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tried and tested

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!


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

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.

Retro / Vintage, Tried & Tested

A date with Vivien of Holloway part 1: The Jezebel 50s wrap dress (black / polka)

If you’re one of the many people who found this site via my vintage reproduction clothing shopping list, you’ll know I’m a fan of the 50s look. So when one of my favourite reproduction vintage brands, Vivien of Holloway, got in touch to see if I’d like to try out some of their dresses for this blog, I obviously jumped at the chance. I already own five Vivien of Holloway dresses, but these ones are newer styles, away from the classic halter neck shape the brand is known for, so I was intrigued to try the new shapes and see how they looked.

Spotting the perfect opportunity to go to town with the photos and be a diva for the day, I popped my rollers in and roped in my talented friend Natalie as photographer. I’ll be showing you the three dresses over the next few days in a series of blog posts.

Dress one is The Jezebel pencil dress (£89). I tried it in black polyester satin with a red polka dot bust and side peplum, but it also comes in various shades of duchess satin for an extra £10. I teamed it with heart-shaped sunglasses and Irregular Choice cherry print peep-toe shoes, and then pulled some shapes against the wall!

The dress is super-fitted through the waist, with a crossover wrap front and wide-set sleeves which have plenty of room for a bigger bust. One of the reasons I like Vivien of Holloway dresses is that they cut to vintage patterns and vintage sizing, so the size on the label may be bigger than you normally wear, but the cut tends to be small on the waist and bigger elsewhere which is great for an hourglass or pear-shaped figure like mine. All the dresses I tried were labelled size 16 but made to fit a 38 bust and 30 inch waist. The Vivien of Holloway team always advise you go by waist size for a good fit – when I first visited the shop a few years ago the first thing they did was measure my waist before letting me try anything on!

My waist is 29.5″ so the fit of this dress was near-perfect. As a general rule, the polyester and cotton dresses are a little roomier than the heavier satin ones (review to come!) so the Jezebel fit well, but it wasn’t too tight anywhere and didn’t feel uncomfortable. There was plenty of room in the hips and the bust, and I love the little peplum detail on the side that gives the effect of a tie waist without adding any bulk or needing to be perfectly knotted. I think the shape is really lovely and the plus with this compared to other Vivien dresses is that you can wear a bra with it. It’s also worth noting that Vivien of Holloway dresses have proper sturdy zips going up the back, not those horrible concealed zips up the side seam that catch, break and refuse to zip up over seams. The dress feels very well-made and sits well without riding up, and it doesn’t crease loads when worn.

Obviously, we had to run one of the pictures through a vintage-look filter. Instagram, eat your heart out…

The dress is available for £89 at Vivien of Holloway in sizes up to B46 / W38 (approx size 22). To see the full range of colours and prints available, click here.

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

Celebrities, Dresses, Tried & Tested

Tried & Tested: Dee.V by Diana Vickers for

Diana Vickers’ husky voice and propensity to yelp may be something of an aquired taste, but her new clothing range for is a bit easier to fall in love with. A capsule range of vintage-inspired florals, fities skirts and 60s-inspired separates, it appealed instantly to me, so when Very got in touch to offer an item from their huge range for review, I knew I had to go with something from Diana’s collection.

I picked the Contrast Collar Printed Dress (£49) which I thought was very cute with its big pink buttons and collar. I’m getting to the point where I’m far too old to pull off anything this twee, so let’s call this my last hurrah. I can’t resist anything a bit childish!

ps. This is another shoeper challenge pic – pink Primark lace-ups are officially saved!

Knowing that Very sizing is pretty generous, especially around the waist, I went for the size 12. It was a good fit around the waist and hips (though the waist sits quite low – I would have liked the band an inch higher). But as you can see from the pictures, it’s tight across the bust. As I often find with modern styles, it’s cut quite straight-up-and-down in the torso. The button placket is actually fake. The dress zips down the side and the buttons are just for show, sat on a pleat of fabric. I found the second button pulled, but I do have DD/E cup boobs so that’s no surprise. The 14 would definitely have fit better up top, but I think the waist would have drowned me. As usual, I suffer as I sit smack bang in between two sizes!

Overall, it’s a lovely dress; well made and very pretty. It’s made from a nice stiff fabric that hangs well, and the print and bubblegum pink trim are very cute. I just think it would work slightly better on someone with smaller boobs! I also found the length quite short on my 5’7 figure. I wore it with flats because it looked a bit too ‘done’ with heels and in the wind I risked flashing everyone.

If you want to see it worn a completely different way, Helen at Clear Your Heart also tried the dress recently and looks fab in it.

The Dee.V range goes up to a size 20, but Very also offer plenty of fashionable plus size clothing in larger sizes too.

