It’s a universally acknowledged truth that nothing quite takes the edge off growing yet another year older than receiving a stonkingly good birthday present. Even the birthday naysayers who like to ignore their own special day are secretly happy when presented with a thoughtful gift.
Which is why we have trawled the shops to bring you the best birthday presents in the land for the woman in your life, guaranteed to score you some serious brownie points. From fashion to foodstuffs, there’s something to suit even the fussiest of birthday girls. Now all you have to do is master the wrapping up.
A Blouse Top
Remember cult London label Antipodium? Nope, well you can bet that the fashionista recipient of this gift will. And so she’ll be thrilled to receive something – anything – from Creative Director Geoffrey J Finch’s latest project.
Initially launched exclusively at MatchesFashion, the power of Blouse – AKA deconstructed shirts and printed tops – can now be felt at Selfridges, too. With his tongue firmly in his cheek, Finch’s references run from Keeping Up Appearances’ hilarious Hyacinth Bucket to Shania Twain and RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Alyssa Edwards (natch), and he splashes them across the front and back of his perfect – and mindfully manufactured – cotton tees. Safe to say, if her sense of humour is as strong as her sartorial nous, she’ll be into it.
Lingerie That She’ll Love
For far too long the lingerie market was dominated by designers that catered more to the male gaze than to the woman who would be wearing the damn underwear. But not any more; there is now a slew of brands creating undies that women will actually want to wear. So wave goodbye to cheap red lace and nasty crotchless knickers, and instead gift her pretty (and comfortable) silk pants, delicate bras in unexpected colour combos and bold bodysuits that are so achingly cool she’ll want to wear them as outerwear.
Basically, if it could get her accused of solicitation, take it out of your basket.
A Cult Gaia Bag
If there was a bag that owned the past 12 months it was the bamboo ‘Ark’ clutch from LA-based brand Cult Gaia. We’re not sure how you didn’t notice – it was all over Instagram, cluttering up your feed. Just large enough to carry an emergency Mexican chicken wrap in it (pro-tip: this is an important requirement for a lot of women), it has a vintage feel while remaining ladylike.
While the OG is still relevant, designer Jasmin Larian has expanded her portfolio, introducing the kind of new shapes and materials that will ensure the brand isn’t a one-hit wonder.
A Dainty Ring
Contrary to popular belief, women aren’t just hanging around desperate for a hunk of glass to be put on their finger – they like other jewellery too. Especially if it’s a sleek, Scandinavian-style piece that’ll fit in with the rest of her magpie haul.
Of course, the only thing to be careful of when it comes to ring shopping is the size. If you have access to her jewellery box then try one of her rings on your little finger and see how far down it goes, or if she doesn’t notice when things go missing, take a ring to the jewellery shop with you.
If you prefer to do your shopping from the comfort of the sofa, go for a pared-back design that would look good on any finger.
A Pair of Shoes
Flats, heels or mules, nothing says, “I actually listen to you and pay attention to your style” as an on-trend pair of shoes. And with fast fashion ever-increasing in speed, Topman’s big sister brand Topshop is never a bad place to start. One of the best high street stores to translate pieces from the catwalk into something altogether more affordable, you can count on them to have her well-shod.
A Silky Shirt
By its very nature fashion is transient, but while trends come and go there are some things – like a Chanel handbag – that will always be appreciated. Yet they don’t have to be bank-breakingly expensive.
Eternally relevant, a silk shirt (or even just a silk-feel shirt) will always have a place in a stylish woman’s wardrobe. Smartened up for work or paired with jeans at the weekend, it’s the chameleon of the closet. Right now, pyjama-style shirts are having a bit of a moment and it’s not hard to see why. After all, given half the chance who wouldn’t want to wear their PJs all day?
A Bottle Of Gin
Unlike its Scottish cousin, whisky, which has to be matured for an age, gin doesn’t take very long to make, which is partly why there has been such an explosion in the gin market. It’s not just being manufactured in the UK and US either; from Japan to Norway, new gin producers are emerging across the globe.
It’s the ease of manufacture which lends itself to independent, craft booze makers, so now you can probably pick up a bottle that’s been made within a five mile radius of your house. Supporting the local economy never tasted so good.
Similarly to underwear, when shopping for pyjamas you have to think about what she’d want to wear and not what you think looks good. Comfort is absolutely key. But that doesn’t mean nightwear has to invoke the spirit of Wayne and Waynetta Slob; from silk pyjamas that cost hundreds to breathable cotton designs on the high street, there are plenty of options to pick from.
River Island is currently offering an excellent collection of embroidered PJs – we’re particularly into this nightshirt, which proves they’re not just for Scrooge.
Charlotte Tilbury Products
British makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury has worked her magic on a number of famous faces, with Kate Moss and Kim Kardashian both benefiting from her skills. Having worked in the industry for over 25 years, she launched her eponymous makeup and skincare range in Selfridges in 2013, and it was an instant success.
