Summer dresses – Country Lane’s pick of the prettiest

Am currently much preoccupied by summer dresses.  Or rather the search for the perfect dress that will take me to smartish summer drinks party and a friend’s wedding in Paris in September.  Both require a special dress and ideally one that will work on both occasions .  A dress that will sit in my wardrobe for quite a while please to not be tossed into the ‘am so over that 2017 look!’ pile.  A dress that is pretty but stylish and modern, not overly trendy but not dowdy classic either, have allure and will suit me perfectly.  That is the brief anyhow…

How am I doing? Easy peasy when you are living in London with the greatest selection of shops to visit:  Libertys, Selfridges, Fenwicks would be my starting points.  But my quest to find the perfect dress is turning into a veritable mission and my heart is sinking fast… A mission that reminds me of the numerous occasions in my costume career when costume brief combined with actor proved to be more challenging than necessary.  The reasons for challenging costuming could be down to the exacting brief from director, the physique of the actor (both perfect or otherwise can presents their own issues) or more often than not down to budget, or rather lack of.

Currently both physique and budget are proving to be the challenge, neither are playing ball, tiresome if nothing else.  For a costume job or a personal styling client I would allow between six to a dozen choices to present at the first fitting: to date I have tried on fifteen dresses, yes fifteen dresses I kid you not!  And I have just ordered some more to try on…My quest is certainly not helped by the fact that I have no access to a good range of shops on my doorstep and am relying solely on the joy of internet shopping which is perfect for me for accessing labels and designers otherwise not available locally.  But this also presents a whole new set of challenges as I have to rely heavily on photographic images, website descriptions and sizing guides to help me in my purchase. So undeterred I am pressing on…Will report back when I have found my dream summer dress but meanwhile here is my edit of pretty dresses.

COUNTRY LANE’S SELECTION OF THE PRETTIEST

Ulla Johnson Paulette Dress - Midnight
Ulla Johnson Paulette Dress – Midnight – £345.00 Avenue 32, image courtesy of www.ullajohnson.com

Ulla Johnson is an American designer who has recently registered on all UK fashionistas’s radar with her upmarket boho feminine collection, custom prints and intricate embroideries.  Demand for her collections is high and sell out very quickly.   Available at Net-a-Porter, Avenue 32 and KJS Laundry.  Not the cheapest but longevity in your wardrobe will certainly confirm cost per wear value.  This dress is cut very small in the bodice so would recommend sizing up.

 

See By Chloe Floral crepe dress
See By Chloe Floral crepe dress- £365.00 – Mytheresa.com

I have been following See by Chloe for a number of years but felt it had lost its way but recently the collection has been hitting its stride once again with the essence of the main line Chloe collection but simplified and more affordable.  Modern and feminine, this year there are some really lovely dresses, I loved this dress but sadly I am too short (5ft2), the perfect dress to wear for a wedding.  Also like this dress below and have just ordered.

 

See By Chloe Ruffled Dress
See By Chloe Ruffled Dress -£334.00 Farfetch

 

Zimmermann Roza embroidered dress
Zimmermann Roza embroidered cotton and silk-blend dress – £471.00 – Exclusive to Matches

Ever since the Duchess of Cambridge wore a very pretty dress by Zimmermann walking on the beach on her visit to Australia, this label was an overnight sensation globally.  Primarily a beachwear and swimwear label, the collection has been expanded to include the prettiest day and evening dresses. This a personal favourite and perfect for summer parties.

