My Surprising Adventures when shopping in Britain

As many of you know I am currently in England, the land where I was born and spent the first 21 years of my life.

But, I haven’t actually lived there for over 40 years, so on this recent visit certain things surprised me.

Take shopping. My first husband, who studied at the Chicago Institute of Art as a teenager, told me that patterns didn’t suit me, because I had too small a frame to contain them. Instead, he thought I should either wear simple colors, or textures with subtle patterning.

So here I am in Britain, feeling underdressed. I’m looking for some tunic-like tops or one of those retro fit-&-flare dresses that I can wear over my leggings.

Primark is an Irish Store (called Penneys in the Republic of Ireland.) The image shows shoppers queuing for a sale. Primark operates in many countries, including the United States. Its main competitors in the UK are Zara, H & M and Marks & Spencer.

But I have TWO problems. First, the fit is either boxy or VERY flaring. Either way, it makes me look FAT. Then there is the problem about colors. British women seem to LOVE patterns. And when I say patterns, I mean LOUD patterns that scream at you in lime green, or fiery orange, or violent purple.

Then there is the problem of price. If you go to Primark, where you will find harassed British Mums with their children (always a good sign that bargains are in the offing) you can get PLAIN colored T-shirts that are form-fitting for the bargain basement price of THREE pounds! (That’s about $3.44.)

A typical example of prices from Mom-and-Pop store Chestnut’s Fashion Fix in pretty Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-water. Notice that dresses do NOT have built in petticoats (you have to pay extra for those) but still cost over $70 EACH!

OTOH, if you happen to be visiting Cotswold villages as part of a tour laid on for tourists, you will find bespoke stores with lots of interesting garments that you are tempted by…until you discover that each one will cost you the handsome sum of between £59.99 and £69.99. (That’s anywhere from $68.77 to $80.24.)

As a spoiled American shopper, I expect to get flattering tops that hide a multitude of sins for about $25 or possibly $30. I’m certainly NOT willing to pay more than $40 for such a garment.

So I don’t buy it, which means that I have to waste plenty of time trying to find something that suits me. Today, I must have gone into about TEN such stores, all very charming in their own way. Yet I could find NOTHING that suited me.

Oh well, I guess I’m going to go back to Primark at the first opportunity. At least, whatever I find there isn’t going to break the bank.

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