Thursday, 28 June 2012

Comfy Undies!

'Foundation' garments are extremely important.  At the very least, most of us will wear a bra & knickers every day.  Choose wrongly, and you will spend the day suffering from any combination of:

  • wedgie plucking - because the pants are badly cut and just will not stay in place!
  • VPL - caused by knickers that have been over-enthusiastically elasticated.
  • strap marks - a poorly constructed bra can dig into your shoulders leaving you with painful impressions
  • 'hooking' - where the hooks on the strap aren't properly padded and end up digging into the skin of your back.
  • impalement on underwires that aren't properly sewn into the bra, or just come up too high under your armpits.
  • scratching of your, ahem, delicate areas because the material the undies are constructed from just isn't soft enough.


I'm not talking about wearing the wrong size here.  I'm just talking about underwear that is always going to be uncomfortable, no matter what size you wear, because they are simply badly designed and made.

Sadly in my experience, cheap underwear just doesn't cut it.  I have never, and I do mean never, bought a set from La Senza or equivalent high street store that I haven't chucked in the bin out of frustration after two wears.

I tend to shop at House of Fraser for underwear, as well as a few small local boutiques.  (I also shop online at What Katie Did for shapewear & Secrets in Lace for undies & shapewear, but this post is just about your standard bra & pants).

I know which bra brands work for me, and I'm quite loyal to them.  My favourite brand is Lejaby.  The shaping of their bras just really suits my body, they make both romantic & practical ranges, and so I often make a beeline straight for them when underwear shopping.  Recently I allowed myself a little browse however, and I discovered the what I have dubbed worlds most comfortable bra.

I have never bought a Triumph bra before, but when I tried on this style I was hooked.  It is like wearing butter!!  Behold, the Amourette 300:

Triumph Amourette 300 Padded Underwired bra

Amourette 300 Maxi knickers

There are several bra's available in the Amourette range, including non-wired, wired, and 3 different types of padded.  Unless doing sport, I always wear an underwired bra.  I don't always like padded bras, but the Amourette padding in the style shown above is very light, and the lace has a great amount of stretch.  The straps are super comforable, as they are a decent width.  The knickers are available in string, tai, maxi & hipster.  I like the Maxi knickers shown above - they provide decent coverage, give no VPL, and there's no possibility of your bum munching them.

(As an aside, I am anti string panties.  Every pair in existence turns eventually to cheese-wire, your butt cheeks get cold, and who wants to see imperfect bum skin when they take off their clothes? Unless you are a burlesque superstar being lit by a professional, there's just no excuse for wearing them).

Obviously, the Amourette set is not suitable for every occasion.  It's lacy for starters, so wear anything tight and the lace is going to show.  But under most everyday clothing, it's a winner.  I'll definitely be expanding my underwear brand horizon in future.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Red Carpet Runners -The Greensand Way 2012 Party

My husband and 3 friends have recently completed a truly staggering feat.

Last weekend, over 4 days, they ran the whole of the Greensand Way - a 108 mile footpath stretching from Hamstreet in Kent to Haslemere in Surrey.  They did this to raise money for Tansania 2012 - a joint Guide and Scout expedition to build a medical centre in a remote area of Tanzania.  You can read all about their exploits in their extremely funny blog here

To celebrate completing the event, they held an 'after party', last night.  The excellent Royal Oak Pub in Guildford kindly provided the venue & food. 

The theme for the party was 'Red Carpet Runners'.  An opportunity to inject some glamour into an extremely unglamorous sport was presented!

I wore a recently purchased black lace wiggle dress from Monsoon, some retro-styled crystal earrings, trainers & a fetching sweatband.  Mr G wore a vintage black velvet jacket and a vintage evening shirt, paired with his compression running tights & trainers!

Various party games were on hand to entertain:
30 second Jelly Baby massacre (Jelly Babies are the fuel of runners everywhere) .  I managed only 5!  It's actually quite hard work chewing a jelly baby before swallowing & chomping on the next one...

KT tape has been indespensible to the Greensand Way Team throughout training

Never pass up a photo opportunity!

Local skiffle hero's The Charley Farley Sunday Four provided some wonderful entertainment (ably supported by Genevieve & the Zut Alors!

Excellent french band GATZA performed. Anna Nas (on the left) who looks remarkably like me, is wearing a  lovely Collectif Clothing dress

The Farley Brothers in action
It was a brilliant night.  I met the very lovely Tigerlea, who is a follower of this blog, and who was the essence of charm & beauty.  I hope to meet her again soon.

The evening ended with a raffle of some fantastic prizes, including various items donated by sponsors McAllister Thomas Fine Art.  

Runners Lee (Mr G) and Claire giving out Thank You's before the raffle
The Fundraising Grand Total has today been announced at £4136.93 (including Gift Aid) - just over the £4000 target.  Fantastic news!

