Alternative Christmas Trees

alt xmas trees
I haven't exactly had many seasonal posts up so far this year - you know what I'm like being so far behind on these, you're lucky to have one in the week before Christmas, usually it would be February or something! As you might know from all the talking I keep doing about it, Ben and I are expecting to move into our new home early next year (hopefully around March sometime), which means we're kind of neglecting the house we're now - I don't mean we're damaging it or anything, just that we've got our new house in mind so much that we're really not bothered about the one we're in right now. The new one seems like it would be the perfect Christmas home too, so while we have a few decorations from last year (which was our first time properly decorating, and it was a lovely house for Christmas!), this year we haven't been so bothered. We've got the decorations out, but have only been putting them up slowly - I'm too excited by picturing them in the new house! We did go with my parents to get theirs at the weekend and help to decorate it, and that's a proper real tree, but ours at the moment is a fake one we bought in Tesco a couple of years ago.
But what if you haven't got enough room in your flat for a huge, classic conifer? Don’t worry, I've put together a list of some alternative, simple to make Christmas trees to help you feel festive (and which would be fun to put together with kids - ie. my Brownie pack - too). Whether you live in student accommodation in London such as Urbanest, in a small flat in Newcastle opposite the river Tyne, or if you just feel like something a little different this year, no matter where you live, if you are stuck for space or fancy being a bit more creative, these ideas are perfect!

Edible Christmas Trees

Impress your family and friends with a
homemade edible Christmas tree that is made from fruit and vegetables.  Not only do the trees look awesome, they taste pretty great too. You can make them as creative or as simple as you like. The colours of fruit and vegetables help to make a bright and beautiful tree that will create a talking point between you, your family and friends. They might even want to make their own. It’s not suitable to put your presents under (obviously) but it certainly looks cool, gets you into the festive spirit and would look great on any side table!

Christmas Book Tree

I love this one! It's perfect for all those book worms out there. This simple idea is an elegant way to make your small flat look fabulous. If your money is tight because you’ve spent too much money on Christmas presents and new outfits for over the Christmas period, then this Christmas tree D.I.Y idea is just what you’re after to save the dollar. Books just look awesome wherever they are, so when stacked up and wrapped up in Christmas lights, they just look even better!

Paper Cone Tree

Probably the most simple out of the five listed, this one takes little time (1 hour) and resources. An added bonus is it only costs pennies to make. I'm definitely considering it as an idea for Brownies next Christmas! You can make the tree as large or as small as you like. Follow the step-by-step instructions here to find out how to make your own paper cone tree.

Beer Bottle Tree

If you love a good tipple and spend most weekends at the pub, this tree will add a bit of personality into your home - I know we've certainly got enough left around our house since Ben likes a few local ales! Use green beer bottles to get the classic conifer Christmas tree effect. The tree will be of envy to all your friends. Who wants a boring old conifer in their home anyway? If you want to make your own (and why wouldn’t you) watch the video tutorial here.

Glove Christmas Tree

Perfect for those who are studying a medical degree or work in that sector. This glove tree also adds a touch of personality into your home.  According to ‘
the nerdy nurse’, ‘here’s no nurse around that hasn’t had to get creative to dress a wound properly, manage time effectively, or appease a seemingly inconsolable patient. Creativity is just the name of the game in nursing.’ This tree brings your work life into your home setting, perfect if you are passionate about your job.

