ancientgreek-sandals
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, who are aromatherapy-led. Their 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.

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DD+, Lingerie, Sponsored Posts

Improving Your Life One Niggle At a Time

You may have already stumbled across Triumph’s latest lingerie campaign, which is all about fixing the little niggles that make life more difficult. You know what I’m talking about, when you make a delicious meal and realise too late that you’re out of the one herb or spice you need to bring it all together, when you ladder your tights as you’re walking out the door, when you find yourself on public transport face-to-armpit with a man wearing yesterday’s shirt…just take a look at the video for more. I think we’ve all been there!

 

Of course, as a bra obsessive and advocate of the perfect fit when it comes to clothes, the heart of this campaign is close to my heart. Ill-fitting bras are definitely one of my niggles! But even if you’re wearing the right size, wires can dig over time, shift about during the day, and cause discomfort and temporary marks (if the marks start to become permanent, it’s definitely time for a fitting and a new bra). But the alternative – a non-wired bra – isn’t an option for many of us when it comes to support. I can think of only one viable non-wired D+ bra that even exists!

So I’m intrigued by Triumph’s new Magic Wire bra, which seems to offer the best of both world. It’s seamless, and looks a little sexier than some non-wired offering, but the new silicone ‘wire’ provides the support that many of us need. Size wise, it goes up to an E or F cup depending on the band size, so while it’s not technically a fuller bust option, it does cater to much more than the usual A-D range available in most non-wired options.

What’s more fun, though, is the #nigglefix campaign, which really got me thinking about those little things that drive me mad. I’m talking people who stop in the middle of a busy street with no warning, skinny jeans that sag at the knees, flat shoes that suddenly start rubbing the backs of your heels despite the fact you’ve been wearing them for months, rucksacks on public transport, when someone pronounces it “expresso”, and absolutely everything about self-service checkouts.

I’m only scratching the surface here, but I’m sure you have plenty more to share. You can share them with Triumph using the hashtag #nigglefix – you might make it onto the microsite, and maybe someone can help fix your niggle?

Disclosure: Posted in association with Triumph

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Wedding

A Guide for Non-Romantics: How To Propose

After getting engaged, I was surprised at the amount of people whose first question was “So, how did it happen?”

I guess I never thought too much about proposals because I was more concerned with the marriage (and, yes, to a lesser extent, the wedding). But after telling the story over and over I realised that it is a lovely part of your relationship story to have a touching, funny, sweet or dramatic proposal story.

What I don’t believe, though, is that you have to stick to tradition, spend a shedload of money, or go big. Sometimes, it’s the little touches that are the best. So when Gemporia, purveyors of gorgeous engagement rings, asked me to share my tips on how to propose, I decided to throw the rulebook out of the window and instead of sharing tips, I’m dispelling myths!

Myth one: You must spend a fortune on a ring

The ‘rule’ is that the person proposing should spend a proportion of his or her income on the ring. Depending on where you look, that figure ranges from one month’s salary to three. Basing what you buy on your earnings does make sense, but perhaps not to this extent. Lest we forget, the original ideas came from a 1930s advertising campaign by De Beers. De Beers sells diamonds. Of course they want you to spend all your money on a ring.

It comes down to two things: circumstances, and the bride’s style.

If my fiance spent three months salary on my ring, we wouldn’t be able to pay our mortgage. We wouldn’t be able to have our beautiful destination wedding. And I would walk around wearing a piece of jewellery so expensive I’d be scared to do anything with my left hand. Of course, there are some women out there who love luxury, expect a big rock, and won’t be truly happy without one. If they are marrying someone who is able to buy them the ring they dream of, then they should go for it. You’re going to wear this rock for the rest of your life. But for me, jewellery has always been more about sentimentality than cost.

I already have two engagement rings on my right hand – my nan’s and my great grandma’s – and I love them. For me it was most important that my ring worked with them as they’re mixed metals. I didn’t want a big, modern style with a huge diamond. After we decided to get married, I picked out two affordable vintage diamond rings on Etsy that had the same feel as the ones I already wear, and my fiancé picked his favourite. Here it is, in situ next to a modern ring from Gemporia.

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I adore my ring, everyone has commented on how perfect it is for me, and the money we saved will go towards our honeymoon. As for my wedding ring, I’m going to wear the gold band that matches my nan’s engagement ring. Consider it my ‘something old’.

Myth two: You have to get down on one knee

Though I know my future husband (argh!) wouldn’t want me to go into exact details about the moment we got engaged, I did already reveal that it happened in a lagoon in Thailand, so it wouldn’t take a genius to work out that he probably wasn’t down on one knee at the time. Did this make any difference to the moment? Nope!

