And just like that the A/W season’s over and the sales are beginning. As retailers start to announce profit warnings it’s clearer than ever that it’s been one of the worst trading periods on record and so there are going to be some dazzling markdowns. While I’ve been having a clearout, I’ve made a point of looking at the pieces I wear on repeat and asking myself why. As part of this process, I’ve been struck by the fact that some brands have specific strengths and so I thought I’d share those thoughts with you. I’m hoping it will help us all to be strategic about sale shopping before temptation bites.
Best high street winter buys – knitwear
I almost wish I’d never started wearing cashmere because now I judge all other knits by its standards. These days I find it hard to tolerate lambswool or mohair because it feels itchy; even merino has to be softly spun for me to wear it for a whole day. I add to my collection every year but I make a point of choosing cashmere that is durable and easy to care for. Something has to be absolutely spectacular for me to have the patience to wash it by hand.
The best pieces in my wardrobe come from Boden – but they’re six years old or more. These days I find Boden’s cashmere to be more like lambswool and I always send it back. So I have two places that I turn to for basic, affordable, everyday cashmere that can be machine washed (on a cold cycle).
For looser cashmere I go to Uniqlo. My favourite styles come from the IdLF range but I also rate these crew necks. For a V-neck I size down and buy these because they have a deeper V which is more flattering.
When I’m wearing a midi-skirt or trousers for work, I prefer a neater fit to balance the volume on my bottom half. This means that Uniqlo’s broad scale S/M/L doesn’t give me what I want so I go to M&S for the graduated sizing range. This is my preferred cut but I find that if I buy my normal size 12 it looks frumpy so I always size down. One last tip, because I overheat in polo-necks when I’m in the office, I like the fact that you can buy a matching scarf so that you can still achieve that expensive wrapped-up look if you want it.
Cashmere jumper; midi-skirt(gAW18)
There’s one place to go to for these as far as I’m concerned and it’s Hush. I love both their graphics such as the Stella star and the slogans and I find they just make a simple outfit more youthful. I always size down which makes a huge difference.
A note about the other pieces in these shots now that I’ve worn them for a season and they’re bound to be in the sale. I love the skirt and highly recommend it – slip skirts are going to continue as a trend next season and this one is easier to wear than some that fall from the waist. You see it’s cut in two pieces and so it doesn’t accentuate a rounded tummy. You need to size up on the boots – the toes are pointed and don’t have any give so you definitely need extra wriggle room.
Rock n Roll knit; satin skirt; boots(gAW18)
Another knit I’ve worn a lot this season that will probably go into the sale is this one. It does have angora in the blend so if you have very sensitive skin you won’t like it but I don’t find it itchy. Although I don’t wear skinny jeans very often, these have been great for tucking into boots at the weekend. They have a high waist and are very stretchy so they’re really comfortable. I’ve worn the shoes a lot for both work and weekends. With their low block heel and square toe, they’re smart and comfortable when I’m tramping the streets in London. Size down on the jumper; the jeans and shoes are true to size.
Striped jumper; Skinny jeans; Red shoes (gAW18)
Best superfine knits
One last unsung hero from Hush is the very fine merino jumper. I wear these a lot under jackets for work and always wish they did a wider range of colours. They’re as comfortable to wear as jersey and yet they look much nicer. You can still get hold of this season’s crew here.
Best chunky knits
You can tell it’s been a cold winter up here this year – I have a heavy focus on knitwear! The last category I want to cover are plain chunky knits for wearing with jeans although I also pair them with midi-skirts for work when it’s really cold. The best destination for these in my view is Stories. They do a particular wool blend that is soft and yet breathable even though it’s an acrylic/wool mix. I don’t seem to have taken a photograph of them but I have two of these mock necks which are a great cut for wearing with midis or wide leg trousers. The mock neck gives you a good neckline without causing you to overheat.
My other favourite is this cotton mix sweater that they release every year in a range of colours. It’s amazing value and great for anyone who doesn’t like wool. It’s sold out in green but there are twelve other colours here.
Best high street winter buys – silk
Over the last 18 months, silk blouses have become a key element in my working wardrobe. I tend to wear them with trousers to add a little panache or tucked into a midi as in the photo below. As with cashmere though, they have to be machine washable. They must also be collarless so that they sit neatly under jackets and have a bit of interesting detail.
The retailer that usually ticks all of these boxes is Boden and you see me wearing them on repeat. This one’s from last winter but I’ve just ordered this green one and tou can see me wearing this ivory one above. They’re both great value in the sale.
My other favourite is this one which is great because it’s really long so it works well tucked in or worn over skinny trousers. I don’t know if it will be going into the clearance but I’m watching it carefully because I’d like it in yellow.
Best high street winter buys – trousers
There has been one pair of jeans that I’ve worn to death this year and I wouldn’t have found them without you. So many of you recommended them when I wrote about the fit of John Lewis and Partners’ trousers that they sent me a pair to try. I should say that I had them shortened so that they fall just above the ankle bone and they’re a generous fit so you may want to play around with sizes. Trust me – they’re much better on than they look in the pictures on the website. They’re also available in stay black (which means that they won’t fade) – please JL&P, do them in a dark indigo – they’re such a good, straight cut.
