CSSB: Floaty Over-Shirt

This floaty over-shirt was just waiting for me in a charity shop in Preston, just before I went away on holiday with my husband. I picked it up, because I thought it might look smart for going out to dinner with a black spaghetti strap top underneath it. I am glad to say, I was right.

For our holiday, we went camping to Cornwall and the weather verged between black clouds and rain, and hot sultry hazy days. The only thing they all had in common was the humidity. So when it came time to go out for dinner, things had to be light and cool, even late at night.

We went to Tintagel, which was beautiful and filled with gorgeous pubs. This meant I wanted to dress nicely, because it was my holiday and I so rarely get to go on ‘dates’ with my husband, but also I didn’t want to OVER dress. Because, y’know, that’s embarrassing as all hell, when you stick out amongst the jeans and jerseys.



BRAND: Marks and Spencers Autograph


This lovely floaty over-shirt allowed me to strike the right balance. The colours are gorgeous, just the right ones to suit me, red and rich plum colours, trimmed with black. There is a little tie just under the bosom, which gives the top a little shape without it being too close fitting. The long sleeves and the handkerchief hem is light and gives it a little bit more shape.


I particularly love the sleeves on this top, they are light and have a nice bit of detailed pattern on them, but they aren’t too fixed in shape. This means that the underarms aren’t tightly fitted, which allows a little more freedom, and in hot weather allows a little more ventilation, and cuts down on that uncomfortable sweaty feeling!

I’ve had a few tops made out of this sort of synthetic material, and the tight fitting under the arms has been a big problem with some of them. This sort of thin material very rarely has elastic build into it, it’s often pretty rigid along the seams. This top with the short, loose sleeves has been more comfortable than the long sleeved ones I’ve had previously.

For £1, this was an absolutely bargain. Marks and Spencers are rarely a disappointment, and this has been a great choice. It’s strange to think that this might be sold for as much as £15-£20 … I’m not sure I would ever pay that much, but for £1 this was a nice little purchase.

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CSSB: White Embroidered Shirt

I have a variety of white tops in my wardrobe, but I do love this white embroidered shirt. I needed to put a few alterations in place to make this one wearable.

However, I think it came out pretty well:



PRICE: £2.99

This top is lovely, and the button details down the front are a really nice elegant touch. However, despite it being a size 16, the cut was not… shall we say, *ample* enough for my bosoms. So the first time I wore it, a couple of buttons popped open and had to be discretely refastened.

Obviously I can’t risk this happening in a lesson, or a meeting. Or giving a presentation. Or meeting a student and their parents, heaven forbid! So I had to do something about it. Luckily I’m not a bad hand seemstress, and the top was of a big enough size to pull over my head like a t-shirt, so what I ended up doing was stitching it shut down the front, and leaving the buttons as decorative rather than functional features.


You can hardly tell, can you? Luckily, the buttons aren’t the only details, the embroidery (white on white, which is really simple and classy) looks beautiful. A nice floral pattern, focused around the neckline, adds just a little more detail to the mix and makes it look a bit more feminine and delicate than a plain white shirt.


The material of this white embroidered shirt is lovely, beautifully soft cotton, which makes it really comfortable to wear. But the cut under the armpits is a little tight, which is a bit of a shame. If it wasn’t for that, I would definitely wear it more often. I tend to save this for meetings rather than for tutoring, as then I can change after the meeting, whereas I don’t often have time between tutoring sessions.

But for £2.99, it was definitely worth picking up. It goes nicely with black trousers and skirt, but also with any coloured outfits, my purple or pink coloured skirts work beautifully with this. Very versatile, great piece of have in the wardrobe.

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CSSB: Kitten Heeled Black Shoes

Following on from the little black dress, it’s time to look at the little black shoes.

I have a couple of pairs of black shoes, but I picked up these in January to go to a formal (black tie and party gown!) event with work, and I needed something I could walk in and wear for a whole evening. I found these at the Cancer Research Campaign shop, and they were just £1.99! I think they were clearing out their stock of party shoes, just after Christmas.

Finding these was a stroke of luck on many levels. One, I’m a size 6.5, and finding half sizes in second hand shops is a massive improbability at the best of times.

Second, they were practially new! The tread was unworn on both the heels and soles, and the print on the inlay was unworn. Second hand new shoes is one thing, second hand NEW shoes? That’s unheard of!

Third, just look at them…


Aren’t they just divine? Simple, elegant, not too over-blinged but with a narrow patent strap across the front to add a little extra detail. The toes are narrow, but rounded, so a little more gentle on the tootsies.


