* Prices may differ from that shown
In my recent 'review' about what I would do if I won the lottery, I mentioned that one of the first things I'd do would be to go shopping - specifically for an outfit that would go well with a pair of elegant navy slingbacks that I had bought for my niece's wedding in 2008, and which I have hardly worn since. Writing this inspired me, and after spending many happy hours online looking at various fashion websites, I fell in love with a dress on the Jacques Vert website. Actually, I should say that I fell in love with another Jacques Vert dress, because I had bought one recently at a very good price in my local outlet store.
The dress I saw online is very similar in style to the one I'd bought a little while ago - a sleeveless dress with a flattering cowl neckline, and the dress was the same basic shape - but the latest version has a blue print against a creamy background, and it looked like just the right colour. Although it is described as 'cornflower blue', I think the true colour is more of a very soft navy - certainly a dark blue as opposed to a bright blue. It was on the Jacques Vert website, reduced from £159 to £59. John Lewis also have it on sale at the moment, but for £79. Oh, I thought about my decision long and hard, because even though the dress is fabulous, and was a good reduction in price, it was still expensive. I discussed it with my husband, and was at pains to point out that this would be an indulgence, not a necessity. And then I bought it. It really is a complete indulgence, as I don't have an 'occasion' waiting in the wings for me to turn up and swan about in my new frock. I think this occasion must be hiding in the wings until I buy the navy satin clutch bag I've seen on eBay!
I don't normally like to buy clothes online, because I prefer to try things on and make sure that they fit properly and suit me. However, on this occasion I thought I would be OK, because the blue dress was very similar in style and shape to the one I'd bought a few weeks ago. I had checked with my local outlet store to see if they might have the dress, but sadly they did not.
Jacques Vert is a British fashion retailer (in spite of the French-sounding name, which is a combination of the names of two tailors - Jack Cynamon = Jacques, and Alan Green = Vert). The company also includes Planet, Precis Petite and Windsmoor. Jacques Vert produces a range of high-quality collection of clothes and accessories that are both elegant and feminine - and expensive. I think they are aimed at women of a more mature age, although I had a couple of their suits which I wore to work in London when I was in my 30s. They have stores and concessions throughout the UK, but my experience on this occasion was with their website.
When you enter the website, you are shown different options for looking at the clothes and accessories. You can either go directly to the garment category - Dresses, Skirts, Tops, Trousers, Coats & Jackets, Accessories, Sale - or you can view one of Jacques Vert's 'Collections'. Within either a garment category or a collection, you can refine your search by price range, colour, fabric, finish, length and size (10-24).
The collections are a good way of trying to put an outfit together, because they show the clothes and accessories together. So, if you're looking to buy an outfit as Mother of the Bride, you can see in one glance some suggestions as to how to put things together - dress, jacket, hat, bag and shoes. Even if you don't go on to purchase all these suggested items, it will at least provide you with some inspiration for looking on the high street.
The collections come in twelve categories:
Fall In Love With - for wedding guests;
Special Occasions - occasion wear, which is divided into Mother of the Bride, Mother of the Groom, Wedding Outfits (for guests), Ladies Who Lunch, Holiday & Cruise, Raceday (for the next time you visit Ascot), Partywear and City Shopping;
Rose Sundae - featuring clothes that range in colour from a delicate pink to a deeper burgundy;
Subtle Sophistication - featuring clothes in 'sandstone' and black;
Ruby Rose - red, burgundy, pink and black;
Serene Style - 'cool pales and a hint of frost, tailored occasionwear shimmers with chic';
Flirty Florals - pretty much as described;
Springtime in Paris - wedding outfits and occasionwear;
Lilac Haze - as suggested;
Fondant Fancy - from 'romantic fondant pink and pale earl grey';
Out of the Blue;
Step Into Spring - another for wedding outfits and occasion wear.
There are over sixty dresses, in a range of colours, styles and fabrics, but all very pretty and feminine. They are either sleeveless or have short sleeves. The skirts are all below knee length, and some have elasticated waists. There is a selection of shrugs and boleros, and some very pretty short-sleeved or sleeveless tops. The site features only one pair of trousers, which are black chiffon - lightweight and elegant, with side zip fastening and back elasticated waist. The length is 30.7in (78cm). Five coats are available. One is dressy, in 'sandstone', while the others are more practical. There are ten hats, all very stylish with gorgeous detailing, and eighteen fabulous fascinators. The eleven bags are all clutch/evening bags. There are also eleven pairs of elegant and dainty shoes, some slingbacks, which all have a heel of about 2.55in (6.5cm). Finally, there are five scarves, which are described as 'wide and long shawls', that offer 'gentle arm coverage'.
