Why Petra Wolsey believes in pushing the boundaries

Petra helps to run a major hospitality business including the award-winning Merchant Hotel alongside husband Bill
Petra helps to run a major hospitality business including the award-winning Merchant Hotel alongside husband Bill

Business woman Petra Wolsey, 43, who works in Belfast and lives in Holywood with husband Bill and their young daughter Caoilinn, is group marketing director for the Beannchor Group which includes the five-star Merchant Hotel, and is a self-confessed major motorcycle junkie.

Petra took on our My Look question and answer series...

Iris Apfel

Iris Apfel

How would you describe your personal style?

Tailored yet whimsical, with a love of attention to detail and quirky accessories to add personality.

How often do go shopping?

I am “feast or famine” woman. I tend to go for months without buying much but will then capitalise on a holiday or business trip to seek out interesting non-run-of-the-mill shopping opportunities.

Business woman Petra Wolsey, 43, who works in Belfast and lives in Holywood with husband Bill and their six-year-old daughter Caoilinn, is group marketing director for the Beannchor Group and a self-confessed major motorcycle junkie

Business woman Petra Wolsey, 43, who works in Belfast and lives in Holywood with husband Bill and their six-year-old daughter Caoilinn, is group marketing director for the Beannchor Group and a self-confessed major motorcycle junkie

Where do you tend to buy your clothes?

When I shop locally, I really love our local independent retailers – both those that stock designer/ready to wear collections and also local designers creating their own pieces. I am a very satisfied customer of Peel and Please Don’t Tell; and for unique and bespoke pieces Ruedi Maguire, Grainne Maher, Patricia Grogan and Chloe Dougan. The ever-talented Una Rodden made my wedding dress.

That said, I love Cos and have also picked up a couple of Zara gems too. I’m far too short for their trousers and jeans but love their shoes, boots and tops.

Two spendy but much-loved designers are Rick Owens and Vivienne Westwood. I have a few greatly cherished pieces by both designers.

How long do you spend on average getting ready?

The weekday mornings are conducted at a gallop. I can do blurry-eyed to showered and out-the-door in 30 minutes. My own “getting ready” process is generally punctuated with shrill edicts to my daughter to please “GET WASHED/DRESSED/SHOES ON” etc. I make life easier by leaving her school uniform and my work ensemble out the night before. If I am going out for the evening I try to leave a decadent amount of “getting ready” time in a genuine endeavour to be on time. I am not the most efficient time keeper for social occasions and I have a husband who loathes being late. My daughter likes to do her own “dress up” make-up as I do mine. I give her (almost) full access to my make-up collection on these occasions and that makes for a very happy little bunny.

What does your beauty routine consist of?  

I wish I had the self-discipline or patience for the trusty cleanse and tone routine. I tend to rely on a decent quality foaming cleaner and a dedicated eye make-up remover. I do however go for the eye cream, serum and moisturiser combo – if I don’t my skin feels as tight as a drum despite its seemingly combination appearance. 

How often do you buy new beauty products?

I buy new beauty products as I run out of the last lot. I’m not particularly loyal to any brand. If a new and fabulous-sounding product hits the shops or is recommended to me I will likely give it a go. I am more loyal to my favourite cosmetic products. I tend to buy new make up with more frequency than is really necessary. I am a sucker for plums, rich purples (never mauves) and coppery browns – anything to bring out the green in my hazel coloured eyes.

Would you ever leave the house completely makeup-free?

I have done, and no doubt will do again. I think its freeing to not have to put on any make up; as much as it can be a lot of fun and a great confidence booster to put make up on.

How would you describe your approach to fashion and beauty?

Quixotic! On the beauty front, sometimes I have great intentions to have a more rigorous beauty routine and I manage to keep that up for a while; and sometimes I am a total beauty slob: face wipes the morning after the night before! Most of the time I trot along in a happy middle ground.

As for fashion, I don’t think I’ve ever been a dedicated follower of fashion. Some of the styles I have seen come and go over the years in high/high street fashion have left me bemused and sure and certain they were not for me. I am much more of a mode to think that fashion is fleeting but a fabulous sense of one’s own style is perennial. I think it’s a good thing that the journey to find your own style is part of the adventure of getting older. Hopefully you’ve gotten to know yourself over the years – what works, what doesn’t. Undoubtedly a selection of dear friends will also have found a kind way to veto certain unfortunate sartorial choices too.

What is one beauty item you cannot live without? 

There is one thing that I have splurged on that definitely makes life easier: Tattooed eyebrows! I love them! The first few days are horrifying in a “Scouse-brow” kind of way (clear your diaries!), but after that, they are a joy. A darling friend often jokes about her own relationship with her eyebrows and the mixed results that can ensue from this daily artwork project. In her words “One eyebrow is away to the shops and the other one is coming back with the change”.  Happily, I can avoid that daily trauma these days.

Do you have a style icon? 

I have three! Iris Apfel, Esther Quek and Sonya Glyn.

If you had to give one piece of fashion or beauty advice you swear by, what would it be?

Have fun with your personal style! I think everyone’s default position tends to be “blend in” – especially in our lovely but conservative wee country.

Sometimes I put a hat on to complete my outfit (I love hats!), and immediately feel self-conscious. I have to remind myself “To hell with it! I am a 43-year-old woman and it’s only a hat”. 

So my advice? Wear the hat. Shimmy in the beaded skirt. Buy the eye-wateringly expensive, impossible to walk in heels. If it brings you joy, pushes your boundaries, forces you to be a little more self-confident, it is money well spent.