By SolihullStyle      Jun 23, 2019

AN INVITE TO AFTERNOON TEA!

You would be forgiven for thinking that this is a blog about cucumber sandwiches and Battenberg cake. Nope!

I was invited by Wing Wah in Birmingham to try their newly launched “Afternoon Tea”. A set menu of authentic handmade Chinese dim sum and treats all washed down with a choice of oriental tea.

Such fun to do something different. On a weekday too sans kids!  Just MR.W and I. I’d never tried dim sum before and neither had he. My experience of Chinese cuisine I’m rather embarrassed to admit is the traditional take away that’s very much tweaked to suit a western palette. I’ve consumed, even more embarrassingly, my fair share of “eat as much as you like” Chinese buffets as a student whilst living in London.

The Afternoon Tea selection was created to include many of the restaurants’ most popular dim sum and pastry dishes. All handmade using natural colours from beetroot and spinach. The three tiered platter is reminiscent of the presentation that one might see at many a cream tea venue. In the same way it’s contents were both sweet and savoury. All perfectly formed and beautifully made.

So a very different experience for Mr.W and I. A privilege to be invited and a wonderful chance to try authentic Chinese cuisine handmade by artisans of their craft. It’s something new to try, a real ice breaker amongst work colleagues perhaps on a corporate lunch or a chance to do something different in your own home city?

Mr.W did ask me as we started our meal if I’d only invited him as my royal taster! I did make him try everything before I took my turn! That’s not a failing on the restaurant’s presentation or service which was exceptional by the way, however, it was a dining experience that we had never had before. That’s just my limited western pallet that’s to blame. Or rather that I didn’t know what everything was before I ate it. Was it sweet or was it savoury? With the traditional English high tea I’m fairly confident we’d all know the difference between the main course and the dessert! It was all delicious I just needed a bit of guidance!

In short the Afternoon Tea set menu is a great way of trying something new; something truly authentic; something that normally you wouldn’t do or something that would usually take the trip of a lifetime to take the plunge to try and at no great financial outlay either. My advice would be ask for help; ask as many questions as you need; ask what everything is and enjoy the taste bud journey! I even asked for a fork! I know!!! We were the only people slurping soy sauce on our dim sum dangling from stainless steel cutlery! Ha ha!

DIM SUM AND DRESSES!

What to wear to a Chinese lunch? A kimono sprung to mind! You all know how much I love my dresses so I wore this traditional outer layer/ “throw over”  as a dress. While we’re on the theme of East meets West it seemed fitting to chuck on a vintage Levi studded belt to offset all the Oriental florals. It’s fair to say that you lovely lot have probably noticed all the sales are on now so I’ve thrown a few midi dresses out there at the end of this blog to wet your appetite. Sizes are limited as it’s the end of the season. Perfect timing to get dressed up and enjoy the sun!

REISS – EMMI midi dress WAS £235 NOW £165

TED BAKER – Narrnia midi dress WAS £229 NOW £114

SANDRO PARIS – WAS £315 NOW £157.50

GANNI – WAS £180 NOW £126

TOPSHOP BOUTIQUE – WAS £85 NOW £45

SANDRO – WAS £369 NOW £221.40

MAJE – WAS £315 NOW £157.50

NOT IN THE SALE!! BUT IT HAS CAUGHT MY EYE!

JOHN LEWIS – AND/OR – £195

Thanks for reading!!

Valerie

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By SolihullStyle      Apr 25, 2019

I’ve wanted to do a suit styling video for absolutely ages. We had all the grey check versions in the winter and no surprises but now it’s summer we’ve got an array of colour pop options to choose from on the high street.

The problem I was having, and it’s a common issue with buying a suit, is that I might love the blazer and not like the style of the trousers or visa versa. If I’d found a pricier one obviously I’d consider going down the alterations route but  if i’m being totally honest I was looking for a bit of a fashion fix without too much investment!  So I ended up trialling this bright blue baby from Zara for the purpose of the exercise. Now I’ve broken myself into the whole suit thing I might buy better for keeps? I can feel a trip to Bicester coming on!

The benefit (which I have to say I didn’t think of straight off as I was too suit obsessed!) is that of course you still have a blazer that you can wear with everything from jeans to dresses and a pair of statement trousers that can be styled alone.

