Fashion-mommy goes to London – a weekend in fashion land!

Hyde Park Corner. One of London's busy main ro...

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In my humble opinion, London is the real fashion heart of the world and so I try to make as many trips as being a mom to Baba allows. One of my most unmissable London events is the Proms in the Park, which takes place in Hyde Park each September. Luckily Nanna Diane and Grandad Mick were on hand to look after Bab for the weekend, so Fashion Mommy and hubby were able to enjoy a fashion filled fun weekend amongst the grown up world!

My BFF Dawn relocated to London three years ago and is currently living in a fab Georgian Style flat in Putney. This is within easy walking distance of Putney High Street and a whole range of interesting shops, bars and restaurants. We arrived at Dawn’s flat on friday evening, and after admiring Dawn’s brand new Mulberry Mags bag (£208 bargain from Bicester Village Mulberry outlet) and comparing it to my white beaded vintage handbag (£9 from an antique stall on Tywyn market) we decided to enjoy a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio and a lovely Southern Indian meal at the Cochin Brasserie on the Richmond Road.

Dawn's Mulberry 'MAGS' bag. How gorgeous is this?

My vintage beaded bag - a £9 bargain.

Saturday was time for a shopping trip in Putney. Putney has one stand out store that is well worth a visit for any budding fashionista. The TK MAXX store is completely amazing for a range of reasons.

  • It only stocks items for women. There are bags, shoes, clothing, scarves, toiletries, accessories, but these are strictly for the girls only.
  • The store has a pretty boudoir feel to it, with lots of pretty wall mirrors, velvet seats and chandelier style lighting.
  • It’s a mecca for fashionistas stocking Lulu Guinness bags, Versace, Stella McCartney, Ronit Zilkha and BCBG Max Azria. I had a fabulous Lulu Guinness bag for £79 (rrp £199), a fab black 50’s style frilled cardigan for £20 and a Julian Taylor New York shift dress in grey flannel style with ruffled neckline for £25. I seriously regret not buying a pair of gold BCBG Max Azria pointed, buckled flats for £40.
  • The changing rooms are funny too. They are labelled as fashionista and bargainista. Guess where I ended up?

We spent ages in TK Maxx, frankly I could’ve spent the whole weekend in there, it is truly that fashion fabulous. However, shopping needs sustenance and so we decided on a spot of lunch at Hudsons. However, disaster struck when the heel fell off hubbies shoe. Now, hubby is funny about shoes. Despite having almost as many pairs as I have, he tends to wear the same pairs all the time, notably Gucinari shoes. Todays said, now broken pair, had been brought on a shopping trip on the KIngs Road before Baba was born. However, no simple trip to Office for a new pair was on the cards for Hubby. That would be far too easy. Instead we had to visit the cobblers in the Putney Exchange shopping centre, and hubby then walked around the shops for 30 minutes in his socked feet whilst Dawn and I laughed uncontrollably and thought of all the different words that could be substituted for scruffy, shoeless, tramp. Luckily hubby saw the funny side, even when I dragged him into Waterstones to look for fashion books whilst he was shoeless in Putney!

Hubby in bare feet in Putney exchange - still too funny!

We just had time then to hit the Putney British Heart foundation shop. This was a veritable Aladdin’s cave of fashionable bargains – Coccinelle handbags for £15-£30, Dkny newspaper print bag £20, Joseph shift dresses for £11 and KG bags for just £4. The most amazing section of the shop housed the shoes, with bargains from Hobbs, LK Bennett, Kate Kanzier and Dune for less than £5. I feel in love with a glittery pair of flat. pewter ballet pumps that were just £3, but by this time we were running against the clock. We had an appointment at Hyde Park and we needed to get ready so I lest empty-handed. It was not the last I was going to see of the glittery pumps!

Dressing for Proms in the park is a tricky thing to do. it was still gloriously sunny as we arrived at the flat, but when he sun sets it can be cold under the stars. Footwear needs to be chosen carefully too. It can be quite a trudge through the park to get to the concert venue, and then another trudge through the masses of blankets to find a good picnic spot. The first year I had gone to the park I wore a gorgeous geometric print maxi dress and wedge heels and looked frankly great. Nobody had told me we were going to walk from Green Park to Hyde Park in my new heels, nor that it would turn so cold when the sun went down. Dawn, who was wearing a fab pair of royal blue suede wedges on the same night, managed to fall from top to bottom of the stairs at Hyde Park corner tube station, so it was not a great fashion night for either of us.

