Allow me to Introduce you to: Laura Jane Belle
I love to make new friends; as someone who is fairly shy and introverted, one of my favourite things in life is meeting somebody and discovering that I share a lot of the same values, beliefs and passions as them. You know that feeling when you see somebody for the first time and you just know that they are your kind of person? Well, that is exactly what happened when I saw Laura Jane at an event recently.
"There are no strangers here; only friends you haven't met yet" - William Butler Yeates
The event in question was held in a lovely lighting shop - Lumiere du Jour - in Tunbridge Wells and I spotted Laura the minute she walked in. She looked extremely glamorous, wonderfully eccentric and amazingly elegant; I watched her as she wafted through the room like a chic perfume in a gentle breeze. She was wearing a vintage ensemble, reminiscent of 1960s Audrey Hepburn glamour, accessorised with flowers, a veil and a beautiful wide-brimmed hat with black netting attached. I remember thinking, "Yes to her!".
I also remember that she gave me 'Olivia from Beetlejuice' vibes. I always loved Beetlejuice as a child; and I really loved Olivia. I wanted to be her, in all her gorgeously graceful gothic-ness! She was so pretty, in my opinion; and I loved her quirky style. In fact, I loved Winona Ryder full stop. Edward Scissorhands, Heathers, Dracula, Girl Interrupted... she always had the most intriguing role.
Unfortunately, Laura left the event before I had the opportunity to speak to her, but another lady in attendance told me I needed to get in contact with her because she believed we'd get on well. She told me that Laura had similar plans for her business as I do for mine and that we'd probably make a good team. She also told me that Laura was about to open her own vintage boutique, so I should probably ask her if she needed an interior designer.
As soon as I got home, I looked Laura up on Instagram and sent her a message, offering my services (she didn't need them!) and telling her that I heard she and I have similar ideas. Laura soon got back to me with a voice message and my goodness is this lady the epitome of feminine elegance! Very well spoken with a delicate tone and a hint of drama, I listened to Laura as she excitedly responded to my message with all the passion and enthusiasm I wish I had the confidence to display when I speak to others. Everything she said and the emotions in her voice felt as though they were plucked right out of my own, muddled mind! She said everything I want to say, but with the ability and ease to say it without having to think, or getting tongue-tied as she does.
After a few conversations online, Laura invited me to her launch party and we finally got to meet for the first time. She gave me a lovely, warm welcome and - just like before - was the image of sophistication.
So, who is Laura Jane and what does she do?
Laura Jane (A.K.A: Belle Lauralei) is the founder of Belle Empire; she is the owner of a brand new, vintage emporium of that very name, in Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells, as well as being a personal stylist and women's coach.
Laura started Belle Empire because of her infinite passion for "the beautiful, the glamorous and the joyful". Laura believes that the way we dress has a huge impact on the way we feel about ourselves and as a result of this belief, she has dedicated the last 10 years of her life to helping women release their inner style, so that they no longer feel the restraints and inhibitions of rules, trends or restrictions.
Originally trained as a dancer and stage performer, Laura decided to take her theatrical dreams in this direction following an ankle injury which made difficulty of her dancing career. She has a vast background in all things beauty related and has dipped her toes in many a metaphorical elegance pond, with experience in cosmetics, clothing design, modelling agencies and management roles - as well as having produced fashion shows, vintage shopping events, styling workshops and fashion history events. So, as you can see, she is more than well equipped to help change women's lives for the better!
Laura's strong belief that how we dress affects the way we feel inside means that her styling is created by getting to know the heart of each person as an individual. Laura aims to bridge the gap between who we are and who we want to be, because - as Laura states - we all deserve to look and feel wonderful, no matter what our age, shape, size, lifestyle or budget.
Laura's advice is that we shouldn't save any clothes for 'best', because every day we are alive should be our best day; we should dress for ourselves every day, so that we always feel beautiful, special and joyful, whether we have something to do or somewhere to go - or not! The sensual pleasures we get from 'dressing up' is what Laura's ethos is all about; nothing is too special for any of us and we all deserve any amount of beauty we can bring upon ourselves, every day we breathe! (And even beyond that, I imagine!).
I couldn't agree more!
