Monday, 28 October 2013

Who would believe it?

British readers will no doubt understand when I say that Marks & Spencer doesn't immediately spring to mind when you are planning to hit the high street for a fashionable outfit. Zara or Mango are the obvious shops to head for, or maybe H & M or Top Shop. M&S (as it is affectionately called by the Brits) tends to be avoided after many years when, quite frankly, it seemed to lose its way. You might go there to buy food or wine, or pop in for new underwear - always its strength - but a new dress, skirt or coat? You've got to be joking!

Imagine my surprise therefore when I opened the "Elle Fashion Book for Autumn/Winter 2013-2014", which came free with my copy of Spanish Elle magazine, to spot eight (yes,eight!) items of clothing from good old M&S in its pages! I was planning to identify some of the trends for the coming season to write about in this blog, so here they are - courtesy of Elle magazine - and all of them are available from Marks and Spencer.

1. Hits Mini & Midi, inspired by the 50s
Marks and Spencer Collection
It looks as if animal print is here to stay, so you may be lucky enough to already have something similar to the skirt above in your wardrobe. Elle also showed a floral lace skirt from M&S, which no doubt will prove popular for winter parties. Petite over 60s need to take care with Midi lengths, which can make us look frumpy, but minis may very well end up falling at exactly the right spot for us.

2.  Autumn garden trend

Marks and Spencer featured here as well, with two different floral dresses being selected. A word of warning to petite over 60s to take care with floral patterns, especially when it is a strong print like the dress below, which could easily overwhelm you.

There was also a photo of an animal print dress from M&S - quelle surprise! - emphasising the continuing popularity of this trend.

3.  Street style - winter coats

If you are looking for a new winter coat, Elle put the spotlight on three different styles at M&S: a pale blue coat in a masculine cut (two trends in one); a long grey fifties-style coat or the long belted coat shown below, which they describe as "código street" style.

It's lucky that I don't need a new winter coat, as long coats don't tend to flatter petites and pale colours don't suit me either.

Coincidentally, I had just ordered a new bra from Marks and Spencer and I was tempted into buying a new top as well, which you can see below. I chose the top because I liked it, not because it was trendy, however flicking through the fashion pages I noticed that grey is in fashion and so are pencil skirts, so I may wear it next time with my grey pencil skirt instead of my jeans. I believe that there's nothing wrong with wanting to look fashionable when you're over 60, so long as you remember that less is more and don't overdo the fashion trends. I definitely won't be wearing a bright floral top, animal print shoes and extra-large clutch with my pencil skirt!
Bought from a trendy store?

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Colour analysis - has it changed?

Purely in the interests of research for my readers (just kidding!) I decided to experience an up-to-date seasonal colour analysis on my recent trip to London. When I've posted photos of myself wearing warm and cool colours, there hasn't always been agreement on which suited me best.  Of course part of this may be to do with different monitors not displaying colours in the same way, part is to do with how accurately my camera shows various colours and I guess part is to do with individual preferences.  Another factor of course is that the strong Spanish sun tends to turn my naturally dark brown hair a warm golden shade - just to confuse matters!

I had my hair tinted dark brown before I went on holiday - a shade very similar to my natural colour. I also had a couple of “before" photos on my camera to show my consultant in case there were any doubts about me being warm or cool, but these weren't necessary.

My  House of Colour consultant was Fiona Ingham, who is based in Primrose Hill in North London. As soon as I arrived at her studio Fiona made me feel at ease by offering me a drink and explaining exactly what we would be doing during my consultation. Having just experienced the stress of travelling on the London Underground again after 5 years of living in Spain, it was good to be able to relax and I felt as if I was visiting a friend.

First of all Fiona demonstrated the difference between wearing the right and wrong colours by draping herself. I could easily see which colours flattered her the most, but it wasn't as easy once Fiona draped me in the different colours! I had been instructed not to wear any make-up: however I couldn't bring myself to turn up totally bare-faced, so I quickly removed the last traces of my lipstick before we began.  Fiona also covered my hair before my consultation, which was very interesting as I had assumed that my hair would play a role in the colour analysis.

Drapes for the four seasons
I was fully expecting to find out that I was a warm season, even though when I first experienced colour analysis over 25 years ago I had been told I was a Winter. After all, my skin has obviously aged in the intervening years! However, much to my surprise, Fiona showed me, through draping me in the myriad of different colours, how the cool colours were in fact more flattering - and to my amazement we both agreed that I was still a Winter.

