How Does a Professional Shop?
Happy day, dear reader!
With the seasons changing, and the stores full of fun new summer clothes, I get questions about how to shop. So I thought I’d share this article again (with some updates!)…
When people find out that one of my services is Personal Shopping, they have one of two reactions… “Ooooh, that’s fun!” or “I need you. I HATE to shop.” Shopping can be fun, or at least less painful for those who hate it, but my shopping methods are probably different from your average trip to the mall. And they are remarkably similar if I am shopping for myself, or for a client. What most people want to know is: How do I shop for me?
Like previous generations of shoppers, I do larger, less frequent shopping trips during the year. Twice a year would be ideal. Yes, I know I will need to hit the shops for new socks, tights, undies, and athletic wear during the year as things wear out, but for seasonal wardrobe shifts, and style updates, less often is better for me, and my budget. Planning is key to keeping a budget-friendly and integrated wardrobe, so any shopping trip starts with research. I will not head out to purchase without knowing what I own, and what I want to add to my wardrobe. I am not a let’s-go-‘n-see-what’s-at-the-store shopper. Yes, I do window shop and browse the stores to see what’s there, but browsing is normally research.
I think about what season or occasion I need to dress for, what I already have, and what I want or need. I research the trends to determine what I might see at the stores, and whether there are any I may wish to try. I review what is already in my closet, and go through my out of season storage box to determine what will be making it into my next season’s capsule.
An Aside: Last year, I decided to try a modified version of what’s known out in Weblandia as the 5 Piece French Wardrobe. No panic necessary! This doesn’t mean you have 5 pieces in your wardrobe. It means that each of the two fashion seasons, Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, you restrict your purchases to 5 items that you have carefully selected and that reflect your aesthetic (style personality). There are lots of different versions and “rules” out there, but in my seasonal 5’s, I do not include replacements of basic pieces, jeans, etc. that have worn out or been stained beyond good use. Knowing I was only going to buy 5 “fashion pieces” made me much more selective about trends to play with, and about quality. Both are good things to consider being more selective about. I will continue with this plan again this year, although I may need to add and extra piece or two as I am struggling with some weight gain, and many of my S/S pieces may not fit… This was a struggle in March when I swapped out my winter capsule for a spring capsule.
Make a List
To help choose 5, I keep (in my calendar) my Wardrobe Wishes. It is no more than a running list of items I have seen and would like to buy. Maybe I saw them in a catalog, on-line, in an ad, or when out shopping with a client. Frequently, I add something that I have noticed is missing from my wardrobe. Maybe a pink and grey scarf would pull together two or three tops and bottoms. That sounds like a wise purchase. When I add to the list, I date the addition, and where I saw it. I also periodically strike things off the list, which helps me remember that the gotta-have-it urge usually passes. The pieces that stay form the basis of my seasonal shopping list. After research and consulting my Wardrobe Wishes, I make a list of pieces I want to add to my wardrobe, and note where I am likely to find them. Some of my research time is also spent pre-shopping on-line to see who stocks the items I am looking for, and how much they may cost. On my list, I include the item, color or colors that will play best with what I already own, and make a note of my budget for the season. Usually, I try to list only 4 seasonal items and leave room for a serendipity purchase, because sometimes you just run across that Most-Amazing-Hero!
At the Mall (or Wherever!)
Now it’s time to head to the shops. On shopping day, I dress in comfortable clothes that are easy to take off and put back on. I wear shoes that slip off, and wear (or tote along) dress shoes if that is what my list will look best with. I take my color swatch. I make sure to wear the right kind of under garments for my shopping list; shopping for a prom dress in sneakers and a sports bra is and exercise in frustration! I prefer to carry a cross-body bag so my hands are free to carry clothes, and browse the racks.
At the mall, I usually make two passes. The first pass is reconnaisance, a quick walk-by to see who has what in the windows, whether there are any new stores, and a walk-through of potential shops to determine if it is worth coming back for a look. If I don’t see my color palette and style personality, it’s not worth another pass. (I know, I might miss an amazing clearance item in the back of the store, but that’s fine with me. I have given up FOMO for the sake of efficiency, and sanity. After this first pass is a good time to stop for a coffee, and a trip to the rest room…
The second pass is all business. Now is the time to pull pieces and try them on. I take multiple sizes to the dressing room and max out the item limit. (Which is often more a guideline… Just ask politely.) The fewer times I need to return to the floor the better. Things that don’t fit are hung separately, or taken right out of the dressing room. Many stores have return-to-stock racks just for this purpose. If there are items I want to purchase, I buy them, and may ask the clerk to hold them for me (unless I need them to coordinate with another item elsewhere). If I really like those grey trousers, but want to keep looking, I will ask the sales clerk to hold them until the end of the day. I can come back for them if they are the best, or let him or her know I am no longer interested.
If I haven’t found what I am looking for, I may order on-line, but I make sure the company’s return policy is friendly before I ever hit the checkout button, and like the dressing room, I order multiple sizes unless I know a brand well, and trust their sizing.
Once I get home, I take everything out of the bags, and hang each up on proper hangers. If something new is replacing an old piece, the old one is pulled, or tossed in the laundry to be washed for the charity box. Before putting each new piece into the closet, I spend some time mixing and matching my new purchases with my basics and other seasonal pieces. I want to confirm that each new purchase will play well with the others already in my wardrobe.
Only then do the tags come off! I pop my new buys into the closet with others in their category, and try to wear them in the next week or two, just in case there is a flaw or manufacturing defect. It’s much easier to return and replace a newly purchased item while you still have the receipt, rather than one that’s been hanging in your closet with the tags on for 3 months. (And if you don’t feel like you want to wear a new piece right away, maybe it wasn’t such a good purchase… Weather exceptions and special occasion wear notwithstanding.)
This may seem like a lot of work for something that the fashion industry wants to sell as entertainment (shopping), but I enjoy the research, and planning and consider it part of the “fun.” Especially when I see positive results in both my closet and bank account!
How about you? Do you plan your shopping, or do you just pick up pieces as they strike your fancy? Have your shopping habits changed? Would you like them to? Please share in the comments below. I love to hear from you!
Many thanks to Catherine at Not Dressed as Lamb for the Link-Up!
I know this is an old article, but I love it. The first pass/recon idea resonates with me na I definitely need to do the mix and match and wear in the first week.
Glad to help, Andrea! I find shopping without my wallet is one of the best strategies to keep my wardrobe under control and my wallet happy! If I buy on the first pass, I end up with too many unworn items or returns!