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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.

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, Dressember, Dresses

The Perfect NYE Party Dress by Bastyan

For me, half of the fun of party season is in the getting ready, so when Bastyan offered me the chance to style up one of their party dresses, I couldn’t resist. Their dresses put modern spins on classic formal shapes, from cutouts at the waist to sheer panels and embroidered details. I wasn’t so sure on the styles that flashed the flesh and I knew I wouldn’t get much wear out of one of the more formal maxi dresses, so the dress I chose was the Sophia, a fitted black pencil dress with a gathered section, sheer 3/4 length sleeves and a curved plunge neckline. It’s one of those dresses that looks quite innocuous until you put it on. Then you realise what a difference a clever cut can make!


Coming in at £195 (though it’s reduced to £125 in the sale) this is one of the most expensive dresses I own, but you can tell the difference between this and a cheaper style. It’s fully lined, and the fabrics are heavy and luxurious, meaning it skims comfortably, rather than clinging too tightly like a cheaper unlined version. I often find that tight fitting dresses like this can end up clinging in unfortunate places – and I don’t always want to wear shapewear, especially around Christmas. With this, I can wear tights without worrying about digging in, which is definitely an added bonus.


In terms of styling, I don’t really think this dress requires much so I kept it simple, with sparkly studded tights and a black and white clutch bag, plus my go-to festive hairdo, the beehive (with a jewelled headband). The dress would look great with a bright coloured pair of shoes or belt, but I wanted to show that it doesn’t need any extra cinching to work with a curvy figure. The lower neckline is perfect for a big necklace if you prefer, but I actually think it looks just as striking without, as that curved shape is quite a strong design detail. Despite the fact it’s plain black, I think the little touches (the sheer sleeves, the little front split and the neckline) give this dress that extra something, so accessories should be kept to a minimum. Too much drama with a dress that’s already an attention grabber can be a bit much!

Disclosure: The dress was a gift, however I wasn’t paid to write this post and all thoughts are my own

Clothing, Dressember, Dresses

‘Cos I’m Cooler Than The Red Dress…


One of the problems with doing Dressember is finding enough dresses that are warm enough for one of the coldest months of the year. I have a predisposition for things that are a lot lighter and more summery (hello, floral cotton), which means I often end up spending most of my Winter freezing cold. So when East offered me the chance to try one of their dresses, I decided to go with my brain, rather than my gut, and test out the pleated merino dress (£99), which is the perfect design for colder temperatures.

I always scoff at people who say they won’t wear dresses or skirts in colder temperatures. In the right long sleeved dress and fleece-lined tights, I’d wager I’m probably warmer than anyone in jeans. Winter dresses do require a bit more consideration, but if you pick the right fabrics (heavy wools, jacquards or knits) there’s no reason to switch to trousers and jumpers when the temperature drop.

This isn’t my usual style of dress, but that was part of the appeal. I loved the idea of a knitted dress that would genuinely keep me warm in cold weather. It’s not just a high quality knit with long sleeves, it also has a lining under the skirt for extra warmth and a nicer finish. This definitely does the job – if anything I overheated when wearing this in central heating, and ended up rolling up the sleeves. Merino wool really does the job, if you’re used to wearing acrylics you will be blown away by the difference a quality yarn can make. That’s why this dress is expensive – you’re paying for quality, warmth and a knit that keeps its shape past the first wear.


The length is a little longer than I’m used to, meaning this dress was best worn with heels rather than flats. I prefer a knee length style and at 5’7 this hit just below the knee, however the waist was quite high, which worked with my shorter torso. The shape is really classic – a fitted waist, pleated skirt and wrap-over top that’s particularly good for those with larger busts or top halves. The colour I chose, a rich red, is suitably festive too (one colleague referred to me as “Mrs Claus” on the day I wore it).


It’s worth noting that East’s sizing is generous. I’m wearing a size 12, which is plenty big enough for me despite the fact I normally wear a 14. I’d definitely recommend going down a size in this unless you are particularly pear-shaped (it’s in the skirt where you need the extra room to allow the pleats to hang properly). Knits have a tendency to stretch but I found this dress kept its shape very well.

Overall, I’m impressed. When it comes to my style, this is definitely a day dress as it doesn’t have the ostentatious drama I look for in an evening dress. But if you’re not usually a dress girl, it could be an easy ‘in’ that will definitely get worn over and over again. It’s practical and flattering, I wore this for work and for play and it worked just as well for both. Definitely worth the investment if you want a quality dress that you’ll wear more than once a year.

Disclosure: The dress was a gift, however I wasn’t paid to write this post and all views are my own.

