Monday, 14 December 2015

Avene, ageing and The Wardrobe Angel

After casting around online for my 'tribe' I stumbled across the 30+Blog Collective the brainchild of London Beauty Queen. Fist pumping all the way to London I went to the panel discussion a few weeks ago hosted in conjunction with Avene skincare. On the panel were Jane Cunningham (The British Beauty Blogger), Linda Papadopoulos, a leading Psychologist and Doctor Sam Bunting, cosmetic dermatologist.

Various charges were levelled at the beauty industry including:

  • Fetishing youth
  • Considering ageing to be a flaw
  • Patronising tone towards older women

So here's where semantics can get you into trouble - what constitutes an 'older' woman? Am I an older woman at the grand age of 35? Apparently so. I'm not a beauty blogger and honestly, I've never bought an anti-ageing product, I don't use eye cream and I have never considered Botox. I use Dermalogica face wash and Nivea moisturiser, I don't drink, I don't smoke and I watch my sugar intake. So in my eyes I reckon I'm in pretty good knick for 35. I have previously looked at anti-ageing products and just accepted the wording describing skin on the boxes purely because I didn't really think they applied to me:

tired, dull, sagging, wrinkled, lined

Then amidst the lively debate on anti-ageing I realised those products were targeted at me and a hella load of other women as well: this homogeneous mass of women over 30 at different stages of life, with different skin needs that the beauty industry has conveniently mashed together in 1 pot for ease. 
Jane Cunningham noted the lack of positive words to describe ageing skin translating into 'flaws' which those products would 'fix'. Claire Roper of  the blog Country Mouse Claire suggested turning those words around and tuning into the benefits of the products instead, highlighting the effects those products would have:

glowing, plumped, fresher, firmer

Bit of a difference, hey? I loved the take Avene had on their latest PhysioLift products which uses all the words above as well as this strapline:

Ageing skin is not a flaw
Ageing skin has specific needs

The blogger Patent Purple Life nailed the essence of the evening in her blog post Ageing is Normal which I urge you to read. 

Til next time...

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The Wardrobe Angel and CharmChuri Silk Scarves

Great scarf taste runs in my family; when my Nana died I inherited 2 massive boxes of her silk scarves which I promptly sorted through and lo! a Liberty silk scarf. My other favourite scarf is a leopard print one from a vintage shop in Soho, London bought for the princely sum of £5. Gift giving at Christmas can sometimes prove tricky: give me a scarf and I'm generally one happy Angel but how to choose? CharmChuri have the answer - colours, patterns, size and most of all superb quality make this brand a real Christmas winner.

Your chosen scarf arrives ready packaged in a luxury gift box hand-tied with twine (so that saves you from demonstrating dodgy wrapping skills!) and inside the scarf is nestled in tissue paper: I felt like I was receiving a really special gift. I chose the Sea of Flames scarf which has a beautiful density to it - not to fine so it will unwrap itself from your neck but just heavy enough so it retains the shape when you style it. And anyone who wear scarves can be inspired by the styling ideas Nitsha has put on her website.

You may occasionally find people expressing envy, This is completely normal with CharmChuri silk scarves. Just let it go and resume being fabulous.

CharmChuri is a London based brand with Thai heritage and has over 10 years experience of producing quality scarves. The branding also has a real sense of tongue-in-cheek about it which I loved. Above is the text from the note tucked inside the packaging.

The colour and texture of the scarf really 'pop' so I kept the rest of my outfit muted and flat textured. I wore Jamie Topshop jeans, Topshop boots, a H&M basic grey tee and an 80's double breasted wool jacket, belted with a Maxmara belt to show off my waist. I wore the outfit for a low key "girls gathering" in Leeds at the end of last month and each lady positively cooed over the scarf asking where it was from.

To visit the CharmChuri website and buy your Christmas scarf gifts please click here.

Til next time...

Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Wardrobe Angel goes to Denham

The Personal Shopping Suite at Denham, Leeds. Just as good as it looks!!

Shopping for denim can be an all encompassing nightmare - I have tried on many a pair of jeans in my lifetime and have settled on Topshop Jamie jeans as my go-to. Rue the day when they change or get rid of the style! There are so many factors that strike fear into the hearts of many a client when it comes to trying and buying jeans - the sizing varies so much from store to store, the "give" factor (fit fine in the shop then after 1 wash bag at the knee or give you a drop at the crotch) and the price to name but a few. So last week when I had the the almighty pleasure of a guided tour round the new Denham shop in Leeds I was a little sceptical - yet another denim brand promising the earth in terms of fit and quality? But I needn't have worried - the Denham crew have thought of everything to lay that denim shaped fear to rest.

Firstly they have a handy personal shopping suite which you can book in advance. That suite is then filled to the brim with Denham stock for you to try. Plus there are drinks and snacks on hand should shopping fatigue hit.

Secondly the staff are passionate, So unbelievable passionate. I don't think I have ever chatted about denim in such depth for so long before. They LOVE the stuff and their customer service is impeccable. I tried on some of the Needle jeans whilst I was there and before I even opened my mouth to say which size I was a pair of jeans was handed to me IN MY SIZE - man, they size you up good and proper! Plus they do in-store alterations so no trekking to the tailor with jeans in hand.

