Blog - - colour analysis, style coaching, Cumbria, UK

From Frumpy & Frazzled to Fabulous at Fifty

From Frumpy & Frazzled to Fabulous at Fifty 1

“I want every woman I work with to feel the joy of knowing she can look her best every day, know what to wear for different occasions, how to work with her body shape, scale and her own style personality. I want her to be body confident and love how she looks..”

Loraine Birchall,

From Frumpy & Frazzled to Fabulous at Fifty 1

The Story

I've been coaching and offering consultancy to small business for best part of 20 years, some digital (web, networks etc) but mostly creative problem solving, project management and web strategy (form/function).

Having had a good year about 10 years ago I felt it was time to invest in me and paid for a Colour and Style consultation. The very nice lady spent all of 20 minutes speed draping me, one colour after another and in such a rush I couldn't see what was working and what wasn't. But, she's the expert, right? Not one question about my lifestyle or what I liked to wear, some general advice about suits and I was on my way without so much as a cup of tea or a natter. I followed her advice and she typed me as a Soft Summer.

The Problem:

Being a get-on-with-it kind of girl, I spent a small fortune (to me) on suits, blouses, tops, shoes, bags and accessories in my new colours and really thought I looked the business.

For the next 8 years or so, every client who knew me well kept asking if I was ill or feeling okay? There's only so many times you can keep saying "I'm fine thank you" before it gets a bit repetitive and you start wondering what's going on.

Even my lovely Mum kept commenting about how pale and grey I looked, my skin was blotchy and every blackhead or blemish looked like Mount Versuvius to me.   When I finally stared at photos of me wearing the Summer colours, I looked like I was seriously ill.

I decided that maybe the expert was wrong. 

Had the Consultant taken even 20 minutes more to look at how my skin reacted to the colours, she'd have been able to see my true colouring. I had wasted a lot of money to look like an extra from the Walking Dead. 

The Solution:

I trained in Colour Analysis and loved it. I could add this to my existing consultancy, go online with services, it was a whole new world of colour that took me back to a childhood with my head either in a book, drawing or painting. I'd forgotten how much colour, texture inspired me to create. I added Colour Psychology and Hair Colour Analysis soon afterwards.

I spent weeks looking in the mirror with this drape and that drape and decided that I am in fact a Soft Autumn, so my colouring is warm and NOT cool, the expert had it wrong.

I quickly put together a capsule wardrobe of grab-and-go outfits. Wearing one of these outfits at a meeting, I bumped into a colleague I hadn't seen for 12 months or more and he yelled.  'Bloody hell woman, you look ten years younger than the last time I saw you, have you lost a lot of weight, what's different?' I hadn't lost weight (I am still a curvy girl), but dressing in the right colours, shapes and styles to flatter my shape had made all the difference. I was floating on cloud nine with happiness.

I can't wait to share that feeling with other women and men, after all, who doesn't want to look and feel fabulous?

Wearing Soft Autumn Colours

From Frumpy & Frazzled to Fabulous at Fifty 3

Loving the khaki

I feel so much better in a soft/muted and warm khaki, no need for make up other than a bit of lippy.

From Frumpy & Frazzled to Fabulous at Fifty 4

Soft Autumn top

No make up, a rich burgundy heathered top, nice even skintone and it's reduced the appearance of any fine lines.

Wearing the Wrong Soft Summer Colours

Ghastly in Grey

Loraine Birchall wearing Summer grey ombre sweater

Grey ombre sweater, looking old, tired and haggard, look at the deep lines on my face and this was taken four years ago!

Woeful in Black

From Frumpy & Frazzled to Fabulous at Fifty 5

Campaigning in 2016 and looking old, grey and washed out in black and strong patterns.   Eeek.

Better in Universal Purples

Loraine wearing Universal Purples, still a little too cool but this is better

A soft/muted purple scarf, it's a little cool in colour but it's not awful.   My skin tone is much more even in this photo and the only make up I have on is some lip gloss.

@Lizzo, Queen of Glastonbury and champion of body positivity

Ladies all colours, sizes, body shapes with the message Love Your Body

I watched more of Glastonbury than I usually would this year and almost by accident managed to see the magnificent Lizzo.   If you watch the set online, there is some strong language right the way through.   If you only see the final number, Juice, it’s a triumph of self-love and body confidence but the strong language is still there.   I loved it!

Who is Lizzo and why should I check her out?

