Fancy but frugal

IMAGINE falling into an Alice-type wonderland of guilt-free shopping.

Of being transported back to the days of care-free indulgence, of being able to wear the Cinderella Valentino dress to the ball without having NAMA to step in to help with the credit card repayments.

In a country full of the Brothers Grim with little light at the end of the tunnel, creative ways of being able to buy a little something for yourself have to be found.

During the last recession of the eighties, swap shops just weren’t as pretty as they are now.

This time shoppers can step into a chic boutique, a place far away from the bitterness of economics, with wooden floors, high ceilings and ornate dressing rooms that would make Marie Antoinette weep with jealousy.

The clothing boutique has become an interior design dream made to entice customers to take their time, surf through the rails at their own pace and even take some free advice from their team of style experts.

Apart from money in our pockets, what else could we ask for from a day of shopping?

Well, if we were greedy we could ask for the Chanel dress we’ve always wanted at a really knock-down price. This could actually be a reality if only just for the night by taking a step inside a new type of boutique.

Inside Dublin’s impressive Powerscourt Centre lays a clothing mecca. The secret is in the name of Dublin’s borrower’s boudoir called Covet. The brainchild of Suzanne Hourican, the ‘luxury on loan’ boutique is bursting with so many pieces we would love to covet and has become the first port of call for anyone going to a special event. Just as celebrities have been borrowing from designers for years, the average city shopper can now do it too.

“It’s practical indulgence,” says Suzanne.

“It works because people can look sensational and wear unique designer pieces without the huge price tag involved. It’s very hard to justify paying over €2,000 for a piece you are more than likely to only wear once or twice, no matter how much money you might have. We rent pieces for 10% or less of the retail value, so you can borrow up to 10 pieces for the same price as buying just one. It’s guilt-free shopping!’

Pieces are sourced from all over the world — from vintage fairs in New York to a design atelier in Paris. So avoiding the typical Irish fashion faux-pas of bumping into someone wearing the same dress shouldn’t be a problem.

Deciding to spend some of our hard-earned cash these days on something that’s not a necessity isn’t done easily and the staff at Covet know this too well. That’s why every customer is treated like royalty and are given a shopping trip to remember.

“At Covet we give a truly personalised service and styling expertise in a relaxed luxurious setting amongst an exquisite collection of designer and vintage gems. We love nothing more than getting stuck in and spending time with customers,” explains Suzanne.

“In terms of advising customers; we say try to keep an open mind, we are here to help and guide you.”

Playing dress-up has never been so much fun. With designer labels such as Valentino, Prada and Chanel anybody can feel like a movie star for the night.

Many of us will have spent hours of our teenage years back in the eighties dredging through rails of clothes in the smelly old second hand shops of Temple Bar. A distant memory of our frugal habits perhaps, — but one which many of us don’t really want to recall too often. Fast forward 30 years, new recession and a new concept in the second-hand shop. The swopshop located in the heart of Temple Bar on Crow Street is every prudent fashionista’s nirvana. So many of us are guilty of buying a top or a dress which we think we’ll wear but never do, and instead it makes itself a very comfortable home in the back of the wardrobe with its tag still firmly in place.

Now this piece of clothing can become a replacement currency with which you replenish your wardrobe at the Swopshop.

Opened two years ago by Adele Geoghegan, the Swopshop is the newest way to engage in second-hand shopping.

“In recent years, we’ve seen a fairly unique set of societal and economic circumstances, where we’ve moved from extreme boom to extreme bust in such a short space of time,” explains Adele. “For some, the remnants of the Celtic Tiger remained in their high end wardrobes, but what if these no longer fit or suited? Swopshop offers clients the opportunity to leverage the ‘wealth in their wardrobes’ and to use items from their own closet in part-payment towards something else.”

The beauty of this second-hand boutique is that Adele is particular about the types of items she accepts purely to ensure good quality at reasonable prices. Customers can expect everything from Prada to Principles to on-trend pieces to tailored items, though there won’t be any Penny’s rejects on the rails. “We exclude certain items such as budget clothing, very formal occasion wear, animal fur, sportswear, lingerie-type items and piercing jewellery. Apart from that we can consider almost any item, providing it is in perfect condition, in season, reasonably on-trend and wearable again,” says Adele.

Keep in mind accessories make great ‘swop currency’ due to their novelty value and the fact that they are not ‘size-sensitive’.

The Swopshop is a quirky way to shop. Bringing some decent clobber as currency will definitely save you a few quid at the tills and if you don’t find something you want that day you can use your ‘swop currency’ on another shopping trip.

Thanks to some original thinking, frugal shopping is now so much fun.


Ciara McDonnell chats with four women who’ve decided to embrace their natural hair colour after time away from the salonBack to my roots: Four women who've decided to embrace their natural hair colour

Eve Kelliher makes the French connection by visiting Les Jardins d’Étretat.So is this the garden of the future?

Connacht, perhaps more than anywhere else on our island, is the quintessential Ireland of postcards and tourist brochures.Staycations 2020: Create your own memories with the glories of Connacht

Des O'Driscoll has your telly picks for tonight.Friday's TV Highlights: Love/Hate and John Wick mean an action packed night on the telly

More From The Irish Examiner