By SolihullStyle      Feb 14, 2021

Where to start?

There’s so much that so many of us are going through right now from saving small family businesses, to struggling with home schooling and oh my goodness couldn’t the list just go on in one endless list of negativity that no one needs to read right now….so I’m gonna do my upmost as usual to give you a light hearted distraction and write my usual pointless drivel!

I think in the summer when we were able to get out in the sun things felt different. Now the climate is colder and often wetter making any kind of effort has become more of a mental challenge. My daily exercise has been a walk. This has involved LOTS of mud so I have literally been stuck wearing chunky soled boots. Good job they’re a massive “thing” right now! I’ve always worn them for watching the kids play rugby but never as an every day style choice! This different lifestyle has made me dress every differently but you know what I like it!

To feel like me I found that wearing the chunky boots with tailored pieces was a revelation! A pleated front masculine trouser worked well and was all that was needed to elevate even a simple quilted coat. Good job I saved this old Zara pair of black trousers from the charity bag!

Layering became my best friend. Bibs, tank tops and padded under layers all helped to feel warm and cosy and a way to add texture and interest to otherwise very dull outdoor essentials.

I’ve put some of my favourite looks to follow:-

Boots – H&M similar here

And then there was Christmas! The first time I’ve not been with extended family at Christmas and my first time cooking a Christmas dinner! One of the highlights of 2020 was a very special surprise Christmas gift from a brand I fell  in love with this year. I bought a dress that spoke to me! A Justine Tabak dress. The minute I saw it I knew I’d love it! You might remember it? I wore it to death in the summer! The neon gingham rainbow dress? Little did I know I’d meet the designer in London at an event. just before lockdown no.3. Pure luck or was it fate? Justine walked into the venue at the exact same time I had my 20 minute slot to view a selection of dresses! We connected….it’s a long story after that but Justine recognised me from the pictures of me in my dress on Instagram. She’s the loveliest person. I’ll cut that long story short and just tell you that she sent me a gift of a dress which arrived on Christmas Eve Eve. A wonderful dress. A dress I’ll love forever! Purely as a thank you for supporting her brand on social media. All I did was gush about a dress that was worth gushing about. She’s got some real treats coming soon for spring so please do follow her journey on social media if you can.

Liberty Print Cotton Camden Passage Dress – Justine Tabak

I made a pact with myself that I’d get up and show up whenever possible. Not just for me but for you guys too. I’ve had so many lovely personal messages from ladies that have enjoyed my daily drivel!  I love writing a blog because it’s more personal. It’s for those that like to read something. For those that enjoy understanding processes and getting to know other people better. I’ve grown to love and be proud of my social media through lockdown. It’s been one of the only creative outlets I’ve got with the restrictions in place at the moment. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too? At times it’s been a real challenge to find something to say or to even simply getting a photo! Most days I’m not dressing up! Walking has kept me sane and I’m not walking in freezing temperatures in a silk blouse or sequins!  Not even for you lot! Lots of layers, lots of snow and lots of laughs!

Side split sweatshirt – ARKET new season colour here 

I’m wearing an XS/S in last years cream

Amongst it all there have been moments of normality. A chance to still go into Smart Works and help our clients there at the centre to continue to receive  the services we offer. Even more important at present than ever. At a time when these  most vulnerable women need help it is crucial that these charities can continue to deliver the support they need. I love working at Smart Works as a stylist, feel honoured to be part of the team and have made some very special friendships along the way. I can’t wait to get back to the office again. Some of the ladies there have worked selflessly as coaches still delivering support at this difficult time. THEY’VE BEEN AMAZING.
I met Ann, oh gosh is it about  four or five years ago now? We met when I helped at a Smart Works event in Birmingham. A mutual contact from one of the brands that support the charity asked if I’d help and of course I said yes!  It wasn’t until a few years passed, the charity moved to the centre of Birmingham and the kids got a bit older that I was able to commit to the charity properly. I’ve been working at Smart Works Birmingham now for a couple of years as a stylist.

So I got to dress up for some filming at Smart Works and a radio interview for BBC West Midlands. I also put on my glad rags for some Zoom wardrobe edits and style coaching sessions which have now started online for the season ahead. Things are looking up and there are glimpses of life as we knew it! I’ve put on some more stylish pics just to show it wasn’t just one big walk in the park! Ha ha……see what I did there?

Recycled plastic shopper – My Funky bags 

Wool trousers – H&M   

I’m wearing a size 10

Fingers crossed the next blog will be over on the other side with the promise of spring, some sunshine and new season style. Hang in their team, we’re getting there! This too will pass! Lots of love to every one. A huge high five to any fellow parents out there and teachers. Enjoy your half term!

I hope you get some inspo from the blog? If nothing else you can take comfort from the fact that I chose to live in my gym kit too! Ha Ha!!

Thank you for reading! XXX

Valerie

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By SolihullStyle      Nov 03, 2019

I have to say it’s tough ticking every box. Writing blogs, posting on Facebook and Twitter; filming IGTV videos and juggling the day job as well as family life.
I’ve always wanted my social media to be a safe place for readers to come and enjoy and feel part of something special that’s theirs as much as mine. I love making the blog pretty to look at with hopefully some creative flare in the imagery and not just about buying any particular piece of clothing featured.
The IGTV videos have become a fun way to show different styles in motion. The point was to hopefully encourage others to give different things a go. I absolutely love planning them and posting them. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to engage with them and comment. None of my social media would be worth while if others didn’t enjoy it and for your connection with it I am hugely grateful.
So this blog quite simply came on the back of rushing out the door to make the most of a special day.
Over the past few years I’ve made a conscious effort to invest in clothes I’ll actually wear! Classics with a bit of edge. What can be more classic than a camel coat! Pick your budget and the shade that suits you. Buy the best your budget will allow when it comes to coats and the fabric will reward you with years of wear. Great with animal print, beautiful beiges, brights or denim. Can be dressed up or down.

BODEN

Left MANGO Right H&M 

Left WHISTLES Right HOBBS

Left ZARA Middle JAEGER  Right WAREHOUSE

Left ZARA Right MARKS AND SPENCER

Left JIGSAW  Right MARKS AND SPENCER

Left ZARA  Right GESTUZ

So it’s full steam ahead with social media! On to the next IGTV video which I’m planning to feature my camel coat. If you follow me on Instagram please watch the videos and make any suggestions for ideas for topics to film. 

I hope you enjoy my musings about style and fashion. lots of love…and thank you for reading XXXX

Valerie

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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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