Lifestyle

2017 Summer Journal

A little Q&A (with myself) on the pieces you need to purchase this Summer. From books to bikinis and SPF to cover-ups. I have your back this Summer and have also included a downloadable checklist of everything you need for whatever the occasion! 

Q: So let's get started with the essentials - swimwear. What are my favourite pieces of swimwear this year?

A: I find ASOS is your best place to shop. BUT if you're on the curvy side, then finding swimwear that isn't a tiny piece of material that shows every ounce of flesh is one of the hardest tasks you'll face. 
Luckily, I have 3 pieces of swimwear this year that will help tick that one off your to-do list. The palm print and the bikini are both from ASOS. And the neon trimmed swimsuit is from (would you believe) George at Asda! This was actually the comfiest out of all three, despite being a 'body control' style.

Q: Top beauty tips?

A: I'm a HUGE fan of SPF. However, I always find your usual SPFs super sticky and pore clogging on my face. I was recently sent this Bliss SPA SPF moisturiser and it was a lifesaver when on holiday. 
I was applying it on top of my usual moisturiser as I love extra hydration and it protected my skin for the whole day. 

The other tip is hydration and protection for your hair. Especially if it's coloured. So grab a bottle of Philip Kingsley Swim Cap to guard discolouration and damage

Gone Girl

Q: The 3 books you must read this Summer?

A: These 3 books made me fall back in love with reading. The first was The Girls by Emma Cline - It's a book that keeps on giving and really doesn't give away the story until the very last page. The other two are thrillers at their very best with plot twisting endings. They are Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (note: DO NOT watch the film before reading the book, this sadly made me less thrilled by it). 

Q: What do you always forget when going on holiday? 

A: It had been a while since I went on a real Summer holiday and I completely forgot how much you need to cover up your scalp. Especially if like me, you go and do some water sports! 
Whilst I was in Croatia I bought this beautiful 100% silk scarf with a map of Dubrovnik on it to tie around my hair and protect my scalp when kayaking and wandering the city. 
However, if you want to take chic to the next level then you may want to opt for the classic Hermes scarf. 

Neom

Q: Any must have travel gift sets?

YES!!! This Neom Travel Mini set will set you up for the most luxurious holiday. Their bath soak completely soothed my sunburnt skin and the face, hair and body oil made me feel like I was at the spa every day. 

There are obviously so many pieces that I took on holiday, but these really are the things I couldn't have lived without!

To finish this post off, download this PDF checklist for your next getaway! 

Beauty

May Beauty Favourites

Let's talk about my May favourites. In particular, beauty. I have been seriously loving so many new beauty products this month that I had to share.
If you really want to get under the skin of these products and see why I'm loving them so much, then keep on reading!

Dior Rouge Gradient Lip Duo

Dior Rouge Gradient Lip Duo

 

Every single time I wear this lipstick I get compliments from various different people. 
It is a powder lipstick which can sometimes be seen as very drying, but don't let this put you off. 
This lipstick is super creamy when you apply, but do make sure you exfoliate beforehand as it can drag dry skin along. 
The lipstick has two ends. I have the pink shade so one end is a baby pink and the other is a magenta colour. The idea is to blend both to give an ombré illusion. 
I love this effect but when I'm in a rush I tend to just dab the paler pink shade over all my lips. 
The real reason I'm enjoying this lipstick so much is the plumpness and full coverage that it give your lips. It absolutely perfects your cupids bow and doesn't miss an inch of your lips. 
Not only that, but it stays in place so well and isn't bothered by drinking or eating. 

Buy
Ouai Texturising Hair Spray

Ouai Texturising Hair Spray

 

Short hair girls REJOICE!!!! This is hands down the best hair product I've ever used. I've pretty much had short hair all my life and I'm forever battling with getting the 'tousled' look whilst keeping some volume. 
I will be doing a tutorial on this but I basically wave my hair out every day and use the Ouai Texturising Hair Spray to give it an 'oomph'. Not only does this product smell amazing on your hair (with notes of bergamot and water lily), it's also not heavy, sticky or anything like that but really gives your hair a certain je ne sais quoi.

Buy
Collection Long Lasting Perfection Concealer

Collection Long Lasting Perfection Concealer

 

I've converted far too many people to this £3.99 concealer. The creamiest concealer of them all, brilliant shade for us pale girls, doesn't sit in the creases under your eyes and blends so well!

Buy
Beauty Pie Liquid Luminizer

Beauty Pie Triple Beauty Liquid Luminizer

 

A must-have for the summer in my opinion. Instead of caking on lots of powdery highlighters, I've found this liquid luminizer to be the most beautiful glow ever. The texture is wet and creamy which makes it glide across your skin. And since it is a wet product anyway, it really doesn't budge during these hot summer months. 
It adds a gorgeous (but subtle) highlight to your cheekbones, arch of your eyebrows and across the cupids bow. 
It also comes in a miniature pot and only requires a small amount of product which makes it perfect for travelling! 

