The Spike


July 2016

Style vs Fashion

My sinusitis hasn’t killed me! I am just in Devon for the week, grappling with my thing about beach cliques and the general crushing superiority of hearty people so very much enjoying an English beach holiday; I’m also preoccupied with trying to second-guess what might enrage a local, (the list is endless and nuanced), none of whom can conceal their disgust for “summer people”; one doesn’t really stand a chance.

Anyway, while I was trying to remove some fine flecks of sand from the creases of my eyelid, (it’s like they’re superglued there), this piece about Style vs Fashion arrived in my inbox from Dolly Alderton. Yes the actual Dolly Alderton from THE SUNDAY TIMES!! It was like a bird of paradise had fluttered in through the window and landed on a pile of wet sandy clothes.

It is a guest post, which I had requested and then forgotten about and it’s terrific. I’ve got more to say about Style vs Fashion soon, but my head is just filled with the sound of angry West Country accents and my face is sort of wind-blasted and crazed. I’ll need a few days back in London before I can get my head round it.

Until then, here’s Dolly:


“So apparently peonies have become the most photographed thing on instagram. Of course they have. I should have known this because I LOVE peonies – they’re so frilly and full and unctuous. They look like a big, juicy snog. Incidentally, the other most instagrammed thing is avocado on toast, which I also love. It’s one of my favourite breakfasts.

A few other thunderously predictable things I’m passionate about: Breton stripes, skinny jeans, white t shirts, tortoise-shell reading glasses, large round sunglasses, “undone hair”, “barely there sandals”, diptque candles, velvet sofas, flat white coffees, black blazers, black ballet bumps, navy round neck jumpers, trench coats, denim jackets, small gold hoops, white shirts, white plimsoles, salted caramel, the Chanel logo.

I hate that I love everything everyone else loves. I hate that my taste is so homogenised. It is a daily woe that leaves me wrestling with the deeply philosophical question: do I like avocado because everyone else does or does everyone else like avocado because of me?

Sharing the taste of many is what generous people call: “classic style”. But I don’t want “style”; I long for fashion. Any old muggins can watch enough films or read enough magazines to realise red lipstick looks good with flicked eyeliner; that black goes with white; that sausage goes with mustard. Anyone can learn the basic rules of “classic style”. But fashion – proper wear-two-skirts-and-a-shirt-back-to-front—totally-instinctive-fruit-on-your-head fashion – is so much harder to navigate and find a distinct space.

I once had lunch with one of my most fashionable friends, the writer Pandora Sykes, who was talking about commentators who slammed eccentric street style during fashion week.
“I’m sorry if I’m not wearing the boring uniform of skinny jeans, cashmere jumper Celine bag,” she sighed.
“Yeah!” I chimed in. “BORING!” hoping she never goes onto my dream clothes Pinterest board: “Doll’s Dresses” and finds three hundred photos of women in skinny jeans, a cashmere jumper, carrying a Celine phantom and shoulder robed in a Burberry mac. With long, highlighted hair (of course I love long bloody highlighted hair why can’t I love lilac hair shaved like the head of a friar?).

I haven’t always been like this – there was a while when I tried to be what I like to call “a vintage lady”; those women who are dedicated to time-travel in through their clothing. My chosen decade was the 60s (my favourite time both aesthetically and in music, but also couldn’t be bothered with land girl victory rolls, they made me look like a dinosaur). I slept in two pairs of fake eyelashes, wore black tights instead of trousers and carried a cigarette holder. But I realised I couldn’t be arsed to be a vintage lady when I was tired or hungover or on a deadline or in a rush leaving the house. Which was always.

I was also briefly a punk, with a shaved head and denim hot pants and boy shirts. That died a sudden death when I realised wearing ANY skirt or jewellery made me look like a lesbian art teacher.

I often float towards hippie; spending hours on ebay searching for wispy bits of vintage Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark; mooning over long skirts, billowing sleeves and antique Persian turquoise rings.

And yet my default is still so bloody “capsule”; sharp blazers, leather bags, ankle boots. I’m in a dangerous cycle of capsule; the more I buy, the more I feel I have to adhere to my chosen template. And the less I contribute to a fashion narrative.

So here’s my new sartorial rule: to go with my gut. To stop fretting about being too typical or worrying I’m not hip enough for a gold boiler suit I’ve currently got my eye on (although I’m guessing you’re never hip enough for anything if you use the word “hip”). I’m hoping that when I stop feeling caught in between classic and fashion-forward I may end up in a comfortable middle ground of my “authentic self”.

It may not ever make me a street style icon.  No one will ever be interested in #WIWT. But perhaps feeling unboxed is the most fashionable interpretation of style.

But leave me my peonies, I beg of you.”



Sinusitis, school holidays, sun…

…these things have conspired to bring you no Spike for the last few days. Plus rowdy young people who live on my street in their gardens talking loudly until the small hours have left me grumpy and cross in the mornings.

Plus it is too hot to think (which makes a mockery of my most recent Rain-themed post).

But: more soon! Don’t touch that dial.

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The Queen’s umbrella

I think it’s just time to accept that for whatever mysterious environmental reason or reasons, we’re going to be getting wet summers for a while. Possibly indefinitely.

The only thing to do, if moving to a hot country or being on holiday from mid-July until September is not an option, is to upgrade your rainwear.

For example, I bet you don’t have the correct umbrella. The correct umbrella, is this one, from Fulton. It’s a see-through one with a domed birdcage design. It keeps you really bone dry and you can see where you’re going – it’s the umbrella that the Queen uses, and I imagine that she knows a thing or two about rain.

