I am going on my fifth holiday working in retail and one thing that hasn’t changed is men and their inability to shop for the women in their lives.
There are different types of male shoppers: first you have the one that refuses any help and tries to put together an outfit on his own based on limited knowledge of fashion and sizes; the one that gives up immediately and gets a gift card; and the one that has her pick it out and just picks it up and pays for it.
But the truth is that yes, you CAN get her something that is fashionable all on your own, just remember a few tips.
1. SIZE. Size is key in purchasing anything. If you are hellbent on getting her clothes go through her wardrobe and look at what sizes she wears. Chances are there will be a range of sizes since no two retailers have clothing that fits the same way. If you found something you are proud of but don’t know whether to get the small or medium always go with the smaller size, at least she will think you think she is skinny if it doesn’t fit– never buy her a size bigger than she is.
2. NO PANTS. Pants are hard to shop for in general. There are words like ‘curvy’ and ‘skinny’ and ‘low-rise’ that can confuse you. All people are different and what works on the mannequins probably won’t work on her. Your best bet is to buy her a top or jacket, there are fewer sizes to choose from (XS-XL) and fit is much easier to visualize. Jackets are the best because they don’t have to be super fitted and most cuts look good on anyone.
3. ASK FOR HELP. The best thing you can do is ask a sales associate for help. Go to a smaller retail store (like The Limited) where it is less crazy and associates have more time to work with you one on one. All you have to do is ask “what is a popular sweater?” or “what are a lot of women wearing?” Any good associate will be able to point you in the right direction since they have a deep knowledge of the product and customer. For men that come into The Limited and ask that I point them towards the classic merino wool sweaters, a staple piece that anyone can wear. Associates can also help you create a look, tell you what colors work together, and help you avoid any fashion faux pas.
4. YOU ARE NOT TIM GUNN. You may watch Project Runway and for whatever reason you think you are a fashion expert. You are not. Back away from the faux fur and allover paisley. If you know the woman you are shopping for, whether it’s your mom or your wife, you know what kinds of things she wears. Don’t make terrible fashion choices for her or try to get her to branch out with a ‘different’ look. If she works in an office that sequin bodysuit is probably a bad choice.
5. ACCESSORIES ARE YOUR FRIEND. Accessories make great gifts because they don’t have sizes and are an addition to a look. A bag is a great idea, as is a scarf or piece of jewelry. But know her style before you buy. If she wears simple jewelry don’t go for the neon chandelier earrings, stick with a great rose gold stud or classic pendant necklace. This is another great time to ask for help, ask a sales associate what she would wear or like for Christmas, chances are you won’t be far off because most women will take more chances with their accessories than their clothes.
6. ASK HER. Still feel like you have no idea? The ask her! “Where do you shop?” “What size are you?” “Any specific items on your mind?” Even if she doesn’t give you list of things she wants now you have some sort of starting point. Knowing her favorite store is key since stores are very reflective of style. If her favorite store is Hot Topic then she probably doesn’t want anything from Ann Taylor. If she has a favorite store or a store she buys from regularly then she knows and likes their style and fit.
This post is not meant to generalize of course, only help. There are many men who are fantastic shoppers. I know one man who comes into The Limited every year and purchases a mannequin look head to toe because he knows it’s put together well and his wife loves the store.
But always remember to listen. Two years ago I told a man a bright yellow pea coat would not be a good color for his pale, platinum blonde wife and he didn’t listen to me. A few days after Christmas she came in and exchanged it for the blue one I had suggested. A good sales associate can be really helpful.
Not just men, many people in general feel like they have to at least try to put in some effort in finding a gift, seeing a gift card as any easy way out. It’s not! A gift card is a great idea! No one wants to return a gift so if you are unsure, buy her something she won’t need to return.
For some gift ideas head to my Shopcade. Happy shopping!