Buy, buy, buy! The fashion director’s guide to the sales

Face it, in Britain we wear summer clothes only for a fortnight, so shop the sales accordingly


How to shop the summer sales? I have a radical new approach. Forget that it’s summer at all. Not difficult, I find, when it is bucketing down outside; when you are googling for discounts wearing a woolly jumper and sheepskin slippers or braving the high street in your cagoule.

Just concentrate on the sales bit. Which of the clothes that are reduced are going to work hardest for you all year? And do the discounts mean that you can buy better than you would normally? (I don’t think sales shopping is about acquiring more stuff than you would otherwise; rather, higher-quality stuff than you can afford at full price.)

Add a dash of sunlight without sacrificing any practicality

We all worked out long ago that summer is only really an issue for us Brits for about a month and a half each year, if we are lucky, and that even then it’s a bit of a damp squib. Yet, ridiculously, I have only just applied this learning to my wardrobe, finally sussing out that, if you live north of Biarritz, there is no point in acquiring endless diaphanous cotton dresses and pairs of sandals, tempting as they may seem.

Of course, you may need a fortnight’s worth of proper hot-weather clothes for when you travel somewhere that actually does summer — but, to repeat, IT’S A FORTNIGHT. Your holiday wardrobe should be the ultimate capsule affair, added to sparingly and, I posit, packed away when not in use. (No need to depress yourself by facing that kaftan when you open your closet on yet another rainy June weekday.)

In short, your priority in the sales should be items you could get away with wearing not only now, but also in September, not to mention December. Which means all things knitted, as long as they are not too bulky; medium-weight tailoring; posh long-sleeved T-shirts that, even when reduced, cost more than your mother would imagine possible; and dresses that can be layered over those slim-fit jersey tees or knits, or under a cardigan or jacket. Not forgetting jumpsuits, the ultimate trans-seasonal solution, and therefore perfect for those who live in permanently trans-seasonal conditions, namely us Brits, with our endless wintumn.

I have totally changed my approach to my wardrobe. I no longer do a winter-summer closet swap-over because I have realised that it is a lot of hassle for no gain. I may do a bit of light re-hanging to make some things more accessible than others and put a few of my heftier knits and properly wintry coats in mothproof bags, but that’s as far as it goes.

I don’t want you to think, though, that I have become predictable and that I spend my life in the same heavyweight clothes. My new approach is about mixing things up both ways, so in the colder months wearing that kaleidoscopic Kit & Ace silk skirt with a cashmere crewneck or the Joseph pale pink pleated one with a cable knit, both with opaque tights and chunky boots.

And, just to be clear, for mixing it up read: layering. This is the smartest way to make the same clothes work for you all year. Be aware, however, that certain conventionally summery fabrics suit this approach better than others. Silk and lace are super-adaptable, for example; linen less so. Cottons will work on your top half throughout the year but can be tricky on your lower.

That’s right, the one advantage of our hermetically sealed modern world (recent figures suggest that British children spend less time outdoors than prisoners, and we adults can’t be far behind) is that, courtesy of central heating, in January a silk skirt doesn’t have to be a no-no. (Though bare legs, I would argue, most definitely are, a view that puts me at odds with the hardier regulars on the front row.)

Summer sales shopping at its most expert is about adding a dash of metaphorical sunlight without sacrificing the practical requirements that determine perennial wearability, for which — as I said — read: layerability. It’s about adding a frisson of summer to the perma-wintumn.

So here are my 20 sale buys to power you through the interminable grey — and I’m not talking about Brexit — while still enabling you to pull off a suitably festive flourish should summer ever put in an appearance.

1 Marc Jacobs Astor Lightning Bolt trainers
£147, from £245 (
Wear with light cropped trousers or a summery skirt if the weather decides to get hot (and the best invisible socks, from Stance; £8, Wear with everything else if it doesn’t.

2 Anya Hindmarch Ebury tote
£747, from £1,495 (
Quite the chic-est identity crisis of an accessory I have come across. Is this a sophisticated taupe number or a charming act of whimsy? Both. Plus, it offers your own portable weather system. Have rainbow, will travel.

3 Claudie Pierlot Volupte blazer
£241.50, from £345 (
Now this is what I call a clever sales purchase. To state the obvious, it is a gorgeous, gorgeous jacket: classic but also unusual. Claudie Pierlot’s tailoring is great quality too. The matching Poeme cropped trousers — how French! — are £139.30 from £191.

4 & Other Stories open-back dress
£35, from £69 (
Easy-peasy stylishness with a chic open-back detail that turns layering into something even more fun than usual.

5 Kit & Ace More Volume skirt
£65, from £165 (
An undoubtedly punchy piece that will bring alive all those low-key basics that are the lifeblood of the canny shopper’s wardrobe.

6 Rae Feather cashmere rollneck
£192, from £240 (
I wear short sleeves increasingly often, because I have finally worked out that they look great layered over long sleeves, be it a shirt or a T-shirt. This is just one of the topping trans-seasonal knits from this small British label.

7 Yarnz scarf
£83.30, from £119 (
A featherweight scarf can be played either way — to add interest to an outfit or give warmth. You decide or, rather, the weatherman can.

8 Astley Clarke stacking rings
£175, from £315 (
Ready-made stacking rings for lazy people, and those who have an eye for a bargain.

9 Joseph Hilde pleated skirt
£175, from £295 (
The pleated skirt has been going strong for seasons now. So, for that matter, has pale pink. I rest my case.

10 Mint velvet print trousers
£49, from £79 (
Good with a T-shirt, just as good with a giant Aran. The perfect double-whammy.

11 Yolke Nashville silk shirt
£87.50, from £175 (
Silk shirts are the most chic trans-seasonal solution. This is particularly covetable.

12 Coccinelle bucket bag
£150.50, from £215 (
A great colour, a great shape. Perfect for brightening up the dullest day.

13 Whistles Buena jumpsuit
£110, from £180 (
A simple, forgiving take on the scary-sounding jumpsuit. In fact, the jumpsuit is an easy and modern way to do dressy whatever your age, and you can style it to look casual to boot. Add polo neck underneath as required.

14 LK Bennett Florisa court shoes
£95, from £170 (
A fun yet practical floral, plus a doable everyday heel height. This will see you through rain and shine.

15 Massimo Dutti leather jacket
£165, from £229 (available in stores nationwide)
Have you ever thought how great a colourful leather jacket would look layered under a black or navy wool winter coat? That’s right, you heard me. It would be equally pitch-perfect over a cotton day dress.

16 Dolce & Gabbana wool crepe dress
£597, from £996 (
Because a killer dress is a killer dress, and a temperature-raiser in its own right. A for-ever-after purchase.

17 Harris Wharf trench coat
£149, from £375 (
I love my Harris Wharf pressed-wool coat. It’s lightweight enough to be worn almost all year round. Just adapt the layer underneath to suit the temperature.

18 Finery London Sutherland jumper
£39, from £59 (
Gorgeous colour, modern shape, 365-days-a-year weight. Every box ticked.

19 Mango crop jacket
£24.99 from £49.99 (
I’ve had a jacket exactly like this one for years, and it looks equally good over a polo neck or a silk tee, with wool trousers or with a lace pencil skirt.

20 Vince striped cotton top
£90 from £150 (
One of my go-to brands for top-quality fine-weave tops, be they T-shirts or knits, to layer under practically everything practically always. Not cheap even in the sale, but you’ll soon find out why.
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