Alexander McQueen, Fabrickated, Savage Beauty, Tartan

Member’s Monday – Review of Savage Beauty at the Victoria and Albert Museum – by Kate Davies

Today’s blog is brought to you by Kate Davies – I’m quite in awe of this lady, she expertly blogs daily, makes gorgeous tailored clothing and if that were not enough, she is CEO of a large business.  She is a great example of someone who lives life to full and uses every minute of the day productively.  That’s how it looks from my perspective anyway!

If you can, do go and see this exhibition. It is startling, shocking and visceral. Featuring a vast selection of clothes and accessories designed by the late British designer Alexander McQueen, arranged artfully in themed rooms, soundtracked and lit to make you feel detached from reality, and submerged in his world. Most of the mannequins have their faces obliterated with masks or metal cages, and you can’t help but be affected by the violence inherent in these the designs.

Lee McQueen was working class, the son of a taxi driver brought up in a high rise flat in Stratford, East London. He started as a tailor aged 15, went into theatrical design, and finally entered the world of haute couture following an MA at Central St Martins. He committed suicide the day before his mother’s funeral in 2010, aged just 40.

Some of the clothes are very wearable – the beautifully sculptured tailoring on show will appeal broadly. The jacket that morphs into short dress with side splits. The subtle detail of red lining under the flap pockets, and the gorgeous buttons from waist to neck.

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On the other hand some of the outfits are so outlandish it is unlikely that they could actually be worn. And yet. They are inspirational and beautiful, appropriating animal parts and incorporating them into costumes. They make you wonder about the extent of the human imagination and what else could possibly done to a coat, dress or jacket.

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His “Widows of Culloden” Fall/Winter 2006 especially appealed to me. McQueen “designed from the side” celebrating the curvature of the spine – evident in this first dress. He carefully cut the commissioned McQueen tartan so that the bias cuts match perfectly. The more traditionally influenced kilt on the right is arranged over a lightweight lace blouse, embellished with black embroidery. Both dresses reveal silk tulle petticoats and are beautifully draped.

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This collection is so exciting – with its 19th century silhouette  and antique lace, wonderful natural elements taken from the Scottish countryside – feathers, stag antlers, birds nests, fur. All McQueen’s design work was deeply autobiographical (in this case celebrating McQueen’s Scottish roots) and his themed catwalk shows changed fashion, style and, perhaps, the way women feel about dress.

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There is a debate about whether McQueen was a misogynist, or if he made women feel more powerful than before. I am not sure what I think. But I did enjoy the exhibition very much and I would recommend it. If you come away with strong feelings about dress, image, design, art, clothes and beauty it will have been successful. I plan a couple of follow up posts – and visits – on AMcQ in the next few weeks.

At the V&A Museum, South Kensington until 2 August 2015. It is vital to book beforehand (tickets are around £15), or go with a V&A Friend to get in free.

Arrogance, Confidence, Humility, Leadership, Visibility

Guest Blog: Confidence, Arrogance, Visibility and Humility

Leaders inspire others by their example and so leaders must be visible, whether in a corporate setting or an entrepreneurial one, in small groups or on a worldwide stage.

“There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance…its called humility. Confidence smiles. Arrogance smirks” (unknown)phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpg

Jim Collins is a business consultant and author on company sustainability and growth; in his book “Good to Great (2001)” Collins argues that the key ingredient that allows a company to become great is having an executive in whom genuine personal humility blends with intense professional will.

Visibility used to be restricted to the people you met; now you can interact on a global stage using your smart phone. People’s memories fade but a digital footprint lasts forever. Navigating the line between confidence and arrogance is as old as leadership itself but having an online presence ups the ante. Leaders now have an ‘online brand’; you’ve got a LinkedIn profile – right? Whether you call it a brand, or your reputation, whether it’s online or in person, how you come across as a leader impacts your ability to influence others. Too much humility and you’ll be an invisible wallflower, too little and you run the risk of being an arrogant oaf.

