How often have you gone shopping for clothes only to find yourself frustrated, overwhelmed and without much to show for it when you’re done?  After shopping with a client this past weekend, I gave a lot of thought to how women shop and what might be the biggest reason most are unsuccessful or feel like they’re struggling.

When I shop with clients, how I work with clients is I pre-pull all the selections I think are right for their needs.  In about an hour I often have an entire rolling rack of clothing prepared for the next day’s session.  When a client meets me at the store the following day, all they have to do is walk into the dressing room and the rack of clothing is there waiting for them.  Now, I know that shopping this way is not a reality for everyone, and there’s a chance you don’t have the budget to hire someone to do all the shopping and curating legwork ahead of time, however, I tell you this to explain just how much effort it takes to find the right things when shopping for clothing.

Let’ me explain this further: When most women shop, they peruse the store, grab a few items to try on and, maybe, if they’re lucky, find one thing that works.  Let’s say, for example, a woman takes three things in to try on and she buys one of those items, that’s a 33% success rate.  While this may seem incredibly unfruitful, it’s actually not that bad.  It wasn’t until this past weekend with my client that I gave thought to the amount of things a client has to try on to find what will work for her.  I don’t have the exact ratio, but my guess would be that, of all the things I pull for clients, 80% of those pieces work and 20% don’t.  Now, considering my clients’ selections are pulled by me, a professional who has been shopping for clients for the past eleven years, it makes sense that my success rate would be higher than average, however, there isn’t a huge difference between 20% and 33%.  Yet, the biggest difference between how I work and how most women shop (and why most women fail) is in the volume of what gets pulled.  If you want to be successful when you shop, you need to try on more.  Shopping, in some respects, is like a numbers game, the more you try on the higher your chances of finding something are.

If you’re thinking you don’t have the time to shop for long periods of time at once, if you were to add up all the hours you spend popping into stores, trying on one or two things and throwing most of them back, it would probably equal out to the same amount of time in one session being more focused and purposeful.  Sure, there is nothing wrong with the occasional perusal when you have a few minutes to spare, yet, if you’re serious about building a successful wardrobe, your shopping for clothing needs to be more focused.  Here are some tips to help you get started.


 Shop with focus

When you seriously go shopping (not time-killing perusal shopping), the first thing you need to do is focus on this as your singular task.  Set aside the time like you would any other task.

Load up the dressing room before you go in

The entire floor should be covered before you head in.  There is no charge to try on clothing and it’s a heck of a lot easier to have it all in one place vs. having to get dressed and go back out on the floor to hunt for more.

Bring the size you think you are and one size smaller and/or larger

It’s the unfortunate part of the way fashion works, there is no sizing standardization.  If you’re unfamiliar with how a brand fits you, always bring in a few sizes.  While it may be frustrating, it’s even more frustrating if you don’t bring in alternative sizes and then have to either go out to get another size or to find a salesperson who will actually help you.

Enlist the help of a salesperson

While it may be incredibly difficult to get someone to actually assist you, because of this, few customers even ask for help any longer.  However, there is no harm in asking. I enlist the help of a salesperson and give them clear direction on how I want them to be of assistance.  The first thing I tell them is that I will be hanging the rejects outside the door and ask them if they wouldn’t mind coming around to take those things away and to check in if I need any help.  By hanging items outside the door, it forces them to come around and check on me.

Don’t be afraid of looking foolish with armfuls of clothing

If you saw me while pre-shopping for a client, you’d see me with armfuls of clothing along with frequent trips to my salesperson to unload so I can go back for more.  I think one of the reasons women don’t load up their arms with options is for fear of looking ridiculous or silly carrying around that much.  However, who’s the foolish one; the person who loads up their arm with options or the person who brings their scant bunch of options into the dressing room only to find nothing that works?

What if you’ve tried this and it’s still not working?

If you’re a woman who does shop this way or who has tried to cover an entire floor but has still only found a few things to actually try on, there may be a few other issues to consider that can help you be more successful.  Here are some more things to consider when shopping for clothes:

Are you shopping at the right stores?

If you keep going back to a store that doesn’t have enough for you to choose from, are you in the right place?  Perhaps it’s not the right store for you.  Just because you’re friends shop there or it’s a hot and trendy place to go, is it right for you?

Are you being closed-minded?

The next thing I want you to consider is asking yourself how open-minded you are being when shopping for clothing.  I want you to be more flexible.  I will say this, it is a lot easier to shop for someone else than it is to shop for yourself.  Shopping for others, I have greater objectivity when considering items for my clients.   I can’t be with you, so it’s important that you open yourself up to things that you normally turn away from.  I’m not saying you try things on that are horrendous or you deem ugly (that would be a colossal waste of time), but, I do strongly suggest if something catches your eye, or you find something interesting, even though it is a departure for you, that you try it.  You seriously never know, plus a lot of things have horrible hanger appeal but look great on the body.

Take a realistic inventory of your life

  There is a lot of thought that goes into each item I pull for a client to try on.  I want you to use the same thinking when shopping.  When I look at an item hanging on a rack, I start running through my client’s life in my mind.  First, I picture them wearing it and ask if it is something I can see her in.  Next, I imagine where she’s going in it and ask if this fits her lifestyle.  Lastly, I think about what she owns and run through a list list of the inventory already in her closet to make sure this piece would work.  If an item passes all three of these questions it gets pulled.  Sometimes it’s a no-brainer and other times I have to think about it for a minute.  I tell you this because, while the success rate of what you try on in a dressing room is a numbers game, you still have to have to grab the right contenders first.   Given my tip earlier to load up in the dressing room, it doesn’t mean that you just throw more in there simply to increase your chances, that’s like throwing spaghetti against the wall with hopes that something will stick.  You should always run an item that you’re considering through a mental checklist:

  1. Can I see myself wearing it?
  2. Where will I wear it?  
  3. What will I wear with it?  

If the pieces pass the test they can go in the dressing room

When I started my style consulting business in 2002, my mother, who is a ridiculous shopper, said to me, “But, Bridgette, you hate shopping!” and she was right.  I don’t love shopping, I’m not someone who considers it a hobby or pastime, and, personally, I’ve got better things to do than to just randomly peruse.  However, I truly believe my greatest success in helping others shop for clothing has come from the fact that I never really loved it.  Because of this, I’ve always focused on making it the most painless, effective, and easiest task I could.  With these tips on shopping for clothing, I hope you can as well.