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The poll of 2,000 women found that one in eight admitted to using the 'wear and return' strategy, splashing out on a pricey outfit for a special occasion without ever intending to keep it.
But experts believe the real number may be far higher, as many guilty parties would not own up to the risky practice.
Money was the motivation for nearly 50 per cent of those who did confess but a sizeable 18 per cent enjoyed the 'buzz'.
Perhaps more worrying was what happened to those designer items during their one night out.
Six per cent of those quizzed said they had spilled a drink on an item before returning it, eight per cent had left the clothes in a heap on the floor, and nearly nine per cent said the pricey frock smelt of smoke - but even more shocking was that seven per cent said they had been sick on their outfit before going back to the shop.
It seems simply hanging the clothes out to air or spraying them with air freshener was all that was needed to make a successful return.
A spokesman for OnePoll.com, who carried out the survey, told the Daily Mail: "It's understandable that people are tightening their belts and are spending more cautiously during this bleak economic time, but returning clothes after wearing them is quite dishonest and high risk.
"These findings highlight how many people are ruthless enough to wear clothes and then expect their money back.
"What it doesn't show is how many more shoppers are doing it but are too ashamed to admit it or those who want to save face and give the impression they have more clothes than they do."
Sarah Cordey, from the British Retail Consortium, warned that shop assistants are now "on the look out for signs" of the wear and return shopping strategy.
Have you ever worn an item of clothing and then returned it? Leave your comments below...