Thursday, 20 July 2017

What It's Like to Be a Guest Editor for a Fashion Brand's Magazine | The JD Williams Magalogue

City break outfit: JD Williams SS17 | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 style blog
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In the past month I've been up and down to London and Manchester on a couple of special assignments, and I'm excited to share with you what it was all in aid of!

I'm sure many of you may know fashion brand JD Williams - I'm really honoured to be the first blogger to be asked to be guest editor of their monthly "magalogue", LIFE.Style. Well, if you've ever looked in the front of magazines where you get that little intro from a guest editor and wondered who they are and what went into the whole process, then you're about to find out!

You can see the magazine below - I couldn't be more pleased with how it all turned out. Every part of the process has been so much fun and I won't lie, it's been very hard work, but it's definitely all been worth it and I couldn't be more happy with the finished product.

JD Williams LIFE.Style monthly magalogue | Guest editor Catherine Summers, Not Dressed As Lamb
JD Williams LIFE.Style monthly magalogue | Guest editor Catherine Summers, Not Dressed As Lamb

Just a little bit of background...

JD Williams are going into a bit of new direction, and I was asked to collaborate with them to be part of that new direction and bring them to a new audience. I will be honest and admit that I wasn't really familiar with their actual collection - I know the brand itself well enough (their campaigns are often headed by the gorgeous Lorraine Kelly) - but I've never really shopped there before.

However... I absolutely LOVED what they had to offer. That totally surprised me, and in a really good way. I know I harp on about good matches between bloggers and brands being so important and being a fan of the brand first is important, but I don't think there's a problem when you're introduced to a brand you're not familiar with (or don't shop at) but you take a shine to straight away.

Part 1 - Choosing three outfits

Before the photoshoot took place, I had to choose three outfits to wear to accompany the three sections of LIFE.Style I'd be appearing in. And this is where it got really crazy - we had an early start in the studio on a Monday morning so I stayed in a hotel in London the night before. There had been no time to get me the clothes to choose from to my house (or send them back), so a suitcase and one huge bag full of clothes were couriered to my hotel room where they were ready waiting for me.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

A Blogger's Guide to Nofollow Links and When You Should Use Them

A Blogger's Guide to Nofollow Links and When You Should Use Them

Last week I talked about things bloggers must do when accepting freebies, and it touched on the subject of using nofollow links. However I know it remains a very confusing subject for many of us, so I thought I'd dedicate a whole blog post to the, er, joys(!) of nofollow links in a handy blogger's guide.

I'll try and write it all in layman's terms wherever possible as some bloggers may be completely unfamiliar with the term "nofollow" links - and likewise with "dofollow" links - if you're thinking "Huh?! What on EARTH is she talking about?" then this post is for you... ALL BLOGGERS need to know about this, so keep reading!

The use of nofollow links is something that many bloggers are completely unaware of. After all, no one hands you a guidebook when setting up a blog to tell you what you should and shouldn't be doing (but they should! I believe blogging platforms should send you Terms & Conditions that you read and sign when you start a blog, and all these sorts of rules should be included in there. Anyway, I digress).

Nofollow links can be a huge bone of contention between brands/PRs and bloggers, and if you are offered payment for "a dofollow link" then my advice is simple:

DO NOT WORK WITH THEM. They are asking you to break the rules and put your blog at risk for their own benefit.

And here's why...

What are nofollow and dofollow links?

First of all, all links are theoretically dofollow by default. So this is what all [dofollow] links do:

Adding a link that sends people to another site results in Google actively following the link. This will then increase the other site's trustworthiness and PageRank (what Google uses to determine the importance of a web page). It boosts the site's SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), in other words.

The bigger and more reputable the site that featured the link, the more it'll boost the SEO of the site it points to. Remember, all links you create on your blog are dofollow unless you purposely make them otherwise. Make sense so far?

