Clothes-Buying One-o-One (actually two)

A rack jammed with bright-colored clothes; the kind that can be hard to work through on your own.

Here in the northeast spring only sprang recently and still isn’t too sure about it. Fashion forward folks start on their spring wardrobe in March or even February, but now is a good time for the rest of us. There are spring sales around this week and next. Call one or two favorite stores, or check them out online. Also read the real one-o-one blogpost : Spring is Coming and It’s Time to Think About Your Clothes, so you know to lay out all your summer clothes and have the keen clothes-buyer in your family or among your friends come to look at them. Haul your warm-weather Wardrobe out now and appraise it, so you and your friend can decide what looks good and what’s a bit past it. The goal is to appear up-to-date and attractive, and feel good about yourself without spending beyond the budget.

If you have a wedding, birthday party or vacation ahead, or you want to improve your volunteering, interview or work wardrobe, you might do best at a men’s or women’s specialty clothing store. One advantage to shopping at a clothing store is that you can usually get more personalized service. Some stores offer a good personalized shopping service and some don’t, so call ahead to make sure. Find out which times and days would be best too. You don’t want to waste time and effort getting there only to find that the assistants are too busy to help much.

When you arrive, identify yourself as the person who called and ask for a sales associate to assist you. It’s worth adding that you are hoping for someone who knows the store well, just so you don’t get a new recruit. If all goes well the assistant will spend dedicated time with you, listening to what you have in mind, making suggestions and then going with you to the racks to choose items to try on. Make sure you go with your assistant to check out the clothes yourself. You need to know what’s there and how they feel and look. She will then set you up in a fitting room to try on a bunch of clothes, bringing you alternative sizes and colors. Some people develop a relationship with individual sales associates (sometimes called “client specialists”) over time, which can be a great help if the salesperson is a careful listener who explains the color and the look to you, but doesn’t impose her ideas.

Specialty stores are likely to have better service but higher prices than the big chain retail stores, where there are usually very few assistants and it may be hard to find the racks or bins you want to look through. If you just need a couple of shirts or shorts to fill out your wardrobe, this type of store will probably be nearer and cheaper, but you may need to take someone with you.

Another option is shopping at a clothing consignment store or regular second hand store. Many of these stores are small and very well-organized, with racks arranged by type, size and color. There will be no two-of-a-kind items, so if something doesn’t fit you won’t be able to try a different size. And the sales are final – no returns.

Wherever you shop, be sure to ask about the return policy. Where full refunds are offered you might buy all the items that interest you, keep the receipt somewhere safe, and try the clothes on at home in comfort. Make sure your friend is willing to return the unwanted items. (After this you’ll have to cook her dinner!)

If you can wait, the really good deals come at the end of each season. Winter coats, suits and boots will be marked down by as much as 70% in mid-January to mid-February. Summer clothes go into clearance towards the end of August. But of course choice of style and size becomes more and more limited as the season goes on. Other big sale times are the week after Thanksgiving, the week after Christmas, and Monday holiday week-ends. But those deals aren’t for this spring. So drag out that bag of shorts or dresses and call your fashionista friend.

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