Dress to kill

DRESS

Marbella, on the Costa del Sol.

Let’s be upfront about something. The town doesn’t hold much appeal for me. I come here for two things, and two things only: La Cañada, and R’s family gatherings. It’s the latter that brings us here this Saturday, a warm December day that promises tapas, wine and friendly chatter.

Driving into any town is a strain on our relationship. We usually bicker, trying to find a parking space or just trying to find our way. This time round we have a go at each other when we drive into a car park that charges a maximum of 20 Euros a day and I decide to immediately leave again via the other exit. R is anxious to get out of the car and not waste the day looking for parking. I am anxious not to waste 15 Euros I know we can save if we just find our way to the market. Different priorities, you see. You win some, you lose some. As I am the designated driver, I win this one.

Marbella, though posh and at times overpriced, doesn’t score on the style front in my books. Frankly there is some awful crap to be had, for people with more money than sense. This would mean that shopping in Marbella wasn’t of any interest to me, but then, you see, there is La Cañada and having driven for over an hour, it would be a waste not to go there after a few tapas and pinxos with family G. The wine facilitates that R agrees to come along, the wine and my insistence that we need to get him a new pair of jeans. I’m not that worried about his jeans quite frankly but any excuse is good enough. Purchase made, I send him off to do some shopping on my own. Nothing worse than a bored boyfriend following you doggy eyed around the stores.

It’s Christmas though. The shops are full of tack. I find myself in Desigual, of all places, a shop that until recently I used to loathe with a vengeance, and which just about managed to redeem itself by providing me with this year’s best winter coat. But today, I spot something different that gets my heart racing and my head spinning with excitement.

*drumsolo*

It’s a dress.

A dress, okay?

Anyone who knows me knows that I wear dresses pretty much every day. I have many. I counted fifty a while back and the collection has been steadily growing since. Mentally ill perhaps, but also very, very much my style. The dress is buttoned, with a collar and full skirt, and a rather bonkers pattern. This dress is not for the faint-hearted. This dress is for the serial dresser.  When I lure R in to have a look he is magically drawn to it.

“That really caught my eye.”

“Uhu,” I nod, eyes gleaming.

“That’s really you”.

Thank you, R. You totally made my day.

However, there is a problem. The one in my size has a huge rip across the belt. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed, but I won’t buy anything that’s already falling apart in the shop and especially not if it has a Desigual price tag. The second one they have in my size (yay) has bobbles all over the fabric (doh). I have multiple mental disorders when it comes to clothing and OCD is definitely one of them. I won’t buy anything that’s less than perfect. I couldn’t enjoy it. It would make me feel dirty. So, I leave the shop with nothing but a tear in my eye. R tells me how proud he is of me for walking away, but his words just ring hollow in the emptiness of the bereavement I feel inside.

The following night, I have wine-fuelled dreams about the dress. Something’s gotta be good if it follows me to the other side of consciousness, so when we return to Tarifa the next morning I find myself frantically mulling over the options. There is a Desigual section in El Corte Ingles in Algeciras…. however the dress doesn’t appear when I check their website. Bugger! When I check for it on Desigual’s own website, I discover that my size has sold out. At this point I’m breaking into a cold sweat, and not only because I can still feel the aftermath of last nights one brandy too many. I am cursing Tarifa now, if this was Dublin I’d be out there right now getting my teeth into this dress in one of its many temples to consumption. But this is small town Spain, it’s December and it’s Sunday. What I’m saying is, it’s dead out there. Totalmente muerte. All I can do is search every nook and cranny of the web. I finally find the dress on Amazon.co.uk. God bless a good multi billion dollar online operation.

Why am I telling you this, you wonder? Because small towns are full of surprises. As I write, R has left the house to witness a “pig stabbing” – his words, not mine. Apparently there is a traditional slaughter festival going on in the Alameda square of the town this afternoon. As a vegetarian, staying at home seems sensible. Also, my dress has arrived from Amazon and I need to spend a good half hour going over it for quality control purposes. It actually has a small printing error on the fabric but I think I can live with it. Did I mention I have OCD?  Later this afternoon, I chance leaving the house for a trip to the local supermarket to pick up some (non-pork) dinner supplies, hoping not to run into any pigs being chased by men with pitchforks. No pigs, however another otherworldly sight has me mesmerized as I turn the first corner onto the Batalla del Salado, the new town main street which is littered with trendy surf shops. It’s an apparition. It just has to be.

My dress, the exact dress I ordered all the way from England, on display in a shop window less than a two minute walk from my front door. I blink but the image just won’t go away. I blink again. Then I walk on briskly, feeling utterly foolish.

Let’s just never mention the carbon footprint of my purchase again, shall we? I promise I’ll make up for it by loving and wearing it for a very long time. But let’s mention at this point that it is indeed safe for vegetarians to come and visit our beautiful home town on Spain’s Southernmost tip. As R confirmed, no pigs were harmed in town today (they already arrived dead, bless them), and if you’re looking for a dress to kill, Tarifa’s as good a place as any to start looking.

