What's Your New Year's Eve Style?

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I'm the kind of girl who will take advantage of any excuse to dress up. Family coming round for dinner? Get the high heels and the sparkly makeup out! New Year's Eve has always been one of my favourite occasions to go to town on the glam front, no matter how low key my plans might be.

However, this year is a little different. My husband and I seem to be developing a nice little tradition of moving house in January, so with that to look forward to as soon as the festivities are over, our New Year plans this year are going to be as relaxed as we can get away with, and I'll probably be wearing something I already have in my wardrobe. But that doesn't mean I can't do a little virtual shopping, right?!

I thought it would be fun to pick out a few dresses I might be interested in if I was in the market for something new, and share them with you. Because, if I'm honest, looking at dresses is something I never get tired of, and I'm guessing most of you feel the same!

The first four are full on party dresses, while the second four are more the sort of thing I might wear for a family get together.

1-4 - Party Dresses

New Year's Eve Party Dresses
1. Red Multi Strap Midi Dress from Rare - This is such a sexy dress, but there's something a little bit sophisticated about it too, which I love. The colour and the strap detailing are just stunning. I'd probably go for sleek hair and a sharp flick of black eyeliner with this.

2. Black Floor Length Evening Dress from Instyledress.co.uk - Full length and fabulous. Long gowns can often feel a little stiff, but this one is beautifully soft and girly. The undone updo of the model in the picture is perfect with it, and I'd add some strappy silver sandals and really soft, pink-toned makeup.

3. Metallic Knot Dress from Wal G at Topshop - If there's ever an occasion when you can get away with all over shimmering gold, it's a New Year's Eve party. This dress is pretty fabulous and would be so much fun to wear. I'd team it with black accessories and big bouncy hair.

4. Sequin and Feather Dress from French Connection - Talking about fun party dresses, this one is about as fun as it gets. Just imagine all those sequins sparkling in the light as you move. This one definitely doesn't need much dressing up - just some barely there heels and simple, glowy makeup.

5-8 - Smart/Casual Dresses

New Year's Eve Smart Casual Dresses

5. Devore Velvet Dress from Zara - I love the luxurious feel of velvet, and I think this dress would look fab with some sheer black tights and spike-heeled ankle boots. It's such an easy shape to wear, and quite understated, so you wouldn't feel too overdressed in it for a more relaxed New Year celebration.

6.Embroidered and Sequinned Dress from Warehouse - The embellishment on this dress is just gorgeous, yet the shape and the sleeves mean you could get away with it in quite a casual setting. I like the idea of some classic black court shoes and polished makeup with this.

7. Leopard Collar Shift Dress from Oasis - I fell in love with this while browsing the Oasis website the other day. The shape of it, the colour and and the cute little leopard print collar just stole my heart! I think it's super versatile as well - you could dress it down with tights and boots or pair it with sky high patent heels for a fancier look.

8. Mix Lace Prom Dress from Warehouse - Another versatile piece - you could make this quite dressy with silver accessories or even daytime-appropriate with a slouchy knit thrown over the top. It's navy blue, which I think makes an interesting change from black, and I love the demure take on the lace trend.

Now just imagine if all these dresses magically appeared in your wardrobe! If only virtual shopping worked that way.

Which dress is your favourite, and how would you style it? And let me know your New Year plans!

Kate x

*This post was sponsored by Instyledress.co.uk, but all opinions, as always, are my own.
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Happy Christmas Jumper Day!

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Did you know that today (Friday 18th December) is Christmas Jumper Day? Me neither! But Debenhams did, and they were kind enough to send me one to feature on my blog.

Debenhams Christmas Jumper 
Christmas Jumper Day Friday 18 December 
It's from their own label, The Collection, and I love it! Fine knit, fitted, and with just the right amount of sparkle in the form of these adorable sequinned robins. I will definitely be wearing this on Christmas day paired with some ripped black jeans and a red lip.

