2013 December 6

onesie, christmas giftIt crept up on us via the slanket and has been derided by just about every TV comic but the onesie is this year’s big clothing success.

World Diabetes day in November was celebrated by inviting people to wear onesies to work, and the twinsie (a two person onesie for those who just can’t get close enough) has just gone on sale in time for Christmas.

But how do you choose the perfect onesie?

A onesie is the ultimate in casual comfortable clothing so it needs to be just the right size. Don’t choose anything too tight as it will be constricting, nor too loose as it will start to feel like a duvet and be difficult to move around in.

Focus on the unisex – because onesies are made for both men and women you can relax about colour and style, just select something that really appeals to your taste or the taste of the lucky recipient.

Weight – some onesies are lightweight and others are made of fleece or more heavy-duty fabric that adds to their heat-retention capacity.

Onesies to avoid, unless you’re very certain they’ll be well received are:

•    Nude suits – even with fig leaves, the apparently naked body onesies have caused consternation in several locations with one university banning them in halls of residence because they cause alarm and offence to other students!

•    Teletubby onesies – whilst cute enough on children, there is something disturbing about seeing a grown man or woman dressed as a teletubby – it was disturbing enough when the teletubbies did it, without having looky-likey teletubbies in the home.

•    Flag onesies – fun for about five minutes, the Union Jack and Stars and Stripes style onesies can look aggressively patriotic and in addition, are very tough on the eye after a party night – more subdued colours will be better accepted.

2013 October 2

varsity hoodieChoosing a hoodie for yourself is tough enough – zipped or unzipped, loose fit or skin-tight, pouch or no pouch …? Choosing for a group or team is even more difficult.

Here’s our guide to the best way to choose a hoodie.

Before you begin:

1.    Obtain the right information – get those involved to make basic measurements (waist, hip, chest, neck and arm length) and supply them to you, so you can be sure that the hoodie you choose has the right range of sizes.
2.    If you’re buying for a club or society, check the rules – some places have strict limits on what you can and can’t do.
3.    Check the budget – the more colours you have printed or embroidered, the more hoodies will cost.

Now start your choice process:

1.    Make a shortlist of colours – neutral is best unless you’re sure everyone in the group will be happy with pink or banana yellow!
2.    See if you can try on garments from that manufacturer – each company varies and it helps a lot with sizing to know if they run big or small, relaxed or tailored.
3.    Ask your printer for samples if you’re not sure what you’re doing.
Ale-House-T-Shirt-Fail4.    Check, check and double check and then get somebody else to check – think about how your hoodie will look in different situations … it’s so easy to have an epic fail!
5.    Make a shortlist of your final colours and designs – no more than three, preferably just two.
6.    Invite those involved to vote. Go with the majority even if you think they are wrong – it’s more important that people are comfortable and confident than that they have a stunning hoodie … you will probably get your way next time, if they are happy this time.
7.    Place your order. Wait impatiently for it to arrive.
8.    Look great in your new hoodies!

2013 April 16

SG_Mens_TShirt_53_705The answer is simple, but it’s not always what we do. The first thing is not to do any of these:

1.    Shop online at the end of a day of real life shopping. It’s called ‘desperation shopping’ and while women do it after they’ve failed to find anything in the bricks and mortar shops they want to buy, men tend to do it the night, or a couple of nights, before they need a new top, having left it until the last moment to put in some effort. In either case it leads to a desperate attempt to find ‘something’ that is acceptable, and it nearly always leads to disappointment.
2.    Shop because you’re bored or have been let down. It’s called compensation shopping and women do it most – buying something cute just to cheer themselves up. While the process works at the time, the chosen garment usually disappoints on arrival.
3.    Shop in the dark. Seriously! The tendency to buy garments from a small screen in a darkened room late at night is reckoned to be causing nearly a fifth of all returns to online clothing retailers – it’s partly because our eyes are tired at the end of the day so we don’t see as clearly as we should, and partly because screens are daylight balanced but our body clocks by evening are night balanced by circadian rhythms so our eyes can actually distort the colours on the screen. The only time it’s okay to buy at this time of day is when we’re buying black or white garments.


1.    Buy in daylight. Or get your computer to balance itself to your circadian rhythms with a programme that adjusts colours according to the sunset time in your region.
2.    Check the small print to find out what the deal is with returns and whether there is a bulk buy discount that could get you free postage or some other good deal.
3.    Sign up for mailings and alerts from your preferred online retailers – such deals often save a lot of money for the consumer and being aware of them in good time can help you plan your spending effectively.
4.    Be sure of your size. Not clothing size, as that varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but your actual body size – and recheck it every six months as even the slimmest of us will change shape in winter as we exercise and eat differently. Get a friend to help you measure your chest, arm length, waist, hips and inside leg – this allows you to assess your real size against the dimensions of the clothing advertised online.

