Ah, Forever 21. Some people love it, others hate it– I can safely say that I fall in the former category. When it comes to shopping for trendy, of-the-moment pieces on a budget, Forever 21 is my go-to spot. “I don’t know how you always do so well in that store!” is a phrase I’ve heard from many of my friends, always following their initial shock when they find out that what I’m wearing is from the inexpensive, fast fashion retailer.
I’ve been shopping there for what seems like a million years, and at this point, finding the best pieces is something I practically have down to a science. Read on to learn my key tips on how to shop at Forever 21 without looking like you’ve shopped at Forever 21– ya feel me? Your wallet will thank you, and no one will be any the wiser. 👏🏼
⇨ READ THE LABELS.
This is my #1 tip that I can’t stress enough! Many of the items that Forever 21 sells are either 100% rayon or 100% viscose which equals one thing: SERIOUS SHRINKAGE in the wash. Unless it’s an item that you just have to have, take my word for it and pass on it. Even using the most careful washing machine settings, it’s almost guaranteed to come out waaaay smaller, wrinkly, and possibly develop an uneven hem (which has happened to me).
Dry cleaning is always an option, but the major draw of shopping at F21 is that it’s cheap. Personally, I tend to only dry clean my nicest wardrobe pieces and would be less than inclined to dry clean a pair of flimsy $15 shorts after each time that I wear them.
Polyester is a material that tends to get a bad rap, but I find that it holds up well in the wash, never shrinks, and doesn’t wrinkle easily, which is why I actually opt for polyester pieces when I’m shopping for blouses, dresses, and/or shorts F21. However, fabric blends are the most ideal thing to see on the composition label.
* Of course, I don’t apply this same logic when shopping at other retailers; the quality of rayon and viscose can differ dramatically depending on the quality of the clothing, and I don’t seek out polyester, either.
⇨ Know what to avoid 🙅🏼:
- ⃠ No faux fur. 99.9% of the time, the faux fur F21 uses looks obviously fake, cheap, and shabby (sorry). A faux shearling lining may be acceptable, but otherwise I would steer clear.
- ⃠ No obvious logos, slogans, over-the-top embroidery, etc. As I mentioned earlier, the goal is for your outfit to look upscale and not be easily traced back to its source (Forever 21). In general, stay away from t-shirts and sweatshirts that feature graphic designs or slogans; for example, I’ve recently seen ones that say things like “Babygirl,” “Slay,” “Turn Up the Music, Turn Down the Drama,” – definite don’ts. Also, avoid most embroidery (things like rainbows, flowers, fruit, etc.) which also tend to look tacky and are a dead giveaway for being a cheap item.
- ⃠ Most faux leather. Unless you are a college student with an active social life– in which case, I would advise buying an inexpensive faux leather moto jacket that you can wear out to the bars without fear of it getting ruined from spilled drinks and can easily be replaced if left behind or lost– say no to Forever 21 faux leather jackets. Usually, the quality of their faux leather is poor and will cheapen your look. However, some faux leather skirts that they sell are actually cute and well-made!
- ⃠ No rings. The jewelry section is usually a mixed bag; some of it is on-trend, some of it is super tacky. While certain necklaces and chokers are okay, avoid buying rings as they will almost always leave green marks around your fingers from the poor metal quality, and they often fade quickly (gold tones will fade to silver and silver tones will tarnish).
- ⃠ Most handbags. I am a believer in investing in nicer handbags because they can really elevate your overall outfit. Similarly, a cheaply made handbag can downgrade your look, and many of F21 bags tend to have that effect. Exceptions are fabric tote bags, any genuine suede bags, and certain backpacks.
- ⃠ No over-the-top distressing. I’m a fan of the distressed trend, but it’s key to know where to draw the line (and Forever 21 doesn’t always know when to do so). A few holes in items like t-shirts for a distressed effect is fine; a totally shredded item with huge gaping holes is a no-no.
⇨ Be picky with sweaters and details like lace or mesh.
Sweaters can be a toss up. It really depends on the fabric composition; sweaters from F21’s “Contemporary” range typically are better quality. Avoid all open-knit sweaters because these tend to quickly come apart, either from washing or getting caught on things. Also be picky when it comes to items made of lace or mesh, which require a judgement call on your part to decide whether they’ve been done “right” or not.
⇨ The fitting room is your friend.
If you are shopping in store, don’t be lazy and make a trip to the fitting room before completing your purchase. You might be very surprised at how something fits since F21’s sizing is not always uniform.
⇨ Say yes to solid colors, stripes, and certain floral or bohemian prints. Plus, hats!
Your best bet for choosing pieces that will look elevated are to opt for solid colors or timeless prints like stripes, which will never go out of style. Certain floral and bohemian-inspired prints are fine too, depending on their coloring and overall aesthetic.
Also, F21 is a fantastic place to pick up trendy felt wide-brim floppy or fedora hats in the fall. They tend to bring a large selection at the beginning of each fall season, and they are usually good quality for the price. I recommend trying the hats on in-store, because the sizing can be dicey, i.e. the brim is too long or short, etc. During the summer, F21 is a great place to pick up a straw beach hat, as well.
⇨ Check the sale section for outerwear.
Tbh, I usually don’t bother going through the sale section in-store because it can be a hassle to sort through the chaos and mess (plus, the regular prices are already quite low!). I do make an exception for outerwear such as long and mid-length coats though, which sometimes are reduced for 50-70% off and easier to spot on the racks of clothing. These make for a great deal because they are occasionally made from better textiles like wool and are worth more, so be sure to take a look as winter comes to a close.
⇨ Shop online.
We all know how chaotic Forever 21 stores tend to get. While I do enjoy the “hunt,” a.k.a. spending an hour sifting through endless racks of clothing to pull out the occasional gem, online shopping is much easier thanks to everything being clearly displayed and sorted. Also, avoid hitting the store on weekends if you can– it’s always super crowded, extra messy and chaotic, and you’ll be waiting in a loooong line to check out.