Black Christmas Jumper with Sequinned Robins from Debenhams

As if this lovely treat wasn't enough, they also sent me their Christmas Gift Guide, which is perfect for finding inspiration when it comes to those last minute stocking fillers, decorations and bits and pieces for the festive table.

Debenhams Christmas Gift Guide 2015 
Debenhams Christmas Gift Guide 2015

There's so much good stuff in here, you definitely need a tray of goodies from Costa to help you plough your way through it!

Festive cakes from Costa

Department stores are a godsend at this time of year when there's so much to buy - especially if you've left things to the last minute, which I definitely haven't, by the way. (Nervous laugh.) With everything under one roof, you can pick up presents for all the family, grab some extra wine glasses for those friends who might drop in and update your tree decorations in one fell swoop, before stopping at the in-house cafe to refuel! I'm impressed by Debenhams' stock this year - gorgeous gift sets from all my favourite beauty brands, chic menswear, a wide selection of electricals and totally irresistible festive trinkets and baubles. If you can't get your hands on one of their gift guides, you can always check out their Christmas Page online instead if you like.

Casual OOTD featuring Christmas jumper from Debenhams The Collection

Jumper - Debenhams, Jacket - Warehouse, Scarf - Shein, Hat - Marks and Spencer

Casual OOTD featuring Christmas jumper from Debenhams The Collection 
Casual OOTD featuring Christmas jumper from Debenhams The Collection

Meanwhile, I'll just sit here and finish these cakes.

Casual OOTD featuring Christmas jumper from Debenhams The Collection

Mmm, cakes!

Christmas cakes from Costa

Are you a fan of Christmas jumpers? Do you celebrate Christmas Jumper Day?! Let me know, and let me know what you plan to wear on Christmas Day too - I love hearing about other people's outfits! 

Kate x
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Strobing for Beginners

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I love the strobing trend. As I've mentioned before, contouring doesn't do much for my bony little face, so for a while now I've been interested in trying its counterpart. Just in case you haven't heard about it, although I'm sure most people have by now, strobing is all about illuminating the high points of your face, as opposed to creating structure and shadows, as you do with contouring. It's basically highlighting on steroids! I think it gives a lovely, flattering glow to the skin, but I've never really been sure how to create the look - that is until I discovered a couple of products from Collection that made the whole thing a lot easier, especially for a beginner like me.

Strobing for Beginners with Collection Illuminating Touch Foundation and Speedy Highlighter

I was colour matched for Collection's Illuminating Touch Foundation at the Pegasus Beauty event back in September, but it's only recently that I've got around to fishing out the sample I was so kindly gifted and giving it a try. (It really is the goodie bag that keeps on giving!)

The Illuminating Touch Foundation is "infused with a blend of skincare actives" and designed to give "natural luminosity" to the skin, which it definitely does. Even worn alone, this has a luminous glow to it. It's quite full in terms of coverage, which is good news in my book, and all in all I really like it - this could definitely rival my current favourite drugstore foundation, Revlon ColorStay, for the top spot in my affections! I was matched to the shade 2 Ivory, and for reference, my skin is pale bordering on medium.

Strobing for Beginners with Collection Illuminating Touch Foundation and Speedy Highlighter

Strobing for Beginners with Collection Illuminating Touch Foundation and Speedy Highlighter

As well as the foundation, I also received a little instruction card, with a step by step guide explaining how to use it together with Collection Speedy Highlighter to create a strobing effect. 

So I bought a Speedy Highlighter. Obvs.

Strobing for Beginners with Collection Illuminating Touch Foundation and Speedy Highlighter

This is another very impressive little product. I got shade 01 Pearl Sheen and it's a cream highlight which you can just swipe across your face, like Benefit Watt's Up. It's a light gold, champagne sort of colour.

