If you love to shop for clothing or hate it more than anything in the world, we all have a common goal, to be effective.  Nobody wants to come home empty handed or, worse, full of things that will just get added to the already over-stuffed closet of nothing to wear.  Shopping takes time, energy and, often, a lot of patience.  There isn’t a person out there can spare any of these things.  That said, in today’s post, I am giving you some tips on how to be effective when you shop.

Four easy ways to shop for clothing you’ll actually wear

#1- Limitations Can be Liberating

I thought about this when I was shopping for a dress last week.  I was in a crowded, over merchandised department store with way too many options and not a lot of free time to sift through every rack and article of clothing.  Yet, I was still out the door in about fifteen minutes with a dress in hand.  My trick?  Knowing my limitations and what I won’t buy and can’t wear.  Knowing my best colors, in addition to the fact that I don’t wear black, that certain silhouettes are just godawful on me, I was able to scan racks quickly.  I didn’t have to waste my time thumbing through each article of clothing.  I was able to do quick passes, which made me more effective.

Often we see limitations as limiting.  The opposite is often true, actually.  Some limitations are imposed on us.   For example, I know that, no matter how long I starve myself I can’t wear empire waists and flippy skirts because of my body shape.  Other limitations we put upon ourselves, like my choice not to wear black.  What are your limitations?  Do you avoid clothing that has to be dry cleaned?  Do you prefer certain colors?  Does you body shape not work with certain styles.  Instead of fighting against these limitations, try embracing them and see if it enables you to hone in more clearly and eliminate all the extra visual noise in the stores.

#2 The Need Nags You

Whenever I hear about something, like a movie, television show or book, from several people, I always look into it.  I know a lot of people do this and say things like, “You are the third person to mention this to me this week.  Now I have to look into it.”  This is similar to what I mean by the need nags you.

I’m not a big shopper for several reasons.  The first is, even though I spend more time shopping for clothes than the average person, it’s never for me.  And by the time I do have some downtime the last thing I want to do is shop for clothing.  I’m also just not someone who has ever found it to be a fun pastime.  Therefore, I really only go shopping when the need arises.  How I figure out what I need is by how strongly something nags at me.   What I mean by this is when I get dressed I make a mental note of me wishing a particular item was in my wardrobe.  Sometimes I will hear myself say, “If I only had <blank> this outfit would be perfect” or, “I really love this look but don’t have <blank>.”  The more an item pops up as a nagging need the higher it goes on my list of something I need to buy.

A nagging need helps me identify the difference between loving something simply because it’s pretty and if I’ll actually wear it.  Sure, I have swooned over someone’s gorgeous shoes or great dress, but loving something isn’t enough evidence for me that I’ll actually wear it.  The greater the nag, the greater the need.

#3- Know Where You’re Going

Next up, know where you’re going.  If you know me, you know my saying, “Where are you going in that?“, a question everyone can ask themselves when they shop for clothing.  It’s such an effective way to know whether or not something belongs in your closet because you will be able to figure out if you have somewhere to wear it.

Yet, I want to take this concept a step further.  In addition to identifying where you’ll be going, it’s important to make sure you’re not already covered with enough in your closet.   You may be over buying simply because you have determined that you have somewhere to wear it.  However, you also need to identify if you already have enough.

I look at the different parts of my life in percentages of how much I spend doing each thing.   For example, I speak a handful of times a year.  Having things I can wear to do this is important, but buying a closet full of clothing for this task is unnecessary because of how rarely I do it in comparison my other responsibilities.  So, yes, I could technically go to a store and buy something to wear to speak because I do it, but I’d be foolish to fill my wardrobe with this need if it only makes up for a small portion of my time.

Know where you’re going and shop for the appropriate things, but also make sure you are clear on just how much you’ll need and if you’re already covered before you buy more.

#4- Trust Your Gut

Have you ever tried on something and, while it was flattering, something about it just felt wrong?  This has happened to me many times.  I have looked in the mirror and thought, “Who is this person?”  I don’t feel like myself and hardly recognize the who is staring back at me.  Or, even worse, I have actually bought things that have felt right in the dressing room but then gave me these negative feelings once I wore them out in the world.  I may have felt frumpy, fat, old, not like myself or just not as confident as I wished I could have been.  It’s rare that I have ever grabbed these things from my closet again.

It’s a real bummer when these failures make into your closet, left to hang there, never to be worn again.  Yet, these things can actually become wonderful teaching tools.  Why did they fail?  Why did you avoid ever wearing them again?  What did you feel when you wore them?  What didn’t you like?   You may have made a mistake, but at least you can avoid making the same one in the future.

I had this happen to me just recently, I will admit.  Yes, I’m the expert over here and I am going through my journey of style rediscovery in one small area of my style.  Perhaps it is having just turned 42, the current size and shape of my body (which I have been less than enthused about lately) or the fact that this particular area of my style is more underdeveloped than the rest, but I feel like I need to revamp what I have been doing, which, up until now, had been working.  This isn’t a bad thing necessarily, and it’s through these feelings that I will know what I need to do to fix it.

The good news, for me is that I am more than qualified to figure this out.  Unfortunately, most women aren’t, which is why they hire me.  However, that first step towards change is the gut reaction you feel to what doesn’t feel right.  Don’t downplay these feelings or force yourself to buy things that don’t make you feel your best, learn from them.   The more you pay attention to your gut, the better it will steer you in the right direction.

I know, shopping for clothes can just flat out suck, but it doesn’t have to.  While this post may not completely solve your issues around shopping effectively, my hope it will at least start steering you in a direction that will.