Springtime At The School Gates

Hi More than Toast readers! I’m Katie and Alice has very kindly allowed me to write this post for you. With each passing season it seems fashion rules relax even further, meaning you can wear the same pieces for work and play – and from season to season – if you choose them carefully. Thanks for having me!

I know we’re all still in our thickest winter woollies, but it’s never too early to start planning next season’s wardrobe, particularly when you can pick up some of spring and summer’s key trends now. For me, my wardrobe has to be pretty multifunctional – cosy enough to walk the kids to school in the morning, smart enough if I’m going into the office or comfy enough to wear if I’m working from the kitchen table at home. And while pieces that tick all those boxes can be tricky to find, I’ve already got my eye on a few…

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Subtly sheer

Sheer fabrics were another big trend on the 2014 runways. And because sheer pieces are bang-on-trend most seasons, vintage boutiques and sites are a great place to pick up blouses that are true multi-taskers. This polka dot blouse from Rokit looks very Stella McCartney but at a fraction of the price. I’ll be wearing with leather look skinnies and ballet flats for a gorgeous off duty look or tucked into black trousers for work.

New season flats

While fashion and practicality don’t always go hand-in-hand, when it comes to footwear, it was all about the flat during New York Fashion Week’s spring summer 2014 show. There were Helmut Lang’s white mesh slip ons, Peter Som’s psychedelic brogues and Oscar de la Renta’s floral pumps. These flats from Heels.com take in many of next season’s trends with their white, lasercut styling. I’m going to be wearing mine with wide-legged or cropped straight legged trousers or to give a bit of an edge to a girly floral tea dress.

The classic trench

When it comes to spring cover ups, you simply can’t go wrong with a classic trench coat. It’s a wardrobe staple that you’ll wear and wear, which transcends seasons and years. Burberry’s spring summer 2014 runway show, as always, showcased the most stunning trench coats. This time round, the designer most famous for iconic cover ups sent models down the catwalks wearing beautiful pastel hues including lilacs, minty greens and sky blues. But, given that I end up spending more on my little ones clothes than mine these days, my budget doesn’t quite stretch to Burberry. Instead, I’ve been scouring the high street and I love the gorgeous soft khaki version from La Redoute. It has stunning peplum detailing on the back meaning you can wear over everything from workwear to a LBD or just with a pair of jeans for the school run.

The statement necklace

A key look for many seasons, the statement necklace is showing no signs of falling out of favour. It’s one of my favourite go tos when I’m rushing around fitting in the 9-5 with doing the school run. By wearing a pair of black skinny trousers and a white t-shirt with my parka and high tops to take the kids to nursery and school, I can add low heels, my necklace and blazer for a work look which is smart enough for meetings with the boss. This Marni necklace is stunning. It’s pricey but would work with everything. I’d wear over t-shirts, under the collar of a crisp white shirt or to liven up my little black dress.

The slouchy trouser

We’ve been squeezing ourselves into skinny jeans for seasons now. And, while a great pair of skinnies, particularly a high-waisted pair, can be super flattering, it’s great to see a slouchier silhouette appearing. I’ll be wearing mine like the models in the Karen Walker show, turned up and teamed with brogues, a cropped sweater and a blazer. This pair by Serbian designer Roksanda Ilincic combines this season’s checks with next season’s slouchiness – the perfect transitional piece.

Interiors: Moroccan-Style

Moving house. I’ve just done it, and it’s apparently one of the most stressful things you can put yourself through, along with Divorce,  a change in financial state and a child starting school. This is why I have more wrinkles in 2013 than in 2012 and should really stop making life changes right now.

Sidenote: that place up there isn’t my new house. Unfortunately.

It has been insanely stressful, not because I’ve had to pack up all my belongings and move them 7 miles down the road but mostly because I’ve had to do it ON MY OWN. When you move house with someone else you can at least delegate all the crappy jobs (oven cleaning, garage sorting) to them and get on with the fun bits (shopping) yourself.

Oh well, the crappy jobs are done, I’m treating myself to a hot stone massage next week to get over the experience, and I’m now on to the business of shopping. Yeehah!

I’ve always enjoyed the Moroccan decor aesthetic so when my friends from Moroccan Bazaar got in touch to ask if I fancied taking a look at their current range and make some selections for my new home I was more than happy to.

I love the intricate delicacies of furniture and accessories from Northern Africa: the carved mirrors, leather footstools, woven carpets and hand-painted tiles. There’s something so warm and comforting about the warm colours (and I write this wistfully in a vest, tshirt, jumper, jeans big socks and UGGS… brrr). If you put the heating on, lit some incense and closed your eyes you could almost be transported to the warm hubbub of a Moroccan souk. Here’s what I’m loving from Moroccan Bazaar at the moment:

morocco Kilim floor cushion £175, Kilim rug, £822, leather pouffe, £99, brass hand-chiselled mirror, £57.50.

