4 In Shopping Tips

Shopping Advice: The ‘Three Ifs and a Maybe’ Rule

shopping bag imge

A client I saw last week had a confession to make. “I panicked and bought this jacket and I know you’re probably going to hate it.”

I’m not a hater. I’m a lover or, when that doesn’t work, I’m a let’s-try-and-make-this-work fixer. I dove into the jacket assessment with an open and creative mind.

This is how it played out: The client is looking at her reflection in her well-lit full-length mirror. I’m standing behind her looking in the mirror and she has the  jacket on. It’s ivory-colored with a thin black pinstripe. It’s silk, is super simple and has a standup color.

Here’s the conversation.

Brenda: “Hmmm.”

Client: “It’s awful, right?”

Brenda: “Well, wait. What if we took the sleeves in? The sleeves are really big on you.”

I nip the sleeves in a bit with my fingertips as she watches in the mirror. I look over her shoulder into the mirror to see if this adjustment has helped any. I was a sewer so I do know that some simple things can make a big difference. We study her reflection. Taking in the sleeves hasn’t provided the quick fix I wanted. She speaks next.

Client: “Still not great, is it? I just panicked!”

Brenda: “Wait, wait. What if we add a strong necklace at the neckline? It’s a simple jacket. Maybe we can distract the eye a bit.” I go to her jewelry drawer and start playing with different necklaces. She watches my attempts in the mirror. There are no words. She just winces. I think I’ve tried everything I can.

Brenda: “Maybe one of your daughters would want it?”

Client: “My daughters would never let themselves wear something so matronly looking! Well, at least it wasn’t a $400 mistake, it was a $148 mistake.”

Brenda: “I think you’re right. It was a moment of panic. Let’s go into your closet and restyle some of your favorite jackets. We’ll come up with some new combos that you’ll love. You’ll see.”

Parts of this conversation may sound familiar to you. You may have said things like this in your head when you’re in a dressing room by yourself, wondering if something is working or not. Or perhaps you’ve been shopping with friends when they started offering advice like:

If you changed your makeup colors, it might work.

If you have someone take it in at the waist, it might work.

If you roll the sleeves up and bring the shoulder line higher, maybe it would work.

Maybe it would work if you dyed it another color. (Don’t laugh; I’ve done it myself!)

Maybe if you belt it…

My advice: If you’re up to three ifs and a maybe, leave it behind. Move on to a different store or call it quits and go home. Some things just don’t work out—no matter how hard we try.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Carolyn Warden
    November 13, 2014 at 6:47 am

    “Three ifs and a maybe” equals Do. Not. Do. This. for virtually every decision in life: buying a house, taking a job, continuing in a relationship…
    Thanks for the great rule of thumb Brenda, for making decisions in stress mode.

    • Reply
      Brenda Kinsel
      November 13, 2014 at 9:58 am

      Isn’t it so true? It would be a rule that could work with anything! Ah, I think of all the compromising I did when I was younger, accepting things that were “ifs” and “maybes” instead of YES!

  • Reply
    November 14, 2014 at 6:25 am

    I am finally cleaning my closet with all of my “what if” clothing accumulated over many years. Life is too short not to wear the clothes that make us look terrific!

    Thanks Brenda from another Brenda……..

    • Reply
      Brenda Kinsel
      November 14, 2014 at 11:29 am

      Thanks, Brenda, and you’ll LOVE this! Last night I was with my daughters at TJMaxx–a girl party but then they had to leave. So I’m looking at myself in a designer dress I’d tried on. Loved the color, the fit was interesting, wasn’t quite sure of the neck, wasn’t quite sure what kind of shoes I’d wear with it (oh, and it had been greatly discounted so the price was attractive) and suddenly I said, “Brenda, remember the 3 Ifs and a Maybe Rule! Put this dress back…NOW!

      Happy to say, this rule was floating up in my brain and I was able to rescue myself from a dress that wasn’t totally working. I’m so excited about your newly cleaned out closet!!! Enjoy those wonderful pieces that are left! Yours, Brenda

    Leave a Reply