Saturday, 27 September 2014

My Plus Size Workwear Capsule Wardrobe

So, it finally happened, I landed my first graduate job! I don't want to bore you with all the details but suffice to say I am beyond excited to be working for an organisation I'm truly passionate about, & where I know I'll be making a real difference to people's lives.

I found out I'd been selected over the phone, & once I'd put it down (& had a flailing hug with the boyfriend) my thoughts instantly turned to what I would wear. The dress-code is smart-casual as opposed to full-on workwear, but I'm keen to look professional, especially as I'm going to be the youngest person in the office. That being said, I still want to retain some originality & keep it stylish, so the hunt for cool work-wear began. Below are some of my favourite items from my searches - all are available in plus sizes & online - good times!

First up, tops. I mainly picked long sleeve tops or camisoles which could be layered with a cardigan as I feel like they're the most versatile, which is key for a capsule work wardrobe. // Items 1 & 3 are opposite colourways of the same shirt from New Look's Inspire range. I actually already owned the white one (& wore it to my interview) but the fit is so good I decided to order it in black too. I'm hoping that the black one will be a little less sheer than the white as I only own one nude bra, although worst case scenario I can always layer it with the black camisole // Items 2, 4 & 6 are all different colours of the same long-line cami from ASOS - I went for two neutrals & one pop of colour for maximum flexibility, & I love the way the slight v-neck looks on my figure. // Item 5 is a bit more casual but could definitely be dressed up with a midi skirt & heels, & the stripes stop it from being too plain.

Next are the bottoms; I went for a combination of skirts & trousers - skirts because they make me feel more dressy & trousers because they're more practical. // Item 1 is a pair of black jeggings from ASOS. I'm a huge fan of ASOS' jeggings, & love the fact that these are not only suitable for work but could also be worn at the weekend with a big cosy jumper - double the value. // Item 2 is a black scuba pencil skirt from New Look; not particularly exciting but I feel like a black pencil skirt is a wardrobe staple & the scuba fabric keeps it from looking too dated. // The third item on my list is a light pink midi skater skirt from ASOS. I already have a wardrobe full of skater skirts but most of them are too short to be work appropriate, so I was keen to get some longer length ones as they're really comfortable & great for days when I just don't have the confidence for a bodycon pencil skirt. // Item 4 is probably my favourite item I purchased: it's a pair of white, floral scuba trousers from ASOS Curve. Honestly, they're incredible & I can't wait to wear them - my only concern is with fit since the size chart suggested buying a 22 despite all my other ASOS trousers being 20s. I went with the size 20 in the end, & I'm hoping that the stretch fabric means I can get into them even if they are a bit tight. // Item 5 is another New Look pencil skirt, this time in a tartan check. I wore this to my interview & while the pattern is much less visible in person (shame, since tartan's apparently super on-trend), the fit is great as it's super stretchy.

Jackets are obviously one of the most expensive elements in a work wardrobe so my aim was to pick really versatile items that would work with a wide variety of outfits. I also already have quite a few neutral cardigans in my wardrobe (luckily) so I wanted some real statement pieces which could perk up more plain ensembles. // Item 1 is a sheer, midi sleeve cardigan from ASOS (I don't really like using the term "kimono" as I feel like it's culturally appropriative). I think it's the perfect item to make the transition from Summer to Autumn, especially as I tend to run pretty warm, & the faded floral means it's unlikely to clash with other pieces. // Item 2 is this oxblood blazer from ASOS; it's another item which looks pretty bold but is great for sharpening up a look, plus the rich colour is great for Autumn. // Item 3 is my new Winter coat which I found on New Look's website a few weeks ago & it's been playing on my mind ever since (a sure sign that something is a winner). I'm not a huge fan of coats, but starting work means at least a five minute walk each morning up the road to catch the bus, & once the rain & snow starts, there's no way a cardigan is going to cut it.