Well done to the four intrepid runners for completing their epic journey, and for raising such a lot of money for a fantastic cause.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Fabulous Foundation - Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse

I consider myself to be a sensible woman.  I don't believe that coloured lumps of crystal will make my life better, I don't follow food fads, and I'm damn sure I won't become a millionaire if I forward that email to 10 people I know.

You would have thought then, that I should know better than to believe that the more expensive a product is, the better it will be.  And yet, somehow when it comes to Foundation, I have spent an inordinate amount of money on products that never quite delivered what they promised.

I have a tendency for facial shinyness.  Not the 'glowing beauty' kind of shinyness.  The greasy kind.

Laura Mercier foundation (well over £80 spent including the primer & concealer), was lovely when first applied, but couldn't keep the shine in over a single evening, let alone a whole day.  MAC foundation  (mid range around £25) was horrible when first applied.  It clung to every single crease in my skin, highlighting rather than hiding them, making me look like an old hag.  Then the grease crept through and I looked like a shiny old hag (for clarity, I do not consider this to be a good look.)

And then....something amazing happened....

You may remember me mentioning, in my Dirndlfest post, that I had panic bought some new foundation.  This is what I bought:

Maybelline Instant Anti-Age Smoother, Dream Matte Mouse, and Dream Lumitouch Highlighting Concealer

This total set came in at less than £15.  Admittedly, there was a special offer on in Superdrug (3 for 2, since you ask), but it's by far the cheapest foundation set I've ever bought. 

It's also the best.

The Smoother gives a brilliant soft layer over which to build the foundation.  It seems to fill in my wrinkles in a magical way.  The mouse foundation is so easy to apply, I just use my fingers rather than any kind of applicator.  The highlighting concealer is almost as good a highligher as Touche Eclait.  And its a damn sight cheaper too.

The proof is in the pudding.  I was on stage with UkeJam performing at the Boileroom again last week.  There were over 30 of us on the stage.  The lights were hot.  The crowd was dancing.  Everyone was sweating.  When we came off stage, two of my friends turned to me and asked how on earth I still managed to look so good.

Well, I wasn't born with it.  It was actually, the Maybelline.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Most worn - Winter 2011/12

Apologies for the lack of posts lately.  I've been thoroughly distracted by my (successful) hunt for a new job, after 10 years of self-employment, and by supporting Mr G & our friends in their training for Greensand Way 2012.  Combined with an overactive social life, I've had very little time left for blogging!  Fear not though - many posting ideas are swirling around in my mind.

I was inspired to write this post by an interesting Facebook discussion in a vintage group i'm a member of.  Some vintage newbies were asking the 'experienced' vintagers, where they should start with their vintage/retro wardrobe.  Several people shared the 5 'most worn' items in their wardrobes.  Interestingly, very few people listed any 'real' vintage items in these lists.  The majority were newish items that had a vintage feel, or repro items.

So here are my 'most worn' items in the Winter 2011/12 season:

  • Winter Coat - by Jigsaw, about £120 around 10 years old
I love this coat.  It has a lovely removal faux fur collar which can be turned up & fastened for extra warmth thus:

The coat fastens with a zip, but has buttons too which can be fastened over the top of the zip (which I never use).  It also has zipped surgeons cuffs.
If I'm honest, I would love a 'fit & flare' style coat, but I havn't found one I love in my size yet.  Maybe next year.  Nevertheless, this coat has been worn every winter since I bought it.  By my reckoning it's cost me about 10p per time worn, and I will continue to wear it in years to come.  Not a bad investment.

  • Shoes - black & white patent leather, about £20 2nd hand on ebay

Love these.  Love, love, love them. Wear them all the time.  My new boss complimented them on me at my job interview.  Clearly he is a man with taste. 
Pencil skirts are marvellous wardrobe staples for the vintage gal.  Pair them with a great cropped jumper or cardigan and you look every inch the pin-up.  These two are both repro from well-known repro brand Vivien of Holloway
They are actually a fairly light-weight cotton skirt, and are unlined.  Because they are worn tight this can cause some problems.  For example, there is a lot of 'wiggling' required when going to the loo!  I often find that my tights (sorry, I'm afraid I don't wear stockings every day!), roll down as I pull the skirt back down again.  I would love it if Vivien of Holloway would add a lining to them, as this would ease wear & make them a bit warmer in winter.  Also, although I love the red tartan one, I've found that the black one has faded a fair bit with washing and is now a bit grey.

  • A-line Wool Skirt - £40 in the sale, Biba at House of Fraser

This is a button-though military-style wool skirt that I wear on less 'bombshell' days (or colder days!).  It was a great buy in the winter sale, and is from the recently re-launched Biba label, so famous in the 1960s and 70s. 

