I know I don’t usually post on a Thursday but my schedule’s a bit topsy turvy at the moment. I have some heavy marketing projects that are keeping me busy and given that we’re running a business in the shadow of Brexit (or are we?) I’m not complaining! I’m also halfway through reading all of the feedback to the reader survey so in addition to feeling buoyed by lots of heart-lifting comments (thank you so much), I have some conflicting and confusing points to digest. So, today’s post is a cornucopia of clothes, food, beauty, thoughts and good news. There are a few things I want to talk about and hopefully there will be something for everything.
If you’ve been a reader for a while, you’ll know that I’ve worked hard to open a dialogue with Boden. We’ve had a few discussions on here about their apparent pursuit of a younger market. For those of us who were founding customers in the brand’s early days it’s been hard to watch. The connection that we had with Johnnie back in the 90s felt real; he and his family were in the same lifestage as us and it felt like shopping with friends. So when their focus fell on the age group below ours it felt like a betrayal. Glamorous silver haired women were referenced in the catalogue but they were the age group above us and it seemed that we’d become invisible.
However maybe that is changing. I have, for the first time, a new connection with Boden. I’m really pleased that they want to understand what we’re thinking and if a brand like this wants to hear what we have to say, I’m happy to welcome them into the fold and open the conversation with them. For the rest of this season, every month I’ll pick out two or three pieces from their collection to review. Obviously I’m going to choose the things that appeal to me most but as always I’ll be honest so if they don’t meet my expectations, I’ll tell you.
I have to say I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the range and seeing how it is now. When I was having my clearout it struck me that whereas five years ago when I started blogging Boden took up about 90% of my space, now it’s less than 5%. It’s a brand that seems to have fallen off my radar. I used to enjoy sitting down with a cup of tea and the catalogue but I don’t seem to get them very often now and so unless I’m in John Lewis, Boden often doesn’t come to mind. So this feels a bit like bumping into a friend that you haven’t seen for a while. Here’s my first February mini-edit.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Taurean bull that I’m so attracted to red. Actually it’s a colour that I’ve only really discovered in the last year or so but wearing it always makes me feel happy. Boden do a particularly flattering shade that they call ‘red pop’ and if I go onto their site, the first thing I do is put red pop into the search box to see what they have. This time a jacket appeared in a Balmain-style cut which is the clever way to achieve the double breasted look without the volume. I always love the symmetry of double breasted jackets but I don’t like the widening effect that they have on your body. You really need a small frame with narrow shoulders to carry a double breasted jacket off well. This nips in at the waist and ends at the hips so it’s shorter than the jackets that are high trend but the length makes it easy to wear with dresses as well as jeans.
Because it’s made from cotton I was concerned that it might crease easily however it’s more of a cotton drill so it doesn’t crumple and has good structure. It’s heavy enough to wear now and yet it doesn’t look wintery. 2% elastane adds a little stretch when you fasten it, the buttons are a subtle bronze and (always a good test) I was asked twice this morning where it was from. It’s also available in navy or pink and of course the Boden discount is on at the moment so it’s a good time to buy. Use code V1U9 at checkout for 20% today, 15% tomorrow.
The shoes of course are Boden too, they’re the ones I bought in January to take to Marrakech. I still love them – don’t forget that snake is the key animal print this season and squared off shoes are the key shape coming through.
Moving on, the second piece that I picked was a jumper. We’re heading into the months where you still need a jumper but it’s a bit too warm for cashmere. As soon as I saw this it took me straight back to 1988 – do you remember the craze for Burlington socks with their Argyle pattern? I remember deliberating for hours as a student over which pair to choose – I could only afford one because they were £7 and my weekly budget for food was £5 so this was a big investment! Anyway, with everything 80s and 90s being hot right now, this is very on trend as I could tell by the (rare) enthusiastic reaction from the eldest when he saw it. Mr MC, on the other hand, spent the day entertaining himself with golf jokes.
I’ve bought most of my non-cashmere jumpers from Hush over the last couple of years and their knits are very light. I’d forgotten about the heavier mixed blend knits that Boden do. This is a 50:50 cotton:wool mix which is perfect for spring and the grey is a complexion-flattering soft silver.
And this is just to show you the split hem which means it doesn’t bunch at the hips – and of course it has red tipping. That, along with the detail of the red strap on the shoes, made me disproportionately happy.
So, there you have it, two good picks from the current Boden collection (well three with the shoes I’d already bought). I’m really pleased that they’re talking to us so do take this opportunity to respond to them in the comments. As you’ll see further down we’re building a reputation for our intelligent feedback so I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
If you’ve been reading for a really long time, you’ll remember reader Sarah Baldwin inviting me to go to Attune Clinic in London to try out Coolsculpting. I appreciate that some of you didn’t like the fact that I tried it – I thought hard about it and as somebody who is very low maintenance on the beauty clinic side of things it was unusual but I was intrigued by something that, to an extent, works with the body’s own processes. I had the stubborn area of cushioning around my tummy button treated. It wasn’t a pleasant experience but we’re three years on from that now and the fat cells have never come back to that spot.
