2012 December 17

Most men get clothes for Christmas, but that doesn’t excuse them from choosing appropriate garb themselves. Here are three key mistakes that are proving to be Xmas turnoffs this year:

1.    Shorts: it doesn’t matter if the sun is shining, shorts are not appropriate winter wear in the Western climate, unless you are running a marathon or Bradley Wiggins in training. Cargo trousers look just as sporty and spare the rest of the world the sight of your winter white and hairy legs. The other problem with Christmas shorts is that there is no appropriate footwear to accompany them. Instead get some Desert boots, Converse trainers or Vans skate shoes and pull on your jeans, chinos or cargos.

2.    Big bad hats: while furry hats with flaps are great for occasions like carol singing or tobogganing, they are not appropriate for sitting around in coffee shops, browsing car showrooms or taking your girlfriend on a romantic winter walk. Not appropriate for any man who wants to be taken seriously are hats with turkey feet, pig snouts or tails of any kind. Instead invest in a tight-fitting, neutral coloured beanie. For blue eyed guys, a white beanie can produce the ‘Paul Newman’ effect, well worth trying for if you have a lady to impress!

3.    Sloppy coats: everybody needs a coat, but sometimes the coat is something that comes out in September and vanishes again in March and is worn every day in between, regardless of weather or appropriateness. Often a coat is not required. If the weather is just wet, rather than cold, go for a waterproof jacket. If it’s cold, but not wet, many men look and feel better in a padded sleeveless fleece – it allows more range of movement and gives you the chance to layer clothes underneath. Avoid the Paddington Bear effect, leave the big hat and the big coat for Tom Baker’s Dr Who or truly bad weather days.

2012 May 1

If you’ve been inspired by the new Stella McCartney uniforms and want to dress in the same streamlined style as Britain’s Olympic hopefuls, here are a few tips to help you get the look and to get the fitness, if not of an Olympian, at least of a contender!

1. Focus on navy – Stella McCartney chose a dense shade of navy to be the background of many of the uniform components, to create an effect of strength and solidity. Navy blue T-shirts and vests are great for showing off well-sculpted arms, and if you’re aren’t brilliantly developed, try some fake tan to help give definition to pecs.

2. Combine tight and loose – soft flowing jog pants look good with camisole tops for women, while men can benefit from skin-tight cycling shorts worn with loose polo-shirts: the contrast in shape and form can help hide major problems such as a pot belly.

3. Red shoes – McCartney put her athletes in red training shoes, and that’s likely to be a keynote of this year’s sporting looks in the UK, so if you can’t get red shoes, try for socks that are solid red or have a red band to them, red gloves for winter running or football training and red hats or baseball caps for summer training.

4. Hoodies are definitely very much part of the focus, and the lighter the fabric weight the better, as layering sports clothing is going to be crucial for our athletes this year, in the UK’s changeable summer climate.

2012 April 26

The UK’s current weather forecast suggests that we are in for a continuing deluge – so how do you dress for spring rain and still look good?

Rain is depressing – you can lift your mood, and create a different vibe through clothing that is much brighter than your usual choices. Steer clear of warm tones though: light clear blues, greens and primrose yellows give a greater effect of light and space than oranges and egg yolk yellows which can become garish looking through the amount of grey in the ambient light.

Boots are essential – you can even wear boots with shorts, these days, as long as you have rugged enough socks (and tuck the socks down, don’t pull them up your legs until they look strained) but anything else looks silly in a rainstorm. For women, slouch boots and a short cotton skirt work well with a bright hoodie for rain days, while for men, long shorts, desert boots and a sweatshirt under a showerproof jacket give a jaunty image.

Hats work too, but baseball caps don’t look as cool in the rain. A knit cap shrugs off the rain and looks great. If you have long hair, wrap it around your head before pulling on the hat and when you take the hat off, hang your head upside down to shake out the kinks.

With jackets, suede and denim are non-starters as they both look rubbish when wet and suede can be permanently damaged. Fleece is okay but good shower-proof jacket fabrics are even better as the look good, breathe in the wet and preserve the integrity of the clothing underneath.

