Sunday, 29 December 2013

My presents for myself, with thanks to Janice!

I've been very lucky recently, winning a $25 gift certificate to spend at Novica. This was a prize offered by Janice of The Vivienne Files. I had already been browsing the website when Janice blogged about it, and I was drooling over the many lovely items, so you can imagine my excitement when she announced that I was the winner!

I admit that it took me a long while to choose something - follow the above link and you'll realise why - but eventually I decided on a couple of silk scarves that can be worn together or separately, so ideal for a holiday capsule wardrobe. I also bought a cotton tote that won't take up much room in my suitcase and will also be ideal for going on holiday. As we already have a couple of holidays booked for 2014, my new purchases will prove very useful. Here they are:

Blue fantasy made by Vinita
Rose River made by Jiap Rojjana
I have to say that the service was incredible: I ordered these on December 19th and they arrived four days' later, just in time for Christmas. I was sent an email with a link, allowing me to track my parcel from Thailand to Spain, via Leipzig in Germany. The items were beautifully wrapped and the packages contained small cards giving me the names of the artisans who had made them. The two scarves cost $20.69 and the cotton bag cost $19.99 so I paid less than $18 to cover the difference in price and premium postage: a real bargain. Thank you so much Janice!

I admit that the jewellery on Novica's website was very tempting, however I had already placed an order with another website that I recently discovered: Forage & Find - and I couldn't justify buying myself even more Christmas presents. Forage & Find sells unique jewellery handmade by mother and daughter, using vintage fragments of the past, and they ship internationally.

My husband will be celebrating an important birthday next year, so I couldn't resist buying him an early birthday present from Forage & Find. As it arrived in time for Christmas, I decided to pop it inside his Christmas stocking. I also popped my "present to myself" into my own Christmas stocking!

Vintage Birthdate Sixpence Cufflinks 
My present to myself!

I have mentioned People Tree in a previous post, but as they have a sale on at the moment, I thought it worth mentioning them again. They are pioneers in Fair Trade and environmentally sustainable fashion, so why not check them out too?
Wearing my People Tree skirt!
If you are going to make a New Year's resolution, why not resolve to shop from websites like Novica, Forage & Find and People Tree, where you are supporting artisans and ensuring they are paid a fair price? Do you know any other websites with similar values to share with us?

Friday, 27 December 2013

I love happy endings

Did you read about the Chinese boy Luo Gang, who was kidnapped at the age of five and sold to a family in another part of China? What impressed me about Luo was how, once he realised that he wasn't going home, he made an effort to remember as many details as possible about his childhood in the hope that one day he could use them to find his way home. Twenty three years later, through a website called "Baby Come Home", he was reunited with his birth family.

Luo Gang meets his birth mother

You can read the whole story here on the BBC website.

This touching account reminded me of my friend George, who was reunited recently with his son Rob after 22 years' separation. Although their story isn't as dramatic, the background was almost as tragic. George split up with his wife when his son was two years old.  His wife returned to her home in Wales six years later and from that time on George wasn't allowed to see his son.  Although he didn't speak much about it, I know how much this hurt him. 

In July this year George received a letter from his son, who had been trying to trace him for a long while. In August they were reunited and George discovered that he had a daughter-in-law and grandson as well as his son. Luckily they all got on well together and George and his new family spent Christmas together for the first time since his son was two years old.

I find it incredibly sad when, after parents split up, children are no longer allowed to see their fathers (or in a few cases their mothers). No matter what happens between a man and his wife, the children should not be involved in their parents' differences. These two stories show how children will remain loyal to their parents even when separated from them for years. Luo made a determined effort to remember his parents and clearly Rob didn't forget his father either.

For me, these were two of the happiest stories of 2013 - and I do love happy endings!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Seasonal greetings

Merry Christmas,
Feliz Navidad &
Happy Holidays!

The highlight of Christmas day, for me, was being able to see and speak to my three children in London using Skype. Whatever our beliefs, this is the season where we think of and miss our families when we're not with them. Although I am in Spain and they are in the UK, modern technology helps to bring us closer. I am though looking forward to seeing them in person in just over 3 weeks' time!

I would like to thank all of my readers for their support and comments over the last 12 months. We bloggers write our posts and put them on the internet not knowing whether anyone will read them - it's great knowing that some of you not only read my words but take the trouble to leave your comments. Thank you so much!

