Saturday, December 25, 2010

Make it your own Christmas!

For Christmas Day, I thought I'd bring you a thrifty idea of something to make: a seashell Christmas wreath.

Inspired by the wreaths in the windows of Cornish clothes store Seasalt, made out of mussel and scallop shells, this heart-shaped version is created out of corrugated cardboard and mussel shells picked up from the beach. It's practically free as the only other thing you need is a glue gun, which the Stickman kindly offered to operate (so, in effect, he more or less made this wreath for me!). Doesn't it look amazing? I love it.

I hope my Advent-calendar countdown to Christmas has given you lots of gift ideas for today – or a shopping list for the sales. And I hope my blog has helped you look stylish for less this year. Thank you so much for visiting, and for your comments and emails. It really is lovely to know what you think. In the meantime, I hope you've have a very merry Christmas x x x

Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 24: Bear essentials

Last year, I started my Advent calendar with River Island's bear hat. So I thought it might be quite fitting to finish this year's countdown to Christmas with the hat's 2010 model.

Following the success of last year's version, which became one of the most popular woolly hats around, with celebrity fans such as Katy Perry, River Island has issued a new bear hat (above) and it's available in cream, brown and grey for £14.99. Cute, isn't it? I particularly like the knitted ears.

And, extending the animal-themed headwear, River Island also offers dog, panda and racoon hats, too. They're guaranteed to keep your noggin warm and raise a smile.

As you can see, my Gap Christmas jumper is getting lots of wear (it's now £16.99 in the sale) – it's become a new favourite following the little red cardie of last year's post, which is also the very first thing I wrote about when I started this blog.

Oh, and don't forget, there's a week to go on my Win a Marc by Marc Jacobs necklace competition. Click here for more details and don't forget to share the Christmas love. Thank you!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 23: Cable-knits for feet

Gap and Bedroom Athletics slipper boots are all well and good when you want to lounge around at home keeping your tootsies toasty, but when you step out of the bath or the shower you want to be able to slip your feet into a cosy pair of slippers.

These ones by Fat Face fit the bill with their soft fleecy lining, cool cable-knit, velvet ribbon and suede sole. When I first saw them – on my friend Amanda's feet – I had to have them. They're £9 if you want them, too – reduced from £15 in the sale, which started today. They also come in a cream, but the tartan bows on that version spoil them for me. Though, of course, you can get creative and do a little customisation (see last year's suggestions).

Add your PJs and the Topshop kimono top and that's your Christmas breakfast outfit sorted.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 22: Turning Japanese

Need something to throw over your party dress? Look no further than this silky kimono top by Topshop for £50. In a peachy floral-print with batwing sleeves, it looks elegant enough to team with your eveningwear but chic enough to dress up jeans and a T-shirt, too.

Plus, with romantic florals coming in for spring/summer 2011, this will see you through to the new season. In the meantime, come Christmas morning, this kimono top can double as a semi dressing gown. Making your PJs presentable for breakfast couldn't be easier – or more stylish.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 21: The New Look lace

These lace wedges from New Look are the perfect party shoes. More comfy than heels, they'll ensure you're last on the dance floor (should you wish to be) and will look at home in the office, too.

With lace being a big trend this season, it's refreshing to see it appear on accessories as well as the usual dresses and skirts. It adds a touch of class to an otherwise simple black shoe and is the perfect accompliment to a LBD.

It also comes in navy and looks far more expensive than it's £24.99 price tag. And, if wedges aren't your shoe of choice, New Look also does court heels in lace, too, and they're just £7 in the sale.

The floral suitcase, meanwhile, is the Liberty-print one by Merci I blogged about in May. It has been reissued by Liberty with yet a further price hike up to £60, but it's selling well. Sold out online, you might still find it instore if the Christmas shoppers haven't beaten you to it – it is, after all, a delightful case.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 20: Winter woollies

Fancy something a little more festive than my Gap Christmas jumper (which is £16.99 in the Gap sale btw)? Well, how about this intarsia knit from H&M (above)? It's £24.99 and snow cute! I like that the shoulders are subtly padded and, alongside this season's fair isle knits, I love the pattern, too. It's right at home with the current snowscapes we're got at the moment.

