Stickering Up

Handbag shopping is a favourite past-time of mine (obviously). It’s up there with finding a “must buy” when I’m Styling away at Bicester Village… so being able to combine the two gives a real glow to the cheeks even on a cold day such as today!

When in the village I always pop into Anya Hindmarch to see what fab pieces they have in…and on one particular Friday before Christmas, I spotted the most wonderful electric blue “Maxi Zip Cross-Body” bag.  After establishing that they only had 2 left I asked a member of staff to keep one for me until I could snap it up after work…

*My best Bicester advice would be to not leave anything on the shelf that you really love… as undoubtedly by the time you’ve deliberated over lunch and decided to go back for it, it will have gone! Definite unhappy face 😦

Anyway, I was SO pleased with my purchase, it was a fantastic price and a classic Anya style, but I decided that it needed a bit of “pimping-up”! So off I dashed to their Bond Street store to get my leather sticker fix! If you’ve not had the good fortune of visiting their boutique then you’re in for a treat… It’s so much fun and currently it’s stickers galore!! In a moment of insanity, I took my boyfriend with me – I don’t know what I was thinking… he didn’t get it at all. I had to ask the lovely assistant to whisper me the prices, as he definitely wouldn’t have understood the £45 price tag! However, I walked away happy with my sticker stash, especially the crazy eye-balls which made me smile 🙂

Then yesterday, after several weeks of fiddling with combinations, I finally took the plunge and… I’m thrilled with the result! I hope you agree.

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Maxi Zip cross-body bag (here with the additional shoulder strap)

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I can’t wait to open my bag sitting across from people on the tube… Eye-ball alert!
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I definitely love it!

 

 

Rain rain go away!

I know it’s not just me… everyone is sick of the weather at the moment. It’s dull and raining one minute, snowing the next – how are we supposed to be getting excited about summer clothes when all I want to do when I get in from work is throw on a hoodie and Uggs and get the hot-water bottle out! We had a glimmer of sunshine a few weeks a ago and suddenly I got the urge to hit the shops, as everything in my wardrobe felt drab and just so last season – but after a day or two the rain and cold returned and it was back to the winter layers again.

The problem is that shopping for summer clothes when the temperature is sub-zero feels like a pointless excercise, as your newly purchased items will be thrust to the back of the wardrobe and probably forgotten about for at least 2 months! However, the other day, when the sun finally got his hat on, I decided that I needed to start my S/S shopping immediately… I should add at this point that the items I purchased are now mocking me on a daily basis with their summery-ness, but I am feeling more prepared should, shock horror, the temperature get above 10 degrees! 

Annoyingly/tantalizingly the magazines are full of amazing S/S items at the moment – on my wish list is a pair of Sophia Webster heels, the full spectrum of neon coloured leather tote bags from Milli Millu (how are you meant to choose one?) and a stunning glow-in-the-dark crystal necklace from Tom Binns. In a nut-shell I’m being drawn to items that aren’t overly summery, but inject some life and colour into my fairly dull A/W12-carry-over-into-early-S/S13-wardrobe – and will also work when summer is in full swing…

Neon knit Back in the real world, I’ve been getting a lot of wear out of a neon yellow sweater and statement necklace combo from Topshop, which seem to lift depressing weather days and always get compliments. Don’t be afraid of neon colours – they can be a bit scary, but work really well with black and are big for this season… I sometimes need a bit more eye-liner or blusher if I’m looking a touch pasty, but otherwise brights are a welcome break from a sea of dark colours and an easy way to update.

Orange bag 1Another recently purchased transitional “winner” has been an orange leather tote bag from Coccinelle at Bicester Village (my alternative to the completely stunning, but hugely expensive Celine Boston Bag). I am loving using it – as it enhances not only my outfit but my mood too! I was seriously impressed with Coccinelle’s selection of very well made and priced leather handbags – being a “Prada” girl – my new orange purchase is made from Saffiano leather, like my Prada “It” bag bought several seasons ago. Unfortunately, said bag is now retailing well over the £1000 mark so when I saw the £180 price tag for its orange cousin I thought it was too good to leave on the shelf! Investing in a brightly coloured handbag is an instant way to “lift” an outfit and a good transitional piece to take your look into Spring. It also adds a bit of fun to your existing wardrobe.

