Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog

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steam railway 40s weekend and vintage fashion-6

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Tuesday Shoesday ~ a history lesson in 40s footwear

As you know I’ve started learning to swing dancing, including lindy hop, charleston and now balboa, all of which are intrinsically linked to the 1940s era. I’ve been going to hangar dances and I’m attending another 40s dance this coming weekend. I’ve been delighted to find that there is quite a vintage ‘scene’ going on in the area I live so this very weekend I had a choice of four dances to go to on Saturday night! You may have already spotted some of my vintage clothing blog posts, but I’ve hardly mentioned the footwear. This is mainly due to the fact that when I dance, my feet need to be comfortable so that I can bust some moves on the dancefloor so I’ve worn the same pair of shoes every time. IMG_6337IMG_6359

My preferred dancing shoes are a simple pair of plain black low-heel shoes with a baby-doll strap. They are simple but are so comfortable and I’ve owned them for about 8 years – long before my passion for dancing came into being. But even back then, they were my go-to shoes for nights out with my friends as I knew that I would still be comfortable on the walk home, even after a whole evening of dancing. So when I started going to dance lessons, these shoes were the obvious choice and I’ve worn them to every lesson since. I’ve written about them before in my article about taking care of your shoes, and this pair have been reheeled and buffed up to a fine shine many times over the years, which is why I think they have lasted so long. The problem is that I’m starting to worry about the day when they finally fail, when the heel snaps during a speedy spin or when the buckle pings off after a keen kick. I want to find a suitable replacement but have no clue about what type of shoes to go for.

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As you may have seen in my blog post last Tuesday, I have a fab pair of Orla Kiely baby doll heels which I wore to a 40s steam railway event last month. They were comfortable enough for walking around all day long, but these are too heavy with their chunky heels and platform sole to be any good for dancing, plus the t-bar isn’t quite right for the era. So that’s where my research into 40s footwear comes in. I know I want my dancing shoes to be comfortable but I also want them to look good with my choice of vintage attire so I’ve taken a look at what shoe styles were popular during the era. I imagined that the selection of shoes would be quite limited but in contrast I found that there were a large selection of what I would call ‘modern’ styles around in the 1940s so I’m sure that I will be able to find a replica version of these old designs if the originals prove to be too pricey for my thrifty budget!

So first of all I’d like to discuss heel height, and I discovered that shorter stacked heels and chunky square shapes were popular in the 40s. I am rather pleased about this because I prefer a shorter heel and find it difficult to dance in anything over 3 inches so I’m sure that a pair of vintage shoes would be suitable to dance in. I found out that evening shoes were sometimes a little higher, but here’s the thing that really surprised me; wedges were popular in the 1940s! I genuinely thought that this style was a much more recent invention and I spent the whole of my 20s wearing wedges, never realising just how ‘vintage’ I was being! Practical lace-up shoes of the era, such as brogues or Oxford shoes for daytime also featured chunky stacked heels so the women of the 40s were definitely a fan of a little extra height!   1940s shoes styles baby doll slingbacks peep toe

Popular 1940s shoes styles

The Mary Jane shoes or baby doll shoes that I love so much are typical styles of the era. Evening-wear in the 40s usually included straps around the ankle or across the foot and even slingbacks made an appearance. Straps could be added to peep toes, wedges or court shoes/pumps to turn them into jazzy party shoes – again, I thought that peep-toes were a more modern invention – how wrong I was! I think that the addition of straps might have been to do with the energetic lindy-hop dancing the women were doing in the evenings, so that their shoes stayed firmly on their feet during all those jive kicks! 1940s shoes Aldens catalogue from 1949

images from Aldens catalogue 1949

Most of the shoes in the 1940s were black, light tan, brown or olive green with only a few exciting shades of patriotic red, white and blue available. Brighter colours became popular after WW2 as you can see from the yellow shoes in this 1949 catalogue image. Two-tone shoes were popular; not only in Oxford shoes, saddle shoes or loafers as you’d expect, but also around the top of pretty court shoes or slingbacks, so many of these would have contrast stitching or added trim in a different colour. In terms of embellishment, most styles were relatively plain with a little punch-hole decoration in the leather. Bows or flowers in the same fabric or colours of the shoe were added to evening or summer shoes for decoration.

From this research, I have concluded that I should invest in some baby-doll Mary Jane shoes, possibly with a peep toe (and definitely in red or blue!) with a contrast white stitching or perforation pattern around the top. Does anyone have any suggestions of where I can find something like this – original vintage or modern? Please let me know in the comments below! And if you have a favourite pair of vintage shoes yourself, please send me a photo of them, I’d love to see your favourites too :)




Styling one tweed dress for work, casual & party time!

I have a lot of clothes yet I hardly ever have anything to wear. In fact, I probably wear the same 5 or 6 outfits over and over again and rest of my clothes continue to hang in pristine condition in my wardrobe. Does this sound familiar? So many women claim to wear just 20% of their clothes 80% of the time and I certainly agree with this statistic. At the start of the year I wrote about making the most of the existing items in my wardrobe and although I’ve tried my best, I just can’t help buying new things and hoping that this will be the one dress that will do me for every occasion. And that’s where my new tweed dress comes in.

