Thrifty Shades of Grey
Now, I am a girl who loves quantity. And here in lies the problem. I spent years working at Harrods advising people to invest in one or two quality pieces that they will have for years, season after season and never date. Did I take my own advice? No. Do I have a capsule wardrobe of mix and match pieces that will see me through day/ night and any occasion. No. Do I believe in quality over quantity? Not when it comes to clothes. I could dish out really great advice but for me, the thought of having a limited choice in my wardrobe scares the living daylights out of me. I need options. Lots of options. To suit my mood. Some days I’m a tomboy, some days I’m girly, some days I’m so bloated I don’t want to wear anything other than leggings. My multi-personality does not really work with the capsule collection.
Unfortunately, I do not have an endless budget to feed this inner consumer monster. To reach this level of choice, I need to be thrifty. I’ve become savvy when it comes to shopping. Doing the polar opposite of what I used to suggest.
One of my main tips is to shop out of season. And here, actually, my advice does come in to play a bit. If you shop out of season, shopping in winter for summer, you need to be selective and buy things that aren’t “of the moment” and will be fine to put away for next year. I love this time of year as there are so many end of season sales and I buy summer dresses, that won’t date, for half the price and pull them out next year. It’s also a great tip because as soon as the sun comes out you’ve got things ready to go. No dash to the shops when the weather forecast is showing a row of little suns. And you aren’t wearing the current season pieces like every other person- you’ll be wearing them next year and they will seem unique again. I’m buying winter knits and boots in May and bikinis in October. Thinking ahead saves me money, time and gives me double the options if I’ve bought it at half the price.
Secondly, maybe obviously, I love charity shops. One, because I can buy lots and two because I can find totally unusual things. You have to think outside the box when it comes to charity shop shopping. Outside your size range. I’ve bought size 18 shirts to wear oversized, slightly too big dresses and altered them. I’ve bought stuff I’ve had before that I’d long given away to charity (maybe it’s the same one). I love old stuff. Stuff with a story, stuff that didn’t just come from the high street (although obviously I have lots of that too). This is when quality really comes in to play and one of the only times I look for brands. You have to be a dedicated charity shop shopper to make it work. You have to go at every available opportunity, daily, weekly. People always say to me “You always find bargains and great buys- how?” Basically because I am ALWAYS shopping. It’s basic maths, I’ve upped the chances of finding these things by going all the time, law of averages. Who knew maths came into shopping? I go plenty of times and find nothing, but I’m dedicated to the quest.
Thirdly, supermarkets are standing out to me as not just a place to buy your milk. Some of my best buys have come from the trolley. The designs, the quality, the price, are all reasons to make sure you have a snoop around the aisles. These places are where you should buy those current pieces. They won’t cost the earth but they will update a charity shop piece or a last season piece and make it seem more fashionable. For example, there is currently a trend for those sock boots. I am not going to invest in a pair of sock boots because I KNOW next year I will not wear/ want them. If I can find a decent pair for £20 in George, F&F or Tu then happy days. They will update those charity shop midi dresses and make them seem more current, without breaking the bank.
Social media, social media, social media. I use Instagram for my main source of inspiration (sorry fashion magazines). But, I use it as that… inspiration. Again, sorry to the advertising big wigs, but I don’t go out and buy the outfits I screenshot. I use them for an idea. A style. And then I find it in a charity shop. I screenshot a midi dress, boots and leather jacket and then go and buy one that probably belonged to Mildred in the 80s. But I style it as I saw on social media with the leather jacket and the boots and BAM. Look achieved for £5 with the help of Mildred’s hand me downs.
My fifth tip, would be to think about cost per wear. I was actually taught this at Harrods as a sales technique and it really works. I used to say to the men and women I shopped for- “Yes this coat is £1500, but if you wear it 150 times over the next 5 years- and you WILL wear it 150 times because it will never date- it’s actually only cost you £10 per wear. So it’s a STEAL” I use this philosophy when shopping to this day. I will not spend £100+ quid on a dress for a wedding that I will probably never wear again. I will spend £100+ on a dress that I can wear to that wedding, but then again with boots or trainers or with a jumper over. My clothes need to work for me (Sales speak) but they really do. I will wear a summer dress with a jumper over to prolong its use. I will think about how many ways/ times I can wear something before I buy it. Is it really worth it? Mistakes, I’ve made a few, big ones too but I’m finally getting the idea of spending a little more if it’s going to get its use. And by little more I don’t mean £1500. I mean £80 instead of £30 on a dress.
And finally, it goes without saying, I am a primark advocate. For the reasons mentioned above. They can provide you with the current look without the price. To me, the place gets better and better and is always my destination shop. “I’ll just check Primark first” (How many of you have said that?)
Now, my Ex- Harrods bosses are probably sweating and crying about the amount of money they invested in me and training courses to teach me how to shop. But what can I say? This is the girl who sold her designer handbags for her deposit for her first flat. I think my Dad taught me well. Save in the right places, and spend where it counts. Do I feel guilty for being a monster consumer and a slave to the fast fashion? No. Because I give back with the charity shopping and I pass the old clothes on to my local shops. It’s the fashion circle of life.