It’s not all ball gowns

Last week was an interesting one, here at Boostique. The relentless glamour of my life was interrupted by a violent vomiting bug that swept through the house like dose of salts and left us all rather windswept and battered.

As we all went down with it one by one, it took me back to when my children were very small and this was pretty much the daily grind. One would bring something awful back from school or nursery, and then it would get shared around like a grim version of pass the parcel only for something new to arrive as soon as the first thing had been recovered from. There was a solid ten years of my life where I was basically a glorified nursemaid. I don’t miss it.


You might be wondering why this blog, which is all about finding your style has to do with spending your days mopping up vomit?

The thing is, unless you are a nudist (good luck to you), you have to get dressed every day, not just on the high days and holidays.  When you’re a busy mum of small children and you know that your day will almost certainly involve a much closer relationship with other people’s bodily fluids than you might like, stickiness, having to lift several stone of squirming child, carry a huge bag, and possibly run like the wind, you need your wardrobe figured out.  You’re asking a lot of it. It’s probably more important to dress well on these days than on the odd date night or at the occasional wedding.

People tend to forget that they can dress nicely every day, and that if they do, they can start to feel better about themselves.  It’s not about donning a ball gown with your Marigolds when you know you’re going to be wrestling Calpol into a feverish child all day.  It is about finding wardrobe staples that work for you pragmatically and stylishly and which give you a little bit more confidence in yourself and your abilities on days when you are otherwise worn to a frazzle.

It could be that finding a few pairs of a really flattering cut of jeans will lift your mood and make you feel like superwoman. It could be finding a perfect t-shirt with the ideal neckline and knowing that you have one in every colour.  It could be about sourcing a great pair of shoes that are beautiful but also really practical for pursuing a toddler across the park in. It’s different for every woman. It depends on your circumstances and your taste, but finding the key items to make your wardrobe fit for purpose whilst making you feel like you haven’t checked out of the human race, will make a world of difference.

If you are looking for a simple, cost-effective wardrobe revamp with practical needs high on the agenda, then talk to me today. I can help you.

I’m also really handy with Dettol and wet wipes.


Summer is icumen in

I hate to say this, in fear that I might blight things, but it seems as if summer may actually be upon us. I am, of course, crossing my fingers and whispering this in case it all goes horribly wrong now, but we have had several consecutive days of glorious sunshine, blisteringly blue skies, and heat which means I can throw all the doors and windows open and leave them open.

I have a confession to make. I actually find dressing for summer, harder than dressing for winter. I am good at layering. I am brilliant at covering my body up. I am less confident when it comes to peeling the layers off, but this is what summer demands.

I do not like the fact that my upper arms are chunkier than I am happy with. I don’t like the fact that I have the palest of pale white skin. Think lard. Think skimmed milk. Think blue veins. This is particularly problematic for me with regard to my legs, as I have, in the last year or two, developed a varicose vein, which is my nemesis.

I do not like my belly, which after five miscarriages, one emergency surgery and three c-sections is rather like a collapsed parachute, and the less said about the ruin of my belly button, the better. I am naturally a hairy person, and if I don’t shave daily I start to resemble a yeti within forty eight hours. I hate my feet, which are like hobbit feet, practical for the shire, but not winning any awards.

I could go on, but you get the picture.


I am telling you this, not because I want your pity (or you to recoil from me if you meet me in the street), but because this is the reality of my body. It’s no good me going around pretending that I am comfortable with this when I’m not. It’s no good me dressing as if I were seventeen again, if it just makes me acutely aware of all the bits of me that are no longer seventeen.  This is me. This is my body. This is what I have to work with. So what do I do?

Well, I could pretend that summer isn’t happening, stay indoors with the blinds down and listen to sad songs until Autumn.

I could still pretend that summer isn’t happening and wear many layers and live with the fact that I will sweat like a pig for the next few months, get heat rash and chafing and feel miserable, but at least nobody will see my legs.

I could go on a crash diet, pay for my veins to be hoovered, spend hours in a tanning booth, get cosmetic surgery and do endless arm crunches. This will make me unspeakably miserable, suck all the joy out of summer and probably not be effective until winter, given that I have a lot to do.

Or I could learn to accept my body for what it is, try to love it as best I can for doing a frankly marvellous job in the face of neglect and adversity for the last 46 years, and learn to work my wardrobe so that I can accentuate the positive.