 

Isabel Marant - Palmi embroidered dress
Isabel Marant – Palmi ecru embroidered linen dress £920.00 – Harvey Nichols
Isabel Marant Mabel silk dress
Isabel Marant – Mabel pink embroidered silk dress – £830.00 Harvey Nichols

Can we talk about Isabel Marant? Expensive yes but she creates collections filled with what I would describe as sophisticated boho clothes with added elegance and French chic that you find yourself adding to your must have list.    Personally I have always gravitated towards Prada and Miu Miu, not usually a fan of boho clothing as never felt it suited me but since moving to the country, I have found myself being drawn to this designer increasingly and in particular to the diffusion range called Isabel Marant Etoile.  Could it be my French heritage or is it simply down to the fact that this designer is creating clothes that sit really well in my new lifestyle and work for me on a daily level?  If my budget would allow, I would be making a beeline for the above dresses, I have included cream dress not strictly as pretty as pink embroidered dress but a modern take on elegance.  Will be keeping my eye out for these in the sales.

Mother of Pearl Ellie Dress
Mother of Pearl Ellie Dress – £495.00- Style.com

Lastly I have included this very pretty dress by new up and coming label Mother of Pearl currently BFC Vogue Fashion Fund Winner of 2017 and one to watch.  This dress sings to me as a costume designer as a simple dress made modern and pretty.  Love the pearl detail.

This is not a sponsored post.

 

C’est chic: Country Lane’s guide to modern chic

The French call it chic, Brits would call it smart.  But somehow the term ‘chic’ has been adopted for sounding ever so chic actually.   It is a love affair and fascination with all aspects of French style that has been keeping the world busy persuing style in the name of ‘chic’.  But recently the term chic has been so plagiarised that anything with a hint of style is being described as such.  So I would like to start my own Country Lane campaign to safeguard this very specific French word.

Catherine Deneuve circa 1960s, image courtesy of Pinterest – note the coat slung over the shoulders with Hermes Kelly bag and dark sunglasses, glamourous and chic!
Coco Chanel image courtesy of Pinterest
Coco Chanel, image courtesy of Pinterest – the woman responsilble for introducing French Chic to the World

My own introduction to French chic started as a small girl when I was taken by my French mother to Paris where we met her friend for lunch.  This was the first time I can recall meeting this lady who would play a big part in my childhood and would come to define my understanding of French chic.  I can remember her wearing a Mackintosh raincoat, could have been Burberry or Aquascutum, she was also wearing a Scottish kilt no doubt from The Scotch House (sadly no longer in operation but was the must go to destination shop for all Europeans wanting their own British ‘chic’), no doubt a cashmere sweater, her handbag had an Hermes scarf tied to the strap.  Forgive me the rest is a bit sketchy.  Suffice to say she made a huge impression on me because she dressed unlike any English ladies back home.  As I grew up I would stay with her every time I went to Paris and her style remained constant despite the ebbs and flows of the ever evolving fashions that hit the world in the seventies, eighties and nineties.  She was my first introduction and eventual benchmark of French chic.  So how did she define this for me? She wore classic but elegant clothing that always had a nod to current trends.  Her clothes always fitted her beautifully, this is key to defining French chic.  My mother will always say that everything has to be well cut and tailored, otherwise ‘pret-a-porter’ altered to fit correctly.  She was very faithfull to the same pieces of jewellery that she wore with everything.  She often wore an Hermes scarf folded and tied at the neck.  She had great deportment.  Her perfume was unique to her but no doubt from one of the great French perfume houses.  But her innate sense of chic was not just apparent in her dress style but also in her lifestyle.  Her elegance was evident in all she did and in her home.  She was a great cook and would entertain frequently and it was always a treat to be a guest at her table.

My other great source of chic observation was my late grand-mother’s neighbourhood in Paris.  She lived in the ‘6eme’ St Germain-des-Pres,  round the corner from two of the greatest cafes in Paris: Le Cafe Flore and Les Deux Magots, to walk by was to observe Parisians young and old all exuding style and chic. Sadly this is not so much the case today: I would suggest a trip to Bordeaux where to my delight I recently saw French ladies exuding the same chic and style that I remembered from my childhood visits to Paris.