2012 April 3

This year’s key summer fashions are sport and fun related – they are girls dressing as guys and grown men dressing in a more childlike fashion. Don’t get it wrong though – the boy look is not for work: this year men are dressing smartly for work and for fun in their time off, and it’s not just a casual look either, the boy look requires a kind of style that has a sharp and amusing edge to it.

For men this means working with colour: dyed denim is big this year so it might be bright red jeans with a white T-shirt and a pair of spotty or chequerboard Converse trainers. For the beach it could mean ‘cartoon’ shorts (ie a pair long and baggy enough to flap around) in bright blue or red, worn with a yellow or green baseball cap and a curl of hair that flips about boy-style. It doesn’t mean clever slogans on T-shirts, looking too cool, or wearing all one colour.

For women the tomboy look is definitely featuring baseball jackets or blousons, often made of silk and worn over many layered vests to give a lightweight but athletic look to casual clothing. Boyfriend jeans are big, as are Capri pants or joggers in bright but not girly colours: think purple, green and yellow, rather than pink or powder blue. The boiler-suit is trying to make a come-back but it may not be this year that it breaks through again. Oversize T-shirts are heading back though, worn over a contrast colour camisole and leggings, with Converse high-tops.

2012 January 9

The weather is unpredictable and driving can become unpredictable too … whether we’re a passenger or a driver, it’s vital to be prepared for changeable weather and poor road conditions, particularly because traffic police suggest that during bad weather the majority of collisions would have been preventable with better preparation.

The first thing is to remember that speed limits on road signs are maximum ones, set for ideal road conditions when the surface is dry and the temperatures are warm. Slick surfaces require a longer stopping distance and poor visibility can result in collisions.

Top tips for safe driving include:

1. Checking road and weather conditions before departure and, if necessary, postponing travel.
2. Ensuring the vehicle has enough fuel to reach the destination with some to spare for detours.
3. Taking a mobile phone, blankets, food and water and sensible clothing is essential – remember that you may need layers to keep you warm and then allow you to cool down as temperatures change.
4. A winter jacket in a high vis colour may be a life-saver in poor weather if somebody has to leave the vehicle to put out a warning triangle.
5. If you do have to leave a vehicle, and it’s never recommended, then keeping warm and dry is vital: warm hats, high visibility clothing and gloves and socks with good thermal properties will allow people to keep their body temperature at appropriate levels while out in the weather.
6. Take a clockwork torch so that you can use it if you have to leave the vehicle, and remember to pack a first aid kit in the body of the vehicle so that any small problems can be taken care of without having to pull off the road and open the boot.

2011 October 28

Starting today and running until 30th October 2011, the British Ski and Board show is taking place at the Birmingham NEC. It includes an amazing amount of interactivity, including an indoor skill slope with expert instructors and a climbing challenge on two specially constructed climbwalls with fake ice. There will be a winter film festival, several trick shows and a fashion show too.

If you’re looking for bargains in ski-wear, you can balance fashion with frugality by investing in base clothing that supports winter-sport outerwear without breaking the bank:

1)    Thermal underwear is vital because it transfers moisture out to the next layer of your clothing and keeps your body warm and dry.
2)    Ski socks – like other work socks, have two functions: to keep the feet warm and dry and to protect feet against hard impacts such as knocks and bouncing. The thicker and more padded the better as far as socks are concerned, as long as the socks fit comfortably inside your ski boots.
3)    Fleeces, whether jackets or jumpers, are the second layer of protection after thermal underwear – they need to be lightweight but a tailored fit so that they are snug against the underlayer and don’t bulk up between the thermals and a specialist ski jacket or salopettes.
4)    Ski boots need to be specially designed to work with bindings or boards – getting them specialist fitted at a ski show is a good way to make sure you have boots that work well for you and keep you safe.

2011 October 24

As Gok Wan produces the ‘perfect’ flattering dress for Sainsbury’s and M&S claim theirs is even more perfect, spare a thought for the many women who don’t get to dress in a particularly feminine fashion at work. It’s still possible to look great and dress for practicalities, with a few tips on how to choose casual clothing:

1.    Buy the best jacket you can afford – a badly fitting one looks like you’re wearing a sack. If you work in an environment where you have to move around a lot, choose a jacket with sleeves that can be zipped off to make a gilet for warmer moments. Reversible jackets allow you to ring the changes on your appearance at no extra cost.

