2011 September 21

For men, New York has much more effect on street fashion than Paris, although London still generally carries the day with male tailoring. So for next spring, guys will be finding their partners trying to get them into double-breasted leather jackets and coats (think DI Gene Hunt) and quite a bit of khaki worn with striped shirts. Desert boots are back and Tommy Hilfiger has a massive number of new polo-shirt colourways. Michael Bastian has a James Dean influenced collection, including motorcycle jackets, of course, with rain-washed striped shirts and T-shirts, aviator sunglasses and surf shorts (?)

There was a focus on quality with relaxed styling being crucial – polo shirts flapped more at the waist than in recent years and trousers were bulkier too, with less skinny legged jeans appearing in the casual sections of the collections.

The road trip look turned up in the Nautica show too, so board shorts and leather boat shoes alternated with a lot of smart blue and white, referencing the navy, and some exciting bad weather jackets in surprising shades of yellow and orange, like the snorkel parkas recently only seen in South Park animations.

2011 September 5

It’s the time of year when teenagers migrate to their new homes: student dorms, digs, shared flats and other accommodation where they will live (and maybe learn) for the next few years.

New students are easy to spot: they arrive laden with possessions and with Mum and Dad in tow – some have packed the family cars to the roof, others have even hired a van to help them move in, but how useful is all that equipment?

This year it seems there are fewer flat screen TVS and smaller cases of new clothing as the recession continues to bite. Vast amounts of new stationery have been purchased though: retailers report good sales although all more towards the ‘essentials’ than the ‘luxury’ end of the market.

In the USA, students (and their parents) are expected to spend $808 on clothing, electronic items and furnishings for their first year of college life in 2011 and Edinburgh University reckons students should budget on spending around £13 a week on clothes.

All students are looking for ways to stretch their budgets and seeking out good deals and saving money on college clothing can help them, and their parents, to make the best of the money available.

Ensuring that a student has a sensible coat and boots that will keep them warm and dry in a climate that may be unfamiliar to them, and summer clothing that can double as simple sportswear all help save money on the long run.

Choose T-shirts that can be worn to the bar or to play a game of football, and polo-shirts that double up for seminar attendance, cinema trips and attending interviews for part-time jobs to boost the budget. Ensuring the student has lots of socks and underwear can really help them save money on laundry (and maybe even mean they don’t save up all their dirty washing to bring home with them) and some parents are buying in bulk so that they can replace stained or shredded T-shirts when those rare visits home occur. It means that they can be sure their child has clothing that coordinates together and is easy to wash and wear.

Don’t let your new student take a printer to college until they’ve investigated the costs of printing on campus – with student union cards, many colleges and academic libraries can print reports and papers more cheaply than the student can.

2011 June 15

Most of us have a few pieces of wool or wool-mix clothing in our wardrobes: it might be as simple as a woolly hat, or a couple of cardigans, a pashmina or smart jacket or a wool-blend suit for interviews, but in recent weeks wool prices have double and this is pushing up the cost of many kinds of wool clothing, with the price of a man’s suit expected to rise by up to 15% in the next few months. Apparently this is being driven both by the cost of raising sheep and by a desire from wealthy Chinese people to own wool suits!

There are a number of ways to keep costs down: you can buy alternatives to wool such as the 100% synthetic fleeces that are as warm as wool, easier to wash and not itchy; change your look eg by wearing hoodies instead of cardies, and you can learn to take better care for the wool you do have.

Caring for Wool Clothing

1.    Give any wool item 24 hours between wearings to give the fibres a chance to expand back to their original shape, this stops them pilling and/or compressing to become flat.

2.    Buy padded hangers for wool or wool-mix suits and other items and hang them with buttons and zips fastened.

3.    Use a soft brush to take dust and dirt from wool clothing before putting it away.

4.    When cleaning, check the label. Most clothing manufacturers recommend dry-cleaning, but some garments can be hand-washed and a few can even be machine washed. All wet wool should be dried at room temperature away from direct heat.

2011 March 16

Clothes and appearance generally matter a lot more to women in business than to men – getting the right appearance is great but also career-promoting, so mastering this skill is crucial.

Many women are naïve about the way their clothes come across – in the USA several recent surveys have shown that men are choosing not to employ, or to promote, women based almost entirely on them dressing ‘too sexy’.

What mistakes are women making with business clothing?

The key problems are work clothes that are too tight, or too low cut. While an outfit like that catches the eye, it doesn’t imply you’re ready to do serious work – or to be taken seriously.

Secondary problems come from the diet of fashion and celeb magazines that women read – these promote a ‘Hollywood’ style of dress: peep toe shoes, stilettos, glitter and glitz, which many women mistake for formal clothing – just because you’re dressing up, doesn’t mean you’re dressing for business!

