On Source Discrimination and Broadened Searches

We’ve all got shopping biases: Stores we consider to be too young, too old, too expensive, too cheap, too … something. Reputations and personal experience are among the most influential factors, but we can also be susceptible to catalog and website styling: If a brand presents its items on models who look drastically different from ourselves, or if the clothing is styled in ways that clash with our aesthetics, we tune out. We assume that since we’re not the target audience, and the brand won’t work for us.

And that’s valid. Why bother with a manufacturer whose choices clash with your vision of your own personal style?

Well, there are several reasons:

  • Diversity of sources: If you’re looking for the perfect pair of black ponte pants, limiting yourself to your regular haunts may not work. Looking at a wide variety of possible sources increases the likelihood that you’ll actually find what you’re looking for.
  • Quality: Just because you don’t like a brand’s aesthetic doesn’t mean that brand makes crap. Many manufacturers whose catalogs make you cringe may produce good quality items at decent prices.
  • Stretching your imagination: Training yourself to see items out of their presented context is a FABULOUS way to improve your ability to style yourself creatively. When you force yourself to ignore styling and imagine something on your body, in your wardrobe, you’re stretching your imagination in a very, very good way.

One of the main reasons I thrift is because I believe in broad searches. I believe that good stuff is everywhere, and the more places you look the more likely you are to find it. I am just as happy to buy an item used as new. Happier even! And many of my wardrobe staples have been thrifted. But I also force myself to consider as many sources as possible at all times. I look at all the catalogs that arrive in my mailbox, even ones whose merchandise appears far outside my own style boundaries. And I’ve found some amazing pieces by doing so.

Everyone has their sticking points, of course: If a company has atrocious manufacturing policies, treats its employees badly, creates offensive ads, or does anything at all that makes you angry or upset, forget ’em. There’s no reason to widen your pool of sources to include vendors you actually, actively hate for personal reasons.

But if you’re not finding what you need among your usual sources, peeking over at some shops that feel taboo, stodgy, trendy, or otherwise uncomfortable may yield surprising results.

Image courtesy SoftSurroundings.com, a vendor whose catalog styling feels not-me, but whose actual garments consistently intrigue me.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Originally posted 2012-04-19 06:16:59.

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52 Responses to “On Source Discrimination and Broadened Searches”

  1. Lizzie

    You make some really good points, and certainly for online shopping if the pictures are in a style I love I’m pretty much sold (although I probably wouldn’t buy it until I’d tried it on).
    I’ve been trying to buy less and have more of a plan of what I need when I go shopping lately but I find I have to make limited searches to not be overwhelmed. The city I live in the UK there are maybe 4/5 shopping malls and a very large high street full of shops all within about a square mile. So If I need a black skirt I either wear myself out by wondering around them all or only go to the ones that are pleasant to shop in. I guess it all comes down to how much time and how much energy you have that day.

  2. Lauren

    This is so true! I remember my mother dragging me into Talbots with her several years ago and being shocked to walk out with a beautiful, full pleated skirt, black with hot pink roses. I was surprised to find such a “statement” piece in a store I was convinced was full of blah!

    • Ashe @ Ash in Fashion

      Talbots is immediately what I thought of! Not for my own prejudices, but for some of my gal pals. They really have a reputation for being “grown up, khaki, blah,” but they actually DO have some lovely pieces in there!

    • Erika A

      When I was about 19 I got the most amazing, gothy, sweeping, all-black, ankle-length microfiber coat at Talbots. Everyone used to ask me where I got it and couldn’t believe me when I said Talbots.

      It’s yet another place my mom loves and I thought was full of tunics in pastel colors (which now I wear, haha) and turned out to have lots of gems.

  3. Sarah N.

    Shopping with my mother consistently brings surprises; we used to go into a store for “her” or “me,” but when we started walking out with pieces for ourselves, we broadened our net a little. J.Jill is an AWESOME store that is stylized for women older than I am (maybe closer to my mom’s age), but I love some of their pieces. I found their tank tops to be decent quality and decent coverage, I LOVE LOVE LOVE their Wherever line, and their sweaters are just so cozy and wonderful. I never would have walked in if it weren’t for my mom.

