Hello! I have a slightly different type of post for you today. You see, last week I was contacted by the people at VoucherCodes.co.uk, who wanted to know if I was up for a challenge: Find at least three wardrobe essentials, available to buy on the high street... on a budget of £80. This challenge is part of their Most Wanted Student Survival Guide and, as the name suggests, it's aimed at students. Now, it's been a few years since I was a student (and when I was, I didn't really dress particularly "studenty", I have to admit. "Spice Girly", yes: "studenty", not so much), but I do know a thing or two about finding bargains on the high street, so, in accepting this challenge, I decided to focus on wardrobe essentials for everyone, rather than for students specifically. (I should probably also point out here that this challenge involved simply finding the items, not building outfits around them, so I've styled them here the way I would wear them, rather than the way I think students might wear them: I'm not trying to suggest you should run around campus in stilettos. Although I certainly did...) So, with £80 to spend on at least three items, here's what I got: 1. Black dress, George at Asda, £16 2. Mint blouse, H&M, £14.99 3. Skinny jeans, Primark, £9 4. Camel coat, Primark, £35 TOTAL: £74.99 Now, before we go any further, I should probably point out that I had a tight deadline for this challenge, which meant I had to rely solely on the stock available at the local mall, as there wasn't time to order online or venture further afield. With a little more time, I would...actually, I'd probably still be out there shopping, completely overwhelmed by choice, because let me tell you, folks, you can do a whole lot with £80 to spend. As regular readers will know, I'm a huge fan of the UK high street, and think we're really lucky to have such a huge amount of reasonably-priced stores to shop from: because of them, I managed to squeeze in an extra item, and still came in under budget. Here are my wardrobe essentials on a budget:
#1: The Camel Coat
[Coat, £35, Primark, worn with Topshop 'Barley2' boots (old)]When I started thinking about winter wardrobe essentials, a coat was the first thing that came to mind. I tend to think of coats as "investment" purchases, though, so I was surprised by just how many of them I found within my budget. I chose this one because I think a camel coat is one of those all-time classics: they're a timeless, efforlessly stylish staple, and while it's tempting to go for a bright colour for a winter coat, when you're on a tight budget I think it's better to go for something that will work with absolutely everything in your closet. (Take this from someone who bought a green coat last year, thinking that she couldn't go wrong with her favourite colour, only to quickly realise that she couldn't wear it with her favourite red shoes without looking like one of Santa's special little elves...) I've owned a few camel coats over the years, but this year I had my heart set on a classic, trench-coat style, so when I found this one in Primark for a fraction of what I'd been considering spending, it was a bit of a no-brainer. I sometimes find that cheaper coats can be quite thin, and can also crease easily: and trust me, the last thing you want to have to do is iron your coat every morning! I was really impressed with this one, though: as you would expect at this kind of price point, it's not wool, but it's lovely and thick, and I can tell it'll be super-warm once the colder weather sets in. I also liked the wide lapels, which are just begging to have some kind of brooch attached...
#2: The Versatile Blouse
[Mint blouse, £14.99, H&M, worn with H&M pants, vintage clutch bag, Dune 'Olsen' pumps]Blouses have been going through a bit of a "trendy" phase over the past couple of years, but for me they're another of those closet staples that will never go out of style. I picked this one because, as well as being one of my very favourite shades of green (and one which is also still very fashionable at the moment, if that matters to you...), it's a really versatile piece: wear it untucked and with sleeves rolled for a casual look, or buttoned up and tucked in for more formal occasions. If you're a student starting to think about job interviews or internships, this would also work with a smart skirt or trousers for a more professional look. (P.S. My floor isn't on a steep slope, by the way. It looks like my photographer's head might be, though...)
#3. The skinny jeans
[Skinny jeans, £9, Primark, worn with H&M blazer, Madewell top (c/o Shopbop), Primark shoes]
Thanks to this post, you all know much more than you could possibly ever want to about my ongoing pursuit of the perfect jeans. I'll just be upfront: these aren't them. They gape at the back, are too long in the leg, and are a little more distressed than I like 'em. I wanted to include a pair of jeans in this list, however, because although good ones are hard to find, I still consider them a wardrobe staple: even more so when I was a student, and used to live in jeans all day, before transforming into the sixth Spice Girl at night. Fun times, people, fun times.
I actually tried on quite a few pairs of jeans when I was shopping for this challenge, and was prepared to spend a lot more on the right pair, even if it meant sacrificing something else. Believe it or not, though, these £9 Primark skinnies actually came closest to meeting my exacting denim requirements, which just goes to show that a higher price doesn't always guarantee a better product.
#4. The little black dress
[Pencil dress, £16, George at Asda, worn with Buffalo 'Beyza' shoes (c/o Sarenza, vintage clutch bag and mystery obi belt]
OK, so I went a little off-project with this one. I'm not sure students would necessarily wear this (I would have. I actually did run around campus in stilettos, though, so...), but while I don't think every woman should have a little black dress, I do think a dress that can be either formal or casual depending on how you wear it is a good idea. I liked this one because it's a contemporary design, but not so trendy that it'll date quickly, and also because although I've styled it for evening wear here, I think it would also work with boots and a cardigan for a more casual look, if you wanted it to.
And there you have it: four items, all under £80. Oh, and as for that extra £5 I didn't spend? Go crazy with it, people. I actually miscalculated while I was shopping, but if I'd realised I had money to spare, I saw some nice scarves in New Look for around that price, but the stores were crammed with plenty of other accessories you could easily blow £5 on...
As part of this challenge, I was also asked to share some tips on how to stay stylish on a budget: I've put them under a jump, though, because, well, I do like to ramble on a bit, don't I?