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.

Bed of Roses Shoe Sale – hot news for Irregular Choice & Poetic Licence fans!

Fresh from the stable of Irregular Choice & Poetic Licence is the Bed of Roses range of shoes. Well, fresh to me, anyway, as I’d not previously come across their designs.

Bed Of Roses Women's Coup De Theatre Wedge Heel - WAS: £79.99 NOW: £26.71 Cutely retro, very Mad Men worn with a little pencil skirt & a silk blouse.

Fans of Irregular Choice and their sister range, Poetic Licence, will no doubt love this range, but perhaps you haven’t previously been aware of any of these brands? I really like unusual, quirky, shoes, but am perhaps not brave enough to try the more outrageous of Irregular Choice’s offerings.

Bed Of Roses Women's Conjuring Quick Bootie Heel - WAS: £79.99 NOW: £31.86 (LOVE these! They look as though they should be peeping from beneath a breathtaking gown in an 18th Century portrait. Typically, none in my size).

There’s also the fact that years of jobs in which I have to stand on my feet all day have left me with wider, larger feet than I began with, and that are riddled with shredded tendons, heel (bone) spurs and bunions (it’s the glamour I’m in it for, darlings!), so I have to be careful about heel heights, etc. Bed of Roses still has that unusual vibe, but with a greater emphasis on everyday practicality, I feel.

Bed Of Roses Women's Vanilla Ribbon Mary Janes - WAS: £86.67 NOW: £26.67

Rather fortuitously for us, Amazon seem to have a number of Bed of Roses styles on sale, with huge savings depending on the luck of the draw of your size/colour option and the availability.

Bed Of Roses Women's Succotash Ballet - WAS: £59.99 NOW: £17.99 I'm not usually a mad keen fan of leopard/animal prints, but somehow I really like the fushcia suede embellishments on this pair.

I waver between a UK 6, 6.5 & 7, which seem very popular sizes, and most of the styles I had my eye on were still available in at least one of those, so cross your fingers and see if yours is! Really loving these retro vintage looks, which look cute without being too little girl off to a party, if you know what I mean.

Bed Of Roses Women's Button Me Ballet - WAS: £59.99 NOW: £17.99 Utterly darling and very crafty 'make do and mend' looking. In a good way.

WHY are there so many things at fabulous prices this month, when I’m flat broke and to have to save my pennies? This always happens and I believe it’s the Fashions Gods having fun with us mere mortals. Ah well, I’ll have to hope they still have my size(s) when I get paid!

Until next time, dearhearts…

Miss Nightingale



Being an eclectic magpie by nature, one of the features I most like about Etsy‘s website is the ‘Add to Favourites‘ heart button. It basically serves as an “OOOOH! SHINY THING!” bookmark. Once you’ve registered, you can set about quickly building up a list of stuff you , with time to go back later and peruse at your leisure.

Recently, I took the [protoype] Taste Test and found a whole new batch of tasty morsels to smack my lips over.  I found the most successful way (after taking it a few times) was to keep hitting the option to “show different items” until I found something I loved, rather than just liked. It’s not fail safe, but I think it’s a fun way to browse and was really impressed with the choices it threw at me. I made a Treasury (curated selection) of some of my absolute favourites, and shall explain what drew me to them, below…

You Are My Favorite mini print in red, by Fifi du Vie: $9.00 (£5.77)

I often tell DT (the fiance) that he’s my favourite. And you know what? He really is. I think this would splendid over his desk, and would be something for him to look at, smile and feel grateful for every day. By the way, Fifi du Vie‘s shop has loads of great prints. I especially like the “Darling, let’s be adventurers” one.

Dalia jacket by Laura Galic: $120 (£89.71)

Just exquisite tailoring, very feminine shape but with a nod to masculine style – I was obviously going to love the Victorian inspired shape, but I also really like how they’ve styled it here. I posted a comment on Twitter that I wanted one of everything in Laura Galic‘s shop – and I do! Totally my cup of tea.

