Late last year, I was enjoying supper with some close girlfriends. It was our monthly treat at a time when we were still able to meet in groups of six outside. The weather had been unseasonably warm and we’d all dressed as though we were somewhere much more exotic than east Surrey.
By 9pm, the temperature had dropped. One friend shrugged on a thick, lumberjack shirt that was at complete odds with what she was wearing. My styling antenna shot up and the conversation turned to what clothes flattered our shape. We all loved fashion. How would we style the shirt to make it look good? Even better, what would happen if we swapped one item of clothing from each of our wardrobes?
Lockdown meant the process was slow; the logistics of getting the items to one other, finding a quiet corner to photograph each look with the help of willing family members. But the chance to be creative and push the fashion boundaries was something we relished. How would our very different aesthetics and styles mix with clothes we’d never have chosen for ourselves?
Judge for yourself. Better still, why not try something similar with your own wardrobe. See how many looks you can get from one item. It’s a great way to find out how versatile your wardrobe really is. And if you get stuck and need help with how to breath new life into old clothes, you know where to find me.
Anne’s Lumberjack Shirt
My lumberjack shirt (from North Face) is one of my favourite functional items. It’s fleece-lined and has pockets. It has kept me warm at -40’ treking in the Arctic circle but it is also my go-to over normal clothes at home when I’m a bit chilly. I never think of it as something to style. It’s just reliably warm and comforting. I’ve worn it here with my favourite DKNY jeans and chucked on a pair of funky gold pumps I found in a charity shop. They add a bit of humour.
I think I have a strange shape. I’m 5.8” and take a size 10-14 depending on the outfit. I’d say I was a column due to my lack of waist, but my broad shoulders turn the top half of my body into more of an inverted triangle. That said, I’m not sure if I could be classified as a true triangle on account of my ample hips and thighs.
It was actually a lot of fun swapping outfits with my friends. Call it dressing up play for grown ups. I loved rummaging through my wardrobe and thinking about my clothes in different ways. “What does this piece say to me? What could I wear it with? Where would I wear it?”
Mandy says: I have a check shirt but loved this one so much I’ll probably treat myself to something similar. I’ve put it with a midnight blue silk shirt from TK Maxx, Canterbury cycling shorts (which you can just see), green Dr Martens biker boots and knee-length Nike socks. I’m wearing Rayban sunglasses and my hat is from a Reading fesival.
Emma says: Anne’s shirt was quite bulky and loose on me. I felt it needed something structured to ‘pull it in and give me shape. I styled it with a peplum blazer from Carine Roitfeld’s Uniqlo collection, straight black trousers from Cos and black chunky Office ankle boots (unseen; full length selfies are always a challenge) to add balance.
Carron says: The colours in Anne’s check shirt are too cool and hard for me but it was a snuggly comfort blanket that worked well with my ME&EM jeans, a moss green cotton pre-loved dress and my Hudson boots. I’m a purist with the colours I wear these days and wouldn’t own blue and red tartan. Besides, it clashes with my hair.
Alison says: The juxtaposition of a casual lumberjack shirt with a vivid satin prairie dress (from Zara) elevates the casual and dresses down the formal. I’ve added Ugg boots and a midnight sheepskin cape by Milliner Amanda Keitch.
Mandy’s Cos Bib Shirt
This outfit needed a little more thinking about. I love my Cos bib shirt. It’s unusual and was given to me as a present. Having styled it this way, I think I’ll always wear it like this, with my MaxMara navy skirt, Dr Martens boots and the sheepskin shrug I made.
I really loved the idea of our group of friends swapping one item of clothing and putting our own take on each piece. I dress so differently to my friends but we all enjoy and appreciate one another’s individual style. So whilst I was looking through my wardrobe deciding how I would wear a particular piece (some pieces I knew straight away), I also imagined how my friends would be wearing them and it made me question my own choices. I’m aware of my body shape and how I like to disguise some areas and show off others. I aim for an hour glass shape so I need to build up my hip area as that is where I’m small. I also know I should wear a V neck top or have layers or a structured jacket that pulls the eye down and slims my top half. I often break the colour rules, wearing black even though my colouring suggests I ought not to. If I’m going out I wear full make up which allows me to get away with almost any colour.
The only part of this process I didn’t enjoy was the photography. I don’t particularly like having my photo taken and lockdown made it tricky taking selfies in my smallish cottage. It will be so interesting to see how everyone has styled each piece of clothing. I’m much looking forward to that part!