London-based Moroccan Bazaar has been trading since 1970 and they use their active network of contacts throughout Morocco to bring the best quality of Moroccan furniture to the UK. They have a lovely space in Greenford chock full to the brim of North African delights which you can also see on their website. Or take a gander at the video below to see some of the outstanding craftsmanship that goes into their products:

This post was written in partnership with Moroccan Bazaar. For more information please see my disclosure.

Win! Joop Miss Wild

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I don’t often buy perfume. Perfume is such a special treat – it’s something I’m given as a gift or something you buy on a special occasion. The scent of a perfume evokes so much, marking points in time throughout mylife: CKOne for the teen years, Paco Rabanne Ultra Violet at Uni, Coco Mademoiselle for the early twenties, Ralph Lauren Romance for the mid twenties and Stella McCartney Stella for the single years. Perfume finishes off an outfit before I leave home, it makes me fee put-together before I step out the front door.

So when Joop sent me a bottle of their latest perfume I was intrigued. Joop Miss Wild is described as a powerful and addictive floral oriental fragrance; spicy top notes of berries with a sensual heart note of vanilla and a sexy base of rum accord. JOOP!’s Miss Wild is a good girl walking on the wild side and has the tagline “because sometimes, bad feels so good…”. 

You can take a test over at joopmisswild.com that will tell you which wild you are… I’m Naughty Wild (as if you even needed to ask?).

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Any naughty photograph of mine would probably be x-rated, so here’s me and one of my besties, Kaisa, the last time we drank jug upon jug of Margaritas. Good naughty times.

JOOP! have given me a bottle of Miss Wild to giveaway to one reader, all you have to do is…

- Take the online Are You Wild At Heart test at www.joopmisswild.com
- Using your result create a wild-inspired photo on Instagram. Go crazy!
- Make sure you’re following me on Instagram @aliceharold, tag me in the post and use the hashtags #misswild #badfeelssogood

Competition is open to UK residents only and winner will be drawn Wednesday 2nd October 2013. 

The AW13 Mumiform

I kind of like having my ‘mumiform’. The clothes I can, on days when I’m too tired/busy/stressed to wade through my cave of a wardrobe, just throw on in one combination or another and I know they’ll look good. And it not good, at least acceptable.

From Autumn through to winter it goes something like: jeans, comfy tshirt, sweater, boots; the jeans skinny and stretchy and the jumpers woolly. Comfy and warm, the sartorial equivalent of a big hug.

So when Dorothy Perkins got in touch with news of their new Essentials Range my ears picked up. A selection of 10 key pieces to simplify my A/W wardrobe? Perfect…

DP’s have selected The Biker, The Sculpted Tee, The 2in1 Dress, The Fit & Flare Dress, The Skirt, The Fur, The Blouse, The Item Sweat, The Cute Fit Knit and The Skinny (jean) as essentials we can choose from to quickly update our wardrobe this season. I selected The Sculpted Tee, The Cute Fit Knit and The Skinny as essentials I knew I would wear all winter. Here’s how I’ll be rocking them:

The Sculpted Tee

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The sculpted tee is great for days you want to just throw on a tshirt but need to look a bit dressy. I wear mine with a Zara leather jacket, skinny blue jeans and my new Liberty print Vans (yep, I bought them!).

The Cute Fit Knit

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The Cute Fit Knit is great for those like me who have felt the need to put the heating on already (BRRRR!). It’s lovely and cosy to sling on over the top of a tshirt and dress up with some indigo skinnies and boots.

The Skinny

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I love these skinnys. The rise isn’t too high but high enough to hide my leftover mumtum, the stretch is perfect and they really old their shape (no going baggy at the knee, side eye my old TopShop Baxters…). I wore these for my Radio 4 appearance earlier on this week and I’m wearing them on a date tonight, they truly are versatile.

Have a listen to Natalie Hartley, InStyle’s Fashion Director, as she chats about the new Style Essentials collection:

The collection is a great value way to update your A/W wardrobe – prices start at a happy £14 – and pieces are both versatile and on-trend.

Makeover your winter wardrobe with £500 to spend on this seasons Style Essentials! Dorothy Perkins will put you and a friend up in a fancy hotel and send you off for a posh meal after you’ve been given a styleover by one of their friendly Style Advisors. What’s not to love? Get entering!

