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Stylist guide to high street shopping.

When it comes to shopping at the highstreet part of the mall (which is by no means a sign of bad taste; as long as you stay clear of stores that specify in cocktail dresses made out of highly flammable materials or footwear made of acrylic leather substitutes that guarantee Athletes foot) – there are tricks to ensure that you maximise your monies worth, avoid beginner pitfalls and put together timeless premium looks like a seasoned pro.

How I know this is because I have spent 6 days a week over the last 3 years spending advertisement clients money, dressing cast in what is meant to look Armani, whilst given a money envelope with money that upon opening makes me say Oh-Honey. It really has been like the biblical 3 fish being fed to 300 people – not that I am comparing myself to Jesus but yes, a good stylist knows how to achieve premium looks on very modest budgets. Here is how we do it:

1. Look into online shopping. The items on ZARAs Spanish website retail for 30-40 % less than here in the UAE and the selection is a lot more vast. Now ZARA do not ship internationally you’ll say. I have an Aramex Shop & Ship account with a PO box in 12 countries: including Barcelona. It costs a few hundred dirhams a year and pays back for itself in one purchase. The items arrive in less than 3 days and even with shipping you save loads – LOADS I tell you. And you can be as cheeky as to try things on in the physical store before you place an order online. The hustle is real!

2. Learn all about your body type. If you can’t try things on before placing an online order, you need to have an overall body awareness in mind. For example – as a petite person I wouldn’t shop for maxi skirts as I know that they will mean added costs of alterations etc. At the same token I have round hips so I am yet to find a pair of bellbottom pants that don’t make me look twice my size – optically the bellbottoms add to a false allure of width so the ones modeled by skinny leggy creatures aren’t for me.

3. Create a pinterest moodboard with inspiring 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 3 non descript white tops that won’t do for the look you had in mind and even if they seemed cheap are deemed to be useless if only worn once.

4. Get the best items the money can buy within each category – meaning if the above white shirt is crucial for tying together most your looks look towards the upper high street (Sandro Kooples Elizabeth & James etc). The old Price Per Wear ratio appeals and one expensive items worn 30 times ‘’costs less’ than a cheap piece that has been worn once, if even.

5. Learn about fabric composition – items rich in artificial threads often look shiny and chap. Look and feel each items before buying them. Your fingertips KNOW fine cotton, real cashmere etc. Try and mimic that sensation when you are feeling your clothes. I look like a loon when I go shopping but I rely on all the senses. Apart from taste haha. I have never been seen licking a garment. 

6. Crinkle items in your hand in store. All the items have been steamed and presented nicely to you but if upon crushing a segment with your hand they look heavily creased and the fabric doesn’t ‘’bounce back’’ imagine what you will look like after a 20 minute drive to work. Seated. A tad sweaty because Dubai. With a seatbelt across your chest. That bargain Victoria Beckham inspired pencil dress will look like you have slept on it by the time you arrive to the office.

7. Look for lining and even straight stitches in your cheaper purchases. This is where high street brands save money. A pencil skirt that hasn’t been lined doesn’t have that crisp flawless look to it that a pricier version does. Ill placed skew stitches will make the same skirt keep shifting to the side or gather badly over the chest. If you REALLY love that piece though you can still rescue it with a trip to Satwa and have it lined / restitched by a tailor. Again – that will elevate the cost of the garment so by now you might mentally add those 200-300 aed in your head and buy something a little more pricey to start with.

8. Read the washing instructions. Silk and beaded pieces will require specialist cleaning so the price per wear ratio is through the roof again.