Adventures in personal style.



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Images: own work
Others: colour codes

January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 June 2011 July 2011 September 2011

Sunday Miscellany
Sunday, 30 January 2011 / 23:55

January was quite a busy month, last week especially. Now that a crucial deadline is out of the way, though, I can concentrate on other things. I've been a bit stressed out and under the weather, so I'm trying to get my normal energy levels back. Walking a lot is part of my usual routine, and I'm keeping up with it even though I don't always feel like it. Yesterday I went on what turned out to be a 4-mile trek round some charity shops, and that may have been a little bit much, but it felt good to get some exercise and fresh air.

Shopping-wise, it wasn't the most successful trip. I feel bad criticising charity shops - they're raising money for good causes, and many of the staff are unpaid volunteers - but it always frustrates me a little when none of the stock is organised by size. If a rack of clothing is five or six feet long and jam-packed, I may not bother hunting through it for the one or two things that might fit me. (I know, I can hardly complain about things not being organised...)

But anyway, I went back through H&M on the way home, and bought MORE BOWS.

My wardrobe organisation efforts continue. Last night I made a go at sorting through my jewellery and, more dauntingly, my fabric stash drawer. As I've just acquired a number of old clothes to repurpose for sewing, I badly need to make room in there. Happily, my stack of things to donate/sell/recycle is slowly growing.

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Review: Forever 21
/ 15:36

When my F21 parcel arrived last week, I promised myself I wouldn't open it until I'd finished my major task for the day. Ah, motivation. (It worked.)

I must apologise for the lack of fitting-room-type photos in this review, but if I waited until I could take ones I was satisfied with, it'd never get posted. I don't have much in the way of mirrors to work with, and there's not much natural light at this time of year.

Fab Knit Thermal in Charcoal, size small

I love this. It's warm, it's so soft, and it's thick enough to wear as a top in its own right. I wasn't sure about the width of the neckline, but luckily it's not quite wide enough to reveal bra straps; I'd hesitate to call it a true boatneck (though maybe I just have broad shoulders).

F21 provides product measurements for each item in size small (sometimes medium), and whilst it would be good if they could do the same for other sizes, this is still a very useful feature. This shirt in a small measures 32" in the bust; I have about a 31" bust so it's slim-fitting but not tight on me, which is exactly what I wanted. I can even layer a camisole underneath. The other thermals on offer seem to run a lot tighter (22-27" bust in a small), which is good news if you're my size or smaller and want something very slim-fitting.

Crochet Bib Knit Dress in Navy, size small

I liked this dress, it just didn't look great on me. The description read "empire waist", which is usually a deal-breaker for me, but the photos seemed to show the waistband sitting at the model's natural waist so I risked it. It turned out to be not quite empire but too high for my taste, giving an overall boxy look with little definition (my mum said it looked a bit like I was wearing a child's dress). The extra fabric around the waist area didn't help.

Luckily, my sister loved it and it looked much better on her, so it's hers now and my parents offered to reimburse me the £13.50. I plan to sew another navy t-shirt dress myself.

Little Bow Hair Clips in Hot Pink and Cream

Even cuter in real life, and the colours are as shown on the website (the pink doesn't look as vivid in my photo).

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More Bows and some Fitting Room Reviews
Friday, 28 January 2011 / 23:46

Ribbon hair bows seem to be in this season, which delights me because I love them. Today I added these Internacionale hairbands to my small collection; the blue grosgrain was marked down to £1 and the cream chiffon to £1.50. A few other styles and colours were on sale at similar prices, and I found more bows at H&M, Claire's and Accessorize... I have a feeling my collection may continue to grow.

Whilst those were my only purchases, I tried on a few other things. Sorry for the poor-quality photos; I only had my phone with me and I'm not great at photographing myself as it is. (Truth be told, I'm also pretty shy about being in photographs, but this is supposed to be a personal style blog and I've got to ease myself in somehow.)

