Thursday 30 December 2021

Love Clothes Last & Other Stories

Welcome back to my monthly second-hand stories blog with Sarah London and if you are visiting for the first time and are interested in the stories behind clothes then you are in the right place.

My name is Jane.

 I love clothes.

 I love stories. 

After graduating with an English degree, I became a journalist. 

At first, I worked at weekly papers between 1989 and 1992, and then from 1992 until 2003 I worked as a news reporter and features writer at The Liverpool Echo.

 In 2003 until 2010 I was a freelance writer for newpapers and magazines and between 2007 and 2010, a writer in residence at HMP Garth in Lancashire.

After the recession of 2008/9 hit I lost a lot of freelance work and re-trained as a teacher. Between 2011 and 2017 I was a tutor in a sixth form college until 2018 when I left to become a yoga teacher.

Despite my career changes, two things have remained constant: my love of clothes and my love of writing which is where this blog has provided an outlet and an archive for posts such as this.

Today Sarah and I will be discussing re-purposing our clothes.

And the star of the show is this Poppy Parker Dress which I bought in summer 2008 following a collaboration between Oasis and the Bath Fashion Museum.

To see it as a dress, please click on the following links when I wore it..........

To the baptism of a friend's baby in 2008 

In 2008on  Day 1 of my very first blog WorkThatWardrobe here 

On Day 1 of this blog in 2009 here

To my nephew Seth's baptism in September 2009 here 

To prison when I worked as a writer in residence in October 2008 here 

For my PGCE graduation in July  2011 here.

To my daughter in law's 21st birthday in August 2011 here 

At a Farewell Party in July 2012 here

And many more times.

I discovered a kindred spirit in former Vogue editor, Alexandra Shulman when I read her memoir, 'Clothes... and other things that matter.' 

She also shares the ability of  time travel through a simple glimpse of a piece of her wardrobe.

The memories are there forever, unlike this dress.

Yet sadly, I will never wear this dress again.

For it is now a skirt.

Do you see this rocking horse?

It was once a coffee table.

My dad re-purposed it in December 1992 for my son's second Christmas.

Our parents are always our first teachers and for my dad, a war baby, re-purposing was a way of life.

Thanks to the gift of the menopause I have been left with a pair of boobs that no longer fitted into the bodice of this beautiful dress.

But there was no way I was going to throw it out.

As Orsola de Castro explains in her fabulous book: 'Loved Clothes Last' - our relationships with our clothes are forever and we should find ways to wear them when our needs and lives changes.

We should, she says learn how to Mend, Alter and Make - which serendipitously, is the name of my local seamstress' business.

The lovely Tor, who luckily lives in the next road to me took one look at the dress and said she could rescue it as a skirt.

And I rather like the way the skirt sits a little lower and a little longer.

The dress was made using an original 1960s pattern and the detail is wonderful, including the addition of a litte tulle under the skirt.

And its not just this dress Tor has helped me with.

When I felt my 27-year-old Four Seasons black velvet coat was wearing me, rather than I wearing it, she shortened it for me.

The long version I wore for my son's gradutation, November 2012

The shortened version I wore for my Nephew's Wedding, December 2017

Tor also helped re-purpose this Karen Millen dress I bought for my 50th birthday which I felt was a little too short and since it is now a skirt I have worn it so much more.

Dress on the left, Christmas 2017. As a skirt, December 2021

I hope this blog has helped to offer a few ideas on how to ensure your Loved Clothes Last and to make a plea that you love every item in your wardrobe.

And thank you for getting this far and allowing me to indulge in those two favourite loves: clothes and stories!

I am off to read Sarah's blog here now and I hope you will join me.
Until next time, take care,
Jane X

Thursday 23 December 2021

Coming Home to my First Love for Christmas


I'm coming home for Christmas.

Back to this blog where my online style journal began.

For the past year I have been playing away on Instagram - that fickle friend - where just a click of the fingers can upload a photo and post in next to no time.

I have met some lovely people but missed the time and space this blog gives me to ruminate and remember.

