Monday, 27 February 2012

Bargain of the week: Kate Middleton's lace dress for £15

This week's bargain features two of my love/hate relationships. First up comes Kate Middleton. With her perfect hair, she makes a perfect Princess. But, bless you Kate, I just can't stand that you have such good high street fashion sense. Everything she's spotted in sells out in milliseconds (probably) so us non-royals barely get a look in at the good stuff. 

Then there's Primark. They have some absolutely fantastic copies of high end clothes at bargain prices. But there's that whole ripping off the original designer's intellectual property thing. Really I shouldn't approve, but when you get Prada looks for pennies, I struggle to look away.

Lace tulip dress, £69.99, Zara
Also available in a fetching green lace.
Anyway, all you K-Middy lovers out there will be excited to hear that A) I spotted her black lace and nude dress back in stock in Zara the other day and B) if you're strapped for cash, good old Primark have a similar dress for only £15. 

Black lace dress, £15, Primark
(Will look better on you than it does on the hanger.) 
At only £69.99 for the Zara original, it's not that bad but then this post would be titled 'Moderately priced purchase of the week' and that just doesn't roll off the tongue as nicely.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Spring clean your make-up bag

Warning: this post contains images of dirty brushes, imperfect packaging and other crimes that beauty junkies may find offensive.

How many times have you heard about the germs your make-up bag harbours? Magazines are always banging on about how dangerous it is to use old products and how important it is to clean your brushes. But, if I'm being completely honest, while I know how bad it is, I still don't do it. I confess: I haven't cleaned my brushes in, er, at least 18 months and I have eyeshadows from when I was a teenager. Oh god, that makes me sound ancient. I mean, sure it's...five years (eek!) since I was a teen but still!

Ahem, sorry for the diversion there. Anyway, spring is apparently springing (regardless of the weather) so it's time to do a bit of spring cleaning - starting with your make-up bag.

1. Clean your brushes
My dirty little secret
Look at that. Disgusting isn't it? I do rinse them every so often under a little hot water but, according to the experts you really should think about deep cleaning your brushes every 3-4 weeks at the very least. 

I did a big cleaning binge this evening and got out all my dailies, travel and even the little brushes they give with eyeshadows and powders. All you need to do is give them a little bath in warm water and massage some baby shampoo into the bristles (I use Johnson's no more tears). Once it's lathered up, rinse under the tap until the water runs clear, then leave to dry overnight. As an optional extra, I usually run a wide tooth comb through thicker brushes to get rid of any loose bristles and knots - et voila! Beauty crisis averted.

2. Get rid of old products
The easiest way to do this is to be brutal. Organise your stuff into three groups: use regularly; used recently; can't remember using/never want to use/out of date. Anything that's in the third pile, throw it away!

A sneak peak at what's in my make-up bag
3. Invest in good tools
If you have good brushes and take care of them, they will last for years. Mine - a mixture of Ms. Makeup from Boots and Ruby & Millie - have served me well, although I don't wear make-up every day and even then go for quite a natural look. They were relatively cheap (under £10 a piece) but if you love your beauty it is definitely worth investigating a specialist brand (I've heard Mac and The Body Shop are particularly good).

If you're in the market for a new make-up bag, opt for a material or plastic coated one (easy to wash or wipe clean if there's a spillage) and make sure there's plenty of room for any new beauty buys!

Do you have any top tips for keeping your beauty buys in check? Leave a comment and share with everyone.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Bargain of the week: £5 triangle cocktail ring

Triangle cocktail ring, £5, Matalan
I'm loving all the Egyptian and tribal fashion vibes at the moment so when I spotted this gold coloured ring in Matalan I just couldn't leave it there. It's got this lovely intricate detailing which reminds me a bit of Toblerone (not a bad thing in my book!) and gives a great big nod to Nicole Richie's gorgeous House of Harlow 1960 triangle ring. Celeb style on a bargain or what?

When I picked this up last week, Matalan had a big 3 for 2 jewellery offer on too. I clubbed together with my mum to get a lovely pair of gold disc earrings while she found a set of three sparkling glass stacking rings.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Friday fashion tip: how to rock 50s glamour

Lovely guest blogger Martha Cliff is back with some excellent advice on how to add a 50s touch to any outfit with simple accessories - enjoy!

So here we are again. It’s that time of year when the designers are inconsiderate enough to flash all of their fancy new Spring/Summer designs at us when they know full well that we are in no position to wear them - what with it being about minus 100 degrees outside and us requiring an all day spa sesh before we can even consider getting any flesh out.

But alas they don’t hear our fashion cries and continue to produce summer-loving garments that we hate to love. This season the fashion consensus seems to be retro. With designers such as Prada, Meadham Kirchhoff and Jonathon Saunders displaying a plethora of pretty 50s pastels. It seems that the whole world is reaching back to the past when the future seems bleak. But how on earth can you pull off this look in mid winter, on a limited budget and without it looking too dated? Well with the help of a few key accessories Chic & Cheerful will show you how. 