Lizzo (birth name Melissa Jefferson) is an alt hip-hop singer and rapper from Houston, Texas.   She’s winning praise from artists such as Missy Elliot and Chris Martin.

I’m not going to pussyfoot here, Lizzo is a big lady, curvaceous, vivacious and full of fun.   Her performances, like Lizzo, are larger than life and she wants everyone in the audience to feel good about themselves.   It’s a refreshing change to see a big girl who loves who and what she is.  Her dancers aren’t the stereotypical slim, athletic types, they’re a group of plus sized ladies called Big Grrrls and they moved like a well-oiled machine with grace and power.   As a curvy lady myself, it was a joy to see someone like me on stage and loving it.   More importantly, the crowd loved them.

Her outfit was a triumph of purple sparkle but the most startling and wonderful thing was the cut of the lower body, it left little to the imagination and showing belly, bum and muffin tops – all of which she caressed, loved and showed off for all it was worth.   I confess I’d have been worried about my c section scar, cellulite and sagging skin, but Lizzo loves her body.  She celebrates every curve, lump and bump in equal measure and I adored her for doing it.

During the whole set she talked to the crowd, inviting them to love themselves, to look in the mirror and love what they see each day.  It was inspiring, uplifting and for many in the crowd it was an emotional experience.

From her Instagram feed 

How we tap into Lizzo’s body confidence?

Try doing her suggested affirmations/mantra every day – at least once a day and ideally whenever you pass a mirror.  I also found lots of ideas, all simple things you can do – some each day and others every time you remember or think about it.

  1. Make a list of all the amazing things your body does for you
  2. Keep a list of the top 10 (or start with 5 if you’re struggling and build up) things you love about your body
  3. Try and remember that real beauty isn’t just about the packaging, it’s about what’s inside, the real, amazing you.
  4. Look at all of you, don’t just zoom in on those thighs, your belly or your bingo wings.  Look at you as a package, not just the parts, love all of you.
  5. Try and spend most of your time with people who love you and love how you look, ditch the haters and critics.
  6. If the voice in your head isn’t nice when it talks about you, change the voice or change the words.  Talk back to it and tell it you are beautiful, strong, amazing and powerful
  7. Do something nice for yourself, whether that’s a bath in peace and quiet – no kids or other interruptions, get your nails done, have a pedicure, go for a walk in the park/nature or take a shower and enjoy noise of the water.
  8. Help someone else, do something nice to cheer up a friend, volunteer at the local church, lunch club or other social group.
  9. Wear clothes that fit you and your shape, if you have curves, embrace them and love what you have.
  10. If you’re feeling down because of all the so-called perfect social media images, remember that just because someone’s life looks perfect it doesn’t mean it is.   Do something with your time that’ll make you feel better, take a walk, visit a good friend, watch a comedy on tv, listen to joyous, uplifting music, try some yoga or meditation.   This study found that women who see average or plus-size models in magazines/media felt better about themselves than those who saw slim/thin models, be aware of the images you are feeding to your brain.
  11. Start each day with some positive affirmations, your brain is in the perfect state to learn and train the subconscious mind at the start and end of the day.  Give it some good mental vibes with self-love affirmations and try to keep them in the present tense.  I am beautiful, I am strong, I am capable, I am awesome, I am sexy or whatever message makes you happy.   A few minutes every day will change your life.

If you take a minute a day to look in the mirror and compliment or be kind to yourself, you’ll find you’re much more accepting of your own features and will stop seeing them as flaws.  Every time I look in the mirror I say Hello Beautiful to myself and smile, it always makes me feel good. Try it!

I was reading about body image and found a lovely idea, Operation Beautiful, they encourage you to place random post-it notes with positive messages and leave them for others to find.   They believe we are all beautiful and we all need to see it.

I thought this was a great idea.   I also think I need to start leaving these message for myself.   I’ve started placing them around the house, usually near a mirror   My son has found a few and thought they were great fun.   Pick up those post-its and start helping someone feel beautiful today.  Maybe I’ll ask Lizzo if I can borrow that purple outfit next year 🙂




Weight is just a number

Female Body Shapes

I was watching a film on Netflix, Brené Brown – The call to courage, where she talks a about courage, shame and the weight of societal expectations.   She made some really interesting observations about how men are judged on how successful they are, expected to always be strong and to defend their family at all costs.   While women are judged by their appearance and in particular their body image and weight.   We’re shamed for being too fat, too thin, too tall, too short and so on.