Gosh, I love this jumper.  I really, really love it.  It's cropped waistline sits perfectly on my own waist.  The little puffed sleeves balance out my hips, and it's cheerful Christmassy design has been a real talking point over the winter.  Its an acrylic knit, so is very easy to look after.  I shall definately be buying more jumpers from Rocket Originals.

  • Cropped Cashmere Cardigan - £179 by Brora

Now this is, admittedly, a very expensive cardigan.  It was a Christmas present, but if I had the money, I would have bought it for myself in every colour they had.  I own several pieces of cashmere knitwear from Brora.  Every piece is a big investment, so if you are going to buy one, do make sure that you are going wear it regularly.  You will also need treat your cashmere very carefully!  This means handwashing each piece, and drying them away from direct heat.  Do not, as I did once, scoop your favourite jumper mistakenly up in a pile destined for a 40 degree wash.  Do not, as I also did once, leave your very favouritest cashmere beret on a train at Waterloo.  I mourned the loss of that Beret for about 4 months.  I hope whoever found it loves it as much as I did.

Brora is an excellent cashmere brand - each piece is made in Britain, from Scottish cashmere.  Many of their pieces have a vintage feel, so if your budget stretches to it, I recommend them.

  • Jersey faux-wrap dress, £can't remember, Phase Eight about 5 years ago

This is a real go-to dress for me.  It looks a bit rubbish in the photo to be honest, but is lovely on.  When I can't be bothered to pick out a matching outfit I just pluck it out of the wardrobe & know it'll look great on me.  For work-wear I pop a little complementary vest top underneath.  I can remove this for a bit of cleavage in the evening.

So there you have it - my most-worn items throughout Winter 2011/12.  Not a single item of vintage in there, but everything has some vintage element to it that enables me to put the look I love together.

I'm delighted that the weather is becoming more spring-like.  Rest assured I'll be taking note of my most-worn spring items & reporting them!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Review - Vintage Fair at the Boileroom, Guildford

The Boileroom in Guildford is a Music/Arts/Creative venue in an old pub, on Stokefields just off York Road.  I've been to gigs there, and performed there, several times over the last year.

In December last year they announced a Vintage Fair, with stalls provided by several different stall holders.  I popped along and to be honest, I was a bit disappointed.  It seemed a bit disorganised and to my mind, 1990's C&A doesn't count as 'Vintage'. (Snob that I am).
However, a few of us Ukejammers were asked to play at their 11th February event and agreed.  I am pleased to reveal that The 2nd Fair was much better organised, with a great vibe, and a lot of really lovely vintage clothes & accessories. 

Vintage hair-dos were being provided by Lucy Hayward from Hair That Turns Heads.

The various music acts that were on throughout the event really added to the ambience (including the band I am in - 'Genevieve & the Zut Alors!')

Genevieve & The Zut Alors!  Photo By John Hudson.
The Boileroom has obviously decided that 'Vintage' means 'cakes', so they weren't serving their usual noodles and had only dainties available.  I think this is a shame - I for one was hungry and a chocolate brownie didn't really cut it for me.

It would be helpful for them to provide a changing room with a full-length mirror.  currently you have to try on clothes in the loo and there are only small mirrors in there.

The space at the Boileroom is very small, and with lots of stalls it is very cramped. If a band is performing on stage you risk becoming the centre of attention as you squeeze past them to get to the stage-based stalls.  In general you will have to be prepared to do some squeezing and rummaging to hunt out your vintage (nothing new there really).

However, there is FREE entry - unlike a lot of these non-London based vintage fairs, which is a welcome benefit.

One stall that caught my eye was selling Iphone covers, Kindle covers & Ipad covers made from vintage Tweed fabrics, with clasps made from vintage brooches.  They have a shop here, but these particular items aren't on there at time of posting.  Keep an eye out and maybe they will be added.

The vintage costume jewelery on offer was great quality, and very reasonably priced.

There were some extremely high quality offerings in the high price bracket (i.e. upwards of £100), including furs and 1930's embroidered silk jackets.
Also there was menswear - something often lacking at small fairs.

Unfortunately I was on a training course for the day (I performed & shopped in my lunch hour), so I wasn't able to really get dug in (though I did manage to bag a beautiful coat).

I believe the Boileroom are making these Vintage Fairs a regular event every few months, and so long as they maintain the quality of stallholders I would recommend a visit.  If you're local keep an eye on their website for the next one and pop along.  It seems they have the next one booked for 7th April.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

(Knit &) PurlJam, aka Stitch 'n Bitch

For a few months I've been hankering after some lovely vintage-style cardigans.  Finding original vintage knitwear that's in great condition AND fit's the modern woman, can be a trial (as anyone with 'a bosom' will know!).

