6 Tips for Buying New Clothes

June 8, 2015
6 Tips for Buying New Clothes
(image via Merrick’s Art)

Confession: I’ve bought a LOT of new clothes since Star was born.

I have kept approximately 5% of them.

I’m really really trying hard to only add items to my closet that I legitimately love and that work for my lifestyle.

In all this shopping, trying on, and returning, I’ve learned a few good rules of thumb (and made many errors too):

  1. Pick something with a good return policy. I’ve always felt fairly strongly about this, but especially after my debacle with Shabby Apple a couple of years ago, I really try to only buy from places that stand behind their products and work to keep their customers happy (this is why people love Nordstrom). And I’ve noticed that when I buy things from companies are proud of their product and produce high-quality items, I don’t even NEED the return policy 99% of the time. 
  2. Try it on twice. You know that thing where you try something on in the dressing room at Target where it looks amazing and then you come home and put it on and think, “What in the world? This is hideous.”  So my rule now is that I try things on and then, if I like them, I leave the tags on, keep my receipt, and then try it on again a second time before I make a final decision about keeping it. 
  3. Ignore the price tag. I am seriously terrible at this. I try it on and think “Welllllll, it’s only $5.” If it’s not worth keeping for $50, it’s also not worth keeping at $5. Either way, it’s eventually going to end up in your Goodwill pile because you never wear it. Now, I try to pick items off the website or rack without even looking at the price tag. I don’t want to pass on something I love because it’s $10 more than it would be on clearance or buy something just because it has that tempting orange sale sticker on it. I love a good deal as much as the next person, but I don’t want to buy something (or keep it) just because it was cheap. 
  4. If you have (any!) hesitations about something, don’t buy it. I can’t tell you how many items over the years I’ve tried on and thought, “Well it’s only a LITTLE too short” or “it might shrink and then fit better” (spoiler: that will never happen) or “well, the shoulders aren’t WAY too wide.” If you’re having any hesitations about it, it’s not going to get better at home. My goal is to only buy or keep the items that make me feel awesome when I put them on. If I’m thinking “It’s not bad,” that’s code for “it’s not good.” 
  5. If you’re ordering online, pick a company with free returns and a reasonable return window. I pretty much need a minimum 30-day return window, although I do try to get things sent back as quickly as possible. Since most things are supposed to be unworn when you send them back, it’s not like I need months and months to try things on twice and make a decision (although sometimes I do need at least a week to get around to trying things on, repackaging them and getting them sent off). Zappos has a year-long return window, but you have to take your item to a UPS location, instead of handing it to your mailman when they drive past your house, which I find inconvenient because I am deeply lazy. I have a bunch of old store credit to Shopbop, so I’ve ordered a few things (including the best maternity jeans of all time that seemed ridiculously overpriced when I bought them, but seemed way less so when I ended up wearing them 5 times a week for five months) but they have to receive your order back within 15 days of when you received it or they charge you $10 of shipping and . . . . that annoys me a lot. 
  6. Buy things that actually work for your taste and lifestyle. I used to buy a lot of heels. They just look so good when you try them on and are fun. But guess how often I wear heels? For about 3 hours of church, once a week. Maybe occasionally for a fancy dinner out. Now I buy a lot of flat sandals (I have a pair of Pour la Victoire sandals in my Twice cart but I have to wait for my most recent return to go through so I have enough credit to buy them. . . .if someone buys them before then, I will be a little (a lot) heartbroken), t-shirts, and casual blouses. And guess what? I wear them all. I don’t want to throw things when I get dressed in the morning because I have nothing that is appropriate for a glamorous morning of grocery shopping and story time at the library. I know. . . it’s kind of blowing my mind too. 

Also, online shopping is basically my favorite thing in the world. My interest in trying things on in a dressing room is basically zero these days.

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  • Reply karen June 8, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    I love your blog, but this post really bothered me. If you followed tips 3,4 and 6 you probably wouldn't be returning 95% of what you had originally purchased.

    While many businesses are going the extra mile to provide good customer service with generous return policies, people should consider the wasted time and other resources to process these returns before clicking on that checkout button.

