Category Archives: Style

6 tips for styling yourself for a glamorous evening event

“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”
― Coco Chanel

This weekend I am going to the Secret Cinema special screening of Wes Andreson’s latest film the Grand Budapest Hotel. The dress code is strictly fine evening attire” and women in particular are invited to come dressed in their most glamorous haute couture (my favourite). As exciting as the idea of dressing up in haute couture style may be, looking truly glamorous requires a lot of effort. Some of us may even be a little intimidated by this idea, especially if we are busy, not feeling too stylish or lack confidence to wear glamorous evening wear. Most of us have been there, including myself.

I have discovered over the years that looking stylish and dressing up for events (or any occasion) does not have to be stressful. I invite you to have fun with the process and to help you, here are my 6 style tips on how to make sure you look your most glamorous and confident at any social event.

1. Get in the mood for style

(I know this is an obvious one, but do make sure you know what the dress code on your invitation means.) Once you know what the requirements are, start preparing for the event by getting in the mood for it. Put together a mood board online from images that inspire you – I love using Pinterest – or cut out pictures from magazines of dresses you love, red carpet celebrities and accessories. I, for example, have visited several vintage shops, purely for inspiration. I know how hard it is to find time in our busy schedules for something like this, but it needn’t take long – have a 15 minute tea or coffee break and flick through a couple of magazines. Get in creative mood. Creating a stylish look is a creative process.

My mood board for 1930s haute couture style
My mood board for 1930s haute couture style

2. Know yourself and celebrate what you love about your body

On my recent trip to Paris, I discovered one of the main secrets behind French women’s elegance: they appreciate their natural body shape and know what to wear to flatter their shape (and what not to wear). I am not talking about being critical of your body here. Look at yourself in the mirror and admire parts of your body that you love most. Make sure you know how to show them off. Maybe you love your feminine curves, so accentuate your waist and bust. Maybe you always get compliments about your long legs, show them off with a shorter dress or a slit. Maybe your small feminine shoulders and arms deserve attention, then wear a strapless dress. Similarly, there is a way to balance what you feel is out of proportion.

Cameron Diaz wears asymmetric neckline and full skirt, a perfect way to create balance for a woman with athletic (wide shoulders) shape
Cameron Diaz wears asymmetric neckline and full skirt, a perfect way to create balance for a woman with athletic (wide shoulders) shape

If you are not sure what work for your body shape, consider hiring a personal style consultant.

3. It’s not only about the dress. Think about your entire look

Have you ever been in a situation where you bought a perfect dress but after couldn’t find any accessories or shoes to go with it? I have…

Today, I decide on the style of my entire outfit before going shopping, so I know exactly what to look for. Here are a couple of questions to help you decide what look you want to create.

Decide where you want to make an accent: bold colour of the dress, statement earrings or necklace, bright shoes and handbag?

What mood inspires you: romantic (think lace or flowy silk silhouette)? Classic? Minimalist with clean lines and neutral colours? Bold and daring with bright colours or trendy shapes?

And most importantly, what outfit expresses who you are and your uniqueness in the best way?

4. Make sure you have the right underwear

One of the things I learned when training to be a personal style consultant is that having the right underwear can change the entire outfit. Final preparatory step before going shopping for an evening outfit is buying the right underwear. Go for a fitting with a shop assistant if you are not sure what size you are and what shape suits you best. Consider buying Spanx, especially if you are going for a bodycon dress or very light silk.

5. Remember comfortable=confident

Now that you feel inspired, know what you are looking for and have the right shapewear with you, you can go shopping (or look in the back of your wardrobe if you are a lucky owner of numerous evening gowns). Make sure you can enjoy yourself in your chosen outfit. You are going to the event to have fun. Can you sit comfortably in that dress? Can you have food without feeling self-conscious in a bodycon dress? Can you stand all night and dance in those shoes?

6. Pamper yourself before the event

Book a pampering session for the day of the event to feel like a star on the red carpet. Have your hair and make up done. It’s fun and is a great confidence booster. Last time I went to an event, I had my hair done in Old Hollywood style with side-swept waves, a look I had long desired to try. It made my evening. Has there been a look that you have always wanted to try but couldn’t do at home? This is the perfect time to try it.

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How do you get ready for glamorous social events? I would love to hear from you in the comments area below.

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Ready to become more visible in your career and life and to present yourself confidently and stylishly at any event? Join me on this complimentary discovery session.