A friend posted an image on Facebook, all these women weigh 11 stone / 154lbs / 69.85kg which is the average weight of a British woman.   It made me think about weight and I’ve decided it’s just a number.

Five women who all weigh the same but are different heights and dress sizes

Five women who all weigh the same but are different heights and dress sizes

The image will take you directly to the article if you click on it.

The ladies range from 5ft 2in tall up to 6ft 1in tall, have different body shapes and lifestyles.   Some exercise, some walk, some don’t.   It’s important to remember that a pound of muscle takes up a lot less room than a pound of fat so weight isn’t always the most accurate measure of health, neither is BMI or body mass index.

My Ex husband is 6ft 4 1/2 in tall, his BMI has often been pointed out as high but the ratio based on height isn’t the most accurate and doesn’t take into account the muscle mass or skeletal mass of the person.  He was never overweight, never had any belly fat, so his BMI and weight weren’t an accurate measure of his health.

You could be skinny-fat, slim but with more visceral belly fat hidden in your system than someone who weighs more but is more active and eats a healthier diet.

Building up muscle as we get older can make a positive impact on your metabolism, your inch loss, your energy and your long term health.   That muscle will help increase your metabolism and help you look leaner, stronger and feel better.

So next time you weigh in, remember, it’s just a number.   It’s not the measure that changes who you are, it’s doing something about it.

I’m 51 now and 5ft 4in tall, like Angela in the article, lady on the left of the photo.    I weigh more than she does but I’m following a Rosemary Conley plan from her Hip & Thigh diet, it’s easy for me to remember and works for me.  I’m a way off 11st but it’s my goal to get there by March of 2020.     To keep myself on track I’ve set up non-food mini rewards along the way for each 7lbs lost.

Body shape makes a difference, I’m a pear shape or triangle with my weight in the lower body, but in recent years due to hormones and menopause I’ve been carrying some belly fat.    Belly fat is more dangerous than leg, hip or bottom fat and it’s something I need to deal with to avoid health complications.    See this article on the BBC website for more information.

I have added in some bodyweight training, 3 times a week for just 15 minutes per session.   It’s easy to fit into my working day and hard to find an excuse not to do it 🙂       I can feel more muscle after just a few weeks and there is definitely some inch loss even on weeks when the scales say otherwise.   See, weight is just a number 🙂

I’m working my way through the Couch to 5k programme from the NHS in addition to my daily dog walks.   I’m on week one and I can already feel a difference to my energy levels.     I’ll let you know what changes that makes to my weight and measurements as I go along.

What’s my point?   I guess to say that weight is just a number, it means different things depending on your lifestyle, how active you are, how you eat and isn’t the only measure of health or success in life.

If you’re overweight now, don’t put off changing your life.   If you want to have your colour analysis session or have a style consult, do it now.   You have the right to feel gorgeous every day and your weight doesn’t define that.  Learn to love yourself the way you are and your whole world will change.

Next month I’m adding in a five minute, no weights workout each day to tackle those jiggly upper arms, check in end of July for more info, maybe you’d like to join me?

Loraine – easy contact sharing for businesses

One of the biggest challenges for any business owner is making sure you’re top of the list when your customer is searching for a particular product or service.    We call this Top of Mind.

My good friend, Stewart Andrew Alexander, had an brilliant idea to help keep your business at the top of your customers mind, share contact details and send a powerful message directly to their phone or tablet contacts.   No more scrolling through their contacts and thinking ‘Who is this, how do I know them, where did I meet them?’

This is the link to my page and it gives the visitor a quick idea of who I am, what I do and how I can help them (or their contacts for that matter, it’s designed for sharing). - easy contact sharing for businesses 6

Desktop version – how this looks on my pc or laptop - easy contact sharing for businesses 7

Desktop version showing referral widget (sharing button top right)

What’s on the page?

  1. There’s an image at the top, which I can change easily using a simple form which goes straight to Stewart for editing.
  2. A link to my website, or anywhere else you want to link, it’s your choice.
  3. Email link
  4. Call me link
  5. SMS me link
  6. A big button to save my contact details to your device.
  7. Social media icon links – I just added Facebook for now, but you could add lots more.
  8. Stewart is adding the coolest feature to add an audio interview, link here to one example scroll down on a mobile phone to see the interview button
  9. Social Media Share button, that’s top right of any of the pages I’ve linked to, see this one for Jerica Glasper, click the share button to see her social media links or send her a WhatsApp message.

