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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

What 3 Years of Blogging Has Taught Me | My Bloggiversary (and Birthday!)

What 3 Years of Blogging Has Taught Me #blogging #tips
Here we are again, another year on: Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to my blog! Not Dressed As Lamb is three years old today (aww), and I'm 42 today. Though I have been saying for months that I'm 42 - some of you may know I can't bear my age being an odd number and 41 just sounded horrid. Good riddance, odd numbered age!

I thought I'd reflect on my three years as a blogger and share with you what those years of blogging has taught me - which is quite a lot, both about myself and about others. There's some facts, there's some musings, and there's some wonders. Please do share any similar thoughts in the comments or on Twitter with me (@notlamb) - I'd love to hear from you! 


Statistics up to my third bloggiversary

  • I've published over 600 posts (this is number 605), of which 429 have been outfit posts.
  • I estimate that over 50,000 photographs have been taken of me. Time for some housekeeping on the out-takes on the hard drive I think.
  • There have been three blog designs in that time, with countless tweaks along the way.
  • My Bloglovin followers after one year of blogging totalled 140. My Bloglovin followers after three years of blogging total nearly 4,000. I've learnt how to market myself.
  • I started a Google Plus account a year ago and now have 1,800 people following me there - I've had 9 million Google+ page views apparently. Google+ is popular, and makes total SEO sense.
  • Six months into the blog I asked whether I should be Tweeting or not (that post makes for amusing reading now); I now have over 3,000 Twitter followers and I use it as my number one platform to promote my blog and make friends.
  • Not Dressed As Lamb has had over 1.6million page visits. That's utterly incredible (and totally mind-blowing).
(Please don't think I've given these statistics to brag; I'm saying that with hard work and a commitment to blog, dramatic increases in followers and activity can be done organically - without resorting to buying followers or annoying others with "follow for follow" requests!)

My best advice to anyone starting a blog

Before you do anything, choose a name for your blog. Make it catchy, make it reasonably short (maximum 15 characters*), make it original, make it say something about you. Ensure the exact same name is available across all social media channels, from blog to Twitter to Facebook to Instagram - and stick with it. If someone else is using that name on any platform - choose a different one. You need to be unique and not be confused with anyone else. This is the only thing that I'd advise you take plenty of time over, as it's a pain in the proverbial to change all of them later.

"My best advice to anyone starting a blog: choose a catchy name [that's] available across all channels, from blog to Twitter to Facebook to Instagram"

Secondly, if you're going the simple route and using Blogger as your blog host, create a Google email address (Gmail) with your new blog name FIRST, then use that to create your blog and sign up to all your social media accounts with that email. Things would have been a whole lot easier for me had I known to do it that way.

*the maximum length of a username on Twitter

The very best thing about blogging (above all else)

I think most established bloggers would agree with me when I say it's the blogging community and the friendships you make when you blog that are the very best thing - and they're right. But just edging ahead of bloggy friends, for me, are the odd moments when you receive a wonderful, thoughtful email that a total stranger has taken the time to send you. If any bloggers reading this have ever received an email like this, you'll know exactly what I mean.

I received the following the other day... I've omitted her name with the opening line to keep her anonymous, but it sums up everything that makes this blogging lark so utterly, utterly rewarding:

"I'm in my mid-entering-late-30s, and I used to be somewhat of a fashion-challenged person. Well, not any more. From some time ago I started to take better care of my appearance, and now I love to look for inspiration in fashion blogs that give off a certain vibe I can relate to: not too eccentric, definitely not boring, but everyday flattering style that looks chic, and most important, that fits me.

Most blogs on my list, while awesome, were targeting a younger audience - fashion tends to do that - and I felt a little out of place for liking things I knew I wouldn't pull off like a 20-something would. What was the point of seeing all these amazing choices if on the other hand I was being bombarded with the old 'age-appropriate' stigma. So I started wandering around the blogosphere. I knew it was not all mumsy clothes (I don't even have kids), because I see celebrities much older looking amazing, but I wanted to see real women with real responsibilities going that extra mile to look fabulous in their day-to-day routine. I wanted to know their secret (yes, and downright copy them).
"The important lesson I learned from you was that if it fits me in every way (my body, my confidence, my circumstances), then I'll walk out the door in it"
And that's when I came across your blog, and an interesting thing happened. I saw this gorgeous red-haired woman who was embracing some of the bold choices I thought were out of my reach, and she was rocking those choices and looking her best (granted, though, you have a face and body that'd look good in anything). I mean, sandals with socks? A Bowie t-shirt? Was that allowed? And it hit me: fashion doesn't elude us once we hit a certain number. It doesn't have to be gray and nude colors and the same hairstyle; fashion wants to be played with, but she - fashion is a 'she', if you ask me - needs a strong companion to put up with her. She's a woman with a huge ego saying 'You think you can handle me? Let's see how bold and confident you are'. And you nail that, you really do. Not all of your looks had me head-over-heels, but most did and it's a matter of preference. The important lesson I learned from you was that if it fits me in every way (my body, my confidence, my circumstances), then surely I'll walk out the door in it.

