Beyond the Pale

Spoiled Rotten at Liberty

Everyone should get spoiled on their birthday, and while perhaps a bacon sandwich and a mug of tea in bed would have done at a pinch; this year I was absolutely spoiled rotten by the lovely people at Liberty London


Imagine if you will the very moment I received the email telling me that I was the lucky winner of Liberty’s Facebook competition. I read it on my phone during a typically lacklustre lunch break at work. “You recently entered a competition on Liberty’s Facebook page..” it began. “Oh here we go, I bet it’s spam!” I thought cynically, until I read a bit further on and it finally dawned on me this was real. I had WON! I may have squealed quite a lot at this point.


It was arranged that I could do the spa treatments, voucher, Champagne tea & hotel bit of the prize on the tenth of November – my birthday! – and the behind the scenes tour the following week, as the Liberty archivist wasn’t available on that day. Oh no, I’ll have to go back again. How AWFUL. ;p


On a chilly, slightly drizzly grey Saturday, your humble author made her way to London, attempting to travel light and failing as usual, with her beloved fiancé carrying several items she couldn’t fit in her bag. As usual. On arriving at the wonderous W Hotel Leicester Square, the very kind chap at the check-in desk, on learning it was my birthday, gave us an upgrade to a seventh-floor luxury room with spectacular views.


As birthday beginnings go, they don’t get much better than that.


Obligatory explorations of hotel room over, we moved on to obligatory taking of pictures of hotel room, to show expectant friends and family members, before high-tailing it to Liberty and collecting my gift card.



I remember my mother taking me to Liberty when I was a little girl, gazing wide-eyed at the gorgeous things all around me, strangely quiet for a precocious brat, subdued by magnificence. I really think Liberty retains this power to make you feel that excitement of a child in a veritable Wonderland. It’s quite amusing to stand back and watch the facial expressions of grown adults walking in, gasping and giggling as they pick up something, turn to their companions and say “LOOK!” as they exclaim their pleasure, practically bouncing up and down with glee.


Or, of course, actually bouncing up and down with glee, as with this (mostly) grown adult. 😉 I honestly kept thinking someone would wake me up any minute , but they didn’t and the lovely dream continued as I made my way to the Decleor spa rooms with Vicky, their expert therapist.


How to describe the next two hours? I can only say it was pure bliss and leave you to imagine, as words will not do. Suffice to say, In have never felt so entirely relaxed in my life, as every ache and pain was massaged away. Although Liberty was absolutely rammed with people that day, you’d never know it in the peace and seclusion of those rooms.


Thanks to Vicky’s Decleor Facial expertise, I walked out in PUBLIC with no other makeup than a hasty reapplication of lipstick, for the first time since I was about 14 (I jest you not), so healthy, plumped and glowing did I look. I simply cannot recommend her – or Decleor – highly enough. Go and see Vicky at Liberty!


My fiancé had thoughtfully bagged us a table at Cafe Liberty, so I was able to swan past the queue and go straight in to join him for the next treat of a Perrier-Jouët Champagne Tea for Two. Teeny tiny little perfect sandwiches and mini pastries and fruit scones still warm from the oven and slathered with clotted cream and jam. Divine!


This would be a perfect afternoon treat at any time, but it was definitely the sweet centre of this birthday gal’s day. I savoured every single crumb that passed my lips (and there were quite a few of those, it’s a generous tea!)


Slightly bulgy, and very glad that I’d not opted to have the tea prior to my full-body massage (for the therapist’s sake, if not mine) it then fell to me to Make a Choice and use my gift card to buy myself a birthday present. The delicious agony of this was quite overwhelming, and imagine my fiancé’s pleasure as I wandered around and around and around again, clutching my gift card and sort of muttering like a mad woman: “What about this? OOOH but what about that?! Or that one? But maybe I should get this one instead?” I don’t think I would have bourne it with such beneficence, had I been in his shoes, dear readers. Bless him, he didn’t complain once. Outwardly.


I decided that I should get something to do with Liberty’s heritage – a classic Liberty Type Thing – which I could treasure forever, rather than a bang-up- to-the-minute high fashion item. You are rather spoiled for both extremes at Liberty, though, as they really do have something for everyone, from the classic-lovers to the Ultra Trendy Fashionistas I tremble in the shadow of. I especially love the fact that Liberty really believe in supporting and encouraging new and emerging designers, as among these Bright Young Things will be the ‘classics’ of the future.



