Fashion snobbery has been a part of British culture for aeons. Heck, wearing your CÚline-esque copy from H&M gets you more kudos than wearing the real thing. Appearing on trend is not so much to do with branding as it is with individuality. In contrast, the US catwalk has two aims: to make you appear rich and thin. No Oscar de la Renta is complete without a bejewelled trim, no Carolina Herrera without the extra ruffle. But lately there has been a seismic shift - all helped by the success of European high-street retailers such as H&M, Zara and Topshop. Similarly, diffusion lines such as Marc by Marc Jacobs continue to flourish, proving to the rest of us that there really is a middle ground.
The thing is, you have to be rather tenacious to succeed in the high street. It involves surfing through a lot of rubbish before hitting the jackpot. Most of us lack confidence when it comes to buying, which is exactly why we head straight for the Dh5,000 designer price tag. We like to feel safe knowing we are getting both quality and that all-important nod of approval from the fashion set.
What shows real nous is knowing the inside tips - that Topshop is best for dresses, that H&M is where to go for cottons, or that Zara is best for wool and leather.
This kind of knowledge is by no means innate - you have to do your research when it comes to saving money on your annual wardrobe budget.
First - and by far the most savvy tip - is to buy out of season; shorts and bikinis in January, and coats and jumpers in July. The markdown will be around 50 per cent and you are far more likely to get quality for your cash. Buy outfits, not items, and plan your collection.
That amazing neon yellow shirt you fell in love with is utterly pointless if it can't be paired with other pieces in your wardrobe. When buying on the high street stick to natural fabrics only. Anything with a sniff of nylon will give you away - you can't go wrong with cottons, linens or leathers. Be careful with silk or anything with a drape. Hold it up on the hanger and watch how it falls - if it moves with ease and is soft to the touch it is good; anything stiff indicates a cheap imitation. The other thing to check is that there are no loose threads, that all the buttons are there, that the lining is fine and that all the zips work. The problem with high street retailers is that they often skimp on those details.
And lastly, well, make sure to accessorise cleverly - albeit with designer or vintage jewellery, bags or belts. The shrewd shopper likes nothing more than to mix things up a bit to keep the enemy confused.