Thirdly it's not just denim at Denham: coats, jackets, jumpers, accessories and jewellery are on offer. Admittedly a lot of the jewellery is scissor shaped (the company logo) so unless you are a die hard fan I don't think you'd buy it but the stock is a capsule collection of wardrobe basics. A couple of pieces caught my eye - a wicked animal print jumper (the Nomad jersey) and a bomber jacket (Flight Boro Wool jacket) both had my name and signature style written all over them. You're looking at around £110 for a jumper so the equivalent would be Zoe Karrsen in terms of price. Plus the shop has a modern vintage feel with vintage trunks and succulents strewn on white tiled backdrops.

The brand originated in Amsterdam in 2008 and this store is the only stand alone store in the UK (talk about exclusivity). The products are infused with a passion for denim and an obsession with scissors - each pair of jeans has a pair of scissors sewn onto the back comprised of 691 chain stitches. As The Wardrobe Angel I only recommend shops and products which I would buy and use myself: Denham jeans are one of those products. The Needle jeans I tried on are high waisted skinnies - the Denham equivalent to Jamie jeans and I loved them - soft, stretchy fabric which sit high and shapes your bum - WIN.

Til next time...

The Wardrobe Angel

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Things I'm looking forward to #December

December - you beauty you. Here are my top 5 favourite things shaking my world this month:

1. Getting my oven cleaned. Yep - kitchen shaped WIN right there. Our oven is temperamental to say the least! When a recipe says 35mins at Gas Mark 5 on the middle shelf, in our oven it takes an hour at Gas Mark 9 so high up on the tip top shelf that the food comes out with the top of the oven imprinted on it. I read that getting it cleaned can help with cooking normally so I'm looking forward to experiencing the cooking magic after Oven Cleaning Services Leeds have been round.

2. Boxing Day walk  - clears away the cobwebs and over-indulgence from the day before.

3. Having finger teas - when me and my sister were small our favourite kind of meal was a meal we could eat with our hands. This has continued well into my adult life - fish and chips being my favourite chow down as the chips are just begging to be picked up sans fork. At Christmas there are so many leftovers that are best eaten cold, so why not save on the washing up and eat with your fingers?

4. Elf - how soon is too soon to watch the BEST CHRISTMAS FILM EVER?

5. New Years Eve - time to leave behind everything that didn't work, savour everything that did and step into a brand new year of possibilities and awesomeness.

Til next time...x

The Wardrobe Angel

Thursday, 26 November 2015

How to Shop on Black Friday

I'm not sure whose image this it - please let me know if this is your image and I'll attribute it!

We all love a craze, a band wagon to jump on - snap bands and Swatch watches in the 80's, grunge and Nirvana in the 90's and Trinny & Susanna telling us What Not To Wear in the noughties. Over the past few years us Brits have opened up our arms and embraced Halloween with a fervour that frankly didn't exist when I was a kid (I distinctly remember a couple of teenage lads trying their luck at "trick or treating" with just their hoods pulled up for a costume and my Dad telling them where to go in no uncertain terms.) And I think Black Friday is just that - a trend, a craze, an awkward phase in our shopping history. Black Friday has been a 'thing' in the UK for about 5 years but this year some retailers have gallantly bowed out of the Black Friday retail race including Asda, John Lewis, Oasis and Mothercare.

I was in the Trafford Centre doing a Personal Shop on Monday and there was already plenty of 'Black Friday' merchandising tickets on clothes. Many retailers manufacture items especially for Black Friday - think of these items as the less well designed, less well made, cheaper cousins of what's already on the shop floor. All I'm saying is:

don't be swayed by what deal you THINK you are getting ...

If you are shopping this Black Friday plan ahead and do your research: better deals may be available online verses what's instore. And ask yourself this:

  1. Do you really need it? Or do you just want it? 
  2. If it wasn't on offer would you still desire it as much? Are you panic buying?
  3. Can you afford it? 
  4. Is it essential?

Take care out there this Black Friday - shopping can bring out the worst in people!

Til next time...x

The Wardrobe Angel

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Hello Fashion Magazine

In our family there's a tradition that when you rock up at the house of a family member to stay with them for a couple of days they will put a stash of treats in your room to make your stay more enjoyable. These usually include chocolate and a magazine. Recently I stayed with my Aunt in St. Albans and she left the most recent copy of Hello Fashion Magazine (HFM) on my bed. Now, I read A LOT of fashion magazines: Elle, Vogue, RED plus all the weekend newspaper magazine supplements (Guardian, Times, Telegraph) but I had never heard of HFM. I devoured it in the space of an hour and when I got back to my office I subscribed to the magazine for a year.

I am loving, Hello Fashion Magazine. Here's why:

 Interviews with not your typical Hollywood A-listers

Recently they've had DJ and pop-stress Whinnie Williams and Charlotte Watts (her off of the Rolling Stones Charlie Watts lineage.)

1 buy 4 ways

This is awesome - it's my MO to get more wear out of your wardrobe and this page really inspires me to look at things differently.

HFM is cheap

You can buy Vogue for £3.99 - (like buying a book) or if pennys are tight try HFM. It's a quid. A whole English Pound. £1. Whereas the equivalent, LOOK magazine features bargain basement High Street, HFM features labels which teeter at top end high street and designer but there's a something for everyone: fashion, lifestyle, beauty, interviews.

Which magazines do you enjoy reading and why?

Til next time...x

The Wardrobe Angel

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Body Positive - how do you measure up?

There's been one story I've been drawn to this past week: Essena O'Neil, an Instagram "star" with around half a million followers, quitting social media due to the current status of social media, namely building your self-worth against the number of likes you receive for pictures. She edited some of her Instagram photos to highlight the truth behind each shot adding captions such as:

"This candid bikini shot? Totally staged. I just want younger girls to know this isn't candid. It's contrived perfection."

