Thursday, 31 July 2014

Speed Shopping

I recently changed my Personal Shopping service. "That's not exactly news" you may think but believe me, it is. Personal Shopping used to take a whole day, it was draining, for both myself and the client and I wanted to find a better way. Then Katie booked me and the better way was found. 

Katie HATES shopping. Hates, detests, would probably rather rip her own finger nails out than hit the shops. Last summer, the first time she booked me, she needed an outfit for a wedding, a outfit for the Hen Do and some clothes for her job but like I said, hates shopping so a 6 hour shopping trip wasn't going to cut it. I created a SPEED SHOPPING trip lasting 3 hours but promised her we'd get everything. It was a tall order but we pulled it off. 

This year Katie requested a dress for the wedding evening do and wanted to re-style the coral dress for the day. The process became quicker and slicker:

  • I set up a Pinterest board in advance for us both to pin on. This interactive tool allowed us to comment on both colour schemes and clothing types before we hit the shops. And it was as easy as texting to do on our phones.
We were re-using a coral lace dress from the previous year so I suggested teaming it with blue. 

  • We were scheduled to shop from 5pm-8pm so I headed into Leeds a couple of hours before and sent her photos of the items I was considering for her so she could comment on them straight away. 
This Karen Millen dress for the evening do was inspired - Katie has a long body so the proportions fit her perfectly. Plus she can throw a jacket over the top and wear it for work AND put a jumper over the top turning it into a skirt.

We visited the shops in an order that meant no walking back on ourselves to save time and even though I'd thrown in some curveballs to push the boundaries (all hail the jumpsuit), we were done in 1.5 hours - shoes, bag, jewellery and dress. 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

This week I have mostly been....

Styling clients in Wilmslow and Durham showing them how to organise their wardrobes, get more wear out of old clothes by combining them into new outfits, and how to get clothes altered to give them a new lease of life.

Chowing down:
Sausage cassoulet – tasted even better re-heated on Day 2.
Slow cooked courgettes – my Mum had a glut in her allotment so I took some home, smothered them in olive oil, fried them with garlic and lemon zest and hoped for the best.

Courgette Flower

Restaurant quality?

Revelling in:
Other people creating more ways to wear Refinery 29
This stylish blog showcasing after 50 awesomeness Une femme d'un certain age

Greedily reading:
The True Price of Fast Fashion - A great article from magazine BUST comparing fast fashion and independent clothing retailers

Feasting my eyes:

There was talk of going to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park but then out came the sun and dried up all the rain. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Summer BBQ Outfit

I am a proper creative thinker - I live and think in colour, pattern and texture. I remember doing an exercise as a management trainee at M&S once where we were asked to picture the numbers 1-10 and describe then in detail. I pictured number 5 as pink and fluffy. One of the other graduate trainees was all "whaaaat?". It was then I realised how my mind worked: I'm certainly not about 'the numbers' and 'the logic.'

The outfit (above) which I wore for a family BBQ in London - it was in my mind about a week before. The Topshop top is sleeveless (awesome in the heat) and the trousers from Urban Outfitters, even though they crease like a b****** are really lightweight and have pockets which I love - somewhere to put your hands if you are feeling awkward. The block heeled sandals were an inspired Nine West sale choice at the end of last summer and they go with pretty much everything in my summer wardrobe.

Here's why I love it:

  • There is a slight pink tinge in the embellishment of the top which pulls it through to the trousers. 
  • The bag is textured and stands out against the silky texture of the trousers. 
  • Speaking of textures, each piece has a different texture so there is lots for the eye to take in and look at.
  • The top surrenders the waist and I wore the trousers on my hips so lots of room for BBQ food.
  • The shoes aren't 'matchy matchy' so they create a great focal piece

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Clothes to Die For

Sometimes the world moves in mysterious ways and this past week has proved no exception. Last week I found out via @Scrapiana on Twitter some mind-blowing clothing factoids:

@Scrapiana Head still spinning with the stats from BBC2's documentary: in the UK, we spend £60 billion p.a. on new clothes.
@Scrapiana In Ghana, the clothes market (much of it coming from our charity shop donations in the UK) is worth £50 million a year.

