Today is a huge day for me. As a writer it has been one of my biggest dreams to one day write a book and I’m seriously having a pinch-me moment today. The secret’s out: I’ve written a kids’ book!
Sophia the Show Pony is a tale inspired by my beloved childhood pony Gypsy, and also by my daughters, Sophia and Grace. It’s about a show pony who is the chicest horse in town but also has dreams of becoming a racehorse. I wanted to write a story that had a great lesson in following your passion no matter what anyone says and finding your place in the world, and also embracing your individuality. It’s essentially all the lessons I want to impart to my girls encompassed in a children’s book.
Being a kids’ book, the illustrations were ultra important to me and given it was a story also inspired by fashion, I really wanted to work with a fashion illustrator. So, I was thrilled to be able to work with Sally Spratt who is the artistic wizard behind The Lust List. Her watercolour style and her expertise in drawing high fashion was the perfect aesthetic for my little show pony, Sophia. I couldn’t love the illustrations more.
Story time is such a critical part of our household and I am so excited about the prospect of my book becoming a part families’ bedtime reading rituals. What a great privilege and honour. I hope you all love Sophia’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Sophia the Show Pony is out on March 29. You can pre-order copies of the book here!
With a growing movement towards approaching fashion in a more conscious way, never has it been more important to build a functional, versatile wardrobe. Ensuring women have the building blocks to create myriad looks that they feel confident in is something Kristin Todd, a stylist for over 10 years, has worked hard to do in her personal styling sessions and workshops.
Now Kristin has penned Style Sessions: Perfecting the Art of Dressing, a book that aims to change the way women dress by arming them with the knowledge and advice to help them feel great in what they wear, and also to make the sometimes intimidating world of fashion a whole lot more accessible. Here she shares her valuable advice on the key items every woman should have in her closet, to the secrets of being stylish and why we shouldn’t be a slave to trends.
What are the key pieces every woman should have in her wardrobe?
Every women, no matter her taste, should have a CORE wardrobe—her “perfect fit in every category”. It is the backbone of a wardrobe. Some people like to call these the classics or the basics.
These pieces are:
The colours to look out for when building your Core Wardrobe are neutral, black or white. They should be without detail, print or pattern. They have no real identity or genre in their appearance, so that they can take on any identity. Once you have a Core wardrobe in place, you will always be able to create an outfit. Add in your Taste pieces after the Core has been established.
What’s the secret to good style?
The secret to good style is marching to the beat of your own drum! Allowing your individual flavour shine through brightly. Knowing what works for you as an individual is important, every woman has very different boxes to tick. Tick your boxes in the way your outfit fits you, and represents your taste. Understanding what are your best parts and using your outfit to bring them to the surface…now that is style.
What’s the key to a functional, wearable wardrobe?
You may have a hundred pair of stiletto heels sitting neatly on your shoe shelves, but if you are a PE teacher, those investments are really just ornaments!
The key to a functional wardrobe is equipping yourself with items you need for what you are doing with your time. Before you head out to the shops, break your life into categories. The biggest category should represent the largest part of your wardrobe. If it doesn’t you need more items in that category to fill those gaps. There is no need to fill your wardrobe with cocktail dresses if lounge bars aren’t a part of your weekly lifestyle. Take the time to think about your lifestyle needs, then stock up on your needs first, before your wants.
I also find it helpful to invest in items that can do a lot for your wardrobe, like jeans, they are trans-seasonal, can move from casual to smart casual, hardwearing, day and night, comfortable, practical and the cut I wear, makes me feel comfortable and stylish. They tick a lot of boxes in my lifestyle.
What are the common mistakes you often see women making when it comes to fashion?
Many women are so focussed on trend they may lose sight of whether or not that particular trend is working for them. Style and trend are two different things. A stylish women knows what works for her, and builds her wardrobe based on careful selection. A women who is focussed on trend will wear an outfit just to fit into a trend, regardless of how the trend may take shape on her shape. I see this mistake a lot, especially with teenagers.
What’s something you wish more women would do when it comes to styling themselves?
I often see looks that are almost there! I say, if you’re going to go for it with a look, then really go for it!
Putting together a look is a head to toe concept. All the pieces of the puzzle come together to make a picture or to communicate a single message. Consider how your nails, lip colour, hairstyle and your accessories fit into your look…not just the clothing items. Complete your whole look ladies!
For women who feel a little intimidated by fashion, how can they become more comfortable with it and make it a part of their lives?
Every women needs to get dressed every day. Dressing is a necessary part of life. Instead of looking at dressing as “fashion”, use dressing as vessel to promote your personal wellbeing, if you feel good about the way you present yourself, you’ll set a positive tone for the day ahead. Don’t get caught up in fashion and trend. Wearing things you love will immediately get your good endorphins going. Focus on dressing in colours you love, prints and patterns that make you feel good. The garment shapes in those colours, prints and patterns will need to be right for your body, but the market has never been bigger or more accessible, you will be able to find your best fits in your favourite fabrics, enjoy hunting for them.
