Ascot Ladies Day 2013

It’s my much-delayed report on Ladies’ Day at Ascot 2013! I had a blast as usual – and we even won big in one race when we bet on the Queen’s horse to win, and also scooped the second and third place runners too – but somehow, the shine is wearing off of this event for me. Maybe it’s the fact that I had my foot crushed by a rather large middle-aged lady who was completely smashed out of her mind during the Bandstand Singalong (and it still hurts now, two months later) or maybe it’s the fact that the dress code standards have slipped again, but there’s just something about Ascot Ladies’ Day that is wearing a little thin on me now. But, this post is to concentrate on the positive!

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The theme this year was floral (my friends and I try to match – last year’s theme was obvious and awesome at the same time!), so I spent a lot of time hunting out the perfect floral dress. It had to be flared and with a ’50s style vest-shaped top. I found the perfect dress in French Connection’s Maggie Lou. However, I had a massive crisis of confidence when my usual dress size didn’t fit me, which prompted me to go on an epic, short-term weight loss plan, which I’m pleased to say was successful. I am certainly not the size I’d like to be, but I did fit into a size 10 again!

Once I found my perfect dress, I needed a hat or fascinator to go with it. I had always planned to get something made, so I commissioned the fabulous Marissa Fleur from Etsy to create a bespoke headpiece based on the colours of the dress.

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Floral Headpiece, commissioned from Marissa Fleur via Etsy / Disc Stud Earrings with Aqua Chalcedony Stones, Azuni / Maggie Lou Dress, French Connection / Wrap, Monsoon / Natalie Clutch, L.K. Bennett / Black Patent Maddox Wedges, L.K. Bennett

Here’s what the headpiece looks like flattened out, and below is the finished product on a headband, which is how I wore it on the day!

We booked afternoon tea at the event and wound up being incredibly late thanks to some atrocious traffic on the way. I think we were stuck for at least an hour and a half. It wasn’t the best of ways to begin, I have to say, although the tea was lovely enough to make it worth the wait:

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At first I was slightly disappointed, as I thought the pork pie, tarts and fondant fancies were shop-bought, but upon thorough investigation, they seemed to have been made by hand – and they were certainly tastier than their supermarket counterparts!

The tearooms were a bit corporate feeling, but the mismatched china gave it a cool look – although, obviously, it’s much cheaper to fill a tearoom with mismatched china sets! At our table there was even a set that matched my colour scheme!

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The afternoon tea cost £24pp and was honestly worth it for not having to go through the drama of fighting for a table at one of the kiosks or in the Bandstand restaurant. The food was very decent, and there was certainly enough! I think we were stuffed by the end! And anywhere with tea on tap is fine with me, of course.

For dinner, we went to Heston’s Hind’s Head in Bray again, but I think I’ll save that for another post. In the meantime, here are a few more pictures of the day…

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Next year, I think I’m going to try out a few different race meets. I’m thinking Epsom and Goodwood for 2014!

Vintage Bookclub – Audrey: The 60s

If Marilyn Monroe was an icon of the ’50s, then the ’60s belonged to Audrey Hepburn. In all honesty, it’s only recently that I’ve truly come to appreciate Marilyn in all her busty bombshell glory – when I was a kid, for me, it was all about Audrey. Her doe-eyes, inscrutable expression, and that scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s… I was in love with Audrey long before I’d ever seen her act in a movie – and I’m sure I’m not the only one who knows her primarily from her photographs rather than from her performances. My earliest memory was being enchanted by her character in My Fair Lady – probably the greatest ‘make over’ movie of all time, and certainly one that could be appreciated by a little, tubby, bespectacled kid from a council estate.

