The art of shopping at Forever 21 (when you are totally not 21)

The greatest myth about Forever 21 is that it’s target audience is 21 year old’s.  The clothes are really geared towards middle schoolers, who have limited budgets, questionable taste, and 4% body fat.

So, when a certain old lady goes wandering in there, you think, what the fuck? I am about 20 years too old for hot pants and remember the first time those “punk” shirts were popular.  I was alive at the same time as Kurt Cobain when people wore Nirvana shirts.  What business do I have in this weird tween warehouse of crop-tops?

“We need a little less forever 21 and  a little more suddenly 42.” 

Provided you have some time to hunt and resilient self-esteem, you can find legitimately cool shit in Forever 21 (just don’t try on any pants, trust me, it’s horrific).

Step one:  put on best fat-squisher device, like opaque tights or a Spanx slip.  The lighting is terrible.

Step two:  set aside at least an hour and go alone.img_5465

Step three: assess the layout of your particular store.   You’ll note that the store is bonkers crowded with items– the number of individual SKU’s is mind-boggling. Almost none of it is wearable and this scares most rational adults away.  But not us professional shoppers!

The stores are arranged (and I use that word with an eyeroll attached) into tribes– Oh,there’s Cochella escapee!  Prairie girl!  Baby prostitute!  Clothing of similar styles are grouped together.  You’re going walk right by all that weird shit until you see a section that looks less insane. The following are two examples of No-Go’s.

The bigger “flagship” stores have much better selection and carry what the company calls “contemporary” lines– basically clothes that are made for a slightly older customer– longer lengths, better quality, a little more expensive.

Step four:  The Gathering.  Grab anything that looks interesting or unique.  There’s no point in going through this to get a cheap layering cami.  Go a little outside your comfort zone.  But not Spice Girls.  Spend some time in those racks .

You will see hot pants. DO NOT PICK UP THE HOT PANTS.

There will be some things that look like actual clothes a person would wear.  Grab them.  Sweater vest?  Yes.  Sage colored blouse?  Rad jumpsuit? Yes.


Step five:  Painful Trip to Fitting Room.  You’ll have an armfull of nonsense and it’s time to try on.  You really have to try things on because there is no standard sizing and the quality control is really lax.  Half of whatever you found will be immediately rejected. Don’t get discouraged.  Persevere!


Step six:  Assessment.  So there’s like four things that fit.  Now, decide if you’re buying it because you really want it or you’re just so excited that it zipped up that you want to keep it as proof? All those in former category, go buy them.  It doesn’t matter how much you buy because everything is insanely cheap. I think the most expensive thing I ever got was $35.img_5762

Most recent trip, I bought this pretty star-print blouse (right). It’s poly not silk, but it was $20. The maxi dress (above) was also nice but I have like 1o dresses just like it.  The big print circle skirt was also a maybe but it made me look fatish.



Step seven:  practice answering when people ask where you got the item

“OMG so embarrassing, Forever 21.”

“I can’t remember”  or “It’s vintage” are also useful.




I chose to own it and answer “Isn’t it great?  Forever 21.”

(Yes, this raw edge blouse, which is so great, is Forever 21).




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