2.    T-shirts make a work wardrobe special – stick to bright clear colours and set them off with antique brooches if you’re allowed to wear jewellery – this gives an impression of class without cost.

3.    Where possible, colour-coordinate your scarf, hat, gloves, belt and shoes. Brown leather is the absolute gold standard for classic dressing, and can be teamed with a bright scarf, hat and glove set to give a fashionable look for little cost.

2011 August 31

Many women find themselves struggling to make good clothing choices when they are juggling home and childcare, and given that it’s just been revealed that women are still paid around £500 less a year than men, and many are also having to provide support to elderly relatives, it’s even more important to get the best from a clothing budget that has to go from home to school to work and back again.

No pressure buying

Buying online is a great way to be able to take your time. Rather than dragging the kids round the shops, or feeling pressured to make swift choices so you can get back to do childcare or elder supervision, shop at home with a glass of wine and only buy when you feel ready to do it!

No sweat choices

Choosing navy blue or grey or black as a base colour and then picking three coordinating colours to go with that base, means everything works together. Pick a simple dress in your base colour, and then choose a V-necked long sleeved T-shirt to go over it in one of your three coordinating colours. Add a pair of leggings or thick tights in your second coordinating colour. Choose a scarf and belt in your third colour. With the addition of black tights, a black T-shirt and a white short sleeved shirt, you’ve got six outfits all based on the same basic dress. For more ideas see the Uniform Project where one dress with accessories is taken through 365 days.

Nimble clothing

Lay out your outfit the night before you want to wear it, including the shoes and underwear you need. Then put beside it a cold weather option (scarf, pashmina, cardie) and a hot weather option (sunhat, sunglasses, sandals instead of boots) and whatever happens, you will be ready to rock in good time for the school run!

2011 June 15

Most of us have a few pieces of wool or wool-mix clothing in our wardrobes: it might be as simple as a woolly hat, or a couple of cardigans, a pashmina or smart jacket or a wool-blend suit for interviews, but in recent weeks wool prices have double and this is pushing up the cost of many kinds of wool clothing, with the price of a man’s suit expected to rise by up to 15% in the next few months. Apparently this is being driven both by the cost of raising sheep and by a desire from wealthy Chinese people to own wool suits!

There are a number of ways to keep costs down: you can buy alternatives to wool such as the 100% synthetic fleeces that are as warm as wool, easier to wash and not itchy; change your look eg by wearing hoodies instead of cardies, and you can learn to take better care for the wool you do have.

Caring for Wool Clothing

1.    Give any wool item 24 hours between wearings to give the fibres a chance to expand back to their original shape, this stops them pilling and/or compressing to become flat.

2.    Buy padded hangers for wool or wool-mix suits and other items and hang them with buttons and zips fastened.

3.    Use a soft brush to take dust and dirt from wool clothing before putting it away.

4.    When cleaning, check the label. Most clothing manufacturers recommend dry-cleaning, but some garments can be hand-washed and a few can even be machine washed. All wet wool should be dried at room temperature away from direct heat.

2011 May 20

This is a Glastonbury year, and it coincides with more people taking holidays in the UK. It’s partly because of the recession and partly because environmental or political hot-spots around the world have made the cheap package holiday seem a riskier prospect, but in both cases it’s meant that casual clothing has become key to a happy summer.

Glamping is gl(amorous) (c)amping – and it’s the big thing for the under thirties in 2011.  Dressing for it is a bit like putting up a tent: complicated without instructions.

For men straw hats are really big this year, teamed with loose tops in shades of cream and beige. Chavvy trilbies are the biggest hit, followed by straw fedoras. If it rains, the top of the hat crop is a navy blue or grey beanie hat. For women, floppy straw hats are popular but it if rains (and when doesn’t it?) turban-style scarves are the headgear of choice.

Capri pants and tailored shorts are everywhere, worn with espadrilles or crocs (but be prepared for hostility if you’re seen in crocs at Glastonbury – there was a trend to steal crocs and hang them up as toilet paper holders in 2009).

Layered tops are popular for both men and women when glamping: try a white vest or camisole with a cream coloured T-shirt and a white shirt over the top of that. Three layers allows for lots of putting on and off to cope with the British weather.