I know we’ve had crazy weather in the UK this week but we’re turning the corner towards springtime and it feels as though it’s time to start looking ahead, albeit tentatively. Today I’m working with Boden, doing a bit of wardrobe planning for SS21 – thinking about going out. Of course we’ll all be emerging from lockdown at different paces but here’s the roadmap that we have in England at the moment:

  • 29th March – golf is back for those of you who’ve so desperately missed it along with tennis, organised sport and meetings of of 6 people or 2 households in private gardens
  • 12th April – shops, hairdressers (thank goodness), gyms and pub gardens should all be able to reopen
  • 17th May – most social contact rules lifted outdoors, meetings of of 6 people or 2 households allowed to meet indoors, indoor hospitality and hotels open again
  • 21st June – all legal limits on social contact removed and the rest of the economy to reopen

As for travel well who knows, the next update we’ll have on that is scheduled for 12th April so for now it makes sense to think about summer at home – or in the UK at least. And with that in mind I think we can finally allow ourselves the pleasure of thinking about what we might want to wear. Next week I’m going to look at some of the more core pieces that might be nice updates for the time we’re spending in our own surroundings but today I’m focusing on going out – ever since I saw Boden’s SS21 collection it’s all I can think about.

Wardrobe planning for SS21 – putting it in context

Before I move on to that though let’s think about SS21 in context. Although I haven’t been working with retailers as much as usual over the last twelve months, I’ve seen from the ones I have been involved with just how difficult this season has been to predict. Last year the guillotine fell on design teams’ plans  just as they were in the full flow of their SS21 creativity – infections suddenly started rising and, at that point, there was no guarantee of a vaccine ahead. As I keep on saying, it meant that a lot of this season’s collections were immediately constrained by the finance teams whose mantra was ‘small and safe’. A lot of drops are therefore going to feel a bit underwhelming and given that we’re now in a better place than we were last year with hopes of going out and living our lives again, when we go back into stores it may feel a bit like opening a box of wet fireworks. That’s why I think this effervescent collection from Boden is such a good one and a brave one too, they took an optimistic  gamble and looking at the way things are selling out, I think it’s paid off for them.

I don’t know about you but I can’t quite imagine what it’s going to be like when we go ‘out there’ again and as part of that it’s hard to picture what I’m going to want to wear. Does it matter? Well in high stakes terms no but of course if you feel good about what you’re wearing you tend to feel good about yourself and so in uncertain situations, it always helps to know you have it in hand. I think we all want those first times that we step back into the world to be as good as they possibly can and they’ll undoubtedly be boosted if what we’re wearing feels right. The last time I remember feeling the way I do now about my wardrobe is when I was going back to work after maternity leave. I remember looking at the ‘old me’ clothes and not being able to relate to them in any way. Too much had changed and whether it fit or not, I couldn’t just put the mantle of the pre-pregnancy me back on.

There’s something about coming out of this third lockdown that feels the same. The first one felt temporary, as if life would resume from wherever we’d left it, the second one was more like a pause but this one seems to have tipped life on its axis and things feel very different now, there’s been a cultural shift. At the moment suits, more formal dresses and trousers with fixed waistbands feel like an anachronism. Currently I can’t imagine wearing pointy high heels for a trip down to London ever again. I could be wrong but I imagine that going forward I’ll have far fewer pairs in my wardrobe and they’ll be kept for special occasions or nights out but who knows?

I suppose we’ll just work our way through it as we go along. With every small lockdown release life will start to make sense. As I say this I’ve just been entertained by a group of old Selfridges friends planing their ‘re-emergence outfits’ on Facebook. They’re all vibrant, embellished with diamanté and rhinestones and obviously they’re joking… but only a bit, I can already tell there’s a real mood to dress up. So when I saw Boden’s new collection my reaction was ‘bingo’ and my heart quite literally soared. Here’s a retailer that has taken a risk and is giving us the sense of joy that so many of us want to express this summer – and this is me talking who, pre-pandemic, hardly ever wore prints. The thing is that as well as being bold and expressive this collection will actually work for our predictably unreliable British summer. Here’s a try-on of the boldest pieces so that I can show you what I mean.

Wardrobe planning for SS21 – thinking about going out

Back to the office, meetings or special events

We have a few tentative work related events in the diary including Mr MC handing over his chain of office as his two-year presidency comes to an end. He’s a bit sad about it because he hasn’t been able to achieve any of the things that he set out to do but hopefully there will be a lunch and this is just the sort of thing I’ll be thinking of wearing. It’s a summer dress with long sleeves which is something I’m forever trying to hunt down for our work events in the north because it’s hardly ever warm enough to leave your arms bare. It’s a weighty fabric but it drapes well and swings as you walk so it feels good to wear and the retro print is youthful and uplifting.