Buy
Artis Palm Brush

Artis Palm Brush

 

I'm pretty sad to say that my original Artis Oval 6 brush snapped in half. But I'm not the only one - my sister's did too! 
However, I love these brushes so much that even this didn't put me off. Instead I opted for the Artis Palm Brush which definitely won't be able to snap and is a great size to cover all of your face. 
I actually much prefer this brush to apply my foundation as it is literally done in two swipes, and looks flawless. 
The Artis brushes are packed tight with hundreds of thousands of bristles, are incredibly soft and this one fits right in the dip of your palm making it the most impactful way to get into even the smallest crevets of your face. 

Buy

Cowshed Hand Cream

 

This is pretty much a 2017 favourite. I received this in one of my many beauty advent calendars and have used it ever since. 
For a while I thought there wasn't much difference between hand creams, and never thought I'd have a holy grail. 
But this Cowshed Hand Cream is the one. 
It's incredibly moisturising, sinks into the skin almost instantly (which is something I love - greasy hands are the worst), smells divine and comes in adorable packaging - what more could you ask for? 
It contains orange and peppermint oil which are known for their antiseptic properties, along with shea and cocoa butter to provide a protective barrier for the skin. 

Buy
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid

 

Let's talk acids. Now this is something that I really want to do a whole feature on, as I feel like a lot of people are really scared of acids. But they're something so beneficial for your skincare routine, and The Ordinary are really paving the way with affordable pieces. 
So the quickest thing I can say about hyaluronic acid is that it keeps your skin plump & hydrated, therefore helping create a more youthful looking skin. BASICALLY. 
I have been using this every morning and evening for the past 30 days and my skin is so full of moisture it's unreal. 
I'm definitely looking to try a few other brands of hyaluronic acid and you can actually get some moisturisers which have it as an active ingredient so definitely get reading the labels of your beauty products.
But do bare with me as I am compiling a nice big blog post on all the acids you need in your life and why they're not as scary as they sound! 

Buy



So that's it for May's beauty favourites. There have been so many other products I've been loving but I really wanted to keep this as short as possible and outline the ones I think you have to buy. 

OOTD, Outfit of the day

Minimal Details

Minimal white shirt

I'm definitely one of those girls who chooses to wear the 'minimal' style. I'm pretty easy when it comes to prints, choosing not to go overboard with florals, although I can't deny I do love a good gingham print and stripes!!

But the one thing I always look for when shopping for clothes is details. I find some of the most minimal details really make an item stand out and they're also some of the best finishing touches for bringing an outfit together.

It's not often that high street brands do details and if they do, they rarely do them well. But I found this white shirt for £20 in Zara and couldn't believe the attention to detail. 

So this isn't your usual white shirt/blouse. When looking from afar, this shirt looks pretty standard. However, the sleeves have the most beautiful bow details, as does the back of the shirt. This is especially helpful if you want to dress a shirt down without losing it's feminity. 
As i'm you all know, I tend to go toward the androgynous kind of style so shirts like this are a winner in my wardrobe. (Plus can you ever have enough white blouses?)

Where do you buy minimal pieces with intricate details? I'd love to know!

 

OOTD

The night shirt you can wear 24/7

I can't deny I'm a bit of a home bird. I'd much rather stay in with a takeaway and Netflix than get dolled up for a night on the town. 
Because of this, I am always looking for and buying knew pyjamas or night dresses. I buy some of the cutest pjs ever but at the end of the day, always go to bed wearing a big oversized tshirt. 

That was until I was vvvvvvv kindly gifted this Eight Hour Studio night dress. It's the cosiest thing I've ever owned and literally as soft as my rabbit. It's the perfect length and size to be worn day and night and it also has pockets in it which is perfect for some late night snacking heheh. 

However, this night shirt is just too beautiful for bed. I cannot wait to get on the beach in Croatia and wear this over my swimsuit. 
And even in the UK, this is so easy to style with things. I wore it the other day with some blue jeans and a pair of white stan smiths.
Whilst many people might think it's a bit too long, you can unbutton it to your navel and achieve the ultimate slouchy weekend look. 
 

Eight Hour Studio

So check out the Eight Hour Studio website - they have some divine pieces and I'm very keen to get my hands on some lounge pants. Come follow me on Instagram to see how I wear this iconic piece on the beach this June. 

Beauty

10 Must Have Beauty Products for Spring

Whilst the weather outside may say otherwise, it's Spring and soon to be Summer so it's time to mix up your beauty routine. 

