Friday, November 27, 2009

Isabella Oliver Maternity

I'll let you in on a little secret about all the wonderful high street maternity ranges that are supposedly out there at the moment - they're not all out there and they're not all that wonderful. Take Dundrum shopping centre, for example. That place is constantly full of pregnant women, yet Marks & Spencer have got rid of the small maternity section they had, Zara has one rail containing a few pairs of jeans and a few shirts, H&M has a number of depressingly plain acrylic pieces and Mamas and Papas, where one would expect to find a good range of stock, has mostly ugly and unflattering styles (apologies to anyone who has shopped there recently and found something they like - I just didn't see anything that suited me). Oh and don't get me started on Gap maternity.

So thank goodness for Isabella Oliver. While you won't find any trend-led pieces or interesting prints and colours here, you will find a good range of the basic items which will take you through your pregnancy and which can be accessorised to add your own personal style. I've tried a couple of their pieces and now that there's a 20% off code (TREAT09) valid until December 1st, I'm sure I'll find a few more things I need.

Two of the pieces I have and love are the Scoop Top (long sleeves) in black and the Cap Scoop Top (short sleeves) in grey. These both fit beautifully (I'm a UK10 and wear a size 2 from Isabella Oliver) and have a nice amount of stretch to them, making them very comfortable to wear. They are nice and long in the body, so I'm not constantly tugging them down. The ruching in the front also gives a really nice shape and plenty of growing room for an expanding bump and they work very well under my ever-growing collection of cardigans. One thing I'd note is that the extra panel of fabric inside the front of these only comes down to the top of the bump and it's quite visible through the fabric in the white colour if you're not wearing anything underneath, so I returned the one I'd ordered in white. In grey and black it isn't noticeable at all, however.

Prices are a little steep here, but so far I think you get what you pay for with them - the clothes wash well and hold their shape, so they will last. There is also free shipping for orders over €65 and when you buy multiples of the tops, there is usually a discount. Exchanges are also very easy if you find something doesn't fit and you won't be charged for shipping on exchanged items with your first exchange.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shiny new Mulberry (not so shiny new prices)

If you had a bit of cash to spend on something purely frivolous this Christmas, you could do a lot worse than the Mulberry Bayswater Clutch (€580) in Antique Gold Cracked Metallic Leather. And if gold is just too obvious for you at Christmas, I also rather like the Midnight Blue version (though I do wonder how well the cracked leather finish on these bags lasts). If you'd prefer a more traditionally-sized clutch, the Small Bayswater Clutch in the Rouge Noir Wrinkled Patent Leather (€420) is a lovely option (and one I'll be watching the post-Christmas sales for).

As I browsed the Mulberry site, however, having been drawn in by the shiny, seasonal clutches, I was pretty shocked to see that my ultimate Mulberry bag, the traditional Bayswater in the oak natural leather has shot up in price from €650 to €750 overnight! Apparently Mulberry wanted to bring the prices of their traditional bags into line with the more expensive newer styles, but what a strange time to do it. It seems Irish shops aren't quite jumping on the pricing bandwagon just yet. Brown Thomas has increased the price of the natural leather Bayswater from €650 to €675 and from what I've heard, House of Fraser hasn't increased the price at all at this point. So if you had a purchase in mind, now might be the time to do it!

Images courtesy

Monday, November 16, 2009

Edvard Munch: Prints at the National Gallery

We finally took ourselves off to see the Edvard Munch: Prints exhibition at the National Gallery in Dublin at the weekend. It's been open since September and is only running until December 6th, so I wanted to make sure we got in before it was gone again. And with the way the weeks have been running away from me, that was a real risk.

Featuring 40 of Munch's finest prints, including a lithograph of The Scream, the exhibition covers all of the important themes of Munch's work and is an intriguing look at printmaking techniques. The prints are beautifully displayed in rooms with dimmed lighting, accompanied by useful histories of Munch, the art world he worked in and the different printmaking techniques he used.

Oh and don't believe all you read on the website above there - admission to the Gallery may be free, but there's a €5 entry fee for the exhibition. Well worth it, however. Make sure to go around lunchtime so you can enjoy the lovely soups and cakes in the cafe afterwards.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Earning my stripes

I have a terrible tendency to buy the same type of clothes over and over again once I find a formula I love. And so my not-very-fashion secret comes out - if I had to pick one outfit to live in, it would be jeans, a long-sleeved stripy tee and Converse. Not very creative or individual, but so damn easy when you don't know what else to wear on a quiet Sunday.

So when I spotted this perfect example of the striped tee in Gap on Saturday, I promptly bought it. In three colours (oh yes, my other fashion secret is my slightly OCD tendency to buy multiple colours of items I really like - I also got the dark blue merino wool cardigan which I already have in brown). Navy, red and purple all caught my eye, and I must confess I might have even got the grey too if they'd had it in my size. These are soft, warm, satisfyingly long in sleeve and body and very accommodating of my growing bump. And when they're past their best for outdoor wear, they'll make fantastic pyjama tops.

Good work, Gap (despite the fact that you wouldn't let me use the 30% discount on your cashmere range).

Price: €22
Image courtesy

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chocolates with style from Altmann & Kuehne

One of my favourite shops in Vienna isn't a grand department store or a trendy clothing emporium, but a teeny tiny little chocolate shop called Confiserie Altmann & Kuehne. In there you'll find the most beautifully packaged boxes of the most divinely diminutive hand-made chocolates - all very Alice in Wonderland.

Pick out the box you like (as well as the traditional box below, you could choose a heart-shaped box, a mini hat-box or - if feeling particularly decadent - a sewing-case which opens in tiered levels), the colour design of your choice and the lovely ladies will wrap it up carefully so it makes it home in one piece. And in case you don't plan to visit Vienna any time soon, you can even order online at the link above.

The only difficult part is trying to restrain yourself from eating the whole box in one go...

The outer layer

One layer in

The gorgeous Wiener Werkstaette design box

And the payoff

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Book

In case you didn't arrive here via (sometimes I promise something here, such as the NARS foundation reviews and it ends up there instead), you might not be aware of the launch of The Guide to Gorgeous. A vision in pink loveliness, this is a really informative and fun-to-read guide to all things beauty, packed full of expert opinion and user comments on various beauty products, treatments and remedies.

Check out the fun at the recent launch of the book in Dublin here, and order your own copy here.