I have a secret obsession with January Sales. I know I’m about 30 years late – who cares about January when you can grab a deal from Black Friday onwards? When the UK high street is dying and, in the very near future, an app will do our dressing for us? (like Cher’s wardrobe in Clueless but with better tech). Picking over the leftovers rack in an actual physical shop seems a bit behind the times – a naive thing to do as the rest of the shop floor looks desperately towards summer, and as political and economic uncertainty reign outside.
But I can’t help it – so here’s my love letter to a shopping experience that’s eroding.
For many years now, I’ve received high street vouchers for Christmas – whether that’s Topshop, H&M, New Look, Accessorize, etc. The gift isn’t only much appreciated funds, it’s also time. It’s permission to go and enjoy exploring the shops, without guilt. It’s the chance to play a game that’s somewhere between an economics brain teaser and Supermarket Sweep – I try to get as many things I really love and need as possible, without exceeding this set budget. It brightens my January to hunt through the sales remains, trying to spot brilliant things on the rack that other people may have missed. It’s a creative outlet during my lunch breaks, in what’s otherwise a dreary month.
This year, though, I was a bit hasty. I found myself on the Topshop website on Boxing Day, lured by the idea of grabbing my favourite items with the comfort of just a few clicks… But I’m not a regular online shopper, so that idea of convenience proved to be a lie. Waiting for the order to arrive, trying it on, finding two of the three items didn’t fit, going to the shop, joining the returns queue, and finding replacements that actually suited me took about 10 days. In the physical shop, trying on those three items and returning two of them at the dressing room would have taken 10 minutes. Lesson learnt. Back to the physical shop we go…
When you know you can hand the clothes back straight away (before paying!) you can be bolder in your choices. You can explore higher up the size chart and further down, without self-consciousness. I would never would normally stray from my size 8-10 but if I love an item that’s on offer, I’ll bend the rules to try to get it. I don’t get frustrated in the dressing room when the 6 proves too small, or the 12 too big, because it’s just the Sales and it was fun trying different stuff on. Occasionally, I’ll find the perfect thing, that works even though the label says it really shouldn’t (once three sizes up). The find is even more satisfying because it’s a fraction of the original price.
A lot of my favourite memories are tied to pieces I’ve discovered in the Sales. The teal blue heels for my graduation ball; the antique lace dress I wore to one of my closest friend’s weddings; the navy silk top I wore when my first play opened; the spy jumper (often referred to on here!) that made everyone laugh when I arrived back in Glasgow this Christmas – all purchased in Sales over the years, reduced way down to £5, £10 or £15. All things I love, that make me feel great, that make a special day even more perfect.
So what did I buy this year? The one item I kept from my questionable Boxing Day online ordering from Topshop was a pair of wide legged trousers. They’re cosy and playful for work wear, and can be dressed up or down. Inevitably, in my actual physical shopping I bought things I never would have considered online:
In two different Topshop branches, I found a midi-dress (a surprising size down) and a jumpsuit. Both fill gaps in my summer wardrobe, and can be dressed up for weddings this year. In H&M, I bought a really cheap grey t-shirt with shoulder embroidery because I fell in love with its expensively soft and woolly feel – an experience the internet couldn’t have given me! (no longer available but from their L.O.G.G range). I also stocked up on basic vests and a new pair of black joggers for rehearsing and cosy home-working.
As cheesy as it sounds, I’m excited for a new year in these new finds… Curating and editing wardrobe pieces for the year ahead has seen me through post-Christmas lows, to the gradually lightening days at the end of January (it’s basically spring now, right?).
So thanks, January Sales. Hope we both keep this relationship going.