It’s easy for me to ask for a number at a networking event, a conference, meeting or in passing.  I send the person the link to my page and within seconds they can download the vcard with all the contact information directly from the page. - easy contact sharing for businesses 8

Features I loved

Even better, and I love this bit, it adds the descriptive text telling them who I am, what I do and how it can help them.   So when they next click on my contact details in their phone or other device, all the info is there, ready for them to get in touch or share with someone else.

The ease of setup, it was super quick.  The only bit that took me a while was cutting my information text down to 600 characters, which gave me a clear, concise and easy to read message that I’m now using in other marketing.   All in all, it’s been a great experience and I’m delighted to recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone with a business who wants customers/clients/prospects.

How is this better than a business card or leaflet?

  1. It can’t be lost or put somewhere safe, it’s quickly saved to your clients contacts with all the information you want
  2. You’re saving trees by saving paper – the trees say thank you 🙂
  3. You’re saving money, the planet and a lot of your time.
  4. Most leaflets are either not read or just binned.
  5. Business cards are tucked away and might not even make it into a wallet or purse, let alone have the info saved to their phone
  6. No need for a designer and no special skills required, just type in your info to the easy to use form Stewart will send you, upload your photos and you’re good to go
  7. Personalized bio, you could have several savemicard pages for each of your businesses or to highlight an area of your business.
  8. Link to your website, contact form or anywhere you want
  9. Email, social media and other links are quickly updated, no need to print more cards, bin the old ones or scribble new details over the card and making it look scruffy
  10. All the info on your page is super easy to edit, you’ll receive a link to a form, save that email for future use, as it has the update link where you can change any or all of your details.
  11. Your new best client is a click away and making it easier to save your contact details straight to their phone will save them time and make you look professional, efficient and ahead of the game.
  12. If you click the image, you can share your contact vcard info via a variety of methods, including email, SMS or QR codes (my son loved this feature).    The email, text or QR info include a message which you can customize to suit your business, here’s mine
    1. Hi, XXX here… As promised, here are my full contact details… (1) Go here: (2) Tap on the, ‘Save My Contact Details’ button. (3) Add me as a new contact on your phone… That’s it, thanks and enjoy the rest of your day!
  13. Stewart has setup up some really helpful tutorial videos to show you how each feature works. - easy contact sharing for businesses 9

How does this help me in the real world?

I’m at a meeting or networking event.   Someone gives me their card after we’ve talked briefly about what they do.   (You know I’m not going to keep that card, right?   I’ll either lose it or put it somewhere safe …).

I click the secret share button on my page (hint: click the nose on my photo, it’s a big enough target), enter their phone number and send them an SMS with a link to my contact details and instructions on how to download them to their phone.   I can email them with the same information and they can instantly save my contact details.   No lost cards, no dead trees, no fuss and all done in no time at all.  How cool is that? - easy contact sharing for businesses 10

QR code with my contact details

How much does it cost vs my business cards?

Right now, Stewart is offering a trial for $1.00 USD for the first 7 days.  Then $67.00 USD for each year.

If I ordered 250 business cards, that could cost me £20 plus delivery.    I typically used to hand out anything up to 2000 cards a year at events.

Assuming I order my cards in batches of  250, that’s £160 a year on which are potentially binned or lost within days of meeting the person.   With savemicard, they’ve got my contact info saved to their laptop, phone or device within seconds.

More importantly, I don’t have to remember to bring enough cards with me or pay expensive reprint costs when I change mobile/cell number, move office or make any changes to my business details.

For $67.00 a year my page will save me

  • a lot of time (that’s a finite resource – I can’t get that time back)
  • typically save over £160 a year in print costs
  • design costs – I can update the card information myself at any time of day or night
  • delivery charges
  • a lot of trees and help to reduce deforestation

At the same time, I have the potential to make contact with thousands of prospects or customers who can

  • instantly save my contact details
  • know who I am
  • what I do
  • how I can help them

Having a savemicard page is a really good talking point when I ask someone for their contact details, I tell them I’ll send them a link to download my vcard and it’s an easy way to help save the planet.

Try it it now, I know you’ll love it, save money and a lot of time



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Is it really a bargain?

Is it really a bargain?  If not, put it back.

Next time you’re shopping and see a ‘bargain’.   Stop and ask yourself:

  • Will I really wear it?
  • Does it go with the majority of my wardrobe?
  • When would I wear it?
  • How would I style it?
  • Is it in MY colours?
  • Will I look great in this or will it WEAR me?

If you honestly don’t think you’ll wear it, put it back and walk away.      