Ines de la Fressange in a classic little black jacket from Chanel Photo: KARL LAGERFELD/CHANEL

Ines de la Fressange, in my eyes the perfect example of a modern chic Parisian, has recently published her book with the English edition due out April 6th: Parisian Chic Look Book: What Should I wear Today? Reading this is a reassuring joy as it shows how contemporary women can claim fashion and importantly dress for the everyday and for special occasions but with a heavy dose of Parisian flair and chic.  There are no controversial edgy looks (keep this for the complete fashionistas she might say), but easy to wear effortless looks with a nod to contemporary fashion and with added style.  The book presents six chapters with different dress dilemmas or recipes as Ines de la Fressange calls it ranging from what to wear to meet your bank manager to discuss your overdraft to what to wear on your first Tinder date, all underlined with great humour and fashion advice.   I also love her top twenty fashion mistakes and no-nos:  no designer head to toe look which would condemn any true Parisian as this requires sacrificing your own style.  How true!  No over revealing of flesh otherwise you stray into reality tv territory and many other style advice gems.  So thank you Ines de la Fressange for your book and all your charming advice, order your copy now I say.

So Country Lane’s guide to modern chic:

  • classic but never boring
  • requires refinement and flair, not always a given but crucial
  • buying the best quality within personal budget, no frivolous shopping but careful thought out purchases
  • effortless and presentable, no scruffiness
  • knowing how to best dress your body: highlighting the advantages and covering up the perceived flaws
  • making sure that clothes always fit properly
  • not slavishly following fashion, being stylish or a die- hard fashionista does not equate chic
  • confident in making personal style choices
  • outfits are beautifully coordinated with all elements of an outfit complimenting
  • accessories are carefully chosen, simple and of the best quality
  • the devil is always in the detail:  no scuffed shoes, grooming simple and polished, clothes pressed
  • chic also is an attitude that carries over into personal lifestyle
  • deportment and good manners go hand in hand with true chic
  • have an understanding of culture; most Parisian women are up to date on all cultural matters and can you give the low down on the must see art exhibitions, films, theatre and books to read

Chic icons include: Diana Vreeland, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, C.Z. Guest, Wallis Simpson, Catherine Deneuve, Coco Chanel, Carolyn Bessett-Kennedy, Nan Kempner

C.Z. Guest, 1955: The American socialite with a Great Dane at her ocean-front estate, Villa Artemis, in Palm Beach, 1955, image Slim Aarons/Getty Images – this woman lived and breathed true chic

 

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Rome 1967, image courtesy of Rex

 

Modern chic icons include: Ines de la Fressange, Anna Wintour, Emmanuelle Alt, Nathalie Massenet

Emmanuelle Alt, Editor-in-Chief Vogue Paris, image courtesy of Spanish Vogue

 

Modern chic icon in the making:  Alexa Chung for having her own unique style and so looking forward to seeing how her style evolves as she gets older.

 

Alexa Chung, image courtesy of Daily Mail

 

This is not a sponsored post.

All images courtesy of Pinterest.

 

 

Gone Fishing Part 2 – What To Wear

It goes without saying that a post about my fly-fishing day also requires some sartorial advice. Here is my guide to beginner fly-fishing dressing with added style.

Wellies of course!  My preference is for any boot by Le Chameau.  My favourite for the countryside are the Neoprene lined boots,  I get very cold feet and wellies do not keep feet warm.  These work a treat, Unisex Country Vibram Neoprene Boot.

Unisex Country Vibram Neoprene Boot – Le Chameau – £135.00

I would not recommend jeans as I have learnt on many a film location shoot that in cold weather or otherwise jeans are the worst trouser to wear.  I would recommend a skinny corduroy or moleskin trouser, easier for tucking into boots and keeps you warm.  Have a look at Farlows who stock these cords by Dubarry. I would always pack a pair of Gortex waterproof trousers to have on standby.  I am a huge fan of this Canadian outdoor specialist clothing brand called Arc’teryx , Canada has the extreme weather and terrains and this brand delivers.  I like these.

You will need some wrap-around polarised sunglasses to protect eyes when casting from any stray fishing hooks.  Have a look at Bolle and Ray-ban.