  4. Mer

    Is the shirt from softsurroundings.com something that’s still for sale on their website? ‘Cause I LOVE it, but I’m not seeing it online…. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Sal

        Shoot, I’m sorry gals – I think I grabbed that image from a Google search because I was having trouble capturing images from the actual Soft Surroundings site. I’ll look again.

  5. C.Thia

    Broadening is good, but it can end badly because of my own susceptibility to marketing and my tendency to make relative value judgements versus absolute value judgements. For example, if I spend enough time in a store/ on a website, I may start out thinking most of the stuff is poor quality, but if I find a piece that is better quality relative to the others, I may see it as being of an acceptable quality simple because my perception of quality has been skewed from repeated exposure to such poor quality. Once I get the piece home and compare it to my other clothes, suddenly I can see that the better quality item is still very poor quality. If I am exposed to a style long enough, I may start thinking it is something I want, but then I get it home and rarely wear it because it just isn’t me. I try to keep aware of these tendencies and limit my time/exposure in stores that are largely not my niche. I still shop in many different places, I just try to get out before I get convinced that a wet-look pink miniskirt would really liven up my work wardrobe.

    I also think part of the tendency to stick with stores that market to your own demographic is that people do sometimes judge each other based on where clothes come from. Many clothes now come with brand tags on the outside or recognizable stitch patterns or fabrics that can identify their origins. I have personally passed over otherwise nice items for fear of judgement on their too-obvious origins. It’s petty, but a factor for me.

  6. Autumn

    Personally, I try to keep an open mind about clothes. Before I thin something from my closet, even if it’s “not my style”, I stare at it and think about any possible outfits I could try with it.
    Regarding stores, I really don’t discriminate. It bothers me when people make uninformed, sweeping statements about clothing companies, judging them on their reputation and thus cutting out the entire line. For example, I don’t shop at Forever21 very much, mostly because we don’t have any in our area and I don’t buy online retail very often. It’s also because it seems every girl my age shops there, and I’m going for a bit more of a “classic” style. But I’m not opposed to trying their clothes and accessories, and if I like something and it’s in the budget, I’ll buy it!

  7. LK

    I’ve had people tell me “you can’t wear that”. I use to buy Babyphat jeans which is considered an ethnic brand (aka not for Caucasians). I’ve had multiple people look at me like I’m nuts when I say those jeans fit me the best. But there is not reason why I can’t wear the brand. It just has the reputation of being for a certain population.

  8. Tina

    I agree with Lauren! Talbots is a store I would have never considered and now I love it. I think Chico’s is horrendous and my MIL keeps giving me gift cards to that place! I did find an animal print scarf there but it was overpriced and I know I could have gotten a similar one at Target for a fraction of the cost!!

  9. Patience

    I do discrimminate, probably too much because most of my clothes come from two retailers: J Crew and Anthropologie. I guess I am way too susceptible to the lifestyle image that retailers are selling. I dislike Old Navy–the inside of their store even smells cheap. Certain retailers are too “old”, others too frumpy, others too young. Other retailers I shun because their clothes have been consistently disappointing. Boden, I’m looking at you.

    I did recently open myself up to ASOS–I was hesitant, thinking it was too young, and the low prices had me worried about quality. I’m pleased with the dress I just go from them and I’d probably order from them again. Ruche, as well, which I hesitated to order from because I thought their clothes looked too young, sold me a fabulous dress.

  10. LisaZ

    I used to dislike Sears so much, and their stores could still seriously use a makeover. But I’ve been in there with my daughter (who’s now 13) and she continually finds the cutest boots and shoes there. I also found a pair of winter boots–basically a knock-off style–there and they are so comfortable and warm. Finding things at Sears has opened my eyes to trying lots of different places. I think being more comfortable with my own style and what I like helps me keep an open mind. I don’t buy just anything, but I look for what I like anywhere.

