Thursday, November 25, 2010

Memoirs of an English (and French) adventure...Puttin' on the Ritz

B & G in London making sure we are not lost!!
I was born to take tea at the Ritz, I am certain of it. So when my cousin G suggested that my other cousin B, G and I partake in high tea at one of London’s finest establishments, I almost tripped over myself with excitement. I love high tea. There is something so decadent about leaving the little people with Dr Love, frocking up (I wore the 'outfit inspired by Grandma') and drinking as much tea as you possibly can in a short period of time in the lap of absolute luxury. We had now been in the UK for five days and had yet to visit the nation’s capital. I was also yet to buy anything since we had arrived and between you me and your local Lipton plantation I was starting to get a tad worried about myself. Suddenly after years of perfecting the art of parting with one’s hard-earned cash (and credit), I was reluctant to part with anything. What if I made a mistake and brought the wrong thing? What if I got so caught up with all the wonders on offer abroad that I forgot that red was not my colour and the E cups ceased to exist in favour of that double breasted woollen coat in teal green? Oh my god, it was Charlie Brown all over again.

The shoes B and I brought.  Such good taste.  Must run in the family.
Of course, once I stepped over the thresh-hold of the shoe galleries in Selfridges on Oxford Street I needn’t have worried. All the anxiety and self-doubt over my shopping prowess was immediately vanquished by how many pairs of shoes I could justify without having to resort to international post! In the end I settled on a single pair of navy blue patent leather heels with my all-time favourite mary-jane strap by KG by Kurt Geiger. B, who had avoided high heeled shoes for most of her life but who was also going through an image metamorphosis opted for the same pair, indicating her fabulous sense of style and impeccable taste in footwear! G, choose a simple but classic pair of round toed patent black leather court shoes by Office which worked so nicely with her ensom for the day that she broke them out of the signature yellow bag on the short black cab ride through town and wore them to tea.

B & G enjoying high tea at The Ritz
If any of us had built up any expectations of our impending experience with dainty finger sandwiches and miniature truffles, we were not disappointed. This particular shin-dig was everything it promised to be and more! Within minutes of being centrally seated in front of the gold gilded lead fountain sculpture of a reclining woman, we were soon snapping off random shots on the digital desperate to preserve the memory of how the other half lived and vowing to replicate the decor within our own abodes with a few chosen pieces from ebay. Oh wait, that was just me! As the tea poured endlessly from silver pots and the gentle tinkle of perfectly formed sugar cubes dropped from antique sugar tongs into fine china cups upon matching sauces, opulence was in abundance. Every day men and women from all corners of the globe adopted the airs and graces befitting the rich - pinkies in the air - and enjoyed the golden yellow ambiance of the centrally located Palm Court with its quintessential French furnishings and resident pianist. Even the ladies toilet was something of an experience with the narrow, plush pink carpeted stairway and free girlie products. It was a completely fabulous day for many different reasons, least of which was the final breaking of the great shopping drought. But for now, it was time to return home to Dr Love and the little people.  Apparantly they had smelt blood and gone for the kill! So with our specially ordered cake secured in its blue box – we simply could not eat another crumb and just quietly, if I saw another cup of tea I might just cry, we bit farewell to the Ritz and all of its elegance and began the journey on foot through the beautiful open parks about town to Paddington station and home.

All the fabulous treasures and treats at the Ritz, which I'm determined to replicate at home.  I love the Ritz.  Ebay anyone?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Click, click shop!

My FWM wrap dress that arrived today.
I am unbelievably super excited and surprisingly it has nothing to do with William or Kate or the impending royal knot and everything to do with the dress that arrived in the mail today!  When I was abroad I fell in love with a brand of clothing called Fenn Wright Manson or FWM for short.  I first discovered FWM at my new favourite fashion house-slash-department store, House of Fraser and haunted her racks every time I stepped across the thresh-hold.  What attracted me to this particular brand was in the first instance colour!  Whoever told Australian designers and buyers that one must wear nothing but blacks, greys and other assorted neutrals when winter hits has clearly never shopped in the UK on an overcast, cold and rainy day.  Seriously, if I heard one more person try to justify the lack of colour in fashion houses down under as an acceptable reflection of the season pre-holiday abroad I was going to take a match to every neutral I could find in the smallest wardrobe in the world in remonstration.  OK, so that’s a complete exaggeration.  I would never do that to any of my clothes but you get my point.  In a country renowned for its long and dreary winters stores all over the land were rolling out deep lush colours in every shade imaginable in protest of the darkened and colourless sky.  As I’m sure you’ve guessed FWM was no exception.  As luck would have it, the colour palette bore a striking resemblance to the more prominent shades on my colour wheel and understandably become the object of my obsession.  The fact that it also comprised easy to wear, classic designs in everything from frocks to cardigans was a complete bonus.  I’d been eyeing off this dress for the best part of four weeks hoping that would be reduced as had a number of other similar dresses in shades less flattering to my complexion.  Eventually it was reduced on-line by a whopping 50 per cent.  Imagine my excitement when I returned home to find that not only was it available in my size, but delivery to Australia was a scant £10 and as a non-EU citizen was completely void of the VAT (tax).  Naturally I ordered it.  It’s perfect.  The kind of dress every girl should own.  The only question that remains is whether I should have brought the brown one with the white dots too!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What I wore when I heard the news

