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Friday 30 August 2013

The boy and his poison: Sloe Gin Jelly

Who doesn't love jelly… and who doesn't love gin? Now, imagine for a second I could suggest a combination of those two delicious treats which is easy enough to execute that it could be a mid-week gin-fix, a cheeky jello-shot or a dessert that could sail you through a Virginia Woolfe-esque dinner party with a minimum of fuss.

This recipe came about after a recent trip to my folks, meaning we were blessed with our annual bottle of west country sloe gin. The syrupy-sweet nature of Sloe Gin usually relegates these inherited bottles to the secondary-spirit cupboard (you know the one… in my case it needs a step ladder to access it and it’s full of random liqueurs and pure grain alcohol) that was until I realised that sloe gin was an incredible flavour enhancer to dark fruit jellies. Obviously the next step was to work out whether I could make a jelly where purely the flavour of the sloe gin was allowed to sing (*spoiler alert* it does). So, grab yourself a peeler, a bottle of sloe gin and some lemon sorbet. Then thank me for the sort of dessert that will loved by even the most discerning booze hound.

You'll need for 4 servings:
  • 300ml of sloe gin
  • 200ml of apple juice
  • 1 tbsp of blackberry (or another berry based) jam
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 6 gelatine leaves (you can substitute for agar if you need to but the consitency will be slightly rougher)
  • Candied lemon zest for decoration
  • A scoop of lemon sorbet 
Make the jelly:
  • Soak the gelatine leaves in tepid water for five minutes.
  • Meanwhile gently heat the sloe gin, apple juice, berry jam and sugar in a small pan.
  • Pour the heated gin based liquid into a jug and leave for ten minutes.
  • Wring out the gelatine leaves and add back to the saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of the sloe gin mixture.
  • Heat the mixture on a low heat until the gelatin has mixed then gradually add the rest of the sloe gin mixture.
  • Mix thoroughly and pour into small glasses or serving dishes, then allow to cool for five hours in a fridge.
Make the candied lemon zest:
  • Peel strips from a lemon with an oxo peeler before stripping the pith off with a pairing knife. 
  • Slice into narrow, hair-like strands with the knife (watch out for your fingers).
  • Add the zest to a pan of boiling water for a few minutes before removing and allowing to dry for ten minutes.
  • In a fresh pan add a cup of water, a cup of sugar and the lemon zest and boil for ten minutes.
  • Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and allow to dry on a rack or a sheet of foil.
To serve:
  • Place a scoop of sorbet on the jelly.
  • Scatter with candied lemon for artistic effect. 
  • Serve and devour immediately. 

Friday Wishlist: Gorgeous things you'll want to buy RIGHT NOW

The perfect Autumn maxi dress (no, you can't just wear your summer maxi dress with tights). £65 from ASOS.

The perfect lighting. £345, Graham & Green.

The perfect silk scarf. £90 from Lisa Bliss.

The perfect lunchbox. £5.99 from Hunkydory Home.

The perfect cushion. £24 from Robin & Mould.

The perfect MASSIVE ring. £14 from Accessorize.

The perfect ballerina shoes. £22.99 from Zara.

Sluttery Sales Spy: Warehouse, Poetic Licence & Mango

It's time to open up that payslip and pour the contents all over these little lovelies! 

That's how money works, right?


Max C bow collar dress, £28 (was £53), ASOS

On closer inspection, this Max C dress reveals tiny palaces, trees, and things that look like a pegasus/flamingo/ballet dancer tribrid. What's not to love? I for one have yearned for a dress depicting these strange, curious creatures. Also: big fuck-off bows are always a winner.

Feather dress, £30 (was £46), Warehouse

I feel like I might have shown you this feather print dress from Warehouse before. I'm nothing if not consistent. But actually, I think it's more likely that I've just been staring at it for weeks, thinking how much I would like to be covered in monochrome feathers, without the hassle and bad reputation that comes with being a lone magpie.


