No Worries Shopping

Buying clothes you'll love.

By Alison Neumer Lara

Deep within bedroom closets and dresser drawers all over the Triangle live the abandoned remnants of shopping trips gone terribly wrong. The mere thought of those pricey pants, trendy tops and other ill-advised purchases hanging untouched makes us twinge with buyer’s remorse.

What were we thinking?

Women fall prey to the bad buy for many reasons, fashion experts say, but a little forethought and a few shopping strategies can help you avoid goofs and save valuable slices of your clothing budget.

Two classic mistakes are shopping for an occasion at the last minute and following trends too closely, says Allie Adams, designer for label Doris Ruth.

“If you don’t have a secure sense of your own style and you’re always looking to the media to show you what’s in, you trust Us Weekly more than yourself,” she says.

If you need a second opinion in the fitting room or in the store, don’t be afraid to ask for help, Adams adds.

When it comes to special-event clothes, the key is to start looking for an outfit as soon you’ve been invited, she says.

Be wary of sale items, advises Nena Ivon, director of special events at Saks Fifth Avenue.

“Buying on sale is great, if you buy correctly,” she says. But often women are so seduced by price that they overlook fit.

Another expensive pitfall: retail therapy.

It’s all too easy to splurge on impulse at the end of a bad day or after a breakup, says Lindsey Gladstone, editor of Daily Candy, a subscription e-mail newsletter with tips on stylish buys.

“When you’re in that state and not feeling great, you go for something outside of your personality,” she says.

“You’re not buying a black turtleneck that you’ll wear three times a week; you’re thinking, ‘This makes me feel hot and sexy.’ But it doesn’t work.”

In these situations, think small, Gladstone suggests.

“Buy yourself a lipstick, a new perfume. Go get a salon blow-out or a manicure. There are other ways to make yourself feel good.”

Perhaps the biggest mistake is not going to the fitting room.

About 40 percent of consumers don’t try on clothes before purchasing them, says fashion industry analyst Marshal Cohen of NPD Group, a consumer-research firm. “Most just take the item home and hope it fits.”

Buyers are reluctant to set foot in the fitting room because, for many, it’s difficult to find clothes that actually fit, Cohen explains.

In response, some retailers are experimenting with a system that offers three cuts for every size: pear, athletic and triangle.

The pressure is higher for larger women, who have a limited choice of stores, says Stephanie Sack, owner of a boutique for plus-size fashions.

“Women of size feel under the gun to buy something,” she says. “Many live by the motto, ‘If it zips, it fits.’”

Still, whether a 4 or a 24, women tend to have trouble judging what works for them, Sack adds.

“After 25 years of staring in the mirror, you sort of lose all cosmic idea of how you look. It’s impossible to be objective.”
So why not simply return the clothes that don’t fit?

No one wants to admit a mistake, says NPD’s Cohen. “The majority of consumers who buy a product and have the tag still on it, hide it.”

Get over it, shopping mavens say. Style consultant Noelle Cellini swears by returns.

“I keep receipts clipped to the hanger, and I don’t take the tags off until I wear it. Or, I don’t hang it up until I wear it, and keep the receipt in the bag,” she says.

Of course, you could avoid the purchase in the first place with some basic wardrobe planning, says Cellini.

Evaluate your clothes, decide what you need and make a list.

Impulse buying results from aimless shopping, agrees boutique owner Myrza Santana.

“I really discourage that with my customers,” she says.

And, Santana points out, that’s wise for both shopper and seller.

“Eventually, if they keep purchasing clothes that don’t fit their style, I’m not going to see them in my store anymore.”