How to Shop at Forever 21, Even if you are well past 21

by Kira @ Her New Leaf on January 18, 2012

Original photo from here

I don’t post here much about style or fashion because frankly, there are many, many fashion bloggers out there who can do it much better than I can. I work in a profession where the standard uniform is jeans and sneakers, I don’t go out to fancy places on the weekends, and since moving to LA, I often feel under-dressed. But I do think that I have some decent skills in shopping the bargains, and that’s what I want to share with you today!

I love it when someone asks me where I bought something I’m wearing, mostly because it’s rare that I splurge on anything so, chances are, I got a fantastic deal on it and the person who asked is about to be really impressed. Is it unclassy to shout, “Omg I got it at Forever 21, it was only 30 bucks!”? I don’t know, but I cannot help myself. Several friends have mentioned to me that they simply cannot shop there because it is too bright and loud and overwhelming. I can definitely understand this feeling, but to me, a great deal is worth a little bit of effort. Here are some tips for shopping at Forever 21, even if you are well past the age of twenty-one. ; )

Cropped Lace Jacket by Forever 21, 22.80

Preview the selection and go at off-peak times.

Especially if you’re looking for an outfit for a specific occasion, checking out the store’s current offerings online before you get to the store is a great idea. Visiting Forever 21 on a Saturday afternoon is a recipe for disaster – if possible, go during the week, the earlier the better, and you will thank yourself when you don’t have to wait in ridiculous lines or get elbowed by a 13-year-old for the last bottle of glitter nail polish.

Dolman Tribal Dress by Love 21, 19.80

Know where the “good” stores are.

Many Forever 21 stores carry the same stock material, but going to a bigger store in a nicer (read: richer) area will give you the added benefit of Forever 21′s other brands. Forever 21′s “main” brand (tags say Forever 21 or XXI) is at all stores and usually at the front when you first walk in. Heritage 1981 (available at most stores) is the store’s brand for classic and vintage-inspired pieces. Think: flannel, knit sweaters, and basics in a more neutral color pallet than the often neon Forever 21 apparel. Love 21 is available in the more upscale stores and uses slightly more luxurious materials and is cut larger/longer for more “mature” shoppers. In my area, there are 3 different Forever 21 stores that I frequently find myself at, and I know that one is amazing, one is pretty good, and one is not even worth going into. Get to know your local stores and avoid the bad ones.

Lace Up Wedge Booties by Forever 21, 32.80

Shake the feeling that you need to see everything.

At any given time, Forever 21 carries hundreds and hundreds of garments. If you feel overwhelmed by the selection, it’s okay to walk into the store and only check out one or two sections. Most Forever 21 stores are separated into different sections by style, so step back and look at which styles you identify with and avoid the others. For example, there is often at least one section that is full of faux fur, sequins, and super short skirts and low-cut tops. I avoid that area and aim for the sections with floaty, boho-style tops and vintage-inspired dresses instead.

Patchwork Stripes Top by Forever 21, 14.80

Look at the mannequins.

Mannequins in stores are almost always wearing some of the best garments the store carries. Did you know that many retail stores specifically tell their employees which outfits to dress the mannequins in? Don’t be afraid to ask a sales associate where an item on a mannequin is located on the floor – I do this all the time! Associates won’t, however, remove clothing from a mannequin. This is a store policy (since the corporate offices likely tell the stores what the mannequins should wear) and is almost never violated.

Low-Rise Colored Skinny Jeans by Forever 21, 29.80

Don’t be afraid of trendy items.

Forever 21 and similar stores are a great place to try out new trends, and since they don’t cost very much, you won’t be super bummed when you only get one season of wear out of them. Red skinny jeans for only $29? Sure, I’ll try those out!

Pintuck Shift Dress by Forever 21, 19.80

Go a few sizes up and try it on!

Did you know that much of the Forever 21 target demographic is teenaged girls? Shocking, I know. So, understandably, their sizes run much smaller than stores that are geared more towards adult women, like J Crew or The Gap. For reference, I wear a size small in “adult” stores, but I usually go for a large at Forever 21 since I don’t like my clothes to be very tight on my body. Many of the garments are cut with the younger population in mind, which is why you must always try things on before you buy them. Skirts are shorter, tops are cropped, jeans are lower in the rise. Truth be told, you will surely find items that look great on the hanger and not so great on your adult woman figure. It’s okay! Go back to the section of the store where you found that item, and you will likely find more items with a similar style.

Polka Dot Blouse by Forever 21, 17.80

Inspect the quality.

Just because you’re only spending 20-30 dollars on a garment doesn’t mean you want it to fall apart after a few washes. Check that all the seams, zippers, and buttons are intact. One material that you should definitely steer away from is that tissue-thin, super soft and stretchy jersey material that many tops are made of – unless you plan on handwashing, this will start to look pill-y and worn-out almost immediately.

Colorblocked Weekender, 34.80

Accessorize!

In more upscale stores, accessories like jewelry, purses, and sunglasses can be some of the most expensive in the store. Not at Forever 21! You can find tons of cute jewelry pieces for under $10, as well as shoes, scarves, belts, and handbags of all styles. Shop accessories after you pick out your clothes, because you will not be able to take accessories into the fitting rooms with you. My one suggestion would be to think twice before buying fake leather bags, because plastic leather can get to looking really cheap really fast. This should definitely be assessed on a case-by-case basis, though, because I recently picked up this super cute “leatherette” jacket from Forever 21 that has been fooling people left and right. The material is so soft and doesn’t have that telltale plastic sheen, so it takes a good eye to tell it’s not real. I have a tendency to hoard scarves and cute pendant necklaces, and Forever 21 is a total enabler with its cute selection and low prices!