Yasmin by Gogo Philip Explosion necklace, £7 (was £20), ASOS

What a pretty explosion. This Yasmin by Gogo Philip necklace looks so smooth and strokeable, doesn't it? Like a worry bead. If you zoom in on this photo, you can see the reflection of the photographer's feet, which alerts us to the fact that the necklace can also be used as an emergency mirror. Well done, that snapper. You've uncovered a whole new design feature.

Raul P for Gorjana paperclip cuff, £60 (was £138), ASOS

Have you ever, like me, thought that the world would be a more beautiful and practical place if more jewellery was fashioned out of giant paperclips? Good news! This Raul P bloke thinks the same, and he's made a big ol' cuff out of this paperclip he found at the bottom of his filing cabinet. There's a ring and a necklace, too, if you fancy going all-out with your stationery style. I don't know what Raul P's going to clip his papers with now, but he should have thought about that before he started this shenanigan. 

FACT FANS: the French word for paperclip is 'trombone'! The French word for trombone is also 'trombone'. Could be confusing.


Nica laptop bag, £29.99 (was £55), TK Maxx

I think it's time I stopped wrapping my laptop and other assorted gadgets in a jumper and stuffing them into my handbag with all the other crap I carry about in there, which as ever includes Hilary Devey and Derren Brown (sidenote: they are not crap; everything else in there is). Conditions are getting a bit cramped, I'll admit, and I don't want to be reported to the RSPCITVE (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Illusionists and Television Entrepreneurs). Plus, one of them might spill their morning cuppa onto my electricals. 

Nope, it's time to invest in a dedicated gadget bag, and this Nica beaut from TK Maxx is perfect.

Patent shoulder bag, £14.99 (was £29.99), Mango

There's still time to squeeze the last drops of summer into your bag (now that we've moved the expensive gadgets elsewhere) - and this patent shoulder bag from Mango is 50% sunshine, 50% shine, and 50% off. Wait. Maths isn't my strong point. 


Elite Goby newspaper shoes, £31.60 (was £82.70), Fab

READ ALL ABOUT IT! Forgotten your book on your morning commute? You won't have to stare despondently at your feet if you're wearing a pair of these Elite Goby newspaper shoes from Fab - you'll be able to read them instead!

Poetic Licence The One heels, £29.50 (was £99.99), Irregular Choice Outlet

I've been moseying around the Irregular Choice outlet again, kids, but don't worry - Chuckles the gnome isn't making an appearance. This time, I've opted for the much more sedate (?) The One heels from their little sister brand, Poetic Licence. We're working to my definition of sedate here, by the way, which means green suede, mock croc, orange piping, big felt flowers and a bit of braiding. Anyway, you should buy them. They'll make your feet look fun and your legs look as long as the A9 (maybe slightly less bendy). 

I told you there would be games this week, didn't I? Let's pretend I didn't. Next week there will be games. 


Let Her Eat Cake: Cardamom & Coconut Cake

There's something soothingly nostalgic about this cake I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe it's the coconutty filling which reminds me of the cakes I used to eat when I was little, like lamingtons or my grandma's coconut treacle tart. Or maybe it's the Scandinavian citrusy-warmth of cardamom that makes me feel happy.

Anyway, it all combines into a lovely, temptingly spiced cake which goes down a treat with a cup of coffee. If you can, use whole cardamom pods and crush the seeds yourself - the flavour will be so much better.

