Group Discussion: What is the Future of Retail?

The fall out from the COVID 19 shut down has had a devastating impact on industries like travel and hospitality, to name just a few. Imagine waking up one day and realizing your business or career is either extinct or looks completely different with zero warning, through absolutely no fault of your own. 

It’s heartbreaking.

Experts say, though, that these industries are resilient, that demand is there, and if they can get through this, there is a path back to their previous success.

AirB&B, for example, came out earlier this week and said that it had more US bookings between May 17 and June 3, which encompassed Memorial Day on May 25, than the same time period a year earlier

Everyone I know is trying to do something this summer and is happily spending money and rallying behind as many small businesses as possible, because it’s important to all of us and our communities that they survive.  

But the impact on retail, specifically fashion retail, and its supporting industries is going to be a much different story.

What is the Future of Retail?

an empty corridor in an indoor shopping mall

The retail industry faces its own list of difficult, and complicated challenges, and while COVID has made an enormous impact, one could argue it only speed up the inevitable.

For years the industry has been in flux, and now it’s an absolute mess.

Malls have seen a dramatic drop in foot traffic long before mandated shutdowns.

Retailers trying to create more of an “experience” within their stores had varying levels of success, often making it more difficult for the customer to shop.

Quality has dropped, prices have risen. 

Many manufacturing and sourcing practices are still archaic, lack oversight, and create severe environmental impact.

Retail is a complex web that needs a total restructuring to meet the needs of modern society. 

Lack of Goodwill

But perhaps the biggest issue is the lack of goodwill between consumers and brands.

For YEARS retail at large has ignored cries for expanded – or inclusive sizing.

It’s 2020, and the overwhelming majority of inventory still only goes up to a size 12.

It’s just too hard to shop. It’s too expensive, limiting and frustrating. 

And for whatever reason, it feels like retail only markets to 25 years in Southern California (no offense) or the extremely affluent who don’t blink at a pair of $600 jeans. 

They assume everyone is a size 2, white, and lives a life of leisure. 

My job has always been to shop for women. Whether it was when I was a buyer, a personal shopper, or now as a content creator. The basis of my job is finding practical solutions that are chic and stylish for the average American woman (and our friends around the globe).

Shopping is as Impossible as You Think

If you’re petite or plus size they have limited you to online only. That’s right, most American department stores and some speciality stores took special sizing off their selling floors. Meaning you cannot walk into a store and buy anything.

If you’re a woman of color, you are often not even included in the conversation. I can walk into any store and buy a neutral-to-me bra. If you have darker skin and want a neutral-to-you bra, or pair of pantyhose, or a shoe that matches your skin tone – you’ll likely have to place a special order, if it’s even available. 

Just a few months ago, I went to the mall looking for something special to wear to my 40th birthday party. I decided I was going to treat myself and buy whatever I wanted. 

Something as simple as a party top for a grown woman was a total bust. 

I can home with a pathetic sweater. 

It’s like the stores are telling us, point blank, who they want to walk through their doors.

Retail has never cared about consumers. And these public promises of transparency and diversity amid two national crises feel like a marketing ploy rather than real, needed change.

And if a brand is actually serious about it, it is going to take years to see real change.

The Long Term

So here is what I think will happen. 

The brands that make ethics, inclusion, and community building a priority will succeed but it won’t be easy. They have to cut through the noise, align with trusted voices and figure out how to compete with Amazon. 

Malls will never go back to what they were. As a destination, I think as long as people have to wear a mask, trips to the mall will be transactional instead of a leisurely day off. 

And that’s an issue for their bottom line because the longer you’re there, the more you spend, and if there is no impulse spending, stores and malls will ultimately close.

We’ll see so many more bankruptcies like J.Crew and total closures like Sears and J.C. Penny.

Some brands will hopefully expand their offerings, maybe Nordstroms will get it’s act together and start offering merchandise again that meet the needs of the average woman.

Sadly, small boutiques are going to continue to struggle. It’s too hard to compete with Amazon, their prime shipping, and prices. 

I Want to Hear From You

I love creating this content, and I want to make sure I continue to evolve with our readership. My commitment to inclusive sizing continues to be top of mind as well as offering an assortment of price options. 

I’m fortunate that I worked with real women, of all shapes, sizes, races and lifestyles, for over a decade. Inclusion is easy for me except for the fact that I’m limited to what is being offered.

So for you, as the consumer, what are your priorities?

How important is price point?

Would you spend more for ethically, responsibly sourced brands?

Realistically, would you compromise quality for better pricing? Or would you prefer to spend more for higher quality?

How important is size range and inclusivity?

What “perks” do you look for from retailers?

Are you okay with longer shipping times, or do you expect Amazon shipping speed across the board?

Tell me in the comments below – there are no wrong answers!

Our Content is Inspired by Our Readers

Our readership inspires all of our posts and is not sponsored or paid for by brands or retailers. 

Recommendations are based on my experience as a personal stylist View Post and wardrobe consultant for over a decade. I worked with busy, down-to-earth women who wanted to look chic and feel confident but were often confused by so much of retail. 

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Group Discussion: What is the Future of Retail?

43 thoughts on “Group Discussion: What is the Future of Retail?”

  1. But for you, as the consumer, what are your priorities?
    Finding clothes that fit (I’m 5’9″ with 34″ inseam); fabric that does not show every bump through it; quality (I’m 58) that stylish and affordable.