Ampersand Wedding Decor by Old New Again: $32 (£20.50)

Not only would this be cute at as a top table wedding decoration (in between the bride & groom) but this wooden ampersand could be put anywhere in the house for that shabby-chic style statement ‘not trying too hard’ look. On a shelf, in a window, hanging from a plate rack – I really like having letters/typography characters around. They have a certain geeky charm.

Juliet shoes by Palmy: $74 (£48.06)

These Juliet shoes by Palmy are sturdy but sexy. I love the retro look to them – quite 1940’s-ish I think – and the fact that they look comfortable. This is the major factor for me buying shoes these days, I’m afraid, dear hearts. Having been in retail for the last 15 years, and spent more hours than I can count on my feet, the ol’ tootsies aren’t at their best. Most of the styles at Palmy are made with heel and arch supports. Magic words to those of us who stand all day, I tells ya! Palmy is a talented graduate of the Footwear Diploma of London College of Fashion course, and I have added lots of their items to my favourites!

Hand Stitched Shawl by Crochetelle: $135 (£86.16)

This hand-stitched shawl is something of an heirloom for the future, though I would certainly wear it over a maxi dress or just slung over jeans and a camisole to add some instant elegance. Crochetelle learned to crochet when she was a little girl, then picked up the hobby again.

“I recently was living in a very stressful, dirty city and felt the need to create something beautiful and I picked up crocheting again. Basically, it’s like learning to ride a bike – you never forget it! And after searching around on the internet and seeing all the beautiful, modern patterns that are available now I plunged right into it again and have been going non-stop.”

The shop really has some really beautiful designs and Crochetelle also welcomes custom orders.

Vanitas print by Kate O'Brien Creative: $75 (£47.87)

Look closely at the above picture. It’s obviously inspired by Old Master’s still lives, but if you can believe it, it’s actually not a painting at all – it’s a photograph! I love everything about this photo – the lighting and the layout of the props just perfectly capture the mood of those old paintings. Kate O’Brien explains how the picture came to be:

“I got to thinking about the works of the Dutch masters and the kinds of fruit they used in their paintings. I live in a tropical climate, but for obvious reasons, they weren’t painting a whole lot of Mangoes and pineapples back in the middle ages. So I set off to my local fruit and veg store in search of some more “classical” choices. This image is the result of that trip!”

Kate is a professional photographer and stylist from Australia, and looking through the rest of her shop, I’m really impressed by Kate’s work, the way she uses colours and plays with historical imagery. Definitely a new favourite!

Waiting for You Necklace by Garden of Sypria: $24 (£15.32)

There’s something quite plaintive about the little bird waiting on a wire – you can put any picture you like in this circular glass locket, but I’d be quite tempted just to keep this one in it, it’s very sweet but sort of heartbreaking. There, that shatters my ice-queen image once and for all. Not that I had an ice queen image – I can be turned into a blubbering wreck at the drop of a hat and am really quite awfully sentimental. Hard to believe, I know.

Anyway, yes, this necklace by Garden of Sypria is very much my sort of thing and I like the battered looking silver frame, it looks like it has survived a few things. Maybe the bird has, too.

Heading Home print by Philippe Fernandez, philippesarts: $18 (£11.49)

I was immediately drawn to the style of Philippe Fernandez‘ work, it has that fairytale quality of being darkly foreboding yet simultaneously comforting – a soft-edged air that is often found in children’s story books, as, indeed, this picture shall be.

I painted this painting for a very special children’s book that I plan to be published late this year. This specific painting is when Ponteia found her dear Mr. Kats very weak. Ponteia knew something was wrong. “My goodness!” she exclaimed. Ponteia was outraged that anyone might of hurt him. “Who did this to you, dear Mr. Katz?” With great care she scooped the cat up. Very gently, she raced home with him snuggled softly in her arms.

Wicked Witch Bookmark by Ianscafe: $5.75 (£3.67)

This is one of those really simple ideas, beautifully executed, and it works so well. What an absolutely perfect little gift for a fan of the Oz or Wicked books, too. Your book becomes Dorothy’s house, and those iconic black & white striped legs and ruby shoes stick out helplessly, beneath. “Things just haven’t been the same since that HOUSE fell on my SISTER!”

