Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Are you yin or yang?

I touched on this subject when I wrote about my Style Consultation in January. As part of  my style analysis I completed a questionnaire that revealed the yin and yang aspects of both my appearance and my personality.  Many of us are a mixture of both yin and yang. Even though we may be firmly in one camp, sometimes we may want to appear a bit more yin or a bit more yang.

In my case, being short and youthful (according to the lovely Fiona!) makes me yin, whereas my angular face and body make me yang. My interest in clothes and shoes is yin but my creativity using ideas rather than my hands is yang. My result was ten points for yin, four for yang and six points were half & half.

I thought it might be interesting to look at a few characteristics of both yin and yang in fashion. In a nutshell, yin aspects are softer and more feminine, while yang traits are stronger and more masculine. Imogen of Inside Out Style has written an excellent post about ways to balance your yin and yang.

If your fashion personality is classic, dramatic or athletic, yang clothing will suit you. If you are a natural, romantic or creative, then yin clothing will suit your personality.

Yin vs Yang
Looking at the outfits show above, I think it is obvious which one is more yin and which is more yang. Both jackets are striped, however the one of the left is a paler colour, with less contrast and the lines are softer. The jacket on the right is higher contrast, darker and with a sharper silhouette. Skirts are usually yin whereas trousers tend to be yang: this skirt looks soft and feminine while the trousers are straight and in a brighter shade. Finally both outfits include flats, however the pale blue ballerinas have a rounded toe and the black and white pair have a pointed toe.

Neither of these outfits would be my ideal choice as I prefer straighter skirts on the odd occasion when I wear one and, though I like the outfit on the left, the jacket is too dramatic a style for me. My preference would be to swap the skirt and trousers, then wear the yin outfit.

Are you more yin or yang? Do you prefer yin fashion styles or are you more drawn to yang fashion?

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Showing kindness towards foreigners

If you are interested in reading about football, you probably read about the racist incident that took place during the match between Barcelona and Villarreal. Someone in the crowd threw a banana at Dani Alves, the Brazilian player in Barcelona's team, who calmly picked it up and took a bite out of it before continuing play. Alves subsequently made the comment that there is racism towards foreigners in Spain. I don't want to disagree with Alves as obviously he is talking about his personal experiences, and I agree with him that racism should be tackled, however I would like to highlight some positive examples where Spanish people have shown extreme kindness towards foreigners.

Photo courtesy of Sky/Guardian website

From our personal experience of living in Spain as two Brits, we have found our neighbours very kind and friendly towards us, showing great patience as we struggle to master their language!  Our friend Jacqueline told us about an incident not long after she moved here, where she was conned by two of her fellow countrymen into lending them money and inviting them into her home for meals after they allegedly lost their credit cards. When her Spanish friends and neighbours found out what had happened, they brought her food and gave her money to cover her losses.

The most recent incident was one that I read about in the regional paper that happened over Easter.  A Romanian man called Julius had moved to the Murcia area about twelve years ago to work and since then he has been living in a caravan. His caravan burnt down (they're still investigating the cause) leaving him homeless.  Two young women had seen Julius in tears and felt sorry for him, so they started raising money in the village where they lived. Thanks to their efforts and people's generosity, they managed to buy Julius a new caravan only three days' later. Times are very hard in Spain, and many people are struggling because they have lost their jobs, however in spite of this they are still capable of showing great kindness towards foreigners.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Value for money

You may already have a clothing budget, or perhaps my previous post has inspired you to set yourself a clothes allowance. Let's take a round figure and imagine that your budget is $1,200, £1,200 or in my case €1,200.  I know that the currencies don't relate to each other in this way (though at one time the pound and euro were on a par), however I'm using these figures to make the maths easier!

How are you going to manage your budget? Will you allow yourself €100 a month or maybe divide it by four so you have €300 for each season?  Perhaps you will start with your annual amount and reduce it every time you purchase something, in the hope that you don't run out of money by September! I imagine that most of us will be looking for good value for our money, but what does this really mean?  Take a look at the picture below:

If you look at the set I created in Polyvore by clicking on this link, you will see that the Michael Kors Tote costs €180, whereas you could buy the two tops, two pairs of trousers, bag and shoes from Zara for €183. What is your reaction to this? You may think "Wow! I can buy six items for the price of just one". Or perhaps you will look at the bag as an investment buy which will last you a lot longer. Which of these options in your opinion provides the best value for money?

I mentioned cost per wear in my previous post.  If you bought the tote and used it 360 days of the year the cost per use would be €0.50, however if you have another three or four bags and switch them around according to your outfit, the cost per use might work out at €1.50 or €2.00. 

How about the clothes from Zara?  You could create four different outfits using the items shown, but would you want to rotate only these four outfits over the course of the year?  If you did, the cost per wear would be around €0.50 for the whole group though obviously even less for each outfit.  

Does this make the Zara set better value for your money? At first glance you may think so, but you also need to consider how long these clothes will last, and whether they will look dated the following year and stay at the back of your wardrobe. The Michael Kors tote is a classic tote so should last you for many years, even if you are using it on a regular basis, so in my view that makes it the winner.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Spending on clothes

How much do you spend on clothes every year? Don't worry, I'm not expecting you to answer my question publicly! Some women spend a fortune on clothes, while others have a more limited budget. It might be interesting to know what percentage of your income you spend on clothes, but even that doesn't tell the whole story. Let's say you allow 5% of your income for clothes, shoes and accessories.  A quick Google search showed that the average personal income in the US for 2012 was just over $42,000, so assuming that your income was similar, 5% of this amount would have been $2,100. In the tax year ending April 2013, the median annual earnings in the UK was £27,000 so 5% of this would have given you a clothing budget of £1,350. I suspect that some of you spent far less than these amounts and some of you will have spent more. You may have a decent income but not be interested in clothes, in which case you probably spend less than someone who loves fashion but doesn't earn as much.

Many of you may not have a clue how much money you spend on clothes and I admit that for many years I fell into that camp. What I do know is that my clothing budget was very limited while my children were growing up, and most of my purchases were from charity shops, so I obviously didn't spend a lot. Nowadays I don't have to watch the pennies in the same way, but I still find myself reluctant to spend too much money on any one item of clothing. The danger though is that if you don't keep track of your spending too many small amounts can add up to a large total.