You can watch the Buzzfeed video of Essena explaining her decision to come clean about the images she portrayed on Instagram below:

As The Wardrobe Angel I have seen many bodies and let me tell you - they are all individually unique and awesome. Where clients think they are 'fat' they usually aren't, where they think that dropping that magic 7lbs will make them happy it probably won't and when they compare themselves to another woman in their life and feel they don't measure up - let me tell you, they do. So much of our lives is lived in comparison which made the YouTube video (above) even harder to watch - if Essen's  images were a sanitised and starved version of her self yet she built an empire on them and got paid for them - then cripes, isn't that sad?

I had the pleasure of working with a client a few weeks ago who wrote me the most awesome piece of body positive feedback I have ever had. It is LONG but keep reading - there is so much in it that we can relate to including how our body image and our relationship to our body is formed in our family unit.

There is an F-bomb and an S-bomb in here so be warned. Here we go...

Dear Stephanie

I would just like to give you a big THANK YOU for the profound impact that you not only had on my wardrobe, but also on my life.  I always feel it is important to share these things with people, because they need to know what impact they have on people’s lives and how important their work is.

The shells have come off of my eyes and every day, little by little, I love the way I look and dressing is now a pleasure.  I now KNOW what looks good and what looks shit.  I have come to love and appreciate parts of my body that before I hated and wanted to hide.  I now wear things I never thought I could and best of all, I feel good in it.  And because I feel good, I strut my stuff and I know that makes me look even better! 

The world of dresses and midi skirts have opened up for me, and what a beautiful world it is!  I feel like The Little Mermaid as she finally set foot on solid soil.  I feel feminine and like a lady and through the way I dress, my true personality now finally shines through.  I grew up with a father who always resented effort put into your appearance and 'girly' things and I always had it in my head that in a man's world, you should repress that femininity because there is no place for it.  Now...fuck that!  I am feminine, I like sexy and I like looking well put together with minimal effort and how much simpler could you do that than with a dress.  You also introduced me to petticoats and I recently found the hottest lacy (and racy) number I think Marks and Spencer has ever done – now I wish a gusts of gale force winds would swoop through London to lift my skirts daily!

When you came to my house it was like talking to an old friend and at no moment did I feel uncomfortable with you.  You rummaged into a place that, for a woman, is sometimes a bit of a sanctuary and private place, yet it felt like it was the most natural thing you could do.  You immediately told me my body shape and exactly what I could do to enhance it.  Not once did you make me feel ashamed for having larger hips and rounded shoulders, nor did you tell me I could do with losing a few pounds (yes, that has happened to me before); in fact, you made my body sound incredibly sexy and like it was coveted by many!  Your skill and knowledge of fabric is fascinating.  Your experience with fashion and know-how of different stores are priceless.  You are certainly fulfilling your calling!

It is amazing how somebody’s life could change by knowing how to dress to look good.  Before I hired you, I thought I’d get a very detailed list of what I should wear and would have to go on a massive shopping spree to find those items.  But my wardrobe is actually much smaller now and much simpler.  When I shop now, I only focus on certain silhouettes and styles, and only buy what I know works for me and what I love.  Having that knowledge takes the guess work away and saves me a lot of time and money!  I am now finally one of those people who buy ‘investment’ pieces. 

You are, therefore, worth every penny and I can’t recommend you enough. Feeling good because I know I look good gives me an immense boost in my confidence, so much so that I feel I can now do anything.  I used to look in the mirror and see one big, ugly blob but now I can go for that job I want, I can go into that store I love, I can go on the dates I long for and I can have the life I want.  You changed the way I dress, but because of that, I changed the way I see myself.  And that is something I will always be grateful for!  

Thank you, Stephanie!
Before you head off check out this wonderful piece on Body Positivity featured on The Olive Fox earlier this month, written by my sister-in-law Janet from the blog, Words The Can Only be Your Own

 "The human body is an incredible thing and it seems almost insulting to waste time focusing on your flabby arms when those arms sew or bake or draw beautifully."

Til next time...x

The Wardrobe Angel

Friday, 6 November 2015

Face Style Part 2

Many moons ago in August 2014 I did a post about what went on my face to help me greet the world of a morning (click here for the original post). Eczema, acne, sensitivity - I've had the pleasure of it all so to say I'm careful with what I put on my face is an understatement. I was all about the Clarins foundation, waxing lyrical about it's oil absorbing qualities and how it saved me after a horrific allergic reaction to Clinique foundation. Then Natalie Willingham rocked my world by recommending Illamasqua Skin Base foundation for my wedding day.  Bless Natalie when her suggestion squared up to a big wall of make-up shaped resistance on my part...

" I'm really scared of a new foundation...sooooo....can't we just use what I've used for the past billion years and be done with it? Who said change was a good thing?

She, all business, dispenses a little tub of wedding foundation for me to try and off I pootled home. The next day it's fair to say my face-life changed. The foundation Natalie had given me was IMMENSE - no hardcore blending necessary, glided on and covered all my scarring. I actually took a photo of my FACE and sent it to her I was that pleased.

As well as committing to Illamasqua Skin Base Foundation I have also entered a monogamous relationship with Dermalogica - namely the Special Cleansing Gel and the Daily Microfoliant. I tried to commit to Liz Earle - I was seduced by her Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser - but it aggravated my skin. My right cheek looked rank - like I'd binged on dairy and it was coming back to say 'hello' in the form of massive spots. About 6 months before my wedding I re-purchased a Dermalogica set from my beautician and within a week my skin was back to normal.

