Stash-busting nightdress – a make-do make!

A couple of weeks ago I picked up Conall at a funny angle and heard a distinct ripping sound. With a sigh, I retreated to the bathroom mirror, to inspect the enormous tear that had appeared across the back of my nightdress. It wasn’t something that could be fixed without replacing the whole back panel. The nighty had had it.

Not having the cash for a new one, I delved in my stash for some suitable fabric. This lovely lightweight blue and yellow stripe is wonderfully sunny and summery, and was given to me by my Grandma in a parcel of materials she felt sure I’d use. I had no pattern, so I used the existing nightdress. I replaced the elasticated waist with an adjustable cord-threaded lace, leftover materials from an adjustable-length petticoat I made a few years ago…

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I was so happy with the result – a lovely new nighty for an hour’s sewing, and much prettier than any I’ve seen on the high street!

What a difference a cup makes…

(Is it me, or is this blog all about boobs these days? I promise to get back to regular, boob-free postings when I return to work next week!)

So, after my last blog post I got some really helpful advice from commenters both on here and on my facebook page. I am now watching a few Collectif dresses on Ebay (thanks Cath!) and keeping an eye open for some to convert into skirts (thanks Joe!). But best of all, Christina’s comment encouraged me to take a look at Pepperberry, which made me realise that I’d need to make a trip to a store to check out their three-tiered sizing system, which made me think it might be worthwhile getting a proper fitting, if I ever wanted a proper fitting bra again. And so it happened that Dapper and I spent yesterday afternoon in Solihull Bravissimo, where the lovely girls on the staff fixed me up with a couple of 38EE bras that actually give me a cleavage once again!

I really had come to the conclusion that I would never again have a decent cleavage. Yes, my bust size has increased, but breastfeeding can leave your breasts looking somewhat the worst for wear – the skin is stretched out of shape, and I’m afraid when you can’t find the time to pee when you need to, finding time to moisturise lands pretty low down on your list of priorities! But Steph (at Bravissimo) promptly replaced my 40DD nursing bra with a moulded 38EE, and suddenly everything pointed outwards again! I can’t recommend their service strongly enough – and I am not on commission, I promise!

I came away with two new bras and a renewed sense of self-esteem. The feeling of being held in place again – despite the obvious contradictory implications – is freeing! Having smaller cup sizes before, I genuinely never realised just how encumbering larger boobs could be. I have a new-found respect for the bustier ladies in my life!

And, of course, it makes a huge difference to the line of my clothes. As Gok says, it’s all about the scaffolding – suddenly I am excited to get dressed again! Speaking of which, the boy-cubs and I have got to hit the post office today to post some ebay sales… I wonder what I should wear…

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The boy cubs, ready to roll…

Petticoat layers and overdue oxblood

Pink maxi dress: Dotty P’s; cream maxi dress: Miss Selfridge; sweater: Dotty P’s.

When we talk about layering our clothes for warmth, we mostly mean tops. Vests worn under t-shirts, worn over long-sleeved t-shirts, under sweaters and cardis, all add a much needed layer of warmth to an oufit. But often we forget about the importance of keeping our bottom halves warm too.

When people tell me they prefer trousers in winter because they’re warmer, I sort of know what they mean. Even with two layers of tights and a waist slip under my skirt, I would often feel the sting of the wind around my legs whilst awaiting the train on a draughty platform. But for a great many hundreds of years, women have worn skirts without dying of pneumonnia. And before the widespread adoption of trousers, men wore “skirts” too – from the draped clothing popular in Roman times to the belted plaid “kilts” worn by the Scots. (The “kilt”, in fact, is merely a name given to the heavy wool blanket that highlanders would belt about their waists to keep the chill out, and not by any stretch of the imagination particular to Scotland, the same method being used in colder climates across Northern Europe, despite the early Celtic versions of trousers also being popular. The Scottish kilt and the clan tartans as we recognise them today are more a less entirely the invention of the great novelist and saviour of Scottish heritage, Sir Walter Scott.)

The answer to the cold conundrum is, naturally, the petticoat. Throughout history women have layered undergarments, partly for reasons of fashion, but also for reasons of practicality, beneath their top skirt. At times it has been fashionable to display these layers, but even when this has not been the case, the heavy, wool underskirts have still been present, trapping the warm air close to the body and insuring against corned-beef legs.

