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Tried & Tested

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

Curvy Kate Bikini
Swimwear, Tried & Tested

The Other Reason I Went On Holiday Was to Review This Bikini

It will come as no surprise to you that I have too many bikinis. But despite the fact I have more two-pieces than I do days a year to wear them, I’ve never actually shared a photo myself wearing one before. I’ve talked in great detail about my struggles to accept my less-than-perfect body, but I worked hard before my wedding to really get to a good place. And when Bras and Honey offered me the opportunity to review a style from one of my favourite brands, I decided it was now or never.

I own a couple of Curvy Kate bikinis already, and they’re some of my most comfortable and supportive styles, so I was excited to try one of their newer styles. Bras and Honey picked out the Luau Love style for me, in hot fuchsia pink. I tried the bandeau top which has detachable straps, and the skirted bottoms. There are three tops and three bottoms to choose from in the range, so there’s something for everyone.

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As expected of Curvy Kate, the top is super supportive and well made. I can’t fault the construction. I think the strapless top is cut using the same (or a very similar) pattern to their famous Luxe strapless bra. As such, it gives a very rounded, forward-facing shape and is quite narrow across the front in comparison to some of the brand’s other bras and bikini tops. I tried the top in a 32E and I think I would have actually done better in a 34DD, as my bust is quite wide-set and I could have done with an extra inch across the front of the band. Getting into this top took a lot of “swooping”, but once I was in the support was incredible, with or without the detachable straps.

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Now onto the bottoms. A lot of swimwear guides push bigger briefs and shorts for curvier body shapes, I guess the idea being that if you’re larger, you will want to cover up more. But it took me a long time to realise that sometimes, less is more. For my body at least, I feel like a fuller bottom actually just accentuates my widest part (my hips). As the years have gone by I’ve tended towards slightly skimpier bottoms which accentuate my waist, or something low-cut with a little frill.

So despite suiting my retro taste, this skirted brief was actually a bit of a departure for me. Luckily, the style is much more flattering than boy shorts (which I hate – camel toe ahoy!) and once I’d worked out where to position them on the hips, I grew to really like having the extra coverage around the bum and hips. The ties are adjustable and there’s a lot of fabric to play with; I preferred them pulled up relatively high on the legs, but if needed you can loosen them right down to an almost knee-length skirt if you prefer. I’m wearing the size 14 / L here. I’d say they run a little on the small side, as with most swimwear, but the shape is fairly forgiving so there’s some wiggle room (literally).

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The good news if you love this set? It’s in the sale! The bandeau top is £29.75 and the skirted briefs are £21.25.

Disclosure: Product sample provided free of charge for review purposes.

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Shoes, Tried & Tested

Tried & Tested: Clarks ‘Deva’ summer sandals

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I know that Clarks has a bit of a frumpy reputation amongst fashion fans, with their shoes often sacrificing style for comfort. But I’ve always had a bit of a love affair with the brand, particularly their summer sandals. In 2006 I fell so in love with a pair of flat sandals with sequin covered twisted ribbon uppers called ‘Saskia’ that I ended up owning them in three different colours (they were a rip-off of a Chloe sandal I could only dream of). Last year, I bought a pair of 70s style platform sandals with a perforated leather upper that one colleague described as “gross” but I loved to pieces. You just can’t beat the comfort of a pair of Clarks shoes – every pair I’ve ever had have been glorious to wear, with no rubbing, chafing or cutting into the skin. I know I can rely on my Clarks’ to last forever and never cause blisters, and if you know where to look, you can find some really modern styles.

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This year, I fell for the contrasting colour of the ‘Deva’ sandals in pink and fuchsia. Pink and orange / pink and red is such a cool combination – unexpected but it always works (don’t believe me? Check out Amy’s pinterest board of proof). I got these sandals before my holiday, and frequent visitors might recognise them from my leopard print dress post. Obviously I’m not the only one who fell for their charms, as these babies were out of stock for ages, but it looks like they’ve just restocked in both regular and wide fit (and half sizes)! They also come in various other colours (including a cool silver trimmed white).

Clarks Deva pink and orange sandals

I wore these sandals loads on holiday and plenty of times since I’ve returned, and they are insanely comfy. I’m a bit of a shoe loser in that I adore my heels but I can’t really wear them all day, but these are the exception. They have Clarks’ softwear cushioning in the sole, and even though the heel isn’t particularly high, you definitely benefit from that added softness. They’re also quite flexible and bendy so they’re easy to pack! You’d be surprised how much the pink and orange combo goes with – I have a lot of printed / floral dresses and most had some element of pink or orange in the print. I’ve actually found myself reached for these sandals as often as I do my black ones. That said, there is one outfit in particular that these babies are made for, and that’s my ASOS deckchair striped skirt which I will be whipping out plenty of times this Summer!

Disclosure: The shoes were a gift from Clarks.

