Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

Bring. It. On.

In Famous people, Princess Catherine, Royal Wedding, Weddings on April 28, 2011 at 9:58 pm



Bunting? Check. Cup cakes? Check. Pimms? Check. Five females of immediate family? Check. Gay BFF? Check. . Mad hat? Check. OK… BRING IT ON.

I’m posting this a day early because I’m in a Royal Wedding Frenzy. To the point where one of my nieces asked me tonight if I’ve taken out shares in the Union Jack…

Apologies to all my Republican Aussie pals and readers, I do understand how you must feel. When I’m holding my Australian passport, I’m a Republican too. But when I’m holding my British one, I’m a committed monarchist.

I know all the arguments against it and I know it’s a ridiculous anachronism, but to me, it’s such a part of the rich fabric of Britain, the country would be a shell without it.

And on a completely unintellectual level, I just love the pomp and ceremony of it all. The Household Cavalry, in particular, make me swoon. I remember once just coming across a company of them trotting down the Mall one spring morning and bursting into tears. I know it’s pathetic, but if you get it – you’ll understand.

I also think Prince William is a diamond geezer. He has all his mother’s best qualities, combined with his father’s sense of duty and it’s a winning mix. He cuts a dashing figure and he’s made a perfect wife choice in normal – if ultra gorgeous – middle class Ms Middleton.

And of course the fact that she did the same degree as me, at the same university makes me feel a little bit connected. We actually have mutuals… My lovely professor will probably be there at the Abbey. I’m going to look out for her when I’m five centimetres from my TV screen tomorrow morning.

I’ll be wearing my fabulous new/vintage hat, surrounded by my adored girly rels (and my gayer), with a glass of buck’s fizz in my hand and a street party to look forward to in the afternoon. It’s pure romance, escapism, celebration – what we all need when there’s so much crap going on in the world. I know it’s bread and circuses and I don’t care.

As well as my drink, I’ll be holding a notebook (I’ve been a journalist a long time, it’s something you learn…), as I’m reporting on it for the Sunday Age and the Sun Herald, dissecting what the guests are wearing and, of course, THAT dress.

Oh, I can hardly wait…

Utterly en-trenched

In Clothes, Famous people, Style icons, Trench coat on April 22, 2011 at 3:28 pm

I was on my way to the Savoy one recent mid-morning to meet one of my best friends for a cup of tea, when it struck me: every other woman I saw was wearing some form of trench coat.

In one little side street in Covent Garden I passed just four other women and they were all wearing them. One black, one classic beige 3/4, one leather, one leopard print. They all looked great. When I was finishing up with my friend she stood up and put on – guess what? A black Burberry trench coat.

I remember her buying that coat a year ago, as it was one of those purchases that combined equal thrill, guilt and terror, and I was her retail counsellor, promising her she wouldn’t regret it.

She hasn’t. In the year since she says she’s worn it constantly, taking it round the world on business and fun trips, wearing it to work, in the evening, all the time. It has become, she said, her default top layer.

What pleased me was to see how all that wear had softened what had started as quite a formal coat (the cotton twill is lightly satin-ed and it has divine little puffed shoulders on the sleeves) has softened into a garment of equal style and character. She’s worn it in like a great pair of jeans.

And as she knotted the belt – note bene, we’ll  be coming back to that – it looked like part of her.

Trench coats are like jeans, they go with everything and there’s permutation of the classic style to suit everybody. In particular, trench coats are the most useful single garment for trans-seasonal dressing. Whether it’s sliding into cool, as it is now in Australia, or leaping straight into weirdly hot, as it has in the UK, a trench coat is your friend.

They are available in every colour, fabric and length, at every price level these days, but the most important thing to understand about a trench is how to wear it.

It must be worn with utter insouciance – hence my point about knotting the belt. Don’t buckle it, you’ll look like an American businessman from the 1980s.

But that’s not only the wrinkle to wearing the trench. I wanted one from the moment I saw Ali McGraw running through an airport in one, in a mid-1970s film I haven’t been able to identify, despite much googling.

So I was gutted with disappointment when I went to Burberry to try one on and discovered that a short, thick-waisted blonde just couldn’t carry off that classic piece like a tall, skinny brunette. And back then they weren’t available in a million different varieties from every chain store in the land. It was Burberry or bust.

