My mum is notoriously bad at shopping under pressure. I’m talking about any sort of surprise discount; designer outlet malls; end of season House of Fraser sales etc. We’ll be raking through a particular rail when she’ll spot something – a top or a dress – that ignites a little spark of desire. She’ll pick it up and examine it against her body, tilting her head from side to side and shifting her weight from one foot to another. Meanwhile, I’ll spot another shopper with her eye on my mum, waiting for her to put the dress down so that she can have a piece of the action. Unbeknownst to my mother, the pressure is mounting and there are hungry, silent eyes stinging into her indecisiveness.
What happens next is not your usual protocol. It’s sort of an unwritten law that when you put something back on the rail, it is no longer your property (rookie mistake). It’s been “put down”. I.e. you have confidently washed your hands of it in your decision not to buy it, and will graciously let your fellow shoppers do with it what they will. Well not my mother. She doesn’t quietly curse under her breath in a fit of regret and move on like normal people. Oh no! The knowledge that someone else wants what she once had triggers her competitive side, and she’ll unashamedly and very publically elbow me in the ribs and whisper (loudly), “that was mine; why did I put it down?; look she’s got my dress; I wish I hadn’t put it down now; do you think she’ll put it back?”
What started as a civil exchange now becomes a devious mission whereby both women try to convince one another (through facial expressions and what they believe are clever red herrings) that they’re not really that bothered about the dress in question.
Unbeknownst to both women, there’s another lioness waiting in the wings sharpening her claws.
That’s what the Voucher Codes Swap Shop party 2014 reminded me of on Monday night– but with 80-odd fashion and beauty bloggers. All of whom are fluent in the art of sneaky shopping and no strangers to the odd ‘accidental’ elbow-rib collision. For some, nothing was going to stand in the way of the Voucher Code’s star items: a French Connection number, a Miu Miu dress and some Chloe platforms. Once we’d cashed our five items in for corresponding stamps, we all crashed into the swapping room like an avalanche, fuelled by Love Hearts, cupcakes and Mother Clucker’s chicken and chips. (Or sheer panic, adrenaline and fashion darling.)
Unfortunately, as is the case with anything, the early blogger gets the worm – and by worm I mean nude Chloe platform sandals. They were my size too! Deep breaths.
The swap shop works on the basis that you exchange five items from your own wardrobe, with five items from someone else’s. It’s sustainable style at its very best. The “1 stamp” rail was made up of pre-loved Primark and affordable high-street brands, while 2 and 3 stamps got you pieces from Topshop, River Island, ASOS and designers like Chloe and FCUK. My contributions earned me 9 stamps and that was that; I was free to take home whatever I wanted from the rails while my debit card wriggled in confusion inside my purse.
In amongst the determined and the devious, I was more “oops – sorry, excuse me, can I just squeeze in…sorry was that your foot/face?” – I am not cut out for aggressive shopping. Having said that, I did come away with a pretty good haul. I traded in River Island for Warehouse, Topshop for Zara and self-control for free cupcakes.
As well as the clothes, there were plenty of other ways to get involved in the Swap Shop. The DIY station encouraged us to get creative with the ladies at Pinned It Made It by adding multi-coloured poms poms, sequins and beads to opaque Accessorize tights. Fortunately I was too busy making a fool of myself in the photo-booth to force my creations on anyone. I am pictured below with my lifelong bestie Jess, who came with me to the party.
Somewhere between my third grapetini and my 25th pack of Love Hearts, I regressed back to childhood and experienced a surge of jealousy not dissimilar to that of a five-year-old throwing a tantrum over sharing her toys. Upon seeing fellow bloggers sporting bespoke balloon animal hats (where did they come from and where was mine?) i got my priorities in order and went in search of the balloon lady.
Enter Twistina – my new best friend and a presence I would like at all of my birthday parties from now on. Giraffe? She can make it. Unicorn? No problem. Penguin? Easy peasy. Check out the incredible flower crown below, modelled by the gorgeous Emma from Bloomzy, and the purple poodle perfectly coordinated to match Fleur’s ensemble.
These are just a few of the bits I came away with; the knee-high Zara boots being my favourite. Big thanks to Matalan, Dorothy Perkins and Boden for contributing to the goodie bags, and of course Fleur at Voucher Codes UK (above) for organising the event.
Next time I’ll be a more aggressive shopper, determined and focused; unfazed by free animal balloons; elbowing my way to the Star Swaps while emulating a scarier version of Rebecca Bloomwood.