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Dressember

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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!

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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.

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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

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Clothing, Dressember, Dresses

‘Cos I’m Cooler Than The Red Dress…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Dressember

I’m back for Dressember 2013

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*tap tap*…is this thing on? And more importantly, is anyone still listening?

Last time I updated this blog it was the middle of Summer. Now it’s the last day of November and I can’t believe how quickly the second half of the year has gone. I turned 30 at the beginning of August and promptly jumped on a plane to the US for three weeks of training for my new job. Going back to a role that gave me more time to write day-to-day has definitely affected my motivation when it comes to this blog, and I’d all but decided to just write the rest of the year off and start fresh in January. But why wait another month? After finally sorting out my wardrobe and getting my clothes in better order, I decided I should follow tradition and take part in Dressember again. This year the official site has joined forces with the International Justice Mission to do some good whilst wearing dresses, so if you enjoy my posts, I encourage you to make a donation.

For those who’ve not encountered Dressember before, the concept is simple. You wear a dress every day of December. For me this isn’t much of a challenge since dresses make up most of my wardrobe, so I also make sure to never repeat my dresses, and some days I try to have a wardrobe change (well, why not, it’s Christmas). I’ll also be using the opportunity to review a few dresses I know you guys will love, and pull out my heels more than once a month.

Updates with lots of photos will start very soon – thanks for sticking with me and still reading after the extended (accidental) hiatus!

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Dressember

Dressember 2012 Part 2 – Florals, jumping and loadsa layers!

It’s time for another Dressember update! These photos don’t bring me totally up to date, but they give me plenty of opportunity to bring you another lovely update tomorrow, as the following week’s looking pretty busy (out every night – this is perhaps the only week of the year I’m this sociable). I’ve been saving a lot of my best dresses for next week’s run of dinners and parties (not to mention Christmas and New Year) so these ones aren’t particularly exciting, but they will hopefully give you an idea of how I make dresses work on freezing cold, mid-winter days as well as big night’s out and days spent in the warm glow of the central heating. Oh, and there’s jumping, a floral wiggle dress and some really bad hair…

December 9th

This was the first day I was beginning to feel properly well again after my bug, so we celebrated with lunch at our favourite local restaurant, 22 North Street (which I totally recommend if you’re in the Clapham area). It was freezing cold, so I layered up as much as I could – fleece lined tights (I’ve just discovered Primark do them for £3.50, almost half the price of the Asda ones though they don’t stay up as well), those ugly boots again, a Uniqlo heat-tech polo tee (from the goodie bag at the LOOK Show this year) and my wraparound grey dress from H&M. The boyfriend calls this dress my ‘judo uniform’ but on days when I just want something comfy and easy to wear, it’s a godsend. My hair went in a bouffy pony and I belted the dress to bring it in a bit, as it’s one of the few size 16s left in my wardrobe that I still wear, and it’s quite loose on me now.

December 10th

I had the day off on Monday and was mostly slobbing about the house doing the last of my Christmas shopping online, so there was no point in dressing up. I wore a Pearl Lowe for Peacocks dress that’s been an old faithful for a few years now – it’s seen better days as you can tell from the way the hem hangs, but I like the 90s feel of the button-down front, and it’s super comfy for casual days. I’d usually wear this in Summer with sandals and a little jacket of some sort, but it works in Winter too if it’s layered up a bit. I must confess after these photos were taken I shoved another Uniqlo heat-tech top underneath. Those things are a godsend

December 11th

There’s always a jumping day in Dressember, and as I missed the official one due to being ill, I decided to make 11th December my unofficial jumping day – hence the photos. I really must remember to hide that camera remote, though! This dress is by Rise, found in the sale last year for about £20. It is available still through Amazon though it’s back up to £45! It’s layered over a black long-sleeved bodysuit I picked up on ebay, and my New Look jazz shoes.

December 12th

December 12th was ‘nature inspired day’ on the Dressember facebook page, so I took it as a chance to wear this ASOS wiggle dress in floral print, which will forever be known as my ‘granny wallpaper dress’. I really love the shape of this dress, the slightly longer length and the elbow length sleeves. Not to mention the pockets – a dress with pockets is an instant win. But as it’s longer and higher at the neck it’s got the potential to look super frumpy if you don’t wear it the right way, so I had to go all out with red lippy, red heels (ancient New Look purchase) and a waist-cinching belt. This is what I call a ‘London dress’. If I wore it over Christmas in my hometown, at least one person would shout “what the fook are you wearin’?” at me. Guaranteed.

Don’t forget if you’re enjoying Dressember that this year I’m trying to raise some money for a good cause through my ‘dressing’ – if you donate to Parkinson’s UK through my Just Giving page, you can make requests and I’ll do my best to fit them into the next half of the challenge.

I’m also giving away a dress worth £89 this month. Click here to enter for free now!

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Dressember

Dressember 2012 – Week One

I’m massively behind on my Dressember posts this year, for the simple reason that for the second half of week one I was laid up in bed with some kind of bug, and wasn’t really taking photos. So I’ve been mega-busy playing catch-up ever since – editing photos and taking the ones I didn’t get round to and making sure every December dress is accounted for! So now I’m finally ready to show you week one, and week two will be coming shortly afterwards!

December 1st

Day One: I didn’t exactly start off with a bang – 1st December was a Saturday which I mostly spent in the flat doing boring stuff like tidying my bedroom and watching telly, so I didn’t really want to do that in a party dress. Instead I wore a simple jersey pull on number from Banana Republic (bought at an outlet for about $15) with black tights and fringe detail boots from ASOS. The earrings were a gift, I have no idea where they’re from! This isn’t the most flattering dress in my wardrobe because it hides the best bit of me (my waist) but for lazy days it’s nice to have something that I can just pull on and be comfy in, so I actually wear it more than I probably should!

