Let’s go back to the start…

Oh hello there, long time no speak.

How’ve you been? How’s the family?

Lots has been going on since I last updated this blog. I won’t bore you with all the details (I’m sure you don’t want to hear what I do on an average Tuesday, for example), but here are some highlights:

The Boy and I (finally) moved in together; into a beautiful house with a damp problem, poor chimney ventilation and pipes that go bang in the night, purchased lots of upcycled furniture (mostly from Pip ‘n’ Mix, run by a fabulous wife and husband team) and are now incredibly happy, bickering about whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher/turn the bedroom light off/call the plumber.

We bought a cat, called her Oswin (after a character in Doctor Who, because we just keep getting cooler as the months and years go by) and treat her the way most people reserve for particularly pampered toddlers.

In the last year or so, the shopping ban has taken not so much of a back seat as a ‘in the boot of the car six vehicles behind’. I’ve become a bit of a retro fashionista, and have the wardrobe to prove it. I look forward to talking you through the intricacies of pin curls and snoods, the minefield of retro vs modern clothes sizing, and all manner of vintagey delights!

To tease you a bit (I know, I’m mean like that), here are some of the things I’ll be talking about in the coming weeks…

Dollie Mixtures, a lovely little vintage salon in Hitchin

Why going to Ikea on a Sunday is a Very Bad Idea (it’s a cliche for a reason…)

Lindy Bop, a website of wondrousness (as long as you like retro reproduction dresses)

Lady V London, as above

A passionate defence of why it’s okay to be a bit in love with Alan Rickman, even when he’s playing Snape in the Harry Potter films, greasy hair and all

The aforementioned Pip ‘n’ Mix

The prettiness and pitfalls of retro dresses (hint: Running down escalators feature heavily)

Also, one last thing…I’m starting my weight-loss journey (God, I hate that phrase – what I mean is, I’m fed up of being ‘The Chubby One’, so I’ve decided to get of my decidedly squidgy bum and do something about it) this week, so you should look forward to various food-based (or should I say, lack-of-food-based) rants in the coming months. It’s going to be one hell of a journey, but we’ll get there!

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Dressing myself

Hands up who just sobbed their way through the last 20 minutes of My Girl. Just me? Marvellous (it’ll be on Channel 5 +1 if you missed it – off you go).

So, now, through my swollen eyelids, I shall attempt to regale you with amusing anecdotes from my week. Attempt being the operative word.

As some of you know, one of my bestest friends in the universe (yep – she’s a good friend) is getting married on Saturday, and has very nicely asked me to be a bridesmaid. Not only am I thrilled because I get to be a part of her day, but it also means that I don’t have the ‘ARGH, I NEED A DRESS AND I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT COLOUR TO WEAR ETIQUETTE-WISE AND JUST ARGH!!!!!!’ panic. And yes, when I have a dress related panic, it is all capitalised in my head.

The colour thing stems from a conversation I had with someone years ago, about how you should never wear white to a wedding (that’s reserved for the bride), and how you should also avoid black (because no-one wants to look like a crow of doom at such a happy occasion). I think this conversation may have taken place when I was about eight, with my grandmother – she was very good at that sort of thing (she taught me how to put on lipstick at the age of 11, and taught me the importance of a signature scent; she died a few years ago, and as a consequence, I had to learn how to pencil in my eyebrows on my own. Without her guidance, I’m concerned that I’ve crossed the line into drag queendom).

But, as mentioned, I don’t have that worry this time. Unfortunately, another of my gorgeous friends is getting married in a couple of months, and my lovely cousin is getting married a month after that. So, that ‘ARGH, I NEED A DRESS…’ panic will be taking place at least twice this year. The Boy and I may hold off moving in together until after the weddings, purely because I’m not sure that his nerves are up to the scale of my tantrums. (Not many people’s are.)

