2011 November 22

Budgeting for clothes is difficult: one person may feel it’s worth spending half their income on new garments, another may think that less than 10% of their take-home money should go on clothing. For some people it’s important to have a lot of clothes and always look in fashion – if you work in retail or the media, for example, it’s really vital to look like you have a fashion pulse! For a geek, a classic wardrobe of jeans, T-shirts and a polo-shirt for visits to grandparents may be the entire outlay … and that’s cool too.

What’s important is that clothing be durable, comfortable and pleasant. That means pleasant to wear and pleasant for those who see you wearing it: saggy, baggy, stained and smelly are not pleasant, so clothes that lose shape, hold stains and odours or are too expensive or complicated to launder really don’t fit with a limited budget. Cotton clothing, whether in the form of smart collared shirts or simple plain T-shirts, is an ideal choice.

Cotton garments are easy to wear and always easy to wash and dry – whether you’re a fashionista who presses everything with starch or a casual dude who simply takes stuff off the line or airer and wears it, creases and all.

Cotton clothes are also very versatile. Shirts can be teamed with contrasting T-shirts to get a wider range of clothing choices and hoodies can be worn over T-shirts to give a soft, relaxed feel.

2011 November 17

Hollister has become synonymous with twilight retailing: and teenagers seem to love buying casual clothing in such dark conditions that they don’t actually know what colour their new garments are until they’ve got them out of the store. According to the Daily Mail, parents are complaining about not being able to see the true colour or the price of what they’re buying, and even of losing track of their teenagers in the store.

The ‘greeters’ whose six packs are on display even if there is snow on the ground are also viewed with suspicion by some parents who feel they are tacky or maybe even that the young men are being exploited.

Even so, the Hollister experience seems to be a popular one, so what can parents learn from it about teenagers and shopping?

  1. Casual clothing needs special focus – because teenagers spend most of their time in jeans, joggers, hoodies and trainers, these, not party outfits, are the focus of their attention, and the party atmosphere of Hollister can make them feel they are getting more for their money. To get your teen to shop in less expensive outlets, or even online, arrange for one of their friends to come round, let them play loud music and lay on pizza, snacks and multi-player gaming in between bouts of online clothing browsing. This makes them much more likely to engage with the idea
  2. Colours matter – Hollister are coy about the number of returns they receive but it does seem to be the one part of the shopping process that disconcerts teens. Point out that online shopping allows teens to look at all the colours, sizes and options, to do comparison shopping and even to google potential purchases and see reviews on their wearability. This encourages a picky shopper to realise that they can spend as long as they like debating a black T-shirt versus a red one, online but in the shop it gets annoying to family and friends!
  3. Feed the senses – Hollister spray perfume around their shop and on their customers to make the experience memorable. Do the same for your teen shoppers by squirting the room with their body spray before they start shopping – believe it or not, psychologists say that a favourite scent can  prejudice us in favour of an experience by up to 46%.

2011 November 4

This is the time of year when parents start asking who is going to visit whom for Christmas. It’s a real snake pit: do you go to your own parents or instead stay with your boyfriend/girlfriend’s family? If you’re a senior, do you ask the kids to visit again, or admit that you’d rather stay with a friend/take a cruise/sit at home in your underwear and watch TV?

In any case, one feature of the holidays will be photos – the obligatory family picture that gets filed in the family album. What do you wear for the photo – and if you have little children, what should they wear?

1.    Begin by deciding on the basic theme of the photo – when it will be taken and does that mean it will be casual or dressy? If it’s over the dining table, take the photo at the beginning of the meal not the end, when gravy splashes and family bickering may have spoilt the tablecloth and the mood.
2.    Browse online to pick some colour themes: black and white look a bit like a funeral but festive red and green don’t suit everyone. If you can suggest a basic colour scheme to everybody who will be in the photo, it’s a nicer way of reminding them to dress up than just asking them to look smart! If your family are totally non-cooperative, ordering individually monogrammed Christmas polo shirts or hoodies for everyone can be one way to get them to look reasonable in the photo album!
3.    Remember that whether shopping or appearing in photos, children have short attention spans so get everything ready in advance, and rather than dragging them round the shops, put together some outfits online and then let them choose from the items you’ve already pre-selected: it’s a two minute job and nobody gets stressed.
4.    Get everybody to try on their clothes for the photo well in advance of the day, so that tears or stains, grubby collars or outgrown items can all be dealt with before they become a last-minute crisis.

