Primark - Little Gems in the Pocket Full of Fluff.

Thursday 4 October 2012

Love. Hate. Good.  Bad.  Cheap.  Fab.  Gem.  Tat.  PRI-MARNI.  Says it all.

Primark Leeds

What can I say about this oxymoron of a shop which rouses so many strong opinions and I can fully understand why.  It's not a shop for everyone but it has been a godsend to those who have a small purse, big wants and a shopping habit like mine.  It's not for the faint-hearted and the ones with no patience but those who need a quick shopping thrill for about a tenner - you can get it here.

My first experience with Primark was not with Primark but with Penneys in Dublin.  Penneys is Primark in Ireland but of course I didn't know it at the time.  I came out clutching a 5-pack of cotton socks for something like the equivalent of £1 and was hugely delighted with my bargain purchase. Then I went to Jigsaw and blew £55 on a scarf.  Like you do.

Round about 2005/6 - Primark finally arrived in Leeds.  Don't ask me what I purchased, I have no idea but I do remember looking at these £12 military jackets which were apparently selling like hot cakes according to the newspapers. Vogue even featured it as a "Star Buy".  I avoided them like the plague. They looked dreadful to me, the stitching wasn't quite there, the material was a little too creased and cheap and everyone had one in their hands.  That's all the signs for telling you "don't go there" and "leave well alone".  I left well alone.

Primark Military Jacket 2005
Photo Credit : FashionEra.Com

And I think that's a good starting point for shopping in Primark - look at what's obvious, what you've seen everyone else wearing and if you can possibly bear it - just leave it.  If you can't, you're safe in the knowledge that you haven't lost a fortune on a one season wonder.  Look for the little gems which are tucked away - almost out of sight, out of mind.  If you have your ear to the ground and a good eye for what's in the shops - the chances are Primark will have done a version ... just look carefully.  Not everything is acrylic - you do occasionally come across some items made from natural fibres - honest!  Treat it as a shop to pick up some basics - like a pair of plain skinny jeans which are bland enough not to be recognised as Primark.  Pick up your vest tops and your long sleeve tees for layering.  They don't cost a lot and you can have one in every colour!  I don't know if it's because I'm a bit anal about certain things like fabric composition but when I check out an item, I do like to know what it's made of.  If you are aware of this - you have very few excuses for going wrong.  You pick up something 100% acrylic.  It will pill and it will go poufff near a naked flame.  You pick up something in viscose - it will crease.  You pick up something with stripes - you will look like a barcode - just joking - you just need to make sure your stripes align at the seams.  Some basics rules for shopping which apply to all shops and not just Primark alone.

So as you might have gathered - I am not actually slagging Primark off.  I actually quite like the place and that's because I've learnt to distinguish the good from the obscenely bad ... and I don't have unrealistic expectations.  So what have I had from Primark which I have been pleased with?  Quite a lot actually.  Let me introduce you to what I consider some of my little gems in the pocket full of fluff otherwise known as Primark.

1.  Pyjama Bottoms.

You cannot go wrong with the pyjama bottoms in Primark.  Just pair with any of their cheap basic tops and you're ready to go.  The bottoms currently average £5 for a pair and I pick up a pair nearly every season - its got to the point where it's become a bit of a new season ritual.  These are my latest pair from this season.  

Admit it - they look more expensive than £5.

Cheap cheap!  Cheap gag.

They're pretty, they're warm and even have a nice tealy blue velvet ribbon tie.  I'm happy.  You could do worse than to pick up a pair of these along with a pretty top as a present for someone and wrap them up in some of their .....

2.  Wrapping Paper.

Their wrapping paper is actually very good quality.  You know how M&S offer a £1 budget roll of kids wrapping paper which feels pretty cheap and tears easily?  The Primark stuff is better for the same price and has better designs. £1 gets you 6m of their kids wrapping paper.  If you have a lot of kid's parties coming up - it's a godsend.

It's a wrap!

I think that looks okay for mimimum spend.  They're only going to rip it to shreds!

