Shopping | Pre Spring shopping sweep…

Since Spring and Summer have less trends to follow the potential of pre planning a season of clothes becomes infinitely easier to plan for. Whereas Autumn and Winter always seem to cost me far more in terms of money they are far less cohesive and organised.

In Spring and Summer however I have had great fun in developing a firm and simple style which is easy to reinvent year after year. For the past two years I have kept focused on simple lines and patterns, often a mix of white blue and grey and in keeping with this I’ve been on the outlook of similar timeless items with a couple of stand out pieces to invest in more exuberant, timeless summers.

Here are a few of my favourite emerging pieces…

The simple, timeless and classic

These are pretty expected from me but its always good to have the odd classic piece to carry over year after year.

Classic spring and summer pieces

Gingham Dress: Tu, Sainsbury, Chiffon Shirt: Zara, Denim Skirt: Next, White shorts: Topshop, Blue rain mac: Sainsburys, Paris Haute top: New Look

Fancy Pieces SS17

White Skirt: River Island, Floral Body suit: Zara, Grey pencil skirt: River Island, Yellow backpack: Zara, Blue off the shoulder shirt: Next, Red patterned Skirt: Zara

Fashion | Winter Layers and dark denim

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Pink Sunglasses: Tatler, Black batwing T shirt: Zara, Velore Kimono: Zara, Multi Knit Sweater Cardigan: George, ASDA, Brown Belt: Fat Face, Black Jeans: New Look.

Unlike most bloggers you might read, there is not one piece of this outfit you can buy off the high street right now. From free sunglasses from a monthly magazine to on sale denim from New Look 2015 its all about reusing those past seasons to make something new.

In terms of this look I have been thinking a lot about how to use the colder days to play with layers. Once it gets a little warmer I’m not such a fan of lots of layers, I get hot quickly and I like the freedom of running around unencumbered. So while its freezing (not necessarily so much right now) I’m making the most of it.

In terms of this particular outfit I wanted to play with proportion on the top. I love this jacket but I also know its perhaps a little too boxy for my figure. Trying to see how I could balance it out better I have layered my favourite black, velvet kimono from Zara underneath to elongate my figure where the jacket it cuts it.

One thing I have fallen in love with, within this outfit is the high waist denim and tacked in T shirts, this particular black one is quite voluminous so I tucked it in quite closely I love being able to look skinner than I am. Being an apple shape it is on occasion difficult to wear high waisted jeans because there is nothing worse than having a a giant arrow to the part of yourself you don’t want people to pay attention to and yet, somehow black denim hides an array of sins.

I wouldn’t say I’m a hundred percent sold on the jacket portion of the outfit, but I like the way the jeans and kimono out weigh its heaviness.

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Fashion | The Valentines day dress and the dress not suitable for summer…

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That dress though girl….

We all know I’ve let myself go a little as of late. I’ve let good dressing, and a great pair of heels fall to the wayside in search of comfort, minimalism and a more simplistic me but guys, that’s not me at all.

This Valentine’s Day me and Josh pulled out our A game for once. He’s taking me away for the weekend and I’m returning the love in way of outfits.

Yeah, you heard me. There’s nothing quite like a good outfit to say, I love you and thank you … I know I’m beautiful. 

_DSC0427_DSC0444 So why isn’t this dress for summer? Well heres the thing, I bought this dress for summertime, a classic breton stripe and funky sleeves? I had all the plans to wear this in Rome this September, a simple bag and sandals, I was so sure this was my dream summer dress. The only problem? Its winter weight, in scuba material in fact. So of course instead of packing it up in prep for summer, I’ve pulled it out to wear right now for a valentines get away! And yes, I am wearing it bare legged with christmas penguin socks. Who said seasonal socks can only be worn at Christmas? _DSC0431_DSC0443

Health and Fitness | Gym Attire and shopping plus size

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Suedette Hat: Zara Men, Blue Nike pullover (old), Purple Adidas top (I couldn’t find this online?), Workout tights: Next, Trainers (old) New Balance

Yesterday I discussed the awkwardness of walking into a gym feeling bigger than your comfortable with. As I found out, people of all shapes and sizes attend the gym so really its not something to be worried about at all. Going shopping for bigger clothes to work out in however? Near to impossible… offline that is.