Actually, stores are great at offering us pieces that can easily update our wardrobes in-between seasons and usually have more weather “friendly” stock available these days. They have learnt that we don’t want to see shorts and linen trousers on sale when our garden plants are dying of frost-bite! Shopping in independent boutiques is a bit different as stock isn’t updated as regularly and sizes will sell out early. In general though, we can wait and save our hard-earned cash until the weather perks up a bit… however, don’t leave it too late! I often get clients wanting to go personal shopping for summer clothes in June and by then the sales are on and believe it or not, it’s almost time for fashion’s merry-go-round to start again as A/W is back! With that in mind – rain, rain, please go away…

Shopping… Outfits vs Separates?

I’ve been Personal Shopping for over six years now and had many different clients during that time; some on a budget, one who was driven around in a Bentley Continental whilst being followed by fake paparazzi (a 50th birthday treat!!)… Many need something for a specific event or several “looks” for a capsule work wardrobe – but most want versatile pieces that mix and match and can be easily dressed up or down… adding depth and more interest to their existing wardrobes.

A select few on the other-hand aren’t sure about having separate items to mix and match in this way as there’s too much margin for error (they don’t want to put the wrong necklace with the wrong top for example and often aren’t happy simply wearing something “with your jeans”). They want to know exactly what goes with what – i.e. they want an “outfit” on a hanger and the items making up said outfit will only be worn with each other!

Which gets me thinking about the word “outfit”… In my mind an outfit is made up of individual items which can be combined to compliment each other, but are not limited to being worn only one way. To others, items are bought with the intention of being worn solely together and not looked at as separates in their own right…

Top and trousers from Oasis, necklace from Topshop

Personally, the matchy-matchy “outfit” look reminds me of the days when my mother used to take me to Benetton to buy crazy printed leggings with a perfectly colour matched t-shirt and cardigan (and Benetton Bear with the same colour t-shirt! I was about eight please forgive me!). These days we’re encouraged rather than just picking up the matching dress, cardigan, handbag AND shoes from LK Bennett that we should at least nip to Accessorize and see if there’s a different bag that could add a bit more interest (whilst keeping in the same colour palette of course). Aside from not loving the matchy-matchy thing, I want to get more wear out of the pieces I buy, combining them in different ways and not looking at them so rigidly.

For example, I have the above floral pajama style trousers from Oasis. To wear them in a smart-ish way for work, I have a blush top (picking out one of the colours from the flower print) and a necklace in a similar colour – but I’ve got far more wear out of them with a black t-shirt or white vest top and flip-flops. However, I know some people aren’t comfortable with the whole dress up and down concept because they wouldn’t want to waste the trousers for every day – they want to keep them as a smart option, but in my head I’m getting more “wears” for my money.

Put simply, some feel most at home with the below equation:

A + B = One “perfect” outfit

They can’t get their heads around the fact that “A” can also work with “C” and “D”! This is possibly because they doubt their own ability in putting things together in different ways and lack confidence in their personal style and outfit decision making process. I try to encourage my customers to be more playful and bold in combining things together, especially with accessories, which seem to cause the most stress.

© Featureflash | Dreamstime.com

I believe a lot of this comes down to the fact that we see perfectly quaffed celebs on a daily basis wearing fabulous ensembles and we want our lifestyles and clothes to be the same. I’m thinking of a certain client who’s style icon was Victoria Beckham. In her eyes Mrs. B spends her whole time trotting through life in 10 inch boots, looking exquisite in perfected outfits without a hair out of place (which she probably does 95% of the time).

However, I tried to explain to my client that we only see the “done” Victoria who’s ready for the worlds prying eyes, aware that any wardrobe malfunction or fashion faux-pas will be flashed around the word in seconds. Plus, she has fabulous shoes, stunning handbags, jackets and jewellery in every desired shade enabling her to make anything “seem” like an outfit. But the point is, Victoria doesn’t actually dress in “outfits” in the old fashioned sense (notice she wears a LOT of dresses which make this kind of “perfected” look a whole lot easier… With a dress you’re not worried about which top/skirt/cardigan/jacket combo to wear – and does it all go???). She simply has great pieces which work together making her look “put together” – even making a pair of black trousers or skinny jeans appear like a considered outfit (for her more casual outings). Therefore gone are the days of buying twin-sets and identically matching this and that… It’s much more fashionable to have different pieces that compliment each other – looking far more individual and chic.  Adding different textures, tones, prints and layers brings a look to life, instead of looking flat.

