Reviewed Patricia O’ Toole Breda dress

The Breda dress from Patricia O’Toole may just be the sexiest dress I have ever worn. Again utilising built in shapewear that ensures the dress has smooth lines not ruined by underwear, the Breda is the epitome of what we think of when we say ‘Little black dress’. I’m totally in love with this frock and could easily wear it every single day. It’s that good!

Breda €139 click to visit Patricia O' Toole

Breda €139

The Breda dress has a classic shape. In black jersey (you can also go for the black jacquard or coloured options), this is a stretchy dress with no zips, buttons or fastenings. It has capped sleeves and a really unusual asymetrical neckline which you could have a bit of bra peeping out from. The side panel of the dress has a ruched detail, and the length is just below the knee, which I think adds to the sophistication of this look.

Black jersey swatch

Black jersey swatch

One of the main selling points of this dress is the built in shapewear. I am a huge fan of shapewear. I love the way it can pull a look together, can iron out the creases of a look caused by underwater, tights etc, not to mention in my case my ‘jelly belly.’ But it has to be said that some shapewear can be uncomfortable to wear, very tight fitting to the point of not being able to breathe, and woe betide if you try to eat anything, or go to the toilet (*Shudders). The shapewear in the Patricia O’ Toole dresses is designed with comfort in mind and this makes the dresses a joy to wear – they look good and feel good too.

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I wore my dress last week for that very special, Duran Duran fueled night at Malmaison, and it elicited lots of compliments. I teamed it with animal print heels and a silver bracelet and kept all other accessories to a minimum. It was an amazing night and due to events that night the dress is now christened ‘the one I wore when I met Roger Taylor’. If I had a dress archive, this one would definitely be taking pride of place.

Fashion-mommy meets Roger Taylor.

Fashion-mommy meets Roger Taylor.

To read my other Patricia O’ Toole review, click here.

*I was sent this stunning dress from Patricia O’ Toole for the purpose of a review.

Elizabeth – A true Queen of style

She’s just about to become a great grandmother all over again, and she has just celebrated her 89th birthday, but it would not be an exaggeration to say that our Queen, Elizabeth II, is having a moment. She is currently being played on Broadway by the beautiful Kristen Scott Thomas, and this month will see the release of a film ‘A Royal Night Out’ which tells of VE night 1945, when the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were allowed to mingle with the crowds outside Buckingham Palace, and then enjoyed a night of freedom.

Bel Powley, left, and Sarah Gadon as Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth in 'A Royal Night Out'

Bel Powley, left, and Sarah Gadon as Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth in ‘A Royal Night Out’

I don’t mind admitting I am a huge fan of The Queen, for some quite random reasons. My birthday is June 15th – whenever this falls on a Saturday I end up sharing it with the Queen and her official birthday – Trooping the Colour. When she celebrated her silver jubilee in 1977 my dad actually took me to see her when she visited West Bromwich – I was three years old and have no memory of it, but she’s still my greatest celebrity spot. I love that she saved her ration coupons for her wedding dress, and that she trained as a mechanic during World War 2. (You can find out many more fun and interesting facts about the Queen from this Great British Bingo infographic.)

The Queen in Dudley on the day that I saw her - it was part of a Black Country visit

The Queen in Dudley on the day that I saw her – it was part of a Black Country visit

What I really love about our Queen is just how iconic and stylish she truly is. This is a lady who has rarely got it wrong in 63 years of public dressing, with her 1950s young queen wardrobe as beautiful as anything Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn wear wearing at that time. Her sister, Princess Margaret has been rightly recognised as a style icon, but her more reserved, demure sister has often been overlooked for her less showy, adventurous choices. But now, finally, both designers and best dressed lists are agreeing that the Queen has a style that is both timeless, elegant and totally classic.

Here are a few of my favourite looks from the royal archives.

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Queen Elizabeth II in Formal Clothing

Probably designed by Norman Hartnell.

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Love this gorgeous printed dress teamed with shades

 

1960

HM The Queen Elizabeth II at Sandringham with Her Corgies - 1960s

I could see Duchess Kate wearing this coat – wonder if it is archived somewhere?

 

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1960 Christmas day speech

 

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With John and Jackie Kennedy

 

With President Jimmy Carter

With President Jimmy Carter

With Barack Obama

With Barack and Michelle Obama

You can find some more of the looks I love here.

You can follow my pinterest board dedicated to The Queen and Princess Margaret here.

