The Spike

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Capsule wardrobe: activewear

I had an epiphany at a party the other day – I was talking to my friend Liz about the capsule wardrobe series and she said that she “wished” she could wear her gym kit more often because it was so comfortable.

And I said “But Liz, why don’t you just, you know… WEAR IT?” and she said “Well, I don’t want to stay in sweaty gym kit but I feel like a fraud wearing it if I’m not going to the gym.”

And my mouth… fell… OPEN, ladies and gentleman. A fraud? A FRAUD? I wanted to shake her… but Liz Liz LIZ!!! Just think of the years of discomfort you have suffered by not wearing your gym kit just because you are worried about being a fraud! Be a fraud. Join me in fraudulence.

Come on seriously, how many of you out there ARE THERE who are not taking at least one or two days of the week to legit just wear sportswear, with no intention of doing any sports?

Because this really is the key to life and happiness. Good sportswear, mixed with non-sport items is a specific look, some people call it “athleisure” but you don’t have to. It has been for a few years and will continue to be.

If you don’t do this already, as part of your wardrobe I really recommend you have at least one smart sportswear outfit and allow yourself to wear it even though you never plan to break into anything more than a light sweat (of fear) when your toddler busts for the road.

All my stuff could do with being replaced, but I can’t really justify it. But if I was building a boss sportswear wardrobe from scratch I would get these:

Lululemon leggings:

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Still the boss of the legging, Lululemon makes some kind of magic 4-way stretch material that ensure these are comfy, non-saggy, non-digging. Also really expensive but genuinely the best. I tried some on once but couldn’t afford them.

I also once a year buy myself 3 brand new pairs of TopShop 3/4 length black leggings and wear these, too. There are all sorts of mental splattery-patterned kind of sports leggings around at the moment but for true capsule wearability, get something nice and plain. My Sweaty Betty ones are covered in butterflies – embarrassingly so, and so I wear them inside out so they look plain blue.

Sports Bra

Now this is a minefield and I am no expert – for serious jumping up and and down I have an old Nike thing that does the job – but my boobs are not huge.

Spikers, do you have any recommendations for brilliant sports bras for those with really massive tits?

Long vest

I have a very long back, which means that I cannot wear leggings and a t-shirt for fear of exposing to the world a very unflattering view of my personnage. On sportswear days I have to layer over leggings and sports bra one of these Hush vests, which are very long and cover anything up you’d rather people didn’t see.

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I love sweatshirts. I have three – a coral one from Gap, a navy blue one from John Lewis and one that says NAVY on it that my sister got me from America.

The shops are not overloaded with good sweatshirts at the moment. Obviously I am looking for something completely plain, no writing or zips or patterns or anything. This needs to be an incognito item you can wear over and again.

I found this from H&M:

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There is this “cute” sweatshirt from asos but I worry it’s a little too short to be truly flattering:

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This looks good from Jack Wills – just a simple restrained logo, no-one will be able to tell where you got it from.

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The key thing to look for when getting a sweatshirt are that the fabric isn’t too thick – no point in adding bulk where bulk is not needed AMIRITE LADIES.

For full athleisure effect, mix sportswear with non-sportswear items.

So if you have gone for an ice-white trainer, wear those with this sporty kit. Sometimes I will wear the leggings and the long vest and the trainers, but with a denim shirt over the top.

Don’t forget your accessories! Your gold Dinny Hall hoops and a good pair of sunglasses will add an unexpected and rakish air to the entire thing.

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If it’s cooler, wear the entire ensemble with a denim or leather jacket on top. Or in the winter with a very smart town coat. I have it in my mind that Karlie Kloss might do something like this, but I may be making that up.

Menswear: shorts and trousers


We are nearly out of shorts season now but I need to address the Flappy Pocketed Cargo Short problem. In that the flappy pocketed cargo short is ridiculously dated, we all agree, in fact a lot of men wearing the FPCS right now will probably agree but the thing is, men find them so terribly useful because they can hold all their stuff. Because they don’t carry bags.

So to that I say fine – okay. Keep those FPCS as action shorts. BUT! Also, please, have some better shorts, too.

Something like these from All Saints:

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Ralph Lauren do everything well:

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And these from good old J Crew:

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The modern man’s short ought to end on the knee, with a maximum of four pockets, none of which should be on the side of anything.

