn’t tan, craves the shade, and has blood that’s crack for mosquitos would choose to get married in the Caribbean. But of all the decisions we’ve had to make when it comes to this wedding, I think the decision to have the ceremony in Antigua was the easiest one to make.

As his lack of appearance on this blog may suggest, my other half doesn’t like being the centre of attention, so we always knew our wedding would be small. Having it abroad makes that easy, especially at a venue that only allows 20 people at a wedding.

We’ll also have been together for seven years by the time we tie the knot. This wedding is not a big public display of commitment (buying a flat together did that). We’re marrying for various reasons, some sentimental and some practical, but the most important thing is that the day itself is about us and it’s as relaxed, simple, and fuss-free as possible. I have a tendency to stress and worry if things aren’t perfect, so anything that can be done to inject a bit of calm into proceedings is a good thing. I’m putting a lot of faith in that “don’t worry, be happy” attitude of island life.

But the big thing for us was cost. Weddings are expensive. Honeymoons are expensive. Put the two together, and you can actually save a lot of money. A destination wedding cuts out the need to suddenly pay over the odds to feed and water the hundred or so people you will inevitably have on your list. We are having a party in London on our return and even keeping the numbers down as much as we could we’re looking at over 100 guests – once your cousins and mates start having kids the numbers spiral out of control very quickly. There is genuinely no way we would be able to have a more traditional wedding in London with all the people we want. As it is, our party (which includes a BBQ meal and drinks) is looking like it’ll cost almost the same as the entire Antigua trip. But even so, by marrying abroad, we’ve managed to keep our budget significantly below the average cost of a UK wedding, get an amazing honeymoon, and celebrate with all our friends in a more informal, relaxed way.

Of course, there are some things you have to consider when you make this decision. People will be disappointed. We are very lucky that our immediate families are able to afford to fly out and join us at the hotel – something we did take into consideration when booking. But we also had to be selfish and risk letting people down. We have grandparents who can’t travel. We picked a hotel that doesn’t allow children, and some of our closest friends have young kids. I think if we weren’t having a celebration at home too, we’d be disappointing some of the most important people in our lives. But I also know that true friends and true loved ones understand that a marriage is not about a wedding, it’s about what comes after.

I’m also pretty sure after shelling out for dozens of big weddings over the years, that many of our friends are just happy all they have to do is show up at 4pm for meat and bubbles. No gifts, no long religious ceremonies, no staged photos. Just all our favourite people and a big excuse to party!

Finally, if you really want to know why we chose to marry in Antigua, you just have to look at it. The 365 virtually empty beaches, the tropical blue waters, the lush foliage, the brilliant people, the amazing food, the bottomless pit of rum cocktails…its a slice of heaven, and I can’t wait to get married with my toes in the sand!

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Misc Updates

A Decade Wiser?

At work a few days ago, we were researching UK based fashion bloggers in their early 30s. These are my peers, and I should have been able to list dozens, but struggled to find more than a handful. It seems like this age is not catered for in quite the way I expected. I’ve seen so many of my favourite bloggers write soul-searching posts in the last few months about the state of blogging and where we go from here. The general feeling? So many of us who’ve been doing this for years feel a bit disillusioned. Amazing young talents are snapping at our heels, and it’s easy to feel a bit burned out.

The fact that young bloggers are dominating large parts of the industry does make sense. They had the head-start that they grew up knowing what blogs are. They can see what the trailblazers did, learn from it, and improve on it. Young people also have a hell of a lot of enthusiasm and drive; I am first to admit I don’t put nearly as much time into my personal blog now as I did when I was 21. They’re also fearless, whereas I feel like my anxiety has got worse the older I’ve got.

There are some obvious commercial reasons too; the way we consume information on the internet has become a lot more visual, and when it comes to Instagram in particular, young and pretty sells – let’s not pretend it doesn’t. But I also think as you grow older your interests widen and your lifestyle changes. I’d wager there are a lot of women my age who started out with fashion blogs who simply don’t have the inclination to blog about clothes any more. They’re too busy working, having babies, travelling, making a home. Their blogs expand as their lives do, which is why most thirtysomething blogs aren’t topic-specific. I know I’ve widened the net just about every year. The irony is when I started blogging at about 16, I wrote about anything. I don’t know when it was that I suddenly thought I had to stick to one topic in case people thought my posts were “irrelevant”.

The point of this post? Realising I am actually NOT blogging in a saturated market has spurred me on to take this blog a little more seriously in 2015. I have so much more to share now than I did 10 years ago, I need to stop being too scared to press ‘publish’. You won’t be seeing outfit posts featuring floppy hats and crop tops. I will not be getting ombre hair. But I will be blogging more openly and more honestly. To help I’ve stripped things right back, got a snazzy new responsive design for the new year, and I’m going to endeavour to post a little more often.

I hope you’ll be here when I do.