Sophie at Internacionale cardigan, age 14-15, £14.99 (not available online)

I dropped into Internacionale mainly to look at the accessories, but spotted a long, cable-knit cardigan in speckled cream, very similar to one from Topshop that had been on my wishlist last autumn. It was cute, but cost more than I was willing to pay for the quality. As luck would have it, though, there was an almost identical cardigan in the kids/teens section for £14.99. I liked the length and fit (quite slim for an age 14/15) but decided I should save the £15 on something I needed more - I already have two long, slouchy cardis.

H&M Divided plaid shirt, EU 32 / UK 6 / US 2, £14.99 (not available online)

Loved the print, loved the fabric (100% cotton flannel), loved the ruffles, not sure about the fit. I feel like it's in that awkward grey area between "deliberately oversized" and "meant to be fitted, but just too big". I wish they had it in UK 4, and that's the first time I've ever said that in reference to anything at H&M.

Miss Selfridge Black Floral Canvas Lace-Ups, UK 4 and 5, £20

Photographing yourself in a fitting room mirror is one thing; trying to photograph your feet in those long, narrow, tilted mirrors on the floor of shoe shops is quite another. I gave up after accidentally photographing my knee. Anyway, I liked these shoes even more in person and was planning to buy them - until I tried to walk in the size 5s (my usual size), and my heels slipped out with every step. I tried the 4s, but they were uncomfortably tight. Miss Selfridge doesn't carry half sizes, so I'm going to try and find out whether the 4s would stretch out enough with wear.

I tried a few other H&M items that didn't get photographed, including a certain striped blazer that I tried on just for kicks after seeing it on Kelly of Alterations Needed and Jean of Extra Petite. I can confirm (not that further confirmation was needed) that it's very petite-friendly and runs small. The sleeves were barely 3/4 length on me and the hem reached a touch below my waist (I'm 5'7").

Just for fun, here's a snap of the Hobbs sack coat I mentioned in my last post:

I give it full marks for cosiness and warmth, at least.

Soon to come: my Forever 21 and AE/Aerie reviews, plus a bit about the wardrobe overhaul I'm doing. Looking at every item of clothing I own and assessing whether it should be kept, altered or donated can be tedious, yes, but I'm finally doing something about all the clothes I have that don't fit me or my style.

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Saturday Shopping (sort of)
Sunday, 23 January 2011 / 11:00

Charity shop browsing yesterday. I didn't end up buying anything, but here's what I tried on:

- Two calf-length pleated wool skirts, one plain grey, one grey plaid. They fit, but the length seemed a bit too matronly on me, especially with the cardi/sweater combination I had on. I'm having second thoughts, though. The plain one paired with heels and a long, slouchy sweater could work, especially with the right accessories.
 Excuse the roughness of this sketch. I think I drew the skirt with more flare than it has, but it gets the basic idea across. Maybe I'll go back to the shop and give it another try; at £3, it would be a pretty good deal if I could make it work. ETA: unfortunately, it had some small marks that didn't look like they would be removable. I'm glad I went back to try it because I know that length looks okay on me now.

- An ankle-length sack coat by Hobbs, wool/cashmere/angora blend, charcoal grey. It was gorgeous; unfortunately, I was swamped by it, and there are limits to how much fabric a tailor can take in. My hunt for an elegant 1950s-style sack coat continues.


Promo Codes, Links and Rambling
Thursday, 20 January 2011 / 22:00

(A major deadline for me just got extended, so I have a little breathing room, hence the posting.)

A few promotions just landed in my inbox: American Eagle is offering $10 off $50 or more with code 39746382 until Feb 1st; take 25% off everything at Aerie when you buy two or more bras with code 83689238; and there's free shipping for a limited time (until Jan 31st, according to coupon sites) at Uniqlo.co.uk.