Its not something I suppose you think of, struggling to find larger sizes but as we headed into TK Maxx to do you know what I found? XL accounted for being a size 14!!! In womenswear, to say I was horrified was an understatement! In the mens section however, there were all types of different sizes and their Large was a real large unlike the female sides which were truly lacking.

Thankfully the sports stores do think women over  size 14 exist but only to the size 18 in general. Shopping was almost like bra shopping for bigger chests, upsetting and disappointing. Honestly, the whole thing made me wish for a better shopping experience. I’ve been mulling one over for a while now and I would just like stores to be better accommodating to sizes and shapes outside of the mannequins, imagine feeling welcome no matter the size on the hanger, to find clothes made for you instead of putting yourself into a pattern.

Where I can suggest however, is sadly, online, Next have recently launched their own sports range for women, I love Adidas for good sizing, great quality product and affordable price tags and for something fun, mix it up with other store brands like Zara and New Look who offer fun athleisure wear.

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Health & Fitness week| Joining the Gym.

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We are joining the Gym*.

You heard the correctly, me on a treadmill. Now, I realize that this might open the floor to some comments like, don’t be silly, you’re fine! You’re a stick with eyes!

Well let me tell you guys I don’t need it. I promise, I love you all but I’m cool with honesty, I’ve let myself go and I’m about to make it up to myself.

Furthermore, if you do ever encounter a six-foot tall stick with eyes – Run! This is not a drill people; this is the beginning of the apocalypse!

Why now?

So how come we have decided on the gym life? We’ve never gone in the gym direction as a couple before instead prior to a string of injuries and moving house we were prolific cyclers and runners. I personally, love working out when I do finally go, I just tend to like it more, outdoors.

Before I broke my ankle in 2011 I used to run for about two hours every other day all around Deptford, Greenwich, Blackheath and Lewisham but post ankle break it took me a while to get back. In fact from about 2013/14/15 I had three near stress fractures on my metatarsals and I still suffer from a lot of metatarsal pain every now and then. Especially when I’m pounding the pavement, it made running outdoors, impossible.

Josh however, unlike me isn’t so attached to the outdoor exercising life, in fact when I met Josh he was a full blown gym addict. He of course was super excited about going back, its where he feels comfortable getting a full workout.

My unexpected reaction

I won’t fob you off, when Josh suggested it, I cried in the middle of our kitchen. A strong reaction right? But I realized that feeling ‘big’ can be a big restriction in feeling comfortable enough to attend. Would I be judged? I’d met enough mean girls from attending an all girls school to encounter some more shouldn’t have been a problem… Luckily for me I have my best friend boo who has been a committed gym goer for ages to put my mind at ease. She let me know that most are so wrapped up in what they are doing they won’t be noticing me.

Now, I can’t lie I have done an awful lot of googling this past week or so to get the lay of the land. Especially since part of the problem is just that I have no idea what I am doing, but we all have to start somewhere, and this is going to be mine, deep breath, lets do it….

*We joined! Its was strange and all kinds of odd….

Fashion | How to make an outfit more flattering…

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How to make an outfit more flattering? Its simple, its in those pesky details!

I have recently decided that I do know how to dress, I’m just not entirely sure that I know how to dress my body sometimes. An outfit can work great in principal or even on hangers but sometimes on our own bodies? Not so much.

What I’ve been desperately trying to learn is how to A, not buy unflattering things (It should be easy, why is it sometimes its just not?) and B, make something unflattering, flattering. You might be surprised to learn that actually it can be done and sometimes, easily!

