Getting the best value at the summer sales

1. Make a shopping list (and as Santa would say check it twice! ). This will not only focus your mind but will help you avoid buying items you do not need.

The list should be well thought out and be the result of a wardrobe inventory.Your aim is to plug the gaps in your fashion collection. If, for instance, you have a classy black trouser suit which needs an injection of colour then you should be looking out for a shirt, perhaps in jewel shades, to bring it alive. Or a great floral dress may need a pretty cardi to dress it up and keep summer chills at bay.

Put time and effort into deciding what items you want and be very precise in your descriptions. You may get away with writing down “I need a white shirt to wear with jeans” but when it comes to other items it may be a good idea to bring the garment that you are seeking to match with you. When faced with a fiesta of colours it can be very difficult to remember the exact shade you need.

2. Do not impulse buy. This advice comes from the queen of impulse buying so I have a little bit of authority here! Unless the item that catches your eye is the bargain of the century and will go with at least three other garments in your wardrobe put it down and get out of the shop fast! Operate solely from your list and aim to get through your priorities before you even consider outside distractions, such as the bargain basket, the “two for the price of one” deals or the 70 per cent off rail whose items look dangerously dated or look like they would stop traffic for all the wrong reasons.

3. Be prepared. This is one of the secrets of successful shopping. Start out early, wear suitable clothes (ones you can get in and out of easily ) and look your best. It is worthwhile making an effort with your appearance because it will give you a better picture of how your new outfits will look on you.

4. Aim for value-for-money. Will you wear the garment you are about to buy on numerous occasions? Will it co-ordinate with other items in your wardrobe? Is it timeless or more a novelty buy? If you were to buy it for its original price would you still consider it a bargain? Is the quality good? If not, think long and hard before parting with your hard earned cash.

5. Create several new looks. You should be able to make at least two new combinations with your new sale item. If you are naturally stylish you may even be able to make more. If your purchase fails on this front see this as a sign from the gods that it may not be for you.

6. Shop with an open mind. Visit as many shops as possible. Compare prices, selection and incentives (some shops will allow you to return items and get a refund if you change your mind. Others offer loyalty bonuses ). Try not to have a very narrow focus otherwise you are limiting yourself. Be prepared to buy brands you have never heard of before. Broaden your vision and be ready to take calculated risks. Visit shops you have not visited before, at worst you will waste your time, at best you may find a true gem. You may also get ideas about how to combine styles and colours to their best effect.

7. Try everything on. Some outfits have hanger appeal while others do not. More need a little dressing up to bring out the best in them.

8. Basic and classic items are always winners. Quality T-shirts, skirts and trousers are wise investments at any time of year.

9. Choose quality garments. The best bargains are classic fashions, such as coats and suits. Choose colours for all seasons instead of high fashion shades or styles which date very quickly.

10. Think reinvention. Your aim is to make your wardrobe go further without breaking the bank. If your budget is tight look for transitional pieces which will revitalise your existing collection. Accessories are a great way of updating a look and add a contemporary touch to last season’s favourites.

11. Snap up bargains. Remember she who hesitates is lost and will miss the best buys. Always be aware there are other dedicated followers of fashion in sight who will strike like lightening if they see something of value. If you are unsure about an item pick it up and carry it around the shop with you as you deliberate whether the garment is worth the investment.

12. Buy a complete look. This advice particularly applies if you are not interested in plugging gaps in your wardrobe and only do a major fashion shop a few times a year. This is easier than buying bits and pieces because it will eliminate the effort of co-ordinating outfits. A well cut black dress will work well with a number of looks and will take you from day to evening with maximum impact. For men, a tailored suit or trousers and jacket are a good buy.

13. Know your colours. Start with a few neutral colours which suit you and then build around these. The most versatile bases are navy, grey, black and beige. You can then add additional colours to give these a lift. The majority of people can wear most colours - it is the shade and intensity of these which determine whether they will work for you.

14. Take your time. We tend to make mistakes when we are rushed and flustered. Avoid shopping at peak times or when you are feeling below par because you are more likely to make costly fashion blunders then. Shopping on a full stomach and after a good night’s sleep helps, too.


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