Before we begin, don’t worry – I haven’t turned into a trad-wife. After a tightly packed few days, total meltdown on the trains saw me stranded in London last week and so I had to take some drastic measures which resulted in an experiment I’d never anticipated – the week my husband dressed me [spoiler – he didn’t do a bad job!]. This is the first of the series of shorter posts that I’m going to be writing over the summer just to stay in touch while I’m working on other things so here’s a recap of some of the things I’ve been doing and wearing.


Remember the summer day that was last Wednesday… pretty much the first of 2024 that’s been truly hot? Here I was at the station early in the morning, setting off for a meeting, a haircut and a catch-up with a friend in London. You may remember that this is the dress that I bought for the middle one’s graduation last year. I think I’ll love it forever, it’s such comfortable stretchy jersey and yet it has structure so it never looks wilted in the heat as jersey so often can.

Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic, work outfits

Cos dress (SS23), Massimo Dutti sandals (SS23)

And here I am with my friend Claudia (Bradby) who you know from the jewellery I so often wear and talk about. This was after our lunch – it was only when we saw a queue starting to build for the evening sitting that we realised how long we’d been lost in deep conversation! I left feeling so enriched by everything we’d talked about – you know that feeling when you’ve hit on lots of commonalities and life feels better for knowing that your thoughts and feelings aren’t yours alone?

I paid the price for missing the train I’d originally booked though. As I arrived at Euston, all of the train information boards were flipping over to ‘cancelled’. Total points failure at Watford meant that nothing was coming in or going out. I won’t bore you with the long wait but after a very long time they told us that only one train would replace the six of mine that had been cancelled and if you didn’t have a seat reserved on that particular service, it was advisable to make other plans.

I’d usually have had to hope for the best or book into a hotel but we were planning to drive over to Newcastle the following morning so Mal suggested I go straight there instead. There was one train left with tickets available if I could make it over to Kings Cross in time so there was nothing for it but to run. I owe a huge thank you to my sister and brother-in-law who helped Mal retrieve my car from the station car park. And a thank you to Mal who was up for the challenge of packing a week’s clothes for me. He thought ‘the week my husband dressed me’ would be great fun – and that in itself alarmed me (I did remind him that whatever he pulled together would dictate whether I’d be frowning or smiling at him – the choice was up to him!).

The week my husband dressed me

So I made it to Newcastle just before midnight and Mal travelled over the following morning. We’ve been planning this little break for a while because it came after a number of work deadlines were due to clear for the summer. May and June are my favourite months of the year and so I usually relish them. This year though they’ve been downbeat. I seem to have been ill since I came back from Thailand – firstly with the 30 day cough that everyone’s had which really exacerbated the back injury I’ve been battling since March and then I caught Covid on top of it all. Mal had his elbow op which has had complications and then I shared Covid with him – it’s the first time he’s had it so it was a heavy dose. It isn’t anything that other people don’t have to deal with but when you’re self-employed and running a business together, you can’t take time off to get better. So anyway – we were tired, run down, ratty and ready for a break.

The week my husband dressed me – Thursday

This is Thursday lunchtime and I was glad to get out of yesterday’s dress into the first of the outfits that Mal had curated for me. It’s one that you saw me wearing at a festival a couple of months ago – I found it really interesting understanding what’s stood out in his mind.

We wandered up to The Grainger Market. I’ve told you about it before, it’s Newcastle’s very old city centre market and it’s recently been awarded an £8.2 million levelling up grant so we’re enjoying tracking its progress. My hope is that they’ll somehow retain the beauty of the old stalls which include this original M&S penny bazaar which opened in 1895, the only surviving one.

The week my husband dressed me

Jacket; Racer tee; Cos trousers (sold out); Adidas trainers (sold out)

It’s still owned by M&S as an outlet store and they’ve carefully preserved the gaslights and original frontage – you can’t buy anything for a penny though!

The week my husband dressed me

The other reason that we love the Grainger Market is for the unusual street food you can find there. It hasn’t turned into anything boujie yet, everything is simple and authentic and we’ve been wanting to try this Chinese stall for ages but the queues at weekends are always too long. The family who own it are real characters, they come from Xi’an, home of the terracotta warriors and they pride themselves on their home cooking which is authentic to that very small region.

The week my husband dressed me

The noodles are hand stretched and all of the condiments are made by them. It was, quite honestly, the best Chinese food I’ve ever eaten, I’m really looking forward to going back and trying more.

Other than a food shop on the way back, that was all we did on Thursday. The lovely thing about going over to Newcastle is that there are no ‘shoulds’ in our mind. The flat is exactly as we want it and so there are no chores to do. We have everything we could wish for on our doorstep but we can also just stay in and relax in comfort. And don’t forget that we still let our Baltic Nest out to Midlifechic readers only so I’ll add details at the bottom if you’d like to try a break there.