I'm not going to be using the AE or Aerie codes, but the Uniqlo offer is tempting. (One of my favourite things about Uniqlo is that they give detailed measurements for every item in every size. How awesome is that? More retailers should do this.) This tee comes dangerously close to fulfilling the "Navy Tee in a Ridiculously Specific Style" item on my wishlist

I finally signed up for Nectar points. I won't accrue very many of them, but if I do all my UK-based online shopping through Nectar and use Ebates for US-based stores, I should save a few pence over time

Please excuse the rambling low-content post! Today was sort of tiring and I can't wait to go to sleep. Here are some more exciting things to read. :)

L. at Academichic considers the implications of wearing tartan. Thoughtful posts like this are always good to read, but this one is particularly interesting to me because I'm Scottish.

Aging Gracefully and Levels of Style at Already Pretty. Not only does Sal write great posts, she has a talent for sparking discussion.

How I Want To Shop: A Shopping Flowchart at Orchids in Buttonholes. This one got bookmarked.

Calico Critters (aka Sylvanian Families) at Fern & Fawn. When I logged on this morning, hunched over the computer, coffee in hand, trying to gear up for the tasks ahead, I saw this in my feed reader and my day got that little bit better. And cuter.

Layering with Skirts (I've got to try this) at Fashion for Nerds, and another one from Already Pretty, Layering without Lumps. I need to re-read these myself, because I seemingly can't remember "put tights on under jeans when it's freezing".

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Polyvore Sets, Spring Pastels Edition
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 / 23:26

 Source unknown; originally posted by lovelybelieve on Tumblr.

Welcome to all new readers, and thank you for dropping by!

I'm going to be pretty busy over the next couple of days so I won't be posting again until the weekend, but here's a quick Polyvore post in the meantime. It came together in a bit of a backwards way because I'd put together these sets based on pale neutrals, then saw the above photo on Tumblr, which reminded me of Audi's post on taking fashion inspiration from interiors.

Spring Looks 5

Spring Looks 4

Spring Looks 3

Spring Looks 2

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Forever 21: more charcoal and navy ahead
Tuesday, 18 January 2011 / 14:45

Okay, so "more hair bows than I really need" was not on my wardrobe-building wishlist, but a couple of nights ago I was in need of a distraction and decided to browse Forever 21.

What's this? Prices in sterling? UK shipping at £3.95?

Thermal waffle shirts?*

24 hours later, I ended up ordering a dress, a thermal tee, and two sets of grosgrain ribbon hair clips. Believe me, this was a small fraction of what was originally in my cart - my online shopping strategy is to add more stuff than I would ever buy in one go, then whittle it down to the items I really want/will allow myself to buy. (This is where my ridiculous overthinking comes in and makes the whole process much more convoluted than it should be.)

I know not to expect great quality, but if any of the items turns out to be a serious letdown, F21's UK return policy is more reasonable than their US one (perhaps because of UK/EU trading regulations?). I can return for a full refund, not just store credit.

Here's what I ordered:

Little Bow Hair Clips (Hot Pink and Cream)

I admit it, I'm a sucker for this kind of thing; it took restraint not to buy lots more bows. (I have three bow headbands already...) As a feeble justification, I do need to keep my hair out of my face somehow, so I might as well do it in the girliest way possible. Grosgrain ribbon is lovely.

Fab Knit Thermal (Charcoal)

I'm not sure about the boatneck, but all the other thermals on offer were of the very-very-small-and-stretchy variety (one was listed as measuring 22" across the chest in a size Small...) and that's not my kind of thing. This one comes in a broad range of colours; I liked the ivory, pale pink and teal besides the charcoal grey.

Crochet Bib Knit Dress (Navy)

I may have spent an embarrassingly long time comparing different thermal shirts, but it took me all of five minutes to decide to buy this dress. (The sleeves! They're the perfect length!) Assuming it's true to the photos and doesn't fall apart on the first wash, I plan to wear it over leggings or a white ruffled underskirt.