Whats unflattering on me, is the current trend for oversized knitted sweaters, If I’m being real, really I should stick with a v neck, fitted sweater or thinner cardigans that nip my waist in, they are far more flattering on me and simple and yet… there is something so appealing about being wrapped in a thick, sweater. I bought this particular one in the H&M sale a couple of years ago and its perfect for cold, winter days! So how do I make it more attractive? Its as simple as the following three steps…

1. Alter the proportions

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The shametuck is my first dressing, Bae. I feel like for my body I need to not have too many solid lines so by half tucking my sweater or t shirt it adds a little bit of flow and also does something similar to the next step…..

2. Distraction …

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You know forever ago when we focused on distraction? Or better said, bringing attention to the parts we love and distracting everyone from the parts we don’t. Now I don’t hate my chunkier parts but fashion is a killer on anyone over a size 10. Pulling up my sleeves seems ridiculously simple but it draws away attention from my bust and also highlights where my waist pulls in.

The final step for this outfit?

3.  Make the shape that best suits your figure

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Not only do I adore this faux fur stole from Zara last season but its the perfect finale to making my jumper go from frumpy to flattering. I find that having the v neck created by the scarf breaks up the wider parts of me and continues with the line from the shame tuck pulling all the elements together.

I am also finding that adding textures and different weights of fabrics also help in making an outfit more flattering when it might not be normally. It breaks up solid lines and diverts attention. Technically I should wear the heavier fabrics on my bottom half (your smaller parts can take more fabric) and wear the thinner, less complex ones – maybe with a detracting print on the top, but sometimes you need to wear something unflattering because you want to be warm, covered up and comfy, dressing rules be damned.

I cut in bangs, completely forgetting it wasn’t so long ago that I had them before…

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“When you were a kid, did you ever have a flash image of who you would/might be one day? Not quite a plan, but more a premonition? In mine, I had bangs. 2016 sucked but 2017? It might just be the year that everything changes and in the meanwhile, fall right into place.”

Post-wedding hair meant that I had very long, natural brown hair with barely a layer cut in. Too lazy to make a post wedding haircut I left it growing until it was so long and unmanageable that I had taken to wrapping it thousands of times around itself into a bun.

Finally four months later on a whim I made an appointment with a hairdresser, I was at least getting a trim. Something however, made me think about a fringe.

When I was a lot younger I had a vision of myself as an adult. In it I was striding towards the post box (of all things) in my hometown of Hitchin. That part of the vision is more than likely attributed to my mother. The amount of times I came into town to see my mum on a post office/bank run is unreal. However, when I saw myself I was wearing a dark trouser/pant suit (I don’t see that particular look in my future) but I had long, straight hair and a fringe/bangs.

I don’t know why but after 2016 and the four episodes of Gilmore Girls: A year in the life, I felt almost as if it was time to bring that vision of myself to life. As a kid I kept that vision as a placeholder of who I would eventually become. As you can guess it said nothing about what I would do or who I am in the slightest just that that person would be content and happy and so, if 2017 should achieve just one thing its that we should all be happy.

So I cut a fringe in and so far, I couldn’t be happier that I did.

Marriage | When did my name become somehow attached to my identity?

Marriage | When did my name become somehow attached to my identity?

Wedding 2016 c/o Lauren Dewar  Sung Blue Photography

Photo by Lauren Dewar (Sung Blue Photography)

As a kid I loathed the fact that when presented with more than one Jessica in the room that I would always get stuck with the full name. Cooler girls with my name became Jess’s or Jessie’s and although I’m only gonna let Josh, my parents and grandparents get away with Jessie (it’s almost too personal). I began to associate Jessica with my younger self. The me who had zero confidence, or who would just willingly flatten herself into corners for everyone else.

In fact, it wasn’t until I got into university that I got bulshy with insisting I’m Jess, giving my best mortally offended face to anyone even thinking about uttering Jessica in my general direction. It was then that I began differentiating my first name to different occasions (formal occasions always Jessica, even when mostly I trip over my own tongue trying to say it).