One of the reasons I hadn't been totally convinced by my first experience of seasonal colour analysis was the fact that the icy colours did absolutely nothing for me. Fiona agreed that they weren't my best colours and advised me to wear them for accents only. She gave me a helpful booklet, which showed me my best colours (which I can wear as a single block of colour top to toe), my 75% colours (good for coats, suits and dresses so long as I also wear a scarf or top in my best colours) my 50% colours (which I can wear on my top or bottom half - but not both) and the remaining colours in my palette that are best kept for accessories.

Nowadays the four seasons have been divided into further categories, giving a total of 12 different combinations. Within the Winter season there are four possibilities, which explained why some colours didn't really suit me in my original colour analysis. I can wear the bright colours well but clearly don't look as good in the icy ones and Fiona helped me to understand how I could mix and match the colours in my swatch to create flattering outfits. There are 36 colours in my swatch, however she explained that I'm not limited to exact matches and that there are lots of variations to give me more choices -  so long as I don't go too pale (the infamous icy shades) or too dark.

After we had decided that I was a Jewel Winter, Fiona showed me the best colours to use for my make-up as well and once I was wearing the right make-up colours I was able to see the difference it made. As I was travelling back to Spain with hand luggage only, I couldn't buy much make-up and had to settle for one lipstick and eye-shadow in my best colours, which I happen to be wearing as I type this! I have placed an order on-line as House of Colour ship to Spain, so hopefully I will soon have a couple more colours to choose from. 

I have also bought a top from Kettlewell Colours, who specialise in clothing in seasonal colours. The necklace I am wearing isn't ideal as it is more golden than silver and silver looks better with cool shades. What I found interesting in the colour analysis was the fact that my skin looked a bit yellow when I was wearing warm colours and fresher when I was wearing cool colours, as shown below.
Wearing my new top
I have mentioned Dressing Your Truth (DYT) in earlier posts. I don't feel that this colour analysis negates DYT: what it does is make it obvious that the brighter but cooler colours from DYT are the ones that suit me best. I was wearing a blue top from the DYT store when I met Fiona and she commented that it was a good colour for me. This means that I don't have to throw out half of my wardrobe as a result of my consultation (that’s a relief!), but I will try and wear the Jewel Winter colours near my face and restrict the other colours to my bottom half.  Where possible I have chosen my most flattering colours for my Project 333 Autumn Wardrobe of 33 items of clothing, shown in my previous post, and I will follow the guidelines in the booklet that Fiona gave me when combining different colours.

What proved interesting was the fact that, once I was back in Spain and wearing what Fiona had identified as my most flattering colours with the appropriate make-up, I received lots of compliments along the lines of "Wow! You look great!" "That colour is good on you. Your eyes are really sparkling!" and (one I especially appreciated!) "You look so much younger!" What's not to like about that?

Thank you, Fiona, for the helpful and interesting colour analysis session. Watch this space for future posts where you will see me enjoying more of my new colour combinations!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

My cool 33 for Autumn

My previous wardrobes of 33 items of clothing to cover 3 months, which I am doing as part of Project 333, have included a mix of cool and warm colours. For those of you who haven't read my earlier posts, the idea of Project 333 is to limit your wardrobe to 33 items for each season of 3 months. I have to confess that I have cheated a little bit as I only include items of clothing in my 33 and exclude accessories. If you click on the link above, you can read all about the Project.

After my recent trip to London (more later!) I have chosen most of my 33 items from the cooler colours in my wardrobe. This should be an interesting experiment, as some of my readers reckon that the lighter, warmer shades look better on me.

Most of the above items will see me through Autumn (or Fall for my American readers!) and will probably make the cut for my Winter 33. However it is still warm here in Spain, so there are a couple of sleeveless and short-sleeved tops in my Autumn 33. I have also included the linen trousers in the photo below, though once it becomes colder they will be replaced by something warmer as will a few of the tops.

