I can honestly say that I'm the least girly and fashion conscience girl on the planet... I throw on what's comfortable, colourful and dare I say, affordable... By affordable, I mean cheap...ahem...
When you meet me, I believe I come across as a confident woman, but I can be far from it,
I am known at home for throwing my toys out of my pram for not getting my own way, usually when it means I get put somewhere out of my comfort zone... especially when it comes to food & eating out in particular.
It's affected my social life and my dating life, with "The Secluded Tea Party" and my alter ego being a shield to hide behind, but it helped me to learn to feel comfortable around food and around new people, which I never dreamt would happen. I can now sit at a table full of strangers and strike up conversations whilst nibbling on my treats, unheard of a couple of years ago. When I started my events, I used to hide in the kitchen and sip on a cuppa at most in front of my guests, but I'm getting better with this, with the odd bad day still.
It's only very recently that I have started to talk about this, but for the last 15 years I have had a real issue with eating in public, getting very upset if I feel uncomfortable or self conscious in restaurants or tearooms and have been known to walk straight out if I am put at a table which puts me in prime watching position of other people... I still don't know how my mister puts up with that, but I love him dearly for it and for helping me with my confidence when it comes to food. My own family never knew of this issue, mainly because I never wanted to bother them with it, I just became a secretive eater and it's taken me a long time to confront this. Had I know that this past weekend would put me in the middle of a room of 30 fashion bloggers and experts... well... I would have laughed if you had told me I would have been doing this, but do this I did... and it's boosted my confidence hugely.
With my recent weight loss (and still going ; ) I was thrilled skinny (pun intended!) when my lovely editor, Alice, of the Cambridgeshire Journal Magazine asked me to be a "real model" for the new Spring collection/photo shoot with John Lewis this week.
The idea was posed to me before Xmas, which filled me with excitement and dread in equal measures, but it gave me something to keep slimming for and to look forward to as a marker on my weight loss efforts. Queue an early start one sunny Friday morning, meeting two of my fellow columnists (The lovely Susan Grossey & Vhari Russell) at the Bobbi Brown counter for some much needed make up and hair discussions whilst we were at it. The girls at this counter were friendly and knowledgeable and managed to give me a 50's style look that was glamourously perfect for the style I wanted to achieve for this photo shoot.I went for a very red lipstick and smoky eyes, with flicks to rival all flicks, these girls were fabulous and one of them even knew a few people who write for the magazine too, so it was great to natter about the topics we loved most... Writing, cake and blogging.
We were then whisked upstairs to the John Lewis Fashion Advice service, which met us with the warmest of greetings from the charming Sarah, Dorothy and their team of fashion experts. Coffees and pastries were provided whilst we were asked to make ourselves comfy on the sofa provided and swap notes and ideas to help us relax. Their hospitality was to rival any hospitality service I've had the pleasure of experiencing, it helped ease my worries from the very start.My main worries as a bigger girl is that things won't fit, won't suit or just that my low self esteem might have me in tears and tantrums just half an hour into the consultation, but Dorothy was my saving grace, she was amazing.She showed me to a large changing room, whilst the others went into other rooms down the hall and she had followed advice from Alice prior to the day on what style I was aiming for, following my clothes and shoe size, she had a rail draped full of hand picked outfits especially for me to choose from - I was genuinely excited for the first time about clothes!
The dresses were all stunning, but I picked a purple floral number from "Phase Eight" that I would never usually go for, but thought it was worth a try.And do you know what? With the honesty from Dorothy and some courage from myself, I proudly wore this figure hugging dress with my head held high.In fact, with the gorgeous make up and a spray of perfume, I even got my hair up in a 50's inspired "Do" and felt more glam than ever before.I was given a beautiful pearl necklace, bracelet and earrings to adorn myself with as well as a gorgeous "Johnny Loves Rosie" hair accessory to wear, which almost had a 1920's style, so I ended up purchasing it afterwards, as it was the only one left and it had a place at the "Dine Like Downton" event coming up in March, perfect!
I think the tall, broad girl in me panicked a little when I was presented with huge peep toe heels to make my long legs look even longer, but I embraced it and used these to practice teetering (badly) in shoes I wouldn't ever dream of wearing usually, let alone walking in!But I loved the way I looked in them, even if I did tower over everybody else and couldn't walk in them hehe... I felt beautiful for the first time in a very long time.
Warren, our photographer for the day was also very chatty and friendly and helped me to feel at ease in front of the camera right away, such a funny guy, we all had a blast giggling at the fact we all thought he was his colleague, who looks scarily similar to him - Very amusing!Alice interviewed us for the magazine feature and more on this will follow, I don't want to ruin this for our readers ; )
We were taken out into the Grand Arcade for our photo shoot and what I had been most nervous about was being watched by shoppers passing by, but after my confidence boost from the John Lewis Fashion Advice team, my inhibitions went out the window and I was frolicking in between the columns and teetering (again, badly) around the escalators trying to look less self conscious. It worked... I'm still in shock... I actually had fun, I felt like a star, albeit for a couple of hours. I really needed this boost, more than I realised!I felt so good afterwards that I actually went and got my hair cut and coloured and the mister didn't know what had hit him. He was astonished, beaming from ear to ear, he kissed me and told me how amazing I looked. Well, who couldn't blush and feel chuffed at that?!...