2012 August 29

Many parents are ready for their kids to return to school, even if the youngsters are not thrilled by the idea.  It’s an expensive process though, and many children seem to shoot up in the summer holidays, so that uniforms that seemed likely to fit for another couple of months now can’t be buttoned!

Cheap school uniform items have two levels of appeal  – the price in itself is enticing to parents who are feeling the pinch, but also the ability to buy cheaply when children grow fast means that instead of having to alter clothing that is too big, but purchased to allow room for growth, two sets of clothing can be bought.

However, there are more considerations than price. Uniform items have to be washed regularly and cheaper materials can both fade and sag, looking old and unsightly far quicker than higher quality fabrics.  Cheap items may also have a skimpier cut, which can lead to seams, collars and cuffs fraying.

Investing in good quality staples such as plain polo shirts, sports shorts and socks can help families weather the back to school process. It’s good to have spare items, particularly for sportswear which can easily be forgotten, lost or left at school.

New clothing can also provide an incentive for children to want to return to school and allowing them to either shop in town, with a treat such as afternoon tea as part of the process, or to shop online if they don’t want to travel to the shops, can help them to feel that the return to school is an exciting event, not a chore.

2012 March 13

Most men would say no. But what they say and what they do may be different things. Called mantyhose in the USA, it’s claimed (somewhat tongue in cheek) that men are getting into tights in a big way.

Several role models are referred to, or maybe blamed, for this phenomenon. Captain Jack Sparrow is definitely in the frame for eyeliner and the unbuttoned ruffled shirts sported by Russell Brand, while Usain Bolt and other sprinters are considered to be driving forward the trend towards men wearing skin-tight leggings, or maybe even tights.

Men tights cost around £12 to £35 and come in matte colours with diamond or skull patterns. They are also specially designed in a more breathable fabric to allow male reproductive regions to be cool enough, given that tight trousers have been held responsible for low sperm counts.

Behind the giggles though is a serious situation – male hosiery is most popular in cold countries where it’s being worn under trousers to act as an insulation layer in winter. And there’s another reason too – men are using tights to act as girdles (or mirdles, as they are called) to hold in flabby bellies and love handles.

So if you’re not willing, or able, to wear tights, how can you get the fashion look?

First, make sure your underwear fits sensibly. If you have bulges or sags in your foundation, they just get magnified as you add layers over the top – good underclothes help to give you a smooth silhouette.

Buying trousers a size smaller than you really are just forces the evidence up over your belt-line. It’s better to wear well fitting larger trousers than too tight ones, for your health as well as your appearance. If you want to look slim, buy straight fitting polo-shirts in a heavyweight weave and a light colour and don’t tuck them in. Then invest in some dark trousers or jogging pants: the pale top and darker trousers have an instant slimming effect. Ringer tops also perform this illusion of making the body taper from the shoulders to the waist.

2011 December 28

Apparently Americans will return 10% of their Christmas gifts this year and the breakdown is fascinating. 62% of returns will be clothing and shoes that don’t fit properly or aren’t considered ‘suitable’ by the recipient. Not even close, by comparison, is the 16% toys, games and hobby supplies that will be returned and exchanged, closely followed by 14% returns in consumer electronics.

So what can you do to avoid being the giver of an unwanted gift or being lumbered with something you don’t want?

First, if you’re not sure about the item you’re buying, ask about the retailer’s returns policy – some online retailers have a brilliant exchange system for gifts, others charge a fortune in return postage – be sure that it’s possible to return or get a refund on an unwanted gift item so that the recipient can get something they do want.

If you’re the recipient, you may wish to ask the giver of an unwanted present for the receipt – it’s tricky but if you know them well and are willing to explain why (I already have one, it’s a size too small/large, I don’t wear T-shirts that colour etc) it can be done tactfully. Saying ‘I hate it and will never wear it’ may not get you the receipt, in fact, it may ensure you don’t get many more presents, so run your reasoning by a third party before launching into your request!

Always bear in mind that if they buyer didn’t pay cash, your refund may take the form of a gift token or voucher or for some stores, you can only get a refund onto the card that was used to make the purchase.

If you can’t exchange or refund, you can try selling your unwanted item on eBay – there are fee free weekends where the bulk of items on offer are unwanted gifts. Alternatively you can try for a swap – if it’s worth less than £50 lots of local papers allow you to put in a free advert, or even just give it away to a charity shop or online through sites like Freecycle, Greencyle or Freegle, in the hope that karma will deliver a free item that you want at some point in future.

2011 July 1

87% of men surveyed by Land’s End thought that the polo shirt was the male equivalent of the little black dress. Over recent decades it’s slipped from being the famous clothing of famous sportsmen (like Fred Perry) to become the clothing worn by men watching sport! But it’s still a top garment for men, and combines comfort and luxury, style and sporting endeavour in a way that almost no other casual clothing item ever can.

The polo shirt is also a favourite gift, as it’s so easy to buy for a husband, son or boyfriend as the small, medium or large sizing means anybody can guess at the right size to give as a present.

