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How to Survive a Sample Sale

Moving to London was a revelation for me in shopping terms. I'm not talking about the little boutiques and independents that are hidden down unassuming alleyways, or even the big well known markets and shopping streets as all of these can be seen on any visit to the city. Any savvy London shopper will tell you that the best bargains can be had at a sample sale, that rare event where a brand needs to get rid of all of their excess stock that may be used, damaged or left over from the sale. 

Usually held in a town hall or boring looking office blocks, I've been to some brilliant (and awful) ones for brands including Urban Outfitters and Accessorize, as well as designer brands, and you really can get some unbelievable bargains. 

Some recent sample sale bargains include Pierre Hardy, Swedish Hasbeens, and Miu Miu boots!

Here are my top tips for surviving a sample sale:

Have an idea of what you're looking for
By the time you get in it's likely clothes will be on the floor, sizes won't be in their allocated areas, and there will be more left shoes than right. Go with an idea of what you want rather than aimlessly rummaging through everything with the vague hope of finding something or anything.

Don't buy for the sake of it
I found an amazing Alexander McQueen leather dress recently and picked it up quickly before anyone else nabbed it. Then as I walked around I started realising that I had only picked it up because it seemed like a good purchase. It's never a good purchase if you're not going to wear it!

Take a bag
This isn't a civilised shopping experience most of the time, and there aren't baskets or sales assistants. I've ended up with armfuls of stuff that I've been hardly able to carry and seething with jealousy at the clever woman who brought her Tesco bag for life. 

Plan your arrival time
If you get there first, you're in with a greater chance of getting the best quality bargains, and things that are more likely to be on trend now. However, if you get there late you can benefit from final reductions and offers as retailers don't want to take anything back with them.

Don't expect brand new
These items are likely to have been used in photoshoots or window displays, or have been returned as faulty. It is highly unlikely that you'll find a brand new, never worn item, so go with the expectation of having to sew up a hole or put up with a small biro mark. It's a small sacrifice to pay to the bargain gods!

Do a second circuit
I took my boyfriend to a sample sale recently (his first) and he quickly said that he couldn't find anything. After convincing him to do a second circuit while I still rummaged, he ended up getting 3 pairs of shoes for about 1/5th of their retail price. People put things down or you could purely have missed something the first time around, so go back just in case.

To find the best sample sales I recommend signing up to your favourite retailers' newsletters and Twitter feeds as they are often announced online. I also use, which is specifically for London sales.

Getting Arty

I love nail art, but I don't have the steadiest hands. I also don't really fancy forking out on loads of expensive equipment to make all the pretty swirls and patterns I see on blogs and Pinterest, but while browsing on eBay the other day I found these paintbrushes specifically for nail art. At £1.99 for 6 I figured they were worth trying out.

The chrome ones are stiff so they're more for actual drawing, the others are more like a paintbrush and better for squiggles and less rigid patterns. I've just tried out the first set to draw some simple chevrons. Remember that my hand is not steady so these are far from perfect, but it was a lot easier than using the actual nail varnish brush. Practice makes perfect!

Hey There Fancy Legs!

In case you haven't noticed, it's a bit cold outside these days. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how impossible I find it to dress nicely in this weather - I tend to just stick to a big coat, boots and jeans. But I can't do that if I'm going out out.

My friend celebrated her birthday last week at All Star Lanes, a retro bowling lane with a suitably Americana style diner in which I stuffed my face with things like this banana split!

T-Shirt: JW Anderson for Matches
I didn't want to wear jeans, but I couldn't face going bare-legged with a skirt, so I braved patterned tights instead. They're something I've owned for a while but I've kind of felt stupid wearing them.

I got these Bora Aksu tights at Clothes Show Live, 3 mix-and-match pairs for £15. As you can see they're part fishnet and I've never worn them before because I thought they might look a bit slutty. But with a pencil skirt they gave more of a rock type feel than, well, the other option. And is it wrong that I secretly love these bowling shoes?!

Skirt: Urban Outfitters £35
Belt: Dug up from my teenage years!
I think this is how I feel most comfortable with patterned tights - just having them peek out the bottom of a skirt or dress. I also really like that these are black with a pattern rather than coloured, as that's when I feel a bit silly.

How do you wear patterned tights?

Life: Rubbing Shoulders

Within one week recently I encountered a lot of well known faces. It's often a hazard of living in London that you'll be walking past a seemingly uninteresting building and all of a sudden a hoard of screaming girls will appear and paparazzi will be flashing bulbs at somebody trying to get into their car with blacked out windows. And I'm not just talking about Z-listers (although there's plenty of those). Recently I've walked past Andrew Lincoln and Tamsin Greig when I popped out of the office on my lunch break.

I don't like to make a habit of asking for photos/autographs if people are just going about their business. I may say just mention that I'm a fan (like I did with Arthur Darvill recently, or when Martin Freeman was stood behind me in the queue in Starbucks!), but I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable. But it is nice to grab a pic with those that are obliging!

I was so excited to go to the National TV Awards with a lovely client from work along with the fabulous Ashley, Sarah and Gemma. And I was so excited to meet Joanna Lumley! She insisted on a photo with Ashley when I revealed that she'd dressed as Patsy from Ab Fab at a party once. And Paul O'Grady was just as lovely too! 
Photo from Pink Julep Abroad
Photo from A Million Dresses
At MTV's Armani Diamonds Brand New gig I got to see the extremely talented Tom Odell perform. And who popped in as well? That little Irish one from One Direction, who after a bit of coaxing from my housemate agreed to swap hats and pose for a quick pic! 

And to top off my celeb filled week, I just so happened to walk past Nicole Scherzinger being papped as she went into a radio station!

Who's the best celebrity you've ever met?

How Does Anyone Look Good in Winter?!

No, really. How? Because I just keep wearing the same outer layers over and over, and I would have frozen if it wasn't for these Winter staples:

Coat: Warehouse (now £60 in the sale!)
Hat: Portobello Road market
Scarf: Topshop
Gloves: Kurt Geiger
Jeans: Topshop
Wellies: Quiksilver
For my birthday my boyfriend bought me this amazingly toasty coat from Warehouse and I've hardly taken it off since September. My Kurt Geiger leather and wool glove/mittens and my Topshop wool scarf are oldies but goodies, reappearing every year and always faithfully warm. A new addition is my hat, which keeps my hat surprisingly covered, but I do have a very unflattering wool beanie tucked away for more blustery snow days! These wellies have seen me through the dusty fields of Bestival this year and have also helped me negotiate the massive hill I live up in the ice that we saw a few weeks ago.

And even though I'm glad the snow has gone now, it was nice while it lasted, both in London and during my visit to the Lake District.

What are your Winter wardrobe must-haves? Is there anything you go back to year after year?
As of 20th November 2014, any products marked with an asterisk (*) have been provided as a sample for unbiased review