Saturday, June 13, 2009

100th Post - Brigadeiro's Shopping Tips

A month or so ago, a lovely reader asked me for some shopping tips, a long email ensued. I recently came across this article by Mary Woodward for The Guardian on her shopping rules, much more articulate than what I had written to Sharon, and which I wholeheartedly agree with, except for Rule #6 (I like Rule #8, will try to learn that one). Here's a distilled version of her 'rules':

1: Don't take anyone with you.
Especially not men and friends. They will have no stamina and won't concentrate properly.
B: Unless your friend is me, haha!

2: You do not have to buy anything.
Sometimes the most worthwhile thing about fashion shopping is what it reveals to you about what you have at home. You can seriously underestimate the potential of your existing wardrobe. Going round the right shops will wake you up to this.
B: I concur! One shopping trip to Sydney, I came back empty handed, hubby was flabbergasted, but I actually felt good about it, window shopping is great!

3: There are two main types of clothes-buying. One, the everyday, picked-up-in-your-lunch-hour kind, tends to be local and should always be cheap. Never spend more than a tenner on this kind of shopping. As Karl Lagerfeld says, "go either very cheap or very expensive. It's the middle ground that is fashion nowhere."

B: I totally agree, Karl!

4: Know your city. Between shops, go to a park cafe for tea and a scone and watch the ducks. They will restore your sense of what really is beautiful. On the other hand, shopping in unfamiliar environs with severe restraints does not necessarily mean failure.

B: Hooray!

5: Always try things on but be prepared to break your own rules about what is right for you.

B: Totally!

6: Never buy anything to wear by post.
B: Sorry, had to veto this 'rule', as 90% of what I buy to wear is by post.

7: Your most enduring and lastingly flattering things may not come from promising sources.

8: Don't let anyone make you think that shopping is morally undesirable. It's fashion, for heaven's sake, not landmines or ebola. If you have earned your money and are not letting dependent children or animals go cold and hungry then spend it on clothes if you choose to. You are not a less worthy woman for buying good clothes occasionally.
B: Must remember this one...

9: Talk to shop staff. These people aren't mute slaves who know only about hangers.

B: Although I don't usually believe them when they say something looks good on me..

10: Finally, no copouts or compromises. If you do not, there and then in front of that mirror, love whatever it is as much as you loved your favourite things when you were little, then put it back on the hanger, thank the staff and leave. Remind yourself, "Style is saying no" (Diana Vreeland, I think). Short of a third world war, those shops will be there next time with even more beautiful things. It's life, not life and death. If it's not perfect for you at that moment, simply do without.

B: Love that: "Style is saying NO"!

In addition to the above, here are some of my shopping 'tips' (Sharon, I've added a few more from when I wrote to you). I'm not professing them to be groundbreaking, or 'pearls of wisdom', just a few things I have learned or some I am trying to learn:

1. Buy winter stuff in summer and vice-versa (as they are usually on sale then). I also look at online stores sales in the Northern Hemisphere for the same reason.

2. I avoid buying things full-priced, I would rather buy something very good very reduced, than something ordinary (I hope that makes sense). Also, I prefer saving up for one good piece than buy several less expensive pieces that don't mean as much to me. Because I have a shopping budget I have to adhere to, I have to think very carefully before making a purchase.

3. Conversely, do not buy clothes just because they are on sale. With all of the unused sale items you buy, you could buy an amazing piece that you wear all of the time. I usually ask myself: would I still want to buy this if it was not reduced?

More often than not, if I like something at full price, I try to patiently wait for it to be (hopefully) reduced, has worked both online, and in stores. Of course, there are exceptions, for those pieces you really love and can afford, and simply cannot risk selling out, they may not be there when you return.

4. When you find something that really flatters you (at a good price, preferably), buy it in a few colours (eg. the SABA knits I recently bought), that way you do not wear out that one favourite piece too quickly, and you never know when you will find something that flattering again.

5. Do not be afraid to try on one (or more) sizes bigger (or smaller) than your usual size when your size is unavailable or does not suit you. When I was a size AUS 8 (US 4) I bought some items in a size XL or 14 and it didn't matter (I don't always do this, due to vanity sizing, but especially in sales time, I do...)

6. Think outside your 'comfort zone'. Go for some styles, colours, textures, cuts and patterns that you would not normally wear – try them on, you may be surprised (or at least may let you hone in on what definitely does not suit you). A piece of clothing on the rack/hanger can look completely different once on the body.

7. Conversely, do not be a slave to fashion trends, buy what suits you. For me, I do not care how 'in' or 'out' something is, it is whether I like it or not before I saw it in a magazine or on a celebrity.

