A Life Update: A New Season + Change of Gears

A Girl, A Style _ A New SeasonA Girl, A Style _ Gap Olive Chinos, Mulberry Shoes

Blazer // Chinos // Top // Bag // Sunglasses // Watch // Lipstick

I have a confession to make: my day job and I are on a break.

As most of you know, by day I work in government – well, I did… until now. I’d been happily hurtling myself full-steam along a career path for my entire working life – first in Washington (I got my start in the US Senate), and then Canberra (working for the Australian Parliament), then Westminster (working first in government policy and then five years as parliamentary advisor to a Cabinet Minister), and finally Brussels (I spent the last two years working mostly with the European Commission). But all of a sudden, I realised that path was bringing me more stress than joy, and it was time to take a break and start seeing other careers.

I’ve been struggling with this decision for a while, partly because I’m deeply passionate about politics and fighting for the causes I believe in, but also because I worked so hard at university and over the last 15 years to get to where I was (see the embarrassing proof in this post that it really has been that long…) and didn’t want to throw that away. I’d be lying if I didn’t also mention that being a political advisor and a blogger had sort of become my identity and USP (barely a day goes by when I don’t get affirming messages from my loveliest of readers who say they love that I work in both politics and fashion), and I was incredibly nervous about giving half of that up and who I’d be if I did.

But the truth is: when I arrived in Washington as a bright-eyed 18 year old, I decided to go into this career to help make the world a better place. Then between the global political climate, Trump, Brexit and the state of the political spectrum here in the UK (I think everyone can agree it’s a sorry state of affairs, regardless of which ‘side’ you’re on), politics was really starting to wear me down. It had become more of a source of stress and frustration than hope, and it had just got a bit too much to never be able to detach from all of that. I absolutely loved working in Parliament – even the gruelling hours and the need to be switched on to current affairs 24/7 that came with it were a thrill because I had the most incredible boss (a Cabinet Minister who was one of the few good guys in Parliament) and we spent each trying to make a positive difference. But since then, although I loved and respected the people I worked with, I’d started to feel like I couldn’t make a meaningful contribution and as though everything around me was completely unravelling politically, which rather filled me with despair. That’s not the attitude I want to have for the rest of my working days, so I knew it was time for a change.

So terrifying though it was, when one of the projects I had been working on at work came to an end, it was the opportunity I needed in order to be able to to muster all my courage and give myself permission to walk away before I became cynical or lost my passion for the things that still mattered. Hopefully not forever, but at least for now and until a more hopeful prospect comes along. I’ll still be working on some projects and causes that are meaningful for me, but doing so on a part-time basis gives me the freedom and breathing space to feel excited again. Maybe one day I’ll even decide I hate myself enough to consider running for office myself…

A Girl, A Style _ Autumn PreppyA Girl, A Style _ Gap ChinosA Girl, A Style _ Cambridge Satchel Co Tassel Bag CrimsonA Girl, A Style _ Cambridge Style

I wish someone could tell me where I should be career-wise in five years, but I suppose the journey to figuring that out is most of the fun. So I’ve given myself the ultimate gift of luxury: a chance to change gears work-wise and go freelance full-time to pursue whatever feels fun and exciting again. I figured if I can’t do it now while I’m still (relatively) young and unburdened by the responsibilities of adulthood, then when can I?

In the immediate term, I really want to give this blog the time I’ve never been able to properly devote to it when I was working in government. As the first step, I’ve been busy beavering away at a new and improved site design and direction which will keep me busy until its launch at the end of this year (I can hardly wait!). I hope you’ll all love it as much as me!

But equally, while I want to finally have the time to spend blogging, creating content, and writing about things I love, I don’t want to just be a blogger and it’s still important to me to work on other things (i.e. that aren’t all about ‘me’). I’ve always done at least two things with my time, and I think I’d get bored if I weren’t busy all the time (even at university, I worked in politics alongside a full-time class schedule, and then on this blog since graduating and moving to the UK). So the plan is a few days for the blog and a few days for freelance life and to just see where things lead me in a year or two. I’ve never before given myself such freedom to step off the work treadmill and figure out what I want from the next phase of my career, and I confess it feels like the ultimate luxury to be guided by passion rather than practical considerations.

Amongst other exciting things, I’m thrilled to have joined the team of one of my favourite British brands, The Cambridge Satchel Company, as their ‘Blogger in Residence’. I first met the brilliant Founder, Julie Deane, one day when I was working in Parliament and we were both just starting out – she with the brand and me with this blog. She quickly became one of my favourite women in business and I’ve remained friends with the brand ever since, and it’s been a pleasure to see them grow. In a twist of serendipity, they told me they were looking for someone exactly like me the very day after I finally decided it was time for a change of gears career-wise, and everything fell into place perfectly. After spending the past 15 years working in such ‘serious’ roles, I still can’t quite believe I can actually get paid to work on exciting creative things for brands I love. Surely work is meant to feel more like… work?

