The Spike

Clothes, recipes, kids, interiors, London…


July 2017

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.

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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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Capsule 5: Dresses

Okay ARE YOU READY? Please bear in mind that this post is not about “event” dressing, because I have as little a clue as you do about event dressing. No-one invites me to events, thank god, and if they did I wouldn’t go.

This is just about the summer dresses that you need, for day or evening.

I have a revolutionary suggestion, which….. is that….  *hides under table* you only need 2 dresses.

That’s right! 2.

Both black. Or possibly one black, one navy.

Let me explain!

A capsule wardrobe is made up of things that look fine, that will always look fine, that always work, that you will always feel like wearing while attending to errands, work, a young family and all that terrifying shit.

Many of you don’t own these capsule items because you think they are “boring” – a mindset I hope I am nagging you out of. No clothes are boring, there are only boring ways of wearing them.

And you can pretty much always feel like wearing a black dress. Black in summer is fine, as is navy. You don’t have to go about looking like the Chelsea Flower show just because it’s sunny.

I’m not saying you’re only allowed to wear black and navy dresses in summer (some readers are getting agitated that I am saying throw all your clothes away and ONLY wear capsule things – not at all!)

What I am saying is that if you struggle to find summer dresses, if you open your wardrobe to see mulchy jersey things in indistinct and ugly patterns from H&M 9 years ago, inappropriate floral tea mini dresses or jazzy emerald maxi dresses but nothing to take the kids to the fucking park in when it is 31C outside, just consider adding one or two BUT NO MORE of the following dresses to your repertoire.

Fashion people want you in summer to wear giant broderie anglaise things, or an all-white midi dress or something in bright yellow with massive sleeves- and I say to that: what, sorry… with two children? Having to do two trips on the tube with a buggy then later standing about in the kitchen making kids tea? You’re having a laugh aren’t you.

Those sorts of dresses – the broderie, the yellow, the huge sleeves – are for holidays and this is not the holiday capsule wardrobe post.

Other Stories are absolutely on fire with great black dresses at the moment – a shame I won’t get any commission from these but you come first.

There’s this one

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This one – though you have to make sure you own and can wear some kind of sturdy bra with this one, can’t really tell from here.

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This one

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Who was asking about breastfeeding? You can do it in this dress.

This one – looks like a bra will be alright with this and the tie-back is really cute.

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This one

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Shit I hope I’ve matched up the pictures to the links properly.

This is my navy one from ASOS

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Having massively slagged off Boden to everyone, this one actually looks handy.


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I like this one from Marks and Spencer 

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The broderie in the one above says “summer” to me. Tan belt, leather sandals, smart gold accessories. NICE.

If you felt like taking a gamble, this one from Theory via Net a Porter looks great and is on sale – only a large left, but you want this loose anyway. Just an idea. It will be beautiful quality.

Theory from Net:

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Whichever one you get make damned sure you can wear a solid bra underneath (just don’t even consider anything with spaghetti straps unless you are flat chested, in which case I am dying with envy). Also do not buy a maxi dress because it will just get caught up in things and you will kind of splash through it as you walk and it will just piss you off.

Right, now you’re looking at these dresses going “but, but, but, but,” BUT I am TELLING you that with the correct detailing you will look like an absolute boss in any possible daytime situation.

These black dresses, with your smart espadrilles and a clutch bag and either your black blazer or leather jacket with tons of jewellery, you could go out for the evening in any of the many, many very smart restaurants that I have been to.* For real. Listen to me

No-one will think “she always wears that black dress” because I once wore the same  black dress at night for two years and had a genuine argument with a friend who said “but I’ve SEEN you wearing other dresses,” and I said “No, it’s always this one.”

And please don’t say that black washes you out. That’s a myth, black doesn’t “wash” anyone out. Stick some fake tan on. Black is awesome.



*Except maybe the Louis XV in Monte Carlo, but you don’t want to go there anyway.


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Tom loves Mondays

Morning Spikers!

I am not slacking off, I am working hard today getting together posts and videos for this week. Kitty breaks up at 12noon on Tuesday so I’m going to have to work really quite fast today and tonight to get it all done. It’s been surprisingly time-consuming to do this properly. Really, really super fun, I have enjoyed all this massively, but takes a while.

SO! See you tomorrow for DRESSES….


Capsule 4: Jackets

So now here we are at jackets, which are incredibly useful because they can change the entire dynamic of an outfit in one stroke.

Regardez: a slutty summer dress can be rendered harmless by a denim jacket, or dangerous by a leather jacket, formal with a black suit jacket or high-fashion with a khaki jacket.

