The Post-Baby Stylist

Susannah Hebden from SHM Personal Styling in Epsom is blogging exclusively for Local Mums on all things style-related - for mums! 

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August 2013

Searching for a new signature style part 2

Following on from my previous blog on searching for a new signature style where we looked at how you feel about ‘you’, we now move on to looking at ‘you’ and the clothes you wear. 

People innately know what sort of clothes make them feel good, what makes them feel uncomfortable – both on the inside and the out. It’s very rare that people have no idea at all about what they prefer. 

Sometimes it’s just a case of listening a little more closely to your intuition. I find this to be true when knowing what styles and shapes and colours suit too. People may claim not to have a clue but in reality I will often find that given a little coaxing they do have a sense of what works well for them. 

So now we have the next batch of questions for you to think about and consider. As before write down your answers, make notes etc and revisit if needs be to amend as different thoughts and ideas come to you.  

What sort of clothes make you feel uncomfortable? Tight, restrictive, formal, girly etc?

What clothes make you feel good? Tailored, designer, relaxed, sporty etc?

What colours do you love? 

Do you like patterns and textures?

What trouser, dress, top, skirt or jacket style do you feel most comfortable in? i.e skinny jeans, baggy jumpers, boyfriend jackets, pencil skirts.

Do you already have a ‘uniform or signature’ style that you are happy with? Does it just need updating?

How has your current look or style been shaped so far? Has it been influenced by your friends, family, colleagues? Do you dress to fit in? 

What parts of your body do you like/do not like?

Preferred styles/style personality (Tick the two that you feel are most you):

Do you plan your outfit to the final detail, does everything have to match? Accessories, shoes etc. Are you always neat and tidy?

Do you prefer clean lines, classic styles and traditional tailoring?

Do you prefer a relaxed, sporty, outdoorsy comfy style?

Do you go for a boho/retro/rock chic look with bold statement pieces?

Do you prefer to dress head to toe in designer labels?

Can you think of a celebrity or celebrities that encapsulate your favourite style? 

If you have answered the above as fully as you can you should now be getting a fairly clear idea of what sort of clothes you like and dislike and maybe even a preferred style is starting to emerge. If you are having problem interpreting your answers however please feel free to send your queries and questions in to me at my online advice surgery.

Next time we will look at the practical things you can do to further develop and hone your emerging signature style.

Me-ed


July 2013

Searching for a new signature style part 1

It’s a well-known phenomenon amongst most premenstrual and post-partum (or otherwise known as VERY hormonal) women that making decisions – about anything, including what to wear, what to buy and even about what you like, can seem like extremely scary stuff requiring teams of experts debating the pro’s and cons of each minute detail and hell - may be even an emergency meeting of cobra just to be on the safe side. 

So I always recommend that women leave it a good 12 months after having a baby before they even think about revamping their style, image and their wardrobe. Too much is going on before then, hormones everywhere, sleep nowhere and body shape? Well God only knows. Things need time to settle down both physically and emotionally before any ‘change’ is advisable. Try and do it before then and it’s more than possible mistakes will be made and tears will be shed.

Eventually however, believe it or not your life and your body (and your mind) do start to return to something vaguely recognisable as your own. And when this happens I find many of my clients are left with the same style dilemmas. Who are they now? How do they dress for this new role of theirs? Do they have to wear a twinset and pearls now that they are officially grown up parental type people? Why do none of their pre pregnancy clothes fit them……..still?! Sound at all familiar?

Well you need to start right back at the beginning again. The beginning being ‘you’ and what makes up ‘You’. If you don’t know who ‘you’ are then you’re not going to know what you like, don’t like, value in yourself and others or the sort of impression you would like to convey to others about yourself. So start by asking yourself the below questions, scribble down your thoughts and see where your answer’s take you. And then keep them safe. May be revisit them and amend or add as you see fit.

How do you see yourself? – As successful, attractive, plain, shy, extrovert, serious etc?

What traits or characteristics do you like most about yourself?

What traits or characteristics do you like least about yourself?

What do you think your appearance is currently saying about you?

How do you think others perceive you? – if I were to ask your friends and family about you what do you think they would say?

What would you like to project about yourself to other people and the outside world? 

Next time we will look at how your preferences translate in to your choice of clothes, style and the outside influences that unconsciously shape these. 

For more information about the Post Baby Stylist, visit www.shmpersonalstyling.com

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April 2013

Seasonal Trends

Spring/Summer ‘13 is all about being bold. Being noticed. It’s about startling the senses with electric colours and in your face patterning and intricate textures. For the truly bold there is head to toe floral clashing prints worn together top and bottom. There are neon shades we haven’t seen since the high visibility jacket became a staple of the health and safety brigade. There are chunky stripes, large checks, huge ruffles and girly frills. Plastic fantastic has even made itself fashion savvy this season, gracing shoes, handbags and clothing with a joyful ‘perspexy’ abandon! 

But luckily -  back in the real world where women prefer not to look like glow sticks on the underground we have a much prettier and wearable take on the trends brought to us by the high street.  The trends have been stylishly incorporated into pieces, making them workable and very wearable for most wardrobes and looks.  Thankfully the eye watering hues have been toned down a little but nevertheless have retained a fresh, current and ‘on trend’ feel that women of all ages can wear.

My particular faves are:

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Frills – release your inner girly this season with a few strategically placed ruffles and frills. This uber feminine dress from New Look will flatter most body shapes highlighting the waist line whilst at the same time skimming over tummies with its wrap front.  Wear with either flip flops or high heeled sandals and big hoop earrings and you’ll look like a hot Latino lovely despite the dull, grey English skies.


