frugal fashion shopper

Is age just another number?

I confess – I’m not always frugal!

Three times. Three times in the last five years I’ve bought something that you could say was quite pricey, and I’m not including that lovely faux fur at that Brighton Vintage Fair. No, when I say pricey I mean * feels faint at the thought* each buy was a very big spend indeed.

All of the outfits are almost heirloom pieces. The first was bought when I had a difficult task. I’d published my dad’s memoir and had invited a load of people to come to the launch. The venue, which was in an iconic old fort, had also circulated the event, so I was faced with presenting to around 100 people. I felt mega terrified.

But it had to be faced, so I thought, OK let’s get a launch outfit. And with a budget of £70 (as I usually spend £7 I considered that a lot of money!) I found myself in one of those minimalist hardly-any-clothes-on-display boutiques and described my dilemma.

The saleswoman was amazing. First, she brought me an asymmetric black skirt made of linen that was so fine you’d think it was muslin. A top in similar material was found. I put both on and my submissive anxious stance began to lift, I straightened my spine. A black jacket of waxed cotton followed, then a stunning in-your-face citrus silk scarf appeared, and finally a necklace in the same searing yellow. By the time the outfit was completed I was a different person.  I looked at myself in the mirror, and thought, my word, you can do it.

Note that i) the saleswoman only brought out those five items and ii) there wasn’t a price label anywhere, not in the window, not any that I could see. But I didn’t care, the whole outfit was like a suit of armour, I had to have it. And have it I did, and since then I’ve worn it whenever I give that presentation, which must be at least seven times and three of those were in London, including giving a lunchtime lecture at the National Army Museum to over 100 military types. That outfit’s done me proud and worth every penny I paid – which was a bit more than the budget I can tell you!

The second outfit was a tweed jacket bought in a sale in the same boutique – and yes, if I want to be frugal I really do have to avoid that shop. But it’s the quality that gets me every time though – it’s made from 100% certified Harris Tweed and woven in the Outer Hebrides.

And finally there’s my last most recent non-frugal buy, which was entirely down to Twitter. I’m not sure how many of you are on Twitter but it’s great fun and I’ve made some good friends through it including the delightful Masato Jones who has a bespoke fashion studio and sells entirely online. Do have a look – there’s some wonderful dresses, scarves, hats to view and he’s got a Black Friday Weekend Sale on at the moment.

I’ve re-tweeted Masato’s tweets before and been given a discount as a result. The previous time I bought a sweet up-cycled t-shirt bag. But a couple of weeks ago I re-tweeted a photo of a fantabulous satin coat (yes, another coat) and we carried on tweeting back and forth, and this time I was given a very good discount on said coat.

Here’s me getting ready to wear it up to London. Yes, already worn it!


It’s truly beautiful and note it is cut and made when you order it. Such beautiful craftsmanship and it will be worn again and again by me and one day handed on to my daughter – an heirloom piece indeed!

That’s all for now

With love

Penny, the (not always) frugal fashion shopper



Are you prepared for your ageing?

I had a career once; a bit eclectic; a mix of the practical – nursing – and the dreamy thinker who nevertheless had to earn a wage; research, development of services, evaluation etc. etc. At one interview for a job in the NHS (now abolished of course, the job not the NHS although…. no that would be a different and longer piece of writing) a very non-PC pin-striped top manager looked at my CV and said, I’m not sure where you’re going with this.   Apart from the sheer brass nerve of that question, I admit, the eclecticism didn’t get me a good pension, but what it did do was bring me into contact with older people. I washed, dressed and nursed them, listened to them, worked to develop services for them, designed research frameworks for and about them. And I ended up as a freelance consultant, and my expertise was older people and their carers.

And I used to think to myself that when I’m older will I be satisfied with the way society treats the very old?   We post war baby-boomers, we will be more demanding than the pre-war generation. And things will be different, won’t they? We will not accept ageism.   We will not tolerate poor care in a nursing home, hospital, or our own home. Above all, we won’t be so grateful.

But will we be that different? We all want to age, I think the word is, actively, but what happens when all that activity, all that active ageing comes to an end and we become truly old and truly frail?

A recent Observer article declared that, as Britain is an ageing country what about catering for older people’s needs?

And indeed we warrant that attention as the over 65s here in the UK spend £2.2billion a week on goods and services. There are around 14.7 million of us over 65s in the UK – that’s 23% of the population. That’s huge numbers of us, and huge spending power, but are our needs being catered for? Well, according to this article, research tells us that yes society is under-prepared for this huge ageing population but we, the ageing over 60s, also don’t like looking too far into the future either.

OK, perhaps what the over 60s might find hard to do is to look at the point beyond active ageing when we lose the ability to function: to cook, clean, shop, wash, dress. Yes, that is challenging – can you do it, you very young journalist, researcher and policy wonk?

