Monday, April 30, 2012

How to Shop When You Hate Shopping

The unending clothes selection. The overzealous sales assistants. Those mirrors that - how, how??? - magically add those ten pounds you just busted your now-less-curvy rear to lose. And don't get me started on the swimsuit shopping.

Whatever your shopping (dis)pleasure, we've all been there, even those of us who never met a sample sale we didn't like. How to make the process a bit easier for us all, especially for those of you who despair of the whole shebang?

"For realz, Pretty?" I can hear you smirking. "Why on Earth would we be listening to you of all people about this subject? Surely you're too busy following every 80's inspired trend going to have something to say about this, for starters?"


Here's the thing - I do not claim to be an expert here or even to be - Nordstrom help us - a fashion blogger. I make plenty of fashion mistakes. My style may not be your thing. However, after thirtysomething-four years of practice, I'm not intimidated by the shopping thing. From Marshalls to Neiman Marcus, I've got a good system down that keeps my wardrobe (mostly) in budget and in stuff that (I hope) suits my "pear" body shape.

Also, a new-to-me blogger friend asked me to talk about this - hi, new blogger friend! - so, um, there.

Ahem. Here are six Pretty ideas for the Anti-Shopping Crowd:

Identify One Wardrobe Item You Want to Improve

Try to be as specific as possible here about one item you need - saying you need "a new work wardrobe" is too vague and is usually overwhelming, even for those of us who love the game. "A work blouse that works in the colorblocking trend yet is appropriate for an office setting" is much more helpful.

Find a Photo of the Look You Want, Ideally On Someone with Your Figure

Yes, I'm giving you leave to spend quality time with non-quality fashion mags, or your favorite style blogs, or that great time/money/will-to-live suck, Pinterest. A visual makes gives you a tangible thing to work towards and, again, anything we can pin down before you hit stores makes things less intimidating.

It's ok if you don't find a firm, "I MUST HAVE THIS!" idea, or if the image suits the look you want but not your budget. Part of the idea of this is that you may not be buying things right now, hence you may have no idea what to look for or be picking the same ol' thing over & over again. Just rip out pages of things that strike your fancy looks-wise for now.

This is a bit of advanced work I can cover in another post, but of course it helps to be finding stuff that suits your body type - yes, even celebrities and style bloggers come in different shapes (if seemingly not non-00 sizes). Again, if you're not at the point where you know that, that's ok too; here are some articles to get you thinking about dressing for your body type.

Just to use ME ME ME as an example, one of many reasons I worship at the altar of that High Priestess of Prep, Jackie O. (or "Mrs. JBKO" in Pretty parlance) - is that she was actually a pear shape as well. Those a-line dresses and boatneck cuts she favored happen to suit my own slender shoulders to wider hips proportions. Kristin Davis and the current Mrs. O(bama) are two other preppish, classically styled pears who know how to work that look's strengths.


While you're researching - see how we just classed up "reading US Weekly"? - it's important to get a grasp on what colors suit you too; that's also beyond the scope of what I'm getting into here today, but this book has been a helpful starting point for me (some photos are dated, but the basic premise remains valid).

Make a Shopping Date with Your Most Honest (Honest as Possible, That Is) Friend

I always laugh at magazines giving this "Find your brutally honest friend to tell you what looks good on you!" line since, if your good friends are anything like mine, "brutally honest" has to be read in between the painfully polite lines of "Hmms . . ." and "You look wonderful in anything, but . . ."

There are some other caveats here - we're all biased towards the looks that look good on us, for example, so while you take your friend's thoughts into consideration, you ultimately decide. The help of a good salesperson can be a helpful counterbalance to this (if you can find one, that is - more on that later).

Here's the thing, though - sometimes you need a second pair of eyes, preferably sympathetic ones, to get you started. So pick a friend whose style you've always admired, or the most straightforward of your politely non-confrontational bunch, and offer to buy them lunch in exchange for one hour of their shopping time. Chances are they'd love to see you and are flattered you'd ask. Which leads me to my next point . . .

Give Yourself an Incentive

For any despised activity, we need motivation - or this lazybones does, at least. If the clothes themselves aren't the payoff, build in a lunch with a friend or buy yourself an in-budget treat for getting yourself to mall up. Speaking of . . .

Shop in Person, For Now

Speaking of malls, this online shopper regrets to inform you that, when possible, you may want to start off this process in person. What looks good in photos doesn't always translate in reality, and when you're finding what works on you, it helps to test a bunch of different looks and sizes.


I know, I know - malls are full of people and salespeople and a million billion options - but why not identify one or two stores at most and start there? If your stars are aligned and you find an actually helpful, non-pushy salesperson, they can serve as a second set of eyes and a counterbalance to your "honest" (still in quotes, yep) friend. If I'm not in Introvert Shopping Mode & looking for salesperson help, I look for the one I most like the styling of (if any) and shamelessly hit them up for advice.

If shopping in person is just out of the question - as it often is for me now with the wee CEOs schedule / intrinsic shopping hatred - this may be obvious, but avail yourself of an online store offering free shipping & returns. My trick is to order the item I want in a number of sizes so I can easily return the ones that don't fit.

Be Open to Trying a New Store / a New Look / Not the Sale Rack

Based on my *highly scientific and, like, totally academic research*, a number of you hate shopping because you're stuck in your comfort zone - either you're stuck in the same look or fall in the trap of just buying whatever's on sale vs. what really suits you.

Once you've identified the one to two stores you're hitting up, give the entire place a look - not just your old familiar stuff, and definitely not just the sales rack. For the same price, you're better off buying one full-price piece that truly flatters you versus five on sale items that will better highlight your closet than your behind.

Not that I really know what I'm doing here, but - any other questions, Pretties? Was this helpful?

Interested in being a guinea pig for an upcoming Smug Mummy Makeover idea I'm working on? Please leave me a comment with your info or email me - ipickpretty AT gmail.


Lisa Waszkiewicz @Franny Bolsa said...

I love it! I was reading and chanting to myself "I can do this I can do this". I love the idea of bribing a friend with food. Now why didin't I think of that before. If there's food... even I can do it. And do tell... what is the Smug Mommy Makeover? Sounds intriguing. Now I'm off to surf Pinterest. It being official homework and all.

{Jessica} said...

Love Jackie O. When in doubt, dress like Jackie. I find that my biggest problems lie in mixing and matching different pieces. I buy all of these cute clothes, and then have no idea how to put them together. Sometimes I wish I could afford a personal stylist just to help me dress with what I have. Love the points you made here - especially the 'shop in person' one. I refuse to shop online with brands I am unfamiliar with until I have seen/tried on some of the clothing to see how it fits! said...

Bookmarking this post thankyouverymuch! Absolutely hit the nail on the head with these pointers, and truly speaks volumes to women, everywhere! I've relegated my online shopping exclusively to brands I already wear, and find myself venturing outside the box when I'm in store!

Erin said...

Soooooo, *yes* I found this helpful - but I have to admit I was hoping you were going to tell me to keep shopping online in my jammies at naptime. Boo!

A Smug Mommy Makeover sounds fun and TERRIFYING...but...maybe I need it? I don't know! I can't seem to find "my" style - which is slightly embarrassing at 31 years old :) Plus, these child-bearing years are hard. When your body changes so much it's easy to get discouraged!

Belle on Heels said...

I'm bookmarking this. I break out in hives when I set foot in a department store. I just wish they were organized the way I think. Like, OK this corner of the store is all black dress pants. This corner of the store is all cute, work-appropriate, non budget-busting tops. The way they're set up + the onslaught of "helpful" sales ladies is just too much to handle!!

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