A really warm sweater, ok a fleece would be practical too but not particularly stylish.  I am currently rather taken with this wonderful knitwear label And Daughter making traditional British sweaters but updated for the stylish modern woman. I am currently wearing this one and absolutely love it.  Look at these:

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The Donegal Aran Roll Neck – £260.00
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The Donegal Aran Knit by & Daughter – £255.00

A warm shirt: how about a stylish flannel check shirt, have a look at J Crew in their Autumn-Winter collections or their sale section.  Also look at a classic but fitted Tattersall shirt like this one.  I did find a great Tattersall style shirt by Isabel Marant on The Outnet, so worth having a look there as well.

Waterproof jacket: I wore my twenty-five year old Barbour jacket but found this more stylish jacket which was inspired by Barbour’s fishing jackets archive:

Women's Barbour Summer Spey Wax Jacket
Barbour Summer Spey Wax Jacket – £249.00

A hat: I love wearing hats, sadly hats seem to be only worn in the countryside, at weddings and funerals.  I wore a green felt Trilby but am impressed with these Fedora hats by Hicks & Brown, they come in great colours but to go fishing I would go for either of these options:

The Suffolk Fedora in Camel - £79.00
The Suffolk Fedora in Camel – £79.00
The Suffolk Fedora in Dark Brown - £79.00
The Suffolk Fedora in Dark Brown – £79.00

Thermals:  depending on the time of year and weather and by the very nature of the sport you will be be standing,  I think some thermals would be worth considering.  Best thermals are in silk such as Hanro Warmwear range or in merino wool such as Icebreaker, whose reputation was well and truly tested when  I was part of of a film crew that got stuck overnight in a blizzard on a Norwegian glacier, yes really! But their thermals worked.  Good tip: always ask a film camera technician which brand of clothing and equipment works best for them in outdoor locations.

Once you have progressed in fly-fishing then the next stop would be to visit Farlows who have the most comprehensive range of specialist clothing for fishing.  I would recommend a trip to the Pall Mall shop, the staff there have expert knowledge and will guide you to the best clothing and equipment.  They are the stockists of what is considered the best make for anglers, an American company called Simms (check out the black and white photography on the website!).

Images courtesy of Le Chameau, &Daughter, Barbour, Hicks & Brown

This is not a sponsored post.

 

Gone fishing

In my London life ‘Country Pursuits’ were always the preserve of Country Life magazine readers. However as a costume designer when it came to country clothing and accessories, that was a sartorial challenge I relished.  This usually involved a brief phone call to friends who were great authorities on all matters countryside who gave me invaluable advice on achieving a truly authentic look.  I was then able to convincingly costume an actor in full country attire to suit any sport be it shooting, fishing or riding.  Such is the fun of working as a costume designer beyond the glamour roles, you have to turn your hand at costuming actors in a vast array of roles based on characters drawn from all walks of life, professions and sports.  After extensive research into a character’s costume, I usually ended up gaining a fair amount of professional knowledge on the specialist clothing and occupation: fire-fighters, police, army, Artic explorers…to name but a few.

Fast-forward and a move to the country with my family.  Country pursuits have now taken centre stage in my new country life as I am surrounded by neighbours all enjoying some country sport.  Add visits to the annual local agricultural show and suddenly you are embracing country living and finding yourself  in need of a ‘pursuit’.

As I pondered on the traditional country pursuits of horses, dogs, shooting and fishing, I decided on which one would suit me best.  Dogs are a given and currently work in progress as my husband and I decide on what breed of dog to get.  Horse-riding: I am tempted but have not sat in a saddle for over twenty-five years and feeling a little nervous, so on the maybe list.  Shooting: I am terrified of guns, even the mock guns that armourers would bring to set as part of a costume scared me.  However very happy to join a shoot lunch or supper if anyone is asking.  Now fishing and more specifically fly-fishing is considerably more tempting.  The thought of fishing in some remote Scottish river always appealed to me and when I received an invitation from Farlows and Sportfish to join them in a beginner’s lesson in fly-fishing, I jumped at the chance much to my husband’s bemusement as he did not quite bank on his Prada loving wife to be donning waders to go fishing.