Last up is accessories, the final touches to every outfit. // Item 1 is a simple long-line necklace from the New Look sale. As a chronic minimalist, taking a second in the morning to slip on a necklace instantly makes me feel more dressed up so I've committed to trawling the sales for cheap pieces of jewellery that can add a little something extra to my looks. // Item 2 is the bag I bought for my interview & I love the fact that it looks classy while still being big enough to easily fit an A4 notebook, pens, phone, purse, keys, lunchbox etc. // Item 3 is a practical pick - the road to our flat is single track & lined by trees, meaning that come Winter it's probably going to be a nightmare to walk down. Enter these black lace up boots from New Look. Based on the price I suspect they won't last forever, but hopefully by the time they fall apart I'll have the money to invest in a more sturdy pair. // I wear black pointed ballet pumps pretty much every day & my current pair look a mess, so I bought a new (basically identical) pair - maybe not as polished looking as heels but way more practical. // Item 5 is my current favourite statement necklace - gold chain combined with gold spikes & (fake) quartz - yes! I like the fact that it's slightly edgy & original, but still looks great paired with a collared shirt & doesn't dominate an outfit. // The final item (I swear) are these heeled boots from New Look. I wore these to my interview & they're super comfy - my only complaint is that the ankle strap is really short meaning that getting them fastened can feel like a two-person job at times, not ideal when you're trying to get them on in a hurry.

So that's my capsule workwear wardrobe; I'm really happy with it & sure it'll see me through to Spring with a few additions here & there. Are there any items you think I'm missing? The only thing that springs to mind is a couple of solid dresses, but honestly nothing was jumping out at me, so I'd rather save my money for when something does, y'know? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below & let me know if you'd be interested in seeing some workwear OOTDs.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

September 2014 Birchbox Review

It's time for another Birchbox review, & this month's theme was an interesting one: happy days. The focus was all on making & capturing sweet memories, although I'm not really sure how well that translated into the products... The packaging was a big hit though, with a cute mint box covered in little white emoticons, & mint accents on the drawstring bag.

The first product I received was this healing oil treatment from Agave which retails for £16. This oil claims to "build resiliency and boost shine", although I'm not convinced this is for me as I generally struggle with oil build-up in my hair. That being said, all the reviews I found said the oil is super lightweight & sinks in quickly, so maybe it's worth a shot. By far my favourite thing about this product is the scent: it's sweet but not sickly, great for people who find the scents of coconut or nut oils too overwhelming.

The next product is a Benefit favourite that I was excited to try, having seen a preview on the Birchbox Instagram: the It's Potent eye cream which retails for £25.50. Honestly, this is out of my price range & not the kind of product that I'd consider spending my Birchbox reward points on, but it's always nice to have a chance to test out cult products. The packaging is predictably cute, with a vintage-style glass pot - although, I'm generally not a fan of pot moisturisers as they can easily get contaminated with oil & dirt if you use your fingers to remove the product. It has a light almond scent & sinks into the skin quickly, feeling cool & refreshing when you first apply it. Obviously having only tested it out once I can't confirm the claims that it banishes dark circles or smooths fine lines, but it's an enjoyable product to use & I'd definitely recommend checking it out if you've got the money to spend.

Next up is a Mild Dermabrasion Face & Body Scrub from the brand Premae, which retails for £25. For such a pricey product I'm pretty disappointed in the packaging - it just doesn't feel like a particularly luxury product & the branding's nothing special either, although this seems to be a pretty common issue with Birchbox products. On the plus side, the scrub is pretty much scentless, always a bonus with scrubs as I find that the combination of a heavy scent with a mechanical exfoliant can irritate even my tough skin. The exfoliant in this vegan scrub comes from olive granules (+1 for not using microbeads!), & although the granules are fairly large, because they're not particularly concentrated this scrub still feels gentle enough for use on your face.

I really like the look of the packaging on this Korres Citrus Little Body Milk - which retails for £9.50 - although I am worried that you could end up with a lot of product wasted as it could easily get stuck at the bottom of the tube. The scent is also a strange one, certainly not what you'd expect from something labelled as citrus. To me it smells like a mix between Boots' Evening Primrose scent & men's cologne - strange, but could be good if you're not a fan of more "feminine" floral scents. It feels very wet on the skin, & is definitely more suited to being a lightweight Summer moisturiser than a richer Winter product.