I think, given that I am a) lazy and b) not a masochist, that I am going to stick with the last option.  It’s more loving, less punishing and infinitely easier to achieve.

Here are a few tips and tricks I’m going to employ this summer in my wardrobe/dressing:

I’m going to seek out Fifties style swimming costumes because they’re flattering for almost all body sizes. They have structure, and are not cut so high at the leg.  Boden is a good place for these, but there are a million retro shops now that do them and there are some really lovely ones around for not too much money.

I’m going to ignore my upper arms, but on the days I can’t, I will go for interesting half or cap sleeves, and on the days when it’s chillier, I will be looking at lots of thin knit, cardigans. Statement sleeves were very popular last year, and the charity shops are full of them this year. If, like me, you don’t give a crap about what’s in and what’s out, go and fill your boots.

I’m going to embrace the maxi dress fully.  I have a selection of great, vintage Nineteen Seventies ones, which I prefer to modern ones because they usually have better sleeves, but there are a ton out there to suit everyone.

I am going to use layers, just like I do in winter, but I am going to go for thin cottons and linens. I’m particularly interested in asymmetric hems, and/or frills at various lengths which will draw attention away from my natural waist/belly. I am looking for a trompe l’oeil effect that lengthens my silhouette and pulls the eye from top to bottom rather than side to side. It’s actually a lot easier to do with cottons and linens, or even silk, because the fabric is thinner so you can add more layers and still feel cool.

I am going to ban myself from reading any magazines which talk about getting ‘beach body ready’ or which list tonnes of terrible, self-flagellating things you can do in order that other people will look at you and not cry. I am going to remind myself that the most important person to please is myself, and as long as I am content, it doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t think I should be wearing this or that.

I am going to throw the magazines away and read Diana Henry’s How to Eat a Peach instead, and spend all that time I’ve recouped from fretting, thinking about delicious food I can be eating this summer in my garden, with my friends and family, who will not care what I look like, because they love me.

The Cobbler’s Children

I have a confession to make.

My wardrobe has been in complete disarray for months. In fact, in wardrobe terms I had gone from being a woman who has an eclectic and wide array of interesting garments to the crazy cat lady hoarder.

The difficulty in my line of work you see, is saying no to things that are too good to pass up, either because they’re on my fashion bucket list, or because they will work with an outfit I want to style up. Then there’s the stuff that is such a good bargain it would be rude to say no.

This picture is an accurate reflection of what my wardrobe had become.


As I have a somewhat eclectic style, there are no colours I will not wear and I ignore sizing labels completely. This means there is no way I can filter things out, because I learned that I can never say never when it comes to what is wearable and what isn’t.

In physical terms, I have a large wardrobe by anyone other than Mariah Carey’s exacting standards. My wardrobe is, in fact, a small room off the bedroom. Why it is there I am unsure. It is ‘L’-shaped and the width of a reasonably narrow corridor. The boiler (which looks like something out of a science fiction film) sits in one end, but the rest is just dead space. If it had been designed as an actual walk in wardrobe, I would have sacked the architect. It’s more of a sidle in wardrobe, and a ‘where the hell am I going to put that?’ wardrobe.

When we moved in, it had a wobbly clothing rail attached to the longest wall, and that was it. Over the last few years I have loaded and loaded things on to it, to the point where it was actually beginning to buckle. All other storage involved large plastic tubs on the floor and a small chest of drawers rammed up against the boiler which caused my long-suffering husband to shout ‘Christ Alive, this is a fire hazard!’ every time he had to go in there to fiddle with a valve.

Last year, we had a marvellous chap called Andy round for several weeks. He was the epitome of the handyman, indeed, for those of you old enough to recall the televisual feast that was Changing Rooms, he was like your actual Handy Andy. He worked through the list of ‘small jobs’ that we had accrued over the last few years, and managed to tick a fair few of them off. For me, the most significant thing was that he replaced my rickety clothes rail with scaffolding poles (truly) and made me some narrow shelves in various weird shaped alcoves in my wardrobe to try and maximise the usage for my difficult space.

For a while, this helped enormously, but the advent of my new business venture meant that clothes were piling in there faster than they were coming out, and we had reached critical mass by the time my saviour arrived.

It appears that I am absolutely invested in the whole ‘cobbler’s children’ story. Only the cobbler’s children have no shoes and I have four cupboards full. I can organise other people’s wardrobes with no trouble at all. I cannot organise my own to save my life.

