Avant Garde | Project Sister Act | The duality of Feminine & Masculine

What images are conjured up in your mind when you hear the words avant garde?  They're quite weighty words, aren't they? Words that probably resonate with you but might, if you were put on the spot to explain their definition to someone, make you stumble a little to do so.

I know the root meaning of them, of course; they come from the French meaning vanguard or forefront.

Avant Garde is about experimenting, being daring, radical and unexpected, certainly unorthodox and decidedly beyond the confines and comforts of the mainstream.  Avant Garde ideas can be challenging to understand, and are often dismissed as simply being wacky, weird or outrageous, having high shock value due to unfamiliarity.  They can, in some arenas, even be perceived as dangerous or promoting perverse ideas.  Avant Garde is most closely associated, although by no means exclusively, with the arts and culture.

So why are we talking about avant garde in this post?

My blogging pal, Sheela invited me to be part in this month's Project Sister Act, alongside 3 other bloggers (you can see their outfits at the end of the post).  A huge honour and a complete unexpected delight - thank you Sheela - especially as I think the theme is such a bold and exciting one.  For those of you who maybe unfamiliar with Sheela's series, here's some background to it, in her own words.

Project Sister Act is very close to my heart.  It advocates how women across all age groups (I’m talking about teens to 60s, 70s, 80s), are united in showcasing that style knows no age boundary. That style is indeed an expression of one’s personality, no matter if one’s a product of the 70s or 90s. And that the one same motif can be stylish on any and every woman, regardless of the year she was born.

When I read Sheela's invitation, I was in the car with Tall Brown Fox who was driving us to the coast for a day out.   It set off a very animated discussion between us about what we each regarded as Avant Garde in the context of the theme and how it relates to fashion and style in general.  It also led us to explore what it meant in the wider context of society and in fields beyond fashion such as science, art, music, architecture etc ...  I can't tell you how quickly the car journey went!

Sheela kindly gave us free rein to interpret the theme as we wished.

Since I've started blogging I've really been able to fully understand and realise my own style.  I've always known what I like and don't like but the different aspects of my style personality have become more distinct.  I've realised that one such aspect that I'm drawn to is masculine chic.  This might very well surprise and challenge an outside viewer's initial perception of me.  After all, I'm small, have curly hair and very feminine features in face and body shape.  Hardly anything masculine about my physical appearance.

I pretty much knew straight away how I wanted my interpretation of the theme to be.  I wanted to create a playful, nuanced exploration of the duality of the feminine and the masculine.  I have made small forays into this before.  For one of my Seasonal Skinny posts last year, I did a menswear inspired outfit in my Suited and Booted post, but this time I pushed the boundaries a little more to produce an outfit that I have christened;

Steampunk Couture Inspired!

On first impression, my outfit may not look very avant garde and certainly, afficiandos of Steampunk would probably scoff and say, 'a top hat does not Steampunk make', to which I would agree but let's take a closer look.

Tall Brown Fox in particular likes steampunk and I'm certainly intrigued but it.  I have to say that I prefer the male steampunk look over the female.  As much as corsets can give you a stunningly sleek silhouette, I'm not keen on garments that by their nature constrict.

I've taken the clean lines of male tailoring, with the cut and fit of the trousers and the jacket. Layering is a key element in steampunk but instead of going an obvious route of waistcoat and shirt, I layered the shirt, open, over a cami - the feminine twist!  The longer length jacket is reminiscent of a Victorian or Edwardian Frock coat, which is very male Steampunk.

A popular adornment in masculine Steampunk is the wearing of a pocket watch.  I bought this silver belt chain to give the impression of this and was the only item I bought specifically for this outfit. Although the timing was perfect, as I had been thinking about buying a chain belt for sometime!

The tailored trousers fit the style perfectly, as the little pocket by the belt loops is like a fob.  A fob is a small pocket near the waistline of trousers or on a waistcoat that would be the right size to hold a pocketwatch.

With frock coats, a cravat would normally be the traditional attire but I brought in another feminine element.  At the collar I put a cameo style brooch.  But not just any cameo brooch; look closer and you'll see it's a decidedly masculine theme - it's a gasmask, albeit a stylised one for Steampunk!

