Shop Smart Every Time

Try Lots of Sizes

Go into the fitting room with three sizes of the same garment because sizing isn’t consistent from one designer to another, from one fabric to another, or even one season to another. Ignore the number on the tag and choose the best fit.

Make a List

Know what you’re looking for and go in with a plan—it will keep you from getting overwhelmed by all the choices and help you cut down on impulse buys.

Wear the Right Stuff

Wear clothes and shoes that are easy to get on and off and unobtrusive undergarments (a nude thong is perfect). Put on a little makeup to combat the fluorescent lights in the dressing room.

Don’t Compromise

As a day of shopping wears on, it gets more and more tempting to buy something to avoid feeling as if you’ve wasted your time. Ignore the urge—buying out of desperation usually leads to a return.

Go Off the Rack

How a piece looks on the rack can be deceiving. If something on the hanger intrigues you in the slightest, take a chance and try it on.

Check Yourself Out

Take your time trying things on: Look in a three-way mirror, walk, bend, stretch and sit down to see how the garment will wear. If you can, see how the piece looks in different lighting.

Avoid Rush Hour

Dodge the crowds by shopping during the day or around the dinner hour. You’ll feel calmer and have a better selection to choose from.

Buy for the Body You’ve Got

Even if you’re planning to lose a little weight, don’t buy clothes that are too tight—they’ll only make you appear heavier. Remember, the idea is to look good now, and you will—even with that extra five pounds—if your clothes fit your body properly. You can always have a piece taken in post-diet.

Shop for Your Everyday Reality

Your dream life might involve dresses and 3-inch heels, but if your day-to-day is spent in pants and flats then that’s what you should buy. A large part of being chic is being comfortable and dressing for your lifestyle. No matter how much you love them, clothes that don’t fit your everyday criteria will collect dust.

Accessorize on the Spot

Try on a dress with or without stockings; with a thin belt and a thick one; slip on a heel, then flats. Do not be embarrassed to ask salespeople to help you get whatever you need.

Buy in Multiples

The pants that fit your derriere just so, the soft T-shirt that perfectly outlines your torso, a dress that makes you look super-slim—if the price is right, buy these items in more than one color. Be sure, though, that they are basic enough; you will quickly tire of two print dresses in the same floral, even if they are different colors.

Go Cheap With Your Tees

Basic black T-shirts are a staple wise buyers load up on in the discount aisles. Consider switching out your worn and faded tees every season (tanks for summer, short sleeves for spring and long sleeves for winter).

Look for Copycats

When buying anything recognizable, like a print, check that there aren’t 1,000 variations of it on the racks. If you run into your dress everywhere you go, it won’t feel special.

Get Touchy-Feely

Trust your sense of touch. You’ll never wear an itchy or uncomfortable garment, no matter how cute it is.

Wear the Right Bra

Make sure you have the right undergarments for the try-on. Keep in mind that the proper bra (i.e. a push-up number for a low-cut neckline) can make a dress fit perfectly.

Don’t Forget Your Kicks

Try on pieces with the right shoes—you’ll never get the full effect in your flip-flops. Forgot your heels? Borrow a pair (with permission) from the shoe section.

Think Price Per Wear

Factor the number of times you’ll wear a piece into its cost. An expensive little black dress can be a bargain if you wear it again and again, while a wild print gown on sale might be a pricier one-wear-only proposition.

Wear White

Try bras on with a thin white T-shirt to make sure everything is smooth and lifted and nipples aren’t noticeable.

Stock Up!

When you find a bra that fits well—buy in bulk! Get one in a color that matches your skin tone, one in white and one in black.

When the Shoe Fits

For the best fit, keep in mind that feet swell up to 20 percent during the day (as well as after long walks and runs). Walk around the store to gauge the size. And like Mom always said, make sure you can move your toes (even in pointy styles).

Get the Most Bag for Your Buck

Before purchasing a bag, think about what you normally carry with you and look for versions with corresponding compartments. Look for convertible straps for maximum versatility; contrasting lining will help you spot your keys at the bottom of your purse.

Use the Fit Tools

Don’t wing it—use all the fitting info on the site. Read sizing charts and take your measurements. Many sites show their pieces on figures so that you get an idea of proportions. Some, like Net-a-porter.com, even have fit specialists who can answer your questions. If returns are free, buy two sizes and return one.

Never Pay Retail

When shopping online, full price is a last resort. Register with sites that find you bargains, Google promo codes and sign up with members-only sample-sale sites.

Order Custom

If you have trouble finding jeans that fit and can’t afford the hours it can take to find the right ones, there are sites where you can order them to your exact measurements. Button-front shirts and sneakers can be made to measure too. Look for sites that provide customer testimonials, have been reviewed in the press, and offer a return policy that you are comfortable with.

Buying Vintage

Know what is fixable and what isn’t: Loose buttons can be easily sewn on tighter and broken zippers can be inexpensively replaced. Ripped seams are simple to fix, while tears in fabric have to be rewoven at premium costs. Needless to say, bad smells aren’t worth the trouble.

Be Sample Sale Savvy

Choose the right time to go: Line up early for the best selection or drop by in the final hours for the most marked-down prices. It’s rare that dressing rooms will be on offer, so wear loose clothes or fitted leggings to maintain your try-on modesty. Most importantly, since sample sales typically don’t offer returns, be doubly sure before making a purchase: Even if it’s 90% off, do you really want to buy a $3000 gown you found crumpled on the floor?

Shop the Season

Know the best times of year to get different items on clearance. August is the best time for swimwear bargains, while January will net you markdowns on coats.

Be a Loyal Customer

Know the markdown schedule at your favorite store. Befriend a sales clerk and they will often keep you posted on upcoming sales or even set things aside for you.

Second-Guess Yourself

Most importantly, ask yourself, “Would I buy this if it wasn’t on sale?” If the answer is no, move on. It’s not a bargain if you won’t wear it.

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July 16, 2010. July.

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