I know the feeling all too well. You know exactly what you need to buy: a top to go with your favourite jeans, a substantial coat to beat the cold, or a dress to wear to that event, but you just don't know where to find it. Usually what follows is hours of endless googling searching for "the one," but even if you are lucky to find it, how do you know it will fit? Or whether the quality is reflective of the price tag? Well, that means schlepping to the shops of course, and if popping to the high street on your lunch hour won't cut it (and please, do not mention the weekend queues), I have an easy solution.
I spent some time thinking about the wardrobe staples that you wear the most, be it a pair of flattering jeans, an everyday bag or a classic coat, and asked Who What Wear editors where they always go for these essentials. The brands on this list make the tried-and-tested pieces that we've worn ourselves and genuinely get our approval as picky shoppers, so know that you're in good hands. Oh, and the best part? The answers are all high-street favourites, so you needn't worry about having to fork out three figures for a plain white T-shirt. These are the buys that are worth even more than their affordable price tag suggests. So keep scrolling for nine of the best high-street brands that Who What Wear editors truly rate and to shop their key pieces.
1. BEST ON THE HIGH STREET FOR TROUSERS: H&M
Given that affiliate editor Emily Dawes is an expert at shopping for petite trousers, you might think that high-street options would be limited for different leg lengths. Not so, says H&M. From its best-selling wide-leg tailored trousers to its denim offering (but more on jeans later), H&M has mastered a flattering fit for all sizes, and finding good tailoring under £30 is nothing short of miraculous.
2. BEST ON THE HIGH STREET FOR ACCESSORIES: COS
Only a social media specialist could have the kind of trend-spotting eye that would lead to unearthing an otherwise-hidden gem. A case in point: the COS crossbody bag. Now seen on everyone from influencers to editors, this sleek bag has sold out more times than we can count, but it was Joy's quick find that led to us regularly scouring the COS new-in section to see what else we can get our hands on. If you're looking for premium accessories at a reasonable price (and with the viral It factor), look no further than COS's bags and shoes.
3. BEST ON THE HIGH STREET FOR COATS: MANGO
Remember the cream coat that Sienna Miller, Alexa Chung, Gigi Hadid and Katie Holmes all loved? Or perhaps the shearling jacket so good it came with a waiting list? Both coats were from high-street hero Mango, and with such a strong endorsement, it won't surprise you to find Mango coats are also a huge hit with our editors. From Ally Payer's faith trench to the recently landed leather bomber, there's a lot to love about these high-quality, low-fuss pieces. Even if your next outfit is a simple T-shirt and jeans, add a Mango coat into the mix and hey presto, instant polish.
4. BEST ON THE HIGH STREET FOR LEATHER: ZARA
You needn't go through hell for leather, especially not when the high street has all of the real, faux and vegan leather options you need (not that anyone will be able to tell the difference). Maxine's top tip for for leather? Zara. From glossy trenches to trousers that fit, Zara is steadily becoming the Who What Wear go-to for leather trousers, biker jackets, and trend-led bags and shoes that could have walked straight off the runway.
5. BEST ON THE HIGH STREET FOR TAILORING: MARKS AND SPENCER
Where do we begin? We already love M&S shoes, bags, and basics, and according to managing editor Poppy Nash, it stands to rights that its tailoring would be on point too. Not only is its size range one of the best on the high street (most pieces are size 6 to 24 and come in petite, regular and tall), but it's also one of the best places to get the versatile separates that every good capsule wardrobe needs. Head to M&S this spring for the oversized shirts, wide-leg trousers and boxy blazers that fashion people are wearing on repeat, and prepare for plenty of "You got that where?"
6. BEST ON THE HIGH STREET FOR KNITWEAR: WHISTLES
Looking for contemporary knitwear that's as cool as it is comfy? According to Maxine, you'll find it at Whistles. M&S might have great cashmere, and COS might have great neutrals, but Whistles has the perfect mix of fashionable and functional pieces that you'll want to wear all year round. Between the responsibly sourced cotton and wool to the cute designs, you won't have to settle for simple crew-necks again. (Although, there are plenty of those too.)
7. BEST ON THE HIGH STREET FOR DRESSES: & OTHER STORIES
If I could wear dresses all day everyday, I happily would, but being a dress devotee means I'm particularly choosy about where I find them. I find midi and maxi lengths the most flattering, and while some brands have a tendency to design with a 7-foot woman in mind, & Other Stories have always gotten its fit and hem lengths right—but it's the sheer variety of styles on offer that makes it my favourite. Alongside ditsy floral tea dresses and tweed minis you'll find eveningwear, incredible collabs and sculptural silhouettes that wouldn't look out of place at fashion week. In other words, there really is something for everyone. Every few months, I'll pop in and see if I can spot the "key" dress of that season, and right now it's a toss-up between this zesty orange maxi or the impossibly chic hook-detail dress.
8. BEST ON THE HIGH STREET FOR OCCASION DRESSES: GHOST
Ghost is one of the worst-kept secrets among team Who What Wear, and it could likely be down to Editor in Chief Hannah Almassi. As it doesn't have the bricks-and-mortar presence of some of the others on this list, it might not be your first thought when shopping for something special, but it undoubtedly deserves a spot in your closet. As Hannah is WWW's dress columnist, you can trust that any dress with her approval is one worth investing in, and you'll find plenty of Ghost in her expertly curated wardrobe. "So flattering, so comfy, so many exciting colours and prints to choose from… The heavier weight and bias cut of Ghost dresses has everyone on the team here hooked," she says. And trust us, you will be too.
9. BEST ON THE HIGH STREET FOR JEANS: TOPSHOP
Ask any millennial, and they could likely tell you whether they were a Joni, Hayden or Leigh, such was the power of a pair of Topshop jeans. Although they've made the move over to ASOS, many of the original styles have stayed, and now we have the added benefit of plenty of new styles, from the skinny flared Kourt to the bang-on-trend Dad jean. According to Florrie, you can't beat the classic Joni in a true blue wash, but with over 700 pairs of Topshop jeans available on the site, you're guaranteed to find a shape, colour and style that fits you like a glove.