frugal fashion shopper

Is age just another number?

Jackets and trousers for this changeable weather!

The weather’s changed. It’s wetter, colder, greyer here in the UK and my nail-varnished toes are going to be hidden away for the duration. Or maybe not as warmer weather is forecast for next week.  OK, the weather is unsettled at the moment. Time to get out the jackets and the shoes that can take the rain.

Jackets are certainly are a topic for some of the fashion journalists. Here’s Lauren Cochrane on how to wear the denim jacket, which she says doesn’t have to be in that ubiquitous blue colour. I’ve got a Calvin Klein denim jacket (from a charity shop, natch) which is in the usual blue, but the jacket I love best at this time of year is the bomber jacket. There’s nothing quite like one of those jackets for bringing a casual but zingy feel to an outfit, and they’re just right for spring or autumn weather, although looking at some of those prices. £549 – really?   Why not just drop into to your local charity shop and find one for around £5.00, which I did recently.

yellow-top-webHere’s the £5.00 bomber jacket in, you might notice, my favourite summer colour, a vibrant yellow. But I want to draw your attention to the trousers. In my last post I mentioned I’d bought an unworn M&S pair of linen trousers so yesterday I put them on to take a photo. Now I bought these trousers on a hot day so they felt refreshingly cool when I put them on, but looking at the first couple of photos my jaw dropped to the floor as the trousers might have made me feel cool, but they certainly didn’t look cool.  In fact, they foreshortened and fattened my legs so much that I looked, well, kind of big. And I’m, as you know, slim. The photo on the left is taken with a different lens so they look slightly better than the first two photos but still….

Just compare those trousers with my favourite type of jeans the skinny variety,black-outfit-web here on the right. People, ladies, women, I don’t believe in giving anyone any advice, because there are no rules when you age, you wear what you want. However! Whatever your size, I’m really not sure about wide (sometimes known as boyfriend/mom size) flappy trousers. Why, because they widen, fatten and enlarge your legs. Look at the two photos. I rest my case.

That’s all for now, but what do you think – do you wear skinny or wide?

With love

Penny, The Frugal Fashion Shopper


Of cotton crops and clothes – the progress being made by our High Street stores towards a more sustainable product

Three generations on my father’s side were Scottish cotton handloom weavers. It was at one time a worthy trade, with these home based weavers commanding high wages, but progress and the spinning jenny took over. My great-grandfather, John Hislop, was a weaver for only a short time. He left Scotland and joined the army when the handloom industry was in decline, and any weavers not working in a factory lived in abject poverty. His brother William didn’t leave, worked in the mill at Lanark, and died young, at 23 years of age, of tuberculosis. Perhaps the poverty he lived through as a child and the work he did as a Cloth Lapper, preparing and cleaning the cotton before it went through the jenny, had something to do with the outcome of that disease.

Clothes and cloth are produced for profit, of course, they are, that’s our capitalist system and I don’t think there was ever a golden age when the workforce came first in the minds of the manufacturer. But there’s some interesting stuff going on behind the scenes in our High Street shops.

I had a great time last Saturday when I went charity shop shopping. I bought 11 items for next-to-nothing and managed to find two complete matching outfits of trouser, top and cardigan in the 7 different charity shops in the High Street of this small town. You’ll see one of those outfits next week.   But what was fascinating was that inside one of the (unworn) trousers (from Marks & Spencer’s) was a sample label showing the name of the factory and supplier. I looked them up and the supplier is based in Hong Kong and the factory is in China.

Ok, that shows you that M&S manufactures its clothes in China, that’s not news. But what is news is that M&S is using British manufacturers for its Best of British range, which is now in 50 stores across the UK and online. Lucy Seigle tells us that 20 British companies are producing this range actually inside this country. And while there are worries that a lack of consistent and continuous orders might stymie this growing industry, we are, it appears, at the very beginning of a rebirth of British fashion manufacturing, which will be great for many reasons including jobs for rag trade workers and a smaller carbon footprint.

