New York: Strolling Soho

The thing I love most about New York is that every neighbourhood has such a distinct feel. Unlike the manicured feel of the Upper East Side, or the slightly gritty, arsty vibe of Brooklyn, the streets that make up Soho and meander over to the West Village are relaxed, hip and effortless.

The other week I had a free day in New York, so was perfectly content to spend an entire day just taking things slow and soaking up New York. I put on some red lipstick and too many jewels to counteract the overcast skies, and happily spent hours and hours wandering the area and getting lost in the cobbled backstreets around Soho. I people-watched in Washington Square Park, gorged on books at Shakespeare & Co on Broadway (the New York outpost of the Parisian bookstore – my favourite in the whole world), ate pasta with Mario Batali (the nicest fellow and the king of Italian food in New York), stopped for gourmand supplies at Dean and Deluca (who were boasting the biggest pumpkins I had ever seen in my entire life), and merrily did my part for the US economy at Marc Jacobs (polka dots!), J. Crew (lipstick pink cashmere and glitter!) and Opening Ceremony (Rodarte!) along the way.

Wearing: Carven skirt; Topshop blazer; Sass & Bide top; Chanel 2.55 bag; Chanel, Louis Vuitton and vintage brooches; Louis Vuitton leopard scarf; vintage sunglasses, Ash booties

Afterwards, I hopped in a cab over to Bleeker Street – where all the cool kids/designers loiter, don’t you know? – and walked around the West Village dreaming of living in a brownstone walkup on a tree and cafe-lined street. Ahh!

In the evening, I walked over to the Chelsea Market to meet my dear blog friend Anne for a delicious supper, chats about life as an expat, and a walk along the length of the Highline (do go!) just as the sun went down upon the rooftops of Manhattan. It was one of those perfect New York moments.

I’d love to hear how you spend time just soaking up a favourite city and all it’s charms?

Love, Miss B xx

Chanel Treasures, Part 2: Fun Frivolities

I am not trying to suggest by the title of this post that any purchase from Chanel is a frivolous frippery (at roughly $250 a pop for a teeny brooch, these can hardly be considered the kind of impulse purchases one tends to make at the checkout); but sometimes (ok, usually) it is the least practical purchases that make me the happiest. Take for example my collection of Chanel brooches*, against which I am virtually powerless whenever I find myself wandering into a Chanel boutique. They are entirely unnecessary – being both superfluous and whimsical – but I adore the way that when I cluster them together on a blazer lapel (usually all at once – might as well do this properly), they add a touch our sillyness and sparkle and my outfit instantly feel more like ‘me’.

I adore them not only for their minature whimsy, but because I’ve taken to treating them as luxe souvenirs; buying them on lovely holidays when I happen to cross paths with a Chanel store. And just like that, when I pin one on, I’m instantly reminded of happy memories of blissful days spent wandering in Paris, New York or Melbourne. And while it’s the brooches I’ve mostly collected thus far, If money were no object, I’d wear ropes and ropes of long Chanel pearl necklaces strewn over a plain white or breton striped tee every day. Parfait!

Just as wonderful as peeks inside the giant jewellery boxes at the boutiques are trips to the Chanel beauty counter, which feel to me like my childhood adventures to the neighbourhood sweet shop with my big sister. Once glimpse of those tiny lolly-coloured bottles of makeup and my eyes widen in excitement as I want to smell/try everything I lay my eyes on.

While their nail polishes have reached cult-like status in the beauty world (the limited edition shades selling out within hours each season), in my opinion there is nothing more glamorous than pulling out a Chanel lipstick and reapplying it straight from the bullet, or finishing the perfect outfit with a spritz of one of their decadently beautiful Les Exclusifs parfums to the decolletage. Oh la la!

What are your favourite small luxury purchases?

Love, Miss B xx

* Which, much to my sadness, I seem to constantly lose; the streets of London are littered with my beautiful, lost Chanel brooches.

Recent Treats: French Pleasures

Contrary to popular belief, I rarely go clothes shopping. Though I still spend as much money as when I was younger and used to shop for a quick thrill or for a fix of the lastest trent, my shopping habits have now, thankfully, evolved. These days, I consider each purchase: how it will fit my life, the image I want to project, the cost-per-wear basis, and whether it’s a piece I will want to wear for years to come (and which will last just as long).

