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5 Shopping Rules I Live By

After years of fashion disasters, I'm pretty content with my current personal style. I know what I like and I typically know what will flatter my figure. However, I wasn't born with any innate styling sense or ideas of what my "look" is. It's been an excruciatingly slow process to learn what slims me, trims my bust, or turns my ta-tas into man-nip. Conversely, it's been tricky to uncover what I gravitate towards. As a kid, my mom dressed me and when she stopped the L.L.Bean from head to toe, I tried to dress like my peers. After years of experimentation, I know what I like (florals!) and what doesn't quite feel like "me" (polo t-shirts). So, I suppose this post is intended for the old me, or anyone who might like style, be the proud owner of a killer set of boobs, and isn't sure how to work with 'em. Here are my top 5 shopping tenets:


1. You will always look best when clothes fit you (Bras especially!).
While this may seem like an obvious one, I've been on each end of the extreme and it isn't pretty. I went through the early 2000s at an age when Britney was cool so I've rocked my fair share of belly bearing tops. In retrospect, my mom was right and they were way too tight. In college, my main style goal was to wear something that would be comfortable for 24 straight hours of cramming at the library. I feel bad for my fellow students; my iffy hygiene and my dad's giant and hole-ridden t-shirt couldn't have left the best impression.

Now, I realize that wearing a garment too big or too small just isn't quite right. Like a bra in the next band up or the cup down, the fit simply isn't there. Whatever the size on the tag says, I reach for the next size smaller/larger when what I've brought into the dressing room doesn't sit right. In a weird way, it's a tough habit to get into. It makes shopping a little more time consuming and obnoxious, but it's worth it when you find a fit that suits you. Which brings me to rule #2...

2. If an item doesn't fit you, it's not your fault.
This one might just be insecure and eating disordered me, but for the longest time, when something didn't fit me, I internalized it in a heartbeat.  Two years ago, I went jean shopping with my boyfriend and I'll never forget it. We had just moved back to my hometown and I wasn't feeling that hot. I was depressed, I'd gained some weight, and I really missed going to school. We drove out to this "special" mall in upstate New York for the express purpose of finding a pair of jeans that fit me. I didn't have any since my size had changed. Well, I couldn't find anything that worked and somehow, in my mind, finding a pair of jeans had gotten wrapped up in all my other emotional stuff. So, I did what any logical person would do: I cried. At the mall. Like a champion, my boyfriend took me to the food court, fed and watered me, and gently reminded me that I had a lethal case of PMS.

You know that scene in Moonstruck when Cher yells "Snap out of it!" in her no-nonsense New York accent? Yeah, that's what I feel like doing to 2010 Cece and every woman who blames herself when something doesn't fit right. Of course, it's important to eat a balanced diet, exercise, and maintain an individually-determined healthy weight. I don't want to discount or ignore that, but I also believe that a healthy lifestyle is a separate issue from anything that goes on in dressing rooms at the mall. Somehow though, these two worlds have become mixed up in one another and in my own head, it's best to divide them again.

3. If you can't find a particular item, don't worry. It's out there.
Before being fit, I believed that my body was weird and there were no bras on the planet that would fit me. When I was walking and saw the Bravissimo sign in Edinburgh, a little voice in my head said, "Maybe they'd have something for you...". Well, it turns out they had a ton of selection for me. I'd spent years thinking that there wasn't anything that would do the trick and what I was looking for was out there the entire time. Today, this attitude can creep in when I'm not vigilant: "Oh, there aren't any pencil skirts in the whole wide world that fit me..." or "Button-up white shirts are so classic! I wish I could wear them...".


Nope, wrong. If you're looking for an item -- button-up white blouses, pencil skirts, plus size hosiery, size 12 shoes -- you might need to search longer than average, check out a small business, or save up for an investment piece, but these items do exist and they're available to purchase. It's just a matter of finding them and that's where over opinionated and easily excitable bloggers come in.

4. Put your money where your mouth is.
Shopping is like voting. There are millions of places to spend your money and when you do, you're sending a message that you support, encourage, and generally like that retail atmosphere, website design or product.  No joke, I could easily blow $1,000 at Forever 21. It's cute, trendy, and addictive as hell. However, by putting my hard earned money into that business, where does that leave me? With big chain quality and suspect design authenticity. On the flip side, if I bought $1,000 worth of merchandise from the Etsy shops I profiled on Friday, I would get fewer items overall, but they'd all be higher quality, last longer and created for my unique shape. Additionally, I'd be helping artisans and small business owners.

I realize that what I'm discussing is a luxury and I'm writing from a standpoint of privilege. I understand that not all the women of America have a choice to vote with their wallets or purchase bespoke pieces on a regular basis. With that stated, if you possess discretionary income, I'd suggest thinking about not just what you spend, but how you spend it. What do you want your money to say? For instance, maybe you want to buy 80% of your wardrobe at Forever 21 and 20% of it with smaller retailers. But just imagine, that seemingly small percentage could mean so much to an independent designer, small business owner, or niche shop.