I travelled to Sportfish just outside of Reading for my Beginner’s One-Day Stillwater Trout Fly Fishing Course.  Our instructor, the very informative Matt Holden, introduced us to the fishing kit and tackle.  We then went outside to have a go at casting on the lawn, trying to get the fly where it needs to be.  I got the hang of this but was slightly defeated in our next challenge which involved real casting in the lake.  Encouraged by the wisdom of expert instuctor Robin Elwes who reassured me that fish would not care one iota about my lack of fishing skills as not programmed to register expert fishing techniques, I started casting and tried to catch a trout.  Frustratingly I nearly managed this but the fish managed to get away.  There was a magical moment whilst fishing that my mind was so absorbed by the task that thoughts of Mindfulness came to mind: I found fishing absorbing, relaxing and ultimately de-stressing.  I now understood why fishing is so popular and in particular with men.  But as a sport for women I thought this definitely needed promotion especially when our instructors asserted that women make better students than their male counterparts.

Inspired by my fly-fishing day, I immediately started mentally planning my next fishing excursion. I  would like to propose to my local mother friends a trip to include some fly-fishing with an instructor in my county’s famous River Test valley.  This would include an overnight stay with our essential creature comforts catered for as well as good food and wine to entertain us in the evening.  Farlows Travel have come up trumps and recommend the following:

river-test-courtesy-fishing-breaks
River Test, image courtesy of Fishing Breaks
River Test , image courtesy of Fishing Breaks
River Test image courtesy of Fishing Breaks

Where:  Wherwell Priory, River Test, Hampshire: one of the most idyllic country estates with the River Test flowing through the tranquil parkland setting and provides the perfect location to fish a classic English chalk stream in private surroundings with a group (good to know as a novice!).  Farlows Travel will provide qualified instructors and guides to help you not only have a wonderful day in the countryside but learn how to catch trout in a chalk stream.

When: Best time for the Test River, May and June but you can also fish throughout the summer and ealy autumn depending on the weather.

Stay:The Greyhound On The Test in Stockbridge, Michelin Pub of the Year 2014, nice comfy rooms and good food.

Cost: Day fishing £281.00 per person, cost for a guide £300.00 per day for up to two people which includes tackle and local transportation.  Accommodation not included in these costs.

And once I have progressed in my fishing, I would then like to fulfill a life’s ambition to go salmon fishing in Scotland.  Farlows Travel recommend the following:

tulchan-courtesy-of-tulchan-lodge-2
Tulchan image courtesy of Tulchan Lodge

Where: River Spey at Tulchan Lodge, Scotland.  The River Spey is one of the most productive salmon rivers in Scotland and Tulchan Water is acknowledged as the jewel in the crown.  Eight miles of river offering a rich variety of sport in the beautiful setting of the Tulchan Estate.  On the banks of the river, luxurious cabins provide rest and relaxation for fishermen and guests.

tulchan-courtesy-of-tulchan-lodge
Tulchan image courtesy of Tulchan Lodge

Stay: accommodation is provided in Tulchan Lodge and estate cottages with full household staff to look after guests and every need catered for.  Sounds wonderful!

When: May, June, July and August with prime time mid-May to mid-August.

Cost: depending on the time of year.

So for a relaxing escape and the chance to try out a new sport with friends that will take you to the most breathtaking scenery in the world then I think fly-fishing should go straight to the top of your bucket list of activities to try.

Whilst I was a guest of Farlows and Sportfish, this is not a sponsored post, all words and opinions are my own.