It wasn’t until I found a cheap army surplus one in really soft khaki cotton, that I figured out how to wear it for my shape and height – open, with the belt knotted at the back.

Small-waisted women – like my friend at the Savoy – look great with the belt fiercely knotted.

Or you can wear it cinched with a leather belt.

Or forget the belt altogether.

I think they look seriously great worn flapping open – and with the sleeves pushed up.

Or don’t even put your arms in the sleeves.


Trenches have a particular affinity with jeans, with stripey Breton tee shirts, and silk scarves (separately or together), but I particularly love them worn done up with bare legs. Wickedly sexy (is she wearing anything else underneath?).

The simplicity of the classic beige trench is also the perfect foil for wacky accessories. Like jeans, it’s a neutral back drop for the shout out items.

And that’s the secret of the trench. You have to make it your own, beat it into submission, abuse it a bit, until it is totally yours. Like a pair of cowboy boots, or a signature hat that you wear every day until all self-consciousness is gone, you have to break a trench coat in.

Then you will wear it with the style of the people in these pictures.





Pictures: I didn’t want to caption them underneath because it makes the pics go smaller, so here’s what they are, top to bottom:
Francoise Hardy (the website I first found it on said, Jane Birkin – but I’m trusting a French friend on this one…)
Jackie O
from the Sartorialist
from the Sartorialist
from the Sartoiralist
Bridget Bardot
from the Sartorialist
Jackie O
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Stephanie Seymour
Alain Delon (in Le Samourai)


Rule: Fitted clothes are the most flattering for bigger figures

In Clothes, Famous people, Plus sizes on April 19, 2011 at 5:51 pm


Adele is a phenomenon. The double Grammy-winning singer has equalled music sales records previously held by Madonna and the Beatles.

Her second album debuted at number one in the US charts and hit the same spot in seventeen other countries. She’s made the best cover version of a Bob Dylan track ever. And she’s only 22.

So what else is interesting about this British-born pop singer? Let me see… She has lovely auburn hair. She has a beautiful pouty mouth. She has skin like a porcelain doll. She works a liquid eyeliner even better than Amy Winehouse. Anything else? Hmmmm, oh yes, she’s a little large-boned, isn’t she?

Her size and shape really are the least interesting things about Adele, but what is worth comment is how she dresses for her size. She’s living proof that trying to hide heft looks much worse than being out and proud about it.

What Adele shows here it that fitted clothes are the way for bigger women to go. Not seeking refuge in stretch and layers, or hiding away under Mama Cass marquees, but shoulders back, chin up in fitted clothing. Here I am. Take a look.

That’s fitted, not as in tight, mind you, but as in tailored to fit, describing the shape truthfully, but not making it bulge anywhere. It’s like good upholstery. Makes the lines of whatever it is covering look sleek and sophisticated.

Seen here collecting her Grammys in February wearing a gorgeous shiny, belted dress, she’s breaking at least two of the standard rules for larger sized women, but I think she looks amazing. She looked equally good at the UK Brit music awards in a fitted black lace knee-length shift over a plain slip.

In both cases, what could have been a lot of black acreage was lifted by nifty details; the diamante brooch and belt at the Grammys and the sheer areas of lace at the Brits, where her beautiful ivory skin could shine through.

The other secret to Adele’s generous glamour is her stylised grooming. That full-on make up, with the false eyelashes and the liner. The hair as tailored as her clothing. It all adds to the gloss of her look. She’s big and she needs statements in proportion to carry it off. She’s as mannered in her styling as the babes on Madmen, there’s just more of her to love.

The one word which would define her approach is unapologetic. She doesn’t look great despite being big, it’s an essential part of it.

The thing I would like to see her embrace next is some colour. Black is the obvious choice for the downsizing optical illusion, but having pioneered the unapologetic approach, with that beautiful hair colour, I’d love to see her in emerald green satin, or even burnt orange.

Of course, Adele has a big budget (and probably a major league stylist…) and going the tailored route would involve some investment with a dressmaker, who can adjust things to fit. But wouldn’t it be worth it to have a few amazing outfits that really do the job, rather than a wardrobe of depressing it’ll-have-to-do compromises?

