The overarching, high concept aesthetic is something we feel when watching fashion shows or flipping through editorials in magazines. But the greater sense that most of the population relates to, and certainly the one we all employ the vast majority of the time, is the practical one that is distilled down to the question, “Does this look good on me?” And as shopping has become more complex and varied, expanding from a single department store to megamalls to the incalculable abyss that is online shopping, many have adopted trusted friends to be the truth serum, a lamppost in the darkness of cavernous department stores and sparkly-toothed salespeople.
Friends make for wonderful shopping partners. In addition to knowing your personality and preferences, friends consistently see both your intentional and incidental wardrobe choices. When unwelcomed salespeople are trying to sell you the same goods they try on every unsuspecting passerby, friends provide a hedge of comfort, of reinforcement. There are aspects of bonding and body language that flow through the subconscious in friendships, and in effect, people do feel more confident in their choices when someone they know is supportive in their clothing purchases. In essence, friends become a physical and emotional double down.
But just as friendships have their limits and boundaries, there are certain drawbacks to shopping with friends. First, inasmuch as friends provide valuable feedback because of a shared history, it also limits their ability to be objective. Just like you, they see what you wear on a daily basis and are subject to be as settled in their perspective of what looks good, right and flattering on you. A third party, in this case, a well-informed sales associate or personal shopper, can bring impartiality and in the best-case scenario a new perspective to a shopping experience.
Furthermore, there is sometimes a certain instinct we feel when we put something on for the first time. It is a millisecond’s worth of instinct in memory or excitement or sentiment that attracts us to certain things, and it is a feeling that an individual, alone, can experience. We shouldn’t forget that fashion hopes to be just as much about looking pretty as it is about being a distinct vehicle of expression. A well-intended opinion from the outside can dampen this instinct, which can sometimes trip us up in exploring ideas completely.
One additional point to remember is that a professional has an advantage over a friend in that the former has seen the same tunic or dress or jacket multiple times in many sizes and on many different types of people. The repetition, over time, creates a catalog of experience, which ultimately translates into an expertise in styling as well as an ability to have a broad scope of genre, fabric, designers and the general milieu of a given season or style.
The input of friends is a big part of the fashion and shopping equation, but don’t forget to take along your instinct, confidence and maybe a personal shopper too.