Thursday, December 31, 2009

My best bargain buys of 2009

As 2009 draws to a close, I thought I'd reflect on the buys I've blogged about this year and do a little round-up of my favourite (and most bargainous!) purchases. I've chosen my top three because whittling down a top five was tricky, whereas there are three clear winners in my book:
  • My £50 Chie Mihara sale shoes from Whistles* because I've worn them with everything from jeans and leggings to skirts and dresses, plus they are sooo comfortable to walk in
  • My £9.99 Perspex necklace from H&M because it doesn't look like it's from the high street and gets admired every time I wear it
  • My £2.70 vintage satchel from eBay because it's a well-made classic that just so happens to be right on trend for spring/summer 2010, too!
Interestingly, my top trio are all accessories. Which brings me to conclude that you don't always need to have new-season clothes to keep your look current - just pay a little attention to the detail instead. So, why not give your existing wardrobe a lift with a belt here and a scarf there? It's an inexpensive way to stay on trend!

On that thrifty note, let me be the first to wish you a Happy New Year for tomorrow! x x x

(* The Christmas tree was another bargain buy - £5 from B&Q's clearance pile! I just had to give an unwanted tree a home - just because it's missing a few pine needles doesn't mean it can't still look good!)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas!

I hope you've enjoyed my Advent-calendar countdown to Christmas - and that Santa brings you everything on your wish lists!

I just wanted to say a big thank you for your lovely comments and emails - and thank you, most of all, for reading my blog. Have a lovely Christmas Day x x x

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Day 24: To dye for

I fear this might be a bit of a Marmite dress - you'll either love it or hate it. And I LOVE it. This is going to be my Christmas dress this year - and beyond.

At first glance, it might look like a tie-dye T-shirt. It's anything but. This dress from COS is actually a luxe silk shift in an explosion of colour - think inky splashes of vermilion, forest green, taupe and blue. It's £89, but I'd put it on a par with a designer piece because the print is so unique, making no two dresses the same.

I've teamed it with skinny jeans here (from 18th Amendment), but I'll also be wearing it as a dress, too. It has a nice little detail where the back is just slightly longer than the front, which makes it hang really nicely. Plus, the riot of colours means that if I spill cranberry sauce or red wine on it, nobody will notice!

Oh, and did I mention that tie-dye will be a trend next season? Just take a look at Proenza Schouler if you don't believe me.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Day 23: Christmas posy

On the 23rd day of Christmas, my true love sent to me three golden rings...

Ok, there aren't 23 days of Christmas in the song (or three golden rings), but for day 23 of my Advent-calendar countdown I've found a truly great bargain for you: three gold-metal flower-shaped rings for just £7 from Topshop.

Each flower is a different size and the petals tessellate against each other to form a fabulous statement piece. It's similar to Alex Monroe's three flower buttercup ring, but a smidgeon of the £225 price tag! Of course, you don't have to wear all three rings together - wear them how you like and when you like. That's the beauty of this buy - seven pounds never stretched so far!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Day 22: Something lacy

There are a number of trends that cross over from a/w 2009 to s/s 2010. Underwear as outerwear is one. And lace is another. See-through lace in particular has been having a moment - from Prada a/w 2008 to this season's Stella McCartney.

I love that this £35 New Look dress (another piece from its Limited Edition collection) makes a departure from traditional black and I'm itching to layer its grey sombreness over some vivid brights, such as the hot pink above. Go the way of Christopher Kane and slip it on over a fluoro-yellow slip or go nude (in colour, not naked!) for Stella's racy looks.

Something silky underneath will certainly up the ante in the luxe factor. And, for added impact, why not sprinkle (by which I mean sew) a few sequins here and there to accentuate the lace? (I'm thinking silver or steely grey sequins here.) Trust me, when you sparkle on the dance floor, you will be grateful for that added little gesture.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Day 21: Sustainable fashion

I'm going green for day 21 of my Advent-calendar countdown to Christmas with this recycled polyester blouse from H&M. Yep, this pretty floral top is made from 100% recycled fibre from petbottles or textile waste. At £24.99 there's hardly any difference in price from a garment made of non-sustainable fabric, so help save the planet - fashionably. The added bonus is that you'll be right on trend with next season's florals.

I have to admit, I'm not a fan of polyester clothing (it's the texture and feel of it), but I do love the voluminous sleeves on this blouse - very Alison Goldfrapp, circa 2008's Seventh Tree album. There's also a sweet lilac and pale-blue recycled polyester shirt dress for £29.99, too. So, green is the new black... or should that be recycled florals are the new green?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Day 20: Oh la la

Underwear as outerwear is one of this season's trends but it's set to be big news in 2010, too, so get ahead with this saucy-but-safe racer-back dress from Oasis. In peachy pink cotton, there's enough fabric to cover your modesty, but thanks to the trompe l'oeil print it'll look like you've got your lingerie on show - as well as creating the illusion of sexy curves and a tiny waist.