Audrey The 60s coverAudrey: The 60s is an ode to Ms Hepburn as a model, muse, actress, mother, friend and co-worker – a treasure trove of unique images and quotes, many of which are seen here for the first time since their original publication. From stunning close-up shots, to candid snaps on set, every image captures a different side of Audrey’s quirky spirit, ethereal beauty, sweet nature – and yes, her insecurities, too.
Audrey The 60s spread 2The quotes come from an impressive array of sources: movies, press reviews, friends, directors, photographers, fashion designers and more, including Sophia Loren, Walter Matthau, Cecil Beaton, Elizabeth Taylor, Hubert De Givenchy and her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer. They paint a picture of a woman who was humble, modest, stylish, dutiful, sweet and down to earth – a perfectionist who believed her great fame came from unbelievable luck rather than anything else, and a woman who loved to laugh and enjoyed the company of others. Throughout the volume, her colleagues speak highly of her hard work and talent, while photographers and fashion designers gush about her style, grace and beauty. Audrey’s own quotes range from fluffy motivational snippets, to some dark, revealing confessions, which speak of a lack of self confidence, occasional insecurities, and an art for self-depreciation. It’s clear to see why she was so easy to love – and it’s hard to get through the book without feeling your heart swell, just a little, for this highly complex and fascinating individual.
Audrey The 60s spread 4All of this, and I haven’t even touched on those gorgeous pictorial spreads – photo after photo, they prove, one after the other, that Audrey’s appeal is timeless – her style still relevant today, and her grace apparent even in the most casual of settings. Contained within these pages are photos from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Children’s Hour, Charade, Paris When It Sizzles, My Fair Lady, How To Steal A Million, Two For The Road, and Wait Until Dark – plus, there’s another section simply titled ‘fashion’, which is fairly self-explanatory! These movies are diverse enough to show a wide range of costumes and settings, from dramatic thrillers in which Audrey’s simple clothes still mark her as a fashion icon, to the extravagant stylings of My Fair Lady, and the Mod style from Two for the Road. In fact, it was the shots from this movie in particular that fascinated me the most, as this characteristically ’60s’ style seemed somehow like a very drastic departure from her usual dress.
Audrey The 60s spread 5Of course, as I love to write about food as much as fashion, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to mention the two rather contradictory comments in the book about Audrey’s eating habits. Photographer Steven Meisel remembers her tucking into a peanut butter and jam sandwich during a break from a photoshoot, while Rex Harrison states that she was “in the habit of eating only raw vegetables” on the set of My Fair Lady. Make of that what you will…

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Surprisingly insightful, continuously charming, and of course, utterly beautiful, Audrey: The 60s is one of my favourite coffee table books, and a goldmine for anyone interested in ’60s fashion and the eternal, effortless style of Audrey Hepburn. Even if you’re not a ’60s girl, I have no doubt you’ll feel like one after a flick through this!

Audrey: The 60s, by David Wills and Stephen Schmidt, is available now for $40 from It Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. Visit http://www.audreythe60s.com for more information.

All images in this post are taken from Audrey: The 60s. A complimentary copy was provided to me for the purposes of this review.

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Water Off A Duck’s Back

At the SkyRide I was excited to come across a British company selling some seriously stylish (and by all accounts, very waterproof) cycling jackets. Now, I already have a couple of waterproof jackets – one is for walking, and one is a cycling jacket – but both of them are fairly short and neither of them are particularly fashionable. Once you see the beautiful macs from Water Off a Duck’s Back, I’m sure you’ll agree that ‘fashionable’ is definitely the right word to describe them…

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In fact, looking at them, you probably wouldn’t even realise that they’re cycling coats at all…

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But, there are loads of really nifty touches to these that make them perfect for cycling – such as reflective bands on the wrists, back of the waist tie, and the collar.

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The sleeves are extra long so that they can cope with the extension of your arms when you’re reaching for the handlebars. There’s even a special clip at the base of the coat that keeps it from flapping open as you cycle. And, there’s a detachable hood as well.

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You can probably make out the gorgeous purple lining in the hood too – beautiful! You can even tuck your coat neatly into the hood to make it more portable. Best of all, the coats are waterproof – not just, as the site points out, showerproof.

The coat comes in black or stone (love it, but I’m totally scared of getting it dirty!) for £130 – not cheap, admittedly. In fact, probably more than I’d pay for any coat, but let’s just say the sun was shining, my credit card was calling me, and Antonia was offering a special discount at the event which shaved off a few pounds…

Check back later for a real review of the coat in action – I’m pleased to say I’ve not had to use it yet, but my favourite season is approaching and I’m sure there will be plenty of showers!

Etsy treasury: vintage leather and red

I mentioned before that I’d been searching Etsy for some great bike accessories and hadn’t found much. Well, I’ve been keeping up with my searches and found a lot more than I originally thought! I decided to put them all together in an Etsy treasury list here, so you can check out these extremely beautiful objects and the talented folk who produced them!

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Find my Etsy treasury list here!

What are your favourites? I have to say, I’m totally loving the barrel bag and the mudflaps – seriously cool.

Pimp My Ride: Fun Reflectors for your bike

Even though it’s not something that gets given much thought in the summer months, making sure you’re visible at night is one of your most important jobs as a cyclist. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been in the car and I’ve only just managed to see a pedestrian or a cyclist on a dark street – but when it’s you, it’s easy to forget how invisible the darkness makes you.

