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In My Wardrobe

Blanket Wrap
Accessories, Coats & Jackets, In My Wardrobe, Tried & Tested

Winter is Coming. It’s Time to Wrap Up.

Blanket wrap, throw, shawl, poncho, horse blanket…call them what you will, this season there’s definitely no shortage of oversized scarves in heavy fabrics that will help you add that important extra layer of warmth. Damart set me the challenge of styling up the Dogtooth Wrap for the colder weather, and I knew immediately this look had to be all about the layers. These wraps are brilliant over your usual coat on days when you know you’re going to be facing sub-zero temperatures.

Damart wrap

I teamed the wrap with a lace-up top from Primark, the Missguided Lena coat (still available in lilac and pink), black Old Navy rockstar jeans (the best cheap jeans in the world) and Clarks Hamble Oak brogues in pewter. This is my second pair and they’re still the comfiest brogues ever.

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The joy of these wraps is you can throw, pin, and wrap them around yourself in all manner of ways to suit the weather. One minute, it’s like a poncho over your coat (I prefer to tuck it under the lapels so the coat shows, especially if I’m wearing colour like this one), the next minute it’s more like an oversized scarf, tucked up around the neck. I’ve also seen them look great belted a little like a waistcoat; a good choice if you’re concerned that all the layers will drown you a little.

My other big reason for loving these wraps is that they are a joy when travelling. I hate getting cold on long flights but I also hate packing a big coat just for the journey. I’ve always worn a big scarf for flights and now I’ll be upgrading. This is way better than the horrible blankets that get handed out in economy class! It stays in place over the shoulders, you can easily fasten your seatbelt over the top of it, and your hands remain free for important entertainment selections (ahem, and free wine guzzling). On top of that, you’re far more likely to get use out of it at your destination if, like me, you always slightly underestimate the weather when you get there.

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One final bonus? These babies come in one size, so whether you’re buying as a gift and not sure on size, or you have a tendency to yo-yo between sizes, you can rest assured this will fit!

Disclosure : The wrap was a gift, however I wasn’t paid to write this post

freemans
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.

skirtpics

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.

bluedress

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.

oasisss
Clothing, In My Wardrobe

You’ll Be Surprised What £50 Will Get You

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

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

outfit3

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

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

outfit4

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

outfit1

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

outfit2

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

dressemberintro
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!

pencilskirt
In My Wardrobe, Skirts

Styling up the pencil skirt – two ways to wear!

A little while ago Debenhams asked me if I’d take part in a blogger styling challenge for their amazing new Minizine. The ‘zine lauched today, and I have to say it looks fab – kudos to Lizzie and the team for putting together something so great! My challenge was to style up a Debenhams piece, the super classic black pencil skirt from Debenhams Collection. I decided to take on an Autumn / Winter trend – blue and black – but also try something new. I never button blouses right up to the top because it can look a bit frumpy on me, but I think with this look it works.

 

I also wanted to share with you an ‘outtake’ from this challenge – I actually ended up doing a couple of outfits because I wasn’t sure how wintery the look needed to be. This is the other look, which is much more ‘me’, but probably not as seasonal. I’d just got back from a week in 32 degree sunshine, would you believe – my legs are still ghostly pale!


(Blouse and clutch from Primark, vest from Uniqlo, shoes from Faith circa 2005)

I was doing the rounds of a few outfit blogs the other day and I think I saw about six girls with variations on this Primark studded clutch in this colour and black with gold or black studs. It’s definitely an outfit pic favourite! I bought this for my holiday as it went with some pink and rose gold ballet flats I’d also picked up for the trip and it is the perfect size. The blouse is Primark’s much-loved answer to Zara’s animal printed blouses. This one has kangaroos which is apt given the number of Antipodean friends I have. The shoes I rescued from the back of the wardrobe. They’re copies of a Prada design from way back when.

The outfit is a bit ‘office chic’, but I was in the office so I guess that works. I’ve been a bit lazy with my clothes of late and have been trying to make a bit more of an effort to get back into my dresses and out of jeans and flats for work. I go through phases and right now my phase is ‘ten more minutes in bed please’. I’m hoping the Ways To Wear challenge and the knowledge I have to update this blog more than once a month will help. If there are any specific types of outfit you’d like to see from me, say the word. I’m in need of inspiration at the moment!

challenge
In My Wardrobe

The MoneySupermarket Challenge – how far will £100 go?

A little while ago I was contacted by MoneySupermarket.com with a challenge that sounded too good to be true. They were looking for bloggers keen to show their readers how to make savings on their shopping. As part of the challenge, I was very generously given a £100 prepaid card to spend however I chose (to suit my blog) with only one caveat – I couldn’t buy anything at the full retail price. This challenge was all about discounts!

Given this blog is 99% about fashion, my aim was to hunt down some stylish bargains that would work for Spring / Summer 2012. So armed with my card and a few secret weapons, I hit the shops! I’m a bargain hunter by nature – I rarely buy stuff at full price if I can help it – so this was the perfect challenge for me and I couldn’t wait to get started.

