04 August 2014

Now Is My Time #29: Clothes Shopping For A Special Event

image via Banana Republic

This week's Now Is My Time post is a two-part piece on shopping for clothing for a special event. I find this is often a panic situation. I have an idea of what I want and then head out into the vast shopping universe only to feel thwarted at every turn. So I thought I'd share the plan I made to make finding a special outfit as painless as possible.

I had an event I went to last week and I wanted to go looking very polished and professional. After leaving the corporate world a while ago, my professional attire was a little slim. My initial thought was go find one great black or gray suit and be done.

Then I realized it's the middle of summer and the minute I showed up in an all black suit I was going to be sweating insanely and looking totally out of it for the season of the year. Plus I needed something that would set me apart in the environment I was going to and a plain black suit didn't seem like the way to do that.

So I knew a shopping excursion was on tap. Not so much because I love shopping for days but because finding pants and jackets that fit my long limbs is one of the most frustrating things ever. Sure you can find them online (NOW but that's only been very recently, like in the last five years.) But I didn't have time to order and wait 4-7 days for shipping and I just couldn't justify spending a small fortune on express shipping that would still probably end up taking four days.

That meant I was going retail. In order to make it as painless as possible, I made a plan. Here are a few tips based on my plan and experience.

1. Do your research online first.
I picked a group of stores I knew had a good range of sizes where I would have "brick and mortar" access to and then scoured their online sites and made a list of items I thought I might like. This saved me a lot of frustration and time wandering around thumbing through racks of clothes. Plus I got up to speed on each shops sales for the week.

Of the three top retailers I was interested in, I found out that one was having a 50% of everything in the store deal. Both of the other stores I was interested in were also having some great sales for the weekend. My research helped me narrow down the locations I chose to visit and helped me create a budget for myself that was smaller than I had expected. Hooray!

2. Pick a good time to shop.
Well at least I thought I did this. I decided that since my available time was on the weekend that I would wait until everyone had left the mall and gone home for dinner and I would sneak in for the later hours. Unfortunately, the mall I chose was the site of a visit from some boy band I'd never heard of and the place was packed.

To make things worse, when the band performed the noise was so loud that you could not hear yourself think inside the stores even. Quel nightmare - to quote a favorite line from the movie You've Got Mail. But I endured anyway.

Best times to do a shop like this would be just about any weekday in the morning in most malls on the planet. Later evenings are often good as well. But please don't attempt a spree like this on Saturday afternoon if you care at all about your mental health or success in finding something.

The stores are wrecked so merchandise will be spread all over, employees are at their busiest and tiredness (and an accompanying rudeness) are at a premium with all humans you may come in contact with. Sales staff can be very attentive and helpful when you are one of two people in the store at 11 a.m. on a Monday morning!

3. Make One Big Trip To The Fitting Room
I know this is supposedly totally forbudt but I knew that the big retailers I was going to do not monitor their fitting rooms, especially on a busy Saturday afternoon. So I took armloads of clothes in and tried on as much as I could at one time. I walked through every section of the store and picked up everything I thought might work. Generally I made one visit to the fitting room in each of the big retailers.

Even if they had asked me to limit my numbers I would at least have everything there close by and could just try things on in waves instead of making multiple trips around the store and into the fitting rooms. Because seriously who likes trying stuff on?!

As  former retail fashion employee myself, I graciously hung up everything as I had found it and returned everything back to the "return" rack. No harm, no foul. But this saved me a TON of time sweeping the entire store and trying on once. Plus it gave me a lot to compare and contrast.

4. Bring accessories or other clothing items to try on with your potential purchases.
I brought a canvas bag with my booties (low cute boots, not house slippers) and a pair of black pumps to try on with every pair of pants I looked at. This was critical because I found out that almost every pair of paints I tried on was too short and let me just say bootcut dress pants that are too short look ridiculous!

This led me to decide to wear the booties with a pair of black pants I already had. That meant I needed stuff with wear with those two things I already had. More money savings if I played my cards right and had some good luck.

5. Give Yourself Time Before You Make A Decision
I decided that I didn't want to pressure myself to buy on Saturday night unless I felt completely sure I had found THE outfit. After trying on dozens of items, by the end of my shopping evening I had some good ideas but wasn't totally sold on anything so I allowed myself to go home empty handed.

Bonus Tip: Do more research. I was glad I did go home empty handed. Before I went to bed that night I went back to the websites of the retailers I had shopped that day and revisited some favorite items. It was at this point that I realized that my #2 store was doing an extra 15-20% off all sale merchandise with coupon you could print from their website. The third also had a website coupon for another 15% off your purchase there.

I was so relieved I hadn't purchased anything when I realized that I could save an additional chunk of money. It's good to keep researching. Things change. It was also important that I check the dates the sales ended because I didn't want to miss them and end up paying much more than I needed to. Or course I printed out the coupons immediately that night and tucked them in my purse.

I was ready to start round two of my shopping extravaganza. Since this is getting long, I'll share how the rest of how this shopping adventure went down in Part Two, coming up tomorrow. And don't worry the story had a good ending. Haha.

Hope you are having a great day! You deserve all the happiness in the world.

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