The week my husband dressed me

The week my husband dressed me – Friday

The focus of our trip was a day at the races followed by Madness performing live. We weren’t in any hurry to watch the racing itself and so we’d booked a lovely al fresco lunch. However when we looked out of the window that morning the weather had turned quite dramatically. It was cold, grey and windy and as I looked at the wardrobe of very summery clothes that Mal had packed I started to wonder how the week might turn out. However, there was this cotton dress with its 3/4 length sleeves so with a quick change of lunch venue our day was on track. Less than a five minute walk from our flat is The Broad Chare which we absolutely love. One of the top 50 gastro pubs in the UK, it has a Michelin Bib Gourmand and yet it prides itself on offering ‘honest food – nothing fussy, nothing fancy’ – my definition of perfection.

So here I was about to tuck into bubble and squeak with hens’ eggs and an HP sauce jus. Proper food with a twist.

Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic, Broad Chare, Newcastle

We had a long, lazy chat before deciding that we really should start making our way to the races. Mal had packed this as one of two options for the day and I was surprised – like me he isn’t a fan of pattern but we both like this dress, I just hadn’t realised it would make one of his top choices. I wouldn’t have thought of putting the pink sandals and green straw bag with it, I’d probably have gone for metallics but I liked what he’d done. I was in two minds about wearing it for the rest of the day though purely because it felt a bit Ascot and that ‘frothy day at the races’ outfit formula isn’t something I buy in to.

Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic, Newcastle

Dress (now in the sale, gifted SS24); Sezane sandals (SS21); Bag

This particular race series is The Northumberland Plate Festival, historically known as The Pitmen’s Derby because the mineworkers were given the day off to attend. The history behind it really appealed to me, especially as Mal’s heritage lies in those mines – if I have a build for milking cows, he definitely has one for working long hours with a pickaxe at the coalface. I’m proud of our stolid northern ancestry even though in a way our backgrounds couldn’t be more different – mine ultra rural, his very urban.

I know nothing about horses and yet back in the early 1900s, my great grandfather was an esteemed horse whisperer in the Westmorland Dales, he even travelled to Canada and worked his magic there. The racehorses were such beautiful creatures, so dainty when compared to the sturdy country horses I see trotting through the village every day.

The week my husband dressed me

I always feel slightly uncomfortable about racing though – I know some of you are equine experts so tell me – do they enjoy it? When you watch them being spurred on in a race it just seems so cruel.

As you can see I’d changed before we left. I’ll seize any opportunity to wear this jumpsuit although I wished I had a jacket – there was a very chill wind blowing. I was glad to find metallic sandals and a handbag in my case of mystery clothes – both things I’d bought but not used so far this summer.

Nikki Garnett, Newcastle blogger

Jumpsuit (gifted SS24); silver sandals; Kin at John Lewis handbag

You can imagine Mal’s dismay when he realised that the enclosure he’d booked had a dress code of suit, shirt collar and shoes!

Nikki and Mal Garnett

Jumpsuit (gifted SS24); silver sandals; Kin at John Lewis handbag

And Madness were absolutely superb. There was a lockdown conversation behind this whole event. Do you remember those days when it felt as if you’d never go out again and you had those ‘if you could just choose one thing’… chats? One of ours was about bands – which of your teenage idols would you really like to see live? Mine was Duran Duran and we saw them at BST Hyde Park in 2021. Mal’s was Madness and they haven’t toured anywhere that’s worked out for us until now.

It was a truly joyful crowd – you can see the midlife fans in their fez hats. As they started to play, the late evening sun burst through the clouds and it was lovely to see families with grandparents, parents and teens all bopping away as they sang along to the bangers. Do go and see Madness if you can.

The week my husband dressed me

The week my husband dressed me – Saturday

So on Saturday morning we rolled out of bed and into the Queen’s cafe – there are three superb breakfast places temptingly close to the flat but this is the one for hungry days… a classic fry-up with a proper pot of tea.

Mal Garnett

Our only plan for the afternoon was to spend a decent amount of time in the Baltic Gallery. As it’s literally on our doorstep we pop in for creative breaks when we’re working but we don’t often have time to linger. There were three brilliant exhibitions – a North East open submission where the standard of the local talent blew us away. It’s hard to capture in a photo because it spanned a whole floor and there was such huge contrast between the mix of media and format but it was refreshing to see something that was so uncurated. Sometimes it’s great to see art being allowed to speak for itself without the gallery’s edited message overlaid upon it.

The week my husband dressed me

This was just before going in to a Franki Raffles retrospective which gave a lens-eye view of the struggle that women have faced in the realms of manual labour around the world. There was also a very challenging run-through of her ‘Zero Tolerance’ campaign work against domestic abuse funded by the Scottish government in 1992. It struck me that if only it had been visible in England at exactly that time, my own early twenties would have been very different.