In my defence, time has been short and I wanted to photograph myself for a year to see where my style is heading.

Its interesting that the outfits that I enjoyed wearing the most and what I like to see myself wearing were not the most popular.

Far from it.

But here is a collection of my personal favourites.

I will still keep the Instagram account but I want to pledge to post at least once a week here next year.

If you got this far, Happy Christmas and if y ou are reading this in 20 years time Jane - I hope you enjoy your memories.

Happy Christmas.

Jane X

Monday 13 December 2021

Oh Christmas Tree


It’s December 1999. 
I am heavily pregnant with my fourth child. My husband and I are in our local garden centre helping our three young children aged 2,4 and 8 choose a bauble for the tree. 

An annual tradition.

And then I see it. A tall, broad, handsome figure in the distance. A fake tree that looks real. As I get closer, the vision doesn’t disappoint. 
It’s expensive - £140 - but this Christmas we can afford it. 
For the first time since we married in 1989 we are feeling flush. 

In an attempt to cheer my depressed husband up a few months earlier I nominated him for a Father of the year competition in the Daily Mail. 
As evidence I submit true stories of how he works full time as a police officer, studies Law part-time, runs a junior football team and rescued the local Beaver pack from extinction.
 My final piece of evidence is the fact that a few years earlier he saved my life when I collapsed with an ectopic pregnancy. 

The judges agreed. We won the top prize- £10,000 so this year we have some spare cash. 

Every year for the past 23 Christmases my husband meticulously builds the tree, strings fairy lights in perfect proportions around the broad branches before we are allowed to add the baubles we have amassed over 34 Christmases together. 

Except one year. 2006. 

The tree was waiting in its box to be assembled and we had a row. My husband stormed off to bed. 
In revenge , I and my four children cobbled together a magnificently messy tree. 

As I sat back on the sofa snuggled up with my children watching the Take That Christmas special with a glass of wine in my hand I felt invincible. If we did split up. I was having custody of the tree. 

We made up the following morning and that tree stood in a stark warning to my husband of the consequences of behaving like a toddler for the entire festive season.

Happy Christmas

Thursday 25 November 2021

Secondhand Stories: Footwear

 "They call me second-hand Rose......"

Fanny Brice may not have been inpressed when she sang this song in 1921, but fast forward 100 years and wearing second-hand clothes,  or to give the phrase its 21st century image makeover, - Pre-loved - is the way forward.

Many of us bloggers have been doing it for decades.

But isn't it great that us 50-somethings who still retain our grandparents' make-do and mend attitude are now ahead of the game.

Some of my second-hand buys from top left going clockwise: Boden, Clarks, Dorothy Perkins, Marks & Spencer

As a child I grew up wearing hand-me-down clothes and as a student, scoured the charity shops and Affleck's Palace in Manchester for something new to me to wear.

But now I'm ancient, I'm cool.

More of my second-hand buys from top left going clockwise: H & M,Sorel, Next, Top Shop

In fact, I like to think my two sons who run the thriving designer pre-loved business, Luxe Collective have their cool mum to thank for their inspiration!


They started buying pre-loved designer women's shoes when they noticed their sister buying second-hand Isabel Marant Bobby's on ebay.

But even if you buy second-hand clothes, shoes are often dismissed, especially if they have been worn before.

Often there are concerns that their feet are sharing sacred space with someone else's sweaty trotters or even worse, picking up some nasty fungal infections.

And if that's your concern, let me assure you that by taking simple hygiene steps you will be as safe as buying new shoes someone else has tried on in the shoe shop or sent back from an online sale!

In four decades of buying second-hand shoes and boots I have never picked up anything nasty. 

Now swimming pools - that's a different story!!!!

I am not going to rant on about my best buys here, if you want to see them I have posted a video on my Instagram account here.

Last of my second-hand buys from top left going clockwise: Jimmy Choo, Boden, Prada, Karen Milllen.

Instead, this blog is all about sharing tips.

So let's go.


