A Mother’s Day display

For those of you in the UK, its Mother’s Day this Sunday 6th March.  I’ve done another window display for my local Oxfam shop to mark the occasion.  I was inspired by florals, nature and springtime, and as per usual I had to get creative with the limited resources I had.

Here are some of the items I had in my arsenal: a cake stand, a Wedgwood tea cup and saucer, a 1930s silver-plated teapot, a cloche hat, a floral velvet burnout scarf, owl hand warmers, a china clock, bits of butterfly-themed accessories including a blue handbag, brooches, hair slides and trinket boxes, a blue cat ornament, and some books.

To pull the look together, I dotted origami butterflies in pinks and blues around the display, that I had made previously – if you want to know how to make these little beauties, I strongly recommend you look at Michael LaFosse’s Origami Butterflies book.  I also hung up a few butterflies on a clip-on mobile in the middle of the window.  I found some metal plant pots and filled them with artificial spring flowers in pastel shades, hung them to one side of the window and added MUM in cutout letters to tie everything together.

This is what I came up with:

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Charity Shop Chic

I’ve had a bit of a gold-rush this week with my buys from my local Oxfam shop.  It’s the best place for getting quality brands at a bargain.

First up is this burnout velvet scarf from John Lewis.  It is silver-grey and black with a floral blossom design and is a great winter accessory, especially for formal events! It was an absolute steal at £1.49.

Second is this gold sequinned scarf from Laura Ashley.  It is glitzy without being over-the-top bling, and I’m thinking of wearing it as a belt with the purple velvet dress from Jigsaw that I wrote about recently.  I got this for a snip at £3.99.

Saving the best ‘til last, and the favourite purchase of the lot is this vintage moss-green acrylic knit cardie from Jaeger.  I’m not entirely sure from which decade this hails, but looking at the label its likely to be from the 1970s or 1980s.   This cute knit is so evocative of that geek-chic thing that is in right now, and paired with my new owl print dress by Louche at JOY, makes me feel like a librarian!  Adding some block-colour tights in burnt hues and brown leather mary-janes completes the look.  And for £8.99, this find was a treasure.

Beautiful bodies

I’m talking about the bodysuit, a staple of the modern-day woman’s wardrobe (or at least it should be!).  I’ve been wanting one for absolutely ages.  Essentially a one-piece suit, the body solves the problem of the excess bulge of fabric caused by tucking in a top or shirt, and confers a sleek, streamlined silhouette on the wearer.

There are so many variations of the body, from 70s-style turtle necks, to wrap v-necks, to the more contemporary cutout shoulder and Bardot necklines.    I particularly like ‘Athleisure’-inspired pieces, which embrace clothing with a fitness focus such as these elegant ballet leotards from Ballet Beautiful and this strappy yoga one from Free People. Check out also this beautiful soft green one from Mango, which I’ve been coveting for ages!

I got this long-sleeved wrap body suit by Danish brand Just Female, from ASOS.  The geometric-patterned lace adds a modern edge to the ballerina-inspired wrap v-neck.  I’m planning to wear it with a red pleated midi skirt for impact  and a sterling silver circle lariat necklace to offset those bold black lines within the fabric of the top.

My Valentine’s Day

By my own admission I am not the world’s most romantic person, nor do I particularly like to build up Valentine’s day as a huge event, as I believe that one should show one’s love for their loved one every day of the year, and so on and so forth… However, I’m going to be a massive hypocrite and write about how I spent my Valentine’s Day this year.

For those of you who don’t know (and I suspect that is most people here) I got married last October to my boyfriend of nine years, and this Valentine’s is my first one as a married lady.  We’ve always treated Valentine’s Day as a low-key thing without too much emotion invested in it, and the various things we’ve done are exchanging small gifts, cooking for each other and going out for dinner.

This year, I gave my husband a lovely teal sweater by Kin by John Lewis and this cute ice-cream shaped chocolate.  He gave me a beautiful orchid from Waitrose and a box of strawberry truffles from Charbonnel et Walker.

