An American’s guide to shopping in London.

It’s official!  We are less than one week away from our big European tour in partnership with Go with Oh.  We are starting off the first leg of our trip in London and are more excited than King Henry VIII at divorce court.

In preparation for our big trip across the pond we’ve been putting all of our spare change into the piggy bank.  We love to bring back fun and memorable souvenirs from all of our adventures.  These trinkets can really add up and luckily for us, the VisitBritain Shop is offering up a nice chunk of change to a blogger who can conjure up the perfect London shopping trip.

Before we divulge the London shopping experience of our dreams, we thought it necessary to translate a few tricky British fashion terms.  While living in Korea we were able to become good friends with a couple from England and Wales.  We made numerous faux pas when it came to naming fashion items.  We want to spare you the blank stares and stifled giggles that might occur when asking a sales associate where you can find a pair of hot pink studded pants.

Below we have listed a handful of helpful American-British fashion translations.

Trainers.

London shopping trip

No, this is not a term to refer to a person who gets you in shape at the gym.  When someone in London is referring to their trainers they are actually talking about their sneakers or “training shoes.”  You might hear a tour guide tell you to pack your trainers for a walking tour.  Basically, comfortable walking or jogging shoes.

Wellies.

Shopping in london for wellies

While it might sound like it, a welly is not a care package that you send to a sick friend.  The term “wellies” refers to Wellington boots.  Think of Paddington Bear.  He wore his little red wellies all over town.  In the States we would call wellies, “rain boots.”

Jumper.

Shopping in London for jumpers

This is probably our favorite (or should we say, “favourite“) British fashion term.  While it may be the name of a terrible Hayden Christensen movie, in London it simply refers to a sweatshirt or pullover.  We like it even better if you say it with a British accent.  Jum-pah.

Fancy dress.

fancy dress shopping in London

Imagine our confusion when our British friends told us they were going to wear their “fancy dress” outfits for Halloween.  We couldn’t understand why they wanted to get dressed up with their best suits, ties, and gowns.  It turns out that fancy dress is the British term for costumes.  If someone tells you that the party calls for “fancy dress”, you better go all out on something that involves a mask or face paint.

Smart clothes.

smart clothes shopping in London

No special watch that turns into a parachute or socks that shoot lasers.  We’re not talking James Bond-esc garmets here.  These are exactly what they sound like- clothes that make you looks smart.  I think the best American term for these clothes would be “business attire”, something that is professional and well put together.

Pants.

Underwear shopping in London

We made the mistake of talking about our pants numerous times while in the presence of our British friends.  I was so upset that I tore a hole in my pants after a beach volleyball game and was recounting the story to our friends.  They were laughing throughout the entire tale and I couldn’t figure out why they found my torturous story so funny.  Turns out, they thought I was referring to my [ahem]… undergarments.  When in the UK, be sure to keep your pants underneath your trousers!

Purse.

wallet shopping in london

This term is quite essential for me.  Purses and handbags are kind of my addiction.  The one thing to keep in mind when shopping for a purse in London is that the term “purse” actually refers to a wallet or coin purse.  If you’re looking for something bigger that can hold you cell phone, wallet, and car keys, you’re going to want to call it a handbag.

Now that we’ve gotten the translation essentials out of the way, let’s move on to our dream London shopping trip.  As it will be my first time in London, I think I’d like to go all out!  If money was no limit, we would be sure to shop ’til we drop in some of the most well-known stores in all of England.

First stop, Harrods!  I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted to peruse the racks at this luxurious fashion mecca.  If money weren’t an option, I’d be sure to stock up on my favorite shoes, handbags, and fragrances.  After surely working up an appetite, I’d make my way to a wine tasting event followed by scarfing down a few scrumptious macrons.  It would be hard to choose between Harrods many restaurants, but high tea at The Tea Room and lunch at Galvin Demoiselle would be ideal.

shopping in London in HarrodsThe next stop would have to be Oxford street.  The Captain would be well burnt out on shopping by this point.  My best assumption would be that he would rather wander the streets of London and perhaps film a trip riding the London Eye.

Oxford street is one of the best places to not only people watch, but also find a good bargain.  With over 300 stores, every shopper is sure to find something they love.  I would be sure to stop by the famous Selfridges department store.  With over a mile and a half of shopping glory, I’d be able to walk off the delicious lunch we had at Harrods.

After taking in the more luxurious side, we would head to Camden town.  We’ve heard that this area is more our style of shopping with a bohemian feel, including countless retro and secondhand shops.  We would sift through all of the piles of vintage clothing and find a few treasures to wear around the town.  We’d obviously be rocking out to Macklemore’s “Thrift shop” as we popped tags and searched for come ups.

Our dream day of shopping in London would obviously have to end with us searching for some adult refreshments.  We would reunite with the British friends that we met in Korea, and sample signature cocktails from Mahiki, Sky Lounge, and Sketch, the latter looking incredibly eclectic!  We would be sure to instagram, tweet, and blog to report our findings.