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Neon – this citrus lace shift dress incorporates two of the season’s trends in one. This colour looks fabulous on warm, bronzed skin and would work equally well for day or evening wear. Dress is down with a casual denim jacket and flip flops – glam it up at night with metallic heels and a statement cuff. Most definitely a summer wardrobe essential


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Monochrome – If brights and neons aren’t your thing then go for a simple monochrome palate and you’ll still be bang on the money. This black and white skirt from Dorothy Perkins scores extra ‘on trend’ points with its chunky stripes and flattering prom style shape. Keep your top half sleek with a fitted top or clingy T so you don’t end up looking like a billowing plastic bag. Team with a pair ballet pumps or heels for a 50’s inspired look.



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Florals – Flowers are THE pattern du jour of the season. You’ll find them on everything from trousers and dresses to shoes, bags and accessories. This blazer from Zara would work equally well with a tailored Capri pant as it would a pair of jeans. To keep the overall look from getting too busy, team it with a plain T or simple white shirt. A great pair of heels would finish the look off perfectly.

Enjoy!


October 2012

The right coat for your body shape

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Coat from Zara £139

Now it’s turned rather chilly out there you may well be turning your attention to a new coat to keep you snugly for the winter season. But not all coats are created equal and are certainly not created to suit everyone’s unique body shape. So before you head to the shops cast your eye over the below for some style and shape pointers...

All figures: A narrow figure skimming three quarter length coat that hits on or just below the knee is both modern and flattering to most figures.

Hour Glass: A soft belted style is a great option for you and by accentuating the smallest part of you – your waist; you will instantly add a shot of old school glamour to your look.

Boyish Figure:  Go for a tailored, belted style or one with an implied waist to give you shape and curves where you don’t necessarily have them!

Pear Shape: An empire line style or one with wide lapels to balance out your shape are great for you. Shoulders must be well defined though – a slight puff or shoulder pad will work wonders for you.

Tall: The taller you are the longer your coat can be. A floor length style can look very elegant and dramatic.

Petite:  A belted shape that accentuates your figure works very well for you. Just make sure it fits snugly as any excess material will only serve to swamp you. Ideally it should finish a couple of inches above the knee to add leg length. 

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Confidence-boosting tricks

Doing the job I do I am constantly reminded how lacking in self confidence we women are. We seem to be programmed to always see the worst in ourselves before we see anything good.

I therefore try to encourage my clients to start looking at themselves differently – to detach themselves from their emotions a little and to see themselves as others do. 

And then to guide them through some self esteem and body boosting confidence tips. So instead of automatically assuming the worst when confronted with that mirror of horrors they really do start to see and appreciate the beauty which stares back at them from it. It really can happen I promise!


-        Don’t hone in on the bits you don’t like when looking in a mirror whilst trying things on at home or in a changing room. Stand far enough back so you can see the whole of you and remember that’s how other people see you – not just as a tummy or a bottom or a cleavage but as a whole entity!


-        Learn to emphasis the best features of your body shape. Work out if you’re a pear, apple, hourglass, rectangle and dress accordingly, showing off your great bits and disguising the less so.


-        The right colour always boosts self confidence. Wear a splash of something in a yummy colour (scarf, necklace, broach) next to your face to lift and brighten your complexion. You’ll be amazed how much better you feel.


-        Experiment with accessories. They are the easiest, safest and most cost effective way of totally transforming an outfit, giving an instant wow factor to your chosen look.


-        When shopping be daring and try on something you wouldn’t normally even consider. You may be pleasantly surprised and it could lead to a whole new look for you. If not? Well it’s always quite good fun!

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September 2012:

Autumn/Winter trends 2012/13

Mary Portas at House of Fraser £255

And so it is we creep ever closer to the end of the Summer that never was. Rather than wasting any more time looking longingly at the summer wardrobe that barely saw the light of day we may as well look forward and embrace the season that is to come with open arms. 

Chances are if you have ventured to your local high street in recent weeks you will have seen the shelves and racks full of the winter gear those that know (the fashionista brigade) reckon we should be adorning ourselves with this year. 

And as usual there is a dizzying array of trends and styles to choose from. But if you want to keep up with fashion's equivalent of the Jones’s here’s a pick of what to look out for. 

As usual I only ever recommend a nod towards the latest trends and fashions, rather than a head-to-toe thing. Select key pieces that will assimilate into your current wardrobe and help to keep it fresh and up to date.  Unless of course you’re going for the Edina and Patsy look circa 1995, in which case – go for it girlfriend!!


-        Leather: Gothic elegance hits the high street again - skirts, trousers, dresses, gloves. You name it you’ll find it.


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-        Embellishment and opulence: Velvets, brocades, jacquard silks scream I don’t care if we’re on the precipice of another economic depression, while bejewelled fabrics and layered lace only serve to intensify the anti-recession look.


-        Downton: Think Downton Abbey and the countrified gentry and you’ll be bang on the money. Tweed, jodhpurs, corduroy jackets and big chunky Fair Isle knits – go fill your shiny leather boots.


-        Trousers: You may think, like me, that the humble trouser has always been a key trend but you’d be wrong! This season strides of all styles are seriously hot. Leather, cigarette, tailored, cropped, slouchy, velvet, patterned...basically whatever you already have in your wardrobe so well done, you’re already there!


-        The waist: This continues to be a focal point for the silhouette and the easiest way to achieve this is with a peplum belt. Wear over dresses, coats, tops, and shirts for an instant fix of 50’s va va voom


-        Coats are big: Slouchy, cocoon, drop shouldered, loose armed offerings are the style du jour for outerwear this season. If you’re budget doesn’t stretch to a new coat this season then borrow your husband's…no matter that he may be a tad chilly this winter.


-        Colours: They are all cobalt blue and garnet (burgundy to you and me). Mix with neutrals to avoid looking like a bottle of Beaujolais nouveau.


-       Pattern:  If you fancy a pattern or two to liven things up then think rose bowl, oriental, optical illusions and power prints. Mix with plainer pieces to minimize the risk of headaches.

