And here we are in February, a month I like because it takes us swiftly out of winter and into the beginning of spring. It’s a month of love in our house because not only do we have Valentine’s Day but also our wedding anniversary. First though comes Midlifechic’s birthday. Yesterday this little blog of mine reached the grand old age of seven and of course in the context of the lives that we’ve lived, that doesn’t seem very old. However it feels like an achievement and so at the end of the post I’ll be taking a view of 7 years of Midlifechic – looking back – and ahead. But first let’s talk clothes because there have been some new season drops this week bringing an early flavour of spring. The main deliveries won’t arrive until March so they’re just taster collections but I thought I’d pull out some easy wardrobe updates for anyone who’s in need of a little lift.
What to expect this season
I’ve already mentioned that almost all retailers have played SS21 safe on the fashion front. The only major change is the continuing creep towards wider legged trousers and you’ll see a lot of them around in linen or cotton for summer. Almost every brand seems to have added a flare to their jeans range and I mean a flare, not a bootcut. They’re fully intended to reference the nostalgia for the 70s and as you know I love them because they’re so flattering for someone like me who has relatively broad shoulders, wide hips and sturdy thighs. It’s going to be a case of playing around with them to see if you enjoy wearing them. To avoid looking too retro they’re best worn with a close fitting top although there is also a mood for complete 70s Boho where you pair them with a voluminous blouse.
The other big change as far as trousers are concerned is the move to wearing them full length rather than cropped, regardless of whether they’re flared, wide legged or straight. In addition to flares, streetstylers are wearing straight jeans that pool over their shoes and again it’s going to take a while for our eyes to adapt because the crop has been king for so long. Shackets (shirt/jacket hybrids) and utility jackets are the other thing that you’ll see everywhere. Shackets tend to be in a flannel fabric and utility jackets are usually in pale, dark or white denim or French navy workman style.
Other than that, there isn’t much change, there are a lot of classic styles and you’ll notice that retailers have much smaller spring collections than usual. The latest consumer research is showing that at the moment, people are just adding small updates to their wardrobes to stave off boredom. The pent-up demand for newness is set to be released when the end of lockdown is announced. A lot of women are saying that they’re planning to update their ‘out out’ wardrobe first because they imagine that they’ll still be largely home-based during the week. However they’re looking forward to making a sartorial statement as part of the mood of celebration when they go out to meet friends and family again – even if it’s just to the local coffee shop.
There’s currently less enthusiasm for a return to office tailoring. People are saying that they expect to be working from home more often even when a return to the office is allowed and they’re happy with the smart top/comfortable bottom hybrid that they’ve developed over the last year. However the other wardrobe category that they’re looking forward to overhauling is holidaywear. Research shows that because so little has been spent on travel over the last 12 months, there’s a mood to buy ‘new everything’ when we’re able to book trips again.
So with the current mood for small updates in mind, here are some easy pieces that caught my eye from the new collections that dropped this week.
Brighten your top half for February
- Denim tie-neck shirt – this is a restock rather than being new, it sold out in a couple of days when it was released last autumn so it’s back again. You don’t have to wear the bow tied high, you can position it lower down but either way it adds great detail when worn underneath a jumper. It’s an easy way to nod to the 70s and of course it would look great tucked into flares but good with something as simple as joggers too – very SS21 wfh style.
- Gingham blouse – I picked this because it feels like spring, you can’t beat a gingham blouse for an early strawberries and cream mood. This one has been updated with a low profile collar and shirred sleeves – small details that will stand out on Zoom even if you’re wearing it underneath a cardigan or jumper.
- Silk parrot blouse – this is lovely for home-based Zoom dressing now but it will also look great with jeans and heels when we start to go out. These shirts drape beautifully, they’re such an easy way to create a no effort, slightly sexy look and the cheeky parrot print adds a subtle hint of insouciance.
- Coral red jumper – this linen jumper is one of those that you see someone like Emilia Fox wearing and wonder where she got it from. It’s the sort of thing that doesn’t look special until you put it on. I like the fact that it doesn’t add bulk at the shoulders so that your top half still looks streamlined, the drama of the volume sleeve starts further down. Also available in slate blue.
