Shopping for Clothing that Works

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Last week I shared my wardrobe woes with you. I’ve been on a mission practically all summer to get my wardrobe under control. There were plenty of items that didn’t fit or didn’t work for me, as well as plenty that were stained and otherwise in need of retirement.

Earlier in the summer my friend Amy shared how she had received some help from a personal shopper to select a summer outfit. I was intrgued. Not just because I was in a desperate need of some (unstained) clothes that fit, but also because the outfit Amy showed off was spot on for her. I know Amy in real life and was amazed at what a great match it was for her. I could totally see her heading off to baseball games and summer BBQs in those clothes.

So, when Hallie contacted me and offered to go shopping on my behalf, I jumped at the chance. Let’s face it, I need all the help I can get.

I was so impressed with the process:

  • fill out a survey about your likes, dislikes, budget, colors, and body style.
  • have a phone call with Hallie in more detail about the survey and overall purpose for the clothing
  • wait a very short while for Hallie to start sending you links to items to look at.

Hallie scours the web for stylish pieces according to your preferences — and goes back again until you’re satisfied.

I learned so much about clothes in the process.

1. Measurement matter.

Since I’m on the short side, fighting the frump with dresses and skirts is a constant challenge for me. Hallie had me measure from my waist to my desired skirt length so that she could find the right skirt. Apparently, most online stores will specify the exact length of the skirt. Who knew?

2. Details are important.

Knowing that I love to have pockets or that certain necklines work better than others was essential to finding pieces that I really liked and would feel comfortable in.

3. Style change — and come back.

Between reading Hallie’s blog, Betty Beguiles, and looking over her suggestions for my outfit, I learned that stripes and embroidered  pieces are back “in.” This knowledge has helped me look at the clothes I currently own and see their possibilities — I held onto the embroidered jacket I bought eight years ago instead of ditching it during my recent Pitch Session.

I also took a risk on something new and said, “yes” to a striped tank I found on Old Navy clearance.

4. Style boards are invaluable.

I have loved this process of looking at different combinations of clothes. It’s like a crash course in fashion. And it’s given me fresh eyes for pieces I already own. As I see style boards I like on Pinterest, I’ve been pinning those for later reference and to get me thinking creatively about my wardrobe.

5. Shopping is not as easy as it looks!

Hallie put together an entire outfit that can be mixed and matched in a number of ways. The scarf and heels can dress up the blouse and skirt. The leggings and flats enable me to play at the park and climb the monkey bars with the kids.

Though we chose very classic, basic pieces, I found that Hallie did a remarkable job in finding me unique items. At first I thought I could simply run to Old Navy or Target and pick up similar pieces. But, no. Plain black scarves are hard to find. That skirt with pockets and a comfortable fit really is unique. And those Sketchers Mary Janes? Unbelieveably comfortable.

So, I ended up ordering the unique pieces online on sale and picking up knock-offs of the plainer items for a lower price elsewhere. But, really it was amazing how quickly and flawlessly she put together this ensemble.

Hallie is extending a 10% discount to all LifeasMOM readers who’d like to take her shopping with them — virtually. Just mention LifeasMOM when you contact her. The discount will be good from now until the 15th of August.

While personal shopping may seem like a luxury, I can see it working for you if you have less time than money. Hallie put in an enormous amount of effort in searching for my pieces. I know that it would have taken me ten times as long to find the right things. And in many seasons or situations, I would happily pay someone to do the work for me.

Finally someone you can be picky to. 🙂

Updated 5/1/14: I’m sorry to say that Hallie is no longer in business. What a bummer!

How so YOU find clothes that work?

Disclosure: Hallie provided her shopping services to me for free. All opinions are my own. I bought the clothes with my own money.

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  1. What great tips. I personally hate clothes shopping. I’m 6 foot tall and it seems like all the cute Summer dresses and such came way above my knee. I can’t stand finding something cute and then it being to short. But it’s the story of my life and I’ve learned to live with it.
    I basically wear tank tops and shorts the whole summer any way. LOL!
    Have a great day!

  2. These sure are great tips. Before I lost weight (40lbs to be exact 🙂 ) I used to hate shopping. But now I love trying on new clothes and heading to the mall. However, when I first started to shop again I found it very difficult because I had no idea what I was doing and then pretty much ended up falling back into the same styles (track suits and velours). Finally,I had my sister and mom who are quite stylish come with me. They were very helpful. I can definitely see the value in hiring a personal shopper even if it is only one time to give some tips and direction on what works for you.

  3. What a fun experience. After 2 pregnancies in 3 years, I have about 5 different sizes of clothes in my closet, and none fit me correctly. The one thing I would recommend is buying fewer but high quality clothes. I find when I buy at the lower priced stores, the items just don’t last. Now that I’m finally at my “normal” weight/size, I’m slowing buying higher-quality items that I hope will wear well and not fall apart after a couple washings.

