Building a versatile wardrobe is important for every busy gal - because when your wardrobe is optimized, your whole world can change. You’ll get dressed easier, you’ll look more refined and polished, and you’ll have no trouble transitioning from business meetings to after-hours events. To get to that level of wardrobe clarity, a bit of shopping is required, which might be frustrating and tedious - especially if you are tight on time and/or budget.
My job as a Wardrobe Stylist and Personal Shopper is to help my clients find the ideal pieces for their curated wardrobes without breaking the bank, and I also spend a lot of time teaching my clients valuable techniques on how to make shopping more stress-free, efficient and even (gasp!) fun.
I’m sharing 5 of my favorite Stylist Shopping Secrets, so take a read – and please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions!
If you’re looking to create a robust wardrobe and don’t know where to start, be sure to check out my article, “How to Build a Wardrobe for Success: “Lusts” and “Musts” to make your closet complete”.
ACE THE LIST
It’s very easy to get distracted if you start shopping with no particular goals in mind. You can wander aimlessly for hours, feeling uninspired without finding anything you love, or worse, you could end up buying random items you won’t easily be able to incorporate into your existing wardrobe. When you go grocery shopping, you usually make a list, don’t you? Well, I recommend applying the same planning strategy to your clothing shopping.
One good way to start building this list is by going through your existing wardrobe, and looking at what you own with a critical eye. Ask yourself: how often do I wear each piece? Does it fit with at least 3 other pieces in my wardrobe? Do I love the way I feel when I wear it? What accessory do I need to make this outfit feel & look complete?
This exercise helps you identify the missing pieces – so you can start jotting down your “needs and wants” list (which you can keep digitally or in a pretty notebook – whatever inspires you). This list should grow with seasonal items, trendy pieces you see celebs and Instagram bloggers showing off, and any items that you need to replace because they’re getting a lot of wear. List-building is a process, so the earlier you start, the more efficient your shopping will be the next time you go. I also find it helpful to make notes on the “priority level” of the items on your list, along with the budget you want to allocate to each item and any other specifics you want to look for (for example, red suede pumps to go with your green skirt). The next time you find yourself in the store, whip out your list and cross-reference it with what you’re eyeing - it will help you stay on course and be more objective with your purchases.
START WITH A VIRTUAL “WINDOW SHOP”
If you’re not a patient shopper, if you’re time-starved, or if shopping is just not your thing, it’s good to think of ways to alleviate the stress of the experience to make it more efficient. One of my favorite tips is to familiarize yourself with brands you love and follow them online to eye their inventory and new arrivals - before actually heading into their stores. One great thing about virtual shopping is that you can do it from the comfort of your couch (with glass of wine in hand), and you can check out all the details up close at your own pace. Plus, some sites even give you suggestions to help you create outfits. Virtual window shopping allows you to come up with a plan of what you’d like to try on in the stores, so that when you arrive, you’re not wasting time walking around, but rather enlisting the help of a knowledgeable sales associate to round up the items for you. PRO TIP: print out the list of items you want to focus on and bring it along so you can more quickly head to the dressing room.
WORK THOSE PERKS
Waiting for items to go on sale may not always work for you. In this case, I recommend a few other tactics to score better pricing. Some stores have loyalty/birthday programs, offering special discounts the month of your birthday (here’s looking at you, Anthro), or they may offer special perks like free shipping, tailoring and reward points for your purchases – which can add up to gift cards and gifts with purchase down the line (like Bloomingdales Loyalist).
Signing up to these in advance of your shopping spree is a great idea – as you’ll also receive notifications of special promotions, new arrivals and outfit inspirations.
USE YOUR VIRTUAL SHOPPING CART
To uncover savings, while you’re looking online at your favorite shopping sites, it’s a great idea to pop the items you’re considering into your cart or wish list. Not only will this become your “Shopping List” for that particular store, it will also allow you to track the prices for some of the items you’re lusting after, as any markdowns or sales will be reflected in the shopping cart when you refresh it periodically. This mostly applies to items that are not an immediate priority on your list, or when you’re willing to wait until they go on sale. Your patience will be rewarded and you can reap some mega savings with this technique.
SAVE SOME LEGWORK
To reduce the time you spend shopping, one thing I recommend is to call the store nearest to you in advance, and ask a sales associate to find the items you’re looking for, confirm they are in stock and then place them on hold (most stores will hold items for 24-48 hours, or at the very least till end of day). This way when you arrive at the store, your clothes will be waiting for you to try on – and you can save time that you would have spent walking around the store hunting (plus you’ll be sure your sizes are available). Additionally, most stores can search inventory across all their locations to check for sizes and availability - so if an item isn’t available at your local store, they’ll give you a list of other stores that might have it, or maybe even ship it to you (sometimes at little or no cost).
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.