Personal shoppers: good idea or just more trauma?
May 2, 2012 7:16 PM   Subscribe

What is it like using a Macy's personal shopper? Is that my best option?

I'm a short lady with fat thighs and a big ass, and it is very hard to find clothes I like. My style, such as it is, is androgynous-to-butch. I realize that perhaps dresses or skirts would flatter my body more, but they're not me. I find shopping for clothes horribly stressful. It is common for me to spend hours and find nothing that fits. Consequently, I have very few clothes that I love. Could a personal shopper help me improve my wardrobe, and would it be worth consulting the shoppers at Macy's? I'm thinking Macy's because they have personal shoppers that will work with you for free. I am scared that the shopper will be appalled by my non-fashionable body and my rejection of skirts and dresses. Or would they be willing to work with me to find things I like? If not Macy's, then where? If not a personal shopper, then what?
posted by summer sock to Shopping (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I used a Macy's personal shopper once (in NYC), to find me something very specific (a black suit in a certain size that I could get with both pants and a skirt), and the personal shopper managed to find a few options for me and one of them was perfect. I would definitely use a personal shopper again if I had specific things I wanted pulled for me. I don't know if it would be worth the time to give them total freedom to pick stuff; like you, I have specific things I like and don't like and wouldn't want to waste time dealing with someone else's taste unless I knew in advance we were on the same page (the woman I worked with did a great job but I wouldn't have wanted her doing more than pulling specific items). So maybe try them out for an item or two and see if you meet a shopper you click with.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:24 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I did something similar at Nordstrom's and I am way way outside the 'fashionable' look, and the gal who helped me was great; non-judgemental, listened to what I had to say about what I liked to wear and not, and helped me pick out some great things within my budget. All for free. A super positive experience... And I HATE shopping for clothes!! I would say give it a shot, and if you don't hit it off with one helper, say bye and try another store another day. Nordstrom's help has always been good in my experience, from footware to their bra-fitters.
posted by The otter lady at 7:35 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

You may want to look through the Macy's and any other department stores beforehand, just to make sure there are things you would want to wear. Obviously they'll be great for finding things you wouldn't have considered, but you do want to have options! I have not used a personal shopper myself, but my mother had one at Nordstrom's for years and they would phone her whenever they saw something she would like or when a shoe came in for her slightly unusual size. I've had really good luck with getting kind service from their bra department for my less-than-fashionable size, so I hope it carries over. I believe Nordstrom's stylists also work without an additional fee, so if there are other department stores you like, you should see what options there are beyond Macy's. I can't believe a professional would ever be so cruel as to judge you for your perfectly-normal sounding body, and that would absolutely be grounds to speak with a supervisor. I think sometimes there's a way to mention your preferences and tastes in a consultation beforehand, so that they have a sense of what to look for and what to avoid (this is why I mentioned looking around the store or website beforehand, just to make sure you have options you're excited about.) If not, maybe google around to see if there are any personal shoppers who consult independently in your area? This would probably require more vetting and a fee, but you'd be less limited to a single store, which might save you aggravation, money, and hassle in the long run.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:36 PM on May 2, 2012

A personal shopper couldn't hurt. It's a good opportunity to try on things you wouldn't normally choose and get feedback.

Remember that you can also get clothes tailored--waist taken in, pants and skirts hemmed, etc.--for not a lot of money. So if something mostly fits and you like it, the tailor can get you the rest of the way there. Just remember that it's much easier to take things in than let them out, so err on the side of too big.
posted by elizeh at 7:37 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've never worked with a shopper at Macy's, but I've found the personal shoppers at Nordstrom to be great. They will also work with you for free, and if you bring in stuff you love/think looks good on you, they'll help you find things that good with it, etc.
posted by dotgirl at 7:37 PM on May 2, 2012

Nordstrom's personal shoppers are fantastic. I doubt that your body shape and/or fashion requests are going to be something they haven't seen before, and their main goal is to sell clothes, so they're going to go out of their way to accommodate you.

