#37 Sample sales

In Save cash, White collar denial on March 24, 2010 at 12:47 am

What’s the most extravagant thing in your wardrobe? Mine is probably the £5 skirt I bought from H&M. Or the £10 high street dress.

These aren’t the items that I paid most for I have to admit – they hang next to a Marc Jacobs jacket I bought myself as a wedding present five years ago, and a fabulous pink Paul Smith coat also dating back to times of full employ – but the ones that have been costliest.

The coat cheers me, and everyone else, up with its brightness and even if I hadn’t bought it at a samples sale, pound per wear it probably comes in at about 75p so far, making it about  600% cheaper than the  high street skirt which still has its price tag on. The Marc Jacobs jacket has been around so long it is now coming back into fashion.

To be a budget epicure, rather than just an underemployed down and out, it is important to distinguish between extravagance and luxury. The irresistably cheap item bought in haste for a knock down sum often ends up being a complete waste of money.

This is a roundabout way of justifying my trip last week to London’s famous Designer Warehouse Sale (once voted by Time Out one of the 100 best reasons to live in the capital). To be fair, I haven’t been for a year and I had just been paid for some work so a small treat was due. By sticking to a few basic rules, I manged to keep the credit card under control and still rejoice in some healthy bargains:

* only buy something you feel confident walking straight out of the changing room in (now is not the time for major image makeovers)

* only buy something you already have the shoes to wear with (buying a bargain dress is not an excuse to then go out and buy a pair of expensive shoes)

* avoid loud or unconventional patterns you don’t have the panache to carry off (me, not you)

* cash in on good tailoring rather than eye catching fashion statements (TopShop is adequately on trend if that’s your priority)

* don’t waste time on basics like T-shirts or vests when you can get something identical for less at Uniqlo

* and don’t imagine for a moment you’d ever get an opportunity to wear the Vivienne Westwood suit that’s down from £1,900 to £400. That’s still £400 pounds, bargain or no.

I came out with a Betty Jackson dress, shorts, cardie and a dip-dyed silk blouse, all for a total of £102 (£41 less than the original cost price of the blouse alone). Still a lot more money than I’ve spent on myself in a very long time, but I’ve already worn two of my purchases and, unlike some cheaper items from cut-price high street stores, I’m confident they won’t have fallen apart in five years’ time.

The next men’s DWS is this weekend (26-28 March) featuring items from the wardrobes of Elton John and David Furnish (raising money for their Aids Foundation charity); the next women’s is 18-20 June.

For other sample sales in London, visit Sample Sales London. If you live in Manchester, try the Manchester Fashion Network. If you live somewhere else and know of any others, then do let us know.

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