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Shop smart. Look smart

January 31, 2011

In a departure from normal hilarity and stories that would probably be embarrassing if I was somebody else and not me-I’ve decided to attempt to post useful blogs upon occasion.

One of the things people ask me questions about a lot is fashion and style and shopping. I’ve gotten random texts late at night about wearing stockings/tights with open toe shoes (No. I don’t care if it’s trendy, more on that later) where they can find certain things (floor two, near the elevator) and where to/how to shop.

Despite just naturally loving clothes and shopping, I even have a little genuine expertise in this. In college, I worked for Belk back when it was Parisian and still a good store in the summers and I was an assistant manager at an Ann Taylor for several years.

I’m thinking this may turn into a bit of a series so this first installment will be: Smarter Shopping.

1. Alterations-before anything else this is the holy commandment of clothes. Find an alterations person you love and stick with him/her. I’ve been with my lady ten years and yes, she’s cranky, she mutters at me in foreign languages and has called me fat before but good lord that woman can sew. Think of it this way: clothes are based off a sample size-which not many people are and expanded from there. It’s rare to find a perfect fit. Accept alterations and work them in your budget.

Example? I LOVE Lilly Pulitzer. In particular, I love her Worth shifts. Because I am freakishly short-waisted, I KNOW that any of these dresses I buy MUST be taken up at the straps to move the boobs and waist up to the proper place. In short, I go from looking like a stuffed sausage, to looking, as my mother says, “like somebody loves me.”

2. NEVER, I’m going to repeat this, NEVER buy anything because you HAVE to have it. Chances are, you won’t love it, you’ll wear it once and banish it to the back of your closet, you’ll be miserable in it AND you will have paid full price. Also? See above, the holy commandment of clothes-alterations. Last minute stress purchase? No time to alter. For my job, I go to several black tie, cocktail fancy shmancy things a month. And I have fabulous dresses. Why? I’m sharing a big secret-I have several evening gowns, dresses, etc with tags on THAT HAVE BEEN ALTERED hanging in my closet. I do NOT  buy during the Nov, Dec, Jan timeframe and avoid prom season (which is the most common time to make these types of purchases.) The rest of the time? I’ve gotten $300 for $50, $500 gowns for $150. Nordstrom Rack online, Nordstrom sale and Macy’s sale are my BFF’s. Learn to love the world of online shopping. In short, I have several dresses from which to choose, when I NEED one.

Even if you don’t need evening gowns, everyone needs a nice suit, a chic black seasonless dress that can be dressed up or down and one nice spring/summer weight dress. I guarantee someone will die, someone will get married and you’ll have a party or a job interview at some time. Be prepared with things you KNOW work on you. (And have been altered for you. I may harp on that.)

3. See above.Sale shoping. Make friends with sales associates. I have ones that send me thank you notes and ones that, more importantly call with sales, coupons, offer to hold things and mail them to me, special order, etc. Sales people really DO want to help you, okay maybe not at Loft, but at most places. Even at high end stores like Saks? This is a down economy and they want/need to sell stuff. Be NICE to salespeople. (For real. And don’t do things like have sex in dressing rooms-asking for tissues when you’re finished, return pants with used condoms in the pocket or leave your bloody maxi pad in a dressing room-these are ALL things that have happened to me.) You really don’t have to spend a ton of money for people to be helpful. Honest. (That said, I wouldn’t necessarily go into a nice store dressed like a homeless person with my ass hanging out of running pants with SLUT or some other nonsense word emblazoned on the bottom.)

4. Buy for the body you have. Easier said then done, trust me. But if you’ve been a certain size for a long time, chances are you’re not going to change any time soon. Squeezing yourself into too small clothes? Makes you look BIGGER.

5. Know what works for your body. I’m curvy. Many fashion experts would tell me to avoid pencil skirts and go with more a-line or flared skirts. Those types? Look awful one me. Pencil skirts? Much better. Low-rise pants? Rarely work on ANYONE. Unless you are too tiny. Otherwise, unless they fit to perfection, all they do is cinch you in what is most likely your widest/squishiest/least favorite body area. And underwear peeking out? Is never cute.