For me, Spring beauty means glowy skin and the good old quote 'less is more'. 
So look through the gallery below to see my 10 go-to beauty products for Spring/Summer 2017!

What's your go-to beauty product for Spring/Summer '17? 

Lifestyle

The never ending jobs of a blogger

Whilst many people believe that blogging is the easiest job around, us bloggers are really aware of the struggles, time and dedication it takes to keep this up. 
This blog post is coming around as this is my sixth year in blogging, and also the year I decided to take my career into my own hands, have full control and go freelance. 

But to those of you who think this is maybe the easy route, or even to people who want to start a blog (woo, welcome to the family!) then let me give you a little insight into the many jobs us bloggers have. 

 Photographer

Olympus Pen Illustration

When we're not having our outfits shot by poor boyfriends who've been roped into the job, we're perfecting flatlays and trying to get 'that' shot that is going to get regrammed by our favourite brand. Note: it never happens

Writer

typewriter illustration

I know from experience that many people think blogging is just taking pretty pictures. BUT if you can't string a sentence together then you may as well stick to Instagram. If you don't enjoy writing then don't make a blog. Whilst pretty pictures bring it all together, writing/journalism is the key component to a blog, and if you don't have anything interesting to write then don't expect people to come back for more. Alternatively, you can try YouTube!!

PR

PR-Handshake-Illustration

Sell. Sell. Sell. Public Relations is traditionally about connecting the public with the media, and being the divider between these two. In this new age, bloggers are the media. And instead of hiring PR's, we sell ourselves to brands and the public! I have a slight advantage in that I actually studied PR at university, but for the rest of you, google will be your best friend.

Stylist

Stylist-Illustration

Wait, can I put all these jobs on my CV? Styling yourself is pretty easy as you know what suits you, but when you're appealing to an ever-growing audience, that job gets a bit tougher. You need to know what's in season, what your demographic love, and most importantly - what looks good. 

Editor

Editing my posts is something that takes a lot of time. I will usually write a post then come back to it a few hours later to really edit it down and be clear on what it is I'm trying to say. Having experience in journalism is extremely helpful, but editing and proof-reading your work is such a chore. You need to seperate yourself from your feelings and really look at what it is you've wrote and what your readers can take away from this post. 

Model

Clearly I'm not a 'model', although it feels like it when I'm stood in the street trying to look pretty and passers by stop and stare. But yeah, we have to put ourselves in the most uncomfortable positions (literally) to get that shot. 

Retoucher/ Photoshop Pro

photoshop.png

Now I don't exactly retouch my photos, but everyone knows they need certain tweaks in regards to brightness, contrast, saturation etc. There are some online photo editors that are pretty easy, but if you can get on board with adobe products at an early age then it will definitely be in your benefit. 

 Social Media Manager

socialmedia-illustration

I've managed many brands social accounts, but have always found managing my own the hardest. With the Instagram algorithm screwing us all over, it's even harder to grow your business on these accounts.
With that being said, it's key to remember that your social accounts aren't everything. We never know what's going to happen with technology and these apps, which is why your domain is the most important piece to your brand puzzle. 
Growing social media accounts is key when you want to work with brands, but if your blog content is good enough, they will eventually see through the numbers game. 

Accountant

accountant-illustration

Probably the worst job of them all. Following up on payments, tax returns, keeping track of all the incomings and outgoings, writing invoices. This isn't something they teach you at school, or even university and it's something I resent my education for.

I still don't have my shit together with all this, but that is one of the great things of blogging. It expands your horizons, it pushes you to open your eyes a bit more and start learning new things. 
This job is growing every day and this list really is never ending, but blogging is one of the best things I've ever done in my life and I never want it to end. 

Lifestyle

Where to get the perfect minimal swimwear this Summer

Uniqlo U swimwear launch

I'm actually going on a Summer holiday this year! A beach holiday. Not my usual city break. An actual beach holiday, to Croatia. 

But with the joy comes the dreaded swimwear shopping. This year I've been scouring the shops for something a bit simple, a bit more minimal and also rather affordable. 

I found some lovely pieces in the likes of COS and Whistles, but yano that price tag just aint gonna cut it for me. 

However, I swear someone's been dipping into my dreams and pulling them out, as the most exciting launch ever, dropped into my inbox this morning. 

Let's just start with the name Uniqlo. Yes, that perfect little Japanese brand that always has the awesome collaborations, the cosiest basics and the most affordable prices ever, has now started doing swimwear

Launching in-store today, Uniqlo will now be selling swimwear as an extension to their recent Uniqlo U collaboration.
It's honestly as if someone picked this image out of my brain - even the colours are completely perfect. And to top it off? Prices range from £12.90 to £29.90; a fraction of the price compared to most high-street brands. 