  11. Katharine

    I’m pretty democratic in my shopping, although it is wiser for me to stay away from places that I know are just a bit too rich for my blood; I have expensive tastes anyway, and it’s far too easy for me to convince myself that a $250 dress is something I really NEEEEEED and will WEAR ALL THE TIME (generally: not so much). I mean, I know what I want, and I have a pretty good idea, most of the time, of my actual style and taste (vs. the styles of the season that the industry wishes to sell to me). In online shopping, I have even more of a tendency to be questing for something specific I want, and doing general searches, so I’m still less likely to be limiting myself to one specific brand. (I mean, unless that happens to be the thing I’m specifically looking for. And in that case, if I discover that the item in question costs half a grand, I’ll still quite possibly take it to a broader search and look for an equivalent.)

    If I experience poor quality or service, well, that’s another thing. After that, yes, I will discriminate. I don’t shop at Old Navy for daywear, because I’ve had far too many things bag and sag. I used to look covetously on Complex Geometries; I finally ordered a jacket, and it was so poorly cut and finished that I will probably not bother again. (I returned it.)

    As for what C. Thia mentions, I have a long-established habit of carefully picking off external labels. I dislike them strongly, for that very reason, high end OR low end. I recommend this stitch picker; it really is better than the rest, and less likely to cause accidental damage to the garment: http://www.leevalley.com/en/gifts/page.aspx?cat=4,104,53218&p=58722

    • Laurinda

      @Katharine: I’m a stitch picker too! Thanks for the tip on the tool – made in Canada even.

  12. M

    When I first moved into my current apartment, I got an INSANE number of catalogs, mostly clothing, in the mail from the person that previously lived here. Like… some days I’d get 20 different catalogs. It was interesting for me though, because I did look through them (I do a lot of collage art, so I figured I might as well use what was coming into my home instead of just tossing it or recycling it) and it was weird to see what some places had vs. what I thought they would carry, especially after looking at the catalog covers or thought about how other people had described them to me over the years. Since then though, I have started wandering into a larger variety of stores, just to look around, because as you said sometimes they do have a good piece that is what you were looking for even if the overall brand doesn’t really fit your lifestyle. It can be hard for me though because I straddle the line between normal size and the plus size range, and sometimes when I walk in stores I suddenly feel like I am in the wrong place. Anthropologie was one of those stores. As soon as I got in, I felt like the employees were telling me to get out or buy some accessories based on how many times they kept asking me if I needed help.

    • Nebraskim

      While I understand what you meant about ranging between sizes, I try to think of myself as ranging between misses and plus (and not “normal”) sizes. There really isn’t anything abnormal about wearing plus size. Please don’t feel I am harshing on you for this tiny slip. I totally agree that workers in stores like Anthropologie and others can sometimes make people feel very unwelcome if we fall outside of their “target demographic,” meaning we are bigger than size zero or older than 19.

  13. Rachel W.

    Thrifting has definitely encouraged me to broden my searches! I hate shoddy manufacturing and cheap polyester, so I try to look for fiber content, quality, and then style when I thrift. A lot of the sturdy pieces I turn up are from brands that I perceive as too middle-aged or expensive for me. My favorite new sundress is from Talbots (too stodgy, I thought), and my best red skirt is from Boden (overpriced, I was sure) is beautifully made.

    Ah, but will this mean that I’ll go into Talbots or Boden? Hm… probably not. I have a hard time going into so much as Anne Taylor Loft or Forever 21 (stores that allegedly suit my demographic) without getting overwhelmed by the store’s aesthetic. I know other people find pieces there that work for them, but it’s really hard to divorce what’s on the mannequin from what I could wear.

    Isn’t it funny how retail shopping is about so much more than the clothing that’s for sale?

