Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Shopping repro: Collectif - how it fits / what to buy / when to buy

Collectif mirror
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).

Striped Collectif t-shirt
Cardigan: Oasis (old) | Top: Collectif (obviously!)

HOW IT FITS

Short answer: fairly true to (UK) size, slightly generous

Lower body

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.

Upper body

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.

And...

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.

Pin-up style tied gypsy top and striped shorts
From this post
Hair flower: ASOS | Top: Collectif (last year) | Shorts: Primark (old)

WHAT TO BUY

Collectif jungle print two-piece
From this post
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.

Collectif Judy sunglasses in red
From this post
Sunglasses: Collectif (last year) | Skirt: Hell Bunny

WHEN TO BUY

Pin-up style capris and gingham top
From this post
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.

Pink lady inspired outfit
From this post
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.

Red retro/pin-up headscarf look
Headscarf: eBay

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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30 comments:

  1. What a great idea for a post - I own a few Collectif items, ones that I've bought in their stores whilst in London, but I think most items I ordered by post had to go back!! The worst was their 'Anastasia' coat, you know, the Red Riding Hood one. The sizing was so off on that one, with a massive waist and small chest. Really unflattering! I love their Simone swing dress, which I wear regularly, and I am actually wearing one of their cardigans today with bluebirds on. Their cardigans are FAB, really great fit and wash well. I have the birdcage/Dita style one too. Other than that I have a cowgirl shirt (runs a bit small) and a novelty circle skirt (perfect fit). I possibly have more items lurking but I can't think of them off the top of my head! Are you going to be pouncing on the strawberry dress we saw at London Edge?? Oo just remembered I once tried on their Delilah velvet dress (shapeless on me) and Jenny dress (sleeves too short for a tall one like me). Anyway, hope that helps if anyone reads this!! Super tips, and I think if you're going to write a Lindybop one it would be one sentence of "you never know!!", honestly their fit is just unfathomable from one garment to the next!! xx

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    1. Such a shame you had bad experiences with their fit like this! I can honestly say I've not had that many disasters - and nothing as bad as the jeans I mentioned recently. But I've bought more things in the last two years than I ever did recently... So I'm wondering if some of your items you've had trouble with were older and they hadn't quite figured it out yet?? My other guess would be they're working with more than one supplier...

      As for the strawberry dress... I'll probably have to be restrained away from a computer in order to NOT buy it, heh! I've already pounced on two tips from their SS15 range though, ones just been delivered today in fact. I kind of need stopping, to be fair.

      And that's a good point on Lindybop - and essentially what I'd probably say if I wrote the post now! But I want to see what their skirts are like... And they've just started selling capris and shorts that I'm very interested in... xx

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  2. This was useful! Though a lot of their dresses seem to be made from synthetic materials like polyester, which I avoid, so I haven't bought anything yet.

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    1. Glad to help :) hmm... From years of browsing their online shop I'd say you'd have best luck with their spring/summer range in terms of cotton blends. Things like the Fairy Doll Dress are cotton and elastane and I think the Dolores dresses largely are too. I have a fitted Dolores from last year that's cotton...

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    1. Uh oh - looks like more trouble with Blogger's comments system..?

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  4. I have no luck with their sizings! Almost everything I've ordered I had to send back, which is such a shame because their designs are so beautiful! I ordered a ton of stuff in their last sale but only kept a hat and a jacket, I bought a full coat version of the same jacket and it didn't even close to fit. I am very pair shipped and short bodied so I always have some problems to be fair. I think I'd be overflowing with them otherwise, such gorgeous clothing!

    Kariss xx

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    1. Ah that's so annoying :( to be fair - as you can see from my measurements I'm a very slight hourglass shape, but I think the main thing is that my measurements fit so neatly into one size like that, meaning I don't have a lot of trouble with how their stuff fits. I'm quite short bodied too and I have occasional issues with where waistlines hit, but I can normally get away with it (I have a new top that arrived yesterday with this issue and I'm going to roll it up into a crop top!) xx

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  5. I would so love to pick up some of their things! It's the shipping that always gets me with the cool UK brands - I just can't justify adding an extra $30, even though I'd like to. I'm glad to hear their stuff is high quality, I'll have to keep an eye out if they start selling through amazon or something.

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    1. I feel exactly this way about Modcloth! Always taunting me with their lovely designs... and then the horrendous shipping kicks in. Not to mention the outrageous customs taxes we get slapped with here (I'm not sure if you have anything like that - I think it's to do with our tax - but it is usually MORE than the shipping cost; ugh). Speaking of Modcloth though, I've definitely seen them sell Collectif recently - mostly the dresses. In their usual helpful way they probably don't list the brand but they sometimes pop up, so worth keeping an eye out...

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  6. I wrote this comment two times and all it published was the 'test'!
    Well, thank you so much for this guide! It is very useful for me, as a girl living far far away...
    I like Collectif very much, and always wondered why there are no cute stuff left in my size on sale. Now I know I have to be prepared!
    I have an amazing trench that I got on 50% and sunglasses, and plan on getting some more items from them.
    Oh, and one last thing- what is the lipstick shade you wear at the last photo? It is so nice and suits you beautifully!!

