Working With Brands - A Guide For Smaller Bloggers - How To Deal With Brand/PR Emails: Part 1 - Unpaid Collaborations

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Working With Brands - A Guide For Smaller Bloggers - How To Deal With Brand/PR Emails: Part 1 - Unpaid Collaborations

Blogging is a pretty solitary occupation. If you're just starting out, or even if you've been doing it for a while, it can be hard to know how best to handle certain situations if you're a smaller blogger without a management team or network of experienced peers around you. Personally, I love it when my fellow bloggers write posts offering their two cents on some of the common issues we all deal with, so it's only fair that I do it too! A while back, I wrote a couple of more general posts setting out the 5 best decisions I've made as a blogger and the 5 ways I want to improve, but now I want to go a little bit more in depth, turning my attention to a subject I think is important to anyone who sees blogging as more than just a casual hobby - working with brands.

Just as a little disclaimer, I don't have a huge audience and I don't earn a full time income from this blog, so I wouldn't want anyone to think that I have all the answers when it comes to running a successful side hustle. That said, I have been blogging for well over four years now and have racked up a fair bit of experience in working with PRs and brands on different types of collaborations, both paid and unpaid. I've had some amazing experiences with this and some lousy ones too, so I hope that sharing them will be useful for some of you at least. I'm planning on making a little series out of this, and will go into more detail in later posts on how to handle a paid collaboration and the whole "should bloggers work for free" debate. However, if there is something else you would like to know about working with brands, please let me know in the comments, and if it is something I have the necessary experience in, I will try to cover that too.

Working With Brands - A Guide For Smaller Bloggers - How To Deal With Brand/PR Emails: Part 1 - Unpaid Collaborations Blogging Advice

For the first couple of posts, I'll be looking at some of the emails you can expect to receive from brands and PRs when they want to work with you, and how I've learned to deal with them over the years. (This is, of course, just a guide, based on what I've found to work well for me - others may disagree.)

PR/brand collaboration emails can take many forms, but they all fall into one of two categories - those who are prepared to pay you, and those who aren't. I was going to cover all of them in one post, but that turned out to be way too long, so for today I'm going to focus on emails relating to unpaid collaborations, with Part 2 on paid collaborations to follow soon.

Beauty Blogging Flatlay

How To Deal With Emails Offering Unpaid Collaborations


Brands or PRs who are offering unpaid collaborations are essentially asking you to promote their product or brand for free. Sounds pretty cheeky when you lay it bare like that, doesn't it?! For this reason, the emails they send out can often be a bit confusing, as they are trying to find a way to make this prospect attractive to you, offering products, exposure, affiliate programmes etc.

With that being said, unpaid collaborations between brands and bloggers are very common and can be mutually beneficial. The key is learning to decipher the emails, because while some of what they offer in return for your hard work can be worth your while, some really isn't, in my opinion at least.

In my experience, most PR/brand emails of this type come under one of the following five sub-groups:

Blogging Advice Flatlay

1. We think you'd love our product. We'd like to send it to you. If you choose to share it with your followers, please tag us and/or use this hashtag.

I love this type of email! Receiving free products from brands is a wonderful perk of the job as a blogger and one for which I will always be grateful. While there is no obligation to write about these gifts or share them on social media, I will always, as a courtesy to the brand and/or PR company in question, post about them on Instagram or Instagram Stories when I receive them, tagging the relevant parties so they are aware. (Bigger bloggers who receive a lot more gifts than I do perhaps wouldn't be able to feature every last item, but in my case it's manageable). 

If I like the products, chances are they will wind up on my blog or YouTube channel as well, but because there is no obligation, it will be as and when I choose. If this happens, I will send a quick line to the person who sent me the products in the first place, telling them that they have been mentioned in a post or video. This keeps the relationship with the brand going and can lead to more gifts or even paid collaborations in the future. 

It's rare for me to dislike things I've been sent, but it has happened. In this case I simply don't mention the products again.

Inspiration For Bloggers

2. We think you'd love our product. We'd like to send it to you in exchange for a review.

There is a subtle but very significant difference between this type of email and the last one. Yes, they want to send you "free" products, but only if you guarantee you will write about them on your blog.

