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The festive season: chic or country?

Blogger Emily Johnston of Fashion Foie Gras and designer Tabitha Webb are fashion-loving friends who don’t always see eye to eye. With one a London lover and the other a rural convert, how do they each indulge as we head into the festive season – and does city or country do it better?

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Emily

For US-born, London-based blogger Emily Johnston the capital city is captivating at Christmas; a whirl of cashmere, mulled wine and twinkling lights. There’s a reason people travel from all over the world to London for the holidays. From November until January this city comes alive with holiday magic. The street lights on Oxford Street twinkle as the pavements overflow with shoppers and roasting chestnuts scent the air from Trafalgar Square to Hampstead Heath.

The holidays, for me, are a mix of fashionable heavy knits, large mugs of piping hot drinks and indulging in everything the city has to offer. I usually kick off the seasonal period as soon as the lights in the West End are turned on, when it seems acceptable to start playing Frank Sinatra Christmas mixes and requesting eggnog lattes.

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Of course it’s not the holidays without indulging in a few cheeky wardrobe updates. My obsession for this season is a chunky rollneck. I like it oversized and preferably cashmere. Think Olivia Palermo here, folks. Uniqlo is killing it on the high street with a cashmere-blend turtleneck that has me dashing through the store grabbing one in every colour. At £39.90, why wouldn’t you?

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To really get myself in the holiday spirit, I book a tour of Dennis Severs’s House, an early 18th-century pile in Spitalfields that is transformed every festive season into a traditional English Christmas celebration. From there, it’s on to one of London’s many ice rinks. While I’m no Nancy Kerrigan, I have been known to do a twirl or two on the ice at Somerset House. At the end of the day, just hand me a warm cup of mulled wine, pass me a Pret Christmas sandwich and plop me in front of Trafalgar Square’s Christmas tree. Oh holidays in the city, I do love thee!

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Tabitha

For British designer Tabitha Webb, there’s nothing more welcoming at the end of a crisp winter walk than a cosy pub, hot toddy and roaring open fire I dream all summer of the arrival of the winter in the countryside. Not the grey, mild, drizzly winter, but the cold, sharp, beautiful winter. The one where being warm means cashmere scarves from Madeleine Thompson and this season’s cornflower-blue coat from Carven. Well, good news. It’s here. And that means it’s time to dump salads for roasts, forget Bake Off and embrace Strictly and lose the rosé for the red. Hooray!

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As you might have guessed, while I might look a bit city, I’m a country girl at heart. Give me a long walk with a pub and a fire at the end and I’m happy. But not, of course, at the expense of style.
So the first priority has to be a pair of flat boots, the kind that will prevent you falling flat on your face in a puddle after a few hot toddies. I am heading to Sorel for my boots.

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As for colour, Christmas isn’t far off, so it’s time for red. M&S has a gorgeous pleated notch-neck blouse in bright red, or if you feel braver, Vanessa Bruno’s skinny trousers in red from Asos are divine (take style inspiration from Victoria Beckham).

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Next, let those new boots take you walking to a country Christmas fair. Winchester’s beautiful event opens on 18 November and the Daylesford, Gloucestershire one starts on 7 November. You may need to look elsewhere, however, for another seasonal must-have, a pair of very expensive, very retro Saint Laurent metallic leather roller skates. Not quite the thing for a country walk, I accept, but they will come in handy in an awful lot of other situations.

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