Discerning Taste

discerning [dɪˈsɜːnɪŋ]


having or showing good taste or judgment; discriminating

discerningly  adv

Having discerning taste is a characteristic often applied to women and men of affluence, but I think every shopper, even those with bank accounts in the double digits, should be discerning, picky, and critical.

Here are three things to look for when shopping:


We’re tactile beings, so if we don’t like how it feels we won’t want to wear it. First there is the initial feel when you touch something. Is it stretchy? Is it stiff? Does it feel cheap? Is it too hot? Is it too cold? Will it stain easily? Is it see through (which potentially requires another purchase like a cami or slip)?

The secondary feel comes when you try an item on. Always, always try something on! I don’t understand how people can just buy stuff without taking it for a fitting room test drive. While it may have felt good between your fingers it might make you feel claustrophobic once zipped or button. Even the same style jeans might fit different due to washes (I learned that today when I went to buy another pair of Citizen of Humanity Rockets and found the dark wash a little tighter and slinkier than wanted, so I passed them up). Even if you’re a huge fan of one particular style you never know when the makers might switch up “the recipe.”

 Note: Don’t assume a higher price will ensure a better feel. True, 100% Merino Wool is going to feel amazing and be very expensive, but there are plenty of designer duds that just don’t work for me, like True Religions. Even if they were $20 I simply wouldn’t buy them!  On the flip side, don’t let your critical level down because an item is on sale (unless it’s a killer sale where tops are $2 and you can wear them to bed, yoga, workout, farm, garden, etc.)


Now that you’ve instantly become a try-it-on king or queen, take your time in the fitting room. This is why I like to shop on days that aren’t sale central (like this upcoming weekend) because I like to feel I can take my time without holding up ten other people.

Once inside check everything. Do the jeans hang big by the back of the knees? Will the pants need to be hemmed? Is this a top you’ll sweat through (silk is great, but summer is hot!)?  Does it make you look pregnant? Is it a touch too tart? I generally bring in 15 or so items and leave with 2-4. It can feel a bit cumbersome, but not as time consuming as driving back to make returns!

I very rarely ask for an opinion. It’s not so much a snotty “oh I know my body so well, blah, blah” scenario, but if you don’t feel comfortable enough in whatever you have on that you have to get a sale girl’s encouragement then maybe it just isn’t the right piece. No worries, there are plenty more

 Note: Try to replicate your regular life as much as you can when you go shopping. By that I mean eat the same and don’t starve yourself so you’ll look thinner, because while you’ll feel good in the mirror it obviously isn’t a realistic representation. If you are shopping for a lot of items, like you’re looking for a new wardrobe, bring different types of underwear and bras with you so you can see how they’ll fit under your clothes if it’s a concern.


Whether you’re thrifting, shopping at Kohls, hitting up J Crew, or dropping the equivalent of three months’ rent at a boutique, inspect your clothing with TSA precision.  At second hand places you obviously need to check for:

  • Stains of all dubious kinds
  • Rips (ones already there and ones beginning)
  • Piling
  • Ratty hems
  • Grease marks

But that doesn’t mean new clothing is A+ quality. The biggest thing you can do is check the seams for loose threads (found some on a $200 dress with leather side panels.) Also, closely inspect skirts or shirts that are made of sheer fabric. I’ve seen many sheer skirts in all price ranges that have horizontal runs; use your best judgment on how you think a sheer blouse will hold up overtime.

Note: just like with feel don’t assume something that costs less will automatically be lower quality. With some brands you’re really just  paying for the label. How you take care of your clothing matters. For example I’ve had a pair of Abercrombie shorts for seven years that still fit and look great!

These past few days I’ve been shopping for new work clothes. It hasn’t exactly been stress free, just like rummaging through racks at Goodwill isn’t always a breeze. With a critical eye you may not be flitting in and out of stores, but I’d rather have no buyers remorse and a closet that I actually like to play around with than the giddy feeling of purchasing items I’ll later regret.




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