    • Reply Janssen June 8, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      I totally understand what you're saying, but since I do most of my clothing shopping online, it's hard for me to know what will really fit or what I'll love without trying it on. I just can't tell from a photo or two online what is going to work. Plus sizing across brands (and sometimes WITHIN a brand) is so inconsistent, that sometimes I need to order two sizes of something to see which is going to fit.

      And I'd rather get a huge order (and only ship back one large box) then a bunch of tiny orders one at at time, which is more work for a company both on the shipping and returning ends.

  • Reply Abigail June 8, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Love this post! My friends laugh at me because I try things on over and over at home, then leave the tags on in my closet until I am absolutely 100% positive I will wear what I purchased. I'm so careful about it that I usually don't finally take the tags off until I'm walking out the door!

  • Reply Ever Emma June 8, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    I used to be that girl who would buy just about anything on sale and, you're right, most of those items ended up in the Goodwill pile. I feel like it becomes easier to buy clothes once you really understand what it is that you like and who you are. When I was younger I would gravitate towards heels I couldn't walk in and other pieces that just wouldn't work for me all because I had this image of who I wanted to be and the life I thought I wanted to have. When you're honest with yourself decisions like this become so much easier! Great post! I enjoyed reflecting on my own purchasing habits!

  • Reply Paige Flamm June 8, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    I love this! I don't know how many times I bought pants from Target and told myself "they'll shrink" only for them to never shrink enough and then they're too big. I've also taken after you in placing obnoxiously large online orders with full intentions of returning things I know just probably won't work. It drives Derek crazy but at least I wear clothes that actually fit me now!

  • Reply Daveana June 8, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    I've been really trying to follow most of these in my own life recently. I've always been a sucker for it's only $5, why not? I've been going through my closet pulling out things that I just don't love or feel Awesome in. It's made getting dressed in the morning so much easier. I've been really focusing on purchasing items only if I really love them, and if I have no second thoughts about them, despite the cost.

    I enjoyed reading your Shabby Apple review, as I've had similar experiences with them. I was super disappointed in their quality, and really wanted to like them as my friend has designed several lines for them. But, the quality doesn't match the price for me.

  • Reply Kathleen Forbes June 8, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    Speaking of Twice, are they pretty similar to ThredUp? Have you tried them both? I've never used either, and was just curious.

    • Reply Janssen June 8, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      I think they are pretty similar, but I've never used ThredUp. I'll have to give them a spin one of these days!

  • Reply Lisa June 8, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    YES to all of this (esp. free returns!). I can't tell you how many times I've purchased clothes that were "just okay" but the price was great- and I always end up giving them away! It's so hard to ignore price and only buy things I reallyreally like, but I know I'm not throwing money down the drain that way. I've also found (for me) putting off buying something I like helps; sometimes when I "revisit" the item later I find I don't like it as much as I did initially. 🙂

  • Reply Laura Crowther June 8, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    Love this! Why do I always seem to buy things I don't like and/or that can't be returned??!

    Any good suggestions for online shopping with your requirements? I shop at asos occasionally, but that is the only one I know of!

  • Reply Feisty Harriet June 8, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    I very very rarely order anything online, sometimes another color of an item I already own (and love), but that's about it. I would much rather a) not buy anything or b) spend the time in the store to try it on and make sure it fits than deal with the buying/shipping lag time/possible return policy hiccups/etc etc etc.

    Also, I don't have three little munchkins to entertain in a dressing room either, so….there's that.


  • Reply JoLee June 8, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    I'm really good at following rule #6. I have mom clothes, teaching clothes, and church clothes. But then I find myself in the rare situations where I want to look a little fancier (like a date or a party), but not crazy formal, and I feel like I have nothing appropriate to wear. That situation is definitely my clothing black hole. When I decided to go to BEA, I bought myself three new semi-fancy shirts. One for every day I was there. Problem solved, for now.

  • Reply Jodi June 9, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    Ooo, where did you get that shoe holder? I am not liking mine anymore, my shoes always fall off

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