Another way to go would be to source old sewing patterns – you often see them in op shops – and have vintage-style pieces like Adele’s, tailor made.

Precious things come in big packages too.

Belt and braces

In Blogging, Uncategorized on April 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm


I’m posting this explanation now as a safety net, while I have an internet connection for the duration of this train journey (one hour fifteen minutes – lucky I can type fast).T

This is the thing: I’ve had to come up to mum’s to look after her. She fell over in the garden trying to deadhead a bastard dandelion and cracked her head open on the metal post of the washing line.

She also broke her wrist and has a plaster cast on it, roughly the weight of a full bottle of Bollinger.

When you are 89, live alone and are in quite frail health anyway, this is a crisis. Mind you not being able to make a cup of tea and take off your dressing gown unaided would be a crisis for any of us.

So I’m up at my mum’s where the internet is that annoying thing they keep making references to on the wireless. I can’t blog from my iPhone, or my Kindle (although I did try) and my dongle doesn’t work at her house. And internet cafes no longer exist. I found that in New York two years ago.

I had to pop down to London for a meeting this morning, hence this brief spell of patchy connection (at a cost of £8 on top of the fare of £120, for a torturously slow link, thank you Mr Branson, you may now buy another island).

I have Saturday’s blog all picture researched and ready to go, but if I can’t get online back at my mum’s this afternoon with the new dongle I’ve just bought, I won’t be able to post it until I’m home on Saturday night. Sigh…

So please bear with me. Normal service will resume shortly – and the picture above is a hint at what’s in store.

And as, if you are reading this, you have a fully functioning internet connection, may I suggest you go to Google and type in the words ‘Mercury retrograde’.

Thank you xxx

Rule: It’s really not necessary to wear skyscraper heels during the day

In Famous people, High heels, Shoes on April 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm



How glamorous does one person really need to be? Isn’t Elle McPherson fabulous enough just being alive and walking around on those legs with that hair and that smile, those lovely boys and that international business? These days, though, it seems that’s not enough.

Not only do you have to be the yummiest of mummies, and delightfully devoted, taking your kids to school yourself – you have to do it in towering high heels. Shoes with heels so wickedly spikey high the designer himself called them after the devil.

Let me be clear, I am not criticising Ms MacPherson here. She looks amazing. She’s not just wearing those jeans, she’s working them, and there’s no doubt the Christian Louboutin ‘Lucifer’ shoes propel the outfit from every day comfy to high-octane glamour. But really… is this now the bench mark for working mothers’ daywear?

What makes it hard to take is that later the same day, Elle was photographed, by some nasty intrusive paparazzo, sitting in the hairdresser’s, joyfully taking the Lucifer shoes off and rubbing her aching tootsies.

It’s all part of the conspiracy of the high heel. A living lie of ambitious women tottering around in towering heels for the most mundane of occasions and playacting an air of insouciant comfort.

‘These old things? Oh I just knock about in them…They’re like slippers to me. I can’t wear flats.’

I’ve lost count of the number of Anna Wintour wannabes who proclaim they only ever wear Manolos. One that particularly sticks in the mind was a New York plastic surgeon, who wears them while she operates. I don’t know about you, but I would really rather have my surgeon concentrating on her scalpel, than her stilettos.

Victoria Beckham is another power mum always seen in punishing heels, despite the fact that wearing them has gnarled her poor feet to such an extent, she might have to have bunion surgery.

Back in 2007 she told a journalist from London’s Daily Mail, ‘I always wear stilettos but they have given me awful feet. I hate my feet, they are the most disgusting thing about me. Part of the reason I wear such amazing shoes is to take the eye away from my horrid feet and on to the stunning shoes.’

Yet four years later, despite knowing the heels have ruined her feet, she’s still trooping around in them. Of course, that’s her look out, but what bugs me about the Killer Heel Conspiracy is the impact on young women, of celebrity role models perpetuating this lie that high heels are a good idea for every day life.

I’m not against heels per se – they’re fun and yes, they do lengthen the leg and make you look taller and slimmer – but I’m fiercely against the idea that they are a casual shoe.

Wearing them every day has become a kind of competitive prestige behaviour. As though you’re not a true wonder woman if you can’t dance backwards in high heels – whilst also being a perfect mother, supportive partner and a peer-revered internationally successful businesswoman. If you can’t hack the heels you’re not in the club.