This year we got it right. Jeans, with tunic style tops. Dawn had a pewter grey sequined tunic top from Wallis, whilst I had a long-sleeved peasant style frilled tunic in ditsy floral print.Dawn had her trusty Barbour Jacket for the evening cool, whilst I took my new frilled cardigan. The key accessory was the Union Jack flags for Rule Britannia.

Fashion is on display everywhere at Proms in the Park. Denim DIY hot pants and Wolford tights, soft charcoal jersey harem pants with mannish 1980’s style blazers with rolled up sleeves, 1940’s style chintzy teadresses with chunky knits as the night turned cooler. My favourite look of the night was a vintage 1980’s style black dress, thin straps, ra-ra style net layers, very Cyndi Lauper in styling and totally fun. The other fabulous look on display was offered by the Renee Fleming, the American soprano taking the role of Britannia herself, who had been fabulously dressed by Vivienne Westwood. She looked totally amazing.

The concert was enthralling and life affirming, as it always is, and we decided against trying to get a cab back to Putney and got on the number 14 bus instead. This offers a trip through nighttime Knightsbridge, when all the shop windows are lit up and Harrods shines like a beautiful beacon in the dark. I was absolutely enchanted by the fantastic window display in the Mulberry store which featured large, glittery panthers amongst its array of goodies. Harvey Nicks also looked amazing.

I then started to admire the styles of some of the females on the bus. One girl looked particularly lovely, with a black fluffy cardigan and large corsage over a simple black dress. Then a young girl got onto the bus and I felt my gaze drawn to her feet. And there they were, the pretty glittery pewter pumps from the charity shop that day. They looked so pretty, and so dressy for the evening that I decided that I would go back the next day and get them, if they were still there.

After getting off our bus, we had a nice walk to back to the flat. It was still a lovely evening and people were out in droves, but I was quite disappointed to see so many identikit girls in little black dresses and heels, all resembling a dodgy Robert Palmer video from the mid 80’s. Very Herve Leger and figure hugging, but hardly new and original. Dawn then decided that Sienna Miller(and hubby for that matter!) were not the only people who could walk the streets of London barefoot, and so abandoned her wedges for the walk back to the flat. I later found out from Dawn’s flatmate Lee that Dawn does this on a regular basis, which might explain all the  Liz Earle foot products in the bathroom!

Dawn's feet pounding Richmond Road a la Sienna Miller.

We took a long lie in the next morning, and after enjoying the papers, walked back into Putney so I could check out the rest of the charity shops. I crossed my fingers about those glitter pumps from the British Heart Foundation and was in luck. They were still there! So they became my first purchase of the day. Cancer research yielded yet more bargains. I got a pure new wool sequined pashmina in the softest greys and pinks for £10, a copy of Simon Doolen’s Beautiful people for £2, a great goldtone n with large jade stones for £4, and most amazingly, a pair of beige suede Salvatore Ferragamo kitten heels for £20. I was almost in tears, especially when they fetched the individual dust bags from the back of the shop.  Everyone in the shop was applauding my luck at being able to get my feet into them, I felt like I’d finally brought a winning lottery ticket that wasn’t just for £1.

Dawn also managed to get a fab faux wrap style dress in Diane Von Fustunberg style for £5, and then our shopping trip was over. We had to go home. After loading the goodies into the car we set off for the M25. And as we drove away, I pondered the fact that, to me, London will always be the home of truly great fashion, with style to be seen on every corner. And just at that point, some new shiny office buildings came into view. And be damned if they didn’t resemble Holly Fulton’s fab range of art deco inspired jewellery and dresses…

I'm in love!!!

Other bargains.

Fashion mommy takes a trip (part 1)

Amazing Louis Vuitton campaign - totally gorgeous!

Well, it’s that time of year again, the holiday season. Time to enjoy sun, sea, sand, sangria, and lots of other things that begin with ‘S’.

Well that used to be the plan, before baba came along. But the idea of being stuck in overcrowded airport lounges waiting for long-delayed flights just didn’t hold the same attraction with an impatient, boisterous 20month old toddler in tow.  In addition, I was always, pre baba, one of those people who tutted and gave those narrow eyed looks whenever I heard babies crying on flights, making loud comments about the effect of ears popping on poor little babies. So, despite the fact that I would personally kill for the opportunity to squeeze my ample behind into a cozzie and then slather myself with Piz Buin, this year we settled for the slightly less tropical surroundings of Snowdonia.

Packing proved to be a nightmare. Baba gets through at least three changes of clothing each day, and at the moment I’m matching him outfit for outfit. Plus you have to factor in the changeable weather. Barmouth is close to where we were staying, with lovely beaches, and if it was a warm day…on the other hand Snowdonia is renowned for its rain…

The suitcase ended up being seriously heavy, and my hubby’s plan to share my case was abandoned and he resorted to ramming his stuff into carrier bags. This didn’t please him, and coupled with the hernia he nearly gave himself getting said case down the stairs, the holiday didn’t get off  to its best possible start!