And, if keeping warm is what you're concerned about right now, then how about layering up with this H&M angora knit (below)? Part cape, part jumper and part hoodie, I adore its cosy cocoon shape with slits for armholes, a front pouch pocket and the longer length. The peachy nude tone, meanwhile, carries on this season's love affair with all things beige.

I'm not sure if it's meant to come with a belt as there wasn't one, but there is a belt loop inside the back of the jumper. It can definitely be worn cinched in, in the style of my Zara cape, with the belt going around the inside of the jumper at the back and fastened on the outside of the jumper at the front. But equally, it can be a winter wrap that's as casual as it is chic. And for just £29.99, too.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day 19: The perfect handbag

COS is one of my favourite shops. I love the minimalist designs, the modern cuts and the forward-thinking fabrics. I don't shop there often, but when I do I look for a future classic.

This leather bag ticks that box. It's simple but ever-so stylish (note the flash of gold on the zip, buckle detail and detachable strap), its deceptively plain shape conceals three interior compartments and the soft, supple leather promises to age and improve with wear.

At £89, it's a classic that's worth the cash. I especially like that it complements both smart and casual wardrobes. And, it goes without saying that I love the separate sections which help keep the contents of my bag organised. Carry it like a satchel or cradle it like an oversized clutch.

As well as burgundy, the bag also comes in black with a silver zip, buckle detail and detachable strap. Btw, the Uniqlo coat is the one I blogged about earlier this month. As you can see, I decided the black version was the keeper. After all, my Zara cape fulfils the camel quota!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Day 18: The cat's whiskers

I'm a magpie for charms and trinkets. And I love it when something old is given a new lease of life. Enter jewellery designer Rachel Essex. She turns vintage buttons and charms, from the 1940s through to the 1980s, into quirky but cute pieces of jewellery. And the great thing is, each piece is either limited edition or unique.

Take this necklace. It comprises rare and individual components (from bakelite dice to ceramic and mother-of-pearl buttons), so no two necklaces are ever the same. Stocked in Anthropologie earlier this year, as a Christmas special Rachel Essex is selling it on her website for £30. So, not only do you get it for less than the Anthropologie price, it's one of a kind, too.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Day 17: Pierre Hardy wedges for under £50

Remember the Pierre Hardy for Gap wedges I blogged about in October? (Click here and here to see my blog posts.) Well, they're now in the sale! Reduced from £89.99 to £49.99. I couldn't resist getting a second pair, this time in khaki.

Generally, I find shoe shopping tricksy. You see, heels and I don't get on. My feet are too big, too wide and too flat. So when I find a shoe I like – and that fits – I shop as though I can't live without it. And, as my friend Ivy attests, the perfect shoe is hard to come by.

My Gap biker boots from last year are still going strong (and I wear them most days), so if my experience of Gap footwear is anything to go by, these wedges have investment buy written all over them.

Oh, and did I say wedges are big for spring/summer 2011? Get the tan suede and brown leather version and you'll be working both the trends for wedges and the 1970s in one.

PS. The Gap sweater I blogged about on day 5 of my Advent Calendar is now £16.99 in the sale. I might have to go back and get the navy one, too…

PPS. I love Gap's knitted slipper boots with faux-fur trim and pom-poms almost as much as my Bedroom Athletics slipper booties. The Gap ones are now £9.99 in the sale, reduced from £16.50, but remember, my Bedroom Athletics 20% discount offer is valid until 21st December 2010. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day 16: His 'n' hers fragrances

Fashion house fragrances have to be one of the most popular Christmas gifts. And they also happen to be the cheapest ticket to owning a designer label. So, how about this for a doubly thrifty idea: buy a unisex scent for the man in your life and then you can sneakily share it?!