Amidst the manifold temptations of the infamous Scarf Hall, my beady eye kept getting drawn back to the sumptuously rich Ianthe print wool and silk scarf, specifically in the purple colour way, as I felt this really highlighted the pattern and the lustre of the fabric.


Spoilt for choice doesn’t even begin to cover it, but I’m thrilled with my pick, and delighted at the prospect of owning a Liberty print satchel when the Strawberry Thief print is back in store again.


Oh, it’s just stunning, and something I know I’ll treasure forever. This is the sort of thing you can fling on with jeans and a jumper for a walk in the woods (or more likely, in my case, to the Gin Emporium); or worn draped around your shoulders at the most elegant of weddings or special occasions. What’s not to love?


This is me in my Hera print Liberty shawl, which I wear a lot and had swaddled myself in against the biting chill of the day. I know I’ll love my Ianthe print one all the more for the special memories it holds. 🙂


More scarves. WANT.


Very tempted by the chandelier print scarf, too. Just everywhere you look, it’s gorgeousness abounding.


I loved these quirky Victorian style illustrated letter tiles, and would like the entire alphabet but would settle for my initials. 😉

I did rather have my heart set on getting the Dr Marten’s limited edition Liberty Print large satchel in the Strawberry Thief pattern (indeed, I blogged about lusting after this very satchel not long after it came out, earlier this year), but sadly they are out of stock of it, as it’s so popular! Sad face.


However, the lovely gentleman who served me at the till took my details and said he’d let me know if they got some in again, hopefully before Christmas.


OH NO, another reason to HAVE to go back to Liberty. Again. What a personal disaster.


Fab Christmas windows at Liberty. I was especially drawn to the crazy lobster window.


Higgledy-piggledy decadence is their theme – opulent chaos. Adorable!


Skipping out of Liberty, iconic purple bag in hand, I noticed that it had somehow suddenly got dark. Of course this hasn’t happened ‘suddenly’, but do you know, when you’re being pampered to within an inch of your life, the time veritably whizzes along.


Thence it was back to the hotel to get ready for the W’s award winning Spice Market restaurant’s tasting menu, that my darling chap was so generously treating us to that evening. But first, there was one more surprise in store for me…


On returning to our room, we discovered that the lovely check-in desk guy had arranged for a bottle of Champagne, selection of juicy raspberries and blackberries, massive slice of Red Velvet cake topped with strawberries with a candle and “Happy Birthday” written in glittery chocolate, and a card wishing me a very happy birthday and saying if I needed anything at all, to let him know.


HOW darling is that? I actually cried I was so moved. It had been quite a horrible year thus far, in many ways and for various reasons, but this (forgive me) literally was the icing on the cake!


We decided to save the cake for later on that evening, as we were still quite full from the afternoon tea (talk about First World problems, eh?) and lounged about drinking more Champagne and lazily getting ready for the meal.

When booking our table online, the chap and myself had ooh-ed and ah-ed over the menu for ages, practically drooling at the mere descriptions of the dishes on offer. As their website puts it:

“A timeless paean to Southeast Asian sensuality, Spice Market will delight London with Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s unique interpretations of the region’s cuisine served in an informal and sultry atmosphere.”


And they ain’t wrong. Delightful it was, every single mouthful. We had plumped (quite literally) for the tasting menu, as we just couldn’t settle on what to try. Little bits of everything seemed the best way forward, and so it proved, with waves of delicacies placed before us, and everything absolutely perfectly cooked and immaculately presented.


The Spice Market is laid back but upmarket, exactly the kind of atmosphere to suit the cuisine, we were in a cosy booth on the corner, all the better for people watching (one of my favourite activities) and soaking in the ambience. We couldn’t fault a single thing about the meal, only asking for a break the better to digest and ready ourselves for the next lot of courses (there are nine in total) to begin. Hardly a complaint – “this is all TOO delicious, please cease a while!” You can stow the violins away quite safely, I think.


