An expert's guide to shopping the sales

I know, I know. Who needs the sales, writes Carolyn Asome, The Times deputy fashion editor. Are they really worth the hassle? This year however, you could make it the year when you crack them. You could be focused and unfazed…..even by the inconsistencies of a size 12. Better still, you could even have a plan. One that does not involve you rooting through the bargain bin but which will allow you to snap up designer steals — a timeless classic or two? – that will be a boon to your wardrobe come February. Repeat. You will not be harangued or cajoled by the DayGlo jacket with 70 per cent swiped off the price tag. Leopard print and 3-ply cashmere might get you through every foreseeable winter. Chances are, glowing in the dark won’t.

1. Plan

You have to be ferociously organised to excel at fashion these days. I’d like to see Stephen Hawking get his hands around the logistics and mood boards that some women I know compile before their shopping trips. Still, a bit of prep goes a long way.

2. Remember, less is more

If I’ve learnt anything over the years it’s the mantra, “buy less, buy better”, which means not digging around in the £10 dreg bins and looking instead for something that will survive three washes and that you will hopefully love and wear for a very long time.

3. Start at the top of your budget

This sets the benchmark for quality and the saving you make will be proportionally greater. Don't panic, stay patient and don't try to get round the whole city centre in one afternoon. It will only leave you cranky and exhausted.

4. Timing is everything

The best time for sales shopping is the first few days but sometimes — just sometimes — the last few days can produce a gem. Certainly, that's when the markdowns are the greatest. Good-quality sportswear, loungewear and an endless supply of (normally prohibitively priced) soft, luxe cotton T-shirts don't date.

5. Look for classics

According to conventional wisdom, basics are the best sale buys. That's true up to a point, but only if you buy good fabrics in colours that work realistically with what you already own. The sales are also a fertile hunting-ground for those one-off standout items, the pieces that become classics in their own right because the design is so original it never dates.

6. Find your feet

Shoes are often the first thing to go in the sales, so head there before you do anything else.

7. You can never own too much cashmere

Try funky bold colours rather than just camel or grey. Perennial trends such as nautical and animal print are also worth bagging.

8. Grab lingerie with both hands

And the more luxurious, the better. Like belts and luxury tights, this can meet price resistance outside the sales. Treat yourself.

9. Follow the one in, one out rule

It's a good principle to eradicate from your wardrobe at least as much as you haul home from the sales. Give to the charity shop, to friends or sell on eBay. Having an enormous wardrobe won't make it any quicker to get dressed in the morning; quite the reverse.

10. And finally, look ahead

If you want to look ahead to spring/summer trends, then seek out good-quality mannish shirts, black Chelsea boots, suede midi skirts and a (fringed) bucket bag.



By Carolyn Asome