You may have your own suit or separates that you can styling together to give a similar vibe. Pairing neutral tones of stone and beige together is a massive trend this summer. 

My videos are just a bit of fun. Nothing too serious and just ideas to get you thinking about your own wardrobe and the choices you make for yourself. Your lifestyle and your style will be completely different to mine but hopefully you enjoy watching my antics if nothing else! 

 

Valerie

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By SolihullStyle      Apr 04, 2019

The next video is now live on IGTV (Instagram) and YouTube. We’ve chosen to download onto YouTube for readers that aren’t on Instagram.

Last week we had that one day of glorious sunshine…you know the one…that one day that was probably our summer!!!! I was court out to be honest, I know! I’ve spent so long trying to manage transition and the extreme change was so out of the blue after all the hail and frosty mornings that even I thought …there’s gotta be a catch here..it must be cold even though it’s sunny!

As a knee jerk reaction to the situation and the need to get out of the door as opposed to being super organised and all over it like I should’ve been, I pulled out my culottes. Paired with a linen shirt and gold sandals I felt suitably dressed for the day ahead.

I know I bang on about the weather like ALL the time but it’s the main driver to what I choose to wear these days. It used to be what I was doing that day, it sorta still is, obviously, but the weather is driving me nuts as it’s become such a huge factor in everything. I’m either freezing because I’ve been over optimistic or all wrapped up and dressed for winter and then the sun comes out! GRRRRRR! Ha Ha!

Anyways, the culottes gave me a life line that I’m very grateful for! They are super versatile throughout the seasons and can be easily dressed up or down. From super sporty to super smart. Great for work too or the weekend with trainers. They are one of those pieces where you can play with juxtaposition … you know…something seriously utility on top like a shirt with pockets but pair the ensemble with heels for a night out to give that all in one look. The styling options are endless. They could easily be a super bright colour if that’s your bag or more of a tailored fit if you’re petite. The high rise works well for me as it keeps the length in my leg despite being cropped.

Valerie

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By SolihullStyle      Mar 19, 2019

So what’s new at Solihull Style? Well, I’ve been trying to up my game a bit more on social media. You know…fighting my corner out there in the ether amongst the selfies!!! I’ve started doing throwback Thursdays every Thursday… ooo on a Thursday ha ha! … on Facebook and Instagram to give readers a bit more insight into my background and experience in the fashion industry from design to styling. To show I’ve been doing this “thing” for a very very long time. From knowing about fabrics, fit, design and clothing consultation to understanding what women want and how styling works for a particular individuals need. Having empathy too with the struggles that life and family can throw our way. They are skills that take time to learn. The creative design part was there from the beginning! I never found it easy to talk about what I’m good at, it’s odd that. Maybe it’s a generation thing? Don’t brag! No one likes a big head? I dunno …. but lately I’ve realised it’s important to give people insight into your knowledge and experience. I’d want to know! So, if you want to know… and actually there’s some pretty cool stories too, stay tuned! Actually it’s not cool to say cool is it? So my now 10 year old keeps telling me!!! 

I’ve been doing videos too. They started out about six weeks ago on IGTV on Instagram and they are going to be on Youtube too moving forward, so that I can post them on the blog for those that aren’t on Instagram. The idea behind the videos was to show how different outfits can be built around a few key pieces like jeans, a black trouser or a dress. I might use a few new season items just to add interest and keep things fresh and current. I can’t justify a whole new wardrobe every season but I might buy a few bits to add a new colour I like or a modern accessory. I’m guessing that’s true for most of us? Hopefully the videos illustrate this and hopefully you all have your own pieces at home that you can reinvent in your own way too. It’s just an exercise in getting our grey matter working and to encourage you to get items out of your wardrobe and wear them! 

 Each video starts off in the week at the planning stage! Lots of ideas go down on paper! Lots of scribbles! The notes of a mad person or a stroke of genius…. who knows… ha ha! I’ve really enjoyed doing them as it reminds me of the good old days….. planning outfits for London Fashion Week or jotting down design ideas while you’re out and about watching other stylish people go by in London…. absorbing your environment and taking inspiration from things that speak to you. Let’s all find our creative side and tap into the season ahead and style that we love. 

I hope you enjoy the funny little stories about my crazy career if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram and I hope you get something from the videos too! 