What should women wear?

•    In many environments, to be taken seriously, a skirt suit is the most formal option, especially in winter.
•    In the summer you can opt for smart tailored trousers with a shirt and cardigan or waistcoat, but in winter a formal jacket is better.
•    Crisp cotton shirts imply professionalism and choosing them in pink, blue or other light colours stops them looking like a uniform.
•    Flat shoes or heels are both okay, but those heels should never be more than three inches and open toed shoes should be reserved for a heat-wave only.

2010 December 10

If you’ve ever tried to make a Christmas spending budget and stick to it, you’ll know how tough it can be. Here are some tips to help:

Have budgeting goals

One reason we don’t stick to a budget is that there’s no incentive. Saving money is not enough of a reason to keep to our agreed limits. Try to envisage what the money you save will be spent on – do you want a new netbook or the down-payment for a car? If so, keeping the big goal in mind can help you stick to your budget of only spending a certain amount on party clothing over the Christmas season, for example

Don’t apply across the board cuts

Many novice budgeters think that you have to ‘cut all expenses’ but that’s not the case. There are places to cut expenditure: overdrafts, eating out, entertainment, then the  places that you shouldn’t skimp: good shoes, well-fitting clothes, heating etc and finally the places you can make judgements for yourself: posh food or designer clothes? 4 star hotel or budget one?

Be accountable

One reason budgets fail is that you don’t keep track of them. You can do this either with envelopes containing the money you can spend in each category each month. Once an envelope is empty, no more spending in that category until next month. Or by using a simple spreadsheet that connects to your bank account to keep track of what you’re doing.

Have fun

Think about ways you can enjoy your expenditure. Go shopping with friends – even online shopping can be done with friends: order in a pizza and get together to browse an online retailer, placing a bulk order so that you save money on delivery costs by buying in bulk together!

2010 November 30

If you want to look casual and chic at the same time, invest in making a capsule wardrobe so that your clothes give the impression that you’re a polished fashionista with a thousand looks. Here are five tips to capsule wardrobe success for winter:

1. Buy the best coat you can afford – a badly fitting coat makes you look terrible before you even get into the room, let alone reveal the perfect outfit you’re wearing underneath. Go with a long coat for winter, either trench or flared, and a shorter jacket that can be worn with jeans and leggings – choose a light-coloured jacket and dark coloured denim to have a slimming effect.

2. T-shirts are classic if you pick muted colours and funky if you go for bright colours and bold patterns – always team bold tees with flat shoes: heels with prints look too eighties for style success.

3. Add interest to a basic outfit with a skinny belt: leopard-skin works with navy and black, zebra with cream, grey and yellow and natural leather with all other colours.

4. Scarves, hats, gloves and belts all add interest but need to be coordinated with care – anything too bright can look clownish while dark colours are liable to look like uniform wear.

5. Accessories rule the fashionista wardrobe: buy jewellery, antique scarves and other fun items on ebay, etsy or from art students and craftspeople so you don’t look mass produced.

2010 November 25

Casual winter wear is an investment, there’s no doubt about it – while you can get away with dirt cheap summer clothing, if you buy on the cheap side in winter, you’re the one who freezes, or gets soaked as a result. Winter clothes just have to be better made, from more substantial fabrics, for them to keep out the chills.

You can still look stylish without spending a fortune, by choosing the right accessories and dressing to suit your own shape. If you are a little on the large side, choose long-line sweatshirts or hoodies worn with a thin but insulating fleece over the top – this adds warmth without bulk and the longer length of the undergarment has a slimming effect. If, on the other hand, you’re very slim, choose a padded jacket in a bright colour like red or yellow and wear it over a white hoodie: bright colours make you look bigger and ‘white under bright’ is a way of giving your body substance.

If you’re a girl with a short neck or a double chin, stay away from hats with earflaps, instead choose a beanie or knit cap and wear a scarf with a large brooch pinned at around breast height. The detail of the brooch draws the eye down and adds length to your neck.

2010 October 19

If you want to make the most of your grant, the last thing you need is to spend any more than necessary on clothes. This year the masculine fashion look is basic macho, which is cheap to buy. Invest in some crew-neck or round-necked T-shirts in military colours: white, charcoal, green and olive.  These are really simple to match with some of the other fashion looks for this year such as a four pocket field coat or a camouflage-coloured jacket.

Under your jacket or fleece you need a thin top – chunky jumpers make you look like the Michelin man, so pick a heather grey long-sleeved T-shirt to look like army combinations, or go for olive sweatshirts for the military fatigues look.