Talking of carbon footprint, did you know Lidl supermarket will be selling clothes from 25th August? Their prices are going to be very low, even lower than Primark and that’s saying something but it’s a German firm and a big buyer of products so one hopes that the workers on the production line are either based in Europe or are well looked after. Lidl has anyway just started selling its own-brand knickers at £2.99 for 2 pairs. (Btw, we say pants in the UK but this might be a bit confusing to my readers in the States so I’ll stick to the knicker word). And these knickers are made in Austria. Also they are made from modal, a rayon which is a semi-synthetic cellulose fibre produced in a carbon-neutral way thanks, apparently, to an oxygen-based chemistry process.

Actually I’m kind of lost here, as despite becoming a nurse, science wasn’t my strongest subject. But before you say, well, really, I do prefer my underthings to be made of cotton (which I certainly do) don’t forget that conventional cotton has a huge environmental impact on the world. An average T-shirt needs 11 bath-tubs of water to grow while 10% of all the world’s pesticides are used on cotton.

That’s why I thought it rather good that H&M has been one of the world’s biggest users of certified organic cotton. The environmental sustainability manager at H&M (yes, they’ve got one!) says that all their cotton products are to come from recycled or organic cotton by 2020 – well, if they do that, good for them.

In addition to that, H&M are looking at labels. They’re developing a common standard care label to encourage people to wash at 30C. Also, along with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, they are working on a common measurement for the sustainability performance of clothes and footwear – the Higgs Index.   And they hope to translate this benchmarking into a labelling system across brands, so we the consumer can really see how the clothes we buy compare in terms of sustainability. And then we can choose, and say, yes, I will buy this T-shirt because it hasn’t cost the earth.

That’s all for now, but I do applaud any initiative that informs the consumer – as well as having fun when I shop I do want to make informed decisions when I buy my clothes.

With love

Penny, The Frugal Fashion Shopper



My 50th frugal fashion blog! A very big thank you to all my readers and a few stats!

Well, wow, this is the 50th time I’ve posted my views on frugal fashion. So I thought I’d say a bit about what I’ve done and where I see the blog going over the next few months and, dare I say it, years.

The 50 posts have been written in just over a year (I started mid June 2013). And I am pleased to say that over those 14 months I’ve had just over 8000 views in 72 countries. By the way, that figure doesn’t represent 8000 different people, it’s a view, so it includes you, and other people, looking at my blog over the year.

But thank you so, so much, all of you who have joined me over these months, I greatly appreciate being read by you and getting your comments. Also, you remember that wonderful film made by Lorna Easterbrook, (do have a look at it if you missed it). It’s had 116 views and for that Lorna also extends her thanks to you all.

And why have a blog? You know, the thing is, I can’t not write it. Somehow I got to uni after a rather chequered academic start (failed the A-levels) and graduated at the age of 40, and then went on to do a Masters, and do you know, I’ve never really stopped writing the essays, so that’s why I do it.

You have to have that drive otherwise you’d never put your head above the parapet or, in this instance, into the blogosphere. Putting my lovely 8000 views into context, a top fashion blog would expect to get well over 100,000 views per month, although note that these high figures are usually found in blogs based in the States. As for YouTube views, where Lorna’s film resides, there are people such as Jenna Marbles, who puts up daily videos on fashion, makeup and life, and has got 1.5bn video views and counting – yes, that’s over a billion views.

The thing is blogging and vlogging is a young person’s medium, around 90% of bloggers are in their 20s, while 79% of readers are under 40. So I salute you who are of a similar age to me – we are the pioneers, we are the future. And I’m not put off by this apparent rather low number of views at all, because I love doing the writing, putting it out there and knowing it’s been read by people who really want to read it – again thank you.

I have diversified over the 14 months to writing not just about shopping in charity shops, and this seems to strike a chord with my audience, as the most popular posts, after my Home Page, have been “Going Grey – yes or no”, “Mutton dressed as lamb” and “Vogue and the older woman”.

Anyway here are 5 five things I’d like to set out as aims and objectives for the future of this blog.