Monday, 17 July 2017

A Rainbow Graphic Print Maxi Dress Styled the 90s Way #iwillwearwhatilike

A rainbow-bright summer maxi dress styled in 90s style: Multi-coloured strappy maxi dress \ plain white t-shirt tee \ black wedge espadrilles \ Beara Beara brown leather backpack with antique brass plaque | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 style

Okay, so this is a trend which has come back that - like chokers and roll necks - I swore I wouldn't wear again. Wearing a strappy maxi dress over a t-shirt just SCREAMS nineties to me, but look what I wore over the weekend when we went to see the Parathletics at the Olympic stadium... classic 90s!

I think what's made the difference, however, and brought it somewhat up to date is the pattern of the maxi dress. This rainbow graphic print makes it nothing like the small-floral-on-a-black-background prints I wore so much circa 1993 (with those folded brim denim hats, remember them?! If those come back with a flower pinning up the brim I'll probably kill myself).

Anyway I got this Warehouse maxi dress in the sale at Asos after a recommendation by Lisa AKA The Sequinist - she was right when she said it was a great hot weather dress (she featured lots of maxi dress picks in that post so do check them out). I'd ordered it just at the end of last week and barely had time to try it on before I was due to pack an overnight bag to stay in London, but it fitted perfectly and I loved the pattern so into my weekend bag it went.

I took my fave white t-shirt from Yunion T (sellers of the best plain white t-shirts ever) and a few other white tops with me as I knew I didn't want to wear it with nothing underneath. When we go away and we're driving - as opposed to me working away and having to go on the train carrying a case - I tend to go nuts and pack three or four of everything. So three white t-shirts it was. I had the 90s in my head when I pictured the t-shirt and maxi dress together but somehow - SOMEHOW(?!) it worked.

What made the difference was the addition of the belt. I know it's much more "now" to leave 'em loose, but I know on me it just looks a little better with some waist definition. It's one of my best features, I might as well make the most of it, eh?

The other standout item of this outfit is the striking backpack which I was gifted by Beara Beara, a luxury leather bags brand - I chose the Koey backpack and it's made from 100% real leather. This bag is absolutely rock hard SOLID and the quality is out of this world. But what really sold it to me was the antique brass plaque and the fact that they offered me embossing - I forgot to take a photo of it (*rolls eyes*) but I had my initials put on the bag just under the flap.

Friday, 14 July 2017

12 Weird Things That Fashion Bloggers Do (That Only Bloggers Understand) #SaturdayShareLinkUp

12 Weird Things That Fashion Bloggers Do (That Only Bloggers Understand)

I firstly wanted to say that last week I had the highest number of link ups ever on either a #SaturdayShareLinkUp or an #iwillwearwhatilike link up - thank you! And if you're one of the new linkees then welcome, it's great to have you :)

Last week I talked about how the mere act of just DOING can inspire others, and I loved the knock-on effect that the post had (which was the actual subject matter itself - is that life imitating art?). You inspire others to do things, they do things, they inspire others to do things, and so on. However this week I decided to talk about things I do that others may consider as weird, though I'm pretty sure bloggers - especially fashion bloggers - won't find them strange at all...

You know what I'm talking about, all you fashion bloggers reading this!

So here's a fun list of stuff I do that's just a bit weird. They may apply to some bloggers, not necessarily all, but I'm sure most will at least relate to some of them at least.

And if you're thinking of starting a blog: Take advice from last week's post about "just doing", and then heed the behaviour that you may find yourself doing eventually (Instagram tends to rule our lives)... You have been warned!!

(Please note: This is merely a fun post, please do not take any of these things too seriously... my life isn't really ruled by my blog as much as it appears. Much.)

Weird things I do as a fashion blogger

1. I'm a whizz at getting changed in the car to shoot more than one outfit post when "on location" - you have to shoot outfits at the most convenient times and sometimes that means all in one afternoon.

2. I recreate outfits I've already worn a day or two or even weeks later, or sometimes a day or two early for an outfit I'm planning to wear, because "on the day" wasn't convenient to shoot (or I didn't have a photographer).

3. We often incorporate walking the dog with outfit shoots, so I wear the outfit with sneakers and take heels to change into. I'm often on country paths and lanes and changing in and out of heels while holding onto gates into fields or similar.

4. With every single thing I do I think, Can I put this on Instagram Stories? Can I quickly get it on Stories and is the WiFi strong enough here to do it?