So why did it never occur to me to layer maxi dresses until last Friday? I can’t help but think I’ve been missing out on something very obvious…

Back in November, I also mentioned that Dapper had bought me a belated birthday present at the Re-enactor’s Market, of a pair of Victorian-style oxblood leather boots. These then had to be sent for reheeling, so the promised pictures never quite materialised…

Until now!

Socks: M&S via my Mummy at Christmas; boots: Re-enactor’s Market

They are exactly what I needed for wearing in winter under my full-length dresses. They’re delicate enough to look pretty, but sturdy enough to be comfy, and being leather, they warm to the skin and soften to the shape of the foot. Plus, not too high to spend a whole day wandering around a National Trust property – always a consideration!

January sales shopping

A trip to the shops: dress: Get Cutie; petticoat: Christmas gift; shoes: Miss Sixty; cami: M&S; umberella: Matalan.

We didn’t do a whole lot of January sales shopping this year – what with having a pretty full house already, there wasn’t much we were left to want or need! But I did insist upon my annual underwear replenishment shop, courtesy of the M&S sale.

I guess I am now a pretty typical size of underwear, as I found it nigh impossible to find what I wanted in a size that would fit me. Bras, which I usually struggle to find in the sale in my size, were plentiful this year, but knickers… not so much. Still, I got enough to be able to throw out some of my more worn-out pieces, which will tide me over until the summer sales trip around…

Get thee behind me…

Dress: vintage via ebay; belt & cardi: Topshop; navy hold-ups; Charnos via UKTights; shoes: Bertie

Last week, House of Olivier threw temptation into my path, with their mid-season sale. Naturally, I succombed.

But d’you know something? I don’t regret it one little bit. Because this lovely cotton petticoat is everything I was hoping it would be.

Dress: Dorothy Perkins; belt: Peacocks; shoes & cami: M&S;
cardi & flower corsage: Matalan

I now want the same petticoat in red, navy, burgundy, cornflower… and perhaps a Victoria in white too. Just in case you happen to have a spare £100 lying around unused, y’know — otherwise I think I’ll have to purchase one a month for next few years…

Why I love Charnos

Nope, it’s not only beacuse they offer navy hold-ups. Though you could be forgiven for thinking so, considering the recent surge of blog posts about them…

A fortnight ago I was loitering on twitter and spotted a tweet about Charnos hosiery’s 75th anniversary designs. I was intrigued and clicked through to their facebook page to have a sneaky peek. The designs are beautiful, so I naturally left a query on their facebook wall about stockists. I also left a query on their pictures asking whether there was anywhere I could lay my hands on the packaging designs – perhaps as promotional postcards…

By the time I had got home that evening, there was a reply to my comment asking whether I was on twitter. I left my twitter handle, and promptly received a  tweet saying that if I dm-ed my address, they would post me out a set of the postcards!

Now, if that’s not great customer service, I don’t know what is!

The 75th anniversary designs incorporate a range of stockings, tights and hold-ups, each inspired to suit a different leg shape by a different stylish starlet. Whether you’re an Ava, an Marilyn, a Jackie, a Betty, a Brigitte or a Katherine, there’s a style to suit you.

Mid-way through last week, a parcel arrived. I was expecting an envelope with six postcards and perhaps a compliments slip from Charnos, and so assumed it must be from somebody else – perhaps some ebay purchase I had forgotten about. Imagine my surprise when I opened the parcel to find the postcards, a booklet about the history of hosiery AND a pair of Betty tights!

Takes great customer service to the next level, eh?!

Secondhand shopper’s guide to hold ups

Or rather, guide to hold ups for the curvier amongst us! Many of my more voluptuous friends regularly comment that they can’t wear hold ups. But this isn’t true! You just need to know what to look for…

As far as I’m concerned, there are two dealbreakers when it comes to buying hold ups for the wider thigh.

Sizing

The most flattering and comfortable hold ups are the ones that come right up the leg. Anything that stops any lower has the double effect of creating bulge (a smooth line under your pencil skirt is a must!) and encouraging painful rubbing thighs. Therefore, the first rule of thumb is to find hold-ups that have sizing options. I pretty much always go for the largest option – unless dress sizes are specified, in which case I go for the correlating size 16. But it’s always better to have a bit of give rather than create the over-stuffed sausage effect.

