Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Holiday Shopping, Part I

The holidays approacheth. With them, a lot of shopping for all sorts of reasons.

There's shopping for yourself, preparing for holiday events - you may have realized your formal wear has seen better days, or your warm sweaters looking the worse for wear.

There's shopping for others in the way of Christmas gifts. There's also grocery shopping...but I don't like to talk about that.

Part I is going to focus on shopping for yourself. I've had a few conversations over the last few months involving shopping, and hearing from women who hate to shop.

Now, I love shopping. Sometimes. Sometimes, it's stressful. Driving from store to store, trying on things that don't fit, putting out a lot of effort for no return. But there are things you can do to prevent the stressful from happening...

Happy Tips for Successful Shopping:

In stores:

1. If you're going out to stores, plan ahead the ones you're going to visit. If they have websites, you might take a few moments to get an idea for what they have in stock. Look at the styles, the prices, what they offer. If you find something on the website that you like, call the store to see if they actually have it before you drive out. You'll probably have read them the item number, but it beats driving all the way there and striking out.

2. When picking out clothes to try on, always grab items in multiple sizes. I read recently that there can be as much as an 8-inch difference in the waist of the same size of pants. The tag means nothing, so start with your usual size and consider grabbing both one size up and one size down. That way, you can keep trying on clothes without having to get dressed, hunt for the other size, and find your room taken/clothes put away when you get back. Sure, in smaller stores the sales girls will run and fetch for you, but start off prepared and everyone runs around less. Also, the sales girls will go AWOL on occasion.

3. When trying on clothes, start with the largest size and move down. I say this for a few reasons. First, larger items are easier to get off if they don't work. Second, it's a lot kinder to your ego to swim in your clothes, then size down until something fits you perfectly. Remember, size tags are just a number.

4. Look for clothes that aren't exactly like the ones in your closet. If you have a lot of red, try orange. Realize that if you like a garment, it might be because you already own something similar. Don't buy repeat garments unless you're planning on replacing/retiring the one you already have (I say "retire" because I have a white sweater that I wore on our first date, and while it's too short in the torso and sleeves, I can't bear to truly part with it!).

5. Keep the time of year in mind. Now is not the time to look for a swimsuit in a store. However, evening wear is everywhere, and if you're a tough fit or have something specific in mind, this is the time to look. If you're feeling thrifty or like to plan ahead, remember that a lot of the evening wear stock will go on sale in January and February.

6. When purchasing something to wear during the holiday season, don't pick something too Christmas-y. Look for something that can be comfortable worn for events from November through February. There's no use spending the money if you can only wear a garment one month out of the year. Look for details that make things special - beading, chiffon ruffles, satin trims.

7. Purchase clothes that fit you now. If you're planning on losing weight, fine, just have the garment taken in later.

8. Be kind to yourself. Use the bathroom before you leave. Drink water. Consider taking a snack or stopping for one. If you're tired, dehydrated, and starving at the end, it's no wonder you hate shopping!

9. If you find a basic item you like and fits you well, consider buying it in multiple colors - I'm talking chinos, tees, basic sweaters, that sort of thing.

10. If money isn't a concern, consider buying two pairs of pants at a time. Have one hemmed for flats and the other for heels. Technically, trouser and bootcut pants should never be more than an inch off the floor. The longer your pants, the longer your legs look.

11. If you're open-minded about what you're looking for, do check stores like TJ Maxx, Ross, or Marshall's. I could write a whole blog about the wondrous finds I've discovered behind those doors. If you're hitting several stores, start with one of these first, while your energy's fresh.

12. Take someone with you, if you can. As second opinion (one that doesn't earn a commission) is a happy thing.

Shopping online or from catalogs:

1. Online and catalog shopping is a good idea if you're a special size - tall, petite, or plus, or if you live in an area without a lot of shopping options.

2. I've come to the conclusion that if you're not sure about the size when ordering, order multiple sizes. A lot of websites have item reviews, and will tell you if a garment is running true to size or not. While I hate shelling out extra money just to try things on, I really hate ordering a garment and having it not fit, then paying to ship it back. I figure if you're going to pay for return shipping, you might as well increase your chances of something working for you. A lot of companies will offer free shipping if you order a certain amount - if you're ordering in multiples, you stand a better chance of getting free shipping more often!

3. Even if you've worn a size for forever at a certain store, be aware that things can change. Gap tops are running HUGE these days. I tried on a slew of dresses at J. Crew this last summer and found one size to work for me, ordered a dress in that size, and found it small. I was able to have it let out, but it was a pain.

4. Pay attention to the measurements listed, particularly for length. Everything looks longer on a mannequin.

5. Be realistic when measuring yourself. It's often best to ask someone to help, if you can. Some stores, such as Nordstrom, will tell you how the sizing for that brand runs.

6. Be very, very careful buying final sale items online. There are good deals to be had, but if it doesn't work, you're pretty much stuck with gifting it or selling it on ebay.

7. Watch for in-store sales online. Handy tip.

That's all I've got for now. Check back in later for ideas to make gift shopping easier!

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