Fashion: Right up your street

So, you're dying for a pair of Jarvis Cocker dark-rimmed glasses and a tiger-skin Fendi Baguette. Too expensive? The solution is closer than you think, writes Rebecca Lowthorpe
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The Independent Culture
If you're a serious style slave you will have pored over the telephone- directory-thick September glossies - the biggest issues of the year that ring in the new autumn/winter trends - and in a state of blood-pumping excitement, you will have put your name on waiting lists for the following "must-haves". At Dolce & Gabbana, your telephone numbers (all of them - mobile, town, country, gym, masseur, manicurist), will be next to one of the rhinestone-encrusted cummerbunds; at Gucci, your name is on the ruched velvet over-the-knee stiletto boots; you're waiting to hear from Fendi about the latest bejewelled Baguette; and you're considering taking your name off those Prada shoes, still unconvinced by their esoteric clumpiness and dubious shades of porridge and mushy pea-green.

This is, of course, the barking behaviour of a fashion victim. It is also the savvy response of one who knows how to update her wardrobe in a flash. She might shell out on a few new clothes (a tiger-print jacket by Alberta Ferretti, a shabby-chic coat from Marni), but she understands that the key to liberating last season's dreary grey and olive tweeds is through belts, bags, boots and shoes. If you live in the real world, then the waiting-list procedure is, for all but the self-consciously stylish, a complete anathema - not to mention excessive. There are, after all, better things to spend that sort of money on - a new sports car, say, or Jacuzzi . Fortunately the high street has one of the greatest-ever displays of accessories. No waiting lists. No bank loans required.

Let's start with the face. Since designers started licensing their names to optical frames, wearing glasses has become something of a chic trademark. Currently in vogue are the dark-rimmed squarish frames, born out of the Jarvis Cocker-inspired dweeb craze. If the names Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein and Gucci don't impress you any more, or if you're dying to try them out but don't want to get stung with a large bill , take a look at French Connection's black and yellow (a transparent, not opaque, daffodil yellow) square glasses, pounds 46, available from Boots Opticians or Vision Express.

When it comes to hats, the high street is your oyster. Not for the magical creations that grace Philip Treacy's cat walk, though the darling milliner of the fashion world does a fine, suitably restrained line for Debenhams, but for practical head-warmers. Scottish Fair Isles, Icelandic snowflakes and Peruvian-style headgear is to be found at Top Shop, along with the preppy look, or as the glossies dub it, the Ali McGraw in Love Story look - a floppy hat and long woolly scarf.

Bags are finally finding their place in the mainstream. Time was, before designer names imbued them with iconic credibility, that all you could pick up on the high street was a non-descript black nylon sac or a black leatherette job with crude metal fastenings and a familiar, but not quite perfectly formed, ersatz designer logo. Today, it's a different story. If you fancy a Fendi Baguette to tuck under your arm, safe in the knowledge that it is still considered, along with the Hermes Kelly, the bag of all bags, look no further than Warehouse's tiger-print version for pounds 16. Alternatively, the healthy attitude is to turn your back on fashion's dictatorial stance altogether and hunt out something unique before everyone else does. The Billy Bag - a large knitted tote with thick wool handles which look as if they might have been a couple of leg- warmers in a former life - is just the ticket, with its unexpected beaded flower arrangement on the front pocket.

The high street is trying to offer individuality like never before. The reason that it can afford to tag its pieces with such low prices is primarily because it places orders in great quantities - the very essence of what today's fashion is not about. Ubiquity is fashion's worst fear. Look at the fate of the poor old pashmina, now available in every department store and fashion chain up and down the country, but it has already been given a post-mortem by the serious style fanatics who definitely won't be wearing them again for, oh, at least two years.

The high street, over-eager to supply apparent demand, seems to have learned a great deal from the pashy faux pas. Why else would certain stores offer almost limited-edition availability on unusual, quirky pieces? A suede choker from Oasis, an army surplus-style cap from Gap, a rock-chick-chic studded belt from Top Shop and any hot catwalk-inspired trend from Warehouse will be replaced with the next set of interesting accessories, thus maintaining the stores' credibility and the thrill of the new.

If it carries on in this vein, the high street could well become the most venerable shopping ground of all. Even those who once spent money in glossy designer temples could be tempted to seek out its hidden treasures and, tired of wearing the despotic "must-be-seen-in" designer accessory and craving to show off their well-honed styling skills, might even dump the minimalist emporia altogether.

Now, if that happens, that really would be something new in the fashion world.

PHOTOGRAPHER: ANNA STEVENSON

STYLIST: HOLLY WOOD

HAIR AND MAKE-UP: KIM BROWN USING COSMETICS A LA CARTE

MODEL: NAT AT SELECT

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