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A day without a plan in London

Living in London is living a dream for me. It is fun, stimulating and exciting. Culture, aesthetics, architecture, people are only a few reasons why London is such an amazing city. But I wouldn’t be honest if I told you that living here is 100% perfect. Like any big city, London living comes with stress, constant speed, which nobody seems to control, and constant pressure to do something, see someone or be somewhere. While I love experiencing all that London has to offer, I won’t pretend it is not tiring. London more than any other European city seems to embrace the “doing” approach of living and “result-orientedness” that defines modern western culture. 

Most recently, having spent two weeks in a non-stop doing mode – work, networking, workshops, business travel – I woke up after a 9 hour sleep still feeling exhausted. Doing my morning pages, a very effective journaling tool I learned from the creativity guru Julia Cameron, I realised that deep inside I am tired of always having a fully booked diary and pressure of “doing” that comes with it. I knew that no amount of sleep would fix that. So I decided to do something radical by my standards: ignore my to do list, reschedule/cancel all appointments, put work on hold and go about my day without a plan (those who know me will know this does not mean watching TV while lying on my sofa all day). I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I new I wanted to enjoy myself and be completely spontaneous.

While doing my morning ritual of thinking about my day and sipping on hot water with lemon, I began to get ideas about what I desired to do and get really excited. I dressed up for the occasion – light greys and pastels to celebrate the arrival of spring – and walked out of the door without the usual rush.

My first stop was Ottolenghi in Islington, one of London’s most exciting residential areas, where I am very lucky to live. They do great breakfast and I simply love their style – I highly recommend it (but do book in advance if coming on weekends). My shakshuka was delicious and my yellow chair was a perfect reflection of my mood.

Next, I remembered that I received an email about a birthday gift waiting for me at Space.NK and decided to pick it up. It turned out to be a beautiful facial rosewater mist. What a lovely treat!

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On my way to Space.NK I decided to stop by a lovely local boutique called Diverse. It stocks on stylish brands, such as Acne, Marlene Birger, Isabel Marant and Maison Scotch. I simply love shopping at independent boutiques without the stress of being on a busy high street. In fact, I love popping into boutiques just to see what they have without always needing to buy something. This time, I could not resist the opportunity to update my spring wardrobe.

After satisfying my food, style and beauty requirements, I felt like going for a walk. Another advantage of living in Islington is being close to the Regent’s Canal, one of London’s best kept secrets. It is my favourite place for walks.

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Walking by the canal and spending time in nature can seem like such a luxury in London. And yet it is one of the simplest ways to instantly add some calm and pleasure to our day.

I suddenly felt called to visit an art gallery for some creative stimulation. I have to confess it had been a while since I visited a gallery. Parasol Unit in Wharf road had a very interesting exhibition of works by Turkish artist Canan Tolon. Her style, using a variety of media, and unusual, at times seemingly random technique really drew me in.

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A painting by Canan Tolon

Next door to Parasol unit is the Victoria Miro gallery, one of the top commercial galleries in London. Here, I saw another stimulating exhibition – a video installation by London-based artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien. It runs until 1 March and I highly recommend stopping by if you have time.

Enjoying the terrace at Victoria Miro
Enjoying the terrace at Victoria Miro

On my way back home I noticed a book that caught my attention in a shop. It was about Paris. I saw it as a sign that it’s time to visit the city of lights and went in to get it in preparation for my trip.

Impulse purchase that revealed  my true desire
Impulse purchase – so revealing of my true desire

I decided to end my afternoon with a beautiful cup of tea and a snack at my local cafe and allow all the ideas, positive emotions and inspiration from this beautiful day to sink in.

Even though all these activities are very simple, I was surprised how much fun I had. The interesting thing is: I enjoyed all these activities because they were not on my to-do list, there was no obligation to do anything, I was treating myself out of inspiration rather than because I thought I had to. This subtle difference creates a very different experience.

The most surprising part, however, was how energised and invigorated I felt all day. Often when we are overwhelmed by too many things on our to-do list, work and personal commitments, leaving it all and simply having some fun seems like the least sensible thing to do. But this is precisely what works. Try it for yourself and see how much energy, motivation and inspiration you will have as a result. Sorry to mention result again, this is my Londoner speaking. Forget the result, take a break and do whatever you feel like with only one purpose – to enjoy.

What do you think of this approach? Please share your own suggestions.

Thoughts on the power of style

As London Fashion Week is approaching, style and fashion is the topic of the moment. Many people are excited to celebrate the time of creative expression through design. But many simply ignore it, claim they have no interest in it or use it as an opportunity to judge fashion as pure vanity. Regardless of what each of us thinks of the fashion industry or even LFW itself, I believe something needs to be said in defense of style and individual desire to look beautiful. Here is a note on the power of style in my life…

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On a grey and wet Monday morning a couple of days ago, I was feeling equally grim. As I was rushing out of the door to make my dentist appointment before going to work, I felt overwhelmed by all I needed to do even before properly starting the day. My promise to myself to stay calm, grounded and slow down this week went out of the window when I couldn’t find my travel card as I was already running late.

