Rant: The Trouble with Clothes Shopping

Seriously, should clothes shopping really be this difficult? I’ve gotten to a point where there are certain clothing items I desperately need, having recently starting work in an office, I need things like black trousers, suits, smart dresses and shirts. But I don’t have a massive budget.

Believe it or not, normally I don’t shop that often, I tend to only shop when there is something I particularly want or if I’ve seen something in a magazine or online that I want to check out.

I’m pretty sure that once upon a time I never struggled to find nice clothes that were reasonably priced, but now I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find clothes that are value for money, a good fit and quality fabric. I could rant on forever about problems with high street fashion, but I’m going to try and summarise my main gripes against the failings of high street fashion.

Why don’t sizes take into account height?

Ok, so fair enough many shops offer a tall range and a petite range, but these ranges often offer a very limited choice. In the case of New Look, the tall range annoys me because it’s always so boring compared to the main line, in Miss Selfridge the petite range annoys me because it includes lines that aren’t available in the main line. I don’t get it! Well I do, it’s about saving money isn’t it?

At 5’11” I would consider myself tall, but in many cases the tall ranges on the high street are too tall for me! Anyone else find that? I have also noticed that many tall ranges focus more on increasing the choice of leg length in trousers and not so much in skirt or dress length, which is where my main problems lie. Retailers such as Gap, offer leg length options in all their trousers, eliminating the need for a tall range.

I love pretty dresses, I wear dresses a lot, but the lengths of them is getting ridiculous, it’s so depressing when you find a beautiful dress, that you can afford, then you try it on and it’s so short it would be obscene to try and do anything in it. After a conversation on Twitter about it I found that it wasn’t just tall girls having this problem, average height girls also struggle.

The thing is right, if you make a skirt/ dress longer at least the customer can choose to shorten it either themselves or via one of many local alteration services. I know that the high street shops probably don’t care and don’t want to spend the extra money on a few extra inches, but I know I would be grateful for the option. You can’t do much about a garment that is too short, occasionally there might be a bit of a hem to be taken down, but rarely enough to make a difference.

It’s near impossible to find a dress or skirt for me now, everything is too short.  And it’s not that I’m being a prude and don’t want to show skin, but in real life, when you’ve got to walk upstairs or bend down to reach bottom shelves, you can’t be going around with the constant risk of knicker flashing, it’s not practical and it’s not ladylike.

Of course, there are retailers that do offer longer skirt/ dress length, they tend to be those aimed at an older market, shops such as Hobbs, Jaeger, Jigsaw and Laura Ashey, which I would love to say I could shop at, but unfortunately they are out of my price range at the moment.

Where are all the natural fabrics?

As a result of sometime spent in high end fashion retail, I must admit I have become a bit of a fabric snob, which does make clothes shopping more challenging, as I am constantly checking care labels for fabric content and care instructions. At the end of the day, I want to know that I’m getting value for money, something that will last and will be comfortable and easy to care for. 100% cotton is what  I look for the most, its breathable, hard wearing and easy to wash. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find these kinds of nice blends within my price range. And price don’t seem to be reflecting the quality you are paying for, it’s common sight to see a polyester dress sell for around £65, polyester being effectively a fabric made of plastic, which is often sweaty to wear and static when washed, it’s not really what you’d expect for that much money. It’s dissapointing.

But then again, I wonder does anyone actually care about fabrics anymore? In an age where the majority of the population want the latest trends for as little money as possible (hence the thriving of evil Primark!) I don’t think people think about things like value for money, fabric or ethics.

What if I don’t want to wear the latest fashion?

My last rant for now is about the saturation of fashion led design on the high street, so many rip offs of high end designers and every shop duplicating the same trends, what about individuality? What if I don’t want to wear the latest trend? There appears to be few high street stores that are affordable that do not focus on fashion trend led ranges. We have timeless classics amongst M&S, Laura Ashley & Jigsaw, but again, aimed at an older market. Gap, perhaps are a good example of balancing the trends and the timeless factor, but of late, not very exciting.

So this is why Vintage is so popular?

To be very honest, it may surprise you that I am not really a vintage clothes shopper, I don’t have the patient or the enthusiasm to trawl through rails of one offs and dodgy 80s stuff. But of late I’m starting to realise why people do it, for a start it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than buying new off the high street! And after my many failed attempts to shop the high street I’m now realising that I really do need to give vintage a go, and hopefully solve all the problems mentioned above! So watch this space for my soon to be documented first attempt at vintage clothes shopping.

Thank you to the many lovely Twitter folks for contributing their opinions and views on this subject, I’m like to thanks @liztregenza, @OldFashionedSus, @Penny_Sweets, @SheDraws, @Chic_UniqueUK and @howiehowe. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter to have your say in future discussions or just to say hello @JayneJRead

What annoys you about High Street fashion?

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