Browsing Tag



Wedding Dress Shopping at Debenhams

On my quest for the perfect bridal gown I ended up visiting six shops. Though my final dress may have been one of the first I tried on, I’m glad I gave myself the experience of visiting lots of shops and trying lots of different brands. Not only did I really learn what works on my body, I also discovered a lot about the process I can share with my fellow brides-to-be.

The first thing I would advise is to stagger appointments slightly. I think it’s important to really enjoy each appointment and give yourself some time to think between gowns. I made the mistake of making four appointments in one day (because my mum and bridesmaid were in town) but the result of that was that we were rushed off our feet all day with little time to think! By the time I made it to the lovely guys at Debenhams, who invited me to the Berketex Bridal salon in the Oxford Circus store, I was knackered, confused, and ready for a sit down.

Luckily, this was the right place to go when you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. Like David’s Bridal who I wrote about previously, this salon offers a slightly more relaxed setting for trying dresses. They have the big, roomy fitting rooms, the helpful shop assistants and the privacy of a “brides only” space. But it also felt less rushed, they had gowns in plenty of sizes, and also plenty of dresses at a more realistic price tag.


By the time I got to Debenhams I had a better idea of what suited my figure. The days of dreamily choosing fussy lace designs with delicate sleeves, illusion overlays and trumpet hems were gone. I’d had to face the fact they looked frumpy and ill-fitting on me. The relaxed, diaphanous 30s gowns I loved looked like I’d slipped on a dress belonging to a woman twice my age. I’d quickly learned that the things I thought I didn’t want (strapless, sexy) worked much better on my body and made me look like a bride. So I went straight to the mannequin that held the Sasha Perez ‘Tori’ dress (£999).


This was the only sample but the assistant had no issues taking it off the mannequin for me to try. I also grabbed a whole host of other dresses, from princess to column, from £200 to £2000. The Tori was my favourite, but some of the others came a close second. My main aim was to really compare the two price tags and see if you can spot the difference, and I was pleasantly surprised by what you could get on the lower end.

However, what I would say is this – when you’re buying a lower priced dress, it won’t necessarily look cheap, but only if you keep it simple. The more detail, beading, sparkle, applique, gathering, pleating and embroidery you want, the bigger your budget needs to be. If you’re looking for loads of bling and embroidery and beading on a £250 dress, this is when you run into problems, because the materials are obviously cheaper and the attention to detail a little lower. If you keep it fairly simple, you might be surprised. I tried on a £200 a-line gown which looked like it cost twice that. I was also impressed that some of the lower priced gowns (like the Marissa) had lace-up backs, as this is usually the first thing to go in favour of a zip when you’re trying to keep prices down…but is important to me because it give you some wiggle room (literally) and can save on expensive fittings.


I came away from the Berketex salon feeling surprised at what they had on offer right there in a department store, but then we stumbled across Debenhams own bridal gowns (not part of the salon) and realised we’d just scratched the surface! As well as carrying Phase Eight (whose vintage-inspired wedding dresses I love even if they don’t love me back) the Debut collection offers up some great dresses, from tea length ’50s frocks to pretty grecian styles that would be perfect for the beach. The joy of these dresses, aside from low price points, is that you don’t need an appointment to try them on, and you can buy them off the rack then and there, making them perfect for rushed weddings, last minute nuptials and “oh God, I hate my dress and I’m getting married tomorrow” moments. I’m sorely tempted to pop back and grab myself a reception dress for under £200!

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!

Clothing, Coats & Jackets, Tops & Tees

Ten things I love (and none of them are dresses)

We all know by now that I rely a little bit too much on the whole ‘put on tights, add dress, throw on some shoes, leave house’ approach to getting dressed in the morning. But in order not be quite so predictable in the way I dress, I’ve been trying to move away from that. It hasn’t gone particularly well – mostly, I’ve been wearing more coloured tights (oooh, innovative!) and trying to wear a pair of earrings for more than half an hour before I get bored and remove them – but I’m also trying to stop myself from going directly to the ‘dresses’ page when I’m browsing online. I’m finding myself increasingly drawn towards separates – mostly blouses, skirts and shorts – and great statement accessories. Here are just a few of the things I’ve discovered by making that tiny little change…


– I’m really hoping Miss Selfridge restock these shorts or have some biggers sizes left in store, because I’m completely in love with them. Not only are they the colour of the season – rust – they’re a much easier shape to wear than the shorter, tighter cuffed shorts of previous seasons. They’d work now with tights and brogues, but could also be worn with bare legs if the Sun ever shows its face again.


