Beyond the Pale

Love Is Boutique: Bloggers & Press Day

A veritable Tardis of designer goodies, Love Is Boutique has always been a must-visit destination for the bargain-hunting fashionista, but there have been subtle changes afoot since I last visited and now I had heard it’s EVEN BETTER. Along with a few other invited bloggers and press peeps, I sashayed along to see just how this could be so.
If you are on heart medication of any kind, you may want to dose yourself up before walking through the doors of Love Is Boutique, as every rail, each shelf and cabinet the eye rests on is bulging with temptation in the form of DESIGNER BARGAINS.

Be still my rapidly beating heart. Hopefully not literally.

“Umm… Is that a Phillip Lim evening dress sparkling on the wall? Can that be a Chloe Paddington bag hanging up there?” your brain asks your eyes. “Just next to the several immaculate Louis Vuitton bags and adjacent to the cabinet of handmade couture Manolo Blahnik shoes…” your eyes nonchalantly reply.


At this point, your palpitations are going to kick in, so it’s really handy if you have remembered that medication or have your inhaler to hand. Or a hip flask of gin, whatever gets you through. Yup, it’s all true, this place is piled up with the kind of high-end designer merchandise normally only sighed over in the glossy pages of Vogue, Harpers and their ilk. Only at VASTLY reduced prices.

Paula Fry, the owner of this treasure trove, invited me, along with several other bloggers and members of the press, to come and see the changes Love Is has undergone. It’s always been good – the kind of Best Kept Secret you only tell your best girlfriend. And maybe not even then – so how could things get even better?

“We’ve got a lot more picky about what we accept to sell for customers, now.” Paula explained. Love Is works as a dress agency, with clients gaining a percentage of whatever the boutique sells the items for. “We can afford to be really choosy because our reputation has spread, and the stuff people bring in for us to look at is unbelievable! One lady came in with her collection of Louis Vuitton bags. ELEVEN of them, all real!”

Paula has become something if an expert at sniffing out fakes “Most of them you can spot a mile off, because the shape or size is wrong, the stitching isn’t right. Some are a bit more difficult, but there are experts you can refer to, and the big brands are all very happy to verify their own merchandise if you’re really not sure.”

Having built up their name, hosted hugely successful events and fashion shows, and been featured in Vogue magazine as a “must visit” destination, Love Is now boasts a celebrity clientele – “Top Secret, I absolutely cannot name names!” – who buy and sell their designer swag here. “Often the chauffeur comes and drops stuff off,” Paula whispers, “and oh my GOD it’s such amazing stuff…”

Perhaps the most noticeable change is the fact there’s far less vintage stock in the boutique these days. It’s getting harder and harder to get top quality vintage to sell, and people put a ‘vintage’ tag on any old thing and expect it to be desirable, so I think this is a clever move on their part. Plus, in a wealthy area and with celebrities emptying their wardrobes, you may as well focus on the goodies surrounding you!

The vintage pieces are still to be found: really cute little fifties fur collars, dinky enamelled bug brooches and incredible unique handbags from all eras, along with select clothes, but here the designer investment pieces now jostle with the very best high-end High-street items, so there really is something for every budget.

It’s really interesting to note that real classics like the Mulberry Bayswater bags are flying out the door – “We just can’t get enough of them, as soon as we have them through the door, they leave again on someone else’s arm!” Iconic designer pieces such as Alexander McQueen scarves and tailcoats are also in high demand, as customers invest in designer stand-out pieces which won’t date, mixing these with far cheaper high street trend items.


On this visit, I was quite selfless and restrained, buying an unusual necklace for a friend’s Christmas present, though I took rather a shine to the Bally, sheepskin lined ankle boots on the back shelf here, and may have to pop back in to, um, visit them. Yes. That’s it. *cough*

I also have a massive regret that I didn’t get the beautiful enamelled ladybird brooch purchased by fellow bargain-snaffler, Bettina, AKA Mrs Anke (of Ladybits blog fame: she has a gin cocktail named after her, and that’s a REAL measure of fame, my friends). Que Sera, as Doris Day was wont to warble!


Adored this darling little bobble-trimmed dress, too. Oh, and the cosy hooded cloak and the bauble charm bracelet and about five coats upstairs and… Uh, no, I mean it’s all awful and you wouldn’t like it at all so don’t go before I’ve got my mitts on all the goodies I saw, there’s nothing there. Yup. Convincing, eh?

