Open Heart Surgery | One Year On…

Open Heart Surgery | One Year On…

So, a year ago today I overcame my biggest fear and did the thing I had been dreading for over 3 years. Finding out about my heart problems at the young age of 15 was a huge challenge, and preparing for something so big at this age was as you can imagine a very difficult time for me. I don’t want to spend too much time moaning or complaining about the cards I was dealt, as I know a lot of people go through worse than me, but I did find it extremely hard and want to share my story on how I survived and came out on the other side. Believe me, I never in a million years thought I even would, and I don’t think anyone around me did either. Not that I thought I would die, but that I would actually go through with it.

I don’t want to discuss the operation in too much depth as I have already posted quite a few pieces about what happened, and let’s be honest, it isn’t a particularly nice thing to write or read about. All my operation updates and the whole story can be found at the bottom of this post with links to all relevant blog posts.

What I wanted to talk about mainly, as it is the one thing that I still find hard after my surgery, is the scar. Princess Eugenie made a powerful statement at her wedding last month, opting for a low back and no veil look, where her back scar along her spine was exposed. She claimed to have done this to show everyone that we all have scars and that it is so important not to hide them away because they are not deemed ‘normal’ by society. I absolutely loved this (I mean not the wedding – that was ridiculous), as it was such a brave move and a message that definitely needs to be spread around more.

I have up and down days with my scar. Sometimes I want to show it off as I am extremely proud of what it symbolises and how strong I am as a person, however on others days all I want to do is hide it away and pretend none of it ever happened. Like everything it completely depends on my mood in the morning. What I do find a struggle, mainly when I do have a good day and opt to wear it proudly, it is still quite distressing at the amount of people who will look at it. And I am not just talking about a quick glance, they stare. I have even been in situations sometimes when I am having a conversation with someone and as opposed to them looking at my face they are looking directly at my chest.

 

Okay, so it may not be the worst thing in the world but it can make me feel incredibly uncomfortable as they are not looking because they think the story behind it is amazing, but more so because it is an abnormality. This feeling can lead to insecurities, just because it isn’t a very nice thing to experience and you do feel massively judged for something that was out of your control.

The point I am trying to make, however, is that my scar is something that I am having to learn to love and embrace. I will never be able to say to anyone that I am happy that it is there, but every time I see it in the mirror it is a complete reminder of the time in my life where I overcame my biggest fear and went through something huge. We all have scars, stretch marks, lumps, bumps, cellulite and so much more. These are the things that make us human, and they are also things that we need to start loving about ourselves as opposed to changing.

So, happy operation anniversary to me, and Happy Friday to you!

The Barn, Somerset

The Barn, Somerset

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting The Barn; a beautiful niche salon and place to escape buried in the country lanes of Somerset. I have been following along on their journey via Instagram for a while, completely besotted with the interiors and ethos of the brand. Kelly, salon owner, Dermologica ambassador and therapist, was kind enough to get in touch to see if I would like to visit the salon. As you can imagine, I jumped at the opportunity. Luckily for me, and unluckily for my bank card, I found a love of salons quite early in life and enjoy nothing more than taking some time out for me and visiting a salon to explore new treatments to help me escape, whilst also being beneficial for my skin.

The Barn, who celebrated 10 years of business this year, was first established in 2008 and is formed from the oldest building in Loxton. Using the original stone and oak timber beams, The Barn was rebuilt and is home to an extremely tranquil and unique salon, with a heavy focus on skincare and mental well-being. At The Barn, simplicity rules, with natural and honest beauty seen throughout all Interiors and products,  as well as a natural attitude towards taking care of ourselves mentally and physically. Being a leader in the industry, The Barn connects cutting-edge treatments with the calmness of the natural world. Sitting in the waiting area, filling in my form, I felt instantly at ease with a view of the surrounding land. The green hills immediately rest your mind and soul. Set within 2 acres of gorgeous land, The Barn is completely private giving clients the opportunity to enjoy the serene setting. This is a feeling that is very hard to achieve in the modern world we live in. Because of this, The Barn is a huge step ahead in my eyes compared to a lot of other salon/spas, purely for how you feel when you are in it.