I wanted to say thank you in a more concise way, but seeing how long this turned out to be I'm just glad I didn't do it in your comments section. I really appreciate the time and effort you put into your blog to help us out when we're wondering if stripes and polka dots go together. I'm learning to look in the mirror for an honest answer and go with it, with a full smile and full of confidence.

Thank you".

Lump in your throat, anyone?

That's what makes it all worthwhile. To think that I've inspired someone just by the simple act of getting dressed, taking pictures of my outfits and putting them on the internet is utterly priceless. Nothing prepares you for amazing, touching words like that. I've had a few emails and messages along similar lines over the last three years, and they never, ever fail to pull at my heart strings. From the shortest, sweetest Tweets to the longest, heartfelt emails, I appreciate every single one of these kind words and will never cease to be surprised at how me going about my everyday business and sharing a little bit of it online can inspire and delight others. 

So if I can do it, anyone can - it doesn't matter about the method used or the message that's being given. Just get out there and share the things you enjoy with others. You'll be amazed whose day you might brighten.

(Oh and if you leave me a comment or Tweet me you'll make my day, because it's my birthday - just in case I didn't shout it loud enough ;)
Catherine x
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P.S. You might like to read a couple of early posts: 10 Things I Wish I'd Been Told When I Started a Blog, and 10 Things I Wish I'd Known Six Months Into My Blog. Funny looking back at them now...!

Linking up to: Let It Shine, All Things Thursday, Friday's Fab Favourites

Monday, 21 July 2014

How to Wear a Crop Top in Your Forties | The Boxy Crop Top

Stripey crop top and rolled hem jeans
It's summer, and that means one thing when it comes to the crop top trend: is it appropriate to wear a crop top in your 40s or over? Many of you may remember me wearing a crop top last year (and I won't be going into the whole debate again!), but as someone who believes that as long as the clothes are appropriate to the occasion and you feel good in something, then wear whatever you bloomin' well choose

This year I'm loving the boxy crop tops - for 2014 the on-trend style seems to be a looser boxy shape as opposed to last year's tight tops - and this nautical style striped crop top ticks all the summer boxes for me. I did order the matching skirt as well because I was longing for some co-ords, but ohhhhhhh no... my large waist-to-hip ratio distorted the vertical stripes on the skirt and it did not look good on me (you need to be straight-up-and-down for that style). Goes to show I don't always know what's going to suit me every time!

The top did look much better, however, styled very simply with my skinny flares rolled up with a super-deep hem, tan accessories and my gorgeous visor-style Ray-Ban 3471 sunglasses in purple and silver (which you may have seen on my Instagram feed). As well as loving the style, they're great for driving as you don't have a thick frame blocking your view and yet a lot of sun is filtered because there's so much lens.

Have you dared to try the boxy crop top trend if you perhaps didn't feel the tight versions of last year were right for you? Do you still make any fashion faux-pas choosing things that you think will suit you - only to find you got it all wrong like I did with the skirt? Do share in the comments!

Stripey crop top and rolled hem jeans
Stripey crop top and rolled hem jeans
Ray-Ban 3471s in purple and silver
Striped boxy top
Nautical striped top
Don't forget to enter my initial necklace giveaway (your choice of gold or silver) from Onecklace!

oNecklace initial necklace giveaway
Catherine x
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P.S. You can see how I've worn crop tops before herehere and here to judge for yourself whether it's got anything to do with age...!

