You know those women who look like they shop on Bond Street, but when you ask where their jacket's from chirp: 'Zara!' They don't shop in a secret high street you don't know about. They just know which high street brands do what, well. Once you're armed with this knowledge you can save hours of shopping stress, by going straight to the good stuff in each shop. Goodbye ill fitting manmade fibres — hello fake designer wardrobe. Here's what to buy where:
Best for: Workwear
If you're office is quite formal head for Reiss and Hobbs — their skirts, jackets and trousers are all office appropriate without looking frumpy. If you work somewhere less conservative, but still want to look pulled together, your best bet is Cos. Their tailoring is spot on, inexpensive and they do excellent copies of catwalk dresses.
Photo: Hobbs London
Best for: Knitwear
Uni-qlo's cashmere and merino wool sweaters are the best on the high street, both for quality and sheer choice. They have every neckline and colour imaginable, and unlike some cheap knits withstand years of washing. This season we like the cable knit - very faux Ralph Lauren.
Best for: Prints
H&M do a good line in catwalk inspired prints at ridiculous prices, but if you're willing to pay extra try Whistles, Sandro and Maje. The joy of prints is that high street versions tend not to look cheaper than designer, and they don't date like other trends.
Best for: Jeans and trousers
Gap has held the trouser crown for a while now, with affordable jeans in every style and excellent jeggings and leather leggings. If you're on the petite side, Zara will work for you too. Some people still swear by Topshop Baxter jeans (£40), but they need replacing after a few tumbles in the wash.
Best for: unusual sizes
ASOS has a full range of petites, tall cuts and curvy styles, so nobody misses out. Happy shopping.
Best for: Accessories
Urban Outfitters does great cheap and cheerful jewellery, bags, wallets, scarves, sunglasses and everything in between — and it's all more grown up than you expected. If you really want to scrimp head for Primark, you can find jewellery, belts and bags under a £10 — They do good tights, too.
Photo: Primark S/S '12 in stores from January.
Best for: Party stuff
If you're happy to flesh some flesh, ASOS and Mango brilliant, but if you're after something more demure try Banana Republic or French Connection who do loads of glitzy long sleeved dresses.
Best for: Shoes
Topshop shoes are on the pricey side, but worth it. Topshop goes all out on luxe textures, bold colours and shiny hardware, and their heels are sufficiently high. If you're splurging a bit more, try Kurt Geiger or Russell & Bromley. Kurt Geiger's ballet pumps are near identical to French Sole, but about 2/3 of the price.