As most of you know, I’m doing my best to travel cheaply. That means watching my pennies even closer than I do at home, and not buying a lot of non-essentials. I’m doing pretty well so far, but the fantastic shopping here isn’t making that easy! London is home to a LOT of reasonably priced clothing stores that offer decent quality for your money, which is what I typically look for when I need to add to my wardrobe. Another benefit, at least for me? Things just FIT better over here. I haven’t done a lot of purchasing, but I HAVE done a lot of trying on, and I’ve hardly ever decided I don’t like something because the cut was awkward, or the style didn’t suit me. I think it may be worth my while to pick up some things for future employment purposes while I’m here, rather than waiting until I’m back in the states. 🙂 At any rate, I thought I’d give you guys a little lesson in some of the stores I’ve gotten to know so far:
H & M, Topshop
These are two different stores, but I’m lumping them together because they’re definitely cut from the same cloth (ha, ha). Both feature very inexpensive stuff that’s a bit more on the young, trendy side, and (gotta be honest) the quality of stuff at both these places doesn’t seem that high. They remind me a bit of Forever 21, which (although American, I believe) is also available over here. I’ve seen a few things at H & M that I thought were cute, but never anything at Topshop. Maybe I’m getting old or something, but I think I prefer stuff that’s a little more classic. Plus, the inventory in both places seems more or less the same (another reason why I’m putting them together). The accessories are decent, though. I’m okay with cheap accessories. 🙂 For those of you who are curious about these places, both have U.S. locations. There are two H & Ms in Seattle alone.
Next is, by far, my favorite UK chain. It actually reminds me of the Limited, which is my favorite U.S. store, in terms of price range and what it carries. Next offers a good range of “wear to work” type outfits as well as jeans, shoes, and more casual pieces. The price range is above that of H & M or Topshop, but the quality is better an the clothes are more versatile. I don’t think they have any stores in the U.S. yet, but they DO ship internationally (thank the Lord! :D).
Primark is another, fairly inexpensive place. It’s like a slightly cheaper Old Navy (although Old Navy has, unfortunately, gone a bit downhill in recent years). It’s a good place to get basics, but (as with H & M and Topshop), I wouldn’t expect anything you get here to last years and years. Still, the deals can be incredible. I’ve seen pairs of very cute earrings here for only one pound! I wouldn’t recommend going in here during a sale or on a particularly busy day, though; you’d think a tornado had been through!
Like the U.S., the UK has some well-known department store institutions. Debenham’s is my favorite so far, and I’d say that its closest U.S. counterpart would be JC Penney’s. Debenham’s falls more or less in the middle of the price scale, although you can find both excellent deals AND expensive stuff there. Plus, I don’t feel like I have to dress up just to shop there. That’s the reason I haven’t been to Harrod’s yet. 😛 Marks and Spencer is pretty ubiquitous, too. It reminds me most of Macy’s, although that comparison doesn’t seem quite right. My favorite part of M and S is the food, which Macy’s does NOT have. There’s usually a good grocery selection in the larger M and S stores, and you can find M and S Simply Food shops everywhere. Last but not least out of the department stores that I’ve visited is John Lewis. They are the British equivalent of Nordstrom’s, through and through. That means, of course, that they’re pretty well out of my price range, and I doubt I’ll be doing much shopping there. 🙂
One thing to keep in mind when you’re shopping over here: sizes are different. When it comes to clothes, you’ll need to go two sizes up from what you normally wear in the states. The smallest size I’ve seen anywhere is a 6, which would be equivalent to a U.S. size 2. So, don’t panic and think you’ve gained a ton of weight if you ever happen to be in the UK trying on clothes; it’s just different sizing. 🙂 Shoes are the opposite, though; you’ll wear a smaller size here than in the U.S. For example, I wear a 7 or 7.5 back home, but I’m a 5 here.
There are other stores (chain and otherwise) beyond those I’ve mentioned, but we’d be here all day if I tried to describe them all. 🙂