Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A Wardrobe Overhaul - Smart Casual, with and without kids!



Dress shabbily and they remember the dress. Dress impeccably and they remember the woman. 
Coco Chanel


So, having talked about the quest to find my style mojo, I've been spending quite a bit of time thinking about my wardrobe and what I want it to look like going forwards. 

I've been through my wardrobe and pulled out those things that I no longer like. It's still left me with quite a big wardrobe, no capsule wardrobe for me! 

However, I have noticed that I don't seem to have versatile outfits. I have half outfits, or pieces that are good for one season but can't be transferred to another season with ease. 

So I've decided to work on adding on those things to my wardrobe which I think will enhance what is already in it, and not adding in more than one or two new outfits. 

I have also realised that I have different wardrobes for different occasions, namely: 

  • Work;
  • Going out;
  • Casual with the kids;
  • Smart casual with the kids;
  • Smart casual WITHOUT the kids. 

So I'm going to work through what I have in my (recently reduced) wardrobe, and those items I am thinking about adding to my wardrobe to make the pieces I have work a little better. 

Smart Casual

As much as I love my yoga pants, I don't really like being photographed in them! I also want to be that woman who is pristine; who always looks well dressed. 

At the same time, being a mum, my clothes need to be practical and comfortable, especially as I spend a lot of time sitting on the floor, and I get covered in sticky fingerprints. 

I feel like my recent efforts to be practical and comfortable have left me with a sensible wardrobe but it doesn't really suit me. 

I want me wardrobe to reflect me, and be able to be dressed up or down depending on where we are going and what we are doing. 

We spend quite a lot of time at National Trust properties these days, and as autumn rolls in, I'm sure I'm going to need a fully casual section of my wardrobe, fleeces and walking boots and all. 

But, we live in a town, and we also spend a lot of our time in and around town, in shops; coffee shops and restaurants. So I imagine my smart casual wardrobe is one I'm going to be wearing regularly. 

Outfit 1, 2, 3 and 4:

Quite possibly my favourite purchases this year are these jersey dresses from H&M:






When I initially bought them, I was bemoaning the fact that they didn't come in brighter colours, particularly as they were intended for daytime wear on our holiday to Spain. I do love a bit of purple, blue and red, and would love these dresses in those colours (hint hint H&M!). 

But, as the weather is turning and the clouds are rolling in a little more often than I would like, I'm starting to see some real potential in these dresses, and ways to make them befit the colder seasons. Save for maybe the pink one, that one might have to be stored away at the back of my wardrobe until the warmer weather returns and hotter climates beckon. 

These dresses are lightweight, easy to wear and hide sticky fingermarks really well. It also comes in black, but I prefer the colours above. 

Carrying kids and their endless supplies around means that I'm often hot, then cold, then hot again. So I'm finding that thick jumpers and warm coats often don't work as I'm too hot and then freezing when I take a layer off. 

So I'm hoping that a bit of layering will mean that these dresses can be worn even in the depths of winter! 

So, first things first, I'm going to need some long sleeved tops to go under the dresses. I want tops which I'm happy to wear on their own, either with jeans or a skirt. 

So far I'm looking at this double layer t-shirt in black from The White Company. They also do this in Navy, which I think may well make the list too: 



I would love this top in the dark grey too, but it's only available in a size 8 now, and so likely to be sold out by the time I get around to buying it! 


However, The White Company does have a v-neck double layer t-shirt in both a mid-grey and a navy blue, which looks so comfortable. At £55 it is a significant investment in what is a plain t-shirt, but I think it's something that I would like to try on. After all, better an expensive and well fitting t-shirt that is fit for purpose; than one which will languish at the back of the wardrobe for the next year. 

It's also very pretty and something I would happily wear with jeans or a skirt for a relatively relaxed look. 




Black tights are my winter staple with and dress and I think I'll be repurposing the 80 denier black tights from Heist Studios from my work wardrobe (if they are as good as they claim!). 