I was lucky enough to take full advantage of the new treatment lounge within the salon, which is home to the beautiful pedicure area, manicure station, massage table and THAT copper bath! I felt extremely privileged to enjoy a blissful hour in the raw copper bath which was fully equipped with candles, mineral salts, fresh herbs, essential oils and the very Instagrammable rose petals. It was an experience like no other and a sheer moment of relaxation, ideal before my massage treatment. I rarely experience moments like these, as unfortunately taking a bath at home will never compare. Especially with my screaming cat next to me begging to come in and explore the water.

“WITH GENEROUS TREATMENT ROOMS AND A RELAXATION LOUNGE WITH VIEWS OVER CROOKS PEAK, WE CAN HELP YOU ESCAPE, HOWEVER BRIEFLY, FROM THE STRESSES OF EVERYDAY LIFE.” – The Barn, Somerset

Carly, who was the therapist responsible for my divine massage, has been with The Barn since 2011 and has over 10 years’ experience in the industry. Stepping into The Barn, I knew instantly that the treatment was going to be amazing, and boy It didn’t disappoint. I have been having massages for a good few years now mainly due to back problems, so am quite particular with what I like. Basically, I love having the balance of relaxation whilst also feeling like something very good and effective is happening to my back physically. Those knots won’t get rid of themselves in a hurry. Carly was thorough, responsive and is extremely talented. My back felt extremely at ease after my treatment and the whole thing just put me completely into a chilled and peaceful state.

Having now finally visited the salon and experienced what they can offer, I can definitely say that I will be going back. I couldn’t fault my time at The Barn in the slightest and I am incredibly grateful to have been able to switch off and just enjoy a few moments for myself. I have a lot going on at the moment so it came at the perfect time. I am also extremely keen to try out some of their skincare from Dermalogica, as it is very apparent from being in The Barn that there is a heavy focus on good skin and helping those get to a good level with their skincare and regimes.

The Barn 

 

Instagram – @thebarnsomerset

 

Thank you so much to Kelly, Carly and all the team at The Barn for making my experience incredibly relaxing and enjoyable. I will definitely be back!

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This blog post is in collaboration with The Barn, however all views and opinions are my own.

Reasons to be happy this Winter

Reasons to be happy this Winter

Images by Kayleigh Gresty Photography

From my own experiences, Winter has always been a time for me that can really affect my mood. The darker days and colder weather can lead to a very negative mind, and for me this has always been something that I have found difficult to overcome. However, in recent years I have had a lot of things making me stressed, which I think is why the Winter can just trigger the emotions I feel with everything going on. Having now had my heart operation and finally be in a good place with work, I am hoping that this year is going to be different. Different for the better. That being said, I know a lot of other people who suffer a lot more in the Winter and also find it very hard to stay positive. In technical terms, this is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), suggesting that it is definitely something that we all need to start taking a lot more seriously.

The thing I remember hating the most about the ‘Winter Blues’ is how it makes me feel so out of control with my emotions. I am not someone who suffers from depression or any sort of mental illness, and am very much in control 99% of the time. So when I am feeling down because of the weather, the confusion really affects me.

It is all good reading tips on how to overcome this, although I think the first step in really making an active effort to avoid suffering is to open yourself up to trying out new ways of dealing with it and really committing to spending the time on yourself. I am definitely someone who spends a lot of time listening to peoples advice and trying to make a change, but I do think the biggest thing that always holds me back personally is not believing that I can do it.

When it comes to mental issues and feeling low, it is a very bumpy road to being able to cope, and it is never going to be something that you can completely overcome. So, this blog post isn’t going to be me giving you my advice on how to deal with this during the next few months, as I am by no means someone in a position to give this out. It would be a case of me discussing what we all ‘should be doing’ and me in the end probably having to take my own advice in the next few months. I want this to be a little more of a positive post, highlighting the reasons why I am so far feeling great this season and what a lot of us do have to be thankful for. If you are in need of a little advice on how to help overcome SAD, the NHS have a great piece online which you can view here.

Family and Friends

The biggest thing in my life that keeps me going and what makes me extremely happy on a daily basis is those who surround me. I have an amazing supportive family, a handful of really close and special friends, an incredible boyfriend and such lovely people who I get to work with and be around. We all seem to do a good job, well the majority of us, in appreciating those around us and prioritising time to put them first. I am grateful every day for the ones I love. They fuel me through life and always keep my spirits high.