(Featured items: Coat: Mary Portas at House of Fraser £255 Top: M&S £199)

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Blog entry 11, 18th May 2012:

Dying to be beautiful? No thank you 

The June addition of vogue is something of a milestone in the fight against the use of size 0 models in the fashion industry. It declares itself to be part of a ‘Health initiative’ which is basically a pact between all the international editors of the magazine to only work with ‘healthy’ models. 

This is to include a ban on working with girls under the age of 16 and anyone who knowingly has an eating disorder. They also pledge to discourage designers from producing unrealistically small samples of their clothing. This is all encouraging stuff and no one can knock their intentions. So well done Vogue.

However look at the front cover of the edition and who is splashed across the page in all her glory? Kate Moss. The same Kate Moss also known as the ‘super waif’ and for spear heading the heroin chic look of the nineties. Not to mention of course THAT cocaine incident. Yes she’s a style icon – No she does not promote health and well-being or represent a good role model for my daughter. 

Me thinks Vogue needs to take another look at their holier than thou health initiative perhaps?. Or perhaps they just need a dictionary or may be people like Kate Moss don’t count as they’re clearly super model demi gods and aren’t real people. Either way – nice try Vogue but could do better.

I then flick open my daily newspaper and I see yet another article on how young children are being labelled obese by so called experts and authorities. Apparently their BMI (body mass index) indicates that they over weight by such an amount as to make them grossly fat. 

I then look at the pictures of these normal smiley rosy cheeked youngsters and wonder if the picture editor has made a mistake. But alas no, it appears that we live in a world where numbers and statistics rule and common sense doesn’t.  

Has anyone thought to tell these ‘experts’ that children all grow and develop at different rates?. Some carry a little pudge from toddler hood for longer than others. Doesn’t mean they’re unhealthy – doesn’t mean anything at all in fact. So just leave them alone to be kids and enjoy life. Do they not realise what damage labelling children at such a young age can do? I do.

As a young child I too was labelled as overweight or I believe it was put more – if I wanted to try out for the Royal Ballet School (ballet was my passion at that age) I was going to have to slim down. I forget what age I was but I remember the tears and the humiliation and feeling for the very first time how I hated my body - and felt disgusted to be me. 

To cut a very long story short, after years of therapy for an eating disorder later, I can without a shred of doubt say we or rather ‘the experts’ are creating a time bomb of eating disorders for a whole generation. On the one hand we have women like Kate Moss held up as a paragon of health and on the other we have normal sized children labelled as fat. 

Is it just me but something doesn’t quite make sense here – but then may be sense is the one thing missing in todays high pressure, red tape, beaurocratic, celebrity hungry  society. Then again it probably is just me!!

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Blog entry ten, 1st May, 2012



Taking Care of You!

Having to finally confront the reality of what, though not life threatening, is rapidly turning in to a long’ish term illness, is not proving easy for me. It doesn’t sit well. 

Having to say to people ‘ you know what, I just can’t do this at the moment, I’m sorry’ or taking the monumental decision to put my health needs before work has left me at times feeling A, pathetic, B, lazy, C, like a big winger, D, a failure. 

I have beaten myself up to the point where, along with some dear and trusted friends and family, I have had to give myself a rather stern talking to. I have had to give myself permission to look after myself and to help myself get better. Which is what I want and need to do after all. 

And this has got me thinking. Why as women and often mothers do we find it so hard to recognise that we too have needs? Even if it’s to realise that without us functioning properly the multifunctional machines that are our families will often stop working effectively, if at all without the linchpin that is us. 

Why does admitting that we have needs translate somehow in our heads as being self-indulgent or weak? Of course this is not the first time I’ve come across this phenomenon. It’s commonly an issue with many of my clients when they first come to see me too. 

It can manifest itself in many ways and can take several different guises but ultimately it comes down to the same thing – an inability to accept that we are worthy of self-love. But before this rapidly goes too far down the slightly scary self-analysis road – I will move on and leave it to those more qualified than myself to discuss such matters and simply accept that this is a fairly universal, if sad fact of womanhood.

However, I do know how important it is to value yourself enough to present the ‘best you’ to the world. Clients will often talk about spending time or money on themselves as something that warrants chastisement and ridicule. 

That to care about one’s own appearance is somehow vain, self-indulgent and superfluous to requirements. Not for people like them – they aren’t deserving of such things. They are too old, too overweight, too shy, too……… and so it goes on.  

What people, men and women alike, need to realise is that appearance is an outward reflection of how you feel about yourself on the inside. So ‘I’m not worthy of looking after my own needs’ can translate in to tatty old joggers, sloppy t-shirt and no make-up. 

Rather than ‘I do care about myself, I am a pretty damned fabulous person who juggles a zillion balls in the air every day, I have needs that have to be met so that I can meet the needs of every other person that relies on me so therefor I’m going to take some time to put my face on, iron my jeans and may even wear my best knickers and it’s not even a Friday so get me!!’

So think about you sometimes when you’re writing your to do list for life. It’s not a sign of weakness. People depend on us, need us to be at our best, to be resilient and reliable at all times. So take some time to think about your needs too, what makes you feel good, more confidant, makes you smile? Then make sure you do it. 

And besides, no one has to know you’ve got your best frilly knick knacks on on a Tuesday – unless you want them to of course!



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Blog entry nine, 22nd March 2012:

Know your colours

Colour is such an important part of our lives – it can cheer us up, bring us down, reflect our mood and deliver visual messages about how we feel about ourselves. Find the right colours for your skin tone and it can take 10 years off you, get it wrong and you may end up looking like you need a trip to the doctors, and quick. Colour is all around us and as tempting as it may be to stick to the perceived ‘safety’ of blacks or neutrals, injecting a bit of colour in to your life and your wardrobe can have a profound effect on your mood, your confidence and your style. 