When my shoes first arrive, I wipe them with a damp cloth and then brush if its suede or fake suede or similar.

If it's leather, I wipe with a damp cloth and anti-bac spray. I always wipe the soles with anti-bac spray.

Next, I spray inside with an disinfectant spray and leave to dry. I repeat this a few days later.

That's it!

Know Your size

I know that I am a true size 4.5 in Clarks but in other brands I need a 5. 

Where to look




Charity Shops (many do online shops and ebay shops)

If you are looking for designer then go to the experts: Luxe Collective.

Designer Shoes - tips from Ben Gallagher, CMO and founder of Luxe Collective


"You really need to keep an eye on the condition of items.

Some items look ruined but all they need is a littl TLC. A lot of the time it's nothing worse than a little dust that will come off with a baby wipe.

If something needs stitching then get a professional to do it.

Be  carefu about colours. Lighter colours that have been worn are harder to bring back to life due to marks/staining.

Blacks are your safest bet as they can be re-dyed."


"Lots to look out for. The main areas are: texture, smell, weight, colour/tones, fonts and codes.

If you don't have anything to compare them to then use a google search and compare as many as possible. 

Fake items often have a strong synthetic smell due to inferior quality materials being used. They are often very light and most of the time the colours are way off.

Fonts are super important too - any slight misprint/wonkiness of font is an instant giveaway."


"Designer brands can vary quite a lot and your usual size may not fit. We offer sizing advice."


"Be careful if you want a trending piece. Trending items are like hot stock market trades and will be more expensive, especially if they are sold out. 

But if you want to sell then would be a good time. 

If you really want an item, I would suggest checking out lots of sites to make sure you are not over-payiing.

If you take care of your designer footwear you can very often get back what you paid or more.

They can be a great investment."

Now don't forget to check out my Melbourne based blogging partner, Sarah London for her blog on the same topic.

Have a great week.

Jane X

Wearing some of my favourite pre-loved footwear this week

Thursday 18 November 2021

The Lemon Table


I went 'home' to Manchester, the city of my birth yesterday.

We were invited to the press night of The Lemon Table, a dramatisation of Julian Barnes' collection of short stories of the same name, which was being performed at HOME, located in the city's Tony Wilson Place.

It was a fabulous trip down memory lane, as Tony Wilson aka Mr Manchester, was a figure that loomed large in my youth: from being dared to shout out "There's Tony Whats' On " (he used to have a magazine programme of the same name on Granada TV) when we saw him in the underground market when I was a kid, to 'dancing' the night away at his Hacienda when I matured into a teenager.

But I digress. We were HOME (a hub of contemporary theatre, art, music with a restraurant and bar) to see The Lemon Table and what a welcome return to live theatre it was.

Having been a Merseysider by marriage since 1989, my usual nights out at the theatre are in Liverpool, but I was amazed and overjoyed to discover that by leaving mid-afternoon it took just 45 minutes door to door to get to the car park next to HOME.

After a wander around the city centre and Christmas markets, we returned HOME for a meal on the first floor restaurant which was a delicious vegan feast for me (Smoky Aubergine followed by Setain Steaks) and some meaty abomination (which he loved) for my husband.

Some pre-theatre drinks in the bar and we were ready, thirsty for some live theatre. 

And it didn't disappoint.

Appearing through a swirl of misty dry ice, Scottish actor Ian McDiarmid took command of the sparse stage for the first part of the play, Vigilance, in which we gained an insight into the bitterness and regret that fuelled the grump of this grumpy old git who complained about his fellow theatre goers in unflinching detail. 

Spoiler alert. There was a liberal sprinkling of the laughter-triggering word 'cunt' which my teenage self would have loved even more than tonight's delighted audience.

But like  my smoked aubergine, this was merely a starter, an appetiser of the creative talent prepared by Julian Barnes and sublimely served up by Ian McDiarmid.

There was no interval. I had little time to digest the opening part before the main course was delivered in the form of McDiarmid's manifestation of the Finnish composer, Sibelius nearing the end of his life.