In the same week I joined a tweet chat with Retail Week and was further enlightened as to the UK's clothing spending habits:

Yes. Consumer sentiment is up. 30% of people will now spend money on clothing as a treat, up from 7% in 2013
I replied "that's a huge increase. Bet they won't wear it all."
@Retail Week Interestingly 49.7% "have quite a few clothes I have never worn"& 68.9% have bursting wardrobes
 To which I replied "Brits love to shop. It's a shame our economic recovery is driving fast fashion at human cost." No reply from Retail Week.

Then I saw an advert on TV for the Clothes to Die For documentary about the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh last year. I have to admit I didn't watch it last night. I had just finished watching the Lego Movie with my 4 year old nephew and with the theme song "everything is awesome" playing in my head it didn't seem exactly the right time to switch over to BBC2.  I watched Clothes To Die For this morning and checked the hashtag on Twitter. Twitter was lit up with comments such as "fashion doesn't have to be like this" , "harrowing" and "we all need to do our bit to become more conscious consumers".

The Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013  was the worst industrial disaster of the 21st century, killing 1134 people, injuring 2400 workers and leaving 322 unidentified bodies (of which only half have been successfully identified one year on). The disaster highlighted the human aspect of fashion clothing supply chains but the documentary really brought it home for me.

With slogans such as TALK LESS MORE WORK daubed on the Rana Plaza walls, you can tell it wasn't the most motivational of environments. Workers spoke making up to 120 pieces of clothing an hour (that's insane - just think of the work rate - 2 items of clothing per minute), 25p night payment, going to bed at 2am and getting up at 5am to start work again. But the success of the clothing industry in Bangladesh is self evident - over 80% of its exports are clothes and it is the worlds largest exporter of clothes after China.

It took less than 90 seconds for Rana Plaza, an unsafe factory structure to collapse. "I never thought I'd have to amputate my own arm" said one worker, a survivor who was rescued from the rubble. SHE AMPUTATED HER OWN ARM  because the doctor couldn't reach. This. Is. Staggering. And still....we shop: the year after Rana Plaza clothing exports grew 16%.

Primark jeans found in the rubble at Rana Plaza

During the #ClothesToDieFor Twitter debate this lunchtime The Centre for Sustainable Fashion asked how can we slow the fashion cycle down. Look, people have been given abundant fast fashion in the form of cheap clothing for so long that changing a whole generation's shopping habits will be nigh on impossible. I think some people have become so desensitised to the human cost, or are blissfully unaware of the human cost, that all they see is the low price. Fair enough - you only know what you know and if you want to pay 99p for a vest top without questioning the ethics behind it then so be it.

So we need to build awareness in a wider, more constructive framework: teach this subject in business studies.  Teaching kids about buying cloth, margins, transport costs, wages, rents and production of clothing would at least engender an interest from a business perspective. Throw some ethics in there about good working conditions and you're on to a winner. Couple this with retailers taking a more proactive approach to garment labelling- how much the material was bought for, what wages were paid to the garment workers, cost of shipping - and we might start to see some changes.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Living in Spirit

It seems food is much like fashion – one season goji berries, the next kale. One season it is safe to drink red wine, the next it’s slung off the menu. There’s lots of talk about rising obesity levels in the UK (two thirds of people in the UK are overweight ) – we sit at work, in the car, in front of the TV, we hold tablets instead of tennis rackets. I've noticed that alongside our increasingly sedate lives, there has been an increasing abundance of diet quick fixes sold through networking marketing: shakes, bars and minute meals that, when you look at the recipe they don’t seem to contain anything even close to resembling food. So it’s refreshing to meet someone who can really get to the root of eating habits who has trodden the path herself and lives her brand daily and authentically.