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Dress from Bonmarche

The dress is designed by David Emanuel (yes, he who created Princess Diana’s wedding dress) for Bonmarche and it’s a lovely grey tweed with a little stretch in it. Just the right midi length for me, it is very figure flattering and I am always happy to have sleeves on a dress! It comes with a skinny black belt and I’ve been wearing it just as it is for a while now. But I wanted to make it work harder for me so I’ve come up with three more ways to wear this dress so that it can be used for work, evening wear and for casual days off – and that’s where we’ll start.

I’ve decided that my casual look should include layers of textures so I’ve combined tweed, with tweed, with tweed. Yes, this is a particularly autumnal look and feels rather ‘countryside’ when I wear it! It’s definitely a cosy combination; I’ve added my tweed jacket and wrapped a soft checked scarf in shades of grey, beige and pink around the neck to tie in all the colours and textures. Even though the jacket is a smart shape, the combination of all three elements makes the outfit more casual and I’d wear a pair of knee-high boots with it during the autumn.

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Jacket from Joules and scarf from Next

My work outfit has been created by simply adding a white shirt underneath the dress. I’m sure everyone has a plain white shirt in their wardrobe so I’ve been able to create this look without any added expense. It makes use of the belt that came with the dress and I’ve added my staple black handbag to complete this smart outfit. I rarely need to be this dressed up for work unless I’m going to a meeting so it’s good to be able to create a neat look without having to invest in a whole work-wear wardrobe. I would wear thick dark tights and patent brogues to finish off this look for Autumn/Winter. David Emanuel tweed dress styled 4 ways-9 David Emanuel tweed dress styled 4 ways-10 David Emanuel tweed dress styled 4 ways-11

Shirt from New Look and handbag from St. Elizabeth Hospice charity shop

Finally, I wanted to be able to wear this dress for nights out and I’ve turned it into a pencil dress by simply adding a thick elasticated belt around the waist and adding a couple of glitzy accessories in the form of this studded clutch bag and black floral necklace. This shows just how easy it would be to transform this dress from a daytime casual or work look into evening wear just by adding a couple of low-cost accessories. I would wear killer heels with this outfit and a pair of seamed tights to emphasise the 40s/50s wiggle-dress shape created by the belt. David Emanuel tweed dress styled 4 ways-13 David Emanuel tweed dress styled 4 ways-14 David Emanuel tweed dress styled 4 ways-16

Clutch and necklace from Apricot and belt from Oxfam Online charity shop

Let me know what you think of these looks and if you can think of any other ways that I can create a different look with the same dress, please get in touch! Leave me a comment below or chat with me on Twitter @Cassiefairy.

Upbeat protein drink breakfast-2

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Enjoy more protein to stay Upbeat!

Over the past week I’ve been blogging about staying active during the winter months and I’ve shared healthy (ish) cocktail recipes using cherry juice. In contrast, I’ve also shared a recipe for a cinder toffee coffee cheesecake so for the purpose of this article we’ll just ignore that one..! Actually, I think I’ve got the balance right in terms of ‘good for you’ versus ‘a little of what you fancy’ and I’ve been thinking about how to keep this going throughout autumn/winter.

I find it easier to be healthy in the summer when the idea of salad for every meal IS enjoyable and there’s plenty of fresh veg growing in my garden. But when the nights get colder and darker, it’s easy to comfort eat on the sofa and load up on stodgy meals. It doesn’t have to be a cycle of unhealthy dinners and no-exercise – how about making a big batch of stew with fresh root vegetables instead? Just remember that portion sizes are key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle over Winter so try not to eat too many second helpings, no matter how delicious it is!Upbeat protein drink breakfast-2

All these vegetables are great for a healthy lifestyle and I’m SO pleased to be able to harvest a courgette and be eating it as part of a healthy pasta meal only 30 minutes later. But what I’m worried about is the lack of protein in my diet, especially when I’m forgoing meat in favour of vegetables a lot of the time.  I’ve been reading up on the benefits of protein and although I eat some chicken for lunch I’m certainly not eating enough protein for it to be beneficial. It is essential for making hormones, enzymes, and immune cells, so I want to be getting my fair share of protein in order to ward off illness during the Winter. The recommendation is that we have a steady intake of protein throughout the day because our bodies cannot store protein like we do carbohydrate and fat, but I can’t be eating chicken for every meal, can I?!Upbeat protein drink breakfast

This is a round-about way of telling you that I’ve just tried out a new product that has recently appeared in the chiller section of my local supermarket. I’ve tried Upbeat, which is a sort of fruity milkshake yoghurt drink and it is delicious. It contains 20g of protein which is a decent amount to consume in a portion and I’ve been enjoying it at breakfast time in order to get some of these essential nutrients into my body first thing in the morning. This is a time of day that I know I won’t be getting much protein otherwise – I don’t really have time to cook eggs for breakfast and I prefer a low fat option – so it’s good to have that boost from a product that isn’t a challenge to drink. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of those little probiotic drinks, so I was really pleased to find out that this product isn’t at all like that!Upbeat protein drink breakfast-3

I’ve chatted to the people at Upbeat to tell them how pleased I was with their product and they have been kind enough to offer a prize bundle for one lucky reader to win. This healthy-living kit includes a filter water bottle, insulated lunchbox, tote bag and plenty more vouchers and Upbeat goodies. If you fancy winning all of these treats, including vouchers for bottles of Upbeat to try for yourself, please enter by following @Cassiefairy on Twitter and retweeting this competition tweet.

