I won’t start with a big preamble on My Guide to The High Street Part 2, except to say, I know there are some I’ve missed off. I did big post on John Lewis a while back, you can read that here. If you missed last week’s Part One, you can read that here. So, without further ado, here’s the second part of my guide to high street shopping…
L‑R: Ceclily Green Check Dress, Slogan T Shirt, Jungle Cat Pleated Dress
I used to shop in Whistles all the time. That was in the days prior to Cos and & Other Stories. Once they came along, with the same quality of clothes (and frankly, a lot of better designs) but for half the price, then my love for Whistles diminished somewhat. That said, I do still pop in there and I always check out their sales. Excellent for classic styles that don’t date, the clothes do last for a very long time and can be very flattering. I once had a black lace dress from there that honestly makes me look like I’ve lost a stone. That is NEVER a bad thing!
Whistles BrushStroke Printed Jumpsuit
Leather jackets. Buy a classic biker jacket from Whistles, it will never date and will last forever.
Workwear. Tailored trousers, smart dresses and blazers. A great selection and excellent quality.
Slogan Sweatshirts. They do new ones every season. Always pretty cool.
Handbags. Whistles do a small selection of bags, but all made from great leather. Feel more expensive than they are.
NOT SO GOOD FOR:
Prints. To be fair, they can be really good at prints but sometimes hit a weird middle ground between too loud and not loud enough, so can end up a little bit wishy-washy.
The Price. I know it’s great quality, but t‑shirts upwards of £60 for the high street is a little much. I could pop into Liberty and pick up an Isabel Marant one for not much more (Etoile, I grant you, but still..)
Generally very good, if anything they sometimes come up big. I can always buy my usual size without fear of it being too tight.
L‑R Chiffon Printed Dress, City Printed Sweatshirt, Denim Belted Jumpsuit
H&M is almost the polar opposite to Whistles. I used to go there all the time in my 20’s, then I gave up for a while in my 30’s, but now, in my 40’s I am back in there all the time. They do seem to be able to cater for most people. Steer clear of the ‘festival’ ranges. No-one needs to see you in short shorts and a crop T‑shirt that says ‘Coachella Girl’ on it.
H&M Cream Culotte High Ankle Jeans
Denim. Surprisingly one of the best places on the high street to buy jeans. A great variety of styles, decent quality but watch the sizing.
Midi and Maxi Dresses. They will undoubtedly be polyester, but H&M do a very good line in printed dresses.
Conscious Collection. A Sustainable collection to make you feel a little better about buying cheap clothes
NOT SO GOOD FOR:
Coats. If something is already looking creased on the hanger in the shop, just think what it will be like after you’ve worn it a few times. Not a good look.
Knitwear. Some good ones, but generally too many man-made fibres and looks cheap.
Trousers. A lot of polyester slacks going on, steer clear of those.
This is where H&M really used to let us down. You would have to go into the store and try things on. Take 3 different sizes into the changing room as whatever it says on the label didn’t meant shit. Recently it’s improved somewhat. The jeans sizing is definitely more true to size than ever before.
L‑R Cream Pleated Midi Skirt, Green Wool Blend Cardigan, Leather Mini Skirt
A new one to add to the list. Arket is the latest addition to the High Street from the same company that owns Cos and & Other Stories. It feels like a good mix between those two. Classic simple styles like Cos, but lots of good prints and knitwear like & Other Stories. The design is great and the pieces are mostly classic rather than trend-led and they don’t have that many UK stores so it still feels quite exclusive.
Arket Cream Merino Wool Box Jacket
Trousers, especially smart workwear trousers that aren’t of the usual boring black straight leg variety
Midi Dresses. A decent selection with good prints and sleeves. My dresses must have sleeves.
Coats and Jackets. Very well made and timeless designs, nice and classic.
NOT SO GOOD FOR:
I’ve struggled to find minus points for Arket, but if I had to pick a couple:
Jeans. I’ve tried a few pairs on and they’ve never seemed quite right.
Knitwear. A lot of it is really good, but some can be a bit thick and itchy. Their Cardis are genrally great though.
Very good. Go for your regular size in most things, sometimes the jacket and coats are made quite oversized though, so best to check the description before you buy.
L‑R; Khaki Pleated Front Trousers, Green Leopard Dress, Green Animal Print Jumpsuit
Ahh, Toppers, I do love you so. I will forgive you the times that you seem to have nothing but crop tops and ill-fitting ‘Mom’ jeans, because I know that I will always return and find clothes that I will love for ages. The ‘Boutique’ range comes up with a lot of my must-have items each season. I have 3 pairs of ‘Mensy’ trousers and countless T‑shirts, shirts and jumpers.