From the Oasis Designer Collective, the dress is part of a range by Rosalind Keep, a freelance designer and London College of Fashion graduate. Inspired by trompe l'oeil and her love of print, Keep has produced a number of playful pieces that 'trick the eye', including a top illustrated with braiding, buttons and pockets to imitate a bouclé Chanel-style jacket.

The corset illustration on this dress reminds me of Richard Nicoll's a/w 2009 collection. But at £35, it's a whole lot cheaper! So go on, have a bit of fun with fashion.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Day 19: Home comforts

I know I recently said slippers are one of the lamest Christmas presents, but these Muji ones are the closest I've found to my favourite pair by Gap (which have long seen better days!). They're a bit plainer than the Gap version, which had a chunkier cable-knit and contrasting trim, but they've got the all-important suede sole and I'm quite liking the simple, utilitarian look. It opens up the opportunities for another weekend 'make it your own' project, and this one's dead easy.

Take one pair of Muji slippers, £9.95, and embellish them however you like. I've just quickly had a hunt around the house and found a flower corsage, some velvet ribbon and a heart brooch that Em bought for me from a vintage shop in Canada.

Sew or pin into place and there you have it - from plain to pretty in seconds. Obviously, for a matching pair you'll need two corsages/ribbons/brooches/whatever but there's plenty on the high street to inspire. Have a look in H&M or Topshop for some jewelled brooches perhaps, or try a couple of vintage buttons.

As for the subject of my ultimate slippers, which I found about five years ago, Gap hasn't seen fit to produce them ever again. I've been vainly searching year after year in the hopes that they'll resurface, so Gap, if you're reading this, please have a rethink. I can supply pictures of mine to jog your memories!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Day 18: Twinkle, twinkle

It wouldn't be party season without a sequin or two and this pretty number has to be one of the most elegant. I like its 20s style and the cloud shape tiers, but most of all I love the combination of dusky rose pink with matt gold. The matt is important - not too bling, not too shouty. Understated and chic are the key words here. All for £45 from the Limited Edition range at New Look.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Day 17: Velvet crush

I have a bit of a crush on velvet at the moment. Let me count the ways I love it so...
Its rich, opulent colours
Its sensual touch-me, feel-me texture
Its sophisticated, reassuringly expensive look
And add to that, the fact that it's a key trend this season, too

I think there's something rather decadent about wearing velvet during the day, so I've been searching for the perfect shift dress for ages. Need I say it would be the ideal day-to-night dress?

This one almost fits the bill - although I'd prefer a little bit more coverage on the top half for daytime. It's a close competitor for my Christmas dress though, which is why it makes day 17 of my Advent-calendar countdown. I adore the graceful fall and drape of the velvet - it's so flattering and forgiving, which makes this dress a blessing for all that Christmas feasting! And it's just £24.99 from H&M.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Day 16: I love the 70s

I was browsing the art & design bestsellers section in Selfridges the other day when this book caught my eye. Aren't those shoes on the cover amazing? (So much so I had to do a little photoshoot to pretend they were mine! Btw, the tights are £2.99 from H&M.) Made by 70s shoemaker Thea Cadabra, they're wittily named All Weather shoes.

Anyway, it got me thinking, what better Christmas gift for a fashionista than a glossy style tome? Especially one as beautiful as this. 70s Style & Design by Dominic Lutyens and Kirsty Hislop (Thames & Hudson, £24.95) is a visual delight, covering the creative arts in the 70s from fashion to architecture to graphic design. Get it from Amazon today for £13.97 and it'll arrive in time for Christmas - with free postage, too!

Here's a peek at the cool eye candy inside...

Sportswear - a trend in the 70s and set to return for spring/summer 2010!

(The 1976 French Elle shoot by Oliviero Toscani featuring Chantal Thomass's rugby shirt-inspired dresses is whetting my appetite for Sonia Rykiel's February collection for H&M already!)

This shot reminds me of Agyness Deyn's shoot with stylist Katie Grand and photographer Ryan McGinley for the autumn/winter 2008 issue of Pop magazine - Agy repeatedly jumped off a Manhattan fire escape, falling five stories onto a crash mat. She was black and blue afterwards but the pictures are sensational. This picture is actually from a 1971 Nova story, where the model is sent flying through the air in a fake-fur bolero, satin hotpants and rainbow socks - a look that wouldn't be out of date right now!

As well as being well-researched and informatively written, what I like about this book is the attention to detail - such as the patterned hardback cover that's hidden under the dust jacket. Sweet.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Day 15: All you need is... Or, to be more precise, this love lasso ring from brother and sister duo, Zoe & Morgan. It's like having a love tattoo emblazoned across your finger - and complements my Alex Monroe flower ring (below) perfectly. See, I told you I was a hearts and flowers kinda girl!

So, what is the price of love? Well, in this case, £70 for silver and £80 for gold-plate.