    Would you spend more for ethically, responsibly sourced brands?
    Yes. I ordered from Velvety (Australia) during covid-19. Merchandise great but took one month to arrive.

    Realistically, would you compromise quality for better pricing? Or would you prefer to spend more for higher quality?
    There needs to be both options.

    How important is size range and inclusivity?
    As a tall girl, it is very hard to find my size in stores (other than Old Navy for jeans)

    What “perks” do you look for from retailers?
    Lately I’m enjoying the perks of TJ Maxx — good brands at clearance prices.

    Are you okay with longer shipping times, or do you expect Amazon shipping speed across the board?
    I’m okay with longer shipping times. Whatever happened to delayed gratification???

  2. I’d love to hear your take on apps like Poshmark/Mercari/eBay, and the sustainable fashion movement. I’m really moving towards buying brands I know online that are new with tags (NWT) or gently used. Folks can order from home/phones and don’t have to go to brick and mortar, its also alot cheaper. Could you do a post on your favorite buying app for instance if applicable.

    • Hey Melissa, So I have sold on Poshmark (and loved it) but never made a purchase, mostly because I’m tall and am not the easiest fi. I think it’s a fantastic option if you know the brands and designers that work for you! But the challenge for a lot of people are sizes and returns. For example, when I shop online I always order two sizes because I tend to be in between all the time and then send the one back that won’t work.

  3. I am a 40 year old mom of 3 that wears a 2x. I would love to find bootcut jeans and leggings bc I have hips! I have 3 pairs to choose from on and that is all. I need confort, birkenstocks, bermuda shorts, classic fitting tees and shirts and in the winter coats and sweaters. I don’t mind spending money on brands, favorite is vineyard vines but most if not all of the plus size clothing they did add is alwasy sold out within hours. Lane Bryant is too trendy and target is going that way too. I have been plus size my whole life and would have loved to see the styles they have now for plus size girls/teens/20s when I was in that age range but it was not. Now I find most plus size is either going towards the larger girl and the older women. Bring back classic clothing. Finding clothes is hard, thanks for making it easier!

  4. Wow, you hit the nail on the head. I live in SoCal and am approaching 60, I am average size for the US-if I didn’t have Amazon even before the pandemic… The older I have gotten the more ethically sourced clothes and responsible vendors mean to me (yes I know Amazon). I am on the shorter side, it is nearly impossible to find anything that fits right off the rack and is on the stylish side. I am definitely willing to tailor items if it improves the look, but if I pay a lot and then add tailoring and a pair of shorts that started out at $50 becomes $60, that’s where I stop.
    Makeup has started to change to accommodate the spectrum of consumers, fashion, not so much. It would seem if they want to survive the change would happen rapidly. I was loyal for quite a while to a brand that has been around since the 50’s, but the price point for the quality of many of its items became out of reach for the quality of the product. I love perks of being a loyal consumer, but ethics and inclusivity are my number one points.

  5. Oh wow! Where to start. I am 70 years old and have an active retired resort lifestyle in Florida. I wear a size 8 more or less. Most of my life is spent in tee shirts,shorts, or active wear. But when I want to put something else on, most things are styled for a 20 something. I love color and some pizzaz that also is flattering without appearing to try to be 30 years younger. I rarely wear black any more. Why can’t we have a LBD in turquoise or orange or any smashing color.? Where is Liz Claiborne when we need her. That was my go to brand for so many things.
    Yes I will pay more for a really good pair of jeans and a distinctive top or a dress. My most recent favorite is Lily Pulitzer. AND could you do a post on swimsuits since we are in high summer here.
    Pros for shopping at the mall: I like to feel the fabric. If it doesn’t feel right for me I won’t even try it on. Plus you can see the color and style front back and sideways much better than on the internet. It is easier to try different sizes or colors of the same garment.

    For the internet, sooo many choices. It takes time to sort and choose. Harder to me to get outside my comfort zone and try something different. I have done some internet shopping and also tried stitchfix and Nordstrom’s trunk service with disappointing results ( I think all their stylists? Are twenty somethings and really never read my preferences)
    I love your blog and although I don’t relate to everything, I have found so much that is useful and can’t wait to read your next post.

  6. I am plus sized AND petite. I was forced into online shopping a long time ago. Once I found companies that had the sizes I need then the challenge was finding styles and colors that I found attractive. Ethically produced? I don’t care about that when my selection is limited black or neon colors in my size. I want delicious colors and pretty prints in clothing that fits my age, 64, and size.

  7. This is a great discussion! Thank you for bringing up so many great points.
    I agree with you–many stores will close, online sales will go up, and small boutiques will (continue to) struggle.
    Full disclosure, I work for Kontoor Brands (owner of Wrangler and Lee Jeans), so I see things through a slightly different lens.
    One thing I am VERY proud of my company for is including Plus sizes, in stylish options–Both Wrangler and Lee carry a variety, and I encourage you to check them out.
    As a company, we are very diverse and seeking ways to become better. Our sustainability efforts are also at the forefront.

    I know there are literally hundreds of places to shop, so I am constantly seeking those that make it easy for me to try on, trust in their sizing and sourcing, and agree with what the company stands for as its core values.

