Temporary Brit

My three months of adventures in London!

Shopping until I (almost) drop October 24, 2011

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Well, we’re down to the wire.  I’ve only got nine days left (out of my 99 total) before I fly back to Seattle.  That means I really only have 8 days left to enjoy London; I won’t be doing anything on the second other than getting up and going to the airport.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I can’t BELIEVE how fast the time has gone!  I feel like I just got here, and yet it’s already time to leave!  I’ve gotten the bulk of what I needed to get done for school out of the way, so I’ll have most of this next week to enjoy myself and get all those last things checked off of my to do list.


Today was my big shopping day on Oxford Street.  I’ve been planning this for ages; even though (as you all know by now) I’m on a budget, I figured I should take advantage of the fact of the reasonably priced stuff that fits me better than most of what I find back home and add a few nicer pieces to my wardrobe.  I also spent only a fraction of the clothes budget I set for myself before I left, leaving a little something to shop with here.  You can find high streets and shopping districts all over London (just about every neighborhood, borough, and outlying town is going to have something), Oxford Street seemed like an idea choice for me.  It has all the stores I’ve grown to like and then some!


I rode the Tube to the Marble Arch station; that’s as far down Oxford Street as you can get and still be on Oxford Street.  My plan was to walk up one side of the street and down the other, finishing up back at Marble Arch.  That’s exactly what I did, and as any good travel adventure should be, it was a learning experience.  I learned that Oxford Street is a bit….repetitive.  The street isn’t all THAT long, but a good chunk of the stores have more than one location.  Some even have three (Next and Dorothy Perkins, I’m looking at you).  If that’s not enough for you, just head down Regent Street for more of the same (it crosses Oxford Street at Oxford Circus).  I’ll admit it: I went into multiple locations of the same store. 🙂  I was afraid that one would have something that the others didn’t and that I’d miss out!  Needless to say….that wasn’t the case. 😛  I also learned that I’m NOT an all-day shopper;  I was pretty much done by the time I got finished with one side of the street.  Since I hate not finishing things that I start,  I kept going.


I was surprised at how crowded Oxford Street was, considering the fact that it wasn’t even a weekend.  By the time early afternoon rolled around, it was hard to get around at anything resembling a reasonable speed.  Part of it is the fact that schools are on vacation this week, which meant dealing with packs of teenagers in some of the shops who seemed to feel that they were entitled to block aisles, shelves, etc.  It got really annoying trying to work around them.  Does the fact that teenagers annoy me mean that I’m getting old?  If so, I’d better pick out my cane and sign up for AARP.  At any rate, trying to shop at Primark was an experience in and of itself.  I wrote briefly about them in my shopping blog from from awhile back; cheap stuff, big stores, very Old Navy-esque.  Today, though….oh, my lord.  I’ve never seen a store so crowded!  The line to get into the dressing rooms stretched halfway through the store, and the place looked like some sort of natural disaster had just been through.  There were messy piles of shirts and sweaters on display tables, and people had even untied the ribbons from gift sets of pajamas to get a better look at them.  I don’t blame the store; I’ve worked in retail, and I well know what kind of a mess customers can make.  Primark still gets the prize for least pleasant place to shop when it’s crowded, though.  There’s so much to look at in the first place that it’s almost over whelming, and when you have to fight through hordes of people and dig through stacks of unfolded stuff, it just isn’t worth it.


So…with all that, did I buy anything?  Did my big shopping result in serious wardrobe additions?  Nope.  I bought a total of one very nice, very sensible, very inexpensive black button down shirt.  I can wear it with anything, which the bargain hunter in me likes very much, and when I add that to the (very small) pile of other things I’ve picked up during my trip, I think my London wardrobe is as big as it’s going to get. 🙂


Shopping September 17, 2011

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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!


Department Stores

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. 🙂