The final beauty product & a surprise favourite for me is the ModelCo. Lip Lacquer in Viva, which retails for £15. Would I buy this? Hell no! Give me £15 for a lip product & I'll be grabbing a MAC lipstick, no questions asked. That being said though, this is one of those products I'm happy to have in my collection. It's a beautiful true peach shade, with great buildable colour. While I'm not usually a fan of either lip glosses or bright nudes, this lacquer isn't heavy or sticky, & I can definitely see myself layering this on top of a darker nude to give it a nice shine. The only downside is the fruity, bubblegum scent which makes it feel a little cheap & childish.

I received two lifestyle products this month, although I could have easily skipped on this first one: Urban Fruit's gently baked strawberry pieces. I'm not a huge fan of dried fruit at the best of times, excluded raisins & the odd dried apricot, but these strawberry chunks just don't look appealing. The smell is super sweet, similar to jam, which I guess makes sense but the texture just isn't for me.

Having just moved into a new flat with my partner I've been looking at getting some photos printed to make it feel a bit more homely, & this cute photo clip will definitely come in handy. It's nothing special & does feel a little cheap, but when combined with the money off vouchers for Photobox which were also included in the box, it's a nice touch.

This month's box has me a bit conflicted. It's not that the products are bad necessarily - I'm sure I'll get through most of them, with the possible exception of the Korres Body Milk because that scent just isn't for me - but equally there's nothing in there that particularly excites me either. At this point I've kind of made peace with the fact that there will always be more skincare than cosmetics in these boxes, but that's harder to accept when it feels like the same type of products are showing up again & again.

Let me know in the comments what you think of this month's box & as always, let me know if there are any products you'd like to see me review.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Review: Olay Professional Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System

I've been meaning to write this review for a while, having now used the Olay Cleansing System fairly consistently for 3 months, & I've finally found time to sit down & evaluate my experience. If you'd asked me a week ago my review would have been overwhelmingly positive, however I've been having some issues with my brush recently - which I'll discuss in more detail later - & those problems have somewhat tarnished my previous enjoyment. That being said, I still think this is a good value & effective product - continue reading for my full review.

I purchased the Olay Cleansing System on Amazon where it retails for £18.74, plus £4.16 p&p, & that seems to be the only place to buy it if you're in the UK, although it is available at a wider range of retailers in the US (including the Olay website). Included in the set is the body of the brush itself, one brush head, & a sample size (20ml) tube of the Olay exfoliating cleanser.

The body of the brush is made of white plastic & is super lightweight, which is great as it stops your arm from getting tired when you're doing a deep cleanse. It seems fairly sturdy too as mine has survived being thrown in & out of a variety of boxes while we moved with minimal visible damage (we'll get to the invisible damage later!). The shape is also really comfortable to hold & the rubberised grip means you don't have to worry about it slipping out of your hand. On the bottom is a clip open compartment which contains the two AA batteries that power the brush, & on the side are two buttons - the top one is the on/off switch, & the lower one switches between two speed settings. 

The heads clip easily on to the rotating stem at the top of the body. The brush heads are around 2 inches across, which is the perfect size for getting into tight corners (like around the nose) while also allowing you to quickly cleanse your entire face. Olay recommend replacing your head every 3 months & you can buy two-packs of replacement heads for £10.99 on Amazon.

The exfoliating cleanser sample is obviously included to try & convince you to buy the full size product once you run out, but at £15.77 I just don't think it's worth it. It's a fairly standard gel exfoliator - very similar in fact to the Biore Pore Unclogging Scrub which you can get for £9.50 or Clean & Clear's Exfoliating Daily Wash which is only £2.99 - & while it does work well, I personally just need something more targeted at acne-fighting & less pricey.

The cleansing brush market is so over-saturated at the moment that any product needs to be on top of its game to really succeed, so how does the Olay Cleansing System stack up?