These you will wear to any summer event where the FPCS are just unacceptable. You are just going to have to leave all your shit piled up out of the way on a windowsill at the barbecue, or ask your wife or girlfriend VERY NICELY if she could make some space in her bag for it.

In fact, make a deal with her: say “Okay I will get rid of the FPCS if you never make a face again when I ask you to put my shit in your bag because I haven’t got pockets any more.”

Same goes for swimming shorts – please no more knee-length board shorts! I particularly like Love Brand at the moment because they donate a percentage of sales to an elephant conservation project.

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Khaki chinos

Another thing I sent Giles away on his travels with that hotel show with was a khaki chino. I can’t tell you or explain why it ought to be olive green for girls and dusty brown for men when it comes to chinos but it just is. Dark green chinos on men aren’t a disaster but they slightly say Territorial Army.

A khaki chino is the ultimate Spring/Summer smart casual item, to be worn with confidence to meet grandparents, on Easter Day, to look round a school, to go to a frighteningly smart house for lunch, to a restaurant in town.

Giles’s chinos are from J Crew (I know that J Crew is featuring quite heavily in this entire series but they are just SO GOOD when it comes to menswear).

These are they:

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Navy blue chinos work, too. If the man is responsive, the cuffs can be rolled up a little for a relaxed summer attitude, to be worn with the Mulos or Birkenstocks. But don’t push it if he does a little pretend sick if you suggest this.


I would say that the precise style and fit of jeans doesn’t especially matter. They just need to fit okay. The problem with a ratty or bashed up jean is this jean, plus the gross t-shirt, plus the fleece, plus the stinking trainers. A bashed up jean worn with other things will go unnoticed. Jeans shopping is so ghastly and painful that you might win the battle with the new jeans but lose the war in that he will refuse to contemplate any other changes.


There is nothing wrong with tracksuit bottoms; it’s utterly revolting, stained, threadbare tracksuit bottoms that are so terrible. When I moved in with Giles he had a pair that were so digusting and worn out that they showed his… they were very… how do I put this without causing projectile vomiting? They were just obscene. He now has fresh pairs for relaxed days and they are perfectly alright for running weekend errands or for pre or post-sport. Pretty much any sort will do as long as they are in good condition.

For a jogger/trouser hybrid, I have seen these “Discipline Pants” STOP LAUGHING by Lululemon and they are extremely brilliant. I got some for Giles and they didn’t quite fit his footballer’s thighs but I have seen them on other men and they look awesome. They aren’t quite a trouser, not a jogger. Really expensive but very handy for all weekend activities. They also look shit in this photo, but they are better IRL.

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Okay do you know I am bored with menswear now… I’m going to make my excuses and leave – back at you soon with… ACTIVEWEAR FOR GIRLS! WAHOO!


Menswear: two jackets

I’ll keep this simple: these are two brilliant jackets for men for all but very cold days. These are also only smart/casual – smart clothes I must refer you The Cad and the Dandy. Cold weather clothes I will tackle later this year.

Also I must repeat I’m not suggesting that these are the only jackets that you ought to have if you are a man. I’m saying that if you struggle to find suitable jackets, here are some ideas.

My first recommendation is this Norfolk work jacket from The Carrier Company. Please ignore how they style this jacket on the website, as it’s like a Socialist Workers Party pamphlet.

This jacket looks absolutely fab on, wear over a t-shirt or even over a slim sweater when it’s a bit chillier. Please note the ample pockets.

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This Field Mechanic jacket from J Crew is also a gem. Also, hello… POCKETS!

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Ooo also actually while we’re here, don’t dismiss something like this – a sort of genteel bomber from Barbour:

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I bought my dad something similar (though not shiny) from J Crew last year and he looked genuinely cool in it. He is 83. But that’s the power of a great jacket.

MONDAY! Shorts and trousers! 

Menswear: tops

I ought to point out at this point in proceedings that men should expect to pay a bit more for their clothes – but own less and buy things less often.

Try if you can, if you have started having a conversation about clothes with a man, to make him understand that multi-packs of 3 white t-shirts from SportsDirect are a false economy – also potentially unethical (if he might respond to that).

So, yes, I will be suggesting some slightly more expensive stuff than usual precisely because I know how much a lot of men don’t like shopping and don’t want to do it often Buy cheap, buy twice!

