I need to change my relationship status. We’re separating. Yes it’s sad. It’s taken me a while to get my head round it. You see, it wasn’t really a mutual thing. I wanted to make a go of it, but, you know what it’s like, the other party was in a different place. Still, I’m hopeful we might get back together again eventually. After all we’ve been joined at the hip since I was a teenager. But, sadly for now, there’s no avoiding the truth: Work and I are on a break.
The world of non-work is a foreign country, one where days can fly by on the sofa watching Making of a Murderer and eating giant chocolate buttons; where Mondays no longer hold their dread; where the ping of an email doesn’t make your stomach tighten. Mind you in this country you also have to find the means to pay for the chocolate buttons, TV etc.
I haven’t been completely idle. I’ve watched the WHOLE of Dancing Queen (Netflix, check it out). I’ve planted the tulip bulbs and watched the squirrels dig them up. I have watched impotently as someone steals the hedge out of my front garden, four plants at a time ( a pathetic fallacy if ever there was one). But mostly I have baked. So far I have made two Christmas cakes and it isn’t even Advent. I also have kilos of fruit soaking for even more Christmas cakes. I’ve made bread, banana cake, soda bread, Eccles cakes. It seems that times of stress bring out the domestic goddess in me. Find me elbow deep in flour and you can bet I’m baking my way out of the ‘what-on-earth-do-I- do-next’ dilemma.
But the biggest impact of recent events has been on what I wear. When I was going into an office every day, what I wore for work almost occupied as much of my energy as what I did at work. I loved to plan my outfits for the week and only changed them if I thought of more interesting ways to put them together. I was my own dressing up doll – an outfit for every occasion and mood. I just assumed that this is how I’d continue.
Cut to yesterday morning, when I found myself hauling a sweatshirt I’d worn for two days straight, out of the washing basket, giving it a tentative sniff and deciding to wear it anyway. With no one to comment one way or another, only myself to please and in a slightly low mood, I find myself not terribly motivated to wear anything interesting. Every day is a uniform of whatever jeans I had on yesterday, which, thanks to all the cake, are running a bit tight right now and some kind of jumper, hopefully (not not necessarily) clean.
Turns out you don’t need a Paul Smith suit for soaking fruit.
So this week I’m taking myself in hand. New life, new me, new rules. I’m going to go with the flow but make sure I wear my nicest versions of them.
Jeans, Non-Dirty, natch.
I rarely wore jeans into the office, which makes it harder to explain why I now have so many of them. But now I know: it was the deities I hold so dear, the Shopping Gods, in their infinite wisdom. They knew I’d need them some day.
As ever my instincts in jeans are high street. I have a life long affection for Gap jeans, even though going into the store is quite a drab experience: head for the jeans, the knickers and the cashmere and don’t get involved in the other cheap-looking stuff there.
If I’m venturing upwards on the price scale, I have come home to Levis. I really like their Wedgie cut. If you haven’t heard me blahing on about it already, it is high waisted, slim cut (or straight legged) and cropped. They make your bum look great, even when it’s carrying quite a lot of extra Eccles cakes.
Levis Wedgie fit corduroy jeans, £80 BUY HERE
Although I love them, to be honest they look cracking on a shorter, curvier woman. On a taller girl the crop can be too short and that creates real footwear issues in cold weather – wear them over a long boot and you look like you’re auditioning for Mama Mia 3; wear them with trainers and you have 3 inches of ankle exposed to the elements. The problem I find with Levis is that you really do have to try them on as the sizing varies a great deal. I don’t know about you but whatever else is happening in my life, it’s never the right time to try on jeans (or swimwear). So no thanks, Levis.
Two brands you might not have tried, are Me+Em (for denim, not the ubiquitous striped pants which I’m a little over) and Hiut, the Welsh denim company set up by the people who were originally behind Howies.
Me&Em denim is nicely cut and modestly directional. If you find their new pricing a little startling, wait for the sales which are much more accessible. I have their boyfriend cut jeans and their cropped flares, both bought for a healthy discount. I note they seem to be downscaling the denim in their collection, so perhaps the stripes will win out. But the upside to this is that there are a number of styles, including a rather wonderful dark denim flare, for as little as £39 in their sale section. If you are lucky, you may be able to find the right size. Personally I find their sizing quite generous.