Although I just signed up to Ebates to save a little on future online purchases, I'm not planning on shopping any more for a while - not until I've sorted through and organised what I already own, at least. My posts so far probably give the impression I shop constantly (three online orders in less than a month?), but in between these shopping spells I'll happily go a few months at a time without buying clothes. I want 2011 to be a year of spending more efficiently as well as dressing better, though; more on this later.

Oh, and my first American Eagle order arrived! I'll do a proper review with photos soon, but I'm very happy with both of the items.

*I can't explain the allure of waffle shirts. They just seem so cosy, and yet they're so hard to track down here. I've never seen one on the high street that wasn't part of a set of pyjamas.

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More Wishlisting
Sunday, 16 January 2011 / 11:00

Black by Popular Demand Dress (Modcloth).

Besides my wishlist, I keep a text file listing items I would like to buy but haven't tracked down yet. I try to do this with practicality in mind: I probably don't need another slouchy sweater, for example, but I almost always have trouble putting together semi-smart or formal outfits. When considering a purchase, I often check over the list to see if it fits in anywhere; this is another way to focus my spending on things I could really use. However, a number of things have reminded me that I ought to inventory what I already own before making this sort of list, so this is a first draft. Once I've organised my wardrobe (and believe me, it needs it), I should have a clearer idea of what's lacking.

Dress: black, formal, versatile
I thought I could take care of this one after being invited to a formal party last autumn, but tracking down the right kind of little black dress in my size and price range was ridiculously hard.

Court shoes: black, ~3" heel
Again, something much harder to find than they seemingly should be - or perhaps I was just looking in the wrong places?

Blazer: black/navy/charcoal, fitted, cuffable sleeves
H&M seem to have basic blazers every season, so this shouldn't be too hard. I like Uniqlo's, but based on the product measurements (a fantastically useful feature) I'm not sure how slim-fitting they'd be.

Slim-fitting cardigan
Because oversized cardigans, as much as I love them, can only go so far.

Day dress: something that can be worn by itself as well as part of an ensemble
For me, this means it must be long-sleeved. I might end up sewing this one myself.

Dressy top or blouse
Something to layer under a jacket or cardigan for semi-smart occasions - like this gorgeous ruffled one worn by Extra Petite.

Tee: navy, long in the body, medium-short sleeves, scoop neck, fitted
If it wasn't obvious already, I'm too fussy about clothes for my own good. 

Tops: slim-fitting tees and camisoles for layering
Because I'm too used to wearing single layers (or a sweatshirt + another sweatshirt), meaning I don't have very much that will fit under a slim-fitting cardi or button-down shirt.

Tights: basic black/grey/navy; at least one warm pair for winter; colours (pink, etc)
I have no excuse for not buying tights, really; I'd get more wear out of my skirts.

Socks: comfy, slouchy, warm (for indoors, sleep)
Okay, this one is a total indulgence.

Straw hat
For summer.

Tulle skirt
Not exactly a wardrobe staple, but I just love them. I plan on sewing this one, and possibly more than one.

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Colour Experiments in Polyvore
Friday, 14 January 2011 / 13:12

Insofar as it has any organisation at all, my wardrobe is based around blue and grey, especially navy and charcoal; I love these shades and I like the way they look on me. I do own and wear other colours - for example, forest green, soft pinks and vivid reds - but not as much as I could, and whilst I'll never give up my blues and greys, there are other colours out there. Polyvore is a nice risk-free way of playing with colour in outfits and seeing what I can put together that doesn't centre around those safe, staple shades.

First, a casual, summery outfit featuring red. The first iteration of this outfit (the same tee and shoes with a red A-line skirt) wasn't really working, so I changed things around.

Colour Experiment: Red 2

Something more formal. I feel like I'm cheating here with the navy coat, but the red is still central.