Here are some definitions in the context of leadership:

  • Confidence: A feeling of self-assurance arising from an appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities:
  • Arrogant: Having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities:
  • Humility: Recognizing what we do well, as well as what we do not do so well, is vital to self-awareness, openness and having a clear perspective, and therefore respect, for one’s place in context.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” (C. S. Lewis)

Perception is reality. No matter how good your intentions are, what matters is how you are perceived. Here are 10 ways to stay on the confident side of the line…

  1. Maintain eye contact (arrogant people constantly look over people’s shoulder for someone ‘better’ to talk to)
  2. Arrive on time, every time (arrogant people think their time is more important than everyone else’s)
  3. Walk with confidence (not with swagger)
  4. Admit you don’t know and learn something in the process (arrogant people have an answer for everything and as a result are often unteachable).
  5. Seek to be interested more than interesting (arrogant people are more concerned with telling you what they know)
  6. Talk about your relevant accomplishments and contacts (arrogant people brag and name-drop out of context)
  7. Acknowledge what others do (don’t be condescending or put others down)
  8. Talk about the strengths of your own company (not the weaknesses of others)
  9. Delegate authority and responsibility (arrogant people “pull rank”)
  10. Adopt a “buck stops here” attitude to responsibility (arrogant people blame others when things don’t go to plan)visibility_continuum

This guest blog was written by associate Dr Angela Armstrong of http://www.angelaarmstrong.cAngela Armstrongom.  Please contact Angela is you would like to know more about her coaching, consultancy and training.

Member Monday, Quality, Wardrobe

Member’s Monday – Quality v Quantity by Sally Bright

quote-quality-is-more-important-than-quantity-one-home-run-is-much-better-than-two-doubles-steve-jobs-283986Why do we do it? Buy cheaply that is and then regret it! Sometimes we just want a quick fix or we tell ourselves we really have to have that item of clothing, bag, shoes or whatever when we haven’t really planned, budgeted or thought about it. But.. it looks so tempting, so stylish in the shop – plus it’s reduced – a bargain! So, we buy it and wear it a few times. It seems okay doesn’t it? It satisfied the immediate need. Then we wash it and wear it and wash it again and hmmm – the jumper/cardigan/trousers or whatever is starting to look bobbly or is going shapeless and a bit sad. So then we obviously can’t wear it out anywhere can we? So we wear it just in the house and then it joins several other jumpers or items of clothing that have gone the same way! Finally, it gets relegated to the bag of clothes to take to the jumble sale or charity shop – and only after 6 months. Oh dear….

The answer, of course, is NOT to buy cheap. Because, as the saying goes ‘if you buy cheap you buy twice’. There are certain shops where this has been true for me in the past.  I have bought cheap tee-shirts thinking they would be ok but in a matter of a few weeks they have faded and gone shapeless. Budgeting and planning are the way to go. Assessing our wardrobe contents, eliminating what no longer works for us, writing down what we have and what to buy is a great way forward. An Image Consultant can certainly help you with planning your wardrobe. We really don’t need ten poor quality acrylic cardigans in our wardrobes when three cardigans in better fabrics will hold up for much longer after lots of washing and ironing. Also, a wardrobe crammed full of clothes doesn’t help us to dress any better and can even be overwhelming when it come to deciding what to wear each day. But, I hear you cry, I don’t want to be seen in the same clothes all the time. By accessorising your quality garments differently, people won’t notice and the French do it all the time!

So, next time you are tempted by a sale bargain, or a poor quality item that will ‘do for now’ – think very hard before you buy and determine to budget for the best!

Sally Bright

Let’s Talk Colour

Sewing, Trouble-Shooting, Vintage

Sewing: Trouble Shooting

Any experienced sewers out there who might be able to help?  I made this vintage style dress a while ago and had a problem with the skirt.  Having discussed it with my mum, we decided that I must have cut it out inaccurately, so I decided to unpick the front skirt, carefully cut out another one (thankfully I had enough fabric left) and re-attach it.

