‘Style Strategy’ is about shopping smart, staying chic and making it all last. It’s about showing women how to shop for value without compromising style.
There’s nothing quite like finding yourself more financially restricted than you’ve been before to make you reassess the way that you buy things. Hands up if you’re guilty of buying clothing that sits in your wardrobe and is barely worn? And I’m not just talking about that ballgown you had to buy that one time for that fancy black tie do you once had to go to. I’m talking about the jeans that are the perfect colour but are just a little low waisted, the shoes that match your work trousers perfectly but that rub your heel a little, the bra that goes under everything perfectly but has the underwiring that jabs your side, the pinafore that looked cute AF on the sales assistant who was three dress sizes smaller than you. We ALL have those items in our wardrobe…the things we want to wear but that we don’t wear because they are not quite right.
I can confidently deduct that the offence rate of ‘non wearable clothes buying’ is at its highest when there is a sale on, because after all how tempting is it when you see something beautiful at 50% off?! And, trust me when I say that when suffering a bit, going through a hard time, or generally feeling kinda shitty about yourself, it can make you feel that tiny bit better spending money you don’t have on something pretty that you don’t need. Why? Who knows? Is it the frivolity of it that makes us feel nice when everything else is so very serious? Or is it the feeling of treating yourself when nobody else is? Maybe its a combination, but either way I know that recently I have been extra guilty of it.
However, this year I have tried to do something different, thanks in part to needing to watch my expenditure more than usual. I have decided to shop strategically. What does that even mean? Well, clearly the items in the winter sales are suitable for wear in the autumn winter season, but the reason that they are in sale at this time of year is because the season is soon to turn and spring will at long last come in. So why waste money on things that don’t have an extended wear time? I have focussed instead on buying some key items that I can wear through the seasonal shifts, that match each other. I have taken my first steps towards creating an interchangeable capsule wardrobe. But details about that are for another post. Today I am sharing with you my MUST HAVE SALE ITEMS currently available in the end of year sales that will be perfect for your spring wardrobe. All images are clickable and will take you directly to the retailers websites for your ease of shopping. Let me know what you buy and stay tuned for the capsule wardrobe blog post later this month. 🙂
I realise that the title of this blog is probably a bit vague, but I’m not going to lie, I struggle with blog titles. How can I tell you guys that I’m writing a blog on autumnal knitwear for women from the high street, all for under £30, that suit a neutral capsule wardrobe, don’t itch and can work for breastfeeding mamas, in a short sweet title caption? That’s hard man.
I hardly wear knitwear because my skin is so sensitive that it itches with most wool mix fabrics. And, I’m always too hot. Seriously, it’s a genetic thing, I get it from my gran, through my dad and in to me. I’m the sort of person who gets too hot extremely easily and I end up half stripping off in shopping centres as soon as I’m carrying a bag, or a baby, or drinking a coffee. However, when I’m cold, man I’m cold. Nothing heats me up, I get goosebumps and chitter chatter on the sofa, snuggling into Damon who is like my own personal radiator.
So when I do get some knitwear for some warmth in those winter months, I tend to go for Zara’s fine knit waterfall cardis because I can take them on and off with ease, and they never ever itch. But honestly I’m just bored of this monotony now. In autumn and winter I basically live in jeans, a vest top and one of those cardis which is just so samey. So this year I’ve decided to branch out.
I have kept my Hermes delivery guy in business this last month by ordering mounds of jumpers and cardigans. 99% of which have been sent back to store for being too itchy, too heavy, or that weird box shape that only ‘size skinny’ 20 years olds can get away with. Also, I returned anything that was going to be too hard to breastfeed in (my nursing solution is wearing a feeding vest top underneath, and hiding baby under the jumper for a cosy snuggly feed time.
Anyway, here’s my round up of the absolute best, must have knits for this season. And trust me when I say that these have been enough to convert me from a non-knit wearing wool hater, to a snuggled up jumper lover, which is no easy task, so you just need to believe that these knits must be bloody well worth it!
First up is this Bershka beauty, coming in at a steal for only £19.99. This is the softest jumper of everything I’m going to show you and I am absolutely in love with it!
Next we have, well, Next with this ochre cable knit beauty which is only £26. It’s super roomy so I would suggest sizing down. I’m a 10/12 and I got a small.
The detail in this H&M one just makes me so happy! AND it’s only £14.99. Say whaaaatttttt. Go check out the beautiful blush pink one or the practical black.
The first of my Zara faves is this cute little beaded fine knit for only £12.99. The colour is gorgeous and would suit so many different skin tones.
The second Zara fave is this beautiful basic which is so insanely soft, you wouldn’t believe it. And it’s also only £12.99 so a complete bargain.