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Tis the Season to be Jolly Jumper
Christmas Jumper Day Bronco
xmas jumper day
Work Christmas Jumper Day
Tis the Season Jumper: New Look | Tartan Dress (worn as a skirt): Memade (via Great British Sewing Bee book) | Tartan Hair Bow: ASOS
Today at work, we decided to take part in Christmas Jumper Day (#ChristmasJumperDay) for Save the Children UK, so of course I had to choose a jumper to wear! We were doing it under the name TEAMBRONCO (which you can text to 70050 to donate £2 if you like!) and had a few things going on all day, such as Thomas the Baker who donated some Mince Pies, Tipsy Imps and Chocolate Truffles to us to help raise money. Hannah and I went round the Business Park that Bronco's situated on collecting donations and handing out yummy festive goodies to those that wanted them. They went down really well, and when we totalled up the amount that people had paid for those, plus our text donations and the amount from the "Guess what Christmas Jumper Jon Snow is wearing" sweepstake competition, it came to £114.07 in total! It was also really fun for us all to don our Christmas jumpers at work and get a bit more into the festive spirit! Oh, and that sweepstake competition I mentioned? I won! £15, all in pound coins! Everyone thought it was pretty funny when they revealed the Christmas Pudding under the sticker that I had guessed it to be and I exclaimed: "Yayy, I never win anything!".
We all had individual pictures taken to share on social media, then one of the whole team too later in the day. So I decided I might as well use mine as blog photos! I've had a few "Christmassy" jumpers in the past, but never actually bought a proper Christmas Jumper before, so when I heard we were doing it, I went and bought one straight away, then regretted it because I'd been wanting to wear it every day since then, but didn't want to ruin the day by wearing it beforehand! I got this one from New Look, where fortunately I had just the right amount left on a gift card to use to buy it, so it didn't even feel like spending money. I'd initially just thought about wearing it with jeans, but wanted to be a bit more interesting. I was actually intending to wear my green tartan mini skirt, but I couldn't find it, so ended up wearing my handmade tartan dress as a skirt instead. I also thought it was the perfect excuse to wear my new ASOS tartan hair bow, so I was pretty tartan-ed up today!
And on a final note, here's our full team sporting their Christmas Jumpers - it took us ages to get a picture as it was dark and the lighting in the office wasn't great, so Hannah and I are kind of disappearing a bit at the back!
Bronco group shot

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My Little Cosy Box: My Little Box November Review

My Little Cosy Box
I came across My Little Box after reading a few reviews of last month's box, the Diane von Furstenberg one, on various blogs. I've had Glossybox in the past, right when subscription boxes became a thing, but aside from the initial excitement of it, wasn't terribly impressed. So I thought My Little Box sounded a bit different, since it's more of a lifestyle box than a beauty one, and I'd give it a try. It's originally a French box and the delivery comes from Paris each month, and I definitely feel like the whole concept is very French, not just Parisian chic, but everything about the country as a whole. This was my second box, and I was very excited to open it and discover that it was telling me to stay in at home with "My Little Cosy Box" and couldn't wait to find out what was inside - I certainly wasn't disappointed either!
my little cosy box
My Little Box November
Every box has a little illustrated postcard, a magazine which is exclusive to the box, My Little World, and a variety of lifestyle and beauty products, at least one of which is from the company's own beauty brand, My Little Beauty.
So this month's box contained:

My Little Box - heated cushion

My Little Bouillotte by Tsumori Chisato

This is a mini cushion filled with beans in a really cute red polka dot (Minnie Mouse!) fabric that can be heated in the microwave. It came tied with a little ribbon and the instructions in a pretty pocket. I've used this a couple of times and it's been lovely, although kind of frustrating because my microwaves is super slow and took foreverrrr to heat it up.

My Little Box Coffee Cup
My Little Box Coffee

Espresso Coffee Mug

I don't drink coffee, but this is really cute and the illustrations on it are lovely. I'm thinking I may use it for hot chocolate since a big mug of that tends to exacerbate my IBS bloating.

My Little Box Star Liner
My Little Box Star Liner
My Little Beauty Volume Mascara

Smoky Eye Kit

The make up pieces this month were chosen in order to help you create a smoky eye look - something I have never yet been able to achieve! There was a dark coloured Yves Rocher eyeshadow, which I've only tested a little on my eyes so far because it is pretty dark and I haven't had an occasion for it. The eyeliner is called Star Liner by Arancil Paris - it's nice and easy to use, soft and easily blendable, but doesn't move once in place. And finally there's the My Little Beauty Mascara which I'm using as my everyday mascara at the moment (whenever I wear it anyway, which usually isn't a work day!) - it doesn't create a huge amount of volume, but enough for me to make a difference.

