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The Spike

Clothes, recipes, kids, interiors, London…

THAT slip dress

Don’t scream and throw things at me, okay? But I think for AW17 you need to think about getting a slip dress.

Not for wearing on its own, because as we will all remember from the 90s, it is a nightie and only Denise Van Outen circa 1998 and Cher “It looks like underwear” Horowitz can walk that kind of look off.

But before slip dresses went bad and people were wearing them for nights out on waterfronts over baby pink t shirts with their hair in those stupid Mickey Mouse buns they were great.

Regardez:

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Only kidding – I don’t expect you to smoke.

Consider a slip dress this season as just another layer, something to add a different length, or a critical element of sheen in the dark winter months. If you, like me, contract a non-specific chest infection and lost 1/2 a stone you could even wear it out for dinner with a black blazer over the top and some spike heels for full 90s mayhem.

(If you can get out of bed that is and aren’t just shouting down the phone at your doctor that the fucking antibiotics don’t work they’ve just given you thrush and somehow made you left-handed.)

Otherwise think about it over a black polo, or under an oversized sweater or cardigan or sweatshirt, with trainers. Just try it on with anything in your wardrobe you can think of and you will come up with something modern that you will love.

And I have found for you the most perfect black midi slip dress. No lace, good length, no fucking about. BUT it is from a shop of which I disapprove quite strongly, Victoria’s Secret. I don’t like the way that shop and that ridiculous wankfest Angels Show would have made me feel when I was 16.

But you can buy from there without being a devotee I suppose.

Here it is.

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I do this pose every time I put it on. I am currently more like a size 10 due to aforementioned consumption; I got this in an M and it fits – but there is room if I suddenly recover and end up eating loads of white bread and chocolate (likely).

 

Winter coat

I have always been enormously stressed and freaked out by the purchase of a winter coat – especially in recent years. There’s always an “IT” coat – usually with giant checks or fondant pink or some huge teddy bear belted thing. But the financial commitment always scares me; a winter coat is the fashion equivalent of buying a sofa. What if I get sick of it?

But in recent years, with the discovery of all things capsule, I have realised that you only need 5 jackets and coats in winter, most of which you probably already have.

1 A smart town coat in grey, navy, black or camel. Mine is this exact one – it was £99 when I bought it – their new version is £109 and very warm.

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2 A leather jacket. We have discussed this subject at length in previous posts, but most people go to All Saints for a leather jacket. I would always say, go for as few zips and buckles and crazy shit as you can but lay off the shawl collars or anything “waterfall”.

This one looks nice to me:

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It’s a bestseller for a reason. Get it in black, do not muck about with khaki or brown or anything.

3 A raincoat (see previous post on this subject)

4 A slim puffa from Uniqlo, that you can layer under any of the coats above on really cold days to add protection. This will really change your life as it transforms any coat you’ve got into something extra warm and cosy.

There are loads of colour options available so you can match the puffa liner to the colour or your coat. If you need to be super-smart, you can buy this Uniqlo puffa-liner without a collar, so it doesn’t show above the collar of the coat you’re wearing.

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5 VERY warm playground coat. This is any giant, very warm parka you like the look of. I treated myself at massive expense to a Canada Goose Kensington parka a few years ago and I love it beyond all reason. PLEASE do not lecture me about the fur trim, I’ve been lectured about it at length by others and I don’t know what to say… I’m not going to take it back, am I?

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For something less stupidly expensive, Superdry has good ones, like this one.

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(Optional) 6 I have a black dress coat, by which I mean it’s sort of flared and belted with a fake fur trim, which I wear about twice a year to smart parties. It’s almost identical to this one:

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By all means, if you want a giant squashy teddy coat in fondant pink or windowpane check or leopard print, get it. If you love it, you will look fab. This and ALL capsule posts are not about trying to squash your innate style, I’m trying to say if it’s not a Hell Yeah then keep it simple and you can’t go wrong.

Which reminds me, I also have a lot of time for classic pea coats – there is a nice one here.

So if you’re looking at all the winter coat options in dismay and are starting to panic slightly that you ought to be walking around in fun fur like a Sesame Street extra because all newspapers and magazines and shops are telling you to BUY YOUR CRAZY WINTER COAT NOW!!!!! then I refer you to the above list.

Of course, do not be a massive weirdo about this – you ought to know by now what sort of coat suits you, if you suit a belted thing, or double breasted or a cocoon coat or whatever. All I’m saying is: you do not have to buy a crazy coat in order to be chic and look lovely. We are not Olivia Palermo at New York Fashion Week, we are just trying to get from one end of the day to the other.

Raincoat

You would think as we live in a rainy country we would be really good at wet weather gear of all sorts. But we are not, we are fucking hopeless.

Sure, if you are going fell walking, dog walking or if you are one of the 8 people in the UK who looks terrific in a trench coat, you’re sorted.