L-R: Chanel Earrings (a gift from a dear friend that arrived in the post, completely by surprise); nail polishes in Vendetta and Riva; a vintage pearl, leather and golden medallion to add to my ever-growing Chanel brooch collection

I am a firm believer that buying the best quality one can afford has two benefits: your clothes will last you far longer (and therefore, on a cost-per-wear basis, should be no more expensive than a cheap alternative) and, even if you can only afford to buy a few items, they will always look more luxurious than a wardrobe bursting with high street trends.

My purchases these days are thus divided into two categories: 1) beautiful classics and wardrobe building blocks around which everything else revolves (buttery soft tshirts, a beautiful silk blouse, gorgeous underwear, the perfect skinny jeans, season-less pumps that make you walk that little bit more elegantly, a coat that is both deliciously warm and beautifully cut and that you can wear year after year without feeling frumpy); and 2) the peices which make everything feel like ‘me’ (a preppy blazer, some tailored shorts, a dress that is always ready for a party, a quilted chain bag, handfulls of glittery jewels, and more white silk or lace tops than I care to count).

Perennially classic: sky-high ponyskin leopard print pumps by Kurt Geiger

When I know something is missing, I make very boring lists and set out to find these items during the season. And when I see something I hadn’t been searching for but which I immediately like anyway, I always stop to ponder it for a day or two – if I’m still dreaming about the lovely item later in the week and I know it will work with what I already have, only then does it come home with me.

Topshop blush pink silk playsuit (for luxurious sleep and weekend hibernation indoors) and Collette Dinnigan bow print knickers

This isn’t to say I only ever spend a ludicrous amount of money when I go shopping, no matter how rare an occurance it may be. Just as strong as my belief in good quality and design is my belief that one should always have small luxuries; little items that make everyday living that much more glamorous. If you’ve only got £30 to spare, you’re much better of buying a new candle, silk camisole or lipstick of the highest quality than a cheap top you’ll only ever wear twice. Your daily pleasure quota will increase, but you won’t need to take out a loan to fund it.

Diptyque L’ombre dans L’eau perfume (the smell of blackcurrant leaves and Bulgarian black roses), perfect for wintery days

Like a magpie, I’m continually drawn to beautiful scented candles, artisanal chocolates, silk underwear, a sparkly bauble, good books, and a new lipstick or polish to make me smile on a dreary day.

So here are some of the small luxuries I’ve collected the past few weeks. I’m sensing a theme: while my love of all things feminine and Parisian is eternal, my desire for them only increases as the days grow greyer.

Charbonnel et Walker pink champagne truffles and Mimco black silk and pearl necklace/bow brooch (a gift from another dear friend across the seas)

Are you a believer in quality over quantity? What are the small pleasures you turn to to make your days more lovely?

Love, Miss B xx

Frost your lapels

After this post, I had so many emails asking where I got my statement jacket that I thought I’d give it it’s own post. In actual fact the jacket is a regular black blazer from Topshop (last season) that has probably seen better days. Rather than abandoning it or relegating it to the back of the wardrobe, I instead blinged it up with a pile of brooches from my jewelry draw.

It literally couldn’t be easier to do yourself. Just take one blazer, pick a colour scheme (I went with a mix of silver, aged gold and cream, but black and white or a pile of floral corsages are also variations I play with frequently), and pin as many brooches or other accoutrements on your lapels as will fit. When you think you’ve got enough, add another five or so ;)

Et voila! No further jewels required. Incidentally, this also works brilliantly around the neckline of an old tank top or tee, or a beloved but tired knit.

Please however ensure that all your brooches are fixed securely in place. I didn’t, and in the process lost a favourite vintage Chanel brooch in the process. Oh London, you really are becoming littered with my Chanel treasures…

So until I’m able to find another, here’s a final farewell to my wee little Coco brooch – I hope you’ve at least found a lovely owner!

So tell me, how do you like to customize or revive something that would otherwise languish in your closet?

Love, Miss B xx