Band-width

The second dealbreaker is a narrow band. To create that smooth silhouette we were talking about you need as wide a band as possible. The very best of luxury hold-ups often include several inches of lace around the top, and more than one band of rubber.

All images from UK Tights.

You may need to spend a little more cash on these hold-ups, but they are worth it – if you’re not stretching the material too tightly over your legs, you’re less likely to ladder them: obvious, but true, nevertheless!

My favourite brands – all of which combine size variation with a decent width of band include: Marks & Spencer, Le Bourget, Charnos and Levante. Levante in particular combine great quality and stretch with ladder-resist material, a great band and wide, sturdy elastic. Their hold ups are a bit pricier, true, but last longer than any other I’ve tried – I could buy several £4.50 pairs in the time it takes me to wear through one £7.70 pair from Levante.

Levante Sheer Fantasy hold-ups – my personal reccomendation

One element of hold-ups which can only be discovered on a trial and error basis is the roll factor. If the rubber is too far down, or if the band is just cut slightly wrong, they can roll down at the top, making them uncomfortable to wear. Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict if a pair will do this, and I’ve had identical pairs, one of which rolls and one of which doesn’t. This can sometimes happen over time too, as your rubber starts to disintegrate.

A rule for all tights wearers who want to minimise the apparent girth of their legs, is to avoid high shine. I recently ordered a pair of Charnos sheer-lustre hold-ups, which are fine, for everyday, but not the most flattering I own. They do, however, have a sturdy band with elastic that runs right around the very top, so if shiny is your look of choice, these may be the best.

It’s also worth noting that tights are not the most flattering way to give yourself a fake tan: if your natural skin tone is porcelaine white, American tan tights are not going to give you a golden glow. They are going to make you look like an escaped ballroom dancer who has lost her sequins. The most flattering shade of summer tights is always the one closest to your true colouring.

Caring for hold-ups is simple, the main rule being don’t machine wash them: this can cause the rubber to lose its stick and stretch. I wash the feet of mine after every wear, rubbing the soap directly into the foot area to remove staining from shoes and rinsing with hand-hot water. I then immerse the whole hold-up in warm soapy water after every few wears for a more thorough clean.

I love hold-ups and wear them all year round. Gipsy do a decent range of lace-topped opaques for the colder months, Levante produce 50 denier seamless opaques in black or brown, and M&S fashion hold-ups come in a variety of winter-friendly designs, including patterned fishnets, lace and seamed. Jonathon Aston make fabulous coloured seamed hold-ups (see pink, below), but they are not the most generous of sizes, and do seem to give up on holding UP after just one wear, making a suspender belt a necessity.

Wishlist: House of Olivier petticoats

Gawd, I feel like a kid in a candy store on the House of Olivier website. I frankly can’t make a decision, and want one in every style and every colour…. although if I HAD to pick, well, I think Juliette would win:

With Elizabeth a close second…

And then, probably most practically, Sofia, in red, cornflower, navy and forest – a colour for every outfit!

And finally, a Victoria or three…

Ahhh swoon!

All images borrowed from the House of Olivier website.
Which is even prettier than the images suggest…

Vintage spotlight: she dresses green

she dresses green is a small venture which runs from the top floor of  The Wear House. I was first drawn to the goods on show thanks to the combination of great repurposed fabrics and the fact that she sells proper bloomers with vintage lace trims, and net-edged cotton petticoats!

she dresses green is self described as “Anti-fashion fashion designed to be flatteringly whacky!”. As well as repurposed vintage fabric, off-cuts and linens, Theresa uses fair trade cottons to design dresses and skirts with ties, allowing you to alter the length and volume to suit your look.

Next time you’re in the Welsh Marches she dresses green at The Wear House is well-worth a visit, or check her out on facebook for more information.

Petticoat in purple

No outfit shot today as this morning it was enough to get myself dressed and out of the door. But voila, a shot of the second attempt at a petticoat, this time with a little help from Burda Style and courtesy of a chiffon window drape gifted to me for repurposing by the lovely Nat. I’ve still not perfected the petticoat, but I can see definite improvements…