I hate Primark. I hate the pile of animal print polyester that lies on the floor like slaughtered jungle cats. I hate negotiating my way round hoards of pushy girls ransacking the store for that elusive £1 synthetic leather boob tube. It’s more traumatic than watching the Hunger Games with surround sound. Don’t get me wrong, some girls dress head to toe in Primarni and manage to look flawless. I am not one of these girls. Clad in low budget high street I look tatty, unkempt and shapeless; a teeny elf drowning under layers of sad looking acrylic. From a young age I’ve gazed into the windows of posh shops, lovingly stroked their baby soft leather handbags and talked to the shoes in whispered tones of longing. But with a budget that’s more pound shop than Prada, I’ve had to learn some effective bargain hunting skills.

So here’s my shopping tips:

Quality over quantity

Once in a while a major shopping splurge is necessary. (I think it’s actually a written law but don’t quote me on that.) Rather than splashing that £250 on 10 items from H&M, I always go for one or two pieces from the high end high street stores. (Or designer if someone’s having an uber ‘we’re practically shoving this stuff into your grubby outstretched paws’ sale.) It’s like swapping MacDonalds for steak.

Invest in staple wardrobe items

If you’re feeling less than flush, be careful what you invest in. As tempting as those five inch magenta Choos might be, I’d opt for something you’ll get plenty of wear from. Yesterday I heroically managed to forego a £75 hot pink feather hat (which was utterly fabulous but only useful for pony dressage events) and purchased a pair of half price LK Bennett wedges.



A procrastinating tool that only YouTube can usurp, eBay is also wondrous trove of online bargains. Yes you’ll get wackadoodles trying to sell you a ‘genuine fake genuine Chanel handbag’ but there’s also plenty of legit sellers. Be realistic about prices and always use secure methods of payment. Your other options for discounted internet fashion include The Outnet and Brand Alley.

Charity shops and vintage fairs

Once upon a time charity shops were filled with Vera Duckworth wannabes trawling through rails of sweaty looking Christmas jumpers and cross stitch patterns.  But since someone swanky at Vogue decided it was the coolest thing ever, the vintage bandwagon has never been more popular. My experience? The posher the neighbourhood, the more treasures you’ll find.

Dress agencies

Primarily filled with cast offs from the wealthy, prices will be higher than charity shops, but the quality is more consistent. Think swishy swooshy designer dresses and fancy pants hats.

Dress hire shops

Unless you’re starring in the next series of Made in Chelsea, it’s unlikely you’ll get more than one or two wears out of a floor length cocktail gown. If you want to look smoking for a special occasion, hiring a dress for the evening works out a lot cheaper. (And you get to prance round for the night like a red carpet glamour puss.) Sometimes they even sell off the stock at heavily discounted prices. I got this black silk Paul Smith cocktail dress for £100, reduced from more than £1,000. Bargain much?

Blue Cross sales

If you’d normally avoid shops like Karen Millen, Jigsaw and LK Bennett it’s about time you stopped. No matter what the season there is nearly always a little rail (usually situated in the deepest darkest depths of the shop) marked ‘blue cross sale’. Be persistent and have a rummage, you never know what magical toot you might unearth.

Outlet villages

There’s outlet villages dotted all around the UK and if you’re not snobby about having ‘this season’, there’s major discounts to be had. My personal favourite is Bicester Village in Oxford, which is home to high street stores as well as high end designers. Even with 70% discounts I can’t quite run to Mulberry, but for those who can it’s like a little slice of shopping sex.