Catherine Summers is an award-winning, groundbreaking British blogger (and photographer) at Not Dressed As Lamb and co founder of The Over 40 Collective, who proves age-appropriate dressing is a thing of the past (literally).
A style icon for the over 40s (and frankly anyone interested in fashion-that’s the point-her blog is a must-read for fashionistas everywhere. She dresses-and writes-like a dream.
I collaborated with Catherine for a bareMinerals film a few years ago and found a sisterly friend in her.
It is with great pleasure that I share her work and life on my blog today.
Describe a typical day for you?
As a full-time blogger I work from home, so my days are either spent at home in my office working on the blog or out working on campaigns with brands or attending events. A typical “at home” day consists of (after walking the dog, having breakfast and making myself look half presentable) me basically getting my head down and writing blog posts, editing photos, writing and replying to emails (I swear I spend 50% of my time doing that), posting to social media and replying to comments.
I’m also on WhatsApp most of the day talking to my colleagues (who are also close friends) in the Over40Collective, a group of professional over 40/over 50 bloggers. Our conversation is probably only about 10% business – we’ll discuss every topic you could possibly think of – but we talk about our blogs and our work in the same way any colleagues in a company do.
As I’m a personal style blogger I also have to shoot outfits whenever my husband (who is also my “official” photographer) is available, which is usually weekends or evenings in the summer after he finishes work. There’s a blurry line between working and non-working days for me – the completely non-working days (meaning no blogging at all) are few and far between. But I enjoy it all so it rarely feels like work work.
In the evenings I have to break from work and exercise as well as walk the dog again, but then I do go back and squeeze in more blogging work before bed. However if it’s a working away from home day then there’s no “typical” day – I’m usually up in London or another city, so there’s train travelling, staying in hotels, photo shoots, guest talks, meetings or events… It’s so varied and I meet so many different, interesting people – but that’s what I love about this job.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
There are lots, but this year I won at the UK Blog Awards after three years of entering: I’m so proud to be the 2017 Individual Fashion & Beauty Winner. This is, without a doubt, the proudest I’ve ever been of my achievements with regards to the blog. It was also a great step forward for the over 40 blogging community because fashion and beauty is generally seen as an industry geared towards younger women, and to have a 40-something win in this category will hopefully show other midlife women that we CAN achieve great things.
Aside from winning an award I’m very proud to have contributed to the blogging community in a way that encourages women to be themselves and wear whatever they want – I started the hugely successful #iwillwearwhatilike hashtag and I fiercely oppose the notion of “age appropriate” dressing. Receiving emails and positive feedback on social media and my blog from women who have told me they’ve been encouraged to dress to please themselves as a result of reading my blog makes me just as proud as winning any award.
What’s in your handbag?
That’s actually quite a frightening question…! The essentials that I always have are (deep breath): Wallet, iPhone, charger, keys, business cards, makeup bag (including at least three lip balms), hand cream, paracetamol, reusable shopping bag, camera and extra lens (I bought a small Olympus Pen especially for carrying around in my bag and attending blogging events), bottle of water, some sort of snack like an apple or mini pack of nuts. At any other given time I’ll have many other things, like minimum three pairs of gloves in the winter or sunscreen in the summer. I tend to be the person who always has anything that someone needs like a nail file, pair of scissors or superglue.
What are your ambitions in life?
I don’t think I’ll ever stop being a dreamer – I have so many things I want to do in life and an endless bucket list. Every time I tick something off I’ll add something else. In terms of travel ambitions I want to visit Iceland for the Northern Lights, Italy for Tuscany and Rome and go on an African safari (I’m utterly obsessed with giraffes), to name a few. However my main ambitions are really very simple: To make the blog and my brand and business the very best it can be – I’m of course ambitious in terms of earning money but really I simply want to earn enough to be able to move to the area I really want to be in – the South East. I’m London born and Berkshire bred, and having married a Londoner we’d love to be able to afford to go and live back in the area and nearer London again – we’re both townies at heart and we miss it.
What have been some of the stand-out life lessons you’ve experienced so far?
So many, where do I start? I’ve learnt the hard way in all sorts of areas of my life. I married too young after a very brief relationship, but through circumstances it led me to meet my second (wonderful) husband. I got myself into terrible debt in my twenties but now I’m an expert at managing my finances and money saving (almost too good, in fact). I’ve learnt that, after having given up a well-paid and stable job in my 40s you CAN make a leap into the unknown, pursue your dream job and (just about!) survive: It’s true that it’s never too late to make big changes in your life. Thats’ despite having lost a huge amount of money in the last year or so I’d earned as a freelance blogger through companies going into liquidation or being dishonest, but even from those bad things good things have happened as a direct result and things are looking (and moving) up for me as far as my career goes. Overall I’ve learnt that in time something good always eventually comes out of something bad.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Hopefully living back in the South East! We’re well aware we’re going the “wrong” way financially going from the South West to the South East, but that’s why I’m so determined to make a bigger success of the blog. I have lots of ideas for businesses too – I think I’ve just recently realised there’s a frustrated entrepreneur inside me and I need to do something about all these ideas I have (all connected with blogging – I can honestly say that it has quite literally changed my life).
What advice would you give a budding blogger/ digital influencer?
Work hard – really, REALLY hard – and always be true to yourself. Don’t think you need to copy others: individuality is KEY in blogging. “Comparison is the thief of joy” and “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle, or your middle to someone else’s end” are two perfect quotes that all influencers should live and work by!
Also, don’t start a blog or channel thinking that being an influencer is all freebies, drinking cocktails and flying around the world. If you expect success to fall in your lap you’ll be sorely disappointed. Be professional, work hard and support your fellow blogger – good karma spreads like wildfire. Don’t be known for being selfish and only out for yourself – it needn’t (and shouldn’t) be a dog-eat-dog industry. Community and mutual support is everything. I’ve got my fellow bloggers to thank for so many opportunities that have come my way, and I hope I’ve passed on a fair few back to them in my time.
Finally, happiness is…
My same definition as success. If you’re doing something well and it brings you happiness, then that’s success in my eyes. To me happiness is waking up every morning and being really excited about what you’re going to be doing that day, whether it’s work or leisure. I’ve lived a life where I’ve woken up every day feeling sick because of a job or a relationship I hated, so to wake up every day feeling the opposite is the most wonderful feeling in the world. Aside from that (and on a more specific note), I couldn’t be happier spending the day with my husband and dog with nothing to do except enjoy the day in a relaxing way, and then ending up with all three of us sitting on the sofa watching a box set and eating snacks. Pure bliss!