The first step to achieving this is to define whether you are warm skin toned or cool skin toned. This simply means you either have more pink undertones to your skin which would lean towards a warm colouring or blue undertones which would indicate cool. To check this hold a colour up next to your face under your chin ( a top, scarf, cushion even) which has a yellow base to it and then swap over and do this again but this time with a bluey based item. What happens to your face? – look at your skin pallor, your features, your eyes – do you look tired and pale and suddenly older or do you look awake and bright eyed and bushy tailed. Which of the two colours brings out your features, takes away the bags and circles under your eyes, clears your skin and defines your jaw bone? Is it the blue based colour making you cool skin toned or is it the yellow based colour making you warm skin toned?

So:

Cool skin toned = colours that suit you will always have a blue undertone or base to them

Warm skin toned = colours that suit you will always have a yellowy undertone or base to them.

Now – armed with this knowledge when you open your wardrobe door what is it that you see? Is it mainly comprised of hues and shades that enhance your skin tone? People often have an innate sense of which colours work best for them, they just don’t realise it. Or is it a sea of colour clashes, no no’s and disasters? If it is the latter do not panic!  You  do not have to throw everything out and start again  (though if you have anything in acid lemon/mustard green/ neon orange you may just have to bight the bullet and send to it to the great wardrobe in the sky, some things really can’t be helped - ever) .  Just follow the below pointers to help breathe new life and luminosity in to your existing wardrobe of clothes. And know that from now on you have the knowledge to select colours that brighten up and enhance your skin tone making for an even more beautiful you!

•It is the colour directly next to your face that is most important. So if you have a wardrobe full of tops and jumpers in colours that are less than pleasing to your skin tone don’t despair. Simply accessorise with a scarf or necklace in a more flattering colour to brighten up your face and make your outfit more appropriate to your own colouring.

•Black is not as safe a bet as you may think. It can be very draining on most skin tones making you look overly harsh and washed out. Instead try navy, charcoal grey or racing green. You’ll be amazed at how much more sophisticated and stylish these shades can look.

•If you have a favourite colour that isn’t as flattering as it could be, you can still wear it, just not next to your face. Try including it in a pattern or as an accessory like a belt or a handbag that is worn further down your body.

•Don’t ever go for a head to toe look in one colour – and this includes your accessories. You need to inject a bit of variety in to an outfit otherwise you run the risk of looking rather mother of the bride’ish……on acid.

•Have fun with colour, experiment and don’t be afraid to try things out. Some colour clashing can work. A pair of shoes in an unexpected colour can bring a real wow factor to an outfit. If you’re a bit unsure then try introducing a couple of accessories in brighter tones - a pair of earrings, scarf or necklace. Accessories are an easy, non-threatening way to build up your colour confidence and don’t have to cost much at all so start small and build from there.

•And lastly – never match your make up to your outfit. Unless your aiming for Margot Leadbetter circa 1978. In which case……..get your turban out, your house coat on and fill your boots.

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Blog entry eight, 16th February 2012:

Making sense of Spring/Summer trends

It may be minus 10 outside and winter does seem to have finally arrived  –  but you wouldn’t know it to look in the shops. In the topsy turvy world that is fashion retail we are now confronted with the dresses, trousers and hot weather garb we will be wearing on the balmy summer days of July and August. And as ridiculously out of synch as it may seem – now really is the time to start planning your summer wardrobe. Leave it till the sun really does start shining and you’ll be left with size’s 4 and 24’s with nothing much in-between.  So think Pimms in the park and get your sun tan lotion at the ready – Summer’s on its way - just no one’s told the weather man yet!

Peplums: Small fabric flares usually found around the bottom of a jacket or blouse, though have also been known to appear around the waist band of a pencil skirt too. They are super flattering and great for creating a curvaceous waist line where previously there wasn’t one. So if you fancy injecting a bit of old school glamour to your look try a tailored jacket with a peplum, wear over skinny jeans, swing those hips and you’ve got curves to go.

Sport lux: Fashion, it seems has jumped on the Olympics bandwagon and has decided to come over all sporty on us. But if you’d rather go shopping than go to the gym – and let’s face it ladies, who wouldn’t, then think more smooth lined tennis chic rather than grey knickered  P.E class for your inspiration. 

New 1950’s: Yes a new season can never go by without getting all misty eyed about a bygone era, or it could just be because they run out of new ideas. So this season we are treated to a 1950’s revival vibe. Think full princess prom skirts that hit on the knee, slim cigarette pants teamed with a white shirt. Pencil skirts, printed bra tops and cats eye shades. Think Olivia Newton John in Grease or Brigitte Bardot in anything.

Prints: Fashion has gone print crazy this season and though a hard core fashionista would be telling you to clash your prints in such a heady manner as to give you a headache,  I would exercise a word of caution here. Only the uber trendy can get away with dressing head to toe in a mishmash of flowers, tribal prints, geometric lines and paisley prints. For the rest of us mortals pick one of the above and work that with a plainer piece to give an interestingly fun feel to your outfit rather than a ‘I need two Paractemol now that I’ve looked at you’ edge.

Colour: You can’t go too wrong with colour this season. Anything from sugary pastel shades to vibrant orange and yellow hues are the colour palette du jour. You’ll find metallics featuring heavily and even neon makes its first appearance since its heady 1980’s heyday. Mercifully - this is mostly confined to the odd flash here and there as a stripe on a top or as a slim line belt so absolutely no excuse to get your deely boppers out again. Sorry.

Printed Jeans: Coloured and printed denim is huge this season and whilst some of the summery hues available make a gorgeous alternative to the old favourite blue, I would think carefully before investing too much in a pair of tie dyed or animal print offerings. Leave those to the 16 year olds with impossibly long legs. Go instead for a pretty lilac or mint green shade for a more feminine, figure friendly option.