5. I'm always worrying about whether that chipped nail polish will be visible in my Instagram Stories... Do I repaint them? Will anyone care?

6. I can get a little disappointed when a brand sends me a gifted item that doesn't come in packaging that's pretty enough for an "unboxing on Stories" story.


7. I have been known to choose which restaurant or café we go to based on how Instagrammable it is. And then choose a TABLE based on its Instagrammableness. I don't obsess over it [=ahem= much], but I do get excited when it's just right (i.e. a marble table by the window).

8. I DO obsess over the weather report and whether it will be a good day to shoot an outfit.

9. I do tend to carry the DSLR everywhere, just in case a photo opportunity arises. I'm always jumping out the car just before driving off to somewhere realising I've left the camera indoors.

10. I obsess over whether we have a spare battery and memory card for the DSLR. I ask the husband 10 times whether he has the camera and whether the spare battery is charged and in the case. 

11. I have become very good at walking slowly [towards the camera] to get that perfect shot. My technique of walking "naturally" is spot-on.

12. Everywhere we go, and everything I see on TV, I check for locations in the background in terms of their suitability for a photo shoot. I'm constantly thinking, could we go there? What will the light be like? Is there somewhere we can shoot with not a lot of foot traffic...?


12 Weird Things That Fashion Bloggers Do (That Only Bloggers Understand)  | Not Dressed As Lamb


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So all that's left to say is - I've shared my thoughts/stories/tuppence-worth this week, now it's time to share yours... LET'S GET THIS [LINK UP] PARTY STARTED!

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Thank you for joining the #SaturdayShareLinkUp! Designed to allow you to share anything you like on ANY topic, it goes live every Friday at about 8pm UK time and will stay open for a week. You can share blog posts or Instagram posts, old posts or new posts, and link up as many as you like.

PLEASE be kind and leave a link somewhere on your post, and share your post using the hashtag #SaturdayShareLinkUp - if you tweet your link with the hashtag and tag me in @notlamb I'll even retweet it to my followers for you :)

A hot tip for linking up:

Use clear, bright images (crop in close if necessary) and add a relevant, descriptive title (you've got 75 characters to use). These sorts of thumbnails and text always get the most clicks, so don't waste the opportunity to increase traffic and engagement on your best work!


Linking up to: Brilliant Blog Posts

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Why We Should Be Aware of Where Our Clothes Come From | Seasalt Ambassadorship

Slow Fashion: Why We Should Be More Aware of Where Our Clothes Come From
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Slow fashion, ethical sourcing, responsible brands - you've probably heard all these terms before but do you know what they actually mean? And how aware are you of where your clothes come from?

I'm been thinking a lot about all these factors and the question of where my clothes come from for a while now, especially since more and more bloggers are talking about slow fashion. I'm reading more and more about the carbon footprint left by big brands and their labour practices and it really concerns me.

Ethics is one of the reasons I decided to accept an ambassadorship at Seasalt this year (you may have read my posts with the pretty green summer dress or the maxi layered over jeans), not just because I've been a lover of their clothes for some years. As a fashion blogger who is often offered free clothing, shoes and jewellery I've become very aware over the years not to accept everything and anything, instead choosing what I do accept very carefully.

The ethics of a brand has a lot to do with it for me. I have a very, VERY strict "no fur" policy, for example. And I'm becoming increasingly choosy about working with those brands who produce sustainable garments, have ethical working practices and care about the environment. I will admit I've succumbed to a lot of fast fashion in the past and while it's hard to avoid all of those brands all of the time, I will say I'm becoming more aware and more responsible as a consumer.

Preppy summer style from Seasalt Cornwall \ multicoloured stripe t-shirt \ wide leg red trousers \ navy knotted neck scarf \ straw fedora hat | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 style

What is slow fashion?