Further game plan notes: if you do manage to get a man to buy and wear something new that you like on him, go totally overboard. “You look TERRIFIC,” you should say. “That looks AMAZING on you.” They really need to hear that kind of thing. They’re 80% doing it to please you anyway.

Anyway here we go – please bear in mind these are all recommendations for summer (or should I say “summer”) – Autumn/Winter will come later, which is why no knitwear suggestions.


T-shirts and polo shirts are for men just as much of a cornerstone of their wardrobes as ours.

It really is important to get a good quality t-shirt, which will retain its shape, not go see-through or highlight any moobs small physical imperfections.

The same rules apply to men’s capsule clothing as women – stick to navy, grey and white and then everything will go with everything else. They can be worn on their own or under an open checked shirt or a sweater.

Sunspel and J Crew are my current favourites for T-shirts for men.

This from Sunspel is nice, but have a poke around and see if there’s anything else you like. Dodge anything claret coloured or, like moss green. NOT CAPSULE. I can’t vouch for the polo shirts, but Sunspel is an excellent brand, you can buy with confidence. Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 21.36.54

Giles has multiples of these “broken-in” t shirts from J Crew in different, plain colours.

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And look, how can this polo shirt not be really, really great?

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Every man needs a checked shirt. If yours doesn’t have one, get one. I know – they have become something of a hipster cliche in recent years, but everyone is still wearing them, so why deny yourself the ease and convenience of a checked shirt just because you’re scared of hipsters?

As we slip into AW17, I think this colour way from Hilfiger is nice

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This is beautiful from Folk, ignore the ridiculous way it has been styled here, no-one expects a man to wear his shirt like this.

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This is good from AllSaints

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Work Shirts

Giles has his shirts made by a tailor in London called The Cad and the Dandy. This is because Giles, like most men, is a non-standard size. His particular quirk is that he has an absurdly huge neck measurement and giant shoulders but a small waist and not the arm length to go with it.

A bespoke shirt works out at £120 each – I think they get cheaper the more you buy – and if I was a man and needed work shirts, I would get five made, (writing the cost off against tax if I was self-employed), and just be done with it and never think about it again until the armpits got holes in them from toxic sweat/deodorant reaction.

Please, if anyone else has great recommendations for good quality work shirts for men, leave a comment! For very tall men, if you missed it in the comments. Charles Tyrwhitt is a good non-bespoke option.

I must point out there that no man should ever wear a white shirt during the day. White shirts in the day are for waiters and school boys. During the day, men ought to wear pale blue or pale pink shirts, nothing else will do.

There was a comment about white shirts not showing sweat stains during stressful work days/presentations. I am very sympathetic to this, no-one wants pit stains at the best of times. I guess I don’t have an argument against that, but perhaps on non-very stressful days he might wear another colour?

Non-check casual shirts.

This kind of shirt is very useful in a smart-casual situation, from J Crew – home of smart-casual. In fact, I think they might have invented the term. It can be worn on its own or over one of his new white Sunspel T-shirts. Later in the year, it can slip under a sweater.

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A reasonably new and clean sweatshirt will take you pretty much anywhere. An absolute  essential for the modern man.

I like this one from Scotch & Soda

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and of course this one from Ralph Lauren is a classic

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Try to ignore the absurdly beefy shape of this fellow wearing it


Tomorrow! Jackets



Menswear: Shoes


1 Trainers.

Pretty much any trainer he wants, it honestly doesn’t matter. But – let’s get real, there are trainers and trainers. Trainers you wear everywhere because they are comfy and trainers that you do sport in.

On a man I’m not crazy about a fashion trainer – I wouldn’t recommend an ice white or Adidas Superstar, but if that’s what you want, knock yourself out.  Personally, I like a clean, modern sports trainer. Giles has a pair of Nike Fly Knit in lurid orange and I think they are fabulous. For actual running or sport, boys need something hardcore by Aasics or Reebok that can be kept for getting muddy and shredded.

The key thing for men to understand – (as so much of changing the way you dress is about changing a stubborn mindset) – is that it’s okay to have a pair of trainers that you do not do sport in. They are a legitimate item of clothing these days, it’s *fine* to buy a pair that never see the inside of a gym.

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2 Desert boots.

Desert boots are a stealth item in the manner of the Spike favourite H&M khaki shirt. They are soft and comfortable, they go under the radar. They are just… stealth. You can wear them basically anywhere except to meet the Queen. And even then, I bet she’s seen some desert boots in her life. Prince Harry has got a pair in blue – NOT CAPSULE – but P-Haz can do what he wants.