Huge thanks and round of applause to Tall Brown Fox for not only having great taste in admiring Steampunk in the first place but for allowing me to commandeer his Steampunk accessories of top hat, goggles, glasses and brooch.

Just as the traditional Chinese yin and yang symbol shows seemly opposite forces intertwining and complimenting each other, so the feminine and the masculine can easily cohabit.  And sartorially, they enhance each other's qualities.

Feminine dressing isn't just about the obvious; frills, florals, short skirts and high heels - although there's nothing wrong with that.  The steampunk inspiration allows me bring in flavours and ideas that would perhaps be less familiar to broaden people's view and challenge their preceptions of what feminine dressing can be.

Yes, there's an element of theatricality about the outfit, especially with the steampunked top hat, with its accessorised goggles, but this isn't a costume.  

Take off the top hat and the steampunk glasses and I'd happily wear this out, not least because I'm flaunting some pattern mixing plus polka dots!  And you should all know by now, how happy polka dots make me!


Let's meet my fellow Avant Garde Stylists from the Teens to the 50s!  

What an incredible group of ladies to be involved with.  I've found some new and exciting blogs to follow, which I hope you do too.

Thank you Sheela for including me in this wonderful avant garde party.  It was a blast.

Our teen Avant Garde Stylist is Eve from The World According to Eve

Eve looking strong, serious and totally comfortable in her skin.  I love the touches of the glasses, unusual yet striking jewellery and wow, those are killer boots!

And thanks to Eve, who came up with the idea for this month's theme.

Our 20s Avant Garde Stylist is Chasmine from The Glamazon Universe

Chasmine says she 'chose this look because I love how lingerie gowns, lace camisoles and unmentionables are becoming a part of our everyday wardrobe.'

Chasmine is so right - clothes aren't just confined nowadays to their original purpose.  Bring a little of the bedroom into everyday life.

Our 30s Avant Garde Stylist is Joi from In My Joi

Her look is a mix of 'vintage clothing meets mod, via leather sneakers'.

I love the print of the outfit and PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE can I have that coat, Joi?

Our 40s Avant Garde Stylist is the Project Creator Extraordinaire, Sheela from Sheela Writes

Looking badass and feminine, all at the same time.  Look at those fabulouse sleeves!

And last but not least me, Petite Silver Vixen, representing the 50s!

I hope you enjoyed this Avant Garde collaboration - do pop by the other bloggers to learn more about their outfits.

What would your interpretation of this theme have been?

Linking with  Not Dressed As Lamb / Confident Twosday / Garay Treasures /  Turning Head's Tuesday  /  Style Me Wednesday / ColorandGrace /  JerseyGirlTexanHeart  / Living In Colour / High Latitude Style   / Happiness At Midlife / JerseyGirlTexanHeart  / Eleganceandmommyhood  / A Labour of Life /   Curly Crafty Mom  / Fashion Should Be Fun /  A Pocketful Of Polkadots / Jeans And A Teacup / Nancy's Fashion Style / Fine Whatever /

Weekend Style | Do You Dress Up or Down? | Pattern Mixing | Checked Joggers, Graphic Tee & Patent Brogues

What's your weekend style?  

Do you prefer to dress down after a week of dressing up for work, or do you keep up the pace with a little weekend pizzazz?

Being a Pilates teacher means I spend my working week encased in fitness clothes. Come the weekend, I like to up my style a little.  Otherwise, most of my wardrobe would languish unused and I'd never experience a change of style gear from working week to weekend.

A few years ago, I found myself falling into a weekend 'uniform' trap of breton top, denim shirt and jeans. Now there's nothing inherently wrong with an outfit like that.  Perfectly serviceable; practical, comfortable, classic even in many ways. An easy, no brainer of an outfit.  And yet... and yet... as much as I love bretons, my weekend style was hardly inspirational, aspirational or creative. Not truly reflective of my style personality.  And certainly not if repeated ad nauseam.

Which it was.
Ad nauseam.

As one of the main driving forces for starting a blog was to jump start my style mojo, which had somewhat got buried under a deluge of lycra wearing, I've since made a conscious effort to dig deeper into my wardrobe and put a soupcon more effort into what I wear at the weekend.

