I am approaching the age of the endless summer weddings. Last year it was two, this year three – next year, aged 29, I fully expect to attend approx. 200 marriage ceremonies, which is great because I BLOODY LOVE a wedding.

Dancing, food, live bands, embarrassing speeches, friends, ridiculous wedding favours – seriously, what’s not to like? Weddings are great. Plus, once you’ve left university and leavers’ balls are a thing of the past, what other chance do you get to spend eight weeks choosing a dress and at least 24 hours on pre-event grooming?

Given that I’ve got a couple more weddings to go to this summer, I’ve been keeping my eyeballs glued to all my favourite high street websites for the best dresses around. Here are my favourites – most of which are realistic, a couple of which I’d need to shelve my current career and become a lawyer to afford…


French Connection, £180; French Connection, £110

House of Fraser, £200; New Look, £39.99


H&M, £49.99; House of Fraser, £77


River Island, £75; Topshop, £58


Stylebop, £240; River Island, £85

wedding guest dresses uk 2016

ASOS, £75; ASOS, £75

Coast, £119; Oasis, £150


Virgo’s Lounge, £140; Finery, £129


Zara, £79.99; ASOS, £150


Joy, £79; Oasis at John Lewis, £60

 

 

Years ago, when I was a kid, I remember going through my mum’s makeup box and pulling everything out to admire the pretty colours like ‘oooh’, ‘ahhh’. Well, I had a similar reaction when Urban Decay’s new Alice in Wonderland eyeshadow palette arrived on my desk this week, and, since my day job doesn’t allow me to give it a full review, I’ll do it here.

Alice in Wonderland Urban Decay Palette Eyeshadow

Firstly, this palette looks awesome – definitely the kind of thing to leave out on your bathroom shelf and so visitors can admire it (and hopefully ignore your jumbo pack of Tampons and mouldy shower curtain). The kaleidoscopic print gives you a clue to the jazzy colours inside, plus there is a mirror and pop-up butterfly because YOLO.

Alice in Wonderland Urban Decay Palette Eyeshadow

Let’s get to the colours. Imaginatively named after characters and key themes from Lewis Carroll’s books, these include pretty, neutral shades (Looking Glass, Lily, Royal Flush) as well as some more daring ones (Metamorphosis, Cake, Heads Will Roll). *Insert lame joke about how you really would need to be mad to wear the bright green Hatter shade*

Apparently, each column represents a character, starting from the left: Alice, Mad Hatter, Mirana, Iracebeth and Time.

Some of the colours are shimmery, and others matte, but what they all have in common is a strong pigment so you definitely don’t need to use loads each time. They are also highly blendable. Believe me I know, because I coloured my whole arm in with them.

Alice in Wonderland Urban Decay Palette Eyeshadow

Alice in Wonderland Urban Decay Palette Eyeshadow

Swatching downwards on each row. Nearly ran out of arm.

I have to be honest, I am so completely boring when it comes to eyeshadow that I will likely be sticking to the beiges and browns of this palette, although the pinky tones of Lily and daring (for me) Salazem Grum will introduce some new tones into my eye-drobe.

Alice in Wonderland Urban Decay Palette Eyeshadow

Looking Glass, Kingdom and Chronosphere. Plus eyeliner x 10000.

However, for the purposes of fairness I did try out some of the wilder colours and, although I am an earthy-toned gal, I can see that these would look cool on someone 10 years younger braver than me. It would also be bloody brilliant for fancy dress, which is ultimately what we all need more of in life (I’m pretty sure Alice would approve, anyway).

Alice in Wonderland Urban Decay Palette Eyeshadow

Left eye: Paradox and Chessboard. Right eye: Lily and Cake.

The palette retails at £45. It’s currently only available at Selfridges but you can soon grab one from urbandecay.co.uk.

 

Visit certain websites these days and you’d be forgiven for thinking that being a woman is completely crap. Endless articles about how tough it is to juggle the demands of womanhood, how we work harder and are paid less than men, and how certain industries are entirely devoid of women make for downright depressing reading.

While I recognise that there is a long, long way to go until we reach true gender equality (I’ve even wanged on about how unfair the dating world is here) sometimes it’s nice to look on the bright side.

Yesterday I went to a talk by Rachel Pashley from J Walter Thompson, a communications company that’s undertaking a huge amount of research into women as leaders across the world.

Their findings, Rachel says, have been endlessly surprising.

Did you know, for example, that research shows women make better spies than men? That army battalions including female soldiers tend to be more successful? Or that hedge funds run by women are generally more profitable?

Obviously it’s a sign of my own ingrained prejudices, but I was really surprised by all of the above – to be honest, I’d got the impression that there hardly are any female spies, soldiers or hedge fund managers. But, what the JWT research highlights is that actually, instead of lamenting the lack of women in high-powered jobs or certain fields such as science and engineering, we should actually be paying more attention to the women that are already there (and smashing it, FYI).

We also need to focus more on what women can actually bring to businesses, instead of moaning about the unfairness of it all. The research shows that business profits increase when there are more women at the top, and countries with more women in government do better economically. Hardly surprising really, given that women control the majority of consumer spending. If money talks, then surely highlighting this ‘female capital’, as JWT have dubbed it, is the way to persuade companies to adopt more female-friendly policies.

Perhaps the best part of Rachel’s talk was when she demolished the notion that women have to ‘act like men’ in order to get ahead in their careers. Attributes such as innovation, ambition and the ability to take the initiative may be seen as ‘masculine’ but in fact, the research shows, women already have these in droves, alongside the empathetic, nurturing qualities we’re generally associated with.

