Kedleston Hall

I’ve become so obsessed with Netflix’s “Bridgerton” that I’ve started shopping for Corsets. Yes, actual corsets. The most uncomfortable item of clothing imaginable, which women tried desperately for decades to be rid of… are now on my Amazon wishlist.

If you’ve not seen Bridgerton yet, it’s one of the most visually pleasing shows to ever grace the screen. It’s no Downton Abbey, but if you like both period dramas and ‘Gossip Girl’ then this is the series for you.  A show full of beautiful people, beautiful costumes and beautiful houses.

Kedleston Hall is not one of the stars of the show, but it very easily could be.

Note: I visited Kedleston Hall in 2018. The Hall itself is currently closed and the grounds are open to locals only in line with current government guidelines. Visit the link above for updates on reopening when lockdown restrictions ease.

I could just imagine the Duke of Hastings striding purposefully down those steps…

The interiors are just as impressive as the exterior too.

With the most equisite detailing:

Of course, not all of the treasures are on the walls…

The famously fabulous ‘Peacock Dress’ belonged to Lady Mary Curzon, who was Vicereine of India. She wore this extravagant dress to a ball at the Delhi Durbar. It was specifically designed for the stately occasion – owing to the venue being famed for its ‘Peacock Throne’.

The Times of India wrote in 1906 that “The dress she wore that night has become almost historical.” and that “the ensemble was such that not one of those who saw it is likely to forget.” The description they gave of her ensemble described “two shades of gold, hand embroidered into an elusive pattern, only betrayed as peacock feathers by the emeralds that centred each feather’s eye.” The dress was so opulent that it eclipsed her jewellery, and the writer of the article could only recall that “the rest of her jewels were, I think, diamonds.”

Once I’d finished oggling this masterpiece of fashion and craftsmanship, it was time to take in the scenery outdoors with my favourite adventurer.

There are miles of walks and lots of little wonders to see along the way.

Winter Sales Try-On

There’s a running joke in my family that my dad has never paid full-price for anything. His haggling is legendary and he can smell a sale a mile away. I think I inherited a little of my bargain-hunting ability from him, along with my height.

Today I’m giving you a run down of all the items I bought on Black Friday – most of which are now in the winter sales. This year I shopped Dorothy Perkins (Tall), Coast and H&M. Here’s what I got (and what I sent back):

First up: Dorothy Perkins Tall.

These trousers looked super comfy but they were enormous on me. I bought a UK 12 so they would fit my hips but it felt like I was wearing a size 14/16. If you’re in the 6 foot and up club they might work better on you, but the waist was super high and the leg length was more suited to a 36-38″ length really. They also had a ribbed texture, which was comfy but not as loose and flowy as I had envisaged. (Available in Tall only).

However, this black top with sheer overlay is a winner. The length was spot on, it fit true to size and it’s a total bargain!

This pleated skirt was also a real winner. It looks shiny/satin-like online but is a jersey material in reality. Similarly the picture online shows an asymmetric hemline, but it’s definitely A-line. Feels super-festive and elegant to wear though so no complaints from me! Fits true to size.

Finally, the most chic and cheap winter coat. Double breasted with a snuggly faux-fur collar this coat is just perfect. I could also imagine Cameron Diaz wearing something like it in The Holiday – so it gets extra glam points for that.

All in all (and despite my personal feelings about their CEO) I’ll be sad to see this brand go now that the parent Arcadia Group is in administration – the DP tall line has some real gems.

Next up: Coast

I’m always a bit disappointed that Coast is less size-inclusive than other high-street brands, but you can’t argue with the quality of their garments for the price. I tried just two items and sadly neither was a perfect fit but they both had some major plus-points.

This body-con dress is a Size M and almost fit my body shape perfectly – albeit that the arms were a tad short and gathered at the elbows. I also took issue with the belt which was much too large and sat very high (even for a person of average height). It’s available in 3 colours with limited availability.

