Sunday, 7 December 2008


In the middle of a crowded sample sale, I remembered a question I was asked for a fashion course interview:
“If we gave you £500, would you buy many pieces on the high street or pick a single designer must-have?”
I remember claiming that I would buy a few pieces on the high street and one really great pair of shoes. In reality my shopping sensibility is far more complicated.

A fully fledged bargain hunter, I thrive in warm, busy environments like TK Maxx and (I know it’s bad but I can’t help it) Primark. I find comfort nestled between rails and with my nose in boxes. Those places suck me in like you wouldn’t believe, spitting me (and my war-torn credit card) back out. Flabbergasted friends and relatives cannot fathom how I entertain myself for literally hours in places like this. I’m simply addicted to variety and spend a great deal of time and wonga on things I know I don’t need (this is why my bedroom resembles a shop). I do love shopping though and vague promises of stopping are all lies. I cannot stop. I am not ‘sick of excess’ (a mighty claim I remember making just the other day-again, all lies) I suppose the answer I should have given to that loaded question would have been: “couldn’t you just give me £1000 so I could buy more?”

Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate the superior craftsmanship and fabrics of high-end pieces (they let me on to that course after the interview and I studied fashion design) and I know how painstaking the design process can be. I own some designer things but these are invariably bargains, trophies of spending days trawling through unlikely places. My quilted Chanel handbag was salvaged from a car boot sale in deepest Belgium. A cornflower blue Roland Mouret top was saved after a happy hour in Browns sale shop on South Molton Street. As far as shoes go, the most designer it gets is KG-all the others are either vintage or from Dorothy Perkins (which I love), New Look (which I adore for party shoes) and Primark (words cannot describe). I watch people in wonder as they happily spend triple-digits on things. How do they handle the guilt?! I should probably get off my high horse because, in reality, my bi-monthly high street pilgrimages/splurges probably mean that I spend a great deal more than them in the long run.

The idea of spending a lot of cash on one thing fills me with worry and pre-empted guilt. This horror is what I experienced last Friday at the Burberry sample sale. The last trench coat I owned was a Primark original (I told you, hopelessly addicted) and it served me well. It had all the necessary components: belt, epaulettes etc. but something was missing, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on at the time. As I stood in the middle of that showroom, wearing the real thing, I realised how simple the problem was: the Primark trench was not a Burberry trench. Not only did the Burberry one fit me, it fitted me perfectly and made me look thin to boot. It has real leather fixtures in place of Primark’s plastic ones. This trench was just plain superior in every way so what was stopping me from beating people out the way to the make-shift cashier desk? This trench cost £150. Triple figures. The guilt had firmly set in. Concerned people tentatively approached as I stood in front of various mirrors. A very sweet (and stylish) lady made some very helpful points as I stood shaking:

1. The trench would last ten years (at least).
2. It was a classic piece.
3. It would never go out of style.
4. She said I looked nice in it.
5. She agreed that it made me look thinner.
6. She said I was thin anyway though.

Three phone calls (made in front of the mirror) to three sensible friends and another couple of pubic consultations later and the trench was mine. I was damp with sweat and brimming with self-deprecation but it was mine. I am glad I got the trench-it used to cost around £500. Bargain. Next up, Christian Louboutin stilettos in the January sales: unstoppable.


Anonymous said...

A Chanel Handbag only sold $89 !!

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Christina Sanders said...

I am so jealous you have a burberry trench. It is the thing I want most in the world!


Helen-LG said...

I know that triple-digit panic well! I think a well fitting coat is definitely one of those items that worth it though so good for you fighting off the fear/guilt to buy it.

Oh also, next time you're heading to a Belguim car boot sale gimme a shout - Never knew such wonders were to be had there!