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Other colours are available, including but not exclusively blue

These are from Clarks, which means they are outstandingly comfortable, non-sweaty, but no-one will know they are from Clarks – because they just won’t. At £95 these are reassuringly expensive. When Giles set off last year round the world with that hotels show, I told him to get a pair – he did and they were brilliant. Forget about exploding pens and anti-venom chewing gum: these are what James Bond really needs.

3 Espadrilles

I really like these Mulos – they’re a sort of souped-up espadrille, with a sturdy sole and upper. These are all-purpose and worn correctly will not make you look like a failed Love Island auditionee (is this a word?). I bought some for Giles last year and they didn’t at any point make him look like a massive tool.

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I guess if your boyfriend is a 16 stone fireman this might be a hard sell. Though actually I am picturing now a 16 stone fireman and he might look sort of amazing in these? Have a go anyway.

Giles managed to trash these in one summer by wearing them in the rain and barbecuing  while wearing them – but if you don’t do that, I don’t see why they wouldn’t last.

4 Deck Shoes

Someone was having a good old moan about deck shoes on Twitter but I kind of like deck shoes. Don’t dismiss them!! Summer smart casual pay dirt! But look I appreciate that these might have the kind of class or style connotations that just don’t work for you as a family if not the man as an individual. But if you have dismissed them roundly and generally as a horror then maybe reconsider.

DO NOT BUY CHEAP ONES. A well-made classic, particularly these Timberlands, in the right circumstances look absolutely right and proper. 14 million Sloanes can’t be wrong.

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Timberland deck shoes, £109

5 Birkenstocks

Giles bought these Arizona Birkenstocks for himself, which I’m surprised about, considering his massive horror of anyone getting their feet out. But it’s also a good thing because it is really important in life, just generally, to change your mind about things.

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To not change your mind about things, to simply blunder through life holding the same boring opinions and prejudices about the same boring shit is awful and very ageing.

And the thing that Giles would never do is get a pair of Birkies. BUT NOW HE’S GOT SOME!!! If you really genuinely hate them and you’re not just posturing then don’t encourage it, but if you don’t mind they’re not a bad idea. I think they have become in the last 5 years a classic shoe.

They are especially good on a tall man or anyone with a long back because a bad back is no fun and these will help.


I have had several requests for good shoes for big feet – I have sent various people to Elephant Feet in Brixton with loads of success, but I think they might have closed down now because I can’t find any evidence of them online.

There is a website called Magnus, which I suppose you may already have tracked down if you have a man with big feet and have done a cursory Google search. But if not I think it looks quite good. I like these blue trainers.

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Tomorrow! Shirts and t-shirts!

Men’s capsule wardrobe

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Men who really care about clothes can come across a bit sinister. Vanity is a tiny bit serial killer isn’t it?

But then a lot of men go the other way, wearing clothes because they are there, because they fit, possibly not even sure how they came by them. They can be as resistant to shopping as I am to watching football, or sitting on the loo for 9 hours or whatever other ghastly stuff men think is fun.

I  hope that a lot of men dress badly, in weird and awful clothing, because they don’t know that other options exist, rather than they dress in this appalling way out of choice.

They are simply living in a cave and will not know that they are living in a cave until they leave it. Won’t they?

Men also do not have access to male role-models when it comes to getting dressed. And other men are not helpful, I don’t think they really sit about talking about clothes in as open and honest way as women do. For men I just don’t think there is that kind of conversation about clothes, except occasionally possibly that this person or that person dresses like a tit because he once wore a panama hat. Or possibly not even that – this is the gender that can’t tell the difference between a dress and a skirt, after all.

And men’s clothing departments… oh my Christ alive! I live to shop, right? I can get excited about a trip to Homebase. And even I used to get the fuzzy eyes/brain within 15 seconds of being in any mens’ clothing shop or department. What… is it? What does it all… mean? Do you really have to wear those pointy shiny shoes? Is a duffel coat really mandatory? Save me.

And mens’ magazines are not helpful either, featuring lithe male models or David freaking Gandy all trussed up in tight suits and hilarious pastel casual wear, like someone dressed up as a pretend nice person because he wants to rob your grandma of her pension. It’s all so passive, these men sitting about wearing clothes and pointing off into the distance, when men – as we all know – are supposed to be active.