Don't worry if this is out of Santa's price range as love is all around... Topshop does a gold metal love ring in the style of P Diddy and Kanye West for just a fiver, with love spelt out in big block capitals and a diamante heart for the 'o'. River Island, meanwhile, has a gold metal knuckleduster affair for £9.99. Worn across two fingers, love is again written out in capital letters with the 'o' replaced with a chunky outline of a heart.

If you like the love lasso ring as much as me, check out the rest of Zoe & Morgan's collection. It's an eclectic mix of beautiful pieces, from quirky animal designs - including foxes, swallows, swans and serpents - to fine jewellery pieces, such as the poison ring made with semi-precious stones. But what I love best are the unique clasps on the necklaces, which take the shape of a heart and arrow or a lock and key. Trust me, it'll make you swoon with delight!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Day 14: The Christmas dress

Every girl buys a new dress for Christmas, don't they? This pretty prom dress is mine this year as, not only is it a sensational steal at just £15 from Primark, it's sweet enough for family gatherings yet sexy enough to dress up for a night out. In a textured silky fabric with sheer shoulders and sleeves , it has a flattering empire line and a bubble hem (thanks to the lining being sewn onto the edges of the dress). It comes in silvery grey, navy and cream.

Navy would have been my first choice (it's such a chic alternative to black) if they'd had it in my size, but grey is a close second. I've teamed it with my Tabio heart tights.

What I love about this dress is that it needs minimal ironing. It's in the kind of fabric (we're talking man-made fibres here) that you can just sling in a bag and then pull out again, still looking great and crease-free - which is perfect if you're travelling around the houses this Christmas. Oh, and the empire line is fantastic if you've eaten one mince pie too many!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Day 13: Chain reaction

I do like a bit of velvet and ribbon in jewellery. Day Birger et Mikkelsen did a beaded necklace a few years back where the beads were wrapped in black ribbon and the ribbon knotted between each bead. At £39.99, I passed it up and now wish I hadn't. Ditto the beaded and crocheted pompom necklace from Sonia by Sonia Rykiel. At £40 in the sale, I should have snapped it up immediately, but, yet again, it was something I let slip through my fingers. C'est la vie. There are always going to be shopping regrets when funds are limited!

One thing I didn't let get away is this necklace from M&S. Well, at £5 in the sale, how could I? I love the length of luxe black velvet ribbon that's threaded through the links in the gold chain and tied into a decadent big bow. Note, the bow doesn't go at the nape of the neck - I wear it at the front, to one side. It looks so chic, so Chanel (almost!).

I bought this necklace a little while ago, but I'm featuring it as day 13 of my Advent calendar as it's an easy piece to copy and it's been a while since I did a 'make it your own' story. So, here's one for the weekend...

The materials are simple: one gold chain and one length of velvet ribbon.

There are plenty of gold chains on the high street right now, from H&M to Topshop. Choose one to your desired length (longer is better in my book) and make sure the links are big enough for ribbon to be threaded through. The chunkier the chain, the thicker the ribbon you can use.

As for the velvet ribbon, pick one that is twice the width of the links so that when you fold it in half lengthways to wind through the chain, both sides are velvet. The ribbon needs to be as long as the chain and then some - you need plenty of extra length for a satisfyingly indulgent bow. VV Rouleaux does an amazing selection of velvet ribbons with a divine choice of colours and thicknesses and John Lewis is good, too.

Weave the ribbon in and out through the chain links and tie the ends in a bow. Job done.

Of course, the ribbon needn't be velvet. I've seen similar necklaces in the shops recently where thin strips of silk ribbon or leather have been threaded through gold chain. Just work with what takes your fancy and have fun experimenting!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Day 12: Rainbow bright

Hurry, these faux-leather shoes hit H&M stores yesterday! And, at just £7.99 they won't be around for long. They come in gold, too, but I'm loving the rainbow metallics here more. They're part 70s glam-rock, part disco-pop.

So, look no further for shoes to go with your Christmas LBD. These are the ones. With their 4-inch heels, you're ready to party.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Day 11: If you like it put a ring on it

There's something really satisfying about a vintage button. Maybe it's the quirkiness, history, rarity or detail that you find in an old button. It's exactly this character and charm that makes Heather Stowell's jewellery so pleasing. Inspired by her love of buttons, Ely-based Stowell turns something old (said vintage buttons) into something new (a ring, a bracelet, a necklace, earrings...).

My friend Em is a big fan of Stowell's work (we discovered her at Pullens Yards open studios a few years ago) and these two rings are hers. The vintage buttons are edged in silver, with the ring attached either by the button holes (as on the red button) or the loop at the back of the button (as on the grey one). Em paid £30 and £40 respectively for these, but the latter was a special commission using a button Em had found and fallen in love with.