Luckily, someone else can. I threw myself on the mercy of the absolutely brilliant, Carol Richardson. Carol, who I call Wonder Carol, because that is what she is, has a business that is dedicated to de-cluttering. It is called Absolutely Tidy, and it is, and so is she, and now I am on my way to being, and really I cannot recommend her enough.

I met Carol at a networking event, and we clicked. I knew I needed some help, and I trusted that she could help me in a way that would work for me. I wanted someone who I  felt wouldn’t be critical of me or my life or house. I wanted someone who was the calm to my chaos, and who had the patience to figure out what I needed. I wanted someone who would prompt me when I got off track, but who I never felt was forcing me to do things or rush decisions I wasn’t ready to make. I wanted someone who would be flexible in terms of working, and who wouldn’t just try to Marie Kondo me. I’m never going to be a minimalist, I just wanted someone to help me make my life and home more manageable.

I also wanted someone who wouldn’t judge the fact that I could do all these things for myself, but I just haven’t. My house bravely teeters on the brink between lovably eccentric and scary chaos. Sometimes, depending on what is going on, it tips over.

I know I am prone to hoarding. Most of the time I can rein it in sufficiently. Sometimes I don’t. Usually I get to a point where I am so sick of it, I crack and spend long, resentful evenings and weekends organising myself, running backwards and forwards to the tip, to the charity shop, to Homebase etc and turn it around.  I reckon it works on about a two year cycle. I knew this was the year I needed to get a grip. I’ve known for months, but it turns out that having a hysterectomy, starting a new business, spiritually spring cleaning your mental state and maintaining domestic harmony do not always make comfortable bed fellows, and domestic harmony seemed the least important, so I dropped it.

I am getting re-married to my lovely husband at the end of September. We are having it at our house. This means I need to have a workable, beautiful space where I can host about eighty people, and not worry that they are going to call social services on me. I also run a clothing business in which a significant amount of money is tied up in the clothes sitting in my wardrobe that I don’t wear any more. Things needed to change. I needed help, because although I could make the time to do all of the above, my time would be better spent doing other things, and I cannot do everything.

That’s exactly where Carol came in.

She emptied out my entire wardrobe and we went through it piece by piece, deciding what to keep, what to sell, what to bin and what to give to charity shops. We then organised what I was going to keep, and figured out how best to use the space in my wardrobe so that it was all accessible and I could see everything.

This took some time, as you can imagine. We kept in contact between sessions and she sent me links to various storage ideas, a Pinterest board she had created for me, and kept me up to date with various questions and ideas. She was quick to respond to my input, and was flexible enough to tailor her thoughts to my needs as we worked. The brief changed as we went on, mainly because she was extremely good at gently eliciting information from me with regard to what was important to me and how I really wanted things to be rather than how I imagined things would be. She was also extremely good with my budget. We ended up repurposing a lot of things I already have. Weirdly, by paying her, I ended up saving myself money because I didn’t throw money at storage ideas that looked good on paper, but which didn’t work in real life.

I am so delighted with what she has done for my wardrobe, I’m keeping her on to help me plan my wedding, and have also been inspired to tackle some of my smaller, tidying jobs on my own. She’s fantastic to work with and will organise everything from your sock drawer to getting you a new washing machine delivered and fitted.


She really is Wonder Carol.

Smile For The Birdie – Or Scowl If You Prefer

In my last post I told you about my work with Clare McCabe of Purple Star Design around rebranding my business.


Clare suggested using photographs of me for my business cards. As you know, I was somewhat reluctant. Despite enjoying dressing like a dandy every day of my life, I actually find it really stressful to have my photo taken. For years I actively avoided it, and only started to have them taken when I realised that if I didn’t, the children would never be able to tell they’d had a mum if something happened to me, as I didn’t appear in any of the family photos.


I was adamant that if we did go for photos, that they couldn’t be too corporate. For some people that’s an ideal image, but for me, it’s the opposite. I wanted something that would capture everything I believe about how to dress and finding your style. I wanted images that would celebrate dressing up, and really capture the joy I feel when I’ve found exactly the right clothes for me.


Clare introduced me to a local photographer called Matt Glover (of Matt Glover Photography) who she thought would be the perfect fit for me and what I wanted to achieve.

She was absolutely right.

Matt is fantastic to work with. He has an instinctive eye for composition, which means that every photo is like art. He is also very good at finding the best way to show you as your best self. I wanted my individuality to stand out, and he did not disappoint. After the photo session, when I was showing friends the pictures the greatest compliment I got was, ‘he’s got you exactly as we see you.’