There’s never anyone looking like any normal, sane British man would like to look. Why don’t men’s magazines feature slightly chubby adorable dads mending a Frog bike in a great sweater/jacket combo? Don’t answer that.

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My fear, of course, is that men who dress badly are wearing the double denim or the gross trainers or the foul ski jacket because they have looked at the alternatives and gone “no, thanks”.

Or it might be for even worse reasons.

A lot of men suffer consciously or unconsciously from the awful thing that my husband and dad are occasionally prone to, which I have decided to call Clark Kent syndrome.

Both Giles and my Dad would, left to their own devices, wander about the place looking like utter shite, despite being reasonably handsome and in decent shape.

This is because they rather enjoy encountering strangers and thinking “Aha you think that I am a poor destitute tramp but ACTUALLY I AM GILES COREN/A BALLIOL DON/SUPERMAN”.

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Giles wearing 2 of my least favourite pre-me items, since banned

But the fact is, to go about looking dirty and shabby is not cool and unstructured – it’s just rude. People are looking at you! It’s nice to look nice, for you and for other people. It’s as much as a civic duty as washing or smiling. (This is what I told my Dad anyway.)

Sometimes, once a man gets his head around the idea that it’s just not really cricket to dress like a slob and embarrass one’s family, or that it’s not just terrifying homosexuals and perverts who have the right clothes for the right occasions, excellent changes can quickly follow.

Of course, you and I can’t make the man in your life want to change the way he dresses. You may well be stuck with it and I would say there are worse men to be stuck with than a bad dresser.

But, if you detect vulnerability, or if your male specimen openly yearns for change and yet you both simply have your minds on things other than clothes, I might have a few answers for you.

This is all with this caveat that also comes with all the things I write about clothes, or about the capsule theory: I’m not saying that this is what men ought to wear, just that this is what they could wear and it won’t make them looked like a preened thingummy out of GQ.

It won’t make him look like Tom Hardy either – when I find the solution to making them all look like Tom Hardy, I’ll let you know.

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Giles has this exact shirt

So we’ll start on Wednesday with SHOES, as is only right and proper.

In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment in the box below and let me know which occasions you or the man in your life finds it difficult to dress for.


Au revoir for a bit

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Tom’s got his cargo jacket – have you?


Such fun doing this capsule series. Loved it, loved how you loved it.

Taking a quick break now to do Sam’s end of term, childcare, holiday – back some time after the 7th August when our temp nanny arrives YASSSS. We’ll have men’s capsule (I’m hoping Giles will do a bit of modelling??), a toy round-up and some other shit.

If you’re missing the action, hop over and join me on Instagram (@esthermcoren) for photos and stories xxxx

Holiday capsule

Packing your own clothes for a holiday when you are also packing for your children and also family essentials like phone and Kindle chargers, nail clippers, ibuprofen and headphone splitters just seems like one horrific task too many.

You can end up packing shitty clothes just because you are too tired and overwrought to contemplate packing anything vaguely nice or smart. “My life is just fucking drudgery,” you think to yourself, and pack mulchy stuff, crapola denim shorts, not one single necklace and forget your hairbrush.

The good news is that, in fact, you hardly need to take anything on holiday – and you probably have most of it already. You just need to focus and take the right things.


Yes okay, this is the most obvious piece of advice ever, but it is true. Finding the physical and mental space to even contemplate the activities and appropriate clothing is the hard bit.

But if you can just shoo your husband away for the evening, even if he takes the piss out of you for packing 48 hours before you go, (just tell him he’s a c*nt from me), get those kids in bed and stay off the white wine for 45 minutes you will be able to do this.


You will wear your chinos, boyfriend jeans or culottes with trainers and a t-shirt. Your tassel necklace and a scarf if you really want to wow Terminal 5. No matter how early your flight is, do not wear a leather jacket. It will be a complete pain to look after for the whole holiday. If it’s really chilly on the day of your flight, take a denim jacket.


I only take 2 pool or beach dresses because they always get completely trashed, covered in sweat and ice cream and suncream and god knows what else. I’ve got a blue and white striped big shirt dress and then some trashy white embroidered beach dress and that’s it.

I’ll bet you’ve got 2 perfectly good beach dresses in your cupboard somewhere. Take those. If you really don’t, or really want to modernise, I think the following are really good. They could also perform the function of the Sundowner dress (see below).