The idea for the video today came from this crazy weather we’ve been having of late. There’s been balmy evenings and abnormally high temperatures to almost artic conditions and heavy hail. You all know I love the versatility of a dress and if you do too, here’s one to watch!!!! Enjoy xx

Valerie

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By SolihullStyle      Nov 25, 2018

BIKER BOOTS AND DAY DRESSES!

The clue is in the title. I LOVE my biker boots. I bought them to wear watching the boys play rugby on Sundays just to feel a bit more fashionable really. I spend a lot of time watching my kids and I just got sick of wearing the same dirty old boots! I now have a problem though.. I love then that much that I want to wear them all the time! With black jeans on Sunday is fine and does what it needs to do to keep out the elements. Anyone who stands pitch side in an open field now it’s got so cold will understand the clothing choices we just have to make. The rest of the time though I’ve been enjoying dressing them up! I like some femininity in my outfit when I’m wearing a style of boot like this. I wouldn’t wear combats or blue jeans. Obviously that’s a good look too…just not on me! I’ve worn mine with tailored trousers and a smart coat. I love the juxtaposition between biker style footwear and tailoring. Slightly unexpected. The obvious other choice would be to wear them with dresses and skirts. It’s far too cold now to wear mine with bare legs and a midi dress….come spring I’m in! I wouldn’t wear a midi with tights and ankle boots…it’s just not for me. I do get the idea of opaques and shorter dresses and ankle boots though. I’ve always loved it on other people but never taken the plunge myself. For some reason I woke up one day and decided just to do it! I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone. Knowing what suits you and what you’re going to wear can be a very good thing….it’s our comfort zone. Today I stepped out of mine, to not do anything by halves, it was bright red too!

 

DAY DRESSES!

You all know I’m a fan of dresses. They make getting dressed super easy. They are an outfit all in one. The high street is a wash with options depending on your budget and your style. I’m a fan of ALLSAINTS for day wear with a bit off edge and there’s 30% off at the mo for Black Friday. Gap is fab too online for unexpected bargains. My dress was from Gap (previous season but similar online). Every shoe brand has done the biker boot too…short for time? Check out Zara or Topshop for budget friendly options or go all out at designer level if that’s your bag. Add your own leather belt to make a high street find look more expensive and to add your own personality. Mine is a vintage Levis studded belt from a car boot for £3 so wasn’t expensive in itself but adds interest and ties in the boots. I never thought I’d be in a shorter hemline again but you know what…. I don’t care as much what people think as the years go by and I’m enjoying challenging myself out of my own comfort zone.

 

Far left ALLSAINTS; middle two ZARA, and HERE; far right SOSANDAR available in red too but limited sizes

Well I hope you’ve all survived Black Friday. There are still some deals floating around and some may continue through Cyber Monday. The shops have definitely gone all glittery and Christmasy! Scary how quickly the winter season goes. There are sequins everywhere! I hope you enjoy the festive season ahead and I’m sure I’ll pop up with a post or two.  If you enjoy my musings and like seeing more regular updates then I’d love to see you over on Instagram. I’m looking forward to 2019 with lots of exciting new ventures on the horizon with more opportunity to meet people and talk personal style and fashion.  Thank you for all your support this year. I’ve seen my little brand grow and develop in these uncertain times so once again THANK YOU XXX

 

Valerie

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By SolihullStyle      Nov 12, 2018

OUTTA NOWHERE!

I wasn’t planning to write this blog at all after I’d got up and got dressed. I’d got up in the morning and thought..and I’ll be totally honest, there’s nothing new here. No point taking any pictures as there’s nothing helpful to tell. Then I thought  I would go along the lines of the outfit being about feeling a bit poorly so being comfortable is sometimes, if not most of the time, ones priority with the busy lives we lead. Hmmmm, but then I’m wearing heels aren’t I so I knew you’d all be screaming at the screen at me! I was feeling poorly so I couldn’t really be a**** to wear much more than my slobs….oh yes I have those!! My youngest son had been nagging ….oh my goodness can he nag… he has this way of grinding us both down until we say yes. Nagging to go bowling! Rugby was cancelled for Remembrance Sunday so after lunch it kinda worked as an option even though I’d rather saw my own arm off. Choose your battles I guess and no one else came up with a better plan. I stared at my wardrobe. I did! I know I can’t say to anyone “I’ve got nothing to wear” so I had to suck it up buttercup and get out of my PJs. I really didn’t want to!!! I even ate my lunch in my bathrobe trying to pretend the inevitable wasn’t about to happen. Sundays is usually auto pilot for me. Put on thermals, put on jeans and really snugly jumper; put on puffer coat and hat and scarf…oh and boots and off to rugby we go! Easy. Today I had to think and I wanted to hibernate!

