Many women tell me they hate shopping. And by hate, I mean loathe. Everything about it causes stress and anxiety and frustration. Feeling overwhelmed by the choices - either in store or online. Having trouble finding sizes that work for them (petites, plus and tall sizes can be especially hard or nearly impossible when shopping in person). Trying on a few things that don't work out and then feeling defeated or hating their bodies as a result. Needing to get something for an event and then find nothing they love so they settle with something they hate.
Sound familiar? I know it does. We have all been there.
I get it. Even as a lover of shopping, I get frustrated by the process, too. While it's easy to blame our frustration on the fact that we haven't yet lost those last 20 pounds we wanted to, or that something is wrong with our body type, or that online shopping makes everything so much harder. I have a sneaking suspicion there's something else lurking behind why shopping is so hard.
Here's 7 reasons that I think are the real culprit behind why women get frustrated with shopping...
#1 You believe your body is the problem.
Just this past weekend, I had to return a pair of jeans I had ordered because they just weren't working for me. As much as I wanted to like them, when I looked in the mirror, I felt like I looked worse, and I started to obsess about my body. In these moments (I know you'e all had them), we tend to want to blame our bodies for being the problem. We say, "If I could just lose that last 5 pounds." or "If my thighs weren't so big." or, "If I didn't have this belly." Then, then... shopping would be so much easier for me.
Ladies, here's the truth: Your body isn't the problem. The clothes are.
You want to know how I know this is true? Because look at how unique a woman's body can be. There is hardly two women that are exactly alike! So how do you think a manufacturer can possibly create clothes that work for every single woman's body out there? You're right. It's not possible. This means that we have to try a lot of stuff on to find the things that DO fit. We have to try different styles and different brands. We have to be ok with trial and error. We have to be ok with things that look incredibly awful on our bodies. And we have to make friends with a tailor.
But never... NEVER blame your body for being the problem.
#2 You're stuck in a style rut.
I have seen a lot of womens' closets, and here's something I've noticed. We have a tendency to get stuck in a rut. What I mean is that we buy the same styles, the same shapes, over and over. Now, I'm all for finding the right shapes for your bodies. I encourage it! But when there is little to no diversity in your closet, it gets to be a real problem in terms of creating outfits and not getting bored. Don't believe me? Go into your closet and just notice how much of the same stuff you have. The exact same style tops, the same style jeans, the same style dresses, etc.
And google isn't making this habit of being in a style rut any easier. In fact, whatever you shop for most often is what Google is going to keep serving up to you. Love skinny jeans? Prepare to see a ton of skinny jean ads on your social feeds. How about basic tees? Yep, you'll get ads for them at nauseam. Love shopping at Nordstrom? Prepare to see a lot of Nordstrom ads. While Google can make our lives so much easier in one sense, it can also help us get too narrowly focused. And this is especially true for your style.
To combat this, you have to actively go out and explore new brands (we'll get to this in another section!) and be open to trying new styles that could work for your body. After all, you don't know if taking a risk will pan out unless you try! Ask yourself: What is one style of clothing that you've been wanting to try, but haven't? Or maybe a new color? Why not take a risk this week and give it a shot? The worst thing that happens is you have to return it, but the best case scenario is you open yourself up to a whole new world and you'll feel alive again.
If you work with me, you'll have absolute certainty about your personal style, the colors that look good on you, and the styles that work for your body type, so your "risk" becomes a calculated one. (Learn more about my Style Brand Intensive program here.)
#3 You have style confusion.
I have a leadership coach who says, "If you don't know what you stand for, then what will you fall for?" - Kelli Thompson. I believe this is also true of your style. If you have no clarity about who you want to be, and how you want to show up in terms of your style, then your shopping will also be directionless and haphazard. These are the kinds of behaviors that ensue...
You'll bring things home on a whim.
You'll buy things because you think you should have that item in your closet or because a style blogger makes it look so cool, even though you don't love it. ("Doesn't every stylish woman need a black blazer or white button-down?")