The Stickman and I, meanwhile, had a button from his grandma Ellen's button tin cast into a sterling-silver pendant for his mum's 60th birthday. That's another skill to Stowell's bow. She takes a cast of a beautifully intricate button and turns it into a sterling-silver replica of the original. Our necklace was a one-off and all the more precious to have been made from something so personal.

So, if you're after something different and a little bit unusual, check out Heather Stowell's jewellery at the Primrose Hill Designer Sale tomorrow, from 10am to 6pm at St Mary-the-Virgin, Elsworthy Road, London NW3 3DJ. There's jewellery, pottery, accessories and homewares from over 30 designers, including Alex Monroe. Or you can contact Stowell on email at

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day 10: Clutch control

It's my work Christmas party this evening and I'll be carrying this crystal-embellished handbag from River Island. It's the ideal accessory to transform my office look from day to night. Who needs an outfit change when a few key pieces will do the trick, eh?

This boxy clutch is a future classic. With flat, mirrored crystal rods adorning the front, pewter-grey silk sides and back, and slick metal trim along the edges and curved corners, it's a beauty to behold - especially when the light reflects off the crystal. What's more, being mirrored makes them handy for a quick lipstick check, too!

The bag comes with a long detachable chain strap, but I think it looks best carried as a clutch, especially as its diminutive size (it measures 15cm x 10cm) is perfect for fitting snugly into the palm of your hand. Don't worry, there's space aplenty for your cash, cards, phone, keys and lippy.

It's a fab find for £29.99 as it looks a whole lot more expensive. Look after it well and it'll become a vintage piece you'll treasure in years to come.

PS. The nail polish is Chanel's classic Rouge Noir.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day 9: P-P-Pick up a penguin

The Stickman has a number of favourite jumpers which are as pristine as when he first got them (almost!). You see, he's careful to keep them as bobble-free as possible. Which is where this penguin-shaped Alessi clothes shaver comes in - or 'debobulator' as it's called in our house. I bought it for him for Christmas a few years ago.

It makes day 9 of my Advent calendar because I think it's a great gift idea - especially for bargainista fashionistas like you and I. After all, what better gadget for making your wardrobe look as good as new and for ensuring your favourite pieces last for longer? I find that carrying a handbag is one of the worst offenders for creating bobbles, so I'm forever borrowing Piripicchio, as Alessi has named this clothes shaver, to 'debobulate' my coats.

I love that Alessi has made this mundane household gadget - one that you'd usually find in those catalogues that come with the Sunday papers - into something fun and funky. It comes in a choice of cheery colours from red to blue to neon green for £23. If you think about the number of garments it can help to preserve and salvage, it's a worthwhile investment. And a cool-looking one at that.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sonia Rykiel pour H&M

The launch of Sonia Rykiel's lingerie collection for H&M on Saturday was a delightful French fancy of silk, satin, velvet and lace. I may have missed the most popular pieces by the time I got to a H&M store, but there was still plenty of underwear to be had. This may be down to the fact that Sonia Rykiel on the high street is never going to be as high quality as Sonia Rykiel in her boutiques. But still, her quirky style was nonetheless prevalent in this H&M collaboration, from the lingerie in her trademark stripes to the accessories, which featured oversized bows on Alice bands and brooches (both £14.99) to giant rhinestones on these cute velvet slipper (£19.99).

Now, while I've claimed the term Rykiel red as my own (for the distinctive shade she used in her knitwear), her undies were indeed emblazoned with colour codes. A gift box of three pairs of knickers each had diamante stones spelling out the corresponding colours of the underwear from Rykiel black to Rykiel pink and Rykiel violet. It's a cute stocking filler for £14.99.

The black lace corset, meanwhile, is very well priced at £19.99. It's not as luxurious as lace should be, but it is the key piece to get you ahead with next season's trends because come spring/summer 2010, you'll be wearing underwear as outerwear - yes, really. And, if that's the case, you might as well reveal that it's Sonia Rykiel lingerie you're wearing!

Day 8: All fingers and thumbs

This is the season of the elbow-length glove, so I couldn't let my Advent-calendar countdown to Christmas go by without a mention to this key accessory trend - it's a bonus for me as much of my wardrobe comprises coats and cardies with cropped sleeves.

My favourite black H&M trench coat will benefit greatly from these long fingerless gloves from Dorothy Perkins - or rather my arms will, given the coat's three-quarter-length sleeves. I'll be kept warm and cosy from fingers to elbow. And the great advantage is that I can read my newspaper or write without having to remove my gloves!

The grey pair instantly goes with all of my wardrobe, but I am very drawn to the lime-yellow pair. At just £6, I may just have to have both!

For an even more bargainous pair, check out H&M. The fingerless gloves here are just £2.99, although they're a little shorter in length and not quite so soft. And, if you fancy completely fingerless, ie with no thumb hole, look to Toast for it's super-long arm warmers. They're a little more expensive at £25, but they do look very chic.

