Whatever anyone may say, shopping is an art. Seeing potential in pieces on hangers or shelves is not a skill that has been gifted to everyone. However, as with every art, there are certain tricks that anyone can learn to become a better, more efficient shopper.
Let's see a few!
1. Make an effort with your hair and make up before hitting the shops. Similarly, whilst you will need to be dressed comfortably, make sure you also look chic. You will keep catching your reflection in the many mirrors [even if you don't get as far as the fitting rooms], and it is hard to like anything if all you keep thinking is how bad you look.
2. Avoid the crowds: they will only make you want to flee. If you work office hours, shop late in the evening or early at the weekend. If you can get over it 'being sad', Friday and Saturday evenings are a great time to shop [and if you do so in company and follow it up with dinner, it definitely isn't 'sad', it's a great girls' night out].
3. Don't do it all at once. If you are not an avid hater of shopping - and if you are reading this blog, chances are you aren't ;) -, it's best to shop in short but frequent doses. This way you will both have a good idea of what's available in the shops, and never feel like you need to cross all your wardrobe needs off your list in one go [hopeless even for pros] but can shop bit by bit.
4. Try things on. It goes without saying that you should never buy anything you have not tried on [ideally not even duplicates], unless you are shopping online of course and happy to take the risk. But also -- always try on a few things you may not be interested in buying but are a style, pattern or colour that you have never tried before. It's the best way of learning how different cuts and colours suit you and of making new discoveries - positive or negative, both are useful.
5. Be open minded about sizing. We are brainwashed into thinking smaller is better. It is not. Do not automatically buy a small size just because you fit into it. Larger sizes can look better, or just different - oversize tends to lend a more laidback, less try-hard air. Try it. [I am especially partial to oversize jumpers and tops but have also had success with jeans.]
6. Think about context. How will you wear the item? Do you have things it goes well with? Always check out how the shop styles items [on mannequins or online] or ask shop assistants for something to go with what you are trying on - it is super useful [they often give you ideas that you would never ever have thought about yourself]. You may also want to consider buying coordinating pieces to your core purchase - but only if you do not already have something very similar at home!
7. Be prepared for when the sales [or discount codes] come around. You will want to know exactly what you want, in which size and colour, so you don't need to try it anymore. So even if an item you love is out of your budget, if you know the label does sales, try it.
8. Be purposeful but open minded. I have to say, I don't believe in shopping lists: the best purchases always happen when we are not searching for that particular item. So keep an open mind, browse, and believe your instinct when it tells you to try something on.
However -- when I say instinct, I mean instinct. Not greed. Of course we want to avoid impulse buying unnecessary pieces and filling our wardrobes with stuff we don't really like that much. So:
Make sure you do have a general, wider shopping list in your head [or phone or notebook]. Be detailed not in what the item must be like, but what it must be for. Instead of 'black jeans' or 'white shirt', think 'shoes I can wear with skirts for a laidback look' or 'dresses to wear to the office in winter', etc. This way you are shopping for a need but keeping an open mind.
9. Return pieces you have second thoughts about at home. Most shops offer generous returns policies, there is no excuse for not using these and ending up with items you don't wear when you were already unsure about it when you first hung it up in your wardrobe. If you have not wanted to try the item at home, or worn it in a month, it is usually a no... And yes, returning things does require some effort - however, in return, it also offers a great sense of relief.
10. Avoid the sales unless you know exactly what you want or are fully prepared to return things quickly [and doublecheck the return policy for sale items]. Undiscerning sales shopping is a recipe for disaster.
It is rather fortunate, in fact, that sales periods are a great time for doing other things! December is meant to be spent with loved ones and not shopping for yourself; neither is January the month to make unplanned purchases; and the summer is also best enjoyed outdoors and not in shops!