ME+Em black coated kick flat jeans, £41 BUY HERE
Me+Em straight leg jeans, £41 BUY HERE
Hiut denim is denim for life. Literally. They don’t believe in disposable fashion and will repair and restore your battered threads for as long as they can. They are not cheap, but they are the denim equivalent of a pair of handmade brogues, Unbeknownst to me, a certain Meghan Markle has worn their jeans, which has meant an explosion of interest and a lot of stock problems. That Markle Sparkle! Huh! Before she even set her eyes on this brand, I was eyeing up their Coda jean, £155.
Hiut selvage denim slim cut CODA jean, £155 BUY HERE
Non Boring Jumpers
In my new Dress Down Every Day life, I do love a bit of cashmere. But despite the best efforts of the mighty Motlock moth boxes (excellent moth controllers and pretty much the only ones that work), I seem to be running a bed and breakfast in my sweater drawer for the little blighters. Some of my finest cashmere is now moth-eaten. I’m not opposed to a slightly nibbled, neatly darned cashmere versus something less worn looking in a lesser fibre. And, although some of my best specimens are rather pricier, I have faith in the high street for cashmere – especially in interesting colours. (Check out www.thefrugality.com for her trawl of the cashmere on the high street. Hats off to her, she is a sensible shopper).
But my absolute year in year out favourite knitwear, for sheer versatility is John Smedley. I am a big fan of their Outlet shop where you can pick up pieces for £40 and under, versus nearer £140 at full price. Prepare yourselves: it is a little hit and miss, but persist and you will reap the benefits. I have this acid yellow, fine knit sweater which is very much a colour for this season and is only £29. (Other less migraine-inducing garments are available)
Airlie sweater in Lemon, John Smedley outlet, £29 BUY HERE
My biggest sweater hit of the season so far is my Zara highlighter pink turtle neck sweater, £39.99. I must have sent at least half a dozen women who have asked me where I got it from off to buy it. The only sorrow is that it has been mostly too mild so far to wear it much.
Zara neon pink turtle neck, £39.99 BUY HERE
I haven’t worn heels for over a fortnight. Really, I don’t know myself. Instead I am rooting out all my flats from the back of the wardrobe, some of which I haven’t worn for years. I am a big fan of Blundstones, so I’m polishing up my favourites for dog walking and dried fruit shopping.
But of my newer purchases, despite my early scepticism, I have converted to the chunky trainer, a trend set to stay with us, for the time being at least. Buoyed by them, I’ve been bouncing along the pavements of North London in my Zara chunkies, scouring the shops for dried fruit and giant chocolate buttons (don’t bother with those Maltezer buttons. They are an abomination.) My particular trainers aren’t available any more, but, in store they have them in silver, and these are similar in a different colour way.
Zara chunky sole sneakers, £39.99 BUY HERE
In the long ago days ( a month ago) when I could rely on a monthly salary check, I had my eye on these Puma Thunders in green on ASOS. They are lovely, and a little closer to the Zara style I have, but much pricier.
Puma Thunder, Desert Green, ASOS, £110 BUY HERE
Now, as an academic exercise, let’s take a look at the other directional trainer style – the sock trainer.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury, I present the below Zara trainers. Yes, they look like scuba diving boots, but bear with.. Don’t be too swift to judge. In their defence, Miluds, I would suggest firstly they are so comfortable you will feel like kittens have decided to nestle around your tootsies. Secondly, have you seen what Martin Margiela and Balenciaga are doing? These are the very dernier mot in footwear. Pair them with ankle length cropped wide trousers; a Cos top and some strong spectacles and you will feel so like a Belgian architect, you’ll be doing your own loft conversion.
Fabric high top sneakers, £39.99 BUY HERE
Finally, when coins start flowing back into the Mutton coffers – and there would have to be a positive deluge, because these cost just shy of £500 – the sheer delight of these pretties puts them right on the top of my lust list. Simply perfect for making Eccles cakes in!
SNUG ankle boot, rose pink, Tracey Neuls, £495 BUY HERE