My first stop was Debenhams. Through this blog and my job, I get the odd incredible perk, and until the end of March I was the very lucky owner of a Debenhams press card, which entitled me to a hefty discount on everything except concessions. I used it with my pre-paid card to snag two lovely pieces from Red Herring on the day my discount expired. That’s one blog perk I’m really, really going to miss, but the good thing is if you hunt around you can quite easily find discount codes of between 10% and 30% for most online shops.

My first purchase was the cat print shirt dress, which you may have seen me wearing in my holiday pics from Monaco. If not, here’s that not-so-glam photo once more. I have to say I’m pretty shocked this dress is now sold out online, suffering as it does from the worst model shot I have ever seen (what is going on with her breasts?). It retailed at £25 but I got it for £15. I love the cute print and the shirt dress shape is really good for daytime.

Next I took a dip into the rise and fall trend with the Green floral ‘Ultimate’ evening dress (£40). This is another one that I think is much nicer in real life than it looks in the pictures on the website – it’s far less shower curtain-esque! I’m saving this one for when the sun comes out, when I can wear it with my tan wedges and belt for a bit of Summer glam.

With the discount it cost me a very reasonable £24, bringing my total up to £39. Bargain city!

Next, I hit TK Maxx, home of insane savings. I managed to find the most amazing bargain that really shows what you can find if you shop around. I bought a sheer blouse by Clements Ribeiro for £16.99 – the RRP on the label was almost £200 and while it may not be worth that, it’s definitely worth what I paid.

I’ve only really been exposed to Clements Ribeiro at London Fashion Week before this, so it’s pretty cool to now own something from the mainline collection. Of course, there’s also the fab Evans collaboration currently on sale if you’re size 14+ but this top is actually cheaper than that diffusion line! This is definitely the best bargain of the lot.

Next up, I set my sights on a flamingo print maxi dress I’ve had my eye on for ages from Traffic People. I did some googling and found it on various websites at reduced prices, but the best bargain came from Get The Label, where it was reduced by a whopping £42. With delivery, it ended up costing me £26.99, a massive bargain. I finally got the chance to wear it a couple of weeks ago when the Sun finally came out. Please ignore the lack of makeup – it was just too hot for slap!

This makes the total £83, and while we’re on the subject of maxi dresses, my next buy was from George in their sale, a graphic print maxi for £8.50 (reduced from £14). If you look closely, you can see the print is oversized butterfly wings. It’s got ‘cold shoulder’ cutout sleeves which make it even slouchier. Please ignore the not-so-brilliant photo, it was a hastily snapped phone photo in the midst of the heatwave! The sunglasses are from H&M. They’re huge and I love ’em!

So that brings my total up to just over £90. The card has a few load and transaction charges (between 50p and £1 per use) so I didn’t have exactly £100 to spend – at this point, there was approximately £5 left, and that final fiver proved a bit more difficult to spend. That was until I hit Primark on a quick post-work shopping trip!

As well as hunting down the fish print dress I wore for a piece in Grazia (plug plug!) I also found a pair of green pastel snakeskin jeans reduced down to £5 from £14.

I’m not 100% on the shape of these if I’m honest – I don’t really think they do anything for my legs, and I think they’ll get more wear in the Summer when I can cuff the hems and add heeled sandals, but I took this pic before the sun came out, when I was still very much in long-sleeves and closed toe shoes. For a fiver, I couldn’t resist the excuse to try something a bit different, but if I’m honest, it just reiterated to me the fact I prefer dresses and skirts!

It’s so easy with the escalating prices on the high street to spend £100 any not have much to show for it, but I hope this challenge proves that if you shop around, spend some time going through the rails in your local TK Maxx, and take advantage of the neverending sales and clearances that go on year-round, you can get much more for your money than you think. By shopping smartly, I got four dresses, a designer top and a pair of jeans for my money – not bad at all I don’t think! At RRP all this lot would have set me back closer to £500 than the £100 I spent.

Disclosure: The prepaid card was a gift to enable me to take part in the challenge, but all the thoughts are my own.

greendress
In My Wardrobe, Tried & Tested

In My Wardrobe: Lady V London bird print green sundress

I’ve written about a lot of beautiful dresses in my time, but I don’t think any has received such a huge (and fast) response as the Lady V London dress that I put in my 50s sundresses feature earlier this week.

My twitter feed and blog comments were full of people telling me they were either buying it or thinking of buying it, and by Friday I even had twitpics of happy customers thanking me for introducing them to the label. In the end, I couldn’t resist ordering one myself, if only to report back on whether it really could be as good as it looks when it retails at only £30!

But first I have to give credit where credit is due – I actually saw the dress on Georgina‘s Facebook page, so she’s the one who deserves all the love for hunting down such incredible value retro-inspired frocks!

Now onto the dress…I ordered on Wednesday and it arrived on Friday, so thumbs up for quick delivery! It was quite creased in the packaging (a cellophane bag) but that’s nothing new when ordering online. I also noticed the tag on the dress read £50. This style comes in loads of different fabrics, and some of the others are still £50 (like Kat’s amazing poppy print one), but a lot, like mine, are selling at £30 / £35, which I think is excellent value.

