Growing up, I traveled quite a bit, as my family was scattered in various parts of the world. I remember how much fun it was to taste new food, observe different lifestyles, and try out different products. “Living in the moment” wasn’t a conscious decision. It was the only choice. What was available in one place wasn’t in another. Now, between the abundance of international businesses and the convenience of the internet, the world is at our fingertips. For that reason, I didn’t plan to shop while I was in London (gasp). At the end of this post, I’ll tell you why I’m glad I did. But first, here are the 5 British fashion brands that I think are just gorgeous…
L.K. Bennet is classic English fashion; feminine, conservative, and tailored. They have stores in Massachusetts, New York, Illinois and New Jersey, but since I don’t live near any of them, I spent a lot of time in their Richmond (a suburb of London) store. I love that their clothes are almost seasonless, and can be dressed up or worn casually. This ruffled Marthe sweater is a perfect cropped cardigan for cooler summer nights. (I’ve included the link for their website in case you are reading this from the U.K., but if you are in the U.S., read the last paragraph of my post for “red flags”.)
In the fall, I’ll wear this cardigan buttoned up, with wide-leg pants.
Despite having several blue dresses, I couldn’t help but buy this Alisa Blue Dress from L.K. Bennett’s fall collection. I’m planning to wear it now with white sandals and my straw clutch.
Later, I’ll switch to black pumps and gold accessories.
If you’re looking for feminine, tailored pieces to wear to the office, Hobbs London is one of my favorite British fashion brands. My black and gold pumps in the photograph above are from Hobbs London and are fairly comfortable. While I didn’t visit their U.K. stores, I am planning to look for them on my next trip to the NYC Bloomingdales. Here’s what I’m looking at:
- Kelsie Houndstooth Print Dress (click on the link, I’ll bet it’s not what you are picturing!)
- Celia Velvet Trim Skirt
- Madison pants
You can also purchase from their website but note that there will be additional charges for U.S. customers.
If you read the gossip columns about the British royal family, you may recognize Jigsaw as the company that once employed Kate Middleton. Jigsaw is another feminine, curve-friendly, conservative brand, but more affordable than L.K. Bennett. If you live in California, you can visit their freestanding stores.
I bought this beautiful silk scarf from their store in Richmond.
It is no longer available online, but this Peony Silk Scarf is similar and available. If I had had more room in my carry-on luggage (read about my packing adventures here), I would have also bought these olive mules and this Etta Buckle Clutch, both on-trend for early fall. Shopping online at Jigsaw from the U.S. can be a bit tricky, so this is another store that I spent a lot of time in, while I was in London.
Whistles is a contemporary (fashion-forward and more affordable) brand, but it has the same feminine, conservative style as the other British fashion brands I have mentioned. Sadly, the pieces that I tried on in their London store weren’t in my size, but some of them are available on Bloomindgales.com. I’m eyeing their:
Ted Baker puts a graphic, high-tech, body-conscious spin on British garden party dresses. My camisole and wallet are both from a past season, but you can find the updated ones here and here. They have several stores in the U.S. and are also available in department stores like Bloomingdales and Nordstrom. This was one of the other Bristish fashion brands that I skipped while in London, but will continue to buy from home.
A Few Red Flags When Buying British Fashion Brands Online
Many U.K. stores are willing to ship to the U.S. but please read the fine print in their FAQs or Shipping and Delivery pages. Some say that they are only responsible for getting the goods to the U.S. border and that you are responsible for customs and duties. I did some research online to find out what that would mean but found little information on rates, fees and processing time. I have only bought from brands like Ted Baker that have a U.S. distribution.
The U.K. brands that I have tried run small compared to the U.S. For example, I wear a size 2 in Banana Republic, but at L.K. Bennett, I was a U.K. size 10 /U.S. size 6. Ted Baker’s sizing runs from 0-6. Check the sizing charts carefully if you are ordering online!
Keep in mind that most items are cheaper if you buy them in their country of origin, so if you have the option to shop there don’t miss the opportunity! Just check the U.S. customs allowance for bringing goods back before you go on a shopping spree! At my time of travel, the allowance per person was $800 and you could combine a family’s allowance (i.e. $3200 for a family of four).
Let me know if you have favorite British fashion brands that are available in the U.S! Check out my Instagram feed for more styles that I bought in London, as well as photos from our vacation. Next stop: Paris!