Sometimes a girl's gotta shop! But sometimes (most of the time) trying things on in-store is more irritating than fun.
My mother-in-law has handled this dilemma with amazing expertise. She'd walk into Nordstrom, buy five pairs of shoes, take them home, try them all on, see which pair best matched the clothes in her closet, then take four back. Easy, right?
It turns out this technique takes more skill than you realize. When I reached the point in my first pregnancy when suddenly none of my clothes fit, I needed a whole new professional wardrobe right away.
At the suggestion of my mother-in-law, I went to A Pea in the Pod, a pricey maternity store in West Los Angeles. I was amazed at how helpful the staff was. They showed me how their pieces were designed to work during and after pregnancy, and allowed me to try on the clothes using different sizes of tie-on pillows to simulate different stages of pregnancy and what they would look like. It was all so wonderful and practical and fashionable and amazing, I had a hard time deciding. So I purchased several outfits and decided to let my husband cast the deciding vote.
Imagine my chagrin when I tried them all on at home, then looked more carefully at the $600-plus sales receipt and discovered returns would be accepted for store credit only! I had just made a gigantic error that had cost us more than our entire monthly grocery budget!
Thankfully, my husband was patient and understanding. I picked up some freelance jobs. And I wore the (super cute) clothes through all four pregnancies. But I learned some good lessons about buying with the intent to return:
Always ask about and understand their return/exchange policy before making your purchase.
Keep your receipts!
Be certain you know the return dates - and consider writing them down. The window for returns can range from 7 to 90 days. Whatever it is, don't get caught holding the bag!
Don't buy anything you already know you're going to return. Save yourself the trouble and leave it in the store where it belongs.
Only wear shoes you're deciding on inside the house - as soon as you wear them outside you can't return them.
Only buy what you can afford to cover on your debit or credit card - the refund might not make it back before the close of your billing cycle.
Watch for store markdowns. Don't be afraid to return and repurchase if an item you bought goes on sale later.
Last spring I had to buy a nice dress for a wedding. With little time to shop, I binged. I purchased over $1000 worth of dresses and shoes in various sizes online. At home I carefully tried on each one in a variety of lightings and at different times of day. I asked my husband's opinion on each item, settled on one dress and sent the rest back. I was thrilled to see the $900-plus refund appear in my bank account.
Just beware that this is an art. Proceed with caution. And if the habit ever gets out of control, seek appropriate help.
Jana Winters Parkin is an artist, writer, and adjunct faculty at UVU. She co-hosts a popular podcast for women: "The Living Room" (bit.ly/TLRSHowiTunes) and spends every day possible exploring mountain trails. Contact her at