It’s been a hectic week – I really wanted to bring you a nice shopping post for the Bank Holiday weekend but I just haven’t had time to put it together so I’m going to whizz through what I’ve been doing instead. After this weekend I’m refusing to move from my desk for a while so next week I’ll be going into full summer wardrobe planning mode with holiday packing posts, summer workwear and all kinds of other things in the pipeline. In the meantime, let me take you on a brief tour of the country in a week of Midlifechic.
A weekend in Newcastle
As I mentioned, last weekend I had a long planned catch up with Greetje from No Fear of Fashion. We first met at a blogger event a few years ago and made an instant connection; we’ve stayed in touch ever since and have been meaning to get together for ages. In December, she came up with the brilliant idea of taking an overnight cruise from Amsterdam to Newcastle so that we could meet there. Of course that worked out perfectly for us because it meant Mr MC could see his mum and brothers at the same time.
Greetje has a bad knee and although my back is better, I was still happy to take it easy so we wandered around the city centre in Newcastle, stopping for regular coffees (and cake) along the way. Here we are in full shopping action – Greetje managed to charm an unsuspecting young chap into taking our photo.
(I’m wearing: &OtherStories jacket; Asos jumper; M&S wide leg crops; Hush boots – all past season)
I have to say that I wasn’t feeling my best – I packed really badly, I’d planned what I was going to take but then the forecast suddenly changed and it was cold so just before we left I had to start again. I’d told myself that because we were going to be stopping a lot, my red boots wouldn’t hurt my feet. They did and we had to go into M&S to buy an emergency pair of loafers. I was also feeling unhappy about my hair which was desperately in need of a cut and new highlights – nothing knocks my confidence more than my hair not being right.
Greetje on the other hand was on top form. She’s currently wearing braces which means that she’s lost a lot of weight and she has that spring in her step that comes with it. Here she was trying a skirt that she then bought – and entertaining the rest of the store by twirling around in it.
I was having a wobble about the dress that I’d chosen for the Awards do the following week (you’ll see it in a minute) so I tried this one. I wonder if you recognise how I’m feeling in this shot as I looked in the mirror, I’m thinking ‘my hair’s not right, I’ve put weight on and I look saggy and tired…’
Anyway we shopped till we dropped, walked back to our hotel for an hour’s rest and then went out for dinner at The Broad Chare which is a gastropub on the Quayside. You can see from our plates and glasses that Greetje was making far more sensible choices than I was… but those chips were really good!
And you can’t see my outfit but this is what I was wearing, core wardrobe pieces that I’ve had for a long time apart from the blouse which is new, bought in the sale.
Boyfriend blazer; Blouse; Jeans; Earrings
We spent Sunday having a leisurely breakfast followed by a wander over to The Sage and The Baltic for a spot of culture. Mr MC joined us for lunch and then it was time for us to say our goodbyes and head home.
I do just want to say how touched I was that Greetje made such a long journey, I’ve thanked her personally but I want to do it publicly too – it means a lot that she invested the time and money that she did. The thing about friendships of course is that distance doesn’t matter if you have a bond but it’s still good to nourish them. We talked non-stop while we were together and discovered that we are, in fact, complete opposites but then most of my favourite people are opposite to me – Mr MC for example. I find I spark best when I’m with someone who challenges my perceptions.
A trip to London
On Tuesday I went down to London for the Performance Marketing Awards. I posted this picture on Instagram and awarded full marks to the people who remembered that this jacket was one that Mr MC bought me for my birthday when I very first started blogging. At the time I wasn’t sure whether to keep it and I have to say that I haven’t worn it… until now. I’m so glad that tan suede is having a moment because it’s such an elevating look.
Hobbs suede jacket (SS15); M&S jumper (AW18); Wide leg ecru jeans (gifted SS19); Boden leopard pointed flats (AW13)
The idea of the Awards event was exciting but I have to say that the icing on the cake was knowing that I had an appointment at Josh Wood. You may remember that I went down to meet Josh and trial his soon to be launched home colouring products in March. I haven’t written about them yet because I’m still testing them at home and they won’t be available to buy until July. Anyway while I was there I had a long chat about embracing grey with Josh and AJ Blackadder who was doing my colour (and deserves a shoutout just for having the best name!).
I’ve reached the point where I’m now about 50% grey on top as you can see from the picture below. Not only am I sick of my roots needing retouching so often but also, as I’m working hard to encourage a positive attitude towards the ageing process, it feels a bit insincere to then deny it by completely covering up the grey. As you can see my natural colour is classic English mouse – it goes blonde in the summer and darker in the winter. There’s a much higher density of grey – or rather white – hair around my face and hardly any in the lower layers or at the back.
So, after another long chat, AJ set to work. He explained that this is simply stage two of the process and we won’t reach the final conclusion until the legacy of past colouring sessions has grown out. However he worked to accentuate the existing white at the front and move it through more tonally towards the areas where my natural colour is still quite strong. I interviewed both him and Josh while I was there and so I’m going to write an in-depth piece about ‘greying with grace’ in July when their products will be available to buy from Boots to make it easier.
After my colouring session, I moved over to Matt Hawes for a cut. He worked like the clappers because it was already 5.15pm and I still had to cross London and get changed in time for the Awards starting at 6.30pm. Being a Master Stylist though he wasn’t fazed. Here’s a quick shot of the end result that I took in the loo before I went into the event.
