Sandro Bargain
Sandro Bargain
Fit & Flare
Fit & Flare

How I Shop {Tips & Tricks}

Author: Charlotte O'Shea

In a sea of “capsule” wardrobes, instagram “influencers” and what seems like an almost constant sale season, I officially fell out of love with fashion.

Well, at least for a while anyway. I was bored of seeing the same pieces everywhere, outfits that almost seemed to be put together for “likes” rather than real life, and nearly every store seemingly looking like a jumble sale at closing time.

Like with most features I write for the Rock My brand, I seem to come to the same conclusion, you’ve got to stick to what you like and what suits you – figure out your own personal style. There is nothing wrong with trying alternatives (the world would be boring if we didn’t ever experiment) and of course our tastes and requirements change as we age/change lifestyles/change jobs etc etc. But I know just from talking to friends and the ladies in the team, sometimes there is simply too much choice, being faced with so much shiny newness on a constant basis can make you feel as though perhaps you are stuck in a wardrobe rut (myself included). And yes, I completely see the irony in the fact that we often tempt you with lovely garments on these very pages.

After I had got over myself, realised I like what I like, and that no matter how much I want to, I am never going to feel comfortable in anything midi-length, I had a good look inside my own closet to figure out what was working and what wasn’t.

As a result I’m going to share my shopping habits with you and hope that you will share you own savvy secrets in the comments section below.

For your information: My wardrobe is about 70% high street, 15% more “luxe” brands (Sandro, Maje, The Kooples etc) and 15% designer (Mostly bargains but some core investment pieces).

The Outnet Is Life

For those of you unfamiliar with The Outnet, it is the online outlet of the designer mecca that is Net A Porter. New products become available every few days but rather than checking back repeatedly (who has time for that?) I sign up for email notifications and can manipulate my preferences. I choose to be notified on brands that I love and tend to come up “true to size” as well as those that with between 50 -70% off I can actually afford.

I favour Rag and Bone, Helmut Lang, Alexander Wang, Isabel Marant (and the diffusion line Isabel Marant Etoile), Sandro, Maje and See By Chloe. I then also select my size preferences, so I am not disappointed to be notified of pieces that are simply not available to fit me personally.

For extra money saving sales (sometimes The Outnet have up to 80% off) I would advise to always sort by size, nothing worse than swiping through 56 beautiful dresses only to find out not a single one will fit.

I also add “sold out” items to my wish list – you are notified if they ever come back into stock.

Some of my all time favourite items I have bagged are a lush Alexander Wang cardigan that I have worn to death (reduced from £300 to £80) and an Alexander Wang LBD (reduced from £650 to £300 then down to £200) as well as an Isabel Marant white long-sleeved top (reduced from £200 to £60).

I bought the Sandro Macrame detail blouse that you can see in header image above, for less than half price a few weeks ago from The Outnet, I couldn’t justify the original RRP even though I really liked it. Of course not every piece you desire is going to end up on the sale pages but you’ve got nothing to lose by checking.

Find Some Fabulous Jeans And Buy Multiple Pairs

Admittedly it’s easier to buy multiples if they are cheap in the first place. But still, a flattering pair of denim is well worth the splurge, and I would always always recommend back ups. Not all styles stay around forever.

My current favourites are from Zara, they have a zip in the ankle which means they are are uber skinny and thus elongate my legs. I bought two pairs of blue and two pairs of black. Unfortunately they no longer sell this design – my only regret is that I didn’t buy more.

Find a Dress/Skirt Style That Suits And Experiment With Colour And Fabrics

Apologies in advance if this sounds really bloody obvious. The most flattering skirt shape on me is a fit and flare in a mini (but not knicker flashing) length – they emphasise my small waist but give me some kind of hip (of which I have none) as well as making me look less stumpy. In the header image above you will see two, a Needle and Thread number than was 50% off at the Outnet (£100) and a Sandro star print from the Selfridges Sale. As I know I will feel comfortable in the style, I’m more confident to experiment with some fancy embroidery/different textures and hues.

In the same vain I am a lover of the tea dress. I favour Topshop – infact I haven’t found a more luxe label that rivals their fit on me. I recently purchased this ditsy print frock with lace. The cut looks far more expensive than the £34 price tag would suggest.