As the Champagne was quaffed and more people arrived to gawp and gossip (three of my favourite things to do, right there: quaffing, gawping & gossiping) I had to grab my purchase and get a wriggle on, sadly. Having ogled their latest wares, I shall be back again very soon. They have all manner of gorgeousness arriving every single day, so there’s always a good reason to pop in again.

Just to look. Obviously…


UPDATE: I have now been back and purchased the Bally boots. Quite by accident.


Thinking of Alison: Adventures, Quips & Cocktails
December 22, 2009, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Books, Brooches, Etsy, Fripperies, Gift Ideas, Style, Trinkets

In a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I present the latest hand-picked selection of gifts where It’s The Thought That Counts

This little selection of temptations is inspired by Alison – a fabulous lady I don’t know as well as Hester (the previous incumbent of the Fantasy Gift Recipient), but wish I did.

On the first occasion I met her, I was slightly intimidated as she’s one of those people who seem to have it all, who can walk into a room and keep everyone entertained whilst juggling volovants, making witty quips and dancing a waltz. She’s a sarcastic adventuress with an eye for good makeup, and she has excellent taste in music.

And so, the following is a selection of items I think she’d like. I’m not as sure as with my selection for Hester, but certainly they certainly make me think “Ah, that’s very Alison…”

Direct links to items shown, left to right:

1st Row: 1) Jennifer Morris Photo, 2) Nan Lawson, 3) Bookity

2nd Row: 2) Mishima, 2) Banana Strudel, 3) Yummy Pocket

3rd Row: 1) Ju Ju Too, 2) Tent Pitcher, 3) Simple to Enchant

4th Row: 1) Sarah Anntiques, 2) Boy Girl Party, 3) Bajue Boutique

The brooch I could also have given to Hester. Indeed, I am very glad to say, to any number of my friends who have equally book-addled brains!

Until next time, I do hope you enjoy browsing these wonderful shops.

Miss Nightingale


Thinking of Hester: Peacocks, Paris & Cupcakes

It is often around this time of year that we hear the phrase “It’s the thought that counts” bandied about. It usually takes the form of a cringing hand-over of shoddy gifts with seemingly no thought behind them whatsoever.

Here, then, I hope to include some gift ideas (last-minute, I grant you!) into which I have put a lot of thought… but as my revoltingly swingeing pay check currently restricts gift buying to immediate family this year; they must, alas, remain a lasting thought.

I have been inspired by particular people for this series of gift guides, and they are particularly inspiring!

The first in the series is for my dear friend Hester – a lady blessed with immaculate taste, a bawdy sense of humour, and the ability to make people swoon with her notoriously wicked chocolate cupcakes (AKA: “dirty, dirty porn cakes” *cough* – because of the sounds people make when eating them!)

Direct links to items shown, left to right:

1st Row: 1) Tilly Bloom, 2) Jade Rose Designs, 3) Dog Bone Art

2nd Row: 1) Revival House, 2) BeadzNBling, 3) Clutch That

3rd Row: 1) Teacup Design, 2) Mes Peintures, 3) Oak Hollow Primatives

4th Row: 1) Chris Smith 22, 2) Little Voices, 3) Jenny’s Bake Shop

Hope you enjoy. 🙂

Until later, cupcakes,

Miss Nightingale


Naughty but Nice: Saucy Vintage Style

Thanks to the ever-wonderful source of inspiration and money-parting that is N.E.E.T. Magazine’s blog, I have recently discovered an incredibly exciting Parisian brand: Lochers.

From the get-go, I knew this was a product line I would love. Just look at the intro page! Modernised Victorian/Vintage style? Check. Cheeky Victorian images? Check. Witty wording? Check. And so I clicked away to my heart’s content for the next half hour or so. Slightly drooling. Furiously adding things to my Wants List (which I then emailed to the be-ringleted fiance). ;p

My first lust-have is this utterly darling little snap-closure purse (otherwise known as “kiss-lock closures). I am always drawn to these kiss-lock style purses, but even more so when they come in a variety of cute fabric choices and – oh, rapture! – with a number of playfully rude phrases to have emblazoned across the front…

The striped version (shown above) is my favourite fabric choice, and I would DEFINITELY choose phrase 3: “Bucks from Hooking” to have on mine. A full list of phrases may be found on Lochers website (click on the pic to be whisked straight there).