And while companies seem to be stepping back from casual clothing, the polo shirt is holding its own. In 2004 nearly 48% of American companies allowed T-shirts and jeans in the workplace, by 2007 this had dropped to 37% and at the beginning of this year it had declined again to 28%, but the polo-shirt has remained as popular as ever and isn’t being classed as too casual, just as ‘smart casual’ so it meets a man’s needs for fun and career prospects.

2011 June 1

In a week when a Glaswegian school has asked parents to buy baggy school clothes to ‘deter paedophiles’ the simple act of purchasing clobber for kids has become a difficult subject to discuss and shopping trips have become more of a battleground than ever.

The Scottish secondary school in question sent a letter to parents which contained the claim that ‘sex offenders might take pictures of schoolboys in tight trousers.’ Local police say there is no evidence of any incidents in the area that could be related to clothing or even to children. Short skirts have also been ruled out by the school and there’s a suggestion that if parents don’t stick to the suggested dress code, their children could be forced to miss out on school trips.

Parents have branded the letter ‘paranoid’ and a spokesman for the Parent Teacher Council said, ‘Many parents – and indeed young people themselves – are keen to have a dress code in school which requires everyone in the school community to dress in a way which is appropriate for a working environment.’

So what is a good dress code for schools? Sensible clothing such as polo-shirts, in a range of sizes, colours that can be washed and worn easily by active young people, and a sensitivity to different cultural preferences and to the needs of disabled children are all important. What nobody has suggested, until now, is that children should dress to avoid the attention of predatory individuals.

2010 March 5

If you’ve had to buy new school uniform items this year, you may be dreading the arrival of the spring and the demanded for new PE kit becuase it’s getting to be an expensive business!

Uniform is good for children’s sense of community and for ensuring equality between those who have a lot of disposable income and fashion sense, and those who lack one or the other, or both. But it’s not a cheap option, whether you’re buying in a high street store, via the school’s own shop, or even shopping online. And if you have a child who is already in adult sizes, as many thirteen year olds and up are, these days, you also end up paying VAT on their ‘children’s’ clothing.

There are some ways to save money if you’re canny:

1.    Ask the school to consider wholesalers who can produce small orders (say under fifty items) of essential uniform clothing in larger sizes – this might be embroidered polo shirts or logo-printed sweatshirts, which can then be sold to parents whose children are classed as ‘outsize’ by other suppliers.

2.    Consider swap shops for outgrown clothing – often a PTA committee can be organised to set up exchanges of informal jackets worn for school events held in public or specialist clothing like cricket togs, which are swiftly outgrown and yet still wearable by a smaller student, perhaps in a lower year.

3.    Request that essential items such as white T-shirts worn for PE and sporting activities be non-branded – this means you can buy the cheapest available, or even persuade the school shop to bulk buy them for you. The school logo could be kept for items like kitbags that are not going to be outgrown, and still give a sense of uniform when children are taking part in outdoor events.

2009 May 4

gym-shortsIf you’re one of the millions trying to get fit for summer, remember that it’s vital to wear the right clothes, not just because bad sportswear can be dangerous, but because it’s important for your motivation to look as if you’re taking your fitness seriously.

Baggy tops, long trackies that trail over your shoes or raggedy T-shirts can all result in injuries to your health, but also make you look, and feel, as if you’re a second-rate athlete.  You might be thinking that because fitness wear is going to get sweaty and crumpled you might as well wear any old thing, but that’s a way, psychologically of telling yourself that you’re not going to achieve your aims.

The gym is like any other aspect of life – if you don’t look good and feel good, you won’t have the right attitude – and there’s always the chance you’ll meet a potential boss or life partner in the weights room, or on a jog, and regret having made such a bad impression on them.

The easiest choice of clothing for the upper body is a T-shirt and there are so many choices that everybody can find something to suit them. If you’re already in reasonable shape and feel confident about your body, go for a relatively form fitting cap-sleeved T-shirt or even a vest. But if you’re a bit (or a lot) overweight or have other reasons not to wish to expose your flesh, choose something which is loose fitting and has short sleeves that will cover your shoulders and the top of your arms where flab is worst. Any teeshirt for exercise should constructed from light, breathable material, such as cotton or a cotton-lycra or cotton-bamboo mix. Avoid anything made entirely of synthetic fabrics as this will make you sweat.

Lyrca for women depends on their confidence, for men it’s pretty well a no-no. While a female who looks like Beyonce can definitely wear skintight sportsware, really, there is no man who looks great in form-fitting shorts or track pants. Instead choose something a little looser and that fits well on the waist. Half-mast jeans are fine for fashionwear but half-mast jog pants or shorts are a disaster waiting to happen. The classic look is cotton shorts an inch or two above or below the knee – they hide a multitude of sins for both men and women and can actually look quite smart.

Equipped with clothes that make you look confident, sporty and stylish and that will help you get the most out of your fitness plan, you’ll be looking and feeling summer ready in no time!