  8. I used to love to shop! However, now that I am a mature woman with a family and other priorities, I am so thankful for your content! I don’t have the time or patients to rummage through racks of clothes! I would rather rely on good reviews and suggestions than go out on my own and get overwhelmed by all of the choices at the mall! I am almost 50 and I would rather own a few good pieces and invest in the quality than own a lot of just mediocre items that get pushed aside! Also, items made in the U.S.A. are important to me.
    Thank you for sharing your insights!
    You have been very helpful to me over these past 6 months:)

  9. I would love to know what you think about some of the subscription boxes. They seem sort of pricey, but since dry cleaning is included, maybe they are worth the price?? As always, your content is fantastic and so helpful!!

    • Thanks Emily, your nice to say that.
      I’ve done Stitch Fix on and off. I like the concept, but I’m not a fan. The issue, for me, is that I end up keeping pieces I only kind of like, and then I end up with a closet full of stuff I’m lukewarm about 🙂 I did like it when I was pregnant, a box always showed up when I needed something, so that was nice, but generally, I was never sent a piece I absolutely loved.

  10. I’m a single working 37 yo right now, things will change my status one day and then my priorities will changed too. But for now when it come to shopping and retail I look for comfort & material, fit, quality, and price. I’m at the point where fast fashion is not appealing and I buy items that will last long term or go with my own sense of style. If I find something I love, I will by more than one (think that perfect white tee). Prices are very important too, that perfect tee has got all the boxes checked off. I shop around, compare prices, and also watch items for the best deals. Last year’s or years’ items can be less expensive later on. However, if there is an item that I’ve been searching for and perfect, my max is about $150. I’m also not against getting dupes.
    Would you spend more for ethically, responsibly sourced brands? It is with in my budget to do so, however, I selectively shop. If I have no need for that sweater from Patagonia but just covet it, then nope. I ain’t getting it brand new. I’ll just shop secondhand for something similar or pre-loved. But I must also say, it makes me proud to support such responsible brands when I do.
    I’m also 5’6″, 110 lbs, straight and narrow. I have a problem with items being too large. Shoes, pants, and dresses are the hardest to shop online for and I use the stylebook app to help me keep track of what brands have items I can wear. Once I’ve found a brand that has sizes in “me” then it goes on my awesome list and I tend to check those brands out first before shopping others.
    Perks aren’t a huge deciding factor for me, but if there are coupons for signing up for email alerts, I’m there. I won’t get any paid memberships. It’s never worth the money. However, something like a store credit card, I will look into that if I purchase from that store all the item.
    I do love Amazon Prime shipping, but with that said I understand not all companies can afford to do what Amazon does. I recently purchased that straw clutch from Amazon… it’ll be a month before I receive it, it’s shipping from another country. That I find disappointing. I would prefer to support US companies because I live here and I want our economy to grow. However I’m not needing it “now” so I can wait. I do have normal expectations when it comes to shipping, 1-2 weeks (including the processing time). I still remember when it took much longer when shopping from physical clothing catalogs were a thing. Everything is digital now, time is shortened.

  11. I hate to buy online because it is too difficult to tell quality and color. I am 5’3” and slim, but even so, I have difficulty finding well fitting clothes that are appropriate to my age (late 60s). I look terrible in black and white, so that limits my options right there. The fiction that everyone looks great in a little black dress needs to end! I also don’t do shorts, capris or skinny jeans, but I like a relaxed style, not tailored. I have some quality clothes that I have had for a long time and still enjoy wearing, so I would definitely advocate paying more for quality and owning fewer items. I used to like Eileen Fisher and I still buy from them occasionally, but for the most part their styles now are too baggy and shapeless. They claim to support the environment in their processes and I admire that, so I hope it is more than just marketing claims. Cheap usually means some factory worker somewhere is being pressured to come every day (whether sick or not) to a low wage job just to survive and support their family, so I feel a certain amount of guilt about buying into that system. I suppose those producing high end garments work under the same conditions, so I would like to see retail respect not only the consumer, but also those who produce their goods.

  12. I couldn’t agree with you more. For over two years I have been saying to my husband “what is wrong with the retailers? Why can’t they get their act together?” I am not a marketing expert but even I can walk through a store and tell you that they are really missing the mark on what consumers want. Some of the smaller stores have decent customer service, but many of the larger stores and chains JUST DON’T CARE. That’s the feeling I get when I shop. The powers that be who run retail stores don’t care. If they did, they would offer the products that people want, get them to you in a timely manner, make returns easy, offer product to suit everyone (not just teenagers or people with lots of money) and they would focus on CUSTOMER SERVICE! It absolutely infuriates me to walk into a store and need some help or guidance from the sales clerk and have them just shrug their shoulders and walk away. They couldn’t care less and I’ve even been in stores where the clerks actually walk in the other direction if they see you (I’m talking about you Walmart!). Maybe the 22 year olds don’t want store staff approaching them to offer help and just want to left alone to buy their $10 throw-away tee-shirt, but I’m 52 and I prize customer service. That’s the one thing they can’t offer as easily in an online retail environment. The staff in a brick and mortar has the opportunity to make you feel special and help you in many ways that an online store can’t. How much more clothing would a store sell if they had staff there to assist you – “can I offer you another size or colour in that item? We got some new tops in last week that would go beautifully with those new jeans”. Things like that! I think the stores would sell 10 times the product if they offered that kind of help. I have 14 and 18 year-old daughters and they want the disposable clothing but even they appreciate it when a staff runs to get them another size in something that doesn’t fit when they are trying on clothes. In my age group, I would rather buy quality and buy something that didn’t turn rivers blue in another country. I am tired of the brick and mortars complaining that they are losing business and can’t compete with online shopping. Stop complaining and start doing something! You’re right, it won’t happen overnight but they had better get their acts together or it’s lights out.