While I do believe there should be some ‘ceremony’ to a proposal to make it special if possible, I don’t think it has to be the traditional down-on-one-knee moment, unless that feels right for you as a couple. Getting down on one knee automatically draws attention, not to mention the fact it implies what’s coming next. I would have been beyond embarrassed if I was proposed to in public with the whole shebang!

Myth three: You have to plan everything in advance

Sometimes it’s as simple as picking the perfect moment and jumping in at the deep end when it feels right. If you plan every last detail, the moment something doesn’t go according to plan you could get flustered and ruin things completely. There have been some incredible dramatic proposal (just look on YouTube) and while they’re absolutely amazing, they’re not necessary. What’s necessary is love, commitment, and that feeling of “right now is the right time”. While I doubt many girls would hate a beautiful choreographed proposal, I also think a lot would be happy with just a simple “will you marry me” from the man they love.

Myth four: You have to tell everyone immediately

We didn’t tell anyone about our engagement for almost a week, and it was nice to have that little bit of time just for us, which also allowed us to come up with a (basic) wedding plan before we told parents and friends. Some people may want to share immediately, but if I can give one piece of advice, it’s to make sure ALL close family know (especially the older generations) before you take it to social media. I made a lot of calls before I put up that facebook status change. Not everyone likes to find out about the movements of their nearest and dearest second hand from that random second cousin twice removed who you forgot follows you on instagram.

Myth five: You should never propose on a birthday, anniversary, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day or at someone else’s wedding

One person’s tacky is another’s sweet and sentimental. Do whatever the hell you like! The latter is the most controversial, but I’ve known it happen, everyone’s still married, everyone’s still friends. As with everything, it depends on the people!

Myth six: You should propose after a certain period of dating (18 months, 2 years, etc)

As much as I would like to say “absolutely not” to this, I think the real answer is “it depends on who you’re proposing to”. Some people have certain expectations, and if you’re in a relationship with a traditionalist who has a life plan, there may come a time when you feel pressured to put a ring on a it. But it’s 2014, and each relationship is different. Don’t let outside pressure force you into proposing unless you genuinely want to be engaged and eventually get married. Because the moment that ring is on the finger, people will start asking about the wedding!

Myth seven: The man has to propose to the woman

Firstly, who says a marriage has to be between a man and a woman? Secondly, if you are a woman who likes to take control of the situation, there is nothing to stop you from being the one to pop the question. If you want a seriously awesome story to tell people when they ask you how you got engaged, they don’t really get any better than “I asked him”.

Myth eight: You have to ‘propose’

Sometimes it’s as simple as sitting down, having a conversation about the future, and deciding mutually that you want to get married. While a nice proposal story is lovely, it’s not vital!

Disclosure: I wasn’t paid to write this post, but Gemporia did gift me the ring in the picture.

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Wedding

All The Wedding Dresses That Almost Made The Cut

I’ve chosen my wedding dress! After numerous appointments, lots of different styles and a little bit of soul-searching, I finally made a decision. It won’t surprise any of you that I ended up picking one of the first few that I tried, but it took a long time to convince myself that the right dress really was one of the cheapest and definitely the least like the picture I’d had in my head when I started looking. During my search I tried on around 40 dresses over six appointments (I know) and as I could only pick one, I wanted to share some of the other great styles I tried and loved. There were so many great designers on offer that I really wanted to do a little focus on them for any other brides currently on (or planning) their search!

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Eliza by Eliza Jane Howell

(tried at Boa Boutique, Richmond)

Eliza Jane Howell was one of the first designers that I identified as being “the one”, and I deliberately booked appointments at two boutiques that stocked her dresses. She essentially makes nothing but the exact Old Hollywood style gowns I’d imagined myself wearing, and I fell in love with her beautiful ’40s designs. Unfortunately, my body didn’t. I tried 2 or 3 dresses but the only one that worked on me was this, the Eliza.

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This was the dress I agonised over the most. I loved it, but it would need serious alterations to the shoulders, sleeves and hem, I kept tripping over the incredibly delicate tulle train, and in hindsight, it was far too fussy and embellished for a beach wedding. I came away on the day seriously considering splashing out on this. But when I look back at these pictures it looks too much, overwhelming me with all the detail.

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Lusan Mandongus

(tried at TeoKath, Wimbledon)

This is another dress that made it onto my pinterest board very early on. I was completely in love with it from the photos and knew that the style was perfect for the beach; a bit sexy, with the vintage feel I love. But there was one big issue, and I knew this before I even tried it on. This is not a dress for a girl who has E cup boobs! I didn’t let this stop me trying it, and actually it looked a lot better on than I expected, but it wasn’t the one. No amount of sewn-in cups can make a slinky dress like this work on a less-than-slinky figure. On to the next…

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Annasul Y

(tried at Teokath, Wimbledon)

I never would have picked this dress up myself, least of all because at this point I was still against anything strapless, but after trying similar shapes with sleeves, I started to realise the fuss around the shoulders wasn’t actually doing me any favours (as I plan to wear my hair down). So the consultant suggested I try this, and it ended up being my favourite in the shop. It was hard to work out from the small sample how flattering it would be, but I loved the delicate details like the lace trim on the hem of the skirt, the soft pleated tulle at the waist, and the simple shape with very soft layers.

