Shopping 101: How not to be *that* customer

Yes, you’re right, it’s the salespeople’s job to make your shopping experience pleasant. But let’s be real here. They’re not miracle workers, and you have a large role to play both in your shopping experience and in that salesperson’s whole day. So here are some things you can do to make the whole thing more enjoyable for everyone.

1. Wait your turn. If there’s only one salesperson, and they’re busy with another customer, don’t yell at them from across the store. Don’t “Hel-lo, I’m ready to check out,” when you can see they’re unable to get to you right that moment.

2. Pick up after yourself. You wouldn’t leave clothes strewn all over the place in someone else’s home. Don’t do it in someone else’s workplace.

3. If you can’t get something back on the hanger the way it came off, it’s a lot better to hand it to someone who works there and say, “I couldn’t get this back the way it goes, can you help?” than to A. just leave it dumped somewhere or B. knowingly hang it up wrong and stick it back on the rack like you didn’t even notice.

4. No, just because it doesn’t scan doesn’t mean it’s free, and no, that’s not an original joke. Everyone who’s ever worked a single day in retail is sick to death of that joke. That, and “I just made that one” when they go to check a large bill. Obnoxious is not the same as clever.

5. Your salesperson may not actually be the school-dropout failure at life that you assume. You would be surprised to learn how many retail workers either hold degrees or are working on one. It’s a hard economy out there, and people who can’t find better jobs are taking the jobs they can get in the meantime. So no, when your kid asks “why is she ringing up my clothes,” the correct response is not “because she can’t find a real job.”

6. If you don’t want to be measured, that’s fine, but if you ask to be measured, and the number isn’t outlandish (say, within a couple of inches of your normal size), try it on. I promise you that any decent salesperson can tell you how their clothing sizes run. Sizing isn’t universal.

7. Yes, salespeople in many stores are required to ask for your email and/or phone number. You have the option of declining (unless you’re making a return, in which case, suck it up); if you’re going to exercise that right, please do so politely. Understand that if a salesperson asks you for personal info, it is not because they want to.

You’re going to get a lot better service if you’re not making your salesperson’s life miserable. Plus, you won’t look like a jerk in public, which is always a plus.

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Men’s Department Wardrobe 101: Suiting Up

The day job is at a men’s clothing store, and I’ve been seeing a lot of guys come in who don’t know what size suit they wear. With a good-quality suit being such a vital part of a complete wardrobe, that’s not good, y’all. So I’m going to talk a little bit about how to get a good suit.

OK, first of all, you’re not going to be able to measure yourself for a suit. Unless you’ve got more arms than Shiva, you can’t hold the position in which you need to be measured while holding a tape. (And if you do, a suit won’t fit you anyway.) So let’s just take it as given that if you’re the one holding the tape, you’re not the one being fitted. That said, let’s talk about how suits are fitted.

Generally speaking, it’s best to measure for a shirt and a jacket at the same time. Waist-wise, dress pants are going to run the same as any other pants, but bear in mind that inseam lengths vary slightly from one brand to another, even though pretty much all men’s clothing brands claim to be sized by actual measurement. For example, my employer’s suit and dress pants run slightly longer than their casual and work-to-weekend pants. So your usual size is a starting point, but don’t be surprised if you have to tweak it slightly.

First thing you need is your neck measurement. So you know that friend I said you’d need to hold the measuring tape? Have them measure around the base of your neck, where the collar is going to hit, and leave just enough slack for a collar you can breathe in. That’s your neck size. Once you’ve got that measurement, have them hold the start of the tape at your spine, right at that ridge where your neck joins your back (that’s your T1 vertebra, but that part’s not important–what’s important is that it’s the midpoint of the line across your torso) and hold your arm straight as they measure down to maybe half an inch or so past your wrist joint, so that you’ll have just a teeny bit of shirt cuff coming out of your jacket sleeve. Your neck measurement and your arm span measurement (being a chubby girl, I measure out at 17″ and 32-33″ in the shoulder/arm measurement, depending on how much cuff I want) are the two numbers on a dress shirt size.

