frugal fashion shopper

Is age just another number?

Woolly jumpers and bodices – of the liberty kind!

I don’t know about you but the weather’s been a bit cold these past few days.  (And for those of you reading this outside the UK, the temperature is not that low but we have a damp cold that gets deep inside your bones.)  So, I tend to wrap up and wear several layers.

But, possibly not as many layers as I wore as a child.  Who remembers the liberty bodice?  My mother used to put me in them for 6 months of the year. They were worn over a wool vest and under a (flannel) petticoat.  Yes, I did wear all that, but not for long, just when I was very young. Weren’t there a lot of rubber buttons on the bodice, which were not just down the front?   On this link my memory has been confirmed with a delightful photo of a liberty bodice with loads of rubber buttons!  The text reminds us that these bodices were to free children from wearing boned corsets, and they not only had rubber buttons, there were reinforcing cotton tapes to attach our drawers and stockings – good grief!

Well, perhaps we don’t go to those lengths to keep warm nowadays but it certainly is the time to get out all those winter woollies.  And in one high-end magazine (all right, November’s Vogue) the jumper, or the ‘It Sweater’ as they like to call it, is very high fashion indeed with prices (OK, it’s for a Christopher Kean) reaching a stratospheric £2,500, *catches breath* recovers.  You know, the more I read Vogue the more I think it a very strange animal indeed.  Yes, you can pick up a lot of information about fashion and style, but it’s stuffed with advertisements and offers a vision of a life that is so far from reality if you won the lottery you wouldn’t want it anyway.  Invisible Woman has written a really good piece on Vogue, and how it ought to reintroduce a modern day version of Mrs Exeter – an older woman who featured regularly during the 1950s – not holding my breath.

A much better choice of reasonably priced fluffy jumpers from the High Street starting at £45 can be found here.  More recently The Observer fashion team has focused in on some neat sparkly embellished knits, which are the ones I’d go for if I had the cash.  And for some lovely and very mouthwatering designer jumpers look no further than the Save the Children’s Christmas Jumpers: prices are unknown because you have to bid for them. And let’s not leave out men in this blog – here they are resplendent in some great woolly jumpers!

For me, jumpers have to be made from 100% wool.  I don’t like a polyester mix. And before anyone says, ‘100% wool would be difficult to wash’, as many of you already know, the great secret about wool is you hardly ever need to wash it – it’s kind of like Teflon deflecting the dirt and even, depending on the quality of the wool, the rain.  Just look at these amazing jumpers as worn by Sarah Lund based on designs worn by generations of Faroese fishermen.

red-jumper-smBut if you’re short of cash or on a small pension there is no need to spend much money on woollies.  I have loads of them and most have come from charity shops. As I say in that great little film made by my friend Lorna, I run my hands along the racks and feel for the wool, and this way I’ve found some quality knits including a lovely cashmere top – all for well under £5.00.  Here’s a cheery red knit worn with a fun Per Una wool skirt – both bought for under a fiver.

That’s all for now – next blog will be on accessories and will feature my favourite jeweller, the wonderful Joy Fox.

With love


The frugal fashion shopper


Frocks. Part One. Reminiscence on a life without frocks!

For years I hardly possessed one frock.  For ten years it was a nurses uniform (of the white starched apron & frilly lace cap variety) and then, later, skirts and jackets for work.  And, always, jeans for home/off-duty/casual wear.  And for ages (OK, mainly when I was younger!) I even wore them for quite formal occasions. Why?  Because, to me, wearing jeans had such a depth of meaning.   With a mother (her head possibly still in the 30s) saying repeatedly  ‘You must never, dear, ever wear trousers outside the house.’ to rebel and break away from this mindset was everything – and one way to do it was to wear those blue denim jeans.

And that is the way I dressed – for decades.  Did any of you put in that extra bit of material to the leg of your jeans?  I did.  Weren’t they were called ‘loons’?  Then there were straight-legged Levis and varieties of designer jeans.   I’ve also worn my share of baggy and boyfriend jeans, and now, if I do wear them, it’s extra tight skinny jeans.  My mother often used to say to me, ‘Do you never wear anything other than trousers?’   Poor mum, she never did see my bare legs, ever.