December 2nd

Now this is a bit more like it! On Sunday 2nd we had some friends over for lunch so I used it as an excuse to pull out one of my absolute favourite dresses, the Fever Mauritania empire dress. The ‘Empire’ in the title would suggest this is meant to be empire waisted but the wide band sits quite close to my natural waist. The fit is perfect – snug without being tight, and it always gets comments because of the detailing and the bold colour. I absolutely adore this dress, and you’ll be seeing more of it this month because I recently managed to snag it in another colour on eBay. I teamed it with flat sequinned slippers (again from ASOS) and heidi braids, which may just be my new favourite easy updo.

December 3rd

3rd December was a Monday, so it was time to head back into work. I did so wearing a Primark dress with a contrast collar and cuffs which is blatantly based on a Victoria Beckham design. I’m trying to get more into the buttoned collar, high necked look but to be quite honest I just don’t think it’s something that’s ever going to work well with my bust. I’m looking a bit shelf-boob in these pictures and the length of the dress is about 2 inches above what I’d like making the whole thing look a bit small and tight on me. the irony is the waist is too big, as per usual, and that’s why I had to nab the belt off another dress to cinch it in. The shoes are my old faithful studded leather jazz shoes from New Look. They’re 3 years old now and really should be binned, but they’re so comfy I can’t bear to part with them!

December 4th

On 4th December it was a dress double-whammy. For the day I wore my Simply Be tiered boho dress with long sleeves and a slip underneath, with those fringes ASOS boots once again. This is one of my few long sleeved dresses so it gets quite a lot of wear this time of year. This look is not really my style any more but I used to be big into boho (didn’t we all, circa 2006?) and it’s a nice reminder of that. Sometimes you just want something soft, comfy and floaty.

For the evening, I did a quick change into something more suitable for a night’s karaoke and mayhem at the Domestic Sluttery Christmas Party. I actually found the dress on my lunch hour because I’d conveniently forgotten when I got dressed that morning that I wouldn’t have time to go home and change before the party. It was £17 in Primark (thank God the huge Tottenham Court Road store is right by my office) and I think it worked well with my boots (which dressed down the girly sequins), plus a gunmetal belt and some jewelled headbands I also picked up in Primarni.

December 5th

On 5th December it was freezing so I layered up, putting a black bodysuit under my cat print dress and adding the best invention in the world – fleece lined tights – to keep my legs warm. I was *this* close to wearing my chunky Fitflop mukluk boots but wasn’t quite ready for that yet and put on my jazz shoes again instead. I finished the look with a cloche hat from Miss Selfridge, and my beautiful new LK Bennett Emeline handbag (a gift).

December 6th was when I woke up feeling like death, so forgive me that there’s no sexy pic of me looking depressed in my nightie. The same goes for the 7th, when I was still suffering. I did, however, wear two different nighties to keep up the Dressembering. You’ll have to sponsor me a bit more before I show photos, though!

So since it was a bit of a short week dress-wise, here’s an added extra…

December 8th

On 8th December I was still feeling rough around the edges, but I was a lot better than the previous days, and I had to get out of the house to buy nurofen and food and keep a hot date with the dentist. I put on the easiest dress I own, a green jersey skater dress from Dorothy Perkins, and this time I did pull out the Mukluk boots. I know they don’t go, but I was feeling dreadful and when you’re that sick, style goes out the window! The side plait is my go-to hairdo when I cannot be bothered, so forgive me for that!

Stay tuned for more…

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Dressember, In My Wardrobe

Dressember 2012 – do some good for charity

I’ve been doing Dressember for the last couple of years and I really love taking part in this fun challenge. For those who’re not familiar with Dressember, it’s a pretty simple concept. For the 31 days of December you wear a dress every day – in my case a different dress every day. Hardly challenging for a dress fan with shopaholic tendencies like myself.

But this year I want to take it to the next level and use Dressember as an opportunity to do some good, rather than just an excuse to give my wardrobe an airing. This year I’ll be using Dressember as a way to raise money for a very worthwhile charity, Parkinson’s UK.

This is a charity that is very close to my heart – I’ve seen the destruction that this horrible disease can do. Every penny counts in the fight to find a cure, and my target for Dressember is a very manageable £500, so if you enjoy Big Girls Browse, please dig deep into your virtual pockets and do a good thing! Even if you just donate a couple of pounds it will help – don’t feel like you have to donate a lot if you can’t afford to. Brands can also get involved by donating dresses which I’ll be giving away throughout the month.

Of course you may be thinking ‘why should I make a donation when Gemma’s just doing something she does anyway?’ and you’re right to think that. Wearing a dress each day is no challenge. But I want to make it a challenge. There are always themes during Dressember (usually organised by the facebook page admins). Usually they involve simple things like twirling or jumping in the photo, but there are occasional tricky days like the ones where I had to wear a wedding / bridesmaid dress, and an evening dress day in 2010 that saw me cooking dinner in a floor length gown.

In order to make the charity fundraising part of the challenge worthwhile, I’m opening Dressember up to you – if you make a donation to charity, you can give me a Dressember challenge. I reserve the right to say no to impossible ideas, but I’m fairly flexible (so for £30 I might wear my nightie to work, but if you donate 10p don’t expect me to go to my work Christmas party in a muumuu).

Dressember begins on 1st December (obviously). You can make a donation at any time through my Just Giving page.

Want to see proof that I do this and make it fun? Here’s a selection of dresses from 2011…

And the best of the dresses from 2010…

And while we’re on the subject of dresses, don’t think I’ve forgotten the Little Black Dress challenge – that update is coming very soon!