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Tried & Tested

Tried & Tested: bonprix Beachwear

It’s time for more holiday photos masquerading as a blog post! bonprix’s Animal Print Maxi (£29.99) from their beachwear range was the perfect dress for Antigua, where the mosquitos and sand flies seemed intent on draining my blood throughout the ten days I was there, even when I was coated in the strongest insect repellent I could find. I ended up wearing my long dresses more than anything else, partly to cover the bites on my legs and partly to avoid getting any more! This dress was great in the heat due to its loose, relaxed shape. I’m still pre-programmed to cinch everything in at the waist and must admit I did add a belt to this one time I wore it, but in 30 degree heat, the floaty, loose shape worked really well to keep me cool and comfy even if it doesn’t make the most of my body shape…

Bonprix beach maxi dressSunglasses: Marc by Marc Jacobs at Secret Sales, Dress: Bonprix, Sandals: New Look

I always find on holiday that I pack loads of trend pieces, but always end up in the loosest, floatiest, most casual styles. After a day of high temperatures, high SPFs, sandy beaches and coconut rum cocktails, the last thing I want to do is squeeze myself into fitted clothes and high heels. Thus this dress was worn more than once with my fab gold-trim New Look sandals (flip-flops with a slingback) while my beloved Topshop Motel printed pencil skirt stayed in the wardrobe the whole trip (I’ll be wearing it a lot when the temperature warms up at home though).

The problem with maxi dresses is inevitably going to be length. I often find they’re either a bit too short or a bit too long, but this one passed the Goldilocks test – it’s just right! I’m 5’7 and it hit me right at the ankle when wearing flats. I love the braided neckline, and the dress is heavier than I expected, so it hangs well. Despite being synthetic (100% viscose) it felt quite cool and airy. All in all, it’s a great little find that will definitely be heading to the beach with me again!

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Disclosure: The dress was a gift from bonprix, but all thoughts are my own and I was not paid to publish them.

bridetop
Special Ranges, Tried & Tested

A bride’s opinion of Simply Be’s plus size bridal range

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It’s time for a slightly different – and very special – post with a special guest!

A while back, when this site was still Big Girls Browse, I featured the lovely range of wedding dresses from Simply Be. This was a collection I felt really passionate about the moment I saw it. Wedding dresses are expensive, and plus size women get a very raw deal when it comes to their big day, often having to shell out for really expensive made-to-measure pieces, or settling for the very few cheaper off-the-rack options, most of which are pretty ugly and old-fashioned. Simple Be managed to produce a capsule collection of pretty, simple and non-frumpy styles in sizes 12 – 32, all costing £100 or less. They felt modern, chic and special, but fit a tight bridal budget. I knew they’d be popular, but I didn’t realise quite how popular! My post about the range quickly became one of the most visited on this site, and perhaps one of the loveliest moments of my entire blogging career so far was discovering that, in a tiny little way, I helped a bride have a brilliant wedding day.

With no further ado, I’ll pass you over to Rebecca…

Simply Be bridal collection Grace dress real life bride

“I was a bride on a budget. At 25 I was marrying my college sweetheart and had set a budget of around £400 for my dress.

At a size 20, I am plus size and was a follower of Big Girls Browse. When I saw Gemma’s post about the Simply Be bridal range I fell in love right away with the Grace dress. With its petal shoulders and simple but elegant design it suited my ‘Spring Tea Party’ theme perfectly. Not only was it beautiful, it was also a quarter of my allotted dress budget!

Plus size real bride in the Simply Be Grace dress

The dress is ankle length on my 5ft 11 frame, which firstly meant I didn’t ruin the bottom by standing on it or dragging it along the floor. Secondly, it meant I got to buy and show off some amazing shoes!

bridal shoes

The fit of the dress was perfect on me. True to size, the measurements on the website were spot on! It is floaty on top and the lining is fitted for a smooth appearance.

I love my wedding dress, it was perfect for me. It made me feel beautiful and bridal without being too fussy. It was comfortable and easy to wear and to dance in, and thankfully I was able to visit the bathroom on my own without any assistance!

I would highly recommend the range to any other plus sized bride on a budget, or even without a budget – why not have more money to spend on other things!?”

I think we’ll all agree Rebecca looks gorgeous in the dress, and hopefully this ‘real life’ review will help anyone else thinking about making a purchase from the range. I’d like to thank Rebecca so much for taking the time to write this post and share the photos from her beautiful big day. If you’d like to pass on your congrats to her or ask any more questions about the dress, she’s on twitter as @msmagic.

You can shop the Simply Be Bridal Range by clicking here.

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.

