Category Archive: Lifestyle

Apr 17 2014

Wedding: My David’s Bridal Experience

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I am not one of those girls that has had my wedding dress picked out for years, but even I have fallen for the beauty of Vera Wang, but unfortunately my bank balance doesn’t appreciate the price tag. So instead of torturing myself by falling in love with a dress I couldn’t afford I went and tried on the next best thing – White by Vera Wang her affordable collection at David’s Bridal.

Since I got engaged a couple of months ago I knew that wanted to experience David’s Bridal, not only do they have Vera Wang, but they also recently launched a collection with Zac Posen, which I love, and the price is amazing. I tried on about 10 dresses and not one was over £1,200, which is amazing as nearly all the other dresses in my search have been a lot more than that.

The beauty of David’s Bridal other than the price and the designer collaborations has to be the choice available at the American retailer’s Westfield Stratford store. The rails of dresses are never-ending and filled with so many different styles, silhouettes and fabrics to basically suit any wedding – whether you are getting married in a church, outside, at a registry office, in a country hotel or on a beach – plus most dresses come in US sizes 4-30 so something for everyone.

To be honest this choice can be a little overwhelming especially when you are asked to pick out the five you like, I think I had an initial shortlist of about 20, as there is no such thing as an ugly wedding dress. But what I did love about David’s Bridal is that they offer more than just the traditional white and ivory gowns, I finally got to try on pink, grey and blush coloured gowns I have been looking for.

What I will say is the experience at David’s Bridal is different from traditional bridal boutiques, with the choice means it is less private when trying on. You do get your own personal consultant, but you also have to share the floor with other brides, I went on a Friday afternoon and there were four brides, all with family and friends, and it felt a little bit like I was under the spotlight – everyone had an opinion on the dresses I had on. Everyone was nice, but at other places it was just my Mum and I, which made it easier to critique the dresses and narrow it down.

The dresses themselves were gorgeous, I wanted to take each Vera Wang gown I wore on home they were so beautiful, the grey one, priced at £875 was one of my favourites the texture of the chiffon was perfection and so different to everything else I had tried on. The only problem with a lot of the gowns was they were nearly all strapless, a style I just didn’t want, so it does take a lot of imagination to visualise them with straps added.

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As well as falling in love with Vera Wang I also tried on the entire Zac Posen collection, because why the hell not, I love that the collection really marries traditional bridal beauty with a touch of red carpet glamour, while staying within my budget. The ballgown was divine, the detailing on the bodice was just gorgeous, but it was the fit-and-flare gown with corset detailing and the pleated tulle skirt that really took my breath away. Not only was it a great colour, I love this purple-grey shade, but I also adore the bow detailing on the back, and how it made my body look – my only wish was that I was able to sit down in it.

I have to be honest I had a great time at David’s Bridal it was such a fun experience, the variety and choice had me as giddy as a child, OK me in a candy shop, and I loved that they encourage you take pictures. I just wish it had been a little more private, it was really busy and sharing a mirror with another bride-to-be didn’t make me feel special. I also wish my assistant had more knowledge about alterations and vision about what could be changed on the dress to make it perfect for me.

If you have a limited budget, a tight deadline, and want a designer dress without the price tag then David’s Bridal will suit you, there really is something for everyone, but if you are after a more personal experience and looking to customise your gown then I think a traditional boutique might be more what you are after. But don’t discount David’s Bridal gowns just because they are a huge chain as the quality and the fashion-forward styles of the dresses really surprised me.

If only I could wear all the wedding dresses I have fallen in love with on this search!!!

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David’s Bridal, Westfield Stratford - www.davidsbridal.co.uk

Apr 14 2014

Wedding: I Have Said YES To My Dress

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It is a daunting task searching for ‘the’ wedding dress, I have to be honest the process scared the hell out me. I think it because you have lots of things running through your head – from excitement to dread, to the realisation that you are actually getting married, to worrying that you won’t find anything that fits or that makes you look beautiful.

The stress kind of drifts away when you actual get to the bridal boutique and spot a gown you love. Then questions like can I afford it, will it look good in 10 years time in the wedding photographs, will I be comfortable all day long, and will I still love it in 6 months time when it finally comes in – to be honest if you have to ask yourself these questions for too long, I don’t think you have found the ‘one’.