As ever my lipstick remains the same - Maybelline 24hr Super Stay in 501. Now for a disturbing shot of me wearing said lipstick. You're welcome.

Til next time... x

The Wardrobe Angel

Monday, 2 November 2015

Things I'm looking forward to #November

November is hands down my favourite month of the year for these reasons:

1. Bonfire night. Fireworks, baked potatoes, wrapping up warm in a massive coat and scarf. Win. My birthday is on the 7th November so all birthday memories are tied to Guy Fawkes' legacy to be honest.

2. My birthday. I'm manoeuvring out of my early 30's and planting myself firmly into mid-thirtydom this month. I'll be 35. Gotta say my 30's have been the most tremendous decade for me. A successful and growing business, buying my first home and getting wed to my wonderful husband Rich...

3. Gearing up for Christmas. This year I started buying Christmas presents in October (on my mini-moon no less!) which makes me feel like I've nailed it. Pull those party poppers Christmas is in the bag! But alas, still said presents to wrap, cards to write and food to buy to stock "The Christmas Cupboard."*

4. Girls night out. I've made some cracking friends since starting my business 4 years ago and I'm really looking forward to catching up with them pre-Christmas. Check out their businesses here: Purple Pebble People and Marketing Doctor.

5. Cooking grown up winter meals. We cooked belly pork the other week, with crackling and everything! I love a good stew in November so this month it's pig cheeks.

"The Christmas Cupboard" is a Roper tradition borne of my mother, Catherine, who used to buy a few Christmas food items each week in the run up to the Big Day to spread to cost. Canny, non? My sister adopted the tradition and one year filled her Christmas Cupboard with beer, only for her and her partner to drink it all a few weeks later. It was September after all. Last year I implemented The Christmas Cupboard and filled it with posh crisps. Delicious. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Kudos to Suzy Menkes - Why Fashion is Crashing

So why am I hailing Suzy Menkes today? Her Vogue article "Why Fashion is Crashing" published earlier this week detailing the punishing schedule of high end fashion and reflecting on the departure of Raf Simons from Dior is why;

January is haute couture; March is ready-to-wear; May is cruise; July couture again; September ready-to-wear again; November resort - or is it cruise again? Add to this the advertising campaigns, personal appearances, store openings, global visits, trunk shows, museum exhibitions, interviews, Instagram - and it's a wonder that any designer is prepared - or able - to keep up the pace.

The fashion industry is the largest polluter after the oil industry and an estimated 20% of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment. This environmental cost doesn't stop fashion labels churning out over 50 collections year and with Suzy Menkes summation of what's happening at the top of the fashion tree, it seems the term "fast fashion" can now be applied to both ends of the fashion spectrum - high street and designer.

Suzy Menkes with Raf Simons (right) and Nicolas Ghesquière

Picture credit: Jean-Luce Hure

So what's next? Will fashion implode? This article, for me, is a warning shot that fashion, high and low, simply can't continue at the pace we have become accustomed to over the past 10 years, something has got to give and by something, I don't mean designer's well-being.

Our expectations of the fashion industry have the power to change the fashion industry 

If we consumed less fashion, less fashion would be produced. We didn't always have fast fashion, we can do without it again. All hail slow fashion!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

2 Yorkshire lasses, a Camel Coat and a Big Fat Scarf

Winter is here and I love getting my big coats and winter boots out. So first up, my camel coat. Purchased 4 years ago for the princely sum of £14.99 from the Oxfam charity shop in Manchester town centre. I had it re-lined prior to the winter season kicking in which cost £80 but considering my initial outlay for the coat, and the fact the re-lining came with a dry clean, I was more than happy to pay for it. The jeans are my trusty Jamie Topshop beauties which I have washed and washed until they turned this glorious shade of black/grey. The Bardot boots from Topshop were bought for my mini-moon in Norfolk as they were leather, waterproof and I could walk a fair distance in them. I assure you this post isn't sponsored by Topshop, but the Tartan scarf I have thrown so nonchalantly around my neck is also from Topshop. Click here to get your Topshop £22 grid check beauty.

Peeking out beneath my coat is an off white  silk Miu Miu top which cost me a couple of quid from a charity shop in Brighouse. It had a huge stain down the back so I tackled it with stain remover and hey-presto! Stain gone, wicked awesome top in my wardrobe. I'm also wearing a 1980's double breasted blazer made from wool - super warm and since I love a jacket, this keeps me feeling smart even on a non-client facing day. 

I love it when a plan comes together and in this case the plan was 2 Yorkshire businesses collaborating over a shared love of vintage clothes. I met Laura from Grandma Eileen's Vintage on Twitter and last Friday we did a mini photo shoot on a viaduct in Greetland  for a feature on her blog. I'll direct you to Grandma Eileen's Vintage Blog so you can read what we chatted about and if you want any more info about my clothes and the charity shops I frequent then please drop me a line. 

Monday, 12 October 2015

#WeddingWednesday - Reader, I married him

Mr & Mrs Brown 

Well reader, I am now officially Mrs Brown! October 3rd was such a special and memorable day. I am back at work today which is not so special and memorable in comparison! So with that in mind I've put together my top tips for brides & grooms for the immediate days after your wedding day:

Wear something really special the day after 
your wedding

The thought of pulling on jeans and a t-shirt the day after my wedding nearly brought me to tears. You've just worn what was potentially the most awesome outfit of your life and you are bookending it with jeans? No. Way. I wore my trusty H&M Trend Jumpsuit with my Jimmy Choo wedding shoes. Yes I was tired, yes I was emotional, yes my face wasn't nearly as awesome as when Natalie Willingham waved her bridal make-up wand over it the day before but my jumpsuit made me feel really glam and was a gentle step down rather than a gigantic lurch away from my wedding dress. Rich wore a vintage wool blazer and an awesome Zara shirt. Yep - natty dressers united! Team Brown!