I was gutted that this lace detail top was so small on me. The intricacy and detail of the design made it feel really special (for a high street item). Available in two colours.

Finally, I went a bit overboard with H&M while they had 20 percent off the site over Black Friday. Using their size guide I ordered most items in Medium and they were much too large. Everything in a UK10 fit perfectly but if you’re picking a generic size, go one lower!

This black top with twist-back detail felt thick and warm but as you can see – was much too big for me. As was the v-neck/back cream jumper (no longer available online) which was also too short on the body & sleeves for me.

I’ve always been a bit wary of dresses like this Belted Dress as I’m quite broad shouldered and feel this sort of neckline can have the unfortunate effect of accentuating that… but I got over that pretty quickly as the fit and design of this dress were just lovely. I wish my work didn’t have a strict navy-and-white dress code for officewear as this would be the perfect pretty dress for the office. I’m wearing a size 10 and it fits true to size.

I’m rounding off this try-on with another pretty dress. Sadly too large but I would go back for the next size down as this was a really unique take on the shirt-dress. With concealed buttons, pleat detail and a pretty print, it’s really rather lovely. Size down.

Leather-Look

When I was re-launching this blog recently, I thought about re-naming it and making the tag line into the name. Since “Country Chick, City Chic” perfectly sums me up.

When I was in my first year of university, London seemed very daunting at first. It was a million miles away from the green fields of home, where wellies were my preferred footwear and “on foot” was my main mode of transportation. I shared a flat in halls with (amongst others) another girl who had also come from a small village, like me. One day she came out of her room wearing shorts with tights (don’t judge – it was the hottest trend at the time!) and I remember her saying to me “I could never get away with this look at home.”

She wasn’t wrong. Communities are smaller, gossip is louder and trends are slower to catch on in the countryside. Which is perhaps why it sometimes feels safer to blend in, than to stand out.

It’s not a mentality I like, but the longer you stay in the countryside the more you feel it taking root. So when I started thinking about experimenting with the leather-look, I was a bit worried it was too edgy for me. But then I found the perfect pair of leather-look skinnies and now I can’t stop thinking about ways to style them. (We’ll save that for another blog post though.) First of all let me take you through my search for the perfect pair of leather-look trousers…

First up is this pair of “Leather-look leggings” from New Look Tall via Asos. When these arrived the label on the packet actually described them as wet-look and that’s a much more accurate description for them. They fit true to size and felt like a second skin but they left little to the imagination and it was really the leather look I was after…

Next up was a pair of coated black skinny jeans from Missguided. I’d never shopped from Missguided before and found the quality left a lot to be desired. The material was very unforgiving on me and the fit wasn’t perfect on me either (as my hips are a dress size bigger than my waist) though I would describe it as true to size.

After that, I tried Next. This pair I absolutely loved. The quality is amazing. They’re a snug fit with just the right amount of stretch to be comfy. They’re also lined with a fleece-like material which makes them very cosy for these cooler temps. And they come with the added bonus that they look much more expensive than they are. Sadly though these were also true to size at the waist and therefore not a good fit for my pear-shape. I was gutted but with no way to alter them I opted to send them back.

I went for these coated jeans instead and finally found the perfect pair! I love the zip detail on these, the quality is great and they fit like a glove. No, actually, they fit like the perfect pair of jeans. (I’m wearing a 12 XL Tall.)

P.S. The t-shirt I’m wearing for this post was designed by a very talented friend of mine and it’s part of a much larger range for this streaming channel. You can buy the exact t-shirt I’m wearing here and you can see the full range here. I’ve found the sizing guide to be very accurate (I’m wearing an M) and was pleasantly surprised by the quality – as well as being a decent length and the perfect fit it’s also 100% cotton.

48hrs in Stockholm

First things first – this is a post about a trip I took in 2018 (pre-Covid) and the pictures reflect that. It’s also worth pointing out that some of the info below may not be current and/or the attractions mentioned may be closed or operating under restrictions. Please visit their websites for the latest info.

