Support your local high street

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I often wonder about the future and despite Fermanagh being quite far behind much of the UK we have come a long way in terms of fashion and technology. I often laugh at old pictures of me and my friends from school and the fashion we used to wear. We didn’t have much selection of shops here in Fermanagh when I was growing up and even less when my parents were growing up.  I am thankful for the great selection we have now and although some people moan about the fact that there are certain shops that we don’t have we should be thankful for what we do have and support our local businesses.

Studies show that a staggering 80% of us are shopping online rather than supporting our local high street for even the simplest of things. Many will say this is due to price, ease of access, choice and variety and modern technology. You could say that this is a natural progression in the modern world; however I find it very sad to see stores closing and our high street half empty.

Despite the ease of access of internet stores you can always argue that a high street store has its advantages. Firstly we are known here in Fermanagh for our excellent customer service and friendly approach. You just don’t get the same customer service, if any at all, from an internet store. Think about it, if you compare how many times you have been let down by an internet store and how many times you have been let down by a local store I would say the majority of us have been let down more times by an internet store. I for one have been let down more times than I can remember by different internet stores mainly due to the wrong product being sent, something being broken or damaged or the wrong size. In many cases when getting a refund or exchange you have to wait for a long time and this is after having sent several emails. How much easier is it to just walk into a shop, explain the situation and either get your refund or exchange there and then.

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With an internet store you can’t actually see, touch or try on what you are buying. You are taking a bit of a risk especially if you need it in a hurry. Yes it is easy to power up your laptop or tablet or even your phone and just click to buy however it is also easy to just pop into town try on and hand over your card and you have it instantly.

Although many internet stores have reviews, tips and advice on the products you are buying there is something a little more reassuring about speaking to a local expert about a product face to face and them actually demonstrating or showing you how the product works before you commit to buy.

Although I feel at the moment there is no immediate danger of the internet taking over in Fermanagh, it is likely to happen if more and more of us continue to ignore our local stores and shop online. I am not saying never shop on the internet, let’s face it there are certain items we simply can’t get at home, however instead consider shopping locally instead if you know you can get it locally. I think we would all agree that it would be a very sad sight to see empty towns and villages and no nice shop windows to look at.

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I do! Fermanagh Style

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With each wedding I attend there is always some new and fashionable theme or prop that people are using. Whether it be a photo booth with wigs and inflatable microphones, floral bunting or memory trees for your guests to leave messages on it seems like Fermanagh brides are pushing the boat out more and more to have the most trend setting wedding.

Last week I was bridesmaid for my friend Claire Beacom who married my boyfriend’s brother Glen McCleery. As bridemaid it was my duty to ensure that Claire had everything she needed, whether that be a tissue to dry her eyes after saying her vows or a dash of lip gloss for photos. However, because fashion is my thing my main contribution was to ensure that every last detail was filled with style.

The last minute details are always the most stressful in my opinion because I am such a perfectionist and everything needs to be right. Last minute details like ensuring your tan is just right, your hair is clean for your up style and that you have cleansed, toned and moisturised so your skin is in tip top shape for your makeup.

As an extra little fashionable touch for the wedding I thought it would be nice to give Claire a gift on her wedding day. I also did this for my sister and thought it was a nice touch as traditionally the bride will give her bridesmaids a gift such as jewellery to thank them for being there on the day. As well as that the bride and groom will usually get the mother of the bride and mother of the groom a small gift. In all this gift giving I feel it is only fair that the bride should get something on her big day.

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It is quite fashionable nowadays for the bride to have a nice new fancy bottle of perfume to wear on the first day of her new life. For Claire it was only the best, a classic and elegant perfume that suited her sense of style; Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel. I also decided to make her something personal so I made her a bridal fabric wreath in the bridal party colours with her and Glen’s initials and the date of their wedding attached.

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Some other last minute touches that I thought were a good idea were flat sandals for the evening time as standing all day can take its toll on your feet. We are spoilt for choice at the moment when it comes to flat sandals and shoes. You can get some really pretty flats and although I prefer heels for more formal occasions a cute pair of flats can make all the difference when you have a long night of dancing ahead of you.

It is all the little touches like this that help to make a wedding not just memorable but also that little bit different and unique. It is probably best not to get too bogged down in the details because at the end of the day it is the celebration of love between two people and having the most important people around you that makes the day truly memorable.

Keep her Country!

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I am not and never will be a fan of country music, be it Western or Irish or anything in between, and no amount of convincing will ever persuade me otherwise. I do however have a lot of respect for those die hard fans who drive the length and breadth of the country to go jiving to their favourite band or singer.

