This is part two of a two part series: read part one here.
Before you hit the stores, you need to have some idea of a budget. An overall budget, what you are willing to pay for any particular item, weekly allowance - some kind of structure. I have no advice on how to develop useful parameters for yourself. I do know that without these types of limits you will drive yourself, and your bank account, straight round the bend. Anyone with useful ideas or links to share on this topic, please speak up in the comments!
The online store. Even if you do not plan to buy anything from an online store, i find them a very useful tool for avoiding overwhelm and planning my shopping strategy. Online shops allow you to research what's out there before you go to the physical store, with it's smells and lights and loud music and time limitations. You can browse at your own pace, without the pressure of a sales assistant. And in my own case, my eyes need time to adjust to what's in the stores. Previewing stock online is an easy and convenient way to let that adjustment happen.
For instance, you can bookmark a likely looking piece and revisit it several times over a few days. This allows for time to let ideas on outfits percolate up from your subconscious, as well as for more subtle deal breakers to become apparent. Most importantly, i find, this time allows me to see how the needs and wants i have identified 'mesh' with the items actually out there in the real world. Especially when i'm not finding what i am used to wearing, it takes me a while to see the possibilities in different pieces. If i see the items online, then let the images float around in my mind for a few days, when i come back to them i have a much better feel for how these pieces could work in my own closet and lifestyle. I also find it helpful to read online reviews of an item and/or manufacturer to get a feel for whether or not a piece will work.
You'll also get an idea of which stores are more likely to have what you want in stock. Often, you will find exact pieces that you want to try on. In this case, find out (online or by phone) if the item is in your store in your size range. When you get to the store, go straight to that item (sales assistants can help here). I love shopping this way as it really reduces the amount of looking through inappropriate items. I can get to the try-on phase long before i'm too overwhelmed to make sensible decisions.
In the store. What do you do with your list when you are in the store? Here's the short answer: use it to weed out all items which do not meet your own specifications as quickly as possible. Then, and only then, spend time and attention evaluating individual pieces.
Here's an example to break it down. Let's say you want to find a light to medium colored, structured feeling blouse in a cut and fiber which you can wear well in the heat. Thus, in the store, you want to eliminate as efficiently as you can any item which is:
- not a blouse
- darker than a medium tone
- made of a fiber you won't wear in the heat
- not structured
- priced higher than your budget
I like to flip through clothing on hangers, using my fingers to feel the fabric as my eyes scan color and the obvious styling features. I know a lot of people are looking for anything attractive about clothing when they shop. With this method, you are looking for qualities you can use to quickly eliminate pieces that don't fit your specs. If a blouse doesn't fit your color requirement, on to the next one. If the fabric is inappropriate, you're done with it. The same with your personal style and figure flattery priorities - if the garment does not fit, you're done with it. On to the next. If it's over your budget, move on. Done right, this will greatly reduce the amount of clothing you need to evaluate in very short order.
The underlying principle is that clothing needs to fit your own individual, well thought out criteria in order to earn and deserve your attention. Your task is not to figure out some convoluted, baroque method by which that cute designer dress (which doesn't fit, is in a color which bears no relation to anything else in your closet, in a fiber which makes you itch) will 'work'. Clothing is auditioning for the privilege of working for you. You don't have time to waste on the ones that you know will never work out. On to the next!
Only remove an item from the clothes rack for further inspection if it has already passed on every specification you can see. Taking a red top off of the rack will not turn it blue. Holding a wool coat up to the light will not magically transform it into a linen tunic. Do not distract yourself! Save your attention for pieces which meet your criteria. These pieces can come into the dressing room with you to see if they fit and flatter (which is another topic for another day).
When i first experimented with shopping this way, i got scared. I eliminated so many clothes so very very quickly! How in the world could i ever find anything to wear this way? Sure, this way i could find those few pieces i really loved much more swiftly, but......maybe i was missing something great!
The truth was that i've always only found a very few pieces i loved anytime i've gone shopping. I quickly realized that this new approach really freed up my time for doing other wardrobe tasks - sewing and designing, creating new outfits, learning how to cut my own hair, researching trends and style advice online, keeping my closet organized so i knew what i actually had, researching online and brick and mortar stores which stocked items worth my time, blogging.....tasks which upped my style quotient much more and more reliably than time spent shopping. The truth is that i've found no benefit in spending hours and hours shopping just to shop. I wasn't going to find what wasn't there.
For many people, beginning to shop in this manner takes a leap of faith. You need to trust the method and you need to trust yourself. There's no magic - you just have to try it and see if it works. You can try 'baby steps' to start if it just seems too radical. Try this method in a store you don't care for. Or go through a store using this method, then go through again using your usual methods. Afterwards, compare the results and judge if the extra effort of the old way yields better results for you. Another idea is to try this method out wherever you happen to be - just tell yourself you're 'practicing' and if you want to you'll go over the store using your usual methods later.
I rarely experience any qualms when i shop this way. But then, i've been at it for many years now. And i've seen how much easier it is to dress, and how much more i love my clothing, when i approach shopping in this manner. I am able to really make the connection between all the thinking and planning i do and the way it informs the choices i make on the showroom floor, because i've seen it time and time again through working this method.
We've all heard that we shouldn't shop for groceries when tired and hungry - we'll just make impulsive, expensive purchases. Wasted money, wasted time, and you don't get proper nutrition or satisfaction. Shopping for clothing when you don't have a handle on what you need and want will lead to the same regrets. I've found that using these techniques can help battle these influences. True, i don't get so much of the 'high of the buy'. On the other hand, i love most of my clothes, shoes, and bags; they work for my lifestyle so i get to wear them all the time instead of simply staring at how gorgeous they are in the closet; i'm not fussing with returns all the time feeling guilty about spending money on things i never wear.
If you want more of this type of wardrobe experience, i encourage you to give some of these ideas a try. As always, i will be happy to answer any questions you have about this, and i would be thrilled to hear any ideas which have led to shopping breakthroughs for you! Thank you for reading!
Jacket: CREA, Nevada City CA - borrowed from mr. eccentric!
Top, Skirt, Necklace: own design
Socks: Sock Dreams
Shoes: Fossil Savana
Bag: Isabella Fiore