The rights and wrongs of this is something I have struggled with over the years. On the one hand, we are always looking for content as bloggers, and I write about most of the products I am sent anyway, so you could argue, what's the difference? On the other hand, no matter how much I may have loved the product in question, sitting down to write a review I have committed to but am not getting paid for is something that has always been accompanied by a feeling of resentment for me. (A free pair of shoes/bottle of perfume does not constitute payment - just try offering it to British Gas in lieu of money when the bill is due and see how far you get!)

How To Work With PRs And Brands As A Blogger

I have accepted some of these requests, turned down others, and even on occasion succeeded in negotiating a payment. I think the key is to weigh up what you are getting. If you really love the sound of the product and/or it's a brand you would like to build a relationship with in the future, then it's worth considering. If not, write back to them politely explaining that although you're interested in the product, you're not in a position to offer guaranteed blog posts for free, and state your rate. Most of the time that will be the end of it, as chances are they have no budget available to pay you. Occasionally, though, I have ended up getting paid work this way, so it's definitely worth a try!

There is a lot more to say on the subject of bloggers working for free, so I'm going to put that in a separate post.

Marble Backdrop Flatlay

3. We think you'd love our product. We'd like to send it to you.

A lot of the time you will get this type of ambiguous email, where you are not quite sure what the brand or PR are expecting in return for the free product. Generally, in my experience, if they want a guaranteed review they will make sure they ask for it, but it doesn't hurt to clarify in order to avoid misunderstandings later on. I usually write back thanking them, saying I look forward to receiving the product and that if I like it, I will be sure to share it with my Instagram followers. That way, if they were expecting anything more, they can let me know and we can have a discussion from there.

4. We love your blog! We're running a campaign about favourite holiday destinations/memory foam mattresses/gluten-free deodorant and would love to see your take on it! All you have to do is write a blog post linking to our website. We'll be picking our favourites to share on our social media channels and/or you could win a holiday.

It is possible, I suppose, that companies who make this type of request really do share their favourite posts, and that you could gain some exposure this way, if they deemed your offering worthy. It is also possible that there actually could be a holiday, and that someone might win it.

Lipstick and Camera Flatlay

However, my gut feeling about this type of request is that it is a (very) thinly veiled attempt to get some free advertising in return for a Big Fat Nothing for the blogger. You want me to put my precious time and effort into writing a blog post for you, for the possibility of a retweet? Erm, no thanks! And even if I did have a burning desire to write about gluten-free deodorant, why should I mention your website when I'm getting nothing in return?

As far as I'm concerned, there is absolutely no benefit to be had from this kind of "collaboration". If they've addressed me by name, I'll write back with a quick line to say thanks but no thanks. If they've opened with "Hey Lovely", I'll just delete.

Blogging Tips

5. We think you would make an amazing ambassador for our brand. We love your style and would like to offer you a discount to buy our products in exchange for a feature on your blog/social media.

Possibly the worst type of collaboration request to receive, and also one that tends to slide into my DMs every so often on Instagram too. Not only do they want you to promote their brand for free, they essentially want you to pay them for the privilege. 

Now perhaps, if your blog is just a hobby, you might be pretty chuffed with a discount, depending on the brand, of course. But if you're looking to make any sort of income from it, this is definitely not the way. They might talk about wanting to develop a long term relationship with you and the possibility of paid collaborations in the future, but I am quite sceptical about this. There are no guarantees that you will get to that point, once they have had what they want out of you. Personally, I would rather work on growing my blog on my own terms, with a view to attracting better collaborations that offer me something from the start. For this reason, I politely decline all requests like this without a second thought.

Unpaid Collaborations Between Bloggers And Brands

I hope you found this useful! Can you relate to these types of unpaid collaboration request, and are there any that you think I've missed?

Kate x
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Testing Image Skincare

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Image Skincare Review

Image Skincare isn't a brand I was familiar with, until I discovered it through the magic of Instagram, that is. I commented on a post by another blogger, mentioning that the moisturiser they were recommending looked interesting, and the next thing I knew, the brand in question had got in touch with me asking if I would like to try some products. Naturally, I said yes!