Health

Okay, this one may just be because I have had my fair share of health issues, but nevertheless, when I hear or see those horrible TV/ Radio adverts regarding charities, I always count my lucky stars that I am healthy. No matter how much money we have in our bank accounts, or how many green smoothies we drink a day, unfortunately sometimes our bodies just won’t play ball and there is nothing we can do about it. Be grateful every single day for your health, and simple being able to get up in the morning, able to take a breath, look outside and enjoy everything life has to offer.

Real success is when you have things in your life that money will never be able to buy. People and your health will always be the top two.

The basics that we take for granted

I have been thinking about putting this post together for a while, and it all started when I was in the car going over my to-do list. For some reason it just suddenly came across in my mind how lucky I was to be able to just get around in the car, sorting everything out. It is such a small thing, but my car gives me such independence and I love the feeling of being able to basically do whatever the hell I want. Obviously, it isn’t just driving, but other things in life that I think a lot of us have forgotten is a luxury not a necessity. It is going to be different for everyone, but I think it is so important if every day you take two minutes and just really think about all the things you are grateful for in life.

A few other things I am excited about…

Winter evenings – I am such a Winter baby. I love everything chunky knits, blankets, hot chocolates and evenings on the sofa. I am so excited for the seriously cold evenings, being able to enjoy my evenings snuggled up with the ones I love and my baby Nelson.

Winter Food – is there anything better than a good old-fashioned English Winter meal? Whether it be a stew, something with mash or even a full on roast, Winter food makes me unbelievably happy. Simple, yet delicious.

Christmas – it is officially time to start thinking about Christmas and I am beyond excited. This year I am feeling so relaxed and ready to take a good festive week off, surrounding by my family, wearing Christmas PJs and watching festive films.

Shop this Look:

Coat – Topshop

Top – New Look

Jeans – Primark

Shoes – Zara

Bag – Michael Kors

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I have not been paid to feature any brands, and all views and opinions are my own.

No Longer Counting the Calories

No Longer Counting the Calories

Since my early teen years I have always been very body conscious. I have never been extremely thin, in fact my weight is extremely up and down, and like many other people it can really affect my mood. I don’t find that eating healthily comes naturally to me, and I am awful when it comes to dieting. I have zero will power. Last year, when going through some relationship problems and being stressed all the time about my health I lost so much weight. I joke that ‘it was the best diet I ever went on’, but it really was. Obviously, I then had major surgery and was sat on the sofa for a good 6 months, so I regained everything and up until a few weeks ago I felt awful in myself. For some reason, something ticked in my brain in the last few weeks, not just because my weight is starting to go down again, but I think I naturally am developing a much more healthy attitude towards it.

Living a healthy, balanced lifestyle is about fuelling your body with good and nutritious food, whilst also being able to enjoy a giant slice of chocolate cake, guilt free!

I think I am definitely one of those people who loves to enjoy life and thinks that it is way too short to waste doing things that you don’t enjoy. I appreciate entirely that we need to remain fit and healthy to live a long and happy life, although I do know that giving into cravings and enjoying unhealthy food is also the key to living long, and truly happily. So what are the best ways to do this, and what attitude shall we have to make sure that we are able to carry this out on a daily basis?

Everything in Moderation

The best and most successful way to stay healthy is by really understanding that it is everything in moderation. If like me you enjoy carbs and cake, there is no reason why you cannot have this in your diet, however in moderation. For example, if I have a slice of cake in the week and I m trying to be good I will tend to have a much smaller portion. Same with carbohydrates. I will never be someone who can give them up, but I try my best not to eat them with every meal and put more veg on my plate in proportion to my protein and nutrients. Also, a big thing I have got a lot better at, is if I have already had a sweet treat in a day, generally I won’t let myself have anything else. Having two would not be in moderation.

Realistic Exercise Regimes

Exercise is very important for our bodies, although I do truly believe that you have to stick to a good balance. Realistically going once a week isn’t enough, but in my view any more than four is way too much. Don’t push yourself too much mentally and create unrealistic goals. The only way I manage to get there, which I do have to admit doesn’t happen every week, is to mix my workouts up and not take it too seriously.

