Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Is black really the new black?

How much black do you have in your wardrobe?  When you are looking to buy, for example, a new pair of trousers for winter - what colour do you usually go for?  Come on, be honest!  So many women end up settling for black for various reasons: it never seems to go out of date; it is considered slimming (which for most of us has to be a good thing!); it rarely looks cheap even when it is a cheap buy; it goes with most other colours, it's considered chic and it's a safe option. If in doubt, we go for black.  I'm just as guilty as other women in this respect..

But - isn't it also a bit boring?  There. I've said it.  Black can be a bit too predictable and, if we are honest with ourselves, it can be harsh and unflattering once you reach a certain age. Maybe we should be looking for our new black instead of settling for the same old black.

A better choice than black?
In my recent search for my perfect black or navy jacket, I soon realised that none of the plain black jackets that I tried on suited me.  I eventually bought a grey flecked jacket from Mango that was not only a good shape for me but also it was a far more flattering colour close to my face.

In my recent wardrobe purge most of my black clothes went out, though I did keep a black pencil skirt and a pair of black trousers. My last purchases were a pair of navy trousers and a navy trench-coat, which fortunately are proving to be just as versatile as black.  In future I will be sticking to navy or possibly dark brown for my basics, as I have established that they look far better on me and make me look more youthful, which can't be a bad thing.

For me, navy is now my new black.  What about you?  Have you managed to wean yourself off black and find a new colour for your basics?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  Of course, there are some lucky women who still look stunning in black even when they are over 60.  Are you one of them?  
Navy is my new black!  This jacket is now on my wish list.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Good neighbours

There is a tendency as you get older to reflect on the "good old days" and remember how much better life seemed to be, how much friendlier and neighbourly everybody was when we were young.  I don't necessarily agree with this: my philosophy is to enjoy life as it is NOW, not to waste time looking back and not too worry about what the future may bring.

Living in a typically Spanish town though does tend to bring back memories of the past.  Our Spanish neighbours are warm and friendly and the local people give a lot of importance to the concept of being a neighbour (or vecino in Spanish).  I'm not saying that our neighbours back in London were unfriendly, as we got to know some of them pretty well, but here everybody speaks to you when they see you in the street, even the children and teenagers.  It takes me back to my childhood, where all our neighbours knew my name and I was aware that, if I got into mischief, it would be reported back to my parents!

Not long after we moved into our apartment, somebody broke into our storage room, which is near the underground parking area.  We hadn't been living there very long, and many people still hadn't moved in at the time as we live in a brand new building.  However our neighbour Isabel had heard what had happened, so she offered to drive us  down to the Guardia Civil to report the theft and she was also willing to wait there with us and drive us home again.  We had only seen Isobel a couple of times to say hello and were touched by her concern.

Then our neighbour José, whom we hadn't met before, knocked on our door and said how sorry he was to hear about the robbery and that there was plenty of room in his storage room if we needed to store anything there.  Not knowing how much Spanish we spoke, José even managed to say all of this in English, though he said he hadn't spoken English for many years.

As well as helping out when things go wrong, our neighbours are also keen to share the good times with us.  In Spanish towns the districts are called barrios and your neighbours aren't just your immediate neighbours, they are anybody who lives in the same barrio, which in our case is San Juan.  One day we were walking up the street several blocks away from where we live when a woman we didn't recognise grabbed my arm and said "Vecinos!"  She then took us to a garage where a bar had been set up and told us it was the local fiesta of San Juan so we had to have some beer, wine and food with them!

Enjoying the folklore festival with the neighbours

This sometimes extends beyond your own barrio.  We were with two English friends during the Folklore Festival last year when Mari Carmen spotted us and told us to go along the road for lunch.  We assumed that she was telling us about a new bar or restaurant, but when we got there it was just a garage with a bar set up in the corner.  However the neighbours of  barrio San Anton insisted on us all sitting down, as we were "Jumillanos" (as people living in Jumilla are called), and we were then supplied with lots of food and drink.  They were hosting one of the folk groups so we even got free entertainment once the group had been fed and watered!

What is it like in your neighbourhood?  Do you know your neighbours - and are they as friendly and helpful as our neighbours in Spain are?

Saturday, 6 October 2012

My wardrobe of 33 items for the next 3 months

These are the 33 items of clothing and accessories that are either hanging up in my wardrobe or nestling at the bottom of it at the moment. They will, in theory, last me for the next 3 months. I am cheating a bit, as there are a couple of light short-sleeved tops and lightweight trousers there that will be replaced by thicker clothes when it gets colder. Wish me luck!