It would be completely remiss of me not to blog about the prospect of a royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. In addition to being obsessed with everything British, I am also a loyal royalist and have been ever since Charles whacked a big blue rock on Lady Diana Spencer's finger all those years ago. To put it into perspective, I was eight! Who could forget the majestic romanticism of that time when a dashing prince (ahem) pledged his life, or at least part of it to a young princess in a dress from which fairytales are made? Certainly not a little girl with a still existing scrapbook of memorabilia! Needless to say I rushed down to the nearest newsagent during my lunch break and picked up a new scrapbook and newspaper to start a new tradition for the little people. I can’t wait for the glossies to come out next week. I’m going to buy them all.

Perhaps I subconsciously knew something wonderful was afoot in the land of kings and queens. Just yesterday the biggest of my little people, big girl cub, presented an old Barbie doll of mine in a miniature replica of Princess Diana’s wedding dress for show and tell at Kinder. Plus, we have just come back from quite possibly the most fabulous holiday in the world where we soaked up as much royalty as possible. Just think, if we stayed for a little longer, we too could have been caught up in the hysteria and returned with a tackey souvenir plate in celebration of the pending nuptials.

From a fashion sense, this poor girl will be forever held up to endless public scrutiny by every fashionista who dared adorn a bit of must-have bling. Already she is being compared to her long-gone but never forgotten mother-in-law. Did anyone catch William’s reference to his mothers’ ring (and I paraphrase) “this is my way to keep her close”...oh my god...brought tears to my eyes. I loved her too. She was the princess of my childhood and the princess of my dreams. When I was 12, I envisaged myself as a budding fashion designer and created a whole line of clothes around my all-time favourite Diana dress. I’m still obsessed with asymmetrical frocks but strangely am yet to own one! Chalk one up to Kate though, she looked absolutely stunning today in a long sleeve blue frock. 

What I was wearing when I heard the news

As if I wasn’t excited about what I wore today, then the news of the soon to be heard wedding bells ringing out from Westminster Abbey or whatever church the couple chose to pledge their troeth had me positively dancing in my new KG by Kurt Geiger shoes. I too was wearing blue, and considering two pieces of my ensom were acquired whilst in the UK, felt well qualified to be besides myself with delight.  If ever a girl felt the need to be glamourous then a cascade of frills and well fitting empire blouse with pencil skirt will do it everytime.  Let me break it down for you:

Blouse: french blue wrap top with frill around the neck line and empire waist tie. I brought this stunning and very versatile top – I wore it with jeans on the weekend, from Coast, a high street boutique on sale for £35. Very funny and successful shopping expedition actually.  My cousin got stuck in a gorgeous navy blue dress that she had somehow managed to squeeze into backwards.  Don't think I have laughed so hard or for so long in my life.  Ah the memories.

Skirt: Black elastane pencil skirt purchased six years ago from David Lawrence.  Every girl should have one.

Shoes: Airforce blue patent leather with Mary-Jane strap and round gold buckle from KG by Kurt Geiger purchased from Selfridges.  More on those puppies later.

Bling: Cuff and ear-rings by Diva for $5 each.

