CSSB: Cream Linen Jacket

Welcome back to CSSB and this week’s bargain is a brilliant one, a fantastic cream linen jacket from Marks and Spencers.

What makes this one particularly special is that it was bought in a charity shop, but it still had the original tags on!  I love finding bargains like this, things that people have given away without even wearing them once. It’s as good as finding them in the original shop, but you only pay a fraction of the price.

I love wearing jackets, but a linen jacket has been something I been looking for since forever. I have a lovely white dress with a red print flower pattern which would look great for business meetings if only I could pair it up with the right jacket and this one looks fabulous.

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BRAND: Marks and Spencers

PRICE: £4.99

(Original Tag Price: £35)

 

I love the cut of this jacket. The long lapels, the cluster of little buttons at the front and the curved edges at the bottom of the panels all make it look like a really elegant piece.  I love the lining too – understated but with a touch of personality with the discreet diamond pattern.

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As well as the white dress, I can see this becoming a really versatile piece alongside a pair of white linen-mix trousers that I picked up from Matalan last summer in their sale. They didn’t fit comfortably then, but one year on and a little weight lost and they sit beautifully on my hips. I look forward to trying these out together.

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CSSB: Shabby vs Chic?

Not so much a rant as a wondering, but it’s time to blow the dust off the lid and get back down to business here.

For me, the way I look isn’t just about what clothes I wear or how I style my hair or use cosmetics. It’s not just about the size of my body, or it’s shape. It’s about an expression of who I am, and this does not stop at my own physical boundaries. So for today’s entry I’d like to talk about my home.

Second only to the fashion industry, the homewares industry places massive pressure upon women to ‘keep up’ with the latest styles and trends, in case they are ‘judged’ for being behind the times. I had the misfortune to be stuck in a traffic jam of epic proportions this week and I ended up listening to local radio to try and find out what was going on. I don’t always like listening to the radio, because of the adverts – they annoy me incessantly. The type that annoys me most after last week are the ‘fake conversation’ adverts. Where two women are discussing a new kitchen, which usually belongs to one of them, who is extolling the virtues of the supplier and encouraging her friend to get one too. Or where a woman is talking to a man, presumably her husband, and convincing him to go down to the DIY store and pick up new ‘everything’ for the bathroom.

It got me thinking about how I live, and I do find these adverts really annoying, but there’s a worse one that I identified flicking through a magazine in a waiting room recently – its the increasing vogue of the shabby chic. The look revolves around expensive items of furniture (some of which might be new but resemble a classic style) which have been deliberately ‘distressed’ and made to look old and then fitted with an exorbitant pricetag.

Much like I can’t understand people who will buy jeans that already have holes and rips strategically placed into them, or ‘cut off’ demin shorts that are already fuzzed at the edges, I can’t understand why people want to spend a fortune to achieve a look which is supposed to be about being ‘shabby’. Shabby is easy to do without spending money. It seems sometimes that these people are more keen to spend money than achieve any sort of look so that they can brag about how much they have spent.

I live in a rented house. I don’t have the money for a mortgage and even if I did I would not be buying a property, I would be buying a boat (no I am not joking, as anyone in my real life will tell you). We are lucky enough to live in a nice flat in terms of the actual building. It was recently done out just before we moved in and it is small, energy efficient and filled with light. The kitchen and bathroom were fitted out with an oven, hobs, shower, bath, sink and toilet. The bathroom floor is tiled and the living room/kitchen is wood floored, as is the bedroom – no carpets to worry about. It was unfurnished when we moved in though, which was a big thing for us, as suddenly we needed to acquire furniture.

There is absolutely no doubt that everything I own could be described as shabby and whether or not is chic is highly debatable. From the chair bed with rips in the seat fabric, to the sagging sofa-bed which likes to eat people who sit on it. My bookshelves are made of precarious and drooping MDF which threatens to dump everything on the floor at any moment. The wobblesome table was a gift from a friend. The TV stand was an Ebay bargain. The electronics were purchased from Ebay, claimed from freecycle or – in the case of the washing machine, bought second hand from a charity store.

But I love my house. I am proud of my house. I’ve added bits and pieces to it over the years. Like the two sets of plastic drawers for my stationary/useful bits and my makeup. Like the small second hand book shelves which serve as bedside tables for me and my husband. Or the faux fur blankets to throw over the sofa, which make it look neater and hide the sheer number of pillows that are required to make it so. I am incapable of going into B&M without looking for a little storage bargain to make the place neater – I’m one of those people who also hordes the plastic boxes that pre-packed veg and butter substitutes come in. They may come in handy for something. They frequently do. All of my doors have got those ‘over hanging’ peg fittings so that I can hang up as much stuff as possible to save floor space. This means that my doors get a bit crowded and heavy sometimes.