Carry tissues at all times

The beach at Sheringham - there may or may not have been some joyful weeping standing on this beach

At risk of sounding like a right Nana this one has proved particularly useful. My emotions have been so close to the surface for the past month that my propensity for joyful weeping is at critical mass. I didn't weep on my wedding day until our first dance when Rich gallantly kissed away the torrent of tears coursing down my face. There's a really awkward photo of us at the end of our first dance where my face is stricken with panic - the thought running through my head was

"crap - I think I've ruined my make-up.

We went to Norfolk for our mini-moon where I had many a moment of pure bliss including standing on the high street in Sheringham: the sun was shining, the sky was blue, I could see the sea, I had just bought a beautiful gift for my friend's new baby, Rich and I were hand-in-hand and BOOM: joyful weeping.  My weeping consists of those hot tears that just spill out of your eyes. I don't really make a sound but it can be quite unnerving for passers by so either use said tissues to mop up your tears or cover your face entirely, either way it's a bridal win.

Savour the magic and fairy dust 

The back of our wedding invites created by the wonderfully talented Becky Lord

Getting married, the lead up, rehearsal, ceremony and after-party is like being in a special bubble where you are buffeted by happiness and joy, carried along by smiles and hugs and wrapped in a big ole' blanket of love. Pretty much all this feeling is directed at you - people want to speak to you, they want to hug you, talk to you, share the love with you. I felt utterly blessed to have close friends and family surround us on our wedding day but the feeling of coming back to reality the week after was like waking up in a draining bath, cold and prune-like. Those special wedding day feelings are so immeasurably special because you don't feel them to that intensity everyday.  But you do still have some wedding day glitter, some sparkle, some marriage fairy dust at your disposal - you have the photos and more importantly, cherished memories. We started a memory box for our wedding - all the RSVP's, a copy of our invitation, the sweet bags we had printed, some of the bunting that my gorgeous sister-in-law kindly made for us, my headpiece and the pearls used to hand-tie my bouquet. Jeez - even writing this I'm fishing for a tissue!! Excuse me whilst I indulge in a joyful weeping moment ...

Til next time...x

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

#WeddingWednesday - to Choo or not to Choo, that is the question

So I obviously Choo-ed

Searching for 'wedding shoes' has been a relatively easy process. Discounting all the satin ivory horror stories that showed up on my Google searches, I did spot a magnificently sparkling shoe on a blogger's feed on Instagram. A shoe from Dune that was part of the Autumn/Winter collection - I didn't let that put me off. I dropped an email to Dune customer services - when and where can I get said shoe? In September came the answer, and it won't be country wide, you can't pre-order and we can't send you the press office sample. 


I left it a couple of weeks, headed off on some awesome family holidays (yes, there were 2) and when I came back I arranged a tea with my mate Laura. I said, "let's go and get my wedding shoes". Laura owns and runs Manor Drive, a pre-loved Dress Agency selling designer items and she has the best taste ever. She was HORRIFIED to think I was getting some satin ivory heels for my big day. 

After we finished our brews we headed for Selfridges, and the mecca that is Jimmy Choo. There was no contest, the battle of the wedding shoes was won fair and square by Jimmy. Sorry, Dune. These bad boys are super comfy (I'm pictured here wearing in my Choo shoe babies whilst in my pyjamas - they go with everything, right?!) and they look AWESOME. The idea of getting some super awesome (and yes, super expensive) wedding shoes had been rattling around my mind for a few months. These are shoes that I can keep and wear again and again, unlike my dress unless I run out of clothes one day and decide to go to Tesco in it. 

We had a final meeting about the flowers last night and I could picture Rich and I in the church, saying our vows, surrounded by friends and family, and a huge wave of joy rushed over me. 

I am so excited - my wedding outfit is coming together, loose ends are being tied as we speak. It all feels so, so real now.

Til next time...x

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

#WeddingWednesday - #Hen Hen Hen Hen Hen Hen

What an awesome Hen Do day - afternoon tea, spa and a tasty meal. Having been teetotal for nearly 5 years it was a low key, chilled affair minus veils, willies, that Mr & Mrs quiz, and the dreaded L plates; I drank elderflower presse whilst my hens sipped Prosecco. My trademark red lips were the order of the day and most of my hens turned up to greet me with a slash of red lippie in my honour - go team Hen!

Most of my hen clan were school friends - The Halifax Girls - who I have known since the grand old age of 11 years old. We went to different universities, have lived in different cities and countries but have always stayed in touch. It's one of those friendships that's like slipping on an old jumper - it always works. Then there were 2 really good mates from my mid 20's in Manchester. I share memories of many nights out with them and a particularly awesome holiday to Ibiza, plus both their Hen Do's. My uni friend, Jen, who was my chief organiser and British Cheerleader during our year abroad. We spent a year at The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (yes, it's a real place) surviving a tornado, 9/11 and the lure of coming home with an American accent. My sister, Penny and my sister-in-law also made the trek up from London to enjoy all Manchester had to offer. And last but not least, my dear friend Dawn who was my 1st Wardrobe Angel client and my mate Joban (real name Emily) who I share a love of hysterical films with. Her nickname came about after watching I Love You Man. My nickname is Carlos from The Hangover - the 1st film we saw together.