But then what happens when you don’t work?   Well, for nearly 3 years after I retired I wore nothing but jeans.  After all, I was off duty permanently, wasn’t I?  Then, I wouldn’t say I had an epiphany moment, but, I did begin to think how boring my clothes were.

I began to experiment with my style.   I made some mistakes and it occurred to me I mustn’t keep wasting money buying new – there’s a huge difference when you’re on a pension between a £30.00 mistake and a £3.00 mistake.  No, clothes had to be found in charity shops.  And before you say, well, I certainly wouldn’t find frocks good enough for a party let alone for formal occasions.  All I can say to that is – yes, you can!!

P1010831I still don’t have a lot of frocks, but I have many good quality charity shop skirts of the sparkling, frothy and sequined variety, which I mix and match with tops, with both items coming in at under a tenner.   Here is my favourite skirt bought for £5.00 with a £3.00 top, which in this pic I’m wearing with ankle boots.

I had a great twitter conversation with 50over50@50_over_50* about this and that, and we agreed that it makes quite a statement to wear chunky ankle boots with your party gear – and it’s comfortable on the feet!

But the bargain of the century has to be my Karen Millen little black dress, which I bought for 75p.  (It had a small fault in the zip, which I mended)

black dress on door

So – buy that party frock (from a charity shop, of course) but don’t keep it in the wardrobe for best.  Wear it now for your friends, your partner and yourself!

More on party frocks shortly, but that’s all for now!

With love


The frugal fashion shopper

P.S. Lou, the person behind 50over50@50_over_50, has a great project.  She’s a student at Brighton University doing an MA in Fine Art and her final show will include photographs of un-botoxed women over 50 years old.  She’d like a photograph of any women over 50 – go to her website and have a look!


Sparkly shoes for difficult feet

Before we get on to frocks I’d like to say something about shoes and the older woman.  I simply adore shoes and in my time I’ve worn every type from the highest heels to sandals and low ballet flats.  And Doc Martens, how I loved them!   You name the shoe I wore it.   But now, I really admire anyone over 60 who can wear heels.  Me, I would take a couple of steps and just fall flat on my face.  I have to be really careful as I have small (size 5) very thin, high-arched feet that look rather dainty but, actually are increasingly wobbly because there seems to be less and less of my foot on the ground.  Apparently, says my chiropodist, as you age there is less and less flesh on the underneath of your foot – hmm, that’s definitely happening to my feet. So one problem with thin feet is that any flat, ballet-style shoes I try on either gape in the shop and are rejected immediately or, if I buy them, can quite quickly start looking like a pair of baggy old slippers.  I have to have an adjustable strap or laces to tighten the shoes up.

Also a couple of weeks ago I had a comment from someone with bunions who despaired at finding a good pair of party shoes.  Well, despair ye not, because there are shoes out there.  And let’s start with flats and a link to Marie Claire that has 50 flats that you can swap your heels for!  Thank you Invisible Woman, as I think you tweeted that one a couple of weeks back.

Also I really like a shoe shop called ‘Schuh’.   Don’t be put off by the bright lights and wacky young look of the shop, as it is a positive treasure trove of flat and sparkly shoes that can be bought for a very reasonable price.  The shop sells many different brands and, if you want heels, there are some totally gorgeous shoes to be found, but there ‘s sure to be something for those of us with difficult feet: narrow, broad and/or with bunions.

P1010860I have bought at least two pairs of flat shoes from Schuh that are lovely and fit my thin feet well. Here’s one pair in this pic on the left.  Both were under £30.00.  Or why not be like Sue Kreitzman who always wears crocs – you can find them in all sorts of colours.

However, I also look for shoes in charity shops and, yes, it is hard to find a good fit, or, for example, a pair of boots without an enormously high heel.  What is it with people who buy these impractical objects, I often wonder?   Boots are for the cold, wet and wintry weather, aren’t they?  So why a tottering high heel – nope, don’t know either.  Perhaps that’s why there are so many of these boots in charity shops!

