Posts tagged ‘fashion’

September 5, 2011

Cycletta training

On Sunday, I went out on the bike for a 15 mile ride as part of my training for Cycletta, a 40km women only bike ride.

I’ve written before about my fear of riding a bike, and it’s only because of Cycletta, and my 35:35 Challenge, that I find myself riding at all. Since a childhood accident, I’ve spent such a long time thinking that I couldn’t do it, that cycling was just something that wasn’t for me, and yet year after year, I’ve sat glued to the TV for three weeks watching Le Tour De France knowing it was one of the greatest sporting events of the world.

We set out on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and thanks to my lovely husband, who has long been a keen cyclist and a Rights of Way officer, did a beautiful route, mostly off road along bridle-paths, parts of the Trans-Pennine Trail, and following the Aire and Calder Navigation. Although he is obviously much faster than I am, I was happy to ride along behind him, negotiating all the A-frames, as well as avoiding all the wayward Labradors and small children that such a sunny afternoon had produced. I even managed to go at a decent pace downhill, having finally realised that if I go at a snail’s pace with the brakes on, I am actually more likely to fall off.

Cycling, unlike running, doesn’t seem to leave me in such a pink and breathless state, as in between the hills and the difficult parts, come other bits where you can coast along to catch your breath if you need to, so at the end of the 15 miles I didn’t feel as though I wanted to keel over. Along the way I’d realised a few things. Firstly, that I am not actually as scared of riding in traffic as I’d thought. Having adopted the attitude of being brave, bold but mannerly, and assuming that if I am these things, and ride according to the rules of the road, that drivers will do the same, I am finding it a lot less worrying than I’d envisaged. Of course, I know that there are going to be drivers that don’t see me, don’t care or are just not very good, but by keeping myself as aware as I can of my surroundings and of upcoming traffic, I can do my best to account for such drivers.

The other thing that I realised, is that I am already becoming a better cyclist than I am a runner. I started running after the birth of my daughter. As I posted before, she had to be delivered very early because of my pre-eclampsia. I’m doing the Yokrshire 3 Peaks for Bliss, the premature baby charity, this weekend. When she was two, we decided that we would love a sibling for her, and I went to see a consultant about my chances of suffering with the condition again (which they said was one in ten) and what I could do to reduce that. I was told to to get fit. Running helped me to do that quickly, cheaply and outside. Cycling is helping me to do the same, but without the horrible pressure on my joints and feet. It suits my body better.

Plus, I’m having so much fun. It feels intrepid, especially cycling off-road or downhill. The things you get to see when out on a bike are lovely – I’d never seen parts of the route we rode on, and it’s such a pretty area, and so close to home. The main danger is that I get so carried away looking at my surroundings, I forget to look where I’m actually going. Horses, gardens, old Land Rovers, sheep, allotments – these are the things I look at. Nosiness and envy are rather a dangerous combination when you’re on a bike, and I often find myself riding in one direction, whilst peering desperately in the other. I suffer from severe allotment-envy, despite having one of my own that’s had a decent summer. My newly re-energised passion for horses also had me looking in every field and stable yard we passed. Plus, if anyone can dream up a new career that justifies me having an ancient, held-together-by-baler-twine Land Rover, do let me know, because I’m desperate for one!

When I think of the years I’ve wasted being too scared to ride a bike, it makes me sad. Cycletta has given me a chance and an opportunity, not just for one 40k ride in October but for the rest of my life, and I am very grateful. Plus, just think of the fashion opportunities. Liberty prints, Superga pumps and a Pashley Princess. Or perhaps Alexander Wang, a courier-style bag and an urban hybrid. Not to mention the new Henry Holland bike jacket for Skyride!

September 3, 2011

Burghley Horse Trials and equestrian influence in fashion.

I spent the day at Burghley International Three Day Event yesterday. This, one of only a handful of four star three day events across the world, is even more influential this year as it forms part of the run up to the London 2012 Olympics for many of the competitors. I will be watching with interest, after Great Britain’s rather disappointing finish at the European Championships in Germany. Having said that, many teams would be thrilled with bronze – we have such high expectations of them after so many years of gold!

Horses have long been a passion of mine, and for many years I basically lived in jodhpurs. Of course, equestrian influences of a rather more elegant nature have long been part of fashion history, particularly with British brands such as Burberry, Paul Smith, and one of my favourites, the sadly lost Luella, but also further afield. After all the Gucci horse-bit is an iconic image of their brand and only a few seasons ago Dolce and Gabbana were influenced by none other than HM Queen Elizabeth in a collection of heritage pieces with silk headscarves. Even in this AW11 season, despite there not being as many overtly equestrian influences making their way along the catwalks, the heritage theme features strongly.

Everything you see here is available to buy from Net A Porter and thank you to them for the beautiful images.

