How Would You Wear…a Maxi Dress in Autumn?

Hello! How nice to see you again! The next FashFem post is out on Wednesday, so I’m easing myself back in with a post about, you know, pretty clothes and shiz. And you know I like to ask your advice from time to time.

I’ll be glad to see the back of summer. Or more accurately, summer clothing, which is all the things I despise: flimsy fabrics, sleeveless styles, and endless rails of frickin’ white linen. And don’t even get me started on bikinis. I’ll take cashmere and corduroy over cotton any time.

Having said that, I admire those who ‘do summer’ well. Part of me would love to dress like Courtney Cox in Cougar Town – colourful tailored dresses worn with covetable heels, tanned and toned bare arms and legs. Every year around this time think to myself, “Why didn’t I do summer like that, instead of swanning round in vintage nighties and flipflops, fanning myself cool with gas bills?!”

I wish to god I could purchase CC's upper arms. Not literally. That would be creepy and serial killer-ish.

Well, I’m a little behind on this one, but I decided to play the game before my beloved autumn well and truly descends: I bought two maxi dresses. Whoop! I have to say, they’re a dream to wear, but I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted. Everyone seems to live in them except  me.

And, as a bonus, I’m told that maxi dresses can actually be trans-seasonal – bargain. So, my question to you is…

…how would you style these two babies up … for autumn?

Dorothy Perkins

Sainsburys!!! (last of the big spenders...)

Which summer clothes will you be wearing in A/W?

Tell Mrs B all about it in the comments…



Wardrobe Staples Revisited.

Can you hear that sound? That’s the sound of me back-pedalling, frantically.

Last week I got all snooty over at The Loudmouth Lifestyle, with my post ‘5 Wardrobe Staples I Can Live Without‘. Black shoes, white shirts, breton tops…I spat in the face of them all. I was particularly dismissive of trenchcoats and jeans, saying the former made me look like a bag of potatoes and the latter made me feel like a plumber.

But lo! Who is this wearing jeans?!

I’m afraid to say you are not imagining things – it is I, Mrs B. I don’t know if I tempted Fate from the Denim Gods, or was persuaded Emily’s guest post on packing for a UK holiday, but I tried some on. After months of wearing peg trousers my legs looked quite shapely, as did my behind. I thought the dark colour was flattering, and truth be told, I felt quite good. And what had I said not two weeks before?

Never fear though – I shall not be wearing mine with a hoodie or Converse trainers. No, my vintage heels and pussybow blouse keep the ‘me’ in the equation…

Mr B calls this photo 'Touched up by a triffid'.

That’s not all. Suffering from shopping withdrawal, I scouted through the wardrobe at my parents’ house. And what did I find? A trenchcoat. To be fair to me, it’s not your average trenchcoat. Its tulip shaped-skirt keeps it just this side of flattering, and I think it scores extra style points for being one of the brightest colours ever seen by the human eye. Most importantly, I don’t think I look like a sack of vegetables. Or a detective. Score.

I’m not a total cop-out, though. To be honest, I was drawn to the coat because of the colour, not the style, and the jeans because of the shape, not the fabric. I still maintain that people shouldn’t feel they have to have these things in their wardrobe, and they should feel at liberty to find their own style staples. There’s no point buying something that doesn’t fit your shape, fit in with your lifestyle, or fit in with the rest of your wardrobe. Keep your character. What was my advice on coat-purchasing?

Looking at this coat…I have stayed true to that philosophy.

Do you think I get away with it?

Have you ever changed your mind about a type of clothing?


Charity Shopping: Mrs B's Mini Guide.

Even before my cash dwindled, I was a passionate charity shop advocate. Everyone loves a bargain, a one-off, the thrill of finding an item in your size and your size alone. But it ain’t always easy, especially now so many people are on the hunt for vintage and magpie-like types swoop down on items for their eBay stores (and all credit to ’em!) But necessity now dictates that I spend less, and so I have to put in the legwork. Armed with the right attitude, your own bags and ready cash, charity-shopping can be enjoyable…and let’s face it, sifting through those rails can do wonders for the upper arms…

Used with kind permission of Wrongun / All Our Hearts Content.

I’m not usually the prescriptive type, but I’ve been asked about my charity-shopping habits several times of late. So here goes: the Dos and Don’ts that have helped me navigate a fantastic resource…



…suss out the area:

Any seasoned charity shopper knows – you can tell a lot about an area by its charity shop selection. Shops in ‘wealthier’ areas are likely to stock the more high-end high street items – or designer if you’re lucky. The shops near my last house had a wealth of Monsoon, Linea and M&S Autograph ranges, with few items over a fiver – if you find the area that has the stuff you like, you’re onto a winner.

