Whilst doing a personal styling session with a client last week, he asked me "What are the correct strategies for shopping?" A great question and one which I thought would make a good blog post that others would be interested in too.
I've based it around what I do when I take a client on a personal shopping trip and how you can do this for yourself.
1. Decide what you need
Why are you going shopping in the first place? What occasions do you feel you're lacking clothes for? Are you shopping for a something specific eg. your holiday, work, a wedding? Or a more general update?
Generally, before I go shopping with a client I will have done a wardrobe edit and found out where the gaps in their wardrobe are. If I don't do that, they will have filled in a questionnaire so I understand their lifestyle and their needs so I can prepare, even if I have a fairly vague brief like "smart casual clothing".
If you're not very clear on what you'd like to get, then I would suggest going through your wardrobe first. Hang all your trousers together, your shirts, your jackets etc. That way, it's easier to see what you have eg: if you have 6 pale blue shirts already, then you could do with an alternative.....perhaps try pale lilac or pale green to make a change. Or it may be that a darker one like navy or burgundy will open up more outfit possibilities. This made all the difference in a recent wardrobe edit I did for a client and suddenly a little worn jacket came to life, and the darker shirt worked well with lots of his trousers too and made them slightly more casual, which is just what he needed.
2. Set a budget
Not only do you need to figure out how much you have in total to spend, but this will also give you an idea of how much to spend on each item. I usually write a quick wishlist before I go and do my research for a client which might look something like this: 2 x trousers, 5 x shirts, 2 x jumpers, 1 x brogues, 1 x casual shoes, 3 x t-shirts, 1 x lightweight jacket. I can then estimate how much each item might be and which shops I will need to go to.
When you're thinking about how much you might spend per item, ask yourself if it's something you'll wear a lot or is it for a special occasion? I'd advise spending more on the things you know you'll wear over and over again as long as they're relatively hard wearing. Or if the fit is spot on - especially if you find it challenging to find a good fit in that particular item, then it may also be worth paying extra for that.
Be aware that some things - like suits made from cloth that has a very high Super number (like Super 150s or above) will be less hard wearing. If it's for a special event then you may want to consider it as it will have a more luxurious feel, fit and drape but don't expect it to take a pounding on your daily commute for years to come.
3. Plan where to go
Do you prefer to shop in smaller boutique style shops where you're likely to get more of a personalised service or would you prefer somewhere with more choice like a department store? I make a list of places to check out for a client where it's likely we can find the items on our shopping list. If you don't know the shops very well you could have a quick look online first to see which shops have styles that appeal to you.
And by the way, mornings are quieter, so get there as early as possible!
4. Assess what there is
Often the first thing I think about when assessing the possibilities once in the shops, is colour, and if you go armed with your list you should know what you're looking for. Even if you don't have a specific colour in mind, you may have an idea of what suits you so you can dismiss anything that's not in that range.
If you decide the colour looks good, then have a look at the shape and then the detailing and see if you can imagine yourself wearing it. Is it on your list? Will it fill a gap in your wardrobe and is it different enough from the things you already have? If you're still answering yes to all these questions then grab it in your size and try it on.
I'm pretty systematic in my approach and literally go rail by rail assessing everything for it's suitability and whether it's going to fit well into my client's wardrobe and solve a problem.
5. Try everything on
When I'm shopping with clients, most of them say they've never tried on so much! Perhaps that's the main key to our success? I understand this can be tricky when you're on your own as it's more difficult to swap sizes etc but from what my clients tell me, it sounds like they give up a bit too easily and that's why they go home empty handed.
For starters I'd definitely take a couple of different sizes in the same garment to the fitting room, as they vary so much from place to place. If you can get the shop assistant on board to swap sizes for you or even suggesting alternatives that will definitely help you in your quest!
As well as the things you know are within your comfort zone, I'd also take in a couple of "wild cards" - things that aren't your default choice but might appeal to you on some level. Even if you don't like this exact piece, it may spark an idea for expanding out of your comfort zone to a different colour, shape or style.
6. Think about outfits
If it fits and you like it – then ask - does it suit me? What will it go with? Is it practical for your lifestyle? Is it comfortable? Does it portray the image you want it to?
Start to think about items in outfits eg; if you're trying on a grey blazer, then do you have trousers to go with it? It could be khaki chinos for a smart casual look, jeans for more casual and tailored navy trousers for more formal. That will give you 3 different looks. Once you've decided on the trousers, you can then start to look for shirts, sweaters or t-shirts to go with each of these looks. And finally shoes and accessories – what makes the blazer look smarter or more casual? Do you need an interesting belt to put on the trousers. Could you add a fun pocket square to add some flair to your outfit?
If you feel inclined when you get home, I'd lay everything out into the outfits you've created and photograph them so you don't forget and you can refer back to the photos. If you're feeling exhausted after a successful shopping trip though you might have to save that for another day!
7. Hire a professional
Well I couldn't write a blog post like this without offering to do it for you now could I?!
I'd be more than happy to take you shopping if you'd like, just drop me a line. Or if you'd first like to check out some alternative solutions, then have a look at this blog post I wrote on the different types of personal stylists and personal shoppers.