Back when I was dating, I was on Match.com. That’s actually how I met my husband. I’ve been married too long to have experienced the swipe right dating scene of sites like Tinder or OkCupid, but I’m not dead, I understand the concept. Despite the differences in their platforms, Match.com was not unlike these swipe right sites in that they offer endless matches to choose from. At first glance, this sounds ideal. These sites match you with people and you get to pick which one you are most interested in. Yet, here’s the catch, it’s hard to settle when there are plenty of other options waiting in the wings.
It’s been proven that humans make better decisions when given fewer options to choose from and the more choices they have the less likely they are to have confidence in what they select. The vast expanse of the internet has afflicted us all with decision fatigue because it’s just so easy to click on another option. We can get what we want when we want it almost immediately. Convenient for sure, but when a possibly better option might be just one click away, settling on a choice is much harder.
For over a year now, I have been working with clients exclusively online. I’ve always had a virtual component to my styling business but now it’s all I have been doing. The world is coming closer and closer to fully reopening again which means my work will return to being online and in-person like it once was but, to be honest, I’m a bit loathe to head back into the stores because when I shop online for clients I can jump around more quickly and easily from store to store online without the needing to rely on what the store is actually stocking. As brick and mortar shopping has taken a hit, many retailers house more merchandise on their sites vs. what they keep in-store, making the process of online shopping heaps easier, particularly when my client is a special size.
This is not to say that online shopping doesn’t come with downsides, like returning, not being able to feel the merchandise, or try it on in real-time. These are all very real pains, but not nearly as what I think makes online shopping impossible for many, there are just too many choices. It’s hard to settle when faced with so much variety.
In a given week, I can be shopping online for at least five clients at once which means a lot of hopping around to different online shopping sites as I figure out the best choices for each one. Sure, I pick a few duds for each client I shop for online but not much more than I would if I was doing shopping at a store for them. Thinking about my success rate as compared to the average woman shopping online, I considered what made me more successful than average.
Specificity and Clarity
If you are looking to kill time like if you are waiting at the doctor’s office or scrolling through your phone while watching TV, online browsing for clothes can be a fun pastime. Sometimes you even find a few gems. However, if you are looking to do any real shopping that actually solves your wardrobe issues, being this casual with browsing can get overwhelming. You need a plan.
Prior to me even hitting the stores online, a client and I have already sifted through their wardrobes and while we may not always have a concrete list of exact items we are looking for, a general idea is created. The whole goal with shopping should be to bring your wardrobe into balance. I have worked with many clients who have multiple closets yet still have nothing to wear because they have never shopped purposefully.
When I start with a client, we begin with a closet edit or review which is how I establish a client’s baseline. You can do this too. Next, I help a client create an end goal by looking at their lifestyle, personal style, physical characteristics, and goals. Together, my client and determine a direction their wardrobe needs to go which establishes the strategy for shopping online.
By establishing wardrobe goals, it helps a client and I figure out what needs to go from their closet and what could be added through shopping. As a result, that sea of endless online merchandise gets whittled down to something that is easier to navigate.
Do the First Pass and Then Drill it Down
Next, create a space that allows you to do a full pass on everything that seems interesting. Then go back to it and edit from there. For example, when I shop for clients online, I create a secret shared Pinterest board with my client. In that space, I keep a section on that board where I pin all the shopping selections I make for them. What my client doesn’t know, however, is that I have an additional secret board for them that only I have access to and they never see. On that board, I pin everything I think could potentially work for my client. After I finish this initial pass, I go back to this board, look through everything I pinned and only pin to my client’s shopping section the things that make the final cut for them to consider. Doing this gives me time to think through everything that could potentially work and allows me to take my time and see it all laid out.
You could easily do something like this for yourself. You could create a board on Pinterest and even create subsections per season or per item type you are looking for. After you have swept the internet and made potential selections, you can go back to that board and look at all the options laid out in front of you, examine each piece more closely and weigh which pieces would be the best to try and potentially add to your wardrobe.