"Slow fashion" is the idea that garments are designed, produced and bought for their quality and longevity rather than those pieces that are copied off the catwalks then produced quickly and cheaply via dubious working practices (hence "fast fashion"). Those producing slow fashion are responsible brands, not just where the materials used and resources are concerned but also with regards to workers in all areas of the business.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

7 Things You Must Do When Accepting Freebies As a Blogger

Blogging tips: 7 Things You Must Do When Accepting Freebies As a Blogger (pictured: Charlotte Tilbury make up)

This week I was contacted by a blogging friend who asked for some advice where a gifted item was concerned. She had been offered some freebies in exchange for this, and this, and this, and this, and this...

In fact the list was so long, I couldn't quite believe what I was reading. The PR had made it clear it was an unpaid project, yet the list of deliverables was as long as my arm. My friend (whose name I won't disclose in this instance) sent their email to me and asked:

"NO MONEY, 5 free XXXX that I probably don't want, and an unbelievable amount of "do this, and do that" as well as sending my blog post into them for approval! My gut reaction is that I haven’t been made to jump through hoops like this for paid posts let alone freebies. I just wonder what your thoughts are."

It made me cross because this is a classic example of a PR* asking for something for pretty much nothing. No, make that EVERYTHING for almost nothing.

What many non-bloggers (including PRs and brands) don't realise is just how much time and effort goes into writing a blog post. It doesn't take an hour or so. Good bloggers that take pride in their subject matter, photography and writing will take hours and hours to produce a blog post, and that doesn't include the time spent promoting it on social media. Depending on the subject matter, a blog post can be up to a day's work - I don't mean an average 9-5 kind of day, I mean the WHOLE day, all through the evening until bedtime. It might be double if a photo shoot takes you out and about for the day.

My blogger friend was asked (told) to do the following:

  • Write a blog post that includes everything outlined in the blogger brief
  • Include the requested hashtags and handles, as well as ensuring that XXXX is spelt a specific way for branding purposes
  • Not obligatory but they'd be "grateful" if she could include an Instagram post
  • Do not mention it being a collaborated or sponsored post as it was unpaid and do not use #ad or #spon
  • Ensure the content goes live between Monday 24th - Friday 28th July
  • Send a copy of the content for pre-approval 48 hours ahead of going live
  • Sign a contract agreeing to do all this

Apart from the time that I was contacted by a Chinese jewellery company who wanted me to produce two videos, a blog post with minimum six quality photos plus posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter in exchange for a $20 bracelet (I kid you not), this is probably the most ludicrous list of demands I have ever seen in exchange for NO MONEY.

As you can probably imagine I told her to politely tell them to get stuffed.

*When I say "the PR" I mean brands/PR companies/blogger outreach programmes, etc. as a whole, not necessarily the actual person who contacts bloggers. The actual contact is often not the person who decides what they want to offer bloggers - the contact is either working with a non-existent blogger outreach budget, simply following instructions or are sometimes interns and very inexperienced.


My simple formula for gifted items

After six years of blogging and much trial and error and questions posed to other professional bloggers and key industry influencers about this, I have come up with a very simple formula when it comes to dealing with freebies:

If a PR or brand approaches you and offers a free gift, they should not make any demands unless they are prepared to pay a fee. As soon as demands are made it becomes sponsored content, and sponsored content should be paid for. Otherwise what you do with the gift is entirely up to you.

After all, it was their choice to offer it to you - you're under no obligation to do anything at all.

I'm not saying that every blogger should be charging fees. I know that many are happy to stay as hobby bloggers, and I totally get that. But making a list of demands when you're not prepared to pay a blogger for the amount of free promotion you are going to get out of that blogger, as well as the work they will have to put into it, is totally unreasonable.

Therefore I've written this post to show all bloggers - both professional and hobby alike - that there is an easy way to know how to deal with offers of gifted items, and I've listed 7 things you should do when accepting them.

These are guidelines, not rules

Remember these are NOT rules, they are guidelines, and this is what I do because over the last six years of blogging I have found this works best. It's all through trial and error - I simply don't want you to make the same mistakes I made... I learnt the hard way!