Absolutely predictable for me, I know, but this bargain cherry print skirt will be killer with a black top, Vivienne Westwood for Melissa Lady Dragon shoes and a pompadour hairdo. The more I see of Henry Holland’s range for Debenhams, the more I love. Lots of great prints, pretty dresses and a big dash of quirky is right up my street!


I’ve had my eye on these shoes for ages, since I saw them in a magazine as part of a purple and coral outfit (with purple tights). They looked amazing – like something off the Miu Miu catwalk – and since then they’ve been high up on my wishlist. They’re the perfect example of something that I wouldn’t look twice at while browsing, but having seen them styled to perfection, they suddenly become a must-have.


I would never really look at a white coat because of how ridiculously impractical they are, but there are times (weddings, for example) when you need something a little lighter and more special. And let’s face it, at £20 this baby is an absolute steal. If I didn’t think it’d be grubby grey within five minutes of me putting it on, I’d be snapping this up right away.


All I can say is Oh My God! If you’re an online friend or you’ve been following me for a while on twitter, you may know about my obsession with a particular Linea Pelle handbag range called Dylan that featured the perfect slouchy leather foldover bag with a cross-body strap. At well over $400 (plus shipping and import fees) it’s well out of my price range, but I lived in hope that someone would do a decent homage. And here it is! River Island have totally pulled it out of the bag – and done so in leather. I’m headed straight in store to get a proper look!


I’m absolutely loving these Topshop vests with scalloped edges. It’s a lovely way to make a basic item a bit more on trend (ugh, even if you hate the phrase ‘on trend’) and the shape is really adaptable. I’d go for a bit of colourblocking and wear the rust coloured one tucked into those lovely Miss Selfridge shorts with a big chunky pendant necklace.


And for those who don’t fit into Topshop’s teeny sizing, this gorgeous cami from ASOS curve is another lovely Spring update on a classic. I like that the ruffles are a bit softer than those double-layer tops and dresses currently floating about (via Halston Heritage) which can be a bit much on anyone with more than a C-cup bust. This would look great with a couple of long, delicate gold chain necklaces, skinny jeans or cuffed trousers and wedges for a night out. Just add a kimono cardigan / shrug for the finishing touch.


Oh look, a retro swimsuit. How very predictable of me! We all know I love a good bit of 40s or 50s inspired swimwear, and this gets my vote for two reasons. Number one – it costs less than £50, unlike most of the more specialist offerings. Number two, the sizing goes up to a 22, which is a blessing for the many women who’ve got in touch with me because they’re looking for easily accessible, curve-flattering vintage style swimwear. Three cheers for Monsoon, who’ve really pulled it out the bag with this baby.


Childish peter pan collar? Check! Loud, slightly OTT print? Check! What’s not to love about this top? I’d quite like to team it with something really unexpected, like an electric blue pencil skirt (tucked in) or a pair of tan shorts, rather than going with the obvious and using it for a pop of colour in a black ensemble. If I had the guts, I’d even try teaming it with something in a clashing floral for a catwalk-inspired look.


Magazines have been extolling the virtues of ‘crayola courts’ for this Spring, and I don’t think you can get more ‘child doing colouring in’ than these platforms. Yes, they’re a little bit crazy, but life is too short to wear boring black shoes all the time. These babies combine two of my favourite colours, and though I might not have much opportunity to wear them, I’m sure I’d enjoy the rare chances! Plus they’re only £35 and come in lots of other colourways.

In The News, Rants

Zzzzz! Julien Macdonald picks on plus sizes.

I remember writing a review of Project Catwalk during its first season and jokingly photoshopping a pair of devil horns onto Julien Macdonald’s head after he made one too many nasty comments about the contestants.

In early episodes of the show, it quickly became obvious that the Welsh designer was filling the Simon Cowell role in the show, a comedy villain who loved nothing more than tearing the contestants to shreds.

And it seems nothing changes. Madonald will soon return to our screens, this time judging models, not clothes, in a new series of Britain’s Next Top Model. And whilst the show has a new look and a new face at the helm – Elle Macpherson – one thing it will no doubt be recycling is Julien’s tendency to spout unnecessary vitriol.

This week’s gem? Well, apparently, “If you’re a size 14 in room full of size eights – you’re in the wrong room.”