In 2012 I spent over €1,500: I know this as I kept a list of all my purchases in my diary and was a bit shocked to see how much it came to.  Part of the reason that I spent so much was because I bought a new outfit for my 65th birthday party in Paris, and because it was a special occasion I spent more that usual on my dress (I think it cost £90-£100).  My most recent purchase of a new dress was the one from East that I bought for my husband's 70th birthday, which cost me half that amount as it was in the sales. I do love a bargain!

65th birthday outfit.

Janice of The Vivienne Files wrote a very interesting post about this subject in November 2012. The clothes that she shows on her blog are usually pretty expensive and she has been criticised for this, however her point is that they are there to inspire us and we don't have to go out and buy the exact item. In a recent post Janice included a pair of Eileen Fisher black ankle jeans at $178. I own a similar pair from Marks & Spencer that cost me €44 (around $60). Do the Eileen Fisher jeans look better? I don't think so. Will they last longer than mine? Only time will tell.

I intend to expand on this in my next post, where I will be talking about cost per wear, however I am interested in knowing your thoughts on clothing budgets.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Your eyes can deceive you

I know that certain styles don't flatter me, especially now that I'm a woman of a certain age and not as slim as I was. Being only 5 feet and a bit, I have learnt over the years how to dress to make myself look slimmer and taller, however sometimes you just want to wear an outfit even if it's not necessarily a good look on you. I've spoken before about loving stripes, so it wasn't surprising that I was tempted into buying a striped top on our recent visit to Murcia. I am of course talking about horizontal stripes, that don't draw the eyes down like vertical stripes do. Fashion rules, of course, are meant to be broken aren't they?

I was very happy wearing this outfit, but I'm sure you will agree that it makes my top half look bigger than my bottom half and I don't look tall and slim in it.  Not that I really care!  However when I went out to lunch I added a cascade cardigan, which totally changed my look and made me appear a bit slimmer. Of course if I had worn a darker cardigan or jacket, it would have had a greater slimming effect.

Another option would have been to wear a long, brightly coloured pendant or scarf to break the vast expanse of horizontal stripes and draw the eyes downward.  I could also have worn lighter coloured trousers so that the break wasn't as obvious.  Do you know of any similar tricks to deceive the eyes and create a more flattering outfit?

Friday, 25 April 2014

What's your greatest achievement?

I suspect that many people will react to this question by stating, modestly, that they haven't achieved anything. We tend to measure achievement by success in the material world, which is a shame as there are far more important things in life than that. Look back over the last few days. Did you make a meal for your family that they all really enjoyed? Surely that's an achievement - especially if you have any fussy eaters in your family!  Did you chat to an elderly neighbour and bring a smile to his or her face? That's definitely something that you should be proud of achieving.

Like many mothers, my immediate reaction if I were to be asked what my greatest achievement was would be to say my children, however that's not really accurate. I am very proud of Vicky, Mark and Kate and all three of them have achieved a lot, but what they have achieved has been through their own talents and hard work, and is nothing to do with me! Of course my first husband and I brought them up and tried to instil our values in them, but all we did was what most parents do, so we can't claim any credit for our children's successes. I am proud of what my children have done so far with their lives but even more importantly I am very proud of who they are.

Many of my most satisfying moments in life have been to do with my family, however I do have one achievement of my own - the publication of my first book -which is almost entirely due to my own efforts.

I say "almost entirely" because I wrote the book myself, however I did have some help from my first editor, Debs Jenkins, and my daughter Vicky proof-read the revised version and made some very helpful suggestions. Very few of us are able to achieve things in life totally on our own,

So back to my original question: what's your greatest achievement? Please share with us and remember that you should be proud of yourself for what you have achieved.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Holiday capsule for petites - Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer went through a phase of being very dreary and old-fashioned, however recently they have featured in many fashion magazines, including some here in Spain. They are in danger of becoming trendy!

M&S have a reasonable collection of petite clothes and I have bought their petite trousers in the past, however when I looked on-line for this capsule I was a bit disappointed by the lack of choice, especially when it came to colours.

Let's start with the trousers.  A pair of denims is always useful, unless you are going on holiday to somewhere that is guaranteed to be hot, plus it is good to have a second pair of trousers in a different colour. I initially chose the white linen trousers, but then hesitated as they have wide legs. Is this advisable for petites? I have shown another pair with slim legs, which are more flattering for those of us who are vertically challenged. Wide legs don't look good when worn with loose tops, but if the tops are fitted then you can get away with it.  I've found that most linen trousers for petites are either wide-legged or cropped, which is ridiculous considering that most petite women are trying to look taller and slimmer and these styles don't help us to achieve our aim!

Believe it or not, I only had fourteen tops to choose from, including blouses and jumpers. I guess that I could have selected short-sleeved tops from the main collection but I am specifically looking at petite sizes for these holiday capsules. I was particularly disappointed by the lack of bright colours: no blues and reds to be found here. I would definitely need to include some colourful jewellery and accessories if I was packing this for my holiday! I would also add in the bright blue top from my earlier blue and grey holiday capsule from M&S.

Incidentally, while browsing the M&S website for this post, I was asked to complete an on-line survey about my experience. I made it very clear that the one way to improve their website from my point of view was to increase their range of petite clothing!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Holiday capsule for petites: Lands End

As you can see, I'm gradually weaning myself off the blue and grey capsules, with far more red (and even a splash of pink) in this holiday capsule for petites, based around Lands End clothes. After I temporarily abandoned my favourite petite supplier Wallis, I was delighted to discover that Lands End have a petite range as well and many of their trousers can be hemmed to suit the individual. Their prices are very reasonable too: the most expensive item in the capsule below is the blazer, which cost €150 originally but has been reduced to €76 at Debenhams.

I must admit that I check out reviews when buying on-line, especially when I know I'm going to have to pay postage if I return items. My favourite comment is: "this top is a bit too short" - as that usually means it will be perfect for me! Incidentally, the trousers on the left in the picture above are cropped, but they are a regular size rather than petite so the length would be just right. I'm wary of cropped trousers because, as with turn-ups and roll-ups, they can make petite ladies look even shorter.