When I saw Sarah’s name pop into my Inbox I wondered what she had up her sleeve this time, fortunately for me it was something more gentle. The clinic has introduced a treatment called Hydrafacial. Now I don’t do facials because I don’t have the time or the patience to lie still while somebody rubs nice smelling oils into my face. However Sarah explained that Hydrafacial uses ‘a medical-grade hydradermabrasion device to carry out a patented three part regimen — cleansing, exfoliating, and then infusing the skin with intensive serums.’
So I sat back in a comfortable chair while Sarah used a hoover-like appliance on my face to vacuum everything away, sloughing off the dead skin and sucking any gunk out of my pores. At the same time, active ingredients were pushed in to plump and boost the skin. And I’m sorry if you’re squeamish but here’s the result of the cleansing and exfoliating:
She then applied a hydrating treatment and placed the LED phototherapy mask that you can see in the picture above over my face. I lay still for about five minutes while the low level light therapy worked its magic. Apparently this treatment is often used before special events because it has no downtime. It really does make you glow as you can see from this quick selfie as I was leaving, I’d applied some lipstick and mascara but there was nothing on my face:
Sarah is a very intelligent aesthetician and she’s also one of life’s lovely people. If you feel you’re in need of a complexion boost I really do recommend getting in touch with her. She’s also very good at assessing your skin and putting together a cosmeceutical skincare regime for you so if you’ve been thinking about using one of the more expensive brands such as Skinceuticals get in touch with her first. She’ll tell you exactly which products you should apportion your budget to. You can contact Sarah here.
You may remember that after Christmas I was given an opportunity to trial a food delivery service from Balance Meals for six weeks. I gather from the reader survey that some of you are uncomfortable with me talking about weight and I’ve deliberately included this as part of a ‘cornucopia’ post so that anyone who struggles with an eating disorder or simply doesn’t want to read about weight loss can bypass it. However, a lot of readers say that one of their main concerns is managing their weight and I think it would be dishonest of me to pretend that I find it easy to stay a size 12 these days. I work at it all the time but having older siblings with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol is a motivator.
In January I was 9lbs above the outer limit of my comfort zone. I knew it was the point of no return and so Balance Meals came at exactly the right time. It isn’t cheap but it’s healthy, it supplies fresh food from small suppliers and it works. On the morning that we left for Marrakech I stepped on the scales to find that I’d hit my target weight. I’d also got rid of my sugar cravings and reassessed my portion sizes. A few of you have been in touch to say that you’ve found it good too so I’m happy to recommend it. It isn’t perfect – the menu doesn’t change so it gets very repetitive and, as a few of you have pointed out, it’s expensive. But here’s the thing, if we want to help small businesses to thrive so that they can scale up to the point where they can apply the economies that come with volume buying, we have to support them.
I’m now back to my normal way of eating which is a balance of Slimming World using Louise Parker recipes but if I slip again (which I might do after holidays and Christmas) I’ll use my own money to subscribe to Balance Meals for a few weeks to get back into the swing of things. I see keeping my weight down as a way of avoiding the ‘doctor’s surgery years’ in my 60s but I’m not saying that’s how you should look at things. It’s an individual decision for every woman and you should do whatever makes you happy. In the meantime thank you to Balance Meals for my trial, you made something that is usually a struggle very easy.
Reader survey feedback
As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m busy going through everything you had to say. It isn’t always easy to read but I’m glad that you care enough to take the time to tell me what you think. I’ve read through the first 1500 and I’m pulling out anything that recurs so that we can discuss it.
Suggestions for different body shapes
Quite a few people have said that they’d really like me to talk about dressing different body shapes. I don’t do it at the moment because I don’t feel qualified – I try to be empirical about these things and it’s something I haven’t been trained to do. However, I’ve asked around and some old colleagues have recommended a couple of courses that are used to train retail personal shoppers. It would be a whopping investment but it’s something that could be very interesting. Obviously I couldn’t include outfit alternatives in every post because it would make them too long but I could certainly do it every so often. So, I’m thinking hard about that.
Some US readers have asked me if I wouldn’t mind translating my terms for them – for example by using the word ‘sweater’ rather than ‘jumper’ to make it easier for them to understand. I’m afraid that as someone who has an obsession with words and a desire to stem the creep of Americanisation into the English language I won’t be doing that. Please don’t think that as Americans you’re not welcome, on the contrary lots of you have become friends, it’s just that I’m English and I want to protect the mother tongue. I hope you understand.
This has been raised a few times. A couple of people have asked me to change the (g) abbreviation to (gifted) in the captions so I’ve done that. It makes it more difficult from a legibility point of view because the captions get quite long but I’m happy to do it if it aids clarity.