Anne says: I’d never seen anything like Mandy’s bib before and I loved it! It made me think of sensible me doing a corporate event. The lack of bulky fabric was great as, along with this Sandwich wrap cardigan, it gave me the illusion of a waist. I teamed it up with vintage (aka charity shop) grey high waisted trousers and Lisa Kaye mock croc grey loafers.
Carron says: Mandy’s bib was easy for me. A great little piece to layer up especially when you haven’t got space in the arms of a jacket or too many layers. I would use it as an undergarment as apposed to wearing it as a piece. I styled it with a Rundholz jacket and Diesel trousers. Both were bought from preloved boutique Fusspotts. The boots are ancient and came from Italy.
Emma says: I immediately knew I’d put Mandy’s bib with a tailored suit. I like monochrome and the drama of contrast. There is a juxtaposition to the jagged edge of my Stills blazer and the neatness of the white collar which appealed. The trousers are high waisted and have a slight flare which gives me shape. The gold buckled pumps, from Russell and Bromley, add a glint of interest and break up the density of the black.
Alison says: I love and frequently wear bibs as they create versatility and texture to elevate an outfit. Mandy’s classic white cotton shirt bib created a tailored workwear vibe playing beautifully with this dramatic sequinned gown from Dior. Not natural bedfellows yet each adds to the other. No accessories or shoes feature.
Carron’s Sequin Jacket.
When Emma came up with this idea to our group of best friends as a way to help ease the boredom of lockdown, we all jumped at the chance. I personally love clothes and fashion as it is a huge part of who I am in my career. I work as a hairstylist so bespoke fashion and design feature highly in my work. What fun to once more be creative. I am a column in shape so I would never buy a waisted jacket. My colouring is also soft and warm so black is generally a no-no and doesn’t feature in my wardrobe. I tend to be a ‘layerer’ and wear my clothes creatively, almost slightly hippy, so the more formal shapes were interesting for me to try and work with. It was a fun exercise to pull out the unworn from our wardrobes and revamp the items with new unchartered looks .
I layered my Zara jacket over Diesel jeans, Zadig and Volataire jumper both of which I got from Fusspotts. The glasses are Cubitts.
Emma says: I was tempted to keep Carron’s sequinned jacket. I liked the warmth of its muted gold tones and sequins, let’s face it, are always uplifting, both for the spirit and for the face (anyone over the age of 50 will understand what I mean). The jacket lends itself to versatility and could be worn myriad ways. I’ve styled it here with a soft-white sheer polka dot blouse from Zara (an old favourite), snake-skin sandals bought on a trip to Santa Barbara and black faded Diesel jeans I got in a preloved sale.
Anne says: Carron’s sequinned jacket instantly made me think of festivals and having fun late into the evening. All it needed was a pair of (Fat Face) denim sorts, bikini top (hidden) and flat trainers which I bought in a market in Thailand 13 years ago. Instantly, I was transported to Glastonbury dancing in the small hours…. wouldn’t that be nice.
Alison says: Gold isn’t a great colour for me but together with red and magenta you can push your colour palette to create new boundaries,. The sequin red trousers are Bisou Bisou, the silk blouse from Jigsaw and gold Hudson shoes. My hat is from the Danish collection. All accessories came from the garden shed.
Mandy says: Carron’s glitter jacket was easy to style with a pair of holiday shorts from Zara and a zip-up top from CP Company. I was going to wear a pair of ankle boots but instead found these beautiful suede boots I’d forgotten I even had. I’d wear this outfit in Greece for an evening out when it wasn’t too hot.
Emma’s Black Blazer
I picked a blazer for my item because I’m a blazer girl and live in them. For me it’s a wardrobe staple. It adds a little bit of magic to clothes and can be thrown over practically anything. Jumpers aside, blazers are what I have most of – though don’t ask me how many!
I have a slender frame which works best in neat, structured clothes and rather sums up my personality. There’s an assumption that if you’re skinny you can wear anything but it’s not true. As a stylist I know full well that all body shapes, irrespective of size, have their issues and being slim is no exception. Put me in anything loose or baggy or, for that matter, in a tight lycra dress and I look lost or silly.
Despite advocating colour in my client’s wardrobes (I see a lot of black), I’ve gone for monochrome again, styling my Armani blazer (bought from preloved boutique Fusspotts) with a black and white embroidered Zara skirt, cashmere roll-neck from M&S’s Autograph range, black ribbed tights and Prada satin heels. I like the mix of the structured, cinched-in blazer with the whimsy of the skirt. The asymmetrical belt is one of my more recent purchases, brought from Zara last year. I’ll get a lot of wear from it.