- Jersey top with broderie collar – this is designed to be worn on its own but it strikes me that it makes a perfect layering top too for the days when you want to lift a plain crew neck jumper. After the success of The Crown this kind of Lady Di reference is strong and it’s an easy way to give a springtime lift to the jumpers you’re already wearing. It’s made from organic cotton too.
- Ombre jumper – the grown up version of tie-dye, I particularly like the idea of having the darkest colour around the midriff to visually reduce it. This jumper will take you all the way through to the many summer barbecues we’ll be having when we catch up with everyone again. More sizes here.
- Biscuit coloured cardigan – the chunky homespun knitwear look is going nowhere and this is a great shade for summer. Soft and fluffy it will go with any colour so you’ll be able to wear it with a blouse and jeans now and then throw it over a cotton dress on cool summer evenings. Also available in grey, sage green and black.
- Grey boyfriend classic – I’m always being asked for these wardrobe workhorses so here’s the latest one I’ve found. It’s made from 50% wool and 50% ecovero viscose so you can have a clear conscience as you wear it too.
- Cream cable knit cardigan – another option that will see you right through the season to come, an interesting blend of merino, cotton, polyamide and alpaca which suggests that it will feel soft to wear but not too heavy.
Updated earrings and bottoms
- Gold hoops – simplicity is the look of the moment when it comes to jewellery but these have a little extra with their interesting shape. Classics to wear for years to come at an affordable price. Nickel tested.
- Silver hoops – similar to the gold, the organic shape adds more interest than a plain hoop ever could. These are a great price for an easy update, silver plated and nickel tested.
- Pale straight jeans – I’ve included these because I’m always being asked for a straight jean that doesn’t taper. Boyfriend and girlfriend cuts are great but unless you find the perfect pair, they’re not always flattering if you have wide hips. These have no bulk to add at hip or thigh and they’re in a perfect pale wash for summer. They’re cropped so they don’t follow the new trend for a full length leg but they’re in my basket.
- Cotton drawstring trouser – for people who want a smarter version of the jogger look that isn’t linen. An easy, everyday wear.
- Khaki chinos – these stand out because of their colour, a lot of people feel sallow in a true khaki shade but these are closer to olive and the depth will make all the difference. For a slimmer fit in a deep colour, try these.
It’s been a quiet week on the retail front apart from various early profit warnings. The only thing of interest I have for you is that John Lewis & Partners are now stocking Mango which I think is a good thing. I much prefer Mango to Zara because the quality and cuts are better but there’s always just so much stuff to plough through. Having an edited collection at JL&P will hopefully make it easier to pull out the gems – you can see the pieces they’ve chosen here.
They’ve also added Ro&Zo which is a very new brand that seems to be trying to go head to head with Hush. It isn’t quite hitting the mark yet but it’s going to be an interesting one to watch – you can see all the pieces here.
What I’ve been wearing
Hasn’t the weather been grim this week? I’m hoping that this very hard winter means we’ll have a glorious spring and summer ahead. Most days have been too wet to take photos but I’ve been trying out the three pieces from my latest mini-Baukjen edit along the way (don’t forget you will always get 20% off if you use code MLC20). Starting with a simple jeans outfit, the first piece is this jumper and it’s the first time I’ve tried their ‘greencash’ which incorporates 70% recycled fibres including cashmere, wool and polyamide – it feels durable and certainly isn’t itchy. One of the good things about Baukjen is that they have a full range of longer length jumpers and hoodies so if you’re somebody who likes wearing skinnies or leggings, you’ll always be able to find a top that has enough length. This jumper comes up a little big though so if in doubt, size down.
The blouse I’m wearing shows you what I meant when I was talking about the gingham one above, the neckline is just a little more interesting than a classic shirt collar. The jeans are my all time favourite skinnies and they’ve been released again – see what I mean about brands going back to the classics that they know sell well? I like them because they’re a relaxed skinny so not too tight at the ankle – mine are three years old now, they’ve had a lot of wear and are still going strong. The boots are old – from the heydays of the original Finery.