Now go put on another jumper and turn up the heating – enjoy!

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Blog entry seven, 14th October 2011:

Attitude Not Age!
So laid up as I am with a rather painful kidney infection that has decided to take up residence in my good self, I find I am reading a lot. Not only to while away the dull hours but also to save me from a painfully slow brain death due to an extreme overdose of Jeremy, David and Noel (as I like to call them) who grace my TV screen from dawn till dusk of a week day. 

And I have noticed there has been a lot of discussion and debate about ‘age appropriate dressing’ and what constitutes good style once the first flush of youth is no longer with us (and probably hasn’t been for some time to be fair). 

It’s a topic I find quite interesting and it is always an issue that is brought up whenever I’m with a client. ‘I don’t want to look like mutton dressed as lamb’ they wail. ‘I don’t know what to wear now I’m older’ ‘I don’t want to stand out too much because people may talk’ ‘I’m too old to look trendy and stylish.’

Nonsense and hogwash I say! None of us are too old to look stylish –  even your octogenarian granny has every right to cut a dash should she so wish – and plenty of them do these days I’m delighted to say.

And how do these stunning stylish ladies of a certain age pull it off? Attitude. Pure and simple. If you have the right attitude you can get away with most things – and not just with clothes, in life too I find. It’s about feeling confident about who you are and the image you want to portray. It’s also about feeling good about yourself – we could all do with an extra dollop of self-worth so think about your lovely bits and how you would best like to show these off to the world. 

It’s true that as we age and have children our body shapes change so we need to adapt our style to suit this. However it doesn’t mean covering ourselves up in shapeless kaftans or rocking the ‘sack cloth’ look for the rest of our days. I have listed a few handy pointers below. As always however it has to work for YOU. 

If you don’t like it then you don’t have to do it. As we said earlier, it’s about dressing for who you are so go on a little voyage of self-discovery and see who you find  - you may be very pleasantly surprised!

-       Age appropriate does not mean ‘boring’. Experiment with looks you like, collect pictures out of magazines and keep them in a ‘style file’ for you to refer to when going shopping or putting an outfit together.

-       Nothing wrong with following trends no matter what age you are. But keep in mind not all trends suit everyone so pick the ones that work for you. For example midi skirts are very big at the moment but if I was to wear one I‘d look like a geriatric Oompa Loompa so will steer clear.

-       If you want to show off your legs just make sure you also have some great hosiery (posh word for tights but as a stylist I have to use it – it’s the law) on to keep the look classy. There are so many fab colours and designs out this time of year you really don’t have to stick to black opaque to keep those pins warm. Be brave and experiment!

-       Again if you want to show off your curves then feel free to show them off - stylishly! No one wants an eye fall of cleavage over their morning latte so try wearing a little cami underneath to leave a little to the imagination. And the cardinal rule of Legs OR Boobs not both applies no matter what age. Young or old. You have been warned.

-       Accessories are a fab way to funky up an outfit in an effortlessly non-threatening way. A glam string of beads (or two if feeling brave) and a great cocktail ring can transform an outfit instantly. Try experimenting with different style by adding a retro clutch bag or beret to an outfit. So easy yet so effective.

-       And swagger! The ultimate style accessory is a bit of inner confidence and a smile that says you KNOW you look good. Go swing those hips girls and have fun!!

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Blog entry six, 11th October 2011:

Are we worth it? Yes we are!!
Greetings again lovely people. Last week I spent an amazing two days taking part in a fashion event run at the Ashley Centre in Epsom. As the nominated stylist for the event I was extremely anxious to appear super-confident and professional throughout. 

Underneath, however, I was quaking with nerves in my rather lovely (but slightly uncomfortable after eight hours of wearing them) shoe boots. 

Everyone kept telling me to ‘have confidence’ in myself. It would be fine, to ‘believe in myself’ and other such well-meaning platitudes that your nearest and dearest come out with at times of extreme self-doubt.

I shouldn’t have worried of course. It was great. I was super-busy and felt at the end of it all I had done a good job. A very gratifying feeling indeed. But it got me thinking. Why do we do this ourselves? Why do we beat ourselves up with self-criticism that verges on psychological abuse when we wouldn’t dream of doing it to our friends and loved ones? Why are we unable to treat ourselves with the same care and respect we do others? 

I met such amazing women throughout the two days. They all had their own stories to share and rejoice in. One did voluntary work with partially-sighted adults so liked to wear bright clothes so they could see her better; one lady had lost five stone, and another eight stone! Both were having to relearn how to dress their newly emerging svelte shapes.

I met another uber-glamorous lady who it turned out was on her first day back to work following a battle fought and won with breast cancer. Her long blonde hair now a gorgeous chocolate brown crop. And so many others equally deserving of feeling great about themselves.  

But did they? No they did not. Without exception when any of them came to speak to me (the scary perfect in every way stylist!) they all pulled their tops down trying to cover tummies that had just had babies, bottoms and thighs that were now several inches smaller than they were, legs that take them to help other people, bodies that were once again healthy and full of life. 

Not one of them could see the figures they had were something to be proud of, to be thankful for, to be loved and cherished and cared for. The wasp-like waist was overshadowed by alleged overly broad shoulders, the gorgeous shapely bum was too big regardless of the fact it was perfectly in proportion. Too old to be wearing this, too fat to be wearing that. Endless endless self-criticism. You get the picture?!

A lot of what I do as a personal stylist – and did over those two days - is to try to boost self-esteem in my clients. To make them feel worthy of taking the time to care about themselves, to look nice and wear beautiful things. 

Not in a sycophantic ‘Darrrrling you look FABulous’ sort of way but in a ‘hey – but what about all your good points? look at what you’ve achieved, you work hard, you give so much of yourself to other people no wonder you feel you don’t have time for you, you’re a single mum of two happy well adjusted kids – an achievement that should be recognised by a Nobel peace prize in my mind. 