Cardamom & Coconut Cake
You will need:
For the cake:
  • 200g butter, softened
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 10 cardamom pods
  • 1 tbsp creamed coconut, grated
  • 1 tbsp milk
For the coconut filling:
  • 60g creamed coconut, grated
  • 20g butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp creme fraiche or plain yoghurt
For the sugar syrup:
  • 3 tbsp vanilla sugar (or caster sugar and a few drops vanilla essence)
  • 5 cardamom pods
Make it!
The cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Grease and line a 23cm, 9 inch deep cake tin.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. 
  4. Add a quarter of the eggs, along with a tablespoon of the flour and beat well. Repeat with rest of the eggs, beating well in between. 
  5. Using a pestle and mortar, bash the cardamom pods to split them open, then scrape out the seeds. Discard the husks and grind the seeds into powder. (Or you could bash the pods with a rolling pin or similar and grind the seeds in a clean coffee or spice grinder). 
  6. Add to the mixture, along with the tablespoon of grated creamed coconut and stir to combine. 
  7. Add the flour in thirds, folding in lightly in between. When the flour is just incorporated and no streaks are showing, gently stir in the tablespoon of milk. 
  8. Dollop into the tin, smooth over the top and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden and risen, and a skewer inserted comes out clean. 
The filling:
  1. Grate the creamed coconut into a clean bowl. 
  2. Add 2-3 tablespoons of hot water and stir until it reaches a paste-like consistency. 
  3. Soften the butter until almost melting, then add, along with the icing sugar and beat well. 
  4. When combined, add the spoonful of creme fraiche and stir to combine. 
The syrup:
  1. Bash the cardamom pods open and grind in the same way as before. 
  2. Place in a small saucepan, along with the vanilla sugar with 4 tablespoons of hot water. 
  3. Bring to a simmer and reduce over a medium heat until the consistency thickens. BE CAREFUL because hot sugar is HOT. 
  4. When the cake is out of the oven, prick holes all over the surface with a skewer and spoon on the sugar syrup so that it all soaks in. Leave for a few minutes before turning out of the tin and leaving to cool on a wire rack. 
  5. When completely cool, carefully cut the cake in two. 
  6. Spoon the coconut filling onto the bottom half, spreading out to the edge, then sandwich the other half back on top. 
  7. Decorate with icing sugar and eat, feeling warmly smug and nostalgic. 

Thursday 29 August 2013

The Artisan Gin Maker's Kit

The Artisan Gin Maker's Kit is very likely to be my gift of choice for the next few months. Birthdays, housewarmings, sorry I accidentally tore your favourite dress that you were kind enough to let me borrow presents. All of these present-giving opportunities can be covered by a gin making kit.

Unusually, this gin kit uses vodka (supplied in a 500ml bottle, brilliant). And you get all of the juniper and botanicals that you need to start you off, as well as a lovely bottle for storing your gin when you're finished making. Now I'll be honest, I'm not sure of the exact technicalities of magically turning vodka into gin (although I certainly approve of the principal itself). It sounds a little like turning dull and boring water into tasty and fabulous wine. I can get on board with that.

The kits are £59.99 from Firebox. Yes, you absolutely could buy all of the little bits and make your own kit for cheaper. But you probably won't. And once you've got the hang of it, you can have a bash yourself and start making all sorts of flavours (no, not coconut). Maybe it's time to open a Domestic Sluttery bar.

Ask The Sluts: What do you do when life gets really shit?

For when life gets you down - or when something really, really awful or annoying gets in the way - don't break glass and risk damaging your hand and getting arrested. Just put something in this mug, and Steel Magnolias on the telly. Job done. It's also the perfect receptacle for an emergency jaffa cake recipe.

If it's something that requires something more than cake in a mug - more?! - here's what the Sluttery girls like to do when it feels like the whole world's gone to hell.

Kat: I am a strong believer in making things as simple as possible. If you're feeling terrible, chances are your brain will only be operating on a very basic flight or fight mode. Being kind to yourself is key. Get yourself something nice to eat that's comforting and easy to prepare. Have a bath. Hole up in bed with seven volumes of Fables comics and a lot of Mad Men

I also like to go to Waitrose and just walk around. The bathroom section is particularly soothing: for some reason, staring at own-brand bubble bath and extremely expensive scented candles makes things a bit better, as does buying the perfect chocolate cookie, or those lovely Monty Bojangles truffles. Making a cup of tea, or hot squash, or just sloshing in some whisky and hoping for the best, can help to calm even the most frazzled nerves. And don't forget to pick up the phone: sometimes this solves problems you didn't really know existed. 

