It’s a bit of a cornucopia today – I don’t know about you but I’m starting to feel the winter blues so I’m looking for spring wardrobe lifts that work now. Starting with clothes, I’m not ready to think about buying anything major yet in terms of outfits. The new collections won’t arrive for a while but having seen the trends and some of the retail previews, I have a good idea of what I’m hoping to wear this year. At the end of each season, I put future wardrobe notes in my calendar to remind myself what worked and what didn’t. For 1st March it’s saying ‘focus on light pieces with long sleeves for SS24’ – our British summer was a cool one last year and I didn’t feel well equipped for it. So that’s what I’m looking for at the moment, then I’m introducing the first of a new series of monthly beauty product reviews where I’ll test the bestsellers in a specific category and give you my opinion on them.

Spring wardrobe lifts – spring tops

So, I’m going to start with a mini-Boden edit of spring tops – these are all pieces that dropped in the February collection and have 15% off with code A8G1 at checkout. Tempting though the summer dresses and bikinis are, I’m staying on course and looking at light layers with sleeves and the bonus is that they’re all things I can start wearing on nicer days now. This collection is where you can really see Boden’s return to body flattering styling. I’ve pulled out core wardrobe pieces in wearable cuts and you’ll see they’ve brought back some of the details they always excelled at. It’s also a pleasant surprise to see a real ramping up of quality again – while other brands are making compromises, they seem to be going in the other direction.

1. Breton striped cotton cardigan

I put this on as soon as I unpacked it this week and I’ve kept slipping it on ever since. It’s a heavy cotton knit and the bomber cut feels fresher and more sporty than a standard cardigan with buttons. I’m wearing a 12 here and it’s a perfect fit if you want it to work with both wide and straight trousers/jeans. If you’re strictly a wide trouser person I’d size down for that classic Parisian neat look. I love the way that the stripe has been carried into the ribbed hem and cuffs – an extra detail that you don’t usually get on a bomber. The fact that it’s collarless means it doesn’t interfere with shirts or jackets making it good for layering. It’s warm but not as hot as wool so it’s been great for wearing in the office without overheating.

Reading the reviews I see that someone has said that it’s pink not bright red – it clearly isn’t, it’s a classic Boden fire engine red. And somebody else said there was a problem with the zip – the one I have on here is fine, I’ve been running the zip up and down repeatedly to test it and there’s absolutely no problem. It’s also available in navy and green and I’d say it’s a brilliant buy.

Spring wardrobe lifts

Cotton breton cardigan; Wide leg trousers

2. Ribbed cotton boatneck

Now this is a wardrobe workhorse and it broke through my rule of ‘no more navy jumpers’ because I’ve had a gap in my wardrobe for a fitted piece with a great neckline. It doesn’t immediately look remarkable but for anyone who loves a high quality layering piece, this is it. The first thing I want to say is how very, very pleased I am to see the return of Boden’s boat neckline. It’s something they used to excel at – remember the Audrey tops and dresses? Now it’s back. If you’re one of the many women like me who doesn’t have an elegant swan neck, you’ll know just how much more flattering they are than a crew neck. I’ve reached screaming point over the last few years in my hunt for them – every single thing on the market seems to have had a stumpy round neckline.

It’s made from breathable, knitted ribbed cotton so it’s a jumper rather than a long sleeved tee and a size 12 fits me as it should, skimming without clinging.

Spring wardrobe lifts

Cotton rib boatneckWide leg trousers

I would usually have styled it tucked in but I was hoping the camera would pick up the flattering shaping at the front which visually reduces the midriff when it’s worn untucked. You can’t quite see it so I’m showing you the pink colourway that depicts it more clearly. It’s also available in ivory with a gold metallic fleck – a simple, brilliant piece to have in your wardrobe.

Spring wardrobe lifts

Cotton rib boatneck

3. Cashmere boatneck

And while we’re on the subject of boatnecks, they’ve released a small collection in cashmere too – hallelujah. There are just three spring colours at the moment – this blue, ivory and a muted pink but I’m really hoping they’ll do a full range of them for winter – and maybe get rid of the crew necks forever. This is one of my favourite shades of blue and it will work just as well with jeans as it does with all of the navy pieces I have in my wardrobe for work. I’m wearing a 12 and it’s true to size for a classic fit, size up if you prefer things more slouchy.