Strobing for Beginners with Collection Illuminating Touch Foundation and Speedy Highlighter

 The instructions to create the strobing effect are actually pretty simple:

  1. Apply the Speedy Highlighter to the areas of your face you want to highlight. (So, tops of cheekbones, brow bone, bridge of nose, chin and cupid's bow.)
  2. Apply Illuminating Touch Foundation as normal, over the top.
  3. Repeat step one, over the top of the foundation.
  4. Blend.
And that's pretty much it! The finished result is super dewy, illuminated skin that looks a little something like this.
  Strobing for Beginners with Collection Illuminating Touch Foundation and Speedy Highlighter

Perhaps not to everyone's taste - my husband asked me if I was supposed to look like I'd just been out in the rain - and probably not suitable for day to day wear, but for a night out, I love the effect, and I'll definitely be rocking it over the festive period. Plus, I kind of think it makes my cheeks look fuller - a massive bonus in my book!

Well done to Collection, a brand I used to pretty much dismiss with the exception of the Lasting Perfection concealer. The more I discover of their products, the higher up my drugstore list they soar. And so reasonably priced too!

While we're on the subject of makeup looks, my first post for magazine.co.uk went live yesterday. It's a wintry berry lip look inspired by Grazia. If you're interested in seeing what I came up with, you can check it out here, and maybe even give it a cheeky like if you're feeling generous!

What are your thoughts on strobing, and are you a fan of Collection?

Kate x
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The Cocktail Ring

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With Christmas party season getting underway, there is no better time to indulge in a bit of bling. I'm the sort of girl who will take any opportunity to dress up, so this is definitely one of my favourite things about this time of year. As well as the dresses and full on makeup, it's the perfect excuse to bring out the statement necklaces and chandelier earrings... and the cocktail rings, like this one I was lucky enough to be sent by Gemporia recently.

Morganite and Sterling Silver Cocktail Ring from Gemporia - Perfect for Christmas Parties

You don't tend to see that many cocktail rings around these days. It's more about wearing a selection of delicate rings. As much as I love this trend, I still think there's nothing nicer at a party than sparkly nails and a statement ring, especially when you're holding a glass of something and your hand is on display. (And if you're not holding a glass of something, you're at the wrong party!) 

Although I had heard of Gemporia before they contacted me, it wasn't a brand I knew much about. I spent a long time browsing their site and was amazed by how many beautiful designs they had, and the prices are fantastic considering the quality of the materials used. My ring is sterling silver with a morganite stone - a beautiful, milky, cloudy pink - and retails for £44. It's quite a simple design as cocktail rings go, with the emphasis being on the large, square stone. They sized it for me before sending it out and it arrived well packaged and protected and with a nice little cloth pouch to keep it in. It feels solid and well made (though it's not at all heavy to wear) and all in all I'm thrilled with it.

Morganite and Sterling Silver Cocktail Ring from Gemporia - Perfect for Christmas Parties

Light pink isn't perhaps the most obvious colour to go for at this time of year, but as soon as I saw it on the website I could see the whole look in my head, (or at least my hand wrapped around that champagne glass!) and I imagined sparkly silver nail varnish looking perfect with the ring. A sort of "frosty" look - still festive, but a bit of a change from the usual rich tones of burgundy and gold. All I need now is the dress to go with it!

For the nail varnish, I used Ciate Fit For A Queen (a shimmery silver) as a base, and swiped a couple of coats of Ciate Locket (silver glitter) over the top. Someone with longer nails/more skills than me might choose to just coat the tips in glitter, which I think would look very cool too.

Morganite and Sterling Silver Cocktail Ring from Gemporia - Perfect for Christmas Parties

Morganite and Sterling Silver Cocktail Ring from Gemporia - Perfect for Christmas Parties

Morganite and Sterling Silver Cocktail Ring from Gemporia - Perfect for Christmas Parties

Finally, one of the best things about Gemporia is their ethos. They believe that jewellery should be special, not mass produced, and use only genuine gemstones and precious metals to create their pieces. They also work with The Colourful Life Foundation to give back to the developing communities from which their gems are sourced. Such a nice thing to hear from a jewellery brand! You can read more about it here.

What are your thoughts on cocktail rings? What will you be wearing to festive parties this year?