When I came downstairs in this outfit I was greeted with a chorus of ‘all dressed up and nowhere to go?’ but actually it wasn’t any different to a joggers outfit. The trousers are jersey, they’re just wide legged which makes them look smarter. None of these pieces are new but apart from the coat they’re all classics so they’re carried over every year.
I’ve had my eye on this sweatshirt since I first saw the lookbook last August and it’s finally come in. I’m wearing it with skinnies again here but it’s going to be great with flares too. The quality is unmatchable, you feel as though you’ve slipped into a peachskin – it’s gone right into the heart of my wardrobe and you’ll be seeing it for years to come. And as you can see today the sun has come out and it’s warm(ish). At last.
7 years of Midlifechic – looking back – and ahead
And so that brings me to my blog birthday and 7 years of Midlifechic – looking back – and ahead. This year has certainly been the hardest one in terms of keeping it going because week after week I’ve wondered what on earth we were going to talk about – but thanks to you there’s always something. You see it’s the friendship and chat in the comments that keeps my inspiration coming, if I stopped blogging it would be like leaving my favourite conversation hanging.
As you know, at the beginning Midlifechic was only ever intended to be a short personal exercise while I dedicated some time to starting my wardrobe again from scratch with some money my mum had left me. At the time the youngest was about to leave primary school and it felt as if I was moving into a new phase of life. My circumstances were changing and what I didn’t realise at the time was that at the age of 46 I was no doubt peri-menopausal so changes were happening within me as well as outside me.
Back in February 2014 I felt as though I was emerging from the vacuum of raising young children while building a business at the same time. I’d also been supporting my parents through their cancer journeys and so for about ten years I hadn’t had time to pay any attention to myself and what I was wearing. When I looked at my wardrobe it hadn’t really been touched since I stopped working in central London. I still dressed very smartly for work every day but never had any idea what to wear at the weekends so my project began there, with a plan to build a weekend wardrobe that worked for my need to feel pulled together and polished – but in a more relaxed way.
Anyway just for a bit of fun today I thought I’d go through the Midlifechic archives and pull out a picture from each February to see how my project has gone on. Before I start I should add that February is probably one of the worst months to have chosen because it’s never a very stimulating month to dress for. However February it must be because that’s when I started my blog so here we go – from February 2014 to present day.
This was one of my very first photos and it shows you what I was starting with – a wardrobe full of classic pieces such as this LK Bennett coat which I loved. I’d had it for years and it was a good cut for my shape and a good colour but it doesn’t exactly say relaxed Saturday! I’m not going to say anything about my hair other than to quote Fleabag once again – when it comes to your look, “hair is everything.” I can see in this photo how tired I was, on top of everything else we had a court case going on with the builder who walked away from our extension project with all of our budget. They were difficult days.
I was a year into blogging by now and my project for a more relaxed look was in full swing. I hadn’t intended to still be writing Midlifechic but some of you who still comment now had become friends – Nicola R, Gillian H, Jane D and so it became an outlet for me that went beyond just clothes. Happily I’ve since met all three of you and there are more of you too who get in touch now and again, it’s lovely to know that you’re still there. I still like this look actually and I’d happily wear it now although I’d change the jeans to straight ones.
I was developing my own casual style, this isn’t very different to the outfit above – same boots, same jeans I think although it’s hard to tell because the iPhone photo quality was so bad. Incidentally I still have and wear all of the clothes in these last two pictures. It was the days of the teens waiting around patiently as Midlifechic became part of their lives too.
Now this is where a colour consultant had told me to wear softer colours near to my face. I was trying to follow the plan and forcing myself away from my instinct. To this day I debate whether the colours that suit you really make you look your best or if, in fact, they are so in harmony with your skintone that you blend in a little too much and as a result, fade away.
There was a new man in my life – Premlee my hairdresser! You can see that I’m starting to feel much more confident about how I look and consequently about having my photo taken. Really it was the hair rather the clothes that was the missing link all along and so once more, I’ll just say that it’s far better to spend your money on your hair than a designer handbag – both are investments but you wear your hair every day.