However, I don't want to overthink my weekend style.  Who has time for that?  I want to be relaxing, decompressing from the stresses of the week, running a few errands maybe, seeing friends.  Truly, only a soupcon more effort is required.

How do you create a dressed up weekend style without busting the brain cells or your budget?

I should stress that upping the ante does not require you to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe! It's all very well parading new clothes - and who hasn't done that - but let's get real for a minute. How many of us have either the wardrobe space or the budget to be constantly buying new clothes?  The bills still have to be paid every month.  And if all you're doing is just buying, buying, buying, you're not making either your existing wardrobe or your money work smarter for you.

- Every once in a while it's good to go through your wardrobe and rediscover some hidden gems that you may not have worn for a while, or simply forgotten about.  

- Try pairing a couple of items that you might not initially think of wearing together, they might just make a creative outfit.

Everything I'm wearing, bar one item, has either been seen on the blog before or has been in my wardrobe for years.

The joggers were seen back in August, when I pattern mixed them with my floral jacket.
The bag made its first appearance last winter in my chunky knit and biker boots post.
My stripey, every so French looking beret had a staring role earlier this year in my subtle pattern mixing post.

As to the old. 'so far unseen on the blog' favourites?  Well, the zip jacket and graphic tee have been long term wardrobe stalwarts.  Only my funky, patent leather, fringe eyelet loafers come brogues, have recently been welcomed into my wardrobe.

Putting it all together

Joggers are not only perfect for Autumn but are a great alternative to jeans.  From there, I went through my tops and tees, to see what I hadn't worn in a while, making sure to steer clear of bretons!  I realised this graphic tee hadn't seen the daylight for quite a while and so I heeded my own advice above about rediscovering hidden gems and popped it on.

small voice of reason chuckles and says, 'what, you mean you actually listen sometimes to what you say?'

'Yes, hush now, small voice of reason!'
'I need to tell our dear readers that graphic tees are ideal opportunities for a little pattern mixing and this one in particular, injects a spot of colour to the outfit.

It was a bright, fairly warm day a couple of Saturdays ago when I wore this outfit for a relaxing day out with Tall Brown Fox but I still needed a layer and one that wasn't a denim shirt!  I purposely avoided picking black and chose navy instead to soften the black of the joggers and because it also looks good against the purple.

Key pieces in place, it's a far cry from my previous weekend 'uniform'.  It's still practical, comfortable but it's a dressed up version of casual that expresses my personality much more, without being exaggerated.

Finishing Touches

As I wear trainers or split sole dance shoes in the studio, I usually gravitate to structured shoes at the weekend.  Besides, trainers with joggers are a little too obvious and have too many associations for me to my weekday workout gear.

My new brogue type loafers up the style factor of my weekend outfit.  A holy trinity of polished patent leather, fabulous fringe and a bonny shoe buckle!  I mean, who the heck would want to wear trainers when these are in reach???

Will these babies be worn with a skirt?  You betcha!  Outfit already planned!  But for now, they add a cool vibe to the joggers.

I really love coloured bags and they're an easy way to bring in more colour to a darker outfit. With the green, navy and purple being all the same saturation, they work together, despite the fact that green doesn't appear anywhere else in my outfit.

Now although I've foregone a breton, you'll see stripes have still sneaked into the outfit.  Well, I can't resist a little stripe or two!  Autumn is when I start to think about breaking out my signature headwear ... drum roll please ...

***   THE BERET!   ***

Yes, my beret wearing days are BACK!  First of the season and the first of many!  And in a nod to our Breton cousins across the water in France, I'm wearing a breton striped, beret.

Très chic, n'est-ce pas?

Weekend Style Footnote

There's nothing wrong with having staples in your wardrobe, such as a cracking pair of dark wash denim jeans, a few trusty striped tops and a denim shirt that can be worn equally well with skirts or trousers; just make sure you're not sacrificing your weekend style by wearing them on repeat.