A gleeful Joban after finding her "perfect" moustache.

Greeting my friends I was filled with mixed feelings; joy and anxiety. I was the only person in the room who knew everyone. All the threads of my life were right in front of me, so many shared histories, stories and experiences. Would everyone get on? But, in true northern style, the ice was well and truly broken when one of the first topics of conversation was waxing of the lady garden area. My favourite part of the day was when I was presented with a bag of gifts - one from each hen - but with no labels attached so I had to guess which gift was from which hen. The gift was something that reminded the hen of me. I was bowled over by the hilarity of some of the gifts (a picture of David Crystal springs to mind) and by the thought that had gone into some. The frame which two of the Halifax hens had collaborated on made me well up - it was an A-Z of Stephanie Ann Roper:

How utterly blessed I felt to be surrounded by this gang of immense, shiny, sparkly women who I am lucky enough to call friends. Friends who know me inside out, have stood by me, supported me, laughed with me (and at me), and for whom the door is always open . 

So with my Hen Do a funny and long lasting memory, Rich and I are on the "6 weeks to go" wedding home straight. We've finalised the seating plan, the Order of Service and dished out the usher's jobs. I have my wedding shoes and a clutch of appointments to get my dress altered and my head piece finalised. 

It's going to be here before I know it, isn't it?

Monday, 24 August 2015

My favourite bits off of the internet this week

I'm in a weird limbo between coming back from holiday, my busiest business month (hello September!) and the home stretch before my wedding (6 weeks to go!). I've been trotting around the world wide web looking for super cool stuff and found some super cool stuff to share:

1. I made a new friend recently. Her name is Lisa Clifford and her business as a transformational coach is extraordinary. Beg, borrow and steal, or just pay her, to come and do a workshop for you and your business.

2. I spent many-a-summer raving in Ibiza in my 20's. I love a good dance choon and if any one out there can tell me of a super cool place where a 34 year old woman can groove the night away listening to Cafe Del Mar tracks, I am all ears. In lieu of that information I urge you to listen to the Radio 1 Ibiza Proms - just stunning to here well worn dance tracks re-spun with classical instruments.

3. I first came across Amy Schumer on Comedians in Cars getting coffee; she was hilarious. Now she has written and starred in her own film, Trainwreck, and the trailer is AWESOME.

4. In July I filmed my TV Pilot. I know. HUGE DEAL. The date for the first pilot fell through, I had under a week to re-organise my guests, as well as packing for holiday and organising my wedding. Katie Portman from the wonderful blog Pouting in Heels agreed to come and get involved.

Please note - we had never met

I messaged her on Instagram, emailed her the show details and she shared her time and experience in spades for her interview. She went all-in and showed up in the pouring rain, gave some awesome chat and was beyond patient when the filming ran behind. THANK YOU Katie - you awesome woman, you. Check out her fantastic blog Pouting in Heels

5. I had my 4th business anniversary at the start of August. The Marketing Doctor sums up the effort which self-employment takes and the amazing rewards in this heart felt blog post.

6. My sister made me an auntie for a 3rd time earlier this year to a beautiful baby niece. Recently I have become more and more aware of the blue/pink clothing stereotyping in shops and it has really been getting me down. I found salvation on Instagram when I stumbled up No Pink Please - a unisex clothing brand for children which is beyond cool. Check out their It's a Baby vest - amazing!

7. For over 6 years I've been delving into the world of spirituality. Gabrielle Bernstein's vlogs are a dose of enlightenment which could make all the difference to your day.

8. My wedding is in 6 weeks. After getting engaged last November we have had less than a year to plan our nuptials but one of the 1st decisions we made was to hire Anna Hardy as our wedding photographer. I am so excited she'll be sharing our day with us.

9. And finally 2 Buzz Feed crackers. Love Harry Potter? See how this cartoonist reckons Dumbledore was less than responsible in this Headmaster role at Hogwarts.

10. How Posh was Your School? I scored 22. How did you do?

Have an immense rest of week!

Til next time...x

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

#WeddingWednesday - The emotionless robot that is Royal Mail

With an arbitrary system of weights and measures, Royal Mail has made inviting people to our wedding a whole lot more difficult. After posting our invites on Tuesday 7th July I felt really giddy - like the wedding was really happening. At first we received a steady stream of texts saying "LOVE THE INVITES" and swift RSVP's (Auntie Libuff - you win the award for quickest RSVP for the Brown wedding) lulling us into thinking that all our invites had been happily received. 

Then I was made aware that a cousin in London hadn't received anything in the post. Then 2 friends. Then Rich's mum told Rich she'd had to pay extra postage for hers and had to collect it from the Post Office. Cringe. Extra postage?? Cripes we should've got them weighed before we posted them. That one is on us. But why oh why Royal Mail have you delivered some (postage was obviously fine) and not others? A few postcodes in London received their invites without issue, yet a postcode in Manchester has had to pay an extra £1.20 excess postage. I'm in awe of how arbitrary the system is, and how bureaucratic - each invite was 20p under postage but the admin fee for each to get delivered is £1. Talk about a self-serving industry. 

As it stands today half the invites have been delivered no problems, a quarter have had to pay excess postage (sorry ladies and gents!) and a quarter are still missing in action with the recipients receiving no invite and no letter of excess postage. Now this is where Royal Mail have been no help - I can happily give them the addresses and postcodes of these missing invites to locate them, but they won't consider them missing until 27th July. The thing is, we need all our RSVP's by the 31st July. 