After the meal we waddled to our room and laid on the bed in the hotel’s dressing gowns, in a sort of gourmet stupor and sipping wine tentatively while watching nonsense films and marvelling at the sheer bliss of the weekend. Somehow, we found room for the birthday cake slice, eaten while tucked up in our little nest of covers, shared out in mouthfuls, buttercream smearing our probably quite horrifically smug faces.


Us: slightly squiffy, woozily blissful.

The next day we sauntered home in golden Autumnal sunshine, smiles wider than the Thames, walking alongside a Salvation Army band as they marched their way down Regent Street on Remembrance Sunday; so grateful for what we’d experienced and most of all, for having each other to share it with.


I have never felt so truly pampered – it’s been a difficult year what with one thing and another, but this was like a break in the clouds. Perfectly timed, so needed, and VERY much appreciated. Thank you to Liberty, Decleor, W London, Spice Market and my darling fiancé for making me feel so thoroughly, wonderfully spoiled!



What Would Marie Antoinette Wear Now? / Let Them Eat Cake Competition!

[UPDATE] The amazingly generous Blu Lima has offered one of her Let Them Eat Cake prints as a give-away prize for readers of my blog! Scroll down to see how to enter (you just have to leave a comment on this post, nothing complicated!) 🙂

What would Marie Antoinette wear if she were around today?

When I’m not pondering the great mysteries of the universe or musing on the latest developments in space travel, such are the questions that tickle my fancy. Also, it’s rather cold and depressing, lately, what with The Great Snow Débâcle and everyone and their dog on diets and seemingly mooching around all grumpy with faces like wet weekends. How utterly miserable and boring!

Let’s cheer ourselves up with frills and furbelows…

The first piece that caught my eye – and in fact the inspiration for this entire post, is the be-ruffled extravaganza that is this stunning handmade top by the ultra talented Steam Machine. The designer poses the question of what Marie would dress like today…

“This awesome top reminds me of Marie Antoinette but in a modern way. What would she dress like if she lived today? I think she would love the ruffles and the soft, stretchy cotton in peach.”

Let Them Eat Cake Ruffled Top by Steam Machine: $95

I absolutely love it. It is made to order and takes up to 14 days to complete, using vintage fabrics, so will be completely unique. I would absolutely wear it with jeans and riding boots (or the Woland and Moon boots featured in a little while!) but Marie may have preferred something a little dressier.

To each their own. 🙂 However you wear it, it’s one of those classic with a twist pieces you just know you’d hang on to forever.

Let Them Eat Cake Ruffled Top by Steam Machine: $95

I think a bit of self-referential style wouldn’t go amiss, and I’m sure she’d love the colours of this t-shirt by 2 Girls Plastic.

Marie Antoinette T-shirt by 2 Girls Plastic: $19.95

I think she would be a huge fan of the sugary, beautiful little works of art that are Macarons, and would thus like to saunter around the house in pyjama bottoms and the J’aime Le Macaron t-shirt by A Table for Two.

I have to say, this t-shirt would also surely be perfect for Carol Gillott of the wonderful blog, Paris Breakfasts. She is often to be found waxing lyrical about Macarons – indeed, macarons are almost a religion in and of themselves!

I Love Macaron with Feet T-shirt by A Table for Two: $27

In case you are wondering about the curious “avec les pieds”, the designer assures us that “J’aime les macaron avec les pieds” – is the French way to express how much you love macaron… with feet, literally.”

Oh yes, these boots are undeniably more expensive than a simple high-street purchase, but they are entirely handmade for each customer using the finest leather and Venetian silk with an antique floral print, so hardly unjustified!

Antoinette Boots by Woland and Moon: $700

I think Marie would have quite liked stomping around in these when she tired of elaborate heels and wanted to give her tootsies a rest. Woland and Moon have one of the most unusual ranges of chunky, kick-ass yet incredibly feminine ranges of footwear I’ve ever seen.

On more delicate days, she could slip on these gorgeous vintage couture shoes being sold by A-Hem Vintage. Beautiful fabric, and I love the huge pom-pom rosettes on the front!

50's/60's Couture Shoes, A-Hem Vintage: $36

These couture quality painstakingly hand-embroidered cuffs by La Camelot are just breathtakingly beautiful and could be a future heirloom.