Monday, 10 July 2017

A Gorgeous Colour Combo of White, Mint and Tangerine #iwillwearwhatilike

Soft whites and pastels summer outfit: Rose print sheer layered top \ mint trousers chinos pants \ nude crossover mules \ orange tinted aviators \ coral clutch | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 style

I'm still loving summer and all the floaty, sheer and pretty clothes that come with it. This weekend I wore one of my favourite "summer only" tops that really only comes out when it's lovely weather... it provides no warmth and you can't wear anything over the top of it like a sweater or coat - strictly for summer days, this one.

Today's link up is finally here, which is a MIRACLE considering our WiFi has been seeeeeriously slow for several days now. Every page I open takes an eon to load - it's reminding me of the days of dial up with all those pinging and beeping noises (remember them?!) you used to get while it was loading.

So apologies for my tardiness, but I had to take several breaks throughout the day to avoid throwing the monitor out the window (of course taking breaks slowed me up even more)...!


Anyway, the outfit!

The top is really kind of fabulous as the rose design is printed in the same place on both layers so you get this lovely 3-D effect. I've looked for alternative sheer white tops for you (with and without embroidery/designs) and featured them at the end of my outfit images. There are actually a lot of super pretty tops out there right now so do check them out.

I still love my mint trousers/chinos from Marks & Spencer that are also a few years old - remember when mint was THE colour to wear? I've tried to find similar trousers online as an alternative but I tell you, no one makes mint anything anymore... It's a shame as it's such a nice colour for spring and summer. Sea green and pale green was the nearest I could find.

Friday, 7 July 2017

How the Mere Act of Just DOING Can Inspire Others #SaturdayShareLinkUp

How the mere act of just doing can inspire others | Not Dressed As Lamb

A couple of weeks ago I read a rather wonderful blog post by a new blogger who has recently taken the plunge and started to post outfit photos of herself. It's a recurring theme that I often see on the internet - women (especially midlife women) taking a deep breath and finally putting themselves out there. What they often don't realise is that they're not only doing something cathartic for themselves, but they're potentially doing a LOT to help and inspire others.

The blogger was Sharon of Best Before End Date (great blog name!) and her blog post The Positive Side of Social Media & How It's Helped My Confidence was poignant for many reasons. It echoed the voice of so many women who have lost confidence in themselves and in their appearance, women who have been afraid of social media and the negativity that so often precedes it. Sharon gave me and several other bloggers a lovely shout out as women who have inspired her to simply give it a go - she mentioned the post I wrote after being trolled on Facebook had disheartened her but wanted to do it anyway.

And the wonderful thing was this: Sharon not only received positive comments about herself and her outfit, but she started to receive comments about how she, in turn, had inspired others (she'd posted the outfit on her Instagram as well).

What she said was so touching: "At this point I’d like to say don’t expect daily #whatimwearingtoday posts. Little steps! I don’t have enough clothes for one but for me it’s not really about that. For now it's about the fact that you know what? I should love myself more and never be frightened to take the plunge in anything."


And therein lies the little secret that myself and so many other women who blog and vlog and post to social media are privy to: The little steps add up to so much more. Blogging is SO much greater than the sum of its parts.

Some of the comments left for Sharon on her post explain exactly what I'm referring to:

"After reading your blog and that I had even the smallest influence to make you feel more confident, makes me much more confident to continue to do what I do"

"I love supporting and encouraging other women to feel and be confident"

"I believe in faking it… Confidence that is!… and no one can tell the difference anyway"

"I felt like that when I started my little style account on Insta, I thought I was too old to do style then I said to myself, *** it! And just did it! I've had so much fun since then and I'm sure you will too"

"I’m a size 16-18 and have recently started sharing my daily outfits and have been really inspired by the lovely comments from people who don’t know me"

"Posting my #everydaystyle photo on Instagram most, but not every, day has made a huge difference to my confidence. It is such a self-affirming thing to do"

And this one, which is my absolute favourite and what inspired ME to write this blog post:

"Keep it up, Sharon. Do post outfits and know you are providing ideas and inspiration to others"


Thursday, 6 July 2017

Red and White: A Bold, Breezy Summer Outfit

Red and white: A bold summer combination \ loose white lace top \ red wide leg linen pants \ straw hat \ white Adidas Stan Smiths \ orange tint aviator sunglasses | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 style

Although it might be a mini one, the heatwave is back (who KNOWS for how long?)... this red and white outfit is bright and bold for summer and perfectly breezy for hot days!

