If you asked any of my close friends or family to describe me in three words, it would be a pretty safe bet ‘trendy’, ‘glamorous’ and ‘fashion-savvy’ would not be among them.
If you look at my profile picture though, you could be forgiven for imagining that I go about everyday beautifully coiffed, with foot-high hair and an inch of make-up. I do not. I’m afraid to say I do not look like this in real life. In fact, I often have to take off my glasses and tilt my head, pretending to talk into a phone, to even convince people the photo is me at all.
Still, it does mean that I’m often approached by fashion and beauty companies, who mistakenly believe I am super hot and stylish, and want me to try out their stuff.
One such company is Mint Velvet, a rather sophisticated range of elegant, luxurious knitwear, dresses and other outfits in lovely muted tones – all definitely things proper grown up ladies would wear.
Really?? I wanted to say. Are you sure you mean me? You do know I like to wear spots with floral prints, and firmly believe that blue and green really should be seen?
I didn’t though. I kept quiet, and pretended to be the sensible, naturally stylish woman I feel I really could be. Underneath the layers of rainbow coloured cardigans and peacock feather hair accessories. Besides, I thought it would be a good challenge for me, to see if I could incorporate some decent clothes into my dubious, charity shop based wardrobe. The idea behind the range after all is that it is meant to be flexible, and fit in with the ever changing needs of modern women. So this is my diary of how I got on…
It’s day one of my fashion diary and to be frank I’m scared. I normally rely on my teenage daughter Bee to check my outfits before I leave the house – “Are you really going out in that?” – but she’s on holiday, and instead I just have my nine year old Belle as my chief stylist and photographer.
Belle is reasonably helpful, she can hold a camera at least, but she’s not great for your self-esteem. “You’re not fat Mummy,” she said to me recently, “you’re just really, really chubby.” Charming.
My clothes arrived from Mint Velvet beautifully packaged, and it’s clear that they cost more than I would normally spend. Not hard when my normal clothes spend is about £4.50. The rest of my wardrobe immediately looks shabby and outdated, and I wonder how I’m going to blend them in without it being too obvious that I’m normally a cheapskate.
I decide to ease myself in gently, by testing out the black trousers for a day at work. Everyone has black trousers right? Apart from me actually – I’m normally more of a floral dress and coloured tights girl – so I feel rather grown up in my smart trousers and high heels. I call this look ‘I am genuinely in my mid-thirties and a sensible business woman, honest’.
Despite being a bit worried about squeezing my not unsubstantial bottom into a size twelve, they turn out to be a really good fit, and, according to Belle, are very slimming. What she actually said was ‘your legs don’t look as fat as normal Mummy’, but the principle is the same.
At lunchtime, wandering around House of Fraser, I spot the Mint Velvet concession. It’s a much nicer feeling than when you sneak into Primark and realise you’re wearing a Primark outfit, and I loiter around, hoping one of the assistants will spot me and recognise me as a Woman of Good Taste.
Today I’m off to MShed in Bristol, to attend Blog Camp. I don’t often get out and about and meet other bloggers, so I feel the occasion warrants dressing up. The particular dress I go for is called ‘Feather Gothic’, so I decide to work the theme and vamp it up with my decidedly gothic knee-high buckled boots and some gold bangles.
I arrive to find most of the other attendees in jeans, but decide that standing out a bit is a Good Thing, and swish over to the tea and coffee. “Ooh I love your dress!” says someone whose name I instantly forget, which I see as a great start. (The compliment, not the name forgetting). Another blogger insists on taking a picture of me for twitter, pulling my very best glam pose, to show off my new-found sense of style…
I am definitely normally a dress person, and I really like this one, as despite looking very smart it’s actually really comfortable and easy to wear, and because it is wrap around, I have the option to adjust it slightly when I eat too many cakes in the break.
Day three in the Slummy single mummy house, and this morning I’m off to man a stall at the Fresher’s Fair at the University of Bristol, where I work for half the week. In my mind of course, I am still 19, so decide to go for a ‘down with the kids’ look today, to try to blend in with the hopelessly young and optimistic looking teenagers who are swarming the streets.
Unfortunately I don’t have the thighs to pull off the shorts over tights look, so go instead for jeans tucked into boots that look a bit like slippers, teamed with a Mint Velvet silver batwing tunic. I’ve heard it’s what all the kids are wearing these days. The image I’m trying to go for is ‘Look, I’m young like you really, I can just afford nicer jumpers’.
I really love this jumper actually, and even boyfriend comments on how smart it looks, and he’s a man who will spend £80 on one shirt, so he should know. It has a nice button detail across one shoulder, and is very versatile, and would work equally well dressed up with smart trousers and heels.
Despite trying my best to blend in with the student scene, I’m not sure I pull it off. When I arrive at the office one of my colleagues immediately laughs, “I see you’ve got your student gear on ready!” and I feel a tad silly. I am obviously not very good at being subtle. Still, I do my best to flirt inappropriately with all the timid looking young boys and give away 50 frisbees, so it’s not all bad.
After the bizarre heat wave a couple of weeks ago, that saw me sweating unseasonably into a summer dress just walking around town, the weather has turned chilly. With the wind blowing a gale, I decide the school run is the perfect opportunity to give my Mint Velvet coat an outing.
I’m working at home today, so don’t really have an excuse to dress up, although the school run means I at least make the effort to get out of my pyjamas. My hope is that although the rest of my outfit might be a tad on the ‘I’m clearly not going into an office today’ side, a smart coat will immediately make me look incredibly stylish, in a sort of Kate Moss, casually tousled way. A girl can dream can’t she?
The coat is gorgeous, and far more fashionable than the mac-in-a-pac that I normally get out for bad weather, and walking to school I do notice a spring in my step. I don’t think I have really given enough credit before to the difference clothes can make to how you feel about yourself. I’ve always tried to adopt the ‘beauty is only skin deep, it’s what’s inside that counts’ school of thought, mainly because I’m too lazy to spend any time on hair or make-up, but this week, when I’ve been giving more thought to what I wear, and have some nice pieces to show off, I do feel more confident.
The coat attracts not one but two compliments on the playground, and I go home a happy mummy.
Today is Friday, and I’m very excited about the prospect of a rare night out. Having moved to a new city only a few months ago, I’m still feeling my way, making new friends, and tonight I’m taking the plunge and meeting up with some strangers I’ve met on the internet.
When I write it down, it does sound a bit odd, but it’s actually a very friendly facebook group, recommended by a friend, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that it’s not an elaborate trap, and that my body won’t turn up in a skip the next morning.
We’re meeting at a pub in a rather edgy part of the city, so tonight I decide is the night to try out my funkiest of outfits, and prove that I don’t spend every evening after 8pm in pyjama bottoms and my boyfriend’s old hoodies.
So, decked out in my ruched leggings, a striking red tunic top, and a dual purpose height and confidence boosting pair of heels, I set out, only slightly nervous about how exactly I am going to recognise people. Standing at the bar, I have that temporarily awkward moment, similar to a blind date, where you look around with a half casual, half desperate look in your eyes. Fortunately I am spotted, and taken under the wing of what turns out to be a very fun and friendly group of people.
So at the end of my five days, I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve got a fresh new take on a jaded wardrobe, a new-found feeling of confidence, plus a new group of potential friends – that’s what I call a good week!
PS I am currently on the short list for the ‘Style’ award in the Brilliance in Blogging Awards. Please take half a minute to cast your vote and tick the Slummy single mummy box.