It seems ‘larger’ women are the current target of the man behind many a skimpy little party dress. Wales Online spoke to the designer about the new series of Britain’s Next Top Model and asked him if plus size models would be given the opportunity to compete (following a win for a US size 12 model the American version of the show). His response?

“This is a serious show. You can’t have a plus size girl winning – it makes it a joke.”

Indeed. I know I laugh frequently at Crystal Renn, Hayley Morley and co. They’re just frickin’ hilarious. Also, I’ve seen BNTM and the one thing it’s not is serious!

Macdonald goes on to justify his comments by explaining that being a plus size girl in a skinny girl’s world is difficult. So we’re to believe he’s trying to save wannabe plus size models the embarassment and humiliation? I’m not convinced.

“It’s not fair on them – you’re setting them up for a fall – I know what would happen to them afterwards. They are looked down on, they’re frowned upon.”

Frowned upon by who? Not by the editors of US Glamour, French Vogue, Tush, V or any of the other magazines that have featured curvier girls in recent issues. Not by Mark Fast or Jean Paul Gaultier. Even Karl Lagerfeld, known for his hatred of ‘big’ girls, has begun to realise just how stunning more voluptuous women can be, using Crystal Renn as a model for Chanel and working on a plus size shoot for V.

Macdonald may pretend he’s doing girls a favour by sparing them the ‘pain’ later on. But what he’s really doing is pandering to a terrible part of the industry that makes any girl above a size 6 or 8 feel inferior and overweight. He’s making nasty, hurtful comments about women who don’t deserve it. By all means say “plus size girls have a tough time in an industry that traditionally favours slim models”, but to call the inclusion of a plus girl on BNTM a ‘joke’? To say they have no right to be in the same room as straight-sized models? For me, that’s taking it too far.

Surely a man who’s been vocal about banning women who’re underweight from the catwalk should know better than to attack the alternative – curvier, healthier women who look like they enjoy life. Most plus sized models aren’t even classified as overweight due to their height, so you can’t even use the ‘health’ argument. Bashing plus size models is just an easy bandwagon to jump on to get a few column inches.

When I read Macdonald’s comments, my thoughts soon turned to Debenhams, for whom he designs clothing, accessories and homeware under the ‘Star by Julien Macdonald’ label (see pictures).

Debenhams have – up until this point – really impressed me with their move towards a more inclusive approach to fashion. As a high street store, they cater to the size 14-16 average British woman, so it’s been a great initiative to trial size 16 mannequins in some stores, cut down on airbrushing and use models of all shapes and sizes in advertising campaigns. Making fashion accessible to the average shopper is a great move, and Debenhams are trailblazers.

So how would they react to one of their designers making such ill-advised comments about size 14 women (who, might I add, are not really plus size). I approached Debenhams for a comment, and sadly what I got was a bit of a cop-out.

“Julien Macdonald’s comments related to the fact that most sample sizes within the industry are a size 6 or 8 making it more difficult for plus size models. In fact, the Star by Julien Macdonald collection at Debenhams ranges from a size eight to size 20,” said Ruth Attridge, spokesperson for Debenhams.

Well, Macdonald may be happy to pocket the cash from sales of his high street range to larger women, but I refuse to believe he was just talking about sample sizes in those quotes. He was talking about there being no room for larger models next to slimmer ones – the exact thing Debenhams is working so hard to ensure!

However, “Debenhams continues to lead the way for inclusivity in fashion with our size 16 mannequin campaign and commitment to only using size eight and above models.” Attridge continues.

Perhaps they should start by giving Julien Macdonald a massive public slap on the wrists?

[via Fabsugar]

Swimwear, Tried & Tested

Product review: Designers at Debenhams swimwear

I know many women finding the perfect swimsuit or bikini a shopping nightmare. I love swimwear when I find the right piece, but hunting down something well-fitting is on a par with finding the perfect pair of jeans or the ideal winter coat. In short, it’s a nightmare!

Once you’ve narrowed down your basic choices (swimsuit or bikini, skimpy or full-coverage, plain or printed) there are so many other things to consider. Luckily, this season it’s pretty easy to find something for everyone. In last few years more brands have latched onto the fact that not all women are the same size all over, selling bikinis as separates (ideal if you’re big up top or pear-shaped) and increasing the cup sizes and choices of bottoms. The swimsuit is also back in fashion, so those who feel more confident in a one-piece can wear it with no fear of feeling frumpy.