    1. @Hallie (Betty Beguiles), Hallie – I would love to check out your site, but my company internet has your site filtered and blocked as a “sex” site. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had that mentioned before. I’ll have to see if I can view it from home.

      1. @Michelle, I have heard that before, Michelle. LOL. I suspect it’s because I occasionally discuss issues of modesty and also link to lingerie sites from time to time (usually when discussing quality products for breastfeeding Mamas). So sorry for the trouble! Take care!

  4. I hate to shop, and so I love the idea of personal shopping. (And I LOVE Betty Beguiles and you should go check it out right now!)

    I don’t think I’m very good at assessing what looks good on me. If I could take Hallie shopping in person, I’d do it in a snap. How does online personal shopping compare to real life personal shopping?

    So…..Hallie? Jessica? Obviously Bloom personal shopping has many satisfied customers. Would you explain to me why it’s so effective? Because right now it’s still a pretty counterintuitive idea to me.

    Jessica, thanks for the fun post!

    1. @Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy, I know. It doesn’t make a ton of sense, especially since I’m such a cheapskate. I think that I learned a lot, go exposed to styles that are out there, and because I trusted Hallie, I had confidence. I think the trust factor is really important. I think I’m gun-shy on shopping because I don’t know what looks right, style-wise. So, having someone in the know who I trusted, saying, “No, you’re not too old for leggings,” was very helpful.

      Plus, I knew Hallie had no ulterior motives for choosing a certain shirt or skirt. She wasn’t working for the store. She was working for me.

      (Just off the top of my head….)

  5. Right before I read this, I had emailed Hallie to get a personal shopping experience. My problem is I spend so much time on the kids, I have very little for my self. Also, after all my pregnancies my body type has changed. Now I just cover it up! I am looking forward to this!

  6. Back in the day we had a great independent store that had personal shoppers. If you made an appointment, when you went there would be a rack of clothes waiting on you to try on and all if them would mix and match for all your needs. I though I was spending a lot when I started but I always had the “right” outfit and every season after that, my new items fit right in. So I HIGHLY recommend this service as I bet it will be worth every penny to feel fabulous all the time. I am still using some basics many years later!

  7. Another benefit to working with a personal shopper could be that they help you identify ‘basics’ to add to your wardrobe that you can then pair with more interesting clothes.

    I find it helpful to have very specific pieces in mind when I go shopping, such as a black skirt, and to focus on trying on that one piece.

    I also like to identify something in my wardrobe that needs to be replaced, and look for that specific item (such as a cardigan set, etc.) Over the years I’ve found that many stores make similar items year after year, so if I liked something I bought 3 years ago, it’s likely that I’ll be able to find a nearly identical piece at the same store. This also helps me reduce the total number of clothes that I have: the new item comes in and the older item goes out!

  8. I have those shoes (the Sketchers), and they’re great. I wear them all the time during the cooler half of the year, and they’re still in good shape after 3 or 4 years.

  9. My full length mirror is the best friend I have when it comes to a unbiased critique, it is ruthless, good opinion or bad. I am 5’3″ and have an hour glass figure leaning to pear shape.

    For me? My black skirts are invaluable; cotton, nylon or knit, and a nice wide black belt, dull or patent. Longer skirts are great for my figure.

    I usually stick with black, navy or in the summer a white cotton skirt with some fun prints I make too that go with solid tops; once again, black or navy. I have found even with my white skirt, I can throw on a light green top with my black belt and simple black flats or black patent madrid birks for comfort and I’m set. I love my cotton cardigans too, black, white and light green for summer. Pink and cream added for winter. Shawl scarves make a great add on in the winter or summer, a small strand of pearls or silver “Mom” drop necklace go with everything. My black turtleneck for winter is my usual staple with a scarf.

    I like simple things, just throw that scarf over your shoulder hun and you are set. I used to do fashion illustrations and have always loved the classics even back in high school.

    The midwives at the birth center used to call me, Amelia O. I guess the simple classics even rang through in my very limited maternity clothes wardrobe bought from a cheapie store. If you get the hang of things, cheapie works. : ) Just take care of your things and they will last. I have a simple blouse pattern I made too on my blog listed here.


  10. How fun! Such cute things, though I see none of your signature green on there. ;)(Love those earrings- what a lovely color that will work with so much!)

  11. When I go shopping alone, I almost always buy something I think is fun and cute. Then I get home, put in on, and say, “What was I thinking!” My best shopping buddy who speaks the truth in love lives in Michigan. I had to said good-bye to her when we moved to Oregon. I need a new shopping buddy!

  12. It would definitely be a luxury, but I’m happy to know there are services like this available should I ever decide to do it. I knew that individual stores had personal shoppers but for some reason it never occurred to me you might be able to hire someone independent. Over the past 4-5 years I’ve learned a lot from watching What Not to Wear and also trying on LOTS of different styles — including styles I never thought would work on me! I’ve found I’m enjoying shopping more than ever now even though I’m not at my desired weight. Once you have a clearer idea what works on you, it’s a lot more enjoyable to enter that dressing room!