Take note, these are elbow-length gloves for day - the evening requires something a little less woolly and a whole lot more sophisticated.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Day 7: You've got to have (French) Sole

There are plenty of imitations on the high street, but there's something special about a pair of French Sole ballet pumps, which is why they're day 7 of my Advent calendar.

Maybe it's the sheer luxuriousness of having a shop that's solely dedicated to one type of footwear. Or the vast choice of pump, from plain to patent to ponyskin (it's classic two-tone quilted numbers - very Chanel - have been sold out, like, forever).

Or maybe it's the drawstring detail that tightens the shoe to fit perfectly around your foot and ties neatly into a bow at the front. Or the pretty, pale-blue floral-printed tissue paper that lines the shoe boxes. And, that's before I even mention toe cleavage. Just take my word for it, there's a style to suit everyone.

My favourites are these Simple (that's the shoe name btw) leather snakeskin-style pumps - there's texture for interest, a go-with-everything colour and, most of all, an easy elegance to the shoe. I'm picturing them giving an understated all-black outfit a sophisticated edge.

They're a luxe treat at £75 but, trust me, they're a wardrobe staple that will prove indispensable. You can wear them with jeans, leggings, trousers, dresses, skirts, shorts... almost anything. And, they're handy to carry in your bag for a change of shoes when you need to run for the bus or your heels start to hurt. Now that alone is priceless.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day 6: Waffly good

I've never been a rugby or polo top kind of girl. Not sporty enough, lacking in sunkissed blondeness, the look never suited. So I've come round to thinking that maybe Breton stripes are my substitute for that casual, dressed-down piece.

There's just something so appealing about horizontal stripes and Gap's latest waffly incarnation comes with different width strips, as well as a row of dinky little buttons going up to the neckline.

I'm especially liking this festive red version. It looks as cute with a miniskirt as it does with skinny jeans - I recommend blue denim for both. Meanwhile, for serious slobbing-out days (I'm talking glued to the sofa with a stack of DVDs here), I've got the navy version and I've gone a few sizes up for a larger, roomier sloppy Joe look.

The top also comes in grey and purple, too. At £14.50 a pop, you can treat yourself to more than one - I did, and today is definitely a navy day!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day 5: Something to tickle your fancy

This was meant to be my 100th blog, but a last-minute post about today's Sonia Rykiel pour H&M launch stole the spot! Still, hitting triple figures of blog posts is a momentous occasion, so what better subject to dedicate to this landmark than my favourite jewellery designer: Alex Monroe.

How much do I love his work? Let me count the ways...
The exquisite detail
The quirky, cute pieces
The dainty, feminine style
The nature-inspired designs
The pretty themes for his collections
The fact that everything is all made by hand, right here in the UK
...I could go on, but you get the picture.

I thought I'd be decadent and go for a blow-the-budget buy for day 5 of my Advent calendar - it is Christmas after all. So, here's one for the wish lists: a beautifully intricate gold-plated silver ring from Alex Monroe's latest collection, The Peacock and the Crow, which has just launched exclusively at Liberty in London. It may be £180 but it's definitely a showstopper (rather like peacocks themselves).

Don't worry if you can't afford this particular peacock-feather ring though because, as promised, I've got details of the latest Pullens Yards open studios event and I'm sharing!

This weekend, Alex Monroe and his fellow south-east London creatives in Iliffe, Clements and Peacock Yards open up their doors, selling jewellery, ceramics, art, photography, fashion and more. I love wandering around the studios, seeing where people work and the origins of the pieces I buy, as well as meeting the designers themselves. The fact that they're kind enough to serve mince pies and mulled wine is a bonus! So, if you haven't started your Christmas shopping yet, get on down there.

Here's the all-important details: Pullens Yards open studios from 11am to 6pm this Saturday and Sunday at Iliffe Street and Crampton Street, London SE17 3LH. See you there!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sonia Rykiel pour H&M launches tomorrow

Don't forget, Sonia Rykiel pour H&M hits shops tomorrow!

Tuesday night saw the official launch of the collection. And where else to hold the catwalk show but Paris? At the Grand Palais, a star-studded gathering - including Jean Paul Gaultier, Kate Bosworth and Eva Herzigova - walked through an enchanted forest and a recreation of Saint Germain (the spiritual home of Sonia Rykiel), before being seated under a specially made Eiffel Tower to see a preview of the designer's lingerie and knitwear collections (the knitwear range hits stores in February).

Sonia Rykiel is the first guest designer to create an underwear collection for H&M and what better moment to unveil a lingerie line than just before Christmas? Especially one that comprises luxe pieces in silk, satin and velvet. Picture dusky pink bras, knickers and suspenders that ooze old Hollywood glamour, sexy black lace, Sonia's signature stripes... what's certain is you'll be seduced by the label's French elegance and Parisian style. As these H&M pictures show, this is Left Bank chic with a touch of ooh-la-la (look out for the bras with flower rosettes!).