With so many different trouser styles available nowadays, you don't always have to plump for jeans. Crops, bistros, joggers, plain or patterned, mix it up.  Checks, tartan, florals etc... can easily slot into any existing wardrobe to be styled with existing pieces. I only bought my joggers this past Spring and although they've only been on the blog twice, I've worn them in many different ways off blog.

Bombers, zip jackets, long line cardigans, patterned shirts can all be reached for first before necessarily falling back on a denim shirt and a few graphic tees in your wardrobe are fun ways to add visual interest to any outfit, weekend or otherwise. 


Oasis Zip bomber (old)
Peter Storm Graphic Tee Similar
Seasalt Cornwall Beret bought in the sale earlier this year.  Available full price from here

After a tootling around the shops and a light lunch in a local café, Tall Brown Fox and I enjoyed some well needed Autumnal fresh air and took a stroll along the River Thames.  It seemed we weren't the only ones who were hungry!

Feeding time!

I'm going to show all my Pilates clients this little fella!  Look how the heron is balancing perfectly on one leg!  Wish all my clients could do this as superbly as our feathered friend.  Every once in a while it wrapped its wings around its face, hiding its head from view for a quick 40 winks.

And finally, a photobombing swan or photobombing shoes.  Take your pick!

My blogging schedule has been somewhat erratic the past couple of weeks BUT swing by Friday.  It will be worth your while, I promise.  A mighty fine blog post has been brewed with a number of brilliant bloggers and it will set your style tastebuds alight!  
See you Friday.

What's your weekend style?  How do you shift gear from weekday attire to weekend?

Linking with  Not Dressed As Lamb / Confident Twosday / Garay Treasures /  Turning Head's Tuesday  /  Style Me Wednesday / ColorandGrace /  JerseyGirlTexanHeart  / Living In Colour / High Latitude Style   / Happiness At Midlife / JerseyGirlTexanHeart  / Eleganceandmommyhood  / A Labour of Life /   Curly Crafty Mom  / Fashion Should Be Fun /  A Pocketful Of Polkadots / Jeans And A Teacup / Nancy's Fashion Style / Fine Whatever /

Two Ways to Wear a Summer Maxi Skirt in Autumn | Pattern Mixing, Denim & Suede Boots

I've long had a love affair with maxi dresses but since last year, there has been a new amour in my wardrobe...

...  the maxi skirt!

How to style your maxi skirt for Autumn | Petite Silver Vixen

As a petite it can be easier finding a needle in a haystack than a decent maxi skirt and certainly one that I like enough to want to be part of my wardrobe.  They are out there, but you have to hunt.  Many are quite poorly made, often of flimsy material.

The one I'm wearing I bought in May on a whim, a couple of days before I went on holiday to Denmark.  I was partly taking advantage of an early Summer 30% off promotion but I was drawn to how different it was from other maxi skirts I'd seen.

I was taken by its bold baroque style print.
I liked the idea of a non pastel skirt for Summer.
It had a decent weight to the fabric.

Visiting the writer Karen Blixen's house, just outside Copenhagen, on a warm day, it proved to be a perfect holiday skirt.

Summer Maxi Skirt | Petite Silver Vixen

I like all season pieces and in many ways the maxi skirt transcends all the seasons.   At this time of year you're not ready for woolly tights (or tights in general, if you're me!), but bare legs aren't practical for chilly mornings or dips in temperatures once the sun has set, making the maxi skirt ideal for Autumn and beyond.

Here's how I maximised my maxi skirt for Autumn.

Denim jackets and shirts are pretty much common wardrobe staples for everyone and even if you're not a shoeaholic like me, you'll probably own a couple of pairs of different coloured ankle boots. Using a light wash denim jacket, a dark wash denim shirt and 2 pairs of suede boots, I've maximised the wearing potential of my Summer maxi skirt for Autumn.


Highlighting light colours & pushing the boat out with a little pattern mixing.

It was my Mum's birthday at the end of September and we took her out to a country pub for a slap up lunch and this is what I wore.  I didn't want to wear jeans or trousers, but I would've looked a tad over the top rocking up to a pub in a LBD! 