Top: c/o Front Row Shop, Jeans: Asos, Sandals: Asos (old), Ray-Bans: c/o Sunglasses Shop, Bag: c/o La Redoute, Watch: Asos. I've found a selection of skinny flare and bootcut jeans that I think would work equally well rolled with a deep hem as I've done with my Asos Lennox jeans (hopefully these will suit most colour preferences and budgets):

Linking up to: Visible Monday, Let It ShineShare in Style, Monday Mingle, Style SessionsTrend Spin Link-UpWhat I Wore Wednesday, Passion for Fashion FridayFriday's Fab Favourites

Saturday, 19 July 2014

What to Wear to the Office | 23 Office Chic Work Outfits from 9 Separates

23 Ways to Wear - Minimalist Office Chic Wardrobe
Are you finding what to wear to the office difficult? Can you really make 23 office chic work outfits with only nine separates? Yes - and I'll show you how by using a small collection of minimalist pieces, adding some gorgeous accessories and a little creativity. In fact I'm going to stick my neck out and say I reckon there's over 800 combinations here.

You read that right - EIGHT HUNDRED COMBINATIONS. Read on and I'll explain!

Almost two years ago I wrote (what became) a very popular post entitled 10 Ways to Wear: Work Outfits (Office Chic on a Budget): I featured my own clothes for what I'd wear if I had a job in a creative office environment, with some pattern mixing and bright colours. I do know, however, that not everyone can wear loud prints or bright colour mixes to work, especially if they have a corporate office job. Using minimalist pieces from the Hugo Boss women clothing collection from Harrods, my method shows how a few simple separates can be worked and reworked to create an almost limitless office chic wardrobe.

The Minimalist Office Wardrobe Concept

I've chosen three tops, three bottoms and three pieces of quality outerwear. Neutrals in black, white and grey are always classic combinations, but they can be a little dull on their own. By investing in smart, timeless neutrals you will get your money's worth ten times over, especially if you use this method of mixing and matching. A couple of brights that coordinate beautifully with the neutrals are a must - go for two colours that really complement both your colouring and each other (you're creating a complete colour palette, so this is where accessories will work in later). The nine pieces are shown here arranged in a grid so that each row across and down has a basic combination of top, bottom and outerwear:

23 Ways to Wear - Office Chic Minimalist Wardrobe

As you can probably tell there are many ways to mix and match the pieces - you can choose rows across and down, as well as mixing up the rows as shown below:

23 Ways to Wear - Office Chic Minimalist Wardrobe

You have three rows across and three down, and one diagonal option. There are also eight other ways to mix them (as shown by the arrows below) - this totals 15 basic outfits. You can go on and see that you could choose two from the bottom row (white trousers, coral top) and an outerwear piece from the top row (black cardigan) and so on - there are actually another eight outfits to create by choosing two from an outside row or column and one from its opposite in the same way.

Total: 23 basic outfits. Not bad, eh?

23 Ways to Wear 9 Pieces - Office Chic Minimalist Wardrobe

I mentioned before that the colour palette you've created helps you easily identify what colour accessories go with your basic office wardrobe.

The way to add more personality is with great shoes and some fabulous scarves, brooches or necklaces. Here's some ideas to funk up your outfit yet remain appropriately office chic; all these items complement the blue and coral (and neutrals, of course) in my Hugo Boss work wardrobe:

You're probably still wondering how I came up with the 800+ figure, right?

Well, I've given you six pairs of shoes that would all work with the chosen pieces, and six accessories. If you have 23 basic outfits, then wearing six different pairs of shoes gives you 138 outfits. And those 138 outfits can then each be paired with the six different accessories, so 138 x 6 = 828. Granted, not every single accessory will work with every basic outfit (the collar with pearls won't work on a shirt that already has collars, for example, but you wouldn't want to wear a jacket or cardigan with every look either) - it's a ballpark figure.

But 800+ potential outfits from nine separates is pretty good going.

It proves that dressing for a corporate office needn't be boring or stuffy; yes, you have to look groomed and very smart, but there's still room for adding personality. I'd never accept any excuse for a "boring white blouse and black skirt" - this is why shoes and accessories are your friend! Be inventive, be creative, and above all, take pride in what you wear - even to work. I always, always dressed up when I had an office job - now I look back I'm so glad I did.

Do you work in an office, and how do you dress for your job? Do you have a very separate wardrobe for work to your wardrobe for weekends, and what tips do you have for injecting personality into your outfits - let us know in the comments!
Catherine x
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P.S. If you want some further inspiration on how to accessorise your office outfits to give them more personality, take a look at my Office Chic Pinterest board for loads of outfit styling ideas!

Linking up to: Let It Shine, All Things Thursday, Friday's Fab Favourites

I have written this post in collaboration with Hugo Boss at Harrods. All content is original, however, and opinions are my own and 100% honest.

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