Shopping for Absolute Beginners

Everyone is different when it comes to shopping. Some love it and treat it as a hobby and something they really enjoy (that’s me), some hate it with a passion and see it as a necessary evil. For the latter, the advent of online shopping is a gift. For shopaholics, the idea of buying clothes whilst lying on the sofa pyjama-clad takes away all the fun.


As a personal shopper I assist those who find the process of choosing, trying and buying new clothes problematic. I love to shop, am experienced at it and genuinely find it a good way to relax whether I’m feeling sad, happy or indifferent. I’m not alone in this but I do appreciate that for the unseasoned shopper it sounds like the ramblings of a mad woman.

Although clearly I condone the services of stylists and personal shoppers, I’m going to let you into some of the lesser known secrets, the not so obvious tips and the things I have found out the hard way be it through personal injury, sheer embarrassment, or both. I’m sure you’re all aware that if you shop first thing in the morning and early in the week it will be less busy and stock levels will be higher but even this isn’t terribly helpful. I don’t know about you but I don’t look or feel my best at that time of the day when my face hasn’t had time to unfold itself and the harsh lighting of the fitting rooms only serves to remind me why I shouldn’t have watched that additional episode of Breaking Bad instead of getting to bed by 11pm.


So here are my pointers for a quicker, easier and more informed shopping experience:

1. Wear decent underwear, skimpy if possible to work with a multitude of outfits. Take a strapless bar if looking for eveningwear.

2. DON’T go on a shopping trip if you are suffering from PMT. But if you absolutely must, then make sure when you end up buying that one-armed snot green lace top by Pucci simply because it’s reduced to £99 (I actually didn’t at the last minute, I saw sense) that the shop has a decent returns policy that lasts longer than 7 days.

3. Try to resist shopping too soon after giving birth. This sounds obvious I know but when you suddenly lose the beach ball on your front it’s tempting to buy stuff with a waist just because. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. My brother got married six weeks after my son was born and I found myself with a ginormous inflated top half while the bottom had shrunk back to its normal size. A dress was out of the question, in fact I could hardly fit the fitting room on let alone any of the tops I’d hung up in it. It was very depressing and my sylph-like younger sister trying on miniscule bits of sparkly cobweb next to me didn’t help much. I cried. I bought some separates which I then had to take back before the wedding as my shape had changed yet again. There isn’t an easy solution to this problem, other than to go easy on yourself. You’re (probably) feeding a human being every couple of hours, your body is changing on a daily basis not to mention from hour to hour. Stretch fabrics are the way to go and statement jewellery is distracting both to your baby and your friends.

"I'll take them all"

“I’ll take them all”

4. DON’T shop during half term or school holidays. Quite apart from the queue of texting tweenies and selfie-junkies at the fitting rooms, if you are anything smaller than a size UK12 (US8) there will be nothing left in your size. H&M, much as I love it, is the worst for this. I imagine it’s not such a problem in Chanel or Balenciaga.

5. I love a discount voucher as much as the next person and rarely pay full price for anything but be warned: that 25% off voucher you tore from Grazia will undoubtedly come right before the shop in question goes into sale. You’ll still get the money off but a week later it may be half price – just sayin’.

6. Talking of magazines: if you spot something in the press or on an advertising billboard that you simply have to have, there’s a very good chance you won’t. Magazines feature pieces that 9 times out of 10 are yet to hit the shops and you’ll invariably miss the day it launches. Or you’ll have lost the will to live through daily ‘phone calls to the company head office. Advertising billboards in this country seem to do the opposite. Spotted a fabulous coat on the latest M&S poster campaign? Yeah, that sold out in twenty minutes last month. Sorry about that.

Isabel Marant for H&M boots - a sell out out in minutes

Isabel Marant for H&M boots – a sell out out in minutes

7. Loyalty points schemes can be brilliant. After a year of buying nappies, formula and various terrifying objects to ease breastfeeding, I had accumulated so many points on my Boots card that I was able to buy every single bit of make-up recommended to me during a makeover at the Chanel counter. Excellent on so many levels.

8. If you’re feeling down, cross or out of shape then shop for shoes or bags not jeans or bikinis. Neither bags nor shoes require you to get undressed or examine yourself in unkind lighting at close quarters. Neither will make your bum look big (in fact certain bags could make it look smaller), nor do they require you to feel good about yourself. They may, once you own them, even make the world seem a better place.


9. If shopping alone (and I always have more success if shopping for myself this way) beware of fastenings. I have on more than one occasion got almost irretrievably stuck in an item of clothing that has rendered me unable to move, unable to see and on the verge of staggering out onto the shop floor semi naked to ask for assistance. Thankfully I have never yet stooped that low but in managing to get myself out of said piece of clothing I have been mauled facially by zips and embellishments. Oh have no doubt, “I got stuck in a top and was cut to ribbons by the sequins” gets a laugh at a party but covering up the raw grazes is not such fun. So if something looks too small it probably is. If it doesn’t have stretch and\or fastenings be wary and if the worst happens and you do get stuck, don’t panic – getting all sweaty makes it worse. Remember the scene from Friends where Ross gets stuck in a pair of leather trousers? Exactly. Adding lotion to the problem is never going to help.

Ross and those leather trews

Shopping should be fun. Do a bit of research online from the comfort of your own home first and make sure when you hit the high street you wear a simple outfit that can slip on and off easily. Take lots of coffee breaks so you don’t get too tired or disillusioned and above all try not to take it too seriously. After all no-one ever died of being stuck in a top. And actually even if they did, there are worse ways to go…




About aftercarrie

I help people refine their wardrobe to suit their shape, colouring and lifestyle. I am a style consultant, personal shopper and colour analyst working in London. Be the loveliest possible you. My first book SHOPPED was released on 5th July 2016 (September Publishing).
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4 Responses to Shopping for Absolute Beginners

  1. Penny says:

    Excellent advice, I am almost always wearing the wrong shoes & clothes when I go shopping.


  2. Style. Universe. Everything. says:

    Tip number 5 is great! I never realised this was the case!


    • aftercarrie says:

      Just something I’ve noticed over the years. I was once so irritated by this I took everything back that I’d bought with a voucher so I could re-buy it in the sale at a greater discount. Terrible I know…


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