As hubby was off by train to a conference in Newcastle late on Valentine’s Day, we decided to go for a relaxed drink first at the railway-styled GNH bar at King’s Cross Station.  I love coming here because of its vintage mirrored opulence and evocations of a more glorious era of train travel.  Plus the cocktails are to die for.  I had the deliciously sweet and sour Mr Cubitt whilst hubby went for a more classic Bloody Mary.

Onwards to Spanish tapas place Camino, @ 3 Varnishers Yard, just a short walk from King’s Cross Station.  The choice of dishes was staggering! Aided with a refreshing Cava Royale and soft bread, we finally managed to make our choices.  Everything we had, from cheese fritters to chicken skewers to squid ink rice with cuttlefish, was absolutely delicious and we were full at the end!  I’m afraid I’ve only managed to take pics at the end of the meal, as I was way too hungry to wait!

The Who Hits 50! @SSE Arena Wembley, Saturday 13 February 2016

I’ve been listening to the Who’s back catalogue over the last month in preparation for this gig.  I didn’t really know what to expect, especially as I’ve not been the biggest fan and only got to know their music recently, but I wanted to see them anyway, so we caught them at the start of their North American tour.  I’m not going to provide a critique of them as I’ll leave that to the pros, but all I’m saying is that they were absolutely incredible.  I was just amazed at the band’s vitality and charisma, and it left me with a smile on my face afterwards.  The only downer was when I accidentally spilled my glass of wine onto my new 501s in the process of trying to take a picture and had to endure being wet and smelling of cheap wine throughout the gig!

Might I add that I got another tee shirt? Yes, it was a Valentine’s gift from hubby, a navy retro ‘My Generation’ tee shirt.  I’m liking the distressed, worn-in look.

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The Vintage Traveller

Last week I put together a vintage display in my local Oxfam shop.  I wanted to tell a story with these wonderful objects that are loaded with history and have a story of their own to tell.  I had the following items: pieces of old luggage (including an amazing 1930s Abercrombie and Fitch suitcase!), a pink Stetson, an old Reader’s Digest atlas, a 1980s Roberts radio, an old sewing machine, an exotic ashtray, a steel glasses case, an Hawaiian-inspired men’s shirt and a beautiful embroidered folk-style linen jacket.  This is what I came up with, and I had a lot of fun putting it together!

It’s inspired by the Vintage Traveller, evoking an era where travel was much more about exploration of a beautiful world that held many mysteries, of the days of the glory and luxury of train travel and the Orient Express, where perhaps you could enjoy a martini before dinner, and where you dressed up to fly by plane.

For me, the best shop displays are those that tell a story, and on the same day I came across this one by Vans, depicting a burger van.  The display complements the launch of Vans’ Late Night Collection of fast food-inspired prints.

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Back to Basics: The Denim Jean

Let’s chat about the denim jean.  For many it is the staple of the modern-day wardrobe.  A key feature of the casual outfit, it transcends age, gender and culture and transforms an outfit instantly without trying too hard.

Since its invention and patenting in 1873 by Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss, it was intended to be a hard-wearing garment for manual labourers, but over the years it has become subsumed into popular culture.  Throughout the last 70 years or so, it has taken on many forms according to the culture and aesthetic of the time, and you’ll be familiar with many of these types – bootcut, flares, straight, slim-fit, skinny, high waist, low waist, distressed, ripped, boyfriend, girlfriend.  The skinny has mutated into a skinnier form, the jegging, designed for comfort and ease of fit.

Now, I have gone through many, many pairs of jeans in my life, since I started wearing them as a teenager.  I’ve tried the rigid fit denim, the bootcut denim that demanded high-heeled boots, the twisted Levi jeans in the early 2000s, the flared jean and the skinny jean.   I’ve also done the jegging. Whether through practicality, wearability or a particular faddishness, these have never really stood the test of time.  I have a bugbear with the skinny in particular – I dislike the ill-fit of the waistband and the constant need to hike up the waist to prevent bum fall-out (!).  I also hate the gradual wearing down of the crotch area that happens with stretchy material over time, and the loss of elasticity and structure in the waistband and the knees.  I’ve had to throw out many a pair of skinnies, both cheap and expensive, because of the limited durability of stretch denim.