A very useful part of this website is the Style Guides, which give advice if you need help on dressing to suit your shape, or if you're wondering what to wear for a special occasion. These Guides include: Mother of the Bride and Mother of the Groom, Wedding guests, Hats and Fascinators, Royal Wedding (outfits inspired by guests at last year's Royal Wedding, such as Carole Middleton's elegant pale blue ensemble), Dressing for Ascot, What to Wear on Your Cruise (including what to wear at the captain's table), a guide to dressing for your shape (for example, hourglass, pear, apple, boyish), and finally a selection of catwalk videos for 'Style Inspiration'. I took at look at the Essential Guide to Dresses (even though I was already 100% sure about my choice), and lo and behold, the first dress shown was my Cornflower Floral Print Dress.
Because I had done my research, I knew exactly which item I required, so I was able to find it quickly, ascertain that my size was in stock, and then add the dress to my basket. From there, checkout was very easy. You can register as an online customer, which means that your details will be stored for next time, or you can buy as a guest - which is what I did. You can pay using the following cards: Electron, Maestro, Visa Credit and Debit, and Mastercard.
I would suggest checking out their Sale section, which is where I found my beautiful new dress, and where there is a good selection of items that are a bit more affordable (there are currently fifty-five items in the sale).
There is a link to a Store Locator, where you can enter either your town or postcode to be shown your nearest store or concession. Finally, there is a link where you can sign up to get the Jacques Vert newsletter, which will keep you up to date with new styles, special offers and promotions.
I tend not to follow many fashion trends and have always favoured a more classic look, so I found plenty of outfits that I liked on this website. I also found a lot that was much too formal for my needs, or which seemed 'fussy' and even staid. However when I do see something - like my new dress - which I know will suit me, and which is beautifully made, I know it will last for ever and weather any trend, and that's when I don't mind paying a bit more than I am used to.
When my dress arrived, it was packaged in a very large cardboard box, and beautifully wrapped in lots of tissue paper. It was already placed on a coat hanger, and the garment was protected by a polythene cover. The thought of possibly having to return this mammoth parcel made my heart sink, so as I was unwrapping each layer and getting ready to try the dress on, I was pleading 'Please fit, please fit, please fit!'. To my delight - and enormous relief - the dress fitted and looks really nice.
Their standard delivery in the UK is free, which I was very pleased by, and my dress arrived within three days of my placing my order. You can also pay for Express Delivery (£5.00) if you need your items more quickly. There is a helpline number, in case you need help finding your size or with placing an order. This is: 0844 770 5838. If a product is showing as out of stock online, call the helpline who will try to locate the item for you. There is also a very thorough and useful FAQs section.
Returns is by using Collect+. I had not heard of this service before, so although I was lucky enough not to need them, I had a look at their website to see how they worked. They say 'We have built a network of over 4,500 local corner shops, open from early 'til late and often 7 days a week, allowing you to drop off or pick up parcels at a time and place that suits you'. You can put your postcode in, and the site will then show you your nearest collection point, including the address and opening hours. Mine would have been very convenient, and I would have been happy to use this handy service, although less happy at paying £3.99 to do so. You cannot return an item to a Jacques Vert store or concession.
Although even Jacques Vert's Sale clothes are still expensive (to me, anyway), I have thoroughly enjoyed my research into this website, and could happily spend hundreds and hundreds of pounds on their lovely frocks! But I won't. I think I'm pretty well set up, frock-wise, for quite some time now.
You can click through to Jacques Vert via TopCashBack, which should return a few pennies to your purse.
In terms of ease of using the website, checkout and payment, delivery, and the very careful packaging of my item, I would highly recommend jacquesvert.co.uk , and have no hesitation in giving it five stars.
Now, who wants to invite me to their wedding?
(Later: my gorgeous clutch bag has arrived now, so I'm ready and waiting...)
(This review is also on Ciao under the same user name.)