How to shop at Forever 21 without looking like you shop at Forever21
Compliments about your outfit are just the best, aren't they? But I think they're even better, when they're about a piece that was a random find or a super cheap buy, because then the complement is about your taste and not just your ability to purchase something expensive. Know what I mean?
Like, everyone is going to look fab carrying a Céline bag, but if you look great in a $6 shirt from Forever 21, now that's a skill. And I'm about to show you how it's done, so takes notes y'all.
First things first
Looking expensive (or put together, whatever you want to call it) starts with having the right foundational pieces. Now these will vary widely depending on where you live (weather and how casual or formal your city is are important considerations), whether or not you have kids, and what you do for work. In general, I think it is safe to say that the basics pretty much every woman needs are the following: flattering skinny jeans in blue and black, flats in neutral and metallic colors (metallics are neutral's fun loving cousins), and high quality cotton tees in black and white. The list could be longer, but these pieces are a good start and these are the products which I would choose to spend a little more money on. Get the basics right, and you have some leeway with everything else.
Now that you've got the basics covered...
What items are worth buying at Forever 21?
Now this should always be done on a case by case basis, but there are a few things I find to be consistent.
Avoid: jeans, swimsuits, tee shirts, and undergarments. No matter how cute they look initially, the fit is usually not great and even when it is, these always fall apart within the first few wears. I thought I was sooo smart because I found a gorgeous pair of black jeans that fit perfectly for under $40, until they split right down the ass at an Ellie Goulding concert. But that didn't stop me, I thought it was a fluke and decided to try another pair which did the exact same thing. So let me save you the pain and embarrassment and just say don't do it.
Do try: silk (ok not actually silk but they have the look) tops, button ups, summer dresses, going out dresses, shoes (especially flats!), stud earrings, pants (made from materials other than denim), sweaters, hoodies, and anything you're only looking to wear once (like for a costume etc, but try to avoid such wastefulness!)
Now that we've covered the bases, the best items to purchase at Forever 21 are the ones that are super on trend and memorable. Spend less on these items and more on the "boring" pieces you'll wear again and again.
How to decide which pieces to buy once I'm there?
Before you go, browse fashion magazines or whatever it is that inspires your personal style so that you have a clear idea of what you're looking for and don't go lost with so many options. The turnaround time for fashion right now is insane (this article explains it and why the industry is basically f*#$ed) . You can see something go down the runway from Gucci, and purchase a similar design in Zara or Forever 21 a week later, before the original product even comes available for sale.
There are a few questions you should always ask yourself:
1. If I were at Saks Fifth Avenue, would I be interested in this piece?
I get that, if a piece is $400 vs $40, you probably aren't going to want to buy it. Budgets are budgets, and you should stick to them. However, aesthetically you should maintain the same style standards for every piece that enters you wardrobe, no matter the price point. Think of your closet like real estate, every item has to be worthy of its spot there. Make sure you legitimately love the item and aren't just purchasing it because it's cheap and you want to test it out.
2. Does it fit?
Fitting into something is not the same thing as an item that fits. Sizing is already so varied across brands but its even worse at places like Forever 21 because of general inconsistencies and a desire to save fabric many items may be cut a bit shorter than they really should be. If this is the case but you really love the item, size up to get more length then have the item tailor it the areas that are too large. It's much easier to take away fabric than to add it, and the right fit makes all the difference.
3. Are there any immediately noticeable defects?
Check the item thoroughly for tears, inconsistent stitching, fraying fabric, buttons that have fallen off, or wonky zippers (that are either badly placed or just don't work properly). Even when you've found a piece that ticks all of the other boxes, chances are high that they may have one of the previously listed defects and the item is never worth it, no matter how cheap it is.
Shopping at F21 isn't easy, but there are amazing finds to be had
Like the shoes below. Both pairs are comfortable, super cute, and have held up well. I would have paid much more for them but I'm glad I didn't have to!