Heading for the sales might be the last thing you want to do on Boxing Day the laziest, fattest, poorest day of the year. However, the chance to buy designer clothes at considerable discounts means that fashion favours the brave.
Prices on the high street promise to be ridiculously low this year, but the largest savings, and the smart money, will be on choosing designer clothes and accessories, and visiting "premium high street" shops such as Joseph. Imagine fashion as confectionery, and invest in a few bars of 70 per cent-cocoa chocolate rather than boxes of Quality Street.
Of course, there's always the possibility that you could end up with a heavily reduced orange Spandex catsuit, "perfect for the office party in 2012 and, if I don't lose weight by then, it might fit the dog", but a bit of planning should prevent most fashion mistakes. Rather than just setting your alarm for 6am and heading off to the shops with a wheelie suitcase, do a bit of reconnaissance first.
Have a thorough rootle through your wardrobe to see what you have and what's missing. Then do some online research on sites such as www.brownsfashion.com, www.matchesfashion.com, and www.net- a-porter.com to get an idea of what you are after (these three shops are also excellent ways to do the sales without the crowds). And finally, set yourself a spending limit. Once you are in the fray, don't buy anything you wouldn't want at full price; that will need frequent dry cleaning; that you can't walk/breathe in; or that has already been spotted on a Wag or a soap star.
Classics are always the best bet in the sale, for men and women, and they don't have to be boring: look for interesting details on the cuffs of a trench coat, say, or the buttons on a cashmere cardigan.
It's also worth looking ahead to next season to make sure that your purchases will feel current. For women, tailoring is still key especially at YSL. If that isn't your thing, then look for sheer fabrics, which were very strong in the Miu Miu, Chlo and Marc Jacobs spring/summer 2008 collections, and florals. Floral prints will be everywhere this spring from Arthur Rackham-esque enchanted at Prada, to simply pretty at Stella McCartney. And colours will range from tropical brights think hot pink and sunflower yellow to more muted neutrals and smoky greys. As for shapes, instead of smocks and tunics go for loose shifts or structured sacks, like those at Marni, and look for short, full skirts, frills or tiered ruffles.
Men should look out for bright colours, too. Burberry showed macs in red and turquoise at its spring/summer 2008 shows, and these cartoon brights were balanced by pewter and greys at Marni and Louis Vuitton. And look out for the narrow, cropped, Mod-style trousers and Seventies checks that appeared at Prada. A general rule is that anything that has been heavily copied will soon look dated. So here's what to buy...
An A-Z of bargains
Starts 2 January, up to 40% off jewellery
Starts 16 January, discounts from 30%
Stores nationwide: 0845 659 9944; www.brora.co.uk
Browns and Browns Focus
Starts 28 December, discounts from 30%
24-27 South Molton Street, London W1, 020-7514 0000, www.brownsfashion.com
Starts 27 December, savings include cocktail rings reduced from 125 to 87.50
Westbourne Grove, London W11, 020-7221 8080
Sale now on, discounts from 20% to 50% on labels such as Moschino and Givenchy
42 Hans Crescent, London SW1, 020-7589 5802
176 Westbourne Grove, London W11, 020-7243 8800
Starts 27 December, up to 50% off
Stores nationwide, www.fenwick.co.uk
Gieves & Hawkes
Starts 27 December, suits from 350, jackets from 195, coats from 195
1 Savile Row, London W1, 020-7434 2001; www.gieves&hawkes.com
Starts 28 December, discounts of up to 70% on selected lines
87-135 Brompton Road, London SW1, 020-7730 1234
Starts 26 December in Edinburgh, 27 December everywhere else. Designer womenswear and menswear up to half price
Stores nationwide, 020-7235 5000
Starts 27 December, up to 50% off
Stores nationwide, 08450 510 063, www. jaeger.co.uk
Starts 27 December, from 30% off, and 50% off bags and shoes
Stores and concessions nationwide, 020-7736 2522
Starts 27 December, up to 50% off designer labels such as Marc Jacobs
Regent Street, London W1, 020-7734 1234,
Maison Martin Margiela
Starts 27 December, discounts from 30%
1-9 Bruton Place, London W1, 020-7629 2682
Starts 26 December online, 27 December in stores, discounts from 30% to 70%
Various London stores, 020-7221 0255; www.matches fashion.com
Starts either 26 or 27 December in different stores, call for details. Discounts of up to 50% on menswear and womenswear, 30% off leather goods. Stores nationwide, 020-7491 3900, www.mulberry.com
Starts 24 December, discounts of up to 60%
Sale now on, selected pumps reduced by up to 50%
Various London stores, 020-7245 0895, www.prettyballerinas.com
Sale starts 28 December, reductions from 30% to 50%
Stores nationwide, 020-7379 7133; www.paulsmith.co.uk
Sale starts online 22 December, up to 70% off
Starts 26 December, discounts of up to 50%
Stores in London, Birmingham, Manchester, 0800 123 400
Starts 27 or 28 December, call for exact date, discounts between 30% and 60%
17-19 Brook Street, London W1, 020-7493 5255
Starts 27 December, 50% discount on women's ready-to-wear and shoes, 40% on autumn/winter bags
32-33 Old Bond Street, London W1, and 171-172 Sloane Street, London SW1, 020-7493 1800, www.ysl.com
Bauble-lovers should seek out long necklaces that can be layered, chunky bracelets and cocktail rings. Carr Copenhagen has chunky cocktail rings at 87.50, reduced from 125. Look out for stars, nautical symbols and flowers. For men, the online boutique Astley Clarke has rectangular silver cufflinks inset with olive green enamel at 131.25, reduced from 175.