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House Hunting News

Gingham Full Skirt Dress
Gingham Dress: Handmade (using Great British Sewing Bee book; fabric from Boyes) | Tights: M&S | Heels: ASOS
I have some exciting news, finally!! Ben and I are (or soon will be) officially homeowners, eeee!! I know I mentioned a bit about it the other day, but I've been trying to keep it off social media and my blog as much as possible just in case things didn't go through as I'd be more disappointed in the end then. BUT, we have had our offer accepted finally, 3 weeks after viewing the house, and we're heading off to the bank tomorrow to get the ball rolling with the mortgage - terrifying that we will soon have to part with our money, but so exciting that it's finally happening! 
The first time I talked about our house hunting was at the end of the October, but our journey had already started quite a bit before that as we'd been watching properties in the area for about a year. By the end of the October, we'd already viewed a few but none had really taken our fancy. In mid-November, we were going back over ones we'd considered before to see if we thought we should view any, just in case, and saw one we liked. Unfortunately by the time the agents got back to us, it had already had an offer in on it, but they recommended a couple of others to us, one of which we had already discounted from our search based on price. It had actually dropped in price though, so we decided to go and view it as soon as we could. We headed off on a Wednesday evening to see the house, and were a bit sceptical as we left because for some reason, we'd previously decided we weren't so keen on the development it was on. Strangely enough, we now have no idea why we'd discounted the development because it's lovely!! I keep saying it has an American feel, because it really does! The estate was built only a few years ago, and really well done, so the houses are all unique and situated around a green. We had to see the house in the dark, but as soon as we stepped in the door, it had a completely different feeling to the others we'd seen. We were shown round by the agent rather than the owners, which might have made a bit of a difference, but I could tell that I liked it immediately and could already see us living there.
I won't go into a huge amount of detail (I guess I already have...!), but it's bigger than we were actually looking for and than what we need right now, but we aren't intending on moving again any time soon - we've lived in 3 places together already (not including time spent at home, that adds on another 1 I guess!), so we want to have a good few years in one place now! It's got a gorgeous garden room (where I've already got a wall planned for indoor outfit photos!), a lovely attic bedroom and more bathrooms than we can use in one go - two are en suites, which means there are enough for Ben and I to have one each, and the cats to have one each!! 
The offering process took a long time due to the change in Stamp Duty while we were offering which meant the value of the house changed, as well as the one the vendors were negotiating on. We won't be moving for a good couple/few months yet - our contract in our current house runs till April, so we don't want too much overlap. And the vendors haven't yet closed on their offer yet, so the chain technically isn't complete. But hopefully it'll all be sorted soon and we'll get a moving date. First though, there are lots of important and scary things to sort out like the mortgage and solicitors....
Great British Sewing Bee full skirted dress
Anyway, back to the fashion side of this post! This is another memade dress - and again, another from the Great British Sewing Bee Book - as I mentioned before, it's a different skirtred version of the shift dress (which I've made in Eiffel Tower and tartan fabric). It uses the same bodice, but adds these little capped sleeves and swaps the pencil skirt for a full skirt cut on the bias. It is slightly shorter than I'd like at the moment, so next time I may end up lengthening it a bit, but I find it really quick and easy to make. Like the shift dress, I do find the waist hits slightly higher than I like, but I think that's the style of the dress. I think I might try adding the cap sleeves to the shift dress pattern at some point to see how that works out! I did rush a little bit on this one though, and the princess seams on the bodice aren't as neat as the other, plus I caught a tiny bit of fabric in one sleeve which resulted in a bit of a pleat there, but they're not noticeable unless I told you - serves me right for rushing though!
Though the book does have several errors, I've so far found the patterns pretty easy to work with which is nice - I'm awful at things which involve diagrams as I can never see what they're trying to get me to see, so it's nice when it's not too confusing! I'm also working on a pattern for a little girl's and a baby dress from the book too, and I have fabric for the wrap dress, so soon enough I think I'll have made enough patterns to properly review the book for you!
PS: Apologies for the creepy face below! This was a bad day for photo taking, so I had to take them inside, and I find these really difficult to do with the lighting in our house, hence I ended up with only about 5 useable pictures, some of which had weird faces like this one - oops!
Gingham dress
Linked up at Style Elixir and Classy Yet Trendy.
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Lace Pencil Skirt & Pin Up Cardigan

Pencil skirt & cardigan
Lace pencil skirt
Cardigan: Voodoo Vixen | Pencil Skirt: Primark | Heels: ASOS
As I often am, I'm behind on outfit posts again, and this one was taken a while ago although it's an outfit I repeat fairly frequently at the moment. I got the cardigan for my birthday from my parents - it's from Voodoo Vixen whose stuff I am obsessed with! I already owned this dress from them, and had been looking at their cardigans for ages before getting this one. I was a bit concerned about the keyhole on the neck that it might show off too much cleavage, but it's alright actually, and I have also worn it with a black scoop top underneath with covers up that a bit. The skirt is actually fairly old now, although I think it's still available (or was up until recently) in some stores where it hasn't sold out, as Charley and I were in Primark recently and she picked it up, saying she thought I would like it, only for me to tell her I already owned it from more than a year ago! Strangely it's actually a size 6, because that was all that was left when I bought it aside from a size 16, and even though I'm definitely a lot closer to a 10 than a 6 usually, it fits really well. It's really good thick material which is a plus in a tight fitting pencil skirt like this as thin ones can show up all sorts of lumps and bumps!
Unfortunately, I don't have many pictures of this outfit, and I also don't have a lot to say today! We haven't yet heard on our house plans, but I had an amazing weekend in Newcastle with some of my oldest friends. We stayed in Malmaison on the Quayside (really close to where I used to live!), had massages, a 2 course meal, cocktails in the hotel bar and lots of snacks and gossip in the room. I'd had a stressful week, so it was definitely what I needed. We're making this an annual thing now, to do at least a night away together somewhere and are already starting to plan next year's trip.
Voodoo Vixen cardigan with pencil skirt