    • Molly

      I was thinking the same thing! When I’m thrifting I do often look at brands, but it’s not a defining factor when I’ve just pulled out an interesting, well-made piece in a cut and color that I think will work on me, even if the item’s usual store aesthetic turns me off in general. I’ve ended up with a few surprising brands and missing-label mysteries that I love…and I also have a few more biases, based on the way some popular or pricey brands seem to wear by the time they make it to thrift. I get quite an education among those racks.

      • Rachel W.

        Ooh, Molly, that’s an excellent idea. Quality and fabrication is important to me, but I’ve never thought of checking how something will wear by what condition it is by the time it’s donated. Great idea!

  14. Anna D.

    How funny, I have the exact same reaction to SoftSurroundings.com – its overall look is completely not me, but many of the individual items are intriguing!

    I do tend to stick to shopping at/from places that feel “right” to me, rather than branching out – it’s for some of the reasons you mention, which are the reasons I don’t like thrifting. The overall aesthetic of a store, the shopping experience, the kinds of “stories” that the store tries to tell with its clothing, matter a lot to me, and so in the same way I don’t like thrifting, there are stores I just don’t like to shop at, even though they probably do have items that would work for me.

    (Although I don’t usually feel this way about catalogs/online shopping. I search much more broadly when it’s all online – maybe because the shopping experience then is really all about sitting on my couch with my laptop, so individual seller aesthetics influence me less?)

  15. Tara

    I stick to shopping from a handful of tried and true retailers and a few choice consignment stores. Opening up the clothing search to a broader range than that is just more time than I want to spend on clothes shopping. I would rather be hanging out with my dogs, reading or doing a million other things than shopping at every store in existence for a possible item or two I might have otherwise missed. But if shopping is an appealing way to spend your time, I can understand the appeal of trying out new places.

    • tiny junco

      I’m with you Tara!! Frankly, i hate shopping. On top of that, the vast majority of off the rack clothing doesn’t fit me, the colors and styles i love are unpopular, and i am very rough on clothing so if i do find something while thrifting i’ll be lucky to get a couple of months wear out of it.

      For me, staying focused on my well-thought-out list and doing pre-shopping research online helps me to not get lost in shopping for hours on end with nothing to show for it. That said, i’m always on the lookout for new clothing shops recommended by fellow bloggers and friends. Their research helps me spend less time in the stores!

      I’m starting to hand sew clothes so i have something to keep me busy while my hubby spends hours shopping in the men’s furnishings department. ๐Ÿ˜‰ steph

  16. Nicola M.

    Thrifting is awesome, but I wish more thrift stores took to selling their clothing in size ranges rather than color ranges. I can understand pairings at a retail outlet, having all the same items being racked together, but as a busy mother, I don’t have time to go thrifting and rifle through racks and racks of clothes that aren’t even my size to begin with.

    • Molly

      I agree, especially for pants! Fishing around for the size in a pair of jeans (tag? stamp? offset sewn-in panel hidden under the hanger clasp?) often puts me off completely. In small stores I’m fine with color sorting for shirts, since it’s easy to find the sizes, I have strong color preferences, and I can often tell how they’ll fit just by holding them up, but try doing that for 50 pairs of jeans in various indigos and with inevitable fit issues. Yes, please, sort by size.

  17. Anne

    Okay, guilty as charged. I have really been trying to revamp the way a shop. I am trying to buy fewer things at better quality and wear them longer. The items that make their way to my closet have to be well made, preferably not in a sweat shop operated by kids. They have to be either very basic and remixable or so special that they haunt me at night if I don’t buy them right away.

    I went shopping last week and I made a note to try shopping in stores that I usually avoid. What I found in these stores was a lot of cheap polyester clothing. The quality of the fabric was bad, (I don’t have a grudge against poly) the construction quality was poor, and the prices were no cheaper than my usual haunts. I do still believe that you can find good fashion anywhere you shop, but it takes a lot of time and patience. Two things I don’t have in endless supply. I shop where I shop, not necessarily because their marketing appeals to me, but because I consistently find clothes that meet my needs.

