Monday, February 22, 2016

Personal Shopping

One of my first orders of business after I started my new job was to get some new clothes. My job has a "dress for your day" policy, so jeans are fine any day of the week - but it's still a professional environment. In addition, I'm leading a  team now, so I knew that my existing wardrobe was not going to cut it. All of the professional-level clothing I own was (more than) a few years old when I left my last job three years ago (so, now really out of date and didn't fit well besides), and the stuff I've bought in the meantime was designed for pregnancy, nursing, or sitting on the floor among yesterday's cheerios.

So, shopping we go! Except I hate clothes shopping. I get overwhelmed and stuff doesn't seem to fit well but I don't like to ask for help and blah blah blah.

So I took a different tack this time around - I set up some free personal shopping appointments. Nordstrom is the go-to for this kind of thing, but the closest Nordstrom personal shopper is quite a drive from my house. However, J. Crew and Macy's offer similar services, so I made an appointment at each place. Here's what I learned:

I don't think I'd ever shopped at J. Crew before. The preppy look is not my style, but I figured it would be good to try some new things. When I arrived for my appointment, the stylist introduced herself and asked me a few questions, then led me around the store and started making recommendations. She guessed at my size (and did a pretty good job of it), and pulled a TON of clothes off the rack. One of the things I was clear on was that I didn't want to buy outfits; I wanted to buy a lot of separates that I could mix and match. This changed her strategy a little bit so I'm glad that I mentioned it.

Then I started trying things on. Normally I hate being checked on in the fitting room, but this was great - I didn't feel like I was bothering someone; she was very much there to help me. So sending her off for a different size or color or something to go with these pants didn't seem like a burden. She was honest about how things looked and didn't try to sell me on anything that I didn't love. She pulled other people over when we were stumped on something. It was weird to be the center of attention like that, but it was effective - I definitely got more done in that shopping trip than I do on my own. I also tried on some stuff I would NEVER have touched, including a top that is now my favorite thing I've ever worn.

The whole thing took a little over an hour, I spent about $700 (I had a budget in mind before I went in of between $600-800, so right on target). My shopper probably got some sort of commission on what I bought, but I didn't have to pay anything extra for her time. In the end, I bought a pair of jeans, two pairs of pants, four button-up shirts, three sweaters and three cardigans. A bunch of things were on sale or clearance, and the rest were full price. I opened a store credit card to get 15% off my purchase, and also to get free alterations. This is not the kind of thing I EVER do, but the savings on the alterations alone make it worth it. After I pay off these purchases (in full when I get the first statement), I'll close the account - my goal was to do a big wardrobe overhaul right now and not to go shopping every month or so to add stuff to my closet.

I will be taking back the button-down shirts first, though. I liked them in the store and was excited at the thought of changing up my look but as time has gone by I have never reached for those shirts. They need to be ironed, and who am I kidding - I don't have time for that. I might replace them with some button-down shirts that don't need to be ironed, since I did like the look. Or a second pair of jeans, as I really like the way these fit.

The sweaters gave me pause, too, since they need to be dry cleaned. But a big frustration of mine has always been how my discount-store sweaters pill after the first washing, so I figured it was worth a try for a more high-quality fabric that requires a little more care. I've been careful to take the sweaters off and put on an old hoodie or something before I get home to my spaghetti-sauce covered kids.

Next, on to Macy's.

After I set up the appointment online, the shopper emailed me a questionnaire with lots of detailed questions about what I'm looking for, my sizes, my preferred sleeve/dress/hem length and that sort of thing. I filled it out and also requested a bra fitting, since things have changed since I last bought non-nursing bras.

When I arrived for the appointment, a fitting room (a BIG room, with a desk and two chairs in it!) was waiting for me with a bunch of clothes already paired into outfits. There were also a couple pairs of different styles of shoes and some jewelry. I loved almost everything as soon as I looked at it - my stylist had clearly taken to heart what I'd written in the questionnaire and dug through to find things that matched what I described as my style. She also took some creative license to introduce new styles and colors, which was great.

This appointment took almost two and a half hours, and I got a ton out of it - two pairs of pants, a pair of boots, six tops, five cardigans, two bras, a camisole, and I feel like there's more I'm forgetting. I spent around $900, but I won't be taking anything back. I seriously love everything I got and I've been getting a lot of compliment on these items when I wear them. I also opened a Macy's card to get 20% off this time around. That card I might actually keep open, but will of course pay the balance off in full each month (I don't plan on going shopping with it every month, but you know what I mean). Once again the interaction was no-pressure, even though I'm sure the shopper got a commission off of my purchases.

So, to sum up?

Store-based personal shoppers are awesome. I'm never going shopping without one again. It saved me so much time and energy - I didn't have to guess at my size across different brands, or find things that worked together, or run back and forth from the fitting room to get a different size. I got so much more accomplished in a shorter period of time, and I also got some things that I would never have picked out for myself but that looked great. I was also able to honestly say no to a few things that I loved on the hanger but just didn't love while wearing - I didn't have the same attachment to having picked them out myself, so it was easier to evaluate them honestly. We actually ran out of time at the appointment, so I will be going back to see the same shopper again - I see this being a seasonal or quarterly thing for me, but I can hardly imagine ever going to the mall without an appointment like this again.

If you're considering doing this, though, I'd highly recommend starting with a department store like Macy's or Nordstrom's (unless you're already a J. Crew devotee). There are so many more styles at a department store that I think it's easier to find things that fit your existing style or maybe stretch it a little, instead of doing what I did at J. Crew and buying a whole new look for yourself. That kind of thing is fun but maybe isn't likely to stick, and I feel bad returning the things that I thought I would wear but just won't. This was such a fun, useful way to update my wardrobe, and didn't cost me anything more than I'd have spent anyway. Win-win!

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