  13. God! Please help. I used to love to shop and as I get older (I’m 53), it just gets more frustrating. I feel as though all I’m doing is running back and forth to the post office or UPS store for my returns. I’m still in pretty good shape (size 8-10 regular) so I don’t like wearing baggy, shapeless items for “older women” but I also don’t want to wear ripped up jeans for a 23-year old either. I am having difficulty finding that in between style anywhere. And, I can’t imagine the frustration for those who require special sizes (petite, tall, etc.)

    So many of my favorite boutiques are closing — even before COVID — due to online shopping. Nordstrom is my “go-to” because of free shipping and returns. But, even Nordstrom is getting old to me. I do not need any item that ships the next day so yes, I am willing to wait a week or two to receive any items ordered online. I invest in good jeans, blazers or jackets. Other than that, I like a good deal, but only if it fits my body type.

    Trying to purchase a bathing suit during quarantine was a nightmare. I bought about 8 suits and kept 1. Don’t really love it but I needed one so I’ll make due.

    Anything you can offer to guide us to sites with better quality clothes that are environmentally-friendly and make locally would be preferred. Thank you for your insight.

  14. Shopping online is difficult because I am a tough fit. Petite but curvy and short waisted. Just finding a tshirt or tank is challenging due to length. I do not feel comfortable shopping ina store due to Covid but relied on stores prior as I need to try things on. I feel for retailers but as a petite woman it has been a tough road.

  15. I am a retired (62) petite slim woman – I have never enjoyed going to the Mall. Always felt invisible to staff of major dept stores (Macys, Nordstrom, Sax Fifth Ave etc). It was never pleasant to be ignored. As a career woman for 30 years in corporate law, my go to forever has been Ann Taylor. High quality and reasonable prices on sale. I still buy online frequently as their sizing is consistent and I like nice things! I will shop TJMaxx and Marshalls as well for very casual clothes, swimwear and the like. Shoes and handbags are always DSW (online) and Vince Camuto online as well. Quality over quantity has always been my mantra and I always wait for the sales. I tried Ebay and Poshmark and will never use them again. Only bought NWT but found shipping to be outrageous and frequent false or misleading descriptions. I also have been a big consignor for many years and use my earnings to recycle for new things. I believe retail is in the dying stages and I for one will not miss it.

  16. I am 5’1” and I was truly disappointed when Lord and Taylor in a mall close to me stopped having a petite department – what? I was searching and had to ask and was told they decided to eliminate it from the store. That was the last time I was in a Lord and Taylor so they successfully got rid of me as a customer and now I hear they will not survive.

  17. I am curvy. Somerimes a misses XL fits me but more often than not I need an XXL or a womens 2X. I hate that larger sizes are online only – I was in JJill (my favorite) and asked why they couldn’t have the womens sizes in store and put petites online? I’d like to try things on in my size in a store!! And I also HATE HATE HATE having to pay more for plus size! That is so wrong!! Size and price inclusivity are my “holy grail.”
    I am willing to spend more for quality fabrics and construction – meaning natural fibers, linings, well-sewn, etc. pieces. I refuse to buy a cotton or rayon dress with a polyester lining. I might as well wear a plastic bag!! Ugh!!

  18. Hi Megan,

    First I love The well Dressed life and a huge THANK YOU.

    I have found that shopping is a nightmare my whole life.
    I am in the UK and I am tall. long tall Sally used to be great but they were taken over, closed their shops,became an online retailer, prices went through the roof and quality went down the tube!
    Price is important but I am happy to pay a fair price for something of good quality, that is well made and fits well.
    A lot of retailers think that making clothes a wee bit longer takes care of tall people, but the placement of the waist,bust pockets ect make all the difference, but I guess I don’t need to tell you that.
    We are still in lockdown in Scotland so goodness knows what will become of the malls and clothes shops

  19. Also, I am not a fan of Stitch Fix either. I asked for the same srylist and got a different one every time, with the result thay I kept fewer and fewer pieces from eaxh box. I found that what they show online and what one actually receives are entirely different things!!

  20. Just hit the mid 50s. I am 5’8” with long legs. I wish there were more tall options! Also, stylish clothes that neither look like I’m trying to be my daughter nor my mother. I would be willing to spend more on ethically sourced clothes IF they were classically styled with nice quality fabric. To me this is the best option—Ethics and Environment. Those making the clothes are treated fairly and I am not going to be carrying them to Goodwill (or the dump) in a year because they were trendy or ill fitting/cheap. We seem to be in this mode where fashion cycles are super fast. I get it. Clothes aren’t as quickly consumable like hair/beauty. The only way to make more money is to encourage more buying, but environmentally, how much of this cheap fast fashion end up in landfills?