  18. heather

    I usually avoid brands like Dana Buchman and Eileen Fisher since they tend to feel very old to me, but I was shocked to find myself really liking what I’m seeing in the ads for Eileen Fisher this season (gorgeous maxi skirt/flowy tank combos). Either I’m getting older or the brand is reinventing itself (or both)

    • Cindy

      I found Dana Buchman silk blouse while thrifting a few weeks ago & was struck by how beautifully it was finished. It came home with me!

    • Eliza

      I have an Eileen Fisher dress my grandmother bought me when I was in 8th grade. I loved it then, and now at 22 I still love it! It’s black, very plain, and looks like nothing on the hanger, but it fits like a glove. They always seem to have a few perfectly tailored basics hidden among the looser styles.

      I’ve also started getting dresses from Victoria’s Secret. I can’t stand how hyper-sexulized everything on their site is, but the actual dresses are usually much less provocative than the site’s photos would suggest.

      Ann Taylor is usually terrible for me, (rarely fits,styles are not romantic /vintage enough for my normal look) but I found the perfect pink silk camis there a few years ago. I bought three, which wear them ALL the time, especially under crocheted/super thin white cotton summer clothing.

      Oh, and after a bunch of Anthropologie disappointments, I just go straight for Peruvian Connection now. They usually have similar clothing, PC is just styled differently (feels like it’s targeted to older women to me). The Peruvian Connection prices make me wince, but there’s really no comparison when it comes to quality.

      • Heather

        Oh, I’d forgotten Victoria’s Secret! Their bras don’t fit me at all but they actually have great work pants!

  19. Chicklet

    I would love to shop at Anthropologie, but I went into the Minneapolis store a couple of months ago and literally no item of clothing there would fit me. (I’m a size 18 in most things.) So why would I ever try Anthropologie again?

    On the other hand, I went to JC Penney several weeks ago in response to their rebranding efforts, and I was very pleasantly surprised! Lots of cute things, and they have the same skirts available in junior, misses, and plus sizes! (This is practically unheard of; usually a store will use different fabrics for the plus line.) I bought a lot of things and definitely will go back to Penney’s.

    • Dee

      hmmm…will have to try Penneys, have not been there in years and I am borderline plus/missy size…and I know historically their prices are reasonable…

  20. Kris10

    I try to be open-minded, but now it’s down to a few main stores that I like and that fit me well. It makes life so much easier. If I see something I really like, then I won’t be picky about where it’s from. I have a pretty consistent style, though, so everything I own looks like it comes from the same imaginary colorful/preppy/East coast-y/unfussy store. (Which sounds exactly like J. Crew, I realize…and I rather dislike J. Crew. Hmmm.)

    When I first moved to Nebraska, I kept trying to shop at The Buckle, like everyone else here. It really hilariously doesn’t work for me. It’s so…bespangled. That could be the reason for currently only shopping at a few stores!

  21. Mrs.M in MI

    I have to admit that my very favorite retailer is perceived as for women quite a bit older than my actual age. I’m in my late 20’s, but (oh Lord) half of my closet is from Land’s End. I’m so obsessed that for a birthday treat my husband took me to a Sears store an hour away because it has the largest Land’s End shop in the state!

    I have noticed that I have to be careful about fit with some things. I have a tiny waist, and most retailers aimed at women older than I cut their clothes with a lot of room in the waist, which just doesn’t work for me. But as a taller person I have had problems in the last few years with finding skirts that are long enough, and these retailers have totally been coming through for me there.

    • Erika A

      This is how I feel about Eddie Bauer! I thought of it as a store that “moms” shopped at (whatever that means to my brain, considering I want to be a mom) – but then my actual mom dragged me into one. Not only did I like nearly everything I saw, but every single item I bought that day is still in excellent condition after much wear, more than seven years later.

  22. Halo

    I also ignore the shops that ignore me and women my size. I also discriminate against companies that make my size but will only sell it online because I figure that means they don’t want me in their stores. That means they don’t get my money at all.