Homemade Meals & Snacks

With it being said about everything in moderation, I also think the best way to stay healthy is by most of your diet being made up of homemade hearty meals. In the food shop there are so many items available designed to make our lives easier, however there are very few that are good for us. I enjoy making food from scratch knowing exactly what is in it, whether it contain loads of butter or sugar. As long as it doesn’t contain the crap preservatives and chemicals found in other products, in my head it is totally okay. Try to be as organised as possible with your food prep and ensure that you are always choosing homemade alternatives as opposed to shop bought items just because they’re easy.

Ignoring the Scales

Something I learnt years ago is that for me, the scales are a no go area. Not only do I find it a horrible feeling of how low you can feel after seeing the number, but also I have learnt that it doesn’t actually matter. Really, if you are exercising correctly and are toned, you will have a lot of body muscle, therefore you will be heavy. Personally, I go purely on dress size, what I am able to wear and how I am feeling in myself. The weight on the scales doesn’t matter in the slightest and we all have a very unhealthy attitude towards it at some point in our lives.

Breakfast

Always eat your breakfast. I have always been so awful at this, mainly because my stomach just can’t really take it when I wake up, which I know is the case for a lot of other people. However, I have learnt that it is so much better for your body and your diet if you do. I can never eat anything massive, unless it is after a Sunday lie in, however even something simple like a banana can really do the job.

Home Routine

Having a good routine is the easiest way of staying on track, staying healthy and making good choices for when it comes to food. This doesn’t just mean having a routine when it comes to work and general life, but also how you use your spare time. I have got into a good routine now of which evenings I cook fresh meals, which mornings or evening I go the gym and even when I am having my rest time. Staying up to date with everything can really help you to stay on track.

Shop this Post:

Top – New Look

Shot in – Tincan Coffee House, Bristol

We enjoyed:

Lemon and Courgette Cake

Caramel Shortbread

Hearty Latte

Lemonade

Old Fashioned Tea

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I have not been paid to feature any brands, and all views and opinions are my own.

Winter Coats for The Season

Winter Coats for The Season

Imagery by Hana Dallimore Photography

My favourite season to dress in has to be Winter. I love being able to wrap up warm, enjoy all the knits, get creative with a scarf and grab for my boots every morning. It is the season that I feel the most comfortable and enjoy the prospect of putting an outfit together. It is also my favourite season to shop for. I have no idea why, I just get so much more excited about shopping for Winter bits and seeing what is on trend. Leading on nicely to my favourite task being finding the perfect Winter coat. Don’t get me wrong, I have a huge pile to choose from at home, however I do love choosing one special coat a year, based on the current trends and what I am feeling like wearing. During these cold months, the fashion is great, but in reality the only thing that ever actually gets seen inside or out, is generally a coat. Therefore, in my eyes it needs to be something exciting, chic, good quality and most importantly, comfortable.

For years I would buy coats based on purely the aesthetic. Was it pretty and is it on trend? They would generally be very poor quality, which is probably why I only paid about £30. Having countless days out and about feeling completely frozen, I decided that coats were probably the best investment for Winter.

No matter how much you try to escape it, the only way that you are going to get your Winter coat right is by increasing your budget a little and staying away from places like New Look. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE New Look, but in terms of warmth, it is quite hard to find it with a New Look price tag. I have found, in order to achieve everything and feel happy in the Winter, you need something that is layered inside, usually tailored and a colour that goes with a lot of other items in your wardrobe. It is not a difficult task to find these types of coats, but what I have found is that it is difficult to always find ones that are right for my style and go with a vast selection of my wardrobe. Hence why, for the last few years I have been trying to expand my collection, so I have a handful of very good quality coats covering me for every occasion.

Barbour

 

The first coat that I ever invested in was a Barbour. For such long time I had loved this brand and seen a lot of people wearing them. The only feedback I had heard was completely positive and the main thing I took from it was that they are renowned for their warmth. This instantly drew me to the brand and I knew that I had to try one out for myself to see if the style and the look suited me. Luckily, if not unluckily for my bank card, I fell in love with it straight away and bought it in the same day. I went for the classic design, as I think Barbour is one of those brands that the best ones are always the classic, in black.

