Thursday, 29 January 2015

Shopping for my Wedding Dress (Part 4)

People have now begun to ask me:

"as a stylist are you feeling the pressure of finding a dress?"

The simple answer is no. Fashion and style are intensely personal experiences which can be influenced and shaped by the media, magazines and peers but I believe each one of us has an innate sense of style which, when displayed in all its awesomeness, is congruent with who we are, where we are going, and shows what we do.

The dress has to fit certain, non-negotiable, categories:

1. It has to fit.
2. It can't show my cleavage. I'm getting married in a church.
3. I have to be able to walk, sit, stand and eat in it. I'm not paying for a fancy meal only to be able to manage a few mouthfuls. I intend to chow down come Wedding Day.
4. I have to be able to wear it again. Just kidding. Although I might bring it out at fancy dress time, or just wear it when I am, pep up my day. Like Monica and the gals from Friends back in the day....

But aside from that, it's my decision what I wear. It's my style.

  I have NO IDEA about wedding dress trends, no idea AT ALL and I don't want to know. 

I don't want an "on-trend" wedding dress simply because everyone else has that one. I want a dress which fits (see point number 1 above and whilst you are there you may want to re-read the other points as well), which I feel awesome in, which when I put it on, I'll know

YES, this is the dress I'm going to marry Rich in.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Big Blog Clothes Swap

So, you all know how I LOVE a Clothes Swap and chatting to my soon-to-be-sister-in-law, Janet, on Twitter recently we thought: what would happen if we tried to organise an internet clothes swap? I think most of us have those clothes in our wardrobe: the dress we can't quite work out how to style; the trousers that were a sale bargain... if only they fit properly; the shoes that don't go with anything. Stuff you can't bring yourself to donate or eBay, but haven't actually worn in months or even years. Clothes swaps are the perfect home for those clothes. We are going to gather together as many bloggers, and blog readers as possible, pairing them up according to clothes or shoe size, and let the swapping commence.

And so here it is: the big blog clothes swap!

Want to take part? To sign up, all we need is the following information emailed to by the 9th February:

Blog address and/or social media:
Clothes size (if you need to split this for tops/bottoms, do):
Shoe size:
Swapping preferences (for example, Do you want to swap one item only or more? Do you have specific clothing preferences, e.g. dresses only? Would you be willing, or prefer, to swap shoes, bags, accessories, etc?):

We are especially keen to ensure this swap is inclusive for all sizes, so please do sign up whatever size you wear. Once we have all your responses, Janet and I will wade through them and pair you with someone of the same size. You can, if you wish, then use social media to get to know your partner and their style, or you may already have planned ahead about what you want to
swap. Either way, you'll be responsible for parcelling up your swap items - be it one top or a whole horde of goodies - and posting them to your partner by the deadline of March 10th.

So what are you waiting for? Off you swap!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Shopping for my Wedding Dress (Part Three)

So I went online this week to try and cure my wedding dress blindness and put together a coherent wedding Pinterest board to send to my wedding florist, Cate Wood who owns Flowers at 180. I had had a tweet from Oxfam who directed me to their second-hand wedding dress site after hearing about my wedding dress dilemmas. Initially, when we got engaged, I adamantly told people I would find my wedding dress in a charity shop and buy some designer shoes to go with it which I would wear again...and again...and again. Sustainable shopping is one of the pillars of The Wardrobe Angel and half my wardrobe is from charity shops so it just felt right to go down this route.

Then something happened:

My Mum very, very kindly offered to buy my wedding dress. 

She remembered shopping for her wedding dress with my Nana as a pivotal moment in their relationship. I'm only going to do this (get married) once: so this kind of enduring, wonderfully special memory, this mother/daughter experience of wedding dress shopping was something I realised I wanted too. As Rich and I planned the guest list and the congratulation cards rolled in late last year, I realised that I had just been going through wedding planning motions, I forgot (or didn't quite realise) how many other people were supporting us and loving us during this frankly awesome time. (And I wasn't about to start dragging my Mum round every Oxfam in the area - she would not have been into that at all!) So I put down my ideas of a thrifted dress and dove head first (albeit terrified) into the wedding dress experience.