Shopping for trousers is one of my least favourite pastimes. Because I have a long body, my legs can look short and so a lot of styles just don’t do me any favours. I’m still learning as I go along and I very rarely manage to add a new pair to my wardrobe. In desperation this year I decided to try the fabled Me+Em and it’s true, they do some great cuts in fabric that doesn’t crease, even after a long train journey. They also fit perfectly at the small of your back so there’s no gape and your top stays tucked in. The pair I have are now half price in the sale in the khaki colourway:
I haven’t had as much success with their wide-leg trousers, mainly because they’re very long and when I’m paying their prices I’m unwilling to then pay even more to have them altered. In my view, they need to include free alterations as a standard service.
Other than these, my all time favourite trousers are still available with 50% off in the sale in some sizes – and they’re washable (note I’m wearing that blouse again… and those shoes).
Navy flares; Navy boyfriend coat; red block heeled courts
Best high street winter buys – tailoring
Jackets / Suits
Suits are back in a big way and continue to be strong for Spring. I enjoy wearing them and my favourite place to look for quality is always Baukjen. Whenever I go for meetings there I’m always fascinated by their in-house workroom where you see them constructing and deconstructing pieces until they believe the fit is absolutely perfect. The navy checked blazer that I’m wearing above with the Me+Em trousers is now half price in the sale (true to size). Unfortunately because they started their sale early, most things have gone but you can look through it here.
The sales are always a good time to buy a high quality coat. I’ve been really disappointed by the quality of coats at M&S this year so I’d advise avoiding them. City coats are never out of style and I’ve been wearing my Jaeger one (I bought it in the winter sale last year) along with these two slightly cocoon shaped coats almost all of the time. I suspect all three will go into the sale. The military coat that I was sent went into the sale at half price – it’s sold out at the moment but keep an eye open for restocks (I suggest going down by a size for a neat fit).
Military coat now half price(gAW18) high necked silk blouse
Looking ahead to next season, John Lewis & Partners’ new range is looking strong – great colours and great cuts. I’m also keeping everything crossed that there will be another range from Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo – they haven’t announced it yet and it’s getting quite late…
Best high street winter buys – shoes and boots
I have to admit that I plan almost all of my winter outfits from the feet up because the weather (and the resulting impact on the cobbled streets around here) has a big effect on my day. Having said that, I don’t have any specific products to show you because I didn’t really need to buy new shoes this season. The best places to look though are:
Marks & Spencer – particular strengths this season have been Chelsea boots and party shoes
Stories – particular strengths: ankle boots
Hush – particular strengths: high quality leopard print range
Sézane – particular strengths: chic looking shoes that you can walk in
The best places to shop for jewellery
In my view you can’t beat Claudia Bradby for jewellery that will last a lifetime, especially as she’s offering all Midlifechic readers 20% off until Christmas Eve with code MIDLIFECHIC20. So if someone needs a dig in the ribs, point them that way!
Hush is my other favourite for bits and pieces – this isn’t the sort of jewellery that lasts a long time but it’s great for jazzing up simple outfits.
Other great things to buy in the sales
Coffrets (i.e. beauty or fragrance giftsets). These are already good value before they’re discounted but retailers have to clear them after Christmas because they don’t have the space to store them so offers are strong. Use it as a way to stock up on your favourite fragrance or moisturiser and you’ll find you get extra pieces to try too.
Where to look:
John Lewis giftset price-matching hub here
M&S 50% off beauty giftsets here
SpaceNK giftsets here (NB sale hasn’t started yet but bookmark it)
Towels and bathmats – not the most exciting thing to think about but it’s the best time to refresh your collection.
Marks & Spencer bath mats, these have a hard to find latex backing which means they’re more likely to stay flat
It’s a great time to replace sheets and pillowcases
The luxury choice – sale starting any time
Everything else you might need
I’ll list the sales that I know have started below and bring you more on Friday. In the meantime, before you buy anything remember the three magic sale questions:
- Do I need it?
- Can I afford it?
- Can I find it cheaper elsewhere?
And the standard checks before buying any piece of clothing:
- Do I have three things in my wardrobe that will work with it?
- Will I wear it thirty times?
See you on Friday!
Disclosure: Best high street winter buys is not a sponsored post, these are my personal opinions based on clothes that I own and wear regualarly
Sales that have started
Mango – 30% off everything here with code VIP18
Boden – up to 50% off everything and free delivery over £30
Baukjen – up to 60% off everything here
Mint Velvet – up to 50% of everything here
Pure Collection – sale starts here
Claudia Bradby – 20% off all orders with code
Midlifechic Christmas inspiration posts
What I’ve been wearing and doing this week
Finishing touches – little things to make Christmas extra special
Midlife lately – what I’ve been doing, wearing and thinking
New Christmas outfit ideas from M&S
Everything Christmas at John Lewis & Partners
Christmas party wardrobe planning
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