...AND WHAT TO BUY THERE
Lately I've been thinking a lot about how to get the most out of my money. As you'll know I'm on a mission to rein in my spending habits, simplify my surroundings and generally just take a step away from that consumer-driven lifestyle.
But shopping is something I enjoy. And to me it will always be a necessity because I hate the idea of wearing something until it's worn out and then being stuck without a replacement when the time comes to get rid. For me, periodically injecting new pieces into my wardrobe is a far more viable option and hence presents the need to strike a balance and be smarter with my shopping.
And it's not just a case of buying things that are eye-wateringly expensive in a bid to get good quality. Because we all know that this isn't almost the case. I've got a Whistles t-shirt which is as bobbled as any and just doesn't hold up when compared to the quality, softness and lasting power of some of my cheaper alternatives.
I've given this list a lot of thought, so if you want to know where to go and what to look out for as a way of being wiser with your cash then this is the post for you.
best for: basic tees
Without a doubt I will always direct people I know to H&M to get their plain tees. I'm not talking about the cheap cheap ones, but those around the £7.99 mark. Never buy from offline because you just don't know which ones you're going to end up with; you need to go in store and feel for the best ones. Literally. Go to the t-shirt section and touch each one. You're looking for the super soft and smooth, slightly shiny ones. At the moment they're in a v-neck style but H&M tend to switch this up each season. They won't shrink (unless you accidentally tumble dry it like I just have...sob!), don't bobble and are the best I've found on the high street.
best for: jumpers, coats and handbags
Zara nails it when it comes to their fine knit jumpers and you'll never go wrong with one (or three!) of these in your wardrobe. A fine knit is much more flattering on me than a bulky jumper so will always be my style of choice. Zara brings out a range each year which costs around £12.99 and comes in a range of colours. I've had a couple which I wear regularly for over a year now - they've washed really well and show no sign of wear and tear.
Similarly, Zara is always first on my list to check for coats. They can run on the costly side (£100+) but they're always classic in styling and worth their money. Blazers are another thing they do well and some of these can be as thick as a "proper" coat but with a substantially lower price tag. I received this Balmain-inspired one (for under £50!) last Christmas and it's the perfect smart-casual piece.
Finally, mentioning Zara's range of handbags here was a no-brainer. There's pretty much something to suit all budgets and options vary from trend-led to classics...in fact, all of my high street bags are from here!
MARKS & SPENCER
best for: workwear
I think M&S is so overlooked and when I moved into a more corporate, office-based working environment earlier in the year it was one of the first places I looked. They run awesome sales intermittently throughout the year and you can get some really good quality pieces at a crazy low price. And because it's somewhere your nan typically shops the quality is on point. No shirts with embarrassing button-gapes here! My favourite one for when I'm running late for work (because it never needs ironing!) came from M&S and cost less than a tenner. And the majority of their trousers come in different leg lengths which is great if you've got dumpy legs like me! They do a really good trend-led range as well; I found some great, D-ring paperbag trousers in a gorgeous dusky pink there for only £15. And their bras are worth looking out for in the sale, too! For bras I'd say go in store, but anything else just look online for the sale. The Marks and Spencers sale section is a headache waiting to happen!
best for: shoes
I'm guilty of not really looking into Next until I started my new job, but I've found it to be one of the best shops for decent quality work shoes. I featured a pair of designer-inspired loafers in this post which I went on to purchase and wore a lot throughout summer. Again, classics is the key word here and while they can have some questionable pink glitzy sneakers, if you look out for simple shapes in neutral colours you can't really go wrong.
best for: petite range
Too often I find that shops only offer a small selection of their trouser range in shorter leg lengths. But not asos. They have a huge variety available for the petite among us and a lot of the time they're in the outlet/sale section for a really decent price. It's the same story for their jeans as well. Too often I can waste an evening trawling the depths of asos only to return half of what I've ordered, but I've rarely been disappointed with the cut and fit of their petite jeans and trousers.
best for: sterling silver and gold plated jewellery
Accessorize do some great Monica Vinader-esque gemstone jewellery and like M&S they also run some great sales that often go up to about 70% off. Their Z for Accessorize range is the one to look out for and I've also got a bumper pack of gold plated studs which I like to mix and match. I also head to Accessorize for simple sterling silver pieces that won't break the bank and if you're looking to get jewellery as a gift for someone I'd recommend looking here. Worth an honourable mention for sterling silver is also Essential....but I know it's not always the easiest shop to locate!
best for: cashmere
I don't tend to shop in Whistles too often but I have it on good authority that if you're going to buy cashmere then you need to get it here. I'm assured it doesn't shrink or stretch out of shape, stays soft and will last you across seasons. Cashmere's something I'm yet to invest in, but when I do it'll definitely be a Whistles piece.
best for: trousers and 'out out' shoes
To finish on the opposite end of the price spectrum, we're rounding off this list with New Look. My never-fail, never-iron work trousers are from here....for the bargain price of £12.99 and again, available in a range of leg lengths. I'd never really considered New Look for trousers but I doubt I'll go anywhere else when they need replacing.
And because sometimes situations dictate that you just need a new pair of 'out out' shoes (would finish off an outfit/blogger-enabled/fancy treating yourself....yadda yadda yadda, all predicaments that have happened to me), New Look is always the place I go. They're cheap enough that you don't feel guilty purchasing and their heels tend to be surprisingly fashion-forward. Ultimately this is a habit that harks back to my student days and doesn't really sit well with my new savy shopping ethos. But then again I think that spending less on lower quality shoes that you're only going to get drinks spilled on, pick up God knows what off of sticky dance floors and potentially only wear once is being smart with your money.
Are there any shops you think I've missed?
Are there any shops you think I've missed?