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Are You Guilty of Making These 4 Fashion Shopping Mistakes? Emergency Fixes to Save You Money

Updated on January 9, 2018
DonnaCosmato profile image

Donna is a retired Certified Image Consultant with experience in women's fashions and cosmetics. She loves sharing insider fashion tips.

Are your closets and drawers full of unusable, fashion mistakes?
Are your closets and drawers full of unusable, fashion mistakes? | Source

Don't you hate it when you waste money on shopping mistakes like expensive trendy items, in-season purchases, or your reluctance to return garments? Most Americans spend around $1604 per year on clothing, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and if you are like most, you want the best deal for every dollar. Here's some ways to reduce or eliminate buying mistakes and stretch your wardrobe dollars further.

"Women usually love what they buy, yet hate two-thirds of what is in their closets." Mignon McLaughlin

Mistake #1 - Not Returning Unusable Purchases

I don't know about you, but I relate to Mignon's comment. The wardrobe items I hate are my shopping mistakes: too big, too small, or just don't feel right.

Here's my dirty little secret. I love shopping; I hate to return clothes. Whether you buy online or in retail stores, returning unwanted clothes is a chore. Either you drag it back to the store and wait in line to return it, or you have to package it for mailing, which costs you time and money. Driving back to the store or taking the package to the post office costs you money. Ugh!

Are you as guilty as I am of hanging these garments in your closet or throwing them into a drawer rather than endure the ordeal of returning them? If so, try these tips to save money and cut down on the loathsome chore of returning clothing.

How to Avoid Black Friday Shopping Mistakes

Avert Mistake #1 - Try Before You Buy

When possible, try clothing on before you buy. If you cannot try something on because you are shopping online or you're pressed for time, this trick prevents buying mistakes.

Take Your Measurements

Measure yourself:

  • Bust
  • Natural waist (don't pull the tape snug)
  • Sleeve length
  • Wrist size
  • Back length
  • Hips
  • Inseam

For a perfect fit, measure across the fullest part of the bust and over the largest part of the hips; this is typically seven to nine inches down from the waist. You may need help to get the correct measurement for hard-to-measure spots like back length or inseams, so ask a friend to help or enlist the aid of your tailor or seamstress.

Mistake #2 - Not Understanding Store Return Policies

Store policies vary from store to store, so one store may take back sale or final clearance items while another does not. Are you as guilty as I am of not doing your homework to find out what the store policies were before you made a purchase?

Fortunately, even if you can't return an item, there are ways to mitigate this buying mistake:

Avoiding Apparel Returns

When shopping online, compare your measurements to the sizing charts and buy the closest size. Read customer reviews if an item runs large or small.

Your reason for doing this is because manufacturing sizes are not standardized across the women's clothing industry. Most manufacturers use proprietary measurement guidelines, patterns and fit models, which explains why you wear a size 8 in one label but need a size 10 or 12 in another.

Shopping retail? Slip a tape measure in your pocket or purse. Measure garments you are thinking about buying to gauge whether they will fit or not.

Be Your Own Fit Model

Most clothing retailers have online as well as retail locations so if there is a brand you love, head to their store. Try on a range of garments like tops, bottoms, jackets, outwear and so on to get a feel for how their sizing works.

Next, record your measurements in a note-taking app or notebook and use it when you shop their website. I use Evernote to store measurements for everyone in the family so I can avoid buying the wrong size.

Pinterest is a good site for finding ways to refashion your clothing.
Pinterest is a good site for finding ways to refashion your clothing. | Source

Six Ways to Escape Mistake #2

Here are some ideas for reclaiming lost money or avoiding this mistake in the future:

  1. Donate it: While you won't get your money back (immediately) when you donate an unwanted garment, ask for a receipt. Clip the garment receipt to the donation receipt and ask your tax preparer about taking a tax deduction.
  2. Give it away: Do you know someone who would love to give your fashion mistake a good home? Give it away and make both of you happy.
  3. Trade it: Save the item until the next clothing exchange rolls around or trade with a friend or relative. You both end up with something you like; and you do not feel like your purchase was a total loss.
  4. Sell it on consignment: Just because it didn't look good on you, doesn't mean it won't flatter someone else. Consign online or at retail locations and recoup some of your wardrobe dollars. .
  5. Alter it: Could your misfit garment be altered to fit or be more flattering? This option may cost a few dollars but if it revives a wardrobe malfunction into a wearable garment, it's worth it.
  6. Refashion it: If you're handy with a needle and thread or a sewing machine, you can refashion it. For example, you can sew lace on a too-short hemline or make darts in a roomy top or dress. If you need some inspiration, search for "refashioning ideas" on Pinterest (see image for a screenshot of my board.)

