‘Do you enjoy shopping for clothes?’ This seemingly straightforward question, which appears on the pre-consultation questionnaire that I send to my clients, rarely elicits a straightforward answer, as while it seems that the idea of owning a fabulous wardrobe appeals to many of us, the process of getting there has far fewer fans. I’ve lost count of the number of times clients, as well as friends, have recounted to me in despair the amount of hours they have spent trawling the shops in search of something to wear, only to leave empty handed, exhausted and frustrated. And while there can be numerous reasons for this, the one that I come across most often is the sheer number and variety of clothes that are out there. Choice, it seems, is not all its cracked up to be.
Once upon a time, style came at a price and what we chose to wear was largely dictated by very specific designer-led trends. If the world’s catwalks declared that a certain length of skirt was de rigueur or that heels simply had to be high, retailers dutifully filled their racks and rails and we had no option but to shop accordingly. But today, stylish clothing is more accessible and affordable than ever before, trends are becoming a thing of the past and personal style is now king. From high street stores to high-end boutiques, fashion now caters to a much wider set of tastes.
Choice, it seems, is not all it’s cracked up to be / Photo: Mikael Jansson
While this newly found sartorial freedom is largely celebrated, for some it has come at a price, and without a clear sense of direction many women sadly feel lost in today’s abundantly filled stores. And it’s not just shopping on the high street that causes frustration. It’s just as easy to spend as many, if not more wasted hours staring at computer screens or mobile phones trying to find something online as it is schlepping around the shops.
However, our frustrations can often quite simply be put down to old habits, and sometimes we just need to rethink the way we shop. So here are six shopping hacks that will help you build a wardrobe today, that essentially require research, planning and a little patience…
Do your homework.
Decide what you want or need before you start, however vague it may be. This may sound obvious, but it will help you narrow down your focus. And if you plan or prefer to shop in store, decide which shops you want to visit beforehand and then take a look at what they’re currently stocking online. If nothing seems to fit the bill then consider giving them a miss and trying elsewhere.
Expand your horizons.
Another time saving tip is to use the internet to discover new brands that might appeal to you and to see what different styles are out there, and multi-brand sites such as Net-A-Porter and Farfetch are great for this. For example, if you need a new pair of ankle boots, use a website’s search function to bring up options in your size, preferred colour, height of heel, budget and so on. Even if you don’t plan to click through to buy, spending a bit of time on this from the comfort of your sofa will give you a good idea of the type of boots that are currently available, the shops that may stock them, or at the very least help you pinpoint the sort of styles you might want to look out for.
Give yourself options.
When shopping online, there are several things you can do to make the process easier, especially when it comes to sizing issues. Firstly, buy two different sizes of the same item – I’ve found to my frustration that even brands I’m familiar with seem to tinker with their fit season to season – and if you’re looking for something particular, such as a white shirt, then buy several different styles in one go so you can easily compare them in one sitting. If you can afford to have the increased amounts taken from a debit or credit card while you wait to take delivery and then return the unwanted items, this strategy will more likely result in a successful and speedy shop (and often has the benefit of pushing the cost into qualifying for free shipping too).
Get to know the shops and concessions within your catchment area / Photo: Mikael Jansson
Compare and cross-check.
If you’re a fan of a particular high street store or designer brand, get to know their shops and concessions that are within your catchment area and the various online stockists, as the clothes available in one store are likely to be different to those stocked in another. And it’s not only the size of store or concession that will determine the range on offer. Each location, on and offline, will have its own buying team who will cater to the needs and style of their particular client base, and so you may find you have much more luck shopping at one store than another. And if you’ve seen a particular item in one shop or online and they don’t have it in your size, the internet is a great tool to help you try and track it down elsewhere.
Get on the list.
If you aren’t averse to receiving regular emails from your favourite stores, then signing up to alerts, updates and newsletters can save you time, as well as money. Stores will often issue alerts as soon as new season stock arrives, or items by your favourite designers become available, and you’ll be the first to know about discounts and free shipping if you’re a subscriber.
Never try to buy a complete wardrobe in an afternoon.
Building a wardrobe is a marathon not a sprint. The downside of making a list of must-haves before you head out shopping is the urge to tick everything off as quickly as possible, and today’s more affordable fashion can make the worthy concept of ‘buy less but buy well’ difficult to stick to. But do be selective, as if you compromise you may very well be back spending more time shopping before you know it. The pieces you are looking for will be out there, but sometimes you simply have to be patient.
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Main Photo: Tim Walker for Vogue
Author: Julie Hurst