Women's Guide to Shopping for Clothes

Is a day of shopping with the girls your idea of heaven or hell?
Is a day of shopping with the girls your idea of heaven or hell?

You know that "Born to Shop" bumper sticker? You don't have one on your car because you can't relate to that in the least. You're more of a "Save the Whales" kind of girl and your idea of shopping generally consists of a quick trip to Target to replace your white T-shirt that you spilled red wine on. While the vision of leaving a shopping center with armloads of bags (reusable of course) overflowing with cute clothes really appeals to you, the act of acquiring them? Not so much. But since you'll also acknowledge that clothes shopping isn't quite as bad as shopping for ye old bathing suit, there's hope for you yet.

Even if you're not an avid clotheshorse, shopping for clothes with the right companions can be a highly pleasant experience. If shopping isn't really your thing, then you need to carefully edit your list of who you'll go with. You'll want to spend it with your girlfriends who are fun, low-maintenance, and supportive in the dressing room. This may mean leaving your best frenemy -- the one who gushes about your cheekbones but takes jabs at your cankles -- behind. You might also want to warm up with a half-day trip before you go all in. Regardless, the all-day shopping trip is practically a rite of passage for women, so if you haven't had yours yet, the time is now.

How to Plan for an All-day Shopping Trip

The kids are at Grandma's, your wallet is uber-organized and you're wearing a cute outfit, so you're ready for your big day out. Or so you think. After a full day of elbowing through crowds and smelling overly sweet cologne pumped out of doorways, even the most enthusiastic of shoppers can start to get a little mall-weary. So how you're dressed will make a big impact on your trip.

First off, what are you shopping for? You want to look cute, but comfort is the name of this game. If you're looking for tops, then think of wearing a blouse you can button and unbutton without pulling it over your head and having to recomb your hair each time. If you're looking for a variety of outfits, a sundress or maxi that you can slip easily on or off might be the ticket. Shoes? You definitely don't want to be wearing sneakers as those are a pain to put on and take off repeatedly. On the other hand, if you're buying a fancy cocktail dress, take the sky-high heels along in a tote bag so you can see how they'll work with the outfit. Just wear some flats for walking.

Next make a schedule if you have a lot of stores you want to hit. You can save time by going to a mall or a shopping center where all the stores are in one place, even if it's not your usual shopping spot. If your plan is to hit a couple of different shopping districts, map out where they are. But be realistic: Shopping takes a lot more time than you think, particularly with a group, so it's better to have less stops with more time at each than the other way around.

A break for lunch is a must. Everyone needs a chance to recharge and rest their legs. Not to mention have some grub. You also may want to pack a few snacks and a bottle of water as well. Believe it or not, shopping counts as exercise and you'll need to keep that blood sugar up during the day.

The Best Time of Day to Shop

To avoid crowds, you might want to hit the mall in the morning and save the boutiques for the afternoon.
To avoid crowds, you might want to hit the mall in the morning and save the boutiques for the afternoon.

Prime time for the mall is Saturday afternoon on the weekends (say around 2 p.m.) So avoid it if you can. Right when the stores open or a couple hours before they close on Saturday is a lot more chill. Sundays are a little quieter, but most stores have shorter hours too, so your "shopper-tunity" is considerably less. Another good option is Friday night because most of the weekend sales start on Friday but most shoppers are doing other things in the evening.

If you have a more flexible schedule during the week, then weekday mornings at the mall are ideal for a quick in-and-out. If you get there right when the stores open, you won't encounter many more folks than employees and a few mall-walkers. Lunchtime tends to get a little busier but traffic tapers off again in the afternoon hours. Independent boutiques are always more low-key than big department stores any time of day. If you have an all-day shopping trip planned, it might be best to start at the mall, have lunch, and then visit the boutiques in the afternoon.

Mind you, all of this goes right out the window during the holidays. If you're not OK in a crowd, then shopping is pretty much a miserable experience from open to close between Thanksgiving and Christmas – unless you take advantage of those extended hours and show up at 9 or 10 pm. The good news is that there's never a bad time to shop online.

Tips for Making Shopping Fun

The key to a fun shopping trip is remembering that it's all about the journey, not the destination. It's just as much about spending time with your besties as it is coming home with a new wardrobe. If you're one of those people who really prefers to shop by herself (maybe you're indecisive and want to go back and forth between stores without annoying others; or you're self-conscious about everyone seeing you in a bathing suit) you might want to save the serious shopping for another time and look at this more as a day out with the girls. Concentrate on buying something easy like a scarf or a bag.

And don't let your friends talk you into buying something way beyond your budget. If they want to search for designer purses, remind them you can always hit the outlet malls or off-price stores like TJ Maxx for great deals. Department stores have regular sales too, so you might want to plan the trip around that. For instance, mid to late summer is the time to get the best prices (if not the best selection) on swimsuits.

Above all, have fun! Finding an object of your desire on clearance can give you a rush like jumping out of a plane. OK, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what we mean. Sifting through a pile of great stuff with red lined tags can get the heart of even the least enthusiastic shopper pounding -- especially if you're on a tight budget. What more shopping fun could you ask for?

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