Mistake #3 Buying Trendy Items

You can hardly turn on your TV, computer, tablet or mobile device without being bombarded with advertisements for the trendiest shoes, handbags, clothes and jewelry. But, keeping up with trends gets expensive quickly. How do you know when to invest in a trend and when to just say no?

Dodging Mistake #3

Instead of redoing your wardrobe for a new trend, start with mix and match separates (a capsule wardrobe) of basic colors.

An example of this is a wardrobe planned around red, white and blue garments. (See image).

Next, just add accessory pieces in the latest trends.

For instance, adding animal print shoes, handbags or jewelry to this capsule wardrobe makes it look fashion forward.

Another idea is: when the new Pantone shades are released for a season, add inexpensive accessory pieces—bracelets, earrings or statement necklaces—in one of those colors to look on-trend instantly.

The reason you focus on accessory items for wardrobe updates from trend to trend instead of pieces like tops or bottoms is you can buy accessory items cheaper, especially if you shop for them at online auctions, consignment stores, and thrift shops.

For example, you can scoop up the latest styles of earrings and statement jewelry sets on eBay or the Liquidation Channel for pennies on the dollar compared to buying them at discount stores or other sources. Find trendy shoes at:

  • Thrift stores
  • Consignment shops
  • Discount retailers
  • Outlet stores
  • Online auctions

Be Patient

Wait and see which trends stick and which do not. Animal prints are a good example of enduring trends. Knee armor and electronic outfits are examples of failed trends (and aren't you glad you didn't invest in them?)

These shoes cost $5 instead of the sticker price of $24.99
These shoes cost $5 instead of the sticker price of $24.99 | Source
Sample Capsule Wardrobe
Sample Capsule Wardrobe | Source

Mistake #4 - Buying In Season

If you buy in season, expect to pay top dollar; retailers are depending on you to bow to peer pressure and aggressive marketing tactics by making impulse buys to stay in style.

However, if you just grit your teeth and wait out the season, those same styles will be on sale at an average of 40 to 90% off retail. Cha-ching - that's like buying an Armani suit at a thrift store for $80 instead of spending over $2,000.

Image: white top, $5 off season sale, leopard print sweater, $3.57 at thrift store, belt $1.25 overstock sale, funnel scarf $2.50 clearance sale. Outfit total? $12.32!

Buying off season is a smart shopping move
Buying off season is a smart shopping move | Source

Finding Off Season Bargains

Here's a quick way to plug this hole in your wardrobe budget.

Shopping Apps: You've probably heard the saying "There's an app for that!" It seems like there really is an app to solve any problem you might have, and shopping is no different. You can use a shopping app to alert you to off-season sales, discounts and coupons to save money on all your apparel purchases. My personal favorites are RetailMeNot and Shopular.

VA Thrift Stores with Off-season Bargains

show route and directions
A markergoodwill hardy va -
Hardy, VA 24101, USA
get directions

A favorite thrift store

B markergoodwill va 24151 -
Rocky Mount, VA 24151, USA
get directions

My go-to thrift store


Shopping miscalculations are expensive learning experiences, but they are not fatal. "Experience teaches slowly and at the cost of mistakes," says James. A. Froude, but the good news is you can cut your learning curve down by using techniques like these to prevent future buying blunders.

If you can't use it, return it. Resist the temptation to buy on-trend or in season. With the money you save, you can afford to treat yourself to a fashion splurge like new shoes, handbags or outfits that are smart buying decisions. On the other hand, you might just stash your cash so you'll have more money at the end of the month in case you need it.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic News Release, Consumer Expenditures 2013, accessed 01/06/2015,

The Quotations Page, accessed 01/07/2015,

Undisclosed author, the Frisky, "Crazy Fashion Trends that Never Took Off," accessed 01/08/2015,

© 2015 Donna Cosmato

What's Your Worst Shopping Mistake Ever?

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    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 3 years ago from USA

      Hi tirelesstraveler, I don't spend that much either! I do like thrift stores but I'm getting hooked on the new online consignment shops where you can sell your clothes and either get paid or take a store credit. Beats donations to the Goodwill!

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      Wow people really spend 1,600 a year on clothing? I don't think I have spent that much on clothing in the last 5 years. Thrift stores are the best.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 3 years ago from USA

      Hi MarloByDesign, I remember the first time an online company charged me for a return - they took it out of my PayPal! Like you, I contacted them and got it waived. Thanks for reading and commenting on this, I'm always a little nervous going into a new topic.

    • MarloByDesign profile image

      MarloByDesign 3 years ago from United States

      Rated "Useful". I enjoy finding a bargain at thrift stores too. I also hate returning clothes, but I will go back to the store or mail an item back to get my money back! If an online company wants to charge me shipping for returns, I always call and get it waived. Always.


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