And lo, there was much wailing and rending of (polka-dotted) garments last month, when the news emerged that US online fashion boutique ModCloth had been acquired by Walmart subsidiary Jet.com for a rumoured $51-75 million.
The deal shocked many people who had been drawn to ModCloth by their pro-woman, body positive ethos, as well as their wide range of quirky clothing, homeware and accessories – much of which could be sourced elsewhere for cheaper, sure, but the site brought all these things together and put a pretty ribbon on it.
I’ve loved ModCloth for years, spending late nights and bus trips adding to my ever-growing wishlist on the site’s mobile app and trying to break my occasional orders into smaller lots so that I’d only have to pay for international shipping, with no customs charge on top (when it went wrong, it was painful). Their regular Stylish Surprise promotions, allowing you to buy mystery end-of-season items at ridiculously discounted prices, were a staple of my 20s (and, being honest, early 30s).
Both Jet.com and ModCloth have insisted that the brand will continue to run independently, and that the arrangement will give ModCloth more working capital and the ability to open more physical stores – but I suspect my days of shopping there have come to an end. Ethically, the Walmart connection jars – and while you can justify paying over the odds for international shipping in order to support a business that you really believe in, the same can’t be said when the profit’s ultimately ending up in the same place as it would for your Asda shop.
Besides – before my credit card provider pulls the kids out of school – it’s not as though there aren’t plenty of lovely UK-based places to keep my wardrobe happy. Inspired by Canadian writer (and new Twitter pal) Rebecca Jones-Howe, who pulled together a similar list shortly after the news broke, here are some of my favourite online fashion boutiques.
Perhaps the mother of all vintage-inspired affordable UK clothing brands, Lindy Bop caters for UK sizes 6 to 26 with a range of styles inspired by true vintage patterns and shapes. If you’re a fan of prints, Lindy Bop is definitely for you – while there is plenty here for lovers of stripes or polka dots, it’s their gorgeous cityscapes, pinup, cat print and even dinosaur designs that keep me coming back for more. While their sizing can be a little inconsistent between styles, their friendly customer service means that online shopping and returns are never a chore.
Dolly and Dotty
Ever find a dress that would be perfect… if, you know, it was in any other colour? Then let me introduce you to Dolly and Dotty, a Brighton-based company who, once they figure out what works, will reproduce it in every colour under the sun. The first time I bought a dress from these guys I was thrilled to discover it came with elastic built into the back – perfect for us big-busted ladies. Again, prices are super reasonable, while they stock a range of sizes from UK 6 to 24.
Inching up the price scale, Collectif is a London-based 1940s/50s repro brand that’s as much about pencil skirts, ‘gypsy’ tops and high-waisted trousers as it is about cute dresses. Their knitwear is a staple of my work wardrobe, and their twice-yearly 50% off sitewide discount code is the reason I own – and genuinely wear – a pair of blue gingham cigarette pants.
Silly Old Sea Dog
If price was no object, sometimes I think I’d wear nothing but Silly Old Sea Dog. Cornwall-based Alison Ballard sources the most gorgeous printed cottons, which are then sewn into beautifully flattering 1950s-style dresses at a factory in Scotland. These are proper investment pieces with prices to match, but the quality is excellent and your dress or skirt will last you forever.
Crown and Glory
I finally cancelled my subscription to Crown and Glory‘s monthly hair flair club last month, not for lack of love but because I genuinely have more hair accessories now than there are days in the year. Also, I think the star crown is finally back in stock and I can easily justify it if I’m not paying for a subscription. If you’re planning a wedding, Crown and Glory’s incredible collection of offbeat wedding veils (designed with Kat Williams of Rock n Roll Bride) will make you swoon – and if you’re not, well, who needs a reason to wear flowers in their hair anyway?
Miss L Fire
Purveyors of rock and roll footwear with a vintage twist, Miss L Fire is my go-to for glamorous heels, flats, wedges and everything in between (including an incredible pair of four-inch blue gingham platforms that somehow I can actually walk in). With new collections twice a year, it’s rare that I don’t have a Miss L Fire wishlist as long as my arm – and with my oldest pair a good ten years old now despite the rate at which I wear out my shoes, I can vouch for the quality.
And that’s just the ones at the top of my list. I also love Vintage Style Me for handmade, vintage-inspired clothing (including the tinsel dress!); Tatty Devine for half my jewellery and Fever for vintage-inspired workwear. Lady V London is killing it at the moment, if their targeted Facebook advertising is anything to go by; Vivien of Holloway remains everything I aspire to; and I haven’t gotten around to trying Joanie Clothing yet (but I will).
What are your favourite places to shop for clothes online?