Midlifechic retro patterned midi-dress Boden 21

Shirtdress(I’m wearing a size 12R and it’s true to size); Boden shoes but from about eight years ago – this year’s version here

Jeans, heels and a nice top

Although lots will have changed, I’m sure we’ll still be able to rely on the ‘jeans, heels and a nice top’ formula for relaxed nights out. This silk blouse will work hard for you. It’s great that they’ve done it without buttons this season because it helps it to look just a bit more casual and of course there’s the added benefit of no gaping for anyone who has a big bust. The balloon sleeves give it a retro vibe and as well as skinnies or straight jeans, it’ll look great with this season’s flares or dressed up more formally with a skirt… a button through denim one would work well. A few words about pattern matching because the seamstresses will pick it up – you can’t expect to find it at high street prices, if it’s something that concerns you you’ll have to look for designer labels or make your own clothes. The amount of fabric that would be wasted to achieve it just isn’t cost effective for high street retailers.

Moving on to the jeans, I’ve had them since last year but they’re a mainline item for Boden, slightly looser than a skinny, I’m wearing a size 12R and they’re true to size. The shoes I bought about eight years ago before I started blogging, I don’t wear them often but they’re timeless and they’ve often added the finishing touch to a special outfit. Boden have done a similar pair this year with a slightly sturdier heel that will be easier to walk in.

Wardrobe planning for SS21 - thinking about going out

Silk blouse(true to size); Slim jeans(true to size); Boden shoes past season (this year’s version); Boden belt past season

I’ve since spotted these wide leg trousers and they’d look great with the silk blouse above. They’ve sold out in my size already but there’s plenty of stock in all the other sizes.

Wardrobe planning for SS21 - thinking about going out

Cotton linen blend trousers; linen shirt

A ‘go anywhere’ jumpsuit

And now I’m moving on to the really versatile pieces, you could wear this jumpsuit anywhere – for work, a picnic in the park, a festival, a wedding, a pub back garden… and the good thing is that it isn’t too close fitting and so if you’re going to be based outside you can wear layers underneath it. This is how we’re going to have to think for a while until we’ve put Covid well and truly behind us.

Boden have really captured the current mood for nostalgia well and their sunglasses this season are especially good. The important thing is that they have total UV protection and exceed all safety standards

Midlifechic vintage patterned jumpsuit Boden SS21

Jumpsuit; Suede belt; Sunglasses; Boden shoes from two years ago, this year’s version here

A dress that says ‘joy’

And last of all the showstopper. Over the last week I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve asked me if I’ve seen this dress. Apparently it’s on the front cover of the catalogue but Boden haven’t sent me one of those for years – I think I must be on a distribution blacklist(!) Anyway I can say that it’s as good in real life as it looks and it’s full enough for you to be able to wear a thermal top and leggings underneath – and yes I’m absolutely serious because if like me you’re going to be sitting in a pub garden on at least one evening this April, that’s what you’re going to need.

I ordered the belt in a large because I initially wanted it to wear with jeans but then realised that it seems to go with everything so I’ve added a few extra holes. It’s designed as a waist belt so if you just want to wear it with jumpsuits and dresses as I have here then order your usual size. The espadrilles feel slightly lower than the Cassie ones with the tie-around straps that I have from previous years although the website says they’re the same height. Anyway maybe it’s because of the strap but they feel easier to walk in. The beaded earrings are the finishing touch and they’re available in blue too, they make me think of summer holiday evenings… and hopefully before the year is out that’s how I’ll be wearing them.

Boden catalogue cover dress SS21 review Midlifechic

Maxi-dress; Suede espadrilles; Suede belt; Coral beaded earrings

Wardrobe planning for SS21 – thinking about going out – other standout Boden prints

Boden always add a couple of fabulous swishy skirts to their collection. You can opt for a boho look with this blue maxi skirt which would be perfect with flat sandals or even a pair of this season’s wooden clogs for a truly retro vibe. Combining something like this with a shirt rather than an equally boho blouse can make it feel more 2021 than 1971. One of the questions that I’m most often asked by readers is why they can’t make a classic white shirt work for them and the answer is that white doesn’t actually suit most people’s skintone. It’s a colour that I only wear if I have a tan so you may find that something more tonal such as this blue shirt looks better and will work well with jeans for that classic chic look too.

I’ve added a pink option for people who love Boden’s full skirts, it isn’t as retro as the maxi so you could pair it with shirts like this but it will look just as good with t-shirts or blouses too.

