Pro Shopping Strategies Shared …

Hate to shop for clothes?  The majority of women tell me they do,  and each of them seems to think she is a real oddity.   And in truth I don’t enjoy the process all that much either, but I DO love seeing a client’s joy with the results.

I’ve spent 25 years taking the pain out of shopping for clients, and this Fall I’ve been itemizing exactly what I do that  differs from how most women shop on their own.  Try these tips and you can greatly simplify your process.
1. I plan one big, focused seasonal shopping trip for a client rather than a bunch of smaller outings. Think at least 4 months ahead; you don’t want to be shopping for holiday wear at the last minute, for instance.  We usually plan a half-day outing.  Better to have time left over than to run short and have to come back to finish up.

2. We shop first where we’ll find the greatest selection – typically big malls and department stores.  Boutique shopping can be fun and it’s great to support local retail, but it’s more time consuming  to drive from store to store than to walk down the mall.


3. We shop off-peak times like weekday evenings or first thing  Saturday morning. You can move twice as fast when you’re not fighting crowds.

4. We only visit stores with quality merchandise.   “Bargain” retailers like H&M, Forever 21 and others offer throw-away  clothes … so you’ll be right back in the store next month looking for replacements.  (Wonder why they like that business model?)

5. Start at the department store.  All  that inventory can be overwhelming to a client, but I narrow it down dramatically by ignoring anything in a color that isn’t one of the client’s best.  Let me say that again: Sort by COLOR first.  COLOR. COLOR. COLOR.  If you aren’t absolutely certain of your best colors – invest in a top-quality color consultation before you buy one more item of clothing.  If the color isn’t flattering for you, no other characteristic can redeem the garment.

I do color consulting and would love to work with you in person or via photos.  If you have a local consultant you trust,  by all means work with her.  But DO IT.  Nothing is more important  to a successful shopping experience and ultimately  an effective wardrobe.

6. Within the client’s color story, we pull a LOT of items into the dressing room.  It doesn’t cost anything to try a new style, even if the client worries that she can’t wear a certain style, that it might look “too young” or has some other concern.  Client’s routinely say “I would never have picked that off the rack.  How did you know it would be so fabulous?”  Truth is – I may not have known for sure myself.  I just knew we had nothing to lose by trying it.

7. We don’t worry at this point about what goes with what.  Shopping in a unified color story insures extensive mix and match possibilities, so we’ll revisit that issue after we cull our choices.

8. I pull two sizes of every item – one the client tells me she needs and one larger. Sizing varies wildly from one brand to another.  Hence those numbers mean NOTHING!

9.  Alert a clerk that you are loading up a fitting room so she won’t UN-load it while you’re pulling additional options.  Because we’ve picked a time when the store isn’t busy, we can use one a larger handicapped fitting room with a clear conscience.

10. In the fitting room, we try on bottom garments first, keeping the client in the top she wore to the store.  Try the larger size first;  it feels lovely if you have to size down, less lovely to start small and need to size up.  Get the rejects out of the fitting room and re-hang the potential keepers.

11. Still wearing the most basic of the bottoms, try on each top garment.  We’re not making outfits yet – just evaluating style and fit.  Hang the keepers .

12. Finally we review each item.  Does it fit beautifully (or can a tailor tweak it)?  Does the client genuinely love it?  Does it duplicate something she already owns?  Does it fit her lifestyle?  (Remember that it’s OK to dress beautifully for your casual events too.)  We often purchase items we are undecided about.  We can finalize decisions only after we see how it plays with the rest of her wardrobe.

13. Before checking out, ask the clerk about any coupons or special discounts.  Price is secondary to getting the RIGHT items, but there’s no sense paying more than somebody else is going to pay for the same pieces.  Ask to have your items bagged on the hangers, so they can go right into your closet.

14. If we need additional items, we head for the women’s specialty stores that fit the client’s lifestyle, budget and size range.  These stores typically carry one or two color stories at a time, so we can tell at a glance whether  it’s worth a further look.   Those color stories change every 5-6 weeks, so if we didn’t find the client’s color range this trip, we can monitor new releases online and head back when the right colors become available.