Everything I have is mismatched, half broken, second hand and shabby beyond belief. I barely have a set of crockery that matches – it’s mostly bits and pieces of economy white stuff with no pattern. My pots and pans are falling apart, as is some of my cutlery. My bedsheets are ten years old or more, much laundered and loved.

But I love my home and on a budget of stray pounds and sheer imagination I’ve managed to make our flat into a place that I am proud to welcome my friends and family into. I work hard to keep it clean and tidy, which much help and encouragement and suggestion from Unfuck Your Habitat. I am not precious about any of my furniture. The cats walk all over it, various corners are scratched to bits and coasters are an unknown thing here – mugs and glasses get rested on any free surface available. And I absolutely know that there is no way that anything of mine could be considered ‘fashionable’ or ‘desirable’ by the homewares industry. Even the shabby chic aspects of the industry.

So it absolutely baffles me that the current ‘shabby chic’ trend costs so much money. And even compared to my stuff, it looks so uncomfortable!

I mean… nearly £400 for a wooden chair? Seriously? The prices that people are willing to spend on Shabby Chic furniture astounds me. I furnished almost all of my flat the the cost of half a wooden chair!

When it comes to being stylish at home, or even just developing your own style (which I heartily recommend over chasing fashion ANY day), it is possible to do an awful lot without a massive budget. Half of what any magazine or catalogue is selling you is purely aspirational – the intangible idea that you should have a life where you can spend that much money and achieve that sort of look. They’re trying to make you feel like you should be a bigger success or that you should PRETEND to be a bigger success – both of which amount to the same thing. What’s that you say? Spending more money, really.

So how can we do it on less money? Let’s have a look at some top tips, shall we?

1) Join Freecycle and/or Freegle

See what you can get in your local area for free when it comes to furniture. I have had some great finds on these networks and have rescued bits of furniture and furnishings that would otherwise have gone to the skip.  It’s also great for getting rid of furniture when you are moving into a new place and need to downsize.

2) Make friends with Ebay

Our freezer was £15 on Ebay. The television stand was £5. The foldup bookshelf was £10. All of these things would have cost a fortune in department stores. You can restrict your Ebay searches to a local distance and reduced budget to save yourself long journeys and expensive delivery charges. It’s also worth looking at some of the other classified advert sites like Gumtree and Preloved for good bargains.

3) Go Charity Shopping

For bedding, kitchen wear, crockery and furnishing accessories, go have a look around the thrift and charity shops. All those people who fall prey to the ‘Must Keep Up With Fashion’ idea need somewhere to send their old stuff, even though it might be barely used, and a lot of it will end up here. Some charities even have stores which exist explicitly for furniture, so have a look at their websites and see what you can find in the local area. If you’re one of my local readers, Furniture Matters, in the Lancaster area, recycles old household furniture and electrical goods and sells them secondhand, putting the proceeds back into their operation which provides training and volunteer opportunities for those looking to return to work.

4) Check out the cheaper department stores

BHS, Marks and Spencers and Debenhams are all very well and yes they are good quality suppliers, but on my redecoration budget I could possibly afford to buy two small pillows in the sale at any of of those places. When I say cheap I mean CHEAP – Go check out Wilkinsons, B&M, Home Bargains and the Poundland and Poundworld stores. I bought a significant amount of my homewares here, including the crockery, cutlery, storage boxes, faux fur throws, fleece blankets and sets of plastic drawers. They’re also good for paints, wallpaper, DIY supplies and gardening accessories if you’re into the more proactive approach toward styling your own home.

 

 

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CSSB: The Purple Wrap

I bought this for a fancy masquerade ball several years ago. Almost ten years in fact! Wow, suddenly I feel old… Anyway. I thought this would be the sort of thing I would wear once in a blue moon, but it has been invaluable during the summer months.

It’s a purple synthetic scarf, rich coloured with a patterned border and it’s beautifully light and silky.

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Bought from: Cancer Research
Brand: Monsoon
Price: £2.50

I love purple. When I had my colours done, I was really pleased to find out that I could get away with wearing a lot of shades of purple. I’ve got several little tops with short sleeves and straps for the summer time which range from lilac to fuchsia to indigo and this goes with all of them. As I don’t like having my arms on show, I like having something to wear around my shoulders, and for going out in the evening to the pub or to dinner, this works brilliantly.

The pattern around the border at either end weighs it down, so it’s not too flyaway:

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As a bonus, this also goes nicely with the two deep purple coloured smart dresses that I have, meaning that they can be jazzed up into formal go-out-for-posh-dinner dresses as well as business meeting dresses.