I may look calm and in control but I wasn’t feeling it inside. You see I arrived at The Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane with 15 minutes to iron my dress, do my make-up and get changed. I rushed to reception only to be told that there was no reservation. I’d booked my room in a hurry a couple of weeks before and decided that for once I’d splash out on somewhere special – I usually stay in something like a Premier Inn. Anyway, there I was at the desk, searching my emails to find the confirmation only to discover that I’d booked the Grosvenor in Victoria.
The lady on reception saw the look of sheer panic in my eyes and rushed me off to the Executive Lounge where there was a shower room. By this point I had ten minutes left – I turned the shower on at full blast, hung my dress in the cubicle full of steam and madly started piling on make-up. At the very last minute it all came together – my dress was crease free, my face looked ok, my hair was the business and I entered the room like the proverbial swan, serene above water, paddling madly beneath!
Here I am with my team – Laura from John Lewis & Partners on my right and Amy from Awin on my left. I have to remind myself that I’m old enough to be their mum because in my head we’re the same age – but then of course that’s a perfect example of age agnosticism in action!
John Lewis & Partners had kindly invited me to choose a dress to wear and it was harder than you’d think. You see after the capsule wardrobe series I gave myself a new rule. I need to make sure that any new eveningwear is versatile so that I don’t end up with ‘one wear wonders’ in my dressing room. This dress fits the bill because the obi-style sash can be removed and the belt hooks that attach it then magically disappear inside the seam which means I can wear it for work meetings in the summer too. The midi length is made even better by the fact that it has a split up the side that comes to just above the knee which adds a little extra sass. By the way, it’s now in the sale if you like it.
Day / night dress (gifted – more stock here); zebra clutch; earrings; Jigsaw shoes SS16; Laura’s dress (forgot to ask Amy – sorry!)
On the whole it was a very young crowd but the other women my age were either in extremely classic evening dresses or the floaty midi. Yet again it struck me that to carry off a floaty midi in midlife you need to have a very strong look otherwise you risk looking like you’re going to a vicar’s tea party circa 1988. The high necks, long sleeves and low hems that look demure on a 20-something can swiftly make you look frumpy if you don’t have the proportions to pull it off and get your accessories and hair exactly right.
Day / night dress (more stock here)
So, we had a lovely evening, we didn’t win but then we didn’t really dare hope that we would. The other teams were much, much bigger than ours with huge budgets to spend. We were beaten by Vodaphone and they deserved their award, they had a very creative strategy that included all kinds of different media executions.
A day in Settle
Finery jumpsuit SS17; Jigsaw shoes SS15
Yesterday we drove over to the small Yorkshire town of Settle for the funeral of my ‘Auntie’ Isa who was my mum’s cousin. It was actually a lovely event – she was 96 when she died and so she’d lived a long and full life. As her branch of the family are staunch Methodists it was joyful – they see death as going to ‘glory’ – your life of toil is over and you’ve graduated to a better place.
I wrote on Instagram about the impact of a life lived simply so I’m not going to repeat it here other than to say that as funerals always do, it made me think hard about what matters in the end. If you can end your life at that age and have a church filled with different generations of people who want to come and say goodbye, then it’s the ultimate achievement.
As always it was grounding for me to spend time with my extended family. My grandmother left the Westmorland Dale that we come from in 1918 because she was ambitious and drawn to bright city lights. She trained to be a nanny and then worked for a wealthy Lancashire mill owner. His glamorous wife used to hand her outfits on to my grandma, nurturing a lifelong passion for good clothes – Mrs Sandys-Clarke little did you know just how your influence would filter down through the years!
Anyway the rest of my relatives still live on the same farms that have been in our family for generations. They’re proper no-nonsense farmers who rely on the land for their living, earning enough and no more so I love listening to them. It helps me to understand why a knowledge of the countryside is so deep within my DNA and probably also explains my solid bone structure, my sturdy thighs and big knee-caps!
Two retail mentions
As I said at the beginning I’m going to be moving on to summer style next week but before I do, I just wanted to show you these dresses because they’re selling out as fast as they come in. I’ve just ordered this one – I followed the advice of the reviews and sized down. It’s pure cotton and it’s an easy way to get the Hush holiday vibe but with a slightly more fitted shape (and a lower pricetag!). The website isn’t easy to filter but if you scroll down to the bottom of the page you should see other colour options too.
And an exciting announcement from me – on Tuesday I’m going to be reopening the Midlifechic Boutique. The beach bags have arrived and I’ve added a few other affordable summer pieces to my range too, including a completely new range of t-shirts. The most important thing to me is that every product is fairly priced and, not only has its manufacture not harmed the environment but it has also directly benefited the community that has produced it. I’m feeling really proud of the ethics behind my range, I’m taking baby steps but I’m trying to do retail as I’d like it to be done. Now I just have to hope that you like it enough to support it – fingers crossed.
I’m finishing with one of my apologies because I’m behind with the comments again. You’ve written some really interesting things, especially on the ‘making the middle years count‘ post and I’m itching to reply but I have so much work to catch up on that I can’t just yet. I will though and I want to say thank you for your ongoing comments on a broader level. It’s come to the point now that whenever I’m in London brand meetings they’re mentioned. The Midlifechic community is known for its insight and constructive retail feedback so I really do appreciate the time you give.
As you’ve gathered, it’s been quite a week – an ‘international blogger meet’, a swanky London Park Lane awards do all rounded off with a reminder of where I really belong – at a farming funeral. So I’m just going to wrap up by reflecting on how lucky we are to be alive now, able to transcend barriers of geography, age and social position. We can be whoever we want to be and do whatever we want to do but at the same time, my week has reminded me that it’s important never to lose sight of where we started from… and who we really are. Have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend.
Disclosure: “A week of Midlifechic” is not a sponsored post
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