Several years ago when I first heard that the Maine Mall was going to host a Forever21 I had mixed feelings. Firstly, I was excited for my fellow Mainers; being fashionable was about to extend itself beyond Abercrombie and Pacsun and become much more affordable. Secondly, I was nervous. Having spent my youth in southern California, I had seen these stores in action before; I had seen customers pass out in exhaustion from the weight of their hangers; I had seen red-toothed stand-outs between mothers and daughters in cashier lines; I had seen hair pulled, girls shoved to the ground, friends left behind, shirt splattered dressing room! Needless to say, I knew that the coming of Forever21 meant one thing: War.
While I have a natural inclination towards exaggeration, it’s difficult to deny that one does feel certain Darwinian survival instincts kick in when entering the store. Being immediately accosted by pop music, prices you thought only existed in fairy tales, and an impressive pallet of jeans colors, it is easy to get carried away. I’ve spent hours in the store, tried on 100 things and then left disgruntled and empty handed. Likewise, I have attempted to just “walk through” and in less than half an hour spent $200 on things I never knew that I “needed”. It’s a dangerous place to go without some guidelines, so here are a couple of tips to get through it in a timely, efficient manner that will break neither your wallet or spirit.
First rule of Fight Club: Syke.
- Do not go without a plan. This is the most important rule when facing an afternoon in Forever21. Going here without some notion of what your shopping for will leave you aimless and therefore more susceptible to buying things that you don’t need. It’s like going to the grocery store hungry; your hunger will blind you into buying something weird and then you’ll probably end up not eating it. This isn’t good for your wallet or your closet. There are exceptions to this of course. And yeah, I get it, it’s difficult to not buy a $12 pair of jeans. But do you need them? I like to preach simplicity, especially when it comes to fashion, and mass quantities of things you’ve only worn once rarely speaks to quality. Keep it simple, know what you’re looking for and remember the limits that this particular store has; Forever21 can boast some ridiculously cheap prices but don’t be surprised if those $12 jeans turn your legs purple.
- Be aware. Sometimes when I’ve been in the store for too long, I feel drugged up by the constant pop music and endless fabric. Talk about sensory overload. My eyes get dazed and I end up just grabbing and racking things onto my left arm in some kind of nervous frenzy— it gets pretty heavy, but after a while my arm goes numb and I don’t even notice. It’s no surprise when I finally arrive at the dressing room and realize that I’ve grabbed the same item twice. I look pathetically at my arm and then at the clerk, who pats my shoulder and assures me that “this sort of thing happens all the time.” To avoid this situation, take a mental inventory of what you’re holding.
- Strategize; organize. Being both mentally and physically ready for a Forever21 trip is necessary for your success. This means know what you’re looking for, be aware of what you’re holding, get a good stretch in before hand, and know your limits. I’m pretty short (5’2) but I’ve found that if I keep 12 hangers on my left arm and only 4 on my right, not only can I keep my balance but I can also wedge a few folded items underneath my arm pit while I journey to the dressing rooms. This assures that you make the most of your time in the dressing room and have to spend less time browsing afterwards.
- Take Pause. After I’ve browsed, tried on and eliminated that which is blatantly hideous, I like to take pause and review what is left. For this I typically find a table of folded sweaters and spread my items out across it like a fashion feast. Sometimes taking up a whole table can earn you some displeased looks from other customers. In this scenario, don’t be afraid to give them a little snarl to let them know that this is your table for the moment. I organize my items by price and level of cuteness and then ask myself questions like “do I already have something similar” or “why is this dress so cheap?” It is important to occasionally question why an item is so cheap because you want it to last at least the rest of the season.
- Help out the employees. If you don’t get a surge of sympathy for these folk, then your heart is probably 7X too small— that’s the size of the Grinch’s, if you recall. Yeah sure, they got themselves into this mess via applying to work in such a place, but surely they never thought it would be like this. Anyone who has ever worked in retail can relate to some extent; there is nothing worse than a customer ravages your table of freshly folded sweaters and makes no attempt to at least leave a semblance of what it once was. Come on folks, one hand washes the other.
- Don’t bring your boyfriend. Unless seeking revenge for being forced to sit through a sports game, this is perhaps the cruelest act to inflict on your loved one. There are few things more painful than seeing a boyfriend who is being dragged through this environment. As much as he may tell you he likes shopping with you, he always has better things to do. You don’t want to be that girl and he doesn’t want you to be that girl. Set him loose on the video game store and get your work gone, girl!
I hope these tips will help you readers navigate through the fantastic jungle that is Forever21. Remember: Keep calm and shop on