I help others shop for a living, but that doesn’t mean that I’m immune from making my own shopping mistakes. I’ve learned from them (sometimes the hard way), and I’ve become a more savvy and successful shopper because of it. Each season I have a wardrobe that I’m more in love with than the season before, but it’s taken time and patience to get there.

This is what I’ve learned:

1. Never Say Never When it Comes to Fashion

Keep an open mind and poison eye to a minimum when you shop for new-to-you pieces, because the item you thought you disliked last season, or even last month, might grow on you sooner than you think. This is especially important when you’re bored with your style, which is why I keep the trends flowing through my own seasonal purchases. 

2. Don’t Shop for an imaginary Climate

After living in hot and humid Hong Kong and Cape Town for most of my life, I was used to having a large inventory of what I call “proper Summer clothes”. I did not change my shopping habits when we moved to Europe and the US. As a result I amassed a lot of clothing that was inappropriate for my climate. It took me years to get that right because shopping for Spring fashion is my weakness. Now I keep a tight inventory of Summery items because I live in Seattle and run cold. 

3. Choose your Neutrals Carefully

I used to purchase lots of items in black and charcoal thinking that I would wear them because they’re neutral and “go with everything”. They were often orphaned because large doses of these two neutrals do not make me happy. Black footwear and outerwear especially does not make me happy. What does make me happy is large doses of light neutrals like cream and white, and dark neutrals like ink blue and navy. I’m also loving neutral earth tones like cognac and toffee, and there’s even a smattering of light pearl grey in the mix.

4. Keep The Colour Flowing

Getting the right assortment of neutrals is one thing, but an overly neutral wardrobe doesn’t make me happy either. I’ve learned to keep a stream of the right colours flowing through my purchases as I refresh for the season.

5. Prioritize Structured Items

Although I can be attracted to highly unstructured, very drapey, and avant-garde clothing items, it normally does not work on my slight frame and narrow shoulder line despite being 5ft 6. When I’ve purchased these items they languished in my closet, because I just don’t feel great in them. I look best in semi-structured and structured outfits, and that’s that. 

6. Focus on the ITEM not the Price

Many years ago, I used to be attracted to something because the price was right although the item was wrong. Allow this shopping habit to escalate, and you end up with a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. And ironically, it’s a colossal waste of money. I’m happy to say that I do not wear sales goggles, and am a lot more discerning about whether the item will earn a spot in my wardrobe regardless of the price. 

7. Duplicate Items that are Signature to your Style

I believe in a moderate sized wardrobe, and as a result have learned that item duplication is a GOOD thing if the items are signature to your style. That’s why I rarely allow the fear of duplication to stop me from adding items like cream or white footwear, white jeans, lace dresses, chunky pearl necklaces, sour green toppers and tomato red tops to my wardrobe.

8. No Uncomfortable Footwear

Unless they are “siting shoes” for fancy occasions, no more heels higher than two inches. The Sam Edelman Okala pumps are the only exception because I can miraculously walk in those quite comfortably. For the rest, heels between half an inch and one and a half inches are best for me. 

9. Don’t Shop When You’re Not in the Mood

I’ve found that if I’m shopping when I’m hungry, tired, distracted or cold, I make bad decisions. I’m definitely more focused when I feel like shopping. 

10. When in Doubt, Ask a Friend or Significant Other

Find sounding boards whose opinions you trust. If I’m unsure about the way an item or outfit looks, my in-house fashion stylist (hubby Greg) helps me make the right decision. His fresh and objective eye is an invaluable resource. 

Over to you. What have you learned from your own shopping mistakes?