The stereotypes of working women, such as the hard-nosed bitch (The Devil Wears Prada) or harried mother (I Don’t Know How She Does It) also need to be quashed, says Rachel, as these don’t match up to reality. Being a mother, for example, has actually been shown to make you much more productive and focused at work, and rather than dulling women’s ambition, actually sharpens it.

I find this message so much more inspiring and encouraging than reading endless reports about how rubbish my prospects are as a woman, or how, once I have kids, my career will be basically screwed. Present people with a bleak picture of the opportunities ahead of them, and they’ll give up. But if you give them inspiring stories of those who’ve succeeded and a true sense of their own worth, then the sky’s the limit.

 

So yesterday I had my makeup done for work purposes (promise) at MAC on Carnaby Street, a shop I always drool over on the way to the office because it’s like a wondrous art shop but for your FACE. 

The feature I’m currently working on required me to get a full on glam makeover – false eyelashes and all. And then, to make the most of my killer smokey eyes, I got a Nandos and went home to watch Gogglebox. YOLO etc. 

 
Here’s me on the sofa with my falsies.

Anyway, while I was in the store, I met a lovely makeup artist called Phoebe who gave me the following handy tips. Seemed only fair to share her makeup expertise…

1. Use a darker undereye concealer than foundation 

An exciting aspect of my MAC trip was that I finally got colour matched (NC15, come to me baby). However, Phoebe explained that if I were to pick the same shade of concealer for my lovely eye bags, it would look way too light. Instead she used colour corrector followed by a concealer that was slightly darker than the foundation (Pro Longwear Concealer in NC20).

Short interlude for a colour match victory dance: 

2. Always curl long lashes

I never bother curling my lashes, mainly because mine are actually pretty long anyway (don’t hate me, the eyeballs underneath are so useless I can barely see my own hands without contacts). However, apparently longer lashes means you should DEFINITELY curl them, helping them stick upwards instead of just, kinda, forwards. I will be adding this step to my routine asap.

3. Do your smokey eye first

Have you ever noticed that, if you make up your skin first for a night out, you end up putting LOADS of foundation, concealer, bronzer etc on, and then when you add a dramatic eye on top it looks a bit drag? Phoebe recommends doing the eyes first, partly because it means you avoid eyeshadow falling onto your foundation, but also because it probably means you’ll scale down the amount of makeup on the rest of your face. 

4. Start ‘tightlining’ 
Yeah I know that 99% of the world’s population probably knows what this is, but until my MAC appointment I wasn’t really familiar with tightlining (where you put eyeliner on the waterline underneath your top eyelashes). Now it’s my new favourite thing, mainly because as an eyeliner addict it allows me to look a bit more natural, while still getting the definition required to stop people from asking me if I’m ill.  

5. It’s ok to stick to what you love 

Now I enjoy messing about with makeup samples just as much as the next person, but when Phoebe asked me what colours I liked for my eyes I felt strangely apologetic telling her that basically, I just prefer variations on brown. In fact, I hate wearing anything grey or blue round my eyes – I always shudder when I see myself in the office loo mirrors on those days I decide to ‘experiment’. 

At this point I expected Phoebe to give me a lecture on how I just hadn’t found the right shade of blue etc, but actually she was more like ‘Yeah me too – cool colours just don’t suit some people’. I’ve now thrown out my most hated grey eyeshadow palette for good, because I feel like I now have makeup artist permission. 

It’s that time of year when all the high street brands are showing off their AW16 stuff, so even though I’m still not out of last season’s coat (*shakes fist at sky*) I’m already looking at next season’s. 

Although press shows are mainly a work thing for me, there’s still a part of my brain that goes round thinking ‘yep want that…and that’, as if actually I’m just on a giant shopping trip in a particularly snazzy shop. 

So here were my mental purchases from the Arcadia press day, which includes brands such as Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis.

1.  Dreamy Miss Selfridge boots 

 I’ll be honest, I don’t often go to Miss Selfridge any more, on account of being over 22. But how stunning are these floral ankle boots? If I’m not wearing these bad boys with black tights and a little leather mini next winter, I’ll be having serious words with myself. 

2. Topshop black leather mini 

  
Speak of the devil. Confession: I have a whole drawer full of faux-leather mini skirts; they’re a wardrobe staple for me in the same way black leggings or jeans are for most people. This cool quilted number might have finally converted me to the eyelet trend. Maybe…

3.  Metallic detail trainers 

  
  
Dotty P’s and Miss Selfridge both featured monochrome trainers with gold accents, and I for one am a fan. Mainly because YAY lovely comfy trainers!! 

4. Leopard print coat from Wallis 

 
Given my lifelong obsession with leopard print, it seems weird and, I’m sure you’ll agree, plain WRONG that I don’t already own a leopard print coat. I’ve seen quite a few at recent press shows, but this Wallis number is defs my favourite. 

5. Studded boots from Dorothy Perkins 

  
Another pair of beauties waiting to take their place in my bootdrobe (aka pile on the floor) – these studded ones would look tres buff with my leather leggings. And by leather I of course mean, pleather. 

6.  Embellished skirt from Miss Selfridge 


Apols for the rather crappy pic – my arms are only so long, unfortunately. But this embellished skirt (embroidered details were HUGE throughout the Miss Selfridge collection) is very pretty. Shows that button-through will still be going strong next season too, for what that’s worth!

7. Topshop bird bag

  
If you’re into your statement bags, having a great big sparkly bird plastered on your shoulder bag probably gets a massive tick. Again, major embellishment all over the Topshop stuff, suggesting AW16 will not be the season for fans on minimalism…