Shopping, Spanish-Style

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Location: Sevilla. Calle Tetuán. It’s four o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and I am shopping.

Imagine a busy pedestrian street like in any other part of the world, but with added Spanish charm. The buildings here are picturesque reminders that this is the capital of Andalucía, and that this city is loved and looked after. The afternoon light gives everything a deep orange glow, and even though the air is cold, the sun still has some heat in it at this time of year. This is a perfect location for shopping.  Fiancée dumped in a beer venue of some sort, I feel elated as I stroll through this beautiful place and my fellow shoppers, mostly Spanish, exude chic and understated elegance. There’s also some – not so understated – fur and the occasional face lift.

After two years of finding our feet in this new country, which to me has felt at times like a crazy permanent holiday paired with the sensation of being up very high on a very thin rope, I do feel strangely at home here. The first (few) Spanish friends have emerged like blossoms from the debris of broken relationships, after having moved countries twice already in my life. Two tedious years of trying to learn Spanish mean that I now have the linguistic abilities of an eight year old, and I use it very proudly on anyone who can muster up the patience to listen to my stutter.

Last but not least, being in Spain has definitely altered and evolved my style. After spending the latter half of my twenties in Ireland, rampaging through trends like a car without breaks, I now feel closer to myself than ever. Some credit, I believe, should go to the “Spanish woman”.

Spanish women, it appears to me, dress differently. Everything feels that little bit more grown up around here. I won’t try to sound like an expert on what “they” like to wear. Really, I can only talk about what I see around me, and I can’t speak for places like Madrid which I have yet to explore. But here today, in Sevilla, I see knee high beautifully made leather boots peeking out from underneath gorgeous coats, pashmina or silk scarves wrapped around beautiful necklines and big, Spanish hair framing beautiful classic faces. I can’t help but feel a bit down on myself being confronted with all this beauty. It doesn’t help that I had a sleepless night and am all puffy faced. Note to self: Black under eye rings only ever look cute on koala bears. Urgently replace Clinique Airbrush concealer before they ship you off to the zoo.

The feeling of inadequacy is reinforced when I enter the first changing room. Spanish sizing, it seems, is not made for your average Teutonic maiden. In Zara or Mango, I need a large and sometimes an extra large. I am 5ft 11 and a size 12/14 (12 on a good day, 14 on the remaining 360 days of the year). What I’m saying is, I didn’t think I was a case for special sizing. But a lot of Zara or Mango stores don’t even bother stocking extra large. As I try to squish into a “large” tailored dress which is anything but, the sight of my bum wrestling to escape the fabric pushes me over the edge. I leave Zara, infuriated. How can people here be so slim when they are gorging themselves on delicious tapas all the time?! I don’t get it. I decide to abandon shopping for a minute and meet up with a thoroughly beer infused R for a drink and bespoke tapa.

A good glass of wine always manages to take the edge of my misery. There is no such thing as effortless chic, I read in one of my personal style books, and they’re right. The thing is, if you’re not as beautiful or slim as the women around you, all you can do is dress better than everybody else. I have the hang of that, I do. Motivated, I set off on the second leg of my Sevilla shopping spree.

Next stop H&M. I’ve gone off H&M lately but this time round I come across a rather interesting little section. Design house Maison Martin Margiela has collaborated with H&M and recreated some of their catwalk looks from seasons gone by. I have a browse through the collection but it’s all just a little too whacky and avant-garde for my liking. I think the locals must be in agreement because the section appears deserted and more or less untouched. I remember it being a similar story when H&M collaborated with Versace last year. While (so I hear) fashion enthusiasts in London queue up for half the night to be first in line when the store opens, the Sevillanas appear to be pulling up their noses at the designers. So, is Andalucia less trendy than London or Dublin? You bet. But is it less stylish? The answer is not quite that easy.

Another piece of wisdom taken from my style literature: true style is based on the ability to say no to fleeting trends that do not suit your style and personality. I think the beautiful women here have it down to an art. I salute their beauty, their understated chic, and their ability to say no to clothes they don’t like, no matter what label is printed on the inside. With that in mind, I abandon shopping for the day, wrap my beautiful Desigual coat tightly around me and meet R for a sunset stroll on the Metropol Parasol, where we watch the city lights come on one by one as the sky darkens, the Giralda in the middle distance reminding us that this is Seville, the capital of Andalucía, symbol of Spain.

How to dress for …. Christmas

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Less than two weeks and Christmas is once again upon us. What to wear, I hear people around me scream?

Don’t worry, K is here to help you. Follow the rules below and you’ll look amazing. Guaranteed.

 

How to dress….