If it doesn’t go with most of your wardrobe, you’ll have buy other things to go with it.   A bargain shouldn’t mean you have to spend more so you can use it.   

If you can’t imagine wearing it and have no idea what you’d wear it with – it’s not a bargain, it’s a dead loss.  The cost per wear, wouldn’t stack up and it’d be money down the drain.

Is it really a bargain? 11

This is me four or more years ago, on the left, wearing a royal blue cotton cardigan and a similar patterned, pintuck, long sleeved top from Evans.  The cardigan was a gift and the top was a ‘bargain‘ in the sales.     The top has pintucks on the bodice and a hanky hem, which is very flattering if you’re carrying weight around the middle, so the style is good, but…..

The intense, bright blue of both items is making my face look red and blotchy, I have dark grey shadows under my chin.   I look like I’m having a hot flush/flash.    It’s just far too strong a colour for me.    I’ve never worn it since, not such a bargain, was it?   

It’s not a bad colour, it would look fabulous on a bright/clear Winter friend of mine, the cardigan is a men’s design and looks amazing on my bright/clear Spring son, but it completely overwhelms my soft/muted and warm colouring.  

Updating your work wardrobe on a budget

Updating your work wardrobe on a budget

Work with what you have

It’s time to grab your current work clothes from the wardrobe/closet and decide which items are going to work for your ‘look’.        Try them on, if you can, take some selfies so you can see how they look on you.  If you have a trusted friend who knows your colours and the style you’re aiming for, ask them to help you.  Then take a closer look at the individual items.

Does it need mending?

What are you waiting for?   Fix it or forget it, don’t just keep it for ‘when you have time’, deal with it, ditch it or pack it away so it’s not cluttering up your space.     I fixed the hems on some wide leg, navy ‘pear’ trousers from Evans last week.    I have a couple of pairs, they wash really well, fit my triangle/pear figure and always look smart.    It was just a case of getting on with it.    That’s added a core piece back to my work  wardrobe and it took me longer to thread the sewing machine than to sew the hem itself.

I’m planning a button day next month, where I check all buttons to make sure they’re securely in place and fix any that are coming loose.

Does it fit?

As a curvy lady and a pear shape, I’m careful about where I buy my jeans or trousers and found that Evans PearAmes Jeans PDF pattern Fit worked well for me.    I need a high rise on my trousers so they sit at my natural waist and plenty of extra room for hips and thighs.

I’m planning to have a go at sewing some jeans and fancy the Ames Jeans pattern from Cashmerette which have a pear and apple fit.

We ALL have clothes we love but don’t fit right now.   I have some Wallis lavender trousers with a patterned blouse in camel, lavender, purple and cream, neither fit, but they’re packed away – just in case….

Are they too long, too short, too small or too large.

Maybe you’ve got some baby weight (I might have some and my baby was 19 a few days ago …. but we’ll talk about that another day).

  • are you planning to lose weight?
  • are you actually losing weight?
  • do the items have some sentimental value?

If it’s too long

can you, a friend or local tailor/seamstress alter them to fit you?

If it’s too short

is there a deep enough hem/seam to allow you to add the needed length?

If it’s too small

will it fit again or should you let it go?

If it’s too large

can it be altered to fit by adding darts, shaping or taking in?

If it doesn’t fit, but you love it, pack it away in storage boxes, labelled with the size and weight you need to be to fit into it, that way it’s not taunting you or even worse, killing your motivation to shift the weight.

If you don’t love it and it doesn’t fit, then you can sell it (ebay, ThredUP or other great sites can help with that),  donate it to a charity or take it to the local clothing bank.

Add a new piece

If you’re working on a budget, but that implies a little bit of a spend, so pick one thing to replace or add to your wardrobe.   That could be a key piece like a blouse/shirt, skirt, pants or an accessory such as multi scarf which has colours to match or add a bit of pop to the rest of your capsule.

Try auction sites like ebay for new (often with tags) items that are your colours, will fit you and are a fraction of the original price.   Take some time to have a look through thrift/charity stores.   Lots of people in January each year do a big declutter and charity shops benefit from the large amounts of clothing, often new, that’s donated.    You might just find exactly what you’re looking for.

Too much of a good thing?