8. Leads to: Do not be afraid of colour! Black and 'neutrals' are great, but a few colourful pieces in your wardrobe/outfit will breathe some fresh air into your look (if you're so inclined).

I often hear people say: "I wish I could 'pull-off' colour', but pretty much everyone can 'pull-off' almost every colour! Don't rule out a colour because it hasn't suited you, there are several shades to a colour (even white & black), and chances are, if you persist, you'll find the right shade for you. For example, I never thought I would be able to wear yellow, being Asian & having yellow-toned skin, but I found it is all about finding the
right yellow.

9. Accessories are great for adding colour to an outfit, or for changing a look entirely. I rely on my shoes/bags/scarves/jewellery for a pop of colour most of the time, although, admittedly in the last few years I have been injecting colourful clothes as well...But a brightly coloured shoe/bag can add so much to an outfit!

10. Belts! Very important for accentuating an 'hourglass' shape (not too wide though), I like changing over belts on a jacket/coat to 'personalize' an outfit.

11. Good basics are worth investing on. I don't mind spending more on coats (they're my favourite piece of clothing), as I find them good 'investments' that can instantly make an outfit, especially trench coats.

12. When adding a new piece/item to your wardrobe, try to think of at least 3 other items already in your wardrobe that you can wear it with. This is a recent one for me, but applies to not only clothes, but accessories (shoes/belt/scarf/etc.).

13. Think Quality vs Quantity.

14. Read the labels. Quality is the most important thing for me along with design. I prefer natural fibres (silk, cashmere, merino wool, cotton, even viscose, which is made of cellulose)

15. Browse other sections (I am only starting do so)...menswear & children wear, especially for accessories (eg. I found a vintage YSL knit tie in a Salvation Army store, which I love & use as a belt)

16. No matter how much you love the style, color, etc., if it does not flatter you, do not buy it.

17. When shopping, dress comfortably, with an easy hairstyle. That way you don't have to worry about "messing up" your hair when you try on different pieces.

18. When buying in a store or online, be aware of their return/exchange policy, and keep receipts & tags on until you wear the item out, if possible. Just in case.

19. When shopping for an occasion, bring everything you know you'll be wearing with you. If you're searching for shoes to go with your dress for an event, bring the dress with you (or vice versa). I even do this if shopping for an undergarment, you want to make sure it looks right with whatever you're wearing over it.

20. When shopping online at a new site, look at the accessories/shoes first, you can usually tell the quality from this section.

21. Subscribe to the newsletters of you favorite online shops - not only do you sometimes get free shipping or discount codes, you often receive updates on new stock arrivals.

Ok, I've surely bored you for long enough, I could probably keep going...

But I'll hand it over to you, any shopping tips you would like to add?


  1. Great tips. It's all about finding what's right for you, whether it is a budget or a color or a style. I also swear by rule #1 from the Guardian article. While shopping with friends is fun sometimes, I like to patiently and methodically look for deals most of the time; shopping with someone who doesn't want to be there is no fun for either person.

    One rule I would add is to factor the maintenance costs into the purchase price. If it is something intended for very frequent wear (like pants and shirts for work), it should stand up well in the washing machine. Dry cleaning can get very expensive, not to mention troublesome.

  2. I like your tips, and one or two from the Guardian too. But I can't agree with Guardian tip no.1 - I can't buy alone. In fitting room there are mirrors which fake my real look, and I never believe in what I see. Maybe it is my "problem" ;) but I like to ask someone if my look in mirror is the real one (but it must be trusted person).
    No.6 is false too (as you noticed). Only one thing I bought by post wasn't good (a bit too small). Everything else is perfect.

  3. "style is saying no" such words of wisdom and so so true. with not buying things at full price...thats where i always trip up. im always afraid things i love wont be there next time i come back to the store and end up buying them then later in the sales i see the same items marked down. argh! i get so annoyed... hey brig with most of the dvn, akira etc stuff that you buy, do you wait for it to come on sale, or do you get it at full price? with designers like that i usually try and wait for a sale but i always end up missing whatever im gunning for. i can never win!

  4. This is a great post! I admit I've been a victim of some (okay, most :)) of the pitfalls of shopping before. But I think I'm getting better at investing on less but more quality pieces (that are on sale ofcourse).

    I've linked you on my site! :)

  5. love this post! every woman should read it! it's not so hard to look great, pay cheap, and look fabulous!

  6. I completely with her #1. I always shop alone!
    And i agree about vetoing #6. But I'm tryin to learn to stick with items/brands that im familiar with. I did a lot of online shopping one month from shops that im not familiar with and the majority of it all got sent back. "And a friend told me, all that return shipping adds up." And she was right!
    #8 is fantastic. I'm going to have to save that one.
    and I like #9 as well.