There is something so nostalgic about going out dancing, and I don’t mean bopping around the Crowes Nest. I still love hearing stories about my grandparents going out dancing and stories about all the big dances that used to happen around Fermanagh and further afield. I love looking at old photos of my grandparents dressed up for the dances in the 1950s and 60s and it makes me a little sad that this has become pretty much a thing of the past.

When I went to see Strictly Come Dancing on tour I remember thinking how I would love to travel back in time to have been able to experience the big dance halls of the 1940s, 50s and 60s where people went out purely to get dressed up in their finest and dance the night away to a live band and alcohol never came into the equation. I love the idea of getting all dressed up and going out dancing but of course for me it would be all about the clothes and a little less about the dancing. In my imagination it would be a little bit like the ‘High School Hop’ in Grease or the ‘Under the Sea’ dance in Back to the Future.

 

The only problem about this lovely idea however is that there is simply nowhere for this to happen as we don’t have dances like this anymore.
There is however a niche in the market for fans of country music. You will find a country gig somewhere in the county almost every weekend. For fans of county it’s all about the music, the dancing and of course getting dressed up. Although it’s not for me I admire Country fans who go out every weekend just to dance and enjoy themselves and I almost feel a little jealous that I don’t know the dances and I don’t know the songs. It has become much more than a craze and I often wonder what attracts young people nowadays to the Country scene.

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Kilskeery sisters Karen Keys, Jemma and Kerri Crozier have been huge Country fans their whole lives and were brought up with jiving and line dancing. Their love of Country came from their parents Gwen and Jimmy and has always been a big thing for the whole family young and old. Line dancing was a big thing in Kilskeery when we were growing up and the Crozier sisters always lead the dances at Girls Brigade and Youth Club. Many country fans were raised on the music but for many the obsession is a new found thing. Local musician George Bracken believes that the emergence of young and attractive country stars such as Nathan Carter, Derek Ryan and Lisa McHugh have created a hype. Girls flock to see Nathan Carter and the boys naturally follow where the girls go.

HAYDEN PANETTIERE, ROBERT RAY WISDOM, CHARLES ESTEN, POWERS BOOTHE, ERIC CLOSE, CONNIE BRITTON, SAM PALLADIO, CLARE BOWEN, JONATHAN JACKSON
Whatever the attraction there is no denying that Country is the in thing at the moment and is here to stay. So if you want to be part of it get your heels on and do the Huckle Buck. If you don’t know what this is just ask one of your country friends, it’s a whole new experience.

Join the revolution!

This Old Thing

For years now I have been trying to convince the people of Fermanagh and beyond to choose Vintage and pre loved fashion. I’m not saying that you should only wear vintage but instead mix it up a bit with items from the high street. I have always said that cheap ‘fast fashion’ cannot possibly be a good thing. In light of recent events with Primark, where customers found ‘SOS’ labels stitched into items of clothing,  there has never been a better time to step away from the huge chain stores.

Although nothing has been officially proven, Primark have recently released a statement saying that following their investigations they can only conclude that the labels are an elaborate hoax. Having examined the labels from items bought from their Swansea store Primark believe that they have came from the same source yet both garments are from two different suppliers, one in Romania and one in India and therefore the labels must have been sewn in at a later point and not from the factory they were supplied from.

As regards the cropped trousers bought in Belfast, Primark are still investigating this with the factory in China. Whether the incidents are a hoax or not it still doesn’t excuse the fact that these factory workers do work long hours and sometimes in dangerous conditions. Look at the recent incident in Bangladesh when a factory where garments were being made to supply fashion houses in Florence collapsed killing 1,129 workers.

Although garment production does provide many in third world countries with a steady income; mass produced clothing, which is made with low quality materials, are not designed to last, hence the reason why they are sold so cheaply.

Clothing nowadays is simply not designed to last due to the fact that we live in such as fast society with fickle tastes and changing demands. Trends change so often that the fashion industry has to keep up with this and provide it at a reasonable price. With cheap clothing that you can just throw away when you are fed up with it and buy the next latest trend, what incentive is there to buy vintage or pre-loved? One major incentive is the fact that you won’t find anyone else wearing the same outfit as you. The new channel Four programme ‘This Old Thing’ hopes to convince the UK that vintage is the way to go.