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What I've Read: October/November

books nov 2014
I have been completely useless with my reading for a variety of reasons of the past couple of months, blah blah blah excuses excuses! Mostly I've just been busy doing everything else, plus Ben makes me watch Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares when we go to bed and turns the light down to a point where I physically can no longer see words on a page - mean, I know! I have had reduce my Goodreads Challenge amount, and I'm still not sure I'll hit it, but never mind. I also decided to mix things up and add in pictures of the front covers of the books too - so crazy over here!! So here are the books I've read recently:


A Swarming of Bees by Theresa Tomlinson - 5.5/10 (Kindle version)

I can't even remember when I picked up this book, but I think it was during an Amazon Kindle books sale, and I was drawn to it because of the mention that it was set at the Monastery in Whitby at the time of the Synod in 664 - Whitby is fairly local to me, so I know it pretty well and thought it would be interesting to read more about its (partly fictional but based on facts) history. The central character is Fridgyth, an old herb wife, originally of the pagan religion, who now works at the monastery under the ruling of fiercely independent Abbess Hild. The Synod (a real historic event in which the date of Easter for Britain and the type of tonsure the monks wore was decided) is the turning point of the book - everything is running fairly smoothly, but it makes life altering decisions for the people of the monastery. It also hits at the same time as a deadly plague reaching Whitby, strangers arriving at the Monastery, and deaths that don't seem to be caused by the plague. The story eventually falls into an almost "murder mystery", although with little urgency until the end. I did enjoy it, but mostly because I was interested in the history of the area and I already knew a bit about the religion at the time (Saints such as St. Bede and St. Cuthbert come into the story at times). The plot itself was a bit slow for me though and I wouldn't be quick to recommend it unless you're already interested in that time or the area, but it was certainly interesting. Even better, we managed to visit Whitby while I was reading it, then travelled back home across the moorland on the route they would have taken in the book too, so that was pretty awesome :)


Dark Prayer by Natasha Mostert - 7.5/10 (Kindle version)

I've read a few of Natasha Mostert's books already (reviews for: Windwalker, The Midnight Side and The Season of the Witch), then I spotted this one on NetGalley and knew I was bound to enjoy it. Like The Season of the Witch, the central plot of this novel revolves around memory, although this one delves deeper into the study of it and the effects of toying with it. Eloise Blake is not the person she once was, literally. With a new name and identity, she's on the run from her old life as Jenilee Gray which she has absolutely no memory of - she is in a fugue state, but no one knows why. James is brought in by her concerned godfather to bring her home to him. With Eloise/Jenilee now a devoted parkour runner, he manages to make his way into her life through their common interest. But her life is plagued with memories, voices and hallucinations that seem to have no relevance to her at all, or even seem to be her memories. What unravels is far more complicated than any of them can imagine, unveiling a secret society, almost cult like, devoted to Mnemosyne, which both their parents along with other friends were involved in, in which they play God with memory, attempting to come up with formulae to delete or restore memories. It's a fairly fast paced novel, with a good mystery and clues scattered throughout in the form of Jenilee's mother's diary. As with her other novels, the action based scenes are the most gripping (eg: cave diving in Windwalker and exploring the memory palace in The Season of the Witch), and the parkour scenes in this are no different. It wasn't my favourite of her books, but still a really good read. As with The Season of the Witch, I found the topic of memory really interesting and could have read more and more about the research and experiments that were being done.