Country Lane Heroes – Petit Bateau

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Over the years I have come to love and trust some great fashion designers and labels as well as brands that have well and truly stood the test of time with innovative design and quality products.  For in my eyes a product to become a classic must have design credentials, be fit for purpose, be beautifully made and be of sound quality. I shall be introducing regularly some old and new tried and tested designers and brands that have earnt their place as my personal ‘Country Lane Heroes’.

Vogue scored a major fashion coup this year when the Duchess of Cambridge agreed to her first ever cover shoot to celebrate the centenary of the magazine.  The feature of the story was the ‘unexpected informality’.  No diamonds and tiaras but instead a very informal Duchess wearing amongst other things Petit Bateau.   A striped long sleeve top in the iconic Petit Bateau stripes which unsurprisingly sold out and is no longer available. I am sure that this shoot further cemented Petit Bateau’s UK reputation but this would be of no great surprise to its legion of devoted customers in France.  This is after all the iconic French brand that begun its journey in 1893.

What you need to know: they invented cotton underwear replacing wool underwear for which we must all be grateful!  Crucially for any parent they also invented the American armhole in 1950 allowing a baby bodysuit to slip easily through the head and arms of a baby: a complete god-send which I became acutely aware of as I dressed my new-born child, despite a career dressing people.  We can also thank Petit Bateau for inventing velour and towelling in children’s wear as nothing beats their quality velour in baby bodysuits for softness and warmth.

Petit Bateau Baby Bodysuit
UNISEX BABY PLAIN LONG-SLEEVE BODYSUIT WITH AMERICAN ARMHOLE, PETIT BATEAU £7.00
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BABY SLEEPSUIT IN VELOUR PETIT BATEAU £35.00

 

I first became aware of Petit Bateau as a school child in London as we all changed into our PE kit in the dressing room, some girls wore the distinctive Petit Bateau Milleraies vests and pants in either red or navy stripe.  Anyone who was French (and a large majority of the pupils were) only wore Petit Bateau, a badge of honour so to speak.  My French mother insisted on Marks & Spencer as Petit Bateau was too expensive much to my disappointment.   Anyway on a trip to Paris I was struck down by gastroenteritis age 9 or 10 and was hospitalised.  I remember being vastly cheered up as an in-patient of the children’s ward I was issued hospital Petit Bateau Milleraies pyjamas.  Hurrah!  At long last I got to wear Petit Bateau. Only in France!

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GIRL’S VEST TOP IN MILLERAIES STRIPE PETIT BATEAU £10.00
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GIRL’S MILLERAIES STRIPE PYJAMAS, PETIT BATEAU £27.50

Just before ‘Little I’ was born, I popped into Petit Bateau as they are one of the few labels who have a Newborn range whose clothing is based on height,  important if your newborn is premature or small and that was the rekindling of my love affair with this label.   So ‘Little I’ started her sartorial life in Petit Bateau, a white velour sleepsuit with matching jacket and hat.    When it comes to babies and children, Petit Bateau really does know how to deliver quality clothing  which is soft to touch, well made and durable.  Not for nothing that it has become one of the most popular resell baby and child clothing labels on Ebay.  As ‘Little I’ has grown I have bought some great everyday basics that have withstood heavy wear and frequent washing and whose clothing have been designed with the child in mind.  I have loved all their sleep suits and pyjamas in their wonderful warm velour (particularly useful in cold winter days in the countryside), rainmacs, underwear (currently the best on the market), rollneck cotton tops, Marinieres Breton tops, dungarees.  The list goes on…I also hugely appreciate their attention to detail,  and the finish on the garments, love their invented cocotte stitch.   Clearly they exercise great quality control, rare in an ever evolving disposable world of clothing and one of my current clothing bug bears.  The website works well and they have frequent sales, welcome news to any parent with growing children.  The sizing I find comes up small in childrenswear and I have always tended to buy up a size, however underwear is true to age size.