I feel like there is a style for everyone here. Personally, I think I'm going to go for the bardot style swimsuit and the cropped bikini top. And as for colours, I WANT THEM ALL. 

You can thank Uniqlo later. For now, our minimal swimwear prayers have been answered guys. 

OOTD

Bank Holiday Blues

gap uk striped bardot top

Yes, the bank holiday is over. Now you have to wait another 13 days till the next one (to be fair, that's not too bad)!

But don't fret, I know it's hard, but we can get through this. That's why I'm giving you 3 little tips to help with the next 2 weeks. 

To me, the bank holiday has always been about relaxing, eating my ways through crazy amounts of food and drinking copious amount of gin & tonic. 

Obviously, my first tip is a way to conceal the over indulgence.
Now it's back to reality and I'm reaching for my favourite smock top to cover that food baby.
I've completely fell back in love with Gap and so glad I managed to find this absolute bargain (£17) smock top. It's loose on the tummy and long sleeved so hides all those shitty bits that I hate, but it's also a bardot top so shows off my shoulders and allows them to catch those sun rays. 

gap uk summer collection 17

My second tip? Treat yourself. Don't punish yourself for over indulging, but instead carry it on. Retail therapy has to be one of my biggest pick ups, so go take yourself on a long lunch break, tell yourself it's well deserving and get that item you love. 

Go rouge - Coach SS17 Rouge Bag
Coach UK Rogue Collection


Finally, put those memories onto paper. Sadly in the age of Instagram, we take so many pictures but discard 90% of them - the ones that don't make 'the cut'. Instead, try make it your mission to put those memories on paper. I've started making little books every year of my memories and will continue to do it in the future. 
You can either get artsy and make a scrapbook yourself or take the lazy route and get a website to print it for you. 
In the past I've used Artifact Uprising (the guys who created VSCOcam) OR ChatBooks.

If none of these tips help you get over the bank holiday blues, then just remember you've only got another 4 day week!!

PSSSSST: The bag I'm wearing is the new Coach Rogue collection which was kindly gifted to me. However, you can purchase it here 

London Fashion Blogger Editorial

Lifestyle

Fancy sprucing up your home with some of my work?

Illustration-Flamingo-Print

Me again. I'm sorry I've been quiet. I'm freelancing. I'm working. I'm drawing. I'm freaking out. 
I turn 23 this May and whilst that sounds pretty young to most of you, I can't help but freak out about where I am in my life. 

I'm not entirely sure what I want to do but I know that it needs to be creative. I love to write, I love to build relationships and interact with people, I love to draw. There are so many areas of creativity that I could dip my brush into, but I'm just not sure where to begin. 

For now, I'm very excited to find a new opportunity that will expand and open all possibilities for me. 
And don't think you've seen the last of my illustrations. Head over to my Instagram to see the latest and greatest as I tend to post multiple per week.

BUT if you really want to put a smile on my face and support an emerging artist then you can purchase cards/postcards from my online shop or any other merchandise from my Society 6 profile (woo woop).

I'm also working on lots of personal commissions, so if any of you are interested do drop me a line at lauren@itslaurenalexa.com

Wow, I am totally pimping myself out, but what's a gal to do? 

Heading to Wimbledon this year?

This post may be a little premature, but since living in Wimbledon, I can't wait to head down to that centre court. 
I teamed up with Daniel Footwear who are going to share with you the best footwear pieces to wear to the matches. 

The iconic tennis tournament returns again this summer; Wimbledon takes place from 3rd July until 16th July 2017. Most of us will be tuning in with a glass of Pimms in hand to watch favourite Andy Murray compete for his third title. 

Not all of us are lucky enough to grab a ticket to watch the tournament in person, but for those who did, how do you nail the perfect outfit? It’s one of the summer’s biggest event, so what should you wear? 

Clothing
Wimbledon was always known for its strict dress code, but in recent years, this has become it has been relaxed. We aren’t saying you could rock up in your ripped jeans and old trainers – but you no longer need to stick to a strict code. 

It’s safe to say Wimbledon oozes the smart casual trend, effortlessly bridging the gap between laidback looks and formal attire. It a trend loved by tennis WAG royalty Kim Murray and famous attendees like Sienna Miller. 

While nailing the smart casual look, practicality is a big deal too. After all, you can never predict the British weather. 

For cooler, overcast days, turn to tailoring – trousers and a lightweight tailored jacket are a great combination. Wear a thin, sleeveless blouse or vest underneath on the off chance the sun makes an appearance and you’ll be prepared for any weather. 

But, if you’re lucky enough for the forecast to be in your favour, summer dresses and tailored shorts are perfect for keeping you cool, while also keeping with the smart casual dress code. Don’t forget a light cardigan or jacket for when the sun sets or hides behind the clouds. 