I also find it is helpful to align yourself with a few boutiques, brands or labels who get you! They get your size, your style, and your lifestyle. Every brand comes with its unique attributes, and your best brands/labels will be your first go-to when you are looking for a new outfit. This will save you from wandering aimlessly from shop to shop. Good stores also have the right accessories for their collections, the complete look is already done for you to save the thinking.
What are some things you think women need to retire from their wardrobes?
I am hesitant to advise the removal of a single fashion item from the wardrobe, as fashion moves so quickly, I may end up eating my words and that item may be happening again very soon. There are always a handful of women, who can absolutely use their creativity in ways which can make even the most hideous statements appear attractive. With that in mind, I won’t comment on a single item.
I do have some tips for clothing removal on a broader scale which I like to stick to…
The bane of my existence is pilling! If you garment begins to pill and it cannot be saved, it requires a quick exit from the wardrobe. That garment is done! To counteract the pilling, always invest in the best quality you can afford and care for your items properly.
Aside from the pilling garments treat your wardrobe as valuable real estate! Anything that is not relevent for the style that represents you best right now, is clutter, and a cluttered creative space won’t allow you to reach your outfitting potential. Take out the items which are no longer relevant! It’s not necessary to completely part with those items, they may be required again one day, just keep them away from your wardrobe for now.
What are your tips for dealing with an “I have nothing to wear” moment?
Get the Core wardrobe sorted, with the CORE in place, you’ll always be able to make at least three outfits with any ‘taste’ item you bring into your creative space.
What’s the most rewarding thing about being a stylist?
Without hesitation, it’s helping women enjoy the reflection they see in the mirror. It’s not important for women to change who or what they are to be stylish. What is important is to find a style that fits who or what they are perfectly.
Instead of focussing on the things you don’t have, draw your attention to the things that are truly great about you and help those parts along with a great outfit that celebrates all of your best parts. Clothes cover, that’s what they do; cut and detail will showcase. Dress in outfits that are working for you not against you.
What are some fashion rules you live by?
Goodness, there are a few..
Quality over quantity.
Invest in the real.
Belts, sunglasses and bags are important!
Good style is being an individual.
You only get a single opportunity to make a first impression. Make it a good one.
If you could only wear one outfit forever, what would it entail?
Relaxed tailoring head to toe, drawn in at the waist with a belt!
I love the casual/elegant look! Comfortable yet chic ticks my boxes, for my body, my lifestyle and my taste.
I first met journalist now author, Elle Halliwell when we worked together at The Sunday Telegraph. Given her writing talents it was no surprise to hear that Elle was releasing her own book, A Mother’s Choice. The inspiring story centres on Elle’s diagnosis with cancer in 2016 and not long after finding out she was pregnant with her first child. It was then that she had to make the impossible choice of having life-saving cancer treatment straight away or keeping her unborn baby. I recently caught up with Elle in Sydney to chat about how she feels sharing her story, dealing with motherhood and her illness and why she doesn’t really plan too far into the future anymore.
Congratulations on your book! Tell me the inspiration behind it.
In 2016, I was diagnosed with leukaemia. Chronic myeloid leukaemia. And then two days later, I found out that I was pregnant after taking a pregnancy test at home that I had lying around. That put me in a very rare group of people when I had to decide whether to keep my baby and delay the life-saving treatment that had come onto the market only about a decade before or terminate my child and take the drugs straight away.
Me and my husband had been wanting a baby and we were planning to start trying. So for us it was a bit of a miracle that we’d fallen pregnant because we weren’t trying. For it to come at such a terrible time was quite heartbreaking. And it took a lot of time and angst trying to decide what we were going to do. But in the end, I felt that if he could survive in a body that had cancer then I had to give the baby the benefit of the doubt and continue with the pregnancy for as long as I could.
And you know, he was a strong little baby. He beat the odds, and I guess I beat the odds as well. And we both came out of it well. A few months after I had him and was just settling into motherhood, I was approached and they asked me if I’d be willing to share my story with Australia and I said sure.
It was actually really cathartic for me to revisit all of those moments and relive them. Because I think when you’re in that moment, it can be quite emotional and you often can’t look at it from a different perspective. I’m really excited to now be able to share it with everybody.
What was it like when you had to make that choice of what to do?
Oh, it was so hard.
What went through your mind?
Is this going to kill me? Will this be the last chance I have to ever have a baby? You know, how is my family going to react when I told them that I’m going to try and keep the baby. That was a tough one.
How did they react?
Everyone was so supportive, which was great. But they were all a bit scared for me. They didn’t really know much about [the cancer] and I think the unknown was quite terrifying for everybody. But they respected mine and [my husband] Nick’s choices which I really appreciate. Having the support of family and work really made me feel confident with the choice that I made.
What motivated to keep you going through such a difficult time?
My baby. I thought, if he’s strong enough to stay there and fight, then I’m strong enough to fight for him. The more I grew, the more he grew and the longer the pregnancy went. It was like, the motherhood hormones kicked in and I just became a woman on a mission. It just became a lot easier to back up my decision.