So far, I haven't had any problems with purchases from Lands End and I love the fact that I can choose the perfect length  for me when I order trousers. I like their website as they give you lots of information about fit, fabrics, whether the clothes can be machine washed etc.

The top shown in the bottom right hand corner is art inspired therefore right on trend at the moment. As it only costs €14, it won't exactly break the bank if you decide that you want to look trendy. On the whole though Lands End are best for classic styles that won't date.

Like the previous capsules that I have created, the seven tops can be matched with both pairs of trousers giving you enough outfits for a two week holiday. You might want to include a skirt that will go with the tops or a dress for any evenings out.  If I was packing this capsule for a holiday, I would add a couple of scarves and necklaces to ring the changes, but you already knew that didn't you?

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Holiday capsule for petites: Wallis

I've had enough of blue and grey capsules (though admittedly I'm wearing grey trousers today plus a red sleeveless top and navy cascade cardigan) and I have decided to move on to create some holiday capsules for petites. No doubt you are as relieved as I am!

My first holiday wardrobe is from Wallis, who were one of my favourite brands for petite clothing when I lived in the UK. After moving to Spain, I continued shopping with Wallis through their website and only really stopped when suddenly their petite trousers grew longer - sadly my legs remained as short as ever. In honour of our previous good relationship, my first petite capsule is from Wallis.

I've realised that there is still some blue and grey in the above picture - maybe I'm becoming slightly addicted to it? - though some touches of red too. There are several patterned tops here, which petites have to take care with: if a pattern is too bold and large, the top will wear us rather than the other way round.

I'm a bit unsure about the white cotton roll-up trousers as I think that, like turn-ups, they could make my legs look even shorter. What do you think?

Monday, 21 April 2014

Blue and grey capsule (with colour pop!)

Although I am trying to stick to my theme of blue and grey capsules from ethical companies, this time I gave into temptation. Funnily enough I had decided to wear my new bright blue top today with grey trousers and a silver necklace, adding a grey flecked jacket when I went outside, as although it was sunny it was also very breezy. My Outfit of the Day therefore was very much in keeping with my recent posts! However look what happened when I created today's holiday wardrobe in Polyvore:

This capsule was selected from Marks & Spencer using Polyvore rather than the M&S website, and I must admit that it didn't have a wide selection of blue and grey clothes to choose from. When I finished the original capsule of seven tops, two pairs of trousers and a jacket, I wasn't feeling very enthusiastic, so I decided it needed brightening up. The three scarves that I chose were from East, not M&S, and any one of them would go well with the clothes shown above. If you're not a scarf person, you could go for a colourful necklace or accessories instead to add a pop of colour.

Marks & Spencer are on the list of Fair Trade companies in the UK, which is why I chose them for this capsule.  If any of you know of other ethical fashion companies, please let me know.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Blue and grey capsule from Monsoon

My third example of a holiday capsule from an ethical company is - surprise! surprise! - also in blue and grey. This time the capsule is from Monsoon, a company which started life as a small, independent store in London in 1973. Although it is now a global company, Monsoon still remains true to its roots.

Again I have selected seven tops and two pairs of trousers, which gives you fourteen different outfits to last you on a fortnight's holiday. Remember you can add a pop of colour with scarves, jewellery or other accessories if you are becoming bored with all the blues and greys.

You won't need to break the budget if you purchase any of these items. The jacket is €76, both pairs of trousers cost €57 and the tops cost between €10 and €69. I've bought clothes from Monsoon in the past and they have lasted well. The styles are fairly classic so they shouldn't date and they will mix and match with the rest of your wardrobe. You may be able to buy clothes cheaper, but is that the most important issue, even for those of us who have retired and don't have unlimited funds?

Have you had enough of blue and grey? I may choose a different colour scheme for my next post - though I'm not making any promises.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Blue and grey capsule from East

I couldn't decide whether to choose different colours for this Polyvore set or bore you with another blue and grey capsule for the purposes of comparison.  Sorry if you wanted something different: as you can see from the picture below, I decided to be boring! This collection is all from East, though if you click on the link to Polyvore above to check prices, you will be directed to two department stores that sell East clothes.

Like the capsule from People Tree, there are seven different tops that will go with both pairs of trousers to give you enough outfits to last for a fortnight's holiday. East clothes are all reasonably priced too.  The jacket costs £71, the tops vary between £16 and £55 while the light grey trousers cost £63 and the navy pair has been reduced to £25. It is reassuring to know that buying clothes ethically doesn't mean having to spend a fortune.

My recent purchase of a deep blue dress from the East website to wear to John's 70th birthday party impressed me. The service was efficient and the dress arrived on time, which was a good start. The dress wasn't expensive, but it looked good and I received loads of compliments, which is always great. Even better, it is washable and keeps its shape after washing. I will definitely be buying from East again!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Blue and grey capsule from People Tree

When I first started buying my own clothes - many, many years ago! - life was simple. I went to the local shops and bought what I liked, so long as it fit me and was within my budget. Being petite, I was very grateful when mini-skirts were fashionable though obviously mine didn't look quite as short as those of my taller friends.

Nowadays life isn't so straightforward. Ideally I would like to support local businesses, especially as times are hard here in Spain, however all too often I return from a shopping trip empty-handed. For a start, my local shops don't stock petite sizes. Admittedly many of them have short skirts on display, but they are aimed at the young "chicas" and, even though older Spanish women do wear shorter skirts, I would feel uncomfortable wearing one that is thigh-high. Shops in my local town either cater for the younger woman or are aimed at elderly women.  I may be over 60 but I still enjoy wearing stylish clothes and don't want to appear older than I am.

If I can't find suitable clothes locally, then my best option is to buy on-line. This though is where I face a dilemma: should I buy cheaper clothes, which may have been made under unsafe conditions, or more expensive clothes that are a bit over my budget and which haven't necessarily been made ethically anyway?