Ah Marrakech! And this was stage two of the hair journey because I’d had all of the highlights stripped out of my hair just before we went away. When I got back I started my new colour project with Josh Wood, the plan was to let the natural greys come through. I’m certainly glad that I haven’t had to worry too much about root regrowth while the hairdressers have been closed. By this point I really knew my casual style and although I still love a beautiful shoe or boot, trainers make such a difference to outfits now.
Sigh. On 1st January 2020 I declared that I was refusing to travel anywhere until March because I was so tired of always being on the move. So we cancelled our plans for our wedding anniversary trip deciding to go away in April instead… and then of course Covid hit and it’s been hard to leave the house ever since. Curses on my Jan 20 self! Anyway here I am at home exactly a year ago, blissfully unaware of what was ahead. Looking at what I was wearing I can say that nothing has changed, I still wear that outfit now.
I was at the end of my twelve month project with the lovely Josh Wood. My hair was very blonde because their view was that it helped the greys and whites to blend in better. When the salons reopened in summer but Covid was still around it just didn’t make sense to go to two different places at opposite ends of London – one for colour and one for a cut. So I booked to have my colour done at Hershesons at the same time as my cut and I’ve continued to do that whenever I’ve gone down since. Premlee recommended André as the best colourist to complement his work and it now has a few more lowlights worked into it – which I quite like.
And here we are – February 2021 in the same spot yesterday. It’s as if I’ve hardly moved over the last twelve months. Oh wait – I haven’t – although the shoe choices grow ever more casual.
I’d like to share a well rounded thought piece with you now that sums up the last seven years but I don’t have one; you see I feel as if I’m still on the journey. I started blogging when I was coming to the end of the school run days with the youngest because it was feeling like the end of something. And yet this year he will (almost definitely) leave home to go to university so I’m rapidly hurtling towards the end of something much bigger, my active mothering days. In ordinary times I would have had this year buttoned down with lots of plans to pave our way to the parting and to fill the early weeks when our home will feel like a bit of a void. But of course I’m living in a vacuum along with almost all of you.
For now though I want to say thank you to everyone who reads my blog, especially those who have stayed with me since the early days, I have to say that I wince when I look back at some of the old photos and a lot of bloggers I know tell me I should take them down but I just don’t feel that would be honest. I nearly did a year or so ago when I was sitting at a table with some friends who brought up the subject of Midlifechic. One of them said “oh I don’t read it any more, I used to go on to have a laugh when you first started but it’s no fun now you look good.” And as someone who is well equipped to handle brutal northern banter, I have to say that that flippant comment still stings (especially as the person in question isn’t remotely stylish – and will remain low on my list of people to call when we come out of lockdown!).
The thing is that I probably wouldn’t have started my blog if I’d known people would read it, it was just the closest thing I could find to the magazine format that I was comfortable with. I wanted to be able to see the clothes I was playing around with objectively and I really thought it would be hidden away in a corner of the internet until I decided to close it down. However it grew very quickly and so many of you have encouraged me along the way that I’ve kept on writing. I could make it more ‘fashion’ but I’d rather write about clothes that I genuinely wear and if that means that I look a bit everywoman (as I was told I do by another blogger) then that’s ok with me. I’m not doing this to feel special.
I hope that since the beginning of Lockdown 1.0 Midlifechic has become more than just a style blog. I like to think we’re all here because we care about what we wear and that opens the conversation up so that we can then talk about other things – just as we would if we were sitting having a long lunch with a bottle of wine. And if it has then it will continue to evolve as life moves on. I’ll be really glad to have you by my side as I face the big changes this year when the youngest leaves home and Mr MC and I go forward into a new phase of our lives.
When I look ahead to the next seven years of Midlifechic it’s like starting a new exercise book with a fresh set of pens. I can see that for a while in September I’ll have to lean into the sadness (and ignore Mr MC who will be doing a happy dance to signal his release from his parenting chains). Other than that who knows? Will our business bounce back? Will we have a new city pad? Will we be able to travel for weeks on end? It’s unnerving but also exciting to say that I have absolutely no idea. But whatever happens, I’ll be blogging about it so I hope you’ll keep me company and that we’ll keep on exploring the bounties of midlife together for the next seven years… and the ones after that.
Disclosure: ‘7 years of Midlifechic – looking back – and ahead’ is not a sponsored post
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