Any fashion editor will tell you the same thing: They hardly ever go shopping. Now, whether that's a truth or just a warped comparison (in a world where we spend quite a great deal of time perusing products for our readers and occasionally, accidentally, subconsciously purchasing stuff along the way) is up for debate. I'd agree that I don't really go shopping often. I might head out if there's a special occasion coming up (like when you're searching for that ultimate wedding-guest dress) or ahead of fashion week's demanding outfit schedule, but I've learnt enough over the years to make my shopping jaunts—no matter how big or small, frequent or infrequent—worth it. I've had the phases where everything I've bought has been unworn, left to languish at the back of a closet with moth sachets and the tags still left on, but no more, my friends.
These days, I buy items that I get heaps of wear out of. I would consider myself to be a pretty effective shopper, and that would probably explain why I'm often hired by friends and family to assist them in their fashion quests (only yesterday was I helping my mum's BF locate her perfect winter coat, which we did in less than half an hour). So if you've ever wanted to know how to shop like a fashion editor—and to sidestep the cringe-worthy mistakes I've made in the past—I think I've got the answers. Follow my step-by-step method below; then keep going to see the items I'd ideally buy right now if I weren't so busy typing.
1. Making Big Whimsical Purchases Without Doing Your Research
We like to think that here at Who What Wear UK, we do a lot of the research for you (see our specific guides to important things such as the very best basics your money can buy or our edit of great winter coats, but otherwise I'd encourage you to research before making important purchases. For example, I've been pining for a pair of "old" Celine boots—the ones with the curvy heel and the toe cap. I was an idiot to not buy them when they were available, but the cost and the worry that they'd date held me back. I gathered all my options before making settling on a leather pair from Uterqüe (the brand's footwear is made in Spain in one of the few high-quality leather factories that still exists in that part of the world), and they're now in my wardrobe and ready to go. Okay, so they aren't the real deal, but they're a chic enough homage.
A perfectly fab alternative.
2. Taking Off Tags and Throwing Away Receipts Before You're Sure
My husband makes this mistake all the time. He buys something, immediately takes the tags out or loses the receipt, and then realises he actually doesn't like the item/it doesn't fit/it was too expensive in the first place. If you're even remotely on the fence about a purchase, keep your receipts in a safe place and leave the tags on until you're 100% sure you want to hold onto the piece.
When buying a more out-there piece (like this jumper), take it home and try it on with a few pieces before cutting the tags out. I'm currently debating this exact piece—I love it, but does it go with enough in my wardrobe?
3. Shopping With Other People!
As fun as it can be to hit the shops with your friends, other people's opinions can alter your own. Not to mention the fact that certain pals can end up with the day's focus shifting entirely onto them. If you're seriously on the hunt, prowl solo and trust your instincts.
If you love something—the way I adore this Chloé bag—sometimes you don't want someone else's opinion.
4. Buying Super-Cheap Shoes
In general, I'm a big fan of the high street, and there are plenty of wallet-friendly pieces I'd recommend. However, I believe that cheap, non-leather shoes are normally a poor investment. Breathability and comfort are key for looking after your feet in the long run, especially when you're after a pair with staying power. It's one thing to buy a pair of brocade heels for a last-minute party; it's another to choose bad-quality black ankle boots you'll stomp around in every day of winter. My hot tip? Office does a great line in leather upper and inner soles for reasonable prices, and I'd recommend Charles & Keith for faux-leather styles that are really directional and cool.
These are the kind of fun party shoes you don't have to buy from a really expensive brand.
5. Choosing Really Recognisable High-Street Pieces
Talking of the high street, my tactic for getting the most out of it is to buy simple items. That doesn't mean they have to be boring or plain, but I tend to steer clear of recognisable printed pieces, as they can date and you're more likely to be turn up to brunch in the same Zara dress as your best friend (which does, I admit, make for a genius Instagram shot).
Arket is my new destination for pared-back high-street winners.
6. Not Comparing Prices on Designer Goods
Because there are so many e-commerce sites that now ship to the UK from across the globe, you may find that there are price differences across websites. I'd suggest using a tool like Lyst or ShopStyle to compare prices, particularly when you're looking to drop cash on an expensive designer piece. You can make some major savings (which will help towards the next purchase, right?).
Cult Gaia's much-loved bamboo bags are a good example—you'll find the price of their styles can vary by up to £50 depending on the retailer, their markup margins and imports/duties tied to their location.
7. Holding On to Items You Don't Wear
It may sound obvious, but if you're looking to update your new-season wardrobe, it can make you feel less stressed out about your bank account if you sell off a few old pieces first. I've just downloaded Depop and will be giving it a try following the advice and recommendations from my fashion team!
8. Forgetting All the New Brands You've Stumbled Across
There are two ways I keep track of new brands: 1) bookmarking images on Instagram (particularly from Scandi girls) and routinely checking back to recall what I've noticed it, and 2) keeping a rolling list on my iPhone. So if you're ever feeling a little short of inspo, you can either enforce those rules in your own life or just keep coming back to Who What Wear, where we often round up the best new labels on the block. See the Instagram labels we've just discovered, for example.
I discovered this Danish brand via Nnenna Echem (pictured above) and have fallen for its quirky ideas, like this pleated satin skirt.
9. Feeling Like a Repeat Buy Isn't a Great Buy
There are, I imagine, very few parallels between my wardrobe and Alexa Chung's, but the style star often extols the virtues of navy sweaters, admitting that she buys them in multiples and never feels the need to stop. I do the same with navy sweaters, knee-high boots, jeans and T-shirts—if they ain't broke, don't fix 'em.
I have the Lou Jeans in two washes now, and I'm pretty set on getting another pair…
10. Not Wearing New Purchases ASAP
Unless you've bought something for a specific occasion, I'd always encourage you to wear your purchases as soon as you can. You'll still feel excited and enthusiastic about them, raring to experiment with different outfit options and making the most of a current trend, should your investment be particularly of the moment.
We're all a bit obsessed with Ghost dresses in the office—and very set on not saving them for best.
11. Having Zero Self-Control at Sample Sales
Be sure to follow your favourite brands on social media, as they'll often make announcements for public sample sales, where you'll find past-season collections discounted to seriously tempting price points. You can also search online and diarise accordingly. Two things I've definitely learnt following many a sample sale disaster purchase: Don't buy pieces that are too small (in the hope you'll lose weight to fit into them), and prioritise something classic over something out of your comfort zone. It's a high-intensity situation, but try to keep your head.
When the sample-sale calendar dries up, keep The Outnet on your online must-visit list.
13. Not Buying Multiple Sizes When Shopping Online
High-street stores source many of their pieces across the globe via different manufacturers, so it's understandable that sizing can be a bit of an unknown entity. Although it does add the definite hassle of sorting out returns, I'd always buy two sizes (depending on the sizing advice provided) when shopping online, specifically when buying trousers or jackets, as they're notoriously more difficult to fit. French brands tend to also come up small, so bear that in mind.
Because slip skirts can really vary—and Topshop have so many slightly different versions—it's a good idea to try different sizes and fabrics then land on your favourite.
14. Only Searching the Main Site for Sale Bargains
When looking at summer, midseason and Christmas sales, I always end up scouring a few unusual, under-the-radar boutiques such at LN-CC, Moda Operandi or Ssense. You'll find some larger reductions (as these sites are frequented less than the obvious e-commerce giants like Net-a-Porter or MatchesFashion), but also niche brands and pieces from collections you haven't seen before.