    On your tips:
    I too do #2. I don't have a set budget but ive been attempting to do this 4-5 piece per season french wardrobe. and ive been keeping track of all my "fashion" expenses in an excel sheet. and i even put the full price vs what i actually paid! LOL! it makes me feel a lot better about my purchases.

    I'm so with you on your tips:
    3, 7, 9, 10, 11 I'd be completely lost without my trench coats and jackets!, 12-14, 15 sometimes i prefer tees from the men's section and the boy's shirts from Brooks Brothers since my sz in women's isnt carried in stores.

    to expand on 21 if i notice on checkout there's a promo code box, i google promo codes for that website.

    I also try not to buy things the 1st time i see it. I usu. take a picture of it and then think about it for the next few days. Sometimes the desire for it completely disappears once i leave the fitting room.

  7. Congrats on your 100th, darling!

    Looooove this post - it should be required reading for... well... everyone! Love your #4!


  8. rule number one is so true and the best .. if people go with me i act like they arent there so i can concentrate . they need to act like vegetables or ill be pretty pissed .

    lol as for the staff... idont agree with anything they have to stay they only point me in the direction of whatever i ask ... they dress pretty badly . but you need them to find your size

  9. Great tips. The one from Lagerfeld (about high or low priced goods) was spooky; I was JUST thinking about that today! I find myself doing just that--extremes.

  10. #1 is golden. I will show the hubs something, he will say he doesn't like it, I will buy it anyway and he will say,"wow that really does look good." Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

  11. Such a nice post!!
    I actually do agree with rule six a bit, I really like to feel the fabric and try an item on before I buy it (especially with shoes), but when something is not too expensive internet buys are great!
    Now I really want to go shopping for some colored pieces hahah!


  12. wow, these are great tips!
    most importantly, don't bring any men with you!!!

    btw, love the Chanel shoes...

  13. this is amazing! i especially like Karl's quote.

  14. Oooooh, thank you! These are so great!

  15. THANK YOU so much for this post! Lovely quote from Karl Langerfield - so true. I'll remember these.

  16. wow thanks for posting this. this was a very good post... quite helpful too and i enjoyed reading it:)

  17. Hey Brig!

    Great post of course!! I really like the Guardian #2 point and your # 20 (course I like all the others too but I already had most of those!!)

    I never thought about guaging the quality of the jewellery etc for a representation of the clothing quality - excellent thought.

    xx Sharon

  18. Not a shopping tip per se but I think people underestimate how important it is to take care of clothes/shoes/accessories. Being meticulous about the way you store and care for clothes can mean anything from having a good grasp of what you already have, to prolonging the life of pieces such that you can essentially have a life long wardrobe.

  19. weeeiiirrdd it says 'your comment has been published' but i didn;t type anything! hahaha ah well. congratulations on you 100th post! i love this blog, and every post is well written and interesting. This is a great one, your tips are perfect. And i agree, shopping online used to be a no-no for me, i always wondered what would happen if it didn't fit or it didn't look exactly like i thought it would, but if you pay attention to measurements and understand just how elastic the jersey is etc etc then you will always get well-fitting stuff, and if it looks different then it's just a challenge to work it into your wardrobe!

    your tips are great too, so many times i've bought stuff on sale that i've not necessarily wanted, only get it because it was cheap. And although i sometimes wear them (and thus don't want to sell them just yet) it seems silly when all that money together could have bought something great. Oh well. I'm only young, i have plenty more mistakes to make!

    btw i was in belinda MLC window shopping the dries/marni and wondering what similar pieces i had in my wardrobe. I must have been smiling, although i don't really remember doing it, but the SA was like 'you always come in here and look at the Dries and Marni and then leave with a big smile on your face.' And i just laughed, 'well, the colours are so happy! how could you not smile.' And then we chatted for a bit about colour and window shopping etc. It was really nice. I don't always have good experiences in stores like Belinda, but when they go on sale i'm there! :)


  20. I love shopping tips! I need to re-evaluate my shopping a lot of the times, and reading this helps! (I am a terrible impulse shopper!). But I always ask myself a million times - do i love it? I give this to my friends who I shop with when they are unsure about their purchase.

    Great post xx

  21. I totally agree with these tips except for one, 'Don't take anyone with you'. I always need a second opinion when I'm shopping.

  22. Great tips! I'm so awful at buying things just because they're onsale. As soon as I see the sale rack I lose all sense. Must work on that!

  23. I agree. THis is a great post!

    Have a great Sunday, Honey!


  24. Congratulations on your 100th post! FANFARE!!!

    Love to read "Brigadeiro´s 21 Shopping Tipps"!

    I agree with most of them especially when it comes to sales items
    and to spend money on original price tags. There are truly only a very few items it´s worth to spend the original price tag!