STRIKE ONE!

I might’ve had a couple of strikes. Is that what you call it?! I am fairly useless at bowling. It starts with the shoes for me and it’s all down hill from there! Back to my thought process of getting out the door when I really didn’t want to! My velvet jeans, that’s it…I’ll start with them! They are the only new purchase. I bought them a couple of weeks ago as I wanted a really black pair of jeans. I can’t tell you how comfortable they are. They are almost as good as gym tights but you can totally dress them up or down. There are other colours available online and they’d make a good staple for smart/casual party season looks. I’m hankering after the others as a change from black. With a true high rise they have become a go to when I feel my brain switching off. When I feel really lazy or under the weather I just reach for black basics. I just do. Something made me reach for something different…no idea why. Maybe it was just there in the pile on the chair! It happened to be a camel cashmere sweater. No rocket science here! If I could’ve put my bathrobe on top I would’ve! I think poor MR.W wants to burn said robe.  It’s not even nice! I bought it whilst camping in Devon one year. I was so cold at night that I couldn’t sleep a wink. We found the nearest shop.. which happened to be LIDL and I bought it there. Unfortunately for him it came home from Devon! Still in denial I instinctively reached for my camel coat. Bathrobe like in it’s appearance and just as oversized and cosy. This coat is HUGE. It’s why I love it but sometimes hate it if that makes any sense? I’ll try to explain. LOVE it because it fits over everything, even really sloppy jumpers, HATE it because it’s not the most flattering garment in the world and I need to be in the right mood to want to wear it.

WHY THE VIDEO!

We did the video to show movement. We don’t stand still in life. Sometimes it’s the way clothes make us feel on a particular day that’s important. It can be how something moves too. It might be how we push up a sleeve or how we flip up a collar. You’ve heard the phrase “she wears it well”. Have you ever put something on one day and hated it only to love it another time? I know I have. That day I wanted to feel safe and in something that felt like a hug. I didn’t want fitted and tailored and camera friendly. I get asked all the time. “Do you ever look at someone and think…they shouldn’t be wearing that”. No is the answer. Who am I to judge someone else’s choices. I don’t know what that person has been through physically or mentally to make that particular choice in the morning. I’ve dressed ladies with all sorts of health issues and problems. I rarely get clients that find shopping easy or are a perfect standard ready to wear high street size, who is?  If they did find the whole process easy they wouldn’t need me. Some of the things ladies tell me about how they feel about their bodies after child birth, surgery or ageing often breaks my heart. When I can help someone feel better in their own uniquely beautiful skin, it’s the best feeling in the world.

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM!

It’s the heels isn’t it? Why oh why if you felt like do-do would you wear heels?! I don’t know! HA ha ha!!! I knew I wanted boots…it was cold and I felt really cold. I couldn’t help myself. I knew I needed black “feet” at the end of my jeans to keep the illusion of height to balance out the oversized coat… I knew I was going to have to take them off at the bowling alley anyway.  I failed at the final huddle to not completely let go didn’t I! I couldn’t help myself! In my defence, if I owned some black leather trainers I would’ve worn them…maybe?! Te he he!

ON A SERIOUS NOTE!

Boooo! Don’t feel like being serious but I guess I need to be helpful somewhere along the lines other than pointing you in the direction of some fab velvet jeans. I have bought a few bits of late so I’ll share when I can. In short I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the leather shoes at ZARA. You know I’m an advocate of buying less and buying as good as quality as you can with the budget you have but some high street finds have excelled expectations this season and if you love animal print, but can’t face a whole garment, then a leopard or snake shoe or boot is quite literally a fun way to dip your toe in. I’ve fallen for COS too where in the past I’ve found their styles a bit too shapeless (rather ironic really considering the oversized content of this blog!) but this season I think they’ve done a few beautiful quality basics at an acceptable price point.