6. Know what STORES work for your body and your shopping style. I can’t wear pants from J Crew or Banana Republic. Period. They look dreadful. Ann Taylor, Loft and good old Levi’s jeans? Work MUCH better. (And yes, I get that Levi’s aren’t “cool” but I’m sure as hell not going to spend $200 on jeans that look like shit on me and leave my vagina hanging out exposed to the world.)

Likewise, know what stores work for how you shop. I can’t shop at TJ Maxx or Marshall’s for anything other than shoes or housewares. I can’t find anything, I get frustrated and when I do find something that MIGHT work, I snap it up because I’m excited that it’s a “good deal.” If it sits in my closet and is never worn and can no longer be returned? It’s NOT a good deal. And you don’t have to shop those places for a good deal. A couple weeks ago at Belk I got a darling $228 Lilly dress for $33. You just have to look.

So…I was planning on working all my shopping tips into one post BUT my Tylenol liquid cold PM is kicking in, (Thank you bratchild for bringing home a cold from the germ monkeys at school) so I will continue tomorrow or Wednesday.

But in the meantime, what’s the WORST  thing you ever bought? What’s the BEST deal you ever found?

© Amy Lloyd Mayfield and Amy’s Blam, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Amy Lloyd Mayfield and Amy’s Blam with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. mairzeebp permalink
    January 31, 2011 9:04 AM

    #4 should be tattooed on my thigh. Well, prior to my own size intervention that is. I had so many “some day” clothes that every morning when I opened my closet, I was confronted with the sad reality that the only thing I could fit in was my nightgown. Well, no more! I only buy what I can wear today. One day, when I am a Victoria’s Secret model I will get a new wardrobe. Until then, I want to look sylish and fabulous just as I am, and I do. Eat your heart out Heidi.

    • AmyBlam permalink*
      February 1, 2011 8:37 PM

      That’s the BEST attitude.

  2. January 31, 2011 11:08 AM

    I once found a $600 Italian suit for my husband at Macy’s for $75. The jacket was a bit big, but with alterations for about $20 it still ended up being the Best Deal I have ever found.

    Worst deal? I had a black tie wedding to go to in December, 6 months post-partum. I couldn’t find anything decent in the stores for less than $300 and was not about to spend that kind of money on something that I would probably never wear again. I stalked the internet until I found a website that had Oscar gown copies and the like for decent prices, made to order, in just about every color you could imagine. (In hindsight, I should have known it was too good to be true.)

    I found a gorgeous gown that I loved for about $115, ordered it in burgundy because the bridal party was wearing deep purple and my hubby was a bridesman. Dress arrives and it is FIRE ENGINE RED and the lace applique was BLACK and it had a TRAIN. And my dumbass didn’t read the return policy before ordering – you have 7 days, all returns must be approved by the service dept before you can send it back, and you need to show pictures that prove poor quality workmanship – no returns because you don’t like it, or because the color is not what you expected, etc.


    I ended up wearing it anyway and got loads of compliments. It did fit perfectly, at least, even if it did look kind of cheap in the daylight.

    The moral of this story? Don’t buy evening gowns online, and the Chinese color wheel is apparently FUCKED. UP.

    • AmyBlam permalink*
      February 1, 2011 8:39 PM

      I have seen those sites before and wondered about them so that’s good to know. I buy lots of evening gowns online but only at stores I know; Nordstrom Rack, Macy’s Sale, etc. But mainly because we have no good department stores where I live.

  3. January 31, 2011 1:14 PM

    I am in love with this. Tights with open toes? gag. THANK YOU for saying it out loud!! Best buy: an NYC outfit at Macy’s, put together by the mannequin. It has vanity sizing, and is constructed in some crazy-ass way, so 4 years after buying it, I still wear a size 8. It hits classic and trendy all at once. I was breast feeding and dog tired when I bought it, so NO idea how that happened. And every time I wear it people fawn over it. Never found another winner like this!
    Worst buy: my brothers wedding. Gorgeous blue color, trumpet skirt. We all picked different tops. I picked mine, then proceeded to gain 15 pounds. Got the dress, it obviously did not fit. Had two weeks for alterations and weight loss. FAIL. They let it out as much as the could. It didn’t fit. Wore it w/ the eye hook unbuttoned on the top and skirt. OH, and when I put the top on I discovered I couldn’t wear a bra with it. Awe.some. Total spent on dress: $325. It now resides in my daughters dress up chest.