I knew that this would go with so much of my wardrobe and would be extremely versatile. In fact, almost three years later I still wear this coat nearly every day. Although, going back to having coats for different occasions, my Barbour is not really a great look for work. Therefore, it is much more of  a weekend/ off duty look.

 

Around a year after buying my first Barbour, I landed up in the shop again just having a browse with my grandma and came across what is now my second Barbour in my coat collection. I love my first black Barbour, however with it being so toasty warm, as it got more towards Spring I needed something a little bit lighter. From their Spring Summer range, I bought a lighter weight classic Barbour in a beautiful light tan colour. I love this one too, however it definitely doesn’t get as much wear as the black one, purely because the time frame to wear it in is much less than the long Winter months. If you are looking for an easy to wear, warm and classic looking coat, I would always recommend Barbour for the quality and overall sophisticated look.

Zara

Going back quickly to what I said about high street shops, I do have to admit that I do have a few Winter coats that are definitely an exception to the poor quality rule. Over the last few years, I have had some very good Winter buys from Zara, which have all been incredibly warm and great quality. But, as many fashion readers will know, Zara coats do not come with a cheap price tag. They do average at around £90, so for that price you would expect to own a coat that was going to keep you warm through the Winter. My favourite coat to wear last year was what I called my ‘Biker Coat’ which was almost a sell out at Zara within weeks. I fell in love with it straight away and it very quickly became a huge staple piece in my collection. Again, it was not cheap, but worth every single penny.

I think the main thing to suggest when it comes to shopping on the high street for coats is to actually go into the shops and try everything on. So many times online I get stuck with something which looks great but isn’t very good quality, so to save the time and the hassle just go in and make sure you have tested everything out before buying.

Ted Baker

As featured in this blog post is the inspiration behind shaping this whole article together, as last year I found a love for Ted Baker. Not Ted Baker in general, but their coat section. I have absolutely loved Ted Baker for years and have always praised them here on the blog for the quality of the products against the price. Personally, I know it is not the cheapest brand in the world, but I do believe that everything they sell completely resembles the price point. I was lucky enough to be given a gift voucher for the Swindon Outlet, where I found this beautiful midi length black coat which was obviously from the season before. 

In the end I landed up paying less than half of the original price, but can honestly say that having worn it and loved it for a year, I would have been willing to pay more. This coat has been a staple piece in my work wear collection and has even managed to make its way into my casual style, teamed with trainers and an over shoulder bag. The overall design is flawless, with it having the ability to be worn several different ways dependant on your desired look of level of warmth that you want to get from it.

Having fallen in love with this coat and been extremely excited to start wearing it again this year, I knew that I wanted to explore the range even more when going on a Winter shopping trip a few weeks ago.

When having a look through the selection in Ted Baker, I came across the shorter version of the design, which is equally beautifully. I knew that if I was going to get one it would be in either nude or grey, as already having my black Barbour and Ted Baker, there was no need for a dark toned coat. Although, having owned a nude coloured Winter coat before, I remembered how filthy it got and what as pain it was to clean, so that eliminated that from the selection almost immediately. So, as a result, grey was the only option. I don’t think it is any secret that I absolutely adore grey; all my interior blog posts will be great evidence for this.

Nowadays with the trends, and with my style in particular, grey is incredibly well suited to every other item in our wardrobes, and has very quickly started to catch up to everyone’s love of black. This coat is perfect for the majority of looks in my wardrobe, and I do think that it very much helps to brighten everything up a little. With the tailored design, easy to wear colour and fabric, it is also great for day to night and work to casual. This is the main reason why I chose this, as I really wanted something that could easily do both.

Shop this Post: 

Black Coat – Ted Baker

Leopard Shoes – Dune London

Red Bag – Zatchel

 

Grey Coat – Ted Baker

Sock Boots – Zara

Scarf – French Grey

 

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I have not been paid to feature any brands, and all views and opinions are my own.

