Beyond the Pale


Anya Hindmarch: 18th Century Portraits & Georgian Cariactures

Anya Hindmarch‘s bags have long been lusted after by the fash pack and celebrities alike, but I have only admired them from afar, with the eye of someone who appreciates they are beautifully designed yet remains drool free.

They have always – perhaps unfairly – struck me as bags carried by dainty, neat ladies who always polish their shoes, and therefore obviously not for the likes of me.

Until I espied a rather fabulous tote and the saliva glands began working overtime. A brand new range inspired by beautiful 18th Century oil portraits and cheeky Georgian caricatures? Oh my, get me a hankie. The drooling begins here…

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COURTNEY VALENTINE CLUTCH: £395.00

“A new style for this season, the Courtney Valentine clutch captures the naughtiness of the Georgian era by featuring the cheeky images of 18th Century illustrator James Gillray. The zip top fastening is completed with a supremely soft leather tassel, which take eight hours to craft by hand and features contrasting coloured threads. With an internal compartment for all of your essentials, this clutch bag makes an eye-catching style statement.”

I adore the detail they chose to showcase on this Courtney Valentine clutch, it suggests naughtiness just out of sight, and it’s definitely cheeky. I

have a great fondness for accessories that don’t take themselves too seriously while retaining a certain elegance and whimsicality. The tassel really ups the glam factor, too. Tassels are set to be everywhere this Spring/Summer, apparently. I bet Dita’s thrilled.

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GRACIE LADY: £795.00

“Inspired by 18th Century oil portraits, the iconic Gracie has been used as a canvas to depict the Duchess of Beaufort; ‘The Lady’. Reworked in printed canvas, this Anya Hindmarch favourite has a jewellery like chain shoulder strap and labelled compartments inside for all your bits and bobs. It is beautifully finished with our signature enamel twist lock.”

This Gracie Lady is so cute, and I’d use it slung nonchalantly over a t-shirt worn with floppy a-line short skirt and (for now) opaque tights and biker boots. Dressing down classics is the way forward for me this season.

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EARL BOTTOM PINCH TOTE: £250.00

“A cheeky addition to our Spring Summer collection, the Earl tote captures the naughtiness of the Georgian era through the illustrations of 18th Century caricaturist James Gillray.”

This Earl Bottom Pinch is the one that originally set me drooling, though to be honest, I’d buy it unseen for the name alone. Being extremely keen on Georgian caricatures anyway, this was always going to especially appeal to me, but I just love everything about it. Imagine how bright every day would be if you flounced out the door with this over your arm!

Of course the sad truth is that I shall still have to admire these bags from afar, as they are way out of my (non-existent) budget right now, but instead of cooly appreciating the design, this time Anya Hindmarch’s collection truly has me lusting with the crowd of die-hard fans. More like this, please!

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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. 🙂

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More scarves. WANT.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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[NOT a Wedding Dress] Wedding Dress Ideas. #1: All Saints Heather Dress

I very rarely see traditional wedding dresses – even dresses that breezily claim they are ‘alternative’ wedding dresses – that I like. It often seems that designers cannot quite wrench themselves away from the poofy meringue or dull as dishwater ‘Virginal Simplicity’ yawn-fests that inhabit page after glossy, anodyne page in most mainstream Bridal magazines.

With this in mind, I set about seeking out gorgeous dresses that could easily be worn by a bride, but could also (hopefully) be worn again afterwards. Some are more traditional or vintage looking, others may be a little bit ‘out there’, but while they may not appeal to all, I have found something to love in every single one, which gives me hope if nothing else, while searching for my own wedding dress!

There’s something for every budget, from under £50 to several thousand bucks, which may only be dreams for most of us, but I hope may also serve as inspiration and give you other ideas about where to look for THE dress…

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This is the ‘Heather’ maxi dress, by All Saints. It’s £395, and while out of my budget for a normal everyday dress, I think is still an okay price for The Best Day Of Your Life in which you will be worshipped as a Princess et-cetera et-cetera.

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I really like the flattering cut and drape of this All Saints dress – very 1930’s starlet, or BCLWCCP (Before Courtney Love Went Completely Coco Pops). Bless her. Okay, maybe she’s been that way since immemorial, but you catch my drift.

You could wear the Heather dress again bedecked with costume jewellery (I’m thinking multiple layers of charm-loaded chains or perhaps one of the Butler & Wilson diamanté skull necklaces) and layered with a biker jacket for a funky evening look. It’s also available in black, if darker hues are your thing (and they are usually mine, though I’m trying to steer away from an all-black wedding dress).

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Regardless of how you style it – wafty Goddess or rock chick chic – this is a classy looking and actually quite classic dress that would see you through many years.