What to buy in the end-of-season designer sales always poses a dilemma but this year is even more confusing than usual.
This could be the year to avoid the designer sales
What to buy in the end-of-season designer sales always poses a dilemma. This year just got even more confusing.
In the past, these twice-yearly affairs consisted of a few justifiable purchases, such as those crazy, one-off pieces you felt compelled to buy - the quirky catwalk experiments that failed to catch on in real life but which are unique and a bit of fun - or the "of-the-minute" items you have craved for months but so far avoided, either because of the price or because you own far too many already. That'll be shoes, if you are anything like me.
Then, of course, there's the "dull stuff". You know, items from A-list branded goods such as Gucci or Burberry, labels that normally induce heart palpitations but, for some reason, when it comes to the sale look as though they might as well hail from Marks & Spencer.
For the first time in living memory I find myself advising everyone not to invest in "classics" because, alarmingly, there seem to be so many of them around. Could this have something to do with it being a season where the very dull has been welcomed back into the fold like some sort of long-lost action hero?
We may not be able to make the usual mistakes because of the absence of nasty colours among the seasonal beige, camel and grey, not to mention the preponderance of tasteful prints (haven't they been lovely?). But don't go thinking we shall make any better purchases of what appear to be wardrobe staples. Rather than the consumer's friend, these are wolves in sheep's clothing, at best requiring the body of a (size zero) Hollywood actress and the looks of a supermodel to pull off with any aplomb.
So I feel it's time to stamp on a few trusted fashion-sale adages in order to prevent a spending splurge that could prove disastrous to everyone other than the brave or gorgeous.
Can you ever own enough crisp white cotton shirts or sensible pumps? Yes, especially when it only takes one to make you look like a fat schoolgirl. Shirts and blouses can be hard to pull off and work best if you are willowy and can rock that androgynous French vibe.
You can't go wrong with an immaculately cut camel coat, I hear you say? Oh yes you can, if it's not made of a fabric that can pass through the eye of a needle. If it's not cashmere or something equally luxurious the effect can be that you appear to be wearing a "slanket" (the blanket-with-sleeves beloved of the television sloth).
Shortly after the autumn/winter 2010/11 shows I was tipped off by an eminent mass-market industry insider that most high street chains would be ignoring the Celine-look, with its clean-cut trousers and cut-away-from-the-body tunics.
This had nothing to do with fierce copyright laws (which have never stopped them before) nor the fact it was tricky to emulate the luxury and workmanship required for this look. It was more a case of classic clothes making no economic fashion sense whatever. Leopard-print, not camel, has been a soaraway success in chain stores because it's glamorous both to wear and to look at.
How on earth did we ever survive without owning a camel coat, high-waisted flares, a funnel-necked, caped, shroud-like jacket, a felty dress or shapeless skirt, a skinny waist-cinching belt or a clutch bag that fails to carry anything besides a credit card? Well, until their appearances on the catwalk we were doing just fine without these so-called hits of the season and what's more we shall continue to do so.
Camel (the colour) is tricky. Some American blondes can make it work and on certain olive skins it's divine, but ask yourself: if it's so amazing, how come it wasn't welcomed (accompanied by a fanfare) into our wardrobes and has ended up so spectacularly on the sale scrapheap (which it has)?
Do I dare buy something that stands out because it's different? Many designers jump the gun and put trends out a season too early. If you can find wafting maxis, digi-floral prints, suede and anything 1970s-inspired, snap it up. Be a trend-setter not follower. Think Lady Gaga, not Jackie O.
There's an important difference to note here: modern classics - a leather jacket, say - have the same effect as a pretty face, in that they will never go out of fashion. In contrast if you see a lot of a certain style or colour - such as flesh tones or hairy knits - back off. During sale time, too much of a good thing - even white shirts - can be very bad indeed.