A winter blue capsule from Marks & Spencer

And so my friends, I’m tentatively launching into the party season. I know it’s early and some of you will get grumpy with me but as always my view is that it’s best to get all of the planning done now so that when December comes we can just enjoy it. This way when the glossies are running features about how to avoid Christmas stress, we’ll be blowing party poppers and wondering what all the fuss is about.

Today I’m starting by looking at M&S because they were one of the first retailers to release their partywear collection this year and so stocks are already running low on some items. You may remember that when I did my Autumn / Winter trend prediction a couple of months ago, I mentioned that navy was low on the radar apart from when it came to eveningwear. Well now we’re really starting to see it coming through – let’s call it winter blue rather than navy.

As we all know, deep shades of blue are kinder to almost all complexions than black and when it comes to partywear we have the added boost of texture to play with. Satins, cashmeres, silks and velvets all play with light in different ways and M&S have some strong pieces to offer.

Now I’ve been writing this blog for long enough to know that every reader’s version of Christmas dressing is different. Some of you see it as a time to be cosy at home with a log fire and a few glasses of wine. Others step into full on party mode with different events right through December throwing up lots of wardrobe challenges. Most people seem to be somewhere in between with maybe one party and then other low key events with friends and family.

Thanks to Mr MC’s presidential role our Christmas is looking very busy this year although I’m hoping my attendance might not be required at everything I can see in the diary. So, in these planning posts I’m going to try to cover all bases and then in December, you’ll see it all in practice as I pinball from a winter ball to pantomimes and formal dinners to a funk and soul all nighter (I’m stating now that I won’t be staying all night…)

The risk with ‘dressing up’ is that it can be very ageing. A classic cocktail dress can look sweet on somebody in their 30s but as we pass 50, it can catapult us into our Mums’ generation. And this is so often the problem that we have as Generation Xers because we straddle the decades when formal gave way to casual without fully belonging in either era.

With all of this in mind, I’ve scouted through Marks & Spencer to pull together a very easy Christmas dressing capsule. There are no full-on party dresses onsite yet but I’m noticing that on the whole, brands seem to be focusing on separates this season anyway. The mood this year is relaxed and practical which I think will suit most of us perfectly.

Winter blue capsule from Marks & Spencer

Let’s talk though my thoughts before I bring them to life.

Winter blue capsule Marks and Spencer

  • Neat cashmere cardigan: I’ll explain why I’ve chosen a cardigan further down. This is a regular fit so I sized down from a size 12 to a size 8 to get the look I wanted. Also available in nine other colours including a pink that would be lovely with the skirt too.
  • Navy lurex polo neck: also available in gold, silver or metallic burgundy, a great December staple.
  • Relaxed cashmere jumper: a core wardrobe piece for anyone who likes a fitted bottom half.
  • Python print cardigan: this has been out of stock for ages but it’s back in now. Maybe I’m pedantic but unless it comes in leather (for snake) or ponyskin (for fur), I prefer animal print when it’s slightly removed from its original colours – it just looks a little more chic.
  • Ombré sequin skirt: I paid a lot for a navy skirt like this from Anthropologie last year, this is an absolute bargain and the a-seasonal colours mean it will work for events all year round.
  • Blue velvet bomber with metallic trim: my favourite find, a party classic for years to come.
  • Navy biker style skinnies: also available in black, khaki and burgundy, a great cut with stretch for daytime or nights out.
  • Glitter and velvet slingbacks: a great value party shoe, even if you just wear these at home, they’ll make you smile.

Of course it made sense to do a try on so that you can see how some of these pieces look together. You’ll have to use a bit of imagination because now that the clocks have gone back, it’s getting harder to catch the light so we’re having to work inside. I did suggest to Mr MC that he might like to put some Christmas lights up but his response was far from enthusiastic!

Winter blue capsule look 1 – relaxed casual

I’m starting with an ultra-relaxed idea for those of you who insist that you won’t be going anywhere at Christmas. I say there’s still an opportunity for a touch of sparkle. Here I’m wearing the relaxed cashmere jumper with a great pair of skinny trousers. I’ve added a nod to Christmas with these velvet and glitter slingbacks.

I ordered the jumper in a medium. The onsite reviews are saying that this comes up big but I actually think it would look better in a size up. It’s a simple cashmere knit that will work well to balance out a tighter silhouette on the bottom half – skinnies or perhaps a sequin pencil skirt.

Winter blue capsule outfit ideas

Relaxed cashmere jumper; navy biker style skinnies; glitter and velvet slingbacks

I don’t often wear skinny trousers these days, my bottom half is curvy and I always feel it looks better in clothes that don’t cling. However, fashion is fickle and after being declared dead more than 18 months ago, skinnies are having a resurgence. Retail sales are strong, Kate Moss is back in hers and Vogue has labelled them a wardrobe staple so it’s clear that they’re going nowhere. It has to be said that skinnies are always good for a night out, they’re uncomplicated and they make you feel sassy.

This pair is particularly good, they’re almost a navy jean but they’re a heavy stretch cotton blend rather than denim. The best bit about them is the detail. The vertical zip and the seam down the front perform the old leg slimming and lengthening trick.

Winter blue capsule

I think they’ll look good with heels and a nice top for a night out but equally all I’d have to do is put wellies on with this outfit and I could go straight for a dog walk.