Footwear
As you’ll most likely be seated for the majority of the event, you can take your pick from a variety of styles – although we recommend staying away from sky-scrapping party stilettos. Stick to a mid-height pair like these Stuart Weitzman Studyhall mules

Of course, heels aren’t an essential at Wimbledon. You can opt for a flat pair of summer sandals instead. Try to avoid casual flip flops and choose something like these Stuart Weitzman Student flat mules. They ooze glamour with the flat shoe an added comfort. 

Accessories
Stay away from any flamboyant accessories – whilst sun hats are high on trend, they can obstruct the views of others behind you. Stick to a trusty pair of glamorous sunglasses. They’ll shade your eyes from the sun so that you can catch all the action on the court.  

Lifestyle

Why I've been quiet

I woke up today feeling like I'd neglected my blog a little bit. 
Whilst I've been posting regularly, my passion to create things for my blog has depleted. 
In a society where blogging is so oversaturated, it's incredibly hard to do something 'different'. I want to provide my readers with information and content that they can't get elsewhere and when you live in one of the most overpopulated cities ever, this can become increasingly hard. 
As I grow, so does my blog, and with this I want to focus less on my fashion choices and more on things that will make a difference. 
I want to inspire creativity, I want to promote discussion and I want to live my life to the fullest. 
This may sound incredibly cliché but I've never stopped being honest with my readers. 

Instead of writing meaningless posts about my outfits, I'm putting all my creativity into illustrations and stop motions. Most of you will have seen these things on my Instagram, and if you've been following for a while, then you'll know that it's something I've been passionate about for a long time. 

I tend to use these creations as an outlet for my mental health issues. I take things that I see everyday and try to make them more fun, more beautiful and have actually noticed that people enjoy them just as much as I do. 

With that said, a couple of people have asked whether I would start selling my prints and again, this is something that I've wanted to do for a long time. I've always had a 'creative' mind but was never supported enough throughout my education to take it seriously enough. 
But now I am at a stage where I just want to do what makes me happy. Which brings me on to my 'big reveal (I suppose)'

As I'm sure you've guessed, this blog post is all about my new venture. Don't worry, I'm not quitting blogging just yet. 
But you will be seeing a lot more creativity on my social media and you can NOW buy my prints here!  - expect to see new releases every couple of weeks. 
I would love to receive your support and even help create something personal for you. 

You can also see my list of services over here. I'm always on the lookout for feedback so do let me know all your thoughts!

OOTD

Style Guide: Shoes to wear with straight leg denim

It is official – straight leg denim is back on trend. As we bid farewell to skinny jeans, we say hello to an old fashion favourite. They are forever coming in and out of fashion over the years, but as we have entered 2017, the straight leg trend is back with a vengeance. The relaxed look can be tapered for almost all occasions. 

However, for those who have lived in skinny jeans for as long as they can remember, the thought of switching to a straight leg cut can seem unappealing and unflattering. But there is a knack to rocking them, so listen up girls…

To really make the most of the straight leg trend, you should firstly focus on the fit. You should look for a slim fit, but nothing as tight as a skinny fit. Aim for them to hug your hips and thighs and then hang loosely. They’re a clean-cut, casual look so dress to match this with sweaters and jumpers or relaxed tees. The casual look will make it easy for you to pick out a top, but when it comes to picking out shoes, it can be tricky to finish off the outfit. Here are some of your best choices…

 

Canvas trainers

On truly casual days, you can pair the jeans with a pair of canvas trainers such as Converse. The trainers will finish off the dressed-down look perfectly. You could even opt for a slip on trainer too. 

Ballet flats

When the warmer weather hits, ballet flats are a perfect choice to finish off the outfit. You’ll want to keep your shoes on show so make sure the hem of your jeans naturally hangs around an inch off the floor. 

Kitten heels

Low kitten heels are the best way to dress up straight leg jeans, so if you’re off for after work drinks they’re a great option.

Ankle boots

When the colder weather makes an appearance, a small heeled ankle boots work well with the jean – allow the jeans to hang over the boots or turn up the hem to show off the boot. 

Mule sandals

A pair of jewelled mule sandals mix the casual nature of straight leg jeans with an open style shoe that can stand you in good stead when walking the high street.

Brogues

An alternative way to achieve a more formal look to your denim favourites. Brogues can be worn in the office, or in a restaurant. Avoid black if wearing blue jeans – you don’t want your shoes to clash with your jeans. Instead opt for a brown or lighter colour. 

As you can probably tell, you’ve got quite a versatile range of footwear to choose from when you decide to don your straight leg jeans. Keep comfort and casual style in mind and you won’t go wrong!