…mean business:

If you’re in a rush, you gotta get brutal. Prioritise. Divide and conquer. My experience tells me that I have most luck with shoes, coats and skirts (in that order), so when time is short I make a bee-line for those sections. Some shops group by colour rather than style, and in that case I steer clear of colours I rarely wear. By the same token, if there’s something specific you’re looking for, head to that section first (I personally am always on the look-out for silk shirts). If there are a few items, make a list to keep you focused. Whatever it takes! Last week I did four charity shops in the five minutes I had to wait for a bus, and I came out with the item I was looking for – it can be done!

…buy things you love

On the other hand, if you’ve got bags of time, you should have fun. Want to try something different, but couldn’t justify the outlay? Now’s your chance, while you’ll get change from a tenner. I dipped my toe into leopard print with a £3 skirt, and I now have a small but fabulous array of colourful dresses that I would never have bought at £50 a pop. You can also forget about ‘what’s hot and what’s not’ in a charity shop, and just try on things you like.

They said, "NO!" I said, "Yes."


…forget about the seasons:

Would you feel weird buying a lightweight dress in the depths of December? Or a thick winter coat in July? (If you’re British, it’s likely you greeted that question with a knowing sigh – summer is being rubbish again.) Well if you’re on the ball, that’s the way to do it: I’ve found all my best second-hand winter coats in the warmer months when everyone’s hunting down flipflops. As the summer-resistant type I avoid skimpier items…but if I was more carefree I would be buying silk vests by the armful when everyone else is looking for jumpers. You get the idea.

…milk them for all their worth!

Much as I love unearthing something that’s both beautiful and a bargain, I also use charity shops when hunting for basics. When I’m short of cash I resent forking out my precious money buying boring black skirts for work, or a waterproof coat for northern Britain’s inevitable downpours. So I hit the charity shops, and they’ve not let me down yet. Same goes for something you’ll only wear once, such as fancy dress costumes, or a replacement bag when the strap on yours breaks on your way to an interview.

The Joker and I both shop at Oxfam, you know.




…bother with fast-fashion cast-offs:

Charity (and even vintage) shopping can be a pain these days – 50% of donations seem to be from Primark or Matalan. Each to their own, but I resent forking out for an item that probably only cost the same new. I know that it’s for charity, but it’s the height of ‘false economy’ to me unless it’s an emergency purchase. There are better discoveries awaiting you. Promise.

…buy underwear:

If you’re the type of optimist that believes a hot wash will sort everything out – good luck to you, my friend. When it comes to underwear, my motto is; “neither a borrower or a lender be”…so I’m sure not going to don a stranger’s knickers. Some people  also draw the line at footwear, refusing to go where other feet have gone before…

Be careful now, Li-Lo...

…neglect the other sections:

So you’ve had no joy with the women’s clothes? Cast your eye over the men’s and kids’ sections. I’ve found cardigans and t-shirts for 13 year-old girls (and at half the price), and my favourite pair of trousers came from the men’s section – easy to shorten, and beautifully tailored, too. Sure, it’s unlikely you’ll come away with bagfuls, but it’s always worth a shot. Also good spots for scarves, gloves and hats.

…duplicate because it’s cheap:

I know whereof I speak. I’m a sucker for tan leather clutches, and if I see one in every charity shop I visit, I will buy one in every charity shop I visit. It’s a waste, both of your precious budget and of the items themselves – don’t give in to the siren cry of materialism, and let some other nice soul find pleasure in them.

"I'll take all of them."

…buy without checking the crotch:

Or underarms. This one came from Mr Bossa, after he made an unfortunate discovery when queuing to buy a second-hand suit. Do I need to elaborate?!

What tips would you give for charity shopping?

Have you had any charity shopping disasters?


Other must-reads:

Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: Budget Fashion: Can you afford to shop ethically?

Northwest is Best: What happened to charity shop bargains?

What Have the Feminist Fashion Bloggers Been up to?

The Circus, 1870-1950 by TASCHEN

Edited by Franca from Oranges and Apples.

In a new series on Feminist Fashion Bloggers, we are compiling posts that weren’t produced as part of the FFB themes/topic prompts, but sit along the intersection of fashion, body image and feminism. Some but not all the posts were written by FFB members, and some were put forward by the authors, while some were nominated by others.

The range of the various posts is wide ranging and thought provoking as usual! There’s posts about the socially accepted rules of dressing, including dressing to hide one’s perceived flaws, dressing sexily, dressing modestly, dressing at costuming events, dressing while pregnant, the perennial problem with the phrase ‘real women’, perceptions of fat people and tattoos and Niqabs, and girls’ desire for Barbies.