Let’s start with the absolute hero of the piece:

1 the denim jacket.

I wear mine so much that I might have to be buried in it – I think people in my local area don’t think I have another jacket. But what can I say? It’s the hardest working thing in my wardrobe and I couldn’t love it more. If you have one languishing in the back of your wardrobe, get it out, if you’ve already got one, wear it more. If you haven’t got one WAKE UP AND GET ONE!

High-fashion people are doing big, oversized early 90s jackets, which I don’t recommend as we are not size 8 no-kids super fashionable high fashion people are we? Having said that, if you have one from the 90s knocking about, wear it!

Otherwise, get the most normal, standard one you can find. I think it is imperative to get one where you can roll the sleeves up and wear it with then rolled up because I find that with small children any material between the elbow and wrist is hazardous.

Mine is from H&M (obviously) – I can’t find my exact one but I think this one looks nice, standard.

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Nothing weird or scary, please – no embellishments or flourishes. Just a plain old denim jacket.

There are absolutely millions on H&M, have a scroll through.

If you are … how do I put this… (fuck it) … if you are 45+ basically you might like to get a darker denim. I don’t know why, I just think it’s a bit more dignified. Nigella used to wear one all the time and it’s the kind of thing Twiggy wears.

Other options are this from Fat Face via John Lewis

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I also like this from Weekend by John Lewis. It’s got stretch to it, which I always think is a good thing. I also really rate the Weekend collection generally, I’ve had one or two things from there that are a good cut and indestructible.

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Also this from Vero Moda via ASOS – I do not expect you to wear this with your belly out.

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2 The black blazer

It was Becky B who first made me buy one of these and I never looked back. Mine is technically now a bit short to be totally on trend, plus it is all frayed and falling to bits inside – but it still works.

This, from Hush, is now on sale and I may or may not have just gone and bought one, having dithered over whether to get another one for about a year. Unusually for Hush who tend to sell out of everything, there are still a lot of sizes left.

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Wear it with literally absolutely everything whenever you need to look a tiny bit pulled-together except PERHAPS the mad skirt, you need a shorter jacket for that.

Don’t forget that Hush sizes are generous, take a size down at least.

3 The khaki/camo jacket

This is a massive stealth piece that will really revolutionise and rejuvenate all sorts of other stuff already in your wardrobe. Mine is from the Gap men’s department in an XS. You do absolutely want this to look like you have pinched it off a boy/found it at a festival (without actually – YUK – going to a festival… where is my anti-bac gel?).

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Mine is green but in fact camo looks very cool aswell.

There is this one from H&M, bloody sold out again GOD – not quite the season for this is it? Everywhere will re-stock in the autumn, so hang on for that. I will remind you.

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Whichever one you get make sure there are no feminine trimmings like a cinched-in waist or diamante or pompoms or whatever, and wear it oversized. And I mean a jacket, not a shacket – because then it will continue to be useful into Autumn/Winter.

A reader just pointed out that this is a good one from Next: which does look like a good one to me and loads of sizes still available! YAY!

4 Leather jacket

Right now, just take a deep breath and really think about this one. A leather jacket ought to be expensive so don’t go at this one in a hurry. You ought to be spending at least £100 on a good quality leather jacket but the sky is the limit.

I would argue that it’s a brilliant thing to have in a capsule wardrobe but not so essential that you have to have one immediately. Hang on and get a great one when the time is financially right.

AllSaints is the classic go-to for a leather jacket although I know you are going to do a small sick when you see the price.

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Or if you’re petite this is a nice one, on sale but only 8 and 10 left.

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This one looks really good, nice and straightforward.

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The things to bear in mind with whichever jacket you get are to have as few straps and bells and whistles as possible. Also don’t get anything without a collar, that’s the kind of thing that Tom Cruise/my husband/rugby players have to wear because they have such enormously thick necks that if they wear anything with a collar or a lapel they look like a cartoon gorilla bouncer wearing  a zoot suit at a weasel hoodlum nightclub.

Don’t get a Rick Owens waterfall jacket either, because it might be lovely but it will date, it’s gone over to Kew housewife in the last 18 months. A standard leather one will always be universally classless and awesome.

It MUST be black, because it will go with everything. Grey or sludgy green or purple or something crazy is not capsule, don’t do it.

Okay!!! We are nearly done. Have a great weekend.

I’ll be back on TUESDAY with Accessories, then dresses, DOOM DOOM DOOM, then Activewear.

Activewear!!! I just love that word. Activewear.