Kate x
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Thirty is the New Twenty - Or is It? Avene 30 Plus Event

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Last Thursday I attended the Avene 30 Plus event in London. It was organised by skincare brand Avene (which I'm loving more and more by the day) and Hayley Carr, creator of the 30 Plus Blog Collective, (which you should totally join if you're a 30 plus blogger and haven't already.)

Unlike other events I've been to, this one took the form of a panel discussion on the subject of attitudes towards ageing in the beauty industry. This is something that fascinates me, so I was really interested to hear what other people had to say on the subject. But first, champagne! (Not to mention delicious finger food.)

Avene 30 Plus Event - OOTN with Topshop Dress

(Thanks to Claire from Country Mouse Claire for taking this photo of me, and for being so much fun to chat to on the night! In case anyone is wondering, my dress is from Topshop, but I can't find it on the website.)

Avene 30 Plus Event - Buffet

After half an hour or so of making new acquaintances, eating, drinking and taking photos, all at the same time (quite a challenge for a klutz like me), it was time to take our seats for the discussion. Like the true rebel I am, I gravitated to a seat right at the back, which was basically the worst place I could possibly have chosen for taking photographs. #bloggerfail.

Avene 30 Plus Event - the panel discussion

First up, Avene briefly introduced their new PhysioLift range, targeted at ageing skin, and then the discussion began. The panel consisted of blogger Jane Cunningham, cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting and psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, with contributions from the floor. This was a room full of intelligent, articulate women, and the conversation sparkled. The following are some of the main points that stuck in my mind:

  • Why are anti-ageing products so often presented in a way that suggests ageing is a flaw that needs to be corrected, rather than a natural process that happens to us all? 
  • Why can men with grey hair and wrinkles be considered "ruggedly handsome", while women are told they cannot be beautiful unless they cover these things up? (With the exception of very fashionable grey hair on 18-25 year olds!)
  • Why do marketers and companies try to sell women vacuum cleaners as soon as they turn thirty, and stair lifts as soon as they turn fifty? We don't appreciate being put in boxes, and we still like heels and lipstick, thanks very much.
  • Do older women feel invisible due to lack of representation in advertising and the media?
Avene 30 Plus Event - the panel discussion

All this was fascinating food for thought. I must admit, when I first heard about this event, part of me thought, "that sounds brilliant", and part of me thought, "I feel too young to go to this". The fact that I felt this way illustrates exactly why I needed to be there. Talking to my Mum and Aunty about it afterwards, they both said the same thing to me - "but you're only in your thirties! You don't need to use anti-ageing skincare yet!" I was astonished by this. As young as I still feel, like pretty much every girl I know of my own generation, I've been applying eye creams, serums and firming creams since I hit 25. Why? Because brands/magazines/peers/society tells me I need it! I've been degenerating now for 12 years! People in the street probably recoil in horror as I walk past!

I'm joking, mostly. I do think there is pressure on women to start using anti-ageing skincare at a certain point in their lives, but I use it because it's a proven fact that over time my skin is going to lose hydration and firmness, and I want products that will help to counteract those things, or at least help to lessen their effects. It's not really about looking younger, but I do want to look my best. I have always felt at my happiest and most confident when I make an effort with the way I look. It's something I love, pure and simple. Why else would I have started a fashion and beauty blog?

Avene 30 Plus Event - decor

Avene 30 Plus Event - decor

I've spoken before about ageing on this blog, so just to reiterate, being in my thirties feels pretty damn good. Not just because I've grown in confidence and had chance to rack up some great experiences and achievements, but I genuinely feel I look better now than I ever did in my twenties. (Ugh, that sounds so arrogant, but I really want to get this point across!) For me, my thirties have brought experience, new skills, and the confidence to wear clothes I shied away from in my twenties. As for that "decline" I'm supposed to have been suffering since the age of twenty-five, I haven't noticed it so much, to be honest. A few grey hairs and a couple of fine lines, sure, but I haven't turned into a wizened old hag just yet. (This may or may not have something to do with all the anti-ageing products. Who really knows?!)