    Wishing you a happy sunny sunday!

    Beautiful Blessings to you!

  25. i agree with your tips. i do have trouble with only buying things i love though. sometimes i just get the shopping bug!

  26. Happy 100th, love! :)

    And this was just the post to celebrate it; I love it! Perfect tips indeed!

    La C.

  27. Darling- this was a ZINGER of a 100th post, with some amazing tips! Congrats to you!

    I have to say that shopping alone was one thing I learned early on in my "history of shopping." Although I do enjoy taking the husband along for shopping, it's best to contemplate without the pressure of someone with you to check out the merchandise.

    Style Copycats: You must have a friend who copies what you wear; do NOT bring her when you shop. She will mercilessly buy the same exact thing you buy. It will not be pretty. :D

    SAs can be your friend: In the season of sales, sales associates can be a good friend, alerting you to sales times and letting you know when sales will be happening. No point in buying something at regular price when something will pop up on sale the next week, right? Be nice to the sales people. A little niceness can go a long way.

    Do a little online sleuthing before you go out "in real life." I have to admit I will buy a lot of things blindly online-- shoes even. But sometimes, I regret buying things online when a little peeping at the physical outlet would have saved me the heartache of some ill designs that photography didn't pick up.

    Ask for a deal: It's the new economy, and if you're going to get something at full price, why not ask for some sort of discount? Use discretion and don't yell it out while other customers are milling around. But if you're nice to the SA and he/she gives you that vibe, you might be able to ask for some sort of discount, especially if you're a regular!

    Take your time and examine the way something looks outside of the dressing room. This is something I dread: marching out into the public space with tags trailing down my back and zippers undone, etc. But sometimes you need to evaluate the way something looks under different lighting circumstances.

    My number 1 shopping motto: Buy something you love; something that makes you so happy your heart nearly sings when you touch the fabric. And once you buy it, don't store it away in your closet to perish. Wear it out! And wear it out a lot! Make good use of your purchases!

  28. what great advice!! totally with you on rule #6 too, i buy 90% of my stuff online! :)

  29. Great tips. Also I love the Chanel bag.

  30. I love these...especially the "don't take anyone shopping with you" tip :-)

  31. CONGRATS TO YOUR 100th post!!!!!
    --<-<-@ --<-<-@ --<-<-@
    And now up for the next 100!! :-D

    I enjoyed reading your shopping tips so much, they are all so very true! I like to shop alone as well, it's not so easy to find the right shopping partner. I've also shopped ith those "style-copycats" *lol* and then never again.
    We've tried to find a birthday gift for me in the city (fiancé and me) on last Saturday but I wasn't able to find something really beautiful on command ;) He was so disappointed and I was so very happy because I remember so many items in my closet as well. So much fun to read your post, I think I will read it again now!
    Btw - will add your blog to my list today so I always got feeded with best advices! :-D
    Thanks for sharing and for your efforts of doing such a great 100th anniversary posting!!
    xoxoxo, sofie

  32. I love this post very much!! I will bookmark it and come back to it from time to time!

  33. lordy, i thought MY teeny tiny little post on thrift store shopping was comprehensive but once again your posts amaze me! thanks for the tips!

  34. Thank you so much everyone for your comments and own tips ;)

    Jenn - to answer your Q, with my Dries Van Noten, Akira, sometimes I am lucky and find things on sale, sometimes not so much (eg. November's shopping trip to Melbourne, when nothing was reduced, I only made 2 purchases, one for each of my fave designers, and they were full priced, whereas when I returned in January, some things were on sale...but like you said, with the DVN clothes, all the sizes they had left were size 40, so too big, not sure if they only had bigger sizes to start with, or if these were the ones left for the sale, I suspect it's the latter).

    So long story short, it is a catch 22 sometimes, but if you've thought over an item for a long time (sometimes I obsess about finding an item, and it may take me up to a year to find it, like my dream DVN shoes) and must have it, can't risk not being able to get it (might sell out, etc..), I'll buy full-price.

  35. I really enjoyed reading this - great tips x Sushi

  36. these tips got me reading on and on.. and i've linked this post on my one of my post in my blog cos i think it'll be useful for everyone out there who loves to shop and nothing but shop! :D
    great post with two thumbs up, i would vote!


  37. Congratulations on the 100th post! I love this post! Thank you so much for sharing your shopping tips. I've been trying to decide whether I should get my first Chanel bag. I felt really guilty esp. given the GFC is crunching hard. Tip # 8 really helps! ;)

  38. Fantastic Post - if only I could stick to these rules....

  39. i really appreciate the tips you have here in your blog. its very useful since im an avid online shopper.

    again thanks a lot.