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Someone with an incredible knack for this is Olivia Palermo who appears to make walking her dog “Mr. Butler”, look like she’s on the catwalk, but in the most wonderfully laid-back and effortless manner (which is beyond annoying!). She combines pieces so creatively and makes them her own… and that’s the key. I’ve noticed that Olivia wears lots of big statement necklaces, which suddenly make a casual sweater and skirt look fabulous.

In summary, style is an individual and very personal thing which you can’t buy off the shelf using a set formula. People need vision to see how simple items can be combined to make something special. Seek inspiration from magazines and websites to see how they put looks together. Confidence is paramount, don’t play it safe – fashion is meant to fun… so get out there and buy some pieces with their own personality that you actually look forward to putting on!

Shopping tips:

1. Buy statement necklaces which can make even a simple t-shirt look a million dollars (if you choose wisely you can keep them for years and they don’t have to be expensive) – on a budget try Topshop, Zara and ASOS but for more of an investment consider Mawi, Tom Binns and Swarovski, especially their designer collections from Swarovski Crystallized.

2. Look out for “trophy” jackets – I head to Zara and Topshop or Sandro and Iro for more expensive options, which can add so much to a simple pair of jeans or trousers.

3. Buy the best handbag you can in good quality leather to finish off your outfit – ideally having one in black and tan gives you more options.

4. Don’t be afraid of prints – see how Olivia Palermo combines seemingly mis-matched pieces to create her look. Over time you will build a collection of things to rotate so you’re not wearing the same items again and again, as printed pieces are more memorable.

5. Many of my clients dread the “school run” – get an “investment” across the body bag, that is practical but looks good. Probably your best buy is a pair of trainers (white-sporty things are not allowed in ANY circumstances) – head to Office for a great selection of Converse, try Ash trainer-style wedges for a bit more height (or go for the real deal and get an Isabel Marant pair from MyTheresa if you’re really lucky! Then grab a big pair of sunglasses and throw on a quirky printed scarf… and your jeans and t-shirt will seem like so much more!

Some useful websites and magazine’s for inspiration:

I recommend looking at InStyle, Grazia and Red magazine as they generally put outfits together in a slightly less “edgy” way than Elle and Vogue, which can be intimidating to some. Net-A-Porter and Matches below  put outfits together brilliantly, just click on any piece and they have photos of what to put with what, including their own online magazines.

www.oliviapalermo.com

www.net-a-porter.com

www.matchesfashion.com

For any questions leave me a comment and I’ll try and get back to you.

Some of my favourite statement necklaces – the first 2 are from Topshop and the other is Zara (from their new collection, in store now)
Flats don’t have to be boring – these crazy shoes add fun to simple pieces, from Office

Scoop International S/S 13

Held from the 8th-10th July, this was the 4th season for the London based trade fair “Scoop International”. They showcase over 200 international brands to buyers and “fashion-y” people and hope former will buy something! Scoop is located in The Saatchi Gallery on the Kings Road, which is a pretty splendid looking building. Inside it’s a bit of a maze, spread over 3 floors, with different rooms and passages off the main atrium… but getting at bit lost is actually quite good as there are so many brands to fall upon. Have a look at the website for more information (www.scoop-international.com).

The very impressive entrance and on trend orange carpet!
Inside Scoop, looking into Gallery 3

There were plenty of well known brands such as Filippa K, Sarah Pacini and Coccinelle but I was looking for something a bit different. Here are a few brands that caught my eye…

L.A.M.B. (www.l-a-m-b.com)

If you read my Post “How old is too Old” you’ll know that I rather like Gwen Stefani and her style (she designs L.A.M.B.), so when I read that her collection would be at Scoop I was very excited to see the S/S 13 range. It was sporty/rock-chick (a bit like Gwen), the colours were bright and there were lots of prints. Caroline Brien from L.A.M.B. modelled her outfit below perfectly. I especially liked the pink silk trousers as they’re easy to dress up and down – plus they’re stylish and comfortable = the perfect mix!!