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At £18, I think it’s really pretty great value. I have only got one but my hoarding instinct tells me that I need another one. You can buy online here or from John Lewis.

And, the next big thing in rainwear is the rubberised mac, like the sort of thing that fishermen wear.

The very echt name in rubberised rainwear at the moment is Stutterheim, who make a totally waterproof mac, with a lovely big roomy hood for £175.

But H&M do a terrific copy for much less.

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The Stutterheim Stockholm, £175

I have seen other Stutterheim styles on Lyst for less – have a look here.


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H&M raincoat, £29.99

APC chic mac on sale!!

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Well I don’t know about you but I am feeling underwhelmed at the moment. Uninspired. It’s this time of year, probably. As the end of term looms, even though my children are no longer impossible babies, we have got holidays planned and things are, you know, ticking over just fine, I feel down. The end of term has always made me feel melancholy, even in the days when I didn’t really like school that much. Everything feels a bit empty and sad.

I’m also feeling a bit gloomy because I miscalculated some building work and had to present my husband with a bill that was twice what he was expecting. I mean, he was nice about it, we did not have a fight, but still. I went to sleep thinking about it. I woke up thinking about it.

So what else to do but look ahead to Autumn – if only briefly – to cheer myself up. And look! This navy chic mac by French mega-snoot clothing line APC that I wrote about last year is on sale at half price! At E210, down from E420 it is £176, which represents a proper bargain. AND there are still normal sizes left, I got mine in a 38, which is a UK12.

I see the navy/Oxblood colour combination, which was around a bit this year, being massive for AW16. If you don’t get this coat, make sure that any overcoat you buy – whether it is parka, down jacket, smart coat or raincoat – unless you are really, really keen on another colour and to hell with me: make it navy. If you fancy a new handbag, make it Oxblood. Or yellow. No more grey, please, or pink or green.

I will probably not present this sale purchase to my husband as any sort of intelligent financial saving on my part, although you and I know that this represents canny spending of the highest order, which effortlessly offsets my poor project management elsewhere.


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OMG guys guys LISTEN!!!!

This is an amazing thing – it’s called a Tile and you attach it to your keys or phone or child, or whatever it is you don’t want to lose, and you will never lose it.

You can ring it from your phone and it makes such a cute little chirruping singing noise. If you are out of listening range, it tracks it via an App.

It will even, when synched with your phone, make your phone ring even when it’s on silent.

I am going to get one each for my kids and safety pin to their shorts on days out. I can really absolutely go for the rest of my life without having that hyperventilating WHERE IS THE CHILD??? feeling.

Or maybe I just shouldn’t drink so much while doing childcare.

These are about £20 from Amazon.

Grey sofa steal

Alright I know I said that thing about sale madness but I’ve just got to draw your attention to this cute little sofa, which is 40% off in the Brissi sale, down £7oo something from £1300 something.

I mean, everything is always on sale at Brissi, because they are so monstrously unfashionable at the moment and just, like, don’t even bother with PR. People are like “Brissi who?” and I’m like “Their innovative and insanely pretty silver wrap furniture line from c. 2006? No? Am I talking to myself here?”

So they’re pretty much giving away this very sweet sofa. You probably don’t want it, or need it. But it’s the most tremendous bargain.

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Exfoliation for hair loss

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One of the best things about my husband is that, although he isn’t vain, he isn’t a massive dickhead about things like moisturiser, suncream, haircuts and going to the dentist and to the doctor.

And when I say “dickhead” what I mean is that he doesn’t point blank refuse to use any product other than own-brand soap and washing up liquid for shampoo and walk about an itchy mass of dandruff, dermatitis and shaving rash.

Very occasionally he will say things to me like “Can we have more of that Dove shower gel. It’s less drying.” Or confess to me that he has been using my face wash.

The other week he said that he has been using my St Ives peach kernel exfoliator on his head. He has been finding his scalp sub-optimal and troublesome and recalls some advice somewhere that exfoliating one’s scalp was a thing – also that that some kinds of baldness (not male-pattern) is caused by blocked pores and other scalp grossness. To give it a good scrub once a week is to encourage follicular health. Not that my husband is going bald, but he is very hip to preventative measures. “And it feels nice,” he added, slipping off into a brief reverie.

So I researched scalp exfoliators and found that Altea Caviar Exfoliating Scalp Facial, (it’s not a facial if it’s on your head!!!), is very popular and effective. The price seems to slalom wildly depending on where you look for this, but it seems to be about £33 on Amazon at the moment.

Sale madness

Don’t let the sales panic you. It doesn’t mean that if you haven’t nailed down all your summer wear by now you are stuffed. It’s not 1991 any more and you will be able to buy summer clothes well into July. It’s only August that summer wear really dries up and all there is in the shops are winter coats and sweaters.

It’s just the most depressing time of year in the shops, August – sad rails of sale summer wear that no-one bought; metallic things and clutch bags in the shape of watermelons made out of scuba fabric, alongside beanies and long coats and jumpers. All wrong. So bad.

And don’t actually panic in the sales and buy loads of metallic things and novelty bags, okay? I mean, not if it’s not your style. In fact, don’t buy anything if you don’t want to or need to. Sit it out. Ignore the newspapers (that is good advice generally at the moment, much as I love newspapers and miss the newsroom like it’s a sexy boyfriend who dumped me for a model*).

But if you did want to pick up a few bargains, Lux Fix is having a very good sale at the moment, with most things 50% off. There are a lot of sizes available and I like these two:

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Artisan off-shoulder top by Kirei, £43
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Arabella Ivory wrap top £72


*this has never happened to me. I mean, she wasn’t a model. And he wasn’t that sexy.


Love this Zap necklace from Zoe and Morgan

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