If there’s one thing that most people agree on when it comes to the Duchess of Cambridge’s fashion, it’s that it’s her mix high street and designer clothing that makes her an endearing and accessible role model. The Duchess is also keen on a bargain, scooping up some of her most famous pieces in the sales. However, if you wanted to know one of the biggest secrets in her pre-wedding wardrobe, I’d have to suggest it was Bicester Village. She may be too high profile now to shop incognito in this bargainous paradise, but I’m willing to bet that lazy days spent perusing the rails are one of the things the Duchess misses most about her old life.
Not only are there so many amazing brands on offer, but the village itself is incredibly contained, meaning it’s easy to swoop in and bag all your bargains in a morning, especially if you’re organised! Here’s our guide to some of the best brands at Bicester Village!
Famously the designer of the DoC’s beautiful wedding dress, McQueen is actually more known for its edgy accessories, which are adorned with skulls. Although the Duchess usually removes these embellishments from her accessories, you can find skull necklaces, scarves and clutches here at great prices. The structured yet feminine clothing range is also available, although even at a discount, you’ll need deep pockets.
Some of the Duchess’s most iconic shoes have been purchased at Jimmy Choo, including black suede Cosmics and her sparkly Vamps. You can often find both of these core styles in alternate colours at the outlet, as well as a large range of other past season styles at deep discounts.
This brand is one of my personal favourites, and has experienced mixed fortunes of late. One of Kate’s most memorable Mulberry pieces is the Bayswater Clutch in black velvet. These are usually available in various colours on discount in the store – my tip is to head to Purse Blog’s forum, where helpful forum users list the prices and stock of Mulberry’s outlet stores regularly.
The Duchess always plays it safe with classic accessories, so it might be surprising to some fans who step into Anya Hindmarch just how incredibly playful and irreverent the range is. The Maud and Marano clutches can be found on offer in various colourways, sometimes at bargain prices. I picked up a playful music box Marano clutch in a shiny green fabric in the Christmas sales for just £50 – marked down from £595!
Alice Temperley is rightly famous for her soft, feminine dresses and gorgeous scarves – both of which you can find at great prices at Bicester’s outlet. However, my absolute favourite aspect of this store is their bridal range – probably unsurpassed for romantic whimsy. Even if you’re only browsing, you really should check out these gorgeous gowns.
DvF is the place to go for wrap dresses, but one glance at their Bicester outlet will show you that this brand can do so much more! This is the place to come for flattering outfits for women of all ages. Some of the Duchess’s most admired day dresses have been from DvF.
One of my favourite bags of the Duchess’s casual wardrobe has to be the Tod’s D bag in grey. Rumour has it that the bag was purchased at Bicester, where you can still pick up D bags – although the colours will vary!
Far more accessible to the average shopper are LK Bennett’s range – including shoes and outfits under £50. It’s always worth checking in to see what they have – the famous Sledges were recently spotted at the outlets, because the light taupe colour has now been subtly updated and the old stock is being sold off. The Natalie clutches and Davina dresses are also available in different colourways very regularly.
The Duchess owns the navy Jinan trench coat from Ted Baker, which is long out of stock – but the company is known for its structured and ladylike tailoring and you may well find an updated version if you browse the racks. My tip for Ted Baker is to check out their amazing range of poufy, feminine dresses, constructed of chiffon and netting, which are perfect for the races and weddings!
Reiss is probably the most famous of all the Bicester shops that the Duchess has visited – she was photographed wearing their Nanette dress for the official engagement shoot. It’s also one of the places that have been quoted as confirming that the Duchess visited – and apparently she usually heads for the 60% off rack! I love Reiss for structured dresses and coats – and so does the Duchess!
The Duchess has been pictured wearing many Hobbs coats and dresses – the company also does some lovely shoes and knitwear. The NW3 line is English eccentricity at its best, and the Invitation line is perfect for special occasions. You can find some dresses as cheap as £50 and under at Hobbs (just like the Duchess, who scooped up a Wessex dress for just £40) – but try everything on, as the sizing can sometimes run large!
It’s very hard to find the items that the Duchess has worn in the Links outlets – you’re far better off waiting for a discount code than a sale for classics like the Hope Egg and Effervescence Bubble Stiletto earrings. However, Links are most famous for their friendship bracelets, and you can buy discounted styles here, along with a massive range of charms for their bracelets too.