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At last the word is getting out there that vintage clothing is not only unique and special but also much better quality with a lot more durability than modern clothing. It’s great to see the vintage revolution spreading to prime time TV. The UK mainland has embraced the vintage revolution and in fact seasonal trends are now emerging in even vintage lines. For example people are now hunting for fifties circle skirts, tropical prints and kimono jackets; tropical prints also being very popular this season on the high street.

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Unfortunately Fermanagh has not yet caught the vintage bug, however I hope that this new Channel Four programme will encourage people to consider vintage as an alternative to the high street

A dress for the summer

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If like me you are loving the heat wave we are currently enjoying but not loving the thought of baring your pasty flesh and struggling with finding something comfortable but suitable to wear you are not alone. Although heat waves in Fermanagh are a pretty rare occurrence when they do come we Fermanagh folk do nothing but complain about hot how and uncomfortable we feel in the heat. Don’t get me wrong; if we were all off work or had nice cool air conditioned offices perhaps we wouldn’t complain so much. During the recent heat wave I found it difficult to find something cool to wear each day and found that the most comfortable thing to wear was a light summer dress.

In my opinion dresses are the ultimate wardrobe staple because they can be worn casual or dressy depending on how you accessorise them. The thing I love about dresses is the fact that there are so many different styles now that no matter what your shape or size there will always be something suitable for you.

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You don’t have to be a girly girl to enjoy wearing dresses because there are so many different variations you will find that you don’t have to go for a pretty look, you have so many more options. For any tom boys out there you will find lots of variations of the shirt dress, tunic or sporty style dresses.

As well as simple shirt dresses that can be dressed up with heels or dressed down with flat sandals or trainers, athletic style dresses are a hot look for the summer. If neither of these styles float your boat the other key looks of the summer are simple no fuss shift dresses in refreshing pastel colours, again these can be dressed down with flats or styled up with heels and statement jewellery.

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As always Bohemian inspired maxi dresses make a welcome appearance in the summer months, I usually like to team a maxi dress with a gladiator sandal or a pair of wedges. I also love a bright statement print dress either in a bold colour, a geometric print or just simple bold stripes. Bright colours just say summer for me and even on a wet summers day bright colours give you a bit of a pick me up.

The other summer dress of the moment is the 1950s style swing dress given a modern twist with graphic prints or just kept simple depending on how you like it. Style wise and depending on where you plan to wear it you could have strapless, boat neck, spaghetti straps or short sleeve. For me a prom dress will always be dressy and just doesn’t look right worn with trainers. If you want to make a swing dress look less formal team it with a pair of flat sandals and minimal accessories.

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However you choose to stay cool in the Fermanagh sunshine, and here’s hoping that our heat wave will last or at least come back again soon, a summer dress is always a good choice for work, rest or play.

Brazilian mania hits Fermanagh

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It’s pretty much impossible to avoid World Cup fever here in Fermanagh at the moment and I am sure this can be said for most of the world. Every other advert on TV somehow relates to the world Cup and even your weekly grocery shop is invaded by ‘’World Cup offers’. Many of you may be taking part in a world cup sweep stake or having world cup parties to celebrate the launch or just as an excuse to have a party.

It seems the world cup has also had a major influence within the fashion industry mainly due to the fact that it is being hosted by Brazil this year. You can see jungle prints, carnival inspiration and neons all over the high street at the moment and this can be no coincidence.

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In terms of sportswear Adidas in particular have taken inspiration from Brazil in the release of their Adidas originals X The Farm Company collection. This unique collaboration with Brazilian based label ‘The Farm Company’ includes everything from running shorts and vests to tracksuits, t-shirts and trainers. The collection features flowers, fruit, neon colours, jungle prints and the carnival inspiration from Brazil. It is a very wearable collection that looks great either worn for sports or if you’re not into sportswear but love bold prints it is both comfortable and extremely fashion forward.

On the high street here in Fermanagh I am sure you have noticed the vast amount of Brazilian inspired prints not just in the women’s department but also the men’s. All departments have got World Cup fever with all sorts of both carnival inspired prints and Amazon jungle inspired prints.

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Carnival colours such as neon pink and yellow, bright oranges and greens can be seen everywhere at the moment as well as bold statement necklaces and earrings, flower garlands and bright bold prints.

Jungle prints are the other major trend here in Fermanagh. Inspired by the Amazon Jungle of Brazil you will see everything from Parrot prints, jungle leaf prints, tropical fruits such as pineapples and bananas, tropical flowers and other jungle wildlife.