  21. Megan, I am so happy you started this discussion. I am a long time reader of your blog and have always appreciated your size inclusiveness! I am a fashion-loving 58 years old and was in the corporate world for decades until semi-retirement last year. I now own a consulting business so I still need work clothes. My challenge is that I am plus size and have to buy all my clothes online! I love shopping, although I have to limit spending these days. I look for good quality at a fair price. I am willing to spend more for better basics that flatter me like Eileen Fisher. It seems there are fewer options for pretty, fashionable clothing in plus size. Some brands offer plus sizes but the cuts are weird. I have bit of a belly and large breasts, so that makes it hard to find plus size fashion that works for me. Nordstrom is the best I’ve found so far and I so appreciate their free shipping and free returns! That is a must for me. I hate having to pay postage to purchase something and then also pay to return items. I am ok with longer shipping times if it’s free. Talbots, Eddie Bauer and JJill are ok sometimes for very limited items. Target, H&M and Amazon sizing is too odd and hard to figure out, plus the cuts are wrong for me. I want to support local boutiques and smaller companies, but they usually don’t have plus sizes. Thanks for hearing my feedback!

  22. Great insight. For me personally at age 50, working professionally I do spend for better quality pieces but I buy less and focus on neutrals and versatility. Even jeans which I am in a lot are worth extra money to get the right fit and longer life out of them. I have never bought a piece of clothing on Amazon and hope I never have to. My go to brands are Ann Taylor and Banana Republic and I really hope they survive. I am also a fan of stitch fix but after 2 years of fixes every other month the variety of clothing and quality of the stylist picks has gone downhill.

  23. My priority is fit and it is my greatest challenge. I am 5’10” and pear shaped. It is difficult to find pants, jeans, and dresses that are the right length. Because I have a small bust and waist compared to my hips, a good fit is very challenging.

    I like Boden for dresses because they offer them in multiple lengths. That’s brilliant! Whether for height or modesty, one length does not work for all women.

    Price is important but I am willing to pay more for clothes that fit well, are well made, and I will get lots of wear out of.

    I am willing to spend more for ethically, responsibly sourced clothing to a degree. This has become a very important to my 18 year old daughter so I have discovered it exists at different of price points. I am not sure all the reasons why.

    Size range is a necessity for me. It is rare to find pants or jeans that come in tall AND a curvy fit. I am usually limited to black pants and basic jeans if that.

    Free shipping and returns is a valuable perk since fit is so difficult.

    As far as shipping times, a week or two is reasonable to me.

  24. Hi Megan,
    Based on the number of responses to this discussion, you’ve obviously hit on a really engaging topic.
    Going forward, I think it would be interesting to see how brands/retailers distinguish themselves based on quality, pricing, sizing options, in-store versus online presence, ethical sourcing, etc. Personally, I have been working towards building a capsule of classic pieces that are good quality and can last me for years. I like Theory brand for its consistent use of materials over the years, so that I can buy a blazer one year and a skirt the next, and know that the two pieces will match. I also like Everlane for its commitment to ethics and transparent pricing, but unfortunately, there are very few retail stores where I can try on their clothes for cut and fit, and shipping purchases and returns back and forth from the States to Canada can be a bit cumbersome. I also admire Eileen Fisher for their sustainable practices, including their Renew or take-back program.
    I’m wondering if you could put out a poll to your group about our relative preferences/priorities, then suggest brands that best align.
    I’m really enjoying reading your posts and engaging in the community you’ve created.

  25. I am 45, petite and constantly fluctuating between size 8 to 12 due to medications.

    I can’t remember the last time I just “went shopping”. Shopping in-store is difficult and cumbersome and really not enjoyable. It’s not something my girlfriends and I do anymore. We would rather sit at a restaurnant enjoying a long meal and conversation.

    I’m at a point in my life where I have become more “deliberate” in my purchases. I am always looking for something specific to create or complete an outfit when I shop. I am willing and able to pay for a quality piece that can handle my constantly fluctuating weight. And, thanks to blogs like this one, I want to believe that I am making more fashionable choices and less trendy ones, which also plays into my willingness to pay a little more. Because I am looking for something specific when I do shop, I prefer online shopping. I can sit on my couch and find 4 different websites that have what I am looking for and I can compare reviews to decide where I will purchase from.

    The COVID-19 shut down and the conspiracies behind it has made me far more aware of WHERE my clothes come from. Trying to find clothes and shoes that do not come from China is more difficult that I realized it would be. While I love the myriad of choices at my fingertips on Amazon, it seems like at least 80% of the clothing comes from China. Since Mr. Bezos is making a ton of money off Chinese stores, he has no plans to require a Country of Origin to be listed. This has caused me to venture off Amazon and explore other online retailers and boutiques. I made my first Etsy purchase of two leather belts from London. I had no idea there were so many clothing and accessory options on Etsy. I also discovered Lo and Sons bags! Thanks to blogs like this one, I expect I will continue to seek out small independent shops and boutiques from the comfort of my couch.

    While I love the speed of Amazon Prime shipping, I have gotten used to longer shipping times during the COVID-19 situation. As I move to take my support to the small independent shops and boutiques with my purchases, I expect I will just get used to orders taking more than 2 days to arrive and plan accordingly.

  26. Hi Megan! Thanks so much for your blog. I look forward to it every day!

    I am a 44 year old mom. I live in the middle of nowhere with shopping options an hour away, so online ordering is my friend. One to two weeks is a reasonable time to wait.

    I am a size 16, hourglass, and only wear dresses and skirts. I only own 1 pair of jeans! I love classic lines with funky additions. A pencil skirt with a graphic tee, for example, and like to mix colors and patterns. Sizes are an issue for me as is modesty. I wear below the knee skirts and don’t want to layer tanks under everything to adequately cover the “girls”.

