It’s time for a March cornucopia because there are a few things I’ve been meaning to mention. Let’s start with clothes because change is afoot in the UK with groups of six being allowed to meet outside from Monday – and of course this will soon be followed by pubs opening their outdoor seating areas on 12th April so we need to think about what to wear for outdoor meet-ups. This week I’ve noticed that lots of pubs are busy sprucing up their outside spaces which could result in the UK having an al fresco option that probably wouldn’t have sprung up if it wasn’t for Covid so there are some positives to come out of this… if only we could bank on good weather.
Anyway sunny or not, for the next few weeks the evenings will still be chilly and so being outside more than usual in the early springtime gives us a wardrobe occasion – and let’s face it, it’s been a while since we’ve had one of those. So today I’m starting with a few ideas that will give a spring twist to a casual look as we all layer up for better times ahead.
What to wear for outdoor meet-ups
In my view retailers are missing a trick because quite a few of the outer layering pieces and thermals are in the sale but it works in our favour. Stock can be a bit of an issue but if you’re quick you’ll be able to buy pieces that will last you into next winter and beyond. Mr MC and I have been a bit weather wary and haven’t booked anything at a pub but we are hoping to have friends over so that we can use the new canalside jetty that the boys worked so hard on last summer. So, what to wear for outdoor meet-ups? These are the layers that I’ll be wearing with jeans or chinos over the weeks ahead.
- Light down jacket in spring colours: a lot of down jackets are on sale and you may already have one but is it in a spring colour? There are lots of good reasons to buy one to see you through this outdoor season and they’re useful because they squash down into a tiny sack so you can easily pop one in your handbag. There are other styles available – with hoods (lovely yellow one in the sale here) or without collars here.
- Cashmere beanie: these are in the sale too but there are still a few more weeks when a cashmere beanie is going to come in handy this year
- Cashmere scarf: and it’s the same with scarves, other colours available, all in the sale
- Wrist warmers: I find these really useful and they look much nicer than gloves too. They come from a tiny business and are made from upcycled cashmere – a rainbow of colours available.
- Spring green parka: this is finally back in stock, an all season coat with a detachable faux fur lining, partly made from recycled materials and fully waterproof in the perfect shade for this season
- Pink and orange sweatshirt: new in this week. I bought the deeper pink version of this last year when it sold out in a matter of days and this is just as lovely – pink and orange – the perfect summer colour combo.
- Fluffy cardigan with bee buttons: if you prefer a smarter alternative to a sweatshirt, opt for a cardigan over a blouse or thermal. The bee buttons on this one make it stand out and it’s available in lots of different colours. If you prefer silver, there are options with silver heart buttons here.
- Thermal base layer: again most thermals are in the sale so they’re hard to track down but we’re going to need them over the next few weeks. I prefer thermal polo necks to jersey ones because they tend to stand away from your neck, giving you warmth without making you overheat.
- Maritime high neck sweat: a classic option for summer in the UK, it will work as well in Cornwall in August as it does in the pub garden now
- Coral high neck sweatshirt: I added this because I love the cut and the colour, if your skintone is cooler it’s also available in a soft blue marl
- Mood encapsulating sweatshirt: and this will say it all in April won’t it? The joy of being out at last with friends and family, even if it’s just in a small group for now. More sizes here.
There have been a few new drops at some of our favourite retailers this week, Hush was one and you can see their new Spring collection here. Personally I don’t think it’s as strong as usual. They have a lot of change going on because the founders, Mandy and Rupert, sold a 50% stake to investors last Spring. The investment company that they partnered with is True who are a major stakeholder in The Cotswold Company. There are thoughts that they may move into bricks and mortar stores in the UK when the pandemic is finally over and they have big plans to expand internationally. However when investors are involved there can be a danger that too many fingers start to fiddle with the design side of things… and we all know the old saying that a camel is a horse designed by committee. It’s going to be an interesting to see how things develop over the seasons ahead.
Moving on, Baukjen has now launched at JL&P which is such good news for them as a brand. It’s obviously going down well with JL customers because the stock has pretty much sold out in the space of four days. As you know I really admire and respect them, they started the journey towards producing ethical clothing long before most other retailers and their support of keyworkers last year was much more generous than that given by bigger brands who could have afforded it more easily. I really hope the JL relationship helps them to grow so that their collections can be bigger… and that they’ll be able to expand the range into petites and plus sizes.
I should point out that your Midlifechic discount code won’t work for Baukjen purchases made through JL&P – and it’s recently been adjusted to 15%. So all year you will get 15% off their clothing if bought directly using code MLC15. Like every retailer, they’ve been experiencing stock delays but they did launch a new drop this week which you can look through here. As always I picked a few pieces for my monthly edit and this is what I wanted to try from the new collection.