Colour Experiments: Red 1

Another fancy outfit, featuring pink. I am not yet sure if pale pink really works with my colouring (pale skin, dark eyes and hair - a Winter), but I hope it does. It's so pretty! (Aside: the bag is from New Look A/W 2010, and I almost bought it, but sadly the ones instore weren't in the greatest shape. The idea of carrying around a giant rose is still appealing.)

Colour Experiment: Pale Pink

More pale pink, cream and light beige.

Colour Experiment: Pale Pink 2

For more on colour, I like Fashion Help for Recovering Goths by Gala Darling (the best "find out what season you are" article I've found), Fashion 101: How to Combine Colors at Academichic, and Color Simplified, Adding Color to a Neutral Wardrobe, Alternate Neutrals and Color Combos by Sally McGraw; in fact, just about every post under her "color" tag is a great resource.

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Fashion Confessions
Thursday, 13 January 2011 / 17:49

Last week, the fabulous Sally McGraw of Already Pretty prompted readers to share their fashion confessions, and I felt like turning my answers into a post... perhaps some of them will shed a little light on why I started this blog. ;)

- I don't wear any makeup besides foundation and/or concealer, and most days I wear none at all. I want to start wearing a little more (I bought some eyeshadow the other day!), but I'll always be a fan of natural, understated looks.

- I'm the opposite of an impulse buyer. I overthink almost every clothing purchase I make, and I'm prone to intense buyer's remorse for no good reason.

- I absolutely hate baring my arms; just wearing a t-shirt is a challenge. I was kind of proud of myself for wearing a strappy dress to a party last year.

- I am guilty of buying too-short jeans from the H&M children's department because they were cheap. (In my defence, I was a very tall child and may have grown up thinking ankle-skimming jeans were normal.)

- I wear my shoes until they fall apart.

- Because maintaining a pixie cut can be pretty expensive, I used to cut my own hair. The less said about that, the better.

- My stylistic Kryptonite: cap-sleeved babydoll tees. No. Just no.

- I've been shopping at Topshop since I was 15, but I still feel intimidated every time I go in, as if everyone else there is younger, prettier and more stylish than me.

If all that gave you the impression of a shy oddball in scuffed shoes and too-short jeans... my work here is done. :P


Thinking of Summer
Saturday, 8 January 2011 / 13:41

Aoi Yuu in Pretty Style Summer 2010 (Mori Girl)

Living in Scotland, it's tempting to blame the climate for my lack of summery clothes, but the truth is, if I was less shy (and less prone to feeling cold) it would be much less of a problem. Every August I see dozens of girls in tank-tops and tiny shorts, and whilst I'm not sure I'd go that far myself, there's no good reason I can't put on a lightweight dress and cardigan once in a while instead of living in sweatshirts and jeans.

Because of these constraints - weather, temperature, self-consciousness - I like to think creatively when looking around for summer style inspiration. It's not that I don't like pictures of sunkissed models frolicking around in bikinis, it's that that sort of thing doesn't really relate to what I usually get up to in summer. (Put me in a bikini on a Scottish beach and I will be shivering too hard to frolic.)

Aoi Miyazaki for Earth Music & Ecology (Mori Girl)

Mori Girl posted some beautiful summer inspiration last year: SM2 Summer 2010, Earth Music & Ecology, Olive des Olives, and Yu Aoi in AnAn. Mori Girl may be a quirky niche fashion, but these are some gorgeous, climate-appropriate and very wearable outfits.

 SM2 Summer 2010 (Mori Girl)

The colours in this outfit echo the colour of the sand so perfectly. I like the effect of a white petticoat or slip underneath a skirt or dress; I have an antique petticoat that would be perfect layered under a blue dress once I've altered it a little.

SM2 Summer 2010 (Mori Girl)

This kind of lace (cutwork? openwork?) is a gorgeous, delicate accent.

Olive des Olives (Mori Girl)

Comme des Garcons
Syrup A/W 2009, Aoi Yuu in Anan (Mori Girl)

Shorts, skirts or slim jeans add some definition and balance a loose top or tunic. 

