It will probably not come as a surprise to any of you when I say that I like shopping. A lot. I must also admit that am also fairly picky about the people I shop with -- they need to share similar tastes, want to go into the same sort of places, be able to tell me the truth about whether something suits me (and to be able to take it when I return the favour), and have a shopping rhythm that works with mine (i.e. see stopping for frequent coffee breaks as a necessary part of the day). This might sound a little harsh, but believe me, I've learned the hard way. Good shopping companions are like gold dust, but luckily one of my friends here in Oxford is a kindred spirit, and today she and I spent a very happy time at Bicester Village, a shopping discount outlet which sells both designer and high end high street clothes at often massive discounts.
The clothes are usually surplus from the past season(s), but some of the shops do stock the latest lines, and I've found some amazing bargains there in the past. I was thrilled to be able to pick up this Diane von Furstenberg dress when I was there this summer, for example:
Today, Bicester was very festive, even in the drizzle, with Christmas music playing in several of the shops, and pretty lights and decorations all over. Even Porridge, as this chap is apparently known, was getting into the spirit of things:
In the morning, I introduced my friend to one of my favourite designers, Anne Fontaine. I was first taken to one of her shops by skirmishofwit, and have since become utterly addicted to her beautiful designs. Anne Fontaine produces stunning white and black shirts and blouses (although each collection also has an accent colour -- in the shop today it was a divine dark purple), and has more recently branched out into accessories, coats, and dresses. You can glimpse one of the latter in this unfortunately rather dark shot of the window display:
Another friend whom I introduced to Anne Fontaine last year bought one of her coats when we visited Bicester in the summer, and I must say I'm wildly envious. But the tops of hers I own are some of the favourite pieces in my wardrobe, and I always get complimented on them whenever I wear them. This is one I picked up at one of the Paris branches a couple of years ago, teamed with one of my well-loved pencil skirts:
I reserve it for special occasions (this was taken at the drinks before a lavish end of year dinner at New College eighteen months ago) -- as you can see from this close-up, it isn't the type of top you'd wear to pop to buy a pint of milk, but it adds a deliciously decadent edge to any big event:
Although neither my friend nor I bought anything there today, we still enjoyed browsing through the racks, breathing in the delicious fragrance which perfumes all the Anne Fontaine stores (I bought a spritzer of her home spray when I was there in the summer: lovely). After pottering around a few of the other stores, we decided the time had come for lunch. Luckily there is a branch of the always reliable Carluccio's at Bicester, so we headed there.
I opted for a delicious and warming lasagna, my friend for a yummy looking Swiss chard and pork soup, and we both finished off with a delectable Cioccolata Fiorentina:
After this, we felt ready to hit the shops once more, and enjoyed ourselves immensely among the likes of Max Mara and Valentino. We particularly liked oohing and aahing over the stunning ballgowns in the latter...
... while I also fell utterly in love with this bag while we were in there, but even at sale price it was beyond the reach of the contents of my current purse:
At the end of the afternoon, we caught the bus home (Bicester is conveniently -- and dangerously -- only a twenty minute ride away from Oxford), both empty-handed (I know! The shock!) but happily exhausted after a very enjoyable day. We're definitely going to be trying our luck there again next year, for, as Sir W said in his 1600 essay 'Of Entertainment',
'I have a purse, and a life',
and what better place than Bicester to use them!