Afterall, when you wrap another toy or book for a small person, do you think they will be looking at the wrapping and assessing it critically wondering whether it came from Paperchase?  I stockpile the stuff so I always have something for all the birthday parties my boys get asked to.  The grown up thicker wrapping paper averages £1 for 2.5m.  Still a bargain in my books.

3. Jeans.

I know what I said about getting a plain pair.  Get a plain pair but it's okay if you want to indulge in something as mad as snakeprint jeans for £14.  I've featured these before in a Favourite Friday post and I still love them.  They somehow managed to get these just right (in my eyes anyway) with the subtle colour and print.  

Subtle - oui?

Testing the waters in teal.

And you could do worse than pick up any of their coloured skinny jeans.  I'm not a big coloured skinny fan - at the end of the day, the black and blues win but I rocked out with a pair of Primark teal ones this year - at least twice.  They had a good rise, neat fit and didn't break the bank.  And coloured denim looks pretty much the same from one store to the next.

4.  Jewellery.

Pick carefully.  Some of it is just a bit too cheap and cheerful.  Some pieces are genuinely good. One of my favourite necklaces (said with hand on heart) is this one which I wore in the Bonjour post.

Chunky clunky.  Not a bit of fake gold in sight.

Looks alright to me.

It's quite heavy but in a good solid way and surprises most people when they find out it is from Primark.  This one was expensive.  It was £4.  Ooooooh.  Pricey.

5.  Scarf.

School Mum Paradise.  The scarves are good but you can guarantee that every third mum or student will be sporting the same one as yourself.  Based on that, I've gradually stopped buying their scarves unless they're fairly plain but one of my favourites is this black paisley style one which cost £3 a couple of years back.  I like it because it's a little bohemian - not boho a al Sienna Miller - but bohemian in an arty farty kind of way.  I like it also because paisley isn't that in and that's enough to make it a little different and sometimes it's good to be different.  

Bohemian ... not boho.

Not fashionable.  Don't care.  Still like it.

The irony is that it is Primark which is helping me to do this with one of their mass produced scarves.  

6.  Padded Coat

I have been wearing this black padded coat for the last 4 years.  It does a good job of keeping me warm down to my knees whilst standing in the school playground.

It's a black padded coat - I can't make this look any more exciting than it is.

Four years on and still going strong.

I remember buying it when I was pregnant with George and wondering how long I could wear it for before I could no longer zip it up over my ever increasing bump.  It's a coat which fits, keeps me warm and .... you can wipe it down.  When George was little(r) and I had to carry him from time to time, more often than not, he would brush his mucky shoes against my coat.  I would go home, get a damp cloth, wipe down. Done.  Good as new.  I keep thinking about getting a "better" coat and have tried on ones from Lowe Alpine, Zara and a number of other stores but I have not found one which fits me better.  That's pretty good for something which cost me just £13.

7. Sandals

These sandals were first featured back in May.  They are actually the predecessors to my beloved Carvela Krimbles which I have also raved about lots.  These are actually more comfortable than the Krimbles and we are talking about footwear here which is more than 1"heel height.  

Still intact and looking not too bad after its' first summer.

Virgin sandals back in May

I kind of stumbled across these on one of the early Tuesday morning Primark visits.  I tried them on, they kind of appealed but they were £15.  Big money in Primark land.  But I bought them anyway as there is always the desk of returns for the non committals like me.  They never got to the returns desk. They were too comfy and went with too much and the cherry on the top was that they made my little legs look a whole inch longer.

8.  Shopping Bag.

It's £1.50.  It is beyond cute and it is cheap.  Ignore the fact that is says Primark down the sides.  I thought it looked like an Aubin & Wills shopper.  It's foxy.

Foxy little number.

You looking at me???
9.  Cotton Cardigans.

Cardigans for £6.  Cotton. Striped or plain.  Loads of colours.  Take your pick.  But ... always undo the buttons and check that the button holes are aligned correctly and nothing pulls in the wrong way. When fastened, they can look all neat and perfect.  Undo the buttons and things go a bit haywire sometimes.  That little mad Chinese woman shaking out cardigans and checking out the trims - that's me.  