    ~Maria (from www.agoldenpicnic.blogspot.com)

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    1. Oh no, sorry about that! I don't know what's up with Blogger at the moment, it's been doing this to Porcelina who commented above too. I hope it's not just my blog it's affecting as then I'll feel really bad!

      Yep, you've got to get in so early if you want something that in the sale! But do keep an eye on that sales page and sort things by size now and then as it changes frequently - and if things are returned you might find what you're looking for comes back into stock briefly.

      My lipstick is Revlon's Really Red - which I reviewed here. It's a matte lipstick that I'm convinced is a dupe for Mac's Russian Red, but nicer! Definitely worth checking out if you can find one to try.

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    2. Oh, I actually read that review of yours, but in this photo the lipstick looks more coral to me than in that review post. I have the MAC Russian Red, but in fact I prefer MAC Lady Danger because the Russian Red has a kind of cherry -color and it makes my face look ghost-ish. I am now in search of a more coral shade lipstick, and I really loved the Lime Crime you reviewed, but sadly I can get it only on Ebay, and in a very high price.
      If you have any recommendations of dupes for it, I'd be glad to hear :)

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    3. It's funny how photos can do that! Russian Red looks the same on me, it's awful! I like Lady Danger more too, but find that one is SO bright it can make me look peaky.

      Like Crime is very expensive if you're not in the US, yes. A past shade that was a dupe was Revlon's Strawberry Suede which is sadly discontinued. I've got a feeling, though, that Rimmel's Kate matte lipstick in 110 is a very similar shade to both of these. I haven't managed to try it in a store but from all of the hundreds of photos I've seen online (!) it looks pretty close. It's definitely coral. Those lipsticks are good value for money too :)

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    4. Wow sounds like you've done a research... Thanks, I will definitely check it out!

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  7. Really helpful guide. I have a couple of their pieces I got on sale for super cheap and I was pleasantly surprised about the quality. Good to know a bit more about sizing. Thank you for your insight.

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    1. I'd say their quality is something they've worked on actually - some of my earlier purchases weren't as good as recent ones have been. Glad to help with sizing tips :) Of course, everyone's different, but I think at least comparing measurements to their size guides is something most people can hopefully relate to...

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  8. You're awesome, dear CiCi! Thank you very much for this detailed, thoughtful, and very insightful post, as well as for the lovely shout out (it is entirely appreciated). I lapped up every word intensely and genuinely feel a million times more confident order from Collectif one day when I'm finally able to place my first order with them.

    Seriously, thank you again for this brilliant and very enjoyable post.

    Huge hugs,
    ♥ Jessica

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    1. Glad you found it helpful, Jessica - it was, of course, partly for you I wrote it :) x

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  9. Thank you for taking the time to put together probably the best review of a fashion brand ever! While the shipping is scary, Collectif is something I will make an effort to look for when I travel now that I know more about it.

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    1. What a lovely comment :) So glad to be a help. Collectif really have some beautiful things - if you're able to take a chance on them I highly recommend!

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  10. I literally had no idea about this brand but from looking at images of you wearing there clothes I see that the style is right up my alley. I just adore your outfits (especially that cute little white top) by them... thanks for sharing!
    xoxo
    Taylor
    http://www.nothingbutapigeon.com/

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    1. They have so many cute retro inspired things and they're worth checking out even if you're not into wearing full-on vintage style outfits because of how lovely some of their separates are :) xx

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  11. This is such a great post, as Collectif is definitely becoming more popular and they've been producing some lovely items in recent seasons. It's helpful to have a clear guide on sizing, as that's always a concern with online buying, and returning things is quite a mission too. I particularly like the sunglasses you've shown in your post, and the embroidered cardigan is so pretty.

    Saba x

    www.trulymadlydeeplyfashion.blogspot.co.uk

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  12. I am obsessed with Collectif! They are such an amazing brand. x

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  13. I do love that they carry things most vintage repos don't like trousers, boleros, capes, dress suits... It does seem like the last time I went on their website their selection in boleros and capes were slim to none. I hope they will stock more of these things as well as more items like trousers and such that other repro brands seem to shy away from :)

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  14. Fantastic post! So helpful! I'm going to share this with my friends as we are all huge Collectif fans here in Toronto. We usually wait for the sales here due to shipping and custom charges which tend to make the item almost regular price (better then paying more). we are getting lucky that some of the vintage reproduction stores in toronto are starting to carry items. So I can usually ask for something to come in their shipment or just wait for the sale and hope and pray my size is there.

    thanks again!

    Liz

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  15. I say size up, I'm a size 12 and size 14/16 fits me better

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  16. I have had an eye on this brand for some years now but I made my first order just a few days ago ! The discounted prices were so amazing I couldn't pass out trying the brand myself. I'm excited ! Even if it doesn't fit at least I won't be too disappointed because it was a steal: a dress and a sweater for 10£ is not a heavy loss in the bank ^^

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  17. I got my first electronic cigarette kit off of VaporFi, and I think its the best kit.

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