US TV personality and fashion designer Lauren Conrad first came to prominence in Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County and its spin-off series, The Hills. She now gives the low-down on the wardrobe essentials for looking good.
Here is her guide to shopping, and to surviving a purchasing expedition while getting the bargains you want.
Dressing room strategy:
"I don't know if it's the stale, over-circulated air back there, but dressing rooms tend to be soul crushing and energy draining. (Small space + scary lighting = my version of a tiny hell). So enter prepared! Bring multiple sizes so you don't have to head out for more, and try things on in the appropriate order (don't leave yourself topless, for example) if you're planning to leave the fitting room for an impromptu fashion show to your friends.
"If you tend to lose steam halfway through the trying-on process, tackle the most intensive piece first (dresses, jeans) and save the easy-peasy ones for last (cardigans, blazers, coats).
"It's important to sit down in any trousers/jeans/skirts/dresses you're trying on because you'll want to know if they're comfortable if you need to sit for an extended period, and if trousers ride too low in the back or skirts and dresses rise too high."
Avoiding impulse purchases at huge wallet-friendly stores:
"The one thing I strongly believe should not cost a fortune are layering tops, so I can often be found in that section of H&M or Forever 21, stocking up on tanks and shirts made from synthetic fabrics like rayon or modal. They tend to be really swingy, and the fact that they don't cling is super flattering. If you're buying key pieces like that, forge ahead, regret-free.
"Sometimes, though, a little restraint would've helped me out. I'm sure I'm not alone here, but I've wandered into a big chain store -- whether it's American Apparel, H&M, or TopShop -- only to wander out hundreds of dollars poorer. I'm still not sure exactly how it happens. One minute I'm admiring a pretty top and the next thing I know I'm standing at the cash register with a pile of clothing two-feet tall."
"Before you commit to a scary or expensive trend, you can test-drive it with a budget-friendly option. For example, before splashing out for a leather bomber jacket, try a faux leather version that costs €50 first. If you decide you love it, chances are the real deal that's going to last for years and years is a sound investment."
"Unlike a department store, a boutique doesn't have the benefit of thousands of square feet to appeal to every kind of shopper. While this can mean fewer options, it also means less to search through, which is a decidedly good thing.
"Each boutique tends to have a specific style, and so this means that you need to shop around for the right boutique for you.
"There are lots of benefits to localising your shopping. For one, once you're really familiar with a store's staff and merchandise, you'll know that you have a place to turn to in any fashion emergency. And secondly, you're much more likely to stumble upon little-known designers, which means a closet full of more original pieces."
>Secret weapon -- salespeople:
"I tend to be a pretty quiet and low-key shopper, so a pushy salesperson can drive me nuts. But a knowledgeable salesperson can be a great resource.
"The best ones tend to know everything on the racks, which means they can draw your attention to items you might have otherwise overlooked -- and expedite the entire process by bringing you things to try in the dressing room and letting you know if things run big or small. If you are a loyal customer you can reap the benefits of a salesperson watching out for you."
"I'm a sucker for name brands, but just because something is Chanel or YSL does not necessarily mean you should buy it -- unless, of course, it's amazing. I'm sure that Emilio Pucci velvet trouser-suit was fabulous in the '70s, but are you really going to wear it to your next party? Sometimes you have to resist an amazing thing, too -- like if it's not your size. When you see that perfect dress or blazer lurking on the shelf, make sure it fits (some things, like width of the shoulders on a jacket, are completely non-negotiable). Otherwise that piece will live in your closet, gently mocking you."
"I always feel like a cliche when I do it, but shopping in my pyjamas never gets old. (I shop for pyjamas in my pyjamas!) Not only does it make me feel slightly more productive when I'm watching TV (multitasking!), but it gives me access to designers from across the globe.
"Also, clothes often look much more appealing on an actual model rather than hanging on a rack, so I feel like I stumble on things that wouldn't have otherwise caught my eye. Lastly, while stores offer a limited range of pieces in certain styles and colours, online retailers tend to have a larger selection."
Lauren Conrad Style: The Secret to Looking Fabulous And Having Fun with Fashion, by Lauren Conrad, published by Harper Collins, price €10.99