2011 September 8

It’s always worrying for parents when a child dislikes their new school, or dreads the beginning of another school year. It can seem inexplicable: the child may enjoy the subjects they are studying, and have friends they are looking forward to seeing again, but even so, they may feel ‘down’, worried and even become tearful and frightened at the thought of school.

There are several ways to help a nervous or unhappy child get over the first days of the new term:

Memory banks for both sexes – instead of forcing your child to think forward, encourage them to think backwards: creating a scrapbook about the summer which records their best memories of the school break can be a good way of getting them into the groove of school again. The best way to use a scrapbook is to fill it from the front to the back with memories and from the back to the front with plans, so that a child can prepare pages for school trips, for birthday parties in the months ahead and for half-term ideas, all of which balance out the fun of school and the fun of holidays.

Self esteem for girls – sometimes it’s low self-esteem that triggers a bout of fear so taking a daughter for a haircut, or helping her revamp her wardrobe can be enough to remove the feeling of inadequacy. Don’t suggest it as an answer though, just plan a family trip to the hairdressers or suggest that you go through her school clothing with her while you talk over the problem … that way you can suggest a couple of items that would add to her clothing choices. For older girls, try offering a budget and letting them have a friend round to shop online together – this allows them to exercise the power of choice and to work out how to get the most for their money, both attributes that boost self-esteem.

Self-esteem for boys – often boys struggle with their feelings, so getting them involved in an activity where they can express their emotions, such as drama, can be the simplest way to release fears and tensions around school. Sports, unsurprisingly, are also a great safety valve, but rather than football or after-school activities, enrol him in a mixed age sport like a martial art. A class where they will be able to see and hear older people than themselves coping with challenges, making fools of themselves and getting over it, and winning and losing in public gives them the chance to learn the skills they need to feel secure at school. A martial art also teaches boys how to care for their appearance and clothing and to be polite in public: key features of a successful school career.

2011 August 31

Many women find themselves struggling to make good clothing choices when they are juggling home and childcare, and given that it’s just been revealed that women are still paid around £500 less a year than men, and many are also having to provide support to elderly relatives, it’s even more important to get the best from a clothing budget that has to go from home to school to work and back again.

No pressure buying

Buying online is a great way to be able to take your time. Rather than dragging the kids round the shops, or feeling pressured to make swift choices so you can get back to do childcare or elder supervision, shop at home with a glass of wine and only buy when you feel ready to do it!

No sweat choices

Choosing navy blue or grey or black as a base colour and then picking three coordinating colours to go with that base, means everything works together. Pick a simple dress in your base colour, and then choose a V-necked long sleeved T-shirt to go over it in one of your three coordinating colours. Add a pair of leggings or thick tights in your second coordinating colour. Choose a scarf and belt in your third colour. With the addition of black tights, a black T-shirt and a white short sleeved shirt, you’ve got six outfits all based on the same basic dress. For more ideas see the Uniform Project where one dress with accessories is taken through 365 days.

Nimble clothing

Lay out your outfit the night before you want to wear it, including the shoes and underwear you need. Then put beside it a cold weather option (scarf, pashmina, cardie) and a hot weather option (sunhat, sunglasses, sandals instead of boots) and whatever happens, you will be ready to rock in good time for the school run!

2011 July 7

You might not know what it is, and we weren’t too sure either, but apparently one of the hottest trends for this autumn and winter is the move from formal to casual at all levels. Stylesight trend forecasters say we’ll all do it. For example, knitted T-shirts are going to be office wear (although we don’t recommend being the first person in your company to try this out in the boardroom!) and leggings will replace trousers when being worn with jackets. Hmmm.

Getting the look

There’s no doubt that certain kinds of sportswear are being tipped for massive success in the next year or so: shorts like a cross between cycle shorts and scuba wear have been on the Hong Kong catwalk – they are like ‘fat pants’ for both men and women and act as compression clothing to completely change the contour of the lower body while, it’s claimed, helping to improve circulation.

Other top tips are polo-shirts in red, which has been seen as the winter’s big colour. Apart from red, most colours will be muted and cool, offering the crimson sportswear as the key item in a wardrobe that will probably mainly feature grey, ice-blue and charcoal.

As companies the size of Wal-Mart rely on Stylesight’s trend-spotting, the forecasting firm must know their business. We’re really not convinced about the knitted T-shirts though …

2011 May 26

According to recent research conducted by Cambridge University, the average woman might be purchasing around 28 kilos of textile a year. Lucy Siegle, who writes on the environment for The Observer, extrapolates from this that women have four times as many clothes as they did thirty years ago – but that they are throwing away just about the same amount of clothes each year as they buy.