Enter fellow Yorkshire lass Gina Battye, I received an email from her and a line in it made me sit up and take note, “have you ever opened your wardrobe and not felt good?” Inspired from a fitting room awakening with a size 16 shirt and the potential of lifelong IBS Gina refused to let the diagnosis shape her life, “I knew I could do it myself, to make myself healthier and happier.” She put herself on a gradual learning curve which saw her transform into a self-taught no nonsense food guru who is now a best-selling author. Her 5 point plan isn't just about food – it is far more wide reaching:

1.      Eating Well
2.      Keeping active
3.      Reduce Stress
4.      Achieving work/life balance
5.      Living in spirit

It was number 5 that interested me. Before I became The Wardrobe Angel I had my ‘dream job’ except I was stressed, tired and overwhelmed from working 6 days a week. Now I can work 7 days a week but it feels a million times more fulfilling and awesome and I lost half a stone without even trying. You might scoff at all the "following your bliss nonsense" but when Gina has nailed it - when are doing what you want to the best of your ability then happiness, living in spirit and natural weight loss come naturally. 

Check out the Health by Gina website by clicking here and hear her personal story here:

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Wardrobe Angel Interview

I'd forgotten about this interview (cos I'm just so famous, not) but Matt Turner's wizardry laced questions actually got to the depths of The Wardrobe Angel, what's important to me and what goes on in and around The Wardrobe Angel.

Check out my bitchy resting face!!!

Monday, 14 July 2014


I joined Bloglovin today. It was sold to me as "like Facebook for blogs." I've been really getting in to using my blog to talk about what I do as The Wardrobe Angel and the awesome and inspiring businesses I meet along the way, like Health by Gina over on the Kudos page.

The code below is what Bloglovin needed to prove the blog was mine. I'm just gonna leave it there in case.

<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Slopping my creative juices

For nearly 3 years I got away with being The Wardrobe Angel doing hardly any outfit posts. Weird, right? I turned up at client’s houses, and was greeted with "you look great” or “I love your necklace/skirt/bag (delete as appropriate)” or “where did you get that?” But I always shied away from taking the joy of these compliments and transferring them into outfit posts.

I was adamant when I set up The Wardrobe Angel that I wouldn't do those wanky selfies, those boasting posts of “look what I'm wearing today.”  In the face of all this fast fashion consumption, weekly style trends and outfit of the day (#ootd) Instagram shots, I felt how I dressed was going against the grain: I do more with less, I create different ways to wear, some of my wardrobe is nearly 10 years old, I rarely go shopping.

But then I met the wonderful coach Jennifer Potter of Simply JP coaching and in 10 minutes she had me reaching for my phone to capture my outfit. She asked me point blank “what makes you different?” And I answered “I'm where fashion meets style meets sustainability.” Not hard at all. She then asked me what was holding me back. Simples. “Me” Another quick fire question “Why?”

She had me right there – confidence. Until this month I have had a huge lack of confidence putting ‘my style’ out there. So Jen offered me a lifeline and I took it – she suggested making the outfit posts about the clothes rather than me to inspire other people so when they looked at what I was posting they would think “Ah ha! I’ve got a skirt like that – I’m going to style it like The Wardrobe Angel today.”

And since then it’s been like a dam breaking and I've been slopping my creative fashion juices all over the style steaks on InstagramFacebook, and this here blog (check out the Outfits page next door.)

I can’t recommend Jen highly enough – please check out her website by clicking here to find out how she can help you too.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Getting for bang for your wedding buck

Weddings are big business: the dress, the flowers, the food, the drink, the rings, the honeymoon....  Over 230,000 people walk down the aisle in the UK each year to the tune of £18,000 (the average cost of a wedding in the UK.)* Jaw-droppingly expensive! With all the "love" (read: money spent) it's really easy to see why people sell their wedding dresses (typically the most expensive item in the wedding) after the main event. But what about taking it one step further? People nowadays are more creatively involved in their own weddings sourcing table decorations, props, signs, suitcases (the 'in' thing in which guests leave cards in) but along with planning the wedding and sourcing all these individual props people also have lives to lead and often, little time to lead them in.

And here's where SELL MY WEDDING comes in, like a knight in a shining wedding dress and saves the day (read: money). Not only can you sell items from your wedding on here, recouping your costs, but you can also buy items for your wedding on here, making your wedding more affordable. The self-styled online wedding marketplace has over 500 completed transactions every year which just shows how successful it is.