Ecclectic Sketch Bar. Photo credit to Sketch.uk.com

Photo credit to Sketch.uk.com

There you have it!  Our ideal London shopping experience.  We’re hoping to fulfill at least a couple of these while visiting England in one short week!  Stay tuned for our European adventures.

What about you?  What is your ideal London shopping experience?  Do you have any more British fashion terms that we should learn before we go?  Leave your suggestions in the comment section below.

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27 Comments

  1. lola
    February 24, 2013 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    SO. EXCITED. FOR. YOU. BOTH. and jealous 😉
    lola recently posted…why Montreal may be my home away from homeMy Profile

  2. Kieu ~ GQ trippin
    February 24, 2013 at 11:11 pm - Reply

    Ahh so excited for you two and jealous, of course. Harrods is loads of fun!
    Kieu ~ GQ trippin recently posted…Chasing Sunrise and Dolphins in BaliMy Profile

  3. Rachel
    February 25, 2013 at 1:36 am - Reply

    Harrods is something else, but if you don’t make it to Knightsbridge, Liberty’s and Fortnum & Mason will certainly hit the ‘quintessential British department store’ spot. You could get to both from the Piccadilly Circus underground stop.

    I’d definitely check out Covent Garden, it’s got a bit more character than Oxford Street and a mix of shops and places to eat.
    Rachel recently posted…The Saturday Six – Margot Lieftinck, Tulsi CraftsMy Profile

  4. Sara GowithOh
    February 25, 2013 at 3:54 am - Reply

    This is sooo funny! 1 week to go: GowithOh-London is waiting for you! =D

  5. @mrsoaorundworld
    February 25, 2013 at 5:03 am - Reply

    This is hilarious 🙂 what else did I expect! Guys, let me know when you come to London. Would love to meet up!
    @mrsoaorundworld recently posted…Love skiing, LOVED VerbierMy Profile

  6. Fiona
    February 25, 2013 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    This really made me smile – love when I hear US phrases too, like “old -timey” for “old fashioned”, so cute! Enjoy London guys – sounds like you’ve got it sussed:)
    Fiona recently posted…Five Dublin Film Locations from OnceMy Profile

  7. Hogga
    February 25, 2013 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    That muscle man will haunt my dreams

  8. D.J. - The World of Deej
    February 25, 2013 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    You have no idea how excited I am to see this post. Why? Because I use the word “Jumper” and MJ says I’m crazy! I am so sending this to her…

  9. Amanda
    February 25, 2013 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    GUH SO JEALOUS. I want to be going back to London in a week. 🙁

    Thanks for the little lesson on UK fashion terms! I myself just learned a few of these recently!

  10. Maria
    February 25, 2013 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    “… more excited than King Henry VIII at divorce court.” That’s hilarious! Great list you formed here. Hey, if you get the time, check out the Hunterian Museum http://www.rcseng.ac.uk/museums/hunterian (definitely not your cliche museum)
    Maria recently posted…Catch and ReleaseMy Profile

  11. Craig Zabransky
    February 26, 2013 at 8:47 am - Reply

    some great translation here… but i’d love to see a divorce court photo… one from henry viii times and one from the states today… i think 50% or cut into two are much different. enjoy London town and Europe…

    stay adventurous, Craig
    Craig Zabransky recently posted…Sunset Sunday-The Sunset After Language Class in Bishkek, KyrgyzstanMy Profile

  12. the lazy travelers
    February 27, 2013 at 11:39 am - Reply

    first: top shop!!!!! second: the british slang rundown totally made me think of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRS_HoppJk8
    the lazy travelers recently posted…jetsetters: @abuttsyMy Profile

    • Captain & Clark
      February 28, 2013 at 4:14 pm - Reply

      YES! I’ve only heard amazing things about Top Shop. Goodbye money! 🙂 Also, thank you for the hilarious vid. I miss Friends…
      Captain & Clark recently posted…The Big Blog MapMy Profile

  13. Pola (Jetting Around)
    February 28, 2013 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    Gosh, why didn’t you write this BEFORE I went to London? Oh well, will have to go back. Lovin’ the pic at the top btw.
    Pola (Jetting Around) recently posted…Photo of the Week: A pier in Myrtle Beach, South CarolinaMy Profile

  14. Colleen Brynn
    April 7, 2013 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Haha I love the British expressions. When I lived there, I had a whole list of things written down that I would say wrong. Another funny one is a rubber… to them that’s an eraser, but to a North American, a rubber has a very different meaning!
    Colleen Brynn recently posted…Ultimate Guide: Madrid (Cuatro)My Profile

  15. Kori
    June 14, 2013 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    I could have read this before the last time I traveled to London. I think I may have watched way too many movies before I went. Let’s just say it was an interesting vacation:)

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