Caroline from L.A.M.B. in a fab jacket and mini dress

Zayan (www.zayan.com)

Described in the Scoop brochure as, “A contemporary luxury ready-to-wear line that revels in the splendour of premium silks and knit fabrics in vivid colours and innovating billowing silhouettes.” I just thought that Zayan was incredibly eye-catching in a very fun and playful way, with vibrant colours and unusual fabric combinations. The handbags were amazing as you can see from the photos, but not for the faint hearted! I love the below jacket…

Such a quirky jacket

Nocturne Jewllery (www.nocturne.co.uk)

I love bold statement necklaces so this jewellery really drew my attention. The stunning jewellery is from ready-to-wear brand Nocturne who are launching an online pop-up shop dedicated to their accessories on the 5th October (www.nocturne.co.uk/shop).

Skin problems and Organic solutions

Ever since a young age I’ve always loved make-up and for years I’ve carted around a giant make-up bag filled to the brim… well, what if I bumped into Brad Pitt?? To look my best I must have all the tools that I need with me at all times… as you never know who you’re going to meet on the streets of London!!

So when an Allergy Specialist told me some time ago that I’d become hyper-sensitive to a chemical found in most cosmetics and skincare brands, you can imagine I wasn’t too happy. My symptoms had developed over several months – starting as a small patch of dry skin on the bridge of my nose, which after a week or 2 began to spread! My eyes were incredibly itchy all the time and the rash, in the end, covered my forehead and cheeks. Thankfully (or so I thought) make-up covered it, but at night when I washed my face the rash was very “angry” looking and the dry patches were getting worse. Also, I’d get a burning sensation on my skin which was actually quite painful at times. Did I have eczema, atopic dermatitis, perioral dermatitis, contact dermatitis or rosacea? Who knew??

© Picsfive | Dreamstime.com

I went to the doctors a few times, being prescribed steroid creams of varying strengths, anti-fungal creams and antibiotics. In the end I went to see the above mentioned specialist as nothing was improving. I had 2 patch tests done (the first was inconclusive) resulting in reactions to Ethylenediamine and a couple of other allergens that apparently weren’t relevant (meaning I had contact dermatitis). He also concluded my skin had become addicted to the steroid cream which I’d been prescribed by the doctor which was making my symptoms worse! Ethylenediamine is closely related to EDTA, DTA, DETA, PEHA and TETA, preservatives and chemicals used in skincare products and apparently my skin had had enough and gone on strike!

I guess some would say it’s my own fault. I’ve tried almost every lotion and potion out there (under the £100 price mark) and as I have combination skin, I’ve used the strongest spot creams I could get my hands on, home acid peels (not as bad as it sounds, I got it from No. 7 at Boots) and every scrub and face mask going. Therefore, when the specialist  simply said not to wear make-up for a few months and see how things settled down, I won’t repeat the thoughts going through my head!!

In a nutshell, I wanted to say that putting on my make-up is a daily ritual” and that casually wandering through the make-up department in Selfridges, seeking out exciting new products was as much part of my routine as weekly yoga… Then there’s the small fact that about 10 years ago I met someone without my eyeliner on and they asked me, with a worried look on their face like I was ill or something, whether I was “Ok”?? Now I’m not one of those creatures who can’t be seen without make-up on ever, I just know that I look a whole lot better with it on than off!

After the results of my patch tests I went straight to my usual go-to stores with my list of “no go” chemicals… and I was in for a shock. They were in everything – foundation, mascara, eyeshadow, shampoo, fake-tan…. The list was endless. I suddenly had a sinking feeling as I realised if I was actually going to try and avoid these so called “nasties” I was going to have to make some very big changes to my lifestyle AND make-up bag. I was actually going to have to start thinking about what I was putting on my skin…

My fabulous Pai purchases!