My favourite is Maison Martin Margiela's Untitled. Launched this year, it's the Belgian label's very first fragrance. A floral, woody scent (thanks to boxwood, galbanum, bitter orange, incense, jasmine, cedar and musk), it was created by parfumier Daniela Andrier, aka the expert nose behind Prada's L'Eau Ambrée and YSL's Rive Gauche, who describes it as smelling like 'a huge armful of plants harvested just after the rain'.

As for the bottle and packaging, it's very Maison Martin Margiela: minimal and white. The flacon was inspired by 19th-century glass stoppered bottles and looks like it has been dipped in white paint. It even comes with its own cotton dust bag. Now how chic is that?

Untitled by Maison Martin Margiela is £59.50 for 50ml. Available at Selfridges in London and Manchester, Fenwick in Newcastle and House of Fraser in Birmingham and Glasgow.

For more unisex fragrances, check out the colognes at Jo Malone and the scents by Miller Harris. Both offer exquisite packaging, too.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 15: Monica Vinader friendship bracelets

Friendship bracelets have moved up a notch since school days. And these Monica Vinader ones are the most desirable. Precious metals mix with cotton cord for an understated yet beautiful piece of jewellery.

Available in silver, gold vermeil and rose-gold vermeil, there are two styles of friendships bands to choose from: the Fiji bangle and the Rio bracelet (both pictured above in rose-gold vermeil).

Add symbolic coloured cords (red for luck, pink for love, turquoise for peace, purple for prosperity, black for energy, nude for calm…) and this token of friendship takes on more meaning. Plus, the adjustable toggle cord means there's no fiddly catches to deal with.

Prices start at £78 for the silver Fiji bangle, £95 for gold vermeil and £98 for rose-gold vermeil, while the Rio bracelet is £98 for silver, £130 for gold vermeil and £135 for rose-gold vermeil. With affordable prices for something so special, they're definitely one to add to your Christmas wish list.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day 14: Sweet lips

I'm a sucker for packaging and Andrea Garland's lip balms in recycled vintage tins, pill boxes and compacts (above) have got to be the prettiest around.

Made from natural ingredients (shea butter, sweet almond oil, organic beeswax, red raspberry seed oil, vitamin E oil…), they're part of London-based aromatherapist Garland's handmade range of natural beauty products. Ethical, environmentally friendly and one of a kind, who wouldn't want one of these for Christmas?

They're available from Andrea Garland's website, ASOS and Liberty and cost from £16. The unique packaging softens the blow at checkout, plus once used, you can get a refill for a fraction of the price.

For a cheaper stocking filler, check out the new Vaseline Lip Therapy sticks for £1.99. Yep, your favourite lip salve in a tin now comes in bullet form, available in Rosy Lips, Aloe Vera (both pictured below), Cocoa Butter and Original. Get ready to pucker up under the mistletoe.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 13: Personalised jewellery from £6

If you or your loved ones can't afford a personalised Smythson notebook, fret not. I've found something better. Personalised silver and gold-plated discs from just £6.

Made by Violet Vintage, they can be stamped with an initial or any word up to six letters. I love the quirky gothic uppercase lettering and the fact that the discs are oxidised (so the letters go dark) to achieve a vintage look.

The 12mm discs are £6 for sterling silver and £10 for gold-plate, while chains start at £18.

While these discs are undoubtedly the bargain on Violet Vintage's online boutique, you'll find it hard to resist everything else on offer. It's a virtual treasure trove of vintage and antique jewellery (from late Georgian to early 1970s, including Victoria lockets and charms and Art Deco rings), reworked vintage items (brooches redesigned as necklaces, charms hung as pendants) and new vintage-inspired pieces.