You know, I think I’m going to like Kate. There is no doubt she has very big shoes to fill and the pressure of the saffire on her finger must be immense.  But, as I watch the William and Kate special on channel 9, I am filled with a quite contentment that this young monarch to be is a refined beauty with an elegance that is both confident yet humble, friendly but reserved and above all, real. I wish them well and every happiness befitting a young couple in love.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Memoirs of an English (and French) adventure...the Royal Borough of Windsor

St Georges Chapel.  Resting place of many known Monachs
and English nobility including Henry VIII and his BFF Charles
Brandon.  The little people liked it many statues
Dr Love had picked up something nasty on the flight abroad and barely made it through the Oxford adventure. So the following morning, my cousins B and G, myself and the little people left him on the couch and set off for a fabulous girls’ day out at the Royal Borough of Winsor. Ah Windsor. A little town so entrenched in British royal history –I am almost obsessive when it comes to the British, that it almost made up for the fact that despite being in the UK for three whole days, I had yet to shop! So unlike me I know but there was so much to see and so many old buildings and castles to do that I was strangely content to bide both my time and my ahem...budget! Visiting Windsor and particular Windsor castle for the second time in seven years was just shy of receiving a Prada handbag at Christmas on the Richter scale of excitement. Not only was I walking the very same stones that were underfoot kings and queens a hundred times over and greeting the tombs of the known and not so known monarchs and their favourite nobility – hello Charles Brandon, I feel I know you so well - but there was a palace shop on almost every corner! And I love a palace shop nearly as much as I love a shoe shop! Go figure that one out!

The stroll up the hill and onto the Castle itself had us all breathless with the majesty of the imposing grey stones that towered and curved above and around us. If I was hoping for a leisurely stroll through the embellished and stately apartments that escorted us back to a time when heads rolled as often the fashions of the season, I was mistaken. The youngest of the little people, baby cub, had relinquished her pram at the cloak room upon admission and although was happy to be free from its restraints did not like being told where she could and could not run and oh wow, didn’t that gold gilded sideboard and big tall bed look inviting to an excitable dare devil! So, with screaming babe in arms it was a quick meander through the hallowed halls and a fleeting glance at Queen Mary’s dolls house and the centuries old portraits of monarchs for whom stories are told and television shows are made until we reached the end and could divulge ourselves of her not so pleasant nappy!

From the castle, we strolled through the pretty streets nearby searching for the Crooked House of Windsor; our chosen venue for an afternoon tea delight. Imagine our excitement when we found the tiny 16th century building right alongside the columned facade of the guildhall, the very place Charles and Camilla tied the royal knot five year before.  Believe it or not the Crooked House really was crooked and once inside rather discerning to those of us climbing the narrow stair case to the upper level in order to partake in a spot of tea.

We had some spare time before our train arrived in the afternoon so we popped into a few of the shops that lined the station concourse; an exciting experience on its own. It was here that I first discovered Hobbs, a sophisticated high street retail heaven that offered classic cuts and elegant silhouettes for the chic fashionista in all of us. When I considered the closest Australian alternative, the best I could do in comparison was Veronika Maine, only more refined and colourful with a cascade of rich teals, blues, greens, reds and purples. It was fair to say that I was in colour wheel heaven and would return to Hobbs many times over the coming weeks.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The most under-rated item in any woman's wardrobe

Check these out. These are my brand new walking shorts. I purchased them quite unexpectedly on Friday when I popped out of the office during my lunch break in search of a couple of pairs of magic knickers to replace the originals that didn’t quite make the trip home from the holiday abroad (RIP magic knickers). The acquisition was quite out of the blue but none-the-less on the list of required items that would supplement the smallest wardrobe in the world now that the sun has come out of hiding. I am a big fan of the walking short. I brought my first pair over seven years ago from a relatively minor yet rather pricey chain store that no longer exists. Every summer I tell myself that I should give them away (for no particular reason) and then end up wearing them more than any other item in my keep. Why? Because they look fantastic. They flatter my thighs and are cut in a way that they will never go out of style! Seriously, what was I thinking? Give them away! In my mind, the walking short – and by walking short I do mean those the end at or just under the knee - is the most under-rated garment in any girl’s wardrobe regardless of your size, shape or age. They are an excellent alternative to the skirt and although I cringe at the use of current the cliché – for the mum on the go – are a perfect and practical choice when one is required to navigate one’s way through a jungle gym in pursuit of your little one without showing off your Sunday best whilst still staying cool while one is at it! Add a pair of heels and suddenly your summer work wardrobe just got a whole lot better.

Like any piece of clothing (or accessory for that matter) let your body shape dictate the style that is best for you rather than the fashion of the moment. There appears to be an abundance of walking shorts on offer in stores at the mo – anyone seen the latest Sussan catalogue? But the vast majority of those I have seen in the last week appear to taper in toward and end just above the knee, which is no good for anyone! For most of us packing a few huggable curves around our thighs and bum or those with an apple shape look for a wide or straight legged short that end at or just under the knee. They will be even better if they possess a mid to high rise.