I’m a pear/triangle shape, so I prefer to wear either a wide leg, tapered leg or bootcut trouser/pant.   I have four pairs of smart wide leg pants, two in grey and two in navy.    I keep one of each for evening wear (I don’t really do dresses or skirts, but that’s just me) and one of each for work.    I have some smart, dark jeans (bootcut) with plenty of stretch.   I move a lot and I need to move easily, so they need to fit well and be really comfortable, or I won’t wear them.     If I’d kept all four pairs of smart wide leg pants for work, for me that’d be  repetitive, predictable and even feel like I was stuck in a rut.  If you like to have a ‘unform’ look for work, this might work really well for you, so think about what works for you.   I have a colleague who has several identical suits, a shirt for every day (white) and wears this as her work ‘uniform’.   She’s a Deep Winter and looks amazing in it.

I will confess, I have several stone coloured knit tops, they’re a warm neutral and go with everything in my casual and business wardrobe.    One is kept for best and the others look great with a cardigan, a shirt worn over the top, with a v neck sweater or over a top for another layer.

Add some colour

If your wardrobe is mostly neutrals, you can add accents of colour in your accessories, shoes, handbags, necklaces, scarves, belts, phone case or bracelets (nothing too noisy for work – no jangles).    Don’t like wearing a scarf?  Tie a scarf jauntily onto your favourite handbag and enjoy the pop of colour.

Add some pattern

Iris Apfel showing new jewellery range

Iris Apfel showing new jewellery range

Not everyone loves patterned outfits, but adding a patterned scarf, a textured handbag or shoes will add interest to your look.     I’m not suggesting that you go all out, like the wonderful Iris Apfel (pictured right), but a little bit of pattern can make a big difference.

If you’re a petite person, smaller patterns work best, for someone of medium scale choose a medium size pattern and someone of a grander scale can wear larger, bolder patterns.

Consider the contrast of the pattern.     I’m a soft/muted Autumn, I look best in low to medium contrast patterns or combinations.    My friend, a deep/bright Winter looks fabulous in high contrast combinations like black/white.     What level of contrast is best for you?

Focus on the goal of your capsule

The goal of your capsule?   Is your capsule wardrobe for work, casual, sports/activities or smart/casual?   What key words describe your capsule?    Does it need to be smart, elegant, professional?   Or is your wardrobe going to be casual, comfortable, natural fabrics?    It might be creative, colourful and with lots of layers?    Only you can decide this, so which words describe your capsule?

Once you’ve worked that out, you can apply those guidelines to your outfits.

If you need a classic business look for work, then focus on classic pieces.   If you work in a creative industry then jeans are accepted, you can be bolder with pattern, colour and more eclectic pieces.    If you work from home (like me) and need to move around a lot, your style is probably more natural/sporty looking and comfort is a must.     I wear classic outfits for important meetings, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be changing into my comfy, natural clothes as soon as I get home!





How to use colour swatches, wallets or guides

How to use colour swatches, mini wallets or colour cards for shopping, make-up, hair colours and more.

Firstly, the colour swatch, mini wallet or colour cards are NOT colour matching tools.   You do not wander round the shops looking for the specific colours in the set.    If you did, you’d end up tired, grumpy and frustrated as fashion colours change each year depending on the season.

So, how do I use my wallet, swatch or cards?    It’s very simple, you lay the swatch, wallet or card over the top of the item you’re considering, see below for a few examples.

How to use colour swatches, wallets or guides 12

The image above shows Autumn fabric with Soft Autumn (top) and Bright/Clear Winter (bottom) mini swatch wallets laid over the fabric.  You’ll see the Autumn fabrics are in harmony with the shirt (Per Una) and the Bright Winter colours stand out as if ‘sat on top’.    This particular top would suit a Warm, Deep or Soft Autumn.

How to use colour swatches, wallets or guides 13

This shirt is a mix of spring pinks, yellows and peach tints with a white undertone, it is bright, warm and light.    I have laid my seasonal wands over the top and can easily see that the left most wand (Spring) is most in harmony with the fabric, the others don’t work well with it at all.  The Summer wand is disappearing (although some of the pinks work with the fabric, the lighter pinks), Autumn is too deep and Winter sticks out like a sore thumb.   This top would be wonderful on a warm, light or bright Spring lady but a light Summer lady might get away with it.

How to use colour swatches, wallets or guides 14

This image shows the Autumn and Spring fabric mini wallets fanned out and laid over the fabric.  While the Autumn colours (warm/deep) are okay with it, the Spring colours (warm/light) are truly in harmony and look made to match it.





Universal Colours – colour for everyone

There are a selection of colours that look good on nearly everyone, we call them universal colours.    The caveat here is they might not be your very best, but you’ll still look good wearing them.

