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Esther Walker shares her advice for outfits that put comfort over chaos


Can I just point out where you are going wrong with your Christmas shopping? It’s not that you never plan properly and panic-buy or that you lack the empathy to get good gifts, or that you buy everything with crippling resentment – because why should other people get the benefit of your great and generous ideas when they will only get you novelty chocolate? No. None of that. You’re getting it all wrong because you aren’t wearing the right clothes.

I bet you are like me and you head off to do a spot of Christmas shopping with a jingle bell on your lips and a jolly song in your heart.

I always think Christmas shopping

will be like it is in films. Maybe it will snow! There will definitely be a moment when I stand about eating some delicious hot chestnuts from a cheerful chestnut-seller on a corner – perhaps it will be Rowan Atkinson in disguise?

The thing to wear while I am having this excellent festive moment is a wonderful cosy sweater. A cosy coat. A cosy hat. Some fluffy, cosy gloves. Perhaps even a pair of novelty earrings?

Oh, but reality – it is so cruel. Even if the weather is not actually warmish (it only really gets cold in this country in about February), the moment I step into a department store, heated by not only a giant

centralised heating system but also by the bodies of 10 thousand crazed Christmas shoppers, I immediately go bright red and start sweating.

But I cannot take off my coat because I don’t want to carry it. So I keep it on. Getting hotter and hotter and more and more dizzy.

I stuff my novelty hat and gloves into the pockets of the coat, which will shortly fall out and get lost. After 40 minutes, my hands have been cut to shreds by the string handles of heavy shopping bags. I will still only have bought things for myself and already want to die. After 50 minutes, and on seeing the queue for the ladies, I want everyone else to die, too.

I stumble out of the shop, pouring with sweat. Rowan Atkinson dressed as a chestnut-seller is nowhere to be seen, so I buy a disappointing pasty from a street cart and eat it in despair and then feel sick.

Having tasted the fresh air of freedom I can never face going back in, so I traipse back home, missing my hat and gloves, having had a horrible, completely un-festive time, absolutely nothing like a film at all. When I get home the novelty earrings are just a sad reminder of how empty and meaningless it all was.

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“I always make sure I take loads of those re-useable pack-away bags – super-light ones that feel like they’re made from parachute silk”


And I haven’t even done my shopping properly because I was so desperate to get out of there and so my entire trip into town has been wasted.

But last year I discovered the solution to Christmas shopping, which is to dress differently. Dress, essentially, for the gym. I mean, all that walking up and down the stairs and heavy lifting – it’s sort of a workout!

I now wear stretchy trousers and trainers and one of those slim puffy jackets that packs down to nothing. I also take a rucksack and the minute I get into the store, I take the jacket off and stuff it down into the bag.

And here’s the killer detail: I always make sure I take loads of those re-useable pack-away bags. Not great big cotton things but those super-light ones that feel like they’re made from parachute silk.

Only in films is anyone OK carrying even one massive shiny rectangular department store bag. If you or I attempt this, we will get stuck in a revolving door or start a fight on a bus having bashed someone in the side with it.

The other option, of course, is to do all your shopping online. But where’s the challenge in that? Is it even Christmas without a bit of a battle through the crowds?

This year you will not find me hunched over my laptop but merrily trotting into town to conquer the actual, physical shops in gymwear, with my pockets full of expandable bags. Not a pair of fluffy gloves in sight! But maybe the earrings? After all, it is Christmas.


See what’s new    Shop Christmas gifts


Novelty earrings for festive sparkle
Fold it up for easy shopping
Esther says go lightweight with coats
Athleisure style for on-the-go days

Styling: Sophie Hines / Photography: Morgane Lay

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