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This one is expensive, if you’re feeling like blowing the budget…


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And last but not least this is very nice from White Stuff

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And what is that crap that people talk about taking things that you can “dress up” for evening? I can’t imagine anything more disgusting than putting on at night something I’ve been wearing all day in a hot country. What is wrong with these people. Am I supposed to wash it in the sink? Send it away to the laundry? Honestly fuck right off.

I don’t take denim shorts because I try to avoid taking any denim on holiday at all – except maybe a denim jacket to travel in. It just says British. Don’t get me wrong, I love my country and my fellow countryfolk, but denim shorts are really just for slopping about at home in. They’re not for holidays, not for dreamtime.


Take 3 – one on, one drying, one dry. I don’t mean to be unhelpful, but buying swimwear and bikinis is such a nightmare and so different for everyone that I can’t even begin to make recommendations.

Please, Spikers – help. You have been so brilliant at making your own recommendations for things you have bought that suit your body shape and type – leave tips in the handy comment box below!

Personally I buy something – only ever navy or navy/white – from Heidi Klein about once every three years and try to look after it so it doesn’t go saggy.


This is a long, floaty cover up that you only ever wear after your evening shower while you’re getting the kids squared away and before you get dressed for dinner. It could also be a light dressing gown if you’ve got one of those. Anyway take something like that and designate it your Sundowner dress and keep it only for that for the week so it doesn’t get covered in sun cream and snot and crap.


I actually take quite a lot of evening wear. Dinner is the one time when I rather mind how I look on holiday and I want options. I take every light black dress I own and a ton of jewellery in its own bag and operate on the principle that more is more.

This is when to pack that slashed-to-the-navel emerald green maxi dress, or the slip dress that needs a complicated bra, or those fondant pink floaty trouers or that playsuit. Bring all the mad impulse buys you never normally wear because of the kids and then wear them!


I take 1 pair of trainers, 1 pair of flip flops, (if your Havaianas are shabby and rotten, replace them), 1 smart sandals – and this year I will also be bringing my Zara tie-up wedge espadrilles.


I’m very excited about taking my Panama hat on holiday this year as mentioned in Accessories. As a reminder – Davina Mulford gave me mine and Spikers get 15% off at checkout.

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Air-conditioning can make holiday rooms really quite chilly at night. I am insanely in love with my pineapple print pyjamas from asos.

I can’t even explain how soft and beautiful and featherlight they are. I put them on and feel instantly as if embraced by happiness and calm. Not too hot, not too cold. I don’t understand why they are only £28. I would pay £150 for these pyjamas.

Alas the pineapple ones are sold out now, but I have studied carefully the video for this pair of cactus pyjamas below, also by asos and I think they are absolutely identical to my pineapple ones in fabric and fit, just a different – but also awesome – print.

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Plenty of sizes left, mine are a 12 for sweft and roominess. Sweft isn’t a word, but it describes these PJs perfectly. They have ideal sweft.


Only one, mind. I’m talking about this kind of thing.


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This one above is the kind of thing Julia Stiles wears in Riviera – with a lot of gold jewellery and the sleeves rolled up it would look super.

This is just in case, you know, there’s an unexpected thing that requires a smart day dress. It does occasionally happen and you really don’t want to get chatting to the British ambassador to Spain – (Simon Manley CMG) – in the buffet queue and get invited to a smart lunch, (kids also welcome, they’ve got a bouncy castle and an entertainer?), only for worry and fear to cross your face because you only brought the cactus pyjamas and the beach dress.

Some other practical things

I never go anywhere without my micro fibre hair turban. If my holiday is going to plan, my hair ought to be wet quite often. This little thingy, with its loop-and-button closure system is just entirely awesome at keeping wet hair up and out of the way, with a magnificent touch of Margo from the Good Life about it, while you chase your kids around the villa and clamp them between your knees to apply suncream. (“Come here you little *@@  @%^ *  £()$ !!!*%*) ….

Not sure if the model below is real or computer generated?? Anyone else feel sometimes like they’re in Blade Runner?

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I also never go anywhere with my kids without

  • a pair of rubber gloves
  • 1 bin bag
  • my own tea bags (PG Tips)
  • 2 Ziploc or press-seal medium freezer bags

At some point in every holiday, I’m afraid, you will just need those things and if you’ve packed them you will just, like, fall to your knees and be like *weep* I can’t believe *weep* I actually packed these *weep weep*. Particularly the teabags. I’m an addict, what can I say.