But what if you aren’t fell walking or dog walking and simply look like man in a trench coat (or, if you tie the belt up, a stripper)? What then? I can’t stand trench coats.

I wanted a simple navy thigh-length single-breasted coat, which would repel water. Nothing with a hood or toggles or giant pockets. Nothing with huge lapels or a fucking belt or giant buttons or epaulettes. Just a normal coat that happens to be waterproof. Is this too much to ask?

I searched for years for a chic navy raincoat and was astonished that you could only buy one at Burberry for an absolute fortune. My dad has one, which he bought 40 years ago and it still looks terrific, but sorry I simply cannot justify spending £750 on a raincoat even if it will still be going when I am 70.

Sorry, my mistake – the one I was looking at is actually over £1k, here. I mean WTAF.

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Actual Mackintosh, who invented the bloody Mackintosh have gone very high fashion and are doing such unutterably bogus and vile and stupid things with their current collection that I’m minded to write and complain to my MP about it.

NOT CAPSULE!!!!

Anyway last year I tracked down a good one from APC and they are doing something similar this year – not cheap, but APC isn’t cheap, but I love mine and has solved all sorts of problems for me:

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The closest thing I can find for a more reasonable price is something from Uniqlo, available in black or camel, like this:

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Or there is this, which looks very promising, from Arket.

 

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Obviously you will not wear it like this, like you are the Stasi coming to interrogate you or like a … sorry, like a… sorry I can’t really think of any other social stereotype that this model represents without getting loads of outraged comments. Why the hell do certain stores style their clothes like this? We don’t all want to look like ******** ** year-old *****-player.

You will wear it with the collar turned resolutely up, possibly also with the sleeves pushed up if it isn’t actually hammering down.

Please, if anyone has found a chic raincoat that IS NOT A trench, is not a dog-walking coat or from Rains or Stutterheim, please leave a handy comment in the box below.

***** Here is a link to a coat suggested in a comment below that I’ve had a look at and it looks absolutely just the ticket: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Community-Clothing-Navy-Womens-Raincoat-/182252616752 *******

The Spike Interview: Clarissa Ward

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Clarissa Ward, 37, is a senior international correspondent for CNN. In her 15 year career she has reported from the most dangerous places in the world, including Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Georgia. She reported from the ground the bombing of Aleppo in Syria and in 2016 gave evidence to the UN Security Council – it is profoundly affecting and you can watch it here. She speaks six languages (she says to “wildly different levels”) and has won awards including two George Foster Peabody awards and four Emmys. She also recently interviewed Elmo from Sesame Street; witness the insane cuteness here. She is married and lives in London.

1 There is a huge amount of travel in your work – as well as your passport, phone, wallet and keys, when you are heading out of the door what do you always take with you?

I cannot leave the house without a notebook and a pen and under eye concealer. But mainly under eye concealer because I can use my phone in lieu of a pad but without concealer I look positively cadaverous. Other essentials include tissues, headphones, bottled water, a portable charger, hairspray and powder.

2 You have seen some horrible things and I know you were friends with James Foley [the American journalist who was killed by ISIS]. It must be very hard not to replay traumatic events – let alone let go of those times when you personally have been very scared. Is it possible to tune out the worst of it when you need to?

The weird thing about trauma is that it doesn’t hit you in ways you expect. You don’t see a dead child and then feel sad and then have a nightmare about the dead child. More often, for me, you see a dead child, you feel slightly sickened but mostly numb because that’s what you need to push through it.
And then later, when you have the time and space to process it, you will feel supremely detached from your “real” life and then feel a strong urge to go out and get insanely drunk and then you shout at people you love because they inexplicably irritate you and clearly don’t understand you and finally you stub your toe and burst into tears, sobs racking your body and something shifts inside you and the grief pours out and you realise “ohh, this isn’t really about my toe.”
It’s different for everyone and everyone has different ways of dealing with it. I find time spent with animals is very important. And in some weird way, I hold some of the most horrific things I have witnessed sacred. They are more real and more profound than much of my everyday life and I won’t let myself forget them.
3 What do you read when you have time?

I love novels. I studied Russian literature at university and am still a huge fan. I just finished Resurrection which is a highly underrated Tolstoy masterpiece. I also read an inordinate amount about Islam in an effort to better understand one of the most broadly misunderstood religions in the world. Oh and I recently read an amazing novel by a Brit called “In the Light of What We Know” which is just jaw dropping.

4 You are a Londoner but also a New Yorker; New York women have a reputation as being much smarter or more groomed than Londoners. (I’d agree with that.) Do you think that is true? Do you think it matters?