At that moment I became very aware of how tired I feel of this long winter, wearing the same clothes for the past three month and wearing multiple layers to keep warm, yet still feeling cold. At the beginning of the season I enjoyed winter fashion. I had fun mixing patterns, colours and textures – soft cashmere in different shades, silk with thick wool – to create new sweater-skirt combos, my favourite look this season. But after nearly three months of winter I have worn every possible combination and I am bored. Last week, noticing that I was slipping into a style rut, I promised myself to be better at honouring my desire for style in my life every single day (even when I am tired or uninspired). I finally found some creative solutions working around my busy schedule to have my dresses ironed and high-heeled boots re-heeled – so I could no longer use excuses that being stylish is too time consuming when I have to rush out in the morning.

On that Monday morning I had a choice: to wear flat boots I am so tired of wearing so I walk faster to make it to my appointment on time or to wear my recently re-heeled stylish suede black wedge heeled boots. I was stressed and late but something inside me spoke in favour of a more stylish choice. As I put on the boots admiring myself for a quick second in a mirror, I noticed a coat I hadn’t worn in months and decided to put it on. It went perfectly with my new burgundy hat. I no longer felt bored of my look. This may seem irrelevant: I was running late and there were more urgent and important things to do than throwing together a stylish outfit. But bear with me…

As I walked into my dentist’s office (she ended up being more late than I was), I was immediately showered with compliments: “Look at how stylish she is!”
“Let me see your handbag!”
“What a hat!”
“You look like a model”

The morning wasn’t so grim any more. I gracefully accepted the compliments and walked out without a hint of rush. Walking at a normal pace (as opposed to my typical speed walking) I saw that  several people in the street were noticing me. It didn’t feel inappropriate. I was surprised at how peaceful and empowered I felt, even though I was still running late for work, where a long to-do list was awaiting me, the weather was still wet and cold and my travel card was still missing. But none of this mattered because I felt beautiful both on the inside and the outside, and there was an incredible sense of empowerment from expressing who I am through style. I kept this awareness throughout the day. Choosing to honour my need, my desire for style in my daily life even when there appeared to be no time for it (regardless of how other may judge it) made my day.

What are your thoughts on style? Does it empower you?

Nothing to wear? It’s not necessarily a fashion issue

Recently, I was 20 minutes late for dinner because I faced a problem that I am sure every woman has come across at least once in her life: I had nothing (appropriate) to wear. Let me re-phrase that. I had nothing to wear from two wardrobes full of clothes. And did I mention I was only going for a movie at my local cinema so dressing up was not necessary?

Having a wardrobe full of clothes yet nothing to wear is described as a common problem for many women but it is not usually my problem. Those, who know me, may be smiling as they are reading this, because I have a lot of clothes and I invest a lot of effort into looking after my clothes and ensuring they match. I love creating new looks and putting outfits together. I approach each outfit as if it were a blank canvas and clothes in my wardrobe are my paints. It’s a daily creative process, that is so much more than putting on weather and occasion appropriate clothes. So when I say I have nothing to wear it is like saying I have no imagination or desire.20131211-234026.jpg

I was so upset to find myself in this situation (not to mention annoyed when I had to tidy up all the clothes I threw on my bed in a desperate attempt to see something suitable), that I decided something needs to change. First thing I had to do was to become still to be able to reflect on what was happening in my life, because I knew that with all the clothes that I have, having nothing to wear is a symptom of something else that has little to do with my actual wardrobe. In my case it was a symptom of feeling uninspired, tired, stressed and overwhelmed for weeks. I realised I did not feel like sharing myself (no blogging, no photography, no catching up with friends), I only wanted to stay in and hide. How incredible that I was going at such a fast speed that I was unable to notice all this and needed my clothes to “tell” me the truth.

Having this ‘mini crisis’ had some benefits. I decided to slow down, let go and bring back my self-case routine which I had been neglecting because I was ‘too busy’ during the pre-holiday season. Saying no to others, saying yes to me, establishing boundaries and de-cluttering helped me to slowly bring back my ability to enjoy life and style on a daily basis and notice all the beauty around me.

Enjoying a beautiful cup  of coffee not from a paper cup
Enjoying a beautiful cup of coffee not from a paper cup

Other women have shared their “clothes stories” with me and these stories helped me to see that our I-have-nothing-to-wear problem very often has nothing to do with the actual clothes.

So next time you find yourself in a situation where you feel you have nothing to wear, don’t rush to shops, instead ask yourself if there is another issue behind this.