This boyfriend cardigan from Daisy Street at ASOS has featured on my blog on the High Street’s best leopard print fashion which you can read here.
This Next jumper also features on my last blog post about the high street’s most wearable leopard print fashion, another bargain at only £26.
Last, but by no means least, I searched high and low for a nice cable knit cream jumper and Pull & Bear won the race with this winner at only £17.99.
I started out with a mistaken belief that knitwear would be expensive. But it is so easily affordable. Overall I would definitely recommend Bershka for some amazing items that are just amazingly priced.
On another note, please excuse the shameless selfies that went into the creation of this post, ha!
I once had a friend that told me that I couldn’t pull off wearing animal print because I wasn’t sassy enough….more on that story later if you manage to make it to the end of this blog. However, the one accurate thing that she insinuated with this statement is that animal print can be incredibly difficult to wear.
I remember working in Warehouse during my late teens/early twenties while at university and we got into stock a leopard print shift dress with a little peter pan collar on it. You’ve got to bear in mind that this was before Instagram was even a thing, before imagery of iconic styles hit our eyes every single day from all kinds of traditional marketing like magazines as well as influencer campaigns like they do now. And bloody hell this dress would just fly off the rails, we would have people phoning up for it, trying to reserve it, sending stock between stores. My little sister managed to get herself one (she worked at Warehouse too) and I was so jealous because she looked so amazing in it. But when I put it on, it was just wrong, All kinds of wrong. The shape, the fabric, the colour, the length. Nope.
So 10-15 years later, when leopard print began hitting the shelves again as autumn 2018 approached I was a tiny bit hesitant, until I began to explore the options and realised that along with the expansion of fashion marketing to include instagram social media influencing, access to fashion from alternative manufacturers has grown with it making the whole market place boom. And in that kind of environment there is a leopard print solution for everyone.
I have pulled together some of my favourite high street leopard print items and have indicated those that I do actually own as my little collection of all things animal has grown significantly in the last month (as significantly as my maternity pay and breastfeeding requirements can take me). I have also linked every image to their website, so just click on them to be taken to the right place. What’s most important to remember are as follows:
Leopard print does not need to be brown/beige/tan. Look at all of the example options below that are completely different colours like pink, grey or navy. This can help leopard print to tie in with your existing preferred colours in your wardrobe.
You can wear leopard print without having neck to ankle in the stuff. Super scared? Then try a leopard print accessory or logo.
Practice wearing leopard print indoors with a comfy jumper or pyjamas which will get you used to wearing the pattern before braving the outdoors for the world to see.
Also, If you would like to explore finding your own leopard print pieces, then aim to fill your wardrobe with these key items:
A pleated leopard print skirt – a chiffon pleated layer over a plain base
A leopard print jumper – in an iconic colour like naturals, grey or black.
A leopard print scarf – soft touch or woven with fringed edging
A leopard print shirt dress – in a silky or chiffony fabric so it isn’t too hard
Bershka Fluffy Leopard Print Jumper from ASOS £24.99
Daisy Street Boyfriend Cardigan £21.99
Marks And Spencer Long Sleeved Shirt Dress £49.50
Marks and Spencer Pleated Midi Skirt £35
So, there you have it. Honestly, I could have gone on for ages with dozens of products for you to peruse. I cannot recommend New Look, ASOS and Next enough for this season’s range of leopard print products. Pop onto their websites and type in ‘leopard’ to the search bar for the full range of options from them. And all at amazing price points.
Now, you may remember I told you at the beginning that I one had a friend who told me I couldn’t pull of wearing animal print because I wasn’t sassy enough?…Well I sassed that girl right out of my life.
I saw a quote recently that simply summed up how I feel about life right now,
‘I wish I was as tired as I thought I was before I became a mum.’
My intention is not to undermine the daily fatigue that people without kids may feel, but merely to acknowledge my own experience which has taught me that there is no tiredness like new mama tiredness. However, in the dead of night when I am up for the third or fourth time to feed, change and comfort George; when my eyelids are so heavy that I consider the effectiveness of sellotape to keep them open; even while my hands fumble with his nappy, and I struggle to work out what the hell I’m doing, because my brain is so tired that I am genuinely confused about where I am, what day it is, what time it is and what is going on; even in those moments, when George looks up at me with his big blue eyes and smiles it is all so worth it.
But, for the first couple of months of my maternity leave, getting up and organised in the morning was one task too many for me to manage. Having had an emergency c-section after a long labour, my body felt like it had been hit by a twenty tonne truck. Damon was an absolute God send: he would get up with Evie in the morning and allow me a precious extra hour between the sheets to build up the energy for getting up and facing the day ahead. But, it’s quite amazing how much this change in routine affected me in a way I didn’t anticipate.