The journey takes about two hours by car, so the outfit I chose needed to be practical and comfortable.  I chose black straight leg jeans, with a pretty sleeveless ditsy print top and white cotton swing cardi from H&M(one of the bargains of the season – £7.99 – I should’ve got one in every colour!) With my new nude wedge sandals, I thought I’d made a good choice. However, the jeans needed to be a size 17 again, so I added a belt, which proceeded to dig into my gut all the way to Wales.

Now, I’ve always enjoyed travelling by car. You can have nice long stops, read books, look at pretty scenery, and. if you’re not driving, you can always take a nap. However, its less relaxing with baba in tow.  I was turning around every 2 minutes to find toys, give drinks and snacks, find the dummy etc,etc. My neck had a crick in it, my belt dug in deeper, and due to the chicken Kiev I had at a pub on route (I know – How Abigail’s Party, I didn’t think 70’s cuisine was back either) I had a serious case of car sickness.

But, eventually, baba started to snooze, and the boring motorway gave way to the beautiful Welsh scenery of rolling hills, towering mountains, pretty villages and steam trains. I finally started to relax and settled down with Marie Claire.

Hurray! It was the September issue, packed full of the brand new ad campaigns for all the new season collections.  The very reason for buying telephone book sized mags and the perfect companion for car journeys.  My mom had once commented “I don’t know why you buy these magazines, they’re just full of adverts.” Exactly the reason for buying them – to see the key designs, the it bags and shoes that the high street will be copying soon as.

So what was the verdict on the ad campaigns for Autumn/Winter 2010? Well the definite favourite was the amazing Louis Vuitton campaign featuring Natalia Vodianova et al in full Grace Kelly mode. The clothes are amazing, and the grooming is what I think we might all be aiming at this Christmas, swept back hair and pony tails and soft make up, it’s very ‘Three coins in a fountain. Also great is the early 1960’s look of the Prada campaign, all full skirts and pushed up boobs. So feminine and elegant.

Not so great is Calvin Klein. This also seems to be looking back in time and reminds me of the Robert Palmer ‘addicted to love’ girls, with scraped back hair and deep red lips. The dress is a great stark red too, but the shape is a bit too ‘sack’ for me. Minimalism is great, but too minimalist is just another way of saying boring.

Both Guess and Gucci are looking at past style icons, with Guess using a dark-haired Bardot-a-like in black leather. Very glam, but I haven’t worn leather since I was 16, and don’t intend to start again now. Gucci is all camel shades and just screams expensive, with Veroushka like models with amazing hair.

Three campaigns I really don’t like are Cavalli, Moschino and Salvatore Ferragamo. Ferragamo is possibly the worse, it’s hilarious. Think The Queen Mother at the Castle of Mey Fly Fishing and you might get the general idea. Moschino is visually striking, but has a definite 80’s power dressing feel – herringbone, gold hoops, red lips and nails again.  Each season I say a silent prayer that it won’t be an 80’s revival, but I suppose it’s not neon again so we can thank small mercies. Cavalli is in flamboyant bad taste again and has stupid Gisele as its face, a women given all legs and absolutely no brain cells. If you think I;m being harsh, check out her comments on compulsory breast-feeding.

Max Mara has a fabulously androgynous campaign, reminiscent of David Bowie during the Berlin period of ‘Low’, or the flamboyant Quentin Crisp. A great Weimar feel to it, I love it.  Ralph Lauren is always great, with each piece looking so wearable and beautiful. The chiffon blouse is so covetable, and the layering is elegant, rather than bulky.

Of the rest, MIU MIU is fun, with a 1960’s Twiggy feel to it and great bright colours and prints. Boss features the most amazing pewter suit that somehow appears to be both masculine and feminine and totally beautiful. Mulberry is all about shearling, and, as I hate flying jackets, this isn’t really great. Biggles was never anyone’s idea of a style icon.

Dior is great, with Ossie Clark style prints, vibrant colours, and great combinations of style. The sinister leather cape is the only jarring point.

Yves St Laurent is stunning. The clothes are fabulous, think Belle De Jour meets Klute, but they are almost overshadowed by the models amazing hair. It’s Anna Karina meets Isla St Clair meets Jane Fonda circa Klute.

And so then we arrived, and I left fashion heaven to fall back to…well heaven. Wales is so totally gorgeous that I began to wish that Christopher Kane would stop focusing on Gorrillas and take mountains as their inspiration instead…Maybe this holiday was going to be great after all!