Frances: My strategy is two-fold. First a Top Model marathon on the telly. Things fade into insignificance when confronted with how Courtney's beauty just isn't translating into her photograph, or other such dramas.

Then, when I am completely vegged out, I force myself to run to the top of the very tall hill in Brixton's Brockwell Park. It has the most amazing view across London and beyond and it always helps put things into perspective. When I'm done I always find I'm breathing a bit easier - and not just because I'm on the easy downward descent.

Sara: Go on long train journeys. Arm yourself with flapjacks and walk as far as you can. Dance to  Icona Pop every morning. Keep your body moving even when your mind tends to inertia; I promise you'll feel better for it. Let your mantra be "I am awesome for even getting up and trying this" rather than "I am a terrible failure and should go back to bed". Find a friend who will give you enormous hugs and say lovely things, and remember that this too shall pass.

Laura H:
1. Gaffa tape. It solves almost any problem. Knocked something off your car? GAFFA TAPE. Shoes come apart in the middle of the day? GAFFA TAPE. Garden hose / curtain pole / shower head / house fallen apart? GAFFA TAPE. Yes, sure it's not a permanent solution, but it means you can take a breath, carry on with things, and deal with the problems when there's time.

2. Glass of wine. On a terrible day, sometimes there's no better option than to retire to a cosy corner of a favourite pub with a large glass of something. Especially if - like me - you sometimes work from home, it forces you to leave the work and stress behind for a little while, by going somewhere completely unrelated and talking bollocks to someone you like.

3. Baking. What kind of cake inventor would I be if I didn't suggest baking? When I'm bothered about something, putting everything else down for a while and baking is very therapeutic. Some chilled out music on in the background, butter, sugar and the prospect of cake warm out of the oven tends to make everything feel a little better.

4. Hugs. Friends, family, cats, all of the above.

5. Friends, especially ones that live far away. Troubles tend to lose their urgency when catching up with my favourite people. Combine all five of these things (maybe not the gaffa tape) and it's a foolproof menu for cheer-up. 

Sian: If things are a little bit crap, some sort of potato-based dinner will usually sort me out. But when things are really shit? Once I've stopped feeling sorry for myself, I watch Working Girl. Always, always Working Girl. It's something about the outfits and hair (Joan Cusack I bloody love you), the gumption and the amazing one-liners. It's so cheesy, but it works for me every time. By the end of the film I'm screeching along with Carly Simon and wanting to kick Sigourney Weaver's bony ass.

I like the very staged nod/wink thing she does at 3:13. Don't pretend you're not dancing at your desk.

Caleigh: When everything in life goes pear-shaped, I do two things. First, I put the Wizard of Oz in the DVD player. Nothing is ever too tough to face when lions, scarecrows and munchkins are dancing in your living room. Plus, its message of "the thing you really want is right there inside you" is uplifting, and often pretty apt!

Secondly, I cook. There's something therapeutic about chopping piles of vegetables. Focusing on something mundane gives me time to work things out in my head, and then I'm left with a tasty soup or stew at the end of it all. I've suffered from a couple of bouts of depression in the past, and I would spend hours every day in the kitchen: my freezer has never been so well stocked as it was during those periods. Also, when I cook mountains of food, I can give it to my friends, and giving to others always makes you feel better.

Laura B: I have a tried-and-tested coping strategy for when life is being a pain in the neck.

1. Make risotto while listening to Liberace's rendition of Love Is Blue. All that stirring is very soothing, and Mr Showmanship provides the perfect soundtrack.

2. Eat said risotto while watching either Scott Pilgrim vs. The WorldThe BirdsClueless, or all three in quick succession.

3. Call Mama B, because obviously she makes everything better.
4. Crack open a box of Guylian chocolate seashells.

5. Write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience and victims of human rights abuses around the world. I am a long-time Amnesty International supporter and fundraiser, and it only takes a few minutes to write a letter to a government or organisation. If I channel my energy into helping others, my worries never seem so vast.

What do you do? Leave your shit coping strategies in the comments.