Now, normally, I hate little narrow heels. But these were just so comfortable, that I had to give them a shot. The heel isn’t too high, there’s a low enough centre of gravity that I can still walk in them without crippling myself. Sure, it’s narrow, but it is still pretty sturdy for all that.

And last but not least, check out the brand:



BRAND: Footglove (Marks and Spencers)

PRICE: £1.99

I adore footglove. I have more than one pair of this brand, they are simply divine. They have moulded soles, which fit to the shape of your feet, filling out the curve under the arch of your feet. These are, without doubt, among the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn.

I am seriously considering never buying another brand of high heels again. These are just so lovely. If I could change one thing about them, it would be that they have this velveteen exterior, which does take a bit of a battering sometimes, when I pack them or wear them for a long period of time.

Guess it’s just lucky that they’re black, so the scuffs don’t show!



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CSSB: The Little Black Dress

Ah yes, the Little Black Dress. The staple of any woman’s wardrobe, according to Marie Claire, Cosmo, etc. And yet, an item which has been sadly lacking from my wardrobe since I was about 18 years old. I had one, as a teenager, from New Look. It was made of jersey, very forgiving on a changing figure, and short enough that my legs looked almost as good as Posh Spice’s.

Until a couple of months ago, that is, when I happened across this little beauty in the ASDA sale…




£4! It would have been rude to leave it on the rail, I mean honestly.

I do love this dress, but it is a bugger to get into without a helping hand. The zip is down the back, right down to the bum. Elegant as hell, but it defies only having two hands. Luckily my husband is an old hand at zipping these things up, so provided I’m not away on business, this is very useful for work.

The thing I love more than anything about the little black dress, more than the slimming effect is the fact that it goes with ANYTHING.

Red cardigan and red shoes? Check.

The Black and Pink Pinstripe Jacket? Check.

Purple silk wrap and purple satin handbag? Check!

It is, quite simply, the most matchable item of clothing ever.

The slimming effect can’t be denied either, particularly since the material is stiff and the dress is built in panels, which does help to hold in the old tum a bit. With a pair of magic pants on underneath, this does make me look and feel a lot more trim than I actually feel these days.

However, the downside to that is that it’s not the most comfortable thing to wear. Ideal for a business meeting or conference with picky finger food buffets, not so good for a romantic three course meal out with the hubby. Gets a bit tight around the middle if you eat more than a cracker and three grapes.

But, for the occasional high impact attention grabbing impact that the little black dress can have, it’s worth it for professional meetings. Particularly with barely there black tights, black heeled shoes and pearls. Being 34 has it’s compensations. I can get away with that sort of classic look now without looking hopelessly pretentious, or like I should be featuring in a Girls In Pearls feature.


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CSSB: Black and Pink Pinstriped Jacket

Wow, I am on a role with jackets recently, and this black and pink pinstriped jacket is going to be a favourite for sometime to come. For starters, it matches exactly with the purple lace top I reviewed a few weeks ago!

I love the dash of colour in this one. The b


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BRAND: Marks and Spencers – Per Una

PRICE: £7.99

Just £7.99, when they can cost as much as £59 new in the store! The light doesn’t really do it justice in this photo, but the jacket is striped in the same shade of pink as the lining! How’s that for daring!

Marks and Spencers became a by-word for ‘frumpy’ a few years ago, but I absolutely adore every second hand piece I’ve picked up from their collections. I am developing a special liking for the Per Una brand especially, which always seems to be a touch more feminine than the standard Marks and Spencer label. This colour was just too perfect to ignore.

They’ve also done something really cool under the collar. Check this out:

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What a cutesy little print! Just hidden away from general view, but there all the same.

This jacket is so comfortable to wear. In the past, I’ve stuck to Dorothy Perkins for jackets, I bought 2-3 on their store card when I was teacher training so that I had things to wear for interviews, but they never quite sat right. They were tight around the shoulders, wrinkled around the bosom, and even though the fastening at the waist was trim, the general effect made me feel a bit like a sack of spuds.

Not so with this beautiful pinstriped jacket – this fits like a glove. The sleeves are the right length, the shoulders drape well and the clasp at the front makes my waist look absolutely tiny!

I really look forward to wearing this. As well as the purple top, this will go spectacularly with my black basic business dress, adding just that touch of colour while still being formal enough for a conference or regional/national meeting.

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CSSB: Brown Leather Bag and Boots

My last pair of brown leather boots died a death some time ago, and I’ve never found a brown leather bag that I liked, but both have now waltzed into my wardrobe and turned out to be a complete match. And the best part? They were a combined cost of £3! Thank you charity shops.

