There are many injustices in this world – that Idris Elba isn’t in love with me, that I wasn’t cast as Buffy the Vampire slayer and that I never came up with the idea of Just Eat. The latest one is that The Body Shop in Leeds has a private room that I am I didn’t know about and that I think not enough people know about. It’s a travesty!
The Body Shop is probably the first brand I was aware of when I was a young teenager for smelling better (hormones) and looking great. Oh the nostalgia when I think of the candy floss lip balms and the fruit shaped soaps, the apricot bubble baths and the cocoa butter body butter. We all pranced around town with the beige canvas bag thinking we were it!
Well I’m now 35 and dare I say it – I kind of moved on from The Body Shop. Then last week I was invited to the Leeds branch for a free facial and I jumped at the chance. This face needs all the help it can get.
The private room is at the back of the store and is really relaxing and cosy. I met the beautiful Jess – a skincare expert – had a herbal tea and a good old chin wag. I wasn’t drinking at the time – but they do offer a free glass of Prosecco with their treatments – I missed a trick!
They do all sorts of facials from basic to advanced (I had the advanced). They also do Mother’s Day packages, small parties and make up classes. Apparently a party of young teenagers had been in a week or so before for a make up party which I just thought was so sweet – I would have loved that.
The most interesting part was the skin test Jess did on me first – I have never known what skin type I have – but I am informed I have quite a dry face – especially on my cheeks. There was a tiny bit of oil on my forehead but generally – dry.
“So what’s your skin care routine?”
“Umm… soap and water.” I replied.
Jess wasn’t judgemental – looked like she had heard that many, many times.
I was slathered in a load of fancy products and I felt so pampered.
My husband doesn’t compliment me – really ever. But that evening he couldn’t stop complimenting my skin.
Therefore – the next day I went back and I bought all the products. I’m going to really give The Body Shop another go because I think I forgot about it for too long.
I now have a cleanser, a toner, a facial peel and a plumping moisturiser and I will definitely be going back for more. The Body shop has reclaimed its spot on my birthday and Christmas lists – it’s no longer about bubble bath sets for your Nan. It’s about serious skin care goals for knackered tired mums who fall asleep most evenings with their make up on and have no routine to speak of.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a new maternity store opening in the Victoria Quarter, Leeds. But to be entirely honest with you I had never heard of the name ‘Seraphine‘.
None the less, I accepted the invite, stroked my huge 33 week pregnant stomach and decided we should go – if only to get out of the house for the first time in weeks. I had a look at their website and it became glaringly obvious that there was a reason I had not heard of this brand – it was a brand worn by goddesses such as Kate Winslet, Gwen Stefani, Benedict Cumberbatch’s lucky wife and The Duchess of Cambridge herself. They had clearly made a mistake inviting me.
My main concern was that this was not a brand for the ‘normal woman‘ (yes, I’m talking about me there). If these amazingly perfect pregnant celebrities and royalty wore these clothes –
1. Would they be able to dress me? A curvy woman.
2. Will they have even seen a bump this big before? I am quite unlike these celebrities who look like they’ve had a bit of bread when they’re pregnant; my bump is in a different league.
3. Will it be affordable? I’m not rich or famous – I’m just a normal mum.
4. Will this place be pretentious? The store is located in the Victoria Quarter, near Harvey Nichols – a shop I need to spend a week dressing up to visit. We all know that horrible feeling of wondering into a small boutique and being stared at with one look and one look only “You can’t afford anything in here, and you’re the wrong size, you don’t belong here…” The Pretty Woman effect, if you will (though I rarely wear my thigh high boots anymore).
A few days later I waddled off to the Victoria Quarter in my high street maternity dress, slightly nervous to see Seraphine for myself.
The shop is not at all as I expected. It is larger than most in that arcade and spacious – you are not nose to nose with any retail assistants. Upon walking in I felt immediately at ease – there was not the pretentious air or snootiness I was concerned about. The retails assistants were polite and friendly – more personable than most and chatty – without being invasive.
I was lucky enough to meet and chat to the founder of Seraphine: Cecile Reinaud – which you would think would be quite daunting, considering her success – but she was exceedingly warm and engaging and a joy to talk to.
I quickly asked about their sizes and prices (on behalf of the ‘normal woman‘). Their sizes range from a 6 to an 18 which I was impressed with and their prices are from as low as in their twenties to a higher end – ‘The Luxe range’that boasts wedding dresses and occasion dresses in their collection.
Something I was really impressed with was that the vast majority of their clothes are designed for ease during nursing they had discreet poppers at the side, or straps with stretch. They had beautiful summer tops, a vast collection of jeans, support tights and an essential maternity set – The Bump Kit – that would keep you satisfied throughout your nine months if you adapted it with different accessories.
All of their staff are trained in bra fittings and they stock a range of underwear. They also have beautiful changing bags by StorkSak , specially designed shoes for pregnancy by shoe therapy and skincare by mama mio and Bloom and Blossom. The changing rooms are very spacious too and not as daunting as changing rooms can be.