    I have been mainly shopping at Nordstrom. They have a good selection and for the most part I can get what I need. I also enjoy J.Crew and Banana Republic. I like that all of these stores offer sizes I can fit into. I generally buy a little better quality and try to find it on sale but am willing to buy full price if it’s a wardrobe mainstay. I own 4 skirts and 5 dresses with some tees and a blouse and my one pair of jeans. So, I don’t buy a lot. I stay at home with my family so this is really all I need.

    Thanks so much for your hard work!


  27. My priorities are fit, quality and fashion. I used to spend a fortune at Talbot’s and still have many of the pieces I purchased back in the day. I marvel at the fabrics, detailing and style. I don’t get rid of them because some of them are like works of art. I used to wear one size at Talbot’s, which made shopping very easy. I had a personal shopper there, so I spent a fortune on all of the combinations she came up with. Then, it all changed and I’m talking within the last 24 months. I recently got some blouses from Talbot’s mail order and, I swear, I can get better quality and fit at Walmart. This is my priority: I want to shop at a small store with beautiful clothes. I only shop three times a year and I don’t care how much I spend. Am I asking too much?

  28. I am petite (5 feet tall) and, generally a size 12 (if sizing is consistent…which it isn’t). Would much prefer shopping in a store but so few carry petite sizes. And, alterations only add to the cost of clothing. Online shopping is frustrating with many more items needing to be returned than I would like. Quality over quantity…yes. However, price point has to be a consideration. I want to shop in-store, try on items, have consistent sizing and quality items at a reasonable price. Am I living in a fantasy world thinking this is remotely possible? Thank you for all your insight. I appreciate your “real world” posts and advice.

  29. I LOVE this post, your blog, and this discussion. I read a lot of fashion blogs and magazines, and you’re the most helpful because you actually strive to TEACH us all how to understand fashion, our bodies, and dress better.

    As an avid shopper, I have a lot to say on this subject.
    1. Personally, unless it’s a brand I’ve had a lot of experience with, I have a lot more success shopping in-person versus online. Whether it’s because of fit, color, feel of the fabric, or some other issue, I usually end up returning more than I keep. I’d much rather be able to touch, see, and try on clothes in person versus ordering them, trying them on, and then returning them. Even as stores reopen, many have kept their fitting rooms closed, which has been frustrating.

    2. I know not everyone feels this way, but I dislike synthetic fabrics, especially polyester, especially in shirts. They don’t breath, and they don’t feel nice on. So I try to stick to cotton, silk, wool, cashmere, and linen as much as possible, which by nature are more sustainable. This also pushes me out of a lot of fast fashion and inexpensive brands.

    3. It really, really bothers me that sizing is so all over the place — to the point where I actually wish there would be federal laws that set sizing standards based on measurements. It’s crazy that I can be anywhere from a size 4 to a size 8, and an XXS to a SM, depending on the brand, cut, etc.

    4. I’m at an age (38), stage, and income where I prefer to spend a bit more to get better quality. That doesn’t mean that I don’t buy from Old Navy, Target, etc, because I do. But more and more of my wardrobe is becoming better brands (Rebecca Taylor, Vince, Equipment, BOSS, Theory to name a few favorites). I make those better brands more affordable by buying from off-price retailers and flash sale sites (Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx, Hautelook, Rue La La). I choose to spend more on the items that I wear a lot, like denim. Also, I’d have zero luck with shopping online resale, like ThredUp, and I’ve tried multiple times, so I just don’t even bother anymore.

    5. I think retailers would be more successful if they trained their employees to be truly helpful a la a stylist and offered useful services in-store, such as tailoring. Not every woman knows what color, shape, etc. works best on them or how to pair pieces to make functional outfits. Having an expert to help without being pushy could eliminate some of the frustration.

    6. Along with more inclusive sizes and styles from retailers, I think the media needs to do a better job of being more inclusive by showcasing a greater breadth of women. As you pointed out, we’re not all 5′ 10,” size 2, white, and blonde. As I’m approaching 40, I don’t see a lot of women my age and older reflected in fashion, but we generally have more spending power than younger women, so that disconnect befuddles me. When I was younger and before it was popular, I once had a dream of creating a magazine that showcased all types of women – younger, older, thinner, fuller, etc. I’m kicking myself now for not doing that.

    7. I think box clothing services may be a good bridge between online and in-store shopping, if they get their merchandise and correctly understand their customers. I’ve tried both Stitch Fix and Trunk Club. I hated Stitch Fix. Everything was just “meh” and was way too young for me. I LOVE Trunk Club. I hope they survive the COVID crisis.

    8. I feel like retailers seem to fall into two categories: “play it safe/neutral” or “let’s sell all the trends.” First of all, I’ve had a professional color analysis done in-person. I’m a cool/true summer, which rules out most blacks, whites and tans. Secondly, stylistically, neither of those fit me. Yes, I want some classics and some basics, but I also need that little something that makes them interesting, and with the two extremes, that seems hard to find.

  30. As a 58 year old petite woman I find it very difficult to buy on line. I went from being a small 10 years ago to now hoping an xxs will fit! Vanity sizing completely cuts out us smaller women. I can’t tell you how many things I take into a dressing room only to come out with nothing that fits properly. It seems like everything is overpriced, oversized and low quality. Love your blog, I’m a new subscriber but quickly became a fan.

  31. How important is price point? It used to be more important than it is now. I just want stuff that fits and looks good!

