Seven Questions To Ask Yourself While You Are Clothes Shopping

Clothes shopping

Clothes shopping. Like politics and ‘The Bachelor’ it is a topic that is guaranteed to polarise. We either seem to love it or hate it. And regardless of your position on the topic – whether you shop regularly or rarely, ‘in person’ or on-line – there is still a good chance that you won’t end up wearing half your purchases as often as you’d like. Or ever, for that matter.

At various times, for a multitude of reasons, we’ve all bought things that we’ve later regretted. And for many of us, this can bring up all sorts of feelings. Guilt for some of us. A desire to hunt down the right piece for others – wasting time and money in the process.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If we pause and reflect for just a few seconds prior to purchasing it is possible to sidestep buyer’s remorse. We just have consider the right things.

So, here are seven questions to ask yourself before you hand over your cash. They’re especially designed to help ensure you get the most wear out of your purchases.

Seven Questions To Ask Yourself While You Are Clothes Shopping

Does This Item Suit My Lifestyle And My Style Personality?

Really tap into how you live and what feels right for you and purchase accordingly. Too often we can be tempted by what we see in social media, magazines or what suits a celebrity or our best friend. But when you know yourself and you are dressing for how you want to feel day-to-day you are almost guaranteed to buy clothing that makes you feel great. And guess what? You tend to wear clothing that makes you feel special.

Am I Shopping Due To Need Or Am I Looking For A Way To Help Myself Feel Better?

I’m quite sure it happens to all of us at some point. We’ve had a rough week (or month, or even year) and we decide that a little retail therapy might be in order. We declare that we deserve a little gift and head out to the shops (or to our lap tops) to purchase exactly that. And while your impulse buy might make you feel a little better in the moment, it is unlikely to provide a permanent fix for your troubles.

For some of us, it is enough to recognise that we might be shopping to make ourselves feel better and we can run our own mini-intervention. However, if you find you shop this way more often than you would like, it can sometimes to help to have a list of items that you actually need tucked inside your purse. Yes, I know that takes a lot of the spontaneity out of your shopping trip, but it also helps to avoid potential remorse.

Do I Own Duplicates Of This Item Already?

On a cold, rainy day recently,  I was rifling through my wardrobe for a pair of pants. I couldn’t be bothered with stockings – besides, it was too cold. And I was keen for a splash of colour on a dreary day. Luckily I have a range of pants. Unfortunately they were all black. Yes, the cuts were slightly different but my choices were limited to black, black and more black…Really, how many pairs of black pants does one woman need? Especially when I would have been happy to wear red, white or a pattern?

An ‘insert eye-roll here’ moment for sure. But can you relate? I know I’m not the only one who has a collection of duplicates in her wardrobe. While we all need classic investment pieces like black pants, white shirts and linen blazers in our wardrobes, we also need variety. However, it is easy to default to our comfort zones….which is fine until you want to wear something fresh and different. Know when you are heading into your ‘comfortable space’ and challenge yourself to purchase a different colour. Or to step away from the rack and buy nothing at all.

Is The Quality There?

Quality is important if you want to get long lasting wear out of your purchases. Check the fabric, the seams and the fastenings. And remember that quality doesn’t have to be expensive. We fall for that idea sometimes, but once you develop your eye for quality, you will realise that true quality comes at all price points. And there is real joy in mixing all your high quality pieces, regardless of what you paid for them.

Does It Fit?

And I mean really fit. Yes, that means that if you are shopping in person, you need to try the item on. Or if you are shopping on-line, you need to dig through the drawer for your tape measure. I know that both options sound like hard work, but I promise the effort is worth it. There is no such thing as standard sizing, so if you try to  guess the correct size, there is a good chance that you’ll get it wrong. And I’ve learned over the years, that if an item doesn’t fit perfectly, women will not wear it. Whether the clothing is too baggy or a smidge too tight, if we feel self conscious in our clothing, we’re sure to pass it by.

Is It Within My Budget?

When we feel good about our clothing choices, we are far more likely to wear the clothes themselves. Going over our budget is one way that can bring a sense of ‘ickiness’ to our decisions. You don’t need me to tell you what this looks like – you know deep down when you have overspent. Avoid these feelings by remaining within your own personal limits and truly enjoy the items you choose to allow into your wardrobe.

Will It Complement…Well, Everything?

Will this piece combine well with my existing wardrobe? My unique body shape? My colouring? These are all questions that would ideally be answered in the affirmative before a piece makes its way into your wardrobe.

Sales racks can be super dangerous in this space. Orphan items often head into our homes because they are marked down. But we have to be strong. The rule I internalised a long time ago was that if a new piece can’t be worn with at least three existing items then it wasn’t allowed in the house. This little gem has worked for me for years now, and ‘what-on-Earth-do-I-wear-with-that?’ pieces no longer make their way into my life.