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Pronovias Ledurne

(tried at The Wedding Dress Shop, Wimbledon Park)

And now for something completely different! I loved the ridiculous drama of this dress, though it wasn’t exactly my mum’s favourite. The bust has feathers pointing upwards, which I thought would be really fun in Antigua where the resident hummingbirds have actually inspired the overall theme of the wedding. The mermaid shape looks much better on me than I ever expected (and there’s great fun in looking like a mermaid for a beach wedding) but the full skirt with all the layers and pleats made this too heavy, and virtually impossible to pack for travel. I still love it for its drama though!

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Watters Brooke

(tried at Emma Elizabeth Bridal, Twickenham)

I think before I even tried it on that I knew this dress wasn’t quite right, but my mum hadn’t seen me in a full-on princess dress and I thought it would be fun to see how it looked. The great thing about these styles is that they make the upper body look incredible. I loved the twisted bodice and the fit of the corset top and this was actually one of the most flattering styles I tried. The skirt was surprisingly beautiful and didn’t look as crazy as it does in photos, but I knew that it’d be a step too far for my wedding (and more importantly, my fiancé, who is a less-is-more man). It was very light, though, despite all the layers, and I think if I was a few years younger, I might have considered it!

Fashion, Portrait, Wedding, Commercial & Event Photographer

Terry Fox Silver Siren

(tried at Boa Boutique, Richmond)

If I was getting married in Winter, in London, I would probably be wearing this dress. I absolutely LOVED how simple and sophisticated it was. Satin wasn’t top of my list when it came to fabrics when I started my search, because it’s so famous for being unflattering. But Terry Fox uses high quality, beautiful fabrics that float, rather than cling.

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Unfortunately the sample was too small for me (see the back view!) so I couldn’t really get a true idea of how it would fit, but I loved the seaming detail around the hips, the keyhole neckline, and the ’30s inspired silhouette. Terry Fox makes dresses to the bride’s custom measurements, which would promise an incredible fit. I felt like a glamourpuss in this dress, but I just couldn’t see it on a beach. I’m so glad I tried it on though, because I now know if I ever have a big event that styles like this do work on curvier figures, you just need to invest in a good cut!

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Mia Mia Tamara

(tried at Emma Elizabeth Bridal, Twickenham)

I’d tried a lot of lace the day I tried this, and as more and more of the dresses didn’t work, I knew I needed to try something completely different to get myself out of the funk. This dress was the antithesis; full skirted, no embellishment, just a really beautiful heavy silk with a sheer panel at the top. The fit was an absolute dream, and when Emma added a floral sash in my exact colour scheme, I did find myself wondering for a nanosecond if I really could get a dress this big and heavy into a hand luggage box. The answer, of course, was “probably not”. But if you are having a more traditional wedding and want something along the Grace Kelly / Maria Von Trapp lines with no silly sparkle but plenty of class, please try this dress. It’s a total winner and makes your waist look absolutely incredible.

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Pronovias Ocampa

(tried at The Wedding Dress Shop, Wimbledon Park)

This was the first wedding dress my mum got to see me in, and I think it set the bar pretty high. Pronovias was one of the labels I’d known about for years but always thought was out of my price range (along with Claire Pettibone and Jenny Packham) but I was surprised to discover that many of the dresses are under £2000. That’s still an obscene amount of money to pay for a dress you’ll wear for one day, but a drop in the ocean compared to the likes of Vera Wang, Monique Lhuillier and co. Ocampa combined a few of the things I loved; drop waist, tulle skirt, lace detail, not strapless…but overall it was just too much. Close, but no cigar!

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Enzoani Harmony

(tried at The Wedding Dress Shop, Wimbledon Park)

I tried this in a size 12 which was a little on the tight side, which could go some way to explaining why I let it go so quickly. Looking back, this is one of the dresses I feel the most excited about, but the simple truth was it just felt too much like a party dress, and too sexy for a wedding. You can’t tell so much on the model, but there’s a split to the thigh which shows Angelina Jolie levels of leg when you move. It’d be easy enough to stitch it down, but it still felt a bit too Marilyn Monroe. The waist hugs really tight, the top shows a lot of cleavage and the back is low, emphasising the hips and bum. I have a crazy waist to hip ratio, and a dress like this on a body like mine is just a bit too badonk-a-donk for a wedding. After all, the in laws will be there!