What was I wearing? I’d actually forgotten that I had these barrel jeans but they’re bang on trend at the moment so I was really pleased to see them. Mal was on safe ground packing my all time favourite cardigan and a linen blouse he knows I love (now in the sale). Great choice of gold shoes but he forgot to pack any gold jewellery to go with them… or a handbag but the clutch kind of worked.

Nikki Garnett, Newcastle blogger

Barrel leg jeans; blouse (now in the sale); Me+Em cardigan (SS22); Boden shoes (SS06)

This is the last exhibition I’ll show you – all about the isolation that women can feel in rural communities. I know I touched a nerve with some people when I talked about it here a couple of weeks ago so I was glad to see that others feel it too.

The week my husband dressed me

A quick change to go out for a few drinks that evening. I was so chuffed to see the jeans that I kept them on but looking at it objectively I think this blouse works better with a wider leg and the jeans need a looser top. I’d expected to see more pairs of high heels than there were because I know he wishes I’d wear them more often but he clearly had the fact that we were on foot in mind.

Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic

Barrel leg jeans; Me+Em blouse (sold out); Boden shoes (SS19)

The week my husband dressed me – Sunday

On Sunday we had a lazy day but as the evening approached we could feel the city holding its breath for the England match so we ventured out to be part of it. Here’s another top that I’d forgotten about – it’s a compression body that sucks you in and hoists you up. I haven’t actually worn it until now but it’s really quite magical, it gives you a Spanx effect on your upper half and so it works brilliantly with looser jeans.

My favourite jeans and another beloved cardigan were no brainers along with comfortable ballet flats. It was surprising that there were so few trainers in the bag.

Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic

Compression body; Cardigan; Me+Em travel jeans (sold out); Boden ballet flats (past season)

It was a tense old match wasn’t it? We watched it in a shipping container with a great atmosphere…

Nikki Garnett, Newcastle blogger

… and not as good as usual burger and chips.

Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic

Compression body; Cardigan

The week my husband dressed me – Monday

And then we were back into the working week, as always I get absorbed in what I’m doing and forget about photos but here’s Tuesday when we decamped to work in the Pitcher & Piano that’s conveniently opposite the flat.

The week my husband dressed me

Linen blouse (now in the sale, gifted SS24); Mango cropped jeans (past season); Ballet flats (now in the sale, gifted SS24)

It’s quiet, spacious and airy in there during the week. It’s been good to get away from my desk because I’m currently working on things that are a bit different to my usual workload. As you know I’m thinking ahead so that’s involved a certain amount of brainstorming with Mal about what’s next for us, both together and as individuals. I’ve also been involved in a project with a group of female academics from Durham, Edinburgh, Surrey and Aalborg Universities who are working on narratives of ageing. They’re finding that there’s been very little academic research done into perceptions of ageing and the study they’re doing aims to address this – it’s absolutely fascinating and I’ll tell you more about it now and then, as it goes along.

Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic

Linen blouse (now in the sale, gifted SS24)

Oh and before I go, here’s a picture with my lovely sisters-in-law from our last visit. We hardly ever get a photo together and I needed to check it was ok to put it in because so many of my friends and family are too shy to be part of this blog. Anyway here they are, we were laughing as we always do about the first time we ever went out together back in the 1990s.

Mal and I had come up from London for the weekend so that I could meet the family and I wasn’t remotely prepared for the rapid pace of one of their bar crawls in Newcastle. I was a bit unsteady by the end of it and yet they still thought it would be a good idea to finish with a boogie on the boat that used to be a nightclub on The Tyne. It had a revolving dancefloor and they love telling the story of how every time it moved I fell off and they just kept pulling me back up and dancing on. It wasn’t quite the sophisticated entry into the family that I’d imagined making but it’s stood me in good stead over the years!

Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic

Satin blouse (now in clearance); Me+Em travel jeans (sold out); Hush boots (AW17)

And so we returned home in time to cast our vote with our two younger boys. It felt like a significant life moment going with them for the first time, especially as we walked the same path that we used to take holding their hot little hands on the way to the village school every day. And now they’re fully franchised men with their own views about who should lead the country – how did they go from book bags to voting cards in the blink of an eye?

So that’s the week my husband dressed me. It was refreshing having my clothes curated by somebody else – he’d packed enough for at least another six outfits but they were all a bit… ‘optimistic’ shall we say?! We’re going away again next week, this time to immerse ourselves in our disco line-up of dreams – Nile Rodgers & Chic, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Horse Meat Disco. So there may be a post next Friday if I have time to write one before we leave – or there may not. Please let the weather be good, I think the 11 degree temperatures we’ve been experiencing in the north are the worst we’ve had in July even though the last three summers have all been poor for us but I’m just trusting that where there’s music, there’s magic!

In the meantime, if you’d like to book a stay at our Baltic Nest the details are here. We can’t go over again for a while and it’s a shame to see it sitting empty with the glory of the city at its feet so I do hope we can welcome you. See you soon.

Disclosure: ‘The week my husband dressed me!’ is not a sponsored post

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