Last week Karen Dacre, the Evening Standard’s Fashion Editor asked me for some suggestions for my Christmas list for a guide she was compiling for the newspaper.  Most of the other contributors treated it as a fantasy list (Celine handbags & Miu Miu furs both featured), but both Charlotte Dellal, (of Charlotte Olympia), and I suggested more every day items, (Charlotte’s included a Kiehl’s Body Cream and a sub to World of Interiors).

This got me thinking, because on my birthday last week my friends all said that I was impossible to buy presents for, as my job covered pretty much everything. So I thought a timely list of things one could buy for tricky women might be a good idea. I’ve canvassed around my girlfriends, rich and poor, and these are some of the things we’ve come up with. Some are Very Expensive, some are not, but all, we think, would be very welcome this Christmas.

(And do let me know in the comments of anything that you would add to the list.)

Champagne or Very Good Wine
Not many of us spend decent money on everyday wine, so a bottle around (or above, even) the £25 mark is a lovely indulgence. If you can run to it, I always think being given two bottles of the same thing is pretty amazing. Champagne is always acceptable, ahem, and I bought Emily two bottles of Oudinot’s pink Champagne for Christmas. If your budget is extremely healthy, then an investment in a Cellar Plan or a case of something delicious from my favourite wine merchants Goedhuis & C0 would be wonderful.

Leather-bound Notebooks
So chic; all the most stylish women I know have bound plain paper A5 notebooks for everything from list making to sketching at the shows. Try Smythson, or I like this Navy Leather Ianthe notebook from Liberty £45.

Fountain Pens
Granted, not everyone writes with ink these days, but a spare fountain pen is always appreciated by those that do. I lust after most of the pens at, and prices range from £20 or so. (My Cross is still going strong; a fabulous pen.)

Or Goats. Or Chickens. Oxfam can provide them all for someone else who needs gifts far more than we do from £10…

A bunch from North London florists Scarlet & Violet, as I suggested in the Standard would indeed be splendid. (Miss P gave me two huge bunches of white roses for my birthday, and Katie Rose arranged for a delivery from Rebel Rebel in Hackney, which both gave me enormous pleasure.) If you are inclined to splash out, many florists do a one off payment that allows for a bunch a month to be delivered for a year. I also like sending boxes of 100 scented  sustainable Narcissi from the Isles of  Scilly via Tregothnan in Cornwall.  (I’ve just done so for my mother and two godmothers, to arrive on the 20th, so there is enough time for the blooms to open before Christmas. Available from  £29.99

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A Mason Pearson Hairbrush
Mason Pearson are the Rolls Royces of hairbrushes, and I can never quite bring myself to buy them for my own use. But they are by far and away the best out there. Even if someone already has one, an extra hairbrush always come in handy: one for the car’s glovebox, or  small handbag sized one  (£36)- or equally the extra large one for a dressing table (£80. Ouch.)

A Year’s Membership as a Friend at a Gallery or Museum
And allow the recipient fast track free entry to major exhibitions, as well as members’ previews and the ability to support our wonderful art institutions.
In London I’m looking forward to The Royal Academy‘s Manet: Portraying Life, which opens in January and The National Portrait Gallery’s Man Ray Portraits, which opens in February, the first major museum retrospective of the influential and innovative artist’s photographic portraits.

Tate membership is especially good because it gives unlimited free entry to all exhibitions at both Modern & Britain, and access to the brilliant Tate Modern members’ bar, with its views over the London skyline. (The new Tate Britain Members Room is due to open in 2013.)
(I bought my mother NPG membership with an added guest pass, so she could take my godmother to shows too.)