You'll buy something that a salesperson vowed was "SO YOU!" but you weren't convinced.
You'll spend frivolously when you know you have absolutely zero need in your life for that item.
You buy what everyone else around you buys, because you don't know what else to do (or you fear standing out).
With this kind of directionless behavior, your closet will feel totally disjointed and lack authenticity and joy as a result. Not to mention you'll be wasting a ton of money in the process! It will feel like an amazing closet of clothes, but none that feel particularly like YOU. On the flip side, when you approach shopping knowing who you want to be, and how you want to show up (regardless of what others way, or what others expect of you) - then everything gets pretty clear.
It's why when I work with my clients, we don't go straight to shopping. We start first with setting their "style foundation," which I define as knowing your 1) personal style (and what style rules or expectations are holding you back), 2) your best colors and 3) your best shapes and styles for your body. Once this foundation is set, then everything gets so much easier: Shopping, closet clean-outs, putting outfits together (See my 15-min style chat about this topic). While it may seem liek a silly step to take time up front to get clear about who you are in terms of your style, it will lead to more confidence and decisiveness while shopping. (Who doesn't want that?!) I've gotten to a point where I am so clear on my style that my friends and family regularly send me links to clothes or accessories with a note that says, "This is SO you!"
#4 You are stuck in a brand rut.
We all get stuck in a rut shopping at a certain circle of brands, even me. I find most women religiously shop at 3-5 brands. Maybe you shop at those brands for good reason. For example, their sizes fit your needs (i.e. tall, petite, plus, etc.), or their style completely matches your own personal style, or it's a price point you feel comfortable with. But most often, I think we get stuck shopping at certain brands because it's routine, a habit, and it's easier than looking for something else. Something better.
I see my own clients get stuck with certain brands, and admittedly, they know they are in a rut. But they don't know where else to shop, and certainly don't have the time to explore. Sound familiar? Helping my clients find new brands is one of the most fun parts of my job.
#5 You don't know your numbers.
I get that online shopping can be a bit of trial and error, and sometimes even when you've done your homework and chosen the correct size, it can still not fit as expected. But at least do yourself a favor and know your measurements. Most good retailers provide size charts (some are more helpful than others, I know) and it's the best shot you have at getting a size that will actually fit you. That's why I require all of my clients to take their measurements before we get started shopping, because then as I'm shopping, I can check the size charts against their body measurements, and look at the reviews to see how the items are fitting. It's incredibly helpful! When in doubt, I recommend they buy two sizes to be on the safe side.
Here are 6 key measurements you need to know before shopping online:
Shoulders: Keeping your arms down, measure around the top of your arms, as high as you can go towards your shoulders without it slipping off
Chest: Measure around the fullest part of your chest
Waist: Measure around the smallest part of your waistline.
Hips: Measure the widest part of your hips, including your butt.
Pants Rise: This is a helpful measurement for buying jeans and pants. You can either measure your body, or find your favorite pair of pants with a rise you love, and measure that. IF you measure your body, measure from your crotch to the smallest part of your waist, or what you would call your “natural” waist. If you measure your pants or jeans, measure from the crotch to the top of the waist band.
Inseam: Measure from your crotch to your ankle for your inseam measurement.
Need a visual? See this short video on how to measure these 6 areas.
A word on using your measurements to buy jeans: Jeans are one of those very tricky clothing items to buy online, and you should go in knowing that it will require trying lots of different styles on to find the best ones for you. That said, knowing your inseam and your ideal pants rise is going to make this process so much easier!
About rises: I love a high rise pant, but not all high rise are created equal! A pant or jean labeled as "high" rise can range anywhere from a 9" rise to 13" rise. Having a long torso, a 9" rise isn't going to work for me. I'm going to be looking for something in the 11" - 13" range so it sits right at the narrowest part of my waist. For someone with a shorter torso, they may be looking for something in the 9-10" range. A tip I offer to my clients is to find their best fitting pair of jeans in terms of where it sits on your waist, and measure the crotch to the top of the waist band. This is your ideal rise. Most brands online will specify the rise of the pant in their size charts or the details of the item.