Capsule Wardobe 3: Trousers and skirts

There is something about having a baby, or just getting older, maybe, that – even if you are nominally roughly the size you were “before” – means tight clothes, especially around the middle feel wrong. Evil. Terrible. Suffocating. BAD!!

The days that I discovered boyfriend jeans and chinos were the best of my life. At last! The tyranny of my jeans was OVER! I was no longer held hostage to those torture tubes! I no longer had to choose jeans and be uncomfortable all day or leggings and feel like a dag. There was a third way.

Of course, skinny jeans have their place on the days when YOU HATE YOURSELF. But there is also room for other sorts of trousers in a capsule wardrobe and once you’ve found a good pair of each, you won’t look back.

1 Boyfriend jeans.

I got mine from Acne about 4 years ago, long before boyfriend jeans were everywhere. Yes, dammit… I was first! Okay, it was because I literally couldn’t fucking stand my skinny jeans a second longer and needed an alternative, but sometimes necessity is the mother of invention.

Acne no longer make those jeans, but the next-best expensive option is Current/Eliott. If you want to take a deep breath and just think FUCK IT – order these. You can always send them back if you don’t like them. But they may also save your life. My Acne boyfriends I have worn to death. They were I think about £220 – but cost per wear? Pennies.

The ones I wear now and most often are Gap’s Girlfriend jeans – a lot of people rave about these. They are very comfy and remarkable in their un-remarkableness, if that makes sense. They are alas sold out as it’s the end of the season, but will re-stock.

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I’ve always found H&M to make really good jeans; I have a pair of white boyfriends that are ace. These look promising to me.

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If you are a bit more straight-up, these from Baukjen are the sorts of boyfriend jean that would be worn by a hedge fund manager on her day off.

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These from ASOS, also look great. I don’t understand why they’re only £16… I guess they’re a bit too … normal for ASOS, which errs on the side of wacky – god bless its heart. They may well just be the bargain of the century.

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Now, look – obviously jeans, whatever cut, size or style, are the most taxing things to buy. You might have to kiss a few frogs before you find The One (see what I’m doing here.. boyfriend?.. oh never mind) but you need a pair of these. You just do.

Take a size up from your usual, wear them low and loose on your hips, feel the cool, forgiving breeze around your midsection, a marvellous non-stragulation round the thighs. Wave goodbye to the hourly hitch-up. It’s just heaven.

2 Chinos

I know that when I say “chino” you think “office man on dress down Friday”. You are thinking “slacks” you are thinking “beige”.

Non. I am talking about something like this, below.

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Doesn’t she look fab?

For real, Gwyneth Paltrow used to live quite near me and send her kids to a school up the road and whenever I saw her, she was in a pair of these.

Unfortunately these from Gap are sold out (nothing to do with me) but they usually re-stock… the green khaki chino is kind of Gap staple.

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Same with H&M – these have sold out in normal sizes, but they will be back. I think these may even be the ones that I have on right now! Except I have rolled mine up because I am not a lunatic like the stylist who did this pic below:

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But these from Oasis via JLP look like they might be very great – they’re a fabulous colour, plenty of sizes left and look like a good, relaxed fit. And only £32!

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3 Smart joggers

This is a very wide remit. A “smart” pair of jogging trousers or sweatpants can genuinely just mean a pair that is quite new and clean, with no indelible grease stains, (you know exactly what I’m talking about), and the nap of the cloth not just blown this way and that like a cat caught in a storm from wear and washing.

But you can go over to really, really smart – the sort worn by women at parties with high heels. I don’t really mean this sort. Nothing made of silk is necessary, but it doesn’t have to be terry cloth either.

So a lot to play with here. But they are, now, part of a capsule wardrobe. I once went to quite a smart lunch in some clean joggers, very white Stan Smiths, a white t-shirt, black blazer and very serious gold hoop earrings and definitely looked almost nearly the most awesome one there in my head.

At the other end of the spectrum, on the school run some tidy joggers, neat shoes, t-shirt and denim jacket and you also look perfectly modern and pulled-together. Boden wrap dresses need not apply.

Here are some joggers for inspiration.

These are from Jack Wills – don’t laugh! I’ve got some of these and they’re very good, though knackered. These are now my indelibly stained pair, but in their prime they were pretty magnificent. Obviously I look exactly like this girl when I’m wearing them, too.

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J Crew Saturday pant if I am ever in a position to upgrade my joggers, these are the pair I would choose.

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H&M linen joggers

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4 Denim skirt

Unless you have fabulous legs, do not buy a denim mini, no matter how much you are tempted. They really don’t suit anyone as far as I can see and you will find reason after reason not to wear it. Not capsule.