So I was ecstatic to hear that the original fit jean is back, heralded by Julia Hobbs in last month’s British Vogue.   Skinnies are on the way out, so no more cheap imitation denim! Just back to basics with rigid hard-wearing denim.  Hobbs says that the fit to wear right now is ‘a high-rise straight leg, finishing just above the ankle’.

I recently bagged a pair of the original fit Levi’s 501s.  I got these Port Side ones for half price at £45 on the Levi website.  They are a mid-blue denim, with faded knees.  The waistband sits above the hip, with a button-up fly, and is straight down the leg.  The gently distressed hem of the jean sits just below the ankle, which is something I like as it gives the appearance of lengthening my short legs! However, if I want I can also roll up the hem.  I feel nicely held in too!  I could wear these with trainers or ankle boots for a laid-back look or heels if I want to dress it up.

I’ve seen some other versions of the original fit on the high street which look pretty good too.  Topshop has just rolled out their new season of jeans, and I’m quite liking their Mom and Straight Leg ones (note the Mom in Pretty Blue and the Straight Leg in Premium Selvedge) with their high waists and rigid denim.  Gap are also a great go-to for durable denim – check out the Real Straight and Best Girlfriend ones for a relaxed, authentic fit.

So there you have it, a revisit to the roots of denim! A friend once told me that a good pair of Levi’s will never wear out and that they should last you for life. I hope to hold him to that!

Paper Hearts and Roses

Valentine’s Day is upon us again, and love it or hate it, you can’t get away from it especially if you’re out and about on the high street!  To mark the event at my local Oxfam shop, I was asked to put together a window display.  Since last year when I organised my own wedding and made origami butterfly decorations, I’ve been into origami and decided to make some origami hearts to put up in the window.  I found a great set of instructions on origami website Origami Instructions.  All you need is some origami paper squares and a little bit of patience, and you will be rewarded with these dinky little hearts, which I made in red, pink and purple.

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I really wanted to make origami roses as well, but this was so much harder than making the hearts.  I had to concede defeat in the end as I was driven crazy trying to follow complicated instructions.  Origami roses are for the more advanced origami enthusiast and I still have some way to go to achieve that.  In the end I decided to cheat and went for a much easier solution, using these instructions from ruffledblog.com.  I cut little spirals out of origami paper and then wound them up tightly to produce these pretty swirly roses, which I then stuck onto a heart-shaped piece of cardboard.  The idea of the paper flowers on a heart came from this box frame of dried roses, which I put together from my wedding bouquet.

The final bit was putting everything together for the display.  With the addition of some shiny heart garlands, a heart-shaped frame of Valentine’s messages, and the help of another volunteer, this is what we came up with!

Time for Tee!

I am a massive, massive fan of the band tee shirt.  It is a great format for showcasing some of the most amazing artwork from music albums, and can be a way of publicly stating your love for a band and their music.  Gigs and festivals are fantastic places for picking up band tees, and there’s nothing I like more than buying a souvenir tee shirt of a band that I’ve just seen.

My new acquisition is this Hawkwind tee shirt from Cosmic Saint store on Ebay, who also have their own store online selling a cool range of tees.   The artwork is taken from the cover of Hawkwind’s album In Search of Space, designed by graphic artist Barney Bubbles, who also designed the covers for some of Hawkwind’s other albums as well as a large selection of musicians during the 1970s.

I have picked up a few band tee shirts along the way.  Two of my favourites are these Radiohead and Joy Division ones.  The Radiohead tee shirt depicts the simple yet colourful artwork from In Rainbows, which I got at their 2008 gig at Malahide Castle in Dublin.  The Joy Division one, with its ubiquitous pulsar image, is from Urban Outfitters, and has drawn many compliments from complete strangers in the street!  Both tee shirts have been well-loved, as is evident from the photos, but that, along with a loose fit and soft touch, is part of the relaxed appeal of a good band tee shirt.