Welcome to The Great Try-On. With spring well and truly in the air, we seized the opportunity to try on some of the best new-in pieces from some of your favourite brands, documenting the process along the way. We believe that the best way to shop online is to see an item IRL and to read candid reviews, so we hope that this leads you to your most successful purchases of the year.
As a fashion editor here at Who What Wear UK, I get asked for recommendations a lot. Whether that’s which designer bag makes a truly timeless investment, which pair of trainers to buy for a partner (I got that one this week), or where to buy the perfect white shirt. My answers can, of course, vary depending on the request—but believe me when I tell you, when people ask me for more affordable buys,,99% of the time I recommend either Arket or COS. Not many other places manage to balance quality, style and affordability in the same way. So, when I was asked to head into both stores for this season’s Great Try-On, I wasn’t about to complain.
I personally have very classic taste, and I try to eschew passing trends for pieces that will last me for years, not just seasons. I find that COS, especially, caters to this kind of a wardrobe where longevity and capsule staples reign, without letting anything become too boring, which is key). We already know the tailoring (especially their wide-leg trousers) is designer-like, and their accessories (yep, that crossbody) are as coveted as the latest Bottega drop. But I was excited to head into store this week to try on the best of their transitional spring collection and really get to grips with which items I should be recommending to you this season.
Unsurprisingly the collection didn’t disappoint and I was particularly impressed with the denim offering, which in the past I might have brushed past in favour of Arket or & Other Stories. The quality was really amazing, with heavyweight denim cut into elevated shapes (from wide-leg jeans to smart shirts) that felt modern and classic at the same time. I also found a number of really versatile dresses that I could see hanging in my closet for years to come—from knitted styles to the ultimate shirt dress for all occasions. Unfortunately for my bank account I ended up coming home with quite a few buys, but I can honestly say I’m just grateful to COS for keeping me chic on a high street budget.
Scroll on to see and shop the seven best outfits I tried (and would recommend to anyone)...
1. Shirt + Wide-Leg Jeans
On any given day, there's probably an 80% chance you're going to find me dressed in some form of this outfit. Jeans or wide trousers, a white T-shirt and a shirt. It's become my uniform of late, mostly because it feels appropriate for so many different settings, and the open shirt streamlines everything to keep me feeling confident in my outfit no matter what I'm doing. Striped shirts, in particular, appear to be my kryptonite this year, and I'm finding myself choosing a neat pinstriped style like this over more colour-blocked versions that were popular last year. If you're after a shirt that does it all, and adds interest to a wardrobe of minimal basics (or a maximalist wardrobe full of prints), this is the best I've found on the high street in a long time. As for the jeans, I loved the wide-leg, and they didn't feel too relaxed as baggy styles often do, thanks to the tailored cut—a great, grown-up way to dip your toe into the Gen-Z-filled loose-jeans trend pool.
2. Trench Coat + Crossbody Bag
If you don't own a trench coat yet, what have you been wearing every spring and autumn?! I basically never take mine off after March 1st. But seriously—whatever your style, the benefits of a classic trench-coat just like this one really are endless. If you're after a polished look, be sure to opt for a more structured fabric like this COS style has; it will bring a tailored edge to even your slouchiest T-shirt and jeans or tracksuit look. And if you're starting a collection in your cloakroom of the very best trench coats (me? Nooo), don't sleep on this version (which fits true to size) that COS brings back year after year for a reason. Of course, I couldn't do a COS try-on without trying on the bag. I already own it in black but am seriously tempted to invest in this dark brown one for spring and summer—I certainly wear it enough to justify the purchase.
3. Shirt Dress + Shoulder Bag
I told you it was the perfect shirt dress! I'm not much of a dress person myself, but even I headed straight to the checkout with this versatile, flattering (if I do say so myself) style. I'm going to wear it now with knee high boots and loafers, and in summer with leather sandals. I just know it's one of those throw-on dresses that will come to my rescue on busy mornings when I feel uninspired looking at my closet. The waist tie is removable too so you can choose to cinch it in or wear loose for a more relaxed look. There's not much else to say apart from get it, or regret it.
4. Denim Shirt + Striped T-Shirt + Wide-Leg Trousers
I didn't know I needed a denim shirt until I tried this on. Sadly, it's been so insanely popular that it's sold out in most sizes online right now, but you can sign up for restock notifications and I'm sure there'll be more coming if COS know what's good for them. These trousers are a brand new addition for COS, riffing off the success of last year's slightly shorter cream wide-legs that you likely saw (know it or not) on 99% of Instagram influencers. This pair feel a little bit more directional, with a wide leg that was perhaps a little parachute-y for my short legs, but appreciated all the same. The fit and quality were great and I loved how easy they were to throw on in place of jeans in my go-to shirt/T-shirt/trousers combo. A moment for this leather belt, too, which pulls together any outfit and I would suggest as a very wise investment. This one in the photo is actually 'model's own'; it's something I recently ordered online from COS and haven't taken off since.
5. Knitted Dress
If you're a dress person whose go-to outfit is a stretchy, ultra-comfortable (but still sophisticated) knitted dress, you're in luck. This style felt so premium, and I loved the design-led speckled green fabric. Here, I'm trying on a medium and would probably size down to my true size which is a small—I always worry about knitted dresses being clingy but this skimmed the body nicely thanks to the slightly A-line skirt.
6. Denim Skirt + Shacket + Curved Bag
If you were to ask me what my most-worn wardrobe item was, it would probably be my khaki shacket. It's a humble piece that I usually forget about in the depths of winter, but the moment the sun comes out and I need a lighter layer I return to it every year, and don't end up taking it off until the next winter. I find it goes with everything, from jeans to more tailored options, and it's great thrown over dresses and skirts, too. So, when I saw this classic utility-inspired shirt I had to try it as part of this COS capsule I was curating. It's thick enough to be worn as a light jacket, and thin enough to be worn alone as a shirt, too—which only makes it even more versatile.
A long denim skirt is probably the single most important piece you could buy for 2023, and this COS style has been on my mind since it launched recently. After trying it, it's been cemented onto my spring wish list. I will say it fits quite tight to the body, so you can tailor it to your fit preferences by sizing up or down. If you're looking for a more form-fitting, pencil-skirt look, take your usual size. If, like me, you hate things hugging your tummy and hips, go up one or two sizes. I opted for a 12 here (I'm a standard size 10 usually) which skimmed over my figure, without being too tight or loose in any areas.
7. Suit + Bright Long-Sleeved Top
We can't really talk about COS without discussing how bloody good their workwear options are. Honestly, I don't have a clue what I'd wear to the office if COS didn't exist, and it's a fact that I'd definitely look a lot less chic on team-in days without it. Usually I opt for separates, which is probably because I'm on the petite side at 5'3", and suits can often drown me. But this new-in two-piece was a pleasant surprise. I'm in heeled boots here but the trousers were short enough to wear with trainers (my preferred footwear of choice to balance out a smart suit) and I loved how this pop of bright orange livened up the grey-brown of the suit—adding just a hint of colour to chic neutrals is my favourite way to make wearing colour feel expensive.