So knee-length is what you want. Not really long or flappy because they will piss you off while you are pushing the buggy. These are two examples that I’ve found around at the moment, but I think that there will be more around in the autumn as a knee-length denim skirt is quite an autumnal thing.

Whichever one you choose make sure it doesn’t ride up or possibly impede your stride as you dash after a 3yo heading for the road. It needs to have good stretch or a slit somewhere or both. A couple of horrible childbirth comparisons have just popped into my head.

Here is one from White Stuff

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And this one is the kind of thing I’m talking about: John Rocha for Debenhams

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Mad skirt

Okay I argue that a Mad Skirt is capsule. This is your go-to for a lunch party where you don’t want to feel like a frump, but don’t want to wear a dress – you wear this with your white t shirt, jewellery, clogs and a denim jacket (more on this tomorrow). This is also good at night, with your black camisole, jewellery and your clean trainers (unless you’re going to the Ritz, in which case maybe the clogs again). I have two mad skirts, one ancient shiny knackered one from Zara and a Gucci rip-off from M&S back in winter. Both very useful.

Here are some suggestions but god, don’t let me stop you. Wait until you’ve got PMT then go shopping for this skirt and going fucking bonkers.


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Ted Baker

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I particularly love this one


I sense a lot of resistance to culottes but please, please, please just give them a go, even if you’re not sure. You might be really surprised at how useful and flattering they can be. It will take you a day and a half to get used to them and how they look. Your husband won’t like them, which is a really good sign as they just want you to wear a wrap dress and/or tight sweaters every day. Obviously make sure they are comfy as hell.


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The culottes don’t have to be black – they could be navy or I’ve got a pair in chambray. But PLEASE give them a try if you haven’t before.

Black trousers 

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I try not to wear skinny jeans ever these days, but I find they do come in handy for times when you have to be smart, or for going out in the evening. 1 pair skinny black jeans, plus one black camisole top plus crazy earrings = lifesaver evening outfit. Or jeans, grey uniqlo crew neck, crazy earrings = lifesaver dinner party outfit.

I put them on just before I leave the house and rip them off in the hall as soon as I’m home to minimise the time actually wearing them. The only way one should ever wear skinnies after having kids really.

My black skinny jeans are from J Brand, though you can just pick your favourite jeans maker and buy from there. I like J Brand because they are very stretchy, (though not like jeggings), and the dye has a high pigment so they’re still black as night even though I bought them BEFORE I had Kitty!!!!

This is the link to the J Brand/Net site though obviously being end of season they’re bloody sold out, (AGAIN, sorry – what a stupid time of year to do this post), but if you are near a big department store stockist, they ought to have some. This is one of those times when real life outstrips online by some margin.

Okay. Still with me!? Awake? At the end of this on my Instagram stories I am going to spend an entire morning just putting together and wearing outfits from the capsule items I’ve been mentioning all week, to really get you psyched.

Now for a short interval

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Tom says relax and grab a cuppa 


We are going to have a short break now in the Capsule Wardrobe series, as I hadn’t quite realised how insanely popular it was going to be and so I have to regroup and gather myself together for the next stages (Trousers and Skirts/Jackets).

We’re also going to have to spill out into next week as I haven’t covered Dresses (DOOM), Accessories or Activewear.

I also want to take this moment to tell you something, which is a programme I signed up to a few weeks ago whereby when you, my reader, click through on certain product-links and buy something on in that same window I get a small commission from the brand.

I have declared this in the About section, but who reads that more than once?

Obviously, I never recommend anything that I think actually is or looks shit. It’s only ever things I would recommend anyway and I also always recommend brands which aren’t on the programme (H&M) or who wouldn’t have me (TopShop… *sob*) if I think they have something good.

But I want you to make an informed decision. If you don’t mind me getting the commission, (which I get whether you return the item or keep it), then keep on buying on the click-through link.

If you’d rather I didn’t, then make a note of the item and open a separate window to make the purchase. I won’t be able to tell who’s done what either way.

This programme seems to me the best way of keeping this blog going. I mean, of course, if Michael Kors decides to become a big advertiser, you can expect Giles here wearing a Micahel Kors T-Shirt, but up until that point…

Anyway thanks for listening and we’ll be back tomorrow with Trousers and Skirts.

Capsule Wardrobe 2: tops

When it comes to a capsule wardrobe, your focus ought to be on everything being quite plain, not dry-clean and a good fit.