5. Your body is beautiful. If something doesn't make you feel lovely, forget it.
It goes without saying and I can't even see you: Your body's beautiful. Everyone has one, they're all unique, and your corporeal self is a gorgeous hot mess of blood, guts, and flesh. If you put something on and it doesn't make you feel that way, forget it and find something that makes you want to strut your stuff. My kryptonite is any black and sheer bra. It's the most impractical color and the most seductive combination, but it's what I wear on my days off. You know, when I want to feel beautiful. For me. Oddly enough, my man friend prefers white. Go figure.

Alright, do you have any shopping rules? Do you already practice any ethical shopping disciplines? Alternatively, do you throw the rule book out the window when you're thinking about clothes?
If you're a small business owner, how do you feel when someone makes a special effort to buy from your company?

And, most importantly! What do you wear to feel beautiful??

7 Comments

  1. Yay, I loved this! Such practical, empowering advice. I spent a few hours yesterday shopping at high end department stores and getting increasingly frustrated, and then I found what I needed at Old Navy. The looking part can be so annoying, but the finding is such a joy and relief. That Knickerocker bodysuit-- holy pants, that is lovely.

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  2. We definitely have shopping rules, with us and 3 teens to dress there is a lot of shopping. Fit and price and how much we LOVE THIS GARMENT pretty much make buying decisions for us. I don't think we discriminate based on size of business, if a company is offering a product we love, we buy it, we are voting with our wallets. If we don't find what we're looking for, we try again another day (parents out there know this is harder than it sounds) :/

    Of course as a small business owner I'm amazed and flattered if someone goes out of their way to buy from us. Every day since we started selling online our lives have improved. That being said, if someone doesn't love what I'm selling, I hope they can find someone else who provides exactly what they are looking for. There are so many talented makers out there I wish I could try them all :D

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  3. We definitely have shopping rules, with us and 3 teens to dress there is a lot of shopping. Fit and price and how much we LOVE THIS GARMENT pretty much make buying decisions for us. I don't think we discriminate based on size of business, if a company is offering a product we love, we buy it, we are voting with our wallets. If we don't find what we're looking for, we try again another day (parents out there know this is harder than it sounds) :/

    Of course as a small business owner I'm amazed and flattered if someone goes out of their way to buy from us. Every day since we started selling online our lives have improved. That being said, if someone doesn't love what I'm selling, I hope they can find someone else who provides exactly what they are looking for. There are so many talented makers out there I wish I could try them all :D

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  4. I love love love Anthropologie but I no longer shop there because they destroy unsold clothing. They don't want to "cheapen" the brand by giving the clothing to shelters, etc. Also, I try to buy accessories that already exist, like from eBay or thrift stores. The best way to shop "green" is to buy and use up things that already "exist". I found it funny that the "I am not a plastic bag" totes come delivered wrapped in plastic. People go on these "green" item buying binges but in real life, it is greener to use what you already have or what someone else used to have. Also, I don't buy straight sized skirts/dresses with funky hems that are difficult to shorten. I am 5' and chances are, they will be too long and sit in my closet, unworn, because I am shit at hemming.

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  5. I agree with wearing what fits your body and looks good on you. While it is true, some popular fashion may look good on a majority of girls, it might not for me. I dress with clothing that looks good on me, that top may not be "in" at some clothing stores.

    The above(Urkye)
    blue form fitting top is beautiful, I would wear it. I really like scoop and square necklines and some v neck as long as the v isnt too long. Solid colors and cotton blends that maintain their shape.I like pull overs ,small fine ribbed knit tops, crochet, cardigan, tops with zip and snap fronts.
    Flowy tops, and especially tops with the bust in a wrap style does not work well for me, and most of the time crew necks and no polo's.

    I have a short torso and long legs, so although petite ( 5'1), I wear regular length.

    I shop at a Aeropostale sometimes, Pennys and sometimes lower end dept stores. I will shop lots of places if I find something I like.

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  6. This piece is great! I do a mix of higher end stuff (well, higher end for me) and thrift store type stuff. I love that my thrift stuff isn't generating waste, looks good, and is cheap. I'm also willing to splurge on a great dress and bras that I really love and will wear until they die. I do try and buy from small businesses when I can because I also run one. It's so important that people shop mindfully rather than for the sake of shopping (which still means you can shop at Target as long as you're putting some thought into it).

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  7. I have just discovered the Pepperberry site in the UK and love it! It's the first store I've seen of it's kind over here!
    You might like this (pretty old now) blog I wrote about bra sizing for a giggle :) http://hell4heather.hubpages.com/hub/makeitfitme

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