 
In some ways, I do think that’s true. Most women in NYC get a manicure every week or two. In London it’s still seen as a luxury (though we are starting to see more and more reasonably priced nail bars). My New York friends are much more likely to be having Botox and skin peels etc. Appearances matter a huge amount in the US.
I just realised that by “smart” you mean well put together and not intelligent (which is what smart means in the US). Yes, my British friends are often more casual but I love them for it and I am the same way. Comfort all the way unless you’re dressing up, in which case, really go for it. Whenever I’m in the office in New York I wear dresses and heels and it’s such a relief to get back to London and shuffle into work in my jeans and Converse!

5 Do you have a method for learning a language? I have in my mind that once you have a critical mass of languages adding a new one is easier than learning just one extra one from scratch. Or is that nonsense. 
It definitely gets easier as you learn more of them and there are general themes that are broadly applicable across a wide range of languages. My method is to immerse myself in a language/ place/ culture and argue with taxi drivers and try to get around by myself. When I was younger, having a local boyfriend was also a good tactic but those days are over. No matter what though, the most important thing is confidence. Make mistakes, sound like an idiot but just open your mouth and speak.
6 Complete this sentence: “My favourite time of year is….”
It’s got to be summertime… spent outside with people I love and my dogs and lots of rose and goats cheese and lazy games of scrabble and afternoon naps.
7 What was the last film or TV series you watched that you really loved?

I am obsessed with a French series called The Bureau which is about the DGSE (French CIA) and which overlaps with parts of my work life. I also loved the Handmaid’s Tale, though it was a lot of rape to sit through. And Big Little Lies was kind of fun, mindless fare with great performances.

8 What are you having for dinner tonight

I just got back from three weeks on the road for work in Greenland and New York for work so I am going to have my classic, favourite comfort meal: roast chicken, mashed potatoes, peas, carrots and gravy. It makes me so happy to eat home cooked food and remember that the greatest pleasures in life are the simplest.

A note on hats

I’ve had a few requests for good and unusual (i.e. not department stores) hats to go with Autumn wedding outfits. May I direct you directly to Bundle McLaren. She is very good and reasonably-priced. She once made me a hat that had a ship on it, for real. It was amazing.

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This one just for every day AMIRITE?

 

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YASSSSS

 

Or how about you? Do you have a good hat dealer? Please share xx

Autumn wedding

We are going to move away now from strict capsule posts, because I really feel like you guys are nailing the basics, looking at your wardrobe and clothes and shopping in new and useful ways.

So for the next few weeks it’s time for some fripperies, one-offs, me going “OOOOOO LOOK AT THIS?!” because as some super smart commenter said – your wardrobe ought to be 80% salad and 10% crunchy bacon sprinkles. Or something.

Anyway – I had a request for Autumn wedding outfits, which I am happy to talk about.

Summer wedding outfits are a flat-out nightmare and I simply will not be drawn into conversation about them, simply because the weather is so unpredictable.

Genuinely that’s it. I can’t say: definitely wear this dress because in this country on July 20th it could either be 31C or sheeting with rain. To encourage the commitment of any money to such a lunacy of uncertainty from me or anyone would be cynical.****

But autumn weddings!!! This works for me. The thing you ought to buy for any autumn wedding or function for AW17 is a long floral dress. This trend has been around for ages – mine is a Zara hand-me-down from my sister a few seasons ago and it’s really useful. It can be shimmied up with jewellery and heels or toned down with white trainers and a denim jacket.

The floral dresses I like right now are these – any would do for an autumn wedding with a jacket and heels. Or even forget the heels if you can make it work with a pair of boots.

This from ASOS

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also this

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or this:

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This from H&M:

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If you’re little, this is available on sale in size 8 and 10:

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Not strictly floral but this screams autumn wedding to me, don’t you think? Also on sale – only a size 10 left :( VERY Ossie Clark. Wear it with a trilby and aviators.

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I really like this – and a bargain at £55… all sizes still left:

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Anyway I don’t want to overload you with choice. If you don’t like any of those, just have a rummage around for one you do like. If you can stand it, do try to go for something that falls below or just below your knee for modernity. And always remember when you are looking at occasion dresses that you will have done your hair and  your face, be wearing a jacket, heels and a shiteload of jewellery, so don’t dismiss anything as being “boring” – it is only half the picture.

Also, I know I say this all the time but if you are buying online do get three or four options but make a firm promise to yourself that you WILL not be a dick and you WILL return any that you don’t like or don’t fit and not just leave them forever hanging in your wardrobe like a big drapey guilt monster.

 

 

 

**** of course while writing this I have suddenly had the genius idea of buying 3 different weather-related options 1 week before the wedding, wearing the one that makes sense on the day and then sending the others back. This is assuming you get invited to only one wedding a summer. I get invited to NO weddings, so this chat is entirely academic anyway.

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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Sweatshirt

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

Shorts

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.

Jeans

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.

Joggers

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! 

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