I’ve listed all the bridal boutiques I visited for any future brides looking for South London shops to explore. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the lot in terms of service, but really it comes down to the styles and designers you’re looking for. One piece of advice I would give: if you like a specific dress from a specific designer, call ahead to check they stock it (and find out what size the sample is) to avoid disappointment. I was lucky and there was only one dress I didn’t track down, but it’s not always that easy!

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Rants

I am Fine.

On Monday I will be 31 years old, and it has taken me this long to realise one simple thing. I am fine.

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I may never be a supermodel, I may never be a millionaire, I may never work out how to stop my hair from frizzing, or write the Great British Novel, or learn how to eat carrots like a grown-up rather than picking them out of every meal. I may never have a 26 inch waist. But I am safe, I am happy, I am fine.

To some extent, I’ve spent my whole life wishing I was something different. More confident, more vivacious, more tanned. Better at driving, less anxious, able to leave the house for a trip without checking every plug socket twice. Less prone to sticking myself to the walls at press events because I’m not one of the cool kids. Able to have a conversation with someone I admire without worrying that they think I’m a total bore (more importantly, not caring if they do). Able to participate in a pub quiz without coming across as an insufferable know-it-all. Able to live my life so I don’t feel like I’m faking it half of the time. Thinner, without the chubby ankles, the short torso and the dot-to-dot moles. With higher boobs, bigger lips, slimmer hips.

This level of self-obsession is not a good thing. Yes, we should always strive to be the best we can be. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be a better person. But so many of my hang-ups have to do with my body. That is ridiculous. I am more than that, and my body really isn’t that bad. Yeah, I have wobbly bits. I’ll never look like Miranda Kerr in a bikini. Sometimes, depending on which way my weight is fluctuating at the time, I step on the scales and the number tells me that (by someone’s fairly random calculations) I’m a bit overweight. That doesn’t suddenly make me a worse person. I am fine.

Partially, I blame fashion for my terrible body image. Fashion has made me feel left out my entire life. I don’t say that to elicit pity. Quite the opposite, in fact. I say it because you’ve probably felt the same way. After all, it’s what large parts of the industry thrive on. The only difference is I’m the idiot who decided to pursue a career in the exact industry that made me feel inferior at every turn. Well, I do love a challenge.

It’s easy to feel like fashion designers, retailers and the media don’t cater to your specific needs. Fashion thrives on aspiration and making women feel like they’re not good enough without the must have item. Whether you’re tall, short, plus size, slim, big busted, small busted, have a big waist, or a small waist, or a big bum, or no bum, or short legs or long legs…whatever. If you’re any woman I’ve spoken to in my entire adult life, you’ve struggled with fashion sometimes. When you go shopping, you have to dig and hunt to find the things that work for you. All clothes don’t work for all women. It’s rare that you see an ad campaign and think “I’d totally wear that, just like she does right there.” You’re more likely to read articles in magazines or on websites and think “well, this is all well and good, but what about women like me?” The fact that I’ve felt like that over and over again doesn’t make me special. It makes me exactly like everyone else.

I think it’s important to say at this point that I don’t hate my job. I love it. My decision to become a fashion writer was always more about clothes than it was about ‘fashion’. I have always been obsessed with clothing. Even before I really knew what ‘fashion’ was, I liked dressing up, and most of my strongest memories focus around items of clothing or outfits I had as a child. Trends were fun, but I loved clothes because they were the tool I used to make myself feel better, or become a different person, or make a statement. That’s the irony. Fashion made me feel bad and clothes made me feel better. Like most people, my teenage years were full of awkward moments. The right clothes could change and mould me into the girl I wanted to be. They were my armour. I have never really been bullied, but there have always been comments. Stupid people go for the easiest insults and “fat” is a pretty safe bet for me. I’ve been around a size 14 since I was about 15 years old, and it’s taken me half a lifetime to realise that doesn’t make me some kind of failure. My body is fine. I am fine. In fact, just as I look at other women and wish I had what they have, I now realise that others do that with me.

I write this now because I’m finally getting to a place where I don’t look at photos of myself and immediately pick out all the flaws. I still see my body as a work in progress, but I’m striving to ensure that anything I do to change it has to be about being healthy and happy, not necessarily about being a certain dress size. I hate that I put my weight above so many other things, but it’s a daily struggle not to. I am obsessed. And it’s not an easy job to reverse twenty-something years of habit and learned behaviour.

But I’m trying, and I want you to try too. Stop beating yourself up, stop tearing yourself down. Leave that to the trolls. I’m not saying give up, we should all strive to be our best, fittest, happiest and healthiest selves. But the best and most long-lasting changes (if they are needed or desired by you and you alone) can only be made when you’re starting from a good place. Next time you look in the mirror, instead of focusing on the things you hate, pick out one thing you love. The next time, pick out something else. If you’re struggling to find anything, keep looking and really force yourself to consider all the amazing things that make up you.

Because you are fine. And fine is good enough for now.