The title of this story flashed above, 'The Silence.'

The minimal movement of the first part stood in stark contrast to the actor's physical performace of the second which revealed a mastery of McDiarmid's craft. 

I was mesmerised by his physicality and movement across the simple set of one table which doubled up as a hill and the two chairs either side of the stage which mapped out the life of a tortured genius facing up to the end of his professional and personal life. 

I confess, I know little about classical music and symphonies but I have an insight into the human experience and like all good art, these words and this performance was offered up to me and I let it wash over me until I woke this morning with a clear sense of what it meant to me.

There are some fabulous lines, executed perfectly by McDiarmid.

"Music begins where words cease. What happens when music ceases? Silence. All other arts aspire to the condition of music. What does music aspire to? Silence."

But for me, it was the three-part symphony of the cranes that has stayed with me.

The nature loving Sibelius opens the symphony at the beginning of the performance meditating on the mystical misty Finnish landscape he has done all his life; talking of his longing to see the elusive cranes and all he sees is wild geese. 

"Geese would  be beautiful if cranes did not exist."

During the middle of the performance after we have learned a little of his life, his family and work (of which there has been an absence of anything new for 30 years),  he talks of dining alone at the Lemon Table and laments the loss of his friends.

In Chinese culture the symbol of death is a lemon and he meets his compatriots where it is obligatory to talk about death. His wife does not approve.

He returns to the ' birds of my youth', the cranes again , where this time he can hear them but not see them.

'Invisible, they were even more beautiful........

More revelations of a chaotic alcohol-fuelled later life heading south are revealed before a return to the hill where the cranes finally reveal themselves flying beneath the clouds.

He stands transfixed, watching.

One breaks from the flock and flies around him in a small circle before rejoining its flock on the long journey south.

He watches the sky until his eyes blur  and his ears can hear no more.

 And then silence as McDiarmid offers a single lemon to the audience.


2, Tony Wilson Place


M15 4FN

The Lemon Table details are here

Directed by Michael Grandage and Titas Halder

Set & costume: Frankie Bradshaw

Lighting Paule Constable

Sssociate Lighting: Ryan Day

Sound: Ella Washington

Thursday 28 October 2021

A Skirt For All Seasons

How can I style this skirt?

Let me count the ways.

When I first saw this Top Shop skirt for sale on Vinted I didn't just see a fabulous fabric with a sensational stylish asymetric hem.

No, the first thing that struck me was its versatility.

I like to wear my clothes Martini style - anytime, anywhere, any place.

So when Sarah and I were discssing ideas for our monthly joint blog I suggested styling an item for all seasons.

As I write I haven't seen Sarah's blog but I am sure it will be well worth reading as she is a far better stylist than me.

And you can find her blog here.

But what I lack in professionalism I like to think I make it up with entusiasm, exploration and very occasionally  Eureka moments.

Having said that - there have been a few catastrophic cock-ups along the way - check this one out if you need a good laugh!

So back to our joint blog and this skirt.

Although it it was technically second hand, it came with the £39 label still attached and I paid £6.80 for it and I blogged about it here.

However, I love it so much I wanted to feature it again.

So for this blog I have styled it my way for four seasons in the UK.

I tend to carve out the year into three monthly blocks.

For me spring is March, April and May (Temp daily  average 7-13C)

Summer: June, July and August. (13-17C)

Autumn: September, October and November (9-16C)

Winter: December, January and February. (5-6C)

Apart from the odd few weeks of unseasonably low or unseasonably high temperatures, in the North West of England, it never really gets that hot or that cold which makes styling easier than in other parts of the world.

So here is my take on a skirt for all seasons and where I would wear it.


When I first tried the skirt on I was struck by the nice broad waistband which I knew would stay up if I wore it as a dress although it did need some definition at the waist with the belt.

As Id used a tan belt I went for tan shoes which act as a neutral with the green, black, white and pink in the fabric.
The asymetric hem makes it a fun way to wear the dress with a hint of leg but the knees mostly covered up which is just the way I like it. 
I haven't been abroad yet since the pandemic but if I did I would wear the skirt with a white tshirt, trainers and deni jacket to the airport and then transform it into a dress while I was away.
Equally, I could wear flip flops and a toning belt for a more casual look.

