Yesterday, after reading that Issa, a British designer, famous for its versatile elegant dresses, designed a collection for Banana Republic and realising it was nearly sold out after its launch last week, I rushed to one of the branches near my office (one of the advantages of working in the West End). Unsurprisingly, most items from the 40-piece limited edition collection were sold out. Trying to make up for being late, I was grabbing everything I could find in my size. Ridiculous, I know! But my love for designer bargains sometimes clouds my ability to think.
Although I usually prefer to buy lesser known brands that I am less likely to see on someone else the next day, somehow a combination of designer name on a label that reads “limited edition” and affordable price tag made it ok in my mind to buy clothes that I will probably see other women wearing. Issa is elegant, not trendy, which means I can wear the pieces I buy for years, I told myself, as I carried 6 items to the changing room.
It was only in the changing room that I was able to pause and think. I did not want to repeat my past shopping mistakes, which included impulsive shopping, buying clothes only because they were on sale, original or recommended by a magazine I like. As a result, many times I ended up with a wardrobe full of pieces that don’t work together, don’t fit properly or don’t make me feel good, leaving me frustrated in the morning because I had nothing to wear to work.
So how did I walk out of the shop with two, not five, dresses (one of them now returned) when the temptation was strong and the money argument did not work?
The first step is to recognise when I am going back to “old ways”. It usually helps me to stop for a second and think about all those piles of clothes I have taken home over the years to give to my family and friends, many of them never worn.
Then, in my head I go through these basic shopping rules
- Don’t buy when under time pressure. Going to shop in my lunch break was a mistake and I did buy a dress that was not a perfect fit, which I have now returned. Lesson learnt (again)!
- This takes me to rule number two: the fit has to be perfect. This may seem like an obvious one, but I have failed to follow it on a number of occasions and I know others who have too. But what to do if the piece you really, really want is not available in your size or doesn’t fit perfectly? Paula Reed, Grazia’s style director, in her book “Style Clinic” advises: “If a jacket doesn’t fit in the shoulders or lie flat when buttoned, get over it.” “Don’t buy anything badly finished.” “If a garment needs shortening or needs the waist nipped in, fine. But if it needs more, forget it.”
- The same goes for colour. I now buy clothes in colours that flatter my complexion and complement or match other items in my wardrobe.
- Versatility is important. Paula Reed does not recommend buying an item if you can’t see yourself in more than five completely different situations in it, unless it is eveningwear or sportswear. However, when I am buying something I intend to wear to work, I apply the versatility rule in a slightly different way. I think how easy it will be to combine what I plan to buy with different accessories, jackets and cardigans to create different ‘looks’ for the office. For me, there have to be at least 4 different looks I can create with a piece. Potential to wear a garment day to night is important for me as a woman working in an office who does not have time to go home and change before going out after work.
- How does an item make me feel? This is probably the most important factor. Style for me is not so much about the clothes I wear, it is really about how I feel when I wear them. Do I feel great about myself when I see myself in the mirror? Do I feel beautiful? Do I want to smile and begin to daydream about wearing the item I am trying on? If the answer is yes, then it is a sign that I need to buy it, even if it does not seem “sensible” or necessary. Similarly, if a dress or a top is recommended as a must have by a fashion editor I admire, but does not make me feel amazing, there is no reason to buy it. I trust my intuition in this situation.
The temptation to buy on impulse may be very strong at times, but as with any temptation, if we take several deep breaths and pause for a couple of minutes, it becomes less powerful or sometimes goes away entirely.
So what did I buy at the end? A flowy blue-green dress I can wear now and when the weather gets cooler in multiple ways and dress up or down.
How do you deal with your bad shopping habits?