What unconventional essentials do you take on holiday? Please leave a comment in the handy box below.




A thing that goes out of the window when you have small kids is accessories – those final things that take an outfit from plain to interesting.

There’s just no time to think about putting them on – and babies don’t half love yanking on anything shiny within reach. Bangles get in the way, scarves get tangled up in buggy wheels and you wash your hands so much with kids around wearing rings suddenly seems insane.

But then the babies move past the yanking-on-things stage, or you’ve sorted a bit of childcare and what happens is you forget to put the accessories back on.

If you’re going to work a capsule wardrobe, you just need to remember to put those accessories back on. Maybe not every day, all the time – if you have got a shitload of messy childcare coming your way you don’t have to deck yourself out like a Christmas tree.

But don’t forget about them.

And get organised.

Chuck out or put away out of sight any tarnished or clattery jewellery, any earrings missing a pair, any rings missing insets. Stop going into Accessorize, it’s for teenagers.

Then pick just a few things that you can practically wear and have them out where you can see them – I got myself a small jewellery stand.

It’s hard for me to say exactly what you ought to buy, because jewellery is an area where you ought to choose the things you, personally, just really like.

But what I would say is this – the jewellery I get the most compliments on are my gold Dinny Hall hoop earrings, a neon tassel necklace and some long necklaces from Hulqvist.

I reckon a standard pair of gold hoop earrings – (or silver if you really, really don’t “do” gold and I can’t persuade you even with this here little glass of sherry?) – if you have pierced ears, are incredibly useful. If you don’t already have a pair wait until the time is right and then invest in something gold or silver plated that won’t go brown in a month.

Obviously I think Dinny Hall is the only place to get these. Mine are as shiny and pretty as the day they arrived and they are small enough that they don’t get caught in stuff and piss me off.

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I would also argue that one pair of mad earrings is useful. My favourites at the moment are this neon pink ones from J Crew that I bought in the sale.

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The ultimate mad earrings are of course from Spike favourite Toolally. I already have a pair of beautiful art deco glittery ones for winter but I also absolutely love these abstract watermelon ones.

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You can either buy here from John Lewis, or there is a wider selection on the Toolally website. You will wear these with a white t-shirt and your mad skirt and your clogs and look fucking massively awesome.

I got my tassel necklace from Ibiza, (don’t get excited, I have never set foot inside any nightclub, let alone one in freaking Ibiza), but there are others available. The thing about a tassel necklace is that it’s quite unusual and small children cannot turn it into a ballistic missile.

I do love a made-to-order item and like the look of this seller on Etsy

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This is cute but has ballistic potential from Anna

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I rather love these mad, garish ones, which are most similar to mine. They cheer up a white t-shirt no end and look great with denim.

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Only buy one of these tasselled things, no matter how much you like them – I had three and only ever really wore one.

I also found a long gold metal necklace came in handy to cheer up anything black I was wearing. There’s something about gold and black (or black and silver, really) that always looks modern and chic. Just don’t wear it anywhere near a child under 2 years old.

Mine was similar to this one from Hulquist.

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Multi-layered gold necklaces are quite the thing at the moment. But getting necklaces that work together and all match is quite the palaver and possibly not a thing you’ve got time for.

If you’re in the mood to genuinely hurt yourself financially, look at Adelphe for full Stevie Nicks necklace layering heaven, or rich girls’ favourite Brooke Gregson .

Otherwise, just stick on a simple necklace and earrings and be done with it.


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Davina Mulford, who imports Panama hats from Ecuador, got in touch with me, having been enjoying the capsule wardrobe series and said maybe I ought to include a panama hat?

I was a bit circumspect as I’m not sure about hats. And I was also nervous about her sending me a sample because it’s conflicting – if it isn’t really nice, ought I say it’s nice anyway and then be a liar?

BUT – it arrived and it’s AWESOME. Light as a feather and looks really great, just incredibly chic. Of course, any old straw trilby that suits you will probably do, but I find most hats a bit sweaty and claustrophobic, which you’re not really after when it’s 31C. This, though… this is like a magic hat. It’s kind of like it’s not there. I am massively in love with mine – it makes everything you wear look totally on purpose.

And as a proper treat, Davina is giving us 15% off on her website! Shop the one I’ve got here. Use the code THESPIKE at checkout. I had a lovely email exchange with her – she is a true Spiker.