Image Skincare is a US based brand. Developed 14 years ago by aesthetician Janna Ronert, the products are created from smart botanicals and high percentages of safe, proven active ingredients, free from parabens and designed to deliver healthy, radiant, younger looking skin. After a brief discussion with the PR about my skin type and current concerns, I was sent over a cleanser and moisturiser to try, together with a couple of sample sized products, which was a nice surprise.

Ormedic Balancing Facial Cleanser*


Image Skincare Ormedic Balancing Facial Cleanser Review

I am quite picky about cleansers. As long term readers of my blog will know, I have quite temperamental combination skin, and at times it can be difficult to walk the line between getting it clean enough to avoid congestion and breakouts, and drying it out. The cleanser I always go back to - my trusted favourite for many years - is the Clarins Pure Melt Cleansing Gel, and it's rare for me to find one that works as well for me as that. This one comes very close indeed, and I think that anyone with a similar skin type to me, or indeed anyone who appreciates a cleanser that's effective yet gentle at the same time, would enjoy this.

Image Skincare Ormedic Balancing Facial Cleanser Review

Image Skincare Ormedic Balancing Facial Cleanser Review

Like the Clarins product, the Ormedic cleanser is a gel consistency, perfect for using on its own as a morning cleanse and in the evenings after removing makeup with a micellar water. This is how I've been using it for the past few weeks. Containing organic chamomile, green tea and oat kernel extract, it has a beautiful, subtle fragrance and feels very pleasant to use, lathering slightly as you massage it into your skin. It leaves my face feeling clean and refreshed yet also soft, which is essentially everything I want in a cleanser.

Vital C Hydrating Repair Creme*


Image Skincare Vital C Hydrating Repair Creme Review

Image Skincare Vital C Hydrating Repair Creme Review

This beautiful moisturiser is anti-oxidant rich and contains Vitamins A, C and E to nourish the skin and provide anti-ageing benefits. I have been loving using this as my night cream for the past month or so. It's super hydrating without leaving my skin greasy in the slightest, and also smells very subtly of oranges, which I love. Best of all, my skin looks plumped and refreshed when I wake up in the morning. 

Although I've been careful to wear my SPF throughout the heatwave we've been having in the UK recently, the Vital C Hydrating Repair Creme feels very soothing to apply and is suitable for sensitive and sun burned skin, so it's a lovely one to use after a long day spent in the summer heat.

Prevention+ Daily Ultimate Protection Moisturiser SPF 50*


Image Skincare Prevention+ Daily Ultimate Protection Moisturiser SPF 50

Speaking of SPF, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a couple of bonus samples along with the full sized products, one of which was this Ultimate Protection Moisturiser with SPF 50. Thanks to this amazing hot weather, it was the perfect time to test it, and I can honestly say it is one of the best facial sun creams I have ever tried. It's hydrating, so there is no need for an additional moisturiser - I just used this in place of my usual day cream and then applied my makeup over the top. Despite offering such high sun protection, it behaved no differently from a normal moisturiser. It didn't feel heavy, and didn't interfere with my makeup. Like the other products, it smells beautiful - the scent of this one reminds me a little of pineapples for some reason!

Vital C Hydrating Enzyme Mask*


Image Skincare Vital C Hydrating Enzyme Mask Review

The second sample I was sent is part of the Vital C range and has the same delicious orange fragrance as the Hydrating Repair Creme. Like the Creme, the Enzyme Mask contains Vitamins A, C and E, and it provides the dual benefit of gently exfoliating away the build up of dull, dry skin while at the same time nourishing and hydrating the complexion. You can apply this to cleansed skin for 5 to 30 minutes, depending on what your skin needs. I found mine was drinking this up, so I left it on for the full 30 minutes. Afterwards, it was radiant and glowing. 

I've been so impressed with all the products I've tried from Image Skincare. And very thankful to Instagram for introducing me to this brand in the first place!

Have you tried anything from Image Skincare?

Kate x

*Gifted item. All opinions, as always, are my own.
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Date Night In Harrogate

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Date Night In Harrogate

A couple of weeks ago, my husband Mike and I treated ourselves to a night out in Harrogate, one of our favourite towns in North Yorkshire. It's only about an hour's drive from us, but we decided to stay overnight just to make it that little bit more special.

