Colour full.

For me it’s all about colour.  Not just in what I wear, but surrounding me at home: from glassware to record sleeves; from toiletries to tea towels and when I am out and about: front doors, magazine covers, carrier bags, skies, bicycles, people, food…. colour is all around me, the brighter the better.

My first memory of colour takes me back the early 1970s when I decided (quite rightly) that purple was the shade for me and so, aged 5 or so, I acquired dungarees, dresses, hairbands, tights all in various shades of this delicious, deep, exotic colour.  It is still the shade that evokes childhood memories and, as I have grown up, I feel warm and protected by it.  That is exactly what colour can do.  It can give you a good day or it can give you a bad day.  For the record, my all time bad day colour is black, even typing the word ‘black’ makes me feel empty, cold, bored, blurrghhhh. I just can’t be bothered with it, I have tried to befriend it over the years but it’s having none of it, it saps the life out of me and makes me feel invisible and irrelevant.  All because of the colour noir.  Who’d have thought it? (I also panic at the sight of pill box red, anywhere other than on my lips or nails).

So, now you know what colour can do for me.  What can colour do for you and how do you get it right?

I vaguely remember, back in the early 90s, getting my colours ‘done’ and being told I was summer, or winter or was it May or September, who knows. What I do know is that it’s just as important to avoid the colours that drain you, as it is to find the right colour palette. By the way, that’s the same with hair colour too, get it wrong and it can drain the daylights out of you, so find a good hair stylist and stick to them like glue. Once you know this (and by all means go and get professional colour advice, there’s loads of stylists out there offering this service) you have the foundations for enjoying colour and having fun.

I carry a colour palette in my head at all time (for fashion and for home styling) and it goes something like this:

Blue is my black and my default on most occasions. This colour spans from navy, through all the denim colours (from stone washed to indigo), royal blue, powder blue, electric blue, but I stop at turquoise, I can’t wear it so I avoid.  From blue you can accent in all directions but winners include the orange palette (coral, neon, pastel) and pinks (soft, neon, bubblegum).

Grey is my black too, from charcoal (which pretends to be black but is much kinder to my skin tone) to light cotton greys, it makes the most wonderful friend to neons and pastels and blues……

Orange.  Such a colour of the 1960s and so intense, it cries out for pairing up with navy, chocolate, bottle green and greys. It is my friend on many an occasion and great too with golds and metallics.

Earth tones: in this group I gather up colours and wear them as a team, so you will often see me in tans, browns, bottle green, soft pinks, creams, plum. Worn mixed up, it gives a lovely boho/70s feel and is any easy one to put together on days when you are feeling a little more subdued.

Then the trick is to bring colours together and for this I need to take you back to your O Level Art days and remind you of the complementary colour wheel: purple & yellow, blue and orange, red and green.  I am not suggesting you start colour blocking like a clown, but knowing that navy and orange work well, or that pale blue and coral work well, can guide you with your colour choices and what your accent colours options are.

In my next issue I’ll talk about prints, textures and cuts.  Get that lot right and you are onto a winner.  I will leave you for now, go off and discover colour in all it’s glory.



Week 2

So let’s talk fashion.  Fashion that is on a budget, fashion that enables you to look different, fashion that is good for the planet. I am talking, of course, about styling yourself with charity shop finds.  If you are completely new to this world, here are my top tips for getting started:

Tip #1. Step through the door.  Good charity shops, like Cancer Research UK, are now run in exactly the same way as high street stores, they have seasonal rotating stock, they colour code, they size code, they regularly change their window displays, staff have fashion mood boards to refer to, they have clean changing rooms, they accept major debit/credit cards, offer refunds, they are just like a ‘normal’ clothes shop.  Except you are donating to a worthwhile charity in the process.

Tip #2. Know your wardrobe ‘gaps’. One mistake we all make is to repeat buy the same item, over and over (jeans, knitwear are good examples).  What is it that you are actually missing in your wardrobe? Always have that in your mind when you are shopping and it will make your shopping time shorter and more focussed.  Cancer Research UK categorise their stock and colour code which means you can head straight for ‘jackets’ and quickly flick through the rail.

Tip #3. Get browsing.  Get to know your local charity shop and it will make browsing so much quicker. I can flick through a rail in under 2 minutes as I know what I want, what colours work for me, what my shape is. Remember too that stock rotates at a pace in charity shops and once it’s gone, it’s gone.  I can think of several items that I dithered about, only to find they had gone to a better home the following day!

Tip #4. Try it on.  Unless you get into the changing room and try things on you will never know.  I tend to ignore sizing too, if it’s a size 16 cotton shirt I can work with it, wearing it loose or tucked in, it gives me options.  I never worry a jot what the size says. Manufacturers all vary, you will find that the better the label (Jaeger, Alexon, Laura Ashley for example) and generally pre-90’s clothes have a much more generous fit.

Tip #5. Be fearless.  Think about styling yourself differently, do you always want to wear what the high street is telling you? They need you to repeat purchase and entice you in with ever changing trends, to keep their turnover high.  I always keep an eye on what the fash pack are saying, but (now I’m in my 40’s) I know what I like and what suits me and that gives me an edge and a confidence in how I dress.

Be brave, have a go and you never know what you might find.


Week one

So, this is it. This is where I start to empty out the contents of my wardrobe and share with you just how fantastic charity shop finds can be. Every day of 2015 I will post a picture of myself wearing an outfit that I have put together from my own charity shop wardrobe, together with loaned or purchased items from my local Cancer Research shop in Harpenden and plus a few of my own accessories.  You can follow my daily posts on What I won’t be doing (and it hurts) is buying any brand new clothes, not a scratch.  I can look, but I can’t buy.

My personal reason for all of this dressing up and showing off is to raise funds for Cancer Research UK, the charity that mean’t so much to my beautiful mum, Mary, who fought her own brave, dignified battle with cancer and passed away on the 24th October 2014. The gap can never be filled and my aching is constant.  Read our story here The JustGiving donations are already starting to come in, which I am truly overwhelmed by and it just shows how Cancer touches so many of us, in so many different ways.

To start off, I thought I’d just list some of the Cancer Research labels that I have been wearing this week: Laura AshleyN.W.3 by HobbsZaraM&SASOSGap, Lyle & Scott, Jaegar, Selected FemmeViyellaTopshopPhase EightM&CoLong Tally Sally. I bet you have at least one of these brands in your own wardrobe? If you don’t wear them anymore, think about donating them to your local charity shop or try styling them in a different way and bring your own wardrobe to life.

Yes charity shop clothes can sometimes smell, have a few holes, need the odd button sewing on, but so what. They are there to be re-cleaned, re-worn, re-loved, re-shared, re-enjoyed and re-invented. Trust me. Come with me on this journey and see for yourself the excitement of finding hidden gems, receiving compliments, saving money and connecting with your local charity shop which relies so much on donations (85% of your £1 spent in Cancer Research shops, goes directly to Cancer Research UK).

My special thanks this week goes firstly to my daughter Mary, age 11, for taking the photos, offering style tips, giggling at me and for setting me up on Instagram.  If in doubt, ask a tweenager.

Until next week and remember, a bad pair of knickers can ruin a good day.