Top Ten Chickpea Recipes

Admit it, if I looked in your cupboards right now, I'd probably find at least one tin of chickpeas, wouldn't I? And how long have those chickpeas been in your cupboard? Two weeks? Two months? More?! It's time to dig out those chickpeas and make one of our wonderful recipes.

Tinned chickpeas might actually be the most convenient ingredient in the world. Just whizz some up with red peppers to make the greatest houmous ever. How does chucking some squash, mushrooms and chickpeas in the oven and leaving them to do their thing sound? Effortless, that's how. Equally simple, is Hazel's grilled sardines with lemon garlic chickpeas and cous cous - just pour over hot stock and five minutes later, it's done!

Adding chickpeas to a salad turns it from ordinary to awesome. Channel your inner Ottolenghi with a Mediterranean-style salad, or go fresh and simple with orange, mint and feta. Oh, and you can't have a Buddha bowl without a good helping of chickpeas.

Curry and chickpeas go together like Bert and Ernie or Mel and Sue, they're the best of friends. Whether you go simple with coconut milk and lime, or spicy with cashews and madras, you just can't beat a chickpea curry. If you're having curry, you're going to need some onion bhajis and pakora made with chickpea flour.

Oh, and since you've got the gram flour out, don't forget to make a batch of chickpea flour pancakes. I might even wrap one around some vada pau for a gram flour feast. Let's not forget to save some flour to whip up some colourful beetroot and feta fritters. We're going to need some more chickpeas.

Need more recipe ideas? Check out the rest of our top ten recipe posts.

New coats that are too cool for school

As Kat wrote yesterday, it's that joyous time of year when we get to look at lovely shiny new stuff with that whole back to school feeling. Definitely top of my new term list is a brand new coat. I normally get a bit depressed when looking at coats because they're a) usually in very dull colours and b) very expensive. Well, extra joy this year because there seems to be loads of designs available in colours that your teachers might not have full approved of. And - while a nice coat is never going to be your cheapest purchase - these all cost less than £150. In fact, four of them are under £100.

The Red Bow coat above is the cheapest of the lot, available from Miss Selfridge for £79. It's a delightfully prim and proper design that will go perfectly with your new pencil case and satchel.

Another appetising alternative to the usual black and grey and navy designs is Zara's short pink woollen overcoat. Who says pastels have to be for summer only? Zara are one of my coat heroes this year - I also love this tomato red number and their hooded wool coat. You can think pink, however, for £79.99.

Boden also have some brilliant designs in stock. I'm weirdly snobby about Boden - in that I think I might actually turn into a grown-up the moment I buy something from them. Shame because their 1950s jacket would look amazing against autumnal colours, and how fab are those decorative buttons? This is the most expensive design at £149. Their Mia coat, and for a little more money, their Soho coat are ridiculously tempting too.

For something a little less grown-up, a duffel coat is worthy of the chicest of school girls. This design by Cooperative has a toasty looking shearing collar too. It's £98 from Urban Outfitters.

Sian featured a gorgeous huge-collared coat from Joy in one of her recent Friday wishlists. This Oasis two-tone drape coat is a cheaper alternative at £98. It's so swishly stylish, I'll even forgive its grey colour scheme (it's also available in 'natural).

This Topsham coat from Fever is apparently inspired by rural romance. I grew up in Lincolnshire and, let me tell you, my countryside love affairs were never anywhere near as thrilling as this design. It costs £119 and is available in a great range of colours, from petrol blue to port. I've picked it out in the Racing Green, as I think it'll look just superb on Kat. Especially when worn with a squirrel jumper. Roll on the delights of autumn.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Tall Girl Treat: Lovely Clothes For Autumn


It's happening. Despite getting sunburnt like a total amateur on Monday, this morning I rather regretted not wearing a scarf. The leaves in the park are turning lemon and lime, and there's even a little puddle of golden leaves underneath one of the faster-turning trees. Autumn's on the way! Which means getting the warmer stuff out of the wardrobe, removing the cat from your nicer sweaters, and getting ready to enjoy some cosy fabrics and rich colours.