Mind you, the floral choice is a very cute choice for Spring… Perhaps I should get two. 🙂

I am completely in love with their clothing line, too. My top choice is the “CASSEI-TOI CHERI” (“Get Lost Darling”) cotton t-shirt (surely the most glamorous t-shirt ever) in a particularly lovely shade of teal:

…followed by the slightly more risqué (same style & colour) “I’m not your f****ing sweetheart”.

Their jewellery range makes my heart beat a little faster, too.

Wear with a wink and a knowing smile… 😉

In very much the same vein, I love the following items for the fact their whimsical, home-spun styles and cutesy fabrics/patterns lead the casual viewer into the belief that they’re a very traditional – almost twee – take on vintage style.

A closer look reveals the shocking truth.

Bawdy and beautiful with a tongue-in-cheek humour: what’s not to like?

Direct links to items shown…

First Row: 1) Double Speak, 2) Trixie Delicious, 3) The Purple Hippo

Second Row: 1) Hoolala, 2) Cruel Tea, 3) Dude and Chick

Third Row: 1) desTroy, 2) t8 Designs, 3) Oh So Sassy Greetings

Fourth Row: 1) Bookity, 2) Monkeys Always Look, 3) The Crafty Goddess

More tea, vicar?

Probably not. ;p

Modern Nostalgic: Wearable Victorian Style

I am always drawn to Victoriana in fashion & design but am fully aware that, in our modern times, many styles can look hideously over-the-top or as though you have just finished giving your Mrs Lovett in a low-budget am-dram performance to which nobody came.

[IF you were dressed as per Helena Bonham Carter, I would absolutely forgive you, as I think she looks utterly divine].

Anyway. My point is that it can be a bit overwhelmingly scary or Dressing Up Box to the untrained eye, so the best thing for nervous types is to follow this (very general) rule:

If the main part of your outfit is historically influenced [a dress, skirt, top, coat etc] then balance it with modern or dressed-down accessories. If the accessories [boots, hat, jewellery, scarf etc] are vintage-inspired, go for a modern or dressed down item for the main. 🙂

I think these teal boots are utterly fabulous and, if I had wonderful legs (which I do not) I’d opt for a short skirt & opaque tights (perhaps in a clashing colour on a braver day, or dark chocolatey brown for a toned-down look).

Madeira Teal Suede Boots, by Duo: £245

Not the cheapest boots around, of course, but oh-so worth it. I hear many, many good things about DUO and have lusted after several styles for some years, now. One day, one glorious day, I shall have a pair of my own!

Another aspect of DUO I love is the really useful styling advice they offer. They dress these boots, for example,  in a modern but relaxed way – exactly what I had in my head when I saw them, and exactly the point I wanted to make in this post:

Madeira DUO Boots Styling Advice

The other alternative is to dress head-to-toe in every single one of my picks and swan around a-la Bonham Carter. Which is equally acceptable in my book!

Utterly adorable – this peacock cocktail hat is just dreamy, and so drop-dead chic. I love the idea of styling it with the bright pillar-box red dress (and hair), but would also be divine for making an outfit out of an otherwise boring Little Black Dress. HOW fabulous would it be if also teamed with the DUO boots (above), though? Very. That’s how.

Peacock Creme De La Creme Cocktal Hat, by Jade Rose Designs: $175

Another “considered purchase”, but this dress is a modern twist on a classic, that will just go on for years to come. Having a bit of a teal moment with the tights, too. 🙂

Black Evelyn Dress, by Madeline Wood: $245

Emma Sommerfield does it again – an incredible modern piece that actually looks as though it could have been handed down throguh the generations. Wear with a tunic dress, leggings & biker boots!

Lace Knitted Scarf, by Emma Sommerfield: $90

How whimsical is this darling Victorian-esque yet thoroughly modern brooch? Great gift for a friend who’s off to far-flung adventures. Or, y’know, yourself.

The Traveler Brooch, by Munieca: $14

I would be sorely tempted to waveringly raise this magnifying glass necklace to my eye and in booming voice intone: “A haaaaaaaaaahnndbaaaaaag?!” at everyone I met…

Magnifying Glass Necklace, by Crumpet Cake: $23

Hurrah for spats! Eminently versatile for dressing up tired or sad looking footwear. Peacock feathers are always a plus.