COAT – H&M Premium Quality range… old season, finding your shade of camel is up to you! I like this one.

CASHMERE JUMPER – H&M Premium Quality

VELVET JEANS – Massimo Dutti current collection

SUEDE BOOTS – old season Sam Edelman

BAG – TODS at Bicester Village

I hope you’ve enjoyed my musings about nothing much in particular. Can you believe it’s November. The high street is already awash with sequin skirts and Christmas jumpers. Have you got the party season sorted?! Maybe this is the year I get a Santa sweater? Hmmmm! HO HO HO!

Valerie

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By SolihullStyle      Oct 30, 2018

A DRESS FOR ALL SEASONS!

It’s gotta be the best style of dress EVER. Love anything that can be worn lots of different ways. My days of buying something in haste for a Saturday night out are over. Don’t you just love items that you can wear with sneakers or dress up for work or a nice day out. This was one such day. It was my birthday and we were going to watch Bohemian Rhapsody at the cinema. If you get a chance to see the film I can highly recommend it. Like most life stories of talented people it’s both sad and wonderful at the same time. Thought provoking and challenging. There’s a tragic dark side but his talent and his character were larger than life. He made no excuses for being talented and I loved that. It made me think.

LIMITED EDITION!

My dress has pretty much sold out. I know this can be annoying when bloggers post stuff you want but you can’t get anymore. I then wanted to write this blog anyway because actually it has made it more relevant to an individual. What do I mean? Well, often it’s better to find what works for you. I’ve been shopping with clients and friends and been asked where the good dresses are by lots of  people since I first posted this particular Mango dress and actually you can’t beat going out and doing some real shopping. It’s an easy style to style! But it’s not always as easy to find one that suits you. The length, the neckline; the colour and the “look” will all determine whether a certain one feels like your perfect dress. If you want to add curves to your torso you could wear a thin polo neck underneath. If you want to minimise a bust then maybe try a wrap style dress or a shirt style dress and unbutton as low as you dare. If you’re petite or feel some dresses swamp you then find a more tailored fit that’s not too long. It’s taken me what feels like forever to find mine. I’ve ordered so many on line only to hate them on arrival. It’s why I  tread very carefully when I post random items on my posts from the internet. I don’t want you guys to waste your time on something that in reality is just pants! Either the print is white and bleached on the back and clearly visible when you walk or the fabric is just cheap and nasty. You often can’t tell from online images. You’d think the price point would give you a hint to the quality of the product but sometimes this doesn’t always pan out. Sometimes, obviously not always ( some of my online punts have been great buys), it’s easier in the long run to go shopping and be able to touch it, feel it; smell it as it were!!!  It’ll depend on how much you want to invest in the look too as to where you choose to shop. Animal print, polka dots and floral prints are everywhere..just go with an open mind and try lots of different ones on. Try not to get frustrated, stay calm, stop for a coffee and have fun! You will instinctively know as a dress has a way of taking no prisoners. There’s nowhere to hide, you will either love it or hate it. I went shopping with a friend recently on a Sunday for a bit of a jolly to set me up for the half term! I was not on personal shopper mode…it was my day off …. I made her try lots of different ones on and she knew what she liked once the different styles were on. It boiled down to colour and length for her. Like me she loved the idea of being able to wear a dress lots of different ways for lots of different occasions. Be inspired and have a go.

FROM BEACH TO BAR!

Obviously not literally. Though saying that the theory works! I will wear mine with flip flops when the season chances! Wear with sneakers, ankle boots (flat or high… whatever style floats your boat), high boots or slides. Chuck on the cover-up of your choice from an oversized belted cardi to a biker, a blazer or a tailored wool coat. Adding your own belt can make a high street dress look more expensive.

 

DON’T JUDGE ME!

I have had birthday money burning a whole in my pocket. The past tense is a clue. I have to say I think this seasons’ styles have been particularly good and I’ve had a little bit of a splurge! I’ll share them over the next few weeks. Let’s just say I’ve fallen in love with COS. I never did very well there before as I find the fit a bit shapeless but this season I could’ve spent a small fortune in there! I hope you’re managing to stay warm in this cold snap. Thank you for reading. thank you for every like, comment and share. It means the world to my little home grown venture and to me… XXX

Valerie

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By SolihullStyle      Oct 14, 2018

TWO COATS!