OOTD

Stealing His Clothes

I've never really been a 'tomboy' as such, but as I'm getting older I'm seriously starting to choose comfort over style and boy are my boyfriends clothes comfy. 

I have a bit of an advantage in the fact that (in my opinion) my boyfriend Anthony happens to be pretty bloody stylish. So when he came home with this new Carhartt t-shirt I quickly envisaged all the ways I could wear it!! *insert smug face*

This isn't the first time it's happened either. Anthony has been wearing Converse for years and I finally jumped on that bandwagon a week ago. You may also remember the time I bought him a Goodhood t-shirt and then wore it myself with a fur coat.

 
When it comes to styling menswear, I like to tuck the t-shirts into my trousers to accentuate my womanly waist and also either style it with something pretty and feminine like a fur coat or make my hair and makeup extra 'on fleek'! 

The thing with men's t-shirts is that they are wider on the shoulders to accommodate those broad beings so when us women wear them, it hangs in such a nice oversized way that you look so effortlessly put together.

So for this outfit it was all about layering. Underneath that oversized Weekday jacket is the new Juicy Couture x Urban Outfitters hoodie and then the uhhhhmazing Carhartt Wave tee (exclusive to stores). 
The tee is tucked into my go-to New Look trousers which are a winner every day and I'm wearing my ever so comfy Converse on the feet! Hope you like it ;)

Do you ever wear your other half's clothes? Have you got any menswear styling tips? Leave 'em below!

Lifestyle

Where To Stay In Holborn & Shoreditch, London!

Living in London sounds like one of the best things in the world. But in reality, we are living on shoestring budgets whilst spending all of said budget on rent and fancy coffee. 

Sometimes, despite living in the city, we need to rekindle our love with London, and that's exactly what I did this weekend. 

I was very lucky to spend my Saturday evening at The Hoxton hotel in Holborn aka The Most Instagrammable Hotel ever
The Hoxton has two locations in London, both of which are equally perfect. Your choice depends on what you'd like to be surrounded by. Would you like to be close to the West End theatres and the shopping sanctuary that is Covent Garden? Or would you like to explore Columbia Road Market and some beautiful boutiques in Shoreditch? It's completely up to you. But whatever your choice, I can assure you that you'll be getting a) the best nights sleep and b) WONDERFUL service. 

What to expect? 
All The Hoxton rooms have this pretty awesome mirror in them which is perfect for all your pre-shopping selfies (and also makes you a bit of a narcissist, but who are we to judge?) 

Hoxton Hotel

The Hoxton beds are the cosiest and comfiest I've stayed in to date. They are full of pillows and silky soft bedding that makes you never want to leave. 

Looking for something cute & a little extra? Hang this brown paper bag on the outside of your bedroom door and it will *magically* be filled with a granola pot, banana and orange juice in the morning - everything you need to kickstart your London stay. 

Despite staying in Holborn, Shoreditch was a quick 20 minute bus ride so we jumped on this to go explore Aida Shoreditch - a pretty amazing mens and womenswear boutique that doubles as a coffee shop with these incredible rose lattés!!

Looking for a staycation? Or visiting London? Stay at The Hoxton!! (not sponsored I just bloooooody love this place). 

Lifestyle

The Shopping Addicts Bible: Knomi

Knomi App

Calling all shopping addicts!! Welcome to the Pinterest for fashion. 
I have teamed up with a new and awesome app called Knomi to tell you exactly why you need to download and sign up to this app. 

Yes, I did refer to this app as the Pinterest for fashion. Similar to the pinning website, Knomi allows you to add products you're lusting for to different categories. For example, my 'shoe porn' category is where I collect alllllll those incredible shoes that I am dying to get my hands on. 

As a reader of Naked Fashions, I'm sure you're aware of my love with luxury and boutique brands such as Anya Hindmarch, Gucci and boutique stores like Wolf & Badger. But after downloading this app, the love has just grown and grown. 

Knomi App review

Explore the Knomi app. Find those lustful pieces that you want. Save them to your page. Next time you're near a boutique that stocks that piece, Knomi will alert you! And even better, they'll let you know when those pieces you're coveting go on sale. 

Whenever I head out to London, the Knomi app is the ultimate companion and can really bring light to some unknown shops making sure you get the best out of your day! Stay tuned for an area guide featuring Knomi shops! 

best shopping app - knomi

Is this something that grabs your attention? Come sign up and follow me on the app! Username: Itslaurenalexa and see exactly why I'm wishing for. 

Gin Lover? Sign Up To Gin Explorer

I am Gin Queen. I suppose the consumption of alcohol isn't something to be very proud of. But there is nothing more satisfying than a glass of gin after a day of work. 

So it was love at first sight when I came home to the Gin Explorers box.
Like many subscription boxes, the gin box is a monthly subscription that comes with a number of different treats delivered straight to your door. 

