I have three favourite chain stores. Witchery makes clothes that suit my height and long torso, Decjuba’s minimalist basics with a twist always appeal and Sportsgirl can be counted on to lend a bit of boho. I daresay most of us have a set of go-to stores that we know work for us. But before you make a bee-line for your tried and true, think outside the box. You might be missing some gems.
Here are some places you probably aren’t shopping that are definitely worth a look:
1. Stores that are way too young for you. You know the kind. You don’t quite recognise the music, the clothes are slightly too short, slightly too tight and generally in need of a jolly good iron. Once you get past the barely dressed mannequins you are likely to find well priced t-shirting, often with unusual detailing. Some of my favourite t-shirts have come from stores squarely aimed at those at least fifteen years younger than I am. And they have lasted much longer than more expensive options. Try: Dotti, Bec and Bridge, Forever New.
2. Stores that are way, way too young for you. That is, the girls’ section. Fitted garments won’t work due to the chest/waist/hip ratio being very different in girls’ sizes, but looser clothes are definitely an option. A size 14 girls’ top is based on a waist of 68 cm, which equates to the waist of a women’s size 10. My rather divine sister in law has been raiding her girls’ wardrobes for years now. If your feet are much smaller than my size 9½ hoofers, the girls’ shoe range is also an option. Hey, you don’t know unless you try and kids clothes are often cheaper than their adult counter-parts. Try: Pavement, Cotton On Teen, Bardot Junior.
3. The men’s section. While you are busy looking in departments not quite meant for you, sneak on over to the men’s area. I find men’s pyjamas so comfortable and you can also find really snuggly jumpers, often at much cheaper prices that in the women’s department. Try: Myer Mens, yd, SurfStitch.
4. Pyjama section. Kimonos are a gorgeous fashion piece, but they are often quite expensive. Sometimes you get lucky and can find inexpensive kimonos that are perfectly suitable for outside wear in the section dedicated to inside wear. Try: Peter Alexander, Bra ‘n’ Things, Deshabille.
5. Stores that are way too old for you. The places where your Great Aunty Mabel shops and you swear never to set a foot in. Go past the granny clothes and head for the accessories. You’ll often find some lovely things that no-one else is wearing because they just don’t look in these kinds of stores. Try: Ezibuy, Debenhams, Next.
6. Stores that are way too expensive for you. There are some stores I used to avoid for fear of re-enacting that scene in Pretty Woman — “I don’t think we have anything for you.” Once you get past the inadequacy factor you realise that everyone does sales. Even the expensive stores. And faster than you can say “Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.” you might find a bargain designer piece. Try: The Iconic, Stylerunner, Dissh.
7. Local Boutiques and Gift Stores. I am a big fan of supporting your local, independent boutiques. To have made it in retail, these store owners really know their stuff. You are likely to receive much better, more knowledgable service than you will get in a chain store and you are supporting your neighbourhood economy. Online you can shop ‘local’ through sites like Down That Little Lane.
8. The supermarket. I must admit, I was a bit unsure about buying my clothes with my groceries when Mix hit my local Coles. However, I have picked up some great basics on the bargain rack. My favourite sneakers come from Aldi. Just keep an eye out and an open mind.
9. The markets. There are some beautiful, unique pieces to be picked up at local markets — and you never know — you might just be supporting the next great Australian designer. Try: Finders Keepers, Bondi Markets, The Designer Markets.
10. Importers. One of the lovely things about living in Australia is how accessible other cultures are due to our multicultural heritage. In a nearby suburb I can visit a Balinese importer, a Greek deli and an Indian grocer. Sometimes these stores also sell clothes. If you are looking for a gorgeous, embroidered Indian style long skirt, try an Indian store. If you are looking for relaxed Balinese pants, try the store that will have the original.
11. Clothing Agents. In any large city there will be an area of town that houses agencies that act as an intermediaries between clothing wholesalers and boutiques. Occasionally these agencies will sell to the public or host warehouse sales. Try: 4Threads, Melbourne Warehouse Sales or keep an eye on the forums at The Fashion Spot.
12. Etsy and other sites dedicated to homemade. Etsy is great for more than just home-wares and kids toys. It’s the marketplace for up-coming fashion stars and you can often find quirky, unique pieces at very reasonable prices. Some sellers will even whip something bespoke up for you. Also try: Made It, DTLL, Handmade Australia.
13. Your friends’ wardrobe. When I really need something special, the first place I look is my sister-in-law’s wardrobe. She has amazing taste and she’s a similar height. Why buy something you might only wear once when you can borrow? All it will cost you is the dry cleaning and a bottle of thank you bubbles.
Next time you head out on a shopping adventure — whether online or locally — why not take a detour and try something new? You never know what you might find.
Do you have any hidden shopping gems?
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