Mirror: c/o Collectif (I don't believe it's ever been on sale)
It's no secret that I'm probably one of UK brand Collectif's biggest fans. They've gone from strength to strength in recent years - the pieces they offer have become more varied and there's a lot more of them. Their 'punky' alternative range from the early days is gone (think a lot of black and leopard print in every colour apart from actual leopard colour) and the vintage-inspired lovelies have taken over. Now, they have some of the most unique repro pieces out there - mostly 40s and 50s styles and usually good quality, meaning they're a brand that's well worth keeping an eye on (ok, so perhaps my eye is a little more constant than my bank account would like...).
A recent conversation with Jessica from Chronically Vintage made me realise that I'm very lucky living so close to where this brand is based - I know a lot of you are much further away and fear the sting of huge shipping charges when trying to get hold of some of their less widely-sold pieces (they do have third party vendors around the world, but I doubt any of them take the whole range). Saying that, Collectif's shipping isn't free in the UK (nor are returns) so it still pays to know what you want and get the sizing right if you're on the same island. So, this post is a little guide to shopping from Collectif - especially advice on fit, what pieces are particularly special and worth getting your hands on if you can and best times to buy. And just to be clear, I'm in no way being sponsored by Collectif, so the gushing is genuine, because I love them ;) (the little mirror was an unrelated gift from the London Edge fashion show).
Cardigan: Oasis (old) | Top: Collectif (obviously!)
HOW IT FITS
Short answer: fairly true to (UK) size, slightly generous
I'll start with waist and hips, which I always find tricky in dresses/bottoms due to my pesky 27" waist - this always seems to be a size '9' in most ranges (if only those existed), slap bang in the middle between a size 8 and 10 here, typically 26" and 28" respectively. It's no different with Collectif - their size guide suggests a size 8 waist is 26", while a 10 is 28" - so far, so familiar.
The good news for me is that most of Collectif's size 8 items fit me beautifully on my bottom half. I'm sure it's in no small part due to a lot of them having that wonderful modern invention - elastane - but I've had less stretchy items that have still been a good fit in an 8 regardless. I would generally suggest if you're between waist sizes like me and the item needs to be fitted on the waist, size down (but be wary of zero stretch). Collectif's hips measurement for a size 8 is a more generous 34"-36" which means their clothes usually fit my 35" hips pretty well as you'd expect; for the very fitted styles, I'd perhaps say they're more on the side of 34-35" rather than 36", but again most things stretch.
BUT, here comes my word of caution with Collectif sizing: pay attention to the site's helpful fitting advice; most products now have a line explaining if something is true to size or runs slightly large or small. It was in this way I knew to take a risk on the Bonnie Cigarette Trousers, which the site said came up a bit large. They did, meaning a comfortable rather than skin-tight fit (which was more the design) - what I wanted for work anyway. However, this guide isn't fool-proof - especially in the case of the Rebel Kate Jeans. Let's just put it this way: a size 8 nearly made me cry, it was so excruciatingly small (something Ree Ree Rockette agrees with me about for this style). The site says these are true to size, but I'd say they're at least a whole size smaller than what's typical for Collectif. This is the only instance I've seen the style advice be off (and I did speak to Collectif and asked them to update it!), but I don't feel it's fair to state it's always 100% accurate following that experience.
This is obviously the same for tops sizing - the site should suggest what the fit is like and much like the waist and hips measurements, Collectif's size chart fairly accurately reflects their sizing. My bust measurement is 34", which puts me again in their size 8's 34"-36" range. And perhaps unsurprisingly as I'm at the lower end of this range, unlike their bottoms or fitted dresses, I've never had a problem with a top/top half being too small - nor too big, as it happens. They tend to fit my curves pretty perfectly. If you're a little less busty than me you might find some of the very fitted tops don't fit right, so just watch out for that.
If all else fails and you really don't want to chance it - particularly on things like wiggle dresses or jeans where the fit is so important - my advice to you is to drop the team at Collectif a line. As long as you don't time this during one of their site-wide sales (more on this later in 'when to buy'!), someone will usually respond to you within 1-2 working days. They're incredibly helpful and will measure things if you need them to.