Paint Strokes Dress by Love 21, 24.80

If you find something you like, buy it!

Forever 21′s merchandise rotates fast so chances are, if you come back in a week, it won’t be there.

Are you a F21 fan or do you avoid it at all costs? Let us in on your own shopping tips and secrets!

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

layla January 18, 2012 at 7:03 am

HUGE Forever 21 fan here, and welllll over the age of 21 (34).

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MariaMaria January 18, 2012 at 7:07 am

I like their accessories like sunglasses! So inexpensive and I won’t feel bad when I get tired of it and/or break it, haha

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Meg January 18, 2012 at 9:01 am

Great tips Kira! I only ever shop there on weekday mornings as well and I love their inexpensive accessories. My favorite stores on the west side are the one on 3rd street and the one in the culver city westfield mall, both have good sale sections so you can score even better deals.

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Kira @ hernewleaf January 18, 2012 at 9:12 am

Those are my favorite stores too! The Third Street one has things I’ve never seen in other stores, like rolling suitcases – what??

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Chance January 18, 2012 at 9:29 am

There’s also For Love 21, an accessory only store! I don’t think I’ve seen just Love 21 yet through. I love buying up cheap accessories, but always have to remind myself that the polish on most of the jewelry starts to wear down after a couple months of wear. But when you only pay $3.80 for it, it’s not so hard to swallow!

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Kira @ hernewleaf January 18, 2012 at 9:33 am

I have heard of this accessories-only store but I haven’t seen one yet! Sounds awesome.

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Shayla January 18, 2012 at 9:37 am

I pretty much exclusively shop online for clothing and the Canadian F21 site is one of my haunts. I haven’t ordered there in awhile but I love it for accessories! I find the clothing hit and miss – I had an awesome pair of pants unravel at the seam, and several shirts that didn’t make it through the wash very well (granted, some of them were handwash only, which I didn’t realize!).

Were I able to buy their things in person and really inspect the items I’d probably be happier with their stuff, but ordering online means I usually just get cheaper basics and accessories.

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Frankie January 18, 2012 at 9:49 am

I enjoy Forever 21, but not always. These tips are really great especially about when to shop, weekend afternoons are awful. Also, I own a pair of red jeans, and love them. They are not from Forever 21 though.

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joanne January 19, 2012 at 6:28 am

hi kir. great blog post! i am WELL over 21 and have never shopped in forever 21! but then, we don’t have them here in hickville! anyway, i will peruse the online store and see what bargains i can find. happy shopping!!

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hemborgwife January 19, 2012 at 6:53 am

I love Forever 21 and that it is one of a few stores that has cheap shipping in Europe, also something to note is they have a plus size line as well that works good for bustier ladies like myself!
Also I order my husbands work clothes from there, he works in a elderly care facility and I have to wash his work clothes on super hot and I do not care if they shrink since they are like 3 euro each!

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Kristin January 19, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Great post! I totes shop at Forever 21 (and Old Navy and Target) and I agree, it can be overwhelming. I have to disagree with you about going online, most of the time I get frustrated because I can never find the online stock in stores. But I do always feel like I need to look at everything, and I have not learned the lesson – definitely buy something you like cuz it’ll be gone next week! Sadly, I’m finding I identify with the brand less and less, so I only actually buy something occasionally. But these are great tips and glad to know I’m not the only one with a guilty pleasure :)

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entertainingmadness January 28, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I love Forever 21 even though I’m 32. :) I completely understand why people get overwhelmed in there though. I usually start on one side of the store and by the time I get to the other I do the quick look and it’s like I don’t care any more. I love their accessories too. I always tell people they can get cute inexpensive accessories there.

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Erin June 15, 2012 at 12:02 pm

What a great post! I have been shopping here since I was a teen, and now that I’m 27 I tend to avoid it! But it is the best place to get seasonal, trendy items! I often feel overwhelmed by the selection, but your tips on checking out the mannequins and sticking to a few sections are very helpful!

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Amy June 20, 2013 at 9:59 pm

I love this post! I have learned many things I’ve never known about Forever 21. I’m actually not over 21, but these are great tips. I don’t go to Forever 21 often, but when I go, I usually have a hard time. It is very true that the sizes run smaller than more adult stores because when I try on some items, they don’t fit correctly. I absolutely HATE going when it is busy. If I’m at the mall and pass by, see its busy, I will not go in. I have done that once, and never again. TEENS EVERYWHERE. Being one myself, I was surprised I wasn’t acting like them.. One person even grabbed what I was looking at! This may seem bad, but I have been just doing my online shopping for Forever lately. I never usually have time to go during the weekdays, and so it is like a must. I wish I could go in the store, but going into that crazy mess, is not worth it.

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emma July 2, 2013 at 5:53 am

I wish it was here in australia!
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Lara August 27, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Good advice :) I love the clothes here and being in my mid 20′s i feel uncomfortable going in when there are so many little kids in there as well but I hate that so many ‘adult’ clothes cost so much, Its ridiculous. When Forever 21 has so many classic pieces for cheap its easy to find things for my age. However I really love their quilted purses but feel a little self conscious. I like fake leather because I am against real leather but still feel self conscious carrying the quilted purse but its beautiful without being expensive and so far its lasted me a while. Next time I’ll go on a weekday morning.

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