Boots. 

I already own a pair of black suede ankle boots from Jones the Bootmakers. They are fab, and are fur lined, so they are lovely and cosy. 

However, being out and about with kids usually means grass; and grass and mud and suede isn't really a great combo. 

I really struggle with knee boots because I have wide calves, and regular knee boots just do not fit (and wellies, but that's a whole other post!). 

So I'm undecided between these black Reflection knee boots from Duo Boots:


Or these Heavenly Soles knee high black boots from Simply Be:


  
Both companies allow you to measure your calves and select the appropriate width fitting; the main difference here is the price. I'm torn between choosing for these boots to be an investment piece, or whether to try to be sensible and just buy the Simply Be boots for the moment, as I have quite a bit of finishing up of my wardrobe to do. 

The heels on both of those pairs of boots are low enough for me to handle three children and a pram, but big enough for me to feel a bit more put together. 

I'm also seriously coveting several pairs of Duo Boots in tan leather, but I think I'll get more wear out of the black ones, so I'm shoving the tan ones to the back of my mind for now! 


Next up, the leather jacket. I am in serious need of a leather jacket. I wore my old one literally until it fell apart. Then we moved to the Middle East and the need for a leather jacket vanished into thin air. 

Again, there is a whole range of leather jackets out there and it's so easy to spend a LOT of money on one. The reality for me is that I need a leather jacket now, and I just cannot justify sinking hundreds upon hundreds of pounds into one at this moment in time. 

So I think I'm going for this Bella Leather Biker Jacket from Superdry: 



Over the summer, I've been wearing these dresses with my pale blue Converse trainers. I can't find the exact pair, which have pink piping, but they are similar to these:




As we may still get some sunny days, even as we head into autumn, I've added this denim jacket from Gap to my shopping list. I think it will be great for slightly warmer days, when you don't need the additional warmth of the leather jacket. 





Outfit 5:

I now own several pairs of these Gap Boot-Cut jeans. Unfortunately I promptly dropped 3kgs in weight a few weeks after buying them (which I had been trying to do unsuccessfully for some time!). 

Luckily I bought them in the sale for £15 each, so I don't feel as bad as I would have done if I had bought them at full price. I'm hoping they drop the price again in the next sale so I can downsize. 

They are really comfortable and don't stretch that much, so they hold their shape really well. 

I'm definitely a boot-cut girl, I've been embracing the skinny jean phase, but I really just don't think it suits me. The boot-cut definitely balances out my curvy hips! 



I've picked up two t-shirts from Joules, which I really like, but I'm not convinced they like me. 

I really struggle with Joules, I love their clothes on other people but I don't feel like the cut of their clothes really suit me. 

So while I'm continuing to keep and wear them for now, I'm on the look out for something to replace them, or to relegate them to the casual look!



I'm completely in love with this top from Karen Millen! They have it in three colours, but I'm hankering after the blue and the black. 

I think it will be a great pairing with blue jeans for a smart casual look, probably along with the leather jacket and my ankle/knee boots!


Outfit 6:

I also have this gorgeous dress from Oasis. I love love love it but I'm just not sure yet whether this is going to have to be relegated to a summer only dress or whether I can make it wearable throughout the winter months. 

I'm undecided on whether I can pull this off with black tights and a leather jacket; if you have any ideas, please let me know!







Thursday, 14 September 2017

My Goal for 2017 - September Review


“Goals are dreams with deadlines.” ― Diana Scharf


I'm already one month in with my Goal for 2017, which was to improve my mental and physical health. 

To me, setting out on the journey is often the hardest, once you get going, the steps gradually seem easier to take. I've definitely felt that this month. There has been a lot of starting and stopping and starting and stopping again, but I feel like I've made a little bit of progress this month. 

I'm not perfect, and I haven't gotten anywhere near my targets this month. Having this goal, and the habits I set within it, have meant that I have had a little reminder in the back of my head of what the habits are (and how I'm currently breaking them!). 