If nothing else, it's a great pampering experience for free.
posted by xingcat at 7:47 PM on May 2, 2012

I've also done the Nordstrom's personal shopper and I thought the whole experience was fantastic.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:13 PM on May 2, 2012

I think a personal shopper is an excellent idea, and while I'm sure the Macy's personal shoppers are great, my first thought was Nordstrom's, too. I don't know if higher end department stores are within your budget, but some place like Bloomingdale's or Saks tend to have excellent personal shoppers as well. There are also image consultants that aren't tied to a specific store, but you need to pay them for their time. My Mom has worked with a couple and usually they know their stuff and can differentiate between personal taste and what works well. Try the complimentary services first, and if you find your experience lacking consider hiring someone. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 8:16 PM on May 2, 2012

I have had a session with a personal shopper at Nordstrom, and she was great.

But, I find that the plus-size selection in-store at Macys is much better (assuming you're talking plus size) than Nordstroms, so I bet a Macys personal shopper would have even more options to suggest.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 8:20 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Have you ever tried stores devoted to urban/hip hop fashion? On my body, my waist/torso is relatively small and my butt, hips and thighs are relatively big. I find most pants in mainstream mall stores in the US are cut for "apples" - people who are bigger in the waist/torso with relatively small/flat butts and narrower thighs. On the other hand I find that almost all womens' pants in hip hop shops fit me really well because the ideal there is a body closer to mine.
posted by cairdeas at 8:24 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two suggestions:

If you prefer a more masculine look, go to the men's section and look for wide-leg or relaxed-fit stuff (harder to find these days though).

If you prefer women's pants, shop in stores geared towards Black and Hispanic women. This is why Apple Bottoms exists. They tend to be more accommodating to those of us with disproportionate junk in our trunk.

My experience with asking salespeople to help me with an androgynous-to-butch look has gone really badly. But they were not professional personal shoppers.
posted by schroedinger at 8:24 PM on May 2, 2012

I'm putting in my love for Team Nordstrom as well. I also hate shopping and have had great experiences there: the last time I went, my shopper literally pulled about 150 things for me to try on! With no pressure to buy things, BTW. It was great because I tried on a lot of stuff I would never have even looked at, and some of these became my go-to pieces.

Regardless of where you go (I've not tried Macy's shoppers), remember that you need to tell them what you like/don't like. For example, last time I told them, "I want jeans very dark for the office, not teenager trendy, not anything that makes me look like I'm trying to be 25. I get all t-shirts from the Gap, and I'm not interested in $50 plain jersey shirts. I want to spend $X for X shirts, trousers, etc. I like these designers, these not so much, etc." Don't be intimidated and tell them your constraints: they will listen and, in fact, it makes their job easier, your shopping experience more enjoyable and even fun. So go have fun!
posted by sfkiddo at 9:15 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd second jetlagaddict in that you should look at the Macy's website/store before deciding to use their personal shopper. My friend used to be a Macy's personal shopper, and they are very nice and non-judgy and helpful like Nordstrom, though Macy's is less expensive than Nordstrom, so the clothing selection is different. Also, it may help to go to a larger Macy's in a nicer neighborhood, as the shoppers may be more fashionable there. However, they can only find you clothes that are in the store. So if your tastes are not in line with what's in Macy's, then they will be of limited help. They won't be rude or anything, but they may not bring you the kinds of clothes you're after. (I'm not sure if the personal shopper would know enough about menswear sizes and fits to find you clothes from that section -- you could ask!)
posted by bluefly at 6:14 AM on May 3, 2012

Masculine appearing/dressing lesbian here. I've not used the personal shoppers at either store (Why hadn't I thought of that!?) but I have used Nordstrom's expertise in the bra department, where I walked into the area and immediately became overwhelmed. A young associate noticed me and approached asking if she could help. I told her what I was looking for (not even the size, just style/fit type) and she took a minute to look at me before she walked through the department pulling five different bras and handing them to me. "This is what we have right now. Ordinarily there are two more that would do but we don't have your size today." With a smile and not a whiff of judgement or condescension.

Indeed - they all fit perfectly and I took all of them, plus two more in other colors.

I vote a big yes to trying them out.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:42 AM on May 3, 2012

Give it a try! Having a nice salesperson who knows where everything is and has a good general idea of the brands' sizing (I wear a range of 3 sizes in various brands) will ensure you're only trying on things with a high likelihood of fitting. That's way more fun.

They'll also have insight about tailoring, for things which are thisclose to being perfect. They'll tell you what to ask the tailor for, which is helpful.
posted by BigJen at 8:11 AM on May 3, 2012

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