The beauty of Bicester

What do you do if you like shopping but your fashion funds have been ravaged by the recession? Go to Bicester Village of course! Which is exactly what I did last Friday. God I love it there. Brilliant shopping, genteel setting, nice eateries, oh and a pleasant loo experience (always important, no?).

At a cost of 25-odd quid for the train ride and shuttle bus, there’s really no excuse not to ‘do Bicester’ on a regular basis. For those who don’t know, it’s a shopaholic’s paradise, a purpose-built outlet village stocked with major international brands. How’s this for a taster: Bulgari, Vivienne Westwood, Marni, Alexander McQueen, Celine, Smythson, Dior, Burberry, Mulberry. See what I mean? Plus there’s Bon Point for kids, The Cosmetics Company Store for make-up (MAC, Clinique, Prescriptives, Bobbi Brown) and The White Company, Le Creuset and Bose for the home. Over and above the amazing bargains, the shopping experience is just so relaxed. No traffic for starters, and despite the 125 brands, you can easily shop the entire village in an afternoon, although a day is preferable – you know, just so you don’t miss anything.

I started at MaxMara as I wanted to stock up on some basics and MaxMara is always good for a nice bit of cashmere, isn’t it? Little did I expect to find a pair of Comme-esque brothel creepers calling my name. They didn’t quite fit so I let them go, only to go back for them later – well they were £60 and why else did God invent insoles? The other brilliant thing about Bicester Village which I can never get my head around is there are often further discounts on top of the discounts. So you think you’re getting a deal and then you get an even better price at the till. Talk about feel-good shopping, it’s bloody fantastic! It must be some sort of tactic because (if you’re anything like me), you immediately realise you’ve made more of a saving than you thought and feel compelled to spend it. Clever.

I made a bee-line for Ralph Lauren because in the past I have always lucked out with basic cardigans and jumpers there clocking in at about £30. Nothing doing this time but could I leave empty handed? No I could not. So with me came a perfect-size tote bag, although it did have a horrid oversized polo-player logo on one side. Who cares, I’ll wear it turned round and no-one need ever see it. I didn’t realise there was a Luella at Bicester, but there it was in all its Pepto-Bismol pink glory next door to Smythson. In I went, marvelling at the sequin Crombies and twisted-classic knits. Out I came with said twisted-classic knit and a smile on my face. £37.50 – sorted.

One of the funnest parts of Bicester Village for me is checking out shops I’d normally bypass.This I recommend. For example, I really don’t see myself as a D&G girl but I found myself stroking their plastic jackets and ogling the shoes. It’s the Bicester effect, I tell you!

Because all the stores still carry their brands’ signatures – merchandising, carrier bags, store design – you don’t feel like your getting a lesser product, even though the discounts are obviously huge. This is possibly the nicest thing about Bicester because, as I always maintain, the experience of shopping is as important to me as the item I’m taking home. The lack of argy bargy and sale signs keeps everything luxe and lovely at non guilt-inducing prices. Yes, you’re getting past-season’s merchandise but that doesn’t bother me and it can in fact be a good thing if you missed something from a previous season. Some of the brands at Bicester are precious about advertising that they ‘do outlet’. Oh please. If I was them, I’d be shouting it from the rooftops. If it’s good enough for Marni, Bulgari and Gucci (opening soon), then what’s the problem?


MULBERRY Hero piece alert – it’s the Giles studded clutch!






MARNI – remember these?!

What I didn’t buy:

Ralph Lauren mannish coat – perfect fit apart from slightly-too-long sleeves. Couldn’t decide on the colour either.

Valentino coat – not one in particular but all of them. I would go to Bicester for the Valentino shop alone. Couture-quality dresses and coats for £200 (£200!) and sumptuous but simple knits.

Make-up – I was sorely tempted by the Bobbi Brown blushers but knew if I bought one I’d buy them all. An excellent option for gifts though.

A yellow Smythson cardholder-purse-thingy on a keyring which is good for looping on a lanyard and keeping in my back pocket for money and travelcard. Unforch, I’d exceeded my budget and decided yellow was too impractical. Of course, I’m wishing I’d bought it now…