Ready to wear
Plundering the school uniform section of your local department store is not the newest idea. I still have a black wool cardigan I bought from John Lewis's 12 years ago (sadly they don't make them like that any more). But I'm sick of seeing fashion shoots with models wearing gym slips and the like - the idea was taken far too literally. It is possible to get fantastic buys from school uniform shops (ironic, considering how we hated it first time round) because most of it is really well made and simple - the aforementioned cardigans, v-necks, A-line skirts and crisp white shirts, as well as great bargains in T-shirts and vests which are often sold in money-saving packs. But it's also worth looking at work uniform shops, another place where clothes are made to be functional and hard-wearing. With a little imagination you can create a really original outfit.

photographs by valerie phillips styling by shona heath hair and make-up by helene dean prints by peter at the image

Top row from left: hat, pounds 12.20, Alexandra Workwear, 7 Marble Arch, London W1, tel: 0171 723 9906; Mail order: 01454 416600. White T-shirt with lacey trim, pounds 3.50, C&A, Oxford Street, London W1, tel: 0171 629 7272.

Stiff white collar, pounds 5.80, Denny's, Old Compton Street, London W1, tel: 0171 494 2745; mail order hot line: 01372 377904. Boy's white vest, pounds 2.95, John Lewis, Oxford Street, London W1, tel: 0171 828 1000. Black skirt, pounds 17.70, Denny's, as before.

Boy's grey shirt (pack of two), pounds 9.95, The School Shop, 31 New Street, Worcester, mail order 01905 28658. Bib and brace, pounds 26.85 (available in two lengths and 22 colours), Alexandra Workwear, as before.

Boy's white long-sleeved vest, pounds 7.50, John Lewis, as before. Girls' sports knickers, pounds 3.95, John Lewis, as before. Flowered apron, pounds 6.99, Alexandra Workwear, as before.

Bottom row from left: white waiter's tunic jacket, pounds 20.85, Denny's, as before. Girl's white sports knickers, pounds 3.95, John Lewis, as before. Sock suspenders, pounds 4.65, Denny's, as before. Grey ankle socks, John Lewis as before.

Cub scout T-shirt, pounds 4.85, The School Shop, as before. White money pocket, pounds 6.35, Denny's as before. White cotton baker's trousers, pounds 15.55, Denny's, as before.

Beige 80 per cent wool cardigan, pounds 30.50, The School Shop (sizes 24in- 44in), as before. Blue and white continental chef's trousers, pounds 19.40, Denny's, as before.