The beauty of this site is that Violet Vintage has trawled all the antique centres, vintage fairs/markets/shops and auctions for you. So, with the legwork done, you get to browse the most carefully selected and impeccably sourced vintage and antique jewellery online. The best bit? You can find a unique piece at an affordable price.

Now, if you thought receiving a blue Tiffany box was special, then you'll adore Violet Vintage's exquisite packaging. Its signature deep violet gift boxes come with matching velvet pouches and even the enclosed notelet is as pretty as can be.

'My aim was to make it possible to have a truly special piece of vintage jewellery delivered as a gift for the same price as a nice bunch of flowers,' says Lucy Skinner, the founder of Violet Vintage. I think that she has truly exceeded that.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day 12: Velvet crush

On the 12th day of Christmas, Bargainista Fashionista brings you autumn/winter's big fabric trend: velvet. But this season you don't have to buy a party dress to wear it. From jackets to leggings, this rich, sumptuous material is everywhere on the high street.

For a variation on the traditional swathes of black, wine and emerald velvet, check out the folky, floral-print velvets at Next. I love the autumnal colours and the prices. With the floral-print velvet skirt (above) at £32 and the dress (below) at £38, it's luxe for less. I also love that the dress comes in petite, regular and tall – perfect for getting exactly the right length you desire.

Oh, and can I mention the cute camel jumper (above), too? A lambswool-mix in this season's hottest shade, it's perfect for dressing down velvet and creating a more understated look. Plus, it's only £28.

So, my advice for you this Sunday? For stress-free shopping, skip the shops and visit Next online instead.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 11: 20% off at Bedroom Athletics

The name may suggest something saucy, but Bedroom Athletics actually specialises in preppy loungewear. Think PJs, underwear, joggers and hoodies in the style of Jack Wills but at far more accessible prices. Oh, and the brand's biggest seller: slippers.

Yep, thanks to Bedroom Athletic's faux-fur slipper booties, the humble slipper has never been cooler. I like them because they're like wearing Ugg boots indoors. In fact, there's even a sheepskin style (below) that could pass for the Bailey Button Uggs for just £60.

The faux-fur slipper booties, meanwhile, range from £20 to £30. But, as it's Christmas, Bedroom Athletics is offering Bargainista Fashionista readers a 20% discount (on everything, not just slippers). Just use the promo code BARGAIN20. It's valid until 21st December 2010.

My favourites are the Marilyn faux-fur slipper booties in cream (top) for £20 (v surf-girl chic) and the Sienna luxury faux-fur slipper booties in mink (below) for £30. Btw, the argyle socks are from Uniqlo; you get two different pairs for £6.99.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 10: The cocktail dresses for party season

As promised, here's the story of my Lanvin for H&M dress (above), which featured in Saturday's blog about Save the Children's Killer Heels appeal; the designer shoe auctions finish today, so get your bids in now.

So, how did I get a Lanvin for H&M dress after failing to buy anything on launch day and without resorting to paying over the odds on eBay? Simple. I stalked the stores for returns. With a seven day return policy, a few pieces made it back instore, including this navy silk dress for £99.95. Not only was it on my wish list, but it was in my size, too. It was meant to be!

I love the gargantuan frills – they're glamorous without being OTT. And I'm impressed with the quality, though less so the gaping armholes which reveal a little more than desired. I like how blogger Susie Bubble has styled hers with a shirt underneath though.

If you're after a piece of Lanvin for H&M, there are a few items remaining. I clocked a handful in the H&M stores around London's Oxford Circus and Regent Street this week, including the yellow one-shouldered dress. And there's some menswear available online, too – although, sadly, not the merino-wool joggers I want so badly.

However, Lanvin for H&M isn't the only designer/high-street collaboration around. Over at Whistles, its third and final collection by London-based designer Roksanda Ilincic is available now.

Choose from 10 cocktail dresses inspired by the 1950s and 1960s, featuring Ilincic's trademark drapes in soft, fluid silks – many adorned with a froth of ruffles or a leather obi belt. They're a little more expensive than the Lanvin for H&M pieces, but a fraction of what Roksanda Ilincic designs go for.