All looks neat and tidy up top but ....

.... you never know what horrors there are when the buttons are undone.  
This one passed.

10.  Plain Black Swimsuit.

It's black.  It's flattering.  And I didn't have a fight with it trying to put it on unlike some of the miracle suits I'd wrestled with over the summer.  It's £8.  It has a little bit ruching around the tummy area to "disguise" the bagel belly and it holds my bits in and makes sure they stay where they're meant to. In the swimming pool - no fear!  and that's a good thing.  And no, I'm not going to model for your amusement.

Practical & plain ... but not too plain.

A little bit of ruching to disguise the old bagel belly.

11.  Check Shirt

Remember what I said about looking for a good copy in Primark.  I was fixated by a navy check shirt on the Abercrombie site a couple of years back.  I wasn't too keen on the price tag attached, £68 approx and found the following shirt tucked behind some more "conspicuous" numbers.

I don't have A&F embroidered on the pocket.  Am I bovvered?

This is my version. It's a nice soft cotton, well made and it washes well - can't ask for anything more from a £10-£12 shirt.  It scratched the itch and meant I was able to move on to my next want.  And besides I made a good healthy saving to spend on something else :o)

So, I'm sure there's more gems, I've been shopping there a long time now.  Oh yes there is.  Last one.

12.  Bedlinen.

Not all their bedlinen.  Some of it is too rough.  The Grumps rejected a couple of cheap pillowcases I bought on the grounds that they were not soft enough for his delicate bonce.  He's just the same with toilet paper - don't go there.  But I did pick up this little chambray set for George's bedroom.  

That's pretty cool for a little boy's room without being twee.

George "asleep" with his bear bear (with no eyes)

Fooled ya!!!  

His first duvet set for £16 I think, for his big boys bed.  It's lovely and I think it's quite hip and wouldn't have looked out of place in a Habitat showroom if they still had Habitat showrooms.  Comes in double and kingsize too for big kids.

Okay - that's it.  This wasn't a post about the latest finds in Primark, just a little bit of how to go about shopping in Primark.  If you look through this list - what you will notice, it is all quite generic stuff.  I didn't go for any of the blatantly obviously fashionable stuff which is of the moment and has since dated. I've bought the kind of things which work from year to year.  Just remember at the end of the day, look at the prices you are paying in this shop and then set your expectations accordingly.  That way - you should come away quite pleased with yourself and your little gems.


Last Note.

  • Do not attempt Primark on a Saturday.  Ever.
  • Do not attempt Primark with children.  Ever.
  • Do not attempt Primark with husband.  Ever.
  • Everybody else will be wearing the same thing.  Get over it.


  1. At last! Ive been waiting for someone to write me a post like this as I don't get the " Primark is amazing" thing. What I do get from Primark- good jeans for my kids, p.js for my girl , and the occasional random buy for maybe I'm on the right road? I just need to check out the fabric more and look for the less obvious buys. Brill post - thank you !!!

    1. Yup - that's all I do. Primark is good for some things but not everything. I use it to stock up on basics and not too in your face items and that way it works for me. I buy my kids pyjamas from there too - Ben loves the fleecy ones and there his absolute favourite and £5 for a set is good for me. I do jeans and hoodies for them too for scruffing around and they have some good fashionable bits for the little 'uns too. For more "hip" stuff, I shop at H&M and Zara for them where the cut is a little more on trend... and not every small person is wearing it because it costs a little bit more. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  2. Sue, what an interesting post. I'm not a Primark fan .. purely because I can't ever seem to find anything there, but your tips and your purchases have inspired me to try again. Loved this post!

    1. Just go easy - or else you'll be mad at me for sending you in there again. You might just see it differently this time if you're not being dazzled by the bang on trend stuff. But if you don't, you don't .. there's lots more shops out there. Be interesting to see what happens on your next Primark visit :o)

  3. What a fab post! I hate the place personally and have never bought anything in there. I only enter at my peril when with my God daughter and last week we had to get her a pair of red court shoes in there for a tenner as couldn't find any anywhere else and they were needed to match a dress for a wedding this Saturday! I will go in with an open mind now and will certainly be buying pyjama bottoms! Thanks for this xx

    1. Go on - have a splurge. Buy a pair of pj bots. Heck - buy 2 even! At least it won't break the bank and what you save, you can put towards your next LV scarf.