Other ideas: a straw hat, cropped leggings under shorter skirts and dresses, and anything with a small floral print (one of my favourite ways to make an outfit feel more summery).

Lastly, summer hairstyles! I wore a pixie cut for most of the past six years, but I'm growing my hair in the hope that I'll be able to do some pretty, floaty, tousled, romantic stuff with it in a few months.


 Sources unknown.

Getting back to the present, I have a second (!) American Eagle order on the way. The cable-knit sweater from my last post was marked down by 30%, and I found a discount code for another 15% off, taking it to $29.72 (originally $59.50) before tax. To this I added the Aerie Cozy Waffle Crew and the Aerie Cropped Leggings, both in navy. I swear I don't usually buy this much in such a short period, but when something I've liked for a while is marked down to an affordable price, I will often snap it up. Let's hope I haven't made a huge mistake, ordering all these clothes from a brand I've never tried before! (Well, it worked with Uniqlo.)

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Monday, 3 January 2011 / 22:44

Although I don't shop for clothes very often, I'm a dedicated keeper of wishlists. For some, keeping a list of items you're coveting might increase the temptation to buy, but I find it actually helps me focus my spending towards things I really want and/or need. For example, after receiving some Christmas money, I took advantage of American Eagle's one-day discounts and ordered two items that had been on my wishlist for a good month. In the post-Christmas sales I was able to buy another item from my wishlist and one that met a wardrobe "need" I'd noted down at the beginning of the autumn (a pair of slouchy, comfortable jeans I could wear cuffed). I'm not naturally organised, but I thrive on a bit of organisation, and having a particular thing in mind feels better than aimlessly browsing.

Of course, the longer you keep things on your list, the more likely it is that they'll become unavailable before you get around to buying, but this has taught me that I can happily do without a lot of the things that appeal to me. I haven't been too disappointed over any of the things that have fallen off my list that way; I just shrug, delete the entry, and perhaps save images for future reference. The one thing I did snap up very quickly in 2010 was my Topshop duffel coat, but even so, I'd had "winter coat" on my wishlist for months.

Enough rambling; here are a few things I'm eyeing for spring 2011.

AE Cable Knit Long Sweater (American Eagle)

I was so close to adding this one to my post-Christmas order, and I'm strongly tempted to go ahead and order it anyway before it vanishes, as I haven't had much luck finding a nice cable sweater that would fit me (for once in my life, I'm not looking for something oversized and baggy).

Aerie Slouchy Band Collar Button-Up Shirt (Aerie)

This would look nice layered over a white, cream or pale grey tee, I think.

Black Floral Canvas Lace-Up (Miss Selfridge)

The antique floral print on black could work well in autumn as well as spring.

Merino Cashmere V Neck Long Cardigan (Uniqlo)
Either this or the shorter Merino Cashmere V Neck Cardigan A, though it looks like both of them might be disappearing soon.

Aerie Cozy Waffle Crew (Aerie)

Tight tees aren't my thing, but I've developed a curious fixation with waffle-knit shirts.

Button-Neck Dress (Zara TRF)

I think this could work over skinny jeans, or perhaps layered with other light, loose garments for a Mori Girl-esque summer look.


Saturday, 1 January 2011 / 11:26


I've started this little blog to record my adventures in dressing better and assorted thoughts on fashion, style and beauty. I love beautiful clothes and expressive dressing, but being a rather shy and self-conscious (not to mention disorganised) person, I live in jeans and baggy sweaters. I'll never stop liking that formula - it's comfortable, practical, and feels like part of my personality - but I'm learning to bring a little more interest and flair to it.

I like to think about some of the social and cultural aspects of fashion, too, so I will attempt to cast a critical (if inexpert) eye on things from time to time. There will also be detours into food, sewing, and art photography posting pretty pictures.

Anyway, welcome to En Bouton. I hope to make this little corner of the internet an interesting and enjoyable one. ♥