Wardrobe planning for SS21 - thinking about going out

  • Blue cotton crop cardigan: you need something cropped with a maxi skirt to comply with the rule of thirds so this is the perfect solution for chilly summer nights
  • White cropped linen blouse: crop tops are often better for wearing with full skirts or wide trousers because they mean you don’t have bunching at the waist
  • Blue shirt: as discussed above, a classic blue cotton shirt will often look better than a pure white one
  • Blue maxi skirt: lots of joy and once again you could wear thermals or leggings underneath this if you’re going to be sitting outside for drinks
  • Pink jersey shirt: jersey shirts often mould to the body for a soft look, they’re easy to wear if you’re looking for an alternative to a breton.
  • White jersey shirt with frilled collar: this is jersey and it has a great collar that will look good with crew neck jumpers or sweatshirts too
  • Pink midi skirt: dress this down with white trainers or sandals and you’ll have feminine elegance that isn’t too classic

And there are great options if you want to work the other way round and pair a patterned shirt with jeans or trousers, the classic ‘out for a drink’ look. Isn’t it exciting that it will be a wardrobe requirement again soon? All of these have sold so fast that there are only a few sizes left so don’t dither if you’d like one.

Wardrobe planning for SS21 - thinking about going out

  • Pink and blue linen shirt: this will get better and better as you wash and wear it, a relaxed, summertime look
  • Green pineapple shirt: not many sizes left because this is summer in a shirt and a less busy colour palette for people who prefer to have less going on
  • Pink silk shirt: silk shirts and jeans are such a great combination, the silk counterbalances the stiffness of the denim and skims over your curves
  • White cotton / linen blend trousers: as discussed above, easier to care for than pure linen but with the same summertime look

So there you go, wardrobe planning for SS21 – thinking about going out. I hope it’s given you a blast of hope and a taste of good times ahead… and if you’re not in England stay strong, there will be an end to all of this.

Midlife lately

As I said on Instagram last night it’s been a busy week for us because we finally managed to exchange on our Newcastle apartment so we’re madly making plans for it. We’ll be going over at the end of next week and hopefully we’ll also be able to bring the middle one back with us us for Easter, assuming his Covid test comes out clear. I was excited this morning when I was offered an appointment for my vaccine but it was just my luck that the appointments were all for the days that we’ll be over in Newcastle so I’ll just have to wait a bit longer. I don’t want to have it before I go because so many friends have felt really rotten for 24 hours and I don’t want to be ill when we’re camping out on the floor of our barely furnished new place.

It feels exciting… well Mr MC is excited… I’m still feeling pretty terrified at the responsibility we’ve taken on but as I said to the youngest last night, our boys are all setting off on new adventures and so it’s time for us to plan one of our own.  We’ll be using it as our second home but also renting it out to friends, family and readers of Midlifechic so if you’re in the mood for a city break later this year please do bear us in mind. We’re hoping to have it all ready for mid-May so we have a lot of work to do over the next couple of months. It’s been rented out for the last seventeen years so it’s in need of some TLC and I’m sure I’ll be blogging about it as we go along. It will be good when we get to April 12th and are able to travel over there more regularly so that we can crack on.

And of course it’s Mother’s Day in the UK on Sunday – our second under lockdown. It probably won’t be the day that any of us would have hoped for, a lot of us will be separated from our offspring and there won’t be trips out for lunch or afternoon tea. I’ll have the eldest and youngest at home so I’m feeling lucky just to have them around. That’s all we can do this year isn’t it? Focus on the meaning of motherhood and the joys that it’s brought so many of us over the years.

I know that some of you have lost your own mums recently, many as a result of the Covid outbreak so I can imagine that you might find it’s a difficult day. I’ll never forget the first Mother’s Day I spent without my Mum, she’d died the previous November but it wasn’t until that day that the grief really hit me. My poor boys had arranged a lovely lunch out and I sat there with a lump in my throat and tears dripping into my meal. If you’re in that position, try to hold on tight to the good memories you have. If you have children of your own you’d want them to know that a mother’s love is always with you.

Others of you have lost children, children who were born and lived but also children who didn’t take their first breath. It’s the greatest grief of all and I can’t imagine how it must feel but I want you to know that you have a group of wonderful women here who would very much understand how hard it must be for you so do post in the comments if you’d like to express your pain and we’ll wrap our arms around you.

Some of you haven’t been able to see your mums for months on end and it must be difficult. If you’re dreading the day, try to plan something special for yourself and perhaps lose yourself in a book or a movie; choose carefully – comedy might be what you need to cheer yourself up or alternatively a sad film might give you the cry that you need. Do whatever’s right for you and remember that next year should be very different so make a plan of how you’ll celebrate. It’s time for us to start looking ahead again and giving ourselves things to hold onto.

With that I wish you a lovely weekend, whatever you’re doing. I’ll be back with another clothes try-on next week and we’ll be looking at capsule basics so if you’d like some homework, go through your wardrobe and think about what’s ready for a refresh. And I can’t finish without mentioning the murder of Sarah Everard and saying once more how important it is for us to keep talking to our families about the unacceptable abuse of women. As we all know, the power to change things begins at home.

Disclosure: ‘Wardrobe planning for SS21 – thinking about going out!’ was commissioned by Boden but as always I had full control over the outfits I chose and the words that I’ve written about the brand. Please continue to support the brands that help me to keep bringing you Midlifechic.

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