Luckily for me there are more and more sustainable, fair trade companies trading on-line. I thought it would be interesting to create a few capsule wardrobes from some of these companies. The first one is People Tree.

Using the capsule above you can create two weeks' worth of different outfits, as all of the tops can be worn with either pair of trousers. I would add more interest with some brightly coloured scarves, necklaces or other accessories, but that's just my style. It's not essential.

I have to admit that I was very tempted to order a couple of these tops, however I'll wait until I've looked at some other websites before I flex my credit card! For those of you on a budget, I would like to point out that the tops shown above cost between 12€ and 51€, the trousers cost 91€ and the jacket costs 145€. Fair trade, fair prices.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Do you dress to impress?

I guess that this question may be more relevant for those of you who are still working than it is for those of us who have retired. Having said that, when I worked full-time I didn't worry about dressing to impress my managers, but that may have been because I wasn't overly ambitious! I have read numerous articles and blog posts about "ideal" capsule wardrobes for the office and a lot of advice to dress for the next level up at work rather than your current level if you hope to advance. As I said, not being ambitious, all I worried about was whether I had something clean to wear for work.

Once you have retired, does that mean you don't have to worry about impressing people any more? Probably, but I do think it is important to dress appropriately for certain occasions, especially living in Spain. John and I were presented with a special award at an event in a local bodega almost 4 years ago.  We could have turned up in jeans and t-shirts, but we felt that we should look smart as a sign of appreciation for being given this award. We have noticed how our Spanish neighbours dress up at the weekend as well as for family occasions such as weddings, christenings and first communions. I guess it's a sign of respect. The outfit shown below is an example of my usual smart casual look: to some of you it might look far too casual, but as I said it's one of my smarter casual outfits.  Did I mention that I wasn't overly ambitious?

Since I started doing Project 333, my wardrobe has become more compact although more versatile than it used to be and most of the clothes are suited to my current lifestyle and mix and match well. I do have a few pieces of clothing though for the "certain occasions" that I mentioned earlier. When John and I married just over 5 years ago (it was a second marriage for both of us) I wore a white jacket with my navy floral dress. That same white jacket made an appearance at my niece's wedding last year, though worn with a different dress.  Guess what I wore for the presentation in the bodega? Yep, you're right.

This is the outfit that I chose for my 65th birthday party in Paris:

Although I may only wear this jacket a couple of times a year, it's what I wear when I want to dress up a bit. I may not be trying to impress, but I think it raises my usual style a notch and hopefully makes the right impression.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Making a statement - bags of style

Creating the set for this post using Polyvore proved to be an interesting exercise. I have been trying to select items that the average reader could afford while "making a statement", and this wasn't too much of a problem with the previous sets that I created. When it came to bags though I found myself drawn to the more expensive ones, such as a cute Valentino shoulder bag, a delicious raspberry tote from Rochas and a stylish Victoria Beckham mini tote in new blue.  It took me a while to find a selection of colourful bags that I liked and that didn't cost hundreds of euros - however the good news is that only two of the ones shown below cost over 100€.

When it comes to buying bags we are spoilt for choice, with so many different styles and colours available in the shops. You may notice that all of the ones I have picked either have handles that can be slung over my shoulder or straps that allow it to be worn cross-body. I do a lot of walking, in case you haven't guessed, and I do like to keep my hands free! Even though I set myself a budget, there were still many lovely bags to select from.

I have to admit that there were some very stylish bags in neutral colours, but in my view they would have made a rather boring outfit when added to the neutral basics shown above. However, going back to my original decision to limit the budget for this set, if you do intend to splash out on a new bag you would be wise to choose one in neutral colours that won't date and that will go with the majority of clothes in your wardrobe.

A final word of advice for petites: take care not to choose too large a bag as it will dominate you. Please note though that I don't always follow my own advice!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Making a statement - best foot forward

I've already hinted at it, so I'm sure you're not surprised to discover that this post is about wearing shoes and boots to add some colour to your basic outfit.  I'm using navy and dark grey for my basics, but you could always use brown and cream if you have warmer colouring.

If you wear brightly coloured footwear, which is making a statement in itself, you may want to pick up the colour in a scarf or necklace, but keep it more subtle than the examples in my earlier posts or people won't know where to look! If in doubt, stick to simpler styles in silver or gold as in my example below.

If you enjoy wearing brightly coloured shoes and like a sporty look, you are in luck at the moment as they are fashionable, so snap them up while you can! You probably don't want to spend a lot of money on your new purchase, which may very well look dated by this time next year. You could easily spend well over 100€ on a pair of Kenzo sneakers for example, however all of the shoes shown above cost less than 60€.

If you want to spend a bit more money on your footwear, you're better investing in a pair of good quality shoes in a classic style and in a neutral colour. In the meantime, I'm off to Decathlon sports shop in Murcia tomorrow, hoping to buy some comfortable (and possibly colourful) walking shoes to take me through the summer months. Hmm. Should I buy a pair of ballerinas in silver and pink, or the denim lace-ups or how about the red Skechers? As I do a lot of walking, the decision will have to be based on comfort rather than colour - though I'm hoping that I can combine the two!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Making a statement with jewellery

If you're not into scarves but you're looking for something to add interest to your basic outfit, how about wearing a statement necklace or some attractive arm candy (I'm talking bracelets here, in case you're deliberately misunderstanding me!)

Using the same basic outfits as shown in my previous post, I have added some necklaces and bangles to illustrate what I mean.  Please note though that I'm not suggesting wearing a statement necklace and a bangle at the same time, especially if you're a petite. If you prefer ear-rings to necklaces, you might like to add an interesting pair that either blends with or contrasts with your bracelet, which could be a flattering look if you need more colour near your face.

As I've pointed out before, wearing shoes that are a similar colour to your trousers is particularly helpful for petites, as it helps to draw the eye down and give the illusion that you are a bit taller. On the other hand I'm not know for sticking to fashion guidelines - and I might very well be tempted to wear a pair of red shoes with a red necklace or bracelet, just because I love a pop of red!