Sonia Rykiel pour H&M lingerie is available in around 1,500 H&M stores and eight Sonia Rykiel boutiques worldwide. So you know where to go to start your Christmas shopping. Alternatively, get hinting quick!

Day 4: Festive frills

I love H&M at Christmas - even more so than the rest of the year. The reason being that the throughout the month of December, the high-street store offers one-off specials at ludicrously bargainous prices. Last year, I got a cashmere jumper for just £19.99!

The Christmas treat that caught my eye yesterday was this angora-mix sweater for a mere £7.99. Don't you just love the frilly shoulders? It is the season of the shoulder, after all.

It comes in dusky pink and black, too, but I'm loving taupe the best. Still, at that price, you can have all three! But hurry, they won't be in stores for long.

I've teamed it with an old Kookai dress, but I think it would look wicked with the rose-pink tutu from the Stella McCartney for GapKids collection (providing there's still size 13 XL left!).

Hope you're enjoying Bargainista Fashionista's Advent-style countdown to Christmas!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day 3: Christmas stockings

Slippers have to be one of the lamest Christmas presents, right? Well, maybe not if they're as cute as these Gap slipper socks - which is why they're day 3 of my Advent calendar.

I love the chunky cable-knit, the crocheted pompoms and the fact that they look so darn cosy. But, best of all, they come in a wealth of colours from teal green to pink to purple to red to grey - each with brown or grey fleecy lining, much like the cuddly softness of a teddy bear. There's even a bobbly teddy bear pair in cream, plus a knitted brown Fair Isle number, too. You're spoilt for choice. And for just £16.50, too.

Oh, and did I mention the soles are as smooth as suede? I hate it when slippers have horrid moulded-plastic soles. don't you?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Day 2: Love letters

Remember the days before email, text, Facebook and Twitter? When the postman used to deliver your correspondence in the form of letters and postcards?

Nowadays, in a society that's too busy to stop, it means so much more to receive a piece of post from someone who's taken time out to write. Isn't it nice to see a handwritten envelope lying on your doormat? That slip of paper that says someone is thinking about you?

That's why day 2 of my Advent calendar is dedicated to these vintage-style necklaces from Urban Outfitters. I love their hint of nostalgia, harking back to an era when love notes would have been lovingly bundled together and tied up with ribbon, kept in a drawer and often pulled out to be read and re-read again.

These dinky love tokens are charming. I like the simple envelope necklace with its hinged flap that lifts up to reveal a note. Take it out and it reads 'Je t'aime' (for Anglophiles, there's an 'I love you' version, too). And the heart detail on the chain of the postcard necklace (below) reminds me of the distinctive touches that feature in Zoe & Morgan's jewellery (where chains are embellished with hearts and arrows, or locks and keys).

So, let someone tell you they care by adding these Urban Outfitter trinkets to your Christmas wish list. They're just £14 a piece.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day 1: The bear necessities

I have a bit of a soft spot for River Island - it's where I cut my fashion teeth as a Saturday shop girl. So, it's only right that this Advent calendar idea of mine should launch with my first high-street love...

I'm a sucker for pompoms on hats and scarves and this woolly beanie is especially cute. It's already got celebrity status - singer Katy Perry was pictured wearing it while out and about with her beau Russell Brand just the other week. And it's just £12.99. Who said wrapping up warm need be sensible? Go on, have a bit of fun with your winter woollies!

PS. It's another appearance of the little red Gap cardie that started off this blog! Still loving the cute bows.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Let the countdown begin!

From the moment the fairy lights appear on the high street and the festive window displays are revealed, I love the excitement and anticipation of Christmas. It must be the thought of all the shopping!

So, to celebrate the festive period, I've got a Christmas special for you... Let me reveal Bargainista Fashionista's take on the Advent calendar. From 1st December right up to Christmas Eve, I'll be your personal shopper, posting a blog a day with affordable fashion ideas for gifts, plus a few luxe treats to add to your wish lists (it is Christmas, after all!).

So, if you see something you want, just forward the story on to friends and family as a little hint! Or, if you spot something a friend would like, why not play fairy godmother and alert their loved ones? 'Tis the season of goodwill, so spread the love.

Come back tomorrow and the gift idea behind door one will be revealed...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It's cashmere darling

Cashmere-lined leather gloves are one of my little indulgences. They're on my Christmas wish list every year. And Santa delivers, more often than not. That's because this luxe treat isn't budget busting. In fact, it's practically a bargain for the ooh factor. Think the softest of leathers, the finest of cashmeres...

And my gloves of choice? They're £25 from Marks & Spencer's Autograph range, available in black and brown. Sure, they cost a fraction more than ordinary leather pairs but, rather like silk underwear, it's what you can't see that matters. In this case, the extra layer of cashmere, baby soft next to your skin, that goes a long way to keeping your fingers toasty. It's an extravagance that's worth every penny - especially based on cost per wear.