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You can see the pattern layout – I cut one front skirt on the fold and the centre front measures longer than the side front.  However, when I try the dress on, the centre front is considerably shorter!  How can than be?  Here are a few photos of it.  Firstly, it all laid out on the floor so you can see the full skirt, then one of it hanging up – you can see that the centre is shorter.  I have written to Eliza Vintage to ask their advice and they suggested that there may be a fault on the pattern printing.  They will refund the pattern cost if I send it back.  But I want a dress I can wear.  And, I don’t like to be beaten by anything!

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What are your thoughts on how to rescue it?  I could try to measure the hem from the floor up – it will mean a slightly shorter skirt, but I can live with that I think!  As the skirt is so full, any advice on how best to measure the hem to make it straight?

Thank you sewers!

Lyn x

Authentic, Authenticity, Body Language, Confidence, First Impressions, Image consultancy, Leadership, Lyn Bromley, Men in Business, Women in business

How to Express Your Leadership Presence

iStock_000017925351SmallLeaders of men and women come in many guises, from successful business people like Richard Branson and Sheryl Sandberg, to spiritual and political leaders like Gandhi or Martin Luther King.  One thing effective leaders have in common is presence and by learning how to maximise yours, you will be developing an essential vital non-verbal communication skill that will ensure you look like a leader. The art of communication is surely one of the most vital skills of any leader, the power to persuade and appearance plays and important role in that process. In this very visual world, we are all influenced by what we see and so our appearance needs to match what’s on the inside – our abilities, characteristics and values. Otherwise, we get mixed messages. The ability to manage our image is a positive communication skill and something we can easily learn like any other for career success.

Deep impact

First and foremost, you have to make an impact. Effective leaders will almost always have ‘presence’ or that indefinable X factor. They will either give an impression of quiet authority or of obvious power, according to their personal style. Your posture, demeanour and the way you interact with people – as well as appearance – will all contribute to your personal presence. It has often been described that leaders ‘take up space’ and are comfortable doing so. They stand, move and dress confidently and assertively.  Good leaders will be well aware of the subliminal messages of non-verbal communication, including image and your body language, and will use these tricks effectively. Leaders also make the rules rather than follow them and have the confidence to dress to reflect their personality and business. Think of Sir John Harvey-Jones with his natty suits and flamboyant socks, Richard Branson’s early years in his approachable knitwear or Anita Roddick’s style echoing her individuality and ethical interests. Each of these leaders has a very distinctive personal image. You need to develop your personal style to suit your style of leadership. Whatever look you choose, you must be true to your personality and remain individual to ensure you’re memorable.

Feel the quality

And, whether you believe money is the measure of success or not, when it comes to appearance, quality counts.  That doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive items you can find – it’s about seeking clothes and accessories where the quality of the material and craftsmanship is evident.  A perfectly fitting lightweight wool suit, an immaculate silk tie or a beautifully stitched handbag in softest leather – they all breathe quality.  Too often in corporate life, an individual’s impact is marred by the inclusion of an item that jars.  A smart tailored suit and crisp shirt can be undermined by teaming them with a cheap plastic watch and biro.  It gives out a message of poor judgement, poor quality and a sloppy approach to work.  The subliminal message you want people to pick up from your appearance is ‘here is someone who knows what they are doing, where they are going, with sound judgement and an eye for quality and detail’.

Role Model

Another aspect of effective leadership is taking your duty as a role model seriously.  Individuals leading their own businesses can obviously make the rules, but should remember that they are role models for those following them up the career ladder and so should set the standard for the company.  Giving clear messages to your employees about how you expect them to dress at work will make them feel far more comfortable than a confusing ‘anything goes’ atmosphere.   Make it clear to your staff or team just what you expect of them – and avoid vague terms than can be misinterpreted. The current trend towards a ‘modern professional’ dress code, where an employee is expected to make judgements about what look each day’s activities require, is a good test of their business acumen. Judging when to opt for ‘formal business’, knowing when ‘relaxed business’ will do or when ‘business casual’ is the order of the day takes perception – and that’s a valuable skill to have on your team. You will want your staff and clients to have absolute faith in you and your ability to make good decisions, so a good leader will need to earn respect.   Your clothes can play their part – err on the side of formality or, if the culture in which you work demands a business casual approach, keep it smart and co-ordinated and of good quality. And, of course, your clothes need to match the culture and values of your organisation. For example, in a young, innovative company, you’ll need to be more casual and keep a closer eye on fashion trends. Knowledge of colour will also be valuable to know how to look more authoritative when you need to. This is especially true when selecting business casual items as they are often more colourful and require good co-ordination.  There will also be occasions when you need to project more approachability and subtle changes in the way you wear colour can help achieve this.