Take Control of Your Work Life Balance

Take Control of Your Work Life Balance

Images by Abigail Oliver Photography

The world we live in has become very consumed in the ideal of having a successful career and living a stressful life through our jobs. To a certain extent, I think this is amazing. We are all very focused on improving ourselves and being able to provide for not only ourselves but our families. Particularly in terms of being a woman, it is incredible how the world has changed and women are just as important in the workplace as men. Families rely on both parents going out to work and I think this is such a positive change in the UK. However, I do think we can also get a little carried away. I love work and the idea of really growing in my role as a working woman, although I do also think that having a work life balance is extremely key in living a successful life. The pressure on everyone in the work place has grown hugely in the last few years and what is expected from people has started to get a little out of hand. We are all working incredibly hard just to simply please others, as we have started to believe that this is the only way to succeed and grow in our careers. This can lead to extreme stress, which can then cause personal problems.

Living a happy and successful life doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your health or personal life for the sake of your job.

I am very lucky to have lived my life so far with my grandad being my biggest role model. He has built his business from scratch, and still at the age of 68 continues to work extraordinarily hard to keep his business going and provide for the now big family. He loves his job, and has a sheer passion for the service that he provides to his loyal clients. It is his success that constantly drives me to build my own business and it fuels me when I sometimes feel like giving up.

Ensuring that you dedicate enough time for them always has to be your priority, as the one thing you will never be able to buy back when you are successful is that time that you didn’t spend with them.

Working hard is something that we all have to do in life in order to get the things we want, but it is also important to remember that there is more to life than just work. Having major health problems myself and stresses within my family during my teenage years, I have definitely learnt that the single most important thing in life is the ones you love.

So how exactly do we get this balance right?

 

First things first, you have to be organised. Being able to delegate your time out will only happen if you know exactly everything that is happening in your life and have it all written out correctly. We are all very used to writing meetings and appointments in and even our working hours, however very few of us actually write in our social times, you time and even time with family. I am not saying that you have to write down what you are going to be doing for all hours of the day, but having a brief structure will be massively helpful in balancing out your time.

I have my trusty diary which I use every single day for appointments etc, however I now also use a weekly planner. This means that on a Sunday I can write out all that is in my diary and have it all laid out in front of me. I can then put in different times and what I want to be doing. For example, on a Thursday evening I may put ‘PM Blog’ or on a Friday evening ‘PM Finn (boyfriend)’. This means that I am able to ensure I am spending enough time with everyone and actually getting everything done.

Building up a career can take hours of your time. When my grandad first started out he used to work 70 to 80 hours a week, purely because he had to. I really respect this, and I do know that this is the amount of work it takes to get somewhere. Nevertheless, I do believe that this can only happen if other factors in your life are sorted out. Your health comes first, and for some people these sorts of hours are just not feasible. You have to understand and accept your own boundaries and most importantly learn when to say no. I am definitely guilty of taking too much on and putting too much pressure on myself, but am making a conscious effort to put my health first.

First. Know your limit. Second. Accept it and work around it.

Depending on your type of job, there are other things that can become mentally draining. For me, this would be the use of technology. I spend all of my working hours either on a phone, my laptop or tablet.  These bright screens can be exhausting, and the use of technology can become very addictive. For me, the way around this was to get a work phone. I waited until my contract expired, then I made my old phone my work phone. Since doing this I have found it so much easier to get the work life balance right. I only use my work phone during my working hours, I am not distracted by work on my personal phone and it has made my work time much more productive. I found having work emails and notifications on my personal phone way too much to deal with and so often in distracted me from my own life. Now I am able to leave it on my desk and not worry about work at all until the next morning. It has been incredible for my mind and I feel like I am getting so much more quality time with my friends and family.

Finally, I would say the key to getting your work life balance correct is grasping the true meaning of what is actually important in life.

The majority of us do jobs that are important, however they are not a matter of life or death. If you are a heart surgeon or natural disaster specialist please stop reading now. There are very few jobs in this world that are going to have a great impact if you suddenly can’t do them for an evening or a day, or even a week. We all get too caught up in our work and it is becoming more and more common that people simply can’t switch off from their job because they think it is vital that they complete it. The likelihood is that no one is going to die if you don’t finish that work and the world is not going to end. Having your own life is the most important thing in this world.

You won’t look back when you’re 80 and laugh with your friends in the old home about that time you stayed in working whilst all your friends were out making memories.

How many hours a week do you spend working?

Shop this post:

Dress – TU Clothing

Shoes – Asos

Bag – Michael Kors

Blazer – New Look

 

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I have not been paid to feature any brands, and all views and opinions are my own.