If you're a real gin-aholic then exploring different varieties of gin is half the pleasure. This subscription box includes: 

  • 4 double gins
  • Gourmet tonics and mixers
  • Tasting notes and histories
  • Gifts and treats for gin lovers
  • 10% discount on selected gins at the Gin Festival shop

    I have to say that this box I received was full of some seriously delicious products. The cucumber tonic for starters is the perfect addition to your gin. I love having tonic in a gin, but can never be bothered to cut up a cucumber (I know, I'm lazy as hell). So this tonic has the perfect cucumber tonic blend to accompany your gin. 

    In terms of gin, the highlight from this box was the Rhubarb and Custard flavoured gin. It has some real sweetness and a punchy rhubarb and custard after taste. YUMMY

    If you fancy getting your hands on different gins delivered to your door every month then you can subscribe here for £25 a month!

Put your money where your mind is… NHS vs Private - What’s best?

Let's discuss mental health. I've been reaching out to friends and writers for their stories about mental health. 

The first post in this contributor series is by Becca Frankland who is discussing the differences between the NHS and Privatised counselling. (Please note that this is a personal opinion and that there is no right or wrong when it comes to healthcare). 

What would you normally buy for £30 out of your hard-earned wages if you were 22-years-old?

A blouse you’ve had your eye on for a few weeks? An indulgent meal with pals? A gig ticket? When the cash is in your hand and those things come to mind, it’s easy to begrudge every month spending it on a private counselling session.

To rewind, I’ve suffered with anxiety for the majority of my life, whether I knew it at the time or not, but it really reared its head when I started university. Being thrust out of my comfort zone really changed my mental health, so after nights in tears, consistent stomach churns and feeling engulfed with dread, I decided to visit the doctors.
After a quick chat, she asked me if I felt like I was depressed, I assumed I was so said yes, and she packed me off with Citalopram. I was two months into my first year, and I was curled up on my bathroom floor feeling nauseous with horrendous bloodshot eyes within a few days - I stopped taking them after a few weeks. I should not have been prescribed them without being offered any other support first and I knew that personally, I did not want to put something that strong into my body every day.

I then made the decision to be referred to NHS for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. I waited for about three months, which is apparently fast by their standards, before I saw someone called Marcus. He was good, he delved deep into my past, asked prodding questions and certainly opened up my mind to how the brain works and assured me I wasn’t going insane. I saw him around 12 times for an hour each session, before our conversations slowly turned to social life and university rather than neurotransmitters and serotonin - and that was that, we said our goodbyes and I never went back. 

I didn’t feel cured by any stretch of the imagination, but I felt like I had been proactive about my mental health, and that was enough to tide me over for a while.

It wasn’t until about 18 months after that that I felt compelled to reach out to the NHS for support again. Another Marcus, I thought, would help me deal with a new strain of anxiety. After two 30 minute sessions with a new therapist, I felt utterly bewildered. I was getting given sheets to take home with me, charts to fill out and tasks to complete. I felt like I was back at school, I was completing the tasks the night before my sessions, just like a child would begrudgingly do their homework last minute. 

She would ask me when I came in, “How are you?” I’d say, “Fine”. I really wasn’t.

I started thinking about how I would feel if I didn’t have Marcus to compare her to, if I was a young person attending these sessions for the first time ever and not only was I not improving, I was getting worse. How alone, stuck and desperate would I feel if the lifeline that I’d been thrown had failed me after such a long wait?

I began to Google private counsellors in my area and text a number of one who seemed best, and waited for a response which soon came. I cancelled my appointment with my NHS therapist and told her I was going private, almost triumphantly, as I sent the email which would hopefully say all it needed to say about what I thought was inadequate service.

I’m not alone with my experience either, in a 2015 report published by the United Kingdom Counselling and Psychotherapy (UKCP) association, 94% of counsellors report treating clients frustrated with the NHS. Standard complaints involve (a) long waiting times, (b) unable to receive the help desired and (c) session lengths are too short.

My sessions now take place in a little wendy house at the bottom of the therapist’s garden. The space, filled with the scents of aromatherapy oils, is a far cry from the clinical box rooms I’ve sat in previously. I can dip in and out when I need (unlike NHS sessions which are set weekly) and it’s mainly talking therapy, not a chart sheet in sight. The wait for NHS is long, very long in some areas. In that period your mind can completely change course, what you were crippled by when you started might be replaced by something else, leaving it unaddressed.

With the NHS, the amount of sessions is normally capped and set every week, and you don’t have the luxury of coming back a few weeks later if you just fancy talking again.