A few other people raised the fact that I sometimes feature gifted clothes that are more expensive than the items I usually include. I allow myself to do it about four times a year when it’s something I particularly love and I have never tried to pass it off as my own purchase, I always explain that it’s gifted. You’re right, I couldn’t afford to buy these clothes but some readers can – the reader surveys prove to me what a wide range of incomes readers have and so I try to feature things for everyone at different times.
I always make sure that pricier gifted items come from small brands – of course their clothes cost more because they’re buying in small quantities. It’s my way of helping small brands that I spot to gain exposure, I don’t charge them so it’s like an old fashioned barter arrangement. They give me an item that cost them less than 50% of the ticket price to produce and in return they gain a small number of new customers from Midlifechic along with brand exposure to a large volume of readers and also to the retailers who read this blog. The retail exposure alone has helped some of their businesses to grow.
The pink beach dress that I featured from Cleverly Wrapped was raised as a specific example of something that a normal person wouldn’t buy – in fact I did buy a second one in white with my own money. It’s such a beautiful, simple piece of body flattering design that I’ll wear both of those dresses on every beach holiday I take for as long as I live. That’s the thing about spending more, sometimes you find something that becomes a lifelong jewel in your wardrobe.
A couple of people noticed that I wore two jumpers, one from Next and one from Sainsbury’s last autumn and asked that if I shop there, could I feature more of the items I buy. They were the only two pieces I bought, I hardly ever shop there for the reasons discussed in this post. Mr MC bought me the Christmas jumper because it was so close to my ‘Midlifechicmas’ logo. I know it was sold out when I featured it but as a seasonal buy, I had no control over that. I bought the Next jumper on impulse because I liked the stripes but I found the knit really irritating after the first wear so I gave it to a friend. I do however wear and feature lower cost pieces that I buy from M&S, H&M, Uniqlo, Mango and sometimes Zara. I do my best to include a range of price-points whilst adhering to the principles that I’ve gained from my years of working in retail.
More outfit of the day photos
Lots of people have said that they’d like to see more of these to understand how I team the pieces in my wardrobe on a regular basis. I’ll try harder to take more everyday photos. I work by compartmentalising so when I’m blogging I think about Midlifechic but when I’m working I have to switch off from it otherwise I wouldn’t get anything done. However now that longer days are coming I’ll try to get back into the habit of getting a photo at the end of the day. I think that would also help the readers who feel that I always wear new clothes – I don’t, it’s just that I didn’t realise how interesting you’d find it to see them repeated. Like most women I probably wear 20% of my wardrobe 80% of the time.
For everyone who says they’ve missed it, I haven’t stopped writing it, our house is just a bit sombre at the moment with all three boys heading into the tunnel of big exams (and dragging us with them). I do have a few antics for the delectation of those who enjoy them though – I just need to find the time to write them down…
So many little stories
So many of you included little messages in your feedback, thank you – so much intelligence, insight and laughter. Oh and I was overjoyed to hear about the reader who was clearing out her old magazines and found a Selfridges one with my editor’s picture in – I hope it was one of the good ones!
An exciting piece of news
I have to share this with you because none of my friends or extended family understand quite how much it means but I know some of you will. I found out yesterday that I’ve been shortlisted for a Performance Marketing Award for the work that I do as part of a team with John Lewis & Partners and the agency Awin. A significant part of it is down to you and the feedback that you give on the posts that I write here. I keep telling you how valuable your comments are so I hope this now proves it to you. The good thing about it is that it will make lots of other retailers, marketers and thought-leaders take notice of the value of our midlife audience. It feels really groundbreaking.
I knew that the entry had been submitted before Christmas but I didn’t think we’d get any further because this is a top level marketing industry event so for me it’s particularly exciting on a professional level. If you’ve been reading for a long time you’ll remember me talking a few years ago about what a young person’s game marketing is and how I felt I was being ‘aged out.’ However I now truly believe that the world is changing for midlifers – or I should say that midlifers are changing the world. Our experience, intelligence and wisdom is now being recognised rather than disregarded and our voices are being heard.
This awards shortlisting proves that as a community of women we are at the forefront of it all, reinventing midlife as we live it. So thank you for everything you do. Even though it sometimes takes me a while to reply, please do keep on commenting. It keeps our community thriving and it gets us noticed beyond the confines of this blog. We’re making waves – isn’t it exciting?!
Disclosure: “A cornucopia: clothes, food, beauty, thoughts and good news” is not a sponsored post, all gifted items have been declared in captions and body copy.
Recent posts you may have missed
How to build a capsule wardrobe part 6 – the summary
How to build a capsule wardrobe part 5 – body shape and silhouette
How to build a capsule wardrobe part 4 – defining your style icon
How to build a capsule wardrobe part 3 – colour and texture
How to build a capsule wardrobe part 2 – defining your personal look
How to build a capsule wardrobe part 1 – wardrobe reality check
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