The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan - 7/10 (Kindle version)

Now this is a bit of an odd one, and it'll be hard to tell you about it in a review like this without you reading it! I had a Waterstones gift card, so I decided to choose some books to read I'd had on my list for a while, and unless you're kind of a book crazy person like me, you probably won't understand how exciting this was - I have hundreds on my list, and I only picked three for now, but it was the best! From that pile, I picked this one to read first because it was short and looked like a quick read.
I'd read various reviews on this already, so I knew what was coming, and it's no surprise to tell you that the story follows the lives of four siblings who range from 6 to 17 in the days, weeks and months shortly after both their parents die. The "pull" of this book for a lot of people is the taboo subject that it covers: incest. Though this is introduced almost immediately, along with the topic of death, let me tell you: the book isn't about incest at all, it is rarely mentioned, and is not the main subject - obviously it's just highlighted by most readers because it's a strange and uneasy topic. In reality, the story doesn't actually move along very much at all. It's more of an in depth study into what might happen in a world without parental supervision - the children try to continue with their lives, pretending everything is normal even though it's not, as they've hidden their mother in the basement with a covering of cement. It's set throughout a long hot summer in England, and you really get that lazy, hazy feel of summer in the city, that you're not necessarily seeing everything clearly. 
It was an interesting read, and one that wasn't particularly difficult to get through, but not my favourite. I've read Ian McEwan before and would definitely read more in future.

Neil Gaiman is not an author I've read before, but I've heard only good things about his writing. I'm not sure whether this book would slot into adult or young adult fiction, due to the subject matter and the writing style - for me, it was an easy read to get through in terms of the story and writing and definitely had elements of young adult, although I've seen people claim that you need to be a "grown up" to be able to really understand the story including the nostalgia of childhood being far in your past. 
The blurb tells you that a man (unnamed through the story, I now realise) has returned to his childhood home for a funeral and ends up at the farm at the end of the lane he only half remembers from when he was seven. As he arrives, all his memories from that time come flooding back, beginning with a dead man in the family car. I was half expecting a kind of murder mystery going back to childhood where you finally understand what actually happened, but that's not the journey this book takes you on at all. It's far more magical (literally!), dark and unimaginable than you'd ever think. Involving the ever mysterious Hemlocks, a pond that's really an "ocean" and a character more terrifying as a human than a monster could ever be, it's a fascinating read giving an insight into childhood, memory, fantasy and adulthood. 
Strangely, even though these are all the things I usually like in a book, there was still something slightly missing for me, and I think it was the writing style and voice that the recollection took, although without that style, the book wouldn't be what it is. But there were elements that were amazing and I read it pretty quickly, not wanting to put it down. This is another author I'll definitely be back to read soon.
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Ghost London

Ghost London dress
Drop Waisted dress
Drop Waist Dress: c/o Ghost | Tights: M&S | Heels: F&F
I've been holding off on blogging for the past couple of days in the hopes that I might have some good (house related) news to tell you, but as of right now, we're still in a housing limbo of having put an offer on a property and waiting to hear back! There's been a lot of back and forth, but we're in with our final offer now, based on the fact that there having been some changes announced to Stamp Duty today by the Chancellor meaning that we'll be saving a lot of money on any house we buy (really, a lot - thousands! It's awesome!). I'm hoping there'll be good news tomorrow morning, but there's always the chance it may not go through, so trying to not get my hopes too high!
So for now, I'll try not to talk about houses! Instead, let's get on with outfit talk - this is a dress I received from Ghost several weeks ago and, despite being on the more expensive side of the dresses I tend to buy and wear, I've actually worn it far more times than I thought I would do! It's also a silhouette I tend to stray away from generally with the dropped waist, but I decided to give it a go this time and ended up actually quite liking it. Unfortunately, I do find it hard to pair with any layers, since there's absolutely no definition on my waist meaning layers will just end up making me look bulky, so I've tended to wear it just by itself with a pair of opaque tights and a coat or jacket over the top - I have found my leather jacket looks good with it, so that's a plus! The colour is one that I tend to stray towards hugely through autumn and winter, as do the rest of my family - I swear, every time I put something this colour on, so do my mum, dad and sister, even Ben sometimes! We looked a right state all turning up to the pub the other day in various shades of burgundy! It's also ridiculous comfortable due to the loose fit which means, even though it's a more expensive dress, I've thrown it on on a few lazy days for tidying the house and staying at home - oops!
Oxblood dress
Drop waist dress outfit
So, aside from house hunting (which has had my heart on edge all week every time my phone has buzzed!), I've had a fairly busy time recently. I took the day off work on Friday to go down to Sheffield with Charley for a factory sale at Panache - we'd heard how amazing it was and were way too excited for it. I ended up spending over £80 on underwear, though I did get 4 bras, 9 pairs of knickers, a swimming costume and a babydoll - and bear in mind that underwear (particularly bras in my size!) are pretty expensive and I'd probably only have been able to buy 2 at full price for that money, so I was very pleased! I've also gone up another couple of cup sizes recently (eurgh), so I've now got a few more well fitting pieces as some of mine are on the smaller side now. We also popped over to Meadowhall, pretty crazy idea considering it was Black Friday and the first one that the UK has really caught on to, so it was fairly busy but not awful. And I didn't even buy anything in Primark, seriously!! The biggest achievement of the day was probably the fact that we successfully navigated our way down there and round Sheffield by ourselves (ahem, with the aid of Kent the Sat Nav) without getting lost once - impressed!
On Saturday, it was my choir concert and my first solo in 5 years! I wasn't particularly nervous until the day before, then suddenly got a bit anxious, mostly due to the fact that it was in the Abbey at my old school and I knew several of my old teachers, including my two old choir teachers, would be there and listening to me! It's also got crazy acoustics which are great when you're used to them, as I once was, but I hadn't sung there for ages, so had forgotten what it was like - it's very unique! You need to feel like you're slightly ahead of the organ to be able to be on time, which feels weird when you've forgotten that. It was a piece that had been transposed to be a soprano piece, so had been difficult to practise as I don't have a piano here and there are no recordings of it in anything other than a male voice on Youtube. Fortunately, it all went well aside from an extra strategic breath I had to slip in! My family all came along, including my grandma, and sat in the front row - felt like I was back in a school play or something! And I've doing it all over again the weekend after this in our local church, so a much more informal setting. This weekend though, I'm off to Newcastle for the night with Rosie, Helen and Katy to stay in a hotel, have a meal, some drinks and a massage - excited!