Photography by Ally Byrom

Here's why I love SELL MY WEDDING and have already recommended it to clients and friends:
  • It's fairly priced: registration to sell is only £10. You can list an unlimited number of wedding items, there are no individual listing fees, no sales commission and items won't expire until they have been sold. 
  • You can Pin to Pinterest from the site - a great source of inspiration and fun when planning your own wedding deciding what you do and don't want.
  • It's authentic.
After the glow of a wedding has faded you must look at the photobooth props you bought and think "am I ever going to use these again?" And that's where the authenticity and heritage of this site comes in: Rebecca Aspin set up SELL MY WEDDING after discovering bits and bobs from her wedding 3 years after the event and realised she would never use them again. That resonated hugely with me: I set up The Wardrobe Angel after my own personal experience of rapidly downsizing my own wardrobe.

Rebecca in her wedding dress shot by Simon Kench

When is the best time to sell your wedding dress?

"Straight away," says Rebecca, "with a dress sell it as soon as you can - it will still be in the shops and on-trend which will make it attractive to buyers to get it at a lower price. You can also sell bridesmaid dresses and we recently added a HIRE function so you can rent pieces for a day, rather than buy them outright."

And what make of dress sells the best?

"Jenny Packham. They retail at £3000 but sell for £1500 on Sell My Wedding."

Ally Byrom Photography
What's the best day to become a seller?

"On a Sunday. We have up to 1000 unique visitors per day."

What's selling well this month?

"DIY stuff - things people have made that other people don't have time or the creativity to make for themselves. Reception decor - particularly bunting, signs and paper lanterns along with centrepieces and vases. Vintage crockery is also very popular alongside vintage props such as suitcases and old fashioned sweetie scoops."

Photography by Ally Byrom

As mentioned there is no commission - all the sellers money is theirs (unlike with eBay) so it's win-win!

Check out SELL MY WEDDING here!

*Telegraph 2013

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Why I love a (good) clothes swap

I've been volunteering at The Leeds Community Clothing Exchange for over a year now. It's grown and grown and now fills the Oblong Community centre on the last Saturday of every month from 12 - 4pm. So you'll notice the title of the post is "why I love a (good) clothes swap." I went to a clothes in London once and it was rubbish. The Leeds Community Clothing Exchange is a good swap and here's why:

1. A wide variety of clean clothes and accessories in good condition
2. Membership - it makes people come back again and again
3. Location - there is loads of room to move around and changing rooms with a mirror
4. Links to local charity - any clothes that aren't up to swapping par are bagged ready for a charity to come and collect and sell. It all helps extend the clothing lifecycle.
5. Staff - there are at least 10 volunteers at the Leeds Community Clothing Exchange who greet, sort, register, tidy and pack away.

This post is to combat any misconceptions that people may have around clothes swaps. Some people don't 'get them'. Clothes swapping is simply shopping for free in a big clothing tombola. And Forrest, you never know what you're going to get. For instance this week I saw 2 mint condition Superdry jackets snapped up, not to mention the gold Adidas high top trainers and the immaculate vintage jacket that waltzed off the rails. Here's what I picked up:

Topshop pleather trousers
Gap breton striped top
Vintage French Connection Jumpsuit

And here's how I styled them:

The pleather trousers look mint with the striped top, Topshop sliders and necklace and a leopard print scarf. The trousers are a wee bit hot for now so I'm saving them for Autumn.

The grey jumpsuit nails 2 trends this season - 1. Jumpsuits 2. Denim. The grey denim pops next to the lemon shoes and I went mental ala Mr. T with the necklaces - I love the contrast of the utility denim and the ladylike pearls. It does look reminiscent of a boiler suit and I did question whether or not I looked like one of the Ghostbusters but hey! That's the joy of vintage. Check out the label - proper old school:

Some people think that the clothes at a Clothes Swap will be 'dirty'. OK - sometimes they might not be freshly pressed but do you think the clothes that you try on in shops are either? Do you know how many times garments are tried on and put back? You've all visited fitting rooms, tried and discarded a garment which is then hung up, taken back out and placed on the shop floor. Food for thought - keep an open mind and give clothes swapping a try.