However, when we decided that we wanted to be traditional post marriage I didn’t think twice about my surname.

I don’t view changing your name to not being a feminist because changing my name is not attached to being a woman but to screaming at the world, this man and I? We are a team! We are one!

I also couldn’t imagine our future kids having to suffer with a clunky double barrel or being confused by one is a Hawkins, one a Low. We took vows to be one another’s person and I could scream that from the rooftops everyday and night.

I didn’t blink, I scoffed at the bear idea of it staying, goodbye Low! It’s been a pleasure but when the time came to change it, I stalled.

We made trips in the name Hawkins and Low, two mini moons and I can only equate my stalling with my identity being wrapped up into three little letters. What happens to Jessica Low, when it’s Jessica Hawkins?

I’ve never scrawled it like a teenager over my notebooks however much I wanna hide Josh away from the world just so I can selfishly keep him for myself. I even planned my new signature so it looks basically the same. My world didn’t change at the alter either, my heart had already decided on Josh long before, this was the paperwork, technicality, but changing my name was the last hurdle I never saw coming.

I can only assume that this change was heightened because having grown up in a crazy close family who are almost on top of each other all the time in both space and similarities to now, living hours away from them all had created a divide in my identity somewhere as well.

Maybe in three parts, a scared kid, the one who grew up at university and lived with Josh almost straight from school and this new Jessica.

If I’m honest, I was afraid. My connection to my family has always been my biggest source of pride. I never needed famous idols when they were all real and lived a simple walk away. If I changed my name and cut that cord it was like severing something. Am I less a Low without the title? Will people no longer associate me with my family as much, with my mum? We share a smile but would that be enough for the world to notice I belong somewhere? For as much as I adore Joshes family to absolute bits and would chose them in a heartbeat there was still a worrying, nagging thought, am I no longer a Low?

All these years women have been losing their identities and I wonder now whether actually it is harder to take a partners name. Most men are against it and now women who previously didn’t have a choice are against it to. We view it like being claimed as someone’s property, but I was more afraid of not belonging to my birthright more than I was afraid of being tied to someone else. I’d made my choice, or my heart had, he has me but my family does as well. Who could understand me better than the people who made me… well, me?

From not understanding why you would keep your name I was posed with a problem, could I now get rid of mine? The real answer is yes I can. For me it was the insecurity of belonging pulling on my name heartstrings. After all, I consider myself a Philpott, a Jones, having plenty of traits from my grandparents than even they may realise but I’ve never carried these names, Low might actually be a state of mind. After all, I will always be logically minded, quiet in unfamiliar surroundings, able to talk to strangers about anything at the drop of a hat like my grandma … Changing my name ultimately doesn’t change me.

It’s just a name, just paper, so this past weekend I changed my name. Here’s to the next chapter, the next page, Jessica Low? Please meet Jess Hawkins. She’s the same chick I promise but here’s the thing, she has a husband now, her own team and she’s not so scared anymore.

Fashion | How to compose an outfit and work with wide sleeves.

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(very unlike myself, the moody photo. It gives all of us the laughs 🙂 )

Working with different lengths of clothing can make an outfit work better instantly. Clothing like art is all about composition and with the lovely wide sleeve having made a come back, now is the perfect time to work on your outfit composition.

When I was a teenager the style was for short tops and low rise jeans, looking at TV shows like Gilmore Girls at the time you can see how this made our silhouettes so boxy and because I grew up with that being the ‘look’ I sometimes forget the rules to dressing better and how to make an outfit more flattering.

Even if you are tall like me, making a slimline silhoutte works both for making yourself taller and slimmer. To create that line, you have some choices, in this case, the long, sleeveless blazer elongates my body making a cohesive line, even though its actually broken up between my skirt and my top. Furthermore the reason everyone should have a wide sleeve top in their closet is because it helps creating more flow. It reaches further down our arms (great for those shorter in the body also) and the wide sleeve gives more movement to the outfit which in turn adds to that length. no sharp cut off points!