Spring wardrobe lifts

Cashmere boatneck; Wide leg trousers

4. Striped breton

This sold out within a day of it landing but they re-listed it immediately so you can put your order in now for delivery in five weeks – which will be just the time that it comes into its own. With its hint of sporty 70s styling, it’s a fabulous, slightly retro version of the classic breton. It’s worth knowing that it’s the summer version of the breton so it’s made from a light t-shirt weight cotton rather than the heavier winter weight. I love the fact that it’s ivory rather than white which makes it kinder to a lot of skintones and once again it has a boat neckline. There was only a size 14 sample left so that’s what I’m wearing – the 12 would have been a neat fit so you may want to think about sizing up.

Spring wardrobe lifts

Spring striped breton; jeans

5. The raglan sweatshirt

And the last piece in my trying-on session is this bubblegum pink sweatshirt. I’m a big fan of Boden’s sweatshirts because they have raglan rather than dropped shoulders so they work for every type of body architecture. This is made from the usual heavy cotton and I love the red trim. It’s exactly the sort of piece I look to throw on on summer evenings when we head down to sit by the canal after work. The sizing seems to have changed a little from their usual sweatshirting though, I’m wearing a medium here and it’s quite oversized at the hem as you can see so you may want to order a couple of sizes to compare.

Spring wardrobe lifts

Raglan sweatshirt; jeans

Spring wardrobe lifts – scarves

Another great way to lift your winter outfits over the next few weeks is with a good scarf. It’s the only way to get a ‘look’ really when you’re bundled up against the weather and it’s such an easy way to elevate a basic outfit. You saw me doing it in last week’s post and here are a couple of photos along the same lines from last weekend. This was last Friday when we were looking for a piece of art as a joint anniversary present. The scarf did all of the hard work for me here, pulling the pink and red together.

Midlifechic winter casual style

Boden scarf (AW19) pink jumper; John Lewis cream coat (AW22); Mango jeans (AW23); Silver boots; Boden silver belt (AW15); Oversized hoop earrings

I want to show you this jumper in more detail because I’d just bought it in the sale. It’s such a lovely shade of pink but it’s also available in a fabulous blue, a burgundy and a purple. It’s 100% RWS certified wool, it has a great neckline and lovely deep ribbed cuffs and hem. It’s light and soft, a great find. Bear in mind that it’s very oversized – I’m wearing a small here.

Midlifechic winter style

Pink jumper (now in the sale – more stock here and different colours); Mango jeans (AW23); Silver boots; Boden silver belt (AW15); Oversized hoop earrings

Back to scarves, this was Saturday when we headed out for an anniversary brunch. I used a scarf again to add a little more to a monochrome outfit.

Midlifechic winter style

Hope scarf (AW16); John Lewis coat (AW22); Dress (now in the sale); Stretch suede boots (now in the sale); Love knot necklace; Large pendant necklace; Oversized hoops

And here’s the dress I had on underneath – another sale buy with 50% off. It’s such a good cut, you don’t often get this kind of quality at this kind of price. I’m wearing a 12 and it fits like a glove.

Midlifechic winter style

Dress (now in the sale); Stretch suede boots (now in the sale); Love knot necklace; Large pendant necklace; Oversized hoops

So, that was for illustration only because I’ve collected my scarves over the years but if you’re looking to add a touch of spring to your winter coat, I’ve found some for you here. Just think about the key colours in your wardrobe and choose a scarf that will help you to pull a few different ones together. And remember we’re spring-facing now so we’re looking towards lighter rather than darker combinations.

Spring wardrobe lifts

L-R, top to bottom


Spring wardrobe lifts – lip balms

Light spring lip balms

And the last spring wardrobe lift I’m bringing you today is with lip balms. For SS24 I’m going to be doing a monthly review of some of John Lewis’s bestselling beauty products. I’ll focus on something different each month and for February I thought it would be a good idea to look at their top selling tinted lip balms which solve the immediate problem of dry winter lips and give a spring boost at the same time. I don’t know about you but I like to have one in my bag or pocket whenever I’m out at this time of year. I love them because they give you a natural looking lift at a time when full on lipstick can just emphasise the winter pastiness. The challenge for me was could I find one to beat my favourite Charlotte Tilbury one?