Wishing you all health, happiness and peace in 2014. 

Sue xx

Thursday, 19 December 2013

From a Common Wardrobe to Project 333

Hopefully I've persuaded you that it's possible to have a versatile wardrobe with just twelve items of clothing, as shown in my Common Wardrobe series of posts. These were inspired by Janice's "A Common Wardrobe" in The Vivienne Files. The link is to one of her posts giving a variation in pink and navy, which seemed the most relevant one after I'd written "The Common Wardrobe: Pretty in Pink?"

Now I am going to be generous to you - after all it's the season of goodwill! - and allow you to have another 21 garments, giving  you a grand total of 33.  I am talking of course of taking part in Project 333 and what better time to begin than January 1st? I know there are almost two weeks to go, but you need to start planning it as soon as possible. Briefly, the idea of Project 333 is to select just 33 items of clothing to wear over three months. The official version includes accessories and jewellery in the 33, however I have bent the rules slightly.

When I first started doing my own version of Project 333 last year I did include shoes and bags, however I found it a bit limiting.  I suspect that this was partly because my wardrobe at the time was rather haphazard with lots of different colours, not all of which went well with the other colours. There was an occasional wardrobe crisis if I let the washing pile up and realised that nothing in my wardrobe went with anything else in it. By the second season I realised I needed to exclude accessories if it was to work for me. My wardrobe has changed over the last twelve months and is starting to look more coordinated so maybe one day I will be able to manage with less.

To start with, this is my Common Wardrobe, based on neutrals of black, grey and navy, with a touch of red.

Your neutrals don't have to be the same as mine: you may look better in dark brown, khaki and taupe for example. The idea though is to have a core wardrobe based around neutral colours that flatter you and then,  if you wish, build on that with more colourful clothes that go well with your neutrals.

As I said earlier, if you are going to take part in Project 333 from 1st January, you need to start going through your existing wardrobe now! You are aiming to keep only those clothes that fit you, look good on you and suit your lifestyle - then get rid of the rest. If that seems too drastic, then box them up and put them away until the end of March.

My wardrobe is obviously a lot more casual than the wardrobe of anyone who goes out to work. My preferred style is casual chic. Other over 60s may go for a more classic, romantic or dramatic look. Whatever your preferences, it helps to identify your personal style before creating any capsule. You may discover some gaps in your wardrobe once you  have cut it back to only those items that you enjoy wearing, however if you start your clear-out now, you should have time to drop a few hints to family and friends regarding possible Christmas presents.

It's been bitterly cold here recently so I've not been wearing the navy trench-coat, however it's ideal over layers on a sunny day so it will still be part of my Winter 33. The indigo jacket is lightweight but very warm and therefore will definitely be packed for my forthcoming trip to London.

My final three neutrals are a black pencil skirt, a grey jacket that fits well under my trench-coat and a charcoal dress. I don't wear skirts that often, but this one won't date and is good for a dressier than usual night out, which is why I've included it, as is the dress that I wore for a charity dinner last Friday. Now for a bit of colour! I've included fifteen colourful items in my total of thirty-three, but colour is optional if you're a fan of neutrals.

During my recent colour analysis with Fiona of House of Colour in London, my best colours were identified as Royal Purple, Royal Blue, Electric Blue, Lobelia, Fuchsia, Raspberry, Carmine and Dark Emerald. I'm what's known as a Jewel Winter, which suits me as it includes some of my favourite colours. I decided to use these brighter colours wherever possible when working towards my Winter 33. Your own best colours may be totally different, however the principle is the same: try and wear your most flattering colours near your face.  This is particularly important for those of us who are women of a certain age - youthful faces are far more forgiving! Some colours that I could wear when I was younger now look dreadful on me, which I discovered when I was doing my initial wardrobe purge for Project 333 and also during my colour analysis.

I just had to start with pink, didn't I? Interestingly enough, when Janice commented on my previous post, she said that she liked the pale pink best on me, however I've not included it in my Winter 33. It may make a re-appearance in Spring though. These bright pink trousers clearly aren't as versatile as the dark grey pair or my navy and black jeans, however they are there because I love the colour and because I do have some dark tops that go well with them.

I've chosen lots of green plus some blue and purple tops, all of which will go well with most of my skirts and trousers. That's the beauty of starting with a Common Wardrobe based on neutrals: you can still indulge in your favourite colours for tops and accessories.