  4. Great post Sue! Love that bedlinen - and George is SOOOO cute. x

    1. I don't need to convert you not that I'm trying to convert anyone. I like to think that I just see it for what it is and it suits my needs as and when.

      This little bedlinen set was really cute, I was really chuffed when I saw it - goes well with the cowboys in his room.

  5. You did well!
    I tend never to have much luck with primark, but much of my loungewear/nightwear came from there. My mother has actually been complaining about the prices creeping up, but I'm not sure what to make of that!
    I have a navy trench style coat which has lasted me 5 yrs so far, a tad too large so I don't wear often, but I am impressed by the cut....and I think that it tends to be hit or miss, really, it is possible to locate some great stuff on occasion, yet you are never to actually anticipate it - basically, when you least expect it!

    I actually love the 'unfashionable' tend to make most things look so chic, regardless where they're from. I will also be looking out for those PJ's!

    How are you finding the fox bag? It is massive! I am always scared of getting it dirty at the bus stop, etc, but it has assisted me in lugging home my Morrisons grocery haul on many an occasion!

    1. The prices have gone up over the last couple of years but that's been driven up by the exernal factors and the price of materials going up. You're paying about £10 and above for a jumper now whereas previously it was all under £10. What do I sound like - it's still not breaking the bank but everyone has their own mindset for what they expect to pay in different shops. £10 is expensive in Primark but positively bargainous anywhere else.

      Most of my little finds are when I'm not really expecting it or wanting anything. Then it's great when you come across something. And chic is not a word I would ever apply to myself but thank you.

      The fox bag is okay for me - I use it for the school run - fits the coats and school book bags in nicely. I'm a bit like you, I don't really want to get it dirty - would spoil it. Maybe I should go and spend another £1.50 and have a spare. So it's strong enough for groceries? I can't imagine you in Morrisons but it's nice to know you're normal like all of us and do a regular supermarket shop.

    2. Oh my god! Haha!, You want to see me struggling home on a bus crammed with shcoolkids drenched from the rain...and the dents in my arms from the heavy load of grocery bags.

      I do prefer Morrisons though: find the fresh food fresher and a tad more variety, and the checkout people are lovely! I also find them less expensive than the other stores.

      Oh, and I'm off to Matalan on Monday to check out these damson coloured jeggings (and possibly some fluffy yeti slippers). In winter I tend to spend most of my time wearing a long down coat, leggings beneath it and a pair of knee high boots. These kind of outfits rarely make for decent blog material, but maybe I ought to try it!

    3. Oh gosh - if I can make a post out of a Primark coat and wrapping paper, I'm sure you can do ten times better and still make it look lovely. Oh and if you are visiting Matalan, Last time I went in, they had this Men's coat/jacket.,brand

      which I think has Saltwater tones about it. Size Small might fit you - it fitted me (apart from the sleeves). And it's lightly padded. Might suit your needs for a winter coat.

      I don't have Morrisons near me but I used to shop there a lot when I lived closer to one. Their fresh veg and fruit is very good actually and the fish counter is excellent. I got chatted up once by the fishmonger when I was 8 months pregnant :o) I was wearing quite a big coat at the time and was a bit younger.

  6. MWAHAHAHAHAHA.......!!! Could NOT stop laughing over this post! Stripes that look like barcode. Classic.

    I desperately need a good looking swimsuit and PJ bottoms exactly like yours. Oh and the wrapping paper. Guess where I'm heading when I've dropped Lil L at school?

    1. So if you get the swimsuit, pj bots, 3 rolls of wrapping paper, you will still have £4 left out of a £20 note. That's not bad is it? £4 towards your next IM lust item! It all adds up. That's pretty much how I see it.

      Yes - it's like the love (of stripes) that dares not speak - stripes can make you look like a barcode. Proceed with caution.

