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I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit predictable when it comes to the shops I buy my clothes from. For a long time, budget was the biggest issue, so a lot of stuff came from H&M, Primark, Dorothy Perkins, New Look or from eBay. This year, I’ve tried to buy less and invest more, though Peacocks have featured highly thanks to that amazing Pearl Lowe collection. I’ve bought a lot more from small boutiques, online shops and retro retailers, but I’m still a slave to the UK high street. Here are the places I’m most excited about at the moment…
Forever 21 is always one of my first stops if I’m in the USA (that makes it sound like I’m over there all the time – I’m not!) but now they’re shipping to the UK, I don’t have to fork out for a plane ticket every time I want a new long-sleeved jersey top (they make the best ones). The collection has a lot in common with UK stores like ASOS and Boohoo, with a bit of Urban Outfitters thrown in for good measure. But what sets them apart are the extra collections. I like Love 21 (contemporary classics) and Heritage 1981, but the real find is Faith 21, the plus size range. The prices are so cheap that even with the shipping and potential customs charges, shopping here could work our cheaper than buying similar things in Blighty. Not to mention the fact shops are coming to Birmingham and Dublin very soon. Score!
Zara is a shop that’s not without faults. Badly finished clothing (buttons falling off and hems dropping down are a frequent issue) and ridiculously tiny sizing (you’re lucky to find a 14 in some stores) are the main ones. But this year, I’m completely bowled over, thanks to the amazing photography on the newly launched transactional website. H&M take note, this is how to style your online photographs. The look they’re is a little bit Alexa Chung and a little bit Grey Gardens – think Peter Pan collars and slouchy shapes teamed with tweed skirts and chunky knitwear. Throw in some brilliant animal print pieces and surprisingly sophisticated leather and it’s Autumn all sewn up. I love the Louis Vuitton and Prada inspiration in the skirts, and I might even be sold on some of the tapered trousers!
Whistles embodies the pared-down style of dressing that I never thought I could ‘do’ being curvy. I used to love my bi-annual trips to the press showroom to see the new collections, but I never thought the pieces would look any good on me. But now I realise that’s a load of rubbish. Forgetting for a second that they only go up to a size 16 and you’ll need to remortgage to afford more than a couple of frocks, these pieces are actually immensely flattering – all those soft draped fabrics, the beautiful tailoring and the slouchy feel of the whole winter collection is made for a less-than-perfect body. Now where’s that credit card?
I’m really getting into European stores at the moment (see Zara, above, and my H&M obsession). Vero Moda is the latest brand to cross over to the UK with a brand new flagship store on London’s Oxford Street. If you’re on Twitter, you can’t have missed the fuss surrounding the elusive set of ‘gold bags’ that allowed folks a free outfit on the opening day (or the silver ‘buy one get one free’ runner up prizes). Now the initial hysteria’s died down, what remains is a good value fashion store with some relaxed takes on key trends and some absolutely amazing leather pieces. If I had the guts to try leather shorts, this is where I’d head.