Even though I'm committed to trying dresses on in person, feeling the garments, seeing how they looked on me rather than on a picture on a model online, I did find an immensely awesome, minimal stylish label called Houghton based in New York. I spent a good hour browsing the bridal collection wistfully imagining the slim fitting dresses pulling like an elastic band on my 28F chest, dragging miles of fabric behind me as I'm at least a whole person shorter than the models. This was my wake-up call - yes the Houghton dresses are awesome and wonderfully aspirational but they aren't me. Not on my wedding day. They look perfect for weddings in castles, sleek registry offices, cool swanky London bars and on boat trips down the Thames. But a church wedding in Halifax followed by Fish and Chips? Pull the other one.

This is another big realisation I've had in wedding land - I've got to be realistic. I'm 5'3" and my weight is 7 1/2 stone. Too much fabric and I'll be like Alice slipping down the rabbit hole; blink and you'll miss me. Our wedding location isn't high profile, it isn't fantastically glam, but it's our home. And I want a dress which fits our bill, not the bill certain dresses give license for.

So onwards.... I've had so many positive messages from people...

"Just keep an open mind."

"Focus on hair and make-up so all the focus isn't on the dress."

And a lovely message on my blog from a lady who works in a wedding dress shop:

"Everyone is uncomfortable the first time they try bridal dresses on and why wouldn't you be?! You probably have never done it before and hopefully never will again!"

Thanks for all your messages and for reading... it's fun writing these blogs! 

PS - here's s bridal horror story if ever I saw one - click the link ... Brides ordering online receive dresses which can barely be called dresses, and certainly aren't a patch on what they thought they were ordering. 

Friday, 16 January 2015

Dress for Success

I first came across Dress for Success when I lived in Manchester. It is an amazing charity that helps underprivileged women by providing suitable clothes for them for job interviews alongside coaching to make sure they get that dream job or a foot in the door to their chosen career. Founded in America, Dress for Success has been in London and Manchester for a while and has now come to Leeds! It launched on 22nd November in The Corn Exchange and I am beyond happy to be involved. 

The women helped may have had drug and alcohol problems, may been victims of abuse or have been out of work for an extended period of time. Yes, Dress for Success is a charity but it is in no way a charity shop. The unit in the Corn Exchange has been cleaned, painted and decorated to give it a boutique feel. There are two separate changing rooms for clients, a large, spacious welcoming area and all windows have been covered to protect privacyHow does it work? A woman who needs interview clothes gets a referral from the charitable agency she is with to come to Dress for Success. All her measurements for clothes are taken in advance and a stylist (like moi) preps the stock ready for her to come in and try clothes on for her interview. The client then comes in, tries clothes on with the stylist during an hour long appointment and leaves with an outfit for her interview. If the client is successful at interview and gets the job then she receives a weeks worth of work clothes.

I've roped in 2 local dress agencies to donate their unsold stock and also organised a suit drive with PWC in Leeds and it has been really exciting to see how awesomely my contacts have responded. Want to get involved? 

"We currently need suit donations, volunteer stylists, an office manager and help with Social Media." 

Click here for the Dress for Success Leeds Facebook Page where you can get regular updates on how to volunteer and donate.

Or email the Dress for Success team at


Monday, 12 January 2015

Shopping for my wedding dress (Part 2)

So last Friday was an experience I shall never forget. Wedding Dress shopping has surprised, delighted and scared me in equal measure. Why?

1. I've never been so closely aware of my physical form before. 

Head to foot in reams of fabric, suddenly I was acutely aware of my exact proportions, my waist, my chest, even my chin! Better than being naked, one of the dresses hugged my curves severely, announcing my hourglass shape. I looked wide-eyed in horror at my reflection as the words "I feel like Jessica Rabbit" left my mouth. There were my tits, my ass, my clearly damn sexy....and not in any way shape or form appropriate for a church wedding. I felt like sex was oozing from my pores, steaming off me in a hot sweat. That's the power of a dress right there.

2. My height (or lack thereof) was magnified tenfold

I always wear heels but in a height-off between me and the dresses, the dresses won hands-down. When I walked into the shop I immediately folded my arms and became increasingly defensive and cowed. I put my bag down and retreated to the corner of the room. The dresses, though hanging a safe distance away on rails, were already taller than me and I was wearing heels. This was intimidating no end.