Disclosure: The dress was provided free of charge by Very for review purposes. However, all thoughts are my own and I was not paid to publish them.

Clothing, Dresses, Tops & Tees, Tried & Tested, Uncategorized

Tried & Tested: INES Collection’s plus size prints!

I’ve been sitting on this review for months (literally) because I didn’t want it to disappear in the middle of all the Dressember madness, so please forgive the fact I didn’t tell you all about INES Collection sooner! The brand (available at, who ship internationally) offers affordable plus size dresses and blouses with an emphasis on prints – a great move as plus size fashion is so often black, black, black, and while some people can totally pull that off, others want a bit of colour!

I was sent the Graphic Pop dress ($72) and the Bird Calling blouse ($49) to try out, so read on for how I got on!

First things first – the smallest size Ines makes is and XS, which is the equivalent US 10-12, and that’s the size I tried. It roughly translates to a UK 14-16, and I’d say even then it’s on the generous side and the dress was particularly big on me. Nothing I couldn’t fix with a belt, but it’s still a bit blousy on my body, and I actually think it looks far, far better on the model, who fills it out much better than I do. This is a great shape if you want to emphasise a good waist (or indeed create one).

But in the interest of Making It Work, I wanted to go a bit further than just throwing the dress on and taking a couple of badly posed snaps, so here are some of the ways I would consider wearing it. I think because it’s quite a loud print, it benefits from being broken up with a bit of solid colour…

I think the dress is great for smart/casual looks. The length is really great (bang on knee length on my 5’7 frame) and it’s super comfy to wear. It looks like silk or satin but it’s actually polyester. Granted, that’s not the most luxurious of fabrics , but on the upside it’s easy to take care of and it barely creases. The dress also has a heavy reinforced hem to help it hang properly, and stop those Marilyn-on-a-subway-grate moments!

The blouse has the same elasticated empire waist as the dress, which is far more forgiving than a tight waistband or belt, making it a lot more comfortable to wear. There’s a little tie that you can use to cinch it even more, and the buttons are well-placed to allow for a bit of flesh-flashing without ever accidentally showing your bra in the process. I love the peacock print, which reminds me of the Matthew Williamson for H&M collection – which I invested heavily in! I tried the top with jeans (yes! me in jeans!) but it’d look great with a pencil skirt for a smarter look too.

Buy INES at now. Until the end of January, if you spend over $75 you can get a massive 40% off by using the discount code jan2011.

Celebrities, Clothing, Dresses, Special Ranges, Tried & Tested

From Beth Ditto to Big Girl – trying the Evans range on for size!


At the blogger’s preview of Beth Ditto for Evans I got the chance to see the pieces from the collection up close and there were loads that caught my eye. However, I decided if I was going to give this collection a go, I may as well go for one of the stand-out, ‘famous’ pieces. The body-con domino print dress was the item Beth herself chose to wear to the launch party, and I loved that the super-fitted shape and bold print were so unusual for a plus size range. Beth’s known for sticking two fingers up to convention so I decided to do the same. Keeping away from the pieces that were more ‘me’ (like the strapless stained glass dress) I put in an order for the domino dress. And I must say, it was a novelty to be ordering the smallest size for once!

It takes a brave Big Girl to pull off a fitted dress like this, but I was really impressed to see that Evans have done a lot to help you on your way. The dress is far heavier and of a better quality than I expected, lined throughout with another layer of quite heavy stretch fabric. This saved me whipping out the spanx slip I usually wear under anything fitted, though I did put on my trusty magic knickers – a body hugging style leaves little to the imagination around the tum and bum.

Shape wise I had my usual problem of excess fabric at the waist (I’m resigned to always being a size smaller on the waist than I am on the hips and bust!) which is good news for apple shapes…though this probably isn’t your ideal dress shape. But the whole point of Beth’s collection is about giving larger women the chance to try things that aren’t normally available to them – fitted shapes, bold prints, interesting shapes and sequins galore.

Speaking of those Beth signature elements, the domino print takes a bit of getting used to, and I have to admit I usually tend to stay away from anything with too much white in with my pale, flabby skin. I’d probably throw something over the top and put on a pair of killer heels to help streamline the look a bit.

Overall, I’m surprised to say I think this dress is a success. Obviously, I’m at the smaller end of the sizing scale when it comes to this collection, but I can definitely see this working on brave larger women.

As for me, I’ll probably only wear it on days when I’m feeling brave, and I’ll be ready for a lot of standing up straight and breathing in! I’m afraid I’m just not as confident as Beth in terms of ‘letting it all hang out’ but I’m definitely working on it!

The Beth Ditto at Evans range can be purchased here. The Domino dress is £40.