Clothing, Dresses, Events & Launches, Retro / Vintage

VIP vintage style fashion at Dollydagger in Brighton


A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to the gorgeous Dollydagger boutique in Brighton for a taste of their VIP shopping experience. I’ve been a fan of the brand for years so I was very excited for an excuse to head down to the seaside for the evening. The event is all about the full-on retro experience. Think vintage-inspired shopping with a personal touch – small groups (hen dos, birthday parties etc) can book in with the store for a night of bubbly, pampering (hair and makeup to complete your retro look) and plenty of retro fashion fun, with a goodie bag at the end of the night. The shop specialises in 1950s dresses (own brand and hard-to-find labels like Bettie Page Clothing), rockabilly style and quirky gift ideas, so it’s perfect for a retro fan like me!

I was invited along with a few fellow bloggers, and we had an amazing time working our way through all the frocks on offer and getting some makeup tips from amazing makeup artist Alessia Mancini. Here I am modelling just a few of my favourite frocks…which you can save 10% on until next Thursday (4th April) with the code WELOVEGEMMA (awwww).


In the Midnight Rose Scarlet DressThis one is in the sale at the moment at £89, so grab it quickly! I’m wearing the Large which runs smaller than other larges in the Dolly Dagger range. It’s listed as a 12 – 14 and that’s pretty bang on – it only just fit me!


The Dita dress (£149) was probably my favourite – this baby looked amazing on everyone who tried it. There’s really clever gathering and seaming around the hips and waist to shape it to the body, and the sweetheart neckline is really pretty and a favourite of mine. The red was definitely my favourite, but I’m holding out for green before I invest. A little birdie told me that might be a possibility in the future, but in the meantime there’s another amazing green dress coming to Dolly Dagger – more on that soon!


I tried the Greta dress (£159) in two colours, but the fit just wasn’t quite right on me. I adore the leopard collar and 3/4 sleeves, but the shape just isn’t as nice on me as the Dita. This dress is made for Caroline, though! It’s really amazing for those with bigger busts.


And finally, a bit of Bettie Page. I’ve got a few Bettie Page dresses already that I bought from the store in Vegas, but they can be hard to find in the UK so knowing Dollydagger is a stockist is great. Unfortunately, the Rita (£89.99) is not my perfect Bettie Page partner. I love the colour and the huge collar, but it doesn’t do anything for my upper half – making me look quite straight-up-and-down and pushing my boobs downwards (not to mention the tight sleeves). This is less of a curve-enhancer for size 14s like me, and is perhaps better as a curve creator on slimmer figures!


Thanks so much to Dollydagger for inviting me to play with all the gorgeous dresses and take a look at the beautiful shop. As I mentioned above, as a special treat, they’re offering all you lovely lot 10% off a purchase at Dollydagger for the next week. Place your order now using the code WELOVEGEMMA to take advantage of the deal. And don’t forget to comment and let me know what you chose!

Clothing, Dresses

I think I’m in love with Orla Kiely

I never really got the obsession with Orla Kiely. The prints that she’s most famous for, and the oilcloth bags and laptop sleeves emblazoned with graphic tulips in sludge green and burnt orange…they just never really did it for me. I love a bit of 70s retro, I’m always a fan of an Autumnal palette, but if I were to put Orla’s bags on my Handbag Of Dreams list, they’d be down there with multicoloured monogram Louis Vuitton. Just not me.

Then I discovered the dresses. Not the prim little things you may have seen on The Duchess formerly known as Kate Middleton. No, the amazing 1960s inspired two-colour party dresses, and the insane pre-Spring boat-emblazoned 50s dresses that look like something Sally Draper would wear (or indeed the never-really-off-duty Kiernan Shipka, who at 13 already has a better wardrobe than I will ever own). I mean, look at this…


It’s like the party dress you always wanted when you were six, but made to fit your grown-up lady lumps! I also have it on good authority (well, I think I wrote it once at work) that black and blue is no longer the fashion ‘no’ it once was. Now it’s chic and modern and whatever else. And it’s reduced – originally £335, it’s now £167.50. Still out of the realms of possibility for most of us, but it won’t stop me looking at it on a daily basis and bemoaning how much important dress-buying money gets sucked up by bills each month.


Then we come onto this. The ‘Around The World’ print dress. A dress so staggeringly twee it caused me, possibly for the first time in my life, to wonder ‘am I too old for this’. The answer is probably yes – I’m not Zooey Deschanel – but I’m still pondering whether I could make this work without looking like a crazed Blue Peter fan who never grew up. This one’s £358, so Zooey Deschanel is probably the only person who can afford it. It’s from the new pre-Spring collection. If you’re preggers, there’s a high-waisted, voluminous number with an amazing 60s silhouette in the same print that would be amazing with a baby bump.

Now for the piece de resistance…


Anyone who’s picked up a fashion magazine recently will know that black and white is *the* trend for Spring / Summer 2012 (thanks, Marc Jacobs). And this dress has the double whammy appeal of being both black and white AND in the sale. By this point the sales are usually full of nothing but tatty coats with missing buttons and one-shoulder party dresses in cheap faux satin, so to find a little gem like this that’s still available is pretty great. What’s not pretty great is that it’s still well over a hundred quid, even in the sale. £162.50 to be precise.