Hyphae Ring 3D-printed nylon, by Nervous System: $28 (£17.87)

3d-printing is one of those jaw-dropping we’re-living-in-the-future technologies, don’t you think? I love that artists and designers are exploring the use of this technology beyond that of engineering, for which it was originally designed.

Nervous System is a design studio that works at the intersection of science, art, and technology. We create using a novel process that employs computer simulation to generate designs and digital fabrication to realize products. Drawing inspiration from natural phenomena, we write computer programs mimicking processes and patterns found in nature and use those programs to create unique and affordable art, jewelry, and housewares.

The studio consists of Jesse Louis-Rosenberg and Jessica Rosenkrantz who met as undergraduates at MIT where he studied math + computer science and she studied architecture + biology. They live together in a house by a stream in a forest in Western Massachusetts.

These pieces of jewelery by Nervous System are at once strikingly modern and very organic in design – like pieces of coral or the model of a cardiovascular system. The story of how the designers met and what they studied totally makes sense when you see these wearable pieces of art. It’s the symbiotic relationship of nature and modern technology. Gorgeous, I love them all. P.S: I’d just like to add how very well done their photography is, and how beautiful the model is! I want to look like her. 😦

Losing My Way skirt by The Simpson: $48 (£30.63)

There are so many designs of clothes I would like to own in this shop – they look so cool and comfortable, and all of them look to be partly inspired by historical designs, which I like very much, as you can imagine. These are simple, clean-cut pieces to wear and love every day, and this red maxi skirt is particularly appealing. I’d wear it just with a little silk chemise top and beaded sandals for the summer, and with Victorian style boots and velvet jacket in the winter. Something which is both very ‘now’ and yet trans-seasonal.

Vintage Eagle Industrial Lamp at Earth Sea Warrior: $120 (£76.58)

Now you might find this odd, but I am very drawn to rusty things. Slightly decayed looking salvaged items that look as though they have been pulled from a ship wreck. When these items are placed in the context of a modern setting, together with the comfort and clutter of everyday objects around them, they take on a certain beauty – like museum pieces placed on a breakfast table, but in reverse, if that makes sense? Their ugliness is made beautiful by the oddity of their surroundings. That applies to two pieces in my selection of new favourites – the industrial lamp (above), which I love because it looks like something from Bioshock; and the old wooden/metal drawer, below.

Vintage Wooden Metal Drawer at Glass Panic: $28 (£17.87)

This drawer is pleasing both for its battered exterior with mysterious wording “half surface” stenciled on the front, and the fact that it can still be jolly useful. I see this in a kitchen, enjoying its later years in the comfort of a home, used to store balls of twine, kitchen scissors, favourite cookery books or pots of fragrant herbs.

Ember necklace by Therapy: $55 (£35.10)

Now, this little necklace probably isn’t going to cut the mustard as a perfect bridemaid’s gift (depending on your choice of bridesmaid, of course) or something to hang on the Christmas tree for your future Mother in Law; but I happen to adore these pieces made from reproductions of old brothel tokens that would have been given to their best customers. Certainly a talking point at dinner parties, I think we can agree. 🙂

Vintage Printers Blocks at Salvage Nation: $87.50 (£55.84)

Again, my liking for these old printers blocks stems from my love of typography and to be surrounded by words and letters – appreciating them as works of art in and of themselves, not just the means to an end. These would definitely have pride of place on the mantelpiece, or on a shelf along with my favourite books.

Art Deco Inspired necklace by C Henry: $130 (£82.97)

This necklace by Caroline Henry is just breathtakingly beautiful – I gasped when I saw it as a suggestion in the results of my Taste Test – it’s just so perfectly balanced, simple, elegant yet with a real dramatic presence. I would certainly wear this on my wedding day – it is very Deco in design, but timeless, too. Totally lust-worthy, as are so many of the pieces in this talented designer’s shop.

Well, I do hope you have enjoyed this amble through my latest favourites – perhaps in exploring their shops, you may find some to add to yours, too…

If you want to see all the items grouped together in my Treasury selection for Etsy, please click on the pictures below to be whisked to that page.