This outfit hit that sweet spot of being laid back, without being comatose. The light wash denim jacket picks up the light blue in the skirt beautifully.  Denim is by its very nature casual but the additions of a second accent colour with the orange cardigan and the pattern mixing, bring a little finesse to a relaxed look.

How to style your maxi skirt for Autumn, Denim Jacket & Pattern Mixing | Petite Silver Vixen

 How to style your maxi skirt for Autumn, Denim Jacket, Pattern Mixing | Petite Silver Vixen

Even with a print as striking as this skirt, you can still mix patterns.  To keep it balanced and harmonious, I chose a top that had

- similar colours to the skirt,
- a complimentary aesthetic i.e. the embroidery band on the top links to the bands on the bottom of the skirt,
- a smaller design than the skirt,

giving it almost the look of a maxi dress, rather than two separate pieces. I even fooled my Mum; she thought it was a dress at first, because the pattern of the top is so similar to the bottom border of the skirt.

I'm not a great thrift clothes buyer - tricky when you're a petite - but I do love thrifting for bags and jewellery.  My necklace and 2 of my 3 bracelets are all thrifted gems totalling a mere £6.00!

How to style your maxi skirt for Autumn: Pattern Mixing | Petite Silver Vixen

How to style your maxi skirt for Autumn, Pattern Mixing | Petite Silver Vixen

How to style your maxi skirt for Autumn, Denim Jacket, Pattern Mixing | Petite Silver Vixen


From light, we travel to the dark side!  And from pattern mixing, we switch to fabric mixing.

Just as dark wash denim jeans can be dressed up or down, a dark wash denim shirt has the same versatility.  A western style, fitted denim shirt completely changes the feel of the maxi skirt; its deep, indigo colour adds drama to the outfit.

I upped the western vibe with a swish of suede fringing from both my boots, which have fringing around the ankles, and my bag. They've been seen so many times on the blog, you're probably all bored of seeing them by now!  And with the absence of pattern other than in the skirt, I added a faux fur gilet for some fabric mixing and as a completer piece to the outfit.

The shirt needed a different style of jewellery; a piece to fit snug in the neckline.  I bought my three stone, chalcedony necklace about 20 years ago in Italy and style wise it's perfect for the shirt.  

How to style your maxi skirt for Autumn, Denim Shirt, Faux Fur Gilet | Petite Silver Vixen

How to style your maxi skirt for Autumn, Denim Shirt, Faux Fur Gilet | Petite Silver Vixen

How to style your maxi skirt for Autumn, Denim Shirt, Faux Fur Gilet | Petite Silver Vixen

How to style your maxi skirt for Autumn, Denim Shirt, Faux Fur Gilet | Petite Silver Vixen

Fringe, meet faux fur!

How to style your maxi skirt for Autumn, Denim Shirt, Faux Fur Gilet | Petite Silver Vixen

Maximised Maxi Skirt Footnote

One skirt, two contrasting looks for Autumn.  And they would work equally well in the other transitional season we have; Spring.

It's quite striking how a few tweaks, as simple as swapping a light wash denim jacket to a dark wash denim shirt, accessories and boots, can radically change the mood of an outfit.

How to style your maxi skirt for Autumn, Denim Jacket, Pattern Mixing | Petite Silver Vixen

How to style your maxi skirt for Autumn, Denim Shirt, Faux Fur Gilet | Petite Silver Vixen

Petite Maxi Skirt from Wallis - sold out.  Wine Autumn Lace Maxi Skirt
Oasis Falls Denim Jacket with pretty embroidered detail
Dorothy Perkins Petite /zip Shearling Gilet
Dorothy Perkins Petite Chinchilla Gilet

How do you maximise your maxis?  And do you have a favourite out of the two looks?

Linking with  Not Dressed As Lamb / Confident Twosday / Garay Treasures /  Turning Head's Tuesday  /  Style Me Wednesday / ColorandGrace / Living In Colour / High Latitude Style   / Happiness At Midlife / Eleganceandmommyhood  / A Labour of Life /   Curly Crafty Mom  / Fashion Should Be Fun /  A Pocketful Of Polkadots / Jeans And A Teacup / Nancy's Fashion Style / Fine Whatever / Sheela Writes

Sale Bargains & Links à la Mode 6th October

Although we're well into Autumn, it seems there are still Summer sale bargains to be had if you look carefully.