It is a hard choice, come on it is rare that a wedding dress isn’t pretty, OK sometimes it might not suit you, but never is it not beautiful, and wearing something gorgeous can make it hard to say no to. It is moments like this where your bridal salon really needs to step in and steer you in the right direction. I went to about 6 salons in total both in London and around the Cambridge area where I live and I have to say that half were dreadful. It is why I really need to stress don’t just do research on the dresses you like but also on where to shop, ask your friends where they went, who do your wedding venue recommend and check out reviews on bridal forums – trust me finding a great boutique will save you time, probably money and make it more enjoyable.

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I am not an expert in how to make wedding dress shopping perfect, but I can tell you a few tips that I picked up from my experience, which was probably a little more rushed than most brides-to-be as for some reason I didn’t realise that the lead-time was so long, some designers need up to 9 months to get your dress to you.

Underwear: Don’t try on dresses in full on Spanks, maybe you feel that you need it but most dresses come with their own support inside and if you are going for dresses that suit your silhouette you probably won’t need anyway. Just go for a nude strapless bra and comfortable knickers, I think a thong might scare the bridal assistant. I would also suggest going for a bra fitting before you go so you are wearing the right bra size.

Make-up: Don’t go overboard, try to go as natural as possible, while still feeling and looking pretty. This can be hard, it was for me, but some salons might ask you take it off so you don’t damage any of the dresses. I saw a bride-to-be who got fake tan all over a dress she was trying on and the salon was not amused. Unless you say yes to the dress on your first visit you can always return with a little more make-up and extra special hair to really get a wedding day feel when you try on your dress for the second time.

Honesty: If you don’t have a set idea on what you want tell them what you definitely don’t want. I felt like I knew what I didn’t want more than what I did and it really helped the consultant find me dresses that would work for me. Also be aware that your consultant isn’t going to be offended if you don’t like the dress, don’t just yes to them all, I found by saying what I loved, what I didn’t like, and what I wish it had really helped narrow down the selection.

Don’t Worry: This is hard, especially if you have tried on 10 dresses and not found anything you like, trust me if there is a dress out there for me, there is for you as well. I found that with each dress I tried on the more I realised what I wanted and I just needed to track it down. Worrying can also come with having a set dress in mind and it not looking good on, go in with an open mind, ask your consultant to pull something that she thinks would look good, and try to enjoy the experience.

Sit, Shimmy & Walk: This might sound silly but make sure that you sit down in your dress, dance a little bit, and go for a walk around the boutique. I found a great dress that I couldn’t sit down in and unless you are standing all day long it isn’t very practical. I also found walking around made me spot other things I loved or didn’t like about the dress, the way the sparkle caught the light, the detailing on the back, or that it felt too heavy, some dresses are uncomfortable to walk and dance in.

Price: Tell them your budget before you try on any dresses, trying on a dress way out of your price range and falling in love with it can be heartbreaking. Also take in to account alterations, nearly all dresses will need some adjustment whether the hem, the train or to nip in a little at the bust, ask the salon for prices. Also don’t be afraid to ask if there are any discounts, they can only say no, but the dress you like might be available at a trunk show at a later date so might be worth waiting. I would also suggest calling around to other stockists as I found my dress was priced differently everywhere I tried it on.

Trust Your Own Opinion: Having friends and family with you to make the decision is great, they can really help narrow the shortlist, but at the end of the day you will be the one wearing it all day – your opinion, whether you a paying for it or not is the most important. I also think too many people makes it more difficult. I actually went just with my mum and shared a few pics with my closest friends, but in the end I made the final decision.

Surprise: When you have found the ‘one’ you will want to tell everyone which beauty you have picked, don’t, I think it spoils the surprise of the day especially if they are joining you on your special day. It is hard keeping it a secret, I am even keeping all the customisations to my dress a surprise for my Mum, I really want it to be a special moment when she sees it on the day. I promise come November when I get married I will share pics of my dress but for now all I will say is that it has an Old Hollywood glamour about it.

My biggest tip for wedding dress shopping is to enjoy yourself, it really is a wonderful moment, tiring and draining – those dresses are heavy, but the most fun ever and when you find the ‘one’ you won’t stop smiling.

Still looking for inspiration before shopping? Why not check out my wedding dress inspiration board on Pinterest.
Follow Fashionista Barbie Danielle Wightman-Stone’s board Wedding Dress Inspiration on Pinterest.

Apr 09 2014

Benetton Florals: Flower Arranging At Jaime Aston

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One of my secret passions is flower arranging, in another life I would love to be a florist, so when Benetton invited me down to a workshop at Jamie Aston’s flower school to make a hand-tied bouquet I couldn’t say no.