Once you’ve got that, you’ll want to get your jacket measurement. First thing with that is to get a good measurement straight across the chest, right under the arms. You’ll hold out your arms to your sides so your tape-person can get the tape around you, then drop your arms to get a measurement with the posture in which you’ll typically wear it. Now, where I work, my manager told me that was all there was to measuring for the jacket, but to get a perfect fit, you’ll need a little more information than that. You’ll also need a measurement around the widest part of your shoulders, with your arms down, and your waist measurement. If your around-the-shoulders measurement is more than 7″ bigger than your chest, it’s probably a good idea to pull a suit jacket one size bigger than your chest measurement would indicate, and try both on. A perfect fit in the jacket is probably going to require tailoring; that’s where the waist measurement comes in. Also, if your suit comes all together rather than as separates, that measurement is going to give you an idea of what fits you. Typically, classic-fit suits are going to have a 6″ or so difference between chest measurement and waist size, while a slim fit is going to have a slightly bigger difference. Aside from the chest measurement, a suit jacket will also be marked as short, regular, or long; basically, if you’re shorter than 5’7″, you need a short, and if you’re taller than 5’11”, you need a long. Otherwise, you’re a regular. Your collar should fall very close to your shirt collar and come about halfway up the side of your suit collar.

The most important part to get right in the fit of a suit jacket is the shoulders. The seams should be in the right place, and you should be able to move comfortably, though not necessarily engage in any athletic feats, while wearing it. You shouldn’t get any kind of indentation where the shoulder seam came out past the edge of your arm and then your sleeve had to come in to compensate for that; the shoulder should hit *at* the edge of your shoulder, not over the line. Get your shoulders right, and the rest can be fixed. Minor alterations to a suit aren’t such a big deal when you take into consideration how long a good suit will last you, and you can’t alter the shoulder to fit after the fact, so fit the shoulders and then worry about the rest.

You want your suit to be made of cotton, linen, or wool, never polyester. Polyester doesn’t breathe, and you’ll be uncomfortable in it. It also wrinkles like the very devil, and you’ll never look polished in it. Linen will have a cool, slightly-crumpled-on-purpose look, great for hot climates. Cotton is another good and breathable fabric for hot climates. The most common and most versatile will be wool, which in lighter weights (“tropical” weights–if there’s a number associated with the weight of the wool, go for a high number, such as 100-120) will even be suitable for summer.

 Your suit jacket is constructed in three layers: the inside lining, the canvas (middle layer), and the outer fabric. The most important one of these for how your suit is going to hold up is the one you’re never going to see, because the canvas is what gives your suit its shape. In a cheap suit, the canvas is going to be fused to the outer fabric, and it’s going to give some shape and stiffness, but it’s not going to be perfect. Ideally, you want a jacket made with a full canvas, meaning that the canvas is a separate layer of fabric, floating free on the inside of the construction. That’s going to give the jacket a more precise shaping and make it hold up better.,

I’d strongly recommend that you get the best-constructed suit you can. It’s something you’re going to need and be able to use for years to come, so I’d really encourage you to treat it as an investment. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the most expensive one you can get, as long as it’s well-made. And unless you’re wearing something double-breasted (which is rare), only button the top button!

For Ethan: Reasonably priced colognes that don’t smell cheap

I had a question from my friend Ethan in Virginia. “Do you have any suggestions on less expensive colognes that won’t make me smell like garbage? Not that I intend to go cheap, but I’m seeing some pretty steep prices.” And you know what? The guy’s got a point. Fragrances are expensive, and not everyone can go as high-end as they’d like. I know I’ve got a lot of samples in my collection that I can’t dream of owning in a full bottle. Sometimes, you just can’t spend what you’d like to on fragrance. That doesn’t mean there’s not good stuff out there. Here’s a list of fragrances readily available at the mall for under $75 that don’t smell like a locker room.

Euphoria Men by Calvin Klein

Euphoria Men by Calvin Klein ($46.99, Perfumania) is a fresh, spicy scent with a hint of sweetness. It starts off with Sichuan peppercorn and ginger, mellowing into an herbal-woody heart of black basil, sage, and cedar, before drying down to a rich base of amber, patchouli, suede, and redwood. This is a very confident scent that hangs fairly close to the skin, not needing to announce itself to the whole room, but it makes for a fantastic-smelling hug.

lhomme

The entire Yves Saint Laurent L’Homme line is good, but the original L’Homme ($25 for the mini, bottles starting at $52, Sephora) is a true classic. Ginger, spices, and bergamot dominate, giving it a clean freshness that smells elegant without being sporty. La Nuit de L’Homme and L’Homme Libre are also very good choices, but try out the original first.

