Well here we are with a Bank Holiday weekend ahead of us in the UK and as I type this (on Thursday) it’s warm and sunny – could it be that the weather has finally caught up with the date? I’m taking next week off because we’re going to be in Newcastle for the final push, hopefully getting the apartment finished so I’m signing off for a while with a style cornucopia – new brands & old favourites.
Style cornucopia – new brands & old favourites
New brands – Olive
The first new brand is one you may or may not have come across – Olive. Olive is an independent retailer with a flagship store in Cheltenham but it also has a solid online operation. It works with a network of independent designers to produce its own clothes and their look is well defined – familiar but yet still individual. It’s a bit Toast with some & Other Stories, Baukjen and Seasalt thrown in. The people behind it are transparent and focused when it comes to sustainability and their prices are fair. One small criticism I’d have is that there’s a slight froideur to their tone of voice on the website, a trap that fashion so often used to fall into in the 90s but not something you come across very often now.
The other tricky thing is that as a young brand they’re working with loose sizing, sometimes ‘one size’ which only extends to a size 12 and at other times Small, Medium and Large. It isn’t too much of a problem if you like the current loose silhouette but for someone like me who needs their clothes to be fitted it can be. I’m slightly concerned that we’re never going to go back to clothes that fit the body. The current trend for buffet dresses has been a boon for retailers – as people have looked for looser styles over lockdown, brands have fallen over themselves to provide them because it’s so much less work for them when nobody expects an item to have any kind of form and it cuts down on returns.
In one way lockdown created a perfect storm for them – as we were only able to shop online, retailers were faced with a far higher percentage of returns because fit varies so much from brand to brand. However as people demanded comfort for working from home, especially as waistlines began to expand, brands responded willingly with elasticated waists – or no waists at all which took a huge proportion of time, labour and cost in terms of sizing, tailoring, zips, seams and buttons out of the production cycle. So the fashionistas proudly sporting their buffet dresses as an emblem of their stylishness are in one way performing as retailers’ puppets by advocating the very cost saving solution that brands are hoping they’ll be able to keep on pushing forever. It’s a construct – you could even call it a living allegory of The Emperor’s New Clothes.
However fashion is fickle and I’m pretty sure that design ateliers around the world are busy planning to stimulate new consumer demand by reversing the cycle on the catwalks. I bet the first truly post-Covid collection will aim to reinvigorate spend by very much focusing on fit – and where that goes the high street and the fashionistas will follow. And sorry that was a huge digression but I’m glad I’ve got it off my chest because I’m finding so much of this Summer’s look unexciting.
Back to Olive, I’m sure that the only reason they have this kind of sizing is because they’re a small brand. As they establish themselves, offering an option of just three sizes rather than the classic seven will enable them to insulate their outlay and I think we can accept that. So here are a few pictures just to give you a flavour of the brand and of course you can see everything on their site here. Oh and by the way they have a menswear collection too.
I’m starting with a pretty textured cotton blouse with a frill collar and gathered sleeves.
Perfect for a British summer, a midi dress with sleeves and a waist that you can adjust to fit. This one is polyester but there are others in viscose if you prefer something more breathable.
Notched collar dress – also available in crimson
Like a lot of British retailers I get the feeling that their AW collection will be even stronger than SS. This jumper comes in cream too and is such a lovely, flecked knit. The whole of their knitwear collection is really good and the shoes too – when it comes to autumn this is going to be the place to look for the perfect Chelsea boot – the footwear collection is hidden on the site but you can see it here.
They have a whole section dedicated to this summer’s ubiquitous gingham here. There are the sundresses that most retailers have but I think the skirts might be easier to wear for anyone who wants to nod to the trend while spending the next few months in the UK.
Gingham skirt, also available in blue or brown
If you’re looking for a sundress, ribbon dresses are a key look this year and they’re really good value at Olive – Baukjen and Hush are going to have to look out.
Ribbon dress – also available in cream and other fabrics such as gingham
So that’s given you an introduction, I can’t give you any personal insights because I haven’t spoken to anyone at Olive but I’d say it’s a brand to watch and if they start doing a full range of sizes they’re going to be really strong.
New brands – Omnes
Omnes is a brand that feels slightly less developed than Olive, it’s more of a start up but again it’s founded on very good principles with a plan to disrupt the way that fashion houses operate. It’s working on a lean operating model so that there is minimal waste, everything is carefully sourced and designed to last. There’s also an ongoing 15% blue light discount for people in the emergency services, NHS or armed forces which you can apply for here.
I suspect their target market is a twenty-something because there are quite a few dresses with cutout backs that just make me shiver but I do like some of their prints – and they have a full range of proper sizes up to a 20 which is good.
Poppy sundress BCI cotton
You’ll notice that as part of their no waste fabric management strategy there are quite a few different styles in the same cloth. I really like this simple top for wearing with jeans or a skirt – the cut gives you a waist and skims over any lumpy bits. The neat fit in the body balances out the voluminous sleeves.
Blue floral top BCI cotton
And here’s the same fabric reused in a summer dress that makes me think of Pink City Prints but at a fraction of the price. There are two other styles of dress in the same fabric too.
