Surely it's considered a major fashion faux pas – turning up somewhere in the same outfit as someone else. If the current crop of high street shops are anything to go by, however, you'd be forgiven for thinking that clothing conformity is something we're all striving towards.
Let's face it, for those of us looking for something a little bit 'different', high street shopping can be a pretty dreary and dispiriting experience. Just imagine that you're blindfolded and parachuted into a UK city's shopping street – your blindfold is removed – do you know where you are? The answer is that there will probably be very few clues, as you will find exactly the same shops wherever you go. The 'usual suspects' will be side by side, churning out similar-styled garments and cashing in on the latest 'celebrity style' craze with cheap copies of couture pieces.
To those who crave individualism and want to dress with a bit of flair and originality, this copycat culture is depressing. Kate Moss only has to appear looking stunning dressed in her own inimitable style – inimitable being the moot point here – and suddenly we're being bombarded by 'where to get the latest look' articles and fooled into spending our hard earned cash on faked fashion which isn't going to make us look a million dollars, and won't make us look like Kate in a million years. When it comes to mock fashion the real mockery is the one we make of ourselves.
Don't despair! The internet is a fantastic resource for anyone seeking their own unique style. There are plenty of places to shop online offering distinctive, desirable apparel and accessories which will set you apart from the 'clothing clones' without breaking the bank. The benefits of buying online are many; no more trooping round town elbowing others out of the way, no queues, and no last minute buying because the shop's about to shut, only to get home and discover your panic purchase looks terrible on or has traces of cosmetics on the collar. Instead you can shop from the comfort of your home, browsing and buying at your leisure.
Small businesses and solo fashion designers use the web to showcase their products, and because their overheads are lower (no huge retail locations to maintain or large staff to pay) you have a real opportunity to purchase gorgeous garments and attractive accessories which won cost the earth. There are also sites selling quality second-hand and vintage fashion pieces, allowing you to track down your own style statement for a fraction of the price of buying new. If something is described as 'hand made' don't let memories of Auntie Dot's amazing asymmetrical unravelling knitwear cloud your judgment – handmade usually means lovingly crafted with great attention to quality and detail, and can definitely denote a one-off, original clothing item which will be the envy of others and a fashion favorite for years to come.
If you're more concerned about the look you want than the designer label you're wearing, there are a few points to consider when buying over the internet. Search for sites with decent product photographs and detailed descriptions, not tiny little 'thumbnail' images. After all, you wouldn't buy a product from a catalogue unless you had a good idea what it looked like. Use careful keywords to narrow and speed your internet searches. For example, if you'd prefer a product in a quality fiber, include 'wool' or a more specific term such as 'mohair' as one of your search words to find precisely what you want faster. Vague, all-encompassing search terms will only drag the high street to your desktop, and you'll end up plowing through 'virtual' polyester! Make sure sites offer secure checkouts that encrypt your credit-card details; safe and trusted payment methods include PayPal, WorldPay and NoChex, although there are plenty of others.
Finally, enjoy the experience! The internet gives you a great choice, and buying online from a smaller supplier often means you'll receive a much higher quality product and level of service than you'd find in a vast anonymous 'bricks and mortar' store. Independent online retailers are keen to involve their customers in a real relationship, and you'll find yourself returning regularly to your favorite fashion sites. Shopping to suit yourself can be very rewarding, and not just financially.