I wasn’t planning to write this blog. It just happened! A few weeks back I did my own wardrobe weed. The season felt like it had changed. Flip flops no longer felt like the correct footwear for the time of year and certain colours just looked wrong. For some reason though I wasn’t ready for full on winter attire on the days that were still sunny and dry. We all talk about layering and I feel like I’ve had to hone my skills more than ever with the challenges to our wardrobe the change of season brings. It’s definitely not as clean cut as it used to be. Summer used to be a real summer and we knew it when winter arrived. I now have to go by the colour of the leaves on the trees or the leaves on the ground and not the sun in the sky or the temperature outside. It’s easy to fall down a hole though and think just because it’s mild our summer clothes will see us through. There is still a divide. Be it the fabrics, the textures; the colours or quite simply the vibe that some items give off. So two coats came about! I’m not talking two coats of Dulux, that’s just a must as we all know if you just do the one you’ll see the previous colour underneath! I’m talking about the denim and wool variety. Why? Denim has a wonderful way of making an outfit less formal. It “knocks the edges off” one might say. Worn under a tailored coat it just stops things looking too serious and provides a lighter layer if the day warms up. Add smarter trousers to avoid double denim if it’s not your bag. I get asked all the time, “how do I bridge the gap between really casual (i.e. just my boring skinny jeans and a T-shirt) and too smart at the weekend?” Have a go at some comfortable trousers. They could be velvet jeans like mine, Sports lux trousers (think all the side stripe options on the high street) or a classic straight cut pant. Add sneakers to “knock those edges off” again and you’re good to go….not too smart and not too scruffy! If you’re petite then just tweak the proportions of the overcoat to suit. Juxtaposition… well that’s a long word for a Sunday night!  Putting smart pieces with casual pieces to give a grown up take on jeans and a T-shirt.

FAVOURITE THINGS!

We all have them in our wardrobe, in our bag collection or in our jewellery box. Some jewellery is obviously going to be our favourite for sentimental reasons. I hate cheap costume jewellery that goes green or manky but it’s not always easy to find affordable good jewellery. Now I’m not denying that these Nomination Italy rings aren’t a considered purchase but they were gifts at different times from my husband. This makes them special for that reason alone but they feel special because they are beautiful without breaking the bank. They are stainless steel like a watch strap with 18ct gold details are real semi-precious stones. There’s lots of colours and I stack them for a bit of impact. I wear them nearly every day as you don’t have to think if you’re wearing gold or silver hardware elsewhere on your outfit. Breathe a sigh of relief!

BY THE WAY!

Another favourite thing actually while we’re on the subject…and it’s not whiskers on kittens..love kittens but not sure about whiskers??? And woollen mittens..aren’t they just annoying? By design I’m not sure you can get a techy finger on a mitten so that just makes them really impractical in my book! Oh yeah…favourite things… handmade wool coats….WHHHAT?! They definitely didn’t feature in The Sound Of Music. It is The Sound Of Music isn’t it? I just had to Google it to be sure…see told you that you gotta have a glove with a techy finger NOT a mitten! Ha Ha! Handmade wool coats. They are everywhere on the high street. They used to be a real designer thing. 100% pure wool in two layers hand stitched together, unlined but gorgeously warm. The high street has provided it’s offerings in a much more affordable price point with a wool blend construction. The fact that they are unlined makes them great for layering. Slightly softer in form with no shoulder pads to avoid adding unnecessary bulk. I’d go as far as to say as nearly as comfortable as your cosy faithful cardi but with a bit more polish. That’s a lot of as!

Velvet trousers – Citizens of humanity – old but these are fab too (I have just bought them!)

T-shirt – old Topshop similar here

Denim jacket – old Gap similar here

Steel rings – Nomination Italy

Bag – old Banana Republic

Sneakers- Adidas Stan Smiths widely available

 

Handmade coats..from left to right…Mango, Zara, Mango, H&M

I hope you enjoyed this rather impromptu little blog. There will be a few mid season sales knocking around and some discount codes too. Watch out for Black Friday deals coming soon. Until the next blog..thank-you for reading XX

Bye for now!

 

Valerie

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