So armed with seasonal flowers from sweet peas to spray roses, ranunculus, hydrangea, hyacinths, and delicate forget-me-nots, as well as gorgeous green foliage I attempt to wrap and combine my blooms to create the perfect arrangement. My thinking was to have pops of baby pink standing out against the vibrant pink and purple-blue hyacinths – I think it worked to a point but I have to tell you it is a lot harder than it looks.

Sharnie at Jaime Aston’s floristry school was amazing, it was really interesting to learn about stripping down the flowers, the wrapping technique to secure the flowers together while making the hand-tie, the use of foliage to break up the bouquet, as well as having her helping out when the flowers became so big I could barely hold them. As well as arranging the flowers we also wrapped our bouquets with layers of tissue paper – I have to be honest I was pretty impressed with my floral creation after just an hour of trial and error.

As well as coming away with a gorgeous bloom, which I might add is still going strong a week later, I also got to pick one of Benetton’s ‘perfect printed shirts’ with their micro and macro floral patterns in shades of pink, lilac, blue and white. Of course I had to go for the hot pink one and I can’t wait to style it up in a future outfit post.

Have you tried out the art of flower arranging? I really enjoyed it and would love to learn a few more tricks to deck my house out in gorgeous blooms.

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My Style: Yellow print skirt, Peter Pilotto for Target via Net-A-Porter.com // Jumper, Primark // Necklace, Primark // Glasses, Retro54 //

Apr 08 2014

Afternoon Tea: Carmina and Lancelot, London

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Discovering a great place to have afternoon tea just off Oxford Street in London is a hard challenge, yes there is Selfridges and the big hotels but what about something more charming, inviting and relaxing? Well, I have found the perfect place, Carmina & Lancelot on Wigmore Street.

This cute and trendy cafe is really a reflection on the owners, Carmina and Lancelot, who are both warm, friendly and so down-to-earth, they really make it their business to make everyone welcome. It was so nice to see as I find that so many foodie places are part of a big chains that they have lost that friendly feel that can be so important.

As well as loving the owners, the decor of this brassiere is to-die-for, filled with books on fashion, art and travel, adorable bone china tea sets and vintage pictures – it is quirky and fun and definitely somewhere I could wish away the afternoon while chatting with friends.

I would like to say the discovery of this gem was my own, sadly it was Ngoni from I am NRC, who kindly let me tag along to review the place, but I can’t complain as it was so lovely to enjoy the cafe’s relaxed, unpretentious afternoon tea – yep there wasn’t any macaroons, no crazy theme, just good honest traditional food and it was perfect.

The smoke salmon and cream cheese and egg mayonnaise sandwiches were nice, but for me this afternoon tea was all about the delicious homemade sultana scones, fresh out of the oven these beauties were still warm to the touch, which I adore and they tasted perfect with lashings of clotted cream and strawberry jam.

As well as offering afternoon tea, Carmina & Lancelot also serves breakfast, including a great looking vegetarian brekkie, salads, paninis, daily specials and even cocktails. This is one of those places that you go in for lunch, add a dessert, a cup of tea, and then stay until cocktail time, as it really has a relaxed and inviting feel.

Carmina & Lancelot, 88 Wigmore Street, London

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**I was a guest of Carmina & Lancelot but all opinions on the afternoon tea are my own**

Apr 07 2014

Store Loving: Inside Osprey London’s Regent Street Flagship

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There is something special about Osprey London, not only because it makes great handbags that I adore, or the fact that it really does champion British manufacturing and design, but because it is very much a family run business with founder and creative director Graeme Ellisdon at the helm, his wife Alex curating the amazing jewellery collections, and even his son Jack is on hand in the store’s Saddlery Cafe.

Much like the brand’s St Alban’s store, the Regent Street store utilises the amazing Grade II listed building, which was once a Barclay’s bank, to showcase the eclectic mix of leather accessories, jewellery, interior pieces, even knitted toys and food. Everything about the store interior is divine – from the solid oak doors at the entrance to the exquisite chandeliers and the stainless steel staircase and that’s without talking about the brand’s diverse selection of interior pieces such as gorgeous arm chairs, antique picture frames and a fun choice of cushions.

There is very much a “home” feel to the store, which is apparently the vibe that Graeme was going for, with the upstairs set out more like a fashion store with its walls covered with gorgeous leather bags and display cabinets filled with handmade jewellery, while downstairs brings a slice of the countryside into central London. I love that the store is a destination, I think I could have spent hours just picking up every last item, there is really so many things I didn’t even know I wanted for the house!!!

