Sunday, August 23, 2009

Shop Smart.

For twenty-three glorious years as a shopaholic I have operated under the idea that when it comes to the art of shopping, practice makes perfect. And practice I have dear readers. Faithfully and with an intensity that keeps shopping with me from being a sport for the faint of heart.

Since graduating college and moving into the realm of young professionalism though, I have changed my shopping attitude a bit. In middle school and most of high school I was in the quantity field. Always wanting more, more, more. If I could go a month without wearing the same thing twice I was happy.

In college I started to refine my style. No more graphic tees for this girl, it was time to start building the wardrobe of success. The one I could take with me. And so I began. Slowly but surely I started to dress more seriously, more professionally. I found this promoted my professors as well as my coworkers and fellow students taking me seriously. An idea I rather liked. I began to shift my focus from quantity to quality!

There's a piece in the September InStyle with 75 tips for shopping smarter. Some of these I've come to live by and it has dramatically increased the quality of the wardrobe as well as reduced the amount of time, energy, and money (overall) that I spend maintaining it.

Here's a few highlights for all you shopaholics out there, trying to refine, simplify, and streamline your own collections.

- Know what you have.

A great way I've found to keep up with what I have (so as to better know my needs and even my wants) is to go through my closet(s) once per month and reevaluate. I have yet to do this without finding at least a handful of clothes and accessories I'm ready to retire. I keep a laundry basket handy where I place these things to be taken either to the consignment shop I use, or to Goodwill. This dramatically reduces my hanger crisis as it keeps me from wasting space on items I haven't worn in months.

-Keep a running list.

One stylist who contributed to the article says they keep a list per season of their needs. That way when they're shopping they can stay focused. This would be helpful for me as I tend to be easily sidetracked by fun colors, new trends, or a great pair of shoes. Now that I've been able to build a sizable wardrobe I really only need a few items per season to keep it fresh.

- Shop before noon.

They suggest that you shop early while the sales people are fresh and available. Before they get overwhelmed, annoyed, or just distracted. After working in retail with Coach for a while I would say this is a great tip! It's easy as the day goes on to get too busy to take the same amount of time with a customer at 1:00 in the afternoon as you can with someone who comes in at 10:15 and asks you to help them pick the perfect career bag.

Another section of the article lists what is splurge-worthy and what you should save money by skimping on. I was in nearly complete agreement with these lists but to highlight a few for you...

Splurge worthy are: a great handbag. The right designer handbag should be a staple in every 20-something's wardrobe. It can make an outfit. It can inspire confidence. I think back to when Lauren 'LC' Conrad from the Hills got her first designer handbag. It was a black Chanel tote bag. Gifted to her by her then-boyfriend (Jason), she's carried it for years. Simple, classic, but stylish.

Great designer bags can be carried for extended periods of time. Now, this is not me giving you license to carry the same dag-gone-bag everyday for 5 years. Chanel or not, please don't. Black doesn't go with everything. Change it up. BUT you could have one really nice designer go-to bag, and spend less on the others.

Also spurge-worthy are shoes. Don't pick cheap shoes, it shows. That doesn't mean spend a fortune on every pair. A $5 pair of flip flops is great for a day at the pool. But spend a bit more on your shoes for interviews, banquets, and dates. I've never worked in shoe sales myself but I can spot a 20 dollar pair of pumps from across the room. Cheap footwear takes a toll on your first impression and on your feet. Have you ever tried to walk a great distance on cheap stilettos? No thanks.

Staples - also worth a splurge. If you can match it with anything and wear it forever, spend the cash. The example used in the magazine is a Burberry trench. Classic. Timeless. Effortlessly fashionable. I would love to have one myself, though in Florida that doesn't seem the most practical choice of a designer staple. You get the idea.

So where can you skimp and still be 'InStyle'? Tees. You can find great tees for reasonable. A few retailers that were recommended in the article: Topshop, Uniqlo, and Zara. Funny they should mention Zara since Candy turned me on to them when she hit International Plaza (here in Tampa) while visiting me. She ranted and raved about how cute their clothes were and I hit it up myself a month or so later. I just bought a darling grey tee there this weekend! Better than the look and price - the feel! It's the softest tee I've ever felt. I'!

Save on trendy pieces! If it's going to be tossed at the end of the season, it's not worth premium dollar. InStyle said it, I agree!

Baggy items also made the save list. Tailor items may be worth a little extra but if you're going baggy (which is so in right now) then save. Not worth the big bucks.

I think the key is learning to pair the right pieces. The article mentions that you can wear a $10 tank top and your oldest pair of jeans with a killer pair of shoes and it changes the whole outfit dynamic. I feel the same way about that splurge-worthy designer handbag, you can pair it with a cute sweatsuit and make the outfit (think Victoria Beckham). In my book, the accessories often times make the outfit.

Well there's my shopping 411 for the weekend. I did my research so I thought I would share it with you. That's my final tip in fact, do your own research! You can get great deals on your dream items if you do enough research. I've gotten some of my favorite handbags that way.

Best of luck.



Shop Girl* said...

Amen, sista!

This was such a great post! And I whole-heartedly agree with the "know what you have" bit--most people cycle through their favourite outfits more regularly anyway!

You should be a stylist / personal shopper. You've got it down to a science!

Ebony Jewel said...

I'm bad at the know what you have aspect! So bad that I took pictures of my clothes & took them to Charming Charlie's to match the accessories I wanted with the clothes I had already purchased! I agree 100% with the handbag! I have 2 Louis Vuitton purses a speedy & a neverfull. YES, they were extremely expensive, but they are timeless classics that will go with every outfit in my closet.

I have not seen a Zara since I was in the UK, so it's great that you recommended Zara. I need to check out their website!

Helen said...

Thanks for the tips! I know what you mean about knowing what you have, I cleaned out my cupboad the other day and found a ton of stuff I'd forgotten about (now all my friends think I got new clothes...). Wish we had a Zara here, but we have Jayjays and they're awesome!