Although having an extra hour’s sleep in the morning after a night of almost none to speak of was amazing and probably quite necessary for my mental health, not getting out of bed until Damon left for work in the morning meant that I was stepping out of bed and straight into my mummy shoes. I didn’t have time for a decent shower, and even if I did manage to shower I definitely didn’t get time to blow dry my hair before George or Evie needed me. And I never had the time to put on any make up without it meaning that there was a simultaneous meltdown of some kind happening somewhere in the house…George wanting fed, or Evie wanting Peppa Pig on or needing help to go to the toilet.
Before the kids I might not have been a glam gal all the time, but I would also very rarely be seen out of the house without my lippy on. I took pride in my appearance and, simply put, I loved make-up. I still do. Before you ask, yes, to a degree, wearing make-up does increase my self confidence because it can help to (in my opinion) make me a prettier version of myself…I can hide flaws like blemishes and black bags, I can emphasise the bits of me I like most (my eyes) and distract from the bits I like least (my figure). Therefore, it has been a strange adjustment in my personality and priorities to not take 30 minutes to myself each day in order to blow dry, dress and make myself up for the day. Kids change everything, but I have decided that they don’t need to change me so much that I don’t recognise myself any more.
So, one morning a fortnight ago I decided to try to banish the excessive tiredness just enough to get out of bed half an hour earlier. I have looked out some of the best quick fix products that I have and I have started each morning to try and use these, on their own or in combination with each other, to make me feel just a little bit less lazy and disgusting, and a little bit more like the little miss sassypants I was before I had the children.
Now, in my opinion, I still look like myself in this photograph, just a little smoother than in the previous pic in this post. But, even with just a little bit of help, I feel a lot more like myself. And I think that it’s ok to feel a bit more human and a bit less tired when you have a mask of make-up on, but what mama of two has the time to sit for ages applying it? The answer: none. Not unless you have an entourage of nannies to help you out. I used to love sitting putting my make up on for ages at a time in preparation for a night out on the town. But nowadays I need products that I can slap all over my face with as little attention to detail as possible.
So, from one mama to another, or to any lady who also feels an inability or reluctance to spend too long decorating her face in the morning, I thought I would share my products with you. Here I am going to show you the 5 fast, easy to use, amazing products I turn to for rushed mornings getting ready. In this edit I am focussing on face and base products but can share with you eye and lip products in additional posts. Leave me a comment below to note your interest.
Primer: Becca Shimmering Face Perfector
I have really oily skin and would NEVER normally choose a shimmering product of any kind as I prefer a matte finish to help combat the oiliness. However, I received a free sample of this product with another purchase and I absolutely fell in love. If you don’t want to wear anything on your skin, wear only this. It blurs imperfections with an almost invisible veil of light reflecting smoothing barely tinted colour and makes your skin less dull, makes you look fresher, more awake, less tired and freekin’ gorgeous! Plus there are 6 shades to choose from – I use moonstone – and you can buy the same travel size I had to save the full investment while you fall in love with it. A must have!
Foundation: Bobbi Brown Skin Weightless Powder Foundation
If you want to have a little more coverage than just the Becca primer, I would recommend this Bobbi Brown foundation. I have lots of foundations, from lots of brands, but I find this one the easiest and fastest to apply. It comes with a sponge which I don’t use, I instead opt for the full coverage brush from Bobbi Brown, and buff it into my skin in small circles. It takes moments and there’s no need to worry about tide marks and blending issues, especially around the eyebrows and hairline. I use colour Sand in winter, and Beige in summer.
Shaping: Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow
I have several bronzers and highlighters but the Charlotte Tilbury option is perfect for mums on the go whose handbag space is limited by lots of nappies and muslin cloths because it is a bronzer and highlighter in one. The tones are nice subtle colours for a daily look with no fuss, and it comes in light, medium and dark so that as many ladies as possible can benefit from using it. I use medium.
Blusher: Chanel Cream Blush
Only the tiniest application of this blush gives a beautiful healthy glow when applied directly to the apples of your cheeks. I use a brush for the most perfect finish, although the tips of your fingers will gently flush the skin well if you’re in a rush or don’t have a brush to hand. So you can balance your toddler on one hip and still have enough hands to look ravishing!
The pièce de résistance of this 5 minute beauty regime is this delectable Nars finishing powder which works magic on the skin. Have you ever heard of beauty bloggers, magazines, or beauty sales people refer to the photo finish effect of some make up products? Well this has it. A fine dusting of this over the face sets your make up and makes your face look absolutely flawless.
