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Shopping for Clothes: 11 Pointers

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Follow these shopping tips to bring home clothing that you will actually wear.

  1. Create an apparel budget. It is easier to plan your shopping trips and avoid overspending when you have a number to work with. One method for creating a budget is to make a list of all the clothes you think you will need in a year and then estimate how much you would like to spend on each item. Once you have calculated your total, stick to it and do not go over. 
  2. Use a mood board. Your mood board is a collection of clothing images that you like; it aids in the development of your personal style and serves as a source of inspiration when shopping for clothes. Look for commonalities in the images you have chosen—are there any colors, textures, or styles that you always gravitate toward? Check to see if the pieces you are considering fit in with the overall style of your mood board.
  3. Maintain a wish list. Make a running list of the clothing you want or need. When you are out shopping, take a look at your list to remind yourself what you are looking for. Shopping with a list is usually more successful than shopping for a single item—you may not find everything you want on the first try, but you can usually cross off most of the items on your list over several trips. When shopping online, save your favorite items to your favorites list and come back to them when the brand has a sale.
  4. Be aware of your measurements. Make a note of your hip, waist, and chest measurements on your phone. This will help you when shopping online because you will be able to compare your measurements to a store’s size chart. You can use a measuring tape to see if a piece will fit before you try it on when shopping for clothes in person. This is especially useful when shopping secondhand, because vintage sizing differs significantly from contemporary sizing. 
  5. Begin broad, then narrow your focus. Add all the items you like to your shopping cart, whether you are shopping online or in a physical clothing store, and then edit down your options from there. You will be able to compare and choose which pieces you like better if you group them together. There will undoubtedly be some pieces that do not work out and others that will surprise you. You can find hidden gems by branching out a little. 
  6. Make a list of everything you already have. Make a mental list of the pieces from your closet you will be able to wear with it when considering a new purchase. Unless you are starting from scratch, you will probably want this new piece to go with several other pieces you already own. Consider why a cardigan you are lusting after does not go with any of the clothes you already own. Are you attempting to shift your personal style in a new direction? It is possible that a piece is not right for you if it does not match anything else you own. Of course, there are exceptions, such as statement pieces that can stand alone or outfits for special occasions. Try the piece on with your other clothes when you get home. Return it if it does not work.
  7. Add variety to your wardrobe. It is easy to get stuck in a rut with the same tried-and-true pieces. But a person can only have so many black dresses or dark-wash denim jeans. Having multiples of the same item in your closet can add unnecessary bulk and make getting dressed more difficult. If you like something but already have something similar, consider whether you prefer this version to the one you have. I am not sure how many of these I really want. Except when it comes to your work uniform, the answer is usually no more than two.
  8. Invite a friend. Shopping with friends is more enjoyable, and getting a second opinion can be extremely beneficial. If you are unsure about a piece, a friend can give you the confidence to try it or tell you if it is not right for you. Ask a friend or family member whose style you admire to accompany you on a shopping trip; they will be flattered. 
  9. Always try on a variety of sizes. When you find something you like, make sure to get it in both your size and the sizes above and below it. Perhaps try a few different colors. Bring as many pieces as you can into the fitting room, and spend as much time as you need there to get a sense of how a piece feels when you bend down, sit, or twirl it.
  10. Do a little window shopping. Window shopping can serve as a source of inspiration. If you like something in a designer store but the price is too high, put it on your wish list and see if you can find a less expensive version elsewhere. This is also a great way to get inspiration for your mood board’s styling. 
  11. Place clothing on hold. If you are undecided about an item, see if you can put it on hold at the store. Many stores will hold an item for you until the end of the day, giving you plenty of time to make your decision. After an hour of walking, come back and see if you are still thinking about the piece. Simply add an item to your online shopping cart and wait a day or two before purchasing—or save it to your wish list folder.


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