I do have friends who have embraced the “Organic” path and one in particular spends most of her spare time in “As Nature Intended”, on Balham High Road in London. I had been in before for “special” tea-bags and the like but never for skincare stuff because I spent enough elsewhere and I wanted the best results possible, so assumed I had to buy things from “proper” skincare brands…

So after a bit of research, ok a lot of research, I decided to try a brand called Pai and give their cleanser and moisturizer a whirl. Pai was created by Sarah Brown, who suffered from a bad skin allergy herself – and it was fascinating to read on the website about how many women in their 30’s could no longer use regular cosmetics due to chemical irritant dermatitis… which was me! I’m certain that because so many strong products have been widely available to my generation since our teens, that we’ve basically overloaded our systems with chemicals and become hyper-sensitive! It made me think about the cleansers, toners and primers etc… (another endless list) that I’ve put on my skin… And I realised that I’ve probably absorbed more “evil” chemicals at the age of 33 than many people (who don’t wear make-up) do in a life-time!

So what’s the alternative? Well there are many organic skincare brands out there, even though I found make-up shopping more difficult. Apart from the Pai products I’m now using I’ve also visited The Organic Pharmacy on Argyll Street, off Oxford Street in London. They had a very good selection of products… But there’s one small problem – the cost. Recently, I have spent more on skincare and stuff than I ever did, which is saying something! Organic shampoos and conditioners seem to be especially costly – probably because I’ve been used to going into Boots and getting 3 for 2!

However, there is some good news. My skin is so much better and I feel less “allergic” generally. It’s taken about 6 months but I actually feel like I’m getting the chemicals (which let’s not forget are potential carcinogens) out of my system and I’m happy to be taking more responsibility for my internal well being. Going organic isn’t cheap and of course I will still buy the new “must have” MAC lipgloss/Chanel nail varnish etc (I haven’t completely turned my back on the old me! And maybe I’ll be able to re-introduce some of my old favourite products slowly?), but I feel that by changing even just a few of the products that we use daily, we can potentially reduce problems for ourselves in the future… Just take a look at the ingredients list on the side of your shampoo bottle when you’re next showering – you’ll be stunned by all the names, letters and numbers that you don’t understand. I didn’t do very well in A-Level Chemistry so I’m hardly an expert but regarding the chemicals we put on our skin, I’d say less is definitely more!

What I’ve tried:

PAI –

 

  • Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser
  • Blossom BioAffinity Toner
  • Chamomile & Rosehip Sensitive Moisturiser
  • Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil
  • Eye cream and lip balm

THE ORGANIC PHARMACY – www.theorganicpharmacy.com

  • Carrot Butter Cleanser (excellent!)
  • Self Tan
  • Organic Glam Foundation.

DR. HAUSCHKA – www.drhauschka.co.uk

  • Volume Mascara
  • Liquid Eyeliner.

REN – www.renskincare.com

  • Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm (AMAZING!)

LAURA MERCIER – www.lauramercier.com

Laura Mercier isn’t exactly organic, but the mineral powder foundations tend to have less ingredients than other formulations and I found it great on my skin as an alternative to the Organic Glam Foundation. I’m going to use the latter when it’s warmer as I find the mineral powder a little heavy when it’s hot.

GREEN PEOPLE – www.greenpeople.co.uk

For shampoos, conditioners, fake-tan and suntan lotion

JOHN MASTERS – www.johnmasters.co.uk

Bare shampoo and Conditioner are expensive but very light

ADDITIONAL HELPFUL LINKS:

http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/health_advice/examinations/patchtesting.htm

http://www.greenlivingonline.com/article/six-makeup-chemicals-avoid

http://www.theorganicpharmacy.com/natural-health/ingredients-carcinogen

How old is too old?

The favourite “How old is too old” debate was re-ignited last week and from the headlines, as I’m 33, it’s something I should apparently be thinking about… The survey causing all the fuss was commissioned by Diet Chef, finding that 44% of women worry regularly that they’re too old to wear certain items and that anyone over 35 shouldn’t wear a miniskirt!
Read more here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1385908/Women-old-wear-bikinis-beach-47-survey-shows.html

© Denis Makarenko | Dreamstime.com

Personally, I very much think that it’s down to the individual… I don’t generally consider things like, “How old is too old” as I have my own barometer – would Gwen Stefani (aged 42) or Carrie Bradshaw wear it (I know she’s a fictional character, but she was meant to be in her early 30’s-40’s during the series and had one the most diverse wardrobes ever!)?? Not that I think I’m like either of these famous faces, but if they can get away with crazy stuff, I can wear something borderline “out-there” if I so desire it!