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I wouldn’t bother with Victoria’s Secret’s original Very Sexy For Him. It’s overplayed and a little bit banal, much like many of their women’s scents. It’s as if it were trying to be Armani Code and missed, and unless your skin chemistry does something spectacular with it, it’s going to read as pretty boring. Wear it if you must, but never on a date.

The other two, Very Sexy For Him 2 and Very Sexy For Him Platinum (above; $42, Victoria’s Secret) are a lot more interesting. I particularly like the way the violet leaf and pepper play off the oakmoss in Platinum. The violet leaf makes it green, the oakmoss makes it deep, and the pepper keeps it all from going too heavy.

baux

L’Occitane is bad about discontinuing their best stuff (I’m still mourning their Notre Flore collection!), but their Eau des Baux ($55, L’Occitane En Provence) is a very good choice. It starts off spicy, with cardamom and pink pepper, before drying down to cypress, incense, vanilla, and tonka bean.

brit

Burberry Brit for Men (starts at $60 at Sephora, but check TJMaxx/Marshall’s/Ross type places first, because I often see Burberry fragrances there at a significant discount) is a very sophisticated, quietly masculine, confident scent that reminds me of what a modern Sherlock Holmes might wear. The spices in it are very fresh, giving a manly vibe to the prominent rose note.

A few honorable mentions:

  • Calvin Klein Eternity Aqua, $56, Ulta. Very typical “blue cologne,” so you kind of know what it’s going to smell like before you spray it, but it’s a good example of its class, very well blended for the price.
  • Thierry Mugler Cologne, $60, Macy’s. Very typical citrus aromatic, very unisex, but smells very fresh and clean. Be careful of Mugler’s scents, though, in that you HAVE to try them on skin before buying. I have a couple of fragrances by Thierry Mugler, and they either do really well or really badly, depending on the wearer’s skin chemistry. There isn’t much in between.
  • L’Occitane Cedre & Oranger, $75, L’Occitane En Provence. This one would have topped my list if it were $20 less, but at the very top of the price range, it’s a little high for what it is, another citrus-and-cedar blend over a vetiver and musk base. At a $50-55 dollar range, I’d rank it as excellent, but at $75, it’s merely good.
  • Abercrombie and Fitch Fierce, $44, abercrombie.com. I have to mention this one because of its popularity, but I was around when it was new, and it just smells like eau de sleazeball to me. If you buy into the whole Abercrombie and Fitch aesthetic, it might be one you’d like, but I just can’t get behind it. It’s not poor quality, but the image the scent evokes for me is of creepy guys who are too impressed with their own six-packs and bad pickup lines to respect “go away,” so I’m really not a fan. If you’ve ever seen Lizzie Bennet Diaries on Youtube, think George Wickham.
  • Dior Fahrenheit, $50.99, Perfumania. This is a well-known leather scent that’s been around a while. If it works well on you, it’s very sexy, but if it doesn’t go well with your skin chemistry, it’s going to smell like you’ve been out doing yard work, all sweat and gasoline and fresh grass. Don’t buy this one without trying it on your skin first.

There are some good options out there that don’t involve triple-digit prices. For the most part, you get what you pay for in fragrances, but there are some very good mid-priced scents out there. And don’t underestimate places like Perfumania,  Ross, TJMaxx, Marshall’s, etc. You can get the real deal without paying a fortune, if you’re smart about it.

Fragrances to Try This Summer From The Women’s Counter

Yesterday I wrote about fragrances marketed to men that work for summer. With the recent popularity of sweet gourmands that can smell too cloying in the heat, I think it’s worth discussing some options from the women’s counter that can hold up to our intense Southern summers. And as a reminder, just because something’s marketed for one gender or another doesn’t mean it’s not for you! Marketing is just marketing. Wear what you like!

escapetopanarea

The summer limited editions of Dolce & Gabanna’s iconic Light Blue, both this year’s Escape to Panarea ($75, Belk) and last year’s Dreaming in Portofino, which I picked up recently at TJMaxx at Concord Mills, have a lot more character than the original. Where the original is all about the lemon and cedar, Escape to Panarea is richer, a pear-bergamot-white floral composition on top of a rich base of tonka bean (which smells kind of like a more resinous version of vanilla), ambergris accords, and white musk. It’s not the kind of super-light citrus thing that only works in summer, but it’s airy enough to be pleasant in the heat, while still having enough lasting power not to melt right off the skin.

