5 Tips to Shop Smarter, Whether You Love to Shop or Love to Hate It

Look at them having so much fun! Shopping is supposed to be fun, right? So why is it so exhausting, especially when you only end up with 3 mercy pieces for your efforts -- gotta come home with something to convince yourself you didn't waste an entire afternoon, right? Le grand sigh. 

Look at them having so much fun! Shopping is supposed to be fun, right? So why is it so exhausting, especially when you only end up with 3 mercy pieces for your efforts -- gotta come home with something to convince yourself you didn't waste an entire afternoon, right? Le grand sigh. 

Often, when women learn that I'm a stylist they naturally ask more about what I do. Sometimes they're just curious, other times they have a need for some efficiency and time back in their lives and/or are dying to finally know what looks good on them and why and they want to work with me. And other times, these conversations turn into mini confessionals.

{She looks one way, and then the other, to make sure we're not being heard}: "I, I don't really like shopping...". {Waits for me to judge her with what she assumes is my judgy-fashiony-approach to life.}

She expects me to look aghast, to say that this is sacrilege, and she's some sort of blight on the otherwise perfect record of all women everywhere who took an oath in the womb to solemnly love shopping. And makeup. And anything pink. 

And then instead, I tell her that that's ok. She doesn't have to like shopping. She can outsource it like just about everything else that we do when we realize we are not uniquely qualified to do it. It's like how I used to do my own taxes. Things were straightforward. Now that I have a business, you know who doesn't do their taxes anymore? This girl, right here. Not uniquely qualified to do it, and I have neither the time nor the inclination. So it goes with some of us and shopping.  

Whether you are the Artemis of shopping and love the hunt as much as the find, or you loathe it and wish that just-right clothing would magically appear in your closet, or are somewhere in between, we can all stand to learn how to do this thing a little better. 

Here are 5 tips for smarter shopping, all borrowed from my vault of stylist secrets. When you shop for a living, you learn some stuff.  

1. Have a Clear Goal in Mind

Whether it’s to get a new pair of pants, a complete look for a specific event, or something else, think about exactly where you’re going and who you’re seeing and how you’d like to feel in those items. This will help you stay focused and walk past the beachwear when you need a coat, etc. Many of us shop when we need “clothes” and that’s not specific enough. Anything you purchase should be relevant to your lifestyle and be appropriate to your age and goals in life.

Style Action Step: Bonus points if you can take stock of your wardrobe ahead of time. Lots of times we keep buying the same type of item over and over, creating a pattern of costly mistakes in both time and money. Instead of buying yet another pair of black pants or striped sweater, figure out what's not working with the ones you have, first.


2. Study Your Own Body

Fit comes first, in my book. When your clothes fit and flatter you properly according to your unique and defining physical attributes, weight distribution and bone structure, anything you put on that flatters your figure will make you look like a million bucks.

Style Action Step: Where do you carry your weight? What have you noticed looks good on you? Can’t be objective? Measure your bust, waist and hips. And if you really can't be objective (most of us struggle here), seek professional help. That's what a good image consultant and stylist is for. You're a smart cookie, use your resources. 

Evaluating clothing based on what truly fits and flatters a body shape is 90% of what helps me shop with crazy efficiency. Understanding body shapes and the clothing silhouettes that flatter them separates the wheat from the chaff immediately so I can focus on getting the style and quality key pieces I want for my clients.
#stylistselfie in the dressing room before my client arrives. I never get tired of hearing, All of this, is...for me?? Yep! 

#stylistselfie in the dressing room before my client arrives. I never get tired of hearing, All of this, is...for me?? Yep! 

Tips from the Style Vault: If your weight is distributed more to your top or bottom halves, look for clothing that will balance that half. E.g., Bootcut or slightly flared jeans to balance out wider hips/thighs or a larger bust, avoiding racerback tops on broad shoulders, etc. If you carry your weight in your middle, look for tops that define your upper body, bust, and ribcage, and then gently skim, not hug, the sides of your body. Ribbed, super fitted clothing is not your friend. Having the top be more fitted on top will help you define your shape and prevent it from looking like a muumuu even with the extra volume you need to keep your midsection comfy, and avoid the dreaded cling factor. 


3. Choose Your Shopping Partners Wisely

Sure, we all have friends who love us and want us to be happy, but some of them can’t be objective about what looks good on us and why. Further, some are unknowingly opposed to seeing us change our style and break out of a rut, because if you get all "fancy", and by fancy I mean you start putting clothes on that make you look and feel good, then what does that say about them and what they're doing with their lives? Better to keep us all in 12 layers of athletic wear, ill-fitting "work pants" and a little insecure about our shine, eh? No thank you, ma'am.