If M&S was to up the ante on these perennial classics (and I've been a fan for many a year now), I'd like the cashmere to come in a choice of colours. If the high-street retailer can offer a rainbow selection of cashmere jumpers, why not this? I'm thinking pastel shades from powder pink and baby blue to lemon yellow and mint green, plus pop brights such as bubblegum pink, acid yellow, turquoise blue and teal green. Oh, and grey, too, please. Or how about leopard-print cashmere à la Christopher Kane? The possibilities are endless, but I'd take one in every colour!

As you can see, my current pair (above) has seen plenty of wear. In fact, the cashmere's now worn through on one of the fingers, so Santa, if you're reading this, you know where to go. But hurry, before the Christmas shoppers snap them all up!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jimmy Choo for H&M / Stella McCartney for GapKids: part 2

While I may have encouraged you to join the stampede of shoppers at the Jimmy Choo for H&M launch on Saturday morning, I have to 'fess up: I didn't actually make it. And, by the looks of eBay - with more than 2,000 Jimmy Choo for H&M items listed by the end of Saturday - many of those who did make it weren't there for the love of Choos. Luckily, there are still pieces of the collection left in H&M, especially with stores receiving a fresh delivery of stock yesterday.

To be honest, though, I wasn't blown away by what I saw - which is, admittedly, only a fraction of the whole collection, as most of it has sold out. I think the suede dresses in smouldering grey and electric blue look fantastic and the cage shoe I pictured on Friday is amazing. However, the fabric quality isn't great and definitely not enough to warrant the price tags. Take the grey leopard-print scarf for example. I had hoped that this would be the high-street equivalent of the iconic Stephen Sprouse for Louis Vuitton version, but it wasn't. Made of itchy wool, the thread count wasn't high enough and it was mean on fabric, too, so I certainly wasn't going to spend £29.99 on it. Designer label or not, this collection just didn't do it for me. But I hope some of you got some great bargains on my behalf.

I, meanwhile, have been trying to squeeze myself into more Stella McCartney for GapKids. With the second batch of pint-sized clothes hitting Gap stores yesterday, I furtively had a look today. The black knickerbocker-style shorts caught my eye, but I feared they'd be both too small and too revealing for my derriere. And, while I love the grey leopard intarsia cashmere sweater, it'll just look like I've shrunk it in the wash!

While I haven't got any shopping finds to share with you today, I do have news of a 30% discount voucher for Gap starting tomorrow, which is valid until 29th November. Get your voucher at Happy shopping!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Jimmy Choo for H&M

Tomorrow sees the first H&M designer collaboration to launch on a Saturday. Yes, the hugely anticipated Jimmy Choo collection hits stores on the busiest shopping day of the week. So, for those of you who have missed out on previous H&M collaborations because of their midweek launches, or had to take a day off to shop, it's got a whole lot fairer (unless you work on a Saturday, of course).

Heck, the high-street retailer is even talking about orderly queues and wristbands with designated shopping times on them for the first 160 shoppers to ensure it's a 'better shopping experience' (I did wonder how Choo mania would allow room enough for everyone - or anyone! - to try on all the shoes!).

Let's hope H&M has taken a leaf out of Topshop's Christopher Kane launch and has enough stock to satisfy demand, because if there's just one quibble I have about H&M's collaborations, it's that stock is so limited it sells out on the first day. So, given all the hype and publicity, the majority of shoppers just don't even get to see the collections.

Anyway, it's time to think tactics and prepare for tomorrow. Here's my suggestions...

1. Familiarise yourself with the collection. It's all online at the H&M website.

2. Read up on the 'How to shop' rules, as the wristbands only apply if you're shopping for shoes, bag and accessories, not clothes. (Did I mention Jimmy Choo has made a foray into garments for this collaboration? My money's on the grey suede one-shouldered dress at £149.99 being the star buy.)

3. Target your store. Doors open at 9am, but it doesn't hurt to doublecheck and do make sure that your H&M of choice is selling the items you want as the collection is only available at selected branches.

Then, on the day, get there bright and early - and I do mean early. Wrap up warm and come armed with supplies (a flask of tea and some cookies will do nicely thank you very much) and some friends (shopping in numbers always helps on launch days like this!).

Good luck and let the 24-hour countdown begin!

PS. The leather shoes and suede zebra-print ones pictured above are both £79.99.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Give us a twirl

Here's a cheap start to the week - a fun and flirty dress for just £19.99 from H&M.

I love the silky ruffled tiers and the slightly provocative length, but mostly I love the subtle pattern. Like beautiful Italian marbled paper, it also has a suggestion of snakeskin about it - perfect for a novice animal-print lover like myself.

And the good thing about this dress? It'll see you right through to spring/summer next year. Right now, add opaques and it's as sweet as can be.