pure grace

Philosophy Pure Grace ($16-46, Sephora) is one of the cleanest scents I have. It’s a beautiful soapy floral with a bit of an herbal character from the lavender in it. I know they say not to wear perfume to job interviews, but I feel so naked without that I’ll wear some Pure Grace instead. Nothing says “This heat doesn’t faze me a bit!” like smelling like you just stepped out of the shower.

iris ukiyoe

OK, so this one’s probably out of most people’s price range. I know it’s out of mine at the moment! I wouldn’t have ended up trying it at all if the people at Hermès hadn’t sent me a sample. But if you’ve got the money to spend on it, Hermes Hermessence Iris Ukiyoé (don’t worry, I can’t pronounce that last word either! $245, Hermès, at SouthPark or online) is a fantastic floral, with a citrus opening and enough iris in it to make it just a little powdery but not in the baby-powder way that Prada Infusion d’Iris is. This is understated enough that it’s perfect to wear to the office or to church, but it gives off a lovely classic vibe. I know it sounds weird to put it this way, but this scent really smells as expensive as it is. The downside of light and airy, though, is that while I get about 4-6 hours out of it, some people have noted that they can’t smell it on themselves after a couple of hours. So if fragrances don’t tend to last on you, try spraying this one on your clothes instead of on your skin.

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Alberto Morillas is one of my very favorite perfumers. He’s the one who did CK One, Estee Lauder Pleasures, Lancome Miracle, etc. This one, L’eau d’Issey Florale by Issey Miyake ($74-98, Nordstrom), is one of his that I wear all the time. It’s got a little bit of mandarin orange in the opening and a little bit of something woody in the base (the official description just says “wood notes”), but more than anything, this is all about the rose and lily. In typical Issey Miyake fashion, it’s simple, elegant, and very pretty.

nirvanawhite

I am, quite possibly, the world’s biggest snob when it comes to celebrity fragrances. After having been burned by too many generic fruity florals that bored me half to death, I typically don’t even bother, so when I found out that Elizabeth and James was an Olsen twins line, I wasn’t all that interested. Then the mini rollerballs were on the Sephora Beauty Insider freebie thing. Nirvana White ($22-75, exclusively at Sephora) is soft, elegant, and unapologetically floral. It’s got some musk and some lily of the valley in it, but it’s dominated by a very realistic peony note. (Seriously, it smells JUST like the peonies my grandma grows.)

mon jasmin noir

For me, Bvlgari Mon Jasmin Noir ($85-107 at Macy’s if you want to buy from a department store, but you may be able to find the smaller 25ml/0.84 ounce “charm” bottle like I have in a $30 range if you shop around)  is the perfect evening fragrance for warm weather. Supposedly there are top notes of lemon and lily of the valley, but they don’t even register on my skin. The biggest note I get is jasmine, but not a fresh-from-the-bush garden jasmine. It’s a very concentrated form that is heavy on a molecule called indole, which is what gives some white florals (jasmine, gardenia, tuberose, etc) that sort of dirty character. It also has some nougat, musk, and patchouli, making it a very sexy scent on me.

Now, as I did with the ones marketed to men, I feel like I should probably touch on what doesn’t tend to work well for the summer. So here are a few you should probably let go until things cool off a bit.

  • Thierry Mugler Angel. Now, I’m not a fan of Angel on the best of days, but when it’s 90-plus degrees outside the way it’s been most of this week, anything with such a prominent patchouli note in it is probably going to smell like BO.
  • Any of the old-school “signature” fragrances, like Chanel No. 5 and all its various versions, Shalimar (except the eau de cologne and Eau de Shalimar, because they’re citrusy enough to work), Mitsouko, L’Heure Bleue, etc. These take a lot of presence to  pull off anyway, to wear the scent instead of having it wear you, but if you wear them in this weather, you’re going to smell like that little old lady no one wants to sit with in church because her sense of smell is nearly gone and she wears enough perfume that you can smell her from the parking lot.
  • Dior Addict. Now, some of the Addict flankers are quite nice for hot weather (I have Addict to Life, which was later rebranded as Addict Eau Sensuelle, and Addict Eau Fraiche, and I wear both in summer), but the original resinous vanilla thing has too much projection and is too heavy.
  • Bath and Body Works Cashmere Glow and other warm, snuggly vanillas. If it gives you the same feeling as curling up under a warm blanket, it’s probably best left for blanket weather.
  • Most of the Lolita Lempicka line, especially the original, now branded as Le Premier Parfum, and L de Lolita. (Elle L’Aime is a notable exception, as a bright, citrusy neroli thing.) Most of the fragrances in the line are pretty heavy on the licorice and/or spice notes, and those really do best when they’re closer to the skin. In hot weather, on me, Le Premier Parfum has a sticky plastic vibe that just seems out of place.

