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.
It's easy to assume that, as a fashion editor, I like to shop. While this is the case, anyone who is familiar with my byline or regularly reads my column will know that I'm notoriously picky and refuse to part with my cash unless I truly love something. There's something to be said about consuming fashion this way, but it does mean that I largely play it safe and tend to invest in things that may feel a little similar to items I already own when it comes to adding pieces to my wardrobe. This is exacerbated by shopping online. Sure, it's the most convenient way for me to browse for new wares—especially as I live semi-rurally—but forgoing in-real-life shopping trips in favour of the digital experience ultimately means I'm less tempted to try new things. Not only that, but I spent a lot of time deliberating over which sizes to buy (often opting for two with a view of sending at least one back). This isn't just bad news for my temporary bank balance, but the emissions that go into sending all of these items back and forth is far from ideal for the environment.
So when our team decided to collectively try on the fresh spring arrivals from the brands we feature most regularly, I was excited to get my hands on some new pieces and test them out in real life, get to grips with the sizes and maybe even try something new. I picked H&M—a brand I always gravitate towards—blocked out some time in my diary and headed on down to my local store. How did I get on? Let's see, shall we?
After doing a sweep of the shop floor, I headed to the changing rooms with two pull-along baskets full of clothes. We're talking six pairs of jeans, three dresses, two suits and as much tailoring as this wannabe minimalist could drag. And that was just round one. Fast-forward three hours, and the pieces that grabbed me most were, perhaps, some of the most unexpected. Scroll on to discover what I think are the standout items in H&M's 2023 spring collection, from the colour I've never worn before to the '90s trend I'd previously sworn off but actually adored.
1. Cargo Trousers + Oversized Shirt
My Review: The '90s trend of which I spoke in my introduction—the one I just couldn't get on board with? Well, it's cargo trousers. While I understand their appeal and believe they can look incredibly cool on other people, I didn't think they were for me. My style is probably best described as erring on the classic side, and I had written cargos off as being too trendy for me. Perhaps it was the weighty twill textile or the sleekest shade of khaki, but as soon as I saw this pair hanging on a rail in a prime spot near the H&M entrance, I convinced myself to try them. And I'm so glad I did. For reference, I'm 5' 4" and a pretty true size 12. However, with big boobs and shapely hips and thighs, I can never assume something will fit on glancing alone, especially where trousers are concerned.
I grabbed a 12 and a 14 and was happy with the fit in the former. The straight cut of the trouser leg hangs just as you want it to, and the higher waistline contoured my midriff. I had grabbed a pair of strappy sandals to bring into the changing room with me, and I was really into the high-low balance of this combination. I consider this to be a big bonus, as I already know I can dress them up or down. Some of my colleagues already own cargo-type trousers, some of which were quite expensive, and I genuinely think these hold their own by comparison.
2. Trench Coat + Wide-Leg Jeans
My Review: You could argue that every store or brand has its thing—the item or trend it does better than the rest. For H&M, I truly believe that item is trench coats. I already own an H&M trench coat which, now that I think about it, is probably approaching its sixth birthday. Still, for an affordable coat, its quality hasn't been compromised. Considering it's the cover-up I've worn practically every day (give or take those that fall in the warmest and coldest months), I'm incredibly impressed at how it has held up.
This new style, which I grabbed in a medium, has all the hallmarks of the H&M trench I have at home—a really thick cotton outer layer, a lined inside (something many trenches five times its prices don't have), a roomy silhouette that gives it effortless appeal and means it can be layered over even the most cumbersome knit and the perfect go-with-everything hue. I threw it on with a pair of wide-leg jeans, which also impressed me. The shade of blue looks expensive, the leg was fluid without swamping my frame, and the high waistline was a welcome change from the low-rise many baggy jeans boast. Things really are off to an impressive start.