Look at what we’ve all done, accomplished, given of ourselves, battled and conquered. So isn’t it about time we tried shifting our focus a little? What do we actually achieve by being so negative about ourselves? Perhaps it’s time we tried kicking that mean little inner critic into touch a bit. 

I’m not suggesting that confidence that verges on arrogance is an attractive quality either but that’s not something many women tend to suffer from. We tend to leave that mainly to our male counterparts.  

Lets just start by being a little nicer to ourselves. When you look in the mirror tomorrow morning don’t hone in on the bit of you you hate the most, look at the one thing you like the best. Because whatever it is you can be fairly sure you’d be pretty stuffed without it – so lets just be thankful – even if it is just a very little bit!

Happy being nice to YOU x

Susannah is now the Personal Stylist for The Ashley Centre, Epsom. For more details contact her at Susannah@shmpersonalstyling.com

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Blog entry five, 15th Sept 2011:

Autumn Winter ‘11 style trends for us mortals!

So I disappear for a few weeks, buried alive under a stack of chaos and removal boxes and by the time I emerge dazed and blinking in to the sunlight once again I find that our Summer has limped off into Autumn once again. 

This is sad news for us sun lovers – especially as I don’t feel I got to wear my two maxi dresses nearly enough (my one concession to feminine girly fashion this year). So this means we better get ourselves up to speed pronto with all things trendy for Autumn Winter, doesn’t it?

So what gives in the world of sartorial style this season? I hear you ask. Well we have the usual mumbo jumbo spouted by the so called fashionistas in the know. I had to laugh the other day when I read one saying that in her opinion jumpers were going to be big news this winter.

Urrrmm, I hate to burst her perfectly styled bubble but I think she may find jumpers have been pretty big in winter since the first sheep was sheared and left bleating and naked of his fluffy wool so we humans could be snuggly warm and toasty in our mud huts through those bone chilling winter months. 

Anyway, nonsense aside, it can help the rest of us mere mortals to have at least a basic understanding of what the fash pack consider to be the ‘must haves’ of the coming season.

I never suggest following fashion slavishly and to the letter but occasionally it’s good to inject the odd ‘on trend’ piece into your wardrobe to keep it modern and to retain a fashionably stylish  edge.

So be selective and go with the trends that suit your personal style and will fit in with your existing wardrobe. It’s not about dressing head-to-toe in the latest gear, it’s about integrating the odd piece here and there to keep your look contemporary. So here goes, A summary of all things trendy this Autumn and Winter:

-The Lady Goth – black leather teamed with lace or sheer shirts. Spikey patent boots are optional. A good look for the school run me thinks!

-Paint box – huge blocks of bright colour, a bold hued coat is a great piece to start with and can always be taken off if the colour starts to make you feel nauseas after a while. Mustard unfortunately is big news on the colour palette front again. Steer well clear unless you are blessed with the warmest of skin tones. And even then I’d think twice – even three times  - before venturing forth!

-1940’s lady like tailoring –think finishing school fashion. Pencil skirts, chiffon blouses and high heeled courts. Fabulous for the more feminine moments in your life but again a little difficult for the touch line on a blustery Sunday morning. 

-1960’s (again) monochrome, shift dresses and beatnik black polo neck jumpers and skinny trousers. Rule of thumb – if you don’t remember it first time round you’re quite at liberty to give it a go this time round.

-1970’s (again) boho. Go for Pussy bow blouses, 70’s inspired knitwear and denim mixed with a dash of faux snakeskin to sexy the look up (belts, shoes, cuffs, bags etc) but don’t go over the top with it. You don’t want to look like you’ve escaped from a reptile enclosure.

-Global Nomad – Tribal jewellery, Navaho, fringing, textures, huge skirts and ponchos. Fat days? What fat days!

-Patterns – polka dots. And stars – everywhere and on everything! Just remember the star trend will probably date quicker than you can say the star spangled banner so be careful how much you fork out for anything. You don’t want to look ‘so last season dahhling’ when it’s still ‘this season dahhling’ now do you!

So, have fun with it and good luck out there stylish people!

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Entry Four, June 20th, 2011:
What to wear when you’ve just had a baby

So – you’re a few months in to having had you’re precious little bundle. The stitches are out and the jelly belly is starting to recede (though not gone as yet, no such luck!) 

Life is starting to take on a slightly less surreal, dare we say it almost normal routine, and if you’re sleeping through the night well lets face it that’s tantamount to party time. So you no longer feel the need or desire to pull on the nearest pair of tracky bottoms and joy of joys your maternity jeans are now way too big for you. And besides you have absolutely no wish to look like a Womble anymore when there is some semblance of a figure starting to emerge again. 

So, what does one wear when in that ‘in betweeny post pregnancy not quite back in to normal clothes yet’ stage? A tricky path to walk admittedly, but one that can be negotiated I promise with the selection of a few key items and a little styling know how. 

To start with:

Move all the clothes you don’t fit in to (including maternity clothes) out of your wardrobe leaving only items that you stand some chance of fitting. You need to be able to see clearly what you have to work with.

Spread the items you have left on the floor or bed so you can see clearly what you have. Play around with garments. What things can you put together to make an outfit? Try things on!

Key items for your post baby wardrobe: 

Leggings/Jeggings/Treggings – more comfortable than trousers and jeans with lots of lovely stretch in. Great worn under dresses and tunics.

Dresses – including wrap dresses and shirt dresses. All round saviour of the post baby body. Can cover a multitude of sins. Look for Maxi dresses this season to keep stylishly on trend.

Tunics and smocks – again, brilliant for hiding the post baby bulge, wear with a pair of leggings underneath and some sparkly flip flops for a really easy cute summer look.

