Recently I’ve been thinking about how to shop for clothes successfully and the shopping strategies that work the best for me. A few weeks ago 40 Plus Style published a great article on how to avoid making costly shopping mistakes. To avoid mistakes the author creates a series of lists to help her while she shops. One list outlines the sort of garments that work for her, another the looks and fabrics she wants to avoid, and finally another of items, trends and colors that will round out what is already in her wardrobe. I love creating lists and I agree with her strategy. It’s a good one. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work all that well for me. The best pieces in my wardrobe were all purchased on a whim.
But before I continue I think it’s important to define what a shopping mistake is to me. In these photos I’m wearing a new outfit that I consider shopping success. I love and wear each piece! As you can see from the colorful look I’m not suggesting that you only buy high-end simple-yet-elegant neutral garments made of Italian cashmere, although if that’s your thing by all means go for it. To me a shopping mistake happens when I shop for clothes and then rarely or never wear them. The more expensive the garment, the more serious the mistake.
But how do I avoid making mistakes without planning or creating a shopping strategy? It occurs to me that this is weird. After a lot of thought I realized that when I’m not looking for anything specific I only buy things I love. I make mistakes when I’m lusting after a trend or looking for something to wear to an event. In these situations I often settle for less than fabulous. Take the teal jeans I wore here. I bought them early this year. At the time I was desperate for a pair of blue-green jeans. Instead of waiting to find a flattering pair that fit just right I purchased the first pair I found, which sit very low on the hips, creating the dreaded muffin top. This means I can only wear the jeans with one or two blouses, which makes them limiting and therefore something of a shopping mistake.
How I shop for clothes successfully
I shopped for the outfit I’m wearing in these photos without a plan or a list. I had some time, went to my local Nordstrom and collected a number of pieces that looked interesting. I tried on everything and for each piece asked a few questions. One outfit stood out from the rest. I bought it, and now wear the jacket and the jeans constantly. The blouse is a bit less versatile, but I do like it with white jeans or skirt. It was a successful shopping trip.
Here are the questions I ask myself in the dressing room
1) Does this make me look and feel fabulous? The answer should be instinctive and immediate. If a garment makes me feel fabulous then it’s probably flattering to my figure and coloring.
2) Does it work with my lifestyle? I’m a mother, wife and a freelance designer. My favorite clothes take me to client meetings and dinner out with my husband, yet I also need casual pieces for family outings and running errands. Really dressy clothes and suits have no place in my wardrobe, no matter how gorgeous they are.
3) Is it (insert price here) good? I actually use that string of grammatically incorrect words in the fitting room as the awkwardness of the phrase makes the sentiment stand out in my mind. In general I like to spend more money on good quality basics and less money on frivolity and trends.
4) Do these clothes create an outfit? My number one shopping mistake comes from buying garments by themselves. I go home, loving my new piece, and find it works with nothing in my closet. To avoid this I focus on buying outfits rather than single pieces. (Clearly this strategy doesn’t work at mega-sales, consignment boutiques or thrift stores, but the prices are so low that I don’t usually worry about it.) Often a single piece will play nice with the other garments in my wardrobe, but some things only works with the outfit I bought it with. That’s OK. As long as I can wear a piece with something it won’t sit in my closet looking at me whispering “Whoops, you did it again.”
5) Can I wear a bra with it? If not, is the garment structured enough not to need one? Ok, this one is totally personal. I will not wear clothing without a bra unless it’s designed with an internal support system. In fact, I won’t even try on clothes that clearly are not bra-friendly. Last year I purchased a rather expensive dress that does not allow for a bra. It was my biggest mistake of the year, and it was not cheap. After that I said “never again”.
- Jacket – Sanctuary
- Blouse – Bellatrix
- Purse – Hobo
- Jeans – Not Your Daughter’s Jeans
- Sandals – M Patrick
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