In a semi-related paragraph:

Through Twitter (oh yes, I’m very up on that social media lark nowadays. Well, I can write a tweet – you can follow me @fashionfarewell), I’ve met a lovely blogger, who’s also a stylist (her website is here, and you can follow her @WardrobeWorksho). A couple of months ago, I had a work thing, and was told right at the last minute that I needed a cocktail dress. So Louise (aforementioned lovely blogger) sent me an email, with lots and lots of dress choices – unfortunately, I found a dress to wear in my wardrobe, so I didn’t get to buy a cocktail dress as my emergency January item. Curses. (This turned out to be a Good Thing – I forgot tights on the way to the work event, so had to run into Tesco and buy a pack.) But I would like to heartily recommend you check out her site and/or ask her for advice. For example, I am very much hoping that she will give me advice about what to wear for these weddings. Can I wear the same thing to both? Or is that a social faux-pas? Can accessories bridge the gap? (Honestly, with things like this running through my head all day, it’s a miracle I get anything done.)

I have also discovered a hole in my favourite work dress this week. I’m meant to  be getting the sewing machine out tonight in order to fix it, but instead, I have plans to watch The Big Bang Theory, and wonder why Kaley Cuoco gets to look like Kaley Cuoco, and why I have to look like me (it’s going to be a busy night).

Then, as a highlight of the week, I got to The Boy’s on Friday night (that bit was nice, but is not the highlight). The first thing he said to me was that I’d left some clothes in his room (this is part of an ongoing battle – in traditional chick-lit style, I’ve left a toothbrush, face wipes, hairbrush, spare hairdryer, make up mirror and dressing table in his room, and it’s made him very nervous. We’re moving in together, so I know it’s not a commitment thing – why on Earth is he nervous? Yes, my stuff does now take up around 40% of his room, but as my stuff will take up approximately 70% of our room when we move in together, I’m really just easing him in gently and being fair and reasonable, right? Right?) and that he’d left them on his bed. It was this dress from Boohoo, which I’d hinted heavily (ok, tweeted him) that I wanted. I was joking though – I’m not really that high-maintenance.

He’s awesome.

It’s sold out in the red now (the colour I have), but if you buy it in the beige, we can match. Do it….

Obviously, it doesn’t help the dresses for weddings (not to be confused with wedding dresses) conundrum, but it’s a very pretty dress.

Second time around….

So, here we are again, and I owe you all a couple of observational apologies. The first one is that I suggested that I would continue to write, even after my self-imposed clothes ban ended, and I spent all of my time shopping at BooHoo.com, and neglected you. The second is  that I failed. There was no enlightenment regarding clothes shopping, and smug outings where I only bought what I needed. Instead, I bought dresses. Lots of them. Although I do now have a ‘signature style’. Well, that’s what I like to think – it’s essentially a dress, black tights and boots (or, for fancy occasions, pretty shoes).

I would LOVE to blame my failure on the fact that I moved jobs, and I no longer have Jiminy (remember her? She used to act as my shopping conscience) to guide me/give me disapproving looks/remind me that I want a house, and everyone knows that you can’t live in a shoe unless you’re in a nursery rhyme.

I thought that my new job might encourage me to spend less – after all, I’ve moved to a place where there are no shops of any note. Except Tesco, and a BP garage. (Although there is a Harvester, which is nice.) Unfortunately, the nice IT people at my new company trust the staff to have access to the internet, unlike my old company (who used to greet every site you tried to get on as ‘denied access – what on Earth do you think you’re doing?!’, even those ones necessary to do my job. It was fun), and this freedom  means that my lunchtimes can be spent on various clothing websites – the girls who sit on the desk behind me actually monitor how many I go on, it’s that bad (although one of them also gave up shopping last year and did a much better job than me – I may suggest that we set up a support group).

So, I need to reinstate the ban.

This year, I’ve decided to change it slightly, to stop myself (and this quote is directly from a friend who will be known only as Bakerloo) ‘going absolutely mental with clothes shopping at the end of it, just because you can buy things again.’

Tough but fair, I thought.