Blue squiggle floral dress BCI cotton
So there’s some newness for you – I’m always on the lookout for it but it’s not easy to find wearable brands that sit in the harmonious zone of sensible prices and good ethics. And just before I move on from small brands, I heard from lots of you on Tuesday when The Duchess of Cambridge wore Hope for the first time. I passed your outpouring of support and congratulations on to Nayna – if ever there’s a small brand that deserves a boost like that it’s Hope. They work so hard and have sacrificed so much. Here’s the pic in case you missed it, it’s the same skirt that Sarah and I chose only we wore it in pink and orange. Huge kudos to Hope – and to Kate for supporting our small British retailers. (It’s funny because when I started writing this post I added that the one brand I was surprised that I’d never seen her wearing was Me+Em… and then she wore it yesterday).
Moving on to brands we know and love, I just wanted to pull out a few pieces that have caught my eye, especially for the relaxed summer at home that so many of you say you’re planning. Here’s an easy to pull on t-shirt dress for days in the garden or a breezy beach. It’s an A line shape so it’s loose but flattering and available in lots of colours. It’s getting five star reviews and is on offer at the moment so it costs the same as a couple of cups of coffee. I can’t tell you much about the cotton used other than that they are a ‘water security A list company’ and global retail partners of the UNHCR (UN refugee agency).
Bras are so uncomfortable to wear on hot days that I find Uniqlo’s range of clothing that has integrated bra support really good. This is another simple t-shirt dress but with the bra sewn in for extra comfort.
Their latest collab is with Marimekko and this dress is gorgeous. It has a low back so I’d ordinarily wear it on a hot holiday or at the beach but I see from reviews that people are wearing it over a white t-shirt in the UK which would give a really fresh look. You can see the full Marimekko range here.
And then there are these ‘playsuits’ (I hate that word but romper isn’t any better). I know some people feel uncomfortable wearing shorts but this can be a more sophisticated way of doing it, giving you a more polished, grown up look. They’re particularly good if you’re planning a summer city break and I’ve ordered them in both colours to try with our February adventure in mind (she says keeping everything crossed).
Back to gingham again because it really is this Summer’s signature. This is reasonably priced and the smocking is looser than most dresses I’ve seen. It also has a tie at the back which means that you can adjust it to fit both in terms of the height of the neckline and the fit across the chest so it won’t make loose midlife flesh bulge as these styles often do.
Gingham dress (also available in yellow)
Lovely wide leg trousers that are a linen blend so that you get the crisp look without the creasing factor. The slits at the side will help anybody who worries about the trip factor with long wide leg cuts. They have a fine grey and white stripe, they’re also available in black.
Linen blend wide leg trousers (also available in black)
If you prefer something cropped, this is the first summer that I’ve been able to find the right cut in linen – two years ago I resorted to buying a petite to get this length. A good linen, viscose blend again, great for showing off a pretty sandal and also available in beige, pink and black.
Cropped linen blend trousers (also available in beige, pink and black)
And they’ve just reissued the tailored crop that I wore to death last Summer and so many of you said you loved too. They’re such a big seller that there are loads of different colours. They’re 100% linen but usually a washed version so they don’t crease too badly.
Tapered linen trousers (lots of colours available)
Still on the linen theme, this has all the style of Hush’s wide V neck linen tees but not the price. Linen tees always have a chic edge over cotton in high Summer.
NB there’s 15% off everything at H&M this weekend if you’re a member which costs nothing more than a sign-up which you can do here, definitely worth it.
Now I haven’t done a full Baukjen edit this month because quite a lot of their Summer pieces are still on back order as deliveries everywhere are still pretty haywire. However I did just want to show you this as an alternative to a classic t-shirt. It’s a short sleeved sweatshirt so it has good structure and is a bit warmer than a tee. There’s also no clinginess about it so if you’re feeling self conscious about your middle it’s a great solution. I picked this acid yellow but it’s also available in khaki or white. Don’t forget that you will always get 15% off with code MLC15. I’m wearing a size 12 and it’s true to size.
Sweatshirt tee; Hush jeans AW19; Boden shoes SS19
Style cornucopia – Jewellery
My friend Claudia Bradby spent hours over the Winter working on a new jewellery collection which has now fully launched. Like me she’s a woman who likes to have a story to give context to her designs. At the same time her passions are expanding now that her children are older and leaving home (well as much as any of our children are during these strange times of fledging in and out of the parental nest) and her latest love is beekeeping. I’ve been following her journey as she’s learned all about it and last Summer took the leap into having hives of her own.
I know nothing about it but some of the highlights of lockdown for me last year were her regular updates that bubbled over with excitement as she drew the bees to her bait hive and marked her queen. So it won’t surprise you to hear that her latest jewellery collection is dedicated to her honey bees. Not only has she based the designs around it but she’s also committed her business to 1% for the planet which means that 1% of the company’s turnover now goes to social and environmental causes. Of course she has specifically chosen the B4 Project which supports the conservation of the British honey bee. Just imagine if every single company supported 1% for the planet though – for the big ones it would be a tiny fraction of their turnover but it would make such a huge difference to the environment.