Autumn or Fall

I spotted this Zara gilet in our local Oxfam and I love the shades which tone nicely with my hair and skin.
As I am usually quite casual during the day I would keep the skirt casual with a cream hoodie and low heeled suede ankle boots.

Again, the tan shades acts as neutrals and still allow the pattern of the skirt to take centre stage. I have worn this outfit - today in fact for running errands, walking the dog and doing my admin.


Its woolies season but not black. As someone with olive/sallow skin black just drains my colour and makes me look ill.

Pink on the other hand is my colour, it always makes me feel and look happy and healthy.

The cropped H & M cardigan picks out the shades of pink in the skirt and I added an extra lacy thermal vest for extra warmth.

The second hand boots are by Sorel and came from Ebloggers.


As the temperature starts to get a little warmer but still with a chill in the air I start to think about the denim jacket days ahead so opted for this ancient Top Shop shirt that is almost like wearing a jacket.

I've paired it with a black belt and Stan Smith trainers that have a pink, green and blue floral print just in time to welcome the springtime flowers.

I have no idea why I thought it was a good idea to hold the apple other than that it was a Pink Lady!

So there you have it - my take on a skirt for all seasons.

Around 50% of these items are second-hand and  most are older items from my wardrobe.

The only new item is the H & M cardigan which you can find

Which one is your favourite look?


Thursday 23 September 2021

A Stitch in Time

 Looking at this photograph, what do you see?

A cream crochet dress over a black slip?

A classic Karen Millen dress?

A party dress?

This dress is all of those and much more.

When I look at this dress I am transported back to my 30s in 2005 in Liverpool City Centre. That feeling of finally losing my baby weight after four children and a career back on track. Working in Liverpool City Centre as a PR Manager I had lunch hours and on one of those on a late sunny afternoon I spotted this dress on the sale rail at Karen Millen in Bold Street.

It was less than half price but still expensive for me.

But I bought it for no other reason than I loved it.

Our relarionship was sealed under the fluorescent lighting and flattering dressing room mirrors.

When I look at this dress I remember holding my baby neice, Georgia in my arms at her christening in the hot summer of 2006.

When I look at this dress I can feel the heat of a hot Sunday evening  in late April 2007 hurtling through the back streets of Rome in a cab rushing to get to a tiny pizzaria in time for my friend's 50th birthday.

When I look at this dress I can feel the pride at standing alongside my son who worked so hard to graduate after a few false starts one July afternoon in 2017.

When I look at this dress I recall the bittersweet feelings of love and loss at my daughter-in-law's Hen Do in 2018. 

Those mixed feelings of knowing that your eldest son has found the love of his life but you are no longer the number one priority in his life - as it should be.

 I wore this dress deliberately as it was my safety blanket and I needed the support of a really good friend.

This dress didn't let me down. 

And now I couldn't be happier that my son has found such a wonderful woman to be his wife and the mother of my beautiful granddaugter.

There are many other times that are not photographed but are woven into the fabric of my memory. 
The day I tumbled downstairs after having one too many at a local bar and was caught by a handsome young man who turned out to be a friend of my sons. 
The barbeuces and dinner parties.

My love affair with this dress has continued throughout the ups and downs of my weight.
 It has hugged me close when I was a size 6 and a size 12 and every size  in between.

Every stitch is infused with my life from my 30s to my 50s and all the rich array of emotions I I have had the privilege of experiencing.

Sutra is the Sanskrit name for a short story (or a spiritual teaching) and comes from the same root as the English word suture or stitch.
And it is why I feel that the threads of this dress are stitched together within the rich tapestry of the small fabric of my life.

Today's post is a joint collaboration with Melbourne based style blogger Sarah

London and she has an amzing story about a fabulous wool coat - please hop over and take a read.

See you soon,

Jane X

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