I really don’t like smiling in photos. I always manage to look pained when I smile and I’m concentrating so hard to present a jolly face that the rest of me tenses up, so that the whole thing becomes a mess. I end up looking stiff and miserable, with the smile only really showing how utterly uncomfortable the rest of the picture is.

Matt understood this. He didn’t try to make me smile or look happy. He just let me get on with what I was doing and  really put my ease. By the end of our afternoon’s shoot, I was having so much fun that he had to remind me not to smile, which is a real first for me.


I had very clear ideas about what kind of clothes I wanted to wear in each shot, and we developed stories around the images, dressing the spaces like sets, and improvising story lines and ideas as we went along, to give the pictures life.  I am really drawn to humour and narrative (all my looks have names), and I think we managed to incorporate both into the images we created. It really felt like a collaboration rather than me wearing my Sunday best and being instructed to stand here or sit there.

Matt was incredibly easy to talk to, and very responsive to the creative process and what I needed. He never makes you feel awkward when you’re working with him, and will take time to talk through an idea or problem until it’s resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Working with him was so easy, I’m going to do it again.


You can contact him via his website or Facebook. You can see his work on Instagram at @mattgloverphoto.


Purple Star

It’s been a while. Real life has overtaken virtual life in the last few weeks, but this morning sees me in possession of a window of time to catch up, and I’m seizing it.

My next few posts see me championing some fantastic local businesses that I’ve been working with recently.

Firstly I want to give a shout out to a wonderful graphic designer and marketer that I have been rebranding my business with.

Clare McCabe of Purple Star Design is someone I have known for a very long time. We met at a business networking event about fifteen years ago and have kept in touch ever since. I used to be a marketer myself, but with Boostique, I knew that I didn’t want to do all my own marketing work. It’s a full time job in itself, and I wanted to focus on the clients and clothes rather than the design aspects.


Clare was a natural choice. She’s patient and a great listener. She quickly grasps the essence of your business and what you want, and is very good at translating it into great design and marketing ideas.  I’m a difficult client to work with on many levels, I share some of her background so I am liable to interfere, I needed a really strong brand and I also needed someone to rein in my more bonkers ideas. As I’d already started the business, she also needed to hit the ground running for me. She managed me perfectly and hit on exactly the right idea for my rebranding.

From our initial meet, she seized on two things that I had said to her as we chatted. She made me focus on the idea that I am my own best advertising, and that I am all about finding your style, not what’s in fashion. From this, she suggested that we do a photo shoot and come up with some images of me for my business cards.

At first I was reluctant. I tend to find business cards with photos on a little too corporate, which is not me at all, and I was also rather nervous as I hate having my photo taken but Clare talked me through the process and I put my trust in her. It paid off, and I am delighted with the images.

I thought I wanted a particular font. Clare gave me a range of fonts she’d worked on, some of which were exactly what I said I wanted, and some of which were things Clare thought might work. It turns out that I was wrong about what I thought would be best, and one of the fonts she had come up with was a perfect fit for me.

I now have three, beautiful business cards, all of which have different images of me on, and none of which look at all corporate, and which entirely sum up what my business is all about.

My budget was not huge. In fact, it was tiny, but I never felt that Clare gave me anything less than five star service throughout.  She helped me spend the money I had wisely and get the best I could afford. Quality was a key driver for me, and I certainly got it throughout the process of working with her.

My next goal, as far as branding goes, is to build a website and an online shop. This is going to take time to achieve in terms of research and funding, but I am confident that when I am ready to take that next step, Clare will be the person I trust to work with.

You can contact Clare through her website, or her Facebook page.



Cinderella Bootcamp Week Six

So, last week was our final check in to the Cinderella Bootcamp.

By this time, we had all the tools we needed to carry on the work that the Bootcamp had started. We had done the groundwork, and laid the foundations for our future, and now was the time to recap, consolidate and give a final polish to our positivity before heading out into the world to do this on our own.


Except that, the nice thing about bootcamp is that we will not be entirely on our own. Part of the process has been about building a community, using social media to connect us all in our disparate parts of the world, and learning to be vulnerable with each other, support and trust each other, and champion each other. That work will still continue as we keep checking in with each other over the coming weeks.

Already, since it finished, we have been checking in, asking for help when we needed support, celebrating each other’s successes and keeping building on the work we have done.

