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.

 

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BRAND: Marks and Spencers Autograph

PRICE: £1

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.


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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:

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BRAND: M & Co

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.

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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.
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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:

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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…

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BRAND: GEORGE

PRICE: £4

£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: 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: 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!

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BRAND: SALOOS

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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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: Wardrobe Clearout!

Bon Jour my little fashionistas!

Yes, I’m back and after a MEGA wardrobe clearout and some really serious sales shopping and Charity Shop hunting, I’m back with a whole new range of clothing and accessories. Two big bin bags of clothing were dumped at the St John’s Hospice charity shop this morning and now there’s room for everything in the wardrobe. Poor old Matalan and Sainsburys clothing departments haven’t known what’s hit them this month, and I’ve had the pick of the Charity Shops in Lancaster and Chorley over the last couple of weeks.

I love having a good clear out. I don’t think I have bad taste in clothes, but there’s something about wearing the same garments over and over again which just saps your spirits. Colours fade, bobbles form, things get a bit shapeless from washing, the odd pulled thread and loose button manifest here and there and before you know it, your stylish selection of clothing has all been reduced to ‘ugh’.

This month was tax rebate month, a delicious little bonus from the HMRC arrived in my bank account just as those lovely big 70% off signs were appearing in all my favourite stores and the charity shops started knocking prices down to start raising money faster for the Gaza Crisis.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be reviewing the new items, along with their outfit combos, accessories, prices and quality, so stay tuned for some lovely new posts.

Adios Amigos!

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