Surfing USA

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Surfing USA
Smarten up your look with some Stateside Style

By Amber McNaught

My boyfriend is getting worried. Every time we go out together he catches me checking out other women.

“You’re doing it again!” he’ll hiss, horrified, as another stylish woman walks by, and my eyes immediately follow, giving her a quick up-and-down before she melts into the crowd. “You’re looking at that girl’s bum!”

He has nothing to worry about though: I’m not interested in the women themselves – all I care about is their clothes. “Topshop,” I’ll think, as a girl walks by in one of the ubiquitous “Kate” vests. “River Island,” as she’s followed by another, in a great pair of boots. Not only do I know instantly where passers-by got their outfits, I can tell you how much they cost, and when they were in stock. Yep, I shop a lot…

It’s not my fault, though. I blame the British high street. Sure, it’s filled with choice: from boho to Victoriana, and from military style to Russian opulence, this season we’ve seen it all. The one constant in British fashion is that it’s never boring. So why does it sometimes feel like it is?

Answer: the high street. Quite simply, we all have one, and they’re all pretty much the same. Just about every High Street you can walk down has a Topshop, a Next, a Primark… the list is almost endless, the variety, sadly, is not. How many times have you seen your clothes on strangers – at work, at the gym, in bars? They’re everywhere, and the High Street is to blame.

As soon as the glossies tell us what this season’s “must-have” item is – and where to get it – we all rush to get it. The result: we end up looking like members of some strange cult, in our identikit shrugs, skinny jeans and disc belts. It’s a stylish cult, of course, but a cult all the same – and who wants that? (Well, other than Tom Cruise, obviously…) We all look the same, dress the same, and when we’re asked “where did you get that?” we know that the questioner will appear in a week’s time wearing the exact same thing.

Luckily for those of us who want to look just a little bit different, there is a solution. Like many great solutions, it comes from the USA. In fact, time to ‘fess up – the solution is the USA: land of the free, home of a million and one clothes shops we haven’t tried yet. God bless it!

With the increase in online shopping, the world has become smaller. When I say “smaller”, obviously, I mean “easier to shop in”. Gone are the days when buying from abroad involved a lengthy wait while cheques wound their way across the ocean and goods wound their equally slow way back. Now shopping the States is quick, painless, and, above-all, cheap. Thank-you, Great British Pound and your wonderfully strong exchange rate. Love you!

Thanks to the Internet, a whole now world of fashion is open to women who don’t want to look like they just fell off the production line. Here’s some of the best:

Abercrombie and Fitch
Home of perfect jeans, cute camis, and hoodies to die for. Their range of signature sweaters will set you back around £35, but you’ll be the only one wearing one.

Mmmm, Anthropologie. An up-market boutique chain, they stock clothes from a range of designers, as well as their own line. This winter they have a fabulous range of quirky cardi’s and retro-glam jackets and outerwear. Not exactly cheap – a sweater will cost from £50 up, but very unique. My very favourite store – if I could just afford it…

Shop Bop
Strictly for the fashionista’s amongst you, ShopBop carries high-end fashion from Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dresses and Juicy Couture sweats to classic black trousers (“pants”, if you will) from Theory, and denim of all shapes and sizes from Earl Jean, For All Mankind, Blue Cult and more.
You know what? I lied about Anthropologie – eluxury is my very favourite online store, and if you want to know why, just spend a few minutes browsing the beautiful bags on offer. Gucci, Prada, Fendi, Coach (mmmm, Coach!) – you name it, e-luxury have it, and for only a fraction of what you’d expect to pay here.

And there’s more. Old Navy. Gap. Charlotte Russe. Arden B. Express… But wait? Don’t a lot of these shops only deliver within the US? Well yes, they do. But worry not, fashionistas, for help is at hand in the shape of Shop the States. ( Register free with this site and they’ll send you a US street address which your items will be delivered to. Just shop as normal, pay online, and when your goods arrive at your US address, they’ll give you a choice of delivery options and send them on for you.

But is it safe?

In a word, yes. Most credit cards protect you from fraud, non-delivery and faulty goods. Buy from a reputable store and its as safe as shopping at home, but cheaper.

What about customs?

Well, there’s the rub. The customs limit for bringing goods into the UK is just £18. If your purchases cost more than that, you could be charged import tax, plus a handling charge by Royal Mail. There’s no way to avoid this, so the best thing to do is to assume you’ll be hit with a customs charge when your item arrives, and calculate it into your budget. If you’re not charged, count it as a bonus.

Then use the extra money to do some shopping…