The big positive of the Olay brush versus its competitors is obviously the price. The cheapest Clarisonic on Amazon is £120, with two-packs of replacement heads coming in at around £20. While Clarisonic are undeniably the market leader, those prices just aren't accessible to everyone, so it's nice to have a more budget-friendly alternative.
There's also no denying that this brush does what it claims. It's a great gentle exfoliator for daily use (although I'd advise using it less regularly if you have sensitive skin) which can also be used for more serious exfoliation if combined with something like the St Ives Blemish Fighting Exfoliating Scrub (which is one of my all time favourite scrubs, & only £3.99). It's also great for cleansing at the end of a long day (although I'd recommend removing the bulk of your makeup first using a wipe), & there's no denying that my skin looks brighter & more even when I'm using the brush regularly. I've also noticed that my moisturiser sinks in super quickly after using the brush, which is great as I'm working really hard at the moment to keep my skin hydrated.
The final big plus, for me at least, is that it encourages me to be more consistent with my skincare routine. In the past I've definitely been guilty of sleepily patting at my face with a makeup wipe & then falling into bed, but since buying the Olay Cleansing Brush I've got a lot more consistent with my skincare. I just think there's something quite soothing about giving yourself a mini face massage before bed, followed by toner & moisturiser to complete the routine.

There's no denying that you get what you pay for with this brush. I mentioned earlier that I'd been having some issues recently with my brush, & I definitely think these are down to the less than premium build quality. A couple of days ago I went to use my brush & it wouldn't switch on. I wasn't hugely worried as it had been packed away during the move, so I just assumed the batteries had gone. However, when I opened the battery compartment it was damp & there was some rust around the connectors, & now - despite having dried it out & replaced the batteries - the brush is still a bit temperamental, turning on & off as it pleases meaning I have to store it with the batteries removed. Now this is obviously avoidable if you're super carefully to keep your brush out of contact with any water, but for a product which claims to be shower-proof to have an ineffective seal around the battery compartment just isn't ok. The overall system is also a lot more basic than some of the pricier ones, with only two speeds on the brush & one type of brush head available, if it doesn't work for you then tough.

Another issue I've found, although I suspect this is universal to all cleansing brushes, is that the brush head itself is very difficult to clean. The spinning motion means that product gets pulled down to the base of the bristles & once it's there it's pretty tricky to remove. I've found the best method is to remove the head & then hold it close to a strong tap or shower-head, but that's obviously not ideal - not only does it risk damaging the bristles, but it also puts the brush dangerously close to all that gross stuff that lives inside taps - nope.

The final issue is one that I've seen raised on a couple of blogs, & that's the suggestion that the cheaper cleansing brushes pull on the skin. The story I saw was that a Clarisonic representative had demonstrated the difference between their own brand & cheaper cleansing brushes by using both a Clarisonic & a budget brush on a rubber glove, & while the Clarisonic glided smoothly over, the other brush quickly twisted up the glove into a tangled mess. Now it's certainly true that when using the brush, there is some gentle tugging, particularly if you use it on looser areas of skin like around the eyes - hence why I tend to avoid using it there - & I can certainly see this being an issue if you have more sensitive or mature skin, but for the average user I don't personally feel it's that big an issue.

So that's my review. Overall, I would say if you have the money for a Clarisonic then go for it, but the Olay Cleansing System is a great budget alternative. While it might not have all the added extras of more expensive models, it's certainly more effective than cleansing or exfoliating by hand, & more enjoyable too. Just make sure to take care if you're using it in the shower & open the battery compartment regularly to check water isn't building up in there.

I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts, either on the Olay cleansing brush or on similar products you've tried - let me know in the comments! 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Fashion is Political: Dr Martens Release "Assange" Boot

I'd actually been eyeing up buying a pair of Dr Martens boots for a while, especially having just moved into a flat where I'll be walking at least some of the way to work each day (in the Scottish Winter too, ugh). However, after their latest announcement I won't be buying a pair, & I'd encourage you to avoid them too.

Dr Martens have released a new take on their classic men's boot & following on with their tradition of naming new products after famous personalities they've named this style... the "Assange". As in Julian Assange, the man currently hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in order to avoid charges of rape in his native Sweden (as well as charges of espionage against the US).

By choosing to name their latest boot design after Assange Dr Martens have at best over-looked his behaviour & at worst have implicitly endorsed it, & that is completely unacceptable.

Assange is not a hero, & there's nothing punk about celebrating those who abuse women. I'd encourage Dr Martens to #standforsomething & rename the boots, & I'd encourage all of you to #boycottDMs until they do so & offer an apology. If you're looking for alternatives then Solovair look pretty cool (I'm super tempted by their double monks).
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