I’ve been waiting for this sweatshirt to come in because I wear the navy version that I have all the time. When this one arrived the youngest asked me why I was repeating something I already had and the reason is partly that nobody makes a sweatshirt like Baukjen, they’re so soft and the cut is just right. The stripe also adds a sporty touch to outfits making them youthful in the same way as a slogan or graphic but with an approach that’s just a bit more grown up. I was hoping that it would be off white rather than pure white (even though it clearly says pure white in the description). It’s a very bright white so I’ll be putting it away until the sun comes out and I have more pigment in my skin.
When I wore my denim midi-skirt from M&S last month a few people asked me if I knew of anything similar that they could buy – well here you are. This skirt is made from a chino style cotton so it has the same sort of weight as denim to give it structure. It’s in a bright navy and it has deep pockets which always make such a difference to the enjoyability of a skirt. I’m wearing it with boots here because it was freezing but I can see it working really well with sandals and a t-shirt in the summer.
And allow me to introduce you to Sugar, the village cat. If I had more time I’d write a few children’s stories about her because everybody here knows her. She’s the most gregarious cat I’ve ever met and she spends her days getting into all kinds of mischief… we find her in the library, the bakers, the butcher’s shop… she even appears in people’s kitchens… we just never know where she’s going to pop up next.
This lovely shirt is back in stock. I was pleased to find that it’s my favourite shade of hyacinth blue, both brighter and deeper than it appears on the website. Blue shirts worn with jeans or chinos are a key look for the season ahead and this one has the chic twist of the stripes on the sleeves which elevate it up and away from the rest.
Other retail drops that have landed this week include Me + Em and Jil Sander’s collection for Uniqlo – although as always that’s selling very fast. Oh and Boden have a 40% off Spring sale on here with 10% off everything full price.
Moving on, I want to introduce you to a very longstanding reader-friend, Sue Clayton. You may already know her from the comments section because she’s been a big supporter of the conversations there almost since Midlifechic began. Like so many of us, Sue has been rethinking her career during lockdown and she’s decided to start building on her long time passion for colour consultancy. It’s something that she’s been training in since 2011 alongside her day job in local government and now she’s hoping to put more of a focus on it.
Now if you’ve been reading Midlifechic for a long time, you may remember me ‘having my colours done’ by House of Colour. It was an interesting experience and I’ll be forever grateful to them because it helped me with a few fundamentals. The problem I had was that they classified me as an ‘Autumn’ – and when I held the coloured scarves against my face I could see that they were right, the Autumn ones made my skin glow far more than the others. The problem I had was that although Autumn colours might suit my skintone, I’ve never felt that they match my personality. I started trying to wear them more but they just made me feel unhappy. In the end my sister who has exactly the same colouring as me went to another consultant and was classed as a Blue Spring and so since then I’ve been following her palette because those are the colours I love.
So when Sue suggested doing a bit of colour consultancy with me I was hesitant. However the difference between Sue and the consultancy firms is that she’s independent. She began with some analysis using the many pictures of me on here and came back with the suggestion that I’m a soft Autumn – and of course my heart sank. So she suggested two things, firstly that I put together some boards showing the colour combinations that make me feel happy versus the ones that don’t. While I was busy with that, she assessed a psychology questionnaire that she’d asked me to fill out.
Just doing the boards taught me a lot – and they were initially intended just for Sue so they’re not very well designed but I thought you might find them interesting:
Outfits that make me feel joyful
Spring and Summer
Autumn and Winter
Outfits that didn’t work as well
Pale colours just don’t work for me – especially in summer
It’s clear that personality really starts to come into it when you look through these, as does contrast and I know some of you will have lots to say about both of those elements because they’re critical to understanding style. Interestingly a few of the outfits that made me feel like I was fading away have been some of the most popular on Instagram and Pinterest. It just goes to show that an outfit that looks ok from the outside may not match who you know yourself to be. That’s why we sometimes come away from shops with an outfit suggested by someone else that just doesn’t suit us. I’m not going to talk about that any more now because there’s so much to say but when Sue sent me my psychology profile back, it had my personality pretty much spot on.
As a result Sue agreed that I needed more vibrancy and we changed my palette to the Spring one that I’ve settled into. It’s the perfect compromise between my skintone and my outgoing introvert personality. Sue then helped me to fine-tune it and having her outside observations really helped. I’ve realised that the really bright colours that I love work best for me in Summer when the pigment in my skintone is stronger. Because it’s warm I also I have more skin on show to balance the strong colours out. When I have to wear full body coverage in Autumn and Winter, I’m better off in more tonal shades or solid blocks of colour because I don’t like the contrast of strong brights with anything else. And the tan – camel spectrum is fast becoming my Winter saviour so I’ll be introducing more of that into my wardrobe later this year.
Five free colour consultations with Sue
As they say, every day’s a school day and I do think it’s worth us continuing to assess our style, especially as we travel through midlife. The pigment in our skin and hair changes and so strong contrasts such as red and navy or black often don’t work as well as they used to. With that in mind I’m pleased to say that I have an opportunity for five of you to work through your colour journey with Sue. I don’t usually run competitions on here because they’re so often run as data grabs enabling influencers to sell your details to other people but I promise I’m not doing that, the only person who will receive your entries is Sue and I will then dispose of them.