I've tried to capture a little bit of the town here, (some of it through our dirty car windscreen - apologies for that!) and it is well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in this part of the world. It has some lovely boutiques, art and antique shops as well as a great selection of the higher end high street stores, and loads of restaurants and cafes too. Betty's Tea Room is particularly famous, although we didn't eat there this time as we have been many times before. I also love looking at the townhouses here - they are beautiful.

Architecture and town amenities aside, this vlog also features food, (amazing pasta at Galo's Kitchen, totally recommend!) my outfits and a mini Get Ready With Me. You even get to see a tiny glimpse of Mike! 

You can watch the video on my YouTube channel or right here. If you enjoy it, I would love it if you subscribed for more vlogs as well as fashion and beauty content.


Until next time!

Kate x
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Dressing For The Long Hot UK Summer

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Dressing For The Long Hot UK Summer

Well, this isn't a blog post title I ever thought I'd be writing! UK summers can be many things, but  long and hot? Honestly, sustained periods of properly hot, sunny weather just don't happen here. At least not since 1976, so I'm reliably informed, but I wasn't born then so it doesn't count!

So far, the summer of 2018 has been incredible, and I've been loving getting out and about and enjoying it. For someone like me, who feels cold at the faintest suggestion of a breeze in the air, it's been really refreshing to not have to think about taking some sort of cover up with me everywhere I go over these past few weeks. Dressing has felt so effortless, just like being on holiday!

Summer 2018 OOTD

That said, what I've been wearing at home is slightly different to what I would wear on holiday, even if, for once, the temperature is pretty much the same. While I might feel perfectly comfortable in denim shorts and a vest top in a beach resort, it's not something I would dream of wearing around a UK city. Perhaps it's just me, but at home, I feel much more comfortable in something a little more covered up and a little more polished.

Finding multi-tasking clothes - those that suit both a beachy holiday vibe and my usual environment - is always a bonus, and I've been lucky enough this summer to snap up a few pieces like that, such as this button down dress from Topshop and this lovely Zara Midi Dress too. However, I've also been enjoying putting together outfits for this unusual UK heat that I probably wouldn't wear on holiday. Like this one, for example.

What to wear in the UK in Summer

The Top


What can I say? It has oversized tortoiseshell buttons! I have made no secret of my love for this trend and having seen this gorgeous Topshop blouse all over Instagram I just had to have it. The asymmetric fastening adds a touch of interest to an otherwise simple piece, the relaxed fit is perfect for the warm weather and it looks just as pretty worn loose over jeans as it does tucked into a high waisted skirt. Not only that, but it washes like a dream and doesn't need ironing, which just makes me love it all the more!

The Skirt


I've had this H&M denim skirt for a while now, and it has been so incredibly useful. Just like a trusty pair of jeans, a denim skirt works with pretty much anything and they have long been a staple in my wardrobe. I still enjoy a classic denim mini on occasion, but I love the longer length of this one, which makes it that little bit more wearable on a day to day basis for me, especially here in the UK. H&M currently have this very similar skirt in stock if you fancy checking it out.

Rose Quartz And Sterling Silver Necklace

The Finishing Touches


First of all, I just have to mention this beautiful, delicate necklace* which I was very kindly sent a few weeks ago by Daisy London. I adore dainty jewellery, and this tiny rose quartz pendant on a pretty bobble chain is the perfect piece to complete any outfit and to wear every day.

Hand crafted in sterling silver, it is part of Daisy London's Healing Stones range, and, as well as looking beautiful, it carries a deeper meaning too. Rose quartz is a symbol of unconditional love, and has long been believed to promote the strengthening of bonds within relationships. How lovely is that?

Necklace from Daisy London Jewellery

Daisy London has a mouth-watering selection of Semi Precious Gemstone Jewellery to choose from, and each piece has its own particular meaning and its own positive energy to impart to the wearer. Definitely worth a look if you're in the market for new jewellery, or have a gift to buy.

