The last time I went clothes shopping was a month ago at a department store and I had to take the kids with me. I browsed while trying to pay attention to my 2-year-old running around and hiding in the clothes racks, and repeatedly asking my 5-year-old to go get him and bring him back (I’m lucky that she is so helpful!).
Then I dragged them into the dressing room as I hurriedly tried on about 10 tops. As I tried them on, of course, I had to keep telling my 2-year-old to be quiet, and to stop peeking under the dressing room divider at whoever was next to us (I was in the room on the end – why do people always go right next to someone else? It’s just like in a movie theater.). Somehow I managed to find and buy 2 tops that I liked and got out of there as fast as I could.
But clothes shopping without my kids? I can’t remember the last time that happened, as least since they were born. Most of my clothes have been purchased in busy family outings to the thrift store. I’ve been happy with my purchases, but I’ve also gotten into a rut of always shopping for the same colors (shades of blue, which are my favorite) as well as generally the same business-casual kind of styles.
So…since I first heard about Arc’s Value Village Personal Shopper service last year from several reviews including the Pioneer Press, I’ve been anxious to try it out. I needed an hour of shopping just for myself, and having a personal shopper help me find good “fits” for me and my wardrobe for free (yes, this service is FREE!) sounded WONDERFUL!
I learned that the best way to get an appointment is to follow her on her Facebook page where Michelle Dustin, the lead stylist will post updates of when appointments will be available. Typically a block of appointments will be available on a set date, and when they’re open, THEY FILL UP FAST!
I know she’s working on the supply/demand issue (business is booming!), but a great way to get an appointment quickly is to watch her Facebook page for last-minute openings and then grab one! That worked for me – I jumped on an appointment as soon as it opened. I recently had my appointment with Lead Stylist, Michelle Dustin, and LOVED it!
Michelle Dustin is FABULOUS. She started Arc’s Personal Shopping program on a part-time basis in 2011, developed it into a full-time career and now I know why! (There are two other stylists now as well.) I filled out the online form in advance about my personal preferences and information, then met her for my appointment and she was all ready for me with a whole rack of clothes and a dressing room full of accessories and shoes. She got me busy right away trying on a few complete outfits first, then separate pieces that actually went pretty well with some of the first outfit pieces (she has an eye for versatility).
The clothes were a good variety of styles and I enjoyed trying them all on. I spent about an hour going through the clothes and mixing them up. There were some definite no’s, like a dress that looked great on the hanger but not on me (I didn’t take a picture!)! But there were several things that were surprisingly appealing to me…things I wouldn’t normally even try on. Like stripes. I don’t think I look good in them, but I actually liked this striped Ann Taylor blouse with a Gap cardigan.
I also tried on a black New York & Company blouse with an Eddie Bauer skirt (these are two of my favorite clothing brands!) with a gray blazer…I bought the blouse and skirt but not the Blazer. I also bought the belt ($1.99).
One piece she had picked for me was a pink Banana Republic wool winter coat. I don’t think I’ve ever owned a coat that wasn’t some neutral, bland color, so I tried it on to see and actually liked it enough to buy it!
I was also SUPER excited to find a pair of jeans that fit me PERFECT. I have the hardest time finding the right fit but the Gap jeans Michelle brought me actually fit me and were comfortable!
In the end, I bought a good stash of 9 items for $86.42:
- Banana Republic wool coat
- Eddie Bauer wool/viscose skirt
- New York & Company dressy black blouse
- Gap jeans
- Gap cardigan
- Ann Taylor Loft blouse
- Julienne W blouse
- Chico’s necklace
- Belt (not sure of brand but it’s versatile!)
But wait…I have to share two AMAZING deals I got out of my shopping experience:
1) The Julienne W designer blouse I bought was NEW with its original tag. Check it out – it was originally $100.00!!!!! I got it for only $12.99.
2) The Chico’s necklace I bought was also NEW with its original tag. Originally $44.00, and the Arc’s Value Village price was $17.99. But that’s not all – every day, Arc’s Value Village offers 50% off items of a certain tag color. I was there on a day when all yellow-tagged items were 50% off, so the necklace was actually $8.99! What a deal!
I am amazed at the great quality and selection of items Michelle found for me. And most – 99% – are donated items!
Michelle shared that more than half of all of her personal shopping clients are moms like me…busy with little time to shop for themselves. But she will shop for anyone including men and children. And she offers dual appointments, so a husband and wife could shop together, or two friends, or mom and daughter (I’d love to take my daughter shopping with Michelle sometime!).
Here are my tips for a successful personal shopper experience:
- Primp yourself up a little bit beforehand…fix your hair, put a little makeup on (not too much so it gets on the clothes!). I went after work but didn’t realize what a bad hair day I was having! That made some of the clothes look worse on me than they probably were and I may have missed some potentially good items for me.
- Wear a tank top or other “cover-up” that you can wear under tops you try on. Michelle did ask if I was wearing a tank top of some sort (I was, thankfully). You’ll have privacy trying clothes on in your dressing room, but your stylist will want to see everything you try on (this helps her to see what works and doesn’t work). If something fits funny or is “revealing” you’ll want the coverage for modesty (who knows who might walk by when the dressing room door opens!), plus some clothes look better with layers too so it helps.
- Prepare to get shop-happy. Not sure that’s an actual term, but I enjoyed trying on clothes so much and getting excited about what great deals they were that I could have easily bought much more than I needed or could have used.
- Give yourself time, including when your appointment is over, and don’t just buy something because the price is hard to pass up. I tried on some heeled shoes that were too tight, then Michelle told me they were authentic Vera Wang shoes. What a fabulous find – for someone else who can wear them!
In the end I’m super happy with what I bought and I DEFINITELY recommend taking advantage of this excellent free service! Thanks, Michelle!
Totally agree with you, and good tips, also! Never knew ARC had all those lovely clothes…the shoppers have such a good eye and pick out things I probably wouldn’t have tried on but ended up LOVING! LOVED my two sessions with Allisun this year. Had dual appointment with my 30 year old daughter one of those times, and she had a great time, also!
TC Frugal Mom says
Renee – Glad you had great experiences, too! And what a great mom-daughter outing for you! It sooo helps to have someone savvy to shop for you and help you find great clothes & accessories. It’s amazing what these personal shoppers find!
Great post! Love it! Practical and stylish! #fab! Love your blog!!!