In this way the Killer Heel Conspiracy damages not only the feet of those who fall for it – but the self esteem of those don’t. Let’s not give it further credence.

The best and perfect colour

In Clothes, Fashionistas, Shopping on April 8, 2011 at 5:54 pm


Before I kick off – just a reminder to all Sydney readers – my column will appear in the S section of the Sun Herald from this Sunday onwards. And now back to normal service…

A couple of weeks ago I got completely hysterically obsessed with the Vivienne Westwood Anglomania dress pictures above (as seen on the Matches website

Not only because it looks like it would be both flattering and very comfortable – a rare enough combination – but because of the colour.

It’s navy blue! This is the cue for me to set off a dazzling display of fireworks and cartwheel along Oxford Street.

Navy blue is the best of all colours. It just is. Of course, I love black, it’s ultra chic and slimming, but the minute the sun comes out – even on a cold day – you feel like a Sicilian widow. Or a Suzi Quatro wannabe. Or a goth.

Also, as the days turn into weeks turn into years and your face is looking less like a pert bagel and more like a collapsed bap (an image I got from my daughter, who wouldn’t eat her soft white roll the other day because, she said, it looked like grandma…), black gets harder to wear.

It drains you and draws cruel attention to the sag harbour of your jaw line. And it makes your make up look more make up-y.

Navy blue, on the other hand, has all the slimming optical illusion of black, without the down side. It’s like a warm version of black. And on top of those benefits, it looks simply wonderful with denim. Dark denim, of course, which is really navy blue denim. Hurray! Life is beautiful!

I think there are very few things which aren’t improved by being navy in colour (and I have interspersed pictures of some of my favourites), but give me in particular, a well-cut pair of super dark denim straight legs (not skinnies, cigarette shape) and a navy blue T shirt/cardie combo (cotton for spring, cashmere for winter) and I am completely happy. It’s so lengthening, you’re just one long column of navy blue.

All you need to lay over it is a bit of a feature scarf, maybe a necklace. Some great earrings. And killer shoes.

These can be anthing from Louboutin/Balenciaga/Louis Vuitton style bonkers shoes (I don’t own any of the actual above, I buy the brilliant Topshop tributes…), to my brilliant Timberland wedge deck shoes. Hunter wellies. Or even lemon yellow Havaianas, as I was wearing today.

Because navy provides such a fabulous popping backdrop for other colours. I hate black with bright colours, the clash is too harsh and obvious, but navy is enhanced by it.

My favourite summer tote is a bright orange canvas take on a game bag. Looks bloody marvellous with navy. Apple green and fuschia pink are also divine with it.

Red, I’m a little more wary of. Mixed with navy it can easily become a bit natty bandbox smart. But just a hint of it is very Riviera (especially with a stripe somewhere in the mix). I have some red wedge espadrilles that fit that box perfectly.

But here’s another wonderful navy colour combo you might not be so familiar with: navy with black. Ooh! Sharp intake of breath! So naughty, so chic, it’s one of my absolute favourites.

I had this Pauline conversion one cold early evening in Milan, leaving the Burberry show in the Duomo square, when I saw one of my favourite New York fashion editors (don’t know her name, not one of the famous ones) winding a navy blue pashmina around the neck of her black jacket.

She was wearing black jeans, black high-heeled boots, black bag and then this navy blue pashmina. Gee-nee-us. I bought one the moment I got back to London and out it comes every winter, just to take the edge of a black coat, tights and shoe combo, without going anywhere near the colour-me-beautiful pashmina thing which is so 1995.

So that’s all the good things about navy, here’s the rub: there just isn’t enough of it about. That’s why I got so excited when I saw the Vivienne Westwood dress. Navy dresses barely exist. They’re the unicorns of fashion.

But even in more everyday pieces my favourite colour can be hard to find. It drives me nuts how often I see great basics that come in every flipping colour except navy. I confess that when my daughter was a baby I often dressed her in boys’ clothes so she could wear navy.

So I was thrilled to open a Land’s End catalogue recently and find they now do all their staples in what looks like a really nice dark shade. From a company that used to torture me with useful things available only in jade and fuschia, this is a major breakthrough.

