Still, the advantages to seeing clothes up close, being able to experiment with trends and styles without having to commit, and spending time with people (including yourself!) in a fun, empowering way can’t be achieved online in quite the same way as in person. So, here’s some good news — while there are lots of problems with brick-and-mortar shopping that you don’t have control over, a lot of the more common shopping gripes can be remedied. Scroll through for the eight most annoying issues — and our advice for how to make it all better.
If you’re ending each shopping trip with too much in your bags and too little in your wallet, you definitely need to set a budget. Shopping can definitely feel like a once-in-a-while occasion, so if the root of your problem is that you feel guilty leaving empty-handed, make sure there’s an alternative (inexpensive) treat waiting for you if you don’t end up finding what you want. A stop by your favorite ice-cream shop or a pop into a bookstore for a new magazine can guarantee you’ll end up with something in your hands at the end of the day — without spending money on something you’ll never end up wearing.
If your overspending comes from a compulsion to feel that shopping high, however, it’s important to take steps to disassociate yourself from addictive behaviors. We understand how emotional clothing and accessories can be — that’s why we’re here, too! — but if it’s affecting your finances, it’s time to set boundaries. Having clearly defined goals before you embark on a shopping trip is key. If you go shopping with one clear goal in mind — a new dress for an upcoming wedding, for example — leave as soon as you find it. If you’re going without a clear aim, be sure to set a day’s budget that makes sense for you. And then make sure you tell your shopping buddy to help you stay strict — no enablers, please!
Though shopping is just a diversion for you, selling can be someone’s livelihood. So, if a sales associate is overly aggressive when you’re just browsing, approach them from a professional — not emotional — place. If you’re truly not interested in any outside input, a simple “Thanks, but I’m fine just browsing. I’ll let you know if I need help!” will do just fine. Know that interacting with multiple people throughout each trip is just part of the process. But, if these conversations happen so often and so combatively that you feel like you’d rather leave than continue, you could enter the store with your earbuds in — you don’t even have to turn on any music. That will keep any chatty sales associates at bay — but please remember to remove them at checkout!
But don’t be immediately turned off by someone approaching you. If there’s anyone that knows a shop’s merchandise and how it looks on a variety of people, it’s sales associates. Ask pointed questions if you’re truly considering buying something and don’t want to get suckered into making a bad decision. Ask questions that have a clear answer: “Will this shirt shrink if I wash it?” or “Is this style selling better than that one in the window?” Don’t ask, “Does this look good on me?” If your significant other can’t even be trusted to tell you the truth, why would a complete stranger?
Awkward question but…are you wearing the right underwear? We now know that shopping counts as cardio, but you also need to make sure you’re dressed for the sport, too, and that means choosing a bra and underwear that fulfills the highest level of fussiness in the clothes you may look for. For instance, if you’re shopping for summer shorts, clingy sundresses, and a new shirt for work, make sure you’re wearing a supportive bra you generally wear to the office and the kind of seamless underwear you’d probably wear with a dress of that ilk.
Shopping can be a social activity and a great way to indulge in some fashion geekouts with like-minded friends. But if you always end a trip feeling exhausted and annoyed, you might want to consider shopping solo. You might love hanging out with your friends, but if you find yourself spending that time assuring them over and over that — no — those pants don’t make her look like a 15-year-old, but it’s probably not a good idea for anyone to wear metallic pink leggings, and that — yes — you were planning on buying that dress but if she really wants it, too, you won’t mind, and will she help you pick up the mess she made in the dressing room because it’s not the attendant’s responsibility…just say no. Find another friend-date you two can do together that doesn’t involve that level of stress.
However, if that can’t be avoided, go into the shopping trip with the mindset that you’re just there to hang out and watch her shop. Without the added activity of your finding, trying on, and buying something you like, you can focus on spending time with someone.
Whether it’s a new LBD you’re looking for or a chance to try out a trend you’re banking on to become your new go-to, that moment of shopper versus mirror can be a stressful one. And despite your best intentions, sometimes things just don’t look right, even though you know it should.
An important factor to consider is your hair and makeup. If you’re shopping for something fancy, but trying clothes on with bedhead and a bare face, there’s obviously going to be visual inconsistencies. If you never wear makeup? Feel free to disregard this advice, but even if you do wear the occasional lipstick and eyeliner, take the time to make sure your beauty game is polished before you hit the racks.
Bad timing is bad timing, and there’s not much you can do about buying something full price short of going back to the shop for the chance that they’ll issue you a credit. Stores’ policies differ from place to place, and if you find yourself experience price-specific buyers’ remorse from one retailer on the regular, it’s not a bad idea to sign up for their newsletters to find out when the in-store sales occur, so you can time your shopping trip with their promotions.
Generally, though, sale seasons for stores happen during the mid-to-tail end of each season. During January, you’ll be able to find winter clothes on heavy discount; spring clothes in March, summer clothes in July (that’s now!), and fall clothes in October. Time your big trips with those times, and you should be able to really get the lowest prices (no promises on whether you’ll score or not if you have specific pieces in mind — this strategy works best if you’re general with your wish lists!).
It’s a brave new world out there, and sometimes, you just need that one push toward or away from the cash register. You’d think that there’d be a wealth of apps out there that’d let you solicit the advice of strangers, but there isn’t. We were fans of Go Try It On while it existed, but we haven’t found a comparable substitute (please leave your suggestions in the comments though if you have them!). There are still social photo-stream apps like Pose that’ll let you blast out an outfit to a ready audience to gauge their virtual thumbs-up (or down!). We suggest avoiding posting such impromptu pics via Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter unless you’re already a highly prolific, highly personal poster (in which case, all the power to you!).
Still can’t make a decision? If you’re at a shop that has e-commerce, know that you can always buy it later. Take plenty of selfies from different angles, write down the size number you’ll need, and mull on it. If by the end of the week you’re still hankering for the item, you’ll know it’s meant to be. Hit “Add to cart!”
You know you look good in jeans, but that doesn’t mean you need to add yet another pair to your closet. Same goes for loose-fit black tops, ’90s-style floral dresses, or brown ankle boots. Enough is enough!
Chances are, you head straight for certain racks when you enter stores you feel comfortable shopping in. Challenge yourself to go the opposite way. If you never look at skirts, dare yourself to pick out one or two in a shop whose aesthetic you generally love to try on just for giggles. Same goes for colors, prints, or cuts. Still confused? A little preshopping research can help. Find a celebrity that shares your body type and coloring and check out what she wears regularly on the red carpet and out to press events. Even if you don’t like her style, you can get an idea of what a team of stylists thought would work to best suit her. Store photos on your phone and reference them while you’re shopping. It may feel like you’re putting in a ton of work for something so small, but you’ll be thanking us later when you’re wearing your new favorite peplum top for the third time in a week.
Designed by Gabriela Alford
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