I'm very much aware that some of my over 60 readers may have retired and not have the disposable income that they enjoyed while working. If you click on the following link, you will be able to see the items that I have chosen from Polyvore when creating the above collage. Only two of the necklaces and one bangle cost over 100€, which I hope demonstrates that it is possible to create interesting outfits even when you're on a limited budget. The other pieces of jewellery shown are from cheaper stores like Forever 21.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Making a statement with scarves

All right - you've been following the advice on my blog (and many other bloggers' fashion-based websites) and have built a wardrobe based on neutrals. You reach into your wardrobe in the morning, confident in the knowledge that you have a coordinated collection of clothes and that every top will go with every skirt and pair of trousers. You decide to wear a navy top with charcoal grey trousers and slip on a pair of navy brogues before checking your outfit in the mirror. You look smart enough and reasonably stylish, but something is missing. Perhaps you should wear a skirt and loafers with your top instead? Your problem is that your outfit is a little bit - dare I say it? - boring. It doesn't reflect either who you are or who you want to be.  Looking at you, people wouldn't have a clue about your style personality.  So what can you do?

I enjoy wearing scarves and have built up a reasonable collection of different coloured scarves, some of which are more suitable for the winter months, but I also have many lightweight scarves that I can wear any time of the year. This is what I would probably do with the above outfits to give them a bit of oomph.
I enjoy making a statement with scarves, and I find them particularly helpful when I'm going on holiday, as they are so light and don't take up much room in my case.  I know many of you aren't fans of scarves though. However don't despair as you can make a statement of your own and liven up your basic outfit with other accessories, as I'll show you in the next post.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Pesky pop-up ads are driving me crazy!

This bag is following me around!
I appreciate that advertising is a necessary evil.  In the UK, independent TV channels rely on advertising to pay for all the programmes that their viewers enjoy. It's the same with Spanish TV, where they often tell you how many minutes you have until the programme that you are watching returns, so at least you know whether you have time to make a cup of tea during the break for adverts. Occasionally, TV adverts are entertaining and actually worth watching!

My son is one of four young people who have launched a free newspaper in London called "The Peckham Peculiar", and they are obviously relying on advertising to cover their costs. I don't have any problems with this and neither will their readers, as this is what people expect, especially with free publications.

I buy women's magazines from time to time (living in Spain, I find it helpful for improving my Spanish) and most of these are full of adverts.  That's fine, as all I do is turn over the pages until I reach the articles that I want to read and for the most part I ignore the adverts.

We are surrounded by advertising in the modern world, so why do I find it particularly annoying when I come across adverts on-line?

I go into my email account, and I see sneaky little adverts there that are based on the content of my emails. Facebook is even worse: currently I am being tempted by mobile phone deals in both English and Spanish as well as shoes, jeans and car insurance. Sometimes the offers are so embarrassing that I couldn't possibly share them with you!

How about the La Redoute advert above, that popped up on my screen when I was looking at another blog? Is it just a coincidence that I had looked at the La Redoute website last week? If I want to buy something from their website, I don't need them to send me not-too-subtle hints. I'll make my own mind up, thank you.

I swear that the bag I've shown at the beginning of this post is following me around. I see it everywhere and I'm convinced that I'm going to start dreaming about it soon. There's no escaping from it, however it's a pointless advertising ploy, as I've already bought a different bag from that website and have no intention of buying another one.

Does anyone else find these advertising tricks really annoying? Far from encouraging me to visit their websites, it actually has the opposite effect and makes me want to avoid them like the plague. I considered signing up for adverts on this blog, in the vague hope that I might earn a few pennies from them, but I don't want to annoy my readers.  If I did so, would it put you off and stop you looking at my blog? Am I the only one to be annoyed by all these adverts that keep popping up?

Friday, 11 April 2014

Tips for looking taller

If I'm being totally honest with you, although I would like to look taller (as I'm only 5' and a bit), what I would really like is to look thinner. As I've said before, when you're short every extra pound shows. I'm not helped by the fact that I'm rectangular in shape, so when I do put on weight it makes me look dumpy rather than curvy. My view is that if only I were a little bit taller, then I would appear to be a lot thinner!

One of the first tips that I have found when researching this topic is to wear a column of colour. The obvious example is a black top with black trousers, however this isn't a good combination for most over 60s as black can be too harsh a colour. Another possibility, which is a bit more flattering for most women of a certain age, would be a navy jacket or cardigan worn with navy trousers or skirt plus a brightly coloured top in your best colours underneath. The general aim is for your eyes to be drawn downwards, creating an illusion of being taller than you are. It will of course be a bonus if this makes you look thinner at the same time.

It's clear that the model in the photo above is tall and slim anyway, but hopefully this illustrates the point that I am making. Wearing shoes that match the colour of your trousers also helps to elongate you.

Another tip is to wear outfits with vertical lines rather than horizontal ones. The trousers from Zara shown below are a good example, however I think a more subtle stripe would be better for petites, who can be overwhelmed by bold patterns. I own a pair of navy and white striped trousers that I usually wear during the summer months as they are cropped. The slight stripe means that they are more flattering than ordinary cropped trousers would be on a shorter person. As mentioned above, wearing cropped trousers with shoes of the same colour helps to create a longer line. Alternatively, they can be worn with shoes that match your skin colour.

I love stripes, but most of my striped garments are tops with horizontal stripes, which goes against all the rules for looking taller and slimmer. Take a look at the outfit below, as an example. I usually avoid monochrome outfits, so although I am wearing navy jeans, a navy and white striped top plus a navy and white floral scarf (scoring points for the column of colour), I have added a red belt and red shoes. These of course break up the slimming effect and make me look shorter! Does this really matter? I don't think so, as I enjoyed wearing this outfit and that's the most important thing in my view. At the end of the day I am a short person, so though it's good occasionally to create the illusion that I'm a bit taller, I'm not really deceiving anyone!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Spring holiday capsule using warmer colours

I know!  I've been a bit single-minded when creating my spring holiday capsules, concentrating on the colours that flatter me the most, and totally neglecting those of you who have warm colouring and don't look as good in cooler shades. Better late than never: I have now created a holiday capsule using warmer tones.

Navy and grey can work for women with warm colouring, depending on the shade chosen, but I decided to ignore navy and grey this time and use different neutrals, which will blend better with the other colours that I've chosen.