I have noticed that it’s not just Fermanagh ladies that get to enjoy the influences of Brazil. Despite the fact that many of our men will be wearing their favourite team colours over the next few weeks they will also have their choice of Brazilian inspired prints. Tropical print shirts in particular seem to be a big thing with the boys as well as jungle print board shorts, tropical fruit prints and jungle wildlife. In fact some of the shirts in the men’s department have even caught my eye and I have considered buying one or two myself.

 

Are our local charity shops becoming too greedy?

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A recent article I read claimed that charity shops were beginning to become almost as expensive as high street stores, which obviously sell brand new items rather than previously loved clothing. Call it what you want previously loved or other people’s cast offs I have always believed that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and I am proud to say that some of my greatest finds have been purchased in charity shops.

Some people say that modern day charity shops have abandoned their traditional clientele in a bid to become more appealing to modern society and modern tastes. This new approach however does seem to be working with charity shops now outnumbering shoe shops on the high street and charity shop chains such as Oxfam reporting sales of £90 million in 2011, which is an all-time record.

After reading the article I took to Facebook to see what others thought and a few did agree particularly those living in Belfast where charity shops have become more like exclusive boutiques. As always though Fermanagh is that little bit behind and things haven’t changed much here in terms of charity shops. Although they are trying to reach out to new clientele I have to say that the majority of customer’s in Fermanagh charity shops are older people just looking for a bargain.

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The shopping experience in a Belfast or any city based charity shop is completely different to the experience I feel in Enniskillen. I almost feel intimidated sometimes by other shoppers as though they are questioning my motives and why I am invading their territory. For this reason I feel that nothing much has changed in our local charity shops whereas in Belfast and other cities prices have gone up because quite frankly they can afford to charge more due to the calibre of customer. Nowadays a charity shop in Belfast will charge more than the likes of Primark even though the items are second hand.

For now I don’t believe our local charity shops are at all greedy in fact they are quite the opposite, they could probably charge more for many of the items they sell. I don’t think our local charity shops will change any time soon or at least until they modernise, appeal to more fashionable customers and get in a few more exclusive items but then for me the whole fun is in searching until you find that one special item.

It’s not all about the clothes!

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Fashion isn’t all about dressing in the latest trends nor is it simply about clothes and accessories. The term fashion itself reaches across a huge spectrum and it refers to not just material things but also behaviour. It also refers to a fad, a craze, a trend or something that people are raving about. The annoying thing though is that when it becomes a craze then you will find that people begin to lose interest because everyone is doing it.

When I compare Fermanagh to other places like Belfast, Dublin, London and further afield it is interesting to see just how behind we are. In terms of clothing trends we are well over a year behind the likes of London and even Dublin, however there are a few trend setters about who follow what’s going on in the fashion capitals and are ahead of our local stores.

All that said I can understand why some local stores stock the clothes that they do and are not prepared to be as ‘out there’ as the City. Having worked in the retail industry in Fermanagh it used to annoy me that we didn’t get in a lot of the stock that some of the bigger city stores did purely because head office felt that small rural stores couldn’t sell the more adventurous items. There are however many independent stores who are able to do their own thing.

When it comes to lifestyle I am the type of person who tries all the latest fads but doesn’t really stick at anything. Everyone has their own thing be that dancing, acting, art, photography, sport or cooking. I have tried many different things partly to make my life a little more versatile and partly because it’s the latest thing to do. It got to the stage though when I was doing so many different things that I had no free time so I had to rethink what was working for me rather than doing everything just because it was the in thing.

Having very recently taken up running I had no idea that I had entered this whole new community. I had always viewed runners as very thin with masses of stamina, however when I started to run around Castlecoole it really opened my eyes. There are people of all ages, sizes and abilities out running and in fact Castlecoole put me in mind of Central Park in New York purely because I just couldn’t believe the range of people out running even mums with push chairs running along with their dogs on a lead; now that’s multitasking!  I also discovered ‘Parkrun’ which is a free 5k run every Saturday in the grounds of Castlecoole. I never thought I would try this particular craze but for many it’s much more than a craze it’s a way of life or a routine and I have to say it is becoming addictive.

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If you have thought about making a lifestyle change but you just couldn’t stick at it or if you have tried the latest fitness trends but given up soon after I completely know where you are coming from. You don’t have to be the best runner in the world and in fact you don’t even have to run you can go at your own pace. I am living proof that a lifestyle change can completely turn your life around, make you a happier more positive person and give you a whole new outlook on life.