3. I feel my inner princess has been unleashed. 

I was always a tomboy growing up - didn't like dresses, wore dungarees and when I got my hair cut short I marvelled in glee at the mounds of discarded hair on the floor. Even at uni I turned up at one of my hall formals wearing trousers and a top rather than a dress. Then I tried on a wedding dress and BOOM - I was parading around like Cinderella waiting for her pumpkin coach to arrive. It was magnificent!!! I got so into it - shoes, veil, headpiece - the works! Never thought that day would come but it did and I LOVED IT.

4. Wearing a wedding dress requires herculean strength.

I tried one dress on with a massive train, the weight of which was what I imagine dragging around a dead person is like. People talk about high heels impeding women's ability to walk. Well, I'd like to chuck certain designs of wedding dresses into that pot as well. I felt physically unable to lift this train of fabric up. I struggled out of the fitting room, made 2 hapless steps forward then had to be rescued by the assistant who said.

"this dress is really made for someone 5'8" tall and a good few sizes bigger than you." 

Kudos to Di for dragging that train that around!
This woman attached HER BABY to her train. There are no words.

She stripped the TRAIN OF TERROR dress me off and we went onto what looked like an awesome dress but again - OH MY DAYS HOW ON EARTH DO YOU EXPECT ME TO WALK IN THIS???? The dress had a wonderfully sparkly top half, was cinched in at the waist and then sprouted like a material fountain out from the waist a good few inches, with reams of fabric layers in the underskirt. Due to height issues (see point number 2) the top, supposed to be a modest V Neck, practically hit my navel so had the rather weird look of J-Lo circa the Puff Daddy Days...

Having never worn a floor length gown, especially one with so many layers, I ended up kind of simultaneously walking and kicking the underskirts of the dress to get around. Seriously NOT a good look. Plus massively heavy!!

All in all an eye opening and muscle toning experience. But, on a serious note, with each dress I got a stronger and stronger sense of what I wanted to wear on my wedding day and how I want our wedding to look and feel. The shop assistants could not have been more helpful and for that I am eternally grateful. So where next? Next stop on my wedding dress journey I am heading online....wish me luck. 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

What I bought in the sales

Time to see what kind of things I buy to make my wardrobe work a little better....

Manchester was my shopping destination on Friday 2nd January. Rich was rolled up on the sofa watching TV with a nasty cold so I made my shopping list of items to buy and escaped from the germs.  I'll leave it until as near New Year as I can to shop the sales. I LOVE sale shopping a few days after the sales have gone live; it's quieter, there are more staff to help you and you can get even bigger discounts. On the train to Manchester I plotted my route: Selfridges (I had vouchers to spend), Zara (ditto) and H&M (I just love H&M).

My shopping list: 

1. Basic tops in grey, white and black.
2. Black 7/8 trousers.
3. Leather pencil skirt.
4. Gold chain necklace.
5. Jacket.

First up Selfridges. Heading to the top floor I made my way over to Sandro. I've been obsessed with buying a Sandro jacket for a while and with Selfridges vouchers in my pocket I was all "yeeeeaaahhh! Today is the day! Sandro get in my wardrobe!" Sandro did not want to get in my wardrobe - nothing left in my size. After a quick whizz around COS to look for basics (nada) I went downstairs to the designer floor and LO! A Helmut Lang Jacket! In my size! (Note - not many descriptive notes next to number 5 on the list - so Helmut fitted the bill! But seriously - I wanted a fitted jacket which would go with jeans, pencil skirts, you know the drill.) Price? £565. Just kidding. Reduced to £250. Reduced to £195. With vouchers £145. Winner.

My jacket for the next 100 years

Then off to Zara. With Zara comes patience. It was RAMMED. Kids, pushchairs, clothes on the floor and a queue at the fitting room. Nevermind. I did a couple of laps picking up trousers and the odd top then headed upstairs and walked into the fitting room straight away. Zara sizing has puzzled me in the past year or so; I've got dresses in M and jackets in XS so I always take 2 different sizes of the same item into the fitting room with me. On the 3rd attempt I found the perfect trousers: high waisted, pocketed, slouchy and slim fitting all rolled up in a buttery £15.99 reduced from £29.99. Grabbing a chunky gold chain necklace from the accessory stand £19.99 reduced to £12.99 I made it out of there alive.