Secondly, knowing your inseam measurement (crotch to ankle bone) is also going to be helpful. Most retailers are still using models that are at least 5'9" or taller, so you can't judge a pants length by how it looks on the model. Instead, know your ideal inseam and check the details to see what it says. Some of my clients whoa re 5'4" or shorter may or may not need a petite sizing in pants or jeans. It all depends on their inseam.
#6 Your style story is holding you back.
What do I mean when I say style story, you ask? It's the set of beliefs or expectations or rules you've been following in terms of style and continue to tell yourself over and over. 99.9% of the time, these stories are unhelpful and keep us stuck. In many cases, we developed these styles stories when we were just little girls, and they have continued to drive our decision making ever since.
So what do these style stories sound like? Let me give you some examples of real stories I've heard from my clients and other women:
Women should dress in a feminine way.
Beautiful is a certain size.
You need money to have style.
Style is frivolous, it doesn't matter what I wear.
Thin women are successful.
My mom told me to always wear nylons when I wear dresses.
I wear black because it makes me look thin.
A serious business woman should dress like X.
I dress to blend in, as I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable.
I am a mom now, so I should dress appropriately.
I was teased about my body or weight as a child, so now I hate my body and just want to hide it.
My friends all buy designer bags and clothes, so I feel like I have to, as well.
I was never taught how to have style, so I'll never be stylish.
I find that often these style stories are unconscious. We don't even realize how long we've been carrying them around, but they definitely drive our behaviors in terms of what we buy and what we wear. If we carry the belief, for example, that you have to dress to fit in and be accepted at your workplace, you're going to eventually lose yourself and what you love, not to mention your authenticity. You'll dress in an acceptable way, but not in a way that brings you joy or represents who you are. This could be the very reason you hate shopping! Other women have style stories around their body types or weight. They have decided that their body type is "weird" and it's impossible for them to be stylish. Also, not true. But this kind of belief isn't going to make it very exciting to shop. Instead, it's going to create a whole lot of limitations and frustration.
So I ask you: What's your style story? What rule or belief or expectation holds you back when it comes to your style? If you're curious and want to dig in deeper with someone to support you, this is one of the things we do in my Style Brand Intensive program. Just be ready to dig deep, because we're going to unearth it one way or another! My clients are often surprised at what they discover - and shocked at how much that rule or expectation or belief was holding them back.
#7 You give up after the first try.
If you didn't already get the message thus far, I'm going to say it again: Shopping is a process of trial and error. You aren't always going to nail it on the first try, no matter what your body type or size or height. I've been doing this for a long time, do my due diligence and research before I buy something online, and I still have to go through this process and give myself a break when something doesn't fit! Every woman struggles to find just the right fit - especially with trickier items like swimwear and jeans. Clothes rarely fit perfectly off the rack. So give yourself some grace, and remember to not give up when things don't go the way you hope the first time. Don't jump to conclusions and assume that nothing is out there for you, or that your body is the problem. It just means you haven't found your perfect fit.
Beyond giving yourself some grace along the way, following the tips in this blog will make the process easier (note, I didn't say perfect). And if you're looking for some expert help, well, I hope you know you can always reach out and ask for help. I'd love to be your partner in style and help you discover new styles and brands and colors that you never dreamed of trying!
I'm an Expert Stylist and Personal Brand Coach, and owner of Style Decoded, based in Omaha, NE. I'm a Midwest born fashion lover on a mission to help professional women show up with more authenticity and alignment at work and in their businesses through their style, and feel 100% confident in their own skin every day. Styling is my passion but it hasn't always been my job. I spent 20 years of my career in client service, advertising, developing brands, blogging, podcasting, and creating marketing and social strategies for my clients, ranging from Fortune 500 giants to individuals building their personal brands online. To say I know a thing or two about marketing and branding is an understatement! Now, I love teaching women how to define and own their unique personal brand through style.
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