Many years ago, long before Primark came to the shores of our fair cities there was a place far far away in a land called Ireland where the legend of Primark was born. To this day it is known to its followers only as Penneys and it is from the loins of this retail giant from which Primark sprang forth; it took its inspiration from overseas as it came to mainland Britain and the other three (Britain sounds more in keeping with fairytale theme) to help us all “look good, spend less.”
When it first came about I remember being slightly horrified by the quality of the material I came across within. Though I had visited Penneys and its competitor Dunnes store many a time I had never noticed the clothing to be particularly poor of quality, but then again neither was it at that time as cheap as it is today. In Penneys, you mainly went to buy jumpers, fleeces and T-shirts, occasionally of course you would pick up an unusually fashionable item but at the time for a young girl to shop in Penneys (even in Ireland away from her peers) was the equivalent of being seen in Marks and Spencer with your mother. Times have changed, Marks and Spencer has been turned around into a fashion forward shop which caters for the younger generation as much as one’s Grandma, and the food, my god the food. The adverts are nearly as akin to pornography as Nigella sneaking downstairs to lick chocolate, goose fat enriched, pastries from the fridge. Anyway, getting back to Primark, or Pradamark as I nicknamed it a few years ago.
The first time I went was about 2004 when I bought a pair of flippy flops. The one I visited was in Sheffield; I was dating an American Football player at De Montfort then who was one of the sweetest guys I have ever known; and though I had a little look around apart from all the colours I found it quite dowdy and a bit too well-lit for my liking. I was more impressed with them when I returned the flip-flops a week later after using them on a camping/ walking trip. In spite of the fact that I was being a bit of a chancer £9 was still £9 and as I had little money for nasty wine and Baa Baa shots when they tore and the sole started to come up I felt I had no choice but to return them. The woman at the counter was very understanding and though I may have not mentioned the camping usage of the shoes, she was very sympathetic and returned my money straight away. The experience taught me two lessons, Primark may charge little but they know how to treat their customers once they buy something if not before; and when going on a camping weekend in the Peaks do not bring heels and a yoga mat rather than walking boots and a tent. I had envisioned singing round a campfire to cumbyea, big pub lunches and a little light exercise, my fellow friends from Canterbury Court, where I was social sec. at the time were geared up for hardcore mountaineering. Me and my fellow city lover Kevin were wearing designer jeans and unsuitable footwear, and though we were terrified at the sheer amount of sheep doo doo, we managed to climb Jacobs Ladder by ourselves. Well I did have to give my rucksack to my stronger friend but climb it so we did!
Years later as Primark’s popularity began to grow, I started to go there on the odd occasion to pick up various basics and watched with amazement at the purchases some of my friends had bought which really did look very high fashion. I would only usually buy basics, like vest tops and jumpers. I once got two cashmere polo-necks which are still in fantastic condition and are the backbone of my wardrobe. One black, one gray. I previously bought them from Coast but found they fell apart too quickly. I think my casual love affair with them started to end however after I started working. Although I had never really got into buying masses of things from there, I did go in to buy a spring coat. I have a gorgeous traditional Burberry trench which I will take to the grave, but I fancied something a bit more fun and light. I got a pale green thin cotton jacket with puffy sleeves and brown buttons. It came to a few inches above the knee and when you spun round quickly the skirt would tail with you leaving you feel like you were a little dancer. A few months after I bought it however I started to see it everywhere and on everyone. I would get on a flight and have to move to the back of the que because someone else would have it. It was not snobbery on my behalf just plain crossness at someone else wearing the same thing as me. There is a wonderful episode of Scrubs when Dr Cox tells Jordan that he does not need to know if she punches someone in the park because they have the same handbag as her and I am sure that whilst most women have never done this many can identify with the annoyance which comes of seeing someone in the same dress, coat or shoes as you.
This then is my primary problem with Primark; other than of course my ethical issues, but I do not know enough about the general issue to comment with any clout and these ethical issues apply to the majority of high street and even some designer stores so it may be a bit too tough to judge them at the same standard as companies who then go on to charge extortionate amounts for their clothing; the problem is that it is thoroughly ordinary. If you walk through Manchester city centre you can not look left or right without seeing tens of people carrying Primark bags. When me and my friends went it was somewhere we would scoot through as quickly as possible occasionally playing student, chav, chancer - a game where you tried to guess which group people fell into. These days the place is packed out and rather than buying a few choice items and then combining them with some quality pieces from other stores or as I have suggested in the past designer items or unusual finds from eBay, markets and charity stores they buy huge amounts of clothing and wear it all at once. Primark is an excellent resource for people on a budget and they do come up with some great items, the problem one has is making sure one chooses carefully from the piles of clothing within. Not going instantly for the fashion piece but for items like their cashmere, organic socks, shoes which are well designed and not likely to leave you with blisters. It is a pain but it is necessary to try things on. You may tell yourself you have not got time and you will return it if its not right but it will probably end up at the back of your wardrobe with the tags still on, and no item of clothing should be treated so shabbily. MAny of their clothes are unusual in the sizing and just because an 8 fits you one week doesn’t mean you wont be better in a 12 in another item the following month. The dress I am wearing today is from eBay but originally from primark, the ebayer in question cleverly negated to put the make but as I paid only a £1 for it plus p and p I can hardly complain. With regards to sizing it fits well but as I have a larger than normal cleavage I have to team it with a crop top to hide my bra especially as we went to dinner at the Yews.
After having a bath yesterday, a face mask, some sleep and putting on this dress I started to feel better and the darkness started to lift. Thank you all once again for reading and I do hope you will be as happy to read the more serious postings on this feature as well as the frivolous ones but if you comment I will know what it is you favour.
I also must take this opportunity to ask for some support. Although I am going to meet with a lady tomorrow about getting in some dresses for the project I am quickly running out and only have enough I think for another two weeks. I am sure you will all agree that 365 dresses is much more impressive than 36 so if you are able to send any dresses you are finished with or know of any shops who may be willing to help out do please let me know. If it is something you are sending yourself you could choose the charity which the sale of the dress goes to.