    Would you spend more for ethically, responsibly sourced brands? Yes, but I would dig deep into the company’s claims first. There are a lot of shell games that the industry plays to make things look ethical and responsible.

    Realistically, would you compromise quality for better pricing? Or would you prefer to spend more for higher quality?
    More for higher quality for most things.
    How important is size range and inclusivity? Very: I started shopping at Talbots because I’m just over petite height and wear a 4-6, and 20 years ago no one had those sizes at all. One saleswoman laughed when I asked! Now I shop there because I’m 56 and do not want to look like “mutton dressed as lamb.” I also like Kohls — they have a deeper size range, decent quality for basics, and the best fitting skorts I’ve ever worn.

    What “perks” do you look for from retailers? Loyalty points that actually add up to something are nice, but I really really like helpful staff and good customer service. And free shipping. Give me the free shipping.

    Are you okay with longer shipping times, or do you expect Amazon shipping speed across the board? Really don’t mind waiting.

  32. My state has allowed retail to open, so I have been out shopping. Banana Republic (as of Wednesday) was still closed. I took my business to those stores that WERE open in my area-Old Navy and Talbots.

    I found it interesting that Susan (above) mentioned Talbots. I don’t like most of their clothing but I do LOVE my stylist there-Katie. She gets my style and manages to find the few things that do work for me at the store. And that is the key for me. It IS hard to find the right clothes.-anywhere. The personal service at Talbots keeps me coming back despite the rather dowdy clothing options, BR also has great staff so I will go back when they finally decide to open.

    I guess I want an experience when I shop and some stores still offer that. I want help to decide what looks best. Sometimes an extra set of eyes can be an asset!

  33. I Love this blog! I am a 75 year old grandmother who wears a size 6 tall. I was a personal shopper for Lands End for many years. Their quality is good and their customer service is excellent. They carry my size on line. J Jill also carries my size on line, but department stores rarely carry tall sizes.

    The inconsistency in sizing is bothersome.

    The hardest item for me to purchase is shoes. I wear a 9 1/2 narrow. Tens are too small, elevens too large. There is only one shoe store in my area that carries my size in a very limited number. I am retired now so I wear Birkenstocks around the house, the European size 42 fits perfecrly.

  34. Thank you for this post and for stating the reality of what retail will most likely look like moving forward. As as 5’1 woman I struggle to find clothes that fit. Even in our normal world aka before COVID I could never just walk into a random store and find clothes that fit. I rely on merchants like Loft and J Crew that offer these sizes in store. It may sound superficial but I rely on these stores for clothes that fit. If they went away I would be lost.

  35. Thank you for starting this conversation. The retailers remind me of the American car companies, they are not listening to the public. I have asked for dresses with sleeves, for years, and even cut out pictures of items from publications, and sent them to store managers. I don’t care where my items are from, as I noticed in Italy, way more leather shoes of high quality, for example. I want higher quality, natural fibers, and better working conditions for all. I am willing to pay more for these things. One to two weeks is a great delivery timeframe, unless it’s something very special and needs more time. Online size charts aren’t accurate, they need to measure the actual garment, so we can decide how we want a piece to fit. I return a lot, due to bad sewing, wrong fit, low quality, it’s getting tedious. In the last couple of years I have been to Europe, and bought better things there, than here, so something is not working right, that’s for sure.

  36. I wear a size 4 1/2 Shoe and have had hardly any luck finding something in my size in my small town of Texarkana, TX. It certainly would be nice if companies could make it possible for me to be able to go to a store and try on a shoe that fits, is comfortable and fashionable for my age. I have given up and now order on the internet. Then when I receive the shoes, if they don’t fit or are not what I expected I have to go to the trouble of packing them up again and sending them off and starting over. Please help

  37. This is so great—it’s obviously a topic that needs to be addressed! I am 6’ tall, so mall shopping has NEVER been a very good option for me because rarely do stores carry items in tall sizes, and if they do, it quickly becomes obvious that “tall” to them is very different than “tall” to me. You have opened my eyes to Banana Republic, and I’ve purchased a few items from them this spring/summer in a tall size and had good luck. But jeans and pants shopping is always the kicker—Eddie Bauer and JCPenney have been my go-to brands for YEARS when it comes to jeans and pants, and even still, it’s always online purchases—never in-store. I don’t always love the quality of what I get, but when there’s no place else to get what fits, what do you do?

    I have somewhat of a limited budget, so I always shop sales. I do love TJ Maxx! I love the idea of Poshmark and eBay, but I really have to already know the brands/styles/sizes that work for me. Otherwise, it just becomes a very frustrating process. However, I did learn the importance of measurements as a result of shopping Poshmark!

    Do you have any experience with eShakti? They are an online custom clothing business that I have had some luck with, primarily with dresses because of my height. Their prices almost seem too good to be true since they custom make everything, but their website has an assurance that they pay fair wages to their workers. I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on them!

  38. Hi Megan,

    I love your blog! I’m learning a lot from you about clothing and the fashion industry. I might even be dressing better! Please keep the articles coming.

    As a preface to my comments, I am 67 years old and 5’8″ tall.

    My priorities are fit, quality, and style, with preferably natural fabrics. I spend most of my time in denim; summer wardrobe is jeans/knit shirts–winter is jeans/sweaters or blazers. I switch to dressier pants to go out.