When would I use Universal Colours?

a) Buying a gift for a friend, when I don’t know her season or tonal direction but I want her to look great wearing it.

b) I’m in a hurry, there are days when I’m pushed for time, you know the feeling, right?    You dash into the store, stare aimlessly at clothing and accessories while madly trying to identify the right thing for the impromptu party tonight, the last minute work thing.

c) I’m choosing a uniform for staff and would like them all to look as good as possible, but know that if I choose the wrong colour, at least half of them could look like death warmed up.

d) I’m getting married (friends and most of all my boyfriend, I’m not getting married, it’s a scenario, relax please, people).    I need outfits for my bridesmaids and maid of honour and I’d like them to look and feel good.

So, let’s have a look at these magical, mystical, universal colours

Purple – our drape for this is called Medium Violet and it suits pretty much everyone.

Teal – Teal is the perfect mix between warm and cool and always look great.

Lavender – looks great on most people and is a beautiful, feminine colour.

Soft Pink – most people can wear a pretty soft, pale pink and it’s very feminine.

Stone – a wonderful neutral and easy to dress up with pops of your best accent colour

Mid Grey – this is a medium grey, it works well as a neutral for most people and goes with so many things.

Navy – again is a great neutral, looks good on everyone and is easy to brighten/soften with accent colours or key jewellery pieces to suit you.

Teal, Purple, Lavender, Soft Pink Evening Dress featuring long formal dresses

Teal, Purple, Lavender, Soft Pink Evening Dress featuring long formal dresses

Stone, Grey and Navy Evening Dress featuring formal evening dresses

Stone, Grey and Navy Evening Dress featuring formal evening dresses

6 Body Shapes – dressing to flatter you

Understanding the 6 Body Shapes

Let’s talk today about the 6 Body Shapes.   There are some body shapes we share, even if our proportions and scale differ.

Any scale of person (petite, standard, plus) can be any body shape.

I’ve worked with ladies who just recognised three body shapes, straight, curvy and full figure.     I prefer to expand on that a little and feel the following covers most of us.

In order, the six body shapes are Triangle (often called a Pear), Inverted Triangle, Rectangle, Hourglass, Diamond and Oval (often called an apple shape).

Typically a Pear/Triangle body shape will have shoulders which are visibly narrower than hips.

An Inverted Triangle body shape will have shoulders which are visibly wider than the hips.

A Rectangle body shape is usually proportionate, in that hips and shoulders are equal width with no obvious waist.

An Hourglass body shape has a defined waist, hips and shoulders are equal in width.

A Diamond body shape tends to carry any weight about their middle but is a more angular shape than an Oval might.

An Oval/Apple body shape tends to carry any weight in the upper body, usually with a higher waist.

Knowing which body shape is closest to your body, will allow you to highlight your bests best and minimize the bits you’d rather no one noticed.      There are lots of simple tips you can use.

Many people will be a combination of body types.   I’m a pear or triangle shape but have a little belly padding which has raised my waistline so it is similar to an apple or oval shape.   I wear tops that are fitted in the back with shaping to show off my waist curve at the back but straight at the front to allow some ease for a curvy tummy.     I wear bootcut trousers to balance my wider hips and skim my curves.   If I wear a skinny jean that would make my hips and legs look much wider.





Top Five Reasons To Build A Capsule Wardrobe

Decisions – one less thing to think about

I was chatting to a good friend the other day and I know she is a big fan of capsule wardrobes.    I was saying I had a warm weather capsule and a cool weather capsule.    Some items I can wear all year and others  for special occasions.  I told her I love that I can now grab a few things and know they all go together.

Result?  I don’t spend ages trying on half a dozen outfits only to feel miserable.   It’s taken all the decision making about clothes out of my life.    She said “Exactly! It doesn’t matter what I grab out of my closet, it all fits, and it all goes together.”

Finding a uniform

If you look at someone like Steve Jobs, he must have had 30 or more of the black cashmere sweaters he wore and dozens of pairs of 501 jeans.   He found a style he was comfortable with, picked a limited palette and stuck with it.  One less decision to make every day.   I’m not suggesting you go that hardcore, but I never once thought he looked scruffy or questioned his expertise.   A ‘uniform’ whether that’s your work suit, smart casual or jumper and jeans, tells people you mean business.   You don’t have to look exactly the same every day, you can add different accessories or accents of colour, but that sense of continuity can actually get you taken more seriously at work and in life.