Marie Antoinette Embroidered Cuffs by La Camelot: $800

Incredibly cheering, this Let Them Eat Cake print by Blu Lima would be perfect in a kitchen.I particularly like the yellow version.

You can win your very own copy of this print simply by leaving a comment on this post, letting me know which is your favourite colour, and where you would hang your print.

Go and browse Blu Lima’s other colour options (and have a gander at the other lovely prints she’s selling) and leave that comment now to be in with a chance of winning!

I will close entries at the end of  Monday 18th January 2010. Good luck!

Many thanks to the lovely Sharon for offering this fabulous prize. 🙂

Let Them Eat Cake print by Blu Lima: $5

If you were to have one of the Marie Antoinette themed tea-parties I wrote about previously, you would absolutely need these cute chandelier print bags to fill with goodies for your guests to take home, don’t you think? Perhaps a mini cupcake, a feather plume hair clip, some pretty vintage ribbons and homemade chocolates?

Shabby Chic French Chandelier Gift Bags (10) by Parlene: $5

I like this updated cage panier hooped skirt very much, though I think you’d have to be a pretty young slip of a gal to get away with it in every day wear. 🙂

Cage Panier Skirt by Youth Diaspora: $250

The tarnished crown charm is rather appropriate on this Bouquet for Marie bracelet. I have always loved this combination of colours, too. Says the designer:

“I’ve been feeling overwhelmingly inspired by Marie lately, or maybe the cinematography and costumes in the movie have gone to my head! Either way, it has made for some pretty and interesting creations depicting the lavishness, opulence, and bold fashion that Marie was known for. It is my hope to create a sort of enchanted, slightly excessive, yet whimisical dream world that will have you basking in the glory of your own little empire (but you get to skip the French Revolution and keep your head)!”

A Bouquet for Marie Bracelet by Eclectic Orchid: $26.50

These little hand-stamped notecards are so sweet – who wouldn’t be happy to receive one of these through the post instead of the usual dreary dross we are delivered? Indeed, just about everything in The French Nest Co’s shop would have been appropriate to this Marie Antoinette theme. If you like unusual French inspired shabby chic items, you’ll be in Heaven!

Set of 4 Love Letters from Marie Antoinette by The French Nest Co: $5

“Bold and brilliant yet so delicate and charming” is an excellent description of this upcycled vintage necklace. I would wear it with something quite casual for everyday, and it would turn a little black dress into a showstopping outfit – especially if it was a low-cut one that showed the necklace to its best advantage. Love it!

Her Royal Highness Vintage Assemblage Necklace by Jealous Cat: $149

And here they are all gathered together for your delectation – cheering to the soul, I think you’ll agree!

I DO want to show a few more items not in the selection due to lack of space, but which are equally lust-after-able and very suited to Marie Antoinette 2010, I hope you’ll agree… Scroll down for further eye-candy.

Sorry for this image-heavy post, but I just couldn’t resist showing you these ones, too!

More chandelier goodness in the form of a cushion, this time. I like the fact the image is an old-fashioned idea of decor, yet the colour and the bold printing method bring this bang up to date. The juxtaposition of old and new is one of my favourite looks in interior design.

Chandelier Pillow by Pillow Palllooza: $78

There are many females of my close acquaintance who would be delighted to wear this whimsical custom-made cupcake print dress. I think you’d have to toughen it up a bit with leggings or thick tights and my go-to suggestion of stompy boots or chunky-heeled shoes (to avoid it looking too cutesy) but I imagine the gals at Domestic Sluttery might also coo after this one. 🙂

Custom Cupcakes Smocked Dress by Anayna DF: $62

Cake and Ice cream, a match made in Heaven… this print is part of the “You & Me” 2009 Valentine series, in which the artist has “…picked iconic couplings that I hope people and their partners will identify with.” I can certainly identify with this! I think it would look just darling when teamed with the Let Them Eat Cake print show earlier in this post.

Cake and Ice Cream framed print by Bishop Art: $15

I’m sure Marie Antoinette would appreciate the coupling, too. She’d definitely have this in her kitchen. Well, if she wouldn’t, I certainly would!

I do hope you have enjoyed this rather rambling and giddy post, my dears; and that it has gladdened your hearts or made you feel a little sunnier, wherever you are.

Until next time,

Miss Nightingale