My final three are a lovely warm jumper that I've owned for several years (however it's good for at least one more winter), a red jumper (red is another favourite colour of mine, especially for accessories) and a dark grey waistcoat. Yes, I admit that it's not colourful, however it makes an ideal extra layer on colder days and blends in with any outfit.

To finish, here are a few calculations. For everyday wear I have 16 tops and jumpers plus two pairs of jeans and one pair of trousers, which gives me 48 possible outfits. Add in the pink jeans, which can be worn with at least half a dozen tops, the two skirts and a dress for smarter occasions and of course there are four cardigans and a jacket ready to swap around - and I haven't even mentioned accessories and jewellery. I hope that you can see how versatile a wardrobe of 33 items of clothing can be. I don't think I'm in any danger of running out of different outfits to wear for the next three months, do you?

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Common Wardrobe: Pretty in Pink?

So here's my common wardrobe again, which consists mainly of neutral colours:

As you can see, I have included a pink top. Somehow I have managed to acquire five different pink tops - did someone mention signature colours? - even though pink hasn't featured much in my wardrobe in previous years. I have had the jumper shown in look 1 for several years, plus the t-shirt in look 4, however the other three tops have all been purchased within the last twelve months. As you will notice, there are several different shades of pink here, some of which flatter me more than others. In my last post I said that, if you've assumed that a bright colour such as red doesn't suit you, try on several different shades and you might discover one that really flatters you.
Look 1
Look 2
Look 3
Look 4
Look 5
I know that the lighting in these photos isn't perfect but, out of the five different pink tops, which one do you think suits me the most and which one is the least flattering? You might want to try a similar experiment yourself, especially if you don't have a lot of colour in your wardrobe. Next time you're shopping choose a colour that you like but wouldn't normally buy and then select a light shade, a deep shade plus a cool and a warm tone to try on and see if you can find one that looks good on you. Below are a few different pinks to illustrate what I mean: the chances are that not every shade would suit you but you might discover one that is just perfect for you.

Don't forget that even accessories can brighten up your neutral wardrobe. I have a pink pair of leather gloves that I've had for several years and which I enjoy wearing with my navy trench-coat or black and white winter coat.  My most recent purchase was a lovely warm scarf for when I visit the UK in January - guess what colour it is?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Common Wardrobe: In The Red

Hopefully I won't really be "in the red" this year money-wise, especially since I have been cutting down the amount of clothes in my wardrobe! However when it comes to wearing neutral colours, as seen in my previous post, I can't resist a pop of colour, with red being one of my favourites.

This is my basic common wardrobe:

It's almost the same as before, however this time I've sneaked in my navy and red striped jumper. For any over 60s who may feel red is too bright a colour for them to wear, remember that there are probably as many shades of red as there are of grey!  Try a few out and you may be pleasantly surprised.  If not, do as I do and add some red accessories to brighten up your look. 

I particularly love wearing red on a cold wintry day like today, as it makes me feel more cheerful. I also find that wearing red gives me confidence, a trick that I used when facing a difficult day at work. Colleagues used to say "Watch out: Sue is wearing red today!" 

My outfit of the day is the navy and red jumper shown above with my navy jeans. Here are some of my favourite outfits featuring the jumper:

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Common Wardrobe: Feeling Blue

This post has been inspired by the many excellent posts on The Vivienne Files. Janice features what she calls "The Common Wardrobe", where she starts with a basic wardrobe of neutrals and then makes them look amazing with her use of colour and/or accessories. I hope to do something similar to help you see the possibilities within your own wardrobe.

Regular readers will know my love of bright colours, however I do have some neutrals in my wardrobe too, so I will start with them and will create my own version of a common wardrobe.

Starting from the left, I have a pair of black denims, navy jeans, charcoal trousers and a grey pencil skirt. To be honest with you, I don't wear the grey skirt very often as my lifestyle is very casual, however it is a classic style and ideal for any smarter occasions.

Next I have a dark grey cardigan, black cardigan, silver cascade cardigan and a navy waterfall cardigan. As you can see these are similar neutrals to my bottoms so easily mix and match with them. Living in Spain I only need to wear these during the winter months, or for evenings in Spring and Autumn.

Finally, four of my tops: navy and white stripes, navy peplum, black short-sleeved top and my lobelia long-sleeved top, which is the most colourful item in my common wardrobe. The three long-sleeved tops will be phased out when Spring arrives, but hopefully they will still look ok for next Autumn and Winter.