Until next time, dearies,

Miss Nightingale


Love Is Boutique

Love Is Boutique is four storey town house in Tunbridge Wells, filled to bursting with designer labels at affordable prices that nestle alongside individually sourced vintage pieces to die for.

Add fairy lights, champagne, a makeup artists giving lessons in the velvet-curtained fitting rooms and a bevy of bloggers chatting none to the dozen, and you have pretty much my perfect evening out! Stepping inside, I was in for a real treat…

Love is Boutique kindly invited me along to see some of their latest arrivals and to spend time browsing their beautiful shop – it really is a fantastic find. I’m still buzzing with the excitement of it all!

Oodles of fabulous pieces and a fun, no-pressure atmosphere to try them in – what’s not to like?

All the ladies present (local bloggers and media people) seemed excited, too. There was quite a bit of squealing and snaffling-up of bargains along with the bowls of olives and cashews. 🙂

If you’re not lucky enough to get to the Love Is Boutique itself, you can also shop online for some select pieces of their stock.

I would say this is the perfect place to come with your best girlfriend to spend a couple of hours having a trying on session, cooing at the vintage jewellery and vying for the designer bags you’d have no chance of affording brand new, then go to lunch and preen over your purchases.

It’s kind of like your very own episode of Sex and the City, but without the ghastly characters. (Sorry, not a fan, really, as you may have guessed. ;p)

It’s also like having access to Vogue’s fashion wardrobes (or what I imagine it must be like, since they haven’t seen fit to trust me with the key, the utter rotters).

The shelves are just dripping with lust-worthy bags, there’s shoe porn as far as the eye can see and glittery trinkets beckoning-forth magpies from every corner.

The pieces are all carefully selected – many items are turned down due to not being high enough quality or not being in good enough condition – and it’s not all vintage or past seasons, either. Because Tunbridge Wells houses a number of wealthy Ladies Who Lunch; some pieces in the boutique are current season designer, and many still with their original price-tags still attached!

It was truly heartening to meet so many passionate local bloggers and business people, and a really enjoyable evening which I hope to repeat very soon. Thanks for a great time, gals!

If you’re at all able to visit, do pop along and discover your own lavish treats at bargain prices – it’s worth making a girlie day of it and stopping for a cake break now and then. 😉

Love Is Boutique is located at 26 Church Road in Tunbridge Wells (the same road as Trinity Arts Theatre, if you know the area), or just follow the directions on the Love Is Boutique website.

I can’t wait to go back!

Topshop Weddings… Vintage Style for the Budget Bride
August 14, 2010, 12:14 am
Filed under: Fashion, Pearls, Shoes | Tags: ,

At first glance, this collection of dresses look as though they might have be found nestled in tissue paper, buried inside a trunk of treasures in the attic; or sourced from an antique clothing fair, perhaps.

Not a bit of it – they are all from TOPSHOP! I think they would all look beautiful as unusual, vintage-style wedding dresses, and intend to style them as such over the next few days…

Vintage Style: Thrifty Topshop Wedding DressesFashion Trends & Styles - Polyvore

Vintage Style: Thrifty Topshop Wedding Dresses by Beyond the Pale featuring TopShop dresses

Starting with the exclusive Snow Queen maxi dress – which just screams Deco glam, to me – I built up an outfit for a vintage-loving bride to consider. I know, I know, the shawl is hideously expensive… but perhaps if you saved so much on the rest of the outfit, it could be justified? Um. Well, okay, it’s just pretty, okay? ;p

Topshop Weddings: Deco DressFashion Trends & Styles - Polyvore

Topshop Weddings: Deco Dress by Beyond the Pale featuring TopShop dresses

Rubber Stamps: Art Deco

I do hope you enjoy this selection. Tune in next time for yet more giddy gadding about with Topshop dresses and various other fripperies & nonsense.