There are loads of great products you can buy, but the one that’s struck my fancy the most at the moment are Fun Reflectors, which are small stickers in various shapes which you can add to your bicycle to help you show up in the dark. Obviously these are only novelty items, not actual safety equipment, but I think they make a pretty neat addition to your night-time arsenal! Mine arrived today (do I need to remind everyone, embarrassingly, that I still don’t have a BIKE yet?) and they look fab – the packaging is nicer than I expected, and the stickers look really sweet. I ordered flower shapes in silver, because I didn’t want them to show up a lot on my bike (I’m going to place them on the rims) and also because silver seems to show up the brightest in the light.

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Check out www.funreflector.com for the shop (free worldwide delivery) and a whole range of different stickers. Don’t forget you’ll also need to have lights and reflective clothing as well! Meanwhile, I’m working on the latter and just got in some grosgrain ribbon with a reflective stripe down the middle – no idea what I’m doing with it yet! Any suggestions?!

Helmets: some alternatives

It seems as though when you start a new hobby, it’s easy to stumble upon never before realised controversies that were lurking all along, under the surface of everyday life, completely unobserved by everyone else. For fans of foreign TV programmes or movies, there’s the dub versus sub debate. For bento box lunch enthusiasts, there’s some snideyness amongst people who only use ‘proper’ Japanese boxes, versus those who use western lunchware like Tupperware or Laptop Lunches. With vintage dressing, I know there’s some debate about repro clothing versus authentic, really from the era vintage clothing. To be honest, a lot of these are more to do with perceived elitism and snobbery than anything else, which I guess you get in the cycling world too. I was expecting a similar debate around lycra/safety clothing versus streetwear to crop up quite early on in my enthusiastic web surfing, but I must be dodging those sites completely. The one thing that keeps jumping out is helmets versus no helmets, and I’ll explain why that’s a bit of a shock for me.

As a child, the school laid on cycling proficiency lessons for us, which mostly seemed to involve dodging between traffic cones and being able to hold your hand out to signal right and left. The one thing that was totally gospel was helmet-wearing, and I guess, due to a lack of real cycling between then and now, as an adult, the idea that helmets were an essential part of cycling has always stayed with me. I see a lot of cyclists on the roads now, especially as I’m looking out for them, and I rarely see anyone without a helmet. Those that do are generally quite obviously making smaller, neighbourhood journeys. In order to get to the next shopping area from me, you have to travel down and up a rather large hill, and all the cyclists I’ve seen tackling this are wearing helmets.

For me, personally, as a new cyclist, I feel compelled to buy and wear a helmet. I don’t feel confident enough in my ability to cycle, in the roads, or in the traffic flow, to go without one. That could change,but in the meantime, I’ve been researching the most stylish options available for cyclists, and I’ve found some pretty neat ones!

Perhaps the most traditional looking helmet on my lust-list is the Nutcase, a cool-looking solid type of helmet from the US which resembles a BMX biker or skateboarders helmet.

Love the cool Union Jack design – and although it doesn’t have as much ventilation as the average aerodynamic helmet does, it still has some airholes there to keep your head cool. Priced around £45.

I also really like Sawako Furuno helmets, which you can buy at cyclechic.co.uk.

They’re quite pricey (from £60 up to £73) and I haven’t seen one that I’ve fallen in love with – yet. The colours are very pastel, so if that’s your style, you’ll love these! They’re very subtle and girly.

My favourite find so far has to be the cool Yakkay helmets, which come with interchangeable soft covers!

I’ve heard they can make your head sweaty, but it seems like a small price to pay for such stylish and protective headwear!

They come in three different sizes, so I’d have to purchase them in person to be sure I was getting the right size for me. They’re a bit pricey to buy sight-unseen, and I’m sure they’re not really waterproof either. But, they look great! They range from about £30 for a cover to £104 for a cover and helmet, depending on the style.

By far the most intriguing of my finds is the Ribcap.

Made from an amazing material which hardens when struck with a hefty force, the Ribcap looks like a soft beanie type wooly hat, but the manufacturers claim prevents head trauma. Sounds good to me! They look a little hefty for the summer, but I can imagine them being really good for the winter.

The Jackson may not look much on the mannequin, but it looks great on the model!

Again, they’re quite pricey (£50-60), but they do look good, and seem like a less restrictive choice if you don’t like the feeling of a traditional helmet. If you’d like to see the Ribcap being put through its paces, and want to find out more about what it’s made of, check out the Youtube video below of the Gadget Show.

If you’d like to see some more amazing helmets, I found this excellent site which has some really cool examples: Helmets Rock Hard.