In addition to the necklace, I'm wearing my Olivia Burton watch - a piece I'm still loving and which adds a touch of luxe to any look, my cream circle bag from Topshop (now sold out) - which I am sure you are all sick of seeing by now, and my H&M espadrille wedges. Again, these are old, but the same design is available in a different colour.

This outfit has had a ton of wear over the past few weeks, and I for one am hoping I'm not back in jeans and jumpers any time soon!

What have your favourite outfits been lately?

Kate x

*Gifted item. Some links may be affiliate links. This poses no extra cost to you, the customer. All opinions, as always, are my own.
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New Hydrogel Sheet Masks From Skin Republic

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New Hydrogel Sheet Masks From Skin Republic

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen me gleefully unboxing the subject of today's blog post a couple of weeks back. Blogger mail is always wonderful to receive, particularly when it's surprise blogger mail, and even more so when that surprise just happens to be something you really need. This was the case when Skin Republic sent me the four new sheet masks from their hydrogel range. I was just recovering from a tummy bug (or possibly food poisoning - whichever it was, my love affair with sushi has officially ended) and my skin was looking dehydrated and in serious need of some TLC. So it's fair to say I was delighted when I opened up the package and found this lovely treat inside.

Sheet masks for brightening and nourishing

Skin Republic make all kinds of sheet masks for every skin concern you can think of. They make cleansing and purifying masks, hydrating masks, lifting and toning masks, brightening masks, nourishing masks and more. They even make masks for your décolletage, hands and feet. I've tried quite a few in the past and been impressed with the vast majority of them, but this was my first time trying the hydrogel range.

Hydrogel Sheet Masks

Unlike the more traditional, paper-like sheet masks, the hydrogel masks feel more... well, gel-like, and according to Skin Republic are designed to "act like a second skin, locking in the nutrient rich serum to leave your skin hydrated and glowing." In terms of application and usage, all four of them are exactly the same. After cleansing, you remove the mask from the sachet and peel off the paper backing, apply to your face and leave for 30 to 40 minutes. Luckily, the masks stick quite well, so you can walk around and do other things during this time. When you're finished, you simply peel off the mask and pat any excess serum gently into your skin.

I found all of the masks to have a fairly light but pleasant scent, and to be slightly cold on first application, but not at all unpleasant to wear. I have the world's tiniest head, so I can often find sheet masks to be a poor fit on me, but these are split into two pieces so I was able to overlap them in the centre and create a much better fit, which was great. While all the masks are designed to give you hydration and glow, each one has its own particular ingredients and intended benefits, so below I have provided a brief summary of each one, together with my own findings after trying them.

Seaweed Hydrogel Mask*


Skin Republic Seaweed Hydrogel Mask

Claims: - Targets the visible signs of ageing for a more youthful and luminous complexion. Seaweed is packed with anti-ageing actives which visibly enhance skin's elasticity and suppleness. Chamomile Flower and Peony soothe skin, helping to reduce redness leaving skin glowing.

I found: - My skin looked so healthy after using this mask. It was definitely radiant and glowing. This would be a lovely one to use before an event.

Green Tea Hydrogel Mask*


Skin Republic Green Tea Hydrogel Mask

Claims: - Protects skin and prevents damage caused by environmental pollutants. Green Tea is packed with powerful antioxidants helping to fight against premature skin ageing caused by free radicals. Chamomile Flower soothes skin and helps reduce redness. Skin is left nourished and protected.

I found: - I could see that my fine lines were smoothed, and my complexion felt noticeably softer too.

Collagen Hydrogel Mask*


Skin Republic Collagen Hydrogel Mask

Claims: - Instantly reveals a radiant, glowing complexion. Nutrient packed Sea Minerals nourish and hydrate. Collagen and Argan Oil help reduce the visible signs of ageing. Skin appears smooth, plump and more youthful.

I found: - Again, my fine lines looked smoothed out, probably a little more so than with the Green Tea mask. My skin also felt firmer.

Retinol Hydrogel Mask*


Skin Republic Retinol Hydrogel Sheet Mask

Claims: - With Retinol to support natural collagen, reduce the appearance of wrinkles and increase skin's elasticity. Radiance boosting Peony, Jojoba and Hyaluronic Acid replenish lost moisture and reduce the appearance of sensitivity for firmer, younger looking skin.