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Beginner's DSLR Photography for Fashion Blogs

fashion photog edit
I'll be the first to admit that my photography isn't always top notch, especially my fashion photos as they're usually taken using a tripod and self timer which is why I very frequently end up with blurry pictures of myself trying to hurry along to the spot where I've focused my camera and not quite making it in time! Not that you'll ever see these pictures, although I should probably do another bloopers post sometime - comedy material like that shouldn't go to waste!
I have been taking photos for this blog for nearly 5 years now, so I thought that somewhere along the way I've probably picked up a few tips - I mean, I went from this to this (Nov 2010 & Now)
Before/After fashion photography
I've owned my DSLR for about 3 years now and have collected a bit of equipment around it, so I don't really use a good old point and shoot anymore (aside from that time Canon kept my camera hostage for months at a time while they attempted to fix it...). Because of that, this post will focus on how I use my camera and the equipment I have (nothing fancy, I promise!). I'm only going to give a few tips, and they're not necessarily going to be the most groundbreaking, earth-shattering things you're going to hear, but they're what works for me at this time and what I've slowly picked up.
So, here's my little camera kit - I do own a few other bits and pieces, but they don't feature frequently in my "fashion photography" (ie. outfit photos):

Canon Rebel T3/EOS 1100D - this model is now discontinued as there are newer upgrades (ie. Canon EOS 1200D)
Canon Kit Lens 18-55mm - f/3.5-5.6
Canon Portrait Lens 50mm, f/1.8 (my favourite to use)
Canon Zoom Lens 75-300mm, f/4.0-5.6
Canon camera bag

1. Don't take it too seriously

The first thing everyone will tell you is to take your camera of "auto", but unless they went straight into doing a photography class or already knew a bit about what they were doing, I'll bet the first picture they took was on auto. Don't feel too stressed about learning how to use every single feature on your camera straight away. For me, the quality of moving from my old point and shoot to my Canon was so different, that even auto mode looked amazing; take a look at the pictures below, the first was taken with my old point and shoot, the second a month later with my Canon. This isn't to say that if you have a fashion blog you must go and buy a DSLR - of course, everyone's priorities are different, but for me, I wanted to learn how to use a camera better and I had an upcoming trip to Greece that I wanted amazing pictures from, so it made all the difference. The pictures below show an image from a point and shoot (on the left) and my DSLR (on the right) within a month of each other - I hadn't yet learnt many settings, and I didn't have a fancy lens, but you can see how the quality, even on auto, makes a big difference:
dslr vs normal

2. Learn your way around your camera

Take a few pictures on auto, then take the plunge and spin that dial. I'd recommend starting on a "semi-auto" mode such as macro - you'll have a bit more freedom to change settings, but things won't go completely wrong, not that it matters if they do - all that will happen if you go wrong is you'll end up with something like an overexposed (too bright) or underexposed (too dark) picture which you can delete and try again.
Once you're comfortable with using those, try going manual. There isn't actually much scary about this once you've figured out all what all the numbers and letters mean. Brief list of the different camera modes:

A/Av: Aperture Priority

This prioritises Aperture (see below), meaning you choose the amount of light to let into the lens, which allows you to keep a background in focus ("large depth of field") or make it blurry ("shallow depth of field"). It's useful for fashion photography (with a blurry background to focus on the subject) and landscapes (getting the whole scene in focus). This is the setting I use most on my camera for outfit photos and fashion photography. With my portrait lens on, I set the F stop to around f/1.8 up to f/2.2, make sure the white balance is right and mostly just leave the ISO and shutter speed (which is auto on this mode).