Avene 30 Plus Event - decor

Avene 30 Plus Event - decor

Now, I'm aware that I've always been a bit of a late developer. Everyone's experience is different, and maybe other people my age feel differently about being in their thirties. But I spoke to a few girls on the night who felt exactly the same as I do, and it annoys me that just as I feel like I'm hitting my peak (again, ugh, but you know what I'm getting at), I see fewer and fewer women my age and older being represented in advertising and the media. Helen Mirren in the L'Oreal ad is a glorious exception, but on the other hand, if I see one more movie with a fifty year old guy dating a twenty year old girl I will run out of the cinema screaming! And it breaks my heart when I see gorgeous young bloggers bemoaning how old they are... in their mid-twenties. I thought we were all living longer and looking younger than ever before. What happened to thirty being the new twenty, and all the rest of it?

When it comes to the beauty industry, I must confess, I've never been particularly offended by the concept of anti-ageing skincare. I'm very glad it exists and I actually see making the choice to use it as quite an empowering thing. But I do agree that offering those products in a more positive way, focusing on the health of our skin rather than fighting a hopeless battle against the passing of time, would be a very good thing. Personally, I can't wait to try out Avene's new PhysioLift range, and I'll definitely be sharing my thoughts on it here on the blog once I've had chance to form an opinion.

Avene 30 Plus Event - PhysioLift Range

Avene 30 Plus Event - PhysioLift Range

Avene 30 Plus Event - PhysioLift Range

I could go on forever about this subject, but this post is already long enough, so over to you. I know women of all different ages read this blog, so what are your feelings about ageing? What sort of changes would you like to see in branding, advertising and the media in general? I want to know all your opinions!

Avene 30 Plus Event

Kate x
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The Body Shop Frosted Plum Christmas Gift Set

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I've loved The Body Shop for a long time. To this day I've yet to find a product that makes my skin feel as good as their famous body butters do, and I'm always intrigued by their new launches. In recent years I think they've gone from strength to strength, and my list of new things I want to try from them - the Vitamin C skincare, the Spa of the World range - only seems to get longer. So when I got the chance to review one of their Christmas gift sets, I jumped at it. I was sent the Frosted Plum Feel Good Tin, which is part of The Body Shop's #FeelSoGood Christmas gift campaign. As the name suggests, it comes in this very cute plum shaped tin, which I think would be so much fun to unwrap on Christmas morning.

The Body Shop Christmas Gift Set Feel Good Tin in Frosted Plum

The Body Shop Christmas Gift Set Feel Good Tin in Frosted Plum

You open up the tin to find four very cute mini products inside - a shower gel, body butter, sugar scrub and shimmer lotion, all in the frosted plum fragrance. The smell is sweet, fruity and good enough to eat (although you probably shouldn't!) I usually favour floral or woody fragrances, but I love this. It basically makes you smell like the Sugar Plum Fairy, and what girl doesn't want that? Especially at Christmas!

The Body Shop Christmas Gift Set Feel Good Tin in Frosted Plum #FeelSoGood

The Body Shop Christmas Gift Set Feel Good Tin in Frosted Plum #FeelSoGood

The shower gel is very light, foams up nicely and of course leaves you smelling divine. I normally prefer a shower cream as I feel they're more nourishing for my skin, but when you have a rich body butter to put on afterwards, it doesn't really matter as much.

The Body Shop Christmas Gift Set Feel Good Tin in Frosted Plum shower gel

The stars of the show for me are definitely the sugar scrub and body butter. Both feel wonderful to use and have the same amazing scent, and it's these kind of products that I feel The Body Shop just excels at. The combination of the two leaves my skin feeling silky smooth and deeply moisturised. The body butter in particular is so rich and nourishing. I've said it before and I'll say it again - nothing makes my skin feel as soft as these products do!

The Body Shop Christmas Gift Set Feel Good Tin in Frosted Plum body butter and sugar scrub

The Body Shop Christmas Gift Set Feel Good Tin in Frosted Plum body butter and sugar scrub

In addition to these three staple products, you also get the frosted plum shimmer lotion. Perfect for Christmas parties, this has a subtle, silvery sheen to it when you rub it in, which gives a lovely healthy glow to the skin. You can kinda sorta see the effect on my hand in the second photo below, but it comes into its own when you're moving about and catching the light. As I said, lovely to add a little "somethin somethin" to bare arms, legs or shoulders at a festive event.

