Avoiding Common Shopping Pitfalls

There are some very common attitudes about shopping that can really mess you up. Whether that means having a closet full of clothes you’ll never wear or an empty dresser because you refuse to buy, you’re likely to end up uncomfortable with your results. So I’m going to break down a couple of the most common ones for you, to save you some heartache, or at least annoyance, later.

1. I’m not going to buy it, because I’m hoping I’ll lose weight/gain weight/bulk up/whatever and need a different size. My mother is the queen of this one, and its corollary, It doesn’t fit now, but it will someday! If you wait for your body to be perfect, you’ll never get there. You know why? Because perfect is subjective, and perfect bodies don’t exist. I’ve been at every size from a 4 to a 20, and there has never been a time when I couldn’t point to some part of my body and go, “I hate that.”  But here’s the thing. The body you have right now is the body you need to dress. You deserve to wear nice things now. If you don’t buy the right size for the body you have now, you’ll end up putting undue pressure on yourself to change your body to fit the clothes, and that’s not how it’s supposed to work. The clothes are supposed to fit your body, not the other way around. Besides, let’s say you  buy an accurate size now, and your size or shape does end up changing. There’s always the consignment shops–you’ll be able to take the stuff you’re buying now, that doesn’t fit at that point, and sell it. Some of them will even pay you when you take it in instead of waiting until after it sells. You’re not stuck with these clothes if they don’t fit later.  It’s OK to occupy and dress and care for the body you have now. Taking care of yourself as you are is not a waste. Ever.

2. I’m not crazy about it, but it was on sale. If it’s an item you don’t actually like or want, buying it is a waste whether it’s two dollars or two thousand. It is so much better to have two or three things you really like than to have a dozen that you just tolerate because you got a deal on them. And there are places to get inexpensive clothes that actually look good. I’m partial to Cato, a locally-based chain that has a wide variety of sizes (2-26W) at really reasonable prices. They mark down their old stock pretty regularly (Thursdays, if I’m remembering correctly), and I’ve bought shoes that were reduced as low as $6, but even their regular prices are very reasonable. Just skip their bras–cheap, but totally not worth it.

3. Oh, I don’t need to try it on. I know what size I am. Look, clothes are made in factories all over the world by companies with very different sizing and quality standards. Your presumed/usual size is nothing more than a jumping off point. Sizes aren’t universal, even in something that looks standardized, like bra cups or inseam lengths. I’ve got clothes in three different sizes in my closet right now, and they all fit.

4. I don’t know, I don’t like it, but I feel bad returning it. Unless you’ve actually worn it (trying it on when you get home doesn’t count), or it’s in less-than-new condition, there is no shame in returning an item. In fact, stores like Kohl’s and online retailers like Zappos actually take pride in how accommodating their return policies are. Businesses assume that returns are going to happen. It’s the nature of the industry. Sometimes, whether you tried it on in the store or not, an item just won’t look right when you get it home. Maybe it was an impulse buy, or you bought it for an occasion that’s been canceled, or the color that looked OK under the fluorescent lights in the store just doesn’t work under regular lighting. Either way, as long as you figure it out in a time frame that’s within the store’s policies, there’s nothing wrong with taking it back.

5. I’m fine shopping in these shoes/without my (cane/crutches/wheelchair/scooter). It’s not like we’re going to do that much walking. You’ll probably end up walking more than you expect. Take care of your body first, especially if there are limitations to what you can do. To put it into perspective for local readers, one lap around Concord Mills is a mile. That’s a lot of walking. Don’t injure yourself.


There are more, but these are ones that I see causing people a lot of frustration. I hear a lot of people saying, “I hate to shop,” and in a lot of cases, much of the unpleasantness of the experience can be avoided. I promise that it can be fun, once you get a feel for it.


2 thoughts on “Avoiding Common Shopping Pitfalls

  1. I actually do usually (not currently – my weight and shape are in flux right now) do nr 3 – at specific stores and for specific items. I buy a LOT of Esprit, and had reached the point where I could run in, grab jeans in 32/32, and know they’d fit. It IS as specific as “jeans at Esprit” though – other pants at the same store might fit differently because of the different properties of the fabric, and jeans at another store are a whole different story.

    • I’m not talking about “I have a style and size that I know works for me, so I keep buying it.” I do that at Old Navy with the Sweetheart boot cut jeans. I know what size I need in *those* jeans. The risk comes in when people just grab stuff off the rack without having ever tried it on, and assume it’ll fit. Then they get home, discover that it doesn’t fit, and are frustrated. There’s nothing wrong with buying an item over and over because you know it works.

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