Shopping at fast fashion stores is fun—it’s affordable, trendy, and feels like a reasonable splurge. Make it a habit though, and you’ve got fast fashion problems on your hands (and in your closet, under your bed, all over your floor—not to mention on your credit card statement). Before you hit the mall, here’s what you need to ask yourself to avoid a shopping hangover.
1. Why am I here in the first place?
Do you actually need something, or are you just looking? And if you’re just looking, what led you there in the first place? Sure, maybe you’re just killing time on your lunch break, but if you find that your default activity is hitting the stores, think about what makes you go there. Are you bored, stressed out, or unhappy? Shopping, especially when you feel like you’re getting a deal, gives you a quick mood boost. That said, it doesn’t last—and it definitely doesn’t solve your actual problem (plus spend too much money, and you’ve created a new one). Next time you find yourself wanting to go wander through Forever 21, try to get in touch with what you’re really feeling first, and think about what you need to do to actually tackle the issue.
2. Do I already have something just like this?
We all have certain styles that we absolutely love, or everyday basics that we can’t get enough of. But if the main reason you like a fast fashion item is because you already own something just like it, you probably don’t need two of them! (Or ten, or twelve.) If the answer to your question is yes, but it’s ripped-stained-pilled-etc. and you actually need a replacement, fine. But if the answer’s yes, I can add it to my pile, skip it. Clothes aren’t Pokémon—you don’t need to catch ’em all.
3. Do I need something else to go with it?
You found a silky asymmetrical jacket you absolutely love. Okay, great—what are you going to wear it with? If the answer can’t already be found in your closet, you’re going to need to buy something else to make it work. That mean your inexpensive fast fashion find just cost you more money. This isn’t always an easy question to answer (though there are definitely apps that claim to be like the closet computer from Clueless), but if you’re really scratching your head, you’re probably better off leaving it on the rack.
4. Does it actually fit?
Especially when clothes are inexpensive (getting a deal!), it can be really tempting to buy something that doesn’t quite fit. After all, it’s not like you’re going to flag down one of the H&M salespeople and ask them to find that skirt in your size—if it’s not there, it’s not there. But if it doesn’t fit you, it’s not worth it. If you’re looking for a bargain in the first place, you’re probably not going to pay to have a too-big piece tailored down to your size. If it’s too small, don’t tell yourself you’re buying it for after your diet or workout plan, or as motivation to lose weight or get in shape. Only buy clothes for the life (and body!) you have now.
5. Am I going to be able to wear this more than once?
Fast fashion can feel like a wedding season savior: if you can’t repeat the dress, you don’t want to drop a wad of cash on it. That said, if it’s just going to wind up at the Salvation Army, maybe you shouldn’t be spending money on it in the first place. If it’s a one-time item—whether for a formal event or for a costume party—why not see what your friends have first? Shopping each other’s closets is a fun excuse to hang out, and you get all the gratification of a trip to the mall without spending money.
6. Do I just want this because it’s on sale?
Fast fashion stores are already inexpensive, but once stuff goes on sale, it’s easy to get into the “I can’t afford not to buy this” mentality. Here’s the thing: You can. It’s one thing if something you actually need, or one piece you’ve been ogling for a month, goes on sale. It’s another thing if the sale rack is just stuff that’s marked down. Ignore the price tag and ask yourself: Is this in season? Is it in style? Do I even look good in yellow? It’s hard to resist the siren song of the sale rack, but if you do you’ll avoid drawers that are stuffed with “amazing deals” you never actually wear.
7. Is this trend going to last?
There’s a reason fast fashion is called fast. These stores are able to jump on any trend and get it into stores virtually immediately, as opposed to the old six-months-ahead fashion show cycle (which does, strangely, still persist). Just because an item’s trendy right now doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you. If you aren’t going to love that lace crop top in six weeks or six months—let alone six years—it’s probably not worth it. The exception: If something you’ve always loved becomes an “in” thing, go for it. Then it’s more about your personal style than about what’s hot at the moment.
8. Can I afford this?
Remember: cheap isn’t free. Even buy-one, get-ones add up, because after all, you’re still buying one. If you’re even remotely close to owing money on your credit card, put that pencil skirt down! Paying interest on lots of little purchases means that for each of those mini-splurges, you’re paying more. Don’t have the cash? Then it’s not coming home with you. That kind of discipline doesn’t always come easy, but having a healthy bottom line is more important than a fashionably-clad bottom.
9. Do I actually like this or am I just paying for the name?
Ever since Target and H&M started doing designer collaborations nearly a decade ago, high fashion names regularly cycle through the fast fashion world. The premise is that it’s exciting (and come on, it is), and that it makes these designers styles more accessible and affordable to everyday people. That said, these collections tend to be much lower quality than the designer’s actual pieces, and they’re highly recognizable—no one’s going to mistake your Rodarte for Target for legit Rodarte. The sense of scarcity and getting a designer deal means these collaborations regularly sell out, but they tend to hit the Goodwill just as fast as they leave the store racks—in the calm, clear world where you haven’t just waited in line to get Kate Moss for TopShop, you may find you’re just not that into it. If you really love a particular designer, why not save up so that you can have a real splurge? Being able to choose something that’s better quality and that you’ll wear way more is worth the price.
10. Am I really going to regret not buying this?
It’s not like every piece you pick up at a fast fashion retailer is going to be a no-go. Some stuff you just plain love, and you know what? If you absolutely adore it and you can say with certainty that you’ll regret leaving it in the store much more than you would buying it, go ahead. Every once in a while, it’s okay to treat yo’ self.
Featured photo credit: Paramount Pictures via mashable.com