It’s no secret around here that I like to shop. I can remember being a little girl, running errands with my mom while my siblings were in school or at activities, and always setting my sights on something in whatever store we were in. To this day, I’m sure I could find something useful or desirable in just about any store I step foot in! Knowing that I have that love of shopping, I’ve learned a handful of “lessons” over the years of how to shop wisely. It used to be much more commonplace that I would look through my closet after a season and find an item or two (usually from Marshall’s or Old Navy) that still had the tags on it; never worn, just sitting there. I hated seeing that and knowing how wasteful it was, so I made a big effort to reign it in a bit and change my ways, thanks to a few simple principles.
If you’re in a place in your life where you’re able to shop and have some disposable income to spend on yourself, but want to be intentional about what you’re buying for your closet, there are a few things to consider before clicking, “check out” or handing over your credit card.
Tip #1: If you shop online, be prepared to make a return.
Making returns can be annoying, I know. It can take time or sometimes money (return shipping) and patience to wait in that long customer service line. But if you’re planning on shopping online, be prepared to do a return. If you know you’re the kind of person that will stash the return in your trunk and forget about it until it’s too late to get your money back, make a plan for when you will return the item to ensure you’ll get a refund. Know yourself and your habits with returns and set your expectations accordingly. That’s the only way to not throw money away on an item you don’t even really like anyway!
Since I do quite a bit of shopping for my job, I’m always willing to take the time to make returns – it’s something I’ve gotten used to. If I’m considering ordering something from a retailer that has a strict return policy, I’ll make sure that I have the ability to complete it within the timeframe before purchasing.
Part B of this tip is to read the return policy before placing an order. If I’m shopping online at a new store, I always check to see what the shipping + return policy is before I even start browsing. With online shopping, it can be hard to know if you’ll actually like the piece when it arrives on your doorstep, so make sure you know what will be required of you to return said item(s). Once you’ve read the policy, you may realize it’s not worth the risk and look for something similar elsewhere. It’s no fun to be in a position where you have a piece of ill-fitting clothing that will cost half the price just to ship it back for a return!
Tip #2: Try your new item on at home, multiple times.
I don’t know what it is about a dressing room mirror, but I feel like I always look better in them! There have certainly been times where I’ve tried an item on in the store, felt really good in it, brought it home to try on again and instantly regret my purchase. I also think there’s something to being in a store and maybe feeling a little pressure or getting a case of the “gimme nows” that can make me buy something just because I’m in the store. Then I get home and pull it out of the bag and realized I don’t even really like it or it’s not as cute as I thought it was an hour ago.
My best advice for making sure that you will actually wear an item is to try it on several times before removing the tags. I do this almost every time I purchase a new item. I try it on as soon as it arrives, try it on again the next day or two, and then try it on one more time when wearing it for the first time before taking the tag off. If, at any point, I realize that I don’t really like the fit or it’s not as comfortable as I thought or it’s just not something I’m excited to wear, I’ll take it back.
This is also a key element if you want to ensure something will hold up. Some fabrics are very delicate or wrinkly easily – wear the item around your house for a little bit to see if it still looks and feels how you want it to. I hope it goes without saying, but be careful not to sweat in, stain, or otherwise “soil” the item, if you might return it!
Tip #3: Style the item(s) with pieces your already own.
One of the most important things for me when deciding to purchase or keep an item is whether or not it will incorporate into the rest of my wardrobe well. In order to get the most wear out of things, especially basics, I want them to seamlessly blend into the rest of what I already own and love! For example, I’m less likely to buy a pair of faux leather leggings if I don’t feel like I have the right kind of tops to wear with them. Alternatively, if I almost always wear dark wash jeans and could use another pair, I know that I’ll get a ton of wear out of that new pair.
Something that I have come to really value in my closet is the ability to style a piece a few different ways. I’ve been sharing some of those items through my “shop your closet” series. When adding a new item to my closet, I first put together a couple different outfits wearing the item. If it’s more of a unique item, like a collared blouse or printed dress, I allow a little room to wear that item just one or two ways. However, if it’s a basic, like dark wash jeans, a pocket tee, or oversized cardigan, I want to ensure that I can get a lot of wear out of it by putting together a few different outfits in it.
Tip #4: Be strategic.
Just because you’re in a position to spend some money on clothes doesn’t mean you should just buy the first few things you like. In order to get the most bang for your buck, be strategic about what you shop for. Have you wanted a pair of premium denim? Do you feel like you’re lacking in date night clothes? Does your tee shirt collection need an upgrade? Whatever it may be, take a little inventory of your closet before you start browsing. That way, you can have a bit of direction when you do start shopping and you’ll be less likely to be tempted to spend your money on something you don’t necessarily need in your closet!