I’m going to give up (ish – you’ll see where I’m going with this) shopping for a whole year, instead of last year’s 6 months.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I have a new job. It’s the epitome of awesomeness, and I love it a lot. But it does mean that I occasionally have to go to events, and clothes are required for this. I also have several weddings coming up this year, and although I have my outfit sorted for one (I’m a bridesmaid, not incredibly organised), I’m not entirely sure that the outfit I had planned for the others will work (a coral dress bought in the sales that I’m ‘going to slim into’. Which I have done approximately 0 times with other sales purchases). There may also be hen night t-shirt related purchases that have to be made – I haven’t forgotten the horror of cobbling together that Lady Gaga outfit last year, and have no intention of doing something similar this year. I have also previously mentioned my signature style, which involves tights. I even wear them in Summer, because my legs are horribly pale (so pale that when I tried on dresses with Lovely Sister, she actually recoiled and shrieked ‘Oh my GOD, you’re really pale aren’t you – ugh!’ – she models herself on the girls from The Only Way Is Essex, so I shouldn’t be offended. It’s just that she’s not the first person to say it….) and I’m rather clumsy, so it’s fairly certain that I’ll ladder my entire stock by the middle of March. If I’m careful.

So, to encompass these factors, I will be allowing myself an ’emergency fund’ for 1 item of clothing each month. If I don’t buy anything in one month, it cannot be carried over to the next. If I need a vest top to go under something that I’ve already bought, that counts as my one thing (although a pack of 5 pairs of tights also counts as one thing, otherwise I’m going to spend my life rinsing them out in the sink and sticking them on the radiator. Which would be Grim with a capital G, I think you’ll agree). Accessories such as shoes, belts, bags, headscarves (headscarves? Where did that come from? I’ve never worn a headscarf) are included. Even if something breaks, I’m not allowed to replace it, unless it counts as my one thing that I buy each month. And there’s a maximum spending limit of £50.00. Even if I really, really want it.

Are there any other rules or stipulations that I should add to this? What are your thoughts on exchanging things – if something is faulty, can I send it back for an exchange, or do I have to ask for a refund? This is going to be interesting…

Small print should be big print. Fact.

As regular readers of this very blog will know, I was (and am) obsessed with a Zara dress that Frankie Sandford (the fit, but possibly evil one from The Saturdays) was photographed wearing.  My Lovely Parents bought me the dress, and I used to hang it up on my wardrobe door, just to admire its beautifulness.  But this week, I had somewhere to wear it – hurrah!  One of the girls from the office had her leaving drinks on Thursday (to be clear, I’m gutted that she’s gone, and not just because she sometimes reads my blog.  She’s hilarious, and I love her face.  Moving on…), which I thought was an ideal occasion to wear the dress, so that others could share in the beautifulness.

As the dress has been hanging around in my bedroom for a while, some of the pleats in the skirt had started to fall.  No problem, I (naively) thought, I’ll just iron the creases back in.  So, the iron was plugged in, there was a brief, but fierce struggle with the ironing board (and a briefer battle between the steam setting on the iron and my wrist – the steam won), and away we went.  Approximately 4 seconds after I started ironing the dress, a strange, burny smell reached my nostrils.  And not a nice burny smell (bonfire, barbeque, ex-boyfriend’s belongings), but a bad one (thousands of pounds of electrical equipment, hair, new Zara dress).  Turns out that the label quite clearly states (in a variety of languages, but in very small letters), Do Not Wash.  Do NOT Iron.  For the LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT IRON!  So…um…well.  Turns out that ironing was a bad idea, and the pleats look just fine in their current, dropped configuration.  (Lovely Mum, or Lovely Stepdad, if you’re reading this, the dress is fine.  You’d never notice the melted pleat.)  (Honestly though, it is ok.  Promise.)

So, in conclusion, small print should be large.  Preferably with flashing neon signs and a honking noise, to illustrate how important the information is.  Small print is sneaky, and I don’t care for it.