'I wanted to continue the story Whistles and I started three seasons ago, with dresses that can be shared between mothers and daughters and which are desirable to many different ages,' explains Roksanda Ilincic. 'This time, they celebrate autumn in all its rich and beautiful colours.'

And my, what colours. From emerald green and teal to gold and dove grey, it's like a jewel-coloured dressing-up box. To echo the words of Whistles chief executive, Jane Shepherdson, 'Roksanda Ilincic has created a collection that is elegant, sophisticated, luxurious and extremely wearable, yet still retains an edge that makes it modern.'

With each dress named after a poisonous flower, what's your poison? I think mine would be Conium or Hellebore.

Hellebore dress, £325

Opium dress, £395

Laburnum dress, £295

Henbane dress, £350

Laceflower dress, £395

 Adenium dress, £325

Conium dress, £325

Nettle dress, £325

Lantana dress, £325

 Calia dress, £295. All by Roksanda Ilincic for Whistles

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 9: The £3 Marc by Marc Jacobs necklace

This has to be my bargain of the month: a gold-tone 'I love you' spinner necklace for £3 from the Special Items range at Marc by Marc Jacobs. Marc Jacobs for the price of a Starbucks? Yes, really.

The only snag is, for UK shoppers it's only available from the London store at 56 South Audley Street, Mayfair. But what better excuse to visit the capital and do some Christmas shopping? There's an assortment of Special Items, for men and women, including hats and gloves, T-shirts, wellies, umbrellas, wallets, keyrings and more, so you might just get all your gifts in one go.

And, for those of you who can't make it to the store, I'm spreading some Christmas love: I've bought a necklace to give away to one lucky reader. For your chance to win, become a fan of my Facebook page and leave a comment about this story on my wall. The winner will be chosen at the end of December.

PS. By becoming a fan, you'll also be entered into my Eclectic Eccentricity jewellery competition which finishes at midday on Monday. Good luck!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 8: Top of my Christmas wish list

Dear Santa,
I've been good all year. I've practised being thrifty and helped people look good for less.
Please bring me a piece of Alex Monroe jewellery on Christmas Day.
Love Bargainista Fashionista x x x

Yes, hints have been dropped to the Stickman (I'm lusting after the three feather bracelet), who did very well last year with the Meadowgrass charm bracelet (above). I have a penchant for charms and these gold-plated ones – the pea pod, honesty, sycamore seed, fern leaf and bee – are both whimsical and wonderful.

Now, before you berate me with 'Where's the bargain?', let's put it into context. An original, handmade piece from an independent jewellery designer that isn't seen everywhere on the high street with prices from £90? Sounds like good value to me. Plus, sometimes, a girl just needs to be treated! Ask Alex Monroe's celebrity fans: Sienna Miller, Kate Moss, Emma Watson, Thandie Newton, Emilia Fox…

Btw, if you're after something extra-special for your Christmas wish list and can bust the budget, check out Alex Monroe's 12 Days of Christmas (you see, I'm not the only one doing a countdown!). Special pieces have been created around the 12 Days of Christmas song. They're very exclusive, with one item released on the first day of Christmas, two pieces on the second, and so forth. Limited edition they may be, but highly collectible, too. Just tell Santa it's an investment.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 7: The day-to-night skirt

Sheer pleats are the way to work this season's longer length. Not only are they a refreshing change from heavy, woollen pleats, they're perfect for taking you from the office to the party, too.

I love how the prim pleats and demure hemline of this Topshop skirt contrast with the fluid, semi-transparent chiffon, making it a versatile 2-for-1 outfit: work skirt by day; party skirt by night.

Now, if you're worried that the fabric is a little risque for work, rest assured there is a short slip underneath. Plus, once you add black tights, visible flesh becomes a more reserved silhouette instead. (I've just worn the skirt with bare legs to give an idea of how see-through the material is; btw, the jacket is Jil Sander for Uniqlo and the shoes are M&S.)

