Recession or not, there’s no reason to sacrifice your sense of style.
All it takes is a bit of thrift, a dash of creativity and an eye for the truly fabulous. Forget the latest ‘it’ bag, or ‘must-have’ designer shoe, modern fashionistas are now customising last year’s cast-offs, creating their very own masterpieces and unearthing gems in their local charity shops.
In these more sober times the idea that we can buy something, wear it once and throw it away seems increasingly frivolous.
But worry not – for the many Primark-weary among us, a new craze is taking hold.
Whether customising an old pair of jeans or making your own party dress, it’s never been more on-trend to sew it yourself.
If you haven’t threaded a needle since those lessons at school, help is at hand. Sewing classes are springing up all over the country, covering everything from basic needlecraft to complex dressmaking. (Visit www.schoolofsewing.co.uk or www.themakelounge.com to find a course or workshop).
And if you don’t have the time or the inclination to do it yourself then you can have your old clothes customised, altered and mended by a high street tailor (check out www.sewandgo.co.uk).
Gok Wan has made his name altering and customising clothes to give them a cutting-edge twist that wouldn’t look out of place on the catwalks of Paris and Milan. And long before Kate Moss designed clothes for Topshop, she was getting creative with her own wardrobe. ‘Before I became a model, I’d cut up flares to make miniskirts,’ she said.
Charity shop princess
Another example of the freedom and the individuality that thriftiness can necessitate is the good old-fashioned charity shop. Forget those over-priced, so-called vintage boutiques, we’re talking Oxfam, Scope and Help The Aged. True, you might have to negotiate your way around jigsaws with pieces missing and the odd gaudy photo frame, and there’s always that slightly off-putting smell, but none of that matters when you get your hands on a one-of-a-kind genuine 40s tea dress, or a barely worn designer gown from last season. There are around 5,500 charity shops in the UK, and in 2008 they made an estimated £130 million for good causes. And with Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas throwing her wisdom and weight behind the concept of charity shops in her latest TV series, they’re set to get a lot more successful in the near future.
From Agyness to Angelina, more and more stars are regularly hitting their local thrift stores to update their look. Kylie Minogue was recently spotted snapping up two dresses, a skirt and a hat from a Melbourne Salvation Army store for less than £20. And it’s not the pop princess’ first charity shopping spree – the gold hotpants she so famously wore in the video for Spinning Around were picked up for 50p from a London Oxfam shop.
If you’re a label lover at heart but no longer have the disposable income to match your tastes – the ever-increasing number of designers doing collections for the high street could be the answer.
Designers at Debenhams has been leading the field for years, with glamorous ranges from the likes of Jasper Conran. And Julien Macdonald’s animal print dress, just £60, became the department store’s fastest ever selling garment in April this year.
Karen Peacock, director of design at Debenhams says: ‘Even the wealthy are watching their pennies- but still want to look good. We strongly suspect many will be using our £60 dress to impress their haute couture fashion conscious friends.’
And it’s not just Debenhams – H&M, New Look and Marks & Spencer have all carried exclusive collections by top designers. And Topshop is renowned for its fostering of new design talent through its Boutique range, as well as its links with design icons such as Celia Birtwell and Barbara Hulanicki, founder of 60s fashion institution, Biba.
Sienna Miller’s been spotted out and about in Matthew Williamson’s new collection for H&M and Lily Allen is never out of Topshop’s Boutique range.
An even thriftier trick for the designer-label-junkies among us is hiring rather than buying that must-have frock.
With the launch of the website www.girlmeetsdress.com earlier this year, every wannabe glamourpuss can now indulge her expensive tastes without blowing her budget.
Designer dresses from Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen can be hired for as little as £25. Simply choose your dress and how long you’d like to hire it for, and it will be delivered and collected by couriers with dry cleaning thrown in. And the best bit is you can wear it just once without feeling guilty.
Keira Knightley has admitted she’s a fan of hiring shoes. ‘When I was very young and started earning money, I got excited and bought a lot [of shoes]. I mean a lot! I haven’t bought any in a while. Now I just rent them for the day.’
And Britain’s ‘first lady’ Sarah Brown, no doubt feeling the pressure of standing next to the effortlessly stylish Michelle Obama, rented a wardrobe of designer threads for the recent G20 summit.
Money sense..Initiatives such as Visa Swap – www.visaswap.com – and www.bigwardrobe.com allow you to swap unwanted clothes with other people. Why pay £50 for a new top, when you can get it for free simply by donating one that you’re bored with?