… for the company Christmas party

 The company Christmas bash is a social and alcohol infused affair in most cases but remember that your boss is still your boss and he or she will remember how you behaved outside the office, even if you won’t. It goes without saying that heavy flirting or drunk and disorderly behavior are a no go. Regarding your outfit, under no circumstances should you give into the temptation to go overly short and sparkly. You are not competing with the tree. Really. Not. Not even if everybody else is doing it. A long evening gown, or an evening suit, are a much better way of spending your money as they will be useful for other occasions during the year, whereas the typical Christmas party dress will look inappropriate at any other time of the year then – well – Christmas. If you can’t say no to the sparkle, little black dresses go a long way dressed up with lots and lots of jewellery (try wearing a big brooch on your waistband, for example). Try dressing up a plain black dress or suit with a gorgeous (fake) fur coat or an embellished evening coat that you can also wear with jeans during the day for a statement entrance. Monsoon have great pieces. Finally, there is no need to go with the usual somber colors for the Christmas party. Slightly off white is a fantastic color to wear in winter.

… for the family Christmas party

Family christmasses are notorious for sitting around for days on end eating and drinking more than your trousers can handle. Bear this in mind when you get dressed – for once comfort comes before style. Flattering cuts and materials that have a bit of give, in stain-friendly dark colors, are the way to go – think jersey wrap dresses or knitwear to avoid any wardrobe related desasters. If a dress can hide half a roast bird and two bottles of port, then that’s the dress for your family Christmas. 

… for a Christmas party with friends

The way to dress for a Christmas brunch, lunch or drinks with friends depends on the company and whether or not you are single. Being single in a group of couples is bad enough, worse if it’s Christmas and intolerable if you are wearing head to toe animal print and are carrying a toy dog. Whatever you do, just don’t overdo it. Some girls have a habit of getting everything done for Christmas: hair and makeup, nails, lashes. This is not beautification, ladies. You are scaring people. Relaxed and classic is the way to go. Smile politely at the attending couples. They’re not all that happy – they’ve just had a lot of wine.   

Merry Christmas everybody x

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

mistletoe_outline

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and I am grumpy. The perfume shop, which is blasting out this tune on Gibraltar’s busy main street today, is dead to me anyway, since they sold me an expensive bottle of foundation in the wrong color and then refused to exchange it. A place where cruise ship passengers pass through in their thousands every day is not big on customer service, as I probably should have known, but didn’t

Today the main street is incredibly packed. It’s still three weeks to go till Christmas but that doesn’t stop people shopping. It also doesn’t mean that they are going about it in a relaxed manner.

For once I hate shopping. Very unlike me, I know. But being repeatedly elbowed in the face in British Home Stores while trying to get to a set of little wooden figurines displaying the nativity scene (I know, I’m not sure why I wanted them either) has my blood boiling. While I’m still considering whether to slap the big bottomed middle aged lady that got in front of me with a fake mistletoe arrangement, bespoke mistletoe has been snapped up by another desperate housewife. Defeated by big bottoms. Sometimes you just have to know when you’re beaten.

I love Christmas for the tree, the decorations, even the bad music. I love it for seeing family, for overeating and for having an excuse to put reindeer antlers on your cats (available for £4 each in Accessorize).

I hate Christmas for the shitty presents both given and received, for the blind rush of senseless spending and for the awful Christmas parties. I am dreading the inevitable renditions of our office talent on the karaoke machine. Dear so and so, if you read this, I’m really only jealous. Wink, wink. My fiancée R however could tell you a tale or two about what it is like to really loathe a Christmas party. Every single year, the invitation to join my company bash is extended to gentlemen in dinner suits. Every single year, R pitches up in his grey three piece number from Next, mind you, without a tie. Without meaning to be disrespectful, none of us feels in any way inclined to buy a dinner suit for a small fortune, an item of clothing so useless to R you might as well flush the money down the toilet. So far he’s never been refused entry and if the day ever comes we’ll just sit on a bench in the marina drinking some cheap Gibraltarian booze straight from the bottle. When it comes down to it I’m really not that posh.

Me on the other hand, I really enjoy shopping for party dresses. Oh hang on a minute – no I don’t. The other morning I overheard the girls in the office talking about which dress they were going to wear for the Christmas party, and just about managed to stifle a yawn. The sparkle, the sequins, the endless embellishments bore the (shiny) hell out of me. Glitter and sequins almost always look tacky, the dress you spent a fortune on will look dated before the party is over. I refuse to splash out on an item of clothing that I get to wear once a year, and that’s that. So a couple of years back, I snatched up a nice little black chiffon number in Monsoon for an apple and an egg (old German saying), and a fake fur wrap in Aftershock for equally little money. Et voila, I proudly present my Christmas party outfit. Yup, I’ve worn it three years in a row. Yup, I’ll wear it again this year. And you know what – because I only wear this dress once a year, nobody will notice. Now that’s clever.

Up next: my top tips on smart party shopping.