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Retro / Vintage, Tried & Tested

A date with Vivien of Holloway part 3: The ‘Peggy Lee’ day dress in green

I’m finishing up my Vivien of Holloway dress reviews today with the third and final dress. This is the Peggy Lee day dress in green (£69), a cotton number with an A-line skirt and contrasting white collar and pockets. Of the three I’ve tried, this is probably the most costumey. The other two can easily be modernised, but as far as I’m concerned, you may as well go the whole hog with this one! So I pulled out my retro glasses, put my hair in a mock-bob with some roller curls and hunted down some hair flowers so I could give this dress the 40s style look it deserves!

Of the three dresses I tried, this one is also the most generous when it comes to sizing. Like the Grace and the Jezebel, I tried it in Vivien of Holloway’s vintage size 16 (B38/W30). I think if I bought this dress in the future, I would probably try on the 14 too see if I can get away with it. You can see in the pictures that it creases up a bit around the bodice – the torso section is quite long and I could do with being more snug around my mid-section. That said, it was a good fit on the bust – if I switched to a non-padded bra I hope I could go a size down.

Because the waist wasn’t as snug as I wanted, I tried the dress with an elasticated belt to cinch it in a bit. This did mean it wrinkled and creased a bit around the waist, and looking at the pictures afterwards, I think I prefer it without the belt. If you want the smoother lines you can see in the model pictures on the website, I’d advise a good girdle underneath! Of all the Vivien of Holloway fabrics, I’d say this cotton is actually the least forgiving on fleshy bits so choose your underwear carefully! Fit is vital too so definitely try on at the Holloway Road store if you can. The zip runs up the back (but the collar is fixed so it doesn’t zip all the way up). It is one of those annoyingly flimsy concealed zips I hate, but because it’s up the back, not the side, it’s not so temperamental and worked fine for me without snagging or getting stuck.

I absolutely adore the colour of this dress, if only because it gave me an excuse to wear my green suede shoes (now reduced to £20 at Chockers) and pose in front of some nearby green doors. The pockets are also a big bonus too – these ones are huge, almost like the big pockets on an apron! Of all the Vivien of Holloway dresses I’ve tried it’s probably the most practical despite the bold design details. If you’re a vintage / reproduction fan and want something a bit different to the usual tea dresses and wiggle dresses, this is a total winner. However, dressing it down for a more modern look is more difficult.

The ‘Peggy Lee’ dress is available in various colours and prints for £69 at Vivien of Holloway

Disclosure: The dress was borrowed from Vivien of Holloway. All thoughts are my own and I was not paid to publish them.

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Retro / Vintage, Tried & Tested

A date with Vivien of Holloway part 2: The ‘Grace’ circle dress in Fuchsia

We’re on to my second of three Vivien of Holloway dress reviews, and this time it’s the turn of the positively fabulous ‘Grace’ dress, a silk, full-circled version of the Jezebel I tried last time. It’s the most expensive VoH dress at £110, but there’s definitely a reason for that. The fabric is really nice quality, very heavy so it hangs well, and there’s loads of it in the dress – though there are side seams, this is a nice full skirt, not an A-line masquerading as a circle!

I should probably tell you now, before you scroll down, that the unofficial theme for these photos was ‘vintage tea party in my kitchen’ so this post includes not only a retro dress, but also cupcakes and vintage teacups. All this is despite the fact I don’t drink tea (I do eat cakes, though). Be warned, kitsch ahoy!

I’m basically in love with what this dress does to my waist!

It fits like a glove around the mid-section. Looking back at the pictures, I would perhaps opt for a different bra in the future (I wore the Freya Deco half-cup) because around the top seam it’s fighting against underwires and padding a bit which means it sits out away from my body slightly, but nevertheless I can’t fault the fit at all. When I put it on it felt like the dress had been custom-made to my measurements.

The heavy satin items like this one seem to run a bit smaller than others in the Vivien of Holloway range, probably because of the stiffness and lack of give. It’s not a huge difference, but I’d say there’s half an inch in it at least, so it’s worth remembering if you’re between sizes or only just fit into the size you usually wear if you’re a fan of the brand. The Jezebel fit me with a bit of breathing space, the Grace in the same size (vintage 16) fits very tightly, but not uncomfortably. As always with Vivien of Holloway, go by the waist measurement, not the size in the label as their vintage sizing differs from modern sizes by quite a bit.

The length, shape of the skirt and the way it hangs can’t really be faulted as far as I’m concerned. On my 5’7 frame it hits a couple of inches below the knee, and the fabric is heavy enough that it doesn’t crease the moment you put it on. It took a while to get used to the colour – if I’d bought it myself I probably would have gone with the navy or dark green – but once I had it on and I was prancing about the kitchen with cupcakes, I soon grew to love the bold fuchsia and ended up falling in love. I wore it with Marc Jacobs peep toes, my mom’s necklace, H&M earrings and a No.1 Jenny Packham bracelet.

Buy the dress in various colours for £110 at Vivien of Holloway.

[Photos by Natalie]

Disclosure: Vivien of Holloway allowed me to keep one dress – I chose this one! However, all thoughts are my own and I was not paid to publish them.