1. Mulberry floral bow tie, $68, Forage; 2. Chiffon frill band, £11, Tabio; 3. Chilly dog, £79.99, Irregular Choice; 4. Leopard leather contrast belt, £20, Topshop; 5. Sarah round glass, £60, Kurt Geiger; 6. Spot lace glove with frill, £10, Accessorize; 7. Bow fascinator, £12, French Connection
1. Neck-st to nothing
Probably the easiest way to transform a tired winter outfit into spring retro chic is to give your neck some attention. It is so often invisible underneath huge cascading snoods this time of year it will be happy to see a bit of sunlight. Opt for lace peter pan collars (Rokit have some great ones), silk neck ties for truly girly 50’s chic, or a bow tie for a modern masculine twist. Sandra Dee is practically green with envy.

2. Sock it to ‘em 
A truly iconic 50s look is a cute little pop sock. But if you’re not quite ready to part with your thermal socks yet, Tabio has the perfect solution: sock bands that rest on the top of socks. Pair with a court shoe and you're practically time travelling. 

3. Put your best foot forward
The 50s saw the emergence of non-practical clothing: no more ‘dig for victory’ wellies, it was time for some fancy foot wear. Even if your usual work look calls for charcoal grey that doesn’t mean your feet can’t have any fun. Meadham Kirchoff was all over the kitsch retro theme with cute characters and bright colours in their Spring/Summer show - why not channel the look with Irregular Choice’s fabulous footwear?

4. Belt up
Probably the cheapest but also the most effective way of achieving a retro look is a skinny belt. The catwalk was flooded with them last season and this season the high street has the top trump. Channel the Mad Men look by belting up a mac or wrap round a chunky knit to accentuate an hour glass silhouette.

5. Open your eyes
We all get those days when being glamorous is the last thing on our mind. So it's a wonder how 50s housewives had immaculate homes and could give Miss Hepburn a run for her money. Their secret? Simple sunnies. They scream effortless glam, the ‘I’m too gorgeous to care’ kind of look.  Great for the busy, budgeted woman.

6. You’ve gotta hand it to ‘em
It’s all very well wanting to be fashion forward, buts it’s not always practical between seasons. Yes you might not need a duffle coat any more but chapped hands are not an attractive look. Light gloves are the perfect half-way point between next season vintage glamour and last season’s fashion frost bite!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Beauty Wednesday: Tesco's 99p nail varnish reviewed

All About Nails Praline (left) and Oyster, 99p, Tesco
The thing with cheap make up is, it's usually just...awful. There's no other word for it. It takes me back to the days of glittery eyeliner, Miss Sporty and hair mascara. Ergh.

So when I heard about Tesco's new All About Nails nail polish, coming in at a bargain 99p, I was understandably quite wary. Surely a paint for 99p is not going to be good, right? But how wrong I was. It's actually pretty decent. It's no Bourjois-dries-in-two-seconds-and-you-only-need-one-coat but it doesn't pretend to be.

There's a really nice fashionable range of colours: I tried the matte baby pink Oyster and purpley-brown with a hint of sparkle Praline and was very pleased with the result. The paint is a little bit runny though, so make sure you don't load up the brush too much, and you'll definitely need two coats for an even shade. I also found that it does take a little bit longer to dry - although this may be a result of me normally buying quick dry polishes.

Overall, a surprise find, perfect for a bargain beauty treat.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Every year I hear someone go on about how Valentine's day is so commercialised, so depressing for single people and generally so much of a waste of time and money. But I guess as you will have gathered from this week's Bargain of the week, I don't really see it that way. Sure, you may not have a partner to spend it with but you do have fantastic friends and family who could do with a bit of appreciation every now and then. So if you're at a lose end this evening, why not celebrate Valentine's day by having some fun with the people you love?

L-R Jelly moulds, £5.95; Sundae moulds, £8; Biscuits in a bag, £20, Twister, £10.63;
Vienna cocktail shaker, £30; Playnation two tone glassware, £6 each; Bright 
 with container, £6; Farhi heart shaped marshmallows in a box, £4, All John Lewis.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Bargain of the week: Valentine's day gift bags

This week's bargain is a sharing the love Valentine's special. Last week two of my very good friends were having a bit of a miserable time so I decided to do something special. I put these little gift bags together to cheer the girls up - and they worked a treat!

The notecards read 'For when boys are being rubbish, work is a nightmare or you just need a smile on your face, here's a little care package! (Because all a girl needs is some jewellery, chocolate and a bit of pampering).'

Each bag contained Guylian seahorses, candy jewellery and All About Nails hot pink nail varnish (99p, Tesco). It cost £5 to make both bags but the looks on the girls' faces were priceless!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Beauty Wednesday: Soap & Glory thick and fast mascara reviewed

Soap & Glory thick and fast mascara
Let me start off by saying I love Soap & Glory. Their bath products are some of my absolute favourites so I was really looking forward to trying their new cosmetics range. A few years back I picked up one of their concealers (it may have been an under eye concealer but I'm not one hundred percent sure) and while it wasn't the best I've ever owned, I was hoping they'd worked out all the kinks with their new beauty line.