For more info on the Enniskillen Parkrun visit www.parkrun.org.uk/enniskillen or if running’s not for you why not try Fermanagh Fitcamp which will be taking place from June for further info visit http://www.24fitcampfermanagh.com.

 

Fermanagh Fashion – perhaps not as reserved as you think

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I come from a generation who want to experience more, travel, see new cultures and live life beyond little Fermanagh. It makes me a bit sad to see great people leave the county simply because there are no jobs or nothing to keep them here and as much as I would love to get out and see the world it scares me a little bit. Fermanagh or Ireland in general is like a safe bubble where everything is predictable and we are a fairly tolerant society, despite how backward some people’s views may be.

This summer I will be taking the trip of a lifetime to Dubai and although I am looking forward to getting away and experiencing pure luxury I am slightly worried about the cultural differences. If you thought Fermanagh could be backward this is nothing compared to the Middle East. For a Country that is so modern, forward thinking and exciting Dubai is incredibly reserved in terms of culture and fashion.

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Here in Fermanagh we ladies take for granted being able to walk down the street wearing more or less whatever we want. During a hot day shorts and vests are a common sight about town during the day but in Dubai and other strict Middle Eastern countries this is a non existent sight due to strict Muslim modesty rules.

One of my pet hates is leggings being worn as trousers and this annoyingly enough is a common sight in Fermanagh. Leggings are supposed to be worn with tunics, long tops that cover your bums and in my view not with short tops or normal t-shirts. The only time leggings are acceptable with t-shirts is in the gym or for running.

It seems I am not the only person who feels this way about leggings. In Qatar leggings have been banned and new guidelines, which have been laid out by the ‘Reflect your Respect’ Campaign launched by the Qatar Islamic Cultural Centre, state that tourists must conform to these strict decency guidelines. It is not just leggings that are deemed unacceptable in public but also shorts, vests, miniskirts and sleeveless or strapless dresses.

There are of course tourist friendly areas where people can wear these items without being frowned upon but in any of the main public areas, near Mosques, government buildings or cultural areas men and women must respect the cultural values laid down by the government.

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The new fashion decency guidelines tie in with the launch of Chanel’s Cruise collection, which was launched in Dubai and took inspiration from the Emirate. Every item of clothing on display fitted strict religious guidelines and was very much inspired by Middle Eastern traditional dress.

Although I can’t afford the Chanel price tag I do intend to respect Dubai’s cultures during my stay there by dressing appropriately in the non-tourist areas. I am looking forward to experiencing a whole different lifestyle and comparing fashion there to what we have here in Fermanagh. I am particularly looking forward to getting into the Souks or markets and the huge shopping centres, which will make Erneside look like a tiny corner shop.

Do it yourself

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More and more people in Fermanagh are going back to basics and learning old skills in new ways. If like me you strive to be different then why not learn a new skill like knitting, crocheting, sewing or even quilting. It may seem boring or too time consuming to some but take it from me there is nothing more satisfying than being told by someone that they love your outfit only to tell them you made it yourself.

There are so many opportunities here in Fermanagh to learn these new skills from experienced tutors. For example the Craft Emporium in Fivemiletown has regular workshops where you can learn everything from how to decorate a cake to jewellery making to creating your own cushions and bunting. If you don’t like the idea of being in a big class you can learn one on one with private tutors such as Fermanagh Sewing.

I still need a bit of retail therapy every now and then but sometimes I either feel uninspired or just cannot find what I am looking for. I am sure I am not alone in saying that sometimes when I go shopping there is nothing for me despite all the selection. At times like this I like to do a bit of DIY or MIY; make it yourself.

On one shopping spree I just couldn’t find a particular style of shirt I was looking for so I went home and decided to make one myself. You may think you could never take into making your own shirt but with a bit of customisation and alteration you can easily create exactly what you are looking for. I never thought I would be able to take into something like this and didn’t think I would even have the time to do it but some projects are really simple and straightforward.

Another really easy project I recently decided to do was to customise a pair of running leggings. Having become a little obsessed with sportswear in the last few weeks I decided that instead of spending excessively on overpriced sports gear I would create my own. Having spent £32 online on a flimsy pair of leggings from a sports boutique I couldn’t help but feel a bit ripped off and on inspecting them I knew they were just a cheap pair of leggings with print on them so for a fraction of the price I decided to create my own gym gear.

It’s so easy to create something you need that will set you apart from everyone else so why not give it a go starting out with something simple like customising a t-shirt and then pushing your abilities a bit further to creating a shirt or even a dress. You may just get the bug like I have and save yourself some money in the process!