Once, a long time ago (about 2007), I was offered a New Look store card (I wasn’t going to name and shame them, I was going to say something witty along the lines of ‘I won’t mention the name of the shop, let’s just say that it’s a high street chain, the name of which rhymes with Blue Book.  But then I decided sod it, they deserve to be shamed), and on the basis that I’d receive a 10% discount on whatever I purchased on the day, and a choice of card colours (yes, I’m easily influenced, a marketer’s dream, etc., etc. – I’m told this often.  I also doubt whether ANYONE who has taken out a New Look store card has chosen the orange or green versions), I thought that I’d apply.  Sadly, I was accepted, and the stupid, bright pink card has been the bane of my life ever since.

I have no problem with the monthly payments.  I’ve bought the items, it’s only fair that I pay the money back.  I also understand that if I miss a payment, or go over the limit, I deserve to receive a fee.  But let me give you a couple of examples of the ridiculous crapness of this card;

1.  I was in-store, and mentioned that I wasn’t sure that I had enough money on the card to pay for whatever I was buying (I fear that it was shoes).  The card was swiped, I was told that everything was fine and that it had gone through, then (prepare your suprised face), when my monthly statement arrived, I was told that I had gone over my limit, so that would be £12.00 more this month please. 

2.  My credit limit has been increased twice without my asking for it.  Firstly, I’m not shopping, I don’t need more money.  Secondly, even when I was shopping, I’m (finally) at the stage where I don’t WANT to saddle myself with more debt – stop encouraging me to spend!

3.  I keep getting sent offers that sound amazing (free beauty treatments, 20% discount) just because I own a New Look card.  Then the SMALL PRINT lets me know that I’ll have to spend £35.00 on my card to receive any of the amazing things.  I may as well pay for my own £15.00 manicure, rather than accrue more items that I don’t need, and a ridiculous amount of interest (did you know that the interest rate is about 30% on store cards?  I used to tut when I heard things like that, without actually understand what it means – I’m sure that you’re all much more clued up than I am, but just in case – that means that if I spend £100, and don’t pay it all off before the end of the month, I’ll end up having to pay another £30, for nothing.  Do you know how many Primark bags that would buy me?!)

4.  The biggest problem that I have with this card?  Well, back in December, you may remember that there was a rather large amount of snow, which caused massive issues for the postal system, what with closed roads, blocked depots, people living in the middle of nowhere and still expecting the postie to arrive, even though (and I quote) ‘I can’t get to the depot.  The weather’s too bad, I can’t even get to the end of the road!’  Well, this meant that my card statement didn’t arrive (and still hasn’t, but I digress).  So, I decided to assume (mistake) that the minimum payment would be £5.00, as it had been for several months previously (I tend to pay off more than the minimum amount each month, but on this occasion, with it being January and a 5 week month, pay-day wise, I went for the least amount that I could pay).  I popped into my local store, handed over a rumpled fiver, and promptly forgot all about it.  Until I received my statement at the end of January (actually, if I’m honest, it was more like the middle of February), and discovered that I’d been charged a late payment fee, of £12.00.  I rang the customer service helpline.  I say ‘helpline’, I’m not sure that this is an accurate description.  The conversation went a little like this;

Me: (Quite chirpily at this point) ‘ Hi, I can see that I’ve had a late payment charge, but I actually paid in cash instore on 3rd January.’

Generic Customer Service Chap:  ‘Oh.  Ok, let me just look at your account…..’  5 minute pause, where all I can hear is his fingers tapping over the keyboard, and all he can hear is my fingers starting to drum impatiently on the windowsill  ‘….yeah, I can see that a payment went through, but it wasn’t enough to cover the minimum payment.’

Me:   ‘Riiiight.  How much was the minimum payment?’

GCSC: ‘£5.86.’

Yep, that’s right, I was charged £12.00, for 86p.  That sounds fair.  So, even when I can shop again, it’s safe to say that store cards can expect no more business from me.  Because they’re rubbish.  They do not offer value for money, they give you a small incentive to get you hooked in, and then send more offers through to encourage you to get into more debt.  The fees that they are able to charge are horrendous, and whenever I’ve spoken to someone in the Customer Service department in relation to my card, I’ve discovered that I’d get better answers if I’d asked the card itself.  I never thought I’d say this, but credit is not always a good thing.  If you must get a store card, then for the love of God (and skirts), please read the small print.  Twice.