A while ago, Debenhams very kindly offered to send me a piece from their swimwear collection to try. I decided to give the new modern one-piece a go, and opted for a black and white palm print halter swimsuit by queen of the beach Melissa Odabash…

The swimsuit I tried is £40 – not cheap for swimwear but a far cry from the £150+ you’d pay for something from Melissa Odabash’s mainline range. I liked the look of the halter top and was intrigued by the tummy control panel, but I also liked the fact there are loads of accessories and cover-ups to match, because I am all about the pool glam!

This wasn’t my first piece of Designers at Debenhams swimwear. I have a Butterfly by Matthew Williamson bikini and matching kaftan that I love so much I refuse to throw out even though it’s yellowing inside from all the suncream! That bikini’s seen me though a fair few Summers, so I knew to expect a good quality piece.

And that it is. There’s a lot of attention to detail in this swimsuit. The front is fully-lined, and the ‘tummy control’ comes from a powermesh panel that goes from under the bust right down to the crotch. The back is low and not lined, but the fabric is thick enough that even when wet, it didn’t go see-through.

The halter top has textured silver rings to attach the straps to the cups. I’m always cautious of metal trims on bikinis that might get hot in the Sun, but a quick bite (not even kidding) assured me these are plastic and perfectly safe. The cups and empire band are trimmed with shell-style beads, tiny pearls and seed beads, which is a nice touch. Odabash is famous for her zebra print swimwear, and the black and white palm print of this swimsuit is a cool way of imitating that for her cheaper line without just recreating something she’s done before.

Being between two sizes, I often struggle to get swimwear that fits properly. I tend to go for the smaller size to avoid saggy bum syndrome when wet, but sometimes that can mean it digs in around the top of the thighs. Designers at Debenhams pieces are notoriously generous size-wise, so I went for the smaller size in this swimsuit, which fits well. It could perhaps be a couple of inches longer in the body, but apart from that, it’s great. The Tummy Control panel really does seem to smooth and flatten the tummy, too. It doesn’t work miracles – I’m not saying it makes me look a size 10 – but it would definitely be a bit of a confidence booster!

Next up, and probably most important, I should talk about how it holds up in the boob department. I’m not a fan of padded swimwear really (as my friend and I discovered one year, the padding soaks up loads of water meaning you have to squeeze your boobs in a completely non-alluring manner when you get out the pool or you’ll drip for ages!) but they are flattering when you’re sunbathing or sat at the bar. Luckily the ones in this cossie are removable, so I get the best of both worlds. The cups manage to contain my boobs which is a minor miracle, and I suppose a lot of that is down to the support you get from a halter neck. However, I do find I sometimes get a mark on my neck wearing a halter swimsuit or bikini because I tie it too tight in an attempt to hoik up the girls – a lesson to be learned there, I think!

Overall, I’m impressed by this costume and will definitely be taking it away with me in the Summer, though I suspect it’ll become a swimsuit more than a sunbathing suit (I’ve got a retro bikini for that). That said, I’m sorely tempted to get the matching kaftan (down to £28) just in case!

Disclosure: Debenhams sent this swimsuit free of charge for me to review. However, the review is honest and I was not paid to publish it.


Debenhams start using size 16 mannequins


If you walk past Debenhams on London’s Oxford Street in the next few days, you might spot something a bit unusual. They’ve just added two size 16 mannequins to the display, with a board below reading “I’m a size 16. Do you want to see more of me?”

This is part of a trial by the retailer to see if customers would like to see these mannequins rolled out across more stores. Traditionally, Debenhams use size 10 models, but with 42% of sales coming from size 14 and 16 garments, these new mannequins represent the average customer far more.

Launching this trial is a savvy move on Debenhams part, particularly on the eve of London Fashion Week when everyone’s eyes are on the fashion industry. Far from being shoved into a specialist 16+ range, the mannequins wear the new Principles by Ben de Lisi range, which has had loads of press recently and is one of the store’s key collections.

Hopefully, if enough of us give positive feedback, the mannequins will become a permanent fixture across the country.

If that happens, I’d love to see them continue this good work and add some other sizes to the mix in the future. As much as I think this is a fantastic move forward, I don’t think you can truly represent British women just by adding a couple of plus size mannequins to all those size 10s. How about some petite models, some size 12s and so on? Let’s really push for diversity and a true representation of who is shopping on the UK high street.

[photo via the Debenhams Flickr page]