(Basically, it's an excuse to look at new stuff with that back to school feeling. HURRAH!)

When I ordered loads of amazing stuff from Long Tall Sally's new collection (tip: these trousers are THE BEST), this fantastic red jumper was the lead image on the store's wall. The manager and I just looked at it for a bit going "Cor." Well, it's now in stock for £50.

This is Monsoon's new Rosalie dress (£55), which looks like my beloved Vicky (ie: the perfect day dress) in all but name. That print! I love it. It's like being a Laura Ashley sofa crossed with a book of Victorian fairy tales. This dress is a wonderful fit for tall girls, and I highly advise you all to haunt the sales.

This skater dress from Tall Girls (£64) is a lovely style. I love the print and the sheer top, and I'd style it just as they have, with thick black tights - M&S has got some fantastic ones in at the moment, go for the XL size - and ankle boots.

Every tall girl should own a mini skirt. EVERY ONE. I love a kilt pattern. I have two, and both of them are from M&S - one Per Una affair I got from eBay, and the other a lovely blue and green pencil skirt with pockets that belonged to my mum in the 80s. This red Limited Collection one is fantastic. It's got a zip down the back, will go with everything (tartan, weirdly, is a neutral) and costs £35.

I have such a pash on these Topshop leggings (£28). They just make me smile every time I look at them, and they have black go-faster stripes down the side which make them stylish rather than purely insane.

Hush Puppies do a fantastic range of stylish, comfortable shoes up to a size 10, and their new Vivianna range of leather and suede boots is no exception (I've gone quite Victorian all of a sudden - hooray!) They're £80 and available in a rainbow of colours from black to bottle green. If they're not available in your size, order them in to your local department store.

I've been waiting for this moment for two whole years. DUO have FINALLY brought out more of their absolutely brilliant over the knee boots. The reason why I've been waiting is that I like my boots to fit me right under the knee, and these are the only sort that do - most knee boots finish somewhere just above mid-calf which is a bit grim.

For reasons of practicality I prefer leather in winter, so my favourites are the Beatty (£240) and the Hutton (£220).
Mr Beatty
Ms Hutton
The Beatty only goes up to a 9, which is a bit of a mystifying shame, but the Hutton is available in a 10, as are the other OTK boots. As ever, you pick your calf size and foot width so they are right for you. Obviously they cost a small fortune, but they really are fantastic quality and will last you for years.

Happy autumn! Here are some classic primary school earworms to get you in the mood.

Sluttishly Vegetarian: Beetroot & Feta Fritters

Beetroot is in season! Hurrah! Right, hands up if for some reason you have a deep, abiding suspicion of this glorious fuchsia vegetable? I'll admit, I was once one of you. But then I tried beetroot combined with orange and feta and I SAW THE LIGHT.

I'm calling these things 'fritters' to appeal to my sense of daintiness, but really, they're practically beetroot BURGERS. They can stand up for themselves in a sea of meat, they can stride above the salad accompaniments, take a good dollop of relish and still come out fighting. All this with the virtue that comes from knowing that they are also suitable for gluten free and low lactose diets - feta made from goat's or sheep's milk doesn't usually cause issues for those with lactose intolerance, it has a much lower lactose content. If you're serving them up for someone with a severe allergy, make sure you double check what they can and can't eat.

Orange zest complements the deep, earthy flavours, whilst a good smattering of salty feta keeps things interesting. Now, time to give that grater a workout...