I probably chose one of the most difficult products to review for the first of this series because lip balms are, by their nature, subtle. I’m hoping the photos will pick up some of the differences and I’ll talk you through them as I go. Here’s the bestselling tinted lip balm line-up and I thought I’d try them in three classic shades – a pink, a red and a coral.

Spring wardrobe lifts

So, in the interests of ‘science’ here’s a starter photo with no lip balm. I’m trying not to smile in these pictures because my lips almost disappear when I do so excuse the strange expressions.

Spring wardrobe lifts

And here’s the first one which is the new, softer pink version of Clinique’s cult ‘black honey.’ This ‘Almost Lipstick’ has been around since 1989 and even now, one sells every three minutes. The black honey shade has always been known as the one that suits everyone, regardless of skintone but I’ve always assumed it would be too dark for me so I was keen to try this new pink shade.

I had to smile and tilt my head back because in terms of colour it was the most subtle of the three I tried, just a little pinker than my natural lips but my goodness the texture and finish is fabulous. It slides onto your lips as a slick glow and just makes them look naturally fuller, plump and juicy somehow.

Midlifechic lip balms review

Almost Lipstick in pink (gift with purchase currently available)

I loved it so much that I immediately bought the darker version to try and it arrived this afternoon so I’ve added an extra picture here. As you can see it’s true that it’s nowhere near as dark on as it looks in the tube so it’s a great option if you want this lustrous finish with a more berry toned pigment. This is one of those cult products that had to be brought back after being discontinued because of the outcry from customers. Black honey is said to be the perfect blend of red, blue, orange and yellow pigments, meaning it compliments every skin tone.

Midlifechic lip balm review

Almost Lipstick black honey (gift with purchase currently available)

Moving on to a red, this comes from the Dior Addict range which I already love. I always have their red lip maximizer gloss in my bag during summer so I was keen to try this bestselling balm and I liked it. It had a more obviously glossy finish than the Clinique giving more of a shine than a sheen. It’s a good option if you’re looking for a range with more colour options but I prefer the finish of the Clinique one, it felt more nourishing and it somehow added dimension to my lips rather than sitting on top of them.

best tinted lip balms 2024

Lip Glow in strawberry

And the third one I was sent to review was by Nars. This is the coral and it has a nice enough finish but not much pigment. If you put the three of them on a spectrum from plain lip balm to glossy lipstick I’d say this is the closest to a simple lip balm.

best tinted lip balms 2024

Lip balm in torrid

So at the end of it all I was keen to go back to my all time favourite lip balm and see how they compared. This is from Charlotte Tilbury, I’ve talked about it before because it’s the one I keep with me at all times. It’s said to be a lipstick/gloss/balm hybrid and in my view it’s the Goldilocks of lip balms – not too glossy or sticky with strong lip care benefits that leave you looking polished but not made-up. It’s subtle enough to wear at the gym without looking like you’re trying too hard and yet it’s strong enough if you’re out for a Saturday brunch too. It’s still my favourite – the best colours are the classic pillow talk for a very natural look, happipetal which I’m wearing here and happipeach if you can ever find it in stock – it sells out constantly.

best tinted lip balms 2024

Charlotte Tilbury lip balm

So – my verdict on the top selling lip balms at John Lewis

  • Charlotte Tilbury 9/10 – just the best, you can’t fault it, I only take one point off because the tube isn’t the nicest and you have to remember that it isn’t retractable so only nudge it up a fraction when you use it.
  • Clinique 8/10 – a strong contender, I’m so glad to have tried this iconic product at last and I can see how it earns its status
  • Dior 7/10 – a nice product with good pigment but the finish was a little bit sticky
  • Nars 5/10 – this wasn’t for me but I often find that with Nars products. I suspect they work best for people who really want the no make-up look so if you’re looking for extremely subtle, it may be the one for you.

Hopefully that’s given you some inspiration for spring wardrobe lifts that work now – a new top, a new scarf and a new lip balm can make a real difference to how you look and feel at this time of year. We have a busy weekend ahead with the light festival that Mal’s been working on for months (fingers crossed it goes well), I’ll try to add some of it on Instagram Stories if I can capture it well enough on my phone. And then a cosy pub lunch in The Lakes catching up with friends on Sunday. Have a lovely weekend whatever you’re doing and I’ll see you next week.

Disclosure: ‘Spring wardrobe lifts that work now’ is not a sponsored post. Thank you to John Lewis and Boden for providing products to review.

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