If you want to know what to buy talk to the experts…

We love doing reviews on Sophie’s Voice. We get to use products that are often beyond our budget and we pick the ones that you can rely on so that, if you also watch the pounds (and/or pennies), you can treat yourself to a little luxury and rely on us to direct you to ones that won’t let you down – in fact, to ones that will mean that you can justify the expense. Of course we also try out budget options – and even the ones from the bargain basement – and often they’re just as good. If so, we tell you that as well. We don’t just do beauty but we find that it’s hard to find fashion bargains on the high street that we actually trust. We’ve been lucky in the past if we could come up with a half decent selection – and it happens so rarely that the last time was in early 2017. Instead we put the odd thing on the Instagram or Facebook feeds and miss out on any possible affiliate income – but, hey, at least that means that we aren’t being bribed to feature anything a retailer’s having trouble selling at the end of the season.

Anyway, this time I decided to change tack. I’m lucky enough to be working at New Look over the Christmas period so I thought I’d ask the experts (my colleagues) for their recommendations for Sophie’s Voice readers. They see all the newest stock before anyone else, they see it modelled on people who are all sorts of shapes and sizes and they can tell you how to wear it and what’s in the store that will really bring it to life.

If you’ve ever worked in retail you will know how wonderful it is to be asked for your opinion by a customer. The chances are that you love fashion and you have a style of your own – and an idea of what style the customer is going for and what will suit their lifestyle and, more importantly, their personality. Putting together a look and knowing that someone is going to look like a million dollars when (especially if they’re shopping at New Look) the outfit cost a fraction of that is part of the job. You may think that ‘shop girls’ are just there to operate the tills, man the fitting room and fiddle with hangers but you’d be wrong. Customer service means the whole service. Shoppers aren’t paper dolls to the retailer – it doesn’t pay to throw clothes that cost money but are instantly regrettable at a person. It’s not ethical and it’s not good business.

You should leave with something you will wear again and again. You should want to wear it more than once. It should survive every type of washing machine. It should survive many, many spins in said washing machine. It should be on trend when you buy it but stay the course. If all that happens then customers trust a brand and come back again and again. More women in the UK between the ages of 18 and 34 own something they bought from New Look than they do from any other high street fashion retailer. You’d be surprised.

I was talking to a friend about this in the queue at the school gate. She’s not particularly posh but she’s a solicitor. Would you expect your solicitor to wear New Look? Well this one does – she can choose any one of three New Look maxi skirts that she has in her wardrobe. She’s bought one a summer over the last three years. Fashion can’t afford to fail customers like her at the moment. The market is too turbulent – and she is just as valuable to the New Look customer service model as the 20 something who buys a new dress every time she goes out clubbing. That’s a rare approach nowadays.

Now to the expert recommendations from the Speke branch of the store. I have to preface this list by saying that the present mood among my sisters in the service industry is definitely ‘party’. The holiday season comes early to those who work in stores. Very early. I have already heard every single Michael Bublé song ever. I admire any person whose talents enable them to feed their family and pay the mortgage for an entire year by working for only 6 weeks but I would happily go back in time and provide his parents with a boxset of The Wire on the evening of the night of his conception – just so they would stay up late watching it and be too tired to get hot under the collar when he was supposed to be conceived. Also, who has the arrogance to record a ballad version of Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas? That has almost completely ruined the run up to Christmas for me.

The first item was chosen by someone who had a hangover on our big advice day. A black loop knit cardigan is both snuggly and a much needed glamorous update of this wardrobe standard. Feel on trend in your lounge wear or PJs. Why not? The example that was chosen in store was black but it also comes in rust, baby blue and mustard.

At £29.99 it may surprise you to learn that it’s one of the more expensive cardigans New Look sells – but that’s because the knitting process is labour intensive in comparison with others.

Next the black sequined long sleeve bodysuit at £24.99. This isn’t the exact same example as the one chosen off the rack – that isn’t available online anymore – but it’s a good alternative. Especially since it doesn’t have the same slightly risky wrap effect at the front. Pissed at the work Christmas party is not where you want to introduce your boobs to your boss – however inadvertently. This gives you a substantial low V on the lined sequined front, a mesh back and a reassuring amount of elastane all over.

Elastane sounds scary but it’s designed as an add in to the fabric. Clothes made in a fabric that has elastane content should be cut so that the measurements do not include stretch. That means that, if the item should have a 26″ waist (we sell about 1 of them per week), the fabric is cut unstretched to that measurement, with the additional seam allowance. The ‘stretch’ is there to accommodate your movement. It means that you can twist around to talk to the person at the next table – or even dance on the table – without it moving. It’s not supposed to be Spanx. Nothing good is ever Spanx. Make that your shopping mantra, please.

