Saturday 10 December 2016

'A €900 coat? When did Dunnes Stores lose the run of itself?'

Tanya Sweeney

Published 29/09/2016 | 14:08

Reversible shearling coat, €900; dress (worn underneath as top), €120;
leather skirt, €250; all Joanne Hynes at Dunnes Stores. Ponyskin bespoke pumps, €700, equipage for Joanne Hynes (hand-made on bespoke-order basis). Shearling scarf, €120; leather and crystal neckpiece (worn across the body), €100; sparkle socks, €12, all Joanne Hynes at Dunnes Stores
Reversible shearling coat, €900; dress (worn underneath as top), €120; leather skirt, €250; all Joanne Hynes at Dunnes Stores. Ponyskin bespoke pumps, €700, equipage for Joanne Hynes (hand-made on bespoke-order basis). Shearling scarf, €120; leather and crystal neckpiece (worn across the body), €100; sparkle socks, €12, all Joanne Hynes at Dunnes Stores
Joanne Hynes for Dunnes Stores
Joanne Hynes for Dunnes Stores
Joanne Hynes for Dunnes Stores
T-shirt, €79; top, €29; trousers, €89; bag, €119, all Carolyn Donnelly - The Edit, Dunnes Stores
Joanne Hynes for Dunnes Stores
Hotelier Francis Brennan, pictured in Dunnes Stores in St Stephens Green Shopping Centre in Dublin where he launched his new hotel lifestyle collection. Photo: Laura Hutton/Collins Photo Agency
Draped pink coat, €189; matching wool scarf, €49, Carolyn Donnelly, The Edit, Dunnes Stores
Joanne Hynes for Dunnes Stores
Lennon Courtney for Dunnes Stores
Joanne Hynes and John Maher

When, I ask you, did Dunnes Stores go from 'always better value' to 'oceans of notions'?

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The unthinkable has happened. Dunnes has officially become Doo-nays, as we liked to call it, tongue firmly in cheek, back in the 80s.

Designer Joanne Hynes' really rather impressive collection just dropped in store earlier this month, and among its highlights are a €45 pair of leggings. Which is about €40 more than I like to spend on leggings - kick-flare or not.

Yet I appear to be in the minority, as a €900 price tag (on a pink shearling coat) appears to be no barrier for Hynes' target audience of 'cool' older women.

Draped pink coat, €189; matching wool scarf, €49, Carolyn Donnelly, The Edit, Dunnes Stores
Draped pink coat, €189; matching wool scarf, €49, Carolyn Donnelly, The Edit, Dunnes Stores

What I know about fashion can, admittedly, be written on an ant's undercarriage, but I now find myself in a bit of a style rut. Now that I'm in my thirties, I'm supposed to have 'graduated' to a higher price point than I'm used to. A price tag of €900 for a coat isn't the exception for women of a certain age.

The theory goes that we're making far more money than in the days when we skulked around New Look and Penneys, and are therefore more willing to spend more on 'investment pieces'. Now that we've a few seasons behind us, we've supposedly copped on to the 'buy now, wear tonight' vibes of the high street.

Well, they couldn't be more wrong. I've spent 20 years buying dresses for 50 quid, and it's a habit I'm loathe to give up now.

But shopping trips in Dublin leave me wanting.

A quick peek in the usual standbys - New Look, Topshop, River Island - confirm my worst fears. Unless I want to wear tube dresses (no thanks) or T-shirts that say things like, 'Hashtag hashtag' 'Twerk like it's your job' or 'Totes Emosh', I have outgrown the stores I have called home for years.

The hemlines are that bit too short, the details a smidge too spangly, the store music too loud. Everything's just so bloody… trendy. There's no way I'm buying a bomber jacket with flamingos all over it, because I did that the first time around, when they were army green.

T-shirt, €79; top, €29; trousers, €89; bag, €119, all Carolyn Donnelly - The Edit, Dunnes Stores
T-shirt, €79; top, €29; trousers, €89; bag, €119, all Carolyn Donnelly - The Edit, Dunnes Stores

I feel about 107 when I walk into Penneys: like Peig Sayers on the hunt for a dress that will go to my knees.

It's a shame, as I used to love shopping. A bit too much, perhaps. But things have changed.

I'm hesitant to say that I need to 'move on from' this fashion, as that implies that at one stage we all have to eventually grow up. We don't. I applaud any woman who gives the finger to those 'what you can't wear over the age of 30' lists. I love a broad who will wear whatever she damn well pleases; knee-high socks, fishnets, hot pants. Fire away, I say.

But the older I get and the more the flaws show up in the mirror, the more I'd like my wardrobe to do for me. I am noticing a whole host of features that I'd rather keep to myself. Dinner lady arms, a distinct lack of thigh gap, a bum that's hellbent on meeting the floor: Topshop is not on my side here. I'm too old for Toppers, too young for M&S. And way too broke to be dropping cash on capsule collections like Joanne Hynes' for Doo-nays.

But help, finally, is at hand for women in a similar position. And frankly, it's amazing that it took so long for the cavalry to arrive.

This autumn sees the opening of & Other Stories - the cooler, elder sister of H&M - on Grafton Street. Part of the Swedish family that is also home to COS and Monki, & Other Stories is one less reason to schlep to London for shopping weekends (a John Lewis branch in Dublin, and I might never need to leave the island again).

Lennon Courtney for Dunnes Stores
Lennon Courtney for Dunnes Stores

& Other Stories ship to Ireland, of course, but while I love getting parcels in the post as much as the next person (a bit like getting presents that you forget you actually paid for), nothing beats a good old-fashioned shop browse.

And here's where & Other Stories comes in. It's the type of shop that does workwear, tailoring and dressy stuff for women who want an alternative to bandage dresses and tube tops.

And rather than amplify every bodily flaw, as the high street seems hell-bent on doing, the folks at & Other Stories realise that there is a multitude of sins we want to hide.

Whether we're a size 8 or an 18, I'd wager that most women in their 30s or older want clothes that are forgiving, not flaunting.

But it's the experience that we really pay for. & Other Stories is the kind of store we can walk into and not feel like we're walking into a fluro-lit Coppers.

Pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap is fine, but the ideal is a store that offers the illusion of an emporium filled with reassuringly expensive investment pieces… but, y'know, without the 'expensive' or 'investment' bit.

I feel I may be in the minority; several of my peers are fond of a Pavlov's dogs slobber over labels. But there are those of us who still love a bargain.

Being a slave to fashion is a pricey endeavour in this city… but thanks to Grafton Street's newest denizens, I might just be able to look the part from time to time.

Herald

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