I’ve had the boots for a while. Turns out the best time to go shopping for boots in Charity Shops is in the middle of summer, as that’s when they clear out their winter shoe stocks for £1 per pair. I couldn’t believe it when I saw these in the box. I mean, look at them!


I have no idea what brand these are, but for this sort of quality I don’t really care. The lining is beautiful and there’s barely a mark on them. The grips are in great condition and they fit like a glove.

I love wearing long boots with calf length skirts. It’s definitely one of my favourite looks – so elegant and swishy. So next on my list was a brown leather handbag to go with them.

I don’t DO small handbags. I carry a lot of stuff around with me. Purse, keys, phone, pencil case, notepad, medicines, spare carrier bags, diary, glasses case, makeup bag, hairbrush… I don’t travel light. Once I leave the house I am generally gone for several hours, sometimes to a mixture of jobs and appointments. So I need a decent size and well made beast of a bag to carry all my stuff.

So I was delighted to find this one in a local charity shop last week:


Love that pattern with the mix of browns! Anything like this is great for me, as it will match more than one outfit. The dark brown matches the boots, but I can mix it up with shades of peach, tangerine, cream, beige… all sorts of goodies.

DSC_0004[1]The label on the bag is Dils of London (makers and stockists of Jazzy Bags) who are so big and important that you have to register just to see their catalogue and they don’t accept orders for less than £100.

And I had it for … £2.

Go on. Say it. I’m a jammy so-and-so.

So, next on my list of things to look for is a good quality dark brown winter/autumn coat (wool or wool mix) and a long (calf length) brown or tweed/check style skirt. Then I will be all kitted out for the end of summer.

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CSSB: Black and Red Top

This black and red top was another chance find. I stumbled across it when I was killing time in a charity shop, waiting for an appointment near Wigan. I’m so glad I made this visit. As a result, I found two excellent new items for my wardrobe!

2016-08-09 21.37.44


PRICE: £1.99

The red in this is a little harsher than I would normally choose. It’s more tomato red, rather than rich crimson red, or burgundy red. Normally I like warmer colours than this. But with the white and black, this makes a dashing change.

It’s a lovely silky material, but very flexible and forgiving of creases. The front is a wrap around style, but it is just decorative. No need to worry about wardrobe malfunctions when wearing this. There is a draw string tassel at one side, which is a nice touch too – unusual, I  haven’t see that sort of thing before.

I think the sleeves are my favourite bit though:

2016-08-09 21.38.14

They’re little cap sleeves, loose and flowing over the shoulders. The sleeves are slit along the bottom, as well. For me, this is one of the best things about this top. When I wear it, my arms are just wearing little capes, rather than being penned in. I do hate sleeves that are too tight around the cuff. Does anyone else find un-elasticated sleeves to be disgustingly uncomfortable? However this is great, especially for the warmer weather when short sleeves and more room under the arms are far more comfortable.

I’ve worn this for work a few times. Not for meetings, but for tutorials, when I try to be a bit more casual so I can blend into the workplaces that I visit. It goes well with black trousers obviously, but with a casual black cardigan rather than a suit jacket. It also works with the jersey skirt.

This is one of the few tops which I can comfortably wear for working at home too. I don’t have enough of those. I end up changing as soon as I come through the door, back into joggers and t-shirts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Afterall, who doesn’t love bra-off-o’clock? However, finding that work headspace is easier if I am at least tidily dressed to work at home. I tried working in my dressing gown in the early work-at-home days. No. No no. Big mental turn off, it sent me straight back to sleep. Plus the cats thought that I was a giant pillow … but I digress.

I wish I knew more about this brand – it’s a new one to me. Has anyone else heard of it? Does anyone know where it is stocked? Drop me a comment if you do. This has become a real favourite piece for me, so I would love to find out where I can get some more.

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CSSB: Purple Lace Top

There are days when I go deliberately looking for new clothes in charity shops. However, then there are days when I just ‘pop in’ for a look and there is the most perfect thing. Just waiting for me, in just my size and a favourite brand, right on the rack in front of me. That’s how I came across this purple lace top:

2016-08-09 21.33.14


BRAND: Per Una

PRICE: £4.99

Isn’t that colour just glorious? Even my rubbish little camera phone does it a little bit of justice. This was just so elegant that I had to have it, aside from it being one of my colours to a tee. The body has a darker sheath layer of purple underneath, which is fantastic for flattering my figure while the lace detail stands out over it. The lace on the sleeves is see-through though. There’s no lining to be seen here:

2016-08-09 21.33.30

Absolutely gorgeous, and very glamorous.

