Thwack. Grunt. Thud. Screech. At various intervals yesterday, it sounded like Maria Sharapova was in Marks & Spencer’s Mary Street store for the start of the summer sales. The packed rails screeched, hangers thudded on the floor, determined bargain hunters craned their necks to spot the 50% drop shots. Looking Our Best grunted in dismay – for a moment it seemed she had fallen foul of that regular sale misfortune – having bought something two weeks previously only now to find it annoyingly marked down. Phew, her simple white linen dress remains full price for the moment. (And still waiting its first outing – oh, sustained heatwave, when will you come?)
The wise woman’s advice for sale shopping is either to opt only for classic items .... or avoid altogether. But those timeless garments that are the back bone of any wardrobe are generally gone come summer clearance, and what’s left is the high fashion stuff that didn’t sell. So come on down, you colour blocked tops in livid purple and tomato red with no volume control. Show your face, you punishing jeggings. Lovely floaty maxis, hanging self-consciously on the rails, you know you’re really only suitable for sunnier climes and not for trailing around our wet city streets? Lisa Snowdon, pictured at the top of the blog, does look lovely in her paisley print maxi dress. But she already has two more in that wardrobe - and that’s a lot of fabric to contend with in LOB’s book. Just when are you going to wear them, Lisa? Which is exactly what mid-lifers should honestly ask ourselves if tempted. As some of us remember wearing maxis back when we were just past the age of consent, they are probably best to avoid second time around.
All of which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a peek in M & S’s current womenswear sale - we can do with a little retail therapy away from grim recession reality, while remaining prudent, that is. But even those seasoned style seekers among us find it hard to resist the impulse buy, especially when it’s knocked down. LOB and a fellow shopper were almost knocked down near the packed dress rail in the Per Una section, but we did get a brief moment to admire a smart little navy shift dress with polka dot collar, reduced to €35 (originally €53). Could be a classic, we agreed, though getting into the fitting room to try it on looked like queuing for centre court tickets. There's something about bargain hunting that means normal rules are abandoned. The usually discreet can become alarmingly un-inhibited at the prospect of saving a few bob. Over in the separates section, women were peeling off layers to try on marked down knits and cotton shirts. LOB spied one resolute bargain hunter indulging in a risky practice she herself is guilty of – trying on trousers underneath a skirt in full view of the public. Not for the shrinking violet who fears giving fellow shoppers an eye-full. (Imagine the laughs they have in the security screening rooms). Meanwhile, it was those summer shirts, in variations of floral and gingham prints, which were a big hit yesterday morning. (LOB especially likes the pale grey classic shirt in very fine linen (marked down to €16) which also comes in pale peach.)
Amongst all the swivelling and scrutinising in front of the store’s mirrors was a blonde haired grown-up in canary yellow Capri pants. She was trying on a turquoise and white checked shirt. We both decided that at €16, it was a bargain (although it clashed horribly with the loud pants). LOB - who should know better – but got caught up in the frenzy, was debating the wardrobe essentialness of one of those short knitted (boleros? shrugs?) that M & S feature in myriad variety every summer. She has never previously succumbed to the temptation of one of these, normally seeing them as the scatter cushions of the fashion world. But, whispered the reckless shopping demon, this little number in serviceable beige would disguise the mature bingo wings when wearing strappy dresses or tops. You’ll never wear it, countered the inner adult coldly. Lets ask blonde, loud Capri pant woman for her opinion. It’s only €23, suggested LOB. To which came the reply that anyone seduced by sales should adapt as their mantra. “It’s not a bargain if you are not going to wear it.” Reader, I left the damn thing back on the rail....