Obviously there are numerous permutations within this neutral wardrobe and nearly everything shown can be worn with everything else. Some of you may be happy with these options, but others may be missing the colour (including me!)  This is where accessories come into the equation.  Below I have shown a few examples of how you can brighten up a neutral wardrobe.

This outfit includes my navy and white striped top worn with navy jeans, a blue scarf and also a touch of red in the belt, which matches the red cuffs of my top.

I'm wearing the lobelia top with charcoal trousers, a gold necklace and red watch. The theme is supposed to be "feeling blue", but red keeps creeping in.

Finally, my black jeans, a blue top, silver cascade cardigan and blue beads. I know! You've spotted that I've sneaked this top in as it wasn't in the original twelve, but it goes with all the above items and I am feeling blue, so I hope that you don't mind. My other blue accessories include a blue striped scarf, a blue watch and some blue bracelets.

I have chosen blue to go with all my neutral pieces, but red, pink, green and purple would also match these neutrals. The idea is to choose your most flattering colours to wear near your face (scarves, necklaces and tops) however if you love a colour that doesn't love you back you can still wear it as a belt, bracelet or shoes.

Another advantage of having a common wardrobe of mainly neutral colours is that it doesn't date very quickly however you can update it with trendy accessories if you wish. Just because I'm over 60 it doesn't mean that I don't enjoy looking fashionable, but I tend to limit trendy pieces to accessories. Leopard print shoes anyone?

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Clothes for a casual week

Being retired means that most of my weeks are pretty casual, which suits my style perfectly, however because I'm a blogger I need to try and keep my standards up.  Admittedly I'm not one of those super cool and stylish "outfit of the day" types of blogger, but when I post photos of myself I do try to avoid the baggy sweater, old jeans and trainers look.

As I am heading towards the end of the NoRepeat November challenge, I thought it might be helpful to post an example capsule wardrobe that will easily provide a week's worth of different outfits. The clothes shown are very similar to the ones hanging up in my wardrobe, to give you an idea of some of the outfits I've been wearing this month.

Those of you who are mathematically inclined will have counted seven different tops, so one for each day of the week then!  However there are two bottoms here: a pair of dark navy jeans and charcoal straight-leg trousers. The coloured tops will go with either of the bottoms, so that means there are fourteen potential outfits.  Don't forget the navy and light grey cardigans, which can create even more permutations.

How about the grey boots and navy loafers, the green satchel plus the navy and grey bag: all of these can also change my look.  I like wearing necklaces, so I have included a silver necklace and gold link chain, both of which are versatile. The right accessories can change a look from boring to stylish without having to spend too much money.

My navy trench-coat can be worn with any of these outfits when I leave the house, with either a purple or grey patterned scarf to throw around my neck. As you can see, with the items of clothing above, I could easily create enough outfits to last me for a month, so long as I do the washing on a regular basis.

Why don't you take a look at your own wardrobe, select some of your favourite tops and bottoms, and see how many outfits you can create with them?

Monday, 25 November 2013

November NoRepeat Challenge: week three report

The weather has turned very wintry, which has been a great help for the November NoRepeat Challenge! My previous post showed two tops that I hadn't worn so far during the challenge, however I now need to repeat some tops, as my wardrobe isn't unlimited. The colder weather has meant that I am adding the occasional cardigan or waistcoat for an extra layer, which of course means I'm wearing a different outfit even when the top is the same.

The two tops shown below have already had an outing this month, but I am wearing them with other trousers and accessories to change the look.


First time around I wore the blue top with brown trousers and a gold chain necklace. The green top was worn with navy jeans and a simple gold  necklace. I could also have worn these tops with either my grey or black skirt, plus tights and boots and other accessories.

My winter coat made an appearance this week - and seems to be here to stay! - so wearing different outerwear has created some new looks too.  I have worn boots a couple of times plus thicker scarves and gloves on particularly chilly mornings. I suspect that it's time to pack away the short-sleeved tops that remain in my wardrobe!

As you can see, the possible permutations are endless. Many of us always wear the same combinations: for example this green top inevitably gets worn with my navy jeans, so having to think up different ways to wear it is a good experiment and helps me to realise that my wardrobe is more extensive than I thought.

Check out this video on Imogen's blog if you would like some further inspiration: getting creative with your wardrobe.