This top is so versatile. With black trousers or a tailored black pencil skirt, it’s smart enough to wear for work under a tailored jacket. However, it’s also light and fun enough to wear for an evening out, going out to dinner or drinking with the girls. I love the slimming effect, and the scoop neckline is very demure. I think this purple lace top is going to be a good friend of mine for a long time to come!

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CSSB: Black and Pink Skirt

Black and Pink Skirt

Welcome back to the CSSB imprint of Project Shandy, and we’re kicking off with one of my current favourite wardrobe pieces – a fantastic and versatile black and pink skirt.

A little over a year ago, I was on the verge of starting a new job, one which turned out to involve a lot more travelling and hotel stays than previous positions. So it was time to give my wardrobe an overhaul.

I learned a lot during my previous shopping expeditions around the Charity Shops of the North West. Now, travelling nationally, I could put my theories to the test in bigger cities. And ooooh boy was I rewarded for my patience!

Manchester, Leicester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bury and all of their suburbs were teaming with charity shops, all stuffed to the brim with goodies.

This was an early find.

Black and Pink Skirt

Black and Pink Skirt

BRAND: Per Una

SIZE: 16

Price: £3.99

I love this skirt, because it is so light and easy to fold for packing/transport, and the dark colour and strong pattern makes it very forgiving on the creases. It’s swishy, knee length and I feel so elegant wearing it. The waist is elasticated, which is a godsend for me, as I spend so much of the day sitting down in meetings and tutorials.

The black background makes it demure enough for meetings, teamed up with a black jacket, black tights and some high heels. Yet the pink adds a dash of personality, along with that fantastic spiral pattern:

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I mean just look at those gorgeous swirls and that mix of shades!

Shortly after buying this, I found two absolutely perfect tops to go with it.

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BRAND: Marks and Spencers

SIZE: 16

Price: £2.99

This one is such a good match I have to wonder whether it’s from the same collection. The material is a mix of cotton and polyester and I love the cut – the slight pattern down the front adds some nice detail, and the sleeves are a perfect three quarter length, with a little flexibility at the elbow. The only problem with it was that my bosoms were more than the buttons could handle! Luckily, it was large enough for me to pull over my head while buttoned up, so a few quick stitches sealed it up and prevented any embarrassing spillage. This, teamed with the black jacket, tights and shoes, makes for an excellent business meeting outfit.

The second top was a little more casual, but still lovely:

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BRAND: Unknown

SIZE: 16

Price: £1.99

Why on earth do some Charity Shops insist on cutting out the labels from the clothes? Seriously, the sizes are so different between brands, we need to know this information darling volunteers! I would never buy a size 16 from Top Shop, it would look like a doll’s dress on me, but Marks and Spencers and Per Una? Now we’re talking. So picking this up was a bit of a gamble – there was no changing room in the charity shop where I got it. However, for £1.99 I decided to take the risk, and I am glad I did.

I suspect it’s a BHS item – it’s got that sort of light weave and pattern in the material:

2016-08-09 21.37.00

But it would have been nice to know for certain.

Anyway – it’s great with the skirt, with a black cardigan for a more dress down approach. With thick tights and black boots, it makes a good autumn/spring outfit too, as it’s a bit warmer than the pink blouse. I have one gripe – the neckline and sleeve cuffs are fixed, no elastic in the mix. I wish they had a little bit of give in them. But that is me being really picky.

The tops were definitely worth the investment though. As well as the skirt, they go well with a pencil black skirt, and also with black tailored trousers. The t-shirt style top can even be paired up with a long black jersey skirt.

So that gives me several new combination outfits. All for less than £10.

I love Charity Shops. And so should all of you!

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CSSB: Return of the 90s II

The 90s are making another comeback in Matalan’s accessories department. Check out these babies!


Stretchy chokers – and black thonging! And silver dolphins! I wanted one of those when I was 13…



Velvet chokers! My friend’s nan used to make those for her to wear!



Velvet victoriana… swish…


Can’t quite tell if this is a flower or a sun, but both were the in things when I was at high school…20150224_191115

Best Mate jewellery! My best mate at the age of 13 shared a set of rings with me with the ying and yang on them.



Scrunchies! Scrunchies everywhere… I don’t know where mine all ran away to but I hope they’re happy there. Perhaps they’re living in a commune with my bobby pins, bobbles and slides. They might be please to learn that they are hip and cool again.

What next? Glittery headbands? Name-cube necklaces? What fashion trends would you like to see (or hate to see) back from the 90s?


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