A stylists guide to high street shopping.

Shopping at the high street part of the mall can be a stylistic home run – as long as you stay clear of cocktail dresses made out of flammable materials or footwear made of leather substitutes that guarantee Athletes foot. There are tricks to ensure that you maximise your monies worth, avoid panic buys and put together timeless premium looking outfits like a seasoned pro. I learned this in my role as an advertisement stylist where I have spent a lot of time dressing models in what is meant to look all Armani whilst confined by a budget that makes me say ‘oh honey….’. 
If you are looking to save a penny look into online shopping. If we take the example of ZARA, the selection on the Spanish website retails for much less than and carries a broader range. Now ZARA do not ship internationally you’ll say, to which I reply that the solution for my UAE readers is to set up an Aramex Shop & Ship account; complete with a PO box in 12 countries including Barcelona – BINGO. It costs approx a 100 US dollars a year and pays back for itself in one purchase. If you are unsure of the sizing simply try the items on in a physical store before placing an online order. 
Shop accordingly to your body type – this may sound obvious but it’s easy to get caught up in a the idea of a current trend or to get inspired by a style icon. To give myself as an example, as a petite person I wouldn’t shop for maxi skirts. I like them on others but I know that they will mean added costs through alterations. I am also the type that never makes it to the tailor despite having great intentions to do so in the fitting room. 
Create a pinterest moodboard with a selection of easy-to-crecreate day to day looks. This way you will see what you are drawn to – meaning if you have pinned a number of looks featuring an oversized white shirt then that is what you need to purchase next. Have that in mind next time you are reaching for three other non descript white tops. They won’t do for the look you had in mind and even if they were cheap they will turn out to be an unnecessary expense if only worn once.
Know when to hold back and when to splurge out. If the above mentioned white shirt (a future Warderobe staple) is crucial for tying together a majority of your existing pieces, look towards the upper high street (such as Sandro Kooples Elizabeth & James and the likes thereof.) The old Price Per Wear ratio applies here and one expensive items worn many times ‘’costs less’ than a cheap piece worn once and thrown to the ”I will never wear it but I just bought it so I cannot find it in me to throw it away just yet” pile. 
Learn all there is to know about fabric composition and memorize which thread combos work for you. FEEL each item before you buy it and rely on your fingertips to KNOW what feels right against your skin. You already know what fine cotton, real cashmere etc feel like so look for a similar sensory experience when perusing the rails. 
Scrunch together the pieces you consider buying in the palm of your hand –  trust me on this, as weird as this may sound. They have been steamed and presented nicely to you by the store staff but if you squishing them about once or twice leaves them looking heavily creased imagine what they will look like after a 20 minute drive to work, seated, with a seatbelt across your chest or on a crowded public transport. That bargain Victoria Beckham inspired dress will look like something you have slept on by the time you arrive to the office.
Look carefully at the lining – is there one to start with?  Scrutinize the quality of stitching – this is where high street brands tend to cut corners. A pencil skirt that hasn’t been lined doesn’t have that crisp flawless look to it that a pricier version does and you’re probably buying it to wear to office, where a crisp look is expected? Skew stitches will make a skirt pull towards the side and a blouse to gather badly over the chest. If you can’t resist it take it to a tailor, but that will however bump up the overall cost of the garment and henceforth at this point you might be better off buying something a little more pricey to start with.
Always read the washing instructions. Silk and beaded pieces will require specialist cleaning which makes the pieces more expensive to own in the long run. X