Christmas shopping. My two favourite things, joined at the hip. What’s not to like?
Well, everything, actually.
I am very much a free range shopper. I like to roam, pecking at this and that, just as I please. But Christmas shopping is battery shopping at its most extreme, complete with people jabbing you with their beaks. (I’m still getting flashbacks to a rather traumatic incident in the checkout queue at H&M a few years ago).
Don’t get me wrong. I love a binge as much as the next woman with a borderline shopping problem. But at Christmas, that little, nagging voice in my head reminds me that everything I pick up will be massively reduced in a week or so. You can take the Mutton out of the North…..
There is something very anxiety-provoking, too, about present buying in bulk and to a deadline. Every item has to be interrogated: too extravagant? too mean? too predictable? too whacky?
I find the only way to assuage the critical voices is displacement shopping. It’s terribly even-handed: something for me, guaranteed to please; something for one of my loved ones, which I hope may do the same.
So I’ve picked out a few pieces of loveliness you may want to give, keep back or drop heavy hints about. Any of them would be lovely to find under the tree.
A beautiful, cosy sweater sweater
What is Christmas without a sweater? I am no fan of novelty sweaters. Nor of family photos in matching ones – a US import of which I don’t approve. But I do like a pully. Here are some that caught my eye.
Ganni Julliard short-sleeved sweater
I have a life long on-off love affair with pink. At the moment we’re very much not on a break.
This coconut ice coloured, mohair & wool mix has flattering three quarter length sleeves and would look adorable with a slip skirt, or even something sequinned for a cool Yule. It is now on sale in Net-a-Porter – brace yourselves, this ain’t cheap – but it is a keeper.
Net-a-Porter, £245 BUY HERE
&Other Stories marshmallow pink sweater
& Other Stories £35 BUY HERE
When baby angels blush, this is the exact colour their chubby little cheeks turn. This is known.
There’s something really lovely and understated about this jumper and the fact that it’s a cotton blend makes it an all year round wear. Just the sort of thing that might sneak itself in my bag on an Oxford Street trip.
Next striped sweater
Next £25 BUY HERE
This is a tale of two sweaters. On the one hand there is the Next striped sweater, beloved by the Instagrammati. On the other, a long-sleeved, striped version of the pink Ganni sweater (below in the bolder colour way) but one is ten times the price of the other. Your choice.
Ganni Julliard striped sweater
Net a Porter £205 (in sale) BUY HERE
Knee length boots
Zara high heel boots, £119 BUY HERE
Tall boots are back in fashion, praise be. After years of mucking around with ankle boots and cropped trousers and all that, “what do I do with two inches of bare, pimply calf” mallarkey, knee boots are great. They are easy to wear. They look cool with a midi length skirt and, best of all, they take all the pressure off the state of your tights.
But please, please don’t be tempted to wear them with trousers tucked in unless you’re auditioning for Mama Mia.
Zara’s shoe game has been keen as mustard this Autumn (if pricier than ever before. I blame the collapse of sterling). But talking of mustard. I mean, wow! Call me Mrs Colman, but these leave me lost for words.
How shall I praise them? Let me count the ways.
Well, there’s that colour (much more useful than you might ever imagine, trust me on this); the shape (classic); the heel (just high enough); the creasing (artful). The whole – just delightful.
Drop hints now, as they are running low on sizes in this colour, but, before you fling yourselves like lemmings onto the website, despair not because they also come in black, burgundy, white, camel …..
Buy online though. Zara shoe stocks can be unreliable in store. I would hate anyone to be disappointed. After all, it is Christmas.
A lovely, cosy, forgiving dress
Onjenu Lauren dress, £116 BUY HERE
I’ve picked this dress from a lovely range of easy-to-wear and not super expensive dresses, jumpsuits and separates at Onjenu. I discovered this brand last year and promptly bought a top and a pair of velvet pants in the sale.
The dresses are well worth checking out because they are very comfortable as well as glamorous, which is just what you need at Christmas time. I picked this little red velvet number because it will look good on most people and it is very flexible. Slap on some red lippy and you’re ready to party. But with those long sleeves, that flattering pleating AND those convenient pockets for the surreptitious stashing of Quality Street wrappers, you can also sail through Christmas Day lunch and a snooze on the sofa with style.
Or, for those who are a bit over velvet, how about something more Alice in Wonderland, like this from Zara? I really like this playing card pattern. (it also comes in a shirt).
Zara heart patterned dress, £99 BUY HERE
A ‘Useful’ skirt
H&M bell shaped, tartan skirt £34.99 BUY HERE
I am always buying clothes I think will be useful. Often this is utter self-delusion, but in this case, I’m inclined to think not so. I love tartan – that’s the thwarted punk in me – and this flattering, gently flared skirt is just the right price point to slip into your bag for personal gifting. Or it’s the sort of thing a Kindly, Fashionable Aunt might buy a Delightful, Fashion-Conscious Niece – if you’re looking for present ideas.
Practical things you just need in your life
As a dog walking woman, I like little bit of luxury while I chuck balls, wade through mud and pick up poo. Cashmere fingerless gloves, especially in a bright colour, fit the bill beautifully.
Here I offer you two options at a similar price: one from Marilyn Moore (currently in their pre-Christmas sale, which if you like their stuff, you should check out) and another, to ease your social conscience, from the recycled cashmere company, Turtle Doves. Both will be cheery on the grey Christmas Day we’re likely to get.
Marilyn Moore wrist warmers, £25 BUY HERE
Turtle Doves cashmere fingerless gloves, £26 BUY HERE
Red shoes, no knickers (as we say up North)
Red shoes have been an obsession of mine since I was four and one of my Protestant aunties gave me a pair of red patent winkle pickers with an actual heel. (Catholic grandma was very disapproving. Even though I was wearing knickers actually).
This Christmas these Tracey Neuls ankle boots would scratch that itch for me, but at that price I would have to be feeling like I deserve a rather bigger treat than I do.
Tracey Neuls Arlinda boots, £410 BUY HERE
A more thrift appropriate buy would be these sequinned Converse. Still pretty darn cool and sparkly to boot. Or to shoe (see what I did there?).
Converse Sequin All Stars (also available in gold and in high tops) £55 BUY HERE
Cast your mind forward to a Boxing Day walk in these beauties. However misty and murky the weather, you’ll be a beacon for all, in these bright-as-a-light Camper Lab clompy boots. It’s almost your civic duty to buy them.
Camper highlighter pink boots, £132 BUY HERE
A Christmas Candle
Finally, there is one treat I always allow myself, but in the spirit of Christmas I justify it because it is one everyone can share: a beautiful pine-scented candle. I’ve tried them all, at every price point, but nothing comes close to Diptyque’s. It’s just perfect. Christmas in a small. highly-decorated glass. Shame it’s so darn expensive.
Diptyque Pine Tree of Life candle, £53 BUY HERE
Whatever you buy, I do hope it brings you or whoever receives it, huge joy. If you’re lucky, and you choose well, who knows, it might actually make you want to do a little dance. If it does I hope you have plenty of people to groove away with.