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To celebrate our autumn Must-Haves campaign, columnist Esther Walker discusses the most exciting aspect of clothes shopping: unearthing your new got-to-have pieces for the season


The thing is, in the end, sometimes you just want something. It’s beyond reason, you don’t really need it – why can’t we all just be happy wearing the same rayon dress day after day like they did in the war? But you want it. You just really, really want it.

I suffer quite badly from this when it comes to clothes (and shoes and bags and hats). And jewellery, and scarves…

I get that feeling that I must have something. That if I have it, it will

complete me in a way that nothing else can – not a nice long walk, or a bar of chocolate, or meditating for half an hour.

It often happens to me when I am shopping for something online. OK, not really shopping: ‘messing about’ is a more accurate term. Just poking around, having a wander.

It used to be called window shopping when we went to actual shops rather than sitting at home hitting the magic ‘buy’ button and waiting by the front door with our tongues hanging out until whatever

it was we ordered arrives.

When I went shopping in actual shops before the internet was invented, this thing happened, too.

I would see it – the thing, the object of my desire, the focus of my passion – sitting or hanging there and I could actually feel my pupils dilate. My nostrils flared involuntarily like a vampire or a hungry shark smelling blood.

Often, I don’t even know that I want something before I see it. Often it will take me by surprise.

“Oh! There you are, it’s... you,” I will say to a perfect pair of chunky ankle boots or the fedora I had never even considered until now, or a pair of gold hoop earrings of precisely the right size and practicality to add a chic little touch to anything I’m wearing.

There is almost always a touch of recognition, as if it was a thing I had misplaced and found again. Or like finding a five-pound note in a neglected pocket.

[Continued below]


Mix up your prints
with a vibrant skirt
Muted-tone cashmere
balances the look
A handy-sized bag
for day-to-day
Coming soon
The perfect hoops – not
too big or small


Esther’s autumn Must-Haves will make you stand out from the crowd


I am not, however, usually prone to wanting things that other people want.

I’m not wild about slavishly buying the thing that everyone else seems to have, which is why you will never see me wearing a Gucci belt, or carrying a round straw bag, or tottering about on a pair of Valentino Rockstuds.

Because after all, having those things is primarily about money. It’s only about showing up with the cash and going, “I’ll have that, thanks,” as the brand cackles and shouts “ker-ching!” to itself.

And so often those famous ‘must-have’ things are disappointing. Every single ‘desirable’ designer handbag has let me down in some way. I still admire – nay, worship – those bags, but in the same way I admire a beautiful painting or a great front door.

A high street Must-Have, on the other hand, is about something else entirely. It’s about identifying the desirable thing early and pouncing like a jungle cat. That, my friends, is a skill very few people have and it’s a skill you can’t buy.

Occasionally I will manage to do this – to get hold of the Must-Have and then I am smug for the next four months. Other times, I miss the mark entirely.

I look at the racks of clothes early in the season and pick the wrong piece, then see everyone else prancing about on Instagram in the weird turquoise thing I didn’t look at properly – and now it’s sold out in every size except a 6 and a 24.

I will fight you to death over this leopard-print midi-skirt, though. This season I’ve definitely got the Must-Have. For once.



A timeless coat, your September friend
Love the skirt? Now try the shirt
Chunky gold accessories add edge
Coming soon
Buckle up our star boots for autumn

Editor: Sophie Hines

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