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How to look fabulous in 15 minutes - Metamorphosing yourself from plain old mum to the glamorous woman you want to be by Briony Jenkins

Whether you're out on the town or entertaining at home, you may feel it's nigh on impossible to glam up before the taxi arrives or guests are banging on the door. Follow these top tips and you'll look as though you've spent hours rather than minutes making yourself look gorgeous and feel fabulous all night long.

The Good Old Days

In the years before children, I would regularly spend hours getting ready for a night out. Now, I am lucky to spend minutes. The first time I went out after having my first baby was memorable because I got ready in such a hurry (and complete muddle) that I actually forgot to look in the mirror before I left the house. Fortunately, I had remembered to get dressed and put on matching shoes, although as they had high heels and I'd been wearing flats throughout my pregnancy, I tottered about like a tipsy teenager. In the ensuing years, I have evolved a routine that allows me to settle the kids plus ensure that I feel fabulous when I do get out. It's a piece of cake. Sort of!

Preparation and Planning

The biggest secret to looking good in record time is to prepare beforehand. As Contented Mums who already have good routines in place, you should find this is actually possible as you can work it in around your daily schedule. Another reason to thank Gina!

  • Work out what you want to wear - and try it on. Make sure you include undies, accessories and shoes too or it's a dead cert they'll be in the laundry or hidden gathering dust at the back of the wardrobe.
  • Have a back-up outfit. Little ones make a career out of dribbling, spitting or smearing toothpaste all over your clothes. Often just before you walk out the door.
  • Shower in the morning and make sure you shave or epilate any emergency bits that might be on show. There's nothing worse than deciding you want to wear a skirt then realising your legs have fur! If you're a girl who waxes, book it in beforehand or keep a razor or depilatory cream for emergencies.
  • Wash your hair in your morning shower so it's clean, and leave the styling till later.
  • Check out your eyebrows. A little light plucking opens up eyes - but do it in the morning so you don't look like you've highlighted your eyes in pink.
  • Don't forget your fingernails - or toenails in open shoes. Painting nails can be tricky with kids so make time for it for when they have a nap. If they've grown out of daytime sleeps, be naughty and bribe them with their favourite DVD. I'd still recommend a polish that dries in 60 seconds though!
  • One of my friends swears by the body and face lotions that lightly colour your skin with regular use. Substitute your normal body or face cream with one of these and you won't be pasty white when you go out.
  • Don't invite other kids over to play if you are going out that night. The children will be over excited and you'll have more to do so leaving you less time to prepare.
  • Do take the kids out in the afternoon. A rip to the park or a soft play area will exhaust little ones so when bedtime comes, they are tired and you're less likely to have problems getting them to sleep.
  • Negotiate with your partner to get himself ready first. Then he can complete the bedtime routine - allowing you extra time for yourself.
  • Prepare any notes for the babysitter, including mobile or restaurant numbers.
  • Don't forget your handbag! Most women carry the kitchen sink in their bags, but on a night out, you may prefer a smaller version. Sorting the contents beforehand saves at least 5 minutes and means you won't forget something important like your door key!

Make-up

Less is often more, so having a good beauty routine and knowing what works for you is the key here.

  • If you don't have the time or desire to apply foundation and powder, slick on an illuminating lotion. Alternatively, try a foundation that dries to a powder finish.
  • Cream eye shadows are back in fashion and are so easy to use. Ranges like Bourjois or Ruby & Millie are inexpensive. You can either stick to neutrals or be daring and go for colour. A great way to update your image and takes no time at all.
  • Don't forget mascara - Maybelline ones consistently come out on top of the recommended lists and are good value.
  • Invest in one of the lip glosses that colour, shine and even plump up your pout. They have brush or wand applicators, look fabulous and take literally seconds to apply.

Fashion

Style is about reflecting your personality and personal preferences rather than following fashion. Don't buy something simply because it's 'in'. Experiment and try on different styles but bear in mind 'if in doubt, leave it out' - when something is right, you'll know.

Invest in a few wardrobe staples to see you through a variety of occasions:

  • Wrap-over dress. Flattering on most women, they can be dressed up or down depending on how you accessorise and the shoes or boots you wear.
  • Jeans are such an integral part of our wardrobes these days, it's worth investing in a 'going out' pair you love and can glam up with a great top, high heels and accessories. If you don't want to pay designer prices, find a brand and a style you like, try them on for fit and sizing in a store, then see if you can get a pair for half the price on e-bay!
  • Accessories are an economical way of glamorizing an outfit as well as bringing it up to date.
  • Black trousers are always handy, especially if, like me, you have 'fat' days when whatever you put on feels wrong. Whether you prefer fitted or loose, find a pair you feel fabulous in and you can't go wrong.

Mail order is a great way to shop as you can try clothes on at home when the kids are in bed then send back anything you don't want. It also means you can see what you already have and mix and match.

Hair

If our crowning glory is anything less than perfect, it can really ruin a night! Not that anyone else will necessarily notice, but 'bad hair days' (or nights) can have a really negative psychological effect on how we feel.

Finding a hairdresser who will talk to you not just about style and cut, but about finding a style which is low maintenance and won't make you look like a scarecrow if you can't rock up for a trim and a root job every 6 weeks, is essential.

  • Products don't need to be expensive, you just need to find ones which work for you.
  • Washing your hair in the morning, then styling it just before you go out, will save time. Leave-in spray conditioner will ease frizz and damp hair to re-style. Use ceramic straighteners on dry hair for amazing results. Curls can be tamed with serum or created in hot rollers/bendy curlers while you're getting ready.
  • Bad hair day and no time? Slick it back in a smooth, low ponytail or learn to French plait - it's much easier than it looks and always gets lots of compliments. Bandanas and headscarfs are trendy and work with a casual look. Pretty clips, even in short hair, detract attention and look glam.

Confidence Tricks

  • Always have a few outfits you can fall back on in times of crisis - whether it's because you're pressed for time or simply lacking the feel-good factor.
  • Perfume will lift the spirit and always adds glamour.
  • High heels add the wow factor, as does a new lipstick or striking piece of jewellery. They also detract nicely from any other areas you'd rather not draw attention to!

The best thing you can do though is to put a big smile on your face. Everyone is beautiful when they look happy.


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