I look back at my younger ‘working with and for older people’ self and feel slightly ashamed, because I was like an anthropologist looking at a tribe that was ever so interesting, but not really what one aspired to. And while the correct words were to include and work with the researched – were you, really? Nope, because the research, the evaluation is always commissioned from above. What I’d like to see is more research and policy coming from the older population, and while we do have our excellent older people’s organisations that work both nationally and locally, with and for older people, I do mean, and let’s be radical here, I want the voice of the really old framing and designing the research, and writing the reports. I read various research reports on ageing and attend the occasional conference and the negativity that surrounds the very old – it really does seem all doom and gloom: dismal nursing homes, 15 minute slots for care, Alzheimer’s………

But the article also notes that as we age we become more and more diverse. And boy does that lift me.  What that says to me is you cannot lump us all together into one homogenous group and say this will happen to you as you age. For instance, one in six people over 80 have dementia – OK that means five out of six do not – cup half full here, I think.

And because I wouldn’t dream of dictating how you age (!) here are my pointers to alleviating my own ageing.

  1. Being able to order shopping online. One of the major problems that we encountered when looking after our older folks (that’s my mum, my husband’s aunt and then a very ancient uncle) was who would do their food shopping when they were no longer able to go out? That was the catalyst for carers to come in for the aunt, and for my mum and the ancient uncle to go into care.
  1. Going on Facebook and using Twitter every day. I have daily conversations with people in the States, France, London, Bournemouth (!) and read and send tweets whenever. I’ve made good friends through Twitter. Now could this media alleviate some of the loneliness of old age? It might. And before anyone says I’m trivialising the experience of losing a partner or becoming housebound through frailty, social media could never replace a person or the immediacy of going out and about. But there is something about the active engagement with ideas, people, news, the arts, books, music, popular culture that social media provides that could continue when you are unable to get out into the outside world.
  1. Rooting myself into my community. It’s a bit run-down my town but I love it. And I know where I’m going to eat my meals when I want a break from cooking – our community centre has a great café and loads going on all just up the road from me.
  1. Loving your family and friends. I put them together because not everyone has a family. Every year I get one of those ghastly Christmas round robins from people who should know better (haven’t seen them in decades not years). And they have The Most Enormous family.  Both me and Mr Frugalfashionshopper are orphans – no parents, no siblings.  And for reasons I won’t go into, one Christmas our kids couldn’t come over for Christmas Day. I bloody cried when I got that round robin. I digress but I did go to friends before our solitary lunch. Be grateful, yes I am using that word, and love family and friends.
  1. Living in the moment and having fun – whatever that is for you.

That’s all for now, but do let me know your thoughts on ageing.

With love

Penny, The frugal fashion shopper


Whatever your size you can never have enough blue jeans!

Invisible Woman wrote about jeans quite recently and the challenge of buying them for herself as she’s quite short and a UK size 12/14.  But even so she found some that fitted well and looked good on her.  (Her article has some great pics of her trying on various jeans and some tips too.) Personally, I love the tighter fit that jeans have because even with my slim figure I have a spare tire and a rounded tum and jeans just give that added structure which is so slimming.

I had such fun a couple of weeks ago when I went looking for jeans. And, you know, I was actually prepared to pay the full price, but instead I found the most amazing bargains and more!

A friend said, try Gap, but I thought, before that I’ll just pop into the nearest charity shop.  So I did, and there I found a pair of dark blue (without any faux faded bits) Gap jeans (30 waist and 34 length which was a perfect fit for me) for £4.99.  (Went to Gap btw, and they could only offer 30 length – no good at all.)  And what is it about the ubiquitous false, faded bits on jeans that manufacturers think we like!  At least give us a choice, please, of faded jeans and not.

Then, on to Urban Outfitters – which is absolutely my favourite shop – where I found, within minutes, a pair of faded (yes, I liked them!) reworked (with patches and other bits of material) boyfriend jeans, which not only looked amazing, they were down from £60 to £15.


But even more astonishing, these jeans were on the sale table and they were part of the ‘buy one get one free’ items so I ended up with a vintage skirt, which not only looks ace it cost absolutely nothing.

So having been prepared to buy new I ended up with three great pieces of kit for just under £20 – wow!

Again, my message is that as we age, not only should we dress stylishly let’s make the whole shopping experience fun.

That’s all for now

With love

Penny, The frugal fashion shopper

P.S. Note that in this shopping trip i) I bought faded boyfriend jeans when usually I only get skinny and non-faded and ii) I also bought a vintage skirt when I often say vintage is not for me.  My point being never say never, and always be prepared to adapt and go for a look that’s right for you.


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