To keep that length as well, this faux fur stole from Zara adds the perfect distraction as to where my skirt and top meet as the shape of it leads the eye down and over that cut in my middle.

If like me however, you need to at least give the illusion of a waist, belt outside of the jacket, or the longest part of your outfit, then either side of that line is the same keeping the overall length you are trying to create.

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Got a cold? I may have stumbled upon a way to save your sore nose…

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Advanced Night Repair Eye Gel+

The worst part of having a cold (bar a temperature and that sore skin feeling) is the red nose a few days in. There’s frankly nothing worse than having to see people with a nose like Rudolf.

Quite by accident however, I stumbled upon how to not look like you have a flashing beacon in the middle of your face and it started with eye cream.

As we well know by now I’ve been asking a couple of questions about skincare, like do miracle products work? Well I can tell you one thing, Estee Lauders advance night repair works! The night before I used this my nose was bright red and sore and the first thing I noticed was in the morning it wasn’t sore, looking at it in the mirror and it wasn’t even a little bit red! Success! So, how did I get here?

I’m not entirely sure when and if I heard it correctly but speaking with a couple of colleagues I could have sworn my boss suggested using eye cream on the bridge of your nose. Now because I wear glasses pretty much all the time I had developed an odd mark on the bridge of my nose. It just occurred one day and actually in using this eye cream there I can’t see it anymore! So I already knew it worked pretty well so on the third day of my cold when my nose was this horrendous red I just thought, you know what, I’ll try it! No harm, no foul!

I cannot tell you how surprised I am by this result, so much so I had to share it with you all! If we weren’t sure before this product works. It might not actually stop your face from ageing but it does repair, it does fix skin complaints and if nothing else that is worth the price in a way! This eye cream is not cheap, I think it is about £40 in the UK and it does last, it doesn’t run out uber fast (unless you are over using!) and apparently its working! So girls if you have a cold, wear glasses or just need your eyes to have a little lift this is the product for you!

Fashion thoughts | Sex and the City, Fashion full circle?

Sex and the City I heart Ny Therealjlow fashion full circle

In the final episode of Sex and the City’s season four, “I heart NY”, Carrie is wearing a gold, pretzel necklace. Could this look come back, is it back and are we just embarking on an infinite fashion loop?

Re-watching Sex and the City, (the TV series), is an odd show to watch almost twenty years later. Why? Quite simply it may have just stopped aging. Or at least the fourth season has.

Watch the first season perhaps and you’ll see clothes so dated you can understand its no longer 2017, but in season four? The last episode in particular, Carrie is wearing cropped, flared jeans in a mid rise and later a pretzel shaped necklace in gold. My first thought of course was, I have that exact same pendant! The only difference is mine is a bottle opener from Anthropologie, that being said it didn’t stop me considering hanging it on gold thread.

Then I paid attention to the pale pink chiffon top. It has a frilled bottom edge and two horizontal slits up the side, quite frankly its Zara right now and I can’t decide whether fashion has just gone full circle or whether Patricia Field’s vision has just only now become mainstream.

It’s an interesting phenomenon to see how all these things have changed and at the same time not. Fashion has cycled back around to whimsy, to fun, to finding a look through pieces that for once focus on details rather than just simple, clean lines.

Perhaps it is also proof that real, honest style is timeless. Its not necessarily bought from the pages of Vogue but rather our own imaginations of dressing to play a character. If I learnt anything from a Saturday afternoon watching reruns it is this, whenever you purchase something look outside the box, go whimsy, go personal and look for details, because just like the girls timeless stories, details never truly go out of style.

Or at the very least, they might just come back around.

Fashion | How to wear a leather skirt to work & other fashion statements

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(My coat is Zara, The sweater is Zara from two years ago, the shirt: Next, The Skirt: Next, Leggings: Topshop Tall, Boots: Long Tall Sally) 

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As we were walking around the stores in London’s, Oxford Circus one of my best friends, Becky told me of how she had been on the hunt for a faux/leather mini skirt but that she wasn’t sure whether she could wear it to work.