  7. I've been to Primark once and I have to say that was enough for me - while there are things that are great for cheap prices, I often have to wonder what others had to go through to actually make it for such a low price. BUT in saying that, I think there's always merit in being able to buy things at such a low proice, and it's good to know that even amongst all the junk, there are things that are worth well and above their price tag! :)

    1. Oh - it's not a shop for a girl of your wardrobe calibre. It can be a total mare which is why I go when it's quiet and everything is laid out tidily first thing in the morning. And yes, there are always cost implications and arguments for and against cheap clothing - it's a difficult subject to talk about. But like you say, there are merits for people who can find good things for cheap prices as there are a lot of shoppers like me who have to exercise the thrifty gene these days as we don't have the spending budget that we once had. And if we save our pennies in one place, maybe we can splurge on that lovely pair of boots we've got our eyes on elsewhere :o)

  8. What a great store! Did I ever go there? I can't remember now, but I should have, those sheets, the shoes and those jim jams are treasures!

    1. Jody - I don't think it was around when you lived in the UK. But I don't think you would have liked it. It's very much a cheap and cheerful kind of place - well not so much the cheerful bit for many but it pleases some. There are some good bits in there - you just have to look.

  9. In love with the scaf ! it's so pretty :) what do you think of following each other on GFC and bloglovin'? let me know

    Much of love,


    1. Hi Carolina. Yes, I love the scarf too. It's strangely neutral though you wouldn't think it. Thank you for stopping past and I will pop along shortly to have a look through your blog.

  10. Hi Sue....sorry I've not been by for a few days. It's been a funny old week. But it's improved greatly with my catch up on your last few blogs. LOVE the hair, LOVE the new scarf and LOVE this post about Primark. I shared the 'don't bring husband' hint with husband and he said 'there'll be a few happy husbands out there if the mums heed that!'
    You're so right about it all. Great hints and tips. Can I add one additional Primark tip. They do AMAZING tracksuit bottoms for older boys. Soft nylon mix lined with cotton. £3.50. My son would wear them every day if I let him...and I do unless we're going to church or granny's! Avx

    1. I will be looking out for them when I next pop past. Ben loves his joggy bots and he would live in them permanently too if I would let him. You certainly look like you've been having a busy week, fashion shows and cheeky dresses. You leave me exhausted!

      Yeah - my Grumps hates Primark. He says it smells. He says that about anywhere he doesn't want to go :o}

  11. Thank you Francesca. I will pop along and have a read.

  12. in a few weeks the first primark will open in cologne (where i live). and i so can´t wait! i want all you have, most of all the bed linen for my kids...or the nacklace. a friend of mine went to a primark in another city on friday and posted a picture of her and her friend after the shopping spree...with 10 huge brown bags. she´s driving a smart and they almost couldn´t close the doors. ten bags cost how much? 27 eur? lol as i said, I can´t wait. i´m going to london next saturday. dang. primark on a saturday. in a big city. with husband. sigh, what will i do?
    happy sunday!

    1. Dorota - you will have a field day if you can handle the crowds. The bed linen is current, the necklace is nearly 5 years old but I'm sure you will find something else to take your fancy. Have fun ... in a very busy Primark ... on a Saturday ... with a husband! I will be thinking of you.

  13. Ha ha - brilliant account of Primark. You nailed it. Some great finds there too. I actually tried to buy those chambray sheets for my son's bed the other day, but they only had king left. I shall always think of your post when I'm in there now! X

    1. Thanks Anna! Shame about the chambray bed set - it really is lovely. I'm thinking of going back for another set if they still have them. It will be just my luck for it to have sold out. If I had a little girl, I'd buy her a set regardless and just put some girly cushions on it to keep her happy! Now you've got me worried that they've sold out!

  14. Ok, I can't, just can't bring myself to go there ever again. I did try, but it just wasn't for me.
    Or maybe I wasn't looking hard enough.

    1. If you can't, you can't and I can understand why. It's not for everyone. Just been to look at your blog - and just going through the first few posts, I like your style and the photos are gorgeous. Will be back to read some more :o)


Susie So So