Anyway – back to jewellery. As always Claudia has released pieces with pearls:
… and in silver…
… but it was the collection in gold that caught my eye and really resonated with bees and honey. Here I’m wearing the necklace, small earrings and bracelet. The thing I like about the necklace in particular is that it has a toggle fastening so you can adjust it to whatever length you like and yet because of its weight you don’t have the annoying problem of the fastening twisting round to the front of your neck.
Here’s a closer look – Claudia was inspired by ancient coins that featured honey bees.
Because the necklace makes quite a statement I balanced it out with smaller earrings.
Here’s the matching bracelet but there are other charm bracelets in the collection too.
And I’m hopeless at selfies but this gives you a closer look at the necklace and its proportions.
Claudia is giving Midlifechic readers a special friends’ discount – if you use nikki20 you’ll get 20% off all of her jewellery. And in the hope that you see something you like, thank you for supporting a small brand run by a midlife woman and friend of mine. As you know, I love her jewellery so much that I very rarely wear anyone else’s.
Style cornucopia – shoes & sandals
And last of all a reader request from Rebecca who said
“I’ve been wearing trainers for the last year and now want to put shoes back on but none of the ones I have seem to look right. Can you tell me where I’m going wrong and perhaps suggest something that would look right for this summer?”
I know exactly what Rebecca means and the problem lies with the shape of the toe. For the last couple of Summers the square toe has been in and it now dominates the look so much so that even though ballet flats are back, they only really feel right if they have a chiselled end. So, I’ve quickly pulled together a few options here and if you’re buying from M&S they have their Summer Beauty Bag offer on at the moment – it has a value of £145.45 but costs just £20 if you spend over £30 on Clothing, Home or Beauty, use code T314545A at checkout. Details of what’s inside here.
- Quilted ballet flat – this is the new version of the flat that people have raved about for so long. All of the shoes in this range are such a Bottega Veneta dupe that part of me wonders how they get away with it. Anyway tan is the French colour for a Summer shoe and they’re also available in black.
- Square toed flat slingbacks – a simple shoe with a 2021 update, a neutral that goes with everything and is easy to throw on.
- Gum soled canvas shoes – I know, these are a little off brief but they’re such a good release of a classic that I had to include them. Gum soles are always cool, slightly retro and these are off white for a bit of a twist.
- Square toed sandals – you may not think it now but you’d wear these a lot because they go with everything. They have the same heel as the orange ones that you see me wearing a lot and it’s good because it’s slim enough to be elegant but sufficiently sturdy and low to walk in. Also available in black, white and pale blue.
- Mock croc square toed flat slingbacks – the same as the ivory ones but with added texture for style elevation.
- &7. Quilted low heeled pumps – so chic, so on trend and apparently comfortable too. They’re selling out fast in the black though so be quick if you like them.
One late addition for anyone who likes the woven trend – a great price and they’d go with everything, also available in metallic.
Bank Holiday weekend offers
As always there are BH offers popping up although not as many as usual.
- Boden have 20% off different categories every day until Monday. You can find out which one is currently on here, use 6T2C at checkout.
- John Lewis & Partner have lots of different BH offers in their offers hub here.
- Hush have had ew pieces arriving every day this week, you can see them all here and they’re offering free delivery and a free starry face mask with code HIGHSUMMER21 at checkout.
- M&S have their Summer Beauty Bag offer on while stocks last. It has a value of £145.45 but costs just £20 when you spend over £30 on Clothing, Home or Beauty, use code T314545A at checkout. Details of what’s inside here.
And with that I wish you a happy weekend of Bank Holiday sunshine. I’m actually feeling really excited, I haven’t seen Mr MC all week because he’s been over in Newcastle doing the worst of the work that has to be done on the apartment. We’ve learned that he’s best cracking on alone because if I’m there I get bored with the drudgery and tempt him away to do something more fun in the city. So I’m going over tomorrow by train and he’s going to meet me at the station. It reminds me of my university reunions when my boyfriend used to come and visit me in Paris and I’d be waiting for him at the Gare St Lazare. Hopefully it will be every bit as romantic – I’ve certainly missed him this week although he seems quite happy when I ring, working away with just the radio for company – no boys… no dogs… no cats… no wife!
He’s already taken all of my luggage so we can just head out straight from the station, stopping for lunch and a glass of wine or two here and there. It will be the first time that we can really appreciate just how central the apartment is – when we’ve had enough, we can just stroll across the bridge and we’re home. I think it’s probably been good for us to be apart after so much time in lockdown – it’s galvanised me into having all the beauty treatments that I’ve been meaning to get around to for ages but haven’t quite. So perhaps that’s some homework for you too as part of your lockdown recovery process – arrange to meet the most familiar person in your life in an unusual setting and see everything afresh after all these months of sameness. I may even pop up on Instagram @midlifechic, it’s been a while so keep an eye open if you’re on there. I’ll be back on Friday 11th June, in the meantime enjoy the weather – goodness knows we all deserve it!
Disclosure: ‘Style cornucopia – new brands & old favourites’ is not a sponsored post
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