Without further ado, here is my spring holiday capsule using warmer colours.

The majority of the tops and bottoms will go well with each other, especially if you look at the two pairs of trousers that can be worn during the day-time, and the flat shoes will be perfect for sight-seeing. I have included a pencil skirt, pair of heels, clutch bag and necklace to create a smarter look suitable for the evenings. There is also a jacket for when it turns a bit cooler.

Do you think that this capsule would be flexible enough for you if you were packing for a spring holiday?

Want to look trendy?

It's time to check out our wardrobes to see if we need any new purchases for the spring and summer months. Remember, it's not essential to buy anything new if your wardrobe is already full, but if you've spotted a gap (in my case I could do with a new blue top) then the shops are already full of tempting purchases.

The crucial words are "a gap": which could mean you don't have enough tops, or you need a new dress or a pair of lightweight summer trousers. Make sure that you have a good idea what you need - and what colours and styles will go with your existing wardrobe - before you go shopping, to help you buy wisely.

However the title of this post is "Want to look trendy?" so you may have decided that you would like to buy something fashionable. What are the latest trends for Spring/Summer 2014? More importantly, if you are an over 60 woman like me, will you appear on trend or will you look more like a fashion victim?

First of all (stop press!), I managed to find a blue top that I loved while I was in town this morning. Dazzling blue is one of the colour trends for Spring 2014 so there was a fair selection to choose from, though pastels are even more fashionable if you look better in paler colours (I don't). The top that I bought has a lacy pattern - which is another current trend - though my purpose wasn't to buy something fashionable. Did I mention that I have an old blue top that is now destined for the recycling? With Project 333, buying something new means getting rid of something old.  Even if you aren't trying to dress with less, it's still a good idea.

My new blue top
The main advantage in looking at trends is to identify whether any of them fit your personal style or colour palette, in which case it is an ideal time to shop. If you suit lighter colours rather than dark ones, spring is usually the best season to go shopping anyway, but this year you should be really spoilt for choice. If your style is sporty rather than classic you're also in luck, because athleticism is another trend.

If I had been looking for a new skirt it might have been more difficult for me as full skirts, especially midi-length, abound at the moment. Not a good length for someone as vertically challenged as I am! Don't rush out to buy a full skirt though if your wardrobe is full of loose, baggy tops, as they look better worn with fitted tops.

Other trends that I have noticed are: tiny lady bags (not really practical for those of us who carry around everything but our kitchen sinks); white blouses and dresses (many are way too see-through for women of a certain age); stripes (yes!) and baseball hats (no!)

Finally, a great tip that I read on Refinery 29 website this morning. Before you purchase anything new, think of three outfits that you can create with your new purchase using only items that you already have in your wardrobe.  In case you're wondering, the blue top shown above can be worn with three pairs of trousers and the two skirts that are currently hanging up in my wardrobe.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The problem with being petite

Following on from my previous post, I have to say that it's not easy finding clothes for petite women in Spain. It constantly amazes me how many other short women can be seen walking about our town, but can I find petite sizes in any of the local fashion shops? No way! I need to visit Murcia, our nearest city, and look round El Corte Ingles department store if I want to try on petite sizes in a shop over here. If I do go to El Corte Ingles, the only petite brand they stock is Zendra Petite, which rather limits my choice, and prices for tops start at 29.95€. Add in the cost of travelling to Murcia and you can see why on-line shopping is so tempting!

Zendra petite top

Of course I buy clothes locally whenever I can, but finding clothes that fit me is difficult. Even short-sleeved tops aren't necessarily a good fit as the sleeves may be fine but the top is often too long. The beauty of buying clothes from a petite range is that not only are the lengths usually right for me but also the proportions in general look better on petite women.
Yes I can turn up hems on regular trousers that are too long, however that doesn't necessarily make them look ok as it all depends on the cut - obviously boot legs won't look right if I shorten then. Jacket sleeves can be turned up or rolled up, but the lapels and buttons may be too large a scale for petites.
Wallis petite top
Wallis was my favourite petite brand for a long while, until they started making their trousers slightly longer. My problem was that their trousers had been the right length for me originally and I haven't grown - so nowadays they are too long for me! Their tops though still fit well.

My new favourite brand for petite clothing is Lands End, as they offer so many options for petite trousers, which can be hemmed to suit the individual. So far the quality of my Lands End purchases has been fine, they have washed well and they have been a good fit.  I spotted the following top on their UK website, which is on trend (more of that soon), so I admit that I am very tempted.
Lands End Art tee
I will have one final look around the local shops in the morning. If I'm unsuccessful in finding a top that I love, then I may very well start searching the petite websites for one!

Buy only what you love

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you must buy a new top, skirt or dress for summer, scouring the shops to find something and then buying a new item of clothing just for the sake of it. It's even easier to do so when you shop on-line! How many of you have bought something from a website on the basis that you can always return it if it isn't a good fit or doesn't really suit you?  Have you ever returned an ill-fitting item or, assuming that it fits well, something that isn't quite what you expected?  If not, maybe that's why your wardrobe contains too many clothes! Don't worry, I've been guilty of this too.

I believe that I'm slowly improving.  I popped into a local clothes shop on the way home a few days ago and tried on two tops: they looked ok, they fitted me - but I didn't really love them.  I left the shop empty-handed. My new shopping mantra is: 99% isn't good enough. Through doing Project 333, I now have a wardrobe full of clothes that I enjoy wearing. Obviously they won't last for ever, particularly the cheaper clothes, but I'm not in any rush to replace them or to acquire lots of new ones.

I liked the look of some of People Tree's tops, which I spotted on their website while researching fair trade fashion for my previous post.
Regular readers will know that I do love stripes, and I could do with a new navy striped top to replace my existing one. I hesitated over the top shown above but decided against ordering it, as I suspect it will look a bit boxy on someone as short as I am. Of course I could return it, but living in Spain I would need to pay the postage, so I might end up keeping it even if was less than 100%.

