Thursday, July 31, 2008

Shopping 101

Its back to school time again.

Time to shop for supplies, and for technology, for hardware and above all, for clothes.

I’m not a shopper when it comes to clothes.

I certainly used to be, but much has changed in the last two years and frankly I don’t have a lot of time to wander the malls and try things on at my whim.

So…I have developed a method that seems to work for me.

First of all, I admire the way that men shop. For men, its really all about the basics – the foundations of a wardrobe. They buy basic pieces – pants, shirts, jackets, shoes – in basically two or more of four clothing types – Work, casual, weekend, sports. They generally stick to basic colors, and easily mix-and matchable patterns. And I thought to myself – this is a miraculous way of thinking…its classic, its chic and it makes shopping a breeze.

Second of all, I read an article about models and music stars and it said that most of them, in their every-day lives, wear basic pieces that they buy in every available color that they mix and match when they are NOT being dressed by a stylist for an event or public appearance. Specifically, they talked about Faith Hill, who buys 10 white T-shirts at a time from the Gap and wears them over khakis or jeans with flats. And I thought to myself – this is a miraculous way of thinking…its classic, its chic and it makes shopping a breeze.

And out of these two schools of thought, my shopping style for myself and my “boys” has come to life.

Here is my personal method:

Know your style. Are you a Gap person? A Forever 21 person? Nordstrom? Ann Taylor? I find that even if you like to shop in say, Gap, if you venture to Ann Taylor, you will often by a Gap-style item. It helps to know your style, because some stores you can just avoid all-together. This changes as we transition to new places and phases in life.

Pick a few stores that are “your” stores – at least for right now. Try to keep the number to 4 plus a shoe store and/or accessory store. Consider your style, your budget and the convenience factor for getting there. Knowing a store really well helps you determine if a price “on sale” is really a sale price. If you are a “stalker” you know if a price is good or bad in a store and can buy when it is either necessary or least expensive for you. It also helps you to get clothing in color families that work well together. Ann Taylor tends to stick to certain color saturations. It’s a definition of the style of Ann Taylor. Shopping there consistently gives you the best shot at getting separates that actually look like they were meant to go together, even from one season to the next.

Determine which brands fit you, no matter what you put on, and which do not. When you shop, stay focused on the brands that are cut to fit you – this sort of transcends style. I find that AB studio pants are always cut wide enough in the hip ,long enough but not too long, and narrow enough in the waist for my body. I can buy virtually any style of pant in this brand and it will fit. I find that Liz Claiborne shirts consistently have the right length and enough room in the shoulders (I have broad shoulders) to fit my body.

Determine which fabrics you just don’t like. Avoid them. I don’t even pick 100% cotton, 100% linen or 100% wool clothing up off of a rack. I don’t like how they feel. I don’t like that they require extra care. I don’t like that they make my life harder, instead of easier.

Figure out your absolutely-not’s in the style department. For ME, some examples are tight sleeves, crew neck t-shirts, horizontal stripes and super deep neck-lines. Don’t even take them in the dressing room. It’s a waste of time.

Dress in solid colors or patterns that can be worn with a number of items you plan to buy or are already in your closet. My theory on a closet is that any item you pick out of your closet should match at least 1/3 of the rest of it. It is EVER so much easier when everything is mix-n-match solids. I even mix-n-match my suits, people. I buy a suit, but I don’t necessarily wear the suit all together at the same time.

Think BLEND not MATCH when shopping. Certainly, if you are buying suits, you want a jacket and a bottom (or two) to match exactly. Suits are worn in certain environments and the matching component is key in those environments. But honestly, if the hue and saturation are appropriately balanced, you do not have to find the same exact lavender of your shirt in shoes and earrings. An appropriate purple or gray would do just fine.

Remember that the dressing room is your friend. Take as many things as you want to into the dressing room. Take it ALL into the dressing room. Its worth the half hour spent in the room to leave the store with the things that are right for you that you will wear.

If you like an item in black, try it on in every color they have. Buy as many as you can afford at one time. Different colored fabrics often drape differently or size up differently. And you never know, especially during sale time, if that size 10 in brown will be there when you come back to the rack to get it because you liked the size 10 in black so much in the dressing room. My habit is to buy an item in as many colors as they have that I can find to fit me. I know if I like something enough to buy one of them, I like it enough to have two or more. This helps with the mix-n-match.

Remember that not everything is the same size, even if it SAYS it’s the same size. Take 2 of the same size AND the same color into the dressing room with you. I usually take at least one of the next size up, also. Unless you have grossly mis-judged your size (like you can’t even button the pants in that size), you should try on EVERY item you take into the dressing room. One of them may be just big enough or just small enough to be your perfect fit. I read somewhere that clothing sizes in the same fabric for the same size can differ as much as one full size. That makes taking more than one item of the same size into a dressing room essential.

If you must buy trendy items vs. classics, do it on sale, in a color pallet that works with your existing wardrobe. Because next week, it will be something else all together that is “trendy” and your trendy item will begin to gether dust in your closet.

When purchasing clothing or shoes, think of use and time spent in the clothing. For example, I spend about 30 minutes max of any day in work out clothes. Therefore, work out clothing and shoes take up only about 5% of my total wardrobe. I spend 5 of 7 days at work and one day at church, so the work or nice casual clothing takes up the bulk of my wardrobe. I have very few pairs of shorts or “weekend” pants - I don’t spend a lot of time in them.

So there you have it.

Not glamorous, but highly practical. And it works for me. Maybe it will work for you too!

If not, just dis-regard.



MaryC said...

Felecia, this helped me tons. I didn't get the shopping gene, plus I am kind of cheap.
If I find something that works for me, I buy multiples un things like jeans. I never thought about t's and the like.
Also, I love Ann Taylor but typically won't spend the money. I also love Gap and some things from Chicos.
What kind of style is that?
Weird, I think.

April Driggers said...

Girl, I WISH I had a stylist. I have NO fashion sense whatsoever so I DO tend to be a "Gap" girl. I like basic and classic. Most of my clothes have NO pattern whatsoever because I have no clue how to pull off pattern.

And TRENDY? YIKES! I FEEL so fake wearing trendy clothes that I'm sure it just oozes "SHE'S A TREND IMPOSTER" from every cell on my body that I feel about 1 million times more uncomfortable than I am.

I love tons of clothes from Banana Republic... I love clothes from Ann Taylor... Coldwater Creek... but ??? when you do nothing more than stay at home...??? WHY do you need to spend on things you won't wear more than once a year...?? if that... it's pointless.

I don't dress up for the dogs... which is another reason why dogs are better than people... they don't care what you wear, as long as you scratch them behind the ear. :)