CLOTHES are like cars - with the odd exception, you tend to get what you pay for. Which is why I have never been tempted by the new wave of ultra-cheap clothing ranges that flood the supermarkets, discount stores and websites at this time of year.
I know my onions, and I don't want to buy a party frock that's been sat anywhere near them, thank you very much. I'm a fashion editor - get me out of here before I break into a polyesterinduced rash.
When it comes to turning a sow's ear into a silk purse, these bargain-bucket clothing ranges are up to all the tricks. Expensive ad campaigns, clever lighting and celebrity associations are used so liberally that they would put Versace to shame - anything to convince the public that a Pounds 30 dress is a far more satisfying purchase than a Pounds 300 one.
But can it ever be?
While these tactics don't fool me, they might well be fooling others. And so, in order to save the gullible from acrylic hell this Christmas, I ventured into my own idea of hell in search of bargain heaven.
Can cheap ever be chic?
I road-tested four frocks to find out. Okay, so I didn't actually go out in them - that would be far beyond the call of duty - but I tried them on and twirled in front of the mirror.
The results might surprise you ...
FUCHSIA 'MATTHEW' DRESS, Pounds 35 by As Seen On Screen from www.asos.com The sell "It's just like the one from Matthew Williamson's current collection!" The ASOS website specialises in running up designer looks for a fraction of the price - with variable results. Some "tributes" are truly dire - this one is based on Williamson's fuchsia chiffon Peony dress (price: Pounds 565), worn by everyone from Sienna Miller to Faria Alam.
The reality Very cleverly made: no zips, the straps and waistband are elasticated, which keep production costs down. The fabric isn't too nasty and the velvet ribbon trim makes the dress look much pricier than it is. Fits and hangs well, but would be impossible to wear if you were bigger than a B cup, as the bra top is cut very skimpily.
Verdict Not to be worn anywhere that the real Peony dress might surface, or your night will be ruined and you will feel like a cheap tart.
PALE PINK 'MATTHEW' DRESS, Pounds 25 by Amarato from Matalan, (01695 552793) The sell "It's just like the one from Matthew's current collection!" Er, no it's not. It bears as much resemblance to a Williamson dress as an elephant does to a teacup.
But never mind - let's shoot it in a floodlit garden, on a moody blonde model! That'll get women buying it in droves not.
The reality The fabric feels scratchy and the saccharine colour looks cheap.
It hangs really badly because the fabric pulls at the seams. The only plus point is that you get some silver beading along the neckline and across the skirt.
The verdict I don't know who this dress is playing to - women with Christmas weddings to go to? With its hanky hem, beading and frilly shoulder straps, it's almost too fancy for a wedding, never mind an office party. Neither the colour nor the style are fashionable - truly dire.