Carron says: Black isn’t a colour I go near as its dark coolness highlights my wrinkles if it’s too close to my face. I wanted to stay true to my style and found Emma’s structured blazer worked best when I put it over this Issey Miyake maxi green pleated dress. The green shade softens the black and adds texture.
Anne says: Emma’s jacket was divine! Such soft velvet and a stunning cut. It made me think luxury and dressing up for a posh evening event. Black isn’t my colour so I paired it with a golden ‘Damsel in a dress’ evening dress to brighten the look. I’m wearing Clarke’s super comfy nude heels, drop pearl earrings from Goldsmiths and a single pearl necklace which was made by my kids at an oyster museum.
Mandy says: I love a jacket, especially a beautifully tailored Armani one as they so suit my shape. I’ve worn it over my shoulder as it was a little small. The trousers are Stills and I made my long black shirt. The fluted sleeves add a little drama and work well with my couture straw cocktail hat. Being a milliner for 31 years has taught me that cocktail hats can add height, giving the wearer a slimmer, lighter and more sophisticated look, which of course we all love. I’d wear this outfit to a smart dinner or to cocktails.
Alison says: I am somewhat of a purist about black. I layer it solely with itself which creates its own problems as there are so many shades within. I do love and possess several black jackets, almost exclusively from preloved shops. They are all casual, quirky, detailed and dramatically tailored so Emma’s classic waisted jacket with shoulder pads and lapels in a differing shade to the body, caused a conundrum. To diffuse this, I layered a multitude of necklaces in jet, ebony and onyx which complimented the jacket and added detail to draw in the eye.
My shoes are Peter Kaiser and the glasses from Tom Ford. The dog is model’s own.
Alison’s Fringe Jacket
An interesting lockdown diversion seemingly simple, yet fiendishly complex. As a stylist I know the importance of creating a cohesive wardrobe with colours that enhance hair, skin and eye tones and clothes that complement one’s body shape. So, to have four unchosen items to play with was fascinating. Additionally, I like to challenge myself to wear clothes differently, utilising my wardrobe fully.
Therefore a singular purpose item, such as an evening dress, dusted down annually can so easily be dressed down with a white bib, leather jacket and biker boot, and cost per wear is drastically reduced. The juxtaposition of a casual lumberjack shirt with a vivid satin prairie dress, elevates the casual and dresses down the formal. Sequins only for Christmas has in more recent years been debunked and their purpose repurposed to the everyday. Furthermore, sequins love sequins. Let them be dramatic and bold. I love to play with layers so the feathered jacket required a flare at the bare ankle with a textured dress finishing at the knee, draws the eye to complement my column figure. Finally the black jacket in order to detract from the tailored, nipped in waist which I do not process , 7/8 trousers and heels elongate the leg and layers of jet beads in lieu of clothing underneath draws the eye upwards. Having returned my friends garments, I realised that I had a renewed desire to play more with the clothes I have creating different looks and pushing those boundaries.
The fringe jacket is Rococo, Louis Vuitton dress and Iles Jacobsen trousers.
Mandy says: This is a very beautiful jacket and lends itself well to a pencil skirt (from Mexx) and heels. I added my Carvella patent leather courts and Topshop pop socks.
As an alternative, I might also have worn the jacket with my black tailored Stills trousers and flat black brogues.
Anne says: Alison’s jacket and handbag confused me. I don’t used handbags and I would never buy a jacket that was purely an accessory, ie pretty, but not warm and with no pockets. I solved the bag issue by turning it into a funky hat and the jacket by tucking it in so it became a top. My trusty nude courts work with the neutral tones of the fringe jacket.
Carron says: the soft gold and creativity of Alison’s jacket is something I would definitely have in my wardrobe, The fact it was edged in black didn’t matter. I have only a couple of softer black pieces like the little waistcoat I’m wearing under it, so the contrasting worked very well as it wasn’t the dominant colour of the outfit. The problem with pieces like this jacket is that they become special and therefore often never worn. They get tired and dated. I have learned over the years and through this exercise to rethink special pieces in your wardrobe, mix them up for every day, as with my gold sequinned jacket from Zara.
I’ve styled this with Diesel trousers, Album di Famiglia waistcoat and old gringo boots.
Emma says: I love this jacket and had quite a few ideas on how to style it. I wanted to keep it light because the jacket is quite sheer so put it with a cream Helmet Lang dress and over-the-knee suede boots. The jacket was a little big so I belted it to hold it together and give myself more of a waist.
If this had been my size, Alison would have had to fight quite hard to wrestle it off my back. A really cool piece.