I’ve ordered this cardigan and I’ll report back.

Or you could have it in this colour….. No thank you. No contest.

Rule: If life gives you lemons – wear them

In Famous people, Fashionistas, Hats on April 5, 2011 at 8:33 pm

There’s a new Anna on the fashion block – Japanese Vogue’s Italian ‘editor-at-large’ and ‘creative consultant’ Anna Dello Russo – but before I go into any more detail on her, I have to fill SYDNEY READERS in on some changes. My column The Rules is moving.

Sadly, the Essential Style supplement of the Sydney Morning Herald (which I thought was brilliant…) is finishing boo hoo.

But the good news is that the column is going to move over to the S section of the Sun Herald. This makes a lot of sense really, as it now means it will be coming out on Sunday in Sydney and Melbourne, where it appears in M magazine, with the Age.

And, of course, I secretly love that I am in the S and M sections…

For all other readers, it will continue to appear on here every Wednesday. You can subscribe right at the bottom of this page.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, the amazing Anna Dello Russo… This is the woman all the style bloggers want to snap now outside the fashion shows in New York/London/Milan/Paris – the bi-annual outing she calls the Fashion Olympics – because she always looks nothing short of amazing. Well, beyond amazing and into extraordinary actually, nosing up towards bonkers, but in a totally fashion fabulous way.

Miss Dello Russo’s idea of daywear – and she changes three times a day, with fresh looks for morning, afternoon and evening – would be a tightly-belted, tomato red, one-shoulder, micro-mini balloon dress, with towering Christian Louboutin shoes and half a ton of costume jewellery.

In the afternoon she’ll slide into a sheer black lace tube dress over bright red underwear, accessorised with a veiled hat in the shape of two giant golden cherries.

For the evening she really dresses. At French Vogue’s recent 90 year anniversary ball she wore a vast feathered headdress Montezuma would have thought a bit OTT, over a white lace mask.

A living work of art, Miss Dello Russo has taken over the fashion world role formerly occupied by the late Isabella Blow, who died four years ago. And the two women have something in common apart from a passion for wearing extraordinary hats, very high heels and dressing at the pointiest end of the fashion spectrum.

Neither of them could be described as beauties, in the classic sense.

It was something Blow was brutally frank about. “It pains me to say so,” she once said, “but I’m ugly. I know that’s subjective, so perhaps I should say instead that I’m striking. My face is like a Plantagenet portrait.”

She more than made up for it by dressing so extravagantly the whole became far greater than the sum of the parts. So even when surrounded by some of the most ravishing women in the world, at fashion events, it would be Blow who drew the eye, the attention and the admiration of that toughest of crowds.

I haven’t read any such quotes from Dello Rosso about her own looks, but while she has a marvellous figure – the result, she claims, of three hours of ashtanga yoga, every morning – and gorgeous honey-toned Southern Italian skin, she doesn’t have the neat symmetrical facial features our culture defines as beautiful.

But it’s a strong face, more than up to carrying off the wildest adornments, which would swamp a merely pretty woman. And it seems to be Della Russo’s life work to celebrate this as a one-woman, non-stop fashion fiesta.

There are many videos of her on YouTube and her own blog, and she comes over as a most upbeat and likeable character, who believes people who wear black are depressed (‘They are not well…’), and simply has a tremendously good time dressing up and posing for the fashion groupies who mob her each day.

‘I’m a total fashion victim,’ she says, laughing.

No one seems to know how she funds her passion – she has two flats in Milan, one for her and her beloved dog, another for the clothes and her 4,000 (yes, 4,000…) pairs of shoes – although presumably designers are more than eager to get their looks on to her walking billboard back.

And you have to wonder about the emotional balancing inspiring such obsessive exhibitionism, but Della Russo’s sheer enjoyment of it all is so uplifting, none of that really matters.

She’s living evidence that you are what you wear.

How much effort do you make?

In Famous people, Grooming, Stylists on April 1, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Victoria Beckham, pictured above, always makes a massive effort with her rig outs and I’m constantly in awe. Of course, she has whole teams of professionals to help her get those pap-perfect looks ready for every airport customs and limo exit.

