The Budget Babe | Affordable Fashion & Style Blog

Savvy Travel: Fifi Crosses the Pond

Fifi crosses the pond.It's the country that gave us such fashion exports as Burberry, Kate Moss, Twiggy and... hedgehogs? The Budget Babe's International Shopping Advisor Fifi LaMode shares her keen insights on culture, shopping and style in England today. —TBB

by Fifi LaMode
During a recent trip to the UK I mused how things have changed. In addition to becoming an increasingly multicultural society, they've also gotten expensive. Smart American shoppers used to buy "knickers" (undies) at Marks & Spencers, but when the cheapest pair costs 5 pounds (10 dollars) and we get 5 for $25 at Victoria's Secret, that's not so smart any more, is it? There are things, however, which are uniquely British in style, quality and value that have not changed over the years.

Some of the things the Brits do best:

1. Sheep and hedgehogs are all over the place: greeting cards, lawn ornaments, collectible chachkis. When you see the little beggars, you can't help but want to bring one back.

If you can't resist, get your fix with socks.

2. Nothing's warmer on those damp, rainy days than a comfy woolen jumper (we call them sweaters). Many towns have shops selling locally made wool products which are reasonably priced. Unfortunately, some of these stores have added cheaper fleece clothing to their inventory with machine-embroidered little animals (yep, hedgehogs and sheep). A couple of our favorite places for woolly goodies: Whitby on the Yorkshire coast, or Cockermouth in the Lake District.

3. Tea rooms are an English institution. You can sip tea and munch scones and clotted cream (yumm) during breaks from shopping. Our favorite towns for tea rooms: York and Harrogate. They also carry tea-related gift items, like tea pots, tea towels (i.e. dish cloths), salt and pepper shakers (often in the shape of sheep and hedgehogs :-)), etc., and something called a "tea cosy" which looks like a dress for your teapot. I'm told this is to keep the teapot warm. (Don't you love it? "Jumpers" for the teapot!)
4. Clark's shoes are not made in England anymore but the Clark's shoes sold there still have more styles geared for walking than the ones sold in the U.S. Prices are competitive, so if it's a good comfortable walking shoe you are interested in, Clark's is still hard to beat.

5. Warm, colorful and classic kilts are not cheap, but are a good value for the money because they never wear out. Men, take note: Unless you're Sean Connery, in a police band or at a wedding, kilts falls under "costume."

6. Working-class chic is a sharp trend for gents. England has some great-looking guys. They dress differently from Americans: slim jeans, fitted short-sleeve or sleeveless tees, and very short hair with sideburns—sort of a younger version of our Mr. Clean. An especially effective look for the follically-challenged male, eliminating the need for the rug or dreaded comb-over. Those sleeveless tees are hard to come by in the U.S. so buy them for your guy if he has the arms to show off those hard-working muscles. A well-dressed blue-collar worker in the British Isles will not wear baggy jeans and the oversized tops so prevalent here. It's a neat look they sport, and those fitted clothes encourage good posture (not to mention being easy on the eyes!). Most mall stores sell "the look" if you want to dress up your man like a true northerner. (It may take a while to work on the accent though!)

7. Pubs are great places to congregate and have a pint. A hearty pub meal is a better value for the money than the restaurants (and NOBODY tips 20% there. If you must tip, do so for food service only and no more than 10% or you're showing off).

If you are in a shop in England, don't be surprised if the sales people start talking to you about the U.S.—they love us, love our accents, they have vacation homes in Florida (yes they do), and they love our shops and outlet malls and can't understand why we'd want to shop in the UK. (It's part of the fun of the international travel experience, that's why!) Besides, an informed, savvy shopper can find deals ANYWHERE!

—Fifi LaMode
I love Fifi!!!! Keep them coming!
#1 Anonymous on 2007-07-18 12:43 (Reply)
Look for her column every Wednesday!
#1.1 The Budget Babe on 2007-07-19 08:01 (Reply)
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