To get the most from your high street buys, trust quality and creativity.
Spot a real deal on the high street
As consumers on the fashion merry-go-round, we often find it difficult to know what to invest in and what to scrimp on. We hear it from every side - "this season's key item", the "staple" or the "investment buy" - and no one, of course, wants to miss out. Yet by getting caught up in the whole razzle-dazzle we often forget to address the real issue at hand: quality. You see, style should have absolutely nothing to do with branding and everything to do with craftsmanship.
What most of us simply lack is confidence, which is why we often head straight for high-end purchases. Designer wear will often do the hard work for us; it's the easy option.
So how do we break the cycle? Firstly, know that there really are such things as investment buys, things we absolutely can't scrimp on - pieces such as leather, denim, a day-to-day handbag or work shoes. But by spending big on these items, we can easily cut back on everything else.
Secondly, learn to think creatively. Our biggest and most dangerous temptation is to try to emulate the catwalk, either on the high street or with designer knockoffs. Why? Because while these items may look like quality from afar, on closer inspection they will only give you away. Buckles will never be quite right, the fabric will always be a little off, and the finishings will only make it appear the less attractive younger sibling. Stick to items that look like they have been inspired by the catwalk, not those that are direct copies.
Your first port of call should be to experiment with layering. At its most basic it will add a feel of quality; at its most complex it will be your most clever tool. Mix things up a bit to keep the enemy confused - try putting things together in a way that you wouldn't normally, like wearing a jacket with cropped sleeves over a long-sleeved blouse, or a short-sleeved blouse under a cropped jumper.
The problem with most budget purchases is that they often miss out on the details, so it's your job to add them. Try putting vintage buttons on a plain dress, or a lace collar on a simple blouse.
Look carefully at those whose style you admire. What are they doing that you aren't?
Lastly, don't be afraid of making mistakes. Styling is everything - and by no means an innate knowledge to most - but do your homework and you will find that thinking outside your comfort zone can be much more fun than you thought.
This week's highs and lows
TOP FORM The Paris-based brand Akris is changing our opinion of hooded tops with this woven number.
TOMMY MEETS IDOL We know no good can come out of a collaboration between Tommy Hilfiger and American Idol for their clothing range launch.
MAG REIGN The ex-editor of Vogue Paris, Carine Roitfeld, recently announced the launch of her own biannual magazine. Excited? Us? Just a little.
LONG AND LEAN Clutch bags should be boxy, oversized or envelope style.
HAIR MUSINGS The model Arizona Muse can do no wrong. Her cropped hair (seen here in Stella McCartney's Autumn/Winter 2012-2013 show) just made her our new girl crush.