Good and bad buys of 2013

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You win some, you lose some. Wall wrap top

Well, with the new year upon us, I thought I’d give a brief roundup of my fashion fails (and successes) in 2013. 

I’m planning a bourse for later this month, which should help to reduce my wardrobe a little, though now that I’m costuming short films, I also need to put things aside for that.

But for myself, my wardrobe is becoming ever-trimmer – mainly pull-on straight-leg pants, merino teeshirts and various top layers. 

In the spring, looking at my buying log (yes, I’m a nerd) it seems that I focused mainly on underwear, buying camisoles from M&S and various types of knickers. The knickers were mostly a disaster, other than my go-to pants, the Sloggi full brief. Europe’s best-selling knickers, apparently, which made me feel a bit better about their hideous frumpiness. I now have about 10 pairs of these, in white, black and bright colours for a bit of cheer – great knickers, which are smooth, comfy and which don’t climb up your butt crack as you move around. 

In the spring I also bought the first of my Eddy tees, which are now the staple tee in my wardrobe. They have the perfect neckline, a lovely skinny fit and the fine, dense merino fabric is a joy to wear. I’ve bought one whenever I could afford one (they’re £45) and now have half a dozen. 

Other purchases were much less successful: I bought several pairs of trousers from Lands’ End that I had to send back as the fit on every pair was hopeless; some of the camisoles from M&S were OK and I wear them a lot, but others, in lace, have remained unworn, and two were such odd shapes on me that I gave them to a friend’s daughter. The lace knickers I got from M&S were utterly hopeless. I also repeatedly tried to order boots, without success at all, unable to find any wide enough in the calf to get up my sturdy swimmer’s legs. 

seersucker dress

In the summer, I had a little splurge on dresses. The style that suits me best is vintage – a very shaped v-neck dress with a small waist and a full, A-line skirt. This seersucker Thelma Ritter-style shirtwaist could have been designed on my body, it fits so well. It has little shoulder pads made from the same fabric and I just love the clever use of stripes. A blue and brown shirtwaist I also bought is lighter in weight, in fine, crisp cotton and I also bought loosecut linen dresses from Orvis, which are very different – a blue one is superb quality in thick, heavy linen with a lovely drape, while a pink one is much lighter weight. I like both of them, though, and in the August heat, they proved invaluable as, having sleeves, they could be worn without a cardigan, giving that lovely feeling of having only one layer of clothing between you and the outside world. 

In the summer sales, I also stocked up on basic winter items, such as a poloneck fleece and fleece trousers from Lands’ End, winter snow boots (bought the wrong size, like an idiot) and winter walking boots. The boots are fab but there’s no point in showing them here, nor the trainers I bought, as they’ve been discontinued. They are, however, the footwear I wear on a daily basis, as my feet are now very painful with plantar fasciitis.

Orvis jumper dress

I also bought a couple of Orvis jumper dresses, thinking to wear them over a poloneck sweater in winter, but they turned out to be hopelessly frumpy. If I ever want to channel my inner Amish girl, they might come in handy, but otherwise, into the costume pile they go. And a wrap linen dress from Hobbs, and a blue linen jacket from Adini both ended up with my friend M, having proved way too big for me to wear, due to poor descriptions by Ebay vendors. 

Autumn found me buying merino vests and leggings from Finisterre in anticipation of winter. The vests are fabulous and I’ve worn them to death – slim-fitting, long and very comfortable. The leggings, not so much – too short in the rise by half, so I won’t buy those again. I also bought a few pieces from Wall, such as the wrap top at top left, in my usual cotton jersey, and was able to enjoy wearing them before the temperatures dropped enough to make cotton an unattractive proposition. Wall is my go-to brand for ‘posh’ now. Among the items I got (a tenner on Ebay) was a pair of charcoal fine wool trousers, lined to the knee, tailored, with an elasticated waist and side zip. These have proved incredibly useful – they go with a nice Eddy tee and cashmere cardi for lunch outings, and can be topped with a sparkly cardi or urushi haori for evening. They are completely uncreasable and I’ve worn them for nearly every event over the Christmas season, as well as for trips into town. 