With this in mind, I was sale shopping the other day which I don’t usually do as in my head, apart from keeping my eyes peeled for any last minute high-summer “Ibiza” holiday purchases, I’m already thinking Autumn/Winter investment pieces! But anyway… whilst out and about I spotted a pair of Religion black denim and sequin shorts…

Now I’m one of those people who hates looking at themselves (or my customers for that matter) in a pokey changing room and have always dived outside the curtain to have a proper look at myself in a long mirror (not only is the lighting usually better but when looking at yourself too close, you often look quite different proportion wise than in real life). But back to the story… there I was in black tights and the sequined shorts and thought that they looked pretty ok. After getting unchanged I headed to the till where a rather young and very “trendy” sales assistant asked me if I was going to take them, I replied yes and he said “Good choice, you looked like a Rock-stars Mrs!”

Maybe I was over-reacting, but on hearing this I nearly choked on my own breath and started to laugh hysterically – visualising either some ageing rocker’s a) “Dolly bird” or b) mid-40s, clinging to her youth, hot-pant wearing, aging dolly bird (the type that I have to admit I loved watching on MTVs “Married to Rock”). And yes, it made me question whether I should buy them… Was I really too old for black sequined shorts (don’t answer that)??

While this question was still in my head I then considered the raging debate, how apparently you shouldn’t wear a bikini after 39 – and the maximum age for a mini-skirt is 35! Sorry if I don’t finish this blog, but I’ll be far too busy wearing every inappropriate style/fashion item that a nearly mid-30 year old can wear without being lynched!! Lord, it’s such an exhausting mind field of rules and regulations…

Now I do have to point out, that many people do get it wrong and parade around showing off somewhat more than they should… However, if you DO get it right and have a decent figure, then surely the answer is if you feel comfortable and confident in something, “Wear it while you still can!” Well, that’s my philosophy and I’m sticking to it (whilst Gwen and Carrie still are anyway!).

Girl Meets Dress

Honestly, when you hear the idea, it’s the kind of thing you can’t believe you didn’t come up with yourself… it’s so simple. In the fashion world, Stylists and PRs borrow samples from collections all the time – so why not have the same concept where “normal” people have access to designer dresses without having to spend a fortune buying them?? “Girl Meets Dress” does exactly that – as all the fabulous dresses on their website are for hire!! What’s not to love… you can get the look, without the price tag – it’s like wearing something once and returning it with the tags on (by the way, this is definitely not ok – back in the days when I worked in retail, someone tried to return a Paul Smith pale blue baby-cord strapless dress to me so covered in fake tan and strain/wear lines across the skirt, I basically laughed in her face but because she spent a fortune in the store, she got away with it!! V. annoying now I look back!).

Alice and Olivia Goddess Draped dress from £79

Anyway, with “Girl Meets Dress” you don’t need to worry about the whole “buying an outfit for an event” and only feeling like you can wear it once because all your friends have seen it… as you can borrow another one the next time. Plus, you have access to dresses you may never have been able to afford if you’d been paying for them in the shops – suddenly you can afford Marc Jacobs, Alice Temperley and Chloe!

So how does it work I hear you ask… here are the steps from their press release (for further info go direct to the website):

  1. Place up to 3 of your favourite dresses into your “shopping bag” to try on
  2. Select the number of nights you want them for (either 2 or 7 nights) – you can add insurance at this stage for a little peace of mind for £7
  3. Choose a delivery date – it can be the next day or you can pre-order your frock so you definitely get the one you want
  4. Once you received them – you let them know the one you have chosen so they can refund the difference
  5. Once you’ve worn it you don’t even need to dry-clean it – just put it back in the pre-paid packaging and send it back to them!!
Marchesa Notte Bow Cocktail dress from £89

The website was launched by co-founders Anna Bance and Xavier de Lecaros-Aquise. After Anna left her PR job at Hermes she was inspired by the constant lending and borrowing which goes on in the fashion industry and she wanted to open up the fashion “closets” to all girls “to give them the freedom to borrow any dress they wish for every event throughout the year… giving them the luxury of an endless closet”.

I really do think this is such a fabulous idea and there are so many dresses to choose from… Click on the below link and they’ll all be at your finger tips!

Dina Bar-El Penelope Gown… from £109

Visit Girl Meets Dress….