The following top, which I featured in my day to evening collage, is still tempting me though.
It looks as if it would be a flattering fit on me, the colour is one of my best colours, plus it would be a versatile addition to my wardrobe. Should I log into their website and order it right now?

Before I make a decision, I am going to check out another local shop that had some blue tops in their window to see if there is anything that I love 100%. I have two reasons for doing so. The first is that I won't know whether I really love this blue top until I try it on, and it might not have the wow factor for me.  The second reason is that I feel it is important to support local businesses whenever possible. I still have to buy clothes on-line at times as I'm a petite size - unfortunately I can only find petite sizes if I go to El Corte Ingles department store in Murcia city. However I'm looking for a short-sleeved summer top in blue, so I may very well be able to find one locally. Wish me luck in my search!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

From day to night - using accessories

I mentioned in my last post how useful accessories can be in changing your look. This is particularly relevant when you are planning your holiday wardrobe: choose the right accessories and you can create many more different outfits from the clothes that you have packed.  I thought it might be helpful to show you an example.

Here I have used the same top and trousers for a day time and evening look: by changing the accessories and adding a jacket I have smartened up my day time outfit for going out in the evening.

Starting with the same three items of clothing and accessories, I have added another pair of trousers, a skirt, a pair of shoes and three more tops.  This will give me many more outfits to wear both during the day time and in the evening.
Using the four tops and three bottoms shown, you will have twelve different outfits. These can be worn both during the day and in the evening, depending on which accessories you choose. I haven't shown the jacket in the second picture, but as it is a neutral you can wear it with any combination you choose.

All the clothes shown are available from People Tree, who sell sustainable and fair trade fashion at reasonable prices and deliver to international destinations (including Spain). The shoes are vegetarian shoes, which goes to prove that vegetarian doesn't necessarily mean boring!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Another look at Project 333

I've written several posts about Project 333 since I first started blogging about it in October 2012 and, as several readers have asked questions about it, I thought it was time to review what I have learnt.

The first lesson I learnt was that I had a wardrobe full of clothes that didn't fit me, didn't suit me or that were totally unsuitable for my current lifestyle.  At the beginning of Project 333 I had taken all my clothes out of my wardrobe, plus the spare room wardrobe and a multitude of other hiding places.  I made sure that my husband John was out of the way for this exercise as the shock might have been too much for him!

First of all, I divided my clothes into 3 piles: the clothes that I loved; the clothes that I should have discarded months if not years ago; a "Maybe" pile, which proved to be the biggest one by a long way. The second pile went straight into our local recycling bins, which are for a Spanish charity, and then I had to deal with the remainder of my clothes.

My target was to select 33 items of clothing that would form my Autumn wardrobe and put the remaining clothes away until it was time to select my Winter 33. To begin with I followed the "rules" and included shoes and handbags in my 33, however that was a step too far for me, so for my Winter 33 I only included items of clothing. Click on the following link to find out more about getting started with Project 333.

I thought it might be interesting to look at last year's Spring 33.

Hmm. Only ten of the above items have been included in this year's Spring 33. A couple of tops have had to be thrown out and there are about a dozen other items that are ready to be brought into action once the weather becomes a bit warmer. Last year I included two summer dresses, as I knew I had occasions where I would be wearing them before I selected my Summer 33. This year I have included a couple of warmer dresses for any evening events that may occur before summer arrives.

It's obvious that there are nine items from last year that haven't been included in this year's 33, so I wondered what the reason was. Comparing the two wardrobes, it became apparent that last year I had twice as many different colours, apart from more neutrals. I have learnt another important lesson from doing Project 333: by limiting the number of colours that I wear, and by choosing colours that flatter me and also go with each other, I have created a far more versatile wardrobe.  This year's Spring 33 will provide me with far more choice and be more flexible than last year's

I have also learnt how useful accessories can be in creating different outfits and changing your look. Here's one simple example: I can wear the navy jeans, green striped top, a pair of flat shoes and casual handbag during the daytime, then change into a pair of heels, add a necklace and swap the casual bag for a smarter one and I'm ready to go out in the evening. This is because I have cheated a bit and excluded my accessories, scarves and jewellery from my 33!

The final lesson that I have learnt is that we really don't need so many clothes. They say that most women wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time: my aim is to make that closer to 100%.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Today's conundrum

When you look in the shops and find an item that seems a bargain, the chances are that it's from China. We have a Chinese "multi-precio" in our local town and the prices there are always reasonable.  So here is today's conundrum: bearing all the above in mind, how come I was charged nearly 25 euros by Spanish customs for a parcel that recently arrived from Hong Kong? It's not as if I had paid a huge amount of money for my new clutch bag either! The chances are that if I had looked for a handbag at Multi-precio Panda, I would have found one for about that price, so I was stunned to be charged so much money when I collected my package.

The parcel that I picked up at the local Correos (Post Office) was a purchase from the Boticca website, which is a recent discovery of mine via another blog, 40+ style. I had browsed the website admiring the jewellery before having a quick look at clutch bags, as my options for evenings out are a bit limited. The bags that I use in the day-time are a bit too bulky, and the couple of evening bags that I possess are very pretty but not big enough to contain my purse, mobile phone, house keys, tissues, lipstick etc. That quick look proved fatal, I was lured into temptation and bought the bag below.  Purely in the interests of research for my readers, of course!
I must admit that I was tempted by the following bag too, as the mix of bright colours means it would go with many different outfits and it would make a perfect bag for holidays. However I am still in my sensible neutrals phase, so I settled on the black one. I was pleased to discover, after my previous post, that these bags are also vegetarian-friendly, being made of 70% recycled plastic bags plus man-made "leather".
When I got home and looked at the customs declaration, I saw that it stated two bags. That was odd, as I had only ordered one. "It must be a mistake", I thought.  You can imagine how thrilled I was when I opened my parcel and saw that there were two bags inside, with a lovely note from Laila of "Mary and Marie" saying that the second bag was a gift. To make it even better, the gift that she had sent me was the brightly coloured clutch that I had been tempted by. Suddenly I had forgotten all about the unfair customs charge: you can't beat a two-for-the-price-of-one bargain, can you? Do take a look at the website Mary and Marie to see their full range of bags. However don't forget to check your local customs regulations before you place your order!

