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Style & Living Fashion

10 Secrets Personal Shoppers Know About Shopping

Because "desperation shopping" is never a good look.

By Adele Chapin
A Secret Shopper Infiltrates SUR

Some people are so good at shopping, they go pro. It sounds like a dream job — shopping for a living — but personal shoppers and stylists make it their business to save clients from the headaches associated with hunting for clothes. The Lookbook chatted with three shopping pros for tips on how to pick out things that truly suit you, stop wasting money, and end shopping regret for good.  

1. Nicole Pollard, LALALUXE

When one percenters want to shop, they call Nicole Pollard. She dresses seriously wealthy and influential clients (including royalty), who all rely on her eye for putting a unique, statement-making look together. “I don't like people to look like they walked straight off the runway. I find that incredibly boring,” she says. “Even my clients that are billionaires, I encourage them to shop their closets and do things in a creative way so they don't look like the lady sitting next to them at the luncheon.”

Nicole's always loved shopping and travel, but when she started her business 12 years ago, she was working at a preschool. "I definitely pinch myself when I'm sitting front row at Paris Fashion Week," she says. Here's what Nicole always has in mind while on the hunt for the perfect piece for her clients:

Be true to yourself, not to trends. "I think for developing a sense of style, it’s really listening to yourself, your intuition, paying attention to what you gravitate towards and then taking into consideration your body and your lifestyle. We all have certain features which we should be flaunting — our best features — and we all have things we'd like to change. So it’s really important to not to just dress for a trend, but dress to make something work for you."

But there is always a way to be on trend. "What I like to do is work with clients and say, how can we incorporate in a trend that won't be the focal point? It's an afterthought. You are the focal point. You want people to look at you, not what you're wearing. How can we do this in a way that works with you instead of against you?

Right now, the ‘90s slip dress is so hot and everybody is wearing it. But for example, for a large busted woman, it might be a little more difficult. So we recommend wearing a T-shirt underneath, just changing it up a little bit so the the trend works for your body type and you feel comfortable. If you feel beautiful in a piece, then people are going to notice. But if you're uncomfortable in it, that's going to be written all over your forehead too."

Vintage pieces add character to any outfit. "I was at the Long Beach Flea Market yesterday. I love mixing vintage with current pieces, even for my biggest clients. Let's say you wear a beautiful current sweater and you pair it with a vintage Victorian slip: it adds a little bit of creativity to the look. It doesn’t just look like it's from right now. It adds dimension and you think about what the person's wearing."

2. Roxanne Hauldren, Shop With Rox

Four years ago, actress Rox Hauldren got a genius idea to lead NYC shopping tours. Her itineraries involve guiding visitors and locals alike through the Garment District and local boutiques, introducing them to labels from emerging designers and FIT grads. Since then, she's shopped with more than 500 women from 15 countries who want to get deals and unique pieces in NYC. "Shopping is an art form. I just love going to make a day of it, going to get lunch, having a plan of attack," she says. 

Rox zeroed in on three universal tips from all those shopping trips: again, she says planning is key and you should never assume indie boutiques are automatically out of your budget. "You can get something for sale at a New York boutique for the same price as Zara," she says. "So why would you want to go to Zara when you could support someone's kid going to college or someone's small boutique?"

Alot time to shop in your calendar. "We schedule everything else in our lives. We schedule massages, we schedule coffee dates, we schedule and overschedule. But sometimes everyone finds themselves in this habit of desperation shopping. You're coming from the gym, you don't have your hair done or your makeup, you're rushing around. You're probably not your best self. When you try on something, it's not going to feel right. 

Trying on clothes and being in front of a mirror can be challenging for some people. If you're already starting off not on the right foot and not in the right mindset, it's not going to be a success. It's hard to envision. 'Oh well, if I had my hair done, this would look better.' Well, it's probably not the right dress. If you're so focused on, oh I don't feel good, I didn't work out this morning, you're already beating yourself up, so the dress has no chance. Feel good about yourself before you even leave. Create that positive atmosphere already so you're setting yourself up for success."

Have a budget in mind beforehand. "I've definitely seen a lot of women go in and get really excited and you overspend. When you go home, that's never a good feeling. And when you wear the dress, it's not a good feeling. That guilt sort of takes all the fun and reward of that shopping high."

Make friends at your local boutique. "Everyone looks to the internet for Stitchfix or services that can really make your life easier, but they forget that your local boutiques are competing with online so they're willing to go the extra mile. You're going to get discounts, you're going to get calls, you're going to get invited to events. Get to know the sale associate's name. When the good stuff comes in, you're going to get called. Who can beat that? You're not going to get a call from"

3. Marina Monroe, Stylehaüs

Marina Monroe is the CEO of Stylehaüs, a membership-based personal shopping service in Los Angeles that does it all, from closet consultations to personalized shopping sessions in ehr showroom stocked with pieces from around the world. Her new baby is online fashion inspiration site The Frow, which you can use to track down celebrity favorite items and dupes. Here's what she's learned from over a decade as a stylist:

Invest in quality staple pieces and experiment with trendy items. "Put more of your budget towards staple pieces that are timeless and/or fit great and you can wear constantly, like a great little black dress, blazer, leather jacket, black pump or high end handbag. If buying a trendy piece you are not sure you will get much use out of, "test drive" the piece from a store like H&M." 

Always purchase pieces you can wear immediately or with a quick alteration. "Never buy items that you don't feel confident in or have for when you lose some weight. They will just end up wasting away in your closet."

Don't impulse buy just because things are on sale. "Sales are awesome, but judge the piece the same way you would a regular priced item. If you don't love it, you don't need it. It's better to buy one piece you wear all the time at full price than 10 discounted pieces you never wear."

4. Michelle McFarlane, The Shopping Friend

Michelle McFarlane is the first to admit that she used to be a "fashion disaster." But in her career as a model and actress, she learned from hundreds of professional stylists for fashion shoots, television, and film along the way. Now she’s the head stylist and founder of The Shopping Friend, a personal styling and shopping company with fashion experts in Los Angeles, Denver, New York, and Singapore. Here's why Michelle thinks you should refresh your Pinterest account way before you even start shopping:

Create a mood board: "Before you shop, you need to really know the right styles for your tastes, lifestyle, and body shape. To do this, before even stepping foot in a store, we advise our clients to create style mood boards on Pinterest, or a similar platform, with at least 50 images of outfits they love, keeping their tastes, lifestyle, and body shapes in mind. Most of our clients don’t have a clear vision of what their personal style is and, when they shop, they randomly choose pieces and don’t know how to ensure that items are right for them or will play well with most of their wardrobe. ‘Play well’ means that each item you own can be paired well with 80% of your wardrobe.

Creating mood boards helps our clients hone in on the right style for their personalities and their body shapes. These mood boards act as a guide towards developing a flattering and lasting wardrobe that you can continually build on. And as trends come and go, you can use them to see how those trends 'play' with the looks and pieces you already own. Even for myself, I have multiple mood boards, so I’m always very clear on what looks and pieces I want and need at any given time. This makes shopping easy and prevents owning a wardrobe that is filled with pieces that you can’t match with anything or you don’t really like after a few wears."

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