In other news, I went to a family wedding last night, which was just lovely.  As I was getting ready for bed, I pulled my pyjama bottoms on underneath my dress, pulled the dress over my head, and then noticed The Boy looking at my waist in an odd fashion.  Turns out that I’d forgotten that I was wearing my very special, very giant Spanx pants.  I don’t think that he likes me quite as much anymore….

How many calories does the Happy Dance burn?!

Dreams about shopping: 6

Dreams about chocolate: 4

Dreams about Jonny Lee Miller: 2

Dreams about eating chocolate with Jonny Lee Miller whilst walking around Topshop: 1 (best dream EVER.)

This week, I have been mainly dancing around the house (as well as dreaming about Jonny Lee Miller – for those of you that didn’t read my last post and are unsure of who he is – go and have a quick look.  Go on, I’ll wait…you could probably Google him too, whilst you’re online), doing my Happy Dance (copyright C.COOPER/K.SHEPPARD 2007).  It’s a very special dance, created by myself and a rather talented friend of mine (I’m not going to lie, most of her dances are technically much better.  Technically in dance and literal terms).  It’s essentially hopping from foot to foot, and waving your forearms around like a penguin.  And it’s cool.

The reason for my sophisticated and classy hopping around the house (including a few rather tricky negotiations of the stairs)?  Well, I have news.  No, wait – it’s way bigger news than that…

I HAVE NEWS!!!!!!!!

You may have noticed that I’ve mentioned a certain dress from Zara a couple of times in the last few weeks.  Well…my Lovely Stepdad (and Lovely Mum) bought it for me.  Yep, that’s right, they did.  I’m led to believe that Lovely Stepdad was the driving force behind it (it’s not that he’s Lovelier than my Mum, they’re both great, it’s just that she thinks that my whinging shouldn’t necessarily be encouraged with presents.  Really, she’s like Supernanny for grown up children). 

They bought me the black version of the dress (which is better than for me than the red version – with my reddish/purple hair  I could have ended up looking like a giant tomato.  I’m reliably informed that this is not a good look).  (Also, my Fabulous friend has the red version.  If I have the black, I can fool myself into thinking that the different colour is the reason that I don’t look the same as her when I’m wearing it…it’s nothing to do with her being much slimmer than me, and, let’s be honest, a LOT prettier…) It’s the most beautiful dress in the whole wide world – I love it so much that I’ve been tempted to sleep with it under my pillow every night.  Only the fact that I might dribble on it has stopped me.  Not that I dribble in my sleep or anything, you understand.  If I’ve had a bad day at work/thought about the end of Scrubs/walked past a massive display of Easter Eggs in Tesco and started getting the shakes, I put it on, and all of a sudden, things don’t seem so bad. 

But the problem that I have now is – do I wear it all the time, meaning that as many people as possible get to bask in its amazingness, but possibly dimming the special quality somewhat, or do I save it for something really special (meeting the Queen/Jonny Lee Miller/the cast of TOWIE), meaning that it makes the occasion that bit more special, but running the risk of seeming ungrateful to my Lovely Parents?  As dilemmas go, it’s perhaps not the most worthy, but it’s a dilemma nonetheless.  I would also like to point out to The Boy that this is NOT cheating.  I haven’t given my parents anything in exchange for this, except love, affection and money.  (I’m joking about the money bit.  Obviously).

So, that’s the reason that I’ve been doing the Happy Dance.  In other, unrelated news (but news that links to the title of this post), The Boy has recently started using the My Fitness Pal app on his phone.  Wanting to be supportive, (and as I’ve given up all the lovely, chocolatey things that make mealtimes fun), I decided to sign up for it too (and as I’ve previously mentioned, I don’t want a bum the size of Hampshire).  It’s going well (ish) – after 4 whole days, I’ve apparently lost a pound (it fell out of my pocket.  Sorry, but I bet that you were thinking of the same joke, I was only saving you the job), but I would just like to point out that if any of my other ‘pals’ sent me to bed hungry for 4 whole days, we wouldn’t stay pals for very long.  Just putting it out there.