These little puppies are Yarra Trail and comprise 97% cotton and 3% elastane. Perfect for the summer months and even better for disguising the curvier parts of the post baby, chocoholic body. I brought them from a little boutique called Collage in South Melbourne for $75.00. I know, I’s more than I would usually spend and what’s more they were full price. Shame on me. But based on the seven year life cycle of the original pair of walking shorts from the chain store that no longer exists, that’s an investment of just $10.72 a year! And besides, they looked so fabulous when I put them on and added a pair of t-bar heels from Diana Ferrari that I picked up from Mathers for $30 (reduced from $160), the sales lady was overtly delighted and couldn’t put a pair away for herself quick enough. Ironic really...I just sold a pair of walking shorts to the sales lady I brought them from. Need I say anymore!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Memoirs of an English (and French) adventure...the beginning

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin. 
The largest of Oxford's parish churches and the
centre from which the University of Oxford grew.
It is hard to believe that it has been nearly a week since Dr Love and I and the little people touched down on Australian soil, tired and grubby from a 21 flight from Heathrow to Honkers and home again. At least I looked good even if I did smell terrible! A complete turn about from the journey abroad let me assure you.  I don’t know what possessed me to compromise my style whilst in transit en route to London all those weeks ago. I suppose I could have been forgiven for thinking trackie-dacks and a tee-shirt with runners was a reasonable combination in which to tackle such an arduous journey (remember the little people!) particularly after my rather public declaration that I would not succumb to my usual fashion concession as a tourist who walks a million miles from one hot-spot to the next in relative comfort aka a sensible pair of shoes. For some reason however, I spent the majority of the air journey in complete discomfort made all the worse by the realisation that discarded baby-food – and believe me when I tell you it was in abundance - lit up like the Christmas lights on the facade of John Lewis’s flag-ship store on Oxford Street when smeared upon black cotton. Thank god for the ‘most comfortable pair of jeans in the world’ and my new navy converse sneakers on the return. They got me comfortably yet stylishly through the English Channel when we travelled on the Eurostar to France and did not let me down 30,000 feet in the air. Needless to say the outfit of origin did not get another run in its entirety although the trackie-dacks got a reprieve in the evening because let’s face it; England in October is freakin’ cold.

Sheldonian Theatre.  Build in 1668 from a design created by the
exceptionally talented Sir Christopher Wren.
 Anyhow the memories from the family adventure to the UK and France are in abundance and there is plenty to share including what I wore when, what I saw and what I brought whilst over there (and when I returned home... don’t tell Dr Love). The capsule collection I put together to get me through the four weeks of fabulousness proved incredibly adaptable albeit mostly in blue – I’m going through a phase – and provided me with a rounded selection of everyday must-haves and special occasion separates. Knee length boots with a sturdy heel and trusty ballet flats provided acceptable alternatives (until I got the converse trainers) to adidas sneakers that between you and me and my local Athlete’s Foot have never felt right. While a selection of bling complemented the outfit of the day. I am sure if one ignored the back-pack and the camera one would never accuse me of being a tourist!

Where we went, what I wore and why I wore it!

One of the first places we visited, besides the local Slug and Lettuce for a meal on the first day was Oxford (day 2).  I wore a much loved Stella camisole with empire tie in one of my most perfect colours, teal blue, to celebrate my second visit to one of the most beautiful medieval cities in the world.  The last time I visited Oxford was late November in 2002 and I was dressed in a doona to ward off the artic blast.  On this occassion, I teamed the cami with my skinny jeans from Sussan, knee length boots (which I left abroad for my cousin to enjoy and return at Christmas when she visits – god love family) and a cute little cardigan I picked up from Review a few weeks before departure for $41 - sorry, forgot to tell you about that one!  This became a favourite ensome whilst abroad and I got plenty of wear out of it with varying substitutes. The camisole is a bit long for my body shape and risks cutting off my legs before they start. The cardigan however nips me in at the waist and hits me at the sweet spot just under the hip bone thus making my legs appear longer and counteracting the adverse length of the blouse. Clever huh!  This was the perfect outfit for climbing in and out of the big red bus (tour) and walking the medieval streets enroute to Maccas to feed the little people who were getting a bit tetchy after spending over an hour on the top deck of the double decker.  Great day had by all.
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