Whatever it means, I’m embracing that back-to-school feeling the autumn brings and stepping into the new season with renewed vigour. I haven’t felt like the ‘new girl’ in a while, and I confess the prospect is thrilling!

A Girl, A Style _ Cambridge Satchel Company Tassel BagA Girl, A Style _ Back to School PrepWearing: J.Crew blazer (old, but similar style here) // Gap chinos c/- // Saint James breton top // Louis Vuitton scarf // Mulberry heels (old, but similar style here) // Karen Walker sunglasses // Michael Kors watch // The Cambridge Satchel Company bag (borrowed).
Beauty: Charlotte Tilbury lipstick in ‘Carina’s Love’ // Clarins blush in ‘Golden Pink’ c/-.

Whatever the new season holds for you, I hope it’s fulfilling and affirming. I’m looking forward to stepping into a new chapter and setting some fresh goals for the remainder of 2017!

Love, Briony xx

P.S. I’m always asked for advice about how to get into politics or government. Now that I can finally talk about my job (which wasn’t possible when I worked full-time in politics), let me know if you’d like a proper post on my career journey and advice. Just as importantly, I would love to start using this platform to share more posts like this and talk more about careers and issues that matter (and how we can all make a difference), so please let me know what you’d like to see!

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Photos by Joe Galvin

Back to School Wardrobe Basics

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It’s that time of year when an crisp fall breeze blows through, the students start piling back into their Cambridge colleges, and the lazy days and floaty white dresses of summer are slowly pushed aside in favour of a fresh new look for the season and all my favourite autumnal pursuits; bike rides, afternoons in the museum, and hours spent reading in my favourite spots around town.

Come September, I start to rotate my seasonal wardrobe (feminine sundresses and sandals are slowly packed away to make room for cashmere and denim) and find myself craving the preppy Cambridge sensibility I always seem to turn to at this time of year.

I love the look of those ‘back to school’ basics; classic blue jeans teamed with striped tees, navy blazers and crisp oxford shirts. Although I’ll add a few more trend-led items and replace a few of my most well-worn pieces each season, these are the same basic wardrobe staples I have been wearing for years.

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While some things may have changed in my wardrobe over the years (these days it more about quality over quantity, and staying true to my own style vs being swayed by every passing trend Vogue tells me I should buy into), others will always remain the same. I still want to team a new pair of shoes with my lived-in old jeans, or a new party skirt with a classic shirt.

I’ve been loyal to Gap since my university days, and for over a decade they’ve always been one of my first stops for the most comfortable jeans I own, the perfect basic tees, and the Oxford shirts that for form the basis of my 9-5 wardrobe. I’m thrilled to be collaborating with them this season to prove that regardless of where you are in life, the classic never go out of style. And really, it’s nice to know that whether you’re 18 or 48, there are some things that always look and feel right.

a-girl-a-style-_-do-you-1a-girl-a-style-_-cambridge-prepsterWearing: Gap striped tee (comes in 4 colours) c/- // Gap ‘girlfriend’ jeans c/- // Gap gingham shirt c/- // ASOS hat // Chanel bag // Mulberry shoes (old, but similar style here) // Kenneth Jay Lane necklace (similar style here) // Michael Kors watch // Karen Walker sunglasses // ‘Everybody Rise’ book.

From Friday 16th – 23rd September, I’m excited to be taking over the windows of the Cambridge and London Oxford Street flagship stores, and you’ll also find a curated selection of my favourite pieces for the season ahead in-store (those very wardrobe staples I reach for year after year, and which never go out of style). I hope you love the pieces as much as I do; I know your wardrobe will thank you. And if you’re visiting either store, please snap a picture of my windows, rails or anything you buy and tag me (@agirlastyle) + #DoYou on Twitter or Instagram; I’d love to see!

What are your timeless classic wardrobe basics that you turn to year after year? I’d love to know if we’re on the same page.

Love, Miss B xx

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Post in partnership with Gap #DoYou. Photos by Joe Galvin

 

City Guide: Weekend in Brussels

A Girl, A Style _ BrusselsA Girl, A Style _ Brussels

Between all our recent European travels, I feel as though my feet have barely touched the ground the past few months. But one of my big New Year’s Resolutions for 2016 was to take more frequent small trips and explore Europe more (rather than eschewing the cities on our doorstep in favour of the extended long-haul trips we usually take).

Although I frequently travel to Brussels for work, I only ever get to see the Government district and the inside of the European Commission buildings while I’m there (with an occasional detour through the Grand Place on the way back to the Eurostar station if the weather is behaving). Given how easy it is to get there from England, I decided it was about time we properly explored all the city had to offer (which is so much more than just the seat of the European Union).

So when Alcatel asked if I’d like to put together a city guide in conjunction with their current promo (get return flights to one of eight European cities when you buy the new Pop4 handset), it was the perfect excuse to finally explore this grand old city. It was my first time trying the handset, but I have to say it was the ideal phone for travelling; because of the dual-SIM function I could put both my UK and travel SIM in at the same time, and the camera and maps were excellent for navigating our way around town without getting lost (and snapping everything along the way, of course).

