backpost: some shopping advice

This was originally posted on June 25, 2009 at lemonlove.forgedpixels.com. Saving my favourite posts from there to keep!

Enduring my two nights a week being The Fitting Room Lady at a chain retail store, I have learned a lot from observing hundreds of women try on armful after armful of clothing that doesn’t work for them over and over again.

I’ve never understood my friends who hated stores and shopping and the time spent searching for a pair of pants or a new dress. To me, the fear of salelsady judgement* and being “too fat” for the clothes that they wanted held my friends back from a wide world of wonderfully fun times.

I grew up in a shopping home. This means that when my Mom, sister and I are bored, we go shopping. We go shopping alone, and we go shopping together. We try on outfits because they’re ugly, or because they’re outrageous, or because they’re perfect for matching a couch. We buy little black dresses simply because they fit, not because we need them. We try new accessories and we look at the expensive purses. We try things. It’s constant. I love it. I love shopping, and I love the fun and bonding my family (and shopping friends!) can experience because of what we like.

So now that I’ve spent nearly a year (Geez, I really didn’t think I’d last this long!) being The Fitting Room Lady I have a few insights into the Fear of Shopping. Mostly from watching women sabotage themselves and the fun that shopping can be over and over again.

And here is my general disclaimer, again. I love shopping. I understand not liking it, but don’t be afraid to give it a go. I sometimes have panic attacks about my blog, and how it is somehow sabotaging Everything That Is Feminist, but whatever, I like what I like, and can only give you insights into what I know, which is shopping, and how it can be totally awesome, so it’s great, the end. Woo.

So, here are Lemon Love’s Shopping Fabulosity Guide!
(OMG it’s like the title is from Seventeen or something! I’m so clever.)

1. Find out / Know your size.

At least once every shift a woman will come through my lineup with an armful of clothing. One look at her selection will show me that she has no idea what her size is. A pair of size 14 slacks, a pair of size 7 jeans from the juniors section, two “small” tank tops, a few “large” sweaters and a t-shirt sized at “2x”… She has no idea. There’s nothing wrong with going to a store with the intention of finding your size, but if your selection looks like this every time you go shopping… there’s a reason why nothing fits.

If you need to, write it down in a notebook! Have a “shopping list” of what looks good on you. I have friends who wear “Large” t-shirts but go for the “Extra Large” tank-tops because of their chest size, and I know that in certain brands I’m a “Large”, but not a “Medium”. Recognizing that sometimes there’s a difference, but overall you fit into a single size bracket will reduce the breaking of your heart.

Also: Reduce heartbreak by a) not looking at things that aren’t in your size “bracket” or b) writing them off as not fabulous for you. If they don’t fit on your body they’re not going to make you look fabulous.
(Tip: Hold the pants/shirt up to your body before you take it into the fitting room. Do you really think this will stretch over you? Yes? Try it on. No? Leave it there. And if it will stretch over your body but leave enough space for a small pony, leave it on the rack, it’s too big for you.)

Also I would like to state, out loud, on the Internet, in English (because I don’t know Swahili as well as I used to) that there is a distinct difference in sizing between clothing categorized as “Women’s” and “Junior’s” (or sometimes “Missies”). Clothing marketed towards younger women runs about a size and a half smaller than clothing marketed towards older women, so keep that in mind when picking out clothes.

2. Take an outspoken friend.

Bonding is really the best part about shopping, whether it involves mutual dislike (“Oh gosh why is the new trend ruffles?!”) or mutual love (“You love belting at the natural waist too?! It’s so hot!”). Spending time looking at anything with a friend will bring you together in a very unique way. So take a friend. If they’re a good friend, they’ll tell you when the pants don’t quite fit, or when the skirt emphasizes your booty a little too much.

Also: If you find yourself without a friend, work up the guts to talk to a saleslady(person). Yes, we might be incredibly stylish and completely intimidating (because we’re so stylish and awesome and hot and yes I totally need a boyfriend drop me a line) but to be 100% honest? We’ll hook you up. Yes, we have stuff to get done and clothing to hang up, but we also get paid for customer service and it’s really fun to tell a nice girl that an outfit looks great on her, or maybe suggest a different style of cropped pant or shirt that will make her look more shapely. We can’t always fix the problem or find you the perfect outfit, but don’t hesitate to ask!
(It might be my absolute most favourite part about my job, but don’t tell my boss that, mmkay?)

3. Be adventurous.

Just because a shirt looks hideous on the hanger doesn’t always mean that it’s going to look hideous on you. Sometimes hidden darts and shapes and flattering colour combinations can be revealed! I know that a few of my favourite outfits came from “Oh gosh, this is so completely ugly” finds. The only reason why I found them was because I decided to be silly and try on something I hated, and what do you know? They were awesome! Most of the time you’ll only find misses, but taking the time to look at yourself in the mirror and isolate why they don’t work can help you a lot in the way of shopping woes.

For instance, I’ll revisit this sweater, jacket, thing:

(photo lost! :C )

What I liked about it:
1. It was very unique.
2. It was horrendous. (In the, everyone-would-talk-to-me-about-it kind of way)
3. It had a furry hood.

Why it didn’t work for me:
1. It didn’t have sleeves (I have rather large arms that I can get stupidly self-conscious about. Also: I get cold easily.)
2. It was the wrong colour. (I’m ridiculously pale, and gray has never been a super flattering colour / I tend to avoid the few gray items that live in my closet anyway.)
3. I hate drawstrings. (They get in the way, get tied too tightly, generally look sloppy.)
4. The pocket pooch emphasized my lower stomach in an incredibly unflattering way. (Emphasizing tummy + exposed upper arms + boring colour = I felt extremely blah and overweight and completely unfabulous. Also, the way the pooch moved with the drawstring and the fabric made my boobs look flat. Q: Who wants flat boobs? A: Someone who is not me.)
5. The zipper got stuck when I put it on. (-100 points for being difficult!)

So I voted it a “No”. Even though I loved it. Even though it had a furry hood and oh man I would probably cross the Sahara if they were handing out free jackets with furry hoods on the other side. (Also it was $40, and I am le cheap.)

But trying it on and thinking about what worked and what didn’t showed me A) that I am really unnaturally obsessed with furry hoods, and B) that I could comfortably wear a… sweater/dress/thing/whatever this is if it had a lower belted waist, some cap sleeves, and no tummy poochy thing. Also I got some cool blog fodder.

So be adventurous. You never know what you could find!

That’s all I’ve got in shopping tips for now, though I’m sure I’ll have three more after work tomorrow night. What do you do to make your shopping trips easier or more fabulous?

*Who (as I can say from experience) doesn’t care who you are or what you do as long as you’re not loud and obnoxious, rude, and/or messing up her area.

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