The skirt comes in black, navy and wine for £38 and in silver and gold lurex for £45. There's also a maxi-length black version for £45 which looks stunning on taller figures. Expect this trend to run into the next season as more gauzy pleats crop up in spring/summer's colourful palette and prints. Until then, make sure you hit the dance floor in this – it's perfect to try out some of those Strictly Coming Dancing moves!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 6: The make-up that will change your life

For day 6 of my Advent calendar countdown to Christmas, I thought I'd let you in on a revolutionary beauty secret: mineral make-up.

How life-changing can some pots of powder be? You'd be surprised.

First off, mineral make-up is easy to use, even if you're not very practised. And, better still, it leaves you with flawless, radiant skin.

I love it because it's foolproof to apply (you just swirl the brush in the make-up, tap off the excess and apply with a circular buffing motion) and doesn't look like I'm wearing make-up. I just look like a new, improved version of me!

The price for such a miracle? £45 with Bare Minerals Get Started Kit. It's all you need to get going: two foundation shades, concealer, warmth (like a bronzer), mineral veil (like a setting powder), three brushes and an instructional DVD.

So, add it to your Christmas wish list. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 5: 30% off Gap sweaters

Everybody has a Christmas jumper and this one is mine (although this season's Fair Isle knits come a close second).

In killer tomato (Gap's description, not mine), it's got festive cheer written all over it. But it's got longevity well past Christmas, too.

Gap is offering 30% off all sweaters right now, so get in there quick and you can get this jumper for £20.65 instead of £29.50.

And, if killer tomato really is too deadly for you (although, trust me, it suits blondes, brunettes, ravens and redheads alike), it also comes in light grey and navy; the latter looks like a cool fisherman's jumper.

Style tip: to make it a bit more individual, make it your own by changing the buttons or take inspiration from the Gap love jumper I blogged about last month and sew a message onto the cuff.

I've sewn a heart in chain stitch on the inside of the cuff (below). It's really easy to do and only takes a few minutes. You could run with the idea and personalise any jumpers you're giving as Christmas presents with a hidden message for your loved ones!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Save the Children's Killer Heels auction

When Save the Children asked me to help promote its Killer Heels to Kick out Killer Diseases online designer shoe auction, how could I refuse? Especially as it meant I could do a photoshoot with my new Lanvin for H&M dress (more of this later) and these amazing Charlotte Olympia platform shoes.

In purple suede and pink metallic leather, they feature a front zip fastening with suede tassel and Charlotte Olympia's signature gold spider's web on the sole. Oh, and a 5.5 inch heel. Wow! And, if you're a size Eur 39.5, they could be yours (for a size gauge, I'm a size UK 6). Visit to bid and you could win yourself a pair of fabulous party heels while doing your bit for charity at the same time.


And, if that's not your shoe size, there are plenty more designer shoes to bid on, donated by the likes of Manolo Blahnik, Nicholas Kirkwood, Camilla Skovgaard, Jonathan Kelsey, Rupert Sanderson, Georgina Goodman, Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. Plus, emerging talent Rob Goodwin has donated a pair of handmade boots worth £1,500.

And there's more. Want to own Sienna Miller or Pixie Lott's shoes? Well, now you can. They and other celebrities, including Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Sadie Frost, Nigella Lawson, Samantha Cameron and even Jonathan Ross, have donated their party shoes to the cause. Plus, there's high-street offerings from the likes of ASOS, Kurt Geiger, Office and Ted Baker, too.

But hurry, as the auctions finish on Friday 10th December.

Bid generously as the money raised will help to stamp out the world's biggest child killer diseases: pneumonia, malaria, diarrhoea and measles. You can also help Save the Children's Killer Heels appeal by donating your party shoes – or buying a pair from your nearest Save the Children store. What better excuse to shop or party, eh?


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