I’m a completely different person. I don’t know whether that’s motherhood or also coming to terms with the cancer diagnosis. I think it’s a little bit of both. I think I’m a lot more sensitive than I was. But I’m also a lot stronger. I know myself more. I have stronger convictions, and I think that I’m more aligned with my values.
Was it hard to be so honest in your book?
Yes, it was like someone’s published my personal diary. I am really nervous about how people will respond to it. But I also feel proud of myself for pouring my heart out in these pages. And that’s just me in a nutshell. I think every one of my family members who has read the books says it’s me. It’s written very authentically. So I’m really proud of that.
How are you today?
I’ve reached a major molecular response, which is where the cancer levels are so low they’re nearly undetectable. So 0.0051. And that’s down from about I think 27 or 29 percent. So that’s kind of the percent of cancer cells that was in my body at any time. So that’s a real relief that the medication’s working.
Do you have to continue treatment?
Every three months I go to the doctor and I get tested. And every time I go I’m hopeful that I’m going to get [the result of] undetectable. And I haven’t yet. So that’s a bit disappointing. But I think this is my year where it’s going to be undetectable. And then once that happens then I can start to look forward to maybe trying to go off the drugs. That’s the plan.
Oh that’s amazing. You’re such an inspiration. I think this book is going to be such an inspiring story for everyone.
I hope so. I think it’s like, anyone who’s been a mum and has had cancer or even had someone who has cancer can relate to some of the feelings.
How do you juggle having a career and being a mum to a toddler?
It’s hard, as you know too well. And especially the days where I’m just so exhausted. The medication knocks me around a bit. But I’ve got great support. From family and friends and things like that. And I know my limits better now. If I’m overexerting myself I just have to stop. Those days where you just really start to feel like you can cope with it. You look at them or they do something that’s just so cute. They give you a hug or a kiss and it gives you this boost of energy and love and it makes it feel like everything is worth it.
You’ve had an amazing career on top of all of this, what has been your biggest career highlight?
I think it must be launching this book. It’s something that I never thought that I’d ever do. So that’s been really great. I mean, the circumstances around it aren’t ideal but I still feel it’s an achievement. Especially considering how I was feeling writing it. I think there’s so much more that I want to do. I I’m studying naturopathy and health coaching.
Tell me a bit about that.
Oh, I absolutely love it. It’s really tough, learning anatomy and physiology is just a whole new world for me. But it’s amazing. And I’m learning so much more about my own health, my own body. And I want to use that as a launch pad to make sure that me and my family are as healthy as possible. But also hopefully to be able to share what I’ve learnt with other women who are dealing with an illness or chronic illness and a new baby or dealing with motherhood and trying to balance that. And also maintain their own health and wellbeing.
Is that something that you want to focus more on, even though you’ve still got your career in journalism?
I’d love to be able to write a bit more about health and wellness. I’m going to hopefully use my writing and journalism skills but I just wanted to have a foundation of knowledge. And of course I love entertainment and fashion. It’s always going to be a big passion of mine. But this is a whole new world that’s opened up for me. Who knows if I can balance it all, if I can juggle it all, but you have to try, right?
What’s your number one styling tip? Especially for being a busy mum.
Having a great foundation wardrobe is key.
What’s in that foundation wardrobe?
It’s all very basic. I’ve pretty much got a uniform now. I’m a big fan of the uniform, and it’s generally a white or a blue shirt and black pants or black jeans. And the same colour t-shirts of grey, white and black. I really just interchange them all during the week. It just takes one more choice out of your day. So you don’t really have to think about it. Myy biggest mum hack is just having a really neutral wardrobe so that you can shop and change without walking out of the house and going oh my gosh, why am I wearing a green T-shirt with pink pants?!
What’s your key wardrobe essential?
A grey cashmere jumper.
What advice would you give if you met someone who was going down the same path as you were?
Accept help when it’s offered. That was one thing. I thought that I was invincible and that I didn’t need any help. But I did. And people are so willing to help you when you need it. So just say yes. Let people do your washing, you know, when you’re still in shock about being diagnosed. And let them make your dinner.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Five years’ time I see myself hopefully with another baby.
Is that on the horizon at all?
Maybe. If I can get down to undetectable that would be the dream…
It’s highly encouraged [to get down to undetectable] because the outcome of patients who stay on the medication longer have a better chance. So the longer I wait, the better. But you know, biological clock is also ticking, so we’ll have to figure it out. I might be able to try and go off them, and then have a baby and go back on them if my levels go up again. So it’s all very much a juggle. We’ll just have to take it as it comes.
But to be honest, I don’t look that far ahead anymore. I used to always think in 10 years’ time what am I going to be doing? And now I live very much week to week, month to month. And I think that’s what happens when all of a sudden your life can suddenly just go out of your hands. So I just feel a lot less in control of my destiny, and not in a bad way. But I’m just very much willing to just leave it in the hands of the universe.