Tv/S: Shutter Priority

This prioritises Shutter Speed (see below), meaning how long the shutter stays open and how much light comes in (you can hear the shutter on DSLRs making a "click-clunk" sound as it opens and closes). It's useful for capturing moving wildlife or sports (with a short shutter speed so it doesn't blur), to blur moving objects (ie. waterfalls) or when it's dark (to get maximum light).

P: Program

You can set either the aperture or shutter speed, and the camera will deal with the exposure for you automatically.

M: Manual

You have full control over both the aperture and shutter speed as well as the ISO (see below). You will need to balance them correctly depending on the setting you're in to get the correct exposure, so that it is light enough and the focus is how you want it.

So there are a few words there you might not know if you're a beginner DSLR user; here are the important ones and the very basics of what they mean and what they do:


(comes from the Latin meaning "opening"...sorry, had to thrown that in there :/) How much light is let into the lens, thus how blurry the background is. This is measured in F Stops, which are the numbers you see that look like this: f/1.8. The lower the number, the blurrier the background. All you need to know for now! 

Shutter Speed 

How long the shutter stays open, which allows more or less light into the lens. A slower speed (ie. 1/25) will allow more light in if the scene is dark or will help to blur the scene (ie. waterfalls). A quicker shutter speed (ie. 1/250) will let in less light for bright places and to capture moving subjects without blur.


How sensitive the camera is to light. Most DSLRs will deal with this themselves so you don't need to worry too much. Use a lower ISO, around 100 or 200 in bright outdoor scenes, or 400-800 if it's cloudy. A higher ISO will make a picture grainy but is useful in low light conditions. Try to use the lowest ISO possible for your lighting, but the camera will try to do this for you on most settings.


A DSLR will have an autofocus and a manual focus switch (usually on the lens). Stick to autofocus as much as possible to start with (and further on too!) to make life easier. You hold the shutter button half way while lining up the subject where you want them in the frame, wait for the small beep or flash of red light from the focus point dots in the viewfinder which means it's found its focus point, then click the button all the way to take the photo.

White Balance

This affects the colour temperature of your photos. If it's set wrong, you may end up with bluish or orange toned photos. Your camera will have preset modes such as "Daylight", "Cloudy" and "Shade" which are self-explanatory, and "Tungsten", inside lighting that gives a yellow tone, and "Fluorescent", inside lighting with a green or blue tone. Simply choose what the lighting is like around you, and the camera will compensate it giving you more natural tones. You can set it manually if you want, but even professionals don't always do this.

3. Choose your pieces of kit

Once you've figured out how your camera works for you, you'll want to start thinking about what "extras" you might want to make your fashion photography a bit easier. For me, there are a couple of necessities for taking outfit photos: a tripod and a portrait lens.
If you take photos by yourself, or even if you want to take product photos with a steadier hand, a tripod is worth buying. Yes, you may feel a bit silly out in the street with a tripod, but it's better than balancing it on a wall or pile of books! My tripod is an old one, but a simple one is only cheap to pick up. I started off with a little GorillaPod which is super handy wherever you go in case of uneven flooring, but I'd also recommend one with sturdy adjustable legs for outfit photography - I think mine is the second on this page, but any of those are great.
My second piece of kit that I always use is my portrait lens. It's the Canon Portrait Lens 50mm, f/1.8 and is perfect for fashion photography, nature shots, portraits (obviously), and, well, I pretty much use it for everything! It has a fixed zoom (50mm), which is fairly close, so not perfect for close quarters like a small dining table. But its selling point is the F stop of f/1.8, which means you get that blurry background that all the fashion bloggers love. My Canon came with a kit lens, which is great for everyday use when you want to change your zoom length, but doesn't give you the blurry background to such an extent.
I'd also recommend getting a camera bag too to keep your bits and pieces safe and undamaged. I have the Canon camera bag which Ben bought me and fits in all my lens along with my camera and battery charger as well as a few other things I haven't mentioned here (filters, a flash and a remote). Really it's just important to ensure your camera is safe, so all it needs is a fairly padded inside and the ability to stay fairly dry. It doesn't necessarily need to be a branded one like your camera, for example, the AmazonBasics camera bag would work just fine.