Beetroot & Feta Fritters (Makes 12)
You will need:
  • 2 large carrots, peeled
  • 2 raw beetroots, peeled
  • 3 spring onions
  • 200g feta cheese (check the back to make sure it's not produced using cow's milk)
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 medium free-range eggs
  • 3 heaped tbsp gram flour (chickpea flour)
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil
Make it!
  1. Coarsely grate the carrots and the beetroot, placing together in a large bowl. 
  2. Finely chop the spring onions and add to the mixture. 
  3. Dice or crumble the feta into the mix, along with the zest of the orange and stir lightly to combine.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, then add to the mixture along with the gram flour, a good pinch of salt and lots of fresh black pepper. 
  5. Still well to combine. If it's looking too wet, add a little more flour. 
  6. Time to get messy: shape and squeeze the mixture into 12 equal size balls and set aside on a floured surface.
  7. Pour a glug of olive oil into a large frying pan and set over a medium heat. 
  8. Fry for 3-4 minutes, flattening with a spatula and turning twice whilst cooking, until the edges are crisp and the surface browned. 
  9. Season and serve immediately with salad and more feta, relish, in place of felafel or even, I've been informed, on top of another burger... 

Plus Size Picks: Workwear that works for you

Since many retailers seem to think larger women live in leggings and tunics, finding smart and stylish workwear in sizes above a 16 can result in long, arduous searches. You've probably wasted a good few hours of your life hunting down softer and more comfortable pieces amongst an array of stretchy wrap dresses and scratchy shirts, so let me do the hard work for you this time. Here are five fab workwear finds in plus sizes that'll have you office / boardroom / conference-ready.

I have an animal print Project D dress very similar to this one, with the same sheer sleeves, fitted shape and v-neck. I wore it to an interview a few months ago, and I got the job! I would say the dress had nothing to do with it, but I think it may well have sealed the deal. If you want to prove my success wasn't a fluke, this baby is down to £36 from £120 at Simply Be. At a price like that, you won't be surprised to know that available sizes are limited, but move quickly and you might get lucky.

If you work in the kind of office where jeans are allowed, a collarless jacket like this one from Bon Marche (£22, currently in stock up to an XL which fits size 24 - 26) will smarten them up immediately, but is a bit more unusual than the obvious choice of a blazer. Don't fear the frumpiness of a style like this - if it's good enough for Coco Chanel, it's good enough for you. Just ditch the pearls in favour of a more playful necklace (the chunkier the better), mess your hair up a bit and wear something colourful underneath.

The plus size range at M&S might not be the place to go for on-trend looks, but when it comes to workwear they can't be beaten. This blouse (£29.50) is a bit prettier and more unusual than a plain coloured shirt, plus it has 'no peep' technology...which means it won't gape around the bust (allegedly). Team it with any of the usual suspects: pencil skirt, black trousers, maxi skirt or jeans if you can get away with them!

Carmakoma describes this as a 'great fitting dress' (£84.85) but if that's not enough to sell you on it, then maybe the little shoulder cutouts will seal the deal? Even the most conservative employers can't complain about a tiny flash of upper arm flesh, and those tiny details are vital, as they stop this simple black shift from being a sack.

For a slightly smarter alternative to leggings or skinny jeans, these Castaluna trousers (£39) go up to a size 32 and they're magic. So many plus size bottoms are bootlegs or wide palazzo pants, which are fine if you like a baggier look, but not everyone likes that wider silhouette. There are elasticated panels in the sides of these for comfort and stretch, and a slim cut down to the ankle. Grab them in black, navy or taupe (or all three).

Cool or creepy? Emilie Morris

There's something about the juxtaposition of sinister and delicate that I go nuts for. It's mesmerising. Something that wouldn't necessarily be seen as beautiful takes on a whole different form, and something traditionally beautiful is given a more unusual edge.

Emilie Morris is my latest sinister jewellery crush (she can have a seat next to Rachel Boston and Tessa Metcalf).

Can I interest you in a rat skull necklace?

This is a silver bracelet made from the cast of a cat jaw. I'll level with you: even this is a little too creepy for me. Maybe because of this cute li'l guy.

Let's move on from cat skulls. He's giving me a funny look as a type.

How about a turkey skull necklace. This is a whopping £800 but I have no strong feelings towards turkey. Not even at Christmas.

You need to see this rat jaw ring from the front.

It's amazing. That's a really dark piece of jewellery. I know that Emilie's pieces won't be to everyone's taste, but the range of silver and gold jewellery is so striking. Price for the unusual range start at £128.
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