Elsewhere on the site there are fox print knitted dresses, boxy boy detail bags and fabulous full winter skirts. I’m also a sucker for the homewear, especially the retro teapot. If only I drank tea!


Top 5 dress plus size dresses from Simply Be

Today as part of Dressember I’m looking at some of my favourite dresses from one of the brands that has supported Big Girls Browse since the very beginning, Simply Be. I wore a Simply Be dress for one of the very first days of my first Dressember, so I think there’s nice synergy in this post happening now!

I love the label for offering a great combination of classic styles and trend-led pieces in a really good range of sizes. I know that a lot of my plus size friends rate Simply Be as one of if not *the* best when it comes to UK plus size retailers, because they have such a big range and some great collaborations. I also love seeing the clothes on models with bodies like mine – Naomi Shimada and Laura Catterall can sell ANYTHING to me! Here are some of my top dress picks from the Simply Be Winter collection…

Peplum PU Panel dress £55 – this is similar to the dress I wore for the Ways To Wear challenge, but with a bit of a sexy twist by way of the PU panels down the middle. I love that this sticks two fingers up to plus size conventions – it’s fitted, it’s sexy, it’s got interesting textures and while it’s black, it’s not boring.

Ruby Rocks Butterfly print dress £55 – I’m a sucker for a butterfly print, and this is a really nice one that doesn’t look too twee or 90s. I also love the cute pink-trimmed collar, which makes the dress look youthful despite the modest length. I’d add a bright coloured wedge or platform shoe and belt the waist to add a bit more definition.

Bonded lace dress with beaded collar £70 – Though I know Simply Be have a brilliant plus size bridal range anyway, I can absolutely see this being worn by a modern bride for a low-key wedding. It’s such a great shape and the collar detail stops it from looking too ‘timeless’ and thus boring. For a festive party I’d add accessories in a bold colour like cobalt blue or red to keep it away from the bridal look. As for the hair, this is crying out for a beehive!

Anna Scholz bird dress £70 – It’s easy to see why this is one of Simply Be’s bestsellers – Anna Scholz is the queen of great printed plus size designs, and her more affordable diffusion range for Simply Be is a great place to look for cool day dresses in quirky prints. She always picks fluid fabrics that hang well (and wash well) and I love the shape of the skirt on this slightly retro dress.

Flock baroque print skater dress £48 – You can’t beat a skater dress and this one comes in one of my favourite colours for clothing, a bright sapphire blue. I love a fit-and-flare skirt style because it’s so comfy and easy to wear, and the long sleeves make this a bit more practical for the cold weather than some of the skimpier options. Baroque print is a key trend this Autumn, and I’d love to see this dress teamed with a leather jacket and really high heeled ankle boots to keep it looking current.

Disclosure: Post in collaboration with Simply Be

Dresses, Special Ranges

Simply Be launches gorgeous plus size wedding dress range

Words can’t begin to explain how excited I am about Simply Be’s new plus size bridal range. I don’t have plans to marry any time soon, so I’m not looking at these with my big day in mind, but I’m hugely impressed at the quality and variety that they’ve managed to pile into such a small range. There are only four dresses so far, but if they’re a sign of what’s to come, this could be the start of something very special.

This could have gone so wrong. It could have been a pile of horrible, frou-frou strapless numbers and ugly toilet roll holder shapes with cheap embellishment. Instead, I really feel like the Simple Be team have done a wonderful thing; they’ve created a capsule plus size range of wedding dresses that will genuinely make people who wear straight sizes go ‘wow, I wish they did that in my size’.

Not only are these dresses pretty and modern and wearable, they’re affordable too. Coming in at around £100, they make looking amazing on a budget for the plus size big day a real possibility. They’re available in sizes 12 – 32.

Grace petal trim wedding dress £100

What I love the most is that there are dresses with sleeves. But not ‘guys, we’d better make one with sleeves for the people who want to hide their arms’ sleeves. Proper, pretty dresses that look special, and beautiful, and unusual, but just happen to cover the upper arms. The Marilyn is a gorgeous example, a formal take on the much-loved wrap dress.

Marilyn wrap detail 3/4 sleeve dress £100

I’ve seen so many plus size bridal offerings that look incredibly uncomfortable. This annoying idea that anyone over a size 12 spends their entire life wanting to look as thin an possible has meant it’s corsets and boleros all over the shop. But a corset is not right for everyone and that Simply Be have recognised the need for comfort and prettiness over waist-cinching properties is fabulous. They’ve even paid attention to trends. My favourite from the collection, the Isabella dress, combines a touch of Downton Abbey with a splash of Gatsby for a lovely vintage-inspired look. I really wish this came in colours so I could buy one for my next formal event!

Isabella vintage style beaded wedding dress £90

And they haven’t forgotten those who don’t want to marry in white. The final dress in this collection (which I hope grows over time) is a pretty pink number.

Evelyn knot front wedding dress £100

Shop the whole collection now at Simply Be. And have an AMAZING wedding!