Know Which Limitations Support You
Many people have asked me how I find clothing when there is so much black in the stores and I don’t wear it. It’s common to believe that a lack of limitations will give us more options and a lot more ease when shopping but the opposite is actually true. The psychological definition of overchoice is the occurrence when many equivalent choices are available. Making a decision becomes overwhelming due to the many potential outcomes and risks that may result from making the wrong choice. Having too many approximately equally good options is mentally draining because each option must be weighed against alternatives to select the best one. Initially, more choices lead to more satisfaction, but as the number of choices increases it then peaks, and people tend to feel more pressure, confusion, and potentially dissatisfaction with their choice. Although more choices can be initially appealing, fewer choices lead to increased satisfaction and reduced regret.
This is why online shopping can be so overwhelming and why not understanding what limitations will best suit you only compounds it. The more you can drill down to what best suits you and stick with that the easier it is to make make decisions. These limitations can be certain colors, silhouettes that suit you best, styles you wear most often, certain trends you like over others, clothing that suits your lifestyle, fabrication, and so on.
Build Looks as You Go
Another tip is to buy a few things, step back, work these pieces into your wardrobe, build some looks and assess. Often what I do with clients is I make a few shopping suggestions. We review these purchases, see which things we will keep and which things don’t work, note our progress, get a sense of where things stand and then decide if there are any wardrobe holes what might need to then be added. We go back and forth on this until we feel we are complete.
Shopping isn’t always a linear process if you are looking to build your wardrobe to achieve balance. There might be some back and forth. As much of a pain buying and returning can be, it can be a lot less overwhelming when you do it this way in small incremental steps.
Run Items Through a Checklist
I am working with a client who I absolutely adore but who has basically shopped with absolutely no strategy. As a result, she accumulated a wardrobe that is completely out of balance with way too many black pants, pieces that have no relation to anything else, and a wardrobe full of clothes that don’t really work together. Basically, she would find something she liked, would buy it and that was it. As a result, she has a closet bulging with randomness.
You can’t shop like this and expect to be successful. Every time I select an item either for myself or a client, it goes through a mental checklist. I look at the color, assess what already exists in the wardrobe that could be worn with it, consider the fit and if it is flattering, think about whether it works realistically for my client’s life, and make sure something doesn’t exist in the closet already that does the same thing. I visually imagine my client wearing it and whether I feel this item is a match for their style and who they are. It takes less than a minute to run an item through a mental checklist.
This process can help greatly with to stop buying things that might be attractive but shouldn’t be purchased. As you are scrolling and get stopped by something that catches your eye? Run the item through your own mental checklist and if it doesn’t work, let it go.
If It’s Not Broke Don’t Fix It
Online shopping has given us endless options. We can find what we are looking for in hundreds of different retail sites. However, unless you are desperately bored or unhappy with where you have been successfully shopping, these places should be your first stop. If you have found a brand that makes pants that fit you well, don’t reinvent the wheel, start there. We have all developed shopping FOMO and wonder if there might be something better around the corner. I’m all for checking out new brands or finding a new retail spot, but I’m also realistic about it. I love J. Crew’s vintage v-neck t-shirts. They fit great, they’re super soft and comfortable. If I needed to buy new t-shirts, I wouldn’t go scouring the internet for another retailer that makes a similar style, I’d just buy more t-shirts from J.Crew.
You have enough decisions to make in your daily life. If you found something that works and eliminates yet another decision, stick with it.
Shopping Should Not be Used as Therapy
I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer or discourage anyone who takes pleasure in shopping but, let’s be honest, we’ve all been guilty of using shopping as a form of cheap therapy. Shopping can be an enjoyable process and a healthy way to spend time with friends, to get away for a bit, or to give yourself a treat. But there is a fine line that should be considered. If you are someone who has unhealthily used shopping to escape, as a coping mechanism or as a way to not deal with reality, then there is a problem that has nothing to do with shopping. If you have identified you have a serious problem, check out Dr. April Benson Ph.D., a therapist who specializes in the treatment of compulsive buying disorders.
When I started my business my mom said to me, “Bridgette, you hate shopping.” She’s right, I do, and it’s why I am good at my job. Instead of seeing shopping as a fun pastime (there are about a million things I’d rather do for fun), I see shopping more like a search for pieces to complete a puzzle. While I am not discouraging you from the enjoyment of shopping, consider adopting a bit of this mentality the next time you go shopping and you’ll find yourself becoming a lot more strategic with your purchases and a lot less daunted by the endless choices presented to you.