As well as buying gorgeous handbags and pieces for the home, the flagship also houses an informal cafe area in the style of the Saddlery Cafe at St Albans, think cute bone china tea cups, delicious cakes and one of the best hot chocolates ever. I also love that the sitting areas are situated within the former bank’s vaults – super cosy and I can’t wait to do tea and cake there soon.

If you are down the Piccadilly Circus end of Regent Street then trust me you have to pop by for a look, not only will you probably leave with a new handbag or necklace, but you will pick up lots of pinnable ideas for your home, I have my eye on a £5k multicoloured sofa.

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How cure is Boris? This beauty was knitted in the UK and I love how each one comes with their own mini Osprey London cross-body bag. I seriously need one of these beauties. osprey london regent st 12 Store Loving: Inside Osprey Londons Regent Street Flagship %tagosprey london regent st 3 Store Loving: Inside Osprey Londons Regent Street Flagship %tag osprey london regent st 1 Store Loving: Inside Osprey Londons Regent Street Flagship %tag osprey london regent st 18 Store Loving: Inside Osprey Londons Regent Street Flagship %tag

Love these metallic handbags – so different for the brand but they really do make a statement.

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Osprey London, 27 Regent Street, London (on the corner of Regent Street and Jeremy Street, opposite Lilywhite’s).

Apr 03 2014

Exhibition: V&A – The Glamour Of Italian Fashion

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The V&A’s latest fashion exhibition explores all their influential contributions to fashion, as well as the rich passion of the Italian fashion industry from the end of the Second World War to the present day in its beautifully curated ‘The Glamour of Italian Fashion’ exhibition, which runs from April 5 until July 27, 2014.

One of the most striking rooms within the exhibition has to be the array of modern-day pieces, these are the most recognisable – from the hand-painted Dolce & Gabbana ballgown to a floor-length romantic Valentino gown and accessories including the Fendi baguette bag, Gucci’s ‘New Jackie’ bag and Tod’s vibrant driving moccasins.

Just seeing the red carpet beauties up close, especially the gorgeous Armani Prive gown from the spring/summer 2010 collection, encrusted with Swarovski crystals was amazing to see – the craftsmanship is just incredible.

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But the most revealing section had to be the opening ‘Return to Luxury’ area of the exhibit, telling the story of the early ‘Sala Bianca’ catwalk shows in Florence held in the 1950′s and featuring couture designers including Simonetta, just look at her spectacular 1950′s evening gown above, and Capucci, who became known for his sculptural style with this intricate multi-layered scalloped ruffled cocktail dress presented with a silver velvet stole from 1957.

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Other highlights had to be this red tulle couture dress by Valentino from 1977, the dramatic colour and the ruffles is so synonymous with his romantic and ethereal work. As was seeing the Bulgari emerald and diamond jewellery that was worn by Elizabeth Taylor in 1967 to a masked ball in Venice, the iconic jewels just show off what Italian glamour is.

This exhibition is so much more than fashion, it is a history on how Italian fashion became such a fixture in the industry, the earlier couture designers, as well as the rise of the country’s luxury fashion houses. If you love fashion, Italian style and gorgeous dresses – you will love this exhibition.

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The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014, sponsored by Bulgari, runs from April 5 – July 27, 2014 at the V&A.

Mar 31 2014

Visual Diary: The Joys Of Spring

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I love it when the clocks go forward, not only do I get to enjoy an extra hour in bed, but I know that the long sunny nights are on there way. I am a lover of all seasons, I adore the snow in winter, the changing of the leaves in autumn, and that summer brings my birthday as well as the UK’s best weather, the occasional heat wave, but there is something special about spring.

I not sure whether it is because it follows the cold, not that this winter has been as cold as previous years (I am still waiting for the snow), or that it brings out the flowers, I especially love daffodils all lined up in a row, or that the fields surrounding my village are dotted with adorable lambs bouncing around the field playing. There is just something so giddy and playful about spring that always makes me smile.

We have had a great start to spring, this weekend was gorgeous, it was nice just to spend time in the garden watching the butterflies fluttering around enjoying the blossom on the trees and listening to all the birds chirping away – it is hard to think of a better way to spend a Sunday to be honest.

As well as enjoying the sun, my surroundings, and outside brunches with friends, I also love that spring means lightweight knits, fun lovely flats and peep-toe heels, and if you are really lucky – no coat at all. Plus it is always the time of year that I love to do a revamp of my wardrobe – out with the old and in with the new.

What does spring mean to you? 

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My Style: Jumper, Peter Pilotto for Target via Net-A-Porter.com // Glasses, Retro54 // Floral print nails done at the Next press event //

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