The answer is, in some cases maybe not, but in a lot of cases yes, you can almost always wear whatever you want to work.

Since I don’t own a neutral leather skirt I’m going to improvise with this silver number. Interestingly I bought this skirt on sale for £10.00 in Kent but when I walked past Next in London, I saw the same skirt but not on sale! Even better, it is still available online in silver+ and even better for those of you like Boo (Becky) who would like it in Black+. (Its also not going to break the bank and is perfect for those who don’t wear leather.)

Leather Mini Skirt from Next

So the big question, “How can you wear a black leather skirt to work?”

The answer is quite simple. To make each piece in your wardrobe more wearable you have to pay attention to how you style it. The key, in terms of the leather skirt is subverting expectation of how this should be worn. We all have expectations as to how a skirt like this should look, worn with heels, worn out to drinks or on a date etc but for work none of this applies. For work it needs to be made smarter and so we need to add those elements to the skirt to make it more wearable.

In this case my friend, Boo (Becky) already has a lot of these in her wardrobe. Becky is a big lover of the smart, collared shirt for work and that is the perfect place to start the transformation…

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I don’t often wear shirts like this because they don’t suit me that well, but imagine a smart, starched almost, white collared shirt tucked into your leather skirt with either a cute button up cardigan (and keep it buttoned up – I love this pearl embellished one from Zara particularly) and you instantly begin to look more polished. In this case, I’ve worn an uber thick sweater from Zara but a slightly longer one in a simple colour is great at keeping your outfit polished and put together. You also can often find that thinner layers look smarter than the thick jumper, if its a cold day, its worth saving your pennies for a long lasting cashmere sweater for these days. J Crew do an awesome array of super soft, cashmere for all occasions. Cheaper stores in the UK also include, Marks and Spencer & Supermarket, Tesco.

In terms of the shirt you can make the look more preppy by keeping it fitted and tucked in or loosen the look up by choosing a longer one that has a loose, less structured fit.

The roll neck/turtleneck

My bosses very favourite piece of clothing, the roll neck is also perfect for wearing with a leather skirt. Just take a look here+ at ASOS where if you search the word Leather skirt the looks available to you mainly involve that classic turtleneck look. This type of look also works because it makes you more covered up, something often associated with looking workwear appropriate. By covering up your chest and neck you balance out the over the knee skirt and appear more professional.

Of course, the best thing you can do is add a thick pair of tights, a boot (I prefer ankle boots but just under the knee works as well – over the knee less so). Better still, if you find a look that works for you, you can also wear it in different colours, for instance a black leather skirt and rollneck looks just as great together as this silver skirt will/would look with a grey rollneck.

Shopping leather skirts for work

White shirt from earlier (ASOS), Pearl Cardigan: Zara, Black Leather Skirt: Whistles (In the sale there was also a fantastic wrap leather skirt which was so tempting if I had more money to spend), another which looks amazing is this one+ from ASOS

Go longer

Another colleague of mine, actually the one person who made me so sure that you can wear a leather skirt to work, out at night and even to meetings is my colleague, Zip. Rather than the above knee number she sticks to a classic pencil skirt. I’ve seen her pair it with silk/sateen shirts to over sized chunky jumpers with suede tasseled ankle boots and she always looks phenomenal.

For something which is sometimes only associated with being sexy, worn only for dates and drinks and in St Trinians its actually a fantastically dynamic piece of clothing. On the weekend think about softening the look with a fluffy sweater, or give it some whimsy with a disney T shirt, or make it rock ‘n’ roll with a band T shirt, the options are endless!

Confidence 

The thing you need most is perhaps the hardest to find, confidence.

There is nothing quite like it when you want to make something work for you, whether its getting a new job or wearing a leather skirt to your current one, confidence will always be key. If you’ve not quite got it yet? The best advice is always, fake it till you make it and better still, the braver you are, the more comfortable you will become.