Finally, I want to mention a point made by Sharon when she commented on my previous post. Sharon said that you can wear different outfits depending on your mood and I totally agree with her. In the photo on the right taken this morning, I am wearing a combination of bright colours that makes me feel upbeat, which was the mood I wanted to create today as I am trying to shake off my first winter cold. The outfit on the left is more subdued, however I felt elegant when wearing it and we were going to the theatre that day so it was the mood that I wanted. Please note that I didn't say the outfit is elegant - only that it made me feel that way! What about you - do you wear certain outfits to match the way that you are feeling or want to feel?

Monday, 18 November 2013

A bad look for over 60s?

I've just finished reading the latest post on one of my favourite blogs: Une Femme d'un certain ├óge, and the first comment on her post made me pause to think. I thought the post was excellent, as usual, and Une Femme's views on trends are very similar to mine. Don't go overboard and risk looking like a fashion victim, but by embracing the latest trend through accessories, for example, you can look modern without being over the top.

One of the trends mentioned is peplums and the person who commented was questioning why middle-aged women would want to add visual weight to that part of their body. Good point, however I am sitting here wearing a peplum top as we speak!  Obviously I immediately rushed to look in the mirror to reassure myself that I didn't look too fat and then I decided to ask for a second opinion.

When I bought this navy top (it was in the sales at Hobbs otherwise I might not have bought it!) I actually thought it gave me a waist and therefore was a flattering look. As a comparison, here is a photo of me in an ordinary top (which happens to be pink: Robin, please note!) so I would be interested in your views.  The jeans, by the way, are also pink - though when I first saw them I thought they were red - so maybe pink is becoming my signature colour.

Which of these two looks is the most flattering, in your opinion?


Would you wear this style? Are there any other recent trends that you have followed?

Thursday, 14 November 2013

NoRepeatNovember; week two report

I decided to keep a note of the outfits I wore this week to avoid the danger of repetition. Other women of a certain age will know what I mean when I say that my short-term memory ain't what it used to be!  Obviously I had to wear the same bottoms a couple of times - especially my dark navy jeans - however I didn't need to repeat my tops, whether intentionally or not!

8 November

9 November

10 November
11 November

13 November

14 November
This time I have shown six outfits, but it's a week later so there should have been seven. Who can spot the missing day? Yes, it's Tuesday (I'm not quite sure how I missed taking a photo on Tuesday) however the missing outfit was a red jumper with my faithful navy jeans and a silver necklace. I've just remembered that on Tuesday I was busy selecting photos for a competition that I have entered: my regular readers know how I love competitions! Mystery solved. 

I've realised that I wore a lot of pink this week. Two short-sleeved tops (I had a cascade cardigan over the one I wore on Saturday) and a long-sleeved one, all of which were different shades of pink. It looks like it is becoming my new favourite colour. I'll have to try to remember not to wear pink next week as it is becoming a bit repetitious and this is supposed to be NoRepeat November!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

NoRepeat November: week one report

I have reached day 7 of the NoRepeat November Challenge and am happy to report that so far I have worn different outfits every day, though with one narrow escape. I have already posted the first two outfits and here are a couple more:

Tuesday's outfit
I woke up late on Wednesday and didn't have much time to think about what I was wearing. I pulled a purple top out of my wardrobe and it was only when I'd put it on that I realised I had already worn it on day one! Rather than changing my top, I decided to change my look and wear it with navy jeans and a necklace this time. After all I don't own thirty different tops, so there will have to be several repetitions over the month.

Wednesday's look

Spot the difference!
I wore the same jacket when I went out, however I put on another pair of shoes and I wore a different scarf over my jacket.  To be on the safe side, I decided to plan Thursday's outfit in advance and put it out the night before.  Here it is:

I haven't posted photos of two of my seven outfits as I never got round to taking photos (you can tell I'm not a professional blogger!), however I recollect that on Sunday I wore a grey t-shirt with navy jeans and on Monday I wore a blue long-sleeved top with brown trousers.

I must start a system to ensure that I don't risk wearing the same outfit again. I could leave all the washing in the laundry basket until the challenge is over, but that way I will eventually run out of clean clothes. I could take photos every day or jot down details of all the outfits in my notebook, so long as I remember to do so. Or maybe I could put clean outfits back on the left-hand side of my wardrobe and take clothes from the right. Whatever I do, please remind me not to wear the purple top again over the next seven days!