The past week my inbox has been fairly deluged with emails letting me know of

30% off deals for winter coats,
20% of jeans - but quick, only if you hurrah and click today! 
and sales of up to 50% off for this, that and the kitchen sink!

Ok, maybe not for kitchen sinks.  I'm not signed up to bathroom stores newsletters!

My magpie eyes swept the goods on offer, and after tootling to one particular shop to 'try before I buy', I managed to snap up two bargains, both from Warehouse; one I had my eye on and one which was rather a pleasant surprise!  So allow me to indulge in sharing with you my two sale bargains that will keep me happy this Autumn and well beyond.

First up, a skirt that I had my eye on for sometime.  This striped jacquard print skirt is currently reduced from £45 to £20 - less than half price!  And the good news is most sizes are still available. But do let's double check with each other that if we're going to the same social 'do' together, we don't turn up looking like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, in the same skirt!

I had loved the woven jacquard bands interlaced with the coloured bands but at full price had resisted the lure of them.  But when I saw it go in the sale for only £20, I decided it would be foolish to pass it up.

With a shiny metallic top this would look lovely for a Christmas lunch party.  But equally, it's the kind of skirt that worn with sandals and a cami top, would be delightful on a Summer's day.

Next up is my 'pleasantly surprised' purchase!  Now I'm not one for dungarees.  Lots of fellow bloggers wear them and wear them stylishly well.  But they're just not for me.  However, I do like the idea of dungarees, so what's the next best alternative?

Why a dungarees dress!

In dark wash denim!

And with pockets!

I saw this Dungarees Dress on the sale rail and thought I'll give that a whirl as I've long known that you must try things on your body before deciding whether it will look good ON your body.  Well, once on, I rather liked it on my body and so off to the till it went with my skirt.  

Just shows that sometimes it's good to take a punt and try things on.  What's the worst that can happen?  It doesn't suit?  Well, just pop it back on the hanger and move on!

This was almost but not quite half price.  Reduced to £25 from £45.  For the quality it is and for those pockets, it's a steal!  Sadly online it's only available in size 6 now but I'm sure there are a few sizes in stores if you shop around.  It's not a petite but the beauty of the adjustable straps means I can alter the length to make it work so it hits just on the knee.

I've already worn it this week with mock croc slip ons and a long sleeve patterned top and when temperatures start to fall, out will come the tights and ankle boots. 

Links à la Mode

Last week I submitted a post to the weekly round up feature on Independent Fashion Bloggers, so t'was rather a lovely surprise to find out that my How to wear black and white without looking boring post was chosen.  Here's my pattern play on black and white polkadots to liven up a monochrome outfit!

Thanks to Payton Grantham for including my post in the weekly round up Links à la Mode.

On to the links...

I particularly liked The Classy Junk's post 7 Easy to Thrift Pieces for Autumn, showing that whether you buy a bargain in the sale (like me above!) or whether you thrift, there are always classic, staples you can add to your wardrobe, without having to break the bank.

All the links are below, so why not dive in and discover some new blogs!

Payton Grantham writes: Bloggers this week came strong with the black and white shirts. It got me wondering… did I miss the memo?! So many submissions shared in this go-to, timeless color combo. Plaid was also a favorite, which was inevitable as a season staple. Craving a twist? The floral situation was serious this week… maybe bloggers are making up for the fact that few will be found blossoming for months to come. Sad face.
Other trends this week include ankle boots (a must!), strappy sandals, hats, handbags, and jewel tones. Ruby, emerald, sapphire, and amethyst are all very in right now. Others refer to these as deep reds, greens, blues, and purples, but I’m going to go ahead and pretend I didn’t have to google ‘blue jewel name’ to remember what a sapphire is called.

Links à la Mode, October 6th
SPONSOR: Amazon's Shopbop, Puma, Deux Lux Bags, Golden Goose Clothing, Harris Wharf London, LAFCO New York, Biren & Co., Cashmere Sweaters, Rain Boots, Mini Satchels, Men's Woolrich John Rich & Bros.
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