15. Finally we schedule a follow-up mix-and-match session to be sure each new item works at least three ways for the client, and to identify any accessories we need to finish the outfits.  More about that in a future post.

About Nancy Nix Rice

I help other women feel confident about how they look every day - regardless of their age, budget, lifestyle or the size tag in their pants - so they put wardrobe concerns on the back burner and go share their gifts with the world.


  1. Sue on November 13, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Thank you for all the interesting and useful information. I really enjoy your mailings! Question: should a style & color consult be done every few years? Things are changing!

    • Nancy Nix Rice on November 13, 2015 at 10:37 pm

      We used to tell people that their color consultation would last a lifetime. But as you point out – things change. Over time most women’s coloring gets softer and usually less warm too. I can’t put an expiration on a Color Fan because we all change at different rates, but periodic updates certainly make sense. And gosh knows our bodies change too.

      • Alison on November 14, 2015 at 5:22 am

        My color stylist told me back when she created my colors (remember Color Me Beautiful?) that my colors took aging into account. I had that fan of colors made up when I was 28, and they still work. I think I’m a radiant summer, as I recall. The upside of my designation is that I can wear both silver and gold, and I’ve made my hair color warmer as I’ve gotten older (now twice that age!) and I can still rely on my colors. She did a good job, and although I’ve often bought more black than I strictly should have, her advice was “you’re going to rely more and more on your correct colors the older you get,” and she wasn’t wrong. I put those correct colors up against my skin/face, and I look very good. 🙂 I have never regretted that investment, and appreciate her advice, more so now as I get older.

        • Nancy Nix Rice on November 15, 2015 at 10:21 pm

          Interesting thoughts Alison. You are right-on with the idea of holding your color swatches next to your face and checking in the mirror for compatability. That’s a great way to see for sure that the information is or isn’t taking you in the right direction.

          Although I still wouldn’t say that most people’s color information lasts a lifetime, I can see why that might be true for you. Remember this post said most women’s coloring becomes softer and cooler as the years go by. Well your color pattern sounds as if it was relatively soft and cool even when you were younger, so the changes aren’t as impactful for you as they are for many others.

  2. Danette on November 13, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    Great advice! I am one of those that hates to shop. All of these tips are brilliant.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on November 13, 2015 at 10:32 pm

      You can call me “brilliant” any day – thanks!

  3. AnnG on November 19, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    Nancy, your comments about “throw-away clothes” reminded me of a book I read that you and your readers might appreciate: “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion,” by Elizabeth Cline. All those throw-away clothes are filling up the landfills or causing the spending of tons of money to ship the “rags” overseas. The book really espouses the virtue of seeking quality that will last. And even talks about the ultimate in buying local: sewing your own clothes!

    Thanks as always for highly practical, useable tips!

    • Nancy Nix Rice on November 19, 2015 at 8:32 pm

      Thanks for mentioning that book Ann. I read it recently myself and it really brought the whole issue into focus for me. I’m working on a blog post about it — probably for a January “resolution” time frame. Such an important issue, and a win-win when you relate it to smart shopping and capsule wardrobing. Change your clothes… change your life … change the world.

  4. Sherry on January 22, 2016 at 1:53 am


    I have always had a question about the advice to be able to use a garment in three ways. Does that mean able to work with three other pieces ? Or be part of three different outfits or what ? I have followed and admired your 12 garment pieces wardrobe advice, adapted to my own preferences, for many years — since your first book. Thank you for that simple but brilliant plan !

    • Nancy Nix Rice on January 22, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      Glad you’re adapting and enjoying the 12-piece wardrobe plan. The “wear it 3 ways” idea builds on your original grouping. Ideally each new item should mix with your current pieces to give you at least 3 new outfits. A new jacket, for example, might work with a pair of dress pants and sweater shell, with a skirt and silky blouse and with jeans and a stylish tee. Or a new blouse might work with several existing bottoms, and make even more outfits by adding an over-layer jacket or sweater.
      This 3-ways thing is a guideline, not a hard-and-fast rule. A dress might just work as a dress. But don’t overlook the possibility of wearing it with a jacket or as a tunic over leggings. You might even change up the look with accessories – dressing it up with heels and dressing it down with sandals.

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