I don’t fear getting old (it is after all, a privilege denied to many) but I do worry about growing old without living a full life. I think that may be why I have developed a bit of a habit of taking mini-breaks around my birthday. In 2014 I spent my birthday in Rome, in 2015 I went to Scotland and in 2017 I went to America. Ok, ok… that one wasn’t a mini break, but then again it was my 30th birthday!

In 2018 I chose to spend my birthday weekend in Stockholm.

We landed mid morning and headed straight for the Gamla Stan district where we checked into the Scandic Gamla Stan Hotel. I chose it mainly for the blue gingham armchairs. (Anyone know where I can get one of those?!)

The first stop on our minibreak was the Fotografiska gallery. I’m not much of a photographer, but I’ve always loved the art form. In this gallery I found myself immersed in a feminist body of work by Ellen von Unwerth whose work presented “a compelling journey through a world of emotions, from a feeling of strength and power to high-spirited games and play, then from the great moment of drama to profound passion, leading us into the sugar-sweet valley of love, taking a detour via the question of gender roles and concluding in the intimate space of desire and lust.”

After a wonderful afternoon spent admiring her work, we took a stroll through the Gamla Stan neighbourhood. I was craving Swedish meatballs for dinner yet somehow, we ended up in the Ardbeg pub & bar (and if you know anything about Whiskey, you’ll know that Ardbeg is Scottish). I will say this though – the meatballs were as good as any others I had on the trip.

Slightly tired from our flight and afternoon excursion, we opted for an early night, determined to pack as much in as possible the next day.

I was travelling with a scientist in tow (with her very own PhD) so our first stop of the day was the Nobel Prize Museum.

This plaque detailed the discovery of plastic in 1963 – how strange to think that something society is now working to eradicate was once considered such a wonderous discovery.

Nobel Prizes are awarded every year on the date of Alfred Nobel’s death (10th December). While the peace prize is presented at a ceremony in Oslo, the other prizes are presented in Stockholm. There are 5 prizes in total (including the peace prize) and a 6th prize sponsored in memory of Alfred Nobel. The 6 prizes are for Peace, Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Economic Sciences.

During our visit, the museum was holding an exhibition titled “Literary Rebellion” which profiled 12 Literary Laureates who had used their writing to “question, create change and offer resistance.” The exhibition profiled writers of both prose and poetry and opened my eyes to a host of new writers.

The museum also profiled the life and discoveries of Alfred Nobel himself – as well as the recipients of his prizes. These days knowledge of Alfred Nobel’s legacy revolves around the Nobel prizes themselves, but I made some discoveries of my own during my visit (did you know he is also the chemist who invented Dynamite?)

While my sister might have a PhD, I can’t claim to be much of a scientist. I enjoyed learning about Alfred Nobel and the literary laureates though and came away with many new books added to my Amazon wishlist. (Incidentally, if you ever want to feel inspired by humanity or have your faith in it restored, I would also highly recommend a visit to the Nobel Peace Prize museum in Oslo.)

Before lunch I found an hour to explore the Royal Palace – which could rival the Louvre for opulence.

And to watch the changing of the guard.

After a lunch which mainly consisted of Gelato, we hopped on a boat…

Taking in the sights from the water, we travelled to an unusual museum away from the hustle and bustle of the central districts of Stockholm.

The Vasa Museum is home to just one exhibit – a 17th Century war ship. This spectacular vessel (which has got to be the largest and most ornate ship I’ve ever seen up close) sailed just 1300 metres on its maiden voyage before sinking. It never even left Sweden. Several hundred years later, and miraculously preserved by the sea bed, it was recovered, restored and moved to the museum where it has been on display ever since. In order to preserve it, the cavernous room which now holds the Vasa is kept cold all year round – be warned, you’ll need an extra layer to visit it.