4. Check out some online tutorials

There's only so much you can figure out on your own, so it's worth taking a look at the tutorials that are already out there to save yourself a bit of time. I keep my favourite tutorials and inspiration in a Photography folder on Pinterest. Here are just a few I've found useful in the past:

5. Practise, practise, and practise a bit more

There are loads of other things that you can learn about how to use your camera - all the different modes, fancy things you can do, learning how to get your pictures physically better by using fancy studio lighting and external flashes. But before you delve into all of that, there's one simple thing to do: practise. Learn how to frame your photos best for your subject and your surroundings. Experiment with natural lighting for fun shots, such as ones which are backlit (with the sun behind the subject for a silhouetted look). Focus on something unexpected so that your subject is blurry. Just try everything; you might end up discovering an angle that works perfectly for what you're trying to show off. And once you've got all the basics down (I know I still haven't!), then delve into the more complicated and expensive bits of kit, but remember that throwing heaps of money at something isn't necessarily going to give you the perfect shot; practice will do.
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Sewing: Eiffel Dress

Eiffel Tower dress
Sew Your Own Wardrobe Shift Dress
Tartan Shift Dress: Handmade (from Great British Sewing Bee book; fabric: Market Stall) | Cardigan: ASOS | Tights: M&S | Boots: F&F
As you may know, I've got into sewing big time recently. It took me a while to make my first dress (which I haven't yet worn on the blog), but I'm now able to trace out a pattern and knock up a dress lazily over a couple of days - if I really wanted to, I think I could do it in a day now! My favourite one I've made so far has been my tartan shift dress from the Great British Sewing Bee book - I've already worn it several times and it hasn't fallen apart yet! There's a full skirted version of it too which uses the same bodice but with sleeves and a full skirt, and I've made that with gingham fabric (coming soon to the blog!). A couple of weekends ago I wanted to sew something, but I didn't want to have too much faffing around starting something entirely new and needing to trace out a pattern, so I pulled out my shift dress one again along with this Eiffel Tower fabric that I got for £5/m off a little fabric stall I came across in York. I'd also picked up some black bias binding in Hobbycraft since I love the look of it when it's exposed on necklines and armholes, and gave that a good go for the first time. Since I'd already made the pattern once for this and once for the full skirted version, it was a little bit easier, and turned out really well I think! Ben says it's his favourite of the dresses I've made, while I still prefer my tartan one. I was really impressed with my bias binding since it came out really neatly in the end, and even though it's fiddly in places, I think I'll definitely do it again.
Unfortunately while the fabric is kind of awesome with its Eiffel Tower print, it's not the greatest quality ever because it goes super creasy very quickly! I wore the dress at work for the day and ended up with all the creases you can see here across the hips and thighs where I was sitting - never mind!
Great British Sewing Bee Shift Dress
Handmade dress
As usual, I've been pretty busy doing all sorts of random things! As I said on Twitter today, despite seemingly doing a thousand things with my life, including full time work, running various blogs and social media accounts, choir (we have a concert this weekend that I'm doing the soprano solo for!), Brownies and sewing, I always want to do more. So I've now decided I'm going to write an eBook - it was a bit of a spur of the moment thing, but something I've considered for a while. I suddenly hit on a topic in my head, and during my drive home from work I had the outline of it planned out in my head. I'm 1200 words into the introduction now and have the skeleton of it prepared, so let's see how that goes! In other news, we're still on the house hunt, but things are moving forward a little bit right now. I'm not going to go into detail yet because, of course, things may not move any further ahead, but it means I've got even more on my plate right now!
I had a lovely weekend too. It was my cousin Mollie's fourth birthday (remember when she was only a month old?!) on Friday so we went round to them with my family and spent the evening playing with her and 18 month old Eva - it consisted of a lot of Frozen, a lot...not that I'm complaining, but I'm not sure how everyone else felt about that! Then it was my sister's birthday on Saturday, so I went to their house that morning and spent the day with my family over at Whitby and Sandsend - we walked on the beach, ate waffles and played the 2p machines in the amusements (again!), and it was lovely. Ben joined us in the evening to go out for a meal at a local pub - I ended up eating a "Yorkshire Hotpot" which was a giant Yorkshire pudding filled with beef and gravy and topped with potatoes - it was as awesome as it sounds!
Eiffel Shift Dress
Shift dress with black tights
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