Have you been getting the same store emails I have? The headline usually reads "Perfect Gifts for Everyone On Your List" or something to that effect. In the last week, I've gotten a variation of that email from Talbots, Gap, Chico's, Ann Taylor, Loft, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Old Navy again, JCrew, Land's End, Long Tall Sally (worst store name, ever), Nordstrom, and more.
Today, I'd like to stage a gift-giving intervention, and ask you kindly to stop buying clothes for the women in your lives. See, I have a different perspective on this. You see the happy smile when they open the sweater that you thoughtfully (or, let's face it, not thoughtfully) selected. I see that same sweater when it's closet edit day, and we're getting rid of things that just don't work. Your gifts are often casualties of "I never wore it", or "It's just not me" or "I hate that". Contrary to what popular culture teaches, gift-giving shouldn't be a mad dash to waste money just so someone has something to open. Gift-giving can be an opportunity to show someone you care about them and see them as they really are.
So, in honor of gift-giving as it should be, please rethink giving clothes. Buying clothes that someone else will like and actually wear is harder than it sounds. If there's one thing I've learned from dressing thousands of women, it's that women can be super picky about they wear--the fit, the color, the shape of the neckline, the length of the sleeve, pocket placement. You name it, women have strong feelings about it.
Since most of you are going to read this and think "Wow, other people are horrible gift-givers. Good thing I'm not one of them", let me offer you a few strategies make giving clothes a more pleasant experience for everyone involved. Read on for my tips!
Buy for the person she is, not the person you think she is...or should be.
Does your sister-in-law wear nothing but black? Resist the urge to buy the bright pink sweater because "she needs a little color in her life". Trust me, she knows colors exist. She just doesn't want them. Honor her by buying something fabulous-in black. Moms of teenagers, this goes for you, too! One thing to remember is that just because someone's style isn't your style, doesn't make it wrong. IF you don't want to give them something they'd truly love, simply don't give clothes.
I worked with one woman whose mother always gave her clothes in a size too small, to encourage her to lose weight. Nothing says "I love you just the way you are" like a little holiday motivation, amirite? Pro tip: Using holiday gifts to make someone feel bad about themselves is always a fashion don't!
Honestly, this is my biggest challenge with people giving my services as holiday gifts. If you've given a gift certificate for my services, you know I ask no less than 5 times--"Are you sure she wants this?". When someone is ready for a style change, working together can be life-changing. On the other hand, giving someone the gift of a new style is a really lousy gift if they think their style is just fine. No ambush makeovers allowed--whether it's with me, or just through your gift choices!
Give a Gift Card
Gift cards have a bad rap as being an impersonal, no-thought gift...and if you do all of your holiday shopping in the check out asile of the grocery store, I'd a gree with that. But--what if a gift card could be the easiest gift you could give, and something that shows how well you know, and how much you love, someone? Here's how to flip the script on the gift card:
1) Give a gift card to a store she likes (see the above tip). Maybe your sister loves Bloomingdales, but you think it's too fancy and over-priced, and she should just go to Macy's like a normal person, and who does she think she is, anyway? First, check yourself. Then, give her a gift card to Bloomingdales. Spend what you would have on a GC to Macy's, and let what she gets with it be up to her. Maybe your gift only pays for part of the dress she really wants...but isn't giving someone something they'd really love and cherish the point of gift giving?
2) Let her know WHY you're giving her a gift card. I'm going to let you in on a secret. What women, especially moms, really want is to do something for themselves without feeling guilty about it. Instead of just putting a GC in a cute holder and calling it a day, put it in a card that says "I know how hard you work and how much you do for others. I want you to pick out something you really love". Don't give her a GC to Target--it will be spent on paper towels and kids' socks. Give a card to a store where she can buy for herself--without feeling bad that she's not buying her precious angels something they probably don't need.
3) Watch her kids while she shops. Do you want to really rock her socks with your gift? Give her a gift card to a store she likes, with a note telling her you want her to pick out a gift she loves...and then take her kids to the play area at the mall for an hour one day while she shops. The sad truth is many gift cards languish in wallets because the owner can't bear the thought of taking her children to the store. If she doesn't have small kids, plan a lunch and shoping date so you know she'll use it. She'll be grateful you did!
Finally, give WITH a receipt and WITHOUT expecations
I'm always surprised when I'm shopping this time of year, and see people buy gifts and say "No, I don't need a gift receipt". Yes, do you. Every.single.time. First, as great as a gift-giver as you may be, buying for someone else's style is damn near impossible. I shop for other people professionally, and it's tricky for me to pinpoint what someone will like with complete accuracy. Second, there's the fit issue. Sizes are all over the place, even in the same store. Why saddle someone with a sweater they can't or won't wear, just to demonstrate your shopping prowess? Get in the habit of asking for, and then passing on, a gift receipt every time you give a gift. You don't need to mention it when the the present is being opened. No, "You'll probably hate this, so it's fine if you want to exchange it, there's a reciept in there somewhere" is needed. Just put it in with the sweater, and say "You're welcome" when she says "thank you". That's it.
Once you've given the gift, it's no longer your concern. What she does with her new sweater is up to her. I've lost count of the unworn clothes women won't part with because they're afraid the gift-giver will find out. If you give someone a sweater, resist the urge to ask about it. If you see her wearing it, great! If you don't, oh well. Pretend the sweater is Fight Club...and we all know the first rule of Fight Club, right? (It's "Don't talk about Fight Club" for those of you not in the know!) If she knows she won't get in "trouble" for exchanging the sweater for something that suits her better, she's a lot more likely to end up with a gift she loves. And wasn't that the point to begin with?
Leave a comment and let me know the most thoughtful gift you've received. Happy Holidays!