The exception that makes this rule? Sometimes we simply fall in love. ‘At first sight’ kind of love. Perhaps with the fluffy thing. Or the orange piece. Or with something we would have worn way back when – if only we could have afforded it. And while we know that it won’t match a single piece in our wardrobe we also know that we will make it work. And that we will adore wearing it. If something makes your heart sing, go for it I say. I’m not about to deny true love.

Do you quiz yourself while you are clothes shopping? Or do you have a wardrobe full of orphan pieces? Either way, I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

And until next time – au revoir.

P.S. Looking for someone to help you build a wardrobe you love? Then you might want to check out the latest opportunities to work with me.


Photo Credit: Haute Stock

About Janelle

I believe that everyone can bring French elegance and inspiration to their life, no matter where they happen to live in the world. They only need to learn a secret or two to be on their way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll have access to the secrets that allow you to bring the best of the French lifestyle into your everyday life. I’m talking about things like style advice, recipes and book reviews. And you’ll also receive regular doses of French inspiration, as well as travel and packing tips galore.

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4 thoughts on “Seven Questions To Ask Yourself While You Are Clothes Shopping

  • Taste of France

    My daughter is brutal about asking herself whether pieces are really worthwhile. I am so proud!
    One thing we recently did: we put elastic in the back of the waistbands of all her jeans. It means they don’t gap (or aren’t too tight). It took very little time, and the jeans really do look better. We used the widest elastic that would fit, and you can’t even tell it’s there (no grandma-style elastic waist look). Now I need to do mine!

    • Janelle Post author

      Thanks Catherine. Well done to your daughter for developing the questioning habit so early – I’m sure it will save her a ton of grief into the future (and you are right to be proud!). I’m also intrigued by the elastic strategy – although after years of ‘research’ (mistakes?) I’ve found a brand and cut of jeans that suits my body, as someone who grew up with what my mother termed a ‘sway back’ the elastic idea sounds fascinating.

  • Alisa

    As usual, a thought-provoking post!
    Shopping in France has totally changed my approach to shopping. I think it is not uncommon for Americans to agonize over an item and take quite a while to think about it, while carrying it around in the shop or looking in the mirror in the dressing room. Even so, there is often buyer’s remorse. Part of this is the ease with which we can return our purchases.
    French women shop very differently. Until fairly recently, return policies were extremely restrictive – they are still much more restrictive than here. Makeup, for example, even if sealed, is not returnable. The return window is always very brief. Often, one branch of a store will not accept the return of an item from another branch of the same store.
    You would think that such policies would lead French women to take even more care with purchases and agonize longer.
    Au contraire!
    Watch a French woman in a store; she will leaf through a rack in moments, pull an item, decide almost instantaneously if it is correct. If she tries it on, it will be a mere moment to confirm fit, and then the purchase is made (or not) and she is out the door. If you are in the dressing room for more than a minute, the sales associate will ask if you need assistance Madame, another size, does it suit? She will be concerned by the fact that you are taking so long. She will wonder if somehow you tried on an item that you do not like the style of and so she will try to pinpoint with you what it is that should be different. Throughout, the assumption is that you are there to buy a (fill in the blank) and need her assistance. Naturally, Frenchwomen are sometimes ‘just looking’, but even that is accomplished with dispatch, even during the semi-annual sales.
    (Caveat: this is not the case with younger shoppers, especially in stores such as H&M, Zara, Kookai. There is much more trying and discarding, but still the process is very quick.)
    French apartments are smaller, and closet space is more limited, so each purchase matters.
    I have taken this approach very much to heart.
    If something does not call out my name as soon as I see it on the rack, I keep flipping. If it does call my name, it has 15 seconds to make its case.
    I have mentally conditioned myself to believe that I have far less closet space than I actually do.
    And I follow my mother’s guideline: NEXT year, when I pull out my seasonal clothes, if this item is not there, will I be sorry I did not purchase it?
    Your point re quality at every price point is dead on. Someone who does not feel confident in this area might find a sewing/tailoring book to study. Or, go to a high-end shop and examine the details: buttonholes, seams, hems, how many pieces in the sleeve, in the collar, etc. Go to a fabric shop and examine the different types of fabrics and the different fabric fibers and blends; how they drape, how they feel.
    Black pants. Black skirts. “You can never have too many.” But you can. I do. You have inspired me to thin them out.
    Can’t wait for your next post!

    • Janelle Post author

      Hi Alisa, Thanks so much for the feedback – and for all the fabulous insights contained in your comment. Like you, I’ve noticed that the buying habits of French women are quite unique. I put it down to the fact that they truly understand what themselves and their style personalities. I love what you write about the clothing having 15 seconds to state its case – from now on, all my prospective purchases will be working to the same rule. Thanks too for your tips on how women might better understand quality – it is so important, yet I feel it is something we’ve become conditioned to ignore in this time of fast-fashion.