Because sooner or later you will drop one of a pair…my especial favourite are cashmere lined leather ones, which really do keep your hands snug in winter, (John Lewis £55) or silk lined very fine leather elbow gloves in black, brown or navy, for wearing with a coat with a 3/4 sleeve. (John Lewis £45).
These Dents Opera Gloves in black, brown or red are just the most beautiful thing. Not cheap but worth it: £125.
ASOS have lovely simple Johnstons of Elgin Black Cashmere Short Gloves in the sale already for just £16.50

A Make-up Lesson
Even at my advanced age, I’d love someone to go through my make up bag, ditch what doesn’t suit me and teach me the secrets of good eyeshadow application. And I know I’m not the only one, because just look at the popularity of Lisa Eldridge or Pixi Woo’s YouTube tutorials…MAC do 30 60 or 90 minute tutorials, (90mins is £50), and the cost is fully redeemable against product. (Do check out Selfridges MAC on 3 studio, which is specifically for make up application.)

Signature Make-up
I wear MACs Neon Orange or Morange lipstick every day, and I am forever losing them. A little box with one or two new lipsticks in my colour would be amazing…(£14 each) (Or sneak a peak in your friend’s makeup bag and replace some of her knackered looking essentials.)

I always love receiving books. This winter I’d like Grace Coddington’s Memoir, a pile of detective novels, and lots of Persephone books. (My favourite imprint.)

Really Good Olive Oil
I love being given good oil, because it’s an expensive kitchen luxury that makes everything taste better. Actually that goes for any cold-pressed oil. I was once given a set of  metal bottles of French cold pressed Hazelnut, Walnut and Almond oils, which are all wonderful. If giving a big can of lovely oil, like the Enlanthy ones I wrote about here, why not buy a china or metal olive oil pourer for decanting too?

No one seems to give flower vases as presents these days, but we all need somewhere to put those heavenly Scarlet & Violet bunches, right? Dartington Crystal, the absolutely plain ones are my favourites (from £37). But Jasper Conran at Debenhams do some great ones too (from a bargainous £12). If you want cut crystal, then John Rocha for Waterford is the obvious choice.

A Wildflower Meadow
Membership of The Grasslands Trust £36  comes with both the seeds and advice you need to grow your own wildflower meadow. Strictly for country-dwellers only.

Or for the urbanite, adopt on their behalf a Somerset Wildflower Meadow for £100…

As for those SJ Phillips diamond earrings?…Well, a girl can dream…

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Wow, these are my dream present list. I shall send this post to my husband.


This is an excellent list, thank you! Any chance of one for men that are difficult to buy for?

Helena xx


Oooh I may have to treat myself to the MAC make-up lesson, sounds exactly like what I need. Somehow my creativity and confidence within fashion has never translated to this area of my life. I want to achieve a more polished look with my make-up so hopefully this is a good start.


I love your list. I’d be pleased by all these gifts myself.


Grace’s book is amazing – I am knee deep in it already and a 5* ready for any girl! May I also suggest – Carine Roitfeld, Irreverent as well.

Luxury Candles also are often an indulgence one loves to receive!


That’s a great present list, love the idea of giving goats & sheep to people who need them…it’s almost more enjoyable to give rather than receive.

You asked for other suggestions…I have asked for a professional “colour” consultation to determine which colours I should be wearing? I have a vague idea of what suits but still end up wearing too much black. A recommendation from a friend has pointed me in the right direction to some ladies in London.


I have just bought my mother-in-law a Mason Pearson hairbrush for Christmas. I almost wept at the price but she swears blind, they are the ultimate brush and last for years and years. So perhaps next year, one will be on my list too!


Some great ideas here. I like the idea of gallery/museum membership.

As CB suggested luxury scented candles are a fab gift idea too.


Gorgeous gift ideas! I just noticed that Persephone have a subscription where you can gift a book a month for a year, choosing from a long list for each month’s book. Lovely, enduring gift for a book worm Mother methinks who will also appreciate their beautiful book covers! Thanks as always for inspiring posts 🙂


Notebooks and books are great gifts, the frustrating thing about books is often I receive copies that I already have and it is difficult getting an exchange. I love to bake so I’m always pleased when someone gifts me anything baking related X

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