After our excursion to the Vasa Museum we were in need of something to warm us up again. I was determined to find a more Swedish dining experience, which led us to a Viking restaurant back in the Gamla Stan neighbourhood. While obviously more touristy and less authentic than other restaurants we could have chosen, what this place lacked in sophistication it made up for in interesting conversation. Dining here is done communally at long wooden benches. We could have met a whole variety of travellers – but instead we got seated next to some fellow Mancunians. At least we had something in common!

Our last day was just like the others before it – gloriously sunny. So after leaving our bags with the concierge, we headed out on foot to soak in the sights before our flight home.

Having now ticked all of the main tourist attractions off my list, I’d love to go back to Stockholm one day and take it in at a slightly slower pace. The Swedes have a word for this: Fika. It means to make time for the important things in life – good friends and good food. A concept I could totally get on board with.

Nasty Gal Try-On

I’ve never shopped with Nasty Gal before. Mainly because they don’t carry a tall line and that’s my go-to when it comes to finding the perfect fit for me. That being said, I’ve had lots of pleasant surprises from non-tall sections of other retailers over the years, and if you don’t try, you’ll never know. So I tried a lot of their clothes for you!

The Nasty Gal sizing was a bit hit and miss for me. (For reference I am a UK size 10 on my torso but a UK size 12 at my hips.) I used the sizing guide on the Nasty Gal website to select my sizes. However, I found that everything offered in a UK Size 10 came up too small and for other items I should have got a small instead of a medium. At least now I know what to order in the future and hopefully this will prove useful for you too!

Up first are these thigh-high boots. I’ve wanted a pair of over-the-knee boots for ages but haven’t been able to find a flat pair that hit the right height. Of all the items in my order, I thought for sure I would be sending these back but the height was spot-on. If you have narrow feet, I would recommend sizing up as the pointed toe makes for a snug fit. Not suitable for those with a wide fit but perfect for those with long legs!

This square neck top features split sides below the waist – which I guess are there to make it easier to tuck in but that’s not the real issue. The wide neck might be sexy but it leaves no room for bra straps to remain hidden. That wouldn’t necessarily be an issue but (although you can’t see it in the picture above) the top has an open weave to the knit across the chest – so a bra really isn’t optional here. You could go strapless – but either way your bra will be on show. I bought the size 10 and found it a snug fit.

It struck me recently that “girl in the pretty dress” hasn’t featured any girly dresses for a while, this dress was my attempt to rectify that and it wasn’t too bad on. Sleeve length was good and so was the hem length – it’s described as a midi and fit that way. It’s definitely more of a summer dress though as the material is very light and floaty. For me the waist sat too high and the consequence was that the wrap-over was also a little higher than felt safe. Fits true to size.

I ordered a size 10 of this polka dot top but it definitely runs small. The neckline is lovely but the sleeves were 3/4 length on me and the whole thing just felt much too snug and almost corset like. Perfect for petite sizes, but if you’re regular I would size up and tall ladies – avoid!

It turns out this fluffy cardigan isn’t Nasty Gal brand but is actually by Brave Soul – one of my all time favourite brands. They do also have a tall line (available on ASOS). So no wonder I loved it! The material (also available in black) is so soft and snuggly. I ordered a medium which felt really comfy on, but I think I could probably get away with a small. The button detail is lovely and it’s super cosy – the perfect winter cardigan!

I’m usually someone who likes a close-fit when it comes to tops, but I figured that since I was trying a new brand, I should also try some new styles. It turns out the saying “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” goes for personal style too. This statement-sleeve jumper was a disaster on me. Firstly, it runs big, so you’ll want to size down if you’re tempted to try this. Secondly, the colour is a little different in person (the cream is a little more mustard toned). And lastly it’s not tall-friendly. The sleeves just looked baggy on me, rather than stylishly oversized.

Ok, I loved this knitted hoodie. It runs quite big so again I would need to size down but as chic and cosy loungewear goes – it’s pretty great. I’m tempted to buy the set in fact. Again, the colour is a little different in person – it has a slightly more oatmeal tone – but that’s not really an issue. 10/10 would recommend for lockdown.