    • AmyBlam permalink*
      February 1, 2011 8:40 PM

      Weddings are just cruel. I always wonder if people really like me when they ask me to be in their wedding or if they just want to torture me.

  4. January 31, 2011 3:48 PM

    I’m laughing as much at the comments as your awesome post! I was in management with Laura Ashley. I bet we have a couple of stories in common.

    • AmyBlam permalink*
      February 1, 2011 8:52 PM

      I am always SHOCKED by how people behave in stores. And restaurants.

  5. January 31, 2011 6:59 PM

    Best thing I ever bought- for $1, yes that’s ONE AMERICAN DOLLAR, I bought a shirt at Marshall’s that had nothing wrong with it. It appeared that the centered was all twisted, but it was totally an easy fix and I have worn that thing to death. Maybe I should do a post about it some day. I’ve had many a compliment on it. All for $1. And I usually tell people I paid $1.

    Worst thing I ever bought- only because it’s so impractical. I bought a very Bo Peep type dress for my senior prom and then decided I didn’t like it and made my own. Not to worry, I thought, I was going to college in Tennessee, so surely i would have nothing but balls to attend and this would be my perfect dress. So I hauled it all the way to Nashville. And then had to haul it home because no one wears these things outside of Disney. And I still have it to this day. And it fits. And I wore it once- in a parade. Yeah, DUMBEST purchase ever. I should blog that one too.

    • AmyBlam permalink*
      February 1, 2011 8:53 PM

      I would love to read posts about those two! I live in alabama and was once forced to wear a hoop skirt for a bridal shower.

  6. February 1, 2011 9:44 AM

    Great tips Amy. You should do more of these!

    For what it’s worth, I never find good clothes at TJ Maxx or Marshall’s either.

    • AmyBlam permalink*
      February 1, 2011 8:53 PM

      I’m glad it’s not just me! I see people wear amazing brands they find there but I just can’t.

  7. February 1, 2011 6:39 PM

    Every time I’m over here, I am convinced we were twins separated at birth. My Wadad is my tailor. And yes, she calls me The Little White Girl to my face, but she’s a maestro with a needle and thread. Every girl needs a kick ass hairdresser and tailor.

    And I’m the same way with my ball gowns. I should open up a rental business because everyone comes to me when they need a gown. Because of my husband’s business, we attend a lot of charitable events and I’m stock full of gowns. The best time to go around here is right after all the homecoming dances and after prom.

    And my salesgirl friend at BCBG calls me when a good sale is on.

    Also, too, I might add, don’t be afraid to ask if there’s any discounts available. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked if they have a coupon or any special discounts and gotten it. It never hurts to ask.

    I’d say one of my best deals was a gorgeous summer dress I found in a boutique in Northern California. It was fall and so all of their summer things were on major sale. It was yellow, which I think helped with the sale price because most people can’t do yellow, but I can. Anyway I got that baby for 6.99. My husband didn’t believe me until I showed him the price tag. It’s such a beautiful, unique dress and I have had people come over to my table while dining in a restaurant to tell me they liked it. I’m so proud of that buy.

    • AmyBlam permalink*
      February 1, 2011 8:54 PM

      I’m thinking that in addition to us being related, our tailors may be as well.

  8. February 2, 2011 6:33 AM

    Greetings : )
    Buying on line or in-store? which often do you like? just wondering lol.. i love in-store just because i hate waiting for it to arrive!

  9. February 2, 2011 10:15 AM

    I never thought to make friends with sales associates–what a great idea, especially if they’re doing the bargain shopping for you. And OMG at your dressing room discoveries!!! I’m horrified.

    I can’t think of my best purchase at the moment. But worst purchase: a pair of ruby red open-toed high heels. They were kind of cute but super uncomf and I knew I would never wear them… but I had a girlfriend there who convinced me I should get them anyway. That’s why I now shop alone 😉


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