  • Maybe you are not excited or uninspired about what you are dressing up for?

Do you struggle with getting ready for work every morning? Can it be that you don’t feel you fit in or are generally bored with your job? This is an opportunity to ask yourself important questions about your life.

I have worked with a woman who was completely uninspired about her wardrobe because she had no interest in her daily job. As soon as she changed her career, her interest in style and clothes returned.

Perhaps you are not excited about dressing up to go out. Is it possible that you are over-committing yourself and saying yes to things that don’t light you up? I do this from time to time (and have been doing a lot recently). Slowing down to connect with our desires and saying no to what we don’t feel inspired to do is important, especially during the hectic end of year season.

  • Body image issues

Another reason why you may not be excited about dressing up and think you have nothing to wear is poor body image. I have met many women who choose not to even look at themselves in the mirror because they don’t like what they see. Learn to appreciate your body, think about what parts of it you love most and dress it in a way that highlights these parts. This will help you to feel and act more confident. There are clothes for every body shape, if you would like to find out more, get in touch with me here.

  • Clutter

Clutter is one of the biggest barriers for inspiration and enjoyment in our lives. Clutter in our wardrobes is created when we shop because we are bored or want to fix an emotional issue by buying new clothes. But just as emotional eating, emotional shopping does not fix the actual issue, it only creates clutter in your wardrobe as you keep adding new items that don’t match anything else.

Mental ‘noise’, having too many things on your to do list, overbooked diary are all clutter too and prevent us from enjoying our style and lifestyle.

Whatever your form of clutter is, set time aside to remove it. I de-clutter my wardrobe regularly, but recently I have also freed up my diary by canceling what does not inspire me and scheduled time for dealing with my to-do list, delegating where possible. I feel a lot lighter as a result.

  • Buying new clothes

Of course, there are situations when having nothing to wear literally means that. It could be that your body shape has changed, you have changed lifestyle completely or moved to a country with completely different climate. Naturally, in these situations buying new clothes is the solution. My advice is to make sure you are shopping when you feel inspired and relaxed. You are more likely to be happy with your buys.

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Relaxed and enjoying my winter style

Have you felt you have nothing to wear recently? How do you deal with it? Are you currently putting the first thing on without even looking at yourself in the mirror? Are you in love with your style or do you fail to even acknowledge it on most days? I would love to hear about your experiences.

Style tips from designer Liz Cardenas

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting a talented Ecuadorian designer Liz Cardenas. Liz is the sister of my close friend Susana, whose stylish outfits (many of them created by Liz) I’ve admired since the day I met her. Having been a fan of Liz’s work for years, I finally got a chance to meet her in person and chat to her about style and how to have more of it.

Liz is one of Latin America’s most recognised and respected contemporary fashion designers and currently lives in Egypt. The combination of these two very vibrant cultures creates a unique design vision. Liz creates colourful feminine clothes from luxurious natural fabrics such as handmade silk and cotton and makes beautiful jewellery from tagua nut (also known as ‘vegetable ivory’) and semi-precious stones.

Liz and her beautiful collection of jewellery
Liz and her beautiful collection of jewellery

So here are the tips I took away from my conversation with Liz:

  1. Style is about expressing your personality, how you present yourself to the world. It has little to do with following the latest trends.
  2. To create a stylish look you need to mix things up: wear a luxury designer piece with something from high street, mix a romantic look with rock chic elements, for example something in leather.
  3. Colour is extremely important. Don’t be afraid to add colour to your outfit and to create your own colour combinations. Experiment. Sometimes the colours we think should not work, will work together beautifully.
  4. Shoes and handbag can make or break an outfit.
  5. So can a necklace! It can make or completely change your outfit. Accessories are very important ‘tools’ in style if you don’t overuse them.

    Susana and I wearing statement necklaces
    Susana and I wearing statement necklaces
  6. It’s not only about your clothes and accessories. Hair and make up are very important too. Make sure your haircut, make up and outfit are age appropriate. Wear make up, but don’t over do it. A good haircut is essential, especially as we get older. Flat long hair, for example, can lengthen the face and make a woman look older.
  7. Present the best version of yourself will make a difference to you and to others. It does no matter who you dress for (women, men, yourself…), the most important thing is to love your reflection in the mirror and be happy with how you look.

This conversation inspired me to get a new haircut with softer layers around the face (pictures coming soon), invest in a couple of statement necklaces and go through my collection of bags and shoes and get rid of the ones that do not make an outfit any more. I hope you find these inspiring too!

Liz Cardenas jewellery

Liz’s jewellery will be available online in the UK in the near future. Watch this space for further news.