The Substance of Style: Shopping tips

Style matters.  It’s another way to communicate.
Don’t believe me?
Think about the most ridiculous outfit you’ve ever seen.  Imagine the POTUS wearing it while delivering the State of the Union address.
Style communicates.  Style matters.
We owe it to ourselves to demonstrate care and concern for how we express ourselves.
It’s not easy to develop a sense of style, and unfortunately fashion trial-and-error is pretty tricky.  These handy posts will help you identify pitfalls and prepare for style glory, all in wondrous privacy:
Today we tackle shopping, which should be fun, not torture.
First, before you go…

  • Let go of your expectations.  You’re looking for clothes, not your long lost brother.  Nothing you do or don’t find will make your day, event, interview, date, appearance etc., any better or worse.
  • Don’t shop for an occasion. That’s like grocery shopping when you’re hungry.  If you must, first figure out what you already have that works  and get excited about that.  Then, go shopping.  Give yourself time, and be okay with not finding what you want.
  • Let go of your size worries.  Fashion is a global market, and true sizes change with seasons, stores, designers, and type of garment.  If you have body image problems that’s a self-love issue.  Money can’t buy you love.  Clothing should fit.  Period.  If you squeeze a size two body into toddler jeans it will look bad.  Get over it.
  • Don’t invite your spouse unless you’re buying lingerie or swimsuits.
  • Don’t shop with anyone unless they’re patient, have a good sense of style, and are brutally honest.
  • Don’t shop if you ain’t ready to spend.  Know what you can afford and set your budget before you leave.  Window shop only as research for something expensive.
  • Wear an outfit easy to remove and undergarments easy to wear with what you might try on.
  • Develop and maintain a sense of what’s comfortable and complements your figure as it is.  If you’re not sure, experiment with different shapes.  See how it looks and feels when clothing fits your waist/hips/neck/arms/bust/legs/height differently and take note of what’s best.

In the store…

  • Hold your hand against a garment to make sure it looks great against your skin.
  • Grab everything you like or that catches your attention, in whatever size you think will fit.
  • If you’re not sure whether it’s your size grab more than one.
  • Try on types of clothing, not outfits (tops only, then dresses, pants, etc.)
  • Do not fight to put on a piece of clothing.
  • Sort as you try on clothes: Yes, Maybe and No.
DECIDING WHAT’S BEST: For the yes and maybe piles, answer these questions.
  • Does it look good?
  • Does it fit right? (Check for snugness and length when sitting and bending over; length of cuffs and hemline, gathering or puckering in weird places.)
  • Would I take care of it?

Um.  If the answers to those first questions are no, it should be in the no pile.  You no buy.

  • Is this awesome?
  • Do I already have something like this?
  • When would I wear this?
  • What would I wear this with?

If the answers to the last few questions are resoundingly wishy-washy it’s a maybe.  

DECIDING WHAT TO BUY: Once you’ve tried on everything, look at your yes pile and add up the cost and tax.  If it’s not affordable, whittle down until it is.   If it is affordable, consider the maybe’s, whittling down until within budget.

If ever you’re not 150% certain about buying, leave it.  For a week or two.  If you still feel unsure, forget it.

By the by, affordable is different for everyone.  For me, if it costs more than $15 it deserves a serious re-thinking.

Most of my clothing, formal wear included, costs between $10 and $20:

$10 dress. I have four.
$15 floor length dress.
Jacket-Gift, $10 red dress, scarf as belt-Gift, earrings-gift.
Dress, $15. Wraps (I’m wearing a white one and a tan one) 3 for $12. Earrings $2. P.O.G. Priceless.
$10 sweater as a beach cover-up. $10 hat.
$12 dress, $15 cowboy hat… From CVS.


$15 dress

Special tips for shopping in the Garment District, at Festivals, and at Inexpensive boutiques:

1- Do NOT stick to the most well-known shopping streets.  They’re more expensive and don’t necessarily carry the best stuff.  Vendors will typically have clothing, footwear, jewelry, handbags, and other accessories.
2- Circle before you actually shop.  Many of vendors carry similar items for different prices, so wander until you feel you’ve hit the least expensive one.
3-Don’t buy in the first store you visit, you can go back.
4- Carry cash (So you can…)
5- BARGAIN: These folks will reduce listed prices by up to 40%.  Ask them whether they’ll cut down the price if you buy more than one item, or (my favorite) pretend you don’t have enough cash on you to pay for the item.  Conveniently, you should pretend you only have the exact amount you’d like to pay.  Walk out when you want to close the deal and they’ll usually stop you and acquiesce.
6- Wear comfortable shoes.
7- Go early to avoid crowds and depleted stock.

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