Sharp-eyed regular readers may have realised that the clothes shown aren't identical to the ones on the list in my previous post!  There are good reasons for this:

1.  My coat is in the dry-cleaners having the sleeves shortened. When I tried it on during my wardrobe purge I realised that the sleeves were a bit long, however if they were the right length it would be perfect.  It's still not cold enough in Spain to wear my coat, but I will be taking it to the UK and will then include it in my 33 once it gets colder here.

2.  I haven't included my red jumper, again because it is too hot to wear it at the moment;

3.  I haven't included my black heels, as for every day wear I usually wear trousers and flat shoes.  They will be going to the UK though as I plan to wear my skirt while I am there, and I will wear them for dressy occasions on my return.

The three additions are a light green top, a short-sleeved black top and a lightweight blue cardigan, which will be replaced by the above items when I go on my trip at the end of the month.

Do you think that the above 33 items would provide enough variety for you to manage with just these clothes over three months?

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Project 333

I was intrigued when I first noticed the title of this project on one of my favourite fashion blogs, The Vivienne Files.  Did it mean I had to have 333 items in my wardrobe?  Even counting my underwear, jewellery and other accessories, I didn't think I had as many as 333 items, though I wasn't going to start counting them! Was this a good excuse to go shopping then?

Sadly not!  It meant that I actually had to start a purge of the contents of my wardrobe and discard everything too old, too small, too outdated and frankly, in some cases, waaay too unflattering.  I was slightly shocked at how many unflattering clothes I owned: it made me wonder what had possessed me to buy certain items in the first place!  This exercise in itself can be eye-opening and makes you think about why and how you buy clothes. 

I then had to divide the rest into a Love pile (clothes I love and that I look good in) and a Maybe pile, which I have to admit was huge.  The target was to end up with 33 clothes to mix and match over the next 3 months - yep, that is what the 333 stands for.  We were allowed to exclude underwear, nightwear, lounge wear plus exercise clothes (if we only wear them for work outs).  

According to the project rules, shoes and accessories should be included in the 33 items as well as any jewellery, though a wedding ring or other sentimental piece of jewellery that is always worn could be excluded. Considering the number of clothes crammed into my wardrobe and folded into my drawers, plus the overspill in the spare room wardrobe, I felt a limit of 33 was a bit too challenging for me at this stage.

There was room for a bit of flexibility, so in my case I didn't count jewellery and scarves, plus I have included three tops and two bottoms to wear on warmer days - after all, I do live in Spain! Once it gets cooler, I will swap these with other items from the Maybe pile.  As Courtney herself pointed out, she isn't going to come over here and inspect my wardrobe, which is probably a good thing!

My list is: black trousers, black pencil skirt, navy jeans, brown trousers & brown jacket, black & white coat, grey flecked jacket, brown, grey & white patterned dress, navy & pink patterned dress, dark brown cardigan, navy cardigan, purple/grey/black jumper, navy & white striped jumper, navy & red striped jumper, red jumper, pale blue v-neck jumper, dark green top, purple top, light red top, brown heeled shoes, black heeled shoes, black flat shoes, tan flat shoes, medium size grey bag, medium size cream bag, small turquoise bag. In addition, for warmer days, I have included navy/white striped cropped trousers, beige linen trousers, dark green short-sleeved top, dark brown-multi s-s top, white/grey patterned s-s top, grey s-s top and navy sleeveless top. When it gets a lot colder, I will swap the summery clothes with my favourite winter clothes from the Maybe pile.

What has Project 333 taught me?  For a start, how easy it is to accumulate clothes over the years and buy new things a) because they are in the sales or b) because they are fashionable or c) because they look lovely (even though they don't actually suit me!)

I have also learnt that if it is hard to let go of clothes, even though they don't fit you or suit you any more, then think about what you will achieve if you let them go.  I have filled about 10 bags (here is a photo of the last of them) which have gone into the recycling bins to help a local charity. That is far better than letting them stay in my wardrobe wasting space.  I have also given a trench coat to a friend, who is delighted with it, as I had to admit that it is now far too tight on me.

In three months' time I will be repeating this exercise, but I already know that some of my first 33 will be carried forward, as I have realised that these are clothes that I love wearing and that feel good on me.  Isn't this what clothes should be all about?

In my next post I will show you the clothes in my 33, and you will be able to see how versatile they are.  Maybe this will encourage you to join in the project yourself!

More clothes and bags for the recycling bin!