This is actually what I'm wearing today (meaning, TODAY today): We shot these photos early this morning and I've edited them and got the post up quicker than you can say Jack Robinson*. I think I may only have ever done that about three times in the entire history of the blog (if that). Keith has taken a week off work so I have my photographer on call any time of day or night... Shame he's not around all the time, really!

I knew it was going to be a hot one today, so it called for linen trousers and a very loose lace cotton top. Loads of little holes to let the air through is niiiiiiiiice. However I have since swapped my Stan Smiths (worn for walking the dog, which we combined with a photo shoot #multitasking) for sandals. The fields can often be wet early in the morning before the sun dries them out, hence the Adidas. I think this time it was too warm overnight for the fields to even retain a drop of moisture this time. Not like England at all...!


We got back and my feet were starting to get HOT. And I tell you - I'm not complaining in the slightest. I love, love, LOVE hot weather, and as I work freelance I can enjoy the sun and the garden during the day and work at night. (Though that suggests that I don't normally work at night... I do. I just choose to work less during the day in the summer, except when I'm writing a same-day-as-a-photo-shoot outfit post.)

Anyway - sunglasses! Must mention them. I'd had my eye on two pairs in the Asos sale, and it was the ones I liked less of the two that turned out to be the most fabulous ones.

Red and white: A bold summer combination \ loose white lace top \ red wide leg linen pants \ straw hat \ white Adidas Stan Smiths \ orange tint aviator sunglasses | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 style


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

21 Things I Wore on the Blog, Now Reduced in the Summer Sales

21 Items I Wore on the Blog, Now Reduced in the Summer Sales | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 style

The summer sales are in full swing and once again I'm bringing you the best of my SS17 (and a few AW16) picks! 

As always I'm mostly featuring things I wore on the blog so you can shop the outfits I've posted at a reduced price (up to 70% off in some cases). Each January and June I research all the items I wore that are still available online and now reduced in the sales. I've included a few AW16 items in the sales that are still left over, and at these prices it makes sense to get them now and save them for the colder days - buying out of season is really sensible and something I do quite often.

Monday, 3 July 2017

What to Wear to a Windy Beach in Cornwall in Summer #iwillwearwhatilike

Mixing Breton stripes and florals: Orange Breton stripe top \ cropped floral trousers pants \ red lace-up espadrilles \ pearl-effect square sunglasses \ large tassel earrings | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 style

I thought it was about time I went back to my warm colours as I've been wearing a lot of neutrals and cool colours lately. Time for red, orange and pinks again (it is summer, after all)!

We went to Perranporth beach in Cornwall on Saturday: There was beautiful sunshine in the morning, but by lunchtime it clouded over and got rather windy. Nothing unusual about that for a British beach in July, but considering it was 30°C+ the other week we'd kinda hoped for maybe a little bit of sun...?!

Anyway luckily it wasn't too hot for Riley, he rather enjoyed splashing about in the water to keep cool and we didn't have to desperately search for shade to stop him collapsing from exhaustion, so in that sense the cloud was a welcome break. However it made dressing for the weather difficult: What DO you wear to a windy beach in Cornwall?


Thankfully I think I got it just about right with my orange Breton-stripe top and floral trousers. It was most definitely NOT warm enough for anything sleeveless, and the cropped trousers were handy for splashing about in the shallow pools and streams on the beach. I'm surprised I hadn't paired these two together before: I think I'd always thought of the trousers as having a pink floral print. Although I'm someone who'd normally pair orange and pink without a second thought, I guess I was thinking Shall I wear orange with pink today... Oh look, the roses on the trousers are actually orange now they're with those orange stripes. Who knew?!

Maybe I'm better at this colour thing than I actually thought (or maybe I'm worse)...

I love the accessories I chose for this outfit, namely the tassel earrings (US link). Mine are from Mango, who have an amazing selection of statement earrings (including their own version of the much-coveted red tassel earrings which have been so popular this summer).
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