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 very 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. These days I manage to look after my clothes and make the most of them. These days 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, 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. Even when buying affordable fashion, research is your greatest tool
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 best affordable cashmere, our edit of great winter coats, or what's hot on the high street for A/W 17), but otherwise, I would encourage you to research before making important purchases (no matter what their cost).
For example, I knew I wanted a pair of red over-the-knee boots for winter. I also knew I didn't have the budget to invest in the Fendi Rockokos, nor did I actually want a pair with that great a heel height. Suede, I realised, would scuff more easily, and they also needed to be a stretch, pull-on style because those are the most slimming on one's legs. I gathered all of my options before making settling on a leather pair from Uterque (particularly because I know that 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 are now in my wardrobe and ready to go.
These were the red boots that won first place following my research.
2. When buying spontaneously, keep receipts nearby and the tags on until you're almost out of the door
My husband makes this mistake all the time. Buys something, immediately takes the tags out or loses the receipt and then realises that 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 lamé blouse), take it home and try it on with a few pieces before cutting the tags out.
3. Shop alone when buying for yourself
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.
This is the kind of dress that could divide opinion among friends—but it definitely gets my vote.
4. Try to not buy cheap shoes
In general, I'm a big fan of the high street, and there are plenty of wallet-friendly pieces I would 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 if you're looking for the kind of shoes you'll be wearing on repeat. 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.
These are the kind of quality boots that will last and last—and maybe even look better with age.
5. Choose neutral high-street items
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. When buying online, compare prices
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 some 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 very good example—you'll find this bag for up to £50 at various retailers. While it's currently sold out at Net-a-Porter for £95, you can sign up to receive a restock alert.
7. Sell old pieces to free up budget
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. Keep a note of new brands
There are two ways I keep track of new brands: 1) bookmarking images on Instagram and routinely checking back to recall what I've noticed it and 2) keeping a rolling list on my iPhone of brands to look into. 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 my list of the 20 new labels to know for autumn for more.
One of my favourite new(ish) brands is Teija. This is a Scandi label that is particularly good at making supposedly simple cotton pieces really quite directional.
9. Remember that repeat buys can be a good idea
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 black for winter.
10. Wear new items ASAP
Unless you've bought something for a specific occasion, I would 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.
Zara's current selection of trouser suits is just the ticket for updating your winter workwear wardrobe in an instant.
11. Visit sample sales—but have some self-control
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.
When the sample sale calendar dries up, keep The Outnet on your online must-visit list.
13. Always buy two sizes when shopping online (and deal with the returns hassle later)
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 and 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.
These also come in a brown-and-black colourway—I think I'll order both iterations in all the different sizes I should try.
14. search through the last of the season's sales in the less obvious stores
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 some niche brands and pieces from collections that you haven't seen before.