This ruffle detail jumper was just not for me. The sleeves were ok, but the body was so short it looked cropped and the ruffles did me no favours. I don’t know how this model is pulling them off so well – all credit to her because it’s not easy to make such an oddly proportioned piece look that good! Runs big – size down.

I got this button-down midi dress in a Size 10, which would have been ok, were it not for the gaps in between the buttons. Moving in this dress was a risky business and would be for anyone with curves. It was also knee-length on me rather than midi – but in spite of the sizing flaws I did find it very comfortable.

Lastly I tried this bodycon dress on and I was loving it right up until I noticed the seam across the chest – which sits neither above nor below the breasts and which I just couldn’t get used to. It’s a real shame as it fits true to size and was both comfy and sexy on.

1 Mini-skirt, 4 Ways

This bottle-green F&F corduroy mini-skirt is a keeper. It’s long enough to be worn without tights, smart enough for an evening out and dressy enough for the holidays.

When I first tried this skirt on in my instagram stories, I loved the fit on me but wasn’t sure how it would fit into my closet. I’ve been trying to be more mindful of the clothes I choose and following the rule of 3 (in order for me to keep an item, I have to be able to make at least 3 different outfits with it from existing items in my closet).

It just goes to show why you should experiment with the items in your wardrobe more often. I made 4 outfits for this post, but I could have made even more.

LOOK 1

Breton Stripe Top by George (similar here)
White Lacoste Trainers (similar here)

LOOK 2

Chunky Jumper by Monsoon (similar here)
Shearling Boots from M&S (similar here)

LOOK 3

Cream Top from Ralph Lauren (similar here)
Next Boots (similar here)

Look 4

Black Roll Neck F&F
Black Knee High Boots F&F

Hello, again.

Dress: Pimkie via Asos
(No longer available but they do have a similar option in beige)

It’s been a minute. Ok… maybe more than a minute. Even by my standards, there has been quite a long gap in between posts. It’s literally been years.

Usually this would be the point where someone would write “and there’s a very good reason for that” before humbly bragging about their magnificent achievements… Their successful new business venture, their wonderful home or their beautiful children… I have no such reason for my absence. The fact is that the last couple of years have been some of the most difficult of my life. And that’s before we even get to the mess that is 2020.

In this Insta-splendid world, I probably shouldn’t admit that, but it’s true.

I’ve always thought of myself as somewhat of a professional story-teller. I’ve worked as a Script Editor helping to bring stories to life on screen, and for a long time I told my own story through social media and the pages of this blog. I feel like I misplaced that part of me for a while, but it’s gradually starting to come back.

I was tempted to bring my story up to date in this post, but I’m going to save that for another time, as I’m still undecided about how much I want to share. For now, I will just tell you that for the last few years, reality has been so much stranger, and horrible, than fiction. Especially where my former relationship was concerned. For those who are returning to these pages (and may remember this post) I will just say that no, I did not get married. I had a very lucky escape.

I really do count myself lucky though. Yes, I had some truly miserable lows, but I’m fortunate enough to have some very special people in my life who picked me back up, dusted me off and helped me to rise again.  

The past few years may have been challenging but alongside the lows there were also some high points. I’ve travelled to new places, experienced some magical things and made memories that I will treasure for a lifetime.

There are so many of these experiences I’d like to share and now seems like the perfect time to do it. The nights are getting longer and we’re all being told to spend more time indoors… so until we can all get out and about again, I hope you’ll enjoy exploring a little of my world from the comfort of yours.

Sara x

36 Hours in York

6 weeks ago I had the unexpected pleasure of some time off, with my other half. We decided to make sure it was quality time together and to get away from the humdrum of home for a bit.

We stayed at the rather lovely Principal York Hotel which, despite it’s elegant appearance, was not quite as smoothly run as I’d have hoped, but it all got sorted in the end!

After checking in, we headed out to explore.

I think I must have a Christmas-sensor embedded in me because I can sniff it out anywhere and was quickly drawn into this store.