The Alt Librarian“You Were So Pretty Before”: Gender and its Implications within Modern American Tattoo Culture (submitted by Millie of Interrobangs Anonymous)

Beauty SchooledEnough with the fat hate (submitted by Autumn at the Beheld)

The BeheldMy First Barbie (submitted by Mrs Bossa)

Decoding DressFiguring out Sexy Part 1 and Part 2 (nominated by Autumn at the Beheld)

Hugo Schwyzer“Your body is not so powerful it can drive others to distraction”: a letter to a teenage girl about clothing, modesty, and Slutwalk (submitted by the Beheld – and again by Franca)

Knitting up the ravelled sleeve of careImperfections

Mrs. Bossa Does the DoDressing for your shape part 1, part 2 and part 3 (submitted by finder extraordinaire of many great reads Autumn at the Beheld)

Tea and FeathersAll together now: we are all real (submitted by Sadie at Knitting up the ravelled sleeve of care)

One Techies Search for Something Resembling StyleFollow Up: Feminism and the Slave Leia Costume

Oranges and ApplesDressing Pregnant Bodies

Lids, Sewn ShutNiqab: Just a piece of cloth (submitted by Millie of Interrobangs Anonymous)

Dressing for Your Shape #3

Fancy a bit of shameless and infectious inspiration? Well you’ve come to the right place today!

One thing struck me when I read the comments on Dressing for Your Shape #1: everyone was aware of ‘guidelines’, even if they chose not to stick to them. Let’s face it, for every few days when you feel like flaunting your waist, there are others when you torch the rulebook and wear whatever the hell you feel like. It’s as it should be.

Hourglasses don’t have the monopoly on feeling happy!

"So if I squeeze myself into these babies, I'll have untold happiness...?"


The response to that post was amazing – lots of people chipped in, not everyone agreed…but all of them had valid points to make. So for the final part of ‘Dressing for Your Shape’ – and as part of our journey of self-acceptance – I want to introduce you to some of the the lovely folks who had something inspiring to say. Some thought you should “follow the rules”, some said “f*** ’em!”, and for some it’s merely an ongoing flirtation, but they all had one thing in common – these, their  favourite outfits, made them feel fun, free…and sometimes even fabulous.

Whose opinions do you agree with?

What is your go-to ‘feel fabulous’ outfit?


Let me (and them) know in the comments – and click the images to visit their blogs…



Read Dressing for Your Shape #1

Read Dressing for Your Shape #2

Dressing for Your Shape #2

So…do you dress by the rules?

I do – most of the time. I don’t always know I’m doing it, but by god they’ve gotten under my skin.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll put thought into your outfits: whether you’re going for comfort, sex appeal, professionalism or kookiness, you’ll have an idea about heel height, silhouette or accessories. On the other hand, you’ll just be drawn to certain types of items: you simply can’t resist the drape of a pleated skirt or an animal print harem pant – and if you have to stick two fingers up at the rulebook, then so be it.

"Rules?! What rules?!"

I for one thought there was no rhyme or reason to my more daring outfits (and I use ‘daring’ in the loosest possible terms – I ain’t no Agyness Deyn), but was intrigued to learn otherwise. Being a total geek (and a narcissist, apparently) I asked Steph from the Dashing Eccentric to give her opinion on my fave outfits using her outfit analysis checklist, which she tends to use in the following way:

“I analyze a look of mine that I really like, and come up with my ‘rule’ from the results. Then I use this ‘recipe’ to shop my closet for new looks that have a similar underlying structure… looking at my wardrobe in a new way often results in new, great looks which have nothing to do with my ‘recipe’ – this process sparks creativity.”

Riding on the success of my jumpsuit experiment, I emailed her my post on how Marni helped me find my fashion formula. You can read her full post on my outfit here: Mrs Bossa Gets it Done – let her know what you think!

Faux pas #1: rolled-up trousers on a short person: rather than an unflattering decision for my legs, Steph reads it as a way of toying with silhouette:

"Just a little to the side of a 'classic' fit/silhouette, with certain unexpected details in where hems hit... trousers are rolled into cuffs, even though they're being worn with socks."

This would also explain my love of ankle boots with dresses, and of long long gloves with cropped sleeves.

And on the subject of socks: Faux pas #2: socks with sandals: whereas Trinny and Susannah would screech in horror at such a thing, it can actually make a more positive statement:

"The accessories all have a geometric feel...The pointy triangles on the sandals are made emphatic by wearing a contrasting sock underneath."