    I’ll also discriminate on the basis of company practices and their political affiliations and donations. That means that even if American Apparel, for example, suddenly decided that women larger than a 16 are worth their time, they’re still off limits to me because of the agenda of the company. That might sound sanctimonious to some, but I can’t feel good about supporting companies that don’t do good in the world.

    • Cat

      I completely agree. There are some brands that I think are super cute that I just can’t get behind due to their political affiliations and donations (as you so aptly put it). It helps that I’m on a very strict budget and at least one of the stores I wish I could shop at is too expensive… but I’d like to think I wouldn’t shop there anyway – in keeping with my own political and humanitarian views.

      How to draw the line between sanctimonious and raising awareness? That’s something I struggle with sometimes. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Thank you for your comment.

      • Halo

        Thanks for getting where I was going with that! I try to just be matter-of-fact about my preferences with friends, so try to say a store doesn’t fit with my values than to call it evil. Heh.

  23. Trystan (the CorpGoth)

    I will shop literally anywhere — I’ve found awesome (even goth-suitable!) clothes in the least likely places, in my price range too. But here’s the real trick: Buy from the store’s website, not their brick-&-mortar store. J.Jill & Coldwater Creek stores at the mall are chock full of saggy, baggy old-lady clothes in shades of oatmeal & sage. Gag! But their websites may have burgundy velvet, black lace, & crisp white cotton in fitted shapes, all things I love, plus tons of stylish accessories — & a fabulous clearance section.

    Same for shoe brands. The Clarks store looks like it sells nothing but comfort shoes for nurses (some of my best friends are nurses, but they don’t wear pumps & riding boots to work ;-)). Yet on Zappos & Amazon, you can find Clarks brand pumps that look adorable & boots that are gorgeous, not to mention a range of sizes.

    And there are a few online retailers that market to a more “mature” audience but have some great deals on quality clothes. One I esp. like is Chadwicks — they styles their catalog as very soccer-mom-ish, but the garments are good quality basics at great prices.

  24. Cynthia

    Hah. I was just about to buy something from Soft Surroundings, even though they are basically the ultimate menopausal lady catalog. I find great individual items all the time in menopausal lady catalogs though. Coldwater Creek has sharp little textural jackets. J. Jill has great basics of many kinds (although I bought more things there when they sold anything at all with prints, now it’s 100% solids). Talbots must have hired a new creative team because their colors lately are fabulous and not stodgy at all.

    • Kris10E

      I just cracked up at your comment on the “ultimate menopausal lady catalog,” and then headed over to the Soft Surroundings website. Then I laughed again (at myself) because I actually liked many items there. It’s probably a good thing I am not on the (perceived) budget of the menopausal lady catalog shopper, and instead on the budget of most normal 28-year-olds.

  25. Megan Mae

    This is exactly why I thrift. I look at the garment first, then the tag. The tag doesn’t (always) make me buy or not buy something. It might put more or less confidence into a purchase, but ultimately I get good prices for a variety of clothes.

    I am rather obsessed with the psychology and marketing behind “corporate cultures” and branding image. It’s rather fascinating how things are marketed, who the design team thinks is their target audience and who actually becomes the audience.

  26. JAG

    I love this topic and I’m loving reading all the comments!

    Over the last year or so I’ve really refocused my method & purpose for buying clothing. My goal is to have 80% or more of my wardrobe be from thrift/charity shops. It’s not just for the cost (although the savings have been SIGNIFICANT), it’s also for the environmental and social impact. With shopping Goodwill, for instance, you’re maximizing the sunk cost of a garment (manufacturing, packaging, shipping), keeping items in out of a landfill that would otherwise have been thrown away, and redirecting your shopping dollars back to your immediate community. I love it. That part is a little off-topic, so to bring it back around, thrifting has broadened my brand horizons. I’ve found items from brands/stores I never even knew existed that fit me & work in my wardrobe perfectly.