Spending a day at Warwick Castle

When I was a child, my favourite family day out was not at a theme park, or even at the seaside. I was a true history buff (still am) and my idea of half-term heaven was a day spent at the stunning Warwick Castle. This beautiful Medieval masterpiece is a magical place that brings historical events and characters to life in the confines of those thick castle walls. Last week I passed my love of this fabulous place to my six year old son, also turning out to be a bit of a history lover (thanks to a school project about the Staffordshire Hoard). Our first family visit was a definite success.

Warwick Castle is a real castle, so often when we talk of Castles we are faced with ruins as a result of the Civil War, but Warwick was on the winning side during that period, and so it retained all it’s magnificent. The home of such historically important characters as Warwick the Kingmaker, and the site of a murder in the 17th century that is now linked to it’s reputed haunting, Warwick has all the ingredients to make history fascinating for adults and children alike.

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Beautiful Warwick Castle

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The Castle

Our visit took part on a gloriously sunny day, which meant the chance to explore the grounds and outdoor demonstrations. We started though by touring the  Great Hall and the State Rooms. Joe was fascinated by the suits of Armour, including models of armoured horses, and was very excited when one of the very helpful guides dressed him as a medieval Knight, complete with chainmail, shield and a rather large (but luckily very blunt) sword. There are plenty of guided tours, but we decided to take things at our own pace. I was fascinated by items pertaining to belong to Elizabeth 1st, and the death mask of Oliver Cromwell, whilst Joe loved unusual items like the very large cooking pot.

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Pete with Oliver Cromwell’s Death Mask

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That rather large cooking pot.

The Royal Weekend party is just a stunning way to bring history to life, recreating a Victorian weekend from the time when the captivating Daisy Brooke was the chatelaine at Warwick, and the mistress of the heir to the throne, Bertie aka Edward VII. The attention to detail in this part of the castle is wonderful, from the glasses of wine to the brushes on the dressing table. This is my favourite part of the castle – it really takes you back in time as you observe and eavesdrop on conversations from royalty to the hired help.

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Towers and Ramparts

The towers and ramparts at Warwick offer some amazing views across the River Avon and Warwickshire, but Joe was a little frightened to venture up the enormous Guy’s Tower, instead venturing up the Clarence Tower with his dad. The Time Tower offers a new attraction for 2015, with an interactive display telling the history of the castle from Saxon times to the present day. Joe particularly enjoyed this, especially the talking portraits that moved out of their frames, as if by magic.

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Food

We enjoyed the unlimited pizza and salad option at the Undercroft buffet restaurant. This is part of the castle itself, so offers another fantastic experience. There are plenty of different pizza options, both meat and vegetarian, and also garlic bread and a good choice of salads. Unlimited soft drinks are also included in the price, which is £10.95 for adults and £6.95 for children. We really enjoyed the food on offer and liked the buffet option, but there are other outlets including fish and chips, hotdogs, Warwick Cream teas and The Coach House Family restaurant.

In the undercroft buffet

In the undercroft buffet

The grounds

There is so much to see and do in the grounds. We watched the birds of prey display, with Joe gasping as the huge Condor swooped down over our heads. We then visited the birds of prey mews where the birds sit so perfectly I actually asked my husband if they were real (I know – durrrr!). On such a beautiful day, many people were just sitting on the river bank enjoying the day, and the area around the Conservatory and peacock garden was very busy. This is one area that I totally fell in love with, the Conservatory is just beautiful and serves a great cream tea, whilst the fact that the peacocks roam free just fascinated Joe.

By the Millhouse - another place you can visit at Warwick Castle

By the Millhouse – another place you can visit at Warwick Castle

The birds of prey are just fabulous.

The birds of prey are just fabulous.

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One of the many amazing views from the Mount

The Conservatory - a must visit for afternoon tea

The Conservatory – a must visit for afternoon tea

One addition that I certainly don’t remember from my childhood visits is the Pageant Playground. This is a lovely, children’s wooden playground resembling a medieval fort, perhaps based on the original Warwick Castle. This is a great area for allowing parents to have a sit down while kids can run off any excess energy and indulge in battles using the shields and swords they will have picked up at the numerous gift shops (quite reasonably priced – Joe had a plastic sword and axe priced at £3 each). We finished our visit with a trip to the playground, knowing this would tire Joe out for the journey home.

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Sir Joe.

Sir Joe.

Warwick Castle is a true day out, you can literally spend the whole day there absorbed in the pomp and history of the wonderful building and its spectacular grounds. It is now an established favourite with my family and we can’t wait for our next visit.

11173355_748566375241466_8466174921137309083_nTo plan a visit, find admission and opening times, please visit the Warwick Castle website here.

*We were given free admission to Warwick Castle in return for a honest review.

Family Fever