Ooof H&M - you've done thy self proud
Then I headed to H&M. Loads of clients have told me they don't like H&M - too busy, clothes are always on the floor, don't understand the layout - and before I worked there I felt exactly the same. But after working for H&M for over 3 years I am eternally loyal to them. Now even more so since I found the perfect grey marl basic t-shirt. Again, I had to do a couple of laps and try about 15 tops on but BY JOVE! (who is jove anyway?) it was worth it. I'll go back for more next month when I've seen how it wears and washes.

So - I'm giving myself 3 and a bit out of 5 from the shopping list- not all basics purchased and not a whiff of a leather skirt since Helmut ate up most of, nay ALL, of my budget. Greedy Bugger. But since I'll be wearing it until the Year Dot, I forgive him.

What did you buy in the sales?

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Shopping for my wedding dress (Part 1)

This is already hilarious for me. Much as I love clothes I have never dreamt of my dream wedding dress. You read that correctly. I have dreamt of Mulberry handbags and mid heeled court shoes, of wardrobes with magnificent sliding doors and clothes all neatly organise inside. I have dreamt of holidays in Ibiza, the ultimate red lipstick and of the perfect brew and the accompanying wheat free biscuit. But I have never dreamt of my dream wedding dress.

I'm a stylist and image consultant and love clothes, but this wedding dress malarkey is a whole new, terrifying, other worldly ball game for me. Here are some wedding dress shaped facts about The Wardrobe Angel:

  • I have never tried on a wedding dress before. NEVER. NEVER EVER.
  • I fell out with maxi dresses last year and have never worn a floor length gown so I don't know if I'll like that wedding dress material swishing around me.  
  • I think I have wedding dress blindness - I bought a bridal magazine and after a few pages of flipping through I couldn't tell the difference between one dress and the next. 
  • I'm scared of the weight of the dress; I'm hardly a body builder and carrying around all that tulle and lace for a whole day seems out of my bodily reach.

We've set the date, booked the church and the venue and now there is this HUGE gaping hole in the organisation of our wedding - my missing dress. And time is ticking. I get married in under 9 months. I rang the very wonderful Natalie Willingham to book her as my make-up artist on the day and she gave me some very sound advice,

"You've never tried on a wedding dress before and they are a different breed of clothing altogether so when you enter the shop take off your stylist hat and be guided by the shop assistants."

Except here we are - the first day of wedding dress shopping is tomorrow. I don't know what pants to wear, I am plucked, waxed and shaved within an inch of my life and I have NO IDEA what to try on first. I don't know what I like. I can feel a huge panic rise in my chest and it does not subside. My Mum is clearly loving this and I am trying my very best to go through the motions but I NO IDEA what I am doing.


Sunday, 4 January 2015

What's Grotbags got to do with my Clothes Swap?

Hello January! I've indulged in quite a few of those 'glorious nothing days' this holiday which Peter Capaldi harks on about so knowingly in a well-known butter advert. This culminated in a discussion with Rich this morning about which kids TV programme Grotbags was in (I stumped my money on Fraggle Rock). Only kids of the 80's will truly appreciate the reference to this warty green witch:

Image courtesy of Showbiz Geek

Which led me to think I should get back in the blogging saddle with a way that will (hopefully) rejuvenate a couple of wardrobes in the meantime. If you overspent at Christmas and are bored with your clothes what I'm proposing will help you get rid of some of your clutter and receive some free clothing to boot. I'm proposing an online clothes swap which starts with me and ends with you and in the middle we swap clothes.

It worked out really well with Polka Dot Pink earlier this year when I sent her my sunshine dress and she sent me a blue dress in return so I'm really keen to see what other great swaps can take place. Read my original clothes swap blog post by clicking here

So what's up for grabs this month? A Faux Fur wrap from H&M. One Size, fully lined and machine washable in great condition. It has one hook and eye fastening or it can be worn open. It looks great worn over evening wear. All you have to do is send me something in return which suits my wardrobe. My style is dramatic, I love leopard print and sequins, black and white, big gold chains and colour pop heels in size 5. I'm a size 8 and am currently loving bodycon dresses. 

If you want the faux fur wrap, it's yours!

First come, first served.  

Tweet me @wardrobe_angel, message me via my website or leave a comment in the section below.  

Lets dull the painful nonsense of all the New Year, New You malarky and refresh our wardrobes for free! 


(my friend Amy has nabbed it)