I've always loved dressing up; I used to love the whole process of having a soak in the bath with a glass of wine, shaving my legs, using a sweet smelling scrub, applying a lotion with a tasty scent, applying my lipstick, painting my nails, choosing a pretty outfit and feeling the material against my skin. Then popping on my wig (no stressful hair dos here!), feeling my earrings tickling my neck, the cool metal of my necklace on my chest and the dream feeling of slipping a ring or two on my fingers; before elevating myself with a slender heel (clearly before the agony of wearing them kicks in!).
I say "used to" because it had been a long, long time since I felt I had a reason to dress up and feel attractive; about 7 years or so, in fact. In the years since those days, I've battled mental health, physical illness, massive weight gain and the grief of completely losing myself in the process. However, In the last year or two, I have rediscovered who I am and, in turn, I have also rediscovered the desire to love myself and to make myself feel beautiful. It feels so good to want to put the effort into myself again and is something I've truly missed.
And then along came Laura - and she immediately reminded me of the reason why doing this for ourselves is such an important part of our daily routine. We need to begin each day feeling good. During my darkest years, I made myself a message and placed it on the dresser beside my bed, so that every morning I would see it and, "begin each day with a positive thought". That little sign is still hanging in the bedroom today, to remind me on bad days that things will get better. They always do.
Laura is about to begin a salon on the art of sensual and erotic adornment. Her first salon will be on Friday 21st October 2022 and I can't wait to attend. Clothing and accessories are so sexy! I really have a thing for men in roll necks, corduroy - and velvet jackets; cravats and/or ties, smart shoes (with socks, men! Often, the funkier, the better!) - and lovely shirts. Anything smart. Whether he has hair or not, whether he's pale or tanned, muscular or slightly overweight - none of that matters if he is dressed well, confident and with an air of success. If he's tall and well-spoken with a nice voice, eyes and smile - and a gentle touch - then that's all the better! There are, of course, other qualities to consider, but these are what I look for, visually.
And this is why I always make an effort to look good, too. Not only for myself, but for those who spend time with me; and let's not forget, you never know who you're going to meet. Obviously we all make a little extra effort for somebody we're attracted to - and when I am in a relationship, I make a special effort every day to look and smell my best for my partner. I can only hope they will do the same for me; I think it's a huge compliment when somebody wants to look good for you - and equally, I feel it disappointing - insulting even - when a partner doesn't make that effort.
And so you can see, it is the purest form of self-love to want to look good for yourself!
Laura has always loved the possibilities for expression within clothing and accessories, especially the ability to create different personas by switching up your outfit. She has always been most passionate about vintage and historical attire - and the days when women fully embraced fashion and feminine adornment; just like me.
As a child, I found myself fascinated by the likes of Adam Ant; his beautiful face, elaborate clothing and captivating mannerisms had me glued to the TV every time the video for Stand & Deliver came on; even in my youngest years, the allure of femininity (especially in men) and his teasing expressions spoke to me of excitement and attraction.
As I grew up, I had a deep love for historical dress - especially the Tudor, Restoration and Georgian eras; I loved the elegant curves of a woman's waist and bosom in a corset, the dandy refinement of men in their wigs and white face powder - the beauty spots painted on the overly-rouged cheeks of men and women alike, with their exaggerated lip lines; and the masculine outline of men's legs in their heels and hose. I loved the flamboyantly waved handkerchieves they would carry beneath their massively frilly sleeves - the charm of the smock shirts beneath their doublets. The eccentrically decorated bouffant wigs, the outrageously wide skirts and the beauty of the jewels they would swathe themselves in.
As I reached my mid twenties, I learned a new appreciation for a wider period in history and my love of fashion and design extended towards the 1920s and mid-century eras; the beauty of sequinned dresses and flapper gowns captured my attention. Kimonos, turbans, head scarves and glittery beads - so glamorous and ladylike - became a staple in my own wardrobe, along with many bold earrings, finger rings and hair flowers. Dressing myself in the long and floaty garments and adorning my copper wigs with flora gave me a confidence I didn't otherwise have; it allowed me the sense of being beautiful, even when I felt ugly - and allowed me to wear a mask of elegance when I felt anything but.
Dressing for our own self-esteem is something we can all do - as Laura says - no matter who we are or how we (think we) look. Clothing, jewellery and cosmetics can make a huge difference to the way we see ourselves. And the way we see ourselves can make a huge difference to how we feel; but the opposite is also true - clothing, jewellery and cosmetics can make a huge difference to the way we feel. And the way we feel can make a huge difference to the way we see ourselves.
