Time to smarten up

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Two city trips in short order have given me a wakeup call about my wardrobe.

lime birkinI’ve been having a bit of a clothes splurge lately, on two accounts.

One, of course, is that for once in my life I actually have some dosh, though so deeply ingrained is the habit of thrift that I still can’t bring myself to look around an actual shop – all the following purchases cost peanuts on Ebay.

The second, though, is that I have a very important interview to conduct very soon, along with meeting my boss, meeting family I haven’t seen in several years, having a birthday party and meeting with friends I haven’t seen – some of them – in 30 years. And that made me realise that I didn’t have anything remotely smart to wear.

When we moved to France in 1999, I gave away most of my (40 – count ’em) work suits and of the two I kept, only one is really still wearable (the other is SO out of fashion that I keep it only for sentimental reasons). I could wear the old stone silk noaille one, but a girl likes to have options, after all.

I also gave my friend M all my smart jackets when I lost weight and OK, I’m cursing slightly, having put the weight back on, but it’s also true that I hadn’t worn any of them in years and the shoulders were getting on for too big. I don’t live a businesswear-type life on a daily basis, and my clothes tend to fall into the categories of pretty, practical or glamorous, but having to go to major cities several times in a few months suddenly calls for something a bit less casual and countrified, though still not too formal as I’m not that kind of girl.

Pink JC dresspink JC dressFirst up then is this pair of 1980s cotton-modal dresses by French designer Jean Chancal. These two dresses both have beautiful drape, lots of movement, pockets you can actually use, and a fabric weight that seems curiously lacking in more modern clothing. Teamed with one of my vintage jackets a cropped cardigan or shrug, I think I’ll get a lot of wear out of these even if I don’t wear them on my London and Paris trips. 

Boden crinkleSecond up is this flock of pink dresses for summer. The magenta one with a flower print is in crinkle cotton by Boden – great for travelling – while the pink one with little dots is also Boden but in silk with a silk lining – delicious for summer, it’s got some very nice details such as piping and a Boden silk dresspinkloopsdressdeeply flounced hem. The pink dress with swirls is linen. Again, all three would be great with a little cropped cardi or shrug.

suitI plumped for more vintage clothes with this hemstitched lemon linen dress-and-jacket suit, probably 1960s. It fits perfectly and will be great teamed with my new pink suede Russell and Bromley boots. 

bluesuitAnother dress suit, this time a dress-and-coat combi, I bought for alteration. The dress in its current style is way too Queeny but with a v-neck, new darts and a bit of trimming, it should come up nicely. I don’t have this suit yet and don’t know what fabric it is, but the vendor thought it was wool mix. 

pinksuedeshoesShoes are something that I find phenomenally difficult to buy. What I like I can’t afford and the current fashion for lumpy, clumpy, platformy, huge-heeled shoes is something I find truly ugly. The dainty, pointy and reasonably low-heeled shoes I like cost an arm and a leg in this neck of the woods, but are listed on Ebay mainly as ‘wedding shoes’ and fortunately cost naff all. This pink pair of Laura Ashley suedes are right up my street, and I’ve also ordered some Foot Petals insoles from the US to hopefully make wearing my shoes more comfortable. 

mint mock crocPink toteI’m OK for scarves and anyway I make them, though I did buy a zinging magenta one-dollar pashmina from China, and I have plenty of nice blouses, so I then I took a look at handbags. At one time I was quite reasonably off for these, as they used to be given away free on the ferry if you bought Duty-free perfume. But over the past 15 years I’ve munched through my lovely Texiers and Tulas and now suddenly realised with a shock that all I had left was a couple of cheap brown faux-leather totes, and one cream and black python Kelly bag that I had made for me 20 years ago.

beige ostrichTime, then, to search around for some decent leather bags and I’ve lucked into these. I like a bright bag that doesn’t match anything, and these look just the ticket for summer. These are: lime-green leather ostrich-look ‘Birkin’ (top left), mint leather mock-croc faux-Hermes, pink leather Jasper Conran mini-tote, and a beige real ostrich 1950s. 

watchLast but not least, check out my nifty little Cartier Tank-alike quartz watch with leather strap. One cent plus shipping from Hong Kong, so if it turns out to be crap, at least I haven’t lost my shirt.



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