When you head for your favorite women’s clothing store, do you prefer to go to the store to see, feel and try on before you buy? Or are you happy to buy online, try it on at home and return as needed?
With unlimited online resources, where you live is no longer an obstacle to shopping until you drop. You can have a couture outfit delivered to your home within days (hours if you’re willing to ante up for express shipping).
Statistics show that 20-60% of clothing purchased online is returned, which signifies either shoppers are ordering multiples with the idea of returning items that don’t work or they’re unsatisfied with an item once it lands on their doorstep. Without the ability to see and touch, we lack a key component to decide what works and what doesn’t.
I’ve spent decades shopping and have come to the conclusion I need to see and try on before I buy. If I’m familiar with a retailer I’ll buy online if an item isn’t available in a store close to me. It seems to be a trend to offer some styles and sizes only online. Specifically Petite or Tall, am I right? I’ll order online to get a petite size.
With that in mind, I’m going to share my favorite brick and mortar stores for women’s clothing. You can also shop online at most (except Primark)
What I look for is a pleasant shopping experience, good customer service and of course, well made trend conscious clothing that doesn’t break the bank.
Flexible size options are a plus! If I order online from any of these stores, I have the option to return a piece that doesn’t work to the store, try on another size or find something else that works. I don’t know about your but I personally like and need that immediate gratification!
When I wrote this article I was spending most of my time in the US. It remains my favorite shopping destination. Most of these retailers do ship outside the US, although check customs rates where you live as they can seriously blow your budget.
5 Favorite Women’s Clothing Stores
Athleta is a new favorite. I find good quality, wearable materials and flexible sizing for run around or travel clothing either online or in store. Styles are trend conscious without being overly trendy. In other words they can transition from year to year and still look stylish.
I like tops, pants and sometimes dresses in solid blues grays or neutrals that can be interchangeable for work, travel or running around. Not everything works, but the quality is very good, they have a liberal return policy “Give-It-A-Workout Guarantee”, alterations in store and a pleasant shopping environment. Everything is grouped so it’s relatively easy to find what you’re looking for!
To get occasional sales and offers, sign up for their emails and you’ll be on the list. Athleta just started offering international shipping as well. Athleta is part of the Gap/Banana Republic/Old Navy group. If you have a store credit card with either brand you gain points with purchases to use across the brands and it’s easy to shop for all their brands conveniently through one website.
Nordstrom & Nordstrom Rack
If you’re lucky enough to live close to either Nordstrom or the “Rack”, no explanation is needed. Hundreds of quality brands grouped within in-store departments. Depending on your style you’ll likely find your favorite section and shop there exclusively. The beauty of Nordstrom is you really can’t go wrong, their buyers know what they’re doing. From the trendy Top Shop boutique to the Designer Evening Boutique all fashion tastes are catered to. Nordstroms’ shoe department is in a class by itself.
The Rack is where you’ll find current or last years styles marked down in a smaller store setting. The Rack caters to mostly mid price range fashion although you will find the occasional designer item amongst the racks.Expect to find Tahari, Eileen Fisher and more. I gravitate to the Rack for footwear and jeans. I recently found a pair of skinny Paige jeans during one of their clearance sales for less than $40. Score! Some Racks seem to get better inventory than others.
I appreciate the consistently good customer service at Nordstrom. Alterations are free on full price items and reasonable on Rack or markdowns. Returns are flexible. If you find something online, expect free shipping and returns (or return to a store).
J Crew / Madewell
I’ve shopped at J Crew for decades. You can usually find one in most shopping malls. Back when I was dressing a little preppier than I am now, J Crew was my go to resource. I appreciate the classics and when it comes to their t-shirts and sweaters, you can’t go wrong. The pendulum has swung and I’m happy to say their re-interpretations of classic with trend has come full circle.
I still pull the basic T’s off the sale rack. Mostly cotton, good color options (not a fan of the neon bright preppy colors) and well made for the price point. Love the indigo dye options but then I’m a fan of blue. J Crew also carries a nice selection of hair accessories and affordable costume jewelry.
I always know what I’m getting with J Crew, so shopping online isn’t a problem. Returns or exchanges can be made in store. J Crew famously used Lauren Hutton and other icons as models for their catalog, so kudos to them!
Madewell is owned by J Crew. Styles skew to a slightly younger demo, which is fine. A varied selection of good quality t-shirts plus a wide selection of jeans in US sizes of 00-14.
TJ Maxx/ TK Maxx
Have shopped here for decades. Not all are created equal. The neighborhood drives the selection. You’ll get a much better collection of designer and brand pieces in better neighborhoods. If you’re a hunter, this is the store for you. Some days you’ll find fantastic pieces and other days you’ll walk out empty handed. In my opinion the pricing is so so. Not always the best considering it’s past season inventory. Finding a unique piece that you wouldn’t find anywhere else is the lure. I found a beautiful Italian wool military style cardigan for under $60. several years ago that still hangs in my closet.
If you’re lucky, you may find a TJ Maxx with The Runway, a stylish section of high end designer clothes within the womens’ department.
Go with patience and be prepared to comb the racks. Return policy is 30 days.
I’m going to lump these three together. If you’re looking for inexpensive basics, you can’t go wrong with all three. Don’t expect to wear these clothes much more than a season. Think shorts for around the house, T shirts, casual accessories, or lounge wear.
I discovered Primark in England this past year and find I am living in a couple of the little knit skirts and lounge wear.
Old Navy is my go to for shorts and inexpensive tops. Surprisingly I find more I like at Old Navy than their sister store Gap. Try the Rockstar jegging for a $20. (on sale) fashion jean that I think is competitive with much higher price brands. Available in sizes from US 0-20.
H&M is another retailer I discovered this year. Trendy basics at affordable prices.
If you’re like me you love to save money on the basics so you can splurge on better quality pieces that make your wardrobe. Shoes for example! But that’s another blog post. Have fun shopping and let me know if you have any favorites and why they work for you.