Dorothy Perkins boots

I also bought some boots in the autumn, as well as reheeling and resoling my existing 1990s boots at massive expense. Successes include a pair of burgundy leather mid-calf boots from Hogl and a turquoise suede pair from Rockport. Disasters include a brown suede pair from Monsoon, a burgundy suede pair from Dorothy Perkins and a black leatherette pair from Ebay, all of which proved way too tight on the apple of the calf, due to my gastrocnemius being too well developed. I have now given up on long boots altogether unless I can actually try them on – and at French prices, that will mean waiting a long time, as I doubt I’d find anything under 200 euros in this neck of the woods, even if I could find any wide enough. 

Aran Crafts merino sweater

Late autumn found me on holiday and thus able to enjoy the rare experience of buying something in an actual shop rather than online. Having saved my pennies, I jumped on this beautiful hooden aran cardigan from Irish firm Aran Crafts (the DH bought it for me in the end), and a brilliant wool and fleece toque-style hat from Armor-Lux, which I’ve lived in ever since. I also bought a new Armor-Lux tee in grey and black stripe, to wear in the spring. Armor-Lux tees are a big investment at 55 euros a pop, and I haven’t bought one for two years. For daily wear, though, I’ve found the Essential Crewneck Tee from Boden to be very good – I bought three of their grey ones in the summer, and tried to buy more recently, but found they were out of stock. A shame, as I loathe summer-weight tees and prefer my cotton to be substantial. 

Oxford collar cardi

Come winter, I bought myself a cardigan I’ve had my eye on for a long time – this long, Oxford-collar lambswool cardigan from Woolovers (but in black). It ticked all the right boxes: long, pockets, pearl buttons, etc, and I thought would prove a good replacement for my ageing grey cashmere boyfriend cardigan, which is now about 15 years old. It was a disaster. Not only was the fabric rough and the cut very roomy, on the following day I broke out in a rash around my neck that has taken weeks to heal – I’m guessing something like formaldehyde on the surface. I’ve since washed the garment twice and aim to do it twice more before risking wearing it again.  

Chastened by this experience, I headed back once again to Finisterre. This small, niche company has been the principal beneficiary of my spending this year, not in terms of items but in terms of money, as each piece is relatively expensive. I’ve bought the Eddy tee in black, grey, beige, jade, blue and pink; the Eddy longline in pink (wish I’d bought grey, as a more useful colour); the new Fiske heavyweight tee in navy (should have gone down a size); the Fiske hoody in teal; a man’s Portland Henley in burgundy (hideous on me – will have to dye it grey); vests, leggings and even Portland men’s boxers in merino (fabulously comfortable). 

At the close of the year, I bought more thermals – the 200 zip-neck top and leggings in red, from Swedish specialist Woolpower, which are merino woolmix with a towellette-weave inner surface, fantastic for bitter weather. Of course, following that, it’s been mild and our alterations to the house have made it the warmest we’ve ever been, so I haven’t worn the leggings at all (in fact, I’m not wearing thermals this winter, which is unheard-of). But there they are, for a rainy, or vicious day, just waiting to embrace me with their woolly softness. 

Leopardskin coatTeal velvet vintage coat

And finally, ahead of the party season, I went for some new coats (well, new vintage). This velvet leopard print with black collar and cuffs, is fabulously chic and has gorgeous buttons; my second purchase, a golden corduroy that looked great in the photos was a hideous mess in real life and turned out to be shabby and frumpy – in an almost unprecendented step, I sent it back to the vendor despite the high cost of postage; but the third, this deep teal velvet, is really lovely and almost psychogically replaces my old green one which my psycho ex-boyfriend destroyed 30 years ago. 




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