In short - clothing and accessories have a direct impact on our confidence. They lend us a temporary belief that we are beautiful, whilst the genuine belief grows within us; in time, helping us to see ourselves in a new, kinder light.
Think back to when we were children and the joy we used to feel, dressing up in our parent's clothing, or having a dress-up box to play with. The excitement we felt in school when the fancy dress box was brought out and we all got the opportunity to be someone we'd invented for a while - dressing up in frilly dresses, suits of armour, or floppy hats - draping ourselves in old net curtains and pretending to marry our friend, or covering ourselves in beads and fake pearls and acting like the Queen.
That sense of dressing to feel happy is within us from such a young age; the attraction for fancy clothing and beautiful accessories - and the need to escape from normal mundanity by choosing fabrics we love the feel of and finding comfort within them, is something we inherently feel will lift us to a more joyful, vivacious place.
It's such a shame that some of us grow out of that pleasure - or forget how wonderful it felt to be so free with exploration.
With the threat of an ever-endangered planet, sustainability has become important to so many of us - these last few years especially. The pandemic hit us all in ways we hadn't expected and those of us who weren't already sustainable, are now endeavouring to be just that.
Laura's focus is on the pre-loved; she likes to give old clothing a new lease of life, bringing it back to the forefront of fashion and encouraging her clients to shop ethically. Reworked items and vintage clothing are something Laura loves to discover; her little boutique is filled to the brim with previously owned clothing, jewellery and accessories, from many different eras - in all kinds of beautiful colours, materials and patterns. But she also supports local creators, makers and designers too - with a stunning little selection of hand-made items from people in the area.
I love a vintage item - whether it be fashion, or homeware. I love the wonder of its history, the possibility of its story, or the person who owned it before; the idea of what it might have seen, the events it has attended and the journey it has been through on its way into my hands. How many people have touched it before me? How many times has it seen true love, or heartache? How many people have looked at it and loved it as much as I do now? How many times did it makes someone else feel beautiful?
It's always so fascinating to shop sustainably.
Laura - the Women's Coach
Alongside Laura's wonderful work as a shop owner and stylist is her work as a women's coach, reiki healer and accredited sexual therapist (dream job!).
Laura specialises in improving the relationship between women and their femininity and sexuality, using techniques that inspire joyful and vibrant sensuality and encourage women to have the pride and confidence to express their unique, authentic selves; without shame and without hesitation.
Laura Jane Belle x Evelyn M Interiors
Whilst Laura's mission is to bring more pleasure and passion into the lives of women using her qualified methods of guidance and styling within the wardrobe, mine is to reignite the romance and passion in the relationships of couples, using my qualified methods of design and styling within the bedroom. I think you can already see why Laura and I have hit it off so quickly; with a shared passion for passion, an equal love of love and a matched lust for lust, we are clearly singing from the same hymn sheet!
Laura and I have some exciting plans ahead of us; collaborations between our businesses in numerous forms, which will see us come together in ways that will benefit others and satisfy our own needs to surround ourselves with sensuality and romance every day!
Whist our own businesses quench our daily thirst for fashion and interiors independently, our plans to work together are already fulfilling our desires for excitement - and the anticipation of what will come is keeping us both dancing in delight!
Our first collaboration is taking place in the near future, with a sensual-self, elegant photoshoot; I'm so excited to work with Laura on this little project and I'm hoping it will build a stronger bond between us, ahead of our later projects to come.
I'll be sure to share some images with you when I am able! Right now, I'm just excited to dress up in lots of beautiful clothing and accessories and I'm going to make sure I fully immerse myself in the glamorous atmosphere Laura is sure to create, when the time comes!
Today, Laura and I will be working on her erotic space in the cellar of her shop; a space I am sure will bring many more opportunities to Laura's door in the future as Belle Erotica grows.
Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming collaborations on our instagram pages and please give Laura's accounts a follow via the links below:
If you'd like to discover Laura's services, then make sure you look at her websites, Belle Empire and Belle Erotica for details of all the amazing packages she offers. If you're struggling to find yourself, or rediscover yourself; if you want to learn to love yourself, or if you simply want to explore yourself more, then do reach out to Laura for a chat. She's so welcoming and friendly, and you needn't feel apprehensive or afraid.
With kindness and compassion, we can help one another to do anything we desire.
Thank you so much for reading; as usual, I really appreciate your time and I'll see you very soon!
Lots of love!
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