    I still have a lot of work to do toward my goal, though… I have a tendency to fall back on Target for clothes. Target clothes aren’t anything to write home about, but for some reason I can usually find something there that I like and that fits me well. Their basic items – like cotton tank tops – come in scads of good colors and are reasonably well made. I’m trying to work out of the Target habit.

    For undergarments I rely on the big-name anchor department stores (Macy’s, Dillards, Nordstrom, etc), and generally keep those purchases to once or maybe twice a year.

    There is one brand of clothing that I consistently see on thrift racks that I’ve decided I want nothing to do with: Sag Harbor. Somehow that brand just looks & feels very old-ladyish on me, and it’s the only brand that’s exempt from my “try everything on” rule. I won’t even bother. I don’t know, there could be a lovely Sag Harbor item that would look nice on me, but I’ll never meet it because as soon as I see the label I’m over it. OH WELL.

    Overall, I’m trying to work out of the frequent-clothes-buying habit in general – a commenter upthread mentioned having a small number of quality basic, classic, and remixable pieces. That’s what I’m aiming for, and while it’s been a challenge to maintain the laser-like focus on culling my closet and not buying the cute things I see in the stores, it’s been really rewarding to see my core wardrobe start to take shape.

    TL;DR: yay thrifting but no Sag Harbor for me ๐Ÿ˜‰

  27. Stacey

    Like other commenters mentioned, Talbots is a store that hadn’t really crossed my mind until a few months ago, because I always assumed the clothes were for women much, much older than me. But then I started looking at their website, and dang! They have some cute stuff.

  28. Genevieve

    Ditto on Talbots- they have great stuff, and their sales are awesome. I’ve gotten really cute, whimsical stuff from them, at a great quality/cost point. Anyone else remember when Northen Reflections had changed their style maybe 10-7 years ago? For a few years, they had the best stuff: quirky classic pieces with a twist, in great cuts and good prices… But the old ladies missed their duck sweatshirts, and t-shirts with dried flower prints, and they went back to the retired soccer mom look so beloved of many.

  29. Leslie

    The thing with any store is that there are clothing items sold there that just shouldn’t be! But Talbots is mostly about classic and you can’t go wrong with classic…think Audrey Hepburn!

    I perceive Christopher & Banks as being for school teachers….cutesy kitties & snowmen on sweaters. And when I’ve found something from them in my thrifting adventures, the quality just doesn’t seem to hold up.

    I have a hard time going into Forever 21, Rue 21, The Body Shop, Vanity & the like with my teen daughter. The loud music drives me absolutely bonkers! Even American Eagle, which my teen son loves, drives me nuts with the music thing! I do like what I see at The Limited but don’t like the things I try on there.

    Often my favorite piece of clothing will be something that was ugly on the hanger but perfect once I put it on!

    • notemily

      Oh god, the music at forever 21! I can’t spend too much time in that store without a voice in my head screaming GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT. The one near me also has a really awful smell, I don’t know if it’s the clothes or the fact that it’s near the food court…

  30. notemily

    One thing I notice is that models affect me greatly. I’m much more likely to buy an item if the model looks like me, or like someone I’d like to look like. Whereas if the model looks like someone I wouldn’t like, I’m less likely to buy an item. I see this most clearly on ASOS, which has very recognizable models–I definitely have my most and least favorites.

    Also take, for example, Zappos. I don’t really like the way they model and style their clothes. Even if they’re selling the exact same thing as another website–say, Free People–I’ll usually like the other website’s version better, simply because of the way it’s modeled and styled. None of the Zappos models look like people I would want to be. They all look too conventional to me, too smiley, too made-up.

  31. Shannon

    A while ago I ordered a bunch of free catalogs online and when the one for Boston Proper arrived, I was appalled. While the clothes were perfectly nice, they were styled like (in my opinion) Real Housewives of Orange County or something. And all the models are surgically enhanced. For my mental health, I throw the catalogs away.