3. Long Dress + Strappy Sandals
My Review: After months of living in jeans, come spring, I love nothing more than digging out my collection of dresses and rediscovering my favourite ways to wear them. Just last week, I began sorting through my warmer-weather wardrobe, and I realised that, aside from the occasional floral, I have very little in the way of printed dresses. It would seem I favour block neutrals—go figure! So when I happened upon this striped midaxi, I knew it would fill this freshly identified gap. I had already ordered it in black a few months ago, but it was clear that H&M had lengthened the hemline this time around, which makes it look all the cooler. The fabric is a heavy jersey, and although the dress is designed to fit fairly close to the body, it was in no way clingy. I'm wearing a size medium here, and it was true to size. All in all, I think this dress looks way more expensive than it is. Kudos, H&M.
4. Denim Jacket + Jeans
My Review: Double-denim looks were all over the spring/summer runways. As a (half) Canadian woman who has spent her career singing the praises of our national tuxedo, this made me very proud (read: smug) by association. During my H&M try-on, this denim jacket was picked up by so many of my fellow shoppers. The ultimate relaxed fit with a slightly longer body than your standard denim jacket set it apart. I'd taken a medium, and I'd say it fit just how I wanted to—lived-in and slouchy without having to size up.
For me, the key to creating a nuanced Canadian tuxedo is to choose denim washes that are slightly different from one another but very much exist at similar points in the blue spectrum. For a fresh finish, style with a white top.
My Review: If I'm not wearing a dress or jeans, you're likely to catch me in a suit. Matching sets are the easiest way to look put-together without having to put in much time or effort. I already own beige and black blazer-and-trouser sets, but pink? Putting suits to one side for a second, I don't think I own anything pink whatsoever. Still, I'd be lying if I didn't say I was tempted by the crop of pink suiting we're seeing across the market right now. From Gucci to COS to, well, H&M, I'm seeing pink suits everywhere. With plenty of sizes to choose from in-store, I thought I'd give it a whirl. What I didn't expect was that I'd love it quite this much.
Although I'm petite, I was happy with where the trousers fell. It's worth remembering that they will be deliberately cropped on you if you're taller than my 5'4" stature. I picked up a 12 and a 14, and if I'm honest, I didn't notice much difference between the two. The blazer is a size 12, and although roomy, it didn't drown me either. Then again, I'm into the relaxed aesthetic, so if you prefer your blazers and trousers to be more fitted, this might not be the suit for you. The fabric was thicker than I initially expected. This is no bad thing, especially as I always feel the cold, but it does mean that it looks slightly less formal than you might want it to should you be thinking about it for a wedding or special occasion.
6. Waistcoat + Wide-Leg Trousers
My Review: I have a serious soft spot for waistcoats, so you can imagine my delight when they came back into the fore last spring. Evidently, this is a trend H&M is still backing in a big way for the 2023 spring/summer season, as there was already a handful to choose from. After seeing a few shoppers pick up this piece from afar, I made a beeline for it, and it took all of two seconds for me to understand why—it's £13. Seriously, £13. I genuinely think this looks like it comes from some incredibly cool and considerably more expensive Australian brand, the linen fabric probably having something to do with it.
Although I won't be wearing it in the immediate future, I still bought it. I loved the deliberately boxy shape, and the cropped length made me feel quite sexy. The linen trousers I styled with it don't match it perfectly, but they're so close it would be impossible for anyone to tell. There were no mediums left on the shop floor, so I grabbed a 12. Although I'm wearing heels, the leg length was ideal and actually gave the illusion of longer pins. The waistline is too big, but I really enjoyed the overall relaxed fit, so I snapped them up too. I'll just ask my tailor to take in the waistband a little.
7. Knitted Co-ord + Blazer
My Review: If you told me I'd be trying on a crochet crop top and fringed skirt in the middle of March, I probably wouldn't have believed you. However, passing this set in store, it was hard to resist. The weave is intricate and weighty, and I could tell from the way it sat on the hanger that it would drape well on the body. When I tried it on, I was proven right.
I tried on the skirt in a size large, as I didn't want it to be clingy around my thighs or bum, and I also wanted it to sit lower on the hips so as not to give off a pencil-skirt vibe. The top was a medium and was roomy enough for my bigger bust, the stretchy material being integral to this. What I really loved was the fact that the straps were big enough to cover those of my bra, which isn't always the case with knitted crop tops. Although this might look like a holiday piece, I do think this co-ord loans itself perfectly to spring styling, too. Case in point: the addition of this beige blazer.