Hair flower: ASOS | Top: Collectif (last year) | Shorts: Primark (old)
WHAT TO BUY
Two-piece: Collectif (last year) | Bag: eBay | Shoes: Swedish Hasbeens
Short answer: beautiful, vintage-authentic separates and show-stopping 50s-style dresses
The longer answer can probably neatly be summarised as: everything a vintage/repro lover could want, these days! Not only do they sell clothes and bags, they've started stocking things such as Erstwilder jewellery and even homeware. There's definitely things that you can rely on from the brand though, and top of my list is their amazing range of vintage style separates - some of which are based on authentic vintage pieces. I've got plaid cigarette trousers, high-waisted jeans and capris (pictured below), a polka dot pencil skirt, a tropical co-ord set (pictured above), various gypsy tops (one pictured above) and knitwear (see shrug below), a knitted cape, a cropped jacket... really the list goes on, there's a huge amount of choice (and I've been buying pieces over several years - I promise this wasn't all recent!). It's a great place to shop if you're not much of a dress wearer or if the idea of head-to-toe vintage style isn't your thing, being great to pick up just the odd thing to put a retro twist on an outfit.
What Collectif probably became more well known for initially, though, was their wide range of wiggle and swing dresses. There's certain shapes they've sold for years like the Dolores styles, but in the old days while these were limited, stuck to a few key prints and were usually a cotton mix material, nowadays there's a lot more variety in shapes, patterns and fabric. Prices reflect the level of detail and the materials used and what I would say is that usually Collectif's clothes are pretty good quality. They're cut well and they're designed to fit and flatter. And whether you like florals, polka dots, leopard print, tiki, gingham, plaid etc etc, you'll find things to swoon over in every range.
It's worth mentioning that while they don't sell a huge range of their own accessories, what they do sell can be worth checking out. I love this pair of red sunglasses.
Sunglasses: Collectif (last year) | Skirt: Hell Bunny
WHEN TO BUY
Hair flower: ASOS | Top: George @ Asda (old) | Capris: Collectif (several years ago)
Short answer: as soon as you see something you really want; in off season sales; in their epic 50% off sales
Collectif's range is huge these days and like most fashion brands, they bring out Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter ranges. Usually, they'll tease the new ranges in photos on Facebook and lookbooks on their site for the weeks leading up to the first pieces going online, which is a great way to eye up what's coming. And why should you do that? Because if you see something you really love, the only way to guarantee you'll get your hands on it is to buy it as soon as it's on the site. For the new ranges, items are uploaded in small batches over several weeks when a new range launches. I recommend that you snap up that thing you really want as soon as it does because although Collectif are hugely popular now, they still only have limited numbers of most of their pieces, particularly the ones that are very season-centric. Some of the things they launch in e.g. their new SS15 range won't be restocked if they sell out - some will be restocked halfway through a season, but you can't assume it will happen for the thing you really want. Collectif tend to run out of the smallest and biggest sizes first, so if you're looking for those do bear this in mind.
Scarf: Next (old) | Shrug: Collectif (last year) | Top: Collectif (last year) | Belt: Dorothy Perkins (old) | Leggings: Topshop (old)
But, saying that, if you don't mind buying things a bit out of season (buying winter clothes when it's the spring, for example), then keep an eye on the sale page on the site as things are put into it all the time. Often, pieces are heavily discounted - in the last few weeks I bought a £120 cape for £30. Usually items are added in batches and it's to clear that season's stock to make way for the new one's.
But if you want a discount on any item of your choice, you'd be well advised to wait for Collectif's epic site-wide sales. Every now and then they'll offer a 20% or 30% off code for a special occasion e.g. Black Friday, but towards the end of a season they'll usually run a 50% off everything sale (I'm talking clothes, accessories are usually excluded). The last one was just before Christmas. However, take note of my advice on getting the best out of these sales! These days they're SO popular that you need to do two things to get the things you want in them: 1) check the day before what you want to get (and if your size is out of stock a day before, you'll need to give up on it) and save the URLs of the items' pages 2) on sale day go to the URLs, add everything to your basket and try to order them as soon as the sale launches (Collectif will advertise the start time). Things fly out of stock at an alarming rate (faster than the site can update sometimes) and the site receives so much traffic it slows to snail pace, meaning browsing is virtually impossible, technical glitches happen like your basket randomly emptying (hence why I'm suggesting you don't add things to your basket until the start of the sale rather than before it) and orders are quite difficult to get through the checkout process. Last sale, it took me about 45 minutes to get my order in - but perseverance and planning the day before meant I got the great bargains I wanted, so it pays off if you have the patience.
So, there you have it. A seasoned Collectif pro's advice to shopping with them. If you like this post please say, as I may tackle more brands in future (I have a feeling a few of you might find Lindy Bop useful too!). Do you have any other tips from shopping with Collectif?
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