The Clothes Show is an annual fashion and beauty event held at the NEC in Birmingham. It hosts a huge variety of brands ranging from fashion, jewellery, beauty and hair and has an average attendance of 165,093 spanning over 4 days – that’s a pretty large amount! When I was younger, I always wanted to go to The Clothes Show but it seemed really far and I never really planned my visit – now as a fashion blogger, I am pretty lucky to have the opportunity to visit the show yearly. My first trip was back in 2013 – I went alone because I wanted to get a feel for the event and what it was all about. Armed with my iPhone and barely any money, I trekked on to the NEC. Fast forward two years, and I returned to the show with a DSLR camera, a budget to spend and knowledge of how the show works. I wanted to cover the event to tell you what to expect from The Clothes Show – not the behind-the-scenes, glamourized and heavily edited photos – simply what you will find as a paying visitor.
First of all, the Clothes Show is held from Friday to Tuesday, which means that you can fit a day in around your own schedule – if you’re in full time education, choose a weekday; if you’re a Mon-Fri worker - there’s the weekend to enjoy. This year I went on a Sunday as I wanted to catch Louisa from Sprinkle of Glitter who did a talk on one of the stages. You can find the schedules on the Clothes Show website and see which day will be best to go in terms of shows and speakers.
The NEC is huge – like any exhibition centre, it has paths and corridors that lead you to all sorts of places. It’s also home to an airport and a train station. You won’t get lost on your way to the event though – just follow anyone who looks remotely fashionable, or a big crowd of loud women, and you’ll get there. In all seriousness, the chaperones are fantastic at pointing the way and shouting “CLOTHES SHOW THIS WAY!!!” at the top of their voice. Once you reach a long Skywalk, you will be asked to present a ticket which is scanned and if all is well – you’re in! The Clothes Show hall has many entrances which can take you straight into the areas you’re most interested in like vintage stalls, big beauty brands, brand alley, etc… I like to start at the vintage end, and then make my way all around the show occasionally stopping off at catwalks to watch models strut their stuff in the latest trends, or listen to gurus talk about areas of their expertise. You can also grab some delicious lunch, or a glass of bubbly from the food exhibitor stands – this year was bringing back Lambrini!
The vintage clothes area focuses on independent brands which you may not heard of before – I finally found a fedora which I am absolutely in love with! Made from 100% wool, with a leather strap – it cost me a bargain £20. That’s the good thing about The Clothes Show – you can pick up some incredible items for a bargain price, as lots of exhibitors will sell them at a special ‘show’ price. Between these vintage stalls, you can find stands which sell cute homeware and accessories – I didn’t find them that exciting this year, I think if you want bargain cute homeware and aren’t bothered if the rest of the population have the same, just go to Primark.
You then venture past more familiar names like Ragged Priest, Motel, Glamorous – and that’s when you know you’re close to Boutique Boulevard. This is where you will find my favourite names like Never Fully Dressed, Wolf & Whistle, Mink Pink and many others. I popped into the NFD boutique which was so pretty, and tried on some pieces I have been eyeing up online – I ended up buying the satin pale pink wraparound dress which I love! Whilst we’re on the subject of shopping though, I have to point out that you MUST take cash with you. Whatever you are willing to spend – get it out before the show. There are cash machines available, but they are a pain to get to AND they charge money AND there are always huge queues AND they run out of money pretty quickly. Have I convinced you? Take cash out before you go. Biggest tip I could give you.
Now that we’re past fashion, we get into the realm of beauty – from new brands waiting to be discovered, to old high-street favourites like Models Own, Rimmel and Lee Stafford who have massively discounted goody bags which cost £10 but are worth £60! So if you’re after beauty and hair bargains, then this is the place to go. You can also get makeovers, treatments like teeth whitening and mini massages, and watch professional tutorials.
Be prepared for a number of things:
- Crowds, crowds everywhere. The Clothes Show gets packed in popular areas like food and presentations, and you will get stuck eventually. If you don’t like crowded places, this isn’t an event for you.
- Huge queues. There are even queues to get into little boutique stalls! Basically, you have to have the patience of a saint not to get pissed off about queuing at this event.
- Lack of cash machines or card readers. Take your cash out before you get to the NEC because as I mentioned the cash machines are hell and practically no one uses card readers.
- It’s hot in here. If you can lose your coat in the car, do it. It gets super hot in the exhibition halls especially when you’re walking around and there’s so many people packed next to you.
- Say no. It’s essentially like a huge market where people would sweet talk you to buy ANYTHING and give you ‘special’ discounts of something like 10%. Sellers will call you over and I even had one guy who was promoting a photo-shoot experience trying to sell me an ‘exclusive’ package even after I told him a family friend of mine actually does this for us for free… He then told me if I pay £30, I could also review the experience as a blogger! I think he is missing the point of how a blogger review collaboration works. Basically, you have to be realistic and say no to some crap that people offer you – even if the discount seems amazing.
And last but not least - remember to bring your camera as there are plenty of opportunities to snap a pic of you with your favourite celebrity from shows like TOWIE, Geordie Shore, top bloggers and vloggers and even pop artists.
Have you been to the Clothes Show? What is your best tip? Share it with me in the comment box below!