A Girl, A Style _ BrusselsA Girl, A Style _ BrusselsA Girl, A Style _ Brussels

Brussels is the perfect size for a weekend city break; small enough that you feel you can cover a decent chunk of it in two days, large enough that you’ll have no shortage of things to do. These were the best things we covered during our stay:

Do // For a dose of culture, start with the magnificent Grand Place. A large cobbled square bordered by the opulent Town Hall and guildhalls which marks the centre of the old town; it is a Unesco World Heritage site and surely one of the most beautiful squares in Europe.

Afterwards, walk over to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (around €8) on Rue de la Régence for a morning with Rubens, van Dyck and all the Flemish greats. Afterwards, head to the Royal Palace next door; it is free to visit from July-September when the Royal Family go away, and the spectacular rooms are worthy of any Disney princess (I’m not sure I have ever seen quite so many chandeliers in once place). Afterwards, we bought an ice cream and happily lazed beneath the canopy of trees in the Parc du Bruxelles across the road.

Shop // Treasure hunt for antiques: We visited both the Sablon (every Saturday and Sunday at the Place du Grand Sablon) and Les Marolles (every day on the Place du Jeu de Balle) flea markets and the surrounding antique shops. On the first Sunday of every month there is also a vintage market at Halle Saint-Géry. I picked up vintage postcards from Paris and a set of 1960s cocktail glasses at the Sablon, and an antique bust of Marie Antoinette and a pair of golden pheasants for the dining room table at Les Marolles. During a sudden downpour at Les Marolles, we dashed into the Cafe La Brocante on the corner of the square for coffee, which was charmingly stuffed with locals and antiques in equal measure.

Grand arcades: Don’t miss the beautiful Galleries Royales Saint-Hubert near the Grand Place. Built in 1847, it is a beautiful glass-roofed passageway housing luxury shops and cafes. We loitered for nearly an hour in the magnificent Tropismes Libraires bookstore in the Galerie des Princes section.

Hip boutiques: For the best small, independent fashion, design and lifestyle boutiques, head to the Rue Dansaert / Rue des Chartreux district. We made the mistake of visiting on a Sunday morning when many stores were closed, so visit on a Saturday or weekday instead for the best range of options.

A Girl, A Style _ BrusselsA Girl, A Style _ BrusselsA Girl, A Style _ Brussels

Eat // It would be positively remiss to go to Brussels and leave hungry. From the famous chocolate and waffles to the traditional carbonades flamandes (beef stew) and moules frites (mussels and fries), there is no shortage of gourmand delights on offer.

For brunch, head to Peck 47 on Rue du Marché aux Poulets for eggs + savoury waffles or the original Le Pain Quotidien on Rue Dansaert (both a short walk from the Grand Place).
For lunch or dinner, make for local-favourite Le Fin de Siecle on Rue des Chartreux. We had dinner there on Saturday night and the atmosphere was lively and cosy; the food a delicious offering of Italian and authentic Belgian dishes.

Craving something sweet? Head straight to haute chocolaterie Pierre Marcolini for the best chocolate the city has to offer (not to mention glorious macarons and ice cream pops dipped in the chocolate of your choice). For a snack on-the-go whilst sightseeing, the chocolate-dipped strawberries at Godiva and the cheap as frites nutella-topped waffles (find them beside the Manneken Pis fountain) both earn an honourable mention.

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Souvenir // I’m sure it’s obligatory to return home with a stash of Belgian chocolates in your suitcase. Pick up a box from Pierre Marcolini, Mary or Elisabeth (all have several locations dotted around the city), and a few blocks of Dolfin from the convenience store (I’m especially taken with their Earl Grey-infused dark chocolate tablets). A tin of Belgian waffles or speculoos (traditional cinnamon-spiced biscuits) from Maison Dandoy will also make a marvelous gift for friends back home. For something more unique, hunt for a vintage copy of Tintin or an antique tchotchke from the Les Marolles or Sablon flea market.

Good to Know // Brussels is small enough that you can walk just about everywhere, but if the weather is bad or you want to save your feet, the subway is clean, easy and goes everywhere you need to go (aside from hopping on the subway to get to our hotel, we walked the entire weekend). Everyone speaks English perfectly, but otherwise it’s the perfect excuse to practice your French.

A Girl, A Style _ BrusselsA Girl, A Style _ Brussels

Look 1: J.Crew jacket // Gap jeans // J.Crew top (similar style here) // Ferragamo shoes // Chanel bag // ASOS hat // Kenneth Jay Lane necklace (similar style here) // Chanel brooch // Karen Walker sunglasses.
Look 2: Zimmermann dress // J.Crew necklace // Ferragamo shoes // Valentino bag // ASOS hat // Karen Walker sunglasses // Michael Kors watch.

Have you been to Brussels before? Let me know if you have any more recommendations and I’ll try them on my next trip!

Love, Miss B xx

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This post is in partnership with Alcatel, who are offering return flights to eight European cities when you buy the new Pop4 handset.