Stella McCartney Cape

Burberry Brit Jeans

Esquivel Boots

Chloe blouse

Gucci Belt

A.P.C. wool tweed jacket

As well as the obvious country tweed hacking jacket and jodhpurs (the J Brand version of which already have a waiting list) I have been inspired by less overt influences from dressage. Elegant black jackets and high necked shirts form the backdrop to this look.

Boy by Band of Outsiders blazer

Yves Saint Laurent necktie blouse

Alexander McQueen draped silk-georgette blouse

Tory Burch silk-georgette blouse

Stella McCartney wool blazer

Whilst being completely on-trend for this AW11, all of these pieces have a beautiful classic quality meaning they would earn their place as a ‘forever’ piece in any wardrobe.

September 1, 2011

Paper Dress Vintage, Leeds

I often struggle with vintage shopping. There are two main causes for this. My top half and my bottom half! It is a sad truth that we are generally larger than our 1920’s and 30’s counterparts, and even with the best will in the world, I cannot change my shape enough. Plus, my love of cake is too great to whittle my waist down to the required size. Ah well…

The other problem I often have with vintage shopping is that although I do like a rummage around vintage shops and antique markets, sadly I rarely get the time to spend hours doing so, and it’s a bit disheartening to find myself looking through row after row of tired old tracksuits when I do get the chance for a browse.

Luckily, I have found a new solution to this. Paper Dress Vintage has just opened a store in Leeds, and after a visit there yesterday I can tell you that it wins on all counts. Firstly, the store is light and open, so no more hunting around stale old dusty corners. The pieces of clothing are of great quality, nice and clean and really well priced. Most of the items I saw were from the 1940’s onwards, with a good selection of day and evening wear. The staff are lovely and helpful, and, rather wonderfully (along with Rebel Pin Up, a great-looking hairdressers) they’re open until 7pm! So, needless to say, I accidentally bought a dress.

1960's shift dress

Waffle fabric detail

And here's a not-very-flattering self-portrait!

Quite when I’m going to wear a powder blue 1960’s shift, I’m not sure and I have yet to work out how I’m going to style it (all ideas welcome!), but for £25, I couldn’t leave it behind. If you’re in Leeds, pay a visit to this great store. You never know, we might bump into each other…

August 23, 2011

Dressing like my daughter: a new approach to colour.

My daughter likes to choose her own clothes. At the age of nearly five, she already has very definite ideas about what she wants to wear, and on the whole I do let her choose. The time is rapidly approaching for school uniform, where conformity beckons. It’s an interesting contrast, the truth that Britain is a nation of eccentric, unique and bold dressers and yet from a very young age, we find ourselves in uniform. Perhaps the former is a direct result of being subjected to the latter. Anyway, all I know is that at the age of four, my lovely daughter is braver in her clothing choices than I may ever have been.

Recent discussions around her outfit choices have made me realise how different our approach to dressing is. I try to persuade her to wear something that at least has some semblance of being a cohesive outfit. She, on the other hand, wants to wear every colour she can; clashing prints, fabrics and textures on a whim. Fancy dress every day, with the supreme sartorial self confidence that only a four year old in a tutu and wellies can possess.

She already appears to be a true British eccentric. Or perhaps she has seen these rather exquisite prints by the wonderful Greek designer Mary Katrantzou. Her work features bold, feminine but strong print and every piece seems already destined to be a priceless heirloom of the future. The boots are Louboutin for Mary Katrantzou, AW 2011. I particularly love the darker ones.

Mary Katrantzou prints

I like to think of myself as a classic dresser. I prefer to buy things that are not purely driven by any particular season, but those that are well made, plain, simple and stylish. After all, we do know that whilst fashion editors may well be extolling the virtues of the latest collections, many of them are sitting on the FROW wearing black. Unfortunately, the more I look at my wardrobe of black clothing, the more a few truths are coming to light:

1 – The simpler and plainer the clothing, the better quality it needs to be. Where there is nothing to catch the eye in the form of print or embellishment, the more you notice the quality of the fabric or the state of the tailoring, cut or seams. Which, for me, is a shame as it appears I spend most of the household clothing budget on my daughter given the extent of her wardrobe. Something that perhaps needs addressing!

2 – Every black is not the same. My wardrobe of classics, washed many times, left out to dry in the sun, or (at my house at least) accidentally left for the cat to sleep on, has become faded, dull and greying. The reason fashion editors can wear so much black, is that they obviously choose carefully and then look after the pieces better than I seem able to.

3 – Classic needs to have a twist. Otherwise, it can be ageing and (dare I say this?) dull. So, therefore, what it needs is something to lift it – a pop of colour, a print or an update on a traditional shape. Something that tells the world ‘I know what is current’ instead of, ‘I’ve dressed this way forever’ or ‘I cannot be bothered’. A printed scarf by Mary Katrantzou, in a world where I could afford such things, would be an ideal addition to my wardrobe.