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QUILTED BABY JACKET PETIT BATEAU £39.00
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HOW ADORABLE IS THIS! NEWBORN BABY GIRL LONG-SLEEVED BODYSUIT PETIT BATEAU £15.00
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ICONIC WAXED RAINCOAT, PETIT BATEAU £59.00

As for adults, the Americans were the first to cotton on (excuse the pun) back in the Eighties to Petit Bateau’s range of vests and t-shirts for sixteen year olds.  It proved so popular that Petit Bateau gradually expanded their size range to include adult sizes for men and women.  I have been wearing non stop their Marinieres or Breton tops for every day.  Once again great quality and still retaining shape and colour despite numerous washes.

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WOMEN’S ICONIC MARINIÈRE IN HEAVY JERSEY PETIT BATEAU £52.00

So there you have it my first Country Lane Hero: Petit Bateau.

www.petit-bateau.co.uk

This is not a sponsored post.

All images courtesy of Petit Bateau

Lace story

I have been following a lovely dress label called Self Portrait for a while: www.self-portrait-studio.com  A young label that has made lace cool and contemporary and produces special occasion dresses that are affordable and stylish, not always a given.

Following on from this lace revival, I have been scouting my eye for any interesting lace tops and this week I discovered a gem from Monsoon, not usually on my personal radar but this was such a surprise!  The perfect top to wear with jeans or denim skirt by day or evening.  Dress it up further by adding a velvet skirt or trousers.  The blouse is true to size in fit and for a looser fit I would suggest going up a size.   I would wear it with a white or neutral camisole underneath to preserve modesty.  I got mine from M & S or you could try Hanro for their beautifully soft and comfortable cottons and silks, one of my go to labels for the best underwear that has been a constant in my costume kit.

LACEY VICTORIANA LACE FRILL BLOUSE £59.00  Check your local store for availability as smaller sizes have sold out online.

This is not a sponsored post.

 

 

My search for the perfect country boots

My search started in earnest as soon as the removal vans unloaded our wordly goods into our temporary rental cottage one very rainy Autumn day in 2012 with my husband and nine month old baby daughter. It was obvious that my much treasured shoe collection was going to be seriously challenged by rain and mud!

Just to put this into context I was and am a real London townie, raised and schooled in Central London.  My late father and my job as an editiorial fashion stylist and costume designer had taught me to truly love my home city, exposing me to the diverse and eclectic neighbourhoods of London, both North of the River and South.  I have been on so many film locations in areas with names I was only previously familiar with on the Monopoly board (Bromley-By-the-Bow one of them).  However I have also always loved escaping London thanks to three years of university in Norfolk where I discovered that country life was equally enjoyable.  Fast forward and as soon as our baby daughter was born, my husband and I were on a mission to find our forever home in deepest rural England.  With Dr Johnson’s famous quote ringing in my head: ” when a man is tired of London, he is tired of ife; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  and determined to prove Johnson wrong we left London to embark on a new chapter of country living.

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Working in television commercials and feature films, I have always had to be very practical with shoes, no tottering around London in high heels for me.   Running around London ‘prepping’ as we call it buying or rather shopping till I dropped, visiting costume houses, fittings with actors and meetings at production companies, always necessitated comfortable and practical footwear but equally a stylish shoe that suggested that yes I clearly understood style to my clients.  Prada Sport had become my go-to brand and one year they produced the perfect knee length boot, their interpretation of a classic riding boot with a rubber sole (lessens the impact on feet on those London pavements), decent heel,  slim fitting on the leg and fitted like a glove so to speak.  Importantly the boots looked brilliant with skirts or dresses as I tend only to wear jeans when filming on set or on location.  They looked so good that I would receive compliments from strangers and colleagues alike and regularly, an endorsement if there ever was one.   I wore these boots to death and if Signora Prada sees this, could I please request that she reintroduces them again in black and tan as before (and oh I am a size 36 just in case the factory asks…).  So moving to the countryside I had to rethink practical shoes and boots as well as my wardrobe (more on that later).