Jeans and trousers are more tapered – super skinny doesn’t suit everyone, but definitely aim for a slimmer look than last year.  Boots are definitely heavy-duty with chunky socks showing above the tongue. Pull-on caps of various kinds are still the headgear of choice, although fur caps with earflaps are appearing in a lot of student digs this year.

2010 September 27

Now contestants have moved to the judges’ houses, there’s a lot of press attention on the audition clothes.  Cher Lloyd performed Get Your Swag On but a lot of attention was focused on her jeans rather than her voice, and she’s admitted that her gritty urban look was a personal achievement: she ripped her jeans herself!

According to the Daily Mirror, Matt Cardle had the winning voice for his amazing rendition of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, but some people think he let himself down on the appearance front in a cap and check work-shirt, or as the newspaper put it ‘Next time, he might even change out of his work clothes’.

The contestant whose clothing drew most criticism, along with her lifestyle, was Chloe Mafia, who’s been kicked off the show and is now doing the rounds of TV shows defending her behaviour. The Daily Mail says that she appeared on breakfast TV wearing a ‘tacky pink bra-top and matching tracksuit bottoms’ but that was better than her last TV appearance where she was seen rolling up for a day’s rehearsal, wearing the same clothes as the previous day and apparently reeking of vodka.

This year’s contestants were definitely in dress-down mode for the most part, some of the boys wore cargo shorts for the call-back, which was a new departure and there were many striped T-shirts on show during the dance segments. Girls still went for the little black dress a lot, but Gamu Nhengu rang the audition changes with a waistcoat over her T-shirt and a flower in her hair: if she carries on being a favourite, you can expect to see lots of this look in the High Street. Women can try it themselves with a white T-shirt under a sleeveless fleece and a silk rose in your hair or stitched to each end of your scarf.

2010 September 23

As we pack away our flip-flops, thongs, mules, sandals and deck shoes of summer, and get ready for the motorcycle boots, training shoes, hiking boots, Uggs and Doc Martens of winter, it’s time to invest in socks that give us happy feet.

Most people know that sports socks are designed to keep feet cool and odour free but there’s a wide range of specialist sock wear out there (called hosiery in the trade) that can keep your winter feet cosy, safe and sweet-smelling.

Winter shoes tend to be thicker and heavier than summer ones which means feet can get tired more quickly. Support socks give feet special cushioning – they are often called crew socks and while they are designed for builders, soldiers and other people who spend all day on their feet, crew socks suit anybody who likes to have comfortable relaxed feet. Many specialist winter socks also have an antibacterial component to stop feet getting smelly or developing foot diseases.

Heavy winter clothing and fewer opportunities to get exercise mean that our winter bodies are more likely to develop conditions like fungal infections of the feet, head and armpits and good hygiene, wearing cotton next to the skin and regular washing of both bodies and clothes can help keep these nasties at bay. Feet are particularly prone to infections which is where good socks can help, but heads too can get itchy and dandruffy. Wearing a hat in winter is a good idea – choosing one you can wash easily means that you won’t be at risk of headlice. Hoodies can keep your head and ears warm on those days when the weather veers between okay and awful.

2010 September 9

Esquire’s autumn fashion pundit says that orange is the new black, tartan (okay, they call it plaid, but we know what they mean) is the new denim and lace-up military boots are the biggest thing since flip-flops.

We all know that what happens on the catwalk has very little to do with most of us, especially when it comes to masculine fashion. So far, nobody’s tried to get Wayne Rooney to wear a skirt but it takes somebody of Beckham or Bowie stature to force a change in male styles, but there’s always a fashion trend or two that slides into public awareness.

Orange is probably going to get in under the radar this year. It’s been turning up on so many catwalks that it seems a very good bet for fashion success this autumn and winter. The way to wear it is as a polo-shirt or a scarf. Orange is being teamed with grey, especially grey flannel, so if you’re buying a suit or a smart jacket, pick a grey one to work with your orange casual clothing.

This year’s polo-shirts are being worn under V-necked sweaters, especially patterned V-neck ones, but also beneath grey sleeveless fleeces, rather than a bulky jacket. This gives a slimmer and more athletic silhouette which can best be matched with slimline trousers and fingerless gloves and a ski cap to keep the extremities warm.

2010 March 18

This is the time of year to sort out your clothes and get yourself organised so that you save time and space and always look good.

If you have a wardrobe with shelves, put your jumpers, sweatshirts, T-shirts and hoodies on the shelves, organised either by colour (all blue together, all grey together etc) or by purpose (casuals on one shelf, sportswear on another, smart tops on a third etc). Take any clothes that you haven’t worn for a year and try selling them or swapping them with friends – they do no good in your wardrobe if you’re not going to wear them!

