June 17, 2024

How to shop successfully when you can’t try anything on, according to a top stylist

While you might be itching to dash down to your local Primark for some retail therapy after months of lockdown, stores are having to make some pretty drastic changes to ensure the safety of shoppers.

From socially distanced queues just to get in, to changing rooms being closed – the new normal is going to present a whole set of challenges. Firstly, how the hell can we overhaul our wardrobe when we can’t try anything on? And will we be queuing for hours to buy something only to have to do the exact same thing a few days later when we get home and realise it doesn’t fit?

Here, award-winning personal stylist Susie Hasler, who runs Styled By Susie, shares some really practical hacks to ensure your ‘new normal’ shopping trip is as successful as possible.

Whilst our local pub shows no sign of opening any time soon (miss you, Slug Lettuce), the high street reopened today in an attempt to kickstart the global economy – but it’s not *quite* ‘business as usual’.

Pre-shop prep

It might sound a little OTT, but the better prepared you are to hit the shops, the less time you’ll spend ‘browsing’ and lingering in stores; before heading to the shops, you must make a plan.

A list is your friend so have a specific idea in mind of what you want to shop for. Take a look through your wardrobe beforehand and identify any gaps you have. Do you have lots of lovely summer skirts but no tops to go with them? If so, make a note of the colours of the skirts and which hues would complement them. Or do you need summer shoes? Have a style in mind – do you want flats, or sandals or wedges or trainers?

Add all these items to a list, so that the items you will be buying will make a complete outfit.

Then write down a list of shops you want to go to. Browse online to see whether they have anything you particularly like, and want to see ‘in the flesh’. Take some screenshots on your phone so that you have everything at your fingertips, and you can easily find items when in store.

Also, remember that you’ll be queuing for longer than usual – just to get into stores and then when paying too. Wear something comfy – you won’t need to remove anything to try things off – take snacks and water, and perhaps download something to watch on your phone (especially vital for children if you’re braving the stores with them).

Will it fit me?

As most stores’ sizes come up differently, and you won’t be able to try on items in shops, this is going to be the trickiest challenge when buying clothes.

Before you hit the shops, check size charts online – and measure your leg length, hips, waist, shoulders and bust, to see how you fare in each store. Make a note of this on your list. Then check your wardrobe for items you already have from these stores and note the sizes that you’ve previously bought that fit you. It’s probably wise to play it safe and head to familiar stores while changing rooms are closed.

As a last resort, you’ll need to grab two of each item, the two closest sizes, and take them home to try them on. You may be able to send them back via post, but check with that store before doing so.

Shops such as Zara, H&M and Mango are less generous with their sizing, compared to Next and M&S. This means you might need to size up once or even twice.

Also check that the size noted on the hanger is the same as what’s on the label – there’s nothing more frustrating than buying an item only to find it has been placed on the wrong hanger!

If you’ve measured yourself at home, pop a tape measure in your bag and compare the items of clothes you want to buy to ensure they’ll fit without having to try them on.

Stop buying random bits!

Shopping post-pandemic means an end to hours of browsing – for now. You’ll also want to shop effectively, which is also good for the environment, and that means not just grabbing items of clothing for which you don’t have an outfit in mind.

I have carried out hundreds of wardrobe declutters on women who have countless items still with the labels on as when they got them home, they realised they had nothing to wear them with.

You may opt for a pretty printed skirt, but when you get it home you realise you have nothing to wear with it.

Not having enough basic items is the reason behind the saying ‘I have too many clothes but nothing to wear’. Basics are ‘boring’ items – the T-shirts, vests, cardigans and knitwear – that act as the glue to pull so many more outfits together.

A basic white T-shirt, for example, can be worn with jeans, with a co-ord suit, tucked into a pleated skirt or under a pair of dungarees. Just that one T-shirt will give you at least four different outfits!

You can’t beat a basic, and if you aim to stock up on vest tops and tees, you can be safe in the knowledge that they will go with anything you wear on the bottom half. A striped Breton tee is also handy as you can clash that with patterns too. If you’re looking at pattern clashing, try to always ensure they have the same colourway. For example, you can easily clash leopard print with camo print as they are similar earthy tones.

Happy shopping – and don’t forget your hand sanitiser, face mask… and snacks.

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