First up, let’s talk length. I’m 5’7 and the dress hits the knee on me. From the pictures I was actually expecting it to be slightly longer, but I actually prefer it being that little bit shorter as it feels a bit more casual. It also gives hope to petite girls who’re drowned in other vintage style dresses that end up being almost maxi length on anyone below 5’3! The fabric, though it’s synthetic (viscose) is incredibly soft, and the dress is lined, which for £30 is really great value. It hangs really well and I haven’t had any static issues yet. Plus, look how much fabric is in the skirt…

…you get a nice full-skirted effect but enough weight to stop it flying up in the wind. In general, I love the shape. The little cap sleeves, the nipped-in waist with tie belt, and the full skirt are really well done.

Now for the bad bit. I say ‘bad’, what I really mean is ‘annoying’. You can see in the pic above that the bodice actually bags a bit on me. This is no new thing for me – my waist is small compared to the rest of my body so I often find things are a bit loose there (and at least this dress comes with a belt to cinch in) but it’s very big all over. I ordered the 14 because going by the brand’s online size guide, I thought I’d need it to accomodate my bust. But it’s incredibly generous in the top, and there’s so much ease I could have probably bought the 12 and fitted into that better. I’m not going to exchange as there’s not too much in it, and it’s always nice in Summer to have room to move about a bit and breathe, but if I buy another print, I’ll definitely size down. I’d say there’s a good 1.5 – 2″ inches of ease in the measurements on the size guide, so if you are between sizes, definitely consider going down.

Overall, I can’t really fault this dress in terms of value for money. It’s as good as some that are going for twice the money, and if you’re happy with synthetic fabric, this is definitely one to consider. The prints on offer are lovely and the shape is really pretty and timeless. Just watch your sizing, because that’s what’s going to make this look brilliant, not just ok!

See the Lady V Spring / Summer collection by clicking here.

versace
In My Wardrobe

What I wore to London Fashion Week Feb 2012

This post is a sad indication of how rarely I’ve updated of late – as I post this you can still see my post from last Fashion Week in the sidebar to your left! But that fashion week coincided with moving to my new (old) job back at the helm of Catwalk Queen, which has taken up most of my time of late, and I don’t believe in posting here for the sake of it. I’m hoping now I’m well and truly settled there that I’ll have more time to dedicate to Big Girls Browse and can ramp up the post count a bit for March…so if there’s anything you’d love to see me talk about, now’s the time to speak up.

In the meantime, as fashion week draws to a close and I get my life back, I thought I’d share here the outfits I wore for the five days of the event here. These were originally published in a series of CQ posts but I thought I’d put them here in one place as well. This time around I was filming video as well as attending shows, so it was a really busy week with lots of running around – hence the lack of heels on most days. I don’t think I let the side down too much, though!

Day 1 – Friday: I wore my leather and jersey Supertrash jacket (generously gifted by the brand when they took me to Amsterdam Fashion Week) over a Uniqlo heat-tech long sleeved top (best thing ever), Forever 21 printed tube skirt, black tights, ASOS boots, my Linea Pelle Dylan bag and a very old triple layer necklace from River Island.

Day 2 – Saturday: It was freezing cold and pouring with rain, so I had no choice but to pull out the big guns. My Versace for H&M leather trench is the most expensive item of clothing I’ve ever bought, but I love it. It’s the only thing I’ve ever worn that got the street style snappers excited. They love a bit of detail or studding. I wore it with black tights, an animal print and lace dress from Primark, leopard print shoes from Very (gifted) and a leather Doctor’s bag from River Island.

Day 3 – Sunday: Not the greatest photo but it was a busy day and we had to find a place to snap it quickly! I wore a Pearl Lowe for Peacocks lace dress, but ditched its usual slip and wore it over a black slip and long-sleeved top (Uniqlo again) instead. I added black tights, studded jazz shoes from New Look, a hairband from Dorothy Perkins, that Supertrash jacket again, and a Betsey Johnson bag.

Day 4 – Monday: Canny folks will recognise this Dorothy Perkins dress from my sale buys post back in January. This was actually the first time I wore it, as it has a bit of tendency to stick to my tights (I had to spray a lot of hairspray up my skirt)! I teamed it with my Linea Pelle bag again, my ever-present black tights and sequinned shoes from ASOS. The tote bag was from the amazing Peter Pilotto show earlier that day.

Day 5 – Tuesday: For the final day, I wore a graphic flower print dress from Wallis (yes, Wallis!) with my very old and much-loved Stella McCartney for H&M jacket, Butterfly by Matthew Williamson necklace, ASOS buckled heels, and a studded bag from Beth Ditto’s collection for Evans (gifted). This bag is very much on its last legs having travelled to Australia and back with me, but I still love it.

Oh, and here’s my favourite video from the week, which you may enjoy if up to this point you’ve been lucky enough not to hear my terrible TV presenter voice…