As prettily packaged as it is effective, we’re convinced that most women would be happy to receive something from the Charlotte Tilbury range – in fact, she’ll probably be impressed that you even know who she is.
The design of the Champagne saucer has been variously attributed to both Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France, and Madame de Pompadour, the chief-mistress of King Louis XV. Although neither of them deserve the honour as the glass was in fact invented in England, a good while before either of them were born.
While they’re not quite as practical as flutes – which were developed to maintain the bubbles – we think that it feels far more luxurious to drink fizz from a cope glass.
A Silk Pillowcase
If there’s anyone with a Netflix account who isn’t currently obsessing over Queer Eye’s fab five, then we’ve yet to meet them. While everyone might argue over who their favourite is, there’s one thing we can all agree on: the majesty of grooming expert Jonathan’s glorious mane.
Apparently he keeps his locks looking so smooth and shiny by sleeping on a silk pillowcase, much like this one. Additional benefits include protecting and hydrating the skin, while also preventing split ends. Best. Gift. Ever.
A Simple Tee
We’ve said it for a good while now, but Japanese brand Uniqlo really has nailed the art of the basics. But while its menswear offering has always been on point, its fairer sex collections have sometimes erred on the side of frumpy.
No longer. Since Christophe Lemaire took the reins as artistic director, Uniqlo’s womenswear offering has improved exponentially and it’s now a great place for artfully simple tops, T-shirts and jumpers. Head there for a birthday present that will put on a smile on her face but won’t have you weeping into your wallet.
A Sleek Watch
There are so many things to consider when buying a watch for yourself, but when shopping for someone else it’s best to set all of the technical stuff to one side. Play it safe and opt for something that’s unobtrusive; a cool, minimal timepiece that will fit in with her style, whatever that may be.
And make sure you take a look at her jewellery collection before you pull the trigger – people can be quite particular about mixing metals, so if she only wears silver then get a silver watch; if she’s a gold type of girl… you get the drift.
Simple Summer Sandals
Footwear brand Ancient Greeks takes its inspiration from Greek mythology and legend, meaning its sandals are the very essence of classic – meaning they’ll be on her shoe rack for years to come.
This season, the label has collaborated with Italian designer Fabrizio Viti, who has added a hint of feminine prettiness with his daisy decorations. If you’re feeling extra generous, book her in for a pre-sandal-wearing pedicure, too.
With its ever more frequent – and always interesting – collaborations, MAC will always be a great go-to option for birthday presents. Always first with fresh new colours, its impressive archive is full of classics, too. There are few women who haven’t pledged allegiance to a MAC lipstick shade.
It has recently brought out collections with designer Nicopanda, makeup artist Patrick Starrr and cartoon Betty Boop, while an Aaliyah-inspired range is also promised, proving that even death is no obstacle to a good collaboration.
A Gin Serving Set
What to buy for the gin-loving lady who has it all? A serving set dedicated entirely to that clear liquid, of course.
Gin’s popularity over the last few years means that ever more ingenious ways of serving it are being found, while drinkers are becoming more particular about the sort of gins they will and will not drink. Then there’s the perfect garnish; from peppercorns and lavender to the humble cucumber, gin is served numerous ways and deserves something to do it justice. This handsome kit from Polish glassware company LSA should to the trick.
A Go-To Bottle Of Perfume
We know, buying a bottle of perfume as a birthday gift doesn’t exactly constitute thinking outside of the box, but when bought correctly, there can be few presents that are quite as thoughtful.
If you know what her favourite scent is, then just buy her a top up and watch the brownie points come rolling in. If you’re not sure or she doesn’t already have one, then we recommend going with something new to impress her. And if you’re really stumped, go for a well-designed bottle that’ll look nice on the shelf – she’ll think of you every time she sees it.
A Sleek Coffee Table Book
Buying a novel for someone can be fraught with difficulty. Books are so incredibly personal that unless you know the recipient incredibly well – and specifically what type of literature they’re into – it’s best to steer clear.
However, coffee table books exist more on the surface level – as long as it’s beautiful to look at and based on her interest then you should be on safe ground. This stunning tome from Italian fashion legend Anna Dello Russo is designed like a keepsake box and should make even the snarliest of fashionistas smile.
If you’re shopping for someone who lives in the Northern Hemisphere, there really is no more thoughtful gift than a SAD lamp. Proven to help alleviate the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder in just seven days, it encourages the brain to reduce the production of melatonin – the hormone that makes you feel sleepy – while encouraging the production of feel-good hormone serotonin.
All this means is that even on the darkest, most dreary of winter days, she’ll spring cheerily up out of bed. Probably.
When it comes to shopping for designer sunglasses, there are a couple of things to think about. First of all is face shape – if you’re unsure what hers is exactly, opt for a classic frame like cat eyes or Wayfarers, which suit most mugs.
Secondly, and rather boringly, is full UV protection. They’re not just there to accessorise her face, they have to protect her eyes too. Which is why we’re big fans of New York eyewear brand Moscot, which has been producing sleek frames since 1915.