Dorothy Perkins sent me my favourite items to try from the collection and also compensated me for my time to write about them. Which makes me one happy bunny. 

The Game-Changing Changing Bag

 

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I’ve never been much of a handbag fan. When I admit that, other women look at me with the same confusion in their eyes they get when I tell them I’m not a big fan of chocolate. Like, are you sure you’re part of the sisterhood? I suppose it’s supposed to be ingrained into women to like bags and shoes. And chocolate.

But yeah, I tend to buy one (usually massive and leather) handbag, use it to death for five years and then repeat. I can’t be bothered with swapping my belongings from one to another all the time, something always gets lost.

When the children were born I had dalliances with various nappy bags but found it so much easier to use a handbag/nappy bag hybrid. In my opinion they look better and it’s a lot easier to cart around the one bag. I started using the Sugarjack a year ago and never looked back: I thought it was the perfect bag.

UNTIL NOW

*Ominous face*

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The kind folk at BabyBeau sent me one of their Ellie changing bags in Black and I was fully prepared not to love it as much as the Sugarjack. I was wrong. This bag has been a bit of a game-changer.

On the outside (and inside) the bag seems quite standard. It has all the pockets you need for your various baby-related accoutrements, with a removable lining so you can choose to not use them if you don’t want to. I don’t anymore, they’re always surplus to my needs and I end up losing things in them, but they’re great when you have a baby with bottles/nappy bags/dummies/kitchen sinks.

BUT THEN. The accessories, bottle holder and changing mat, are leather. I’ve never seen that before in a changing bag. +1 BabyBeau.

What swung it for me though were the straps. This bag has an across the body strap, shoulder strap and shorter hand straps.  Bloody brilliant. Never underestimate how difficult it is to carry a one year old, hold your toddler’s hand and somehow shift a huge big nappy bag across a busy car park/supermarket/TopShop. The across body strap has quite literally changed my life.

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(I can’t be the only person to cart around creepy babys in my bag, right?)

This is a good looking bag, too. Its style is reminiscent of Longchamp but is made of the most delicious leather, has a huge interior, is very well-made and feels very solid. It also comes with buggy clips (a relevation!) and a stripy interior. In a nutshell, I love it: this is most definitely my handbag for the next 5 years.

I was sent the Ellie free of charge for the purpose of this review. It has not left my side since. 

 

The Lifesaving Hairdryer

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Do you own the hairdryer?

I don’t mean do you own A hairdryer, I mean THE hairdryer. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Read on…

Pre-kids and during Elfie’s first couple of years I was a bit of a Brazilian Blowdry fanatic. Pricey, yes (I paid up to £200 a pop), but when I worked out how much time I spent blow-drying my hair and what I could have been doing with that time it was well worth it. Think 1 – 1.5 hours, three times a week. That’s anything up to 4.5 hours a week on my hair. One whole working day per fortnight. Two working days each month. It’s a LONG TIME, basically.

But then I got pregnant again and was wary of the chemicals used during the process in relation to an unborn Hux so took some time away from my beloved blow drys. For one reason or another (erm, probably the fact the treatment takes 4 hours and I have two kids to look after now) I haven’t been back since he was born.

Enter the GHD Air: GHD’s hair dryer.

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I’ve long been a GHD fan and have gone through two pairs of their straighteners in the last 12 years. My previous hairdryer of choice was a Philips/Tresemme one with added ions or something or other, I dunno, I think it was on sale at Boots, and it had always served me well. But on receiving the GHD Air I realised that GHD vs Philips was a little bit like Apple vs PC… I didn’t know what I was missing until I finally bit the bullet and bought a MacBook. Everything about the GHD dryer felt quality in the way everything you buy from Apple feels quality, from the packaging used to the matte black appearance of the dryer. It has none of the plasticy feel of my old dryer (or old laptop!) and is a pleasure to hold and use.

So the price is a little eye watering – around £99. But GHD products are built to last and if my experiences with the Customer Service tell you anything it’ll be that you don’t need to worry about them breaking.

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And the hairdryers performance? AMAZING. In the old days I’d blast my hair for hours on a high heat, but this styler gets it dryer quickly on a lower heat: it takes but a mere 15 minutes now. I’m not finding i have the need to reach for my straighteners so much and my hair style is lasting longer. I’m a definite GHD Air convert.

For comparison and laughs here’s a photo of me rocking my au natural fickle hair state (not-curly-yet-not-wavy, urgh) VERY pregnant with Elfie, that’s how often I allow myself to be photographed with it , and me rocking lovely GHD-assisted sleek hair with my mum and friend Kaisa.

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The GHD Air was sent to me to review but I literally gave away my old hairdryer after its first use. I love it.