Couture Peacock Spats, by Jared Gold: $55

There’s something incredibly nostalgic in the influence behind this headband by a talented Lithuanian designer – it reminds me of Victorian mourning styles. Wear it with a simple dress or even jeans and a t-shirt for an instandt hit of vintage glamour.

Beaded, Hand-Embroidered Victorian Style Headband, by Babinka1981: $28

These bloomers are just adorable – I particularly like the choice of fabric & colours. Great for slouching around the house in (with over-the-knee cashmere socks) or worn over the top of opaque stockings/tights or leggings & stompy boots. You pretty much have to be younger, braver and less cake & gin-enhanced than me to successfully pull off this look for Outside Wear, though, I fear!

Floral Bloomers, by La Belle Fairy: $45

I don’t usually ‘do’ small or dainty bags – mostly because I can’t fit the huge amount of Really Desperately Important Crap I trug around with me on a daily basis, and also because they can very often be a bit twee.

THIS wristlet is glorious, though. Most definitely not twee, and really quite refined. I adore the colour, and the way it it reminds me of a Victorian ladies’ purse but with a modern touch. Want!

Pewter Cow Hide Wristlet, by Pretty Girl Handbags: $28

How incredibly jaunty this Victorian circus poster necklace is! Wear it to work with a staid blouse (unbuttoned as low as you dare) to brighten up an otherwise dull day.

Pierrot Acrobat Necklace, by Mama's Little Babies: $25

Lovely and quite unusual purse with a delightful Victorian walnut tree print in gold. Pretty and practical (and very reasonably priced for such a unique item!)

Upcycled Leather Change Purse, by Midnight to Six: $11

The modern, sleek line of this magnificent cuff, combined with the vintage-feel lace & leather, is really beautifully done.

Leather & Lace Silver Lined Cuff, by UNEARTHED: $50

Hurrah – have made this post into an Etsy Treasury, so do feel free to browse by viewing it here, too – including the items I didn’t have room for here, but which are equally gorgeous and I will have to blog about tomorrow if I have time! (It will expire some time on Monday). 🙂

Oh yes, and GOOD NEWS:

I found my engagement ring!

Well, a nice handyman called Rupert (who was very posh and whom we fully expected to turn up in a tweed boilersuit) found my ring. And it was under the floorboards of the bathroom, as feared/expected. Phew. *waves of relief still washing over us*

Until next time, darlings,

Miss Nightingale

Whimsical Brooches & Not Growing Up
November 28, 2009, 4:01 pm
Filed under: Accessories, Autumn, Brooches, Etsy, Fall, Fashion, Fripperies, Trinkets

Lately, I find myself hankering after items I used to scoff at and – on occasion – loathe with a passion. Could it be, Gentle Reader, that I am (at the age of 30 cough cough) growing up?

Dear LORD, I do hope not, otherwise I’ll freak out and have a terribly embarrassing encounter with experimental hair dye and inappropriate skirt lengths. Again.

It is more likely (and palatable to your author) that I am finally getting around to embracing things that other people have been already been wearing and loving for decades.

Hence: brooches. I do not own a brooch. My jewellery box[es] are bereft of anything even resembling a brooch, and I feel this must soon be rectified.

I am looking at over-familiar jackets and seeing a well-placed brooch would dress them up no end. I am seeing whimsical brooch-shaped gaps on far-too-respectable cardigans and bags. Even skirts could benefit…

Direct links to items shown, left-to-right:

First Row: 1) HeliS, 2) Seesong, 3) Seesong (Yes, two Seesong’s, but I couldn’t resist!)

Second Row: 1) Alexandra Anderson, 2) Le Collezione 3) Sustalux

Third Row: 1) Tijusai 2) Nikita Jade 3) Miss Gaylee

Fourth Row: 1) Floremark Shop 2) Made With Love By Hannah 3) Ananya

And by the way, just how adorable is the little mouse brooch in the first row? He looks like he’s done something terribly wrong and only just realised – or forgotten something vital from his shopping list. Two situations I am equally familiar with!

Mouse Brooch by HeliS, $16

What a relief to be back having been without a power cable for my PowerBook for an absolute age. Well, a few days, but it seemed like forever! *grumbles about Mac power cables for some time*

Until next time, dearhearts

Miss Nightingale