Cardies – go for cardies with lots of stretch in them. Shorter styles are great for layering over sun dresses and tunics to hide tops of arms and add a layer of warmth, longer line styles can be belted around the middle if you’re feeling brave and want to show off your emerging waist line again. Wear with a cami or t-vest underneath and a pair of treggings for a more sophisticated look.

Accessories – I bang on about the importance of accessories at any given opportunity I know but they are vital when it comes to creating a splash of individuality to your look, and can completely change an outfit with minimal effort and expense. Try chunky bangles and bright coloured necklaces, large cocktail rings or a pretty corsage to create interest and draw the eye away from areas of your body you may not be quite so happy with as yet!

Shoes and boots – your feet wont change size and will give you and your wardrobe a real boost so invest in some really funky foot attire. This season go for metallic sandals and flip flops or try some pretty coloured wedges for something a bit more feminine. 

And last but not least, the most important detail for post baby dressing? - remember skim not cling when it comes to fabrics, and lots of wet wipes and muslins in your bag! Enjoy your babies :-)

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Entry Three, May 25th, 2011:

The hazards of hormonal dressing

I've been really struggling for an appropriate topic to write about this week. In fact I've been really struggling full stop. It's not been a great few days. Not because something bad has happened, is about to happen (that I know about) or because of any other external factor. 

No. It's because I'm unbelievably hugely hormonal - and even more than I normally am for some hideous reason. Or at least it feels like it. Some have suggested this is down to an increase in stress levels due to our impending house move. Maybe. I don't know. All I know is that I feel pretty damn terrible and have done for the last week or so and we're still not at the summit yet (as my dear husband likes to call it). 

Being so hormonal presents a number of problems for me not least the inability to make a decision on anything (see above) which means I dither and procrastinate even more than I usually do - which is quite a lot at the best of times. However, these days at least I tend to recognise the symptoms and try to make some small allowances for myself. 

This is not always the case though and can still find myself falling into the hormone trap before I know what I'm doing i.e spending an hour and half in one shop trying on the same three pairs of trousers and still not being able to make a clear assessment on whether they suit me or not - despite the trying on of shoes and tops from the same store and a number of encouraging/discouraging looks from the young assistant in the changing room. 

I've been aware of this hazardous hormonal phenomenon for some time now and feel maybe it would be helpful to fellow women/mums/unfortunate beings of the fairer sex to list the various areas that should be avoided at this particularly delicate and traumatic part of the month. 

I would just like to point out that I strongly believe that this problem of overactive hormones and it's detrimental effect on all things sane and normal in our usually relatively stable minds, is in effect for a good 12 months following the birth of a baby too. So in my opinion it is both a premenstrual and a postpartum problem. And for all I know it will also become a perimenopause problem too. When I get there I'll let you know!

 - Avoid clothes shopping on your own if possible - take a (non hormonal) friend along with you to offer a sane and balanced opinion on what you are trying on.

 - If in doubt, leave until normal hormone levels have been restored. 

 - Try an outfit on the night before you intend to wear it - don't (as I did, which I always preach against) assume something will look right then find out in the morning it doesn't which then sends you in to a tail spin of clothes, confusion and stress where you have to rapidly rethink your outfit for the day with a five minute time restriction on any decision making process.

 - Stick to outfits you know work and you feel good in. Now is not the time to start experimenting with new looks.

 - Don't decide that your bloaty tummy is due to consuming too many chocolate hob nobs and not doing enough tummy crunches. Try to keep in mind it's probably due to water retention and cutting out carbs is not a realistic battle plan, now or at any time (trust me it went through my head just the other day - luckily an ounce of sense managed to prevail)

- The fact that you think your skin looks rubbish, your hair looks rubbish and you in fact are rubbish too is due to a temporary state of hormonal hell and colour will return to your cheeks, your hair will once more start to to behave and you will re-find your inner love for yourself in a few days time.

 - wear comfortable clothes that do not restrict your stomach (you don't want to feel any worse about it) and a good supportive bra. I don't know about you but at this time of the month even speed humps are a form of torture more cruel than any man could endure.

 - And above all else - be nice to yourself. If that means slobbing around in your joggers for a day or two watching Jeremy Kyle (in between child duties of course) eating custard creams and sobbing your heart out at the DNA results - so be it. It's normal - fairly! ;-)

And rest assured you'll get to do it all over again in four weeks time. Now who ate all my custard creams??!!!

See you soon

Sx

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Entry Two, 9th May, 2011:

How to look luscious in leggings...

Hello all, hope everyone has had a good couple of weeks. It has come to my attention that leggings have been garnering quite a lot of attention in various articles I've come across recently. And most espousing conflicting advice and opinions on this seemingly innocuous leg attire. So I thought I would try and set the record straight and give some helpful hints on how to wear this much-maligned and yet still much-loved staple of the average woman's wardrobe. And love them or loath them they are unlikely to be disappearing from the trend scene any time soon. So ladies - how does one dodge the many anatomical pitfalls of the legging and end up looking leggy and lovely rather than lumpy and lardy in these sartorial guilty pleasures?

First, what does one wear them with? Leggings are great worn under tunics, smocks and dresses - especially if you are the wrong side of 21 and feel your legs leave a little to be desired in the smoothness, toned and tanned department. If a woman is of a certain age showing more than a little flesh above the knee in a summer dress or skirt simply isn't a good look. Therefore a strategically worn pair of leggings in toning colours with your outfit can transform your look from mutton to marvellous in one very easy and economical move. However, never ever be tempted to wear your leggings with a short or cropped top - or any top that doesn't easily and comfortably come past your derriere. Street walker style is not in as far as I know and should it ever be then I suggest we all ignore it anyway!  Neither do you want tops that cling to your every curve and bump. Something that skims and moves easily over the top of the legging is far more flattering hence it's great partnership with the tunic top and floaty summer dress.