My advice would be, if you’re feeling absolutely at the end of your tether, just scrape some cash together for a couple of private sessions whilst you’re on the waiting list. The quicker you act, the better you feel. You absolutely might get a Marcus, or you might get someone unsuitable, but you won’t know until you go. And if they are rubbish, and if you don’t feel better or comfortable, don’t worry, it’s not you, you’re not just stuck the way you are, things can and will get better. Just because one therapist doesn’t suit you, doesn’t mean another won’t.

£30 is a lot of money, especially if you need to go weekly to begin like I did. That’s almost £100 in a month just to talk. Fortunately I had parents willing to help me out a bit, and all I needed to do was rebudget a few things myself. But the long and short of it is, you can’t, and shouldn’t, put a price on your mental health - no matter how good you look in that blouse - make it a priority.

If you’d like to speak to me about anything related to counselling please don’t hesitate to reach out @beccafranko

Lifestyle

How To Improve Your Instagram Feed

I'm definitely not the biggest Instagrammer around, but after 5 years on the app, there's been a few things I've learnt along the way. 
Over the past 6 months I've definitely put more effort into my content and my feed and I'm starting to see a loyal following forming.  
Remember guys, it's all about the content not the numbers. Hopefully these few tricks will have returning visitors to your feed and give you some loyal followers rather than thousands of empty followers! 

Here's a few tips I think could help you up your Instagram game

(despite the shitty algorithm) 

  • Unlike a lot of people, I don't plan my feed at all. I usually post in the moment and if there are pictures that I've collated over the weekend I save them as a 'draft' on my Insta page to post at some point in the week.
  • When it comes to editing, my go-to app has to be VSCOcam. I get a lot of questions about what filters I use etc and I pretty much only use two: HB2 and A6. Both have quite a warming tone to them and compliment the majority of my pictures. 
    However, if there's a picture you love but it has an orange light over it or isn't exactly the colour you like then use the 'selective' tool on Snapseed to desaturate those areas of the picture. 
  • I don't have a 'theme'. My style of photography is usually the same so all my photos compliment each other. Something to think about is colours or textures. For instance, one week I had a lot of pink in my photos which made the feed look extra sleek. Another thing that can help with bringing it together is using trends such as copper, marble, powder pink, things like this implemented into your pictures can make the whole gallery come together. 
  • Following on from that point, consider your feed as a gallery. If you wouldn't put those pictures together on a wall then don't put them together on your feed
  • If you really want to see how your feed will look then try out the apps Planoly or Mosaico
  • For a while I insisted on posting 3 times a day and would do anything to get those pictures. As a result, I ended up posting pictures that were not amazing. Now, I only post pictures that I'm really proud of. 
  • Post more pictures of you. Especially if you're a fashion blogger. I've noticed that my favourite Instagrammers flood their feed with pictures of their outfit, their face and this works so well. It definitely takes a lot more effort, especially if you're in a full time job like me but the payoff is worth it. 
  • KEY: You're only as good as your top 2 lines. OR you're only as good as your last 6 pictures. Take a minute to think about the profiles you follow, it's highly likely that you only looked at their profile for a few seconds before making a decision. The first thing people see is your bio. Make it short and precise. And then your last 6 photos. So make sure you are incredibly proud of them, that they show what your Instagram/blog is about and make people want to follow you. 

The most important thing about Instagram is to live in the moment and don't overthink it too much. Like I said, I'm not an expert but these things have definitely helped. 

Let's get a conversation going in the comments! Leave your Insta tips below :) 

OOTD

My Weekend Uniform

The difference between weekday Lauren and weekend Lauren is seriously scary. 
During the weekday I am so exhausted from work and my joy draining commute that it's actually an effort just to put a bit of slap (that's scouse for makeup) on.

So when it comes to the weekend, I like to wear my 'Sunday best' and try out those new pieces of makeup I've been collecting along the way. 

This weekend saw two slightly different outfits. Saturdays is what I'd refer to as 'bad and bougie' - if you don't get the reference then google it hehe. 
But on a serious note, this faux fur jacket from Topshop makes me feel so luxurious it's unreal. 
When you wear this jacket, you feel like you could take over the world. Pair it with some killer heeled boots and you're the boss. 

Jacket (sold out - but you can get it in pink) / Top / Boots (similar) / Jeans / Bag

By Sunday afternoon my feet were feeling a little worse for wear thanks to those boots so I opted for my trusty Vans. 
It was a freezing cold day that we spent wandering Canary Wharf for their new lights installation and also visiting the infamous rooftop garden so it was all about comfort. 
These New Look trousers are the comfiest and most flattering pair in the world. And I just need to make you curvy girls aware that New Look make incredible trousers for us. I never buy mine from anywhere else!

Coat / Jumper / Scarf / Trousers / Bag / Necklace / Phone case

Does your style change from weekday to weekend?