Lyn Bromley MFIPI, ACMA –  Managing Director, First Impressions  Lyn Bromley is Managing Director of First Impressions Training Ltd and a Master of The Federation of Image Professionals International. (FIPI)  She is also Director of Regional Events for FIPI and a leader of Achiever’s Academy for Women. Please contact us if you would like to know more about our programmes, bespoke image training or one-to-one coaching.  First Impressions have a network of over 150 consultants working across the UK – to find one in your area visit the website and take a look at the consultant map. Telephone: +44 (0)1926 623038 Email: Website:

Member Monday, Men's Style, Shopping, Wardrobe Detox, Women's Style

Member’s Monday – Spring Clean Your Wardrobe by Integro

With Spring in the air, we have all started the diet and the detox, so maybe now is the time to get your wardrobe in shape too.

  • Be Ruthless: Get rid of all those items that don’t fit you – pack them in a suitcase as we are sure you will slFabuless Wardrobeim into them one day, but in the meantime they are taking up valuable space.
  • Be realistic: Out with the old and In with the new – if you haven’t worn a garment in the last year, what’s the likelihood you will wear it this year?
  • Be creative: Split up outfits into individual pieces to allow you to mix, match and multiply! Try layering- it is a fabulous way to create lots of different looks from your existing clothes.
  • Be practical : Identify your wardrobe gaps and write yourself a shopping list. Top tip – only buy something new if you can identify 2 or 3 things it will go with in your existing wardrobe –this is key to building a capsule wardrobe.
  • Be accessory aware : A wardrobe of accessories can be as important as your clothing. They allow you to create multiple looks just by changing the colour of a scarf or a necklace.       Scarves are also great indicators of how to blend colours. Hang jewellery and scarves where you can see them, this allows you to plan outfits and you are more likely to wear them as in our timestarved world -who has time to untangle a necklace in the mornings?

Today’s blog was brought to you by First  Impressions trained consultants Adele and Marlene of Integro Image in Scotland

Lyn Bromley MFIPI, ACMA –  Managing Director, First Impressions  Lyn Bromley is Managing Director of First Impressions Training Ltd and a Master of The Federation of Image Professionals International. (FIPI)  She is also Director of Regional Events at FIPI and a leader of Achiever’s Academy for Women. Please contact us if you would like to know more about our programmes, bespoke image training or one-to-one coaching.  First Impressions have a network of over 150 consultants working across the UK – to find one in your area visit the website and take a look at the consultant map. Telephone: +44 (0)1926 623038 Email: 


A-Line Skirt, Sewing

Sewing: A-Line Skirt

My latest project was an A-line skirt for me.  The pattern was from ‘Love at First Stitch’ – Tilly Walnes book.  I traced the pattern onto tracing paper and carefully cut it out.  I used the measurements in the book and compared them to mine – it did come out a little big around the waist.  That could be down to my measuring, rather than the instructions being wrong!

I selected a lightweight denim for an on-trend look this season.  It was great to work with and was very easy to cut out and sew.  As this was a simple pattern, my focus was on keeping the inside of my work tidy.  I zig-zag stitched all of the seams to make them nice and neat.

My zip went in reasonably well and I was pleased with the waistband, managing to ‘stitch into the ditch’, so my sewing is invisible.

As the waistband is a little loose, I have added a stretchy belt to cover it up!  If I made it again, I would go for the smaller size as  both the waist and the sides are a little loose.  I shall still wear it with the belt.  It would be easier to make a new one than to try to alter this one.  For £8.99 one can’t grumble!  I love it teamed with my bright red T-shirt and tights.  It’s a great addition to my weekend wardrobe.

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