Yay me! And the sock success – should that be socksess?! – continues with Faux pas #3: knee socks on a 30 year-old:

"Wearing nubby socks instead of hose, leaving a gap between hem and sock - these are the touches that set these looks apart from the ordinary."

Who knew that a flash of shin could tip the balance?!

Faux pas #4: Chunky necklace and high neck on a top-heavy lady: Those two would rip off the jewellery and have me in a v-neck tout de suite. However, Steph thinks it’s quirky…

"Joanna uses another quirky strategy for creating the 'background' in her skirt look, by 'backgrounding' pieces which are generally highlighted in outfits, ie black necklace on black sweater."

My silhouette may be more ‘classic’ or rules aware, but my accessorising has made just that tiny bit of difference.

As I’ve said, my ‘rule-breaking’ is very gentle – there are far wilder dressers out there – but the crucial element to any outfit is comfort. I don’t mean pyjamas win hands down, but I do mean you can only wear what you love and feel good in. Some people’s rule-breaking will involve neon or spray-on leather, but I feel my own little touches – a rolled hem, a pair of knee socks, a carefully-chosen necklace – inject that essential sense of ‘me’ into what I wear.

So what’s my point? My point is: pick and choose your rules. If you’re going to use them, make them work for you.

How do you ‘break’ the rules?

What are the little touches that make a outfit ‘you’?


Look out for part 3 – fabulous outfits from fabulous ladies…and what they think of ‘dressing for your shape’…

Recommended blog posts:

Mrs Bossa Does the Do: Dressing for Your Shape #1 and Dressing for Your Shape #3

The Styling Dutchman: You Can’t Argue with Taste

Arash Mazinani: My Beef with Body Shapes

By Anika: Who Gets to Label Me and my Worth? I Do!

Dressing for Your Shape #1

Check out my latest charity shop bargain. It ain’t silk, but it looks like it, and I love the pattern. Isn’t it lovely?

When I first saw this pretty thing on the rail, I assumed it was vintage. Turns out it is one of the dresses designed by Trinny and Susannah. For those of you who aren’t aware of this bossy pair of stylists, T+S have have produced several books and TV programmes, all with the focus on dressing ‘real women’. Programmes usually began with them making a woman stand in front of a mirror in her underwear, pointing out her flaws but getting her to admit if she has “great tits” or a “good arse”. Brutal, yet popular.  Their key message was to ‘dress for your shape’, highlighting your best features and de-emphasising the less attractive ones. They went on to design a range of dresses:

A selection of their range - it's all about the curves, ladies!

Their most recent book, The Body Shape Bible, categorises women into 12 shapes; going beyond hourglass/pear/apple etc. (though they feature) to include ‘column’, ‘lollipop’, ‘goblet’…and the flatteringly-named ‘brick’. They then tell you how to dress for that shape, with emphasis on creating curves where there aren’t any, or enhancing the ones that are hidden under baggy clothing.

I've yet to decide which shape I am...

Dissecting 'The Brick'...

Dressing 'The Brick'...













Looking at the dress, it was definitely designed to emphasise the waist, widen the hips and display the breasts (when I tried it on my mum rolled her eyes and said, “your boobs…”). I’d love to know which of their shapes it was intended for – I suspect someone a little straighter than me…

Excuse the picture - I couldn't find the tripod...

Hm. I suspect fake tan would play a part in my makeover.

I’m always ambivalent about the idea of  ‘dressing for your shape’ – on the one hand I want to feel good in what I wear, and on the other hand I resent being limited by a neckline or sleeve length. Watching some of their programmes, though – rightly or wrongly – I realise I have absorbed quite a few of their ‘rules’, eg:

1. v-neck/wrap tops minimise big breasts – avoid polonecks and crew necks at all costs!

2. large rings make fingers appear more dainty

3. ankle straps truncate your legs

4. 3/4 length sleeves show off the wrist, the slimmest part of the arm

5. baggy clothes make curvy women look like sacks of potatoes

Contrary to popular belief, none of my oversized rings contain sleeping draught.

Some of us like dressing by the rules more than others, but prescriptive or not, T+S seem to have helped women rediscover a happiness with their bodies. Many of us feel horrified when we look at photographs of ourselves, but their philosophy takes this one step further; you may feel knocked down, but you then have to build yourself up again – and this is a crucial step that many body-conscious types miss out.

What do you think about this?

Should we dress to flatter our shapes?

What rules do you abide by?


Read Dressing for Your Shape #2

Read Dressing for Your Shape #3


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