Don’t be afraid to switch up your scent for summer! The days of having to have one signature fragrance and never trying any other are over. Remember, if you’re not having fun with it, there’s no point.

Fragrances to Try From The Men’s Counter This Summer (And Which to Pack Away)

Those of us here in Charlotte are definitely feeling the heat lately, and the scents we wore over the winter are just too much for the 90-plus degree weather we’ve been having. I know I’ve packed my heavy hitters away until fall comes around. If you’re a fan of fragrances marketed to men, you’re having even more trouble, because those tend to project even more. So what do you wear when it feels like your shoes are about to melt to the pavement, and you feel like you’re sticking your head in a furnace when you get in your car to go for lunch? Here are a few good choices for summer wear that won’t make you feel like you’re suffocating.

Prada Luna Rossa

Prada Luna Rossa (starting at $62, Sephora) is a fantastic citrus herbal for daytime. It’s fresh, and yes, it’s somewhat sport-inspired, but it has enough going on with the lavender, mint, and sage that it’s not going to smell like random drunk frat boy, and the ambrette seed and ambroxan give it a rich, fresh-spicy drydown. Like many Prada scents, it’s got a little bit of a soapy character, which means people are going to be thinking that you smell clean, rather than that you bathed in cologne.

(Bit of a quibble: originally, cologne referred to several very specific light, citrus-based scents, such as Maurer & Wirtz 4711 Eau de Cologne, released in 1792, and Guerlain Eau de Cologne Imperiale, released in 1860, both of which are still on the market. Then it came to mean a concentration of fragrance, roughly equivalent to an eau de toilette, but as the 20th century wore on and people got more and more used to gender-specific marketing, it became common to refer to “perfume” as for women and “cologne” as for men. Even though they’re commonly referred to as colognes, men’s fragrances generally come in eau de toilette–that’s roughly “water that goes with the outfit,” not “toilet water”!–or eau de parfum, just like the ones marketed to women.)

greyvetiver

Tom Ford Grey Vetiver (starting at $90, Nordstrom) has a little bit of a sharp coldness from the combination of vetiver and citrus, but there’s a woody style to it that keeps it firmly grounded in “classic” without crossing into “smelling like grandpa” territory. This is one that’s in that perfect spot between “casual weekend scent” and “too formal for the office,” making it a great scent to wear to work.

Cartier Declaration d'Un Soir

Declaration d’Un Soir by Cartier ($80-108, Neiman Marcus) is my very favorite fragrance from the men’s counter for my own wear. The pepper note is what really makes it, keeping the rose from being too feminine and the sandalwood from being too heavy for hot weather. It may well be the perfect fragrance: genderless, seasonless, and appropriate for any occasion, but responsive enough to one’s own skin chemistry to make it one’s own. My friend J and I both wear it on occasion, and while I get mostly wood and pepper, the rose note that fades into the background on me stands out beautifully on him.

parismen

Bath and Body Works’ Paris For Men ($29.50 regularly; 50% off right now for their semi-annual sale) is going to be by far the least expensive on this list, but not because it’s poor quality. It’s got a sort of marine quality that gives it some freshness, but the violet and lavender notes in it soften the scent up, keeping it from going into “generic blue-bottle cologne” territory. Do me a favor, though, and wait about 15 minutes to let the top notes settle out before passing judgment on it, because it opens a little bit fruity, but it settles out almost immediately. This is one that has fantastic lasting power but doesn’t fill up a room, which is much appreciated in hot weather.

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Versace Eros ($62-108, Macy’s) is a great one for summer evenings. It has enough of a green, herbal character that it’s not going to be stifling, but the vanilla makes it a great one to cuddle up with. It’s a fantastic date night scent.

lhommelibre

L’Homme Libre by Yves Saint Laurent ($52-85, Sephora) is a fresh-spicy scent, slightly green from the addition of violet leaf, with an earthy vetiver-patchouli base. This is one that I can see being worn year round, but it really comes into its own in the summer, as a break from all the various citruses.