I had a tiny glimmer of hope yesterday that the Royal Mail PR machine would swoop down and turn this thing around but alas my communication with them has been akin to communicating with an emotionless robot who has clearly never planned a wedding. 

Luckily friends and family have been awesome and incredibly understanding - we've received texts saying:

"It's ok; we know when we aren't wanted *winky smiley*"

"I'm sure I can find a quid down the back of the sofa to pay the postage"

"I think it's bloody genius you've essentially made us pay for an invite to your wedding"

to one friend "refusing" to come unless we reimburse him the £1.20 excess postage he's had to pay (Ben - you'll be reimbursed at the wedding). Rich pointed out, as I had a little weep over the invite list last night, we're lucky to be in a close network with everyone reachable by phone and Facebook. 

It seems this kind of pre-wedding mix up can happen to the best of us - just this morning at a networking event my friend Sarah said she'd managed to post a fistful of her wedding invitations without any stamps at all. Phew! Hearing that story made me giggle - I'm never been a bride for whom everything has to be "perfect" - so it's good to know that the path to a wedding can sometimes be bumpy.

So please taketh this lesson away from today's #WeddingWednesday blog post - 

always weigh your wedding invites before you post them

It will save you a heck load of trouble and if they do go missing, don't expect Royal Mail to do anything for you. 


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

#WeddingWednesday - Invitation Only

And so to our wedding invites. Ever since Rich proposed I had my heart set on ordering our wedding invites from Becky Lord Design. I've been following her on Instagram for ages, impressed by her visual aesthetic, use of colour and all round friendly tone. Her Fetti wedding stationary was one of the first pictures to make it on to my secret Wedding Pinterest board.

We ordered her stationary pack from Etsy so we could see the samples of her House Collection wedding stationary before we made a final decision. When it arrived I felt like I had been sent a gift: beautifully presented, the wedding stationary samples were wrapped in tissue paper and a free pencil with heart soaring inspirational wording was included to boot. How's that for business branding?!

With some wedding related decisions it's been instant: the church for instance, having fish & chips at our wedding breakfast was another swift choice. But other decisions have felt really hard to make - even though Fetti had been my original choice, we deliberated over Writer and Bodoni for 3 hours one Sunday morning. The hardest thing about organising our wedding has been keeping a fixed idea about what our wedding means to us - everyone has an opinion, is quick to tell you what they did, and in the nicest possible way tell you what you shouldn't do. So that's why I dithered from my original wedding invite decision: were we more of a Writer wedding? What would the Bodoni set say about our nuptials? Then at the bottom of the wedding stationary pack we uncovered The Huxley: a simple, rustic, come as you are kind of invite. Was that 'us'?

To clear my head I sat down one morning and did a moodboard for our wedding - pictures of what the venue will look like, swatches of material from Rich's suit and my dress, a picture of the wedding car I'll be transported to the service in. Nope - Fetti it was but with a change of colour palette. After what seemed like a gazillion emails from me starting in February and running into May, Becky, with endless patience, mocked up a Fetti invite and BOOM - it matched the feeling of our wedding:

chic and elegant yet informal and friendly

There is now less than 4 months until I become 'Mrs Brown' and I cannot wait to send out our invites when they arrive this Friday!! 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

#WeddingWednesday - If your names not down, you're not coming in

Apologies for the lack of wedding related updates; I have been down to Telford, Bath, Bristol and Essex visiting new clients and sorting out many a wardrobe. Then there's the not so small matter of a TV show pilot in the pipeline. Wedding plans have been bubbling away in the background like a hearty stew on the stove nonetheless, and Rich & I sat down last weekend to write the final jobs "to do" list. The fact it is 5 sides of A4 has given me sweaty palms to say the least!

So what have we been doing? Our invites have been designed, ordered and printed. Penny, my sister and Maid of Honour, has her dress. I finally had a breakthrough with my flowers after what seemed like months of self-diagnosed "flower blindness" and our table centres have been crossed off the list with a huge sigh of relief. Searching for 10 vintage teapots in the land of Yorkshire where tea runs thicker than blood has been a tall task. We've managed it (albeit with a few broken lids and various expeltives along the way).

If you see any teapots like this on your travels let me know - better have too many than not enough.

Bar Christmas, I think we picked the worst time ever to register our Gift List with John Lewis: The Trafford Centre on Spring Bank Holiday weekend. Even the overflow car park was full as we queued to find a space amongst the off-roaded vehicles (or abandoned? Hard to tell) and the throng of shoppers. John Lewis know how to treat you right - they gave us a voucher for free tea and cake, set us up with a scanner and let us loose on their shopfloor. We scanned away amongst the throng of bank holiday shoppers. Dear God what a day! So. Many. People.

Wedding schizzle just got pretty real pretty quickly!!

When we moved in together it seemed like over the subsequent months we made endless trips to the charity shop to donate bedding, kitchenware, stuff. We are 2 adults in their 30's who have both set up homes and we have the material possessions to prove it so writing our wedding Gift List proved interesting: lots of things that would be lovely if we receive them but equally happy if we don't. Shopping for them was quite romantic, even though we shared it with what seemed like a gazillion other shoppers. It was also our 2 year anniversary that day so I was feeling the love as we picked out our matching toaster and kettle and some epic Cath Kidston mugs.

Finding my shoes has taken another huge weight off my mind and making some decisions about my make-up has set my mind at rest. There's less than 4 months to go and I alternate between "AAAAARGH!!!" and "I've got this."