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I found two pairs of flats that fitted my thin feet to P1010863perfection – at £6.00 each I was in heaven  – and I wore these sparkly ones on the right at Mirror, Mirror with my Karen Millen outfit.

That’s all for now.  A blog on frocks next week for sure!

With love


The frugal fashion shopper


The importance of glamour and glitter on a daily basis

I do think it’s important to wear something sparkly during the day.  And I try to live by the maxim of not keeping things in the wardrobe to wear for ‘best’ or ‘going out in the evening’.

This view was reinforced by a fantastic 2 days spent in London with the likes of academics, fashion journalists, older people, students, models (I met Jenni and Alex and both had modeled for Guardian’s All Ages) and four of the Fabulous Fashionistas at the Mirror, Mirror Conference held at the London College of Fashion.

It all kicked off with Ari Seth Cohen talking about his attitude to older women gained by being with his two wonderful grandmothers and ended with the Fabulous Fashionistas – more about them in a moment.  In between were academic papers, two of them (I kid you not) on Petula Clark and Joan Rivers accompanied by clips and extracts from YouTube films that quite frankly I wish had been left running for a bit longer!  Not that the academic papers were difficult to understand and actually it’s quite uplifting to know there is a huge raft of work coming from academia on the ageing baby-boomer demographic.

A question that came from the audience quite late in the day was ‘why is there all this interest in women/older people, fashion and ageing?’  There was a lengthy answer as there is no single reason.  But one important factor is that the baby-boomers born shortly after the Second World War are ageing.  We are the people who have had it all: jobs that were plentiful and easy to get, and a mortgage and a house as soon as you got married.  We are the ones who went to university for free; even me.   I graduated at the age of 40 and, reader, I would never, ever have been able to do it without the grant I had, because by then I was married with kids and had to bring in some money.  Today, I wouldn’t have got anywhere near a university.  But that aside, now we are ageing, how will we fare?  Surely we will be more demanding of society?  This is what the academics are interested in and in this arena the academics are focusing in on women, fashion and ageing.

Fab fourFour women who actually needed no encouragement to age with style and pizzaz were the Fabulous Fashionistas.  Bridget is the one I like the most because of her love of charity shop shopping, but they were all (Jean with her amazing hair and boots and Daphne with her elegance) in their own way, just fabulous in their attitude and stylishness.

Sue Kreitzman (the fourth Fashionista at the conference) who is an artist and curator and (and I don’t think she would mind me saying) a very colourful character indeed, thinks dressing and dress should be a daily artistic creation.  Oh yes!  Furthermore, she said (and apologies for any misquotes as I was scribbling all this down)  ‘No-one should be invisible.  Less is not more – more is better – and more is not enough.  We are old, we are bold and we are very happy to be here!’  Hear, hear, Sue.  And although that would be hard to live up to every day, what I did notice was all of the four worked and didn’t want to stop – retirement was out of the question  – and none had been under the knife.  They were grey-haired, they were lined, they were interesting.   Their lives, as they said, were in their faces and they were wonderful.  Altogether, it was a brilliant experience to be there!

P1010842And reader, what did I wear?  Well, on Day One I wore my Karen Millen outfit, not the 75p one, but the £12.00 one, which I’d pounced on when I saw it. (Photo of it coming soon)  By the way, the next day I popped into a charity shop not far from Victoria Station.  Just to look, you understand, and check out the type of clothes on offer.   Good grief, I nearly fainted at the prices – nothing much under £40 and coats for £150 plus!

So, on Day Two I wore my plum faux shot-silk skirt with the plum Horrockes jacket which featured in my post on Vintage, customized with matching plum sparkly costume jewelry (Thank you Aunty Rhoona – long story!)  While I was up there I found a hat (not second-hand but new, oops, slipping!!!) but had to buy it because its colour just matched to perfection.  And with my dark London coat, I wore a woolly scarf given to me by a friend – thank you so, so much as it just completed the outfit.

That’s all for now. Next blog will feature frocks for the party season and shoes as well!

With love


The frugal fashion shopper

P.S.  I met Invisible Woman – was thrilled!


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