However, I’m not wearing them with wellies, I’ve added these sparkly velvet and glitter kitten heels for a touch of ta dah. Comfortable enough for dancing in all night and just as good for toasting your toes in front of the fire if you’re not going out (yes really – at Christmas). The rose gold colour will go with everything you have. More than any other item, I think every woman needs at least one pair of party shoes in her Christmas capsule.

Bronze glitter shoes

Glitter and velvet slingbacks

If you’re going out, you’ll need a jacket… and look what I found in the children’s department. Now other people have obviously spotted this velvet bomber because it keeps going in and out of stock in the biggest size so you’ll have to either stalk it online or look for it in store but it’s great. Lovely, washable velvet…

Midlifechic Winter blue capsule

Velvet bomber jacket with lurex trim; relaxed cashmere jumper; skinny trousers; glitter and velvet shoes

…with a silver lurex trim and a gold zip which is great because it means you can wear either colour of jewellery with it. I’m wearing an age 15 – 16 and it fits me fine. The proportions will work well with midi-dresses / skirts and wide leg trousers too, all year round. It’s very Inés de La Fressange.

Winter blue capsule

Winter blue capsule look 2 – a touch of glamour

Upping the ante a bit, I’m moving on to the kind of outfit that would take you from desk to dinner and you could wear it at home on Christmas Day too… or for dinner with friends… or a trip to the theatre. Last year I would have paired it with a crew neck jumper but you’ve probably seen the picture of Katie Holmes that broke the internet…

… and it’s been all about the cardigan ever since. The idea of a matching cashmere bra doesn’t appeal to me personally but I do like a cardigan worn on its own because you have the option of unbuttoning it to achieve the more flattering proportions of a V-neck. It fits better than a jumper and there is a certain allure to the unbuttoned front.

Midlifechic Christmas party ideas

Navy cashmere cardigan; ombré sequin skirt

The ombré sequin skirt has an elasticated waist and it’s an A-line midi which would look frumpy in a flat, woven material but the sequins catch the light and give it movement. I ordered it in a long but I think a regular length would have been fine. And just to prove that metallic party shoes never let you down, I’ve had these silver shoes since 2014 and they’re still going strong. If I was doing desk to dinner, I’d wear knee high boots during the day.

I tried it with the season’s other trend, the lurex polo but I preferred it with the cashmere. There’s something about the contrast of the hard sequins with the soft cashmere texture that is more appealing. This jumper would work better with jeans. The cardigan gives softer lines at the midriff too.

Midlifechic Christmas desk to dinner outfits

Navy lurex poloneck jumper (other colours available);

The only piece that I didn’t have chance to photograph was the python cardigan because it arrived too late, I have it now and it’s a particularly good buy for anyone who doesn’t like wool. You can wear it in the same way as I have the cashmere one above, with a midi or wide leg trousers and it looks very Miss Moneypenny with a pencil skirt.

If you shop now…

Now is a good time to buy from M&S because the Beauty Advent Calendar has just been released. It costs £40 when you spend over £25 and the contents are worth over £300. You can see full details of the content here.

M&S advent calendar

M&S Beauty Advent Calendar

So I hope that’s got you started. I have the feeling that people are going to be combatting the chaos that surrounds us by enjoying the distraction of Christmas. Let’s focus on the happy times that are hopefully ahead for all of us with friends and family over the next few weeks.

Midlife lately

And on that note, we haven’t had a boy-related story for a while so here’s one. It may have been Hallowe’en yesterday but I had my big fright this morning. We knew the middle boy was going out with his still shiny two-month old ID card. He was excited, he was spending the evening with friends from school who are now at Lancaster Uni and they were all dressing up. He was going as ‘barbecue Dad’, a meme that takes the mickey out of midlifers – if you don’t know it, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.

Anyway I wasn’t to worry, he said. He was going to stay overnight at one of his friends’ halls and he’d be back in the morning at some point. So you can imagine my alarm at 6.30 this morning when I opened the blinds to see his clothes strewn around the back garden. His rucksack was on the patio but he was nowhere to be seen.

I flew down the stairs like a chicken with a fox on its tail and opened the back door but still there was nothing other than a wide open garden gate. I checked my phone, no message – and then the youngest came down to say he’d had eleven missed calls from him over the last hour and a half. Of course all kinds of things were going through my mind but I rapidly came to the (logical?) conclusion that he’d clearly been pursued through the village by evil mafiosi and abducted, seemingly in his boxers given that most of his wardrobe seemed to be on the lawn.

A very unruffled Mr MC finally came downstairs and after increasingly high pitched urging from me, went to inspect the scene. He found the boy on the garden furniture, huddled under the winter covers, fast asleep. It turns out that they’d stayed up until 5am at which point he’d decided that he may as well go home, only to find (by emptying the contents of his rucksack) that he’d lost his key. He’s now in bed (still) asleep… and I’m at my desk (still) clucking quietly. I think it’s safe to say that he won’t be going out drinking this weekend – but I might.

I’ll be back on Tuesday – a little greyer.

Disclosure: ‘Winter blue capsule from Marks & Spencer’ was commissioned as one of my regular posts for M&S, I was free to write about whatever I wanted.

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