Yours, giddily,

Miss Nightingale

Vogue Cover March 2010: Alexa Chung’s Look Re-Created
February 12, 2010, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Accessories, Etsy, Fashion, Shoes, Vintage | Tags: , , , ,

Here, for your delectation, is the current (March 2010) cover of UK Vogue magazine featuring the fashion world’s darling du jour, Alexa Chung:

Alexa Chung wears wool blazer, £1,140. Cotton Shirt, £2245. Beaded denim jeans, £7,415. All Ralph Lauren. Leather clogs, from £470, Chanel. Cameo skull necklace, from £850,

Darlings, we’re in a recession (or just coming out of one, depending who you believe). £7,415 for a pair of jeans? Reeeaaaaally?

I’m not one to brag, but I think Vogue could learn a lesson or two from browsing on Etsy. ;p

Vintage Black Wool Blazer, Hot Vintage: $18

Vintage White Tuxedo Shirt, Carton Company: $26

Ripped & Sequinned Jeans by Chelsie Belles: $72.99

Vintage Yves Saint Laurent Platform Clogs, House Painter Vintage: $68

Here, also (one tentatively hopes) for your delectation, are some further choices to re-create the Alexa Chung Vogue cover look for fewer fistfulls of cash (several thousand pounds less, in fact!)

Direct links to items shown:

1st row: 1) Eva Mania Design, 2) Hot Vintage, 3) Wonderful Store

2nd row: 1) Vintage Vampe, 2) Carton Company, 3) Clara Peyton

3rd row: 1) Spades LA, 2) Chelsie Belles, 3) Mother Midnight

4th row: 1) Marie’s Vintage, 2) Miss Chang, 3) bO mode

I have always had a little place in my heart for clogs – see yesterday’s bargain hunter post for another pair of Alexa Chung style high-heeled ones for those of us who aren’t on a Chanel budget. I am rather pleased with the resurgence of the clog and shall have to invest in a pair, I think. Of course the blazer / white shirt / jeans look will never die, so this is a very easy look to re-create from items already in your wardrobe or at least very cheaply.

My advice if you’re buying new and looking to splurge? Spend the most cash on the blazer, you’ll be wearing it in ten years time if it’s a classic shape and well made.

Vogue: 0 / Me: 1

Well, I think so anyway. ;p

Last of the Bargain Hunters
February 12, 2010, 8:21 pm
Filed under: 2010, Accessories, Bargains, Etsy, Fashion, Sales, Shoes, Shopping

[I have been attempting to post this for simply ages – damn flaky internet connection. *shakes fist to the heavens*]

Now sales are a tricky issue for me. Working in retail myself, I loathe them with a burning passion and can’t wait to see the back of them. However, I am also a dedicated bargain hunter and will scavenge with the best of them.

Ruby Jersey Dress with Wrap Belt by Daniela Besso: was $120, NOW $79

Such is the dual, topsy-turvy, hypocritical twilight world I inhabit.

I think what I loathe about them is that MUST BUY STUFF frothing frenzy that overtakes certain types of people and turns them into mad-eyed, sharp-elbowed head cases. These types will buy anything – even in the wrong size – if they deem it to be a bargain.

You and I, dear reader, are far too discerning [of course!] to be lumped in with the proletariat. WE only buy classic pieces that we can mix & match into our wardrobes, or items we will still be using 10 years from now. Don’t we? {ahem}

Ava Bolero by Plümo, was £69, NOW £39

Now listen, of course you could claim this was an evening bolero for draping over darling little silk cocktail dresses. I claim, however, that it would work equally well draped over a simple t-shirt and worn with battered old jeans and your ever faithful Converse pumps. Thus, it’s a bargain.

Fly London Grace Platform Slide Sandal, was £84.99, NOW £39.99

…and these are a bargain as high-heeled clogs are set to be THE shoe of Spring/Summer 2010. For reference, see the current cover of UK Vogue. By the way, Alexa’s are by Chanel and cost, um, slightly more.

I shall be re-creating the Vogue cover in my next post, hurrah!

Anyway. Hardworking Classics Only. That’s what we are supposed to do, and I must say I have been extremely restrained.

So far.

How about you? Report & share your bargains!