I found: - I definitely felt as though my complexion looked rejuvenated after using this mask. My skin looked more even in tone and nicely plumped.

Skin Republic Hydrogel Sheet Masks are £6.99 each and are available from both Superdrug and Look Fantastic. If like me you are always on the lookout for little skin boosting treats to keep in reserve for times of need, I can definitely recommend these.

What masks have you been enjoying lately?

Kate x

*Gifted item. All opinions, as always, are my own.
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June Favourites

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June Beauty And Fashion Favourites 2018

I could panic about it being halfway through the year, or I could just be happy about this beautiful summer weather we're enjoying in the UK right now and share my June Favourites instead!

It's mostly beauty this month, plus one fashion favourite.

Other than that I've been loving the warmth and sunshine, barbecues and a glass of wine in the garden, and - surprisingly - the World Cup! My husband is a football fan, so he loves these big tournaments. Rather than complain about there being a match on every night, I've been taking an interest, and now I'm the one telling him to hurry up and get home with the drinks and snacks in time for the game. I don't even know who I am any more.

You can watch the video on YouTube or right here if you prefer. If you like what you see, I would love it if you subscribed to my channel too. I am inching my way towards my first 100 subscribers and I would love to achieve that before the summer is over.



What have your favourites been this month?

Kate x
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The White Zara Midi Dress I'm Currently Obsessed With

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The White Zara Midi Dress I'm Currently Obsessed With

If you saw my last video, you'll have seen me try on and buy this Zara midi dress. I love white dresses in the summer, and despite the fact that I bought this one less than two weeks ago, I already know it's going to be one of my most worn pieces throughout the warmer months. At just £29.99, it was a steal, yet its elegant cut and interesting design details mean it looks anything but. So why am I so obsessed with this dress? Let me count the ways!

It's Elegant


White Zara Button Down Midi Dress

There's just something about white dresses, especially in summer time. They always look so pristine and chic. Add to that the midi length, shirt style cut and clean lines of this one and you have a timeless classic on your hands. Yes, I do love a ruffle and a frill or two, but sometimes you need something a little more fuss-free in your wardrobe, and this fits the bill nicely. It's also subtly sexy, with the v-neck and asymmetric split.

It's Practical


Zara Summer 2018 Dress

So yes, this dress is white, but it's that kind of "just off white" that makes it that little bit less scary than pure white, if that makes sense. You still get the chic look, but it's just that little bit more forgiving when it comes to getting the occasional mark on it. It's also a nice sturdy fabric, while still feeling light and cool, and I find the cut of it very practical for the UK summer too - you have some sleeves, you're that little bit more covered up - it's definitely still very wearable even if the weather is slightly cooler.

Speaking of wearable, this dress is the perfect balance between smart and casual. You could easily wear this out to dinner yet you wouldn't look out of place running errands in it either. Definitely one to grab and go for all sorts of occasions.

It's On Trend


How To Wear White Summer Dress

I've made no secret of the fact that I'm obsessed with this season's button down trend. In fact, I wrote a whole post on button down dresses a few weeks back, so you should definitely check that out if you love them as much as I do! This is a gorgeous example of that trend, and I love the fact that these buttons are asymmetrical rather than running straight down the middle of the dress as you might expect. It just adds that little extra "something something".

It's Effortless


How to accessorise a white summer dress

Not only is this midi dress easy to wear, but it's an outfit in one. Just grab shoes, bag, shades and a bit of jewellery and you're good to go. I've opted for gold toned accessories to add a little touch of luxe, but tan or earthy tones would also work beautifully.

It's Affordable


Button Down Dress Trend Summer 2018

Did I mention that this dress was £29.99? That's definitely a bargain for a useful piece like this that will see you through the warmer months both at home and abroad! And if you like the idea of it in super on trend mustard yellow, that version is currently on sale for £19.99.

How to look chic this summer

Dress - Zara, Bag - River Island, Sandals - Topshop

Have you found any gems in Zara lately?

Kate x

Some links may be affiliate links. This poses no extra cost to you, the customer. All opinions, as always, are my own.
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