We are about to head into a new season and if you're anything like me, you're looking to either replace your fall wardrobe or spice up the one you already have. But where in the world should you even start? Spoilers - it's not Forever21 or even Gap or Old Navy. If you have a very individualistic style then most likely you're thinking to start with a boutique.
Growing up I always thought of boutiques as the mecca of well-made clothes. Most of my childhood I shopped at children's boutiques and my mom shopped at similar stores. When I finally got to the point where I was wearing ladies clothes I looked forward to being able to shop at what I considered exclusive high-fashion stores. And then I went into my first boutique as a teenager and I was sorely disappointed. Nothing I tried on fit. Everything ran too long on my very petite torso, and none of the bottoms fit my curves: everything was super long and straight. I began to wonder who on earth these clothes were tailored for! And then the fabric was a whole other story. Everything was made from super gauzy, recycled, stretchy fabrics - gone were the real, beautiful fabrics that I remembered. And literally everything in every boutique looked exactly the same.
So it begs the question, what happened to our boutiques? And why would you even want to shop in one? The first question I really can't answer. I'm not sure why they're all the same and why their clothes are tailored for giant, genderless humans, and why they don't use real fabric anymore. But the second question I can answer. I don't want to pay exorbitant prices for what I consider a piece of junk. And maybe its just a regional thing, who knows. I have a friend in Indiana who buys all her clothes from the boutiques around the city and her clothes are beautiful and fit her wonderfully. But I definitely wouldn't shop any boutique that I'm familiar with.
My exception to that would be that I have discovered that boutiques are fabulous hidden gems when you're searching for some jewelry that is like nothing any of your friends have. I have gotten some of my favorite pieces of jewelry from boutiques from which I wouldn't buy any of their clothes. Somehow the lack of quality pieces doesn't extend to accessories. You can also find great belts and oftentimes interesting shoes.
Personally I would rather shop a chain store. Ok, so maybe there are a hundred of those stores across the nation, and so maybe there are four or five hundred people wearing that skirt that you love so much. But really, what are the odds that you will know any of them? Or even run into any of them? And I can guarantee you that they won't have styled that skirt the way that you have! So don't be scared that chain stores with somehow squelch your individuality. And because the garments are mass made (which, granted, can sometimes cause weird sizing issues) they are slightly cheaper and the stores can afford to do deeper cuts on sales. And for me its great because I have learned with sizes and cuts I can wear for my figure at all my favorite stores. For instance, I can only wear jeans and shorts from Ann Taylor Loft (with the rare exception) but I know I can go in and pick up a pair and not even bother to try them on because I know how they will fit me. Because let's be honest, I have six pairs in every other color. That peace of mind is very important to me.
But what about those brands and designer labels you love but can't afford? There's always the outlets, right? Well frankly, I think that most outlets have gone the way of the boutique. I have noticed that many outlets carry completely different merchandise than the original store and the merchandise is far inferior in quality. And in deceptive twist some outlets have the exact same prices as the main store. However there are some exceptions that do exactly what an outlet is supposed to; they have the normal merchandise at lower prices. The ones that I can think of as an example are Michael Kors, Kate Spade, and sometimes Ann Taylor and Banana Republic. Also Saks Off Fifth can be this way if you find a good one: sometimes they are hit or miss, which is just weird to me. But its always worth checking!
Checked the outlets but couldn't find anything you liked? Start looking around for local consignments stores. They are oft-times overlooked superstore for designer labels at affordable prices. Most true consignment stores have specific requirements for the brands they accept and the condition in which they accept them. That guarantee that you get things in good condition, you just don't have to pay as much! They're a great place to look for clothes, shoes, and accessories! It's my favorite secret shopping spot. And, the greatest part is that when you finish with nice, gently loved things you can take them and sell them and get some cash to spend on your new wardrobe! It's hard to beat that!
So, hopefully this "store map" will help you as you shop for that perfect garment or shoe to add to your fall collection! Happy shopping fashionistas!