Don’t give any of your clothes an excuse not to be worn. When I open my wardrobe I always hesitate over anything that a) needs dry-cleaning b) is tight c) is in anyway slightly the wrong fit or size d) wacky.

You may look over some of the following recommendations and be boggled by their boringness.

But I am here to tell you that this is not boring! This is CAPSULE. There is no such thing as a “boring” item of clothing, only a boring or frumpy way of wearing it. If you don’t have any of these items, get them. If you have them but they are in any way shabby or old or worn out, replace them.

In no way am I saying that you are never going to dress excitingly or madly or fashionably again. You are! You will! You will have your Studio 54, white patent-boot, jumpsuit fabulosity.

But life isn’t just about Studio 54, it’s also about doing the school run or visiting friends or having breakfast with your kids in a cafe without feeling like something that got caught in a drain. This is the answer.

1 T Shirts

You need 2 white t-shirts and 2 grey t-shirts. And that, I reckon, is all. Plain as you can – no gold pineapples on the front, please, or diamante round the neckline. Just plain old t-shirts. You can add colourful accessories and glittery shit if you really want later (more in another post).

I get my t-shirts from Hush, because they are a good length, great value at £27 and don’t cling at the middle. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t look good in a Hush t-shirt.

The sizes at Hush are very generous – I am a size 12 on top with quite big boobs and I take this T-shirt in an XS! If any sizes are sold-out, just hang on for a re-stock as they always get more in.

Remember, 2 grey and 2 white. Don’t suddenly go mad and get a turquoise one, thinking “Esther is just wrong.” Turquoise is not capsule.

T-Shirts are a bit like jeans in that every body shape has their go-to shops for favourites. PLEASE – leave a comment in the comments box if you have a favourite T-Shirt, where it is from, how much and what kind of shape you are for the enlightenment of fellow Spikers.

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2-3 Sweaters

I have done a lot of research on this and the perfect merino crew neck wool sweater is by  Uniqlo. Merino wool doesn’t bobble or pill, it drapes and falls nicely and these are cut not to cling. I have three of these, in camel, navy and grey, all in XL. Three is slight overkill, just because I love a crew neck sweater. If you reckon you look better in a V-neck, get V necks.

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They’ve put this model in a very tight one – yours won’t come up that tight, it’s a very forgiving cut


2 Shirts

The two shirts I wear most often is a khaki one from H&M and my denim “Keeper” shirt from J Crew. I’m assuming that you’ve already got a check shirt in there somewhere, so apart from that, these are the only extra ones you need.

I occasionally come across people who insist they are not a “denim shirt” sort of person, and if that’s the case, then any chambray or pale blue blue/white striped shirt will do.

Make sure the shirt is slightly too big it ought to be in no way tight or fitted. Check for stiffness of fabric, which will add bulk. You want this to fall nicely and have no hint of starch or crackle to it.

People may bang on about how brilliant a “crisp white shirt” is, but that’s more to look at than to wear; I’ve got a “crisp white shirt” and it sits crisply on its hangar and very rarely gets worn.

Baujken shirts are good.

There is this blue and white striped one:

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Or this Coco shirt:

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J Crew does 2 denim shirts, the Keeper and the Always, both sold out just at the moment -but they will restock I guess towards the end of summer and they are worth waiting for.

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I’m delighted that H&M are still making my army green shirt. It’s pleasingly long, so you can tuck the front in and leave the back open, or wear it open over something. It’s very tactile and drapey and I wear mine all the time with a shitload of gold jewellery and a scowl.

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The Breton

Relax – I am not going to make you get rid of your Breton. Keep your Breton! Buy another one! There is nothing wrong with Bretons or stripes in general. The problem comes with wearing them every fucking day with the same pair of fucking skinny jeans. No capsule wardrobe would be complete without a standard Breton. I have 3 for different moods and I also have 2 sleeveless striped tanks.

This looks to me like a really good one from John LewisScreen Shot 2017-07-03 at 17.42.23

Or this one. Weekend by John Lewis is actually very brilliant quality – I have a sweatshirt from there I have worn for 5 years and if I ever lost it I would, well, lose it.

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If you want something a bit longer, this one from Seasalt via JLP will do the trick.

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Don’t be too clever with the colour way, just go for simple dark blue on white, it looks best.

1 Camisole

A plain black swing camisole top like this one from TopShop comes in very handy. I mean, they’ve made it impossible to see what it looks like in this photo, but it looks like a decent one to me. Remember I said BLACK, don’t get a purple one.

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And that’s it! I told you you’d worry it was all “boring”. But stick with me and it will all make sense in the end.

Tomorrow: Trousers and skirts. 


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