Thirty three items of clothing may not seem a lot to some of you, however most of these pieces are versatile so I can mix and match them to create more outfits. I have included 21 tops and 6 bottoms. Apart from the pair of bright pink jeans, which was a self-indulgent purchase, the bottoms are neutral so will go with the majority of my tops. There is a jacket and three cardigans in my 33, which will give me even more permutations. Not to mention using accessories to change my look, like the scarf shown in my photo.  I think I have more than enough clothes here to stop me being bored over the next three months.  What do you think?

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Packing for London in October

My flight was booked a couple of months ago: I am going to London for 5 nights, so travelling hand luggage only won't be a problem. However today I had to make the final decision on what to pack and suddenly the doubts crept in. I'm leaving Spain during the day-time but I'll be reaching my final destination at night, so will I be warm enough?!

This is my travel outfit, and the good news is that I will be carrying my cream tote, which doesn't have to go inside my case as I'm flying with British Airways. It's worth paying slightly more money for the luxury of two items of hand luggage!

I may not have to wear the cropped cardigan until I reach Alicante airport, but it will provide an extra layer once I reach London Gatwick. I will also be carrying my trench-coat for putting on once we start disembarking from the plane, plus the gold scarf in the picture below to brighten up my outfit.

I will be wearing a pair of brown flats for travelling - after all, comfort is an important part of my style statement! The green shoes shown and the navy denims will be in my case, as will these tops:

I have packed a lightweight but very warm scarf, and I suspect that I may slip a pair of gloves into my bag at the last minute because, as well as liking comfort, I don't like to be cold. It's not the first time that I've flown back to London in October (two of my children have birthdays at the beginning of October, so I try and visit my family then) and it's usually a lot warmer in London than I expect. It's just the fact that temperatures in Spain are still around 30C and the forecast for London is more than ten degrees less.  Maybe next year I should travel with an empty case and buy some clothes on arrival, then I won't have any worries!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Are we too vain?

Many of my posts are about the importance of looking good no matter how old you are.  I guess that some people may think this is all about vanity, and that there are far more important issues in the world than the way we look. That is of course quite true. Other people may see being over 60 as being "over the hill" and suggest that we over 60 women should all dress in black in order to become invisible. This is definitely not true! However I don't think we should underestimate the positive effects of looking good and especially of feeling good. For many women, including me, the two are closely linked.

When I feel comfortable in the clothes that I am wearing, when I know that the style and the colours flatter me, I definitely feel better about myself. I leave the house feeling happy and confident, so if I see my neighbours I smile at them and wish them a good day. They respond with a smile and a "buenos días" too. I'm not saying that I would ignore my neighbours or glare at them if my shoes were pinching, or if I was wearing an old, faded sweater that didn't suit me (we have lovely, friendly neighbours after all), but I suspect that my smile might not be quite as wide and my voice might sound less cheerful if I didn't look and feel good. Having said that, if I'm not at my best and I see one particular neighbour, who always beams at me and calls out "Buenos días" in a loud, jolly voice, I immediately feel brighter and happier.

Doesn't she make you want to smile too?
Let me put it another way. Whenever I visit London in autumn or winter and travel on the tube, I seem to be surrounded by people wearing dark clothes and with miserable faces. It depresses me and no doubt they feel equally depressed. If on the other hand I see somebody smiling, it immediately makes me feel a little bit better and my reaction is to smile too. When somebody gets on the train wearing a brighter outfit, somehow the atmosphere changes and I feel brighter myself. These might seem superficial however I believe that the overall effect is uplifting, which has to be a good thing.

C'mon, give us a smile!
One of the things that I love about living in Spain is the way that people smile at each other. I also love the way most Spaniards dress, particularly in the long summer months. Even women who wear dark clothes seem to have brightly coloured accessories and/or bright make-up. They look good, which makes them feel good - and because they feel good, they smile a lot. Just take a look at the two photos above and consider how you react to them.

So back to my original question: are we too vain? Maybe, though I for one don't spend too much time in front of the mirror, once I've checked that my hair isn't sticking up and that my clothes don't look too wrinkled (not much that I can do about my face though!) I suppose I take a certain pride in my appearance, but once I'm dressed I'm ready to go. What about you? Do you agree that looking good makes you feel better too?

If you don't believe that a simple act like smiling has an effect on other people, how about making a small helpful gesture such as holding open a door for an elderly person or for a mother with her hands full? Preferably accompanied by a smile! This video is a great example of the knock-on effect of doing so: Help each other and love each other.