I decided on two separate sets of habits I wanted to form, habits to improve my mental health, and habits to improve my physical health

Here's how I have gotten on this month: 

Mental Health: 

To be in bed by 8pm on two nights per week (aiming for Sunday and one other night);

This was going pretty well, until I had my op on my toes and had to stop going to Crossfit. 

It seems the Crossfit has quite an impact on my ability to get to sleep. Without physical exercise, I'm finding that while my brain is exhausted, my body is struggling to wind down that early. 

So I've been going to bed a little later, about 9pm, and even then sleep has been a bit elusive. 

Hopefully next month will be more successful once I'm back at Crossfit. 


To wash and blow-dry my hair once per week (Friday?)

This one has been pretty successful. 

It wasn't initially, but I took the time to blow dry my hair before we went to a party at the end of August, and the feeling of having a hair style, rather than a mop of wavy ish hair was pretty great. 

I'd forgotten how polished I felt once my hair was dried properly! 

So I've made more of an effort to do it since then and so far I'm managing to stick to the once per week I set myself. 


Epsom Salt Baths twice a week

This is another habit which has fallen by the wayside due to my recovering feet! 

I can't get my feet wet, and it's not really easy to relax in the bath when your feet are sticking out of the end! 

I need to pick this up again once my toes are healed. 


Guided Meditation three times per week

This one was going really well. I was using guided meditation every night, to help me wind down for sleep, and then I was still meeting to goal of three additional times per week. 

Then my iPhone decided to stop working. I have a replacement but I haven't gotten round to installing my guided meditation app yet! 

Writing this post has prompted me to add it back onto my iPhone, and so hopefully I can pick up where I left off. 

Guided meditation has been having a real effect on my mood. When I take the time to do a relaxation meditation, I really do feel my mood lift. 

This is a habit which has been much more beneficial than I thought it would be. 


To use my iPhone for only an hour a day, and to put it away for the night at 8pm

Another abject fail. Such a huge fail that I had, in fact, forgotten that it was one of my habits. 

I've been a total phone junkie this month, and have definitely not been putting it away at 8pm. 

Must try harder. 


Take an evening walk with the kids whenever things are stressful

I haven't done this very much, if truth be told. Although, bedtimes recently haven't really been that stressful. 

Gary has been able to get home at an earlier time during the summer and so we've been able to tag team bedtimes. 

However, I have discovered that popping the kids in the bath whenever early evenings become a little stressful, has had a similar effect to the evening walk. 

If the weather is good, getting the picnic blanket out and sitting outside also seems to have a similar calming effect on us all. 

We've been having quite a few baths, because the kids seem to respond to just being in a different space for half an hour or so. 

This will be a big saviour now winter is coming and it's not going to be possible to always go for a walk whenever things are getting a little bit stressful. 


Gratitude Diary

My intention was to write in my gratitude diary 3-4 times a week. I have not met this goal. 

I did initially, but sometimes I'm just too mentally tired by the end of the day, and I just want to curl up in bed and turn the lights out. 

Although as I've not been sleeping well, I really should do this more often, as I'm awake anyway! 


Use the computer once per week

Another massive fail. 

I must use the computer several times a day. 

I have had a lot going on which requires the computer, and has required it during the day when the kids are around. 

I'm hoping that once our home improvements have been completed, and now that our re-mortgage has gone through, I can begin to step away from the screen. 


Keep every other weekend free for our family

Looking at our calendar for the next few months, it seems that we do have this in check. Save for November when I've had to rearrange a few things, which has meant three weekends back to back where we have visitors. 

There are parties for the kids creeping in there, but at least we will all be at home, and we can catch up a little bit on things in the house and homework. Plus hopefully we'll have time for some fun too! 




Physical Health:

Reduce Alcohol to 1 Day per Week:

August is a particularly hard month to be reducing my alcohol intake! It's my birthday, our wedding anniversary, Miss S's birthday and two of my closest friends have August birthdays too. 