To accompany many of the party looks that were chosen, this dark grey collared faux fur jacket is perfect at £39.99. It’s flashy but not trashy. I love faux fur. It’s too Abba for me to pass up. This has a really decadent 70s does the 30s look about it. Kind of Biba at Studio 54. I want to be there right now.

Jumpsuits were popular choices this year. That may be because the staff demographic encompasses a wide range of ages but they look great on everyone. I love this brown leopard print kimono sleeve satin jumpsuit. It’s really really really sexy. Honestly, I can’t emphasise that fact enough. It’s also surprisingly flattering on any size or shape. I mention that because satin is a hard taskmaster. It often seems like it hates the female form. It can make us look like a cellulite museum. This one doesn’t. And that’s shocking considering the fact that it’s down to £15 on the website. Yes, that’s £15. I know what it cost when it came into the store. It’s come down in price a lot. A very lot.

Get over the fact that it means that peeing takes a bit longer when you wear a jumpsuit. Just listen to your body more and pop to the loo as soon as you feel the need coming on – rather than after you finish your next drink. You’re a grownup now. It’s not that hard.

The dress that everyone seems to be fighting to wear at the Christmas party – first spotter gets first dibs on the dress so staff watch the website just as much as savvy shoppers do – is this black glitter stripe long sleeve bodycon dress. I can understand the appeal. It’s very heavy – which is a good sign in anything glittery. It means it’s substantial. This is very heavy duty. It will not disappoint you when you get overexcited on the dance floor. You can eat to the point where you have a food baby making itself at home in your tummy when you’re wearing this dress – and it will make you look like a hot mama.

It’s lined and, again, contains the miracle that is elastane. Theoretically the glitter stripe will stretch too but, in practice, it stays still while the plain sections ‘give’. Like a kind of friendly posture teacher. It’s short and the word ‘bodycon’ can sound terrifying – however, it really isn’t. It’s kind to you. It acts like it loves you and wants you to look like the room is yours. It’s the only bodycon I’ve seen that gives pretty much every body some con(fidence). There should be more dresses like this one on sale. On sale for £22.99 especially.

Did I mention jumpsuits? Maybe with some quite bossy, slightly patronising advice? No, you didn’t notice that? Well don’t go back and check. Take it from me – I was my usual charming self.

Anyway, here’s our second pick from the world of practical yet glamorous clothing – a very difficult to find place – and another jumpsuit. You can buy this fabulous silver mirrored sequin wrap jumpsuit for just £19.99. It’s not lined like many of the alternatives in this selection but it’s utter dedication to making the wearer the centre of attention – and the very reasonable price – make it one of the most tempting to those of us operating on the shoestring budget of a parent who has had to spend most of their paycheck on kids’ Christmas jumpers, stocking fillers, After Eights, a stupid turkey and the numerous other things that are the necessities of Christmas. This may just allow you to enjoy all the grownup Christmas events that you get invited to. Or the one event – that comprises the annual Christmas party – plus Christmas day. I strongly believe that you should dress up for Christmas dinner – because why the f*ck not? When else do you get to swan around looking better than everyone else now we don’t live in Mad Men times. The one thing that I would bring back from those times is dressing up for occasions. And Doris Day. That’s two things. Yes, I’d bring those two things back.

The last choice would be perfect for the way home from a night out…or the morning after. It’s this pale pink faux fur long line coat that costs £39.99. It actually comes in lots of colours but this was most popular. It’s dry clean only, I’m afraid. That would be the only drawback for me – but I don’t have any disposable income. If you’re young and running around always planning your next adventure, you probably won’t lose any sleep over that. Lucky you. I admit to being tempted to buy it just to put it on my pillow for snuggling at night. I suspect that it would give me a good night’s sleep. And I could do with that at times.

So that’s the expert verdict on what to wear at your Christmas party – and afterwards – this year. Or at Christmas dinner when you absolutely have to upstage cousin Debbie – trust me, you have a moral obligation to do that after her shenanigans last year – or just want to please yourself after slaving over the bloody oven in order to provide a nutritious and delicious feast for a rude audience of ungrateful family members.

I’ll be writing another post about my choices for this season next week but, at this time of year, people are panicking about ‘the big do’. Whatever you wear, enjoy yourselves – and I hope we’ve been helpful.

Just a quick note to say that this isn’t a sponsored post and I don’t get any affiliate income from New Look.

Also I’m really grateful to my colleagues for helping me out with their suggestions. When you consider the fact that we did this as part of our team meeting on a Sunday evening – and that most of us had worked over the weekend – it’s a miracle that my suggestion didn’t get turned down. Instead, they were lovely. I’m also really sorry that I couldn’t include the leopard print maxi skirt – because it sold out (both in stores and online) within about 2 days. If nothing else that shows that New Look staff know what the customer wants.

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