Sometimes An Investment Is Exactly That

I know I have a tendency to joke about “price per wear” but it really is about value for me. I’ve wasted far more of my hard earned cash on frivolous high street trend pieces that I’ve worn a couple of times than I would have on some classic pricier items that I know I would have worn for years – had I just gone with my gut and ignored the initial ouch factor of the price tag.

My Stuart Weitzman Highland boots have been worn to multiple weddings, various date nights, birthday parties, BBQs and even a presentation at The Ritz in collaboration with Moet & Chandon (uber posh, thought I better put my best footwear on) as well as being involved in various questionable dance moves after one too many glasses of Prosecco. Obviously I won’t be wearing thigh boots when I’m 60 but they are definitely something I’ll pass onto my daughter Mabel in the future*

Same goes for my Chloe Marcie mini textured leather shoulder bag. SO versatile. I literally use it for any every special occasion.

How do you shop? What’s been your best designer investment? Ever not bought something and hugely regretted it? What was your most recent impulse buy that turned out to be a complete waste of time? Go on, spill the beans.

*F*ck it. I hope to still be dancing on a table in my thigh boots when I’m 80. Mabel can borrow them if she wants.

Purveyor of short shorts. Make-up junkie. Hopes to grow old disgracefully.
Follow Charlotte on instagram @charlotte.oshea
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31 thoughts on “How I Shop {Tips & Tricks}

  1. I have to admit I’m not a fan of online shopping and, apart from the odd Boden purchase, probably haven’t bought any clothes online in over 10 years. My reasons for this are a mixture of laziness and pragmatism. I have an odd shape, I’m short(ish) and have curves but a tiny waist and rib cage so finding anything that fits can be hard and, to be honest, I’m not sure I could be bothered with constantly having to go to my, not so, local post office with returns.
    I live in a small city with a limited number of decent High St shops, but it’s still slim pickings when it comes to finding nice clothes, Zara has been a saviour at times. Luckily, there is an amazing local boutique that always has a fabulous selection and is well worth the slightly higher price point.
    Most years I visit London on at least one occasion, I’m off tomorrow and cannot wait, and tend to restock my work wardrobe whilst there.
    My best designer investment… Balenciaga dress for £100 reduced from over £800 that I have never worn in over 5 years as it is a size too big and too pretty to risk being hacked up by a seamstress, and a DVF dress for £75 ( both bought on sale at Harvey Nicks) that I love and wear over and over again.
    Can’t wait to hit the shops in London tomorrow, first stop, Spittalfields 😀

    1. Leona I tend to do a few London shops a year with my friend kelly – sometimes you just need to “see” things in the flesh. Plus I think it’s easy to miss items online, especially if they are not styled particularly well. I like ASOS because of the video aspect – you can see how garments hang and move.

      I don’t find returns a problem as I visit the post office frequently with work, so I just take my returns then. The process if much easier than it used to be even a few years back, they supply a pre-paid label and it’s just scanned at the PO, they then simply give you a receipt. Have a lovely time shopping!

  2. Charlotte I invest in bags, I like clothes and would say I have a day to day uniform that I return to but it’s bags that really make my heart stop and my purse open!
    I do try to buy more at Bicester now which I’m lucky to live quite near but I have a pretty decent collection that smarten up every outfit. As well as a Chanel that made me cry when I bought it…sometimes these things must be done and loved forever!

    1. Beckie I too visit Bicester a few times a year, I have bought a lovely Coach bag from there. I think I need more information on this Chanel bag!!!! That is the dream x

      1. I would say just do it, don’t think about it too much and what you could spend it on! They go with everything and an investment for Mabel!

  3. Bags are my weakness! I have always been a bag lover and they just juj up any outfit! My mum has passed down some vintage designer bags to me and my sister and I just love the idea of being able to do that. Styles may change, my body shape may change but a classic bag I know I can use forever and can be handed down so I don’t mind investing in that kind of purchase! Mulberry is my favourite – I wish I lived closer to Bicester! Thank you for the tips….I have never used The Outnet – I will be browsing! X

    1. oooh Tish get browsing – all the bags! and absolutely right about body shape/age etc and the fact that a classic bag will ALWAYS look good. Hmm. Think I may need to invest in a few more 🙂 x

  4. I’m very similar to you in that I have a mix of high street, luxe high street and the odd designer investment (most recently a Burberry trench 😍💸).