The challenge was to find a slim fitting black pair of leather boots with a rubber sole,  preferably a Welted Commando rubber style (forget leather soles in the countryside in the wet months) that was practical and stylish that did not necessarily scream designer fashion.  Mud I have discovered arrives in the Autumn and stops around late Spring and I needed an alternative to wellington boots which had become my daily default footwear.  Two years of searching every boot in shops, waiting patiently for the first boots to arrive in the stores in the summer and the internet led nowhere…

Then my eureka moment!  I remembered Penelope Chilver’s Long Tassel Boots from many a year ago when I had seen them at a London Fashion Week stand.  I immediately logged on to the website but sadly no boots were available in my size. Undeterred I then embarked on a search of the internet for a Spanish Riding Boot as they are also known and ordered in quick succession several pairs of varying quality that were all too tall 44cms in height to be precise. Village Post Office greatly amused by the returns I was undertaking.   I now faced a problem:  I had found the perfect country boot but they were just too tall for my legs and too wide.  I am 5ft 2 and have never had a problem with boot heights but the nature of these boots are that they are tall to accommodate horse-riding.  So frustrating!

I then did a search for bespoke riding boots and came across an article in the Daily Telegraph by Lisa Armstrong which talked about the made-to-measure service that was offered by Penelope Chilvers.  I emailed immediately and an appointment was made.  I went up to London for my fitting with Penelope Chilvers herself.  I tried on various sizes as the boots do come up big, we settled on a size 35 and worked out the best height for me which was 40cms.  Penelope also introduced me to all her other country worthy boots, great fun and will certainly be back to try on again.  Six weeks later my boots were delivered to me, a belated Christmas present from my husband, hurrah!  They were quickly initiated into Country Lane lifestyle and so far are fairing really well in Hampshire and even made an appearance on Chesil Beach, Dorset.  They are comfortable, easy to clean and versatile as they look good with skinny jeans, skirts or dresses. Further endorsement came this year when the Duchess of Cambridge wore her Penelope Chilvers boots on her trip to Bhutan and Canada which looked well worn and no doubt much loved.  Having road-tested these boots, I now have my eye on the brown version…

The details:

Penelope Chilvers boots – £475 plus additional £100.00 Made-to-Measure by appointment only at Duke Street store, tel 020 7491 9555 or email duke street@penelopechilvers.com

Also worth looking at:

Really Wild Clothing – £315.00 height 44cms but shoe size true to fit

Fairfax & Favour – £310.00 height varies according to size but shoe size true to fit

This is not a sponsored post.

Country Lane and Back to School

‘What will you do with all that free time?’ is a question that I have been asked regularly over the last few weeks as my little girl embarks on her new school adventure this week.  My initial response to the question was one of consternation as free time is not something that comes to mind as a mother.  However on reflection it would be giving me twenty five free hours to catch up on all domestic and professional matters that I have struggled to fit in or juggle since Little I arrived in 2012.  And in my head I have been plotting and planning a blog for well over a year and it was time to walk the walk so to speak…

But why a blog and why now I ask myself daily?  It’s a project I tell myself…Leaving London and moving to rural countryside life after a lifetime in London to concentrate on family life allowed me to take stock of my career to date and to ponder on my love of all things sartorial.  Becoming a mother has so dramatically changed my perception of the world that inevitably there were going to be changes in my lifestyle, wardrobe and above all thinking!

I have recently become fascinated by the rise of social media and fashion blogging: a platform for bloggers to write with complete freedom with a unique perspective on fashion and styling.  My early days in fashion journalism would have been markedly different had social media been available then. Sigh!   However in my search of fashion and style blogs, I was struggling to find a blog that was relevant to me and my new found lifestyle.  How about curating my own blog I thought?   I would go back to my fashion journalistic roots and write about my personal journey of dressing as a new mother and relocated to the countryside.  I also wanted to share some fashion wisdom and observations drawn from over twenty five years working in costumes and fashion as well as dressing models, actors and the public alike.  And here I am, filled with trepidation and excitement just like my little girl as we both start our new adventure.