Something I have found with many maternity clothes is that they seem to just over inflate their normal clothes (just today I am sending back several size 14 items from a shop that are absolutely enormous – marquee like pieces).
When I chose a top at Seraphine I had been eyeing up on their website they had my size (14) and I was thrilled that it fitted me just right. It wasn’t too big and I can honestly say I would wear it (and a lot of their clothes) after my pregnancy. It makes me feel very feminine and very pretty – and this is coming from a pregnant woman who has wallowed in her house for a few months weeping over how whale like she appears.
I was incredibly impressed with the store – and with the clothes – and it was a relief to see that Seraphine is not just for the likes of Kate Middleton – it is for the everyday pregnant woman too.
My only complaint is that I didn’t know about this brand sooner and my pregnancy is nearing its end (I will be going this weekend again as it just so happens to be my birthday!).
Seraphine is now open in Leeds Victoria Quarter* – go and have a look for yourself.
And afterwards I recommend going just around the corner to the Harvey Nichols cafe and having one of their non-alcoholic fruit cocktails. Or indulging in their afternoon tea – make a day of it. You deserve it; It’s what The Duchess would do!
So picture me (me!) sat in Harvey Nichols, Leeds after closing time, a glass of prosecco in my hand, watching a professional make up artist equipped with the Charlotte Tilbury make up collection, making a goddess like model even more beautiful than she started off.
Now – for me I would add just two more essentials (because I have so many Charlotte Tilbury products I basically believe I know more than the professionals) : the brow pencil (without brows I look pretty ridiculous. Once I have my brows drawn on I can face the outside world.
Lastly – the Film star bronze and glow. If you’re going to buy one thing – just one – I would go for this. I have actual make up savvy teenagers asking me “Gurrrlll …. where you get that highlighter?”
It’s a bronzer and highlighter pallet – simple to use and makes your dead face resurrect from the dark side.
I have been obsessed with Charlotte Tilbury make up and skin care since this time last year when I booked myself in for a make over with Leanne at Harvey Nichols, Leeds. I can honestly say I have never looked better.
Since then I have bought most of their collection – I don’t spend much on clothes, shoes, but my face – I have spent a small fortune.
I prefer Charlotte Tilbury to brands like MAC for example because it’s so subtle, so classy and I genuinely feel like it makes me look my best. I think it makes any woman look her best – without changing them or hiding their face in layers and layers on caked on make up.
And trust me – I know it’s super pricey compared to some, but my magic cream lasted a year, I still have half my foundation left, half my wonder glow left and my film star bronze and highlighter is still going!
Maybe you can’t bear to part with your money over the products – but it is definitely one for your christmas list.
I am always on a diet and I am always on a swinging scale between a size 12 and a size 16. I was a size 10 for about half an hour once. I was so excited about it I went to a coffee shop and had some cake and the carbs activated my fluid retention buzzer and boom, the size 10 jeans no longer fit.
Food is much more to me than ‘something I should have when I’m hungry’ and it has been for as long as I remember. Looking back over my Facebook profile pictures alone I can see about 45 different jaw lines over four years. And I can look at a photo and double chin and know exactly how stressed, anxious or happy I was at the time. If I have a chiseled jaw it’s because I was genuinely happy, if I have three chins it’s because I was in a bad relationship, or in a stressful teaching job.
But in every case I was never happy or unhappy ‘because’ I was a certain size. The size had been a side effect of where my life was heading at the time. And now my life is one of a ‘Mum’.
I can’t remember what I used to focus on, body wise, before I had a baby, but I know I hated my body. It was probably my thighs or my arse. But a bit like whacking your thumb with a hammer to take your mind off a tooth ache – I now have one focus of hate and one alone: My mummy tummy.
After two cesareans I have what I affectionately call an ‘Overhang’. It really is horrid. If you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about imagine a large saggy bean bag that someone has sewn a small very tight seam into, then hold it up, with the seam at the bottom. Imagine the bean bag sagging over the tight seam drawing attention to this very out of place taut line. That’s my stomach.
It’s the first thing I angle the mirror at and stare at every morning and the last thing I look at before I go to bed. When I’m lying in bed it’s what I run my hands over, and not in an erotic fashion. When I’m in the shower I feel the area and feel disgust and shame.
Since my second baby I have been on the no carbs regime – not eating any carbohydrates for six weeks straight – but a shit load of Gin. I have done the gluten free, sugar free, wheat free, caffeine free, vegetarian lifestyle for an entire month. All of this interspersed with extreme gorging on nachos, wine and fillet steak and feeling pretty chuffed with myself.
After a madras, two nan breads and a bottle of red I can feel guilty and horrified with myself for a week and punish myself with green tea, flax seeds and medjool dates, clutching my nutribullet and an avocado telling myself I must get back on the road to ‘losing the baby weight‘ or ‘getting back my pre baby figure’ to finally being ‘happy‘. Because once I get to a certain size – I’ll be happy right?
The other day I found a skirt I used to wear that was a size 18 (I do not recall buying size 18s but I must have – and I didn’t feel unhappy because of this). After the birth of my first son I was tiny and I didn’t feel happy because of this. I remember worrying in my summer dress that the world could see my willowy punctured stomach.