    I find myself less influenced by trends now than a few years ago, instead going for classics and things that I know suit me (so lots of black jeans and Breton tops). That being said, one trend that I am loving is wide leg culottes. I have both trouser and jumpsuit versions and just find them so to dress up / down. I wear with one of my many pairs of trainers for instant skandi chic.

    1. A Burberry trench?! All the green eyes over here. I am also with you on the black jeans. Also do you follow Anine Bing on insta? She is a Danish model who has her own brand. I love everything she designs. Also her hair. I think you will feel the same x

      1. Yes! Every time I see her on Insta I want to chop all my hair off. Alas I don’t have her cheekbones so fear i’d look like a pudding.

        I bought a linen v-neck t-shirt from her brand when I first started following her, must look that out. I love the studded boots she brings out every year too, kind of like the Chloe Susanna but cooler.

        1. Me too me too on the boots! I have cheekbones if I lay off the biscuits. I need to tell myself: PUT. Down. The. Digestives. Now.

          Let me know about the T-shirt when you look it out. I also want her leather trousers.

  5. I first learnt of price per wear from Becky Bloomwood (Confessions of a Shopaholic books anyone?) and it is actually good logic! I completely agree with you on The Outnet. I tend to scope items out on NAP then keep my fingers crossed they’ll appear on The Outnet at a later date. Have you ever come across Vestiaire Collective? It’s basically designer Ebay. I have sold items through them. Their quality control is very good. I’ve avoided recent trends – frills and cold shoulders don’t suit me. Roll on A/W and being back in tights!

    1. Hi Charlotte! I do the same ref scoping out NAP. I actually bought a dress from Vestaire Collective (Maje) and there wasn’t anything wrong with the quality, it just didn’t fit and obviously you can’t return so it kind of put me off. I must look into it again though, especially with selling items on.

      I love a cold shoulder but not really down with the frills either, and yes to A/W black tights!!!!! xx

  6. What a timely post. I am in the rut of all ruts! So there is muchos clicking through everything you’ve linked for inspiration.

    I’ve recently stopped Pinterest binging on fashion images with no real outcome and have started dissecting the outfits for pieces I think I would actually wear from them. I now have a list called ‘In The Market For’ on my to-do app and it ranges everything from ‘Good quality knitted but sexy over the knee loungewear socks” to “Oxblood leather jacket”. The aim is to choose a few items on the list each month and go on a virtual hunt for them and them only.

    My hope is that this quashes the stupid impulse buys, (I’m looking at you – high waisted skirt that won’t allow me to so much as sniff a pastry without pulling the buttons).

    1. Naomi I too was after an Oxblood leather jacket! There was one at The Kooples that I missed out on years ago and I’ve regretted it ever since. I know what you mean on Pinterest, I have a board just for cool outfits but I can rarely get my hands on the actual pieces – they are usually American/sold out as the image is quite old.

      Let me know if you find the over the knee loungewear socks, I can only ever find up to the knee x

  7. You definitely have a great sense of style and what suits you Charlotte! I’m still learning (and learning again post baby!) but starting to figure it out, for example midi styles are my friend (yay!) but minis not so much as I feel it leaves too much pale long leg exposed!! On a slightly random side note, do you (or any readers!) have tips for keeping black jeans black?! Xx

    1. I always wash mine on a very cool wash Amanda, but even that doesn’t completely stop fade. I do have some J Brand which have definitely stayed black BLACK – they are more spendy but worth it x

      1. Have you tried Mr Black Denim Spray? Saves you having to wash them as much. Sounds gross but I promise it’s not. You can get it in GAP and on ASOS.

  8. I’m a handbag girl. I bought a couple of Calvin Klein handbags in New York on my 30th birthday (4 years ago) – they were massively reduced but I am now happy to pay more for a good bag as I have used these bags almost every day and they are still in very good condition.

    I very nearly bought a McQueen bag in the Liberty sale. I changed my mind when I showed it to my husband who pointed out it was almost exactly the same as the one I had on me at the time. I learnt my lesson – do not take husbands shopping in future!