On the strength of this, I have decided to embrace some more colour, to be bolder in my clothing choices and to try a few prints. In short, to dress a little more like a true British eccentric, my daughter…

August 22, 2011

35:35 Challenge update

I thought I’d just add a quick Challenge update here. Although I’ve not been writing a lot about it, I have been working hard on the Challenge.

On 10th September, I will be climbing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks; 26 miles of walking, with three significant climbs ( they’re not quite mountains, but challenging enough!) within 12 hours. I’ll be doing this to raise money for Bliss, the premature baby charity and will add a JustGiving link from this site in case anyone would like to support us.

In October comes Cycletta, a 40km women only bike ride around Tatton Park on the outskirts of Manchester. This is going to be particularly challenging for me, as it’s only recently that I’ve got back on a bike since a stupid childhood accident put me in hospital and put me off the bike for good. When I was younger, I used to ride my bike all the time. One particular day, I was riding down along, steep and gravelled hill from a family friend’s farm. The sun was shining, the wind was in my hair (no helmet in the eighties!) and riding downhill felt like I was flying. So, (and here comes the stupid part) to make it feel even more like I was flying;

I closed my eyes…

As you can imagine, moments later, I hit a massive rock in the middle of the road and shot off the side of the bike, into a ditch. Not my brightest moment, and until recently, the last time I rode a bike. So, Cycletta is a big challenge.

Following these two physical challenges come a few different ones. I am signing up for both a falconry session and a silversmithing course. Fashion  has long been important to me, and I have decided it’s time to make more of a practical leap, so silversmithing, and then some other fashion related course  may follow.

Along with carriage driving, which is something I’d love to try. Horses are a long term love. In fact my degree is a BSc Hons in Equine Science and Management ( which, as you can imagine, is terribly useful in the wider job market but still remains a highlight of my life) but riding is a source of frustration as my personality means I don’t ever want to devote the amount of time to one subject that it would truly take to become as accomplished as I’d like.

I’ve decided that my final undertaking, and a fitting end to the Challenge will be the flying. Previously, I asked which method of flying I should try and the result of the poll was hot air ballooning. So, I’ll be doing that next May or June as a final flourish to the year and hopefully as number 35 in my Challenge list!

August 14, 2011

High Heels and Glitter

I am sitting here, surrounded by the September issues; the heavyweight glossy magazines marking the move into Autumn, which for the fashion industry are the most important issues of the year. Which is probably why they’d do for a weightlifting session, such is their combined size.

Although I do enjoy the summer for many things, when it comes to clothing, the Autumn/Winter collections are more my kind of thing. These are not the fripperies of summer, floral dresses and sandals. This is grown up dressing. Long wool coats, suiting, boots, structured handbags that you buy to last a lifetime. More expensive, yes, but ideally, made to last you a long time. Although it has to be said that I don’t  own enough clothes to be able to put many things away at the end of a season, (generally the movement to Autumn is marked by the adding of a layer on top of what I’m already wearing) there is something rather pleasant about the idea of buying something that you will cherish for a long while.

For me, that generally means accessories. Last year I bought a pair of Pedro Garcia ‘Piper’ shoeboots, which I have loved and worn lots.

I love Pedro Garcia shoes. The Spanish company is owned and run by the third generation of the Garcia family and prides itself on great craftsmanship alongside beautiful design. Although these have a slight platform, they are genuinely comfortable to wear, and I’ve successfully paired them with lots of different outfits.

One of the highlights for me from the A/W collections has been the shift in proportion in the shoes. For the past few years, apart from obvious exceptions such as the perennial gladiator sandal, we have seen ever more complicated, higher and architectural creations. Although beautiful to look at, they were getting to the point where it was impossible to see anyone, with the notable exceptions of Daphne Guinness and Lady Gaga, actually being able to wear them. There is nothing that reduces the appeal of a beautiful pair of shoes than watching someone fail to walk in them. We develop all kinds of odd stances, uncomfortable gaits and wobbles, thus reducing any sex appeal down to a comedy moment waiting to happen.

Plus, and this is an absolute essential for me, they are impossible to be late in. I am always late. Which means I am always doing a kind of little jog-like walk, as I rush to a work meeting, to catch a train or to school. So, I need a pair of shoes that I can wear when I’m running late. I can cope with a heel, as long as this means more of a classic stiletto heel, which this season are in abundance. After a bit of a search, I think I’ve found the perfect pair.

Pedro Garcia Xio glitter heeled pumps.

Again by Pedro Garcia, these are the Xio glitter pumps (available from The great simple shape is a lovely contrast to the Dorothy-esque sparkle and, given that most of my winter clothes are varying shades of black, they would be just the thing to lift both my outfit and my spirits. After all, who can be glum in glittery shoes?

May 23, 2011

Chloé | Marcie leather shoulder bag | NET-A-PORTER.COM

Chloé | Marcie leather shoulder bag | NET-A-PORTER.COM.


Crikey, having total Margot moment in the five minutes’ peace before tidying up. How amazing is this Chloe bag? And more importantly, how much stuff could I fit into it?