It also makes a fresh alternative to the LBD for party season. Work the office-to-party look with ballet pumps by day and heels by night. Just make sure you spin it right round on the dance floor to get those tiers twirling!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Stella McCartney for GapKids & babyGap

Is it wrong to wear children's clothes... as an adult? Well, after someone in the office wore a glow-in-the-dark skeleton tee from Marks & Spencer's boys department for a Halloween party, I thought I might give it a whirl - especially given the launch of Stella McCartney for GapKids and babyGap today!

Don't get me wrong, I haven't got a hankering for kiddie's clothes, but with Stella being the latest in line as a Gap collaborator, I was curious to check out the goods. One glance and I was smitten - and I wanted more than anything to fit into it all! So, if journalists such as Angela Buttolph are willing to be filmed squeezing themselves into miniature Stella creations, the least I can do is a little Bargainista Fashionista research. After all, aren't kids' clothes meant to be cheaper?

Stella's collection for bambinos is exactly what designer babywear should be all about. Heavy on the use of organic cotton (natch) and cashmere, there are sweaters with sleeves that turn over into instant mitts, the cutest grey snowsuit with fleece-lined hood, kangaroo-style front pockets on tops, leggings and babygrows, Fair Isle knits and - as an extension of her days-of-the-week knickers - days-of-the-week babygrows.

Anyway, enough of the baby talk, as those items certainly aren't going to fit a grown up, and onto the girls collection. The grey cashmere hoodie (£65) is the one piece Stella says she and her team especially love and I can see why. It fits an adult! However, what I desperately wished I could shrink myself into was the cute corduroy smock dress with an all-over 'I love you' print. Alas, it's a stretch to even imagine it as a top - and a midriff-skimming one at that.

I fare better with the boys clothes, finding a yellow anorak (above) that's a steal at £40. I love the cheery colour - perfect for blustery, wintry walks along the beach. It's lightweight and the longer-length back with a snap-flap keeps my derriere covered, too. The only snag is that the sleeves come up a little short. But, in a 13 XL (the biggest size available), it does fit.

I envisage a lot of disappointed children out there as us adults snap up their threads! Still, there's another drop on 16th November if they (or you!) miss out on today's launch pieces.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or treat?

Do you remember these H&M cobweb tights that I blogged about at the end of August? OK, the picture is a little blurred, but I thought I'd share it with you because it makes me smile. I look like a crazy bird about to take flight!

Anyway, I was gutted when said tights had a run-in with the washing machine and were ruined beyond wear. RIP o lovely punk-goth, Rodarte-esque hosiery. You looked so good.

But, as a slight consolation, I sought comfort from the Urban Outfitters' spider-web tights that I mentioned recently. I have to admit, they're not as good as the H&M ones (which had finer cobweb strands and were more elasticated for a snug fit around the legs), but as a replacement they're pretty good. Plus, they were just a fiver in the sale (reduced from £12).

Cobwebs = the new fishnets, don't you think? What's more, they're perfect for Halloween. I'll be wearing them with this fab 'BOO' tee from French Connection (below, £25). I love the ghoulish font. There's also a monochrome long-sleeved version with 'EEK!' (a word I use often, though I don't think it's appeared in this blog until now) in ghoulish red letters.

Oh, before I forget, as a Halloween treat (as opposed to trick), Urban Outfitters is offering free shipping on all UK online orders. But you have to be quick - the offer ends on Sunday 1st November.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cheap Ugg boots

Remember my Ugg stockist of choice, Shudoo, that I blogged about last week? Well, I've got some good news for you... this internet shoe retailer has extended its 20% discount to include ALL brands. Yep, no exclusions, not even on Uggs.

The offer has been extended to 2nd November, too. But hurry, orders need to by placed by 12pm on Monday at the latest. Just enter MYSHUDOO at checkout to get the reduction.

Right, I'm off to get some more tall Uggs. Black? Grey? Or navy? Hell, I just can't decide!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pump up the volume

When my friend Claire emailed me a picture of her new Zara ballet pumps (below), I headed straight to the store... and fell head over heels for this electric-blue pair (above). Made of leather, it's snakeskin-style texture reminds me of a Lanvin shoe but at the more reasonable price of £49.90. Its vibrant colour is both a winter pick-me-up and reassuringly expensive-looking.

Zara's velvet pumps in the vivid shades of electric blue and regal purple are similarly luxurious and just £19.90 a pop.

As for Claire's leather pumps (£49.90), I love the contradiction of those rock'n'roll studs with the elegance of the shoe, the criss-cross pattern of the metalwork imitating this season's popular quilted styles, and the fact that they look strikingly similar to a pair by Jimmy Choo for H&M which aren't even available yet! (But take note, the Choos are £49.99 and go on sale on Saturday 14th November).

French Sole and Pretty Ballerinas should take note. As the go-to labels for ballet pumps, and charging a premium for the privilege, maybe they should be extending their repertoires to include studs and a little bit of attitude. I'd like to see some exquisite beading, too. We've had the statement necklace, so how about the statement ballet pump? I'm picturing a luxe gold silk shoe embellished with crystals and paste stones. What do you think?


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