Ok, so clearly I need to work on taking a semi decent selfie, but I think there’s a massive, lovely difference with only a few natural looking products (note: I have not done my eyes or brows here). What do you think?
Maternity clothes! Yuck! Have you ever noticed that just about everything is covered in a ditsy floral pattern or is printed with slogans like “Hands of the bump”? And then retailers charge you a mini fortune for the privilege of wearing such monstrosities? Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice maternity things out there if you go searching, but it’s not like you can just pop down to the shops and try them on to make sure they fit ok as no shops actually stock maternity wear, you need to go online. What a palaver! It’s just not for me, all that faffing and searching and paying hard earned cash for things that I don’t like that much and I will get hardly any wear out of.
So, if like me you struggle to find maternity clothing you would actually wear, then read on for a short guide to how you can look totally mamalicious during your pregnant months without breaking the bank, or investing in pieces that will soon be getting dusty.
Spring, summer, autumn or winter, tube dresses can be worn to suit all seasons. Also, by tube dress, I don’t necessarily mean strapless, I just mean stretchy, fitted and comfortable. Some shops would advertise them as bodycon, although this always makes me think of those heavy and ever so glamorous bandage dresses, which although amazing for a night out aren’t going to solve your daily maternity clothing dilemma.
I got this beauty from River Island for example, viewable here:
I have worn it with sandals, and with black tights and ankle boots and have had so many compliments on it. I love that the tie around the waist hangs in the perfect position to cover up the seam from your tights, because the bigger your bump gets the more visible that seam becomes! Ha!
For some bargain options try the Stradivarius, ASOS and Missguided websites.
Peplum and smocked tops
Zara absolutely owns this space in the market and I have loads of peplum or smocked tops that I picked up from there in the sale for an amazing £5.99 per item!!! I absolutely love them because when pregnant you can wear them with over the bump jeans, or with a vest top underneath,. And when not pregnant they look so lovely with high waisted skinnies. Also, if you choose to breast feed, smocked tops are an absolute saviour, just pop the baby underneath and feed away without having to faff with all kinds of wraps and zips and clips and whatever else come on dedicated ‘nursing’ clothes.
Over bump jeans
Literally the ONLY maternity item worth buying is a couple of pairs of over the bump jeans. I absolutely swear by the Mama jeans from H&M, I have an indigo blue pair, a black pair, and a casual washed denim pair, and I wear them every single day!! The indigo and black ones are skinny shaped stretchy denim ones, but I actually like the casual and traditional firm denim style I have because it makes me feel like I’m wearing real jeans. Have a look at the stretchy skinnies here. Also, if your work insists on a business wear dress code then it may be worth getting a pair of smart over the bump trousers. I have a pair from Seraphine (click here) that I wore all of the time during my first pregnancy because that work place was a lot smarter than my current one where jeans and flats are much more acceptable.
Over the bump jeans from H&M will vary in price from around £25 to £50 depending on what style you get. Mine are all around the £30 mark as the more expensive ones are lifting and shaping jeans which I have always been a sceptic of, not just for maternity clothing but all brands that claim to lift your bum!
Non wired bras
I think it’s true that bust size alters dramatically through the course of you lifetime anyway whether you ever fall pregnant or not. So continuously buying bras in all different sizes is something we can all relate to. However, during pregnancy your boobs do crazy thing and over a very short period of time. I am no fan of ‘maternity bras’. What an absolute con. Nursing bras on the other hand, sure, go for it. They are easy to manipulate when breastfeeding. However, another bra I have become super fond of i an unwired bra.
Nowadays unwired bras come in so many shapes and forms, with padding and without, cotton or lace, triangle or plunge. The options are endless. But the benefits for a pregnant mum are
a) that the lack of wiring prevents sore red patches under your arms where the wire starts to dig in as your chest, back and boobs change throughout the pregnancy
and b) that without padding, these bras are also very easy to manipulate and therefore another solution for breastfeeding.
Ok, so I normally use a nursing bra when feeding, but they have a whole host of problems too:
they can cost a lot of money
sometimes the straps are ridiculously thick (I mean come on, we are talking an inch thick in some instances!!)
the cup shape is beyond full coverage, we are talking so big you might as well wear dinner plates over your boobs
They restrict the clothing you can wear without flashing your unsightly beige supersized bra to the world, and you’re already on restricted clothing options because of breastfeeding
So, maybe an unpadded and unwired bra could be a good alternative option for you?
They might not suit everyone of all bust sizes, but I am a 32DD-E and they have been fab for me. Again, I can’t recommend H&M enough for their lingerie options. I have also never bought maternity pants, but H&M do a great selection of underwear with no seams and stitching meaning it stretches beautifully as bump grows without digging in and hurting.