Cruelty-free fashion

Many years ago I became a vegetarian, however in recent years I have re-introduced fish into my diet, partly for health reasons - although I still don't eat meat. One of my reasons for becoming a vegetarian (having been persuaded by my oldest daughter Vicky!) was that I disliked the idea of animals suffering just to feed me, when I could easily survive on a vegetarian diet. If I'm not going to eat animals, logic says that I shouldn't wear them either, however I confess to having a few leather shoes and handbags in my wardrobe, even though I would draw the line at wearing fur.

That same vegetarian daughter has just started a new blog for the ethical consumer, expanding on her ideals: NOT BAD. Having read Vicky's first post, I suspect that she is going to persuade me to stop wearing leather too, or at least desist from buying any more leather products.

Looking back over the years, vegetarians used to get a bad press and were often mocked in the media for their beliefs. I guess it didn't help that some of them were very earnest and that vegetarian restaurants could be a bit boring! When it came to non-leather shoes, they weren't exactly the height of fashion either.

Readers, things have changed! You probably know that Stella McCartney is a committed vegetarian and therefore designs vegetarian footwear, but did you know that Vivienne Westwood and Karl Lagerfield have created collections for an ethical brand?  Neither did I till I read my daughter's blog.
Vivienne Westwood - Melissa shoes
What do you think about this shoe designed by Vivienne Westwood? I doubt if anyone would describe it as boring - I certainly wouldn't. Do you know of any ethical companies that produce stylish non-leather boots or shoes? If so, please share them with us.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

The numbers game

How many clothes do you have in your wardrobe - including clothes hanging up in the spare room, or tucked away in drawers or in under-the bed-containers? Don't worry: I'm not going to ask you to count them all! In a way that was a hypothetical question, but the next one isn't.

How many of these clothes do you actually wear on a regular basis? I know that when I started doing Project 333 I was shocked at how many clothes I had that I hadn't worn for a long time. I understand that there are some women who buy clothes and never wear them - although that isn't me.  When I buy new clothes I usually do so because I love them, so I wear them fairly frequently. However over the years I know I will put on some weight, plus fashions have changed so some clothes begin to look dated, or they start to look a bit tired particularly if they weren't expensive in the first place, which is why these clothes have been put away and forgotten about.

At the beginning of Project 333 I had a fairly major clear-out, so in theory most of the clothes in my wardrobe now are ones that fit me, suit me and are in good condition.  As I said, this is in theory. Being over 60 is another important factor, as certain colours that suited me when I was younger don't look as good against my ageing skin. Since starting Project 333 in October 2012, I have made many changes to my wardrobe and feel that it is gradually becoming more versatile and that I'm wearing most of my clothes on a regular basis.

10 neutral items of clothing with colourful accessories
In the picture above, there are ten neutral items of clothing taken from my wardrobe.  The five tops can be worn with either the navy jeans or charcoal trousers, which gives me ten possible combinations. Add the striped jacket, light grey cascade cardigan and navy cascade cardigan into the equation and I now have thirty  different outfits; giving me a month's worth of clothes. Please note that I haven't even mentioned the accessories, which give me even more permutations!

The idea of Project 333 is to limit yourself to 33 items of clothing to cover 3 months, or one season of the year. I guess that means that you could have a total of 132 items of clothing, however some things will be worn in more than one season, which will bring the total down. Where we live in Spain it is very hot during the summer months and it can be very cold during the winter months, which means two totally different wardrobes. However Spring and Autumn are transitional seasons so, for example, I have some clothes in my Spring 33 that I wore during Winter and I will introduce a few clothes from my Summer 33 when it becomes hotter in May and June.

Janice of The Vivienne Files recently blogged about this topic and she ended up with a total of 90 garments: 45 for the warmer months plus 45 for the colder months. Janice explained that in Chicago they only have two seasons. If you click on the link above you can see how she has calculated her total of clothes needed for the year.

I've had a quick look at the clothes that I've worn over the last year and have added in recent purchases. This gives me a total of 60 items of clothing, however I suspect that there are clothes lurking in other places that I've managed to miss out so I am probably nearer to Janice's total of 90 garments.  Do you know how many items of clothing you own?

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Spring holiday capsule: touches of blue and red

My final holiday capsule is based on neutrals of navy and grey, however this time I have livened it up with both red and blue. I have created this especially for Robin after her comments on my previous post, so I'm looking forward to seeing what she says!

I don't have many clothes like these in my wardrobe, but I would be quite happy to pack any of them for my Spring holiday. If you take a look at my Polyvore set by clicking on the link, you will see that most of these items aren't particularly expensive, as I know from experience how frustrating it can be to spot items on a blog that I love - only to discover that they are way over my budget!

Can you guess which is the most expensive item in this holiday capsule?  No, it's not the Mango grey blazer, as that only costs €48 from John Lewis, which means it's even cheaper than the red striped t-shirt from Gap at €50. The navy Nine West kitten heels are also a bargain at €38, having been reduced by €19, so it's not them either.  The most expensive item - at a price of €190 - is the Radley Aldgate leather handbag. If I was going to take this capsule on holiday I wouldn't splash out on the handbag though.  Instead I would use the money to buy all six tops plus the blue open front blazer, taking me slightly over budget at €196.64.

My reasoning is that I already have a perfectly good grey and navy satchel that would go well with the above capsule, as well as bags in different colours that would match the other holiday capsules that I have been considering. If it wasn't for that I might seriously consider buying the handbag,: it is worth spending more money on good quality accessories in neutral colours that won't date and that should last you for several years.

If this was my holiday capsule I would throw in a couple of scarves, but I know from her comments that Robin wouldn't do so. She might like to consider adding a couple of necklaces or bracelets though, especially if going out for dinner in the evening.  Nowadays, even in cities, women can usually get away with wearing trousers in the evening, especially with a dressy top and a pair of heels. However, if I was going to pack this capsule for my forthcoming Spring holiday, I would probably add my new blue dress in case we decide to dine out in a particularly smart restaurant. When we go on holiday, we usually like to have at least one occasion where we dress up a bit.