But there are people who make a big effort every day without that kind of SWAT team. There’s one in the offices below where I have my little writing bolt hole (to get me away from the chicken-marinading, laundry-folding, Twitter-checking procrastination temptations of the domestic setting…)

It’s a nurses’ agency and one of the women who works there always has a look going on. It might be a white pinstripe pant suit with a heel. A bright pink fabric flower in her hair. A statement scarf.

She’s not a Boldie (which the hive mind has decided is a better term for Bolder Older Ladies, than the previously suggested Foldie…), or a crazy young thing, obsessed with the latest fad.

I’d put her in her late 30s, which is a pretty sensible age. She just likes to put a look on. She makes an effort. And every time I see her, I wish I’d made more of one.

I told her so the other day, in the shared kitchen: ‘You always look great. I love seeing what you wear every day, it really cheers me up.’

And I wasn’t at all surprised when she answered in a broad northern English accent. I’d guess Yorkshire.

My friend Pam is another one. She’s a Lancashire lass, a professional gardener by trade, and when I bumped into her as she set off for work last week, she had her hair in a chignon, big pearl earrings and a large silk flower pinned on the front of her Barbour waxed jacket. For a day of bedding out plants.

Women from the north of England just seem to make much more of an effort with their everyday styling and grooming, than ones from the Midlands (where I grew up) or the South..

Scottish women and the Irish (my Dublin friends are beautifully dressed) also score highly. I don’t have enough experience of Welsh girls to know where to put them in the pecking order – I’d love you to tell me – but in England, the north wins. Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester.

Of course, as you’ll know if you’ve ever watched The Only Way Is Essex (see Amy Childs, above), women from that county (almost a separate country) have their own fiercely-groomed and ferociously spray-tanned agenda, but north country girls are the best turned out overall.

It’s not just taking the trouble to put on make up and do their hair – as opposed to just having their hair, like southern girls seem to – there seems to be a pride in putting a look together, showing your flair, which southern women seem to think is a bit embarrassing.

As though you’re big noting yourself in some unacceptable immodest some way, or – much worse – trying too hard (nightmare!).

The two women pictured here – accessories designer Katie Hillier (left) and stylist/magazine editor Katie Grand (right) – have been the coolest babes in London’s fashion world for years now, and are to me the epitome of the don’t make it look like you’ve tried Southerly style.

(Although Grand was born in Leeds she grew up in the Midlands and says her interest in fashion was inspired in her teens by her brother’s girlfriend from London…she’s an honorary southerner now.)

Their former party pal designer Luella Bartley (now retired and resident in Cornwall, seen here collecting her MBE), is another classic of the genre. And I fear my years in London’s fashion scene infected me with the uncool-to-try virus.

Over my time in Australia I did improve my game a bit, until I was having the regular blow dries and pedicures which are so normal in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and north shore – and still relatively unusual in the southern counties of England.

Does the standard vary like this between different parts of other countries? We all know about the Melbourne penchant for black and the Sydney preference for showing quite a bit of flesh, but I’ve never seen a better dressed bunch of women than in the queue for the Valentino exhibition in Brisbane last year.

Of course, you’d have to be interested in style to go to that show, but I was blown away by the elegance and immaculate grooming all around me. You’d never see ladies like that at a London exhibition, not even a fashion one.

I’m always very amused by the crowds at the V&A exhibits, who clearly consider themselves the last bastions of civilisation, keepers of the country’s cultural heritage etc etc, while elbowing you sharply out of the way as they re-don their specs-on-a-chain to get a better look at the quilt you were studying.

I’m trying to steer myself a path somewhere in the middle. I know I’m not up to doing a full Northern look every day of the week, but unlike London’s queens of cool, I never leave the house without wearing make up. I invest in the best hairdos I can find and blow dry it sleek and bouffy with my fabulous Babyliss Big Hair (see earlier post).

And I’ve noticed an interesting development in Mrs Beckham’s styling since she has become a serious player in the fashion world herself, as a properly respected designer – Kate Hillier is designing her handbag collection, which was the final stamp of approval.

She’s definitely loosening up a bit. I even saw a few stray strands of hair in this pic from last November (where she’s also wearing one of Hillier’s ‘paperclip’ necklaces…).

In about twenty years time, we may meet in the middle.

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