As a side note – I have another Monsoon scarf which I found in the charity shop just before Christmas for £1.50. These things cost upwards of £10 to buy new in the shop! They seem to be the sort of thing that people buy for one occasion and then never wear, so they stay hidden in a drawer for years and never see the light of day, and then they end up in the donations bag.

Don’t be afraid of scarves. Worn in a twist and knotted at the front they can really liven up plain jumpers as an alternative to necklaces. They look great with spring/autumn coats as alternatives to the thick winter woolly scarves that sprout in shops around November time. They’re a fantastic alternative to wearing coats over your party dresses in the slightly cooler months, and they can also be used as sarongs over shorts or even holiday swim wear to protect your legs from the sun. Wrapped around your shoulders, they’re also a versatile alternative to a kaftan top to protect your upper body.

 

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CSSB: The White Dress with Flowers

It’s becoming sunny again! Which means that for my big meetings I can start wearing pretty dresses which are light and summery rather than the ones that have to be teamed up with thick tights and heavy cardigans or jackets.

And today, I have my next big meeting coming up where I need to present a report to a research group who are getting us up to speed for the next OFSTED inspection.

Normally I’m ok about these things, but recently with my anxiety being more of an issue, I may need to bring my A game to preparation for this in terms of confidence. However, I have a three hour drive in order to get there and I won’t have much time to get myself looking fantastic in the morning.

So THIS is the best thing I have in my current arsenal of clothing:

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Bought from: St John’s Hospice Charity Shop
Brand: Wallis
Price: £3.99
Uses: Nights out, dinner parties, formal meetings

This dress is made of a crepe like material which is very light and floaty, but it is so elegant. It is exactly knee length and sleeveless, but I pair it up with a little white shrug style cardigan to cover my shoulders. The neckline is loose with folds of material, but demure and stylish because it covers up my chest and bosom properly:

 

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The flowers, in red print with black detail, add a beautiful splash of colour, and they are the main reason that I can get away with wearing this dress. It also means that I can pair it up with a black jacket and black shoes for a more business like image, and then I can carry my black handbag. The colours are so striking that I can also get away with cutting down my makeup, which is a big bonus for me at the moment. Black mascara teamed up with a red lipstick to match the flowers make this look great with my dark hair.

I can’t wait to wear this today. I’m hoping that it will have the desired confidence boosting effect in time for my arrival at the meeting!

 

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CSSB: Alberto Balsam BARGAIN ALERT

Look what I found in Asda, just after I had vowed to stock up on this product!

Alberto Balsam - 4 for £3

Alberto Balsam – 4 for £3

Mix and match any four Alberto Balsam products for £3 – a princely sum of 75p per bottle. Two shampoos and two conditioners now stashed in my cupboard 🙂

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CSSB: Favourite Item – The Pink Skirt

Bought from: Catalogue Clearance Store in Kendal, 2009
Cost: £1
Uses: Work wear

This is one of the best bargains I have ever had. I spent a few weeks working in Kendal at the end of 2009 and in a rummage around a Catalogue Shop, I found this for £1. I actually bought two skirts for £1 each but the other one has long since been charity shopped.

This colour doesn’t quite fit my spectrum, but the beauty of it is that it can be teamed up with two or three that do. Bright strong pink, deep dark purple or rich brown all go well with this item.

The Pink Skirt

The material looks almost like moleskin from a distanc, but it is far light than that and – joy of joys – machine washable. There’s a nice detailing on the waist band with two tabs and buckles and it’s a zip fasten skirt, which is by far my favourite type.

Nice smooth lining

Nice smooth lining

The lining is nice and smooth and the material is opaque, so I don’t need to worry about wearing a slip under it.

This is a great skirt because it can go with so many things in winter and in summer, which is an unusual trait for my clothes. Teamed up with a cream top, brown cardigan, brown knee length boots and my big fluffy cream and suede furry collared coat, it is absolutely elegant for the winter. However, with a smaller white top, little pink cardie and white sandals, it does the business for the summer too.

It’s nice enough for a casual lunch with friends, smart enough for work and even posh enough for a summer night out when teamed up with my little pink and white handbag.

For £1, this item does so much and it is one of the best buys I ever had. I miss catalogue stores. There were a few in the town I grew up in and there used to be a couple around here, but now they’re gone and they used to be so good for heavily discounted unworn clothing. They would also have loads of sizes too, which was a big help. Everything’s online now, and yes I use the online versions, but nothing beats a good rummage in the rails when you don’t have anything specific in mind but are in the mood for a bargain.

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