We also may have friends or family members who are saboteurs. Yep, I said it. You know what and who I'm talking about. They make faces or a wisecrack at our expense like we're sharing in the joke with every garment we put on. Sometimes, these friends, or mothers, sisters-in-law, BFs, whoever, aren't even aware of what they're doing. You think they'll be supportive so you bring them along. They may even have style that you admire, but style is so very personal. And even if you've got a super stylish friend who's totally in your corner (yay you! She rocks), most of us don't know WHY something works. She may be able to yay or nay, but knowing what looks good on different body shapes AND what styles will flatter you without making you into a clone of her own personal style may be out of her depth. Just saying.  

Style Action Step: When you first try a new garment on, take a good hard look in the mirror by yourself and tell your onlookers they have to be silent for 10 seconds while you look at the item first. You do the speaking first, and name one thing you think the item is doing well for you and something it’s not, if it’s not. This will help you start to more objectively rather than emotionally evaluate clothes, and your friends will follow suit. 


4. Be Ruthless in Your Decision-Making, But Kind to Yourself

Many of us get into a dressing room and fall into what I call the funhouse mirror trap: There’s usually a body part that we’re less than enthused about. We tend to see this body part or area of the body magnified at 150% compared to what everyone else sees. It’s like we’re looking in a funhouse body image mirror.

Style Action Step: Avoid the trap -- As soon as you look in the mirror, look at your own face. Smile. Seriously. You’ve got to prime yourself with a little self-love and care before evaluating the item. Next, evaluate the item, not yourself. Do you love it? Immediately? Does it bring you joy? Does it make you feel confidently like yourself, with a little more swag than when you walked in? Can you picture yourself wearing it and loving it?  If not, on to the next. Remember, what you put on your body is personal, and your style should be as well. Make sure your clothes are working for you, rather than the other way around.

Carry yourself with the confidence of Curious George. You got this. 

Carry yourself with the confidence of Curious George. You got this. 

5. Know Your Brands, Learn Keywords

If every time you step into a department store it feels like you're about to enter a really sad google keyword search for something like "pants", girlfriend, you're not doing this right. One of the benefits of being a stylist is that I get to see a lot of clothes on a lot of bodies, and I've honed all of that field research into a lasersharp working knowledge of what brands fit what type of bodies best. When someone needs jeans, do you think I'm bringing in armfuls in their size with a hope and a prayer to the denim fairy? Nope. I know the brands, cuts and price points that will have the highest likelihood of success. You can begin to master this, too.

Style Action Step: Evaluate brands by body part. Just because tops in one brand fit you well doesn't mean that their pants will. Start to notice how different brands cut and how they work for your body. Do you need a more generous cut in tops for your chest? Who does that well? Do you need a higher waisted pair of jeans because you've got a relative tiny waist to hip ratio? Ask salespeople at department stores, not chain brands, for help, even just for research purposes. Let's take jeans as an example. 

Finding the right person in the denim department who can tell you how 5 different brands and 3 different cuts fit is valuable. Look at the tags. Most brands know that customers are getting savvier, and they're listing info right there for you to read up. After you try some on, and see what's flattering on you, you'll know what to look for, such as mid-rise, straight leg, etc. These key terms are gold. Gold, I say! This is the lingo that will enable you to waltz into any store and get what you want. "Oh hey, I'm looking for a dark denim wash without whiskering, with a straight, not skinny leg, and at least an 8" rise." Try not walking out with jeans in 20 minutes.

Special Mention: Online Shopping

If you're anything like me, half the time you go to your internet browser and as soon as it opens you can barely remember what you're doing there... That said, employing the guidelines above can help you shop online more efficiently. A recap:

  1. Have a clear goal. The more specific the goal, the better your initial search will be.
  2. Evaluate items for fit. Look closely at the silhouette and shape of the garment. Sometimes pictures of the item that are not on the model are the most helpful here.
  3. Trust your gut. Friends' opinions can be helpful, but narrow down your choices and remain in control of what you want to convey with your style.
  4. Be nice to you. You're great. When you get the items home, get into a CEO of the Closet mindset. If it works, good job finding it! If it doesn't, fail fast, figure out what didn't work so you don't repeat the pattern, and move on. 
  5. Learn about different brands that are cut similarly. Once you identify what works and why on your body, these brands can be go-tos, not because you're in a rut or because you don't know what else to try, but because they help take the guesswork out of looking and feeling fabulous on your terms, on your time. 
  6. Bonus: Use the filters on ecommerce sites. Most sites will let you filter by specific criteria. The rise on a pair of jeans, designers, heel height, sleeve length, you name it. Use filters to narrow those 14 pages and 3,259 items down to something much more manageable.

Happy shopping, friends. Check in with the comments below and share your tips, trips and wins.

And if you found this helpful, please share the love! 


Images via, kandace34,, and