Til next time...x

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Easy Styling Secrets

I carry a small wheelie suitcase with me to each wardrobe sorting appointment and have to reassure the client that I'm not moving in, just bringing some kit with me to help their appointment go more smoothly. I thought I'd share what I use to help clients style and look after their clothes - I've been doing The Wardrobe Angel job for nearly 4 years now and these bad boys have stood the test of wardrobe time:

1. M&S Stain Remover Wipes - my Mum bought me these as a joke one Christmas. Well Cathy Roper the joke is on you: these wipes are immense at stain removal and a must if you look after young kids who wipe snot/food/paint on you as you attempt to leave for work. Buy them in the food section by the tills, 2 packets for £1.50.

2. A Bic razor - some knitwear bobbles. Even Brora cashmere has been known to bobble. A jumper will be more prone to bobbling the more fabrics that are included in it: say Cotton, Wool, Acrylic and Viscose. This is because as more fabrics are added to the mix the fabrics begin to lose their original properties thus weakening them and Hello Bobbles! A quick shave with a razor will remove the bobbles and relieve your jumper of its scruffy state. If the jumper in question isn't that bobbled try a velcro roller to remove fluff instead; it's a bit more gentle.

3. Bulldog clips - if you are thinking of getting a garment shortened or taken in but it is a delicate fabric like silk (and a pin mark will show through) or a really heavy fabric like gaberdine (so a pin won't stay in it) then clipping the fabric with a bulldog clip holds the fabric in place. You can also use hair grips if you don't have pins - they won't mark your garment either.

4. Scissors - there's nowt worse than those pesky loose threads and labels ruining the look of garments. I always cut the labels out of sheer garments.

5. Masking tape and sellotape - great for removing fluff and bits from clothing if you don't have a clothes brush to hand.

6. Ecover spray and a cloth - when cleaning out a wardrobe the last thing I want to do is damage clothes with a bleach spray. This is a gentle formula with no parabens which I have successfully cleaned the shelves, rails and corners of many-a-wardrobe.

7. Labels - a useful tool for labelling clothes that need to be altered, dry-cleaned or washed so that the client doesn't have to remember what all those clothes piled up on the chair are for after I've left the building. They are also great for labelling an outfit to give you a jolt of inspiration in a morning.

8. Spare buttons - I take a bag of these with me in case buttons need replacing or changing. I also take thread and heel replacements for shoes. What a well prepared Girl Guide I am!!

9. Bin Bags - an essential for any wardrobe clear out. The most I've ever removed from a client's wardrobe was 18 bin bags. A good day for the charity shop!

10. Calibri Anti-moth - All cashmere needs protecting with this stuff; it's an odd smelling insurance policy against moths!

11. Dylon Dye - if a client wears a lot of black clothing this stuff is essential. Black can wash out at varying degrees so you can end up with a grey/black top and black trousers which can cheapen your look. Cheaper than buying new clothes, I often recommend Dylon Dye instead.

12. And then there's my contacts. A client emailed today saying

"I have some amazing Citizens of Humanity flares, but they are too long. Is there a shop/way/person who can take them up without losing the flare?"

I sent her to The Denim Doctor in Manchester. Click here to see the website. Michael has repaired all of my jeans and turned a pair of heavily flared Diesel jeans into boyfriend jeans for me a couple of years ago. As jeans go, he is beyond talented at fixing, re-styling and patching up.

13. And finally a recommendation I leave with clients - to carry some extra jewellery, spray deodorant and foot spray with them. I have a make-up bag under the front seat of my car with all of the above packed away in it. Extra jewellery because sometimes you just need a little more ooomph, spray deodorant and foot spray to keep everything peachy fresh. A must with summer just around the corner!

Til next time...x

Monday, 11 May 2015

My favourite bits off of the internet this week...

I spend a fair amount of time rolling around on the internet looking at clothes, blogs, articles and tea in no particular order. I've been really inspired and motivated by what I've been reading recently so I thought I'd share some cracking links with you:

1. Not feeling good enough - we've all had those days/weeks/months when stuff is just pants and putting one foot in front of the other seems like too much hard work. Janet articulates this issue with real sincerity and refreshing honesty. 

2. How to put together an outfit in 5 minutes - I don't know about you but when I'm in a rush my decision making skills aren't as sharp - I tend to over think, then falter, then make a bad choice. After reading this article on getting dressed in 5 minutes you'll hopefully save yourself from a bad wardrobe decision.

3. Men have changed - well, when it comes to fashion Mario Testino thinks so. And I'd have to agree. It's such a joy to behold a well-dressed guy who has wardrobe nouce. 

4. My favourite websites for all things next, new and now - Cool Hunting and Trend Hunter

5. What it's like being a dog owner - seriously mad cute gifs to feast your eyes on!

6. The Best of Bafta fashion - including some grey beard gratification courtesy of The Guardian and a black dress round-up via The Huffington Post.

7. Win a gorgeous set of colouring books for adults over on Pouting in Heels.  (Not adult colouring books - that's a whole different ball game!)

8. 40 things to do before you're 40 - I've nailed finding my red lipstick (thanks be to Maybelline 24 Super Stay), number 3 on the list. How many can you check off?

9. Watch Community - I cannot recommend this highly enough. Rich and I have raced through series 1 and are now midway through series 2. Just hilarous. 

10. The Life & Style of Iris Apfel  

“Life is grey and dull; you may as well have a little fun when you dress and amuse people.”

Well said! Have a great week!