That is a lot of celebrating to put into one month!

We also had a house warming party over the bank holiday weekend, which threw further spanners in the works. 

So while I have struggled to keep to only drinking alcohol one day per week, I have noticed that I'm more mindful about when I drink. 

I have considered having a glass of wine midweek, and then decided against it because we had friends coming to visit or we were due to go out and celebrate one of the many occasions above. 

I'm finding it's the Friday night glass or two of wine that is the hardest to break. It's the end of the week and it's lovely for Gary and I to sit down and feel like we get some quality time together, knowing that tomorrow is not a work or school day. 

There have been the occasional "sod it" moments during the week when I have succumbed to a glass of wine, but I feel like I'm getting a little bit better at managing that. 

Once or twice I even managed to bargain with myself that if I was going to have wine, I need to go to Crossfit first, and actually went! That feels like a little bit of progress to me!

5 Portions of Fruit and Vegetables a Day:

This habit I have had much more success with. I've been making sure I have at least one portion of vegetables with breakfast, and that seems to make bringing my tally up to five portions a day much easier. 

I have also bulked out the amount of veg I'm eating with my evening meal, making it at least two portions. 

I'm still not great with fruit, although I have picked up a pear once or twice when I've been nosing in the fridge! 


No sugar until midday:

This has been a moderately successful month for this habit. Save for when I'm nursing a hangover, I'm much less likely to reach for the chocolate stash until I've had lunch. 

It also helps that I've been keeping only 70% dark chocolate in the house, which seems to be less of a temptation than Cadburys buttons. 


Avoid Gluten:

This has been an out and out fail. I think because I'm giving up sweet stuff during the morning, by lunch time I'm desperate for some carbs. The sugar craving appears to include pasta and bread and I'm not doing very well at choosing something without gluten in. 

I'm ok at home if I am prepared and cook jacket potatoes in advance and leave them in the fridge, but if not, then a sandwich or some fresh pasta is just a quick and easy option. I need to make sure I'm planning in advance next month. 


Go to Crossfit 3x per Week (and no more):

This was going well, until I had a minor surgical procedure on my toes for ingrowing toenails at the end of August. 

I'm currently completely out of action, and likely to be for 3-4 weeks. Hopefully when I get back on track, this habit will be relatively easy to complete. 



So while it's not been the perfect start, I feel as though some of the habits have begun to stick, and I'm hoping that as they become more like second nature, the harder habits can take centre stage for me to work on. 

Hopefully it won't all fall apart by the time my October update rolls round! 


Thursday, 7 September 2017

A Wardrobe Overhaul - Work attire




You can never be overdressed or overeducated.
Oscar Wilde

So, having talked about the quest to find my style mojo, I've been spending quite a bit of time thinking about my wardrobe and what I want it to look like going forwards. 

I've been through my wardrobe and pulled out those things that I no longer like. It's still left me with quite a big wardrobe, no capsule wardrobe for me! 

However, I have noticed that I don't seem to have versatile outfits. I have half outfits, or pieces that are good for one season but can't be transferred to another season with ease. 

So I've decided to work on adding on those things to my wardrobe which I think will enhance what is already in it, and not adding in more than one or two new outfits. 

I have also realised that I have different wardrobes for different occasions, namely: 

  • Work;
  • Going out;
  • Casual with the kids;
  • Smart casual with the kids;
  • Smart casual WITHOUT the kids. 

So I'm going to work through what I have in my (recently reduced) wardrobe, and those items I am thinking about adding to my wardrobe to make the pieces I have work a little better. 

Work Wardrobe:

While I'm not actually going back to work until the end of March 2018, I still want to plan out what I have and what I need. 

I'm going back to work three days a week, which actually means I have the bulk of my work wardrobe already (yay). 

Outfit 1:

I have this Karen Millen cream checked dress, which I still love:


I usually wear this dress with this black M&S cardigan. I have this cardigan in several colours because it wears and washes well, although I'm feeling a bit carbon copy in them all the time!