    1. Ha ha no don’t Claire! James doesn’t really understand why I need multiple grey T-shirts or various pairs of nude shoes….I’ve never really considered a CK bag, love their underwear though x

  9. Hmm I know what you mean about ‘influencers’ … what is up with a certain other women’s lifestyle website who is always posting click-baity things about “omg do you have the latest intsa sensation from [insert zara/topshop/primark here]” and I always clickerty clickbait it open and no, no I don’t and it is so so ugly who is wearing these things??! If it was cool, you can’t buy it anyway, because its sold out. You are now officially behind the trend and unfashionable! What is the point? Am I just getting really old?

    You always look lovely Charlotte and definitely have your own personal style, I think that’s the key to knowing what to shop for and how to feel good. I’m slowly working it out, and as someone said above, working it out yet again after having had a baby. I find certain things here quite hard to buy as I’m not British and I think I have just a completely different body shape to the ‘average’ that lots of the stores are catering for. Don’t have the issue as much at home, but there is also a LOT less selection in New Zealand. I found it completely overwhelming when I first came here to find anything I liked until I found out what shops stock things that are ‘my style’ if that makes sense.

    The spendiest thing in my wardrobe is an All Saints leather jacket which I bought in the sale but I love love love it and it will never really go out of fashion so on a cost per wear as you say its all good. Jeans are tricky, I have huge calf muscles which doesn’t sit well with the currently never ending skinny jeans trend, sigh. I did incidentally buy a pair the other day (from All Saints, again on sale) and now I think maybe I should go and browse full priced versions in the same style!

    I also feel like reading all these comments an ‘investment bag’ might be a good idea….;)

    1. Emma my sister has recently had an All Saints leather jacket for her birthday, it is beautiful, and I am really quite jealous! I have quite muscular calves and find a skinny jean has to be skin tight and sit right on your foot for elongation, anything a bit lose at the ankle makes my legs look short.

      My chloe bag was definitely a really excellent buy, I use it most weekends x

  10. My problem is my body shape has changed and I’ve lost my buying mojo. It’s like I don’t know who I am anymore (clothing wise that is!). I wish someone could come in, ‘appraise me’ and then tell me what I should be buying to reflect my personality and flatter my shape. I guess that would be a stylist, but I always think that’s for people with thousands to spend.

    1. I’ve heard a stylist (obviously look for recommendations) is well worth the investment. When a friend of mine hit her early thirties she just didn’t know how to dress, so she had a stylist take her shopping for the day. She looked AMAZING – the stylist picked out all sorts of stuff she wouldn’t have necessarily considered x

  11. My friends have a go at me all the time for buying those boots but I wear them so much they are basically my skin… I invested in some black lk bennet pumps and have had them re heeled and ‘re soaled so many times I had to mourn their passing this weekend and look to invest in a new pair…. but I can only find patent leather ones!!!! I’m trying to find a dress for a wedding in Sept but am considering hiring one as I don’t want to splash too much on a dress I will wear like 2 times… I have a wardrobe full of those.

    1. For buying the Stuart Weitzman? ha ha ha. My husband didn’t believe me when I admitted how much they were. Definitely check out The Outnet for dresses, I also think ASOS have some occasion options that are inexpensive.

      I had a pair of grey ankle boots from France, not expensive but I loved them, had them re-heeled so many times. They are also RIP 🙁

  12. I love your sense of style Charlotte- i have had a huge wardrobe clearout as since i changed job paths i no longer needed any smart clothes for during the day (pretty much living in denim dungarees, trainers and t shirts) now i’m buying more wisely as i really don’t need so many clothes and driving everywhere means i don’t need more than a couple of pairs of posh heels – i have always loved your fringed tan boots but sadly they were out of stock and i was debating the price as i knew I’d only wear them for the odd evening out- however, i stumbled across these in Schuh on sale at a fraction of the price- the lady in the store said they just started to stock the brand but its not been so popular so its all on sale…i’ll just leave the link right here…

  13. Hi Charlottle, what is the trick to manipulating your email preferences on The Outnet? When I go to the email preferences page, the only things I can change are my dress size and shoe size. How do you chose to be notified about specific designers?!

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