    I will pay more for my priorities, but price point is still a factor. I will spend more for ethically, responsibly sourced brands, but find it difficult to find that information. It’s hard to even determine where a product is made! I am also willing to pay more for “made in the USA” products. I think “compromising quality for better pricing vs spending more for higher quality” is a balancing act most of us are faced with. That being said, the quality of clothing is drastically going down while we continue to pay more for it.

    Size range and inclusivity are both important to me. I usually need tall trousers, which if available, are limited in style and colors. I also would like to be able to find age-appropriate, structured clothing that is still stylish, especially for dressier functions. And I need sleeves! I could not find a dressy top or dress last holiday season that wasn’t sleeveless. I live in Ohio…we have cold weather and snow…who goes out in snow in sleeveless clothing?

    And then there are shoes…I wear a size 10 or 11. When you get to the larger sizes, they tend to run wide…and there are no half sizes. I would like to be able to find stylish flats and low heels, in good quality leather, in my size.

    As far as “perks,” I like free shipping both ways. And I’m okay with longer shipping times.

    Thank you for giving an opportunity for this discussion.

  39. I have always loved shopping – a day out, an essential part of any holiday, a chance to chill, some me time. However since January I’ve taken a year off, fallen out with fast fashion, refused to buy anything new. I was just so repulsed by the effect fashion was having on our planet. I filled the void with charity shop buying before lockdown, and after they all closed I went on line, looking for wonderful vintage pieces or quality items with life left in them. I’ve even got out a needle and thread to make things fit.
    So I agree that shopping has to change. Stores have become all about the quick profit, too much stock crammed in, a new ‘drop’ every week. Sizing needs to be sorted, and every brand needs to look at it’s product from top to bottom – from the creation of fabric, to the wages and conditions on the production line, to realistic pricing and overstocking. We need to encourage them to take the fast out of fashion, and make a product fit to buy and keep. Less landfill and more happy planet.

  40. M
    Great Post and thread. I dread going to the mall. Can’t take the horrible music, smells and of course the less than great quality and customer service from the 16 year olds who always have something hanging out, or that they are baring. Clearly you pay more for quality than crap. But it seems that some of these prices are just over the top. Talbot’s BR, AT. Occasionally I will do that but not all the time. I am a 12 which I am convinced is the most popular size bc it always seems to sell out fast. I am still working but mostly from home but still need to look professional on occasion. This thread has been extremely helpful in terms of basics to buy and not what NOT to buy. will be transitioning to semi retirement in a hopefully warmer climate.
    I would prefer to buy things American or hopefully not out of a sweat shop but alas know that does happen. I try to buy at small local shops at the holidays and when I can but again their location has to be easy and often it is not or their sizing is limited. I do tend to go back to shops where I have had success to try to support them and show appreciation. I used to try Macy’s but when you have to walk through many departments to find the check out it is a bit tiresome. Once you find them the sales folks have been helpful. Think they appreciate a nice person rather than someone ripping them off or being rude which I see and HEAR all the time in stores./mall which is another reason to avoid. 🙁
    Because of my three girls I have gotten better at online shopping . Hate having to return stuff and have to try very hard NOT to settle. Thank you for your help in this area. They all shop online but try to make the switch to quality as they realize it lasts longer and they are all professionals and in their 30s. Youngest is in grad school but still needs to be professional for projects, etc.
    Love this blog and appreciate your thoughts and posts! Hope all these comments are helpful. THANK YOU!

  41. 59 and I have been trying to love shopping again since the year 2000. I used to love Ralph Lauren, but he took control back and I have had to upsize my clothes ever since. Ralph honey, some of us ladies have hips and chests. I too used to shop Nordies, but they turned into a bunch of small boutique sections with clothing I couldn’t wear as a Mom, let alone to an office. Sorry, I don’t need to have clothes that are tight in the chest so it looks larger than it is. It’s already there.

    I don’t blame the retailers as much as I do the designers. Sure, it’s easier to have ladies who are tall and smallest chested to make changes outs for the runway easier, but really? I have never been nor will be a preadolescent girl or boy. I will never be over 5’8″. I’m forever 5’5″. I will never have a smaller chest, unless I pay for a reduction and my hips were never narrow, nor will they be no matter how little I weigh.

    As for online shopping. I hate it and love it. I find better selection, but I recently bought a dress from Brazil and following the size chart laughed as I bought a 3X. I’m a large 14. It arrived and was for a size 10. Made in China. I recently ordered Bras. Mature ladies will remember when you used the middle hook and were able to adjust in and out for your bodies monthly changes. Not so anymore. That band is what holds the chest up (not) and so is to be on the outside hook and you move in as it stretches. What a joke! And if your 35 around, the bra, size 36, will be exactly 27 inches around. Can you breathe? Don’t ask about cup sizes. I’ve been a G, formerly DD, since my daughter was born. Oh yes, and minimizers only take off an 1″ now, not 1 and 1/2″. Trying to get a decent fit without ordering at least 8 bras at a time is impossible and COVID has stopped any in store try ons. I have seen several new style bras from start ups and have tried a couple – horrible. But I have high hopes Coco Chanel will come back to life as a plus size woman with a size H chest and save us all.

    Meanwhile, I have to thank Megan to bringing some sanity and direction into my wardrobe. I can now at least wear and be happy in what I own and I have direction as to what I plan to buy to fill in the gaps. Now if
    only the clothing industry would cooperate with us.


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