Like so many of you, I have struggled with shopping for most of my teenage and adult years. The frustrating sizing, the limited fashions that work for my body type, and the general dread that a mirrored room can inspire -- oooh, ladies, I have been there.

In the past 15 years or so, we’ve seen an amazing uptick in contemporary and forward-fashion clothing lines that cater to and celebrate the fuller-figured woman. Not to mention all the boom in online shopping! While it makes shopping more fun, we have even more options to choose from… and that doesn’t mean we’re always buying the right thing.

I’ve slowly but surely stopped getting completely frustrated -- or carried away -- with shopping by following a few simple guidelines, and I’m sharing them with you today!

About me:

Am I a fashion expert? Not really. Do I have good style? I like to think so. Am I full-figured woman who wears clothes everyday? Damn skippy.

I’m 39 years old, 5’9” tall, and wear anywhere from a size 12-16 or L/XL depending on whatever Machiavellian sizing schema the manufacturers are using. I wear a size 11 shoe and have meaty enough calves that most boots are a PITA to try on.

Style-wise, I aspire to be a cross between Audrey Hepburn circa “Sabrina” and Stevie Nicks circa forever, but I probably look more like Dorothy Zbornak in reality. Lots of slim cut pants with an interesting top and good jewelry.

My Tips & Tricks:

Make a List. Have you ever gone grocery shopping hungry? Exactly. Three types of crackers, but you forgot the milk. Sure, there’s a lot of fun to be had when shopping for shopping’s sake, but I don’t have the time or budget for that. Start shopping with a good idea of what your wardrobe really needs to keep yourself focused. Online stores have categories, use them!

Invest. Don’t spend your disposable income on disposable clothing. Think about the timelessness of clothes you’re looking at. Will it look good on you in 5 years? 10? Has it been made well? Will it keep its shape and luster with proper care? I have a brushed silk black cocktail dress that cost me a pretty penny when I was 25, but it has been in solid rotation for special occasions for the last 15 years.

Sit back and scan. In a brick & mortar store, I like to wander around for a while before I pick anything up. I look for patterns and sleeve length first -- they are the two factors that are easiest to assess at a distance. If I like what I see, I go in and look for my size, then check the price. Online shopping makes this a lot easier with filtering and sorting. This keeps me from latching onto things and overwhelming my shopping cart.

Edit before you buy. Don’t get something just because it’s in your size or is on sale, it’s the fastest to buying something completely forgettable. I have been guilty of this in the past and all that’s done is make me feel terrible about my consuming and spending habits. (“Why do I have three blue t-shirts?!”) In order for me to buy something, I need to have a really positive reaction to it.

Know your comfort zone, and shop on its edges. We all know what we feel best in, and that’s not to be undervalued. However part of the joy of shopping is finding something that makes you feel, in some small way, like a new you. I like try something on, just in case. Garments change dramatically when they’re actually on your body… and sometimes in surprisingly good ways.

Don’t be dismayed or swayed by store categories. I might wear “mom” jeans, but that’s because they fit perfectly and I feel fly as hell in them. Shop whatever section of the store catches your eye and fits your body. On any given day, in any given store (online or off), I can bounce between Women’s Fashion, Plus and Plus Junior sections. You never know what is going to look great on you.

Walk it out. By this I mean two things:

1) Sit down, move around and squat in the damn thing. Does it cut off your air? Are your organs still intact? Do you feel comfortable with what’s on display?

2) What are you going to wear this with? Do you have a variety of outfits you can build around this garment, or is this a one-trick pony?


Where I Shop:


Bottoms: Real talk, I’m still looking for a go-to jeans or pants label. This is probably the hardest thing for me to shop for, so I tend to buy pants in department stores where I know I can canvas a wide array of brands.

Tops: I like tops that have a good mix of classic style with a touch of the unusual, Dex Plus and Bobeau are definitely fitting the bill for me.

Dresses: I prefer sheath and shift style dresses in general, they can highlight my shape without making me too self conscious. I’m loving this graphic print sweater dress.

Shoes: I’m a big fan of DSW’s bright yellow “11” stickers. They allow me to cruise down their aisles pretty efficiently. If I don’t see the sticker, I don’t stop.

I hope, at the very least, my shopping ‘primer’ gives some of you a validating sense of normalcy about how you shop. (Total Strangers, They’re Just Like Us!) At the most, maybe this will give some of you needed direction the next time you set out to go shopping.


Have any shopping tips of your own? Share them in the comments!

Tomiko

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