I spoke to a fellow mum a while ago who is a size 10. Size 10 – the dream! To me she resembles Cameron Diaz. She told me she was utterly miserable with her body. Her body! A body I would sell my children for (joke).
It broke my heart to hear she hates her body – I wanted to shake her (affectionately) and tell her how completely amazing she is and how much people admire the way she looks.
Funny how I can’t say the same to myself.
It struck me – just who am I dieting for? and at what point am I meant to be happy?
All around me there seems to be talk of mummy tummies, losing baby weight, getting ‘back’ this elusive pre baby figure that we once had. Why is this? Who are we doing this for?
What is so bad about not going back?
What is so terrible about being different now?
Our new mum bodies – why are we so friggin ashamed of them?
How many wasted hours do we spend hating things other people can’t even see?
When people meet me I very much doubt they come away and say “Oh Steph… I met her, yeah, she’s the one with the C section overhang!”
A month ago someone congratulated me on how good I looked. Now – you know the rules, you can’t just accept a compliment. So I started with “what? well – I’ve a long way to go! (to where!!??) and “I don’t feel like I look good!” (when will I?! when have I ever?!) and this lovely woman said “no, no, you look great, it’s hard after a baby!” and do you know – it dawned on me that it IS bloody hard after a baby, or two babies – it is HARD. And we SHOULD give ourselves credit. Not constantly put ourselves down.
So I’ve had it – I’m done with feeling guilty, feeling crap, sticking to ridiculous routines and desperately trying to move towards this number that’s automatically going to fix all my problems and give me the confidence of Beyonce.
I’m going to run – for the endorphins.
I’m going to eat healthy food because it makes me feel healthy.
I’m going to eat the cake because I want to and drink the wine because it’s there.
I’m going to get out in the fresh air and I’m going to enjoy my healthy, complete mummy body while I can and live my life with my wonderful children and I’m not going to give the skin I’m in so much control – control it frankly, just doesn’t deserve.
My husband asked what I was writing and I showed him the title. He said “you don’t have a ‘mum’ body” (what is a ‘mum’ body….) and then, and I quote: “you should be grateful you’re not dead.”
If you ever need weight issues dispersed – my husband is the guy for you!
I first met Franin Leeds when she worked at a well known make up brand’s brow bar. I braced myself for the lottery you get when you go for a wax and tint. I have been left in the past with lop sided brows, brows that resemble Noel Gallagher’s, a true Scouse brow – and worse than all of these; brows that looked exactly the same as they did when I went in.
Fran is the sort of person you meet and within two minutes you feel like you’ve known her for ten years and you get through your entire life story in the consultation. As well as her cracking personality I can whole heartedly swear that my eyebrows have never ever looked as fantastic as when she had got her hands on them.
I am naturally fair haired and have barely there eyebrows. If I have been in the sun they get bleached and basically disappear. I was also an over-plucker in my teens so my eyebrows have never been my strong point.
For the first time in my life people were complimenting me on my brows.
As a busy mumI don’t get much time to do my make (or my hair, or to wash) so having good eyebrows make all the difference. And when I say they make all the difference – I am not exaggerating. I think they frame your face and are the most important part of your make up routine.
I continued to go to Fran and only Fran for years. I made the mistake of going to an extremely expensive local salon on one occasion and had to go back to Fran the day afterwards to correct their mistakes.
I genuinely won’t trust anyone else with my eyebrows now. It’s just like when you find an amazing hairdresser and you won’t go anywhere else.
She did my eyebrows for my wedding a month ago – as well as my lip hair (well, my moustache – I’m not fooling anyone). She is also offering make overs.
Fran says about her background
“I qualified as a beautician four years ago and even in college I just seemed to have a knack for eyebrows. After a stint on cruise ships I found my home at one of the leading brow bar cosmetic company’s in the UK; a perfect job. I worked there for two and half years becoming a brow ambassador for the brand and training new “browticians”, and managers in all things eyebrow, and
“I think I have genuinely just found my niche.”
And about going it alone:
“I felt like I needed a challenge and I wanted to combine both eyebrows and make overs, besides, who wouldn’t love an opportunity at being their own boss? I genuinely love my job, it’s fills me with joy when I see the look on a customer’s face when I’ve finished their eyebrows or make up, smiling from ear to ear.”
And her philosophy:
“It’s not just ‘doing eyebrows’, it’s tailoring those eyebrows to each individual person, it’s listening to what that person wants to achieve.”
“It’s making sure that the customer knows what’s going to happen and isn’t scared or worried. It’s reassuring that customer and making them feel comfortable with me.”
“Eyebrows are a huge part of fashion and are so important and personal to every individual. To me, It’s not just a job it’s a passion.
If you are in the Yorkshire area I highly recommend Brows by Fran; to get your eyebrows on fleek and to make a new friend.
You can find Brows by Fran and all her details on Facebook! Hop on over and give her a ‘like’.
If you have a business in Yorkshire you would like me to reviewplease get in contact at email@example.com