Provided you set a price limit, buying a party dress you can wear on New Year's Eve is a chance to put spontaneity before practicality. However, some details will look as directional as a pair of cycle clips by next year heavy embellishments on tunics will have lost their lustre. Invest instead in Lanvin's washed satin cape dress, which has next season's ruffle, and is now 752 (from 1,075) at Harvey Nichols, where there are discounts of up to half price on high-end labels such as Rodarte, Bottega Veneta and Giles. And the Lanvin dress is 710 at Browns. Fenwick is good for dresses by smaller labels such as by By Malene Birger, Tara Jarmon, Manoush and Tibi.
Good cashmere lasts much longer than its supermarket counterpart. At Fenwick, men's Agns B cardigans are 210 (from 149), while Johnstons cashmere V-neck men's jumpers are down from 159 to 99. Brora's star buys include a men's charcoal and black stripy cashmere cardigan for 169, down from 229. For women, Brora has an Aran knit cashmere cardigan at 189, and Matches has a chunky Goat cardigan reduced from 520 to 363.
Coats are a sound investment and a well-cut style will work for the next few years, or in the case of men's coats the next decade. Mulberry has a navy wool women's trench with a military feel reduced from 1295 to 907. Both trenches and military detailing rarely go out of fashion. The website www.net-a-porter.com> has a quirky camel women's jacket with a cape collar by Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti, reduced by 40 per cent and a classic navy blazer by Philip Lim, reduced by 40 per cent. On the high street Joseph has several good black jackets at 30 per cent off.
For men, Gieves & Hawkes has a black cashmere coat reduced from 895 to 495 as well as coats from 195 and suits from 350. Harvey Nichols menswear has up to 50 per cent off, and a long double-breasted military coat by Paul Smith is now 455, reduced from 910. There is up to 50 per cent off at Liberty and the shop has a great men's checked jacket from APC reduced from 185 to 93.
Men's formal wear
Suits by Paul Smith, Hugo Boss, Armani and Richard James are reduced by up to 40 per cent at Harrods; you'll also find Brioni pleated ties down from 139 to 69.95 at the store. Head to the Savile Row tailors Gieves & Hawkes, where suits are from 350, jackets from 195 and shirts from 65.
Resist "it" bags, they will be pass by spring. Avoid black patent too punky for summer. Martin Margiela has a classic doctor's bag reduced by 40 per cent from 650 to 390. Jaeger Stanton's bag is down from 250 to 149. Browns has a Marc Jacobs handbag reduced from 850 to 425. For classicists, Mulberry has a chocolate Bayswater bag reduced from 495 to 347, and men's bags are up to 30 per cent off the Clipper is reduced from 250 to 175.
Shoes and boots are a great sale buy. Stella McCartney evening sandals will be reduced from 375 to 185 at Browns the light colour and cutaway detailing will work for summer. The boutique Pretty Ballerinas has reduced selected pumps by up to 50 per cent, and Rupert Sanderson has up to 70 per cent off selected styles; the metallic boots pictured are now 297,50 reduced from 595. A pair of classic riding boots will last for years: Feathers has reduced its Alberto Fasciani riding boots from 445 to 270. For men, Paul Smith has a good selection of classic shoes with a twist; look out for lace-up brogues, reduced from 155 to 109.
Underwear and sleepwear
It makes sense to buy underwear and sleepwear in the sales as it doesn't date, and luxurious styles are expensive. At Harrods an Elle Macpherson Coranto pyjama set is reduced from 85 to 57.90, while selected Lejaby and Christian Dior underwear is half price.