  1. I think I live a really digital life as I have an iPad and get all my emails instantly.   I’m sure you’re all aware that email via a computer, or even a laptop, is a dying medium. I message on my iPad and look at twitter and Facebook all the time, but really it’s all about the smart phone. It’s not even tomorrow’s world, today an iPhone is where all the transactions are taking place. So, I aim to make my blog look as good on an iPhone as it does on a computer – at the moment it doesn’t. This is a technical issue that I must tackle.
  1. I’m also trying to get my head round SEOs and google+. I do have a google+ account but it’s a bit dormant as I’m not sure what to do with it (circles?) but apparently it would improve my Google search position. Anyone out there with a google+ account? There must be loads of you. Could we have some dialogue about how I could use google+ for this blog?
  1. See the last sentence above. The essence of blogging is that it’s interactive – and I love talking to you, but am I doing enough to draw people into a discussion? Let me know if I’m not.   As far as I’m concerned the entire blog is a conversation I’m having with you.
  1. Equally I’m interested in the fact that I have a certain number of followers but not everyone who visits is hitting that follow button – it may be that they read and then go away, never to return. Or is there something else I could be doing? I’ll look into what other widgets are around (a twitter feed perhaps) but let me know what you think.
  1. If I look at the high-ranking fashion blogs they’re almost entirely visual, as in mostly photographs and very little text. I have to accept that while this is popular it’s not for me. I am a bit wordy, but that is what this blog is about – words and a couple of photos. My role model is Invisible Woman and her weekly column, so I aim to continue bringing you my views on ageing and ageism as well as writing about the joys of finding fabulous frocks for next-to-nothing.

That’s all for now, but don’t forget if you like this post just hit that follow button to get my regular (almost) weekly posts!

With love

Penny, The Frugal Fashion Shopper



Ageless Style?

Another month, another Vogue falls from my letterbox to the floor with a thump. Like Invisible Woman, I read Vogue so you don’t have to, but I do pity the poor postie as this month’s Vogue is as thick as a brick. It’s the International Collections Special with 460 pages of ‘fashion, style and beauty’ (a lot of ads actually) and there is nothing in it that grabs my fancy apart from some lovely long winter coats, which they say will be on-trend this Autumn. Yes, we’ve reached the month of August and winter clothes are beginning to appear in the fashion media. I do admit that there’s some amazing knitwear in this month’s Vogue, although with the coats at between £500-£800 and one of the knits (a sweater dress) at £5,660 I think I’ll be searching the charity shops for something similar.

I note that two month’s ago the theme in Vogue was Ageless Style. Hmm. I believe the editor’s stance is that Ageless Style is not about what we should be wearing at certain ages, no, the words are meant to imply that one can be stylish at any age, and a piece featuring Mariel Hemingway (aged 52) indeed, states that this month (July) Vogue celebrates women of all ages.  But nowhere within the magazine did I see anyone remotely ‘old’, although there is an ad with Andie MacDowell (aged 56) showing faint lines around her eye, so for me that edition was a disappointing read. Let’s give a big huzzah then for the Guardian who regularly features Jean Woods (aged 76) in their Fashion for All Ages. Come on Vogue, you say you’re aspirational, what about us over 65s who aspire to ageless style?   Go on, next time you talk about ageless style use someone with elegance and a few real wrinkles like Jean – why not!

black-with-flowers-webDresses that can evoke an ageless style are not difficult to find in charity shops and I mentioned that I’d found one recently for £2.00 – and here it is. Can you see the label, it’s a Yessica dress from C&A. As the last C&A store closed in the UK in 2001 this is an old, old dress. And I can tell it is because, I’m a UK size 12 and at a push and a squeeze can even wear a size 10. But this dress, at size 14, is tight and it’s a bit of struggle to do up the zip. (I’m sure you all know that, over the years, as we’ve got bigger so have the sizes.) Never mind once done up it’s fine, and I’m pleased to support the charity shop and wear something that was fashionable some time ago and, in a way, is the epitome of ageless style – well done C&A, we kind of miss you.

That’s all for now

With love,
Penny, The Frugal Fashion Shopper



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