The suggestion is that one reason for this increase in buying (although it’s not an increase in spending: the cost of clothing has dropped considerably – while spending on female clothing rose by 21% in the first half of the 2000s, the price of individual items dropped by 14%) is the rise in something called ‘luxurious leisurewear’ which is a hybrid of casual clothing, sportswear and sleepwear. It’s the kind of leggings and T-shirt or shorts and ballerina cardigan combo that reality TV stars and celebrities are caught wearing in candid photos and apparently women rush out to buy similar items to wear themselves.

It’s claimed that online shopping has contributed to this rise in buying, as it has allowed women to buy clothing once normal shops are shut, so they can extend their passion for fashion right round the clock.

However, there’s some evidence that the craze for ‘disposable fashion’ is slowing down and that people are starting to focus more on clothing ranges that demonstrate quality and long-lasting fabrics.

2011 April 27

Have you ever had that experience where you see a fantastic item in a shop window and yet when you try it on, it just doesn’t look good on you? Most of us have been through that disappointment and it’s one of the things that can make shopping online quite stressful – bad enough to feel the let down when you try something on in the shop, but so much worse to feel it when you’ve ordered something and had it delivered and then have to send it back.

The answer is to put in a bit of research first. There are so many different ways of sizing clothes (even the New York Times can’t work it out) that it’s good try on some of the clothes from major brands to see how they fit you – that helps you choose the right size when you shop online.

Then look for an online retailer who’s been around for a while – there are loads of fly-by-night scamsters, often selling fake clothing, who vanish before any disgruntled customer can get to them to ask for a refund, so companies who have been selling online for several years have normally ironed out their customer service and are able to offer excellent advice: look out for numbers for advisers you can call to talk through your decisions – you may not need to use them but the fact that they exist is a positive sign. Google the company and see what others have said about them – that helps you work out which are the genuine long-term retailers who care about customers and selling really good clothing online.

Check delivery systems carefully, many small sites deliver only within their own national boundaries – and look at the delivery costs because often you can make a substantial saving if you shop with a friend and get a bulk discount or reach the ‘free delivery’ level.

2010 December 10

If you’ve ever tried to make a Christmas spending budget and stick to it, you’ll know how tough it can be. Here are some tips to help:

Have budgeting goals

One reason we don’t stick to a budget is that there’s no incentive. Saving money is not enough of a reason to keep to our agreed limits. Try to envisage what the money you save will be spent on – do you want a new netbook or the down-payment for a car? If so, keeping the big goal in mind can help you stick to your budget of only spending a certain amount on party clothing over the Christmas season, for example

Don’t apply across the board cuts

Many novice budgeters think that you have to ‘cut all expenses’ but that’s not the case. There are places to cut expenditure: overdrafts, eating out, entertainment, then the  places that you shouldn’t skimp: good shoes, well-fitting clothes, heating etc and finally the places you can make judgements for yourself: posh food or designer clothes? 4 star hotel or budget one?

Be accountable

One reason budgets fail is that you don’t keep track of them. You can do this either with envelopes containing the money you can spend in each category each month. Once an envelope is empty, no more spending in that category until next month. Or by using a simple spreadsheet that connects to your bank account to keep track of what you’re doing.

Have fun

Think about ways you can enjoy your expenditure. Go shopping with friends – even online shopping can be done with friends: order in a pizza and get together to browse an online retailer, placing a bulk order so that you save money on delivery costs by buying in bulk together!

2010 November 10

Or almost any other male celebrity who takes your fancy – assuming they are under thirty and dress in clothing that can be replicated through the major online retailers and high street fashion shops.

How? By visiting myCelebrityFashion.co.uk which has launched a men’s section this month, so that the Waynes of this world can keep up with their Coleens and the Davids with their Victorias.

The website reckons to reveal the latest male celebrity trends and where to buy them so ordinary folk can ‘steal the style’ of their favourite celebrities by using a tagging system that shows buyers where to similar, or even identical garments and accessories to those of the starts.

It’s linked to over 400 fashion retailers and generates sales by directing visitors to any items that take their fancy as stocked by those retailers. So it’s not necessarily the most cost effective way to look like a star!

So if you want to find a Steven Jones brown shirt, geek glasses like Matt Cardle, David Beckham’s black beanie and Channing Tatum cargo shorts, go visit the website – but remember to shop around to find clothing bargains that are just as good as those on the mycelebrity site, but may be a lot cheaper.