Upbeat protein drink competition-2

The competition closes at midnight on Wednesday 22nd October and the winner will be contacted via Twitter.


Autumn in the air

And I’m talking about the scent of autumn. It’s at this time of year that I start getting out my scented candles and enjoying cosy evenings by candlelight. I know lots of my friends choose to use scented candles all year round, but after Christmas I tend to forget to light them and eventually my candles all get put away until the following year. I’ve decided that this week they will all be making a reappearance and I’ll be adding a few new scents to my collection to infuse my home with the lovely scent of autumn. The crackling sound of a burning candle reminds me of fireworks night – the spitting bonfire and lighting sparklers from tealights – and candles are essential for illuminating pumpkin carvings so I’d say that candles really are an important part of the autumn season for me.

I think that burning candles in the evening just makes the whole room feel more snug and cosy, and I don’t know whether they actually give off much heat, but I feel warmer almost straight away after lighting candles. Perhaps it’s a placebo effect but at least it makes me feel cosier and happier so that’s got to be a good thing, right? At the moment I’m enjoying a fresh honey scent in the evenings with these BeeFayre candles and I’ve chosen this range because the products are made in the UK from natural ingredients, plus the brand donates 3% profits to bee conservation and research. I almost can’t wait until dusk before lighting it and filling the room with sweet smells!

scented candles for autumn winter

It doesn’t seem appropriate to light candles when it’s still light outside during summer (apart from citronella candles to get rid of bugs when you’re enjoying summer evenings on the patio, of course!) so the one good thing about the nights getting darker earlier is that it feels right to light candles and enjoy the soft flickering light on a dark evening. If you’re really being frugal, you could turn off all your house lights and cosy up in candlelight, but I had to live like this for a week last autumn when our power went off after the storms so that’s kind of taken the fun out of it a little!

images from John Lewis

I don’t want to go all Christmassy too soon but I couldn’t help myself from heading into the Christmas shop when I was looking to spend some gift vouchers that I have for John Lewis. So now I’ve got a few festive candles on my hit list for this December including a Winter scents candle and my Christmas essential: the advent candle! One of my favourite things to do from December 1st is light a festive advent candle to measure the countdown to Christmas. It’s a fun ritual and it always seems to burn too quickly to start with and you might accidently burn down a couple of days without noticing, and sometimes you’ll miss a day because you’re out for the evening so you need to double-burn the next day to catch up. I enjoy this process and it’s a real signifier that Christmas is approaching. Plus, it’s always the healthy option – no chocolate in that advent calendar haha!

hairstyles for halloween


Halloween hairstyles

Halloween is my favourite time of year. I love getting dressed up, covering myself in fake blood and putting on those all-important cat ears which, if I’m honest, have seen a lot of wear over the years. However, not everyone is a fan of fancy dress and some people can feel a little bit embarrassed when walking down the street. Luckily for you, I’m here to help.

This time of year always brings back those styling tricks and tools that you had almost forgotten about. From serious backcombing to old school crimping, there are so many different types of hairstyles to choose from to help bring out your darker side. halloween hairstyles 1

To achieve extreme, hair-raising volume, all you need is some hairspray and a comb. Start to segment your hair and backcomb each section at the roots. Don’t be afraid to be as messy as you want. To get an even more terrifying look, why not backcomb the whole length of your hair, or add some hairspray into the roots to make your hair stand on end. This is an extravagant look and works perfectly for Halloween. You could also add in a few curls or create an oversized quiff or updo for your fright-night look.halloween hair

I’m sure many of you still have crimpers hidden away somewhere (I know I do), so delve into your drawers and give them a quick dust off. You never know, it may be the perfect hairstyle for your Halloween costume and you may even thank me for it!

Being artistic with your make-up is another way to get that unearthly yet chic style. Try framing your eyes with dark shades of brown, green or purple eye shadow, extending your eyeliner beyond your lid and shading in your eyebrows to deepen your ghoulish look. Ghost white complexions are almost a must on Halloween, so apply plenty of light powder or white face paint to create this effect and finish with nude/light pink lips.hairstyles for halloween

So, what do you think you will be dressing up as this Halloween? Have you thought about what you will do with your hair? Let me know in the comments below!

John Frieda have kindly offered Cassiefairy readers the chance to win some fabulous Sheer Blonde Go Blonder products and YOU could win the kit below for yourself by entering my competition on Twitter – simply follow @Cassiefairy and retweet the competition tweet – click here to enter !

Sheer Blonde Competition