Buy new clothes in colours that are guaranteed to work together – blue, grey, black and khaki are the colours most worn by men, while women can add red and green to the list. Pick a base colour and buy all your ‘key’ garments in that colour: a blue summer jacket tones with any shade of blue shirt and T-shirt, and can be worn with jeans or navy chinos.

Hang ties and scarves on the same hanger with the smart shirt or blouse that they coordinate with – this saves a lot of time in the morning, looking for the right accessory. Similarly, only buy black or grey socks and all the same kind, that way you never have to put them in pairs!

2010 February 22

The 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver have revealed a new, sporty but coordinated, sassy yet streamlined, sense of winter fashion. Whether it’s the sportswear disguised as denim worn by Shaun White or the kooky headband of Chemmy Alcott, winter fashion is big!

It’s also cost-effective, because while the USA Olympic team has been dressed by Ralph Lauren, you can create the same vibe at home for a fraction of the price, by shopping around for casual clothing and a few key sporty items to make the outfit work for you.

To get the look for yourself …

1.    Go for primary colours – red, white, blue and green are favourites. Nothing should be pale or faded, apart from denims. Bright winter jackets in yellow and green are likely to be big sellers in the next couple of weeks, as are skinny fit ringer T-shirts with contrast trims.
2.    Polo shirts need to fit perfectly – too tight looks silly and too loose looks like a hockey player who’s forgotten his pads.
3.    Hats are big – but their size is small – tiny beanie hats and close-fitting billed caps should be worn with winter jackets to get the look right.
4.    Tight T-shirts are likely to be spring’s big hit for women: wear a skin-tight red or pink round-necked T-shirt under a white or yellow jacket to get the look that’s been turning up on the Olympic medal podiums all week.

2010 February 5

The dream most people have is that they could keep the wisdom they’ve developed over 50 but get back the energy they had at 20. That’s not possible, but as our sense of our age largely depends on how other people respond to us, we can feel more youthful by looking it!

Dressing to give the impression of youth is easier than you think, as long as you don’t become a slave to fashion. Most of us have found a style that worked for us and stuck with it. Nothing is easier to put a date on than somebody whose clothes reflect the fashion of a decade ago.

Begin by looking at what’s fashionable. This year we’re seeing a lot of fashion clothing that’s based on workwear: for men that means a heavyweight shirt, solid work boots with thick comfortable socks turned down over the boot top. While for women it’s thick tights or leggings teamed with short textured skirts and a white hoodie or sweatshirt.

Decide on just one fashion item that you can wear – if it’s the shirt, don’t go for the boots as well, if it’s the leggings, pick a different kind of top, because most people over forty can only get away with one fashion pick per day in their wardrobe.

Take care with colour – as we age we lose the intensity of colour we have in our skin and that means that strong colours can overwhelm us. If you’re going to wear a red T-shirt, team it with a pair of classic black trousers rather than another bright colour, so you don’t ‘vanish’ into what you’re wearing.

If your hair has begun to grey, you may do better in light pale colours such as a light-blue hoodie or a grey polo-shirt as they don’t wash the colour out of your face. Alternatively you can always remove the grey – but go to a salon and get some expert advice on how to do it, as strange hair colour from dyes that ‘hide the grey’ are as aging as the grey hair itself.

2010 January 25

First, know your budget and stick to it – don’t just decide how much you have to spend on clothing, because it’s easy to blow the whole amount on one cashmere sweater or a fashionable jacket. Instead, divide your budget between different forms of clothing: basic T-shirts are pretty cheap, but leather jackets are not, so allocate a percentage to every form of clothing you need to buy.

Aim for quality not quantity. Beware of very cheap clothing that simply gets worn out before you’ve worn it a few times – flimsy shirts that begin to bag and stain after a couple of wearings are not a bargain. A good quality cotton or poly-cotton shirt will last several years and can take hard washing and still look good – it’s a much better bargain than a cheap top that falls apart.  Equally, try to stay way from knock-off imitations because (a) they tend to look cheaper as they generally copy a design and maybe its logo but not the quality and (b) who are you fooling? Anybody who knows you has a pretty good idea if you can really afford Armani suits or not.

Avoid posh shops and boutiques when purchasing, but use them when deciding what to buy – look at the brand name fashions in store and then go home and shop online, spotting the same trends for a fraction of the price. Also, check out the clearance offers when shopping online, discontinued items can be up 50-75% lower than the original price.

Mix and match. You can team T-shirts with blazers and shirts with cardigans to extend your wardrobe by giving your clothes a new look. You can use accessories to ring the changes too – invest in some cheap belts and gloves and hats that you can use to make your base outfit look completely different.