I received a wonderful Christmas present from Mr G of a book of vintage knitting patterns, re-written for the modern knitter.  How exciting! Except I don't know how to knit.

I investigated getting some lessons, but the local knitting teachers were asking more than I could afford (which is nothing, basically). Quel domage!  Mr G had bought me a basic 'how to knit' book, but it's just not quite the same as having someone show you.

Fortunately I have got to know a lovely lass called Gemma through UkeJam, who is a knitter extraordinaire.  She gave me a lesson over dinner a few weeks ago, and we got to chatting about setting up a local Stitch and Bitch group.  I believe these groups started in the US - the premise being a bunch of people who get together in a pub or bar, to knit and, erm, chat.  There are already a few local-ish groups, but none in my hometown.

Our inaugural meeting was yesterday, 20th February, at The Snug Bar in Godalming (chosen for it's lovely atmosphere & even lovelier 2-4-1 cocktails).  We invited several twitter friends and people already known to us.  These included experienced knitters, those who had knitted a little bit, and complete beginners.

I hope to be able to make a gazillion jumpers like the one I'm wearing (which is wonderful and is available here from Rocket Originals!)

Gemma oversee's a new knitters first lesson

My first time using 'little' needles! The training wheels are coming off.
Cocktails were drunk, knitting was erm, knitted, chatting was chatted, and I learned to knit 'in the round!'

Check me out! I can now make tubes, not just squares!

Being an inclusive bunch, we were not at all sexist and invited my mate @Timato_ along, ostensibly to record our first meeting in photographic form.  Gemma managed to get him knitting too (his first time!), and this is his offering:

Tim knitted his first item - a blanket for a slug.
We intend to meet every 2 weeks at The Snug Bar (who were very accomodating and hardly raised an eyebrow at us, even when I lost control of my wool ball which shot across the floor leaving a wooly trip wire in it's wake).  I believe that setting aside this time to knit will really help in the completion of projects, which otherwise could get 'left behind' in the busyness of life.

Our next meeting is on 5th March, 7pm at The Snug Bar in Godalming.   We have a facebook group if you're interested in coming along to join us!/groups/379762208716375/.  Knitters, crocheters, sew-ers & cocktail lovers all welcome!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Land Girl Chic

I'm currently snowbound and freezing in my little wooden house, because I've run out of heating oil.  This has become a yearly event for me.  Every year I think 'oh, I'm low on oil, I must order some more', and then I forget about it... and then it snows... and then my heating goes off...and then the oil supplier can't get to me for over a week.

This does actually bear a striking resemblance to my home, though mine is a bit draftier...

However, in the true spirit of 'make-do', I've simply piled on layers of cashmere and shoved a cat down each trouser leg, and I'm toasty warm again (if a little scratched from the cats).  I've got to thinking a bit about how I'm going to 'make do' over the next 12 months, which lead to me thinking about my garden, which led to thinking about Land Girls, which lead on to thinking about Dungarees, natch.

You already know about the Land Girls, so I'm not going to re-hash this over and over again.  Suffice it to say that I'm totally on board with their spirit.  It's time to stop complaining about the rising price of food and get out there and grow something.  Of course, if you can do it looking fabulous then more's the better.  I've been having a little lookie on the interweb to see what's on offer and here's a few ideas:

Cord Dungarees by Freddies of Pinewood, £55

Cotton drill reproduction landgirl dungarees by Apple Tree Lane, £49

Land Army Dungarees by Tara Starlet, £68
I'm a bit in love with all of the dunga's I've shown here.  Despite the fact that whenever I mention the word 'dungarees', my husband looks at me as if I've gone mad.  "Just look how pretty they are!", I cry.  He appears not to share my enthusiasm & still glowers.  But I don't care.  I envision myself digging away in my plot looking totally marvellous.

I have to say that, although the Tara Starlet dungarees are my absolute favourite, I can hardly see myself actually gardening in them.  They are far too nice to cover in mud.  Probably a bit too tight on the old bottom to make bending over practical too.  The Freddies of Pinewood ones look pretty hardwearing, and the Apple Tree Lane ones probably the most practical, and the most historically accurate (and the cheapest too).

As I take another look at the original Land Girls, I realise that what they were wearing probably didn't feature very highly in their minds as they dug.  Most of them are wearing mens trousers that are too big for them and their oldest wooly jumper.  So long as it was practical, kept them warm and meant they could grow potatoes, they probably didn't care.

I guess the real spirit of the Womens Land Army lies not so much in what one wears, but what one does.  I hope to make 2012 a 'Land Army' success, as I venture forth and conquer my veg patch.  And nevermind what I wear whilst doing it.

But maybe I'll still save up for those dungaree's anyway.....just to help me get in the mood!