As a rule of thumb I would avoid any legging that has a pattern on it. Unless of course you want to look like a street entertainer or something out of a circus. I am yet to see a woman in patterned leggings that looks good, no matter how long, slim and gorgeous her pins. Classy it aint! Stick with one fairly neutral colour, black, white, navy, brown and you wont go far wrong. In terms of length you generally have two options - full length or cropped. The crucial factor here is where the legging finishes on your leg. Around or just above the ankle - fine, just below the knee also fine, On the widest part of your calf? not so fine. All this will do is make your legs look far chunkier than they really are by drawing the eye to the widest part of your leg giving the impression that your legs are now actually tree trunks. If this is where your legging naturally finishes then simply pull them up (or down if there is some excess give in them) to the smallest part of your leg. And voila more svelte, slinkier pins in an instant.

These days however, we also have the choice of not only the humble legging but also it's more sophisticated sisters, the jegging (jeans style legging) and the tregging (trouser style legging). These can be great alternatives to skinny jeans and slim fit trousers, giving much more freedom of movement and comfort plus adding a more streamlined look to an outfit. Again, never be tempted to wear these with anything other than longer line tops though. Shops the high street over have their own take on these, though I would recommend M&S and Next as a good starting point and if you are looking for variety in colour and style then I would pop along to New Look. However my best find so far has been Tu in Sainsbury's which have a wonderful range ideal for complimenting summer outfits and at extremely reasonable prices. No one is going to know you picked them up with the weekly shop either!

So ladies - it looks like the saviour of cellulite is here to stay for a good while yet and I for one am pretty pleased about that. And by following a few basic style do's and don'ts you can wear your lovable leggings unashamedly and without apology knowing your legs look stylishly lovely and luscious - now go rock those summer frocks and enjoy!

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Entry One, 25th April, 2011:

Hi all and welcome to my new fortnightly 'Gorgeous mummies' blog for 'Carshalton Mums'. As a professional stylist and mum to two little ones myself, I am particularly and perhaps not surprisingly interested in all things style and mummy related. 

So much so that I have recently launched my new gorgeous mummies' styling services and workshops for mums like you and your friends, to come along and chat and discuss style and image issues, have fun and chill out over a glass of something and hopefully feel a whole load better and having learned something by the end of it. 

However, my interest is not just about clothes and fashion - No no no. Way more to it than that. I feel passionately that mums need to start looking after themselves a little better, take a bit more time for themselves, to address confidence issues they may have about their (new) body shapes, changing roles, loss of identity or a lack of time and money resources to spend on themselves - that can all lead to far worse problems if not addressed.

Women, and mums in particular, get a pretty rough deal. Not just from their ever-demanding families but from society and the press  - 'Heaven help us that woman didn't breast-feed her child for six months exclusively - 1000 lashes for her. She gave that baby a pacifier and stuck it in front of the TV whilst she tried to regain her sanity - call social services this instant!!'.  

But also from their peers, 'Oooooo well I only ever gave little Augustus organic, fair trade, ethically and religiously produced vegetables pureed and mulched by my own fair hand - keep that shop bought jar of poison away from my angel please - he may get hives and drop an IQ point just from looking at it' We all know the sort of thing. But - and it's quite a big but (no not that sort, we'll get to problem body bits at a later date)  the very worst offenders are quite often ourselves. Yes us, that's you and me - about our lovely selves. We beat ourselves up, pick holes in ourselves, tell ourselves how rubbish, fat, old and saggy we are. And that's not good, is it?

And yes I have to admit I too am an offender. I'm just as bad as the next woman at giving myself a hard time for not being Wonder Woman/Super Nanny/Nigella Lawson/Debra Meadan (it takes all sorts!) rolled in to one. I forget myself and wander off down this path of self flagellation and criticism that is needless, pointless and simply just not true. And then I realise what I'm doing, speak to myself firmly but fairly and then set myself back on a course of kindness and acceptance again. Until the next time I forget! So I am here to help ladies. 

No I am far from perfect, and absolutely no paragon of self love and esteem. But I do know the odd thing about looking after onesself and how to look good. And often the very first steps to improving self worth and increased confidence is to take a long hard look at your appearance. The visual 'you' that you project to the outside world. Because what you say about yourself on the outside is directly linked to how you feel about yourself on the inside. We get one right and the other will follow. 

So, body issues - we learn how to disguise and flatter. Style and confidence problems - we learn what suits us and what we feel comfortable in. Hide in black all the time? - we discover which colours make us glow from head to toe and make us feel 10 years younger! Wardrobe so full of clutter we can't see the wood for the trees anymore - we learn how to manage it effectively so the clothes work for us and for our lifestyle.

Above all this though developing your own personal style and creating an 'authentic' appearance should be about having fun and laughing, both at ourselves and at the expectations society has decided to lump on us. It's about rediscovering a bit of us - who we still are when you take away all the layers of nappies and childcare and housework and responsibilities that we ladies like to burry ourselves under and then wonder why we feel invisible. 

So - any thoughts, issues, problems of a style, body shape, personal appearance, fashion, image or lifestyle nature - throw them this way and I will endeavour to help. And I will be back in two weeks with more words of wisdom to brighten up our jolly little lives - well, I can only try can't I!!

Have a great couple of weeks and enjoy the Royal Wedding. Any thoughts on THE dress then send them this way or on any of the other wedding outfits - horrors or hits! Enjoy!

Take care

Susannah

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www.shmpersonalstyling.com

Susannah is  the Stylist and Personal Shopper for The Ashley Centre, Epsom. Gift vouchers for all her services are now on sale. For more info please email Susannah@shmpersonalstyling.com 
For more information on my Gorgeous Mummies styling workshops’ contact me at 
Susannah@shmpersonalstyling.com or visit www.shmpersonalstyling.com 
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This blog was first published on www.carshaltonmums.com


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