The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women Make when Trying on Clothes
Photo: Thinkstock
Photo: Thinkstock

By Amy Shearn

Setting Yourself Up for a PNB (Pants Nervous Breakdown)

I don't think I'm alone in feeling that, next to swimsuit shopping, there is nothing more likely to induce a nervous breakdown than looking for pants. It turns out there is actually a reason for this, and it's not (just) my freakishly short legs! Fashion blogger Marie Denee, editor in chief of says, "In production, pants are cut in batches of 100s, so the top one in the batch will fit slightly differently--especially in the same size and especially in jeans--so it's important to bring one size up and down into the dressing room when you are trying out bottoms."

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Avoiding Anything with a Dry-Clean-Only Tag

We've all been burned by a perfect dress that wound up costing a fortune in dry-cleaning bills. But did you know that you don't always have to listen to those washing-instruction tags? Lindsey Boyd, one of the founders of and a graduate of Cornell University's Fiber Science, Textile and Apparel Management and Design program, says, "About 90 percent of clothes that say 'dry-clean only' can really be hand-washed."

Natural fabrics, in particular, says Boyd, respond well to hand-washing. Since so many clothes are made from fabric blends, when reading the labels, defer to the fabric that makes up the highest percentage in the blend. So if a skirt is 90 percent cashmere and 10 percent silk, wash it according to instructions for cashmere.

For more guidance on when to skip the dry cleaning, print out the Can I Be Washed? chart on and post it in your laundry room.

Shopping on Thursday

Some insider info on planning your trip to the mall:

Patrice Vailes-Macarie, a personal shopper at Lord & Taylor in Washington, D.C., confides, "Our department store receives new shipments just about every Wednesday."

Sophia Griego, JCPenney Fashion Expert at Bellevue Square in Bellevue, Washington, says, "At JCPenney, the best time to shop is the beginning of the month, when we receive the new season's products, which means we will have the most sizes, and the newest product will be displayed up front, for easy access to our customers."

Jill Martin, Today show contributor and coauthor with Dana Ravich of The Weekend Makeover: Get a Brand New Life by Monday Morning, says that swimsuit shopping is best done early in the day. "You don't need to go starving, but we all feel our thinnest in the morning." Plus, you'll have more energy, and the sales racks will still be orderly and fully stocked.

Forgetting About Tailoring (and Its Limitations)

When something doesn't fit quite perfectly, the proper response is to crumple it up and kick it across the floor, right? Well, as Allison Berlin, a stylist and the founder of, says, "People think, 'Oh, the waist is too big, it doesn't fit me.' But think about it, garments only have to fit across the widest part of your body." Berlin recommends making sure there are seams in the areas that might need tailoring--hems, waist, shoulders. That's not to say, however, that any piece can be tailored into working for you: You'll want to avoid tailoring knits or prints, and hemming out embellishments like ruffles or ruching.

Asking for a Size 7

Jim Dament, general manager at Schuler Shoes, a Minnesota store, says that he sees his female clients' feet change shape and size not only during pregnancy but also as they age. So get measured every time you buy shoes. He adds, "Look for a shoe that has a leather exterior and a leather lining," because it will mold to your foot, providing a better, longer-lasting, more comfortable fit. And if you're a person who walks a lot, Molly Thayer, owner of the Dallas shoe store Lou Lou's, cautions that a sole that's thin under the ball of your foot will soon start to hurt. "If you have a more structured shoe, with a platform supporting your foot, even a shoe with a high heel will be more comfortable for longer."

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