Top Shop Red Animal Print Shirt Dress
Jackets. Get one of their Khaki Jackets, you will thank me for it, I promise.
Trousers. Especially those loose-fitting ‘Mensy’ ones. I am yet to find out what ‘Mensy’ actually means.
Boutique and Unique range. Pricier, but definitely worth it. great design and good fabrics.
Dresses, I have some Topshop dresses that are older than most of the people I work with.
NOT SO GOOD FOR:
Shoes. This is probably just me, but I find them uncomfortable, which is annoying as they do some great shoes.
Knitwear. Quite often they are full of cheap man-made fibres, check the material content before you buy.
On the small side for sure. I always go up a size, especially with their trousers. A lot of Topshop clothes are made for girls with no mumtums or boobs, but I guess the over 40’s are probably not exactly target market!
L‑R: Midi Wrap Dress, Denim Boilersuit, Printed Sweatshirt
Until fairly recently, this was a shop that I felt belonged in the 90’s. Remember how excited we were when the enormous Next Directory came through the door? I’m still not 100% sold on it. Most of the shops seem to be in big trading estates next to a HobbyCraft or a Pets at Home, plus you have to wade through a mountain of black polyester ‘work’ trousers to get to anything decent. That said, recently I’ve bought a few good things on their website, so it gets included in this list.
Cotton Tops. Quite a nice range of boho-type blouses for the summer
Sweatshirts — I loved the Copenhagen one from a couple of years ago, it was only the fact I already had 2 very similar ones that stopped me from buying.
Having a good next day delivery service online and selling a good range of brands.
NOT SO GOOD FOR:
Those Black Polyester work trousers that next favours so much
Work Shirts, just so uninspired.
Being a bit ‘Mumsy’, overly floral and a lot of awful shapeless sleeveless numbers going on.
Not bad at all, the fit can be a bit off, but in general the actual sizing is good, plus the size range is wide, 6–22.
L‑R Lovelace Colour Block Coat, Hallie Embellished Flats, Santorini Swimming Costume
Not strictly a High Street store and again, not one I entertained much until more recent years. It’s probably a combination of getting older and, quite possibly, that they have upped their game design-wise recently. I have an excellent tweed blazer from there that always gets compliments and you all know how I feel about the Santorini swimming costume.
Boden Smythe Tweed Green Herringbone Blazer
Swimwear. You know this already, but they suck you in and make you feel like you could actually get your thighs out on the beach.
Knitwear. The Cashmere is great.
Smart Tailored Jackets.
Shirts and Stripy T‑shirts. Stick to plain colours only.
NOT SO GOOD FOR:
“Fun’ anything, skirts, dresses, coats, shirts. It’s not acceptable to be in your 40’s and wearing a coat with huge yellow flowers on from Boden. You can do better than that.
Very good. Pretty spot on for everything I have bought.
L‑R: Blue Long Sleeve Midi Dress, Weekday Jeans, Shirred Maxi Dress
Again, not an actual shop, but ASOS is one that couldn’t be left out as I buy from there regularly. One of the best things is the next day delivery service for just £10 a year. ASOS is absolutely perfect for those panic-last-minute-buys, and the returns systems is quick and easy, so it gets my vote. There is a lot to wade through here, but it’s very easy to narrow it down with a specific search if you know what you are looking for.. I really like ASOS White for something a bit different and is better quality than the main range.
ASOS Premium Leather Hiking Boots
Dresses. I have bought some excellent dresses from ASOS, they have got me out of many a emergency last minute, I have to dress-up and hate everything in my wardrobe situation.
Jeans. Such a huge choice here, you’d be hard pressed not to find something that suits.
Shoes. As above, their on brand is good too, a lot of it’s not leather, but for the prices you can’t complain.
Denim Shirts. I bought one from there 12 years ago that is still going strong.
NOT SO GOOD FOR:
Quality, it’s very hit and miss, it’s lucky the returns are easy because on average 50% of any order will go back.
Own brand T‑Shirts. Tend to shrink very easily after only a few washes.
Not bad actually. Usually find the own brand is true to size.
Of course, other high street shops are available, but we could be here for hours if I included all of them. Should have included The Gap — used to be good, now feels like a jumble sale, but the chinos are still very good. River Island — the jeans are excellent, Well, these ones and these ones are, but beware that some of it can get a bit Love Island. Warehouse is also good, but the design quality can vary from season to season.