The Body Shop Christmas Gift Set Feel Good Tin in Frosted Plum shimmer lotion

The Body Shop Christmas Gift Set Feel Good Tin in Frosted Plum shimmer lotion

This is a really nice gift set, prettily packaged. Because of the sweet fragrance and cute tin, I'd say it would be the perfect present for a teenage girl, but I also think that anyone who enjoys The Body Shop or body products in general would love to receive it.

Will you be giving any Body Shop gift sets this year? And are you hoping to receive one?

Kate x
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1965

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OOTD featuring Topshop, Zara and Online Avenue

I have dedicated this post to the year of the miniskirt. Because I'm wearing one. And because I was feeling the sixties vibe like you wouldn't believe when Mike and I went out to take these photos. The seventies is like, so four blog posts ago.

Preparing for this post was an excellent lesson for me in shopping my stash - something I'm not very good at. It all centred around a pair of boots I was sent from Online Avenue. My vision for them was a short, flouncy floral dress and a faux fur gilet - a look I'd seen all over the place before I got the boots and an outfit I wanted to acquire anyway. But when it came to it, I just couldn't seem to find quite the right thing anywhere. I was stuck, as I couldn't see any other way to style the boots. So I went home, got everything out of my wardrobe (much to Mike's delight), and went back to the drawing board.

What I eventually came up with is totally different, but I love the look.

OOTD featuring Topshop, Zara and Online Avenue

Roll Neck, Skirt - Topshop, Coat, Bag - Zara, Sunglasses - River Island, Boots - Online Avenue 

The skirt and coat are both pieces I've had in my wardrobe for a while. I've had plenty of wear out of both of them, but this is the first time it's ever occurred to me to put the two together. The polo neck is new, from Topshop, and I'm in love with it. It's a little bit on the short side, so probably best paired with higher waisted items. It's ribbed, lovely and fitted without being too skin tight, and a good thickness, so it keeps you nice and warm. I adore the stripes, and definitely want some more like this, but I do wish Topshop would make this exact one in a plain black too.

Worn all together with the cream knee-high boots, I felt like I'd stepped right out of the sixties, so I opted for some black eyeliner, light pink lip gloss and a little bit of back combing to compliment the look.

OOTD featuring Topshop, Zara and Online Avenue

Would you believe the Beatles were playing on the car radio as Mike and I set off looking for a shooting location? We ended up at Cusworth Hall, a Georgian country house just outside Doncaster. Not only is it a lovely spot in its own right, but I loved the sprawling view of the town from the grounds. The high rises totally fitted in with the whole sixties theme!

Cusworth Hall, Doncaster

View of Doncaster from Cusworth Hall, Doncaster
 OOTD featuring Topshop, Zara and Online Avenue - Sixties Style

I couldn't be happier with the boots. I love knee high and over the knee styles, but it can be hard to find a good fit unless your foot size and calf size are perfectly in proportion with one another. Mine aren't. These boots are sturdy and structured around the foot, but the leg part is soft and supple, and they fit like a glove. They're comfortable, easy to walk in, and very chic, with cool gold detailing on the heel. I'd never heard of Online Avenue before, but they're certainly on my radar now. Their prices are incredibly reasonable and I've already spotted some more styles I like. These fringed ones for example!

OOTD featuring Topshop, Zara and Online Avenue - Sixties Style with Cream Knee High Boots

Cusworth Hall, Doncaster

Cusworth Hall, Doncaster

OOTD featuring Topshop, Zara and Online Avenue - Sixties Style with Cream Knee High Boots

OOTD featuring Topshop, Zara and Online Avenue - Sixties Style with Cream Knee High Boots

What are your thoughts on knee high boots? Do you wear them, and if so, how do you style them?

Kate x
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