Head for the high street, by all means, but be careful to avoid the pitfalls.
Katie Trotter: shopping traps
The high street has never been so popular – mostly to do with the good old Duchess of Cambridge of course – but still, it's a great time to buy on a budget.
When tackling the high street, start with the cost per wear equation. The price of an item does not, as most of us think, simply reflect its value, but the amount of use we get from it over the period of, say, a year. Stick to the 70/30 rule: 70 per cent of your wardrobe should be made up of classic pieces or investment buys and 30 per cent can be fashion forward - emotional purchases to some - those with a short lifespan will be your high street buys. July/August and late January/February are the best times to hit the shops for deals, so plan your shopping around those times.
But how do we know where to start? First, turn the garment inside out and have a good look, checking to make sure it is properly lined, and stay clear of synthetic fabrics with cheap finishings - they will only give you away. Gap is still the leader when it comes to merino wool or well-priced cashmere, and has a great range of quality white shirts. Design is not going to be a talking point but fit and quality will be. Although often overwhelming, Topshop and H&M are super for a few left of centre additions to a wardrobe, but go armed with a game plan. H&M has attracted super-designers Karl Lagerfeld, Viktor & Rolf and the likes, so do your research and find out when a new collaboration is arriving and be first to the door. To be offered the chance to buy high-end designer goods at high street prices is worth much more than you think. It is not often you will find such a quality at high street prices. Same goes for Topshop - avoid the main lines and head for the Boutique, where you will find collaborations with cutting-edge designers such as Christopher Kane, Emma Cook and Jonathan Saunders. By doing this you will be less likely to show up to an event in the same dress as six others.
Zara is a firm favourite for the over thirties and has the most wonderful leather, although their best bags are always on the upper levels of the display so remember to look up when scouring. They do the best chiffon shirts in the market which make a great pairing with a straight leg jean. Jackets are a little trickier as this is what separates quality design from the rest. Make sure buttons, zips and stitching are simple and well made and that the sleeve and waist ratio are correct for your body shape. You should be able to circle your arms easily to the side without any stain on the fabric.
But most importantly, in order to beat the high street we must exercise a strict and directional game plan. I am all for the big buys if we truly love them, not simply for the buzz of a bargain. Learn to spot the difference.
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