In terms of finishing off this outfit, I sometimes feel that this dress is a little low cut, particularly for client meetings. I would also like to dress it up a little, rather than the perpetual black cardigan. 

So to finish off this outfit, and make it versatile for more formal meetings, I'm adding the following to my wish list:

This lace cami top from The White Company. To make the dress a little less revealing! 



A black blazer. 

I'm really struggling to find a blazer I like with a reasonable price point at the moment. I like my blazer's fitted and at the moment boxy, looser styles are everywhere, and I have really struggled to find something I really like. 

Thankfully Zara have come to the rescue with their basic black blazer



Black shoes. 

I've ruined my last pair of black work shoes, so they are probably going to need to be replaced before I go back to work. 

I do have a pair of nude court shoes which could probably work with this dress, but I think the black ones will look better. So I'm coveting these Karen Millen patent court shoes



Tights. 

I have a love/hate relationship with tights. I love them, but they are so uncomfortable. I'm constantly faffing about with them because they just don't stay where they are supposed to. 

Although clearly Facebook has some psychic ability to discern my discomfort with my current tights, as it keeps throwing up  an advert for tights from Heist Studios. Said advert states no digging, no rolling and no sagging will occur when wearing their magic tights. 

Ever a sucker for marketing promises, I think I'm going to test out their tights in both nude and the 80 denier black. Obviously I'll report back once they have been throughly tested!  



Outfit 2:

I only actually own one formal suit. I'm not sure if this is the exact suit, but it's as close as I can find. My navy blue suit is from Reiss. I love their tailoring, and when I was shopping for a suit, I literally went to every store in Birmingham before finding this little piece of magic in Reiss. 

I actually own two skirts, so I can send one to the dry cleaners and still have a full suit. I'm much less likely to spill something on my jacket, but you can guarantee that I'll need to send my skirt to the dry cleaners the day before a court appearance or a very formal client meeting. 



Currently I wear this Reiss button-back top in cream with my suit. I love this top, but had to size it down a little to give it the slightly more fitted look. I also own this top in navy blue and wear it a lot with jeans! 

Reiss also did this in red originally, but they had sold out by the time I was ready to buy it (and it has not yet appeared in their outlet, much to my disappointment). 



Again, to give this outfit a more formal feel, I'm on the lookout for the perfect white shirt. I'm currently considering this Fitted Shirt from TM Lewin, although I'm tempted by this Pleated Front Shirt, also from TM Lewin. I can't decide if I'll regret it when the pleats need ironing for the 50th time. 




The only other item on my wish list? These Karen Millen Court Shoes in Navy Blue


Now I know that these are quite a way down the priority list! I already have nude court shoes which are completely fine with this suit, but I must admit, they are the perfect navy, which I have been looking for, for what seems like forever! 


Outfit 3:

I love this Karen Millen pencil dress. The black parts are matt but the champagne/oyster parts are a silky/satin material. 




I think, given the items in my wish list to finalise the cream dress, I don't actually need to add anything to my list to finish off this dress. 


Outfit 4:

The same goes for this Karen Miller black checked pencil skirt (are you spotting a theme yet?). The white shirt and the black blazer listed above will happy finish off this outfit without me having to add more to the list. My bank balance will be very happy about that! 

Coat:

I'm a little unsettled with a coat choice at the moment. I have a smart trench coat for the summer, but I just don't feel smart in the parka I had last winter. 

I am lusting after a smart wool coat, but it seems to be a little early in the season for winter coats to have hit the shops and I'm struggling to find anything I really like. 

Also, given I'm going back to work at the end of March, I doubt I'll get much use out of a warm wool coat until next winter. So I might save my pennies and wait until the winter collections come out next year. 


Shopping List:

So that's seven items on the shopping list to complete my work wardrobe. While it is quite a lot, given I only work three days a week, its definitely something I can work towards. I'm excited to get back into my work wardrobe, having given it a new lease of life.