Sarah at John Lewis had been so pleased that I enjoyed myself, that she invited me along to the Bloggers' Breakfast she was helping to host for Cambridge Style Week at their store on the Sunday morning, so I agreed to pop along to check out their exclusive Alice Temperley collection (a British designer with a real love of Paisley), which actually had pieces exclusive to John Lewis.
I joined around 30 other bloggers, some from as far as Colchester, who had come up for the morning to be part of this very exciting launch of the Cambridge Style Week and as we sat in small groups around the tables set up in the Brasserie with fashion-inspired centre pieces and coffee & fresh pastries, we nattered about our blogging experiences, social media stories and naturally networked, there was such a buzz, it was just fantastic.It was also an opportunity to meet the gorgeous Alex Bright (our photographer for the morning) and the very talented Nicky Shepard both who had been Tweeting me for some time now, thanks to #writingwithtea, of which we plotted an idea to incorprate this into Cambridge Style Week in a few weeks time hopefully...
Dorothy & Sarah were there with their team and they allowed us to walk around the store with them prior to opening, to view the Lingerie department and discuss how important underwear fitting is as part of the Cambridge Style Week talk.
It was extremely interesting to learn that John Lewis actually works very closely with Addenbrookes Hospital for nursing bra fitting and the Wallace Cancer Trust to help with ladies who have had a mastectomy and need a fitting service. They impressively can put a pocket into any bra, not just from a reduced range, it means women can wear any bra they like with the choice that they need and deserve without needing to go to a specialist bra fitter.After my first experience with Spanx (No, I've never had the pleasure of these death squeezing undergarments before ; ) we also noted an entire shelf of these bad boys and had a good old giggle at how they bring you down an entire dress size, which truly is amazing!
The Fashion Advice Team also showed us various new ranges exclusive to John Lewis, including "Kin" Wear, which is a Nordic style (almost nautical) which is their first line of clothing to cover men, women AND children in the same label. So, if you are a fashion conscious family, you can all be cute matching sailors together ; )Some of the other lines included "Mint Velvet", which is exclusive to John Lewis in Cambridge, as it's only available in a few shops across the UK, so is in fact exclusive to Cambridgeshire in general, so get in there quick if you are searching for this name! They actually had a gorgeous sequined shirt and a beautiful knitted jumper which I would have worn myself once a few dress sizes down, I actually really liked it.
But my favourite item to be shown off, was the STUNNING "Ghost" buttoned silk dress, inspired by & designed with Kate Middletons' wedding dress in mind, at only £195, it is in fact a bridal gown idea worth noting if you are on a budget like myself when planning your wedding. A few dress sizes down & this could actually be the answer to my prayers!
From my experiences at John lewis this weekend, I would say, not only do they have an awesome Afternoon Tea on offer, but they also know what they are talking about when it comes to fashion advice, be it clothes, shoes, accessories, hair or make up. They offer a free 2 hour service, whereby you can go along, as a clueless wannabe fashionista such as myself, or a new mum, a cash poor man or woman, in need of a special outfit, advice on heel and jeans/casual wear... it doesn't matter who or what size/age you are you are!
You can even take a friend or two with you, but be mindful... they have told you that you have looked amazing until this point... so they might get funny if the fashion advisers tell you to adapt your current style, they might get offended... or jealous!
Watch this space for more photos and details on the clothes and goodies we wore at the photo shoot in March's edition of the "Cambridgeshire Journal Magazine"... I can't thank Alice, Vhari, Susan, Warren, Dorothy, Sarah & their fabulous team enough for everything, it's a better weekend than I had ever planned for it to be, it's going to be a good year!
And if you were that gorgeous silver haired fox who looked me up and down in the Grand Arcade car park on Sunday morning, smiled and then winked at me (in a GOOD way for once in my life)... I can't thank you enough for being the first man in history for me not to shout abuse at for looking at me - I am a new woman ; )
Miss Sue FlayPlease Note - I'm not paid or bribed to say these things, I review places of interest and items of my own accord, because I'm simply THAT geeky about tea and cake and all things in between. I pay for my own food, drink, services & products, I don't tell the establishment or suppliers what I'm doing, unless I enjoy it so much that I want to blog about it. I then simply ask their permission to do so and I chat to them about my experience to make them aware that I (and others) have enjoyed it : )If you would like to discuss an independent review or blog write up on any of the subjects on my blog, please do email Miss Sue Flay: firstname.lastname@example.org for a chat.