Now, on the other hand, there are also some scents I’d recommend putting away until the weather cools off a bit. Not that they aren’t fantastic, but they just don’t work in the heat. Here’s a list of a few you might want to hold off on until the seasons change:

  • Armani Code. To me, it’s the sexiest men’s fragrance ever made, and even though I’ve always laughed at the old bit about “panty dropper” fragrances (seriously, what kind of douchebag says that?), if I’m already into a guy and Code sits well on his skin, I can’t get enough. However, the leather and tobacco notes in it make it really hard to pull off in the summer. Wear a spray or two when you go out at night if you must, but it really comes alive in the fall.
  • Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb. Too sweet/warm spicy, and it projects so much that in this heat, people will choke. Just don’t.
  • Paco Rabanne 1 Million. Or, hey, how about instead of packing this one up until the fall, you just give it away and don’t wear it anymore? This one is played out, and I’m almost as sick of it as I am of Le Male.
  • Bond No. 9 New Haarlem or its cheaper smell-alikes, Rochas Man and Michael Jordan Legend. There’s nothing wrong with a rich coffee-vanilla scent, and in cooler weather, there’s nothing quite like it. Very sexy, very unique. However, it’s too heavy in hot weather, and it feels sticky and stifling.

I hope this gives you some ideas of new scents to experiment with this summer. It’s OK to have fun with your scent, regardless of your gender, and it really is best to change it up from time to time, especially when the weather changes.

Fashion choices not to inflict on your child

When kids are small, there’s not much you can do to make them not-cute. That said, there are some outfits you just shouldn’t put on a child too young to tell you, “I’m not wearing that.” Here are a few things to avoid.

  • Baby bikinis. Tankinis on a child still in diapers are good, because they provide enough skin coverage to help avoid burning a baby’s delicate skin while still having the bottom in a separate piece to allow for easy diaper changes, but a string bikini like this one just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t provide enough coverage to avoid sunburn; the only purposes of the top are to mimic adult bra-top styles and to enforce senseless rules about how even as tiny babies, girls are required to cover themselves up in ways boys aren’t required to.
  • High heels. A child’s foot is small, and as I’ve mentioned before, it isn’t the height of a heel that’s damaging but the angle of the wearer’s foot in the shoe. A 2-inch heel may be nothing to an adult, but to a child whose foot is half the size, it’s like wearing a heel twice as tall. Your little one will have plenty of time to choose high heels later in life. Meanwhile, have some regard for the fact that her feet are still growing and that any damage to them now will stick with her the rest of her life, and put her in shoes that won’t wreck her growing feet.
  • Shirts with crude sayings on them. You might think it’s funny now to put your kid in a onesie that says “All Daddy wanted was a blow job,” but chances are, there’s going to be a picture of your kid in that shirt, and once your kid is old enough to know about sex, he’s not going to want to think of it as something his parents do. Picture for a moment your parents having sex. Grossed out? Your kid will be too.
  • Anything dry-clean-only. Children play, make messes, spill things, and generally wreck their clothes. All you’re going to do by putting a small child in clothes that you have to worry about getting ruined is to put undue stress on both you and your child. Go for washable.
  • Anything with words printed across the butt. This should go without saying, because what’s tacky for you to wear is tacky to put on your child, but I see it all the time. It’s never a good fashion choice, and even less when you’re inflicting it on someone too young to know better.
  • Plastic shoes. I know they’re easy to care for, but they also don’t breathe. They can cause blistering, and they don’t allow air flow around the feet, which means the child’s feet will sweat and stink. Don’t think the other kids won’t notice and get mean about it.
  • Anything that completely clashes with your child’s personality. If your child is a tree-climbing tomboy who wants to spend her time playing in the dirt and riding her bicycle, she may not be a big fan of pink ruffly dresses that get in the way as she’s trying to play. Likewise, if she prefers to play tea-party with her teddy bears and braid her dolls’ hair, don’t assume camouflage cargo pants will be a good look for her.

Children are people, and while parents are responsible for making decisions on their children’s behalf, a child is not just an extension of the parents. Regardless of what you may think is cute or funny, it’s important to choose clothes that won’t cause injury to the child, stress to the child and yourself, or embarrassment for the child, either now or later. Think about the person you’re dressing, not just about yourself. Your kids will thank you later.

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.