So, Sue is offering five lucky readers a free one to one consultation which will be done online and it will comprise of two one hour video chats or two 3/4 hour chats with a 1/2 hour follow up. All that she asks in return is that you give her honest feedback because she’s trying to build her business and wants to work out the best way of helping other women. Most people don’t have the number of outfit photos that I do so it probably won’t work in the same way as my session did, instead Sue will talk to you as well as assess you on screen, do the personality test that she did with me and then work with you until you are happy that the colours are right for you. She’s trained to advise on hair colour and make-up too so she’ll be able to answer any of your questions.
If you’re not one of the winners, she’s also offering Midlifechic readers 50% off her services until the end of April, again this is in return for feedback that will help her to build her business. You can find out more about Sue’s costs and services here. So without further ado, you can enter the competition here.
I’m a bit late telling you about this one but it’s still available so here we go. To celebrate International Women’s Day, Bobbi Brown created a limited edition of their best sellers in collaboration with designers Needle & Thread who designed the accompanying make-up bag. For the ninth year running, 100% of profits will go to the charity Smart Works adding to the £550k that Bobbi Brown has donated from previous years. At a time when we’re all in the mood for a treat it’s a clear conscience way of indulging ourselves and the sizes will be just the ones we need when we start travelling again.
Suddenly it’s all go chez Midlifechic and I’m really starting to wonder if lockdown has done something to my neural pathways. This time last year they were like a multi-lane motorway with no speed limit. I was used to juggling my consultancy work, my agency work and my blog with the boys, regular trips to London and bootcamp sessions three times a week. Now that motorway is more like a bumpy track and I’m struggling to make the smallest of decisions such as choosing paint colours and furniture for the new flat. My brain just seems to have forgotten how to multitask with any efficiency.
It’s lovely having a full house though, even though we’re on the brink of change. The middle one returns to uni on 6th April just as we complete on the apartment and the eldest is hoping to make his big move down to London that week too. If any of you have offspring who are planning to move back to the smoke, now seems to be the time. The flat hunting journey is proving to be particularly stressful because every time he and his friend decide on one they like it seems to be snatched by someone else from under their noses. It’s bittersweet watching your children stepping out into their lives isn’t it? Just seeing him poring over his finances and then realising that things like bills and Council Tax have to be added into his careful calculations pierces my heart.
The middle boy has returned from uni full of the joys of his flat life but also the woes of his course. It does seem that it’s being managed very badly and I know a lot of your offspring are having similar experiences at other universities. It seems so unfair that schools have worked so rigorously to adapt to online learning and yet lots of universities haven’t, there doesn’t seem to be much accountability at this higher level of education.
He’s been trying to access a complaints procedure because his end of year assessment just hasn’t been adapted for current circumstances. It involves a one person live performance where they will still be marked on elements such as flow, technical attributes, lighting and other practical factors. He and his fellow students have asked to be allowed to submit something they’ve filmed rather than performing live purely because so many of them are locked down in tiny rooms with no lighting, space or reliable internet connection. We know from our attempts to FaceTime him just how bad the wi-fi is so how he can be properly assessed is unimaginable. I’ve been listening in to the meetings he’s had with his tutors but they’re completely unwilling to adapt the assessment. So sadly I have to say that if any of your Sixth Formers have Northumbria on their UCAS list, from our experience I absolutely wouldn’t recommend it.
He and his six flatmates have had a great time together though, even in lockdown and he managed to find some paid acting work too – as an oversized elf in some Christmas ads(!) Here he was ‘getting into character’…
… something for those of you in the North East to look forward to later in the year. And yes he does have greyer hair than I do which was another surprise. Apparently the girls in his flat were at a loose end one night and so they decided to dye it for him.
While his brothers were having adventures, the poor youngest had just eight days back in the classroom before facing his first round of externally invigilated A Level exams. His school is sticking to its plan of a double exam series on top of the coursework and lesson participation gradings that the teachers are compiling. They’ll be over tonight but then he’ll have to spend the Easter holiday revising for the next set that begins in a month’s time so I suspect there will be mopping of brows to be done.
And I’ve gone way over my 3,000 words again so I’d better stop writing now. Next week I’m hoping to bring you one of my pre-loved sales. I haven’t done one for a year and I’ll be seeing my friend from The Trussell Trust soon so I’d like to feel I’ve done something to support her – demand is continuing to grow and she works so hard. There are lots of lovely things and thanks to lockdown quite a few still have the labels on because I’ve had no opportunity to wear them so if I can get my helpers on board, that will be next week’s post. In the meantime, thank you for reading, have a good weekend and I hope you enjoy every moment of your reunions with the people you’ve missed next week.