Davina says that these can’t be folded as they don’t have a seam along the top , but I watched this video of some Savile Row fellow folding a hat and tried with hers, then popped it out a few hours later and it was fine.

I just can’t imagine for one second that I would make it from my house in London to my holiday destination still with my hat and my children and my passport so it really needs to go in the suitcase.


I’m sure you’ve got a million scarves that you bought because you like the pattern but don’t use any more. Get them out! If they are small, try tying them round a ponytail in your hair or round your wrist. If they are large, see if they won’t liven up one of those new white t-shirts.

Channel Rosetta Getty:

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I have got two small scarves I use the most – one black and white from Nina Ricci and one  skull-print one from Alexander McQueen.

I’m toying with the idea of buying a leopard print one – I don’t consider leopard print to be quite a neutral, (but that is because I am covered in an exotic spotty pattern all of my very own… I see gun barrels glinting everywhere, someone just waiting to turn me into a purse. YUK), but I think a leopard-print scarf round your neck, wrist or in your hair looks fabulous.

I spied this one from H&M at the checkout and didn’t buy it and now regret it. Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 11.07.51


Stop fucking buying bags! Just stop it. You don’t need another one YOU’VE GOT TOO FUCKING MANY.

Especially cheap bags. Stop buying them. Stop it, stop it, stop it NOW.

Just say No! Non.  You can do fine with the 4m ones you’ve got. Do what I do and set yourself the £500 lower limit and only get a new bag every Christmas. And if Christmas comes around and you’d rather have something else then… there you go – just shows that you don’t really need any more bags.

Look after the bags you’ve got. Dust them off and put your head on one side, look at each one and think “How could I wear this in a new way this week?”


Item 1 You don’t need some tiny micro bag because a fashion magazine told you you needed one.

Item 2 You don’t need a straw bag with your freaking name on it, covered in pompoms

Item 3 You don’t need a crazy scuba fabric bag shaped like a pineapple because Leandra Medine has got one

Item 4 You don’t need a bag because that blonde actress Michelle thingy who used to be married to Heath Ledger is holding it

Look I’m so angry about this I’m formatting.

You need:

1 runaround day bag, possibly cross-body with an outside pocket for your phone (mine is from Marks and Spencer and is about 15 years old. I love it.)

1 black evening clutch (I use either one from Accessorize or Anya Hindmarch)

1 jazzy holiday clutch (I picked mine up in Ibiza 4 years ago)

1 multipurpose tote (think the ubiquitous Longchamp nylon one – mine is a navy Herve Chapelier thing) and also I admit a grey YSL one, but that was another revenge-attack on my husband’s wallet one Christmas

1 kids-day-out black rucksack (mine is from Kipling)

And that, my friends, is the ugly truth about how many bags you *actually* need. If I was in your house right now I would toss out so many of them. So just thank your lucky stars that I’m not there and treat the ones that you have like I’m about to come round with my binbag and this is your last day with them on earth.

Use one you haven’t used for a while with an outfit tomorrow and you get to keep it.


My attitude to sunglasses is scattergun and resolutely non-designer. I buy a clutch of mad ones from TopShop, Uniqlo and occasionally TK Maxx, keep them all in the basket next to the front door and wear whichever pair I feel like as I’m leaving. This is an area where I am absolutely slavish to fashion. Fuck classic completely and go wild. I lose them within three months anyway.

This is a contentious area, though – a lot of people say that cheap sunglasses are bad for your eyes because they don’t have proper UV protection. Is this actually right?? I can’t find proper evidence to support this. I kind of feel like it must be illegal to sell sunglasses that damage your eyes, but you might know better than me.

In the meantime, I want to encourage you to buy the maddest and most modern sunglasses you can. That way you can wear a white t-shirt, boyfriend jeans and espadrilles and MENTAL sunglasses and look just red-hot. Women will stop and stare at you in the street. Men won’t understand. It will be… amazing. Maximum impact, minimum effort.

I like the look of these

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or these

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At the moment I’ve got a real crush on 70s style barely-there glasses like these (Chloe rip-offs) but I worry that they will send me blind within weeks.

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At the moment all the fashion girls are wearing white plastic-rimmed Kurt Cobain jobbies like these (don’t worry that they are nominally for men), which you can get or not depending on whether you fancy the look of them.

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