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3 Shopping Habits That Keep You Stuck

It’s spring.  Well, at least it is in the stores even if the weather is telling you something different.  A sea of bright colors greets you as you enter any clothing store, and this alone is enough to send some women into a tizzy.

A couple of days ago I was shopping with a client in a department store.  As we headed out into the racks of clothes she looked at me with a faint smile and said, “How do you know where to begin?  My eyes keep darting in a million different directions and I feel totally overwhelmed.”  I calmed her fears and assured her I would help her navigate the store.  I also know that so many women share the same feeling of anxiety when they go shopping for clothes, and since we are about to enter a new shopping season this topic is very timely.

That said, I am not going to address all the ins and outs of shopping successfully (you can read about that in my newly released book, That’s So You! where I devote an entire chapter to this topic.

But I do want to touch on three specific shopping habits that can keep you stuck and frustrated as you shop and even more discouraged when you get dressed every day.  Change these habits and you will change your wardrobe forever.

Here are three confessions I hear from women all the time.  Let’s look at them and see if they ring true for you.  If so, this is a great opportunity to release those old habits and start fresh:

1. “I have been shopping at __________ store(s) for the past 5/10/15 years.”  If you are shopping at the same places you did ten years ago and are no longer having any luck, the culprit is one of two things.  It could be that the store is now identifying with a different demographic–sometimes they have a new buyer who is taking them in a new direction.  If it is not the store then it must be you.  This is not a bad thing, it’s just life.  Like it or not, as the years pass, our bodies shift, our lifestyles evolve and there is no doubt that we get older each year.  It could also be that the store is still a good choice for you, but you don’t know how to switch your focus to find those more suitable options.  No matter what, it eventually requires a different way of looking at your wardrobe and it will affect your shopping experience.  There comes a point when if you keep shopping in the same places without getting the results you want, buying clothes will continue to be an exercise in futility and frustration.

We also tend to believe that we should be able to shop at xyz store because everyone else does or it used to be great or they talk about it in magazines or television.  What happens then is that you stop looking for new stores to explore, especially if shopping is not an experience you enjoy.  And, hey, can’t everyone shop at Marshalls, Macy’s or Talbots?  Not necessarily.  One of my clients told me that her husband thinks I’m wonderful because now they don’t have to stop at every Marshalls they pass.  She used to go in because she was searching for ways to complete her wardrobe and the lower cost appealed to her (and felt less scary if she made a mistake) and, as a result, she would often buy things because of the price rather than the value it contributed to her wardrobe.  Now that she has a wardrobe she loves she still shops occasionally at Marshalls, but she does it strategically and because it feels fun rather than out of desperation.

Just ask Wendy Yellen ( about the value of finding a great store.  While working with the ‘Who Taught You How to Dress?’ coaching program (, she learned the value of venturing into a few smaller boutique stores in her local area.  In her exploration she was delighted to find one that fit her style exactly.  Who knew!  She shared with me that, Because of your encouragement, I actually now have a ‘favorite store’ and, unbelievably, people regularly—and often—ask me where I shop and tell me how great I look. Even better, I FEEL great about how I look!”  This one step changed her life.

A common concern is that boutiques are too expensive, but, as Wendy discovered, if you make wise choices there is a good chance you won’t spend any more than you used to.  You might have fewer clothes, but you will wear everything rather than having a lot of unworn garments hanging in your closet.  As you get to know the women who work at the store there is a good chance they will make sure you are the first to know about upcoming sales.  And, this might surprise you, but not all boutiques carry expensive lines of clothing.  Some actually have a low-moderate price point and some have a wide range of prices so there’s something for every budget.  Finding a store(s) you love can be life changing for you, too.  You get a wardrobe you feel great wearing, nothing hangs in your closet unworn, and you spend much less time shopping because you know where to shop.

Let me also say that it does not have to be a boutique that is your new go-to store.  It can be a consignment shop, a department store, a designer store, a big box store or even a thrift store—or a combination of some of the above.  It is just a matter of doing a little research in the beginning to find the places (one to four stores) that make you happy.

2. “I never try things on.”  This is a huge admission.  I know that many women dislike shopping so much that they swoop into a store, grab a few things that look promising or familiar and head home.  Or, they order online almost exclusively because it means they do not have to go anywhere near a store.  Once home they eventually try things on and too often they find themselves either trying too hard to make something work when clearly it is not ideal or they disappointingly acknowledge that the item doesn’t work, but then, with their busy lives, they often forget to return it.  It also means that they are less likely to branch out and try something new because it might not look good and then it is one more thing they have to return.  When your goal is to stay out of the stores as much as possible, the idea of venturing in even to return something takes a backseat to almost anything else in your life.

The problem is that waiting until you get home to try things on does not allow you as much freedom to explore and entertain new possibilities so you are more likely to stay stuck wearing a version of the same thing all the time.

I know what you’re thinking, “I never find anything new that I like.  Everything is too young, too old or just plain ugly and so it’s a lot easier to stay with what feels safe and easy.”  The problem is that this often means that you don’t feel inspired or excited about your wardrobe either.  Not that you have to be a fashionista, by any means, but every woman deserves to feel great about how she looks.

When you think about shopping for clothes, I’m sure you can come up with about six million things you would rather do or that feel more pressing, but if you choose a store you enjoy and schedule enough time so you don’t feel rushed and can actually try clothes on while you are there, you might be surprised at what new possibilities open up.  Why not take a deep breath and make a commitment (and actually schedule it) to expand your shopping experience?  You just might find yourself sighing with relief!

3. “I buy pieces when I find them.”  This certainly sounds innocent enough, but this one behavior can wreak more havoc on your wardrobe—and psyche—than the other two combined.  If you have orphaned pieces sitting unworn in your closet then it is well worth taking a look at this shopping habit.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a spectacular piece here or there and even better when you can get it on sale.  The problem arises when you get it home and realize that, although you love it and are excited about wearing it, you cannot—no matter how hard you try—make a complete outfit out of it.  I know. I know.  Your intentions are to find something that you like so you can wear it, but for right now, it’s a lonely piece sitting there teasing you and begging to be worn.

Here’s the thing… the time to think about whether you can make it into a complete outfit is before you buy it.  Before heading to the checkout counter, mentally rummage through your closet and think about what will work with it.  Be specific.  If you cannot think of at least two items you already own that can finish it, then leave it at the store or buy the rest of the outfit (provided you love it) right then and there.  Yes, I know this takes discipline and focus, but it is worth it.

Do this exercise before you purchase another orphaned item: Take a minute and add up all the money you have spent on things you do not wear because you couldn’t figure out how to make them work and then allow that to inspire you to adopt this new shopping habit.  It will never let you down.

And, if you need more guidance, check out my hot-off-the-press book, That’s So You! and take a look at the section entitled, “Unworn Clothing: Love It or Let It Go” (just one of many that will help you) for inspiration and support.


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Ginger Burr is a fashion stylist and personal shopper serving clients worldwide from metro Boston.