The Duchess is rarely seen in French Connection these days – apart from one major showing… her official portrait! Although heavily altered by the artist, the original photo for the picture shows the Duchess very clearly wearing the Sub Silky Tie Top in navy from the brand. At the time, people scrambled to purchase this in French Connection’s sale, where it quickly sold out and was completely unavailable for a time. Weirdly, though, just a few weeks later I was able to find several of these tops in the sale rack in their outlet store! Duchess-worn items are undoubtedly no longer to be found in French Connection’s stores these days, but if you are hunting for a bargain, many of their items are under £50.
Cosmetics Company Store:
This is the place to come to pick up bargain Bobbi Brown products (amongst other brands including MAC) – worn by the Duchess on her wedding day. Look for Pale Pink blush, Ivory, Rockstar and Slate eye shadows, gel ink liner in Black Ink, the Pale Quartz Shimmer Brick, Sandwash Pink lipstick and Crystal Gloss. You might just get lucky!
A new favourite for the Duchess is Jaegar – once the stomping ground of middle aged ladies stocking up on office wear, Jaegar is now the place to come for tailored dresses and structured coats, carefully constructed from high end, luxury materials. They also run a loyalty scheme which even works in their outlet stores.
Now, I always like to pop in to some other shops while I’m in Bicester – Kate Spade is amazing, and strangely, given the lack of presence of the brand in the UK, this outlet store is well established. Shop here for cute bags and jewellery. Burberry has a massive store here too – get your classic trench coats and house check scarves here, but also make sure to head to the back of the store to look at their shoes, too! That’s also my tip for Chanel and Prada – there are serious bargains if you can hunt them down. If you’re in need of a pick me up, the sublime scents of L’Occitane and Penhaglions always bring a smile to my face, as do the cheeky lip clutches of Lulu Guinness. Finally, I am waiting for the day when I can finally claim a pair of beautiful bow-toed Salvatore Ferragamo flats – make sure you drop in, as sometimes the brand does hefty promotions! If you’re after some luxe stationary, you need to pop into Smythson – the Duchess has been pictured with a purple crocodile bound notebook from the brand in the past!
If you’re going during the weekend or school holidays, get there early – before it opens. Several of the cafes will be open before the shops so you can sit and ponder your purchases. The car park becomes a battlefield just a few hours into opening time, and I’ve personally sat in my car for up to 40 minutes waiting for a spot!
There will be queues outside many of the big name luxury brands, like Chanel, Ralph Lauren, and strangely, Ugg. You’ll want to hit those first before the queues build, and then go to the smaller shops later. A good way to tell if a shop is likely to get more traffic later is to look for the barriers outside, which will be erected to help shoppers queue in a tidy fashion.
If you are a member of the AA, you can get a free VIP pass. This entitles you to 10% off many of the shops – but beware – you can only use them once for each shop! This VIP pass is also available from some shopping packages and hotels in the area.
Make a note of some items from your favourite brands that you’d really like to buy – whether it’s a pair of Cosmics in Jimmy Choo or some Sledges in LK Bennett. If you don’t see what you want, ask – you may be surprised!
A shopping list sounds silly if you’re just browsing, but a little wish list can really help you when you’re visiting. I know a few times I’ve been meaning to check out the sunglasses at Burberry or the earrings at Kate Spade, and then completely forgotten to look when I’m actually there!
Sales assistants will rarely put items by for you. This can make comparison shopping very stressful – but try to keep your head! Ask if they have more stock in the back, and if it’s the final one, don’t purchase unless you are absolutely sure.
Most shops do not offer refunds and will only give you store credits for returns. Buy in haste and regret at leisure…
If you’re purchasing an item that is discounted due to damage, ask yourself whether you really have the skills, time or patience to repair it. And if you take the plunge, plan to tackle it immediately, otherwise it’ll languish in your wardrobe for years.
Finally, some of the shops at Bicester actually process payment over the phone and can deliver to UK addresses. Check the brand directory at www.bicestervillage.com for phone numbers. Note not all brands offer this.
Bicester Village is located at 50 Pingle Drive, Bicester, Oxfordshire, OX26 6WD. There are shopping excursions and many packages available, and you can find out more about the shopping village and the brands available at their website, http://www.bicestervillage.com.