It is wonderful to see how many of us are already seeing changes for the better in our lives in real, tangible ways. Sharing them is important because for those of us struggling on a bad day it shows us that sticking with something, working it through, can give us the results we want.

Sharing the bad days is also important because none of the work we have been doing is about judgement or criticism, it’s simply been about changing our story and our perspectives to find the positive, so that we can choose how to live, instead of feeling that we have no option but to behave in a certain way. Part of doing that is about not bottling things up, but facing them, looking at them, and finding a new way to be around those feelings.

When I started this process I went into it grudgingly, kind of knowing that it would be good for me, kind of wishing I didn’t know that, telling myself I was doing it because it would help me help others. How selfless of me!!

What happened was that I learned just how much I did need it, and how much I needed to learn to help myself. It has been really, really difficult at times, but it has also been one of the most generous, self-loving things I have ever done for myself, and I find myself using the tools and skills I have learned during this six weeks, every day.

I have seen huge shifts in my attitude, my self-confidence, my ability to love myself and be kind to myself.  As a result I have also seen huge shifts in the world around me, because I am now in a position to accept the love and generosity and kindness of others and to start giving myself the life I know I deserve, rather than hiding away in the shadows, accepting the crumbs off of someone else’s table.

It’s not that life is suddenly not difficult any more. In fact, some days it is more difficult, because I have to keep reminding myself to practice my new skills, think differently, behave differently, be the woman I want to be, not the woman I accidentally settled on. And life doesn’t stop being hard work, even if we get better at living it. I am however, able to make better choices, live more thoughtfully, decide to do things because I want to or need to to get to where I want to be, rather than constantly reacting to things because I am living, hemmed in by unconscious rules from my past.

So, in conclusion, Bootcamp gave me a complete Bishop Brennan, just when I needed it most, and I am pretty sure it has been one of the most important things I have ever done for myself. I have had a bootcamp reboot, and not before time.


A new bootcamp will run in September this year. You can sign up for the mailing list on the website.


Designer Smarts

Before I write my last Bootcamp blog post I thought I’d mix it up a bit and give you some of my top tips for designer dressing, if dressing in labels is your passion.

Many people believe that charity shops are the preserve of mass market, cheap clothes and that even if an item was good at one time, by the time it ends up on the rails of a charity shop, it will be falling apart. Or worse, that it is the sole preserve of old people’s clothes, and by old, we all know that this is shorthand for ‘clothes from dead people’.

Nothing could be further from the truth. True fashionistas, for example, will shop by fashion season, and would probably rather wear actual dead people’s clothes than be caught with anything in their wardrobe that’s more than a season out of date. Like sport’s cars, designer clothes tend to lose their shine, and their value, pretty quickly, and you can often find splendid things at a fraction of their original price if you’re happy to be wearing stuff a few seasons old.

This is particularly valuable to know if you are shopping for your personal style, rather than being driven by the dictates of fashion.

The other thing about finding these kind of pieces is that they tend to be in immaculate condition, because they will only be getting worn for between three to six months, and then not every day, so the quality will generally be high.

So my first tip is to not give up on charity shops. If you’re label conscious, doing your charity shopping in well to do areas will give you the fashion buzz you need. In those areas, you can expect to pay a bit more for the pieces, because the shop manager will almost certainly know exactly what they have, but you will, in the grand scheme of things, still find some fantastic bargains.

My second tip is about shopping in proper shops, and that is to look for designers who are working in collaboration with partners to create affordable diffusion lines. Designers have realised that everyone wants a slice of the pie when it comes to fashion, and that there is money to be made by taking your brand and making it accessible to the high street.


Debenhams’ really started this process about twenty years ago when they re-launched their stores and started ‘Designers at Debenhams’. Initially they were working with handbag designer Lulu Guinness, and Orla Kiely and have gone on to work with Matthew Williamson, Jasper Conran and many others. One of my favourite of their partnerships is with Jenny Packham, who is best known for her haute couture gowns and her collaborations with Dita Von Teese.

In recent years, Marks and Spencer have teamed up with Alexa Chung to revive some of their archive pieces, H&M have collaborated with Viktor & Rolf and Kate Moss did a very successful collaboration with Top Shop.

Collaborations shift and change all the time, and often sell out quickly, because the pieces and ranges are much more affordable, but if you’re in the loop and ready to pounce, you can pick up some stunning items. I am particularly excited this year about the partnership between Marimekko and Uniqlo and Debenhams and Preen.