When it comes to Bicester Shopping Village in Oxfordshire, we have history. My parents used to drag my brother and I to Bicester from the age of 14 when we thought Pepe Jeans was the coolest brand ON THE PLANET . I remember thinking French Connection was the most eye-poppingly fashion forward place and how I wore to death a bright yellow fleece funnel-neck jumper I bought there with my pocket money. Don’t judge; it was 1998, I lived in a tiny Worcestershire village and I got most of my fashion inspiration from my school uniform and Bliss magazine.
So, when three days after visiting Bicester for Elfie’s birthday, I got an email from Laura inviting me back for a day of baby-free shopping with fellow bloggers and dinner thrown in, I wasn’t going to say no. I was actually going to say YES YES, OH GOD YES.
Being on this side of ‘blogger entertainment’ is still a bit weird to me. In my old job I was the one hosting the bloggers, holding events and plying them with free drinks, so to be on the receiving end is pretty weird. In a good way. I was worried I’d be paired up with unfamiliar fashion bloggers haw-hawing about how the cut of something is soooo Wang or whatever so I was really pleased to see the friendly faces of Miggy, Iso and Caroline, two of whom I’d been lucky enough to meet before.
We met up first for a coffee (or a glass of wine in mine and Miggy’s case – I have one at every baby-free chance I get these days) and were very kindly given a giftcard and 10% discount and let loose at the shops. The last time I was at Bicester we spent 5 hours shopping and I didn’t feel I went in every shop I wanted – this time we had 1.5 hours so I had to be strategic in my attack (seriously).
I had a few shops I definitely wanted to go in – Alice Temperley, DvF, Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, Mulberry and Aubin & Wills – so I concentrated my efforts there first and came out with a scarf, a dress and a tshirt for me (Alice Temperley and Aubin and Wills) and a tshirt for Elfie (Paul Smith). Here she is looking cute in it.
I adore the Alice Temperley scarfs for the simple reason they have ‘Alice’ plastered all over them:
I then meandered my way back to dinner, stopping off in the old favorites (Prada, Dior, Ralph Lauren, Pringle, Agent Provocateur… very sad to see Myla is no longer open).
The brilliant thing about Bicester is that it caters for so many tastes and price brackets. I always like to set myself a budget before I go (and don’t like to go if my budget’s less than £100 – this guarantees I fall in love with something I can’t afford). What I discovered from shopping with other people there is that I am scared of dropping large amounts of money on one item, even if it’s a Prada suit reduced from £1000 to £250. Handbags – fine – but spending that amount of money on any other item makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Which is why I came out with several different items, none costing more than £40, Iso came away with the most luxurious Prada suit and Caroline with a Jaeger dress. This obviously needs work, I should buy more investment pieces.
Dinner was held at Busaba Eatthai. This is a new restaurant at Bicester that I’d never been to (we tend to stick to our old friend Carluccios) but boy, I will be back. It’s worth it simply for their mouthwatering calimari with ginger and peppercorns, and I also love love loved their steak with tamarind and melt in the mouth duck curry. I could not recommend this restaurant enough for a reasonably priced yet beautiful meal.
(Disclaimer: the meal was on the house, but it was so good I would have paid for it).
It’s always really good fun to meet up with other bloggers and chinwag about the internet (because most of our friends think our obsession with online is odd, let’s be honest) and we did just that, including some laughs at my love of listening to the sound of a dial-up modem on YouTube. Just try it, you’ll see. The nostalgia hits you like a ton of bricks.
Get a group of bloggers together and there will be BIG CAMERAS.
I can’t really post about a fashion village without giving you a taster of what I wore:
Jacket – ASOS. Vest top – Aubin & Wills. Trousers – Primark. Shoes – Comptoir des Cotonniers
I can’t buy anything these days without the approval of my Style Consultant. Luckily, my purchases all passed the test.
A quick sidenote for parents: I’ve always found Bicester to be extremely child-friendly. The changing facilities are great and Elfie loves to be carted round the shops and watch me try stuff on (probably). I would however try to stick to weekdays as it can get extremely busy at weekends and Bank Holidays. And before Christmas… urgh. I’d also recommend going for the morning shift, it currently opens at 9am, which is when I find it’s the quietest.
Bicester Shopping Village, 50 Pingle Drive, Bicester, Oxfordshire, OX26 6WD
The Bicester ‘Shopping Express’ runs from Central London directly to the village twice a day and costs £23 return.