In this article Alice Gregory talks about ‘finding her uniform’ in much the same way Jobs did.   She’s come up with a style that works for her life, invested in a Winter coat and a Summer coat and some great boots.    They’re things she’ll wear daily, depending on the season.    Investment buys like this, would ideally be in your best neutrals.

Top Five Reasons To Build A Capsule Wardrobe 15The number of items you’ll need in your capsule wardrobe might vary to mine, for example I wear a pair of jeans three times before washing.  If I want to do one load of laundry for myself per week, I need at least three pairs of jeans/chinos in my casual capsule.     In warmer weather I’ll change my T shirt or top daily.    I have four linen blend Ts in a warm stone colour that go with everything in my capsule.     I have one purple ‘burnout’ T for layering (in winter this goes under a burgundy lace sweater and looks fabulous), two khaki Ts (one long sleeve, one cap sleeve), one burnt orange V neck T and a burgundy dolman 3/4 sleeve top.   Any of these can be dressed up with good shoes/boots, nice accessories and a good handbag.     I have a box of scarves, some in neutrals, some multi in neutrals or my best colours, a few plain ones and lots of hand knit shawls in luxury yarns.    These are great for dressing up a casual outfit in a hurry and an extra bit of warmth on a cooler day or if you work in an office with air conditioning.

For work, smart trousers/pants might be worn for brief periods four times.  Typically I wear them for meetings of a few hours at most and they are hung up between wearing to air.     That means one or two at most pairs of smart pants/trousers, plus a skirt if you wear them.   I don’t really wear skirts that often.

Cost Per Wear

Gregory also touches on another concept of ‘cost per wear’.   I’ll admit that in the past I talked myself out of some amazing suits or Winter coats by looking at the price tag and thinking it was too much to spend on me, even if I had it.

If I had taken the Top Five Reasons To Build A Capsule Wardrobe 16same view with my Aleutian 300 Fleece Jacket from Lowe Alpine, 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have such an amazing warm jacket.   At the time I did a lot of hiking/fell walking and this was perfect.    It’s in a deep teal colour, I’m a Soft Autumn (Muted and Warm), it’s a colour I wear a lot.    Nowadays, in cold weather, it’s worn every day for dog walking and it looks as good now as it did when I bought it.   My partner often grabs it when he’s taking the dogs to the beach as it’s also wind resistant.

If I calculate the cost per wear, it’s £4.00 per year, divided by 90 days of wear (for this exercise we’ll assume it’s three months), making it £0.04 per wear.   From around October through to March, I probably wear it EVERY day.   While it’s a casual jacket, it’s easy to dress up a bit with a nice scarf, a good handbag and some smart trousers/pants.     Now, that is a bargain.

Save Time and Cash

Top Five Reasons To Build A Capsule Wardrobe 17If you have a capsule wardrobe for work (or any other part of your life, and you can have several), you don’t have think about what to wear each day, you’re sorted.    You don’t waste time in front of the mirror or drive everyone else nuts by asking ‘Does this look okay?’

Save time when shopping, if you know what you need to replace or is missing from your capsule, you can breeze past everything else in the store and just look at those items.

By avoiding those wardrobe disasters you save money.  (You know you have at least one, it looked good on the hanger or on your best pal, but it’s hideous on you?) Avoiding those bargains that really aren’t bargains at all, means you can save cash for an item you really love and know will make you feel amazing when you wear it.

That means you can afford to invest in yourself.    Save up for that amazing Winter coat, if you love colour then pick one of your best colours, if not, then pick your best neutral for the season.   For me, my smart Winter coat is a deep, chocolate brown or charcoal navy.    In Summer my casual jacket is in khaki and my smarter coat is a warm camel colour.    The cost per wear on a good coat will be less than a penny or a cent during it’s lifetime and it’ll more than earn it’s keep in your closet.    I’ll also admit to having a fabulous deep tomato red coat, it’s reversible and the other side is in a leopard print.   I do love the pop of pattern at the collar and cuffs, but I rarely wear it with the Leopard side ‘out’.     Maybe one day …..

The same applies to shoes or boots, buy good quality, make sure they fit you well.    Buy shoes mid afternoon, when your feet are at their largest to get the best size.     Choose a neutral to go with the coat, it’ll help pull your outfit together and can make you look taller.

Remember that more choice can be paralyzing rather than liberating.   Having a grab and go wardrobe means you can get on with your day quickly and always looking great.