Tuesday, 11 October 2011
“Avoid dressing like a teenager, edit your trends, work with your proportions, keep it low maintenance and don’t buy crap.”
These are the no-nonsense words of the inimitable style guru Mary Portas – or as she calls it, her Pret-a-Portas code to buying clothes. Mary Queen of Shops talks such retail sense that I reckon I should have her advice stamped across my wallet whenever I go shopping. If I'd done that, I might have avoided some of my worst sartorial disasters. And yes, there are quite a few lurking at the back of my wardrobe.
I’m gripped by Mary’s new TV show, Mary Queen of Frocks, which follows her progress as she designs her own range of clothes for women over 40 and sells them at House of Fraser’s flagship Oxford Street store. She embarked on her quest because middle-aged women, she reckons, only have two choices when it comes to fashion – “dress like teenagers and flash the flesh. Or it’s cream and beige, beige and cream.”
Her new fashion project makes for entertaining TV (the second part is on Channel 4 tonight) but I’m not convinced by Mary’s clothes. The trouble is that she’s a tall, stick-thin size ten and while her trademark leggings, cinched in waists and sky-high heels look fabulous on her, her style would look ridiculous if the rest of us tried it.
One of the seven key pieces she’s designed is the “no-brainer dress,” an above-the-knee tunic which costs £135. Mary calls it’s “a clean and contemporary look,” but I’m sorry, to me it looks like a shapeless overall. Her shoes, on the other hand, are divine. She’s teamed up with Clarks to create a gorgeous range of ankle boots, courts and bar shoes. Not only that, they look like shoes you could actually walk in. And watch out, too, for her Home collection, which is perfect for Christmas presents.
PS: Mary’s hit the headlines again today by castigating the women in David Cameron’s cabinet as “an ugly bunch.” She told Heat magazine that she’d love to restyle the lot of them and “put a bit of sex and glamour in there.” If you see an army of women politicians trooping into Number Ten clutching briefing papers and wearing bright purple tunics, you’ll know who's responsible.
PPS: It was my turn to host my book club last night so I rushed out to buy some non-alcoholic drinks for the drivers. When I spotted Belvoir’s new elderflower presse at the supermarket I snapped up three bottles. Why? Who could resist a bottle that says “you’re lovely” on the label?
Tuesday, 6 September 2011
Samantha Cameron always looks stylish, even when she’s watching the Highland Games at Braemar. She has glossy hair that’s never out of place, a high-flying career at Smythson and has transformed Number Ten into a house that looks straight out of The World of Interiors.
Now, if that wasn’t enough, she’s proved she really is Superwoman. Striding along the pavement on a mile-long walk from Downing Street in aid of Save the Children yesterday, she sported a pair of Topshop stilettos. Stilettos. With four and a half inch heels. On a walk. My admiration shows no bounds. In her shoes (no pun intended), I would have ditched the heels and plucked a pair of Converse or ballet pumps out of my bag.
I’m a complete failure in the high heel stakes. After a summer of wearing espadrilles and pumps I tried wearing my favourite (and usually blissfully comfortable) platforms. When I got out of the car I had to walk at such a snail’s pace that my husband got fed up with waiting and strode in without me. At the end of the evening I gave up the battle and walked back to the car park in bare feet. I’m worried I’ll never wear heels again. And at my height, that’s not a good look.
PS: Back in May, David Cameron asked Mary Queen of Shops, alias the wonderful Mary Portas, to carry out an independent review of the nation’s high streets – with a view to bringing back “the bustle” to our town centres.
If anyone can do it, Mary can, but I wish she’d persuade all shops to match the amazing customer service offered by John Lewis. Working from home, I look forward to a skinny latte every morning. So I was thrilled to discover a new Dualit gadget called a Lattecino to heat and froth the skimmed milk. It’s a great idea, except I’m now on my fifth. The first, bought from John Lewis in High Wycombe, stopped working after a few weeks. I took it back to John Lewis and they changed it without a murmur. And again. And again. And again. Four times in fact. How impressive is that?
I didn’t get such exemplary treatment at River Island today. The strap of my son’s bag snapped for no reason so I returned it to River Island, along with the receipt. The assistant took it to the manager’s office (he didn’t deign to talk to me) and told me there was nothing they could do. “It’s obviously had some wear and tear,” she said. Well yes. It’s a teenage boy’s school bag. Surely that doesn’t mean the strap should break without reason?