This full size sample of Soap & Glory's thick and fast mascara is free with this month's ELLE magazine but usually costs £10. My staple product is Maybelline's Great Lash mascara (£4.99, Boots) so I was expecting something which would knock Great Lash out of the park for double the price.

A well-loved Great Lash compared to S&G
I want to say I wasn't disappointed, I really do. But it just wasn't good enough. The brush, for starters, was just a basic mascara wand: bristles in a spiral shape, not overly flexible, just a mascara wand. But super sized. I mean really, look at that photo. It's huge. You have to be so careful when applying that you don't smudge it all over your eyelids.

Not the best light but hopefully you can see what three coats did to my lashes
The name 'thick and fast' gives the impression that it will add volume, not just length, but even after a few coats my lashes were just long and spindly. Although I do have to give it credit for not flaking, even after a long day's wear.

I'm more of a natural look kinda girl but if you like long spider lashes then S&G might work for you. But really I think there are better mascaras out there for a tenner.

Soap & Glory addict? Stock up with a limited edition one litre righteous butter, infused with diamond dust for a subtle sheen, exclusively from!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Bargain of the week: Victoria Beckham cat print from Red Herring

Right, I've shot myself in the foot this week. In my scribbled notebook of post ideas I cleverly managed to bundle last night's feline fashion post with today's bargain of the week. So bear with me while I repeat myself a little bit then give you some extra discount information.

Left: Red Herring tan cat print dress, £25, Debenhams
Right: Victoria, Victoria Beckham cat print dress
Ahem. Wowee, look at this dress we've never featured before on Chic & Cheerful. Don't you think it looks just like Vicky B's infamous cat print? This fantastic find from Red Herring at Debenhams will give you a little bit of Beckham glamour at what I imagine is a teensy tiny fraction of Victoria's price.

Until 10 February 2012 you can get this dress for a bargainous £20 when you enter the Daily Mail's new season 20% off code (TH96) at the checkout.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

In a feline fashion frenzy

I'm more of a dog person. I know that's a terrible way to start off a post about cats but it's true. I love the whole silly, loving way that pups have; cats are just too smart for my liking. 

But in fashion, kittens make for kitsch and playful designs (perfect for this season's childlike motifs and my love of quirky tea dresses!). For quite a while the catwalk has been getting all, er, catty and now the trend has finally found its way to the high street. Purr over these picks while I think up some better puns.

1. Paul & Joe cat collection eyeshadow, £21.50 & blusher stick, £21, ASOS; 2. Baby kitten ring by Michelle Chang, $62, Etsy; 3. Cat print crossover bag, £18, ASOS; 4. NW3 Beau cat brooch, £29, Hobbs; 5. Wild cat tee, £20, Miss Selfridge; 6. Grey cat canvas bag, £20, Miss Selfridge; 7. Jeepers Peepers cat eye sunglasses, £18, ASOS; 8. Big cat scarf, £22, ASOS; 9. Purr over lasted suede wedge, £75, ASOS; 10. Kitty flats, £485, Charlotte Olympia; 11. Pelican platform peep toe cat print block heels, £50, ASOS.
Mrs Beckham you surprise me more and more every day. Her cutesy little collection for diffusion line Victoria now has a charming cat inspired promo video to its name too. Take a look:

If you want a bit of Victoria Beckham style in your life, the print on this Red Herring dress from Debenhams bears a bit of a resemblance to VB's signature kitty print from her collection - but its only a fraction of the price!

Left: Red Herring tan cat print dress, £25, Debenhams
Right: Victoria, Victoria Beckham cat print dress

Friday, 3 February 2012

Friday fashion tip: Mirabelle jewellery

Mulberry went on a summer holiday for SS12 inspirations
Oh I would like to be beside the seaside! While Britain is freezing over, you can still pick up on the beachy trends from SS12 with these beautiful shell bracelets from Mirabelle.

1. Shell bracelet, £25, ASOS; 2. Muscle shell bangle, £25, ASOS;
3. Shell bangle, £25, ASOS; 4. Black spiral shell bangle, £15, Mirabelle.
I just love Mirabelle's pieces. Founder Veronique Henry is a strong believer in the power of jewellery to lift the spirits. Her collections are inspired by her love for South East Asia and every piece shows off a great form and texture. Stunning.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Keep warm, stay stylish

Gloves: Etre fivepoint, £40
Scarf: from the Canary Islands
Necklace: Urban Outfitters, £8

I love a bit of matchy-matchy when it comes to winter accessories. Don't get me wrong, I'm not strutting around in green boots, scarf, gloves, hat and coat or anything. I just love pairing different finds, I'm not completely bonkers! In the days when fashion is all about clashing prints and daring combinations, it's nice to tone it down every once in a while.

I was sent these gadget friendly gloves from Etre a few weeks back but had been struggling to find time to review them. Thankfully, a photography trip to the big city in this cold snap called for some tech-savvy fingerwear. And boy did they work a treat. Not only could I snap away perfectly but my hands were super snuggly in pure new wool.

Gloves: Etre touchy, £35
Scarf: Moschino cheap and chic
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