Wednesday, October 14, 2009

High Street Quality High But My Budget Makes Me Sigh!

I have been suffering from a serious case of writers block recently – possibly due to my severe lack of funds and subsequent lack of shopping opportunities. Initially this recession seemed like an ideal opportunity to tighten my belt (wouldn’t Charlie H have been proud of me!!) and source cheap but nonetheless cheerful (i.e. still quality) clothes. I have been doing that for months now and quite enjoyed my many trips to the shops and online eh “browsing”. However, for reasons I won’t bore you with, times have become significantly tougher recently and if I have to tighten my belt much more I won’t be able to breathe properly anymore!!

So, for now I must satisfy my love of fashion with wistful window shopping and looking longingly online. I have abandoned completely even entering certain shops on the basis it is now too depressing and have changed the direction I head in while in certain shopping centres and even streets! In doing so something has recently come to my attention though – the huge improvement in style and quality in so called “high street” ranges. Dunnes Stores was never a port of call for me except when I needed a few groceries but there is an excellent branch in the Ashleaf Centre in Crumlin, Dublin 12 which has recently been refurbished and massively extended. I now find myself wandering there regularly admiring the great, affordable range of really stylish and decent quality clothes. Despite my desperate financial woes even this recessionista has managed to gleefully make some purchases here over the last few months. I got two gorgeous jersey skirts for a mere €8 each (that is my kind of budget!!). One is a fabulous fuchsia pink and the other is jade green – both great colours for brightening up drab winter outfits – you know by now I don’t like being too dark and drab, people!! They also have very now body-con skirts ranging from €8 to €15 in a good range of colours and the more expensive ones even come with belts. On a recent foray into Ashleaf I had to stop myself from buying a gorgeous cornflower blue skirt with a great and very on the button ruffle at the front that was just €20. I just couldn’t justify buying anything at the time but am still pining for it now, it was so pretty!!

Awear is another Irish range that has a great affordable line of stylish clothes. They are very trendy, great for dresses and for accessories. I don’t know if they changed buyers or something but in recent years, in my humble opinion, they have improved vastly. Catwalk trends are available for a fraction of the price and are always in-store early. I get countless handbags there (as the bulging hooks on the bedroom wall will testify!!) and they are really good quality for the price you pay. My favourite Awear item though is their jeans. As a mini 4’ 11” I find it terribly hard to get jeans the right length for me but Awear have hit the right note here. All their jeans come in short, regular and long and range from skinny, straight, fit & flare and boot-cut to wide cuts. They are available in a wide range of colours, washes and fits and I swear if you want decent jeans at decent prices you can’t go far wrong with Awear! By the way, they also launched their website earlier this year and it is well worth a look if you don’t live near a branch of Awear. My sister is a fan but lives in the UK and has successfully ordered from them and been impressed with the delivery and service.

Penney’s of course is an old favourite and hard to beat for high-trend, low cost clothes. Their range is vast and quality has improved in recent years. I find their shoes excellent and so cheap. I am barely a size 3 but they fit me beautifully and with boots from €15 to €35 you can hardly complain! I have my eye on gorgeous purple (surprise surprise!!) knee high boots at the moment. You can turn them up to the knee or fold them over to be slightly further down the leg – two styles for just €17!!

Most other high street stores have good offers at the moment too. Even the slightly more expensive ones like Oasis and Warehouse seem to have constant sales these days and they no longer just feature tail-end summer stuff! Also, places like House of Fraser have excellent sales on a regular basis across all their concessions. In Dundrum they regularly knock off 20-25% across their fashion ranges and you can get some excellent deals. Mango had gorgeous knitted dresses for a mere €20 a couple of weeks ago and they are always good quality.

People have often complained to me that if they shop in places like those I have mentioned above they end up with the same outfits as “500 other people” but on that issue I will revert back to a point I have made previously and sorry if I sound like a broken record. It is not what you wear but how you wear it. Accessorise, accessorise, accessorise. Add a belt, cute shoes, interesting statement jewellery – anything to make your look individual to you and it won’t matter if someone else has the same skirt, top or dress, yours will look different (and no doubt better too!!). The clothes are just the canvas, how you accessorise them is what makes the outfit individual to you and particularly stylish.

So I will continue window shopping and planning imaginary outfits in my head, all the while wishing I was somewhat more financially secure. I am far too independent to want a knight in shining armour to come rescue me and whisk me off to live happily ever after, no thanks, but if one could just come racing up to me on a handsome horse and lovingly place a winning lotto ticket in my hand, well, now that would be a different matter altogether….!