It struck me, last year, that I don’t much like shopping for clothes anymore (the stress, the unforgiving changing room lights, the cost, the not knowing which shops and trends are now meant ‘for me’). Around the same time apparently everyone else had also noticed I was wearing only one (quite shit) outfit all the time. Black jeans, navy converse hi-tops and a white saggy jumper.
This outfit must have been so irritatingly ‘on repeat’ that my family booked me in with a Topshop personal stylist.
I had a proper ‘outraged from Wandsworth’ tantrum at this intervention. “I don’t have the money to spend on new clothes, let alone personal shopping. I have more serious priorities!” (You know – spending my money paying for council tax, wedding presents and my addiction to M&S Simply Food…).
My second argument was that ‘I am too old to shop in Topshop now….’ This was supposed to shut down the conversation by entering it into amber zone – the sensitive territory of my approaching 30th birthday that everyone knew I wasn’t handling well…
But there was no getting out of it. I went, imagining an intimidating selection of outfits that only ‘Little Mix’ could pull off and massive pressure under the code of British politeness to buy at least three.
I hate admitting I am wrong – but the reality was very different and I am now totally converted.
The team at the Manchester Arndale Centre store (particularly the gorgeous Jo Drew who had been recommended to us) instantly put me at ease and hand-picked a lovely selection of pieces for work and weekends that felt so intuitively me I might have chosen them too. (Well – if I had Jo’s taste, and the store had turned off the music, emptied out all of teenagers and locked me inside so I was unable to talk myself out of trying stuff on…).
This is ultimately what the personal shopping experience is for –you are stowed away in a calm, serene section of the store where your sole focus is on something both as minor as clothes – but as major as how you look and feel about yourself! You can try on as many outfits as you like in a private fitting room while a dedicated stylist brings you different sizes and options for around 1.5 hours. (Along with drinks and cupcakes of course…).
Almost a year to the day that I first shed that saggy jumper, I returned to Topshop Manchester last weekend, to see the lovely Jo for another wardrobe overhaul. This time I brought some friends along for the experience. And it turns out the stars were aligned in our favour as we found out Instyle Magazine was running a 15% offer on Topshop personal shopping. (I honestly had no idea about this beforehand, as I had booked the experience as a treat with family and friends weeks ago).
The day, of course, was all it was meant to be – fun, special and luxurious. But for me the greatest value that personal shopping brings is guidance on assembling ‘whole outfits’. All of the clothes selected are intended to work together, interchangeably – from jackets, through to jewellery, bags and shoes – something I had never really thought about before whilst shopping. Previously I tended to be attracted to jazzy items like a magpie, with no thoughts about what they would go with. Other vices included panic buying weird coloured jeans and wearing everything with a black jacket or long white cardigan.
The stylists also encourage you to try some pieces which may be a little out of your comfort zone, but they feel are worth considering. Not all of the options will do it for you, but it is worth taking their advice. I spent last summer wearing a white play-suit and a pair of grey and lime printed trousers that I wouldn’t have had the courage to look directly at previously.
I know some people will feel personal shopping is excessive. I did probably spend more in Topshop in one fell sweep than one person should. But if you are prepared to buy your clothes in bulk or save up, the store offers great high street value and the personal shopping service is free. Personally, I think the expert stylists help me spend my money better on clothes than I could alone, so it goes further and isn’t wasted (I know I am starting to sound brainwashed to the point of being in a Topshop cult). But, for example, I got a great outfit for a wedding – when previously I would have talked myself into spending more on a ‘safe’ and expensive dress in Reiss.
I left with a capsule wardrobe for the season, not needing to enter a shop for a long time, but also with the confidence to know where to start if I wanted to. For me, (without wishing to sound like a Mastercard cliche), that’s been priceless.
A few notes:
- Topshop personal shopping is available free in selected stores nationwide, by appointment only
- I chose Topshop Manchester as it was part of a trip home to the North West and I genuinely prefer shopping outside of central London when I can – but I have also been to Topshop London for personal shopping which was very good and very fun too.
- The service works best if you give the team a detailed brief relating to your size and style, along with an indication of your budget and what you are looking for (i.e. wardrobe overhaul or just one dress for a special occasion).
- I know I sound totally obsessed with Topshop now (oh how people can change) but there are lots of other personal shopping services available too. I have it on recommendation from other friends that House of Fraser do a good styling service too if you want more brand options (although I have never tried it). Reiss and Whistles have also just launched personal shopping services at selected stores in London too – pricey but probably good options for occasion wear.