Our next stop was to The York Museum.

By the time I’d been dragged out of Christmas-land, time was ticking on a bit… The very kind attendants at the museum reassured us that we would have time to do one wing and helpfully, gave us a pass so that we could return the next day for the other half of the museum.

The museum was formerly a Prison and we spent our first day in the Women’s Wing – which housed a number of historical exhibits and (most impressively) a full scale replica of a Victorian Street, complete with back alleys and stores for you to wander in and out of.

After all that time-travel we were feeling a bit peckish so headed to Betty’s (a Yorkshire institution!)

Dinner was a little disappointing so I’ll skip over that and move on to Day 2…

We returned to the Museum bright and early, ready to tackle the next wing. This holds an eclectic mix of modern day history (1960s – Present Day) and a centuries-old history of the prison.

Once back outside we headed for the Shambles. (Perhaps the most instagrammed street in York.)

A few people have assumed it influenced the Harry Potter stories or was used in the film (there’s actually very little to link the two) and as a consequence Potter-mania has invaded the street.

By far the best of these shops is The Shop That Must Not Be Named.
People quite literally queue up to shop here…

After all that horcrux-hunting I was hungry again.

York is famous for it’s history with Chocolate (and with fruit pastilles – but as I’m a chocaholic that’s of little interest to me.)

Monk Bar is just the sort of shop to fulfil any craving you might have. But I can particularly recommend the liquid chocolate shot in a chocolate cup!

Our visit to York was choc-a-block and I will be back again soon!

Scotland, Lochgoilhead & Dunoon

I look forward to going to Scotland every winter. Sadly this year I spent the entire holiday feeling very poorly indeed. Back home, whenever someone asked me how the holiday was I replied with “Well the medical centre was excellent, and the three pharmacies I visited were lovely.”

That being said, staying indoors wasn’t too bad, with these views to admire…

We rented the most charming and secluded cottage. If I won the lottery I would buy it (I liked it that much!)

When I was feeling up to it, I didn’t have to venture too far to see more of the scenery. The cottage is surrounded on all sides by secret pathways and spectacular views.

The most spectacular part was perhaps the three waterfalls, which you surrounded the house and could be heard everywhere you went.

The village of Lochgoilhead doesn’t offer much more than a medical centre and a post office, but the one benefit of having to make multiple trips to the pharmacy, is that you get to see more of surrounding areas.

Fortunately all of the pharmacies I needed could be found in one place: the charming town of Dunoon. My grandad came from Dunoon (which perhaps explains why I’ve always prefer the west coast of Scotland) but this was my first visit to his hometown.

Sadly I couldn’t linger for as long as I’d have liked, but I’ll be sure to return. When everywhere looks as pretty as this, how can you stay away? 

Chatsworth Christmas Markets

Christmas is possibly my favourite time of year. For me it all kicks off around mid-November with a visit to the Chatsworth Christmas Markets.

We all pile into a car (including the dogs) and take the scenic route into the Peak District. 

If you love period dramas as much as I do you’ll probably recognise the house… 

It’s perhaps most famous for playing ‘Pemberley’ in the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (starring Keira Knightley)

We always start our day out either touring the house or exploring the estate. The house is themed differently each Christmas and this year’s theme is Great Expectations

However, on the day we visited the weather was too glorious to spend the morning indoors so we ventured out onto the estate…

Where we attempted to tire this little rascal out…

We climbed up the hill through the ever changing Autumn colours until we reached the folly…

Where we stopped for a while to enjoy the view.

Jacket: New Look
Jeans: Marks and Spencer
Boots: Next (old) similar here
Gloves: North Face

Eventually though it was time for lunch, so we made the somewhat treacherous trip back downhill.

My top tip is to avoid the morning crush on the market. We always have a leisurely lunch in the restaurant, and wait until the sun is setting before setting before heading out to shop.

This year’s markets run until 5th December 2017 and you can find more information here.