How To Shop Forever 21…As a Grown Woman


I’m not a devout Forever 21 shopper, and really only venture into our behemoth of a store every couple of months, if for anything to check out the trends, as interpreted for 21 year olds.  Inevitably though, I always find a thing or two I want to take home with me, and I’m able to overall make it as short and painless of a process as it can be.  The music is played much too loud to keep me wandering the store for an hour.  Here’s a few tips I can share with you about how I navigate my way through the jungle that is Forever 21, quickly, and without regrets or buyer’s remorse.  And excuse the iPhone pics.  As you can imagine I was trying to be incognito while taking pics.  Tip #1 – By far the most valuable bit of advice I can offer you all is, skip the entire entry-way of the store.  Just walk right through it and move on because chances are, you will never find a thing you would want, or feel comfortable wearing in there.  The most on-trend, flashiest pieces are always displayed front and center to attract the attention of the teens and twenty year olds passing by, and leer them in.  As grown women, we want to be on-trend, but we want to find a more subtle, sophisticated way to do that.  So move on. Tip #2 – Discover Love 21.  Not all stores are large enough to have an entire section devoted to Love 21, but there is an entire shop on their website where you can browse and check out what this division has to offer.  Love 21 is a contemporary line still focused on trends, but with more attention to detail, trims, fabrics and overall a more sophisticated feel.  What do I mean?  Well color blocking will be less severe, pops of neon go back to neutrals as opposed to being mixed in loud, wild prints.  The fabrics are a little less cheap looking.  The majority of what I buy at Forever 21 comes from this section.  The fit is also a bit more generous and true to women’s sizing as opposed to the typical junior sizing found in the rest of the store.  If you only have 15 minutes to spare, this is where you should devote your time.

Now that we’ve covered where to avoid, and where to focus, let’s talk a bit about overall items to look out for, both to avoid and embrace. Tip #3 – Don’t be afraid to play with color, and in fact Forever 21 is perfect for experimenting with the new color of the season that you’re just not sure about.  You love mint or coral on other women, but not sure how it’s going to look on you?  This is where you can feel a little less guilty about trying something new.  If you discover you hate the color on you after wearing it, you’re not going to feel doubly guilty that you just dropped $80 on a top you’ll never wear again. Tip #4 – Fabrication is key!  Clothes at Forever 21 are cheap, so it should go without saying that you’re going to get what you pay for and you can’t expect to walk in and find the highest quality fabrics and the best construction.  Knowing this, there are a few fabrications I tend to shy away from at all costs because they wind up looking especially cheap after 1 wash.  Cotton knits and brushed cottons, like the top pictured above, will fade and wrinkle almost immediately, and wrinkle so badly you’ll never be able to iron them out.  Cotton tops like the one above are especially lifeless and have no substance to stand up on their own, so they end up just sort of swathed over your body instead of being structured and fitted to you.  Knits, whether it be in a lycra knit top or a knitted sweater will pill ridiculously fast and hold no shape after one wear.  You want to get a bargain, but you don’t want to look like you’re wearing a bargain.

Fabrics that I have decent luck with are a lot of the synthetics; rayons, poly chiffon blends, especially in cute printed skirts, poly silk blends, and just about anything along those lines Tip #4 – Be careful buying into the prints.  Oh does Forever 21 love to go crazy with the prints.  Aztec, tribal, floral, polka dots, you name it, Forever 21 does it, and does it bold.  Honestly I much prefer an on-trend print from someplace like Target or Old Navy because they do prints in a more approachable, and even more sophisticated way (my tribal shorts from Target are much more subtle than the crap you’ll find at F21).  So be wary and just play it safe.  Prints are so much a matter of personal preference I don’t know how to navigate you through finding the prints that are right for you, but the main thing I can say is stray away from the pact.  Find the unique, one of a kind print in the store and go for that.  The tie dye dress below was in the coolest silhouette, exactly what I’ve been looking for, and the print reminds me of something Calypso would do.  The cute animal tops didn’t fit, but are a fun way to incorporate a novelty print into your wardrobe without feeling like you’re trying too hard, and totally mom appropriate.  Tip #5 – My final tip for you all is that if Forever 21’s interpretation of a trend is exactly as you remember it the first time around, then move on!  You’re older and wiser and know that you’re supposed to learn from your mistakes, not repeat them (my friend Jules said this in response to the recent huge bow-in-hair trend that’s resurfacing).  Let the dumb young girls walk around with the neon shredded cropped tee and saran-wrap tight skirt.  You know that this time around, neon can be more sophisticated, and actually look quite pretty.  And remember that with band tees, theoretically you sport the band that isn’t really from your era.  If you look like you did in fact listen to Kid N Play on your cassette tape in 8th grade, then that isn’t the band tee for you.  Perhaps get it for your 7 year old to reminisce about the good ol’ days.   Shopping at Forever 21 can be a fun and for the most part, guilt free, way to achieve some retail therapy.  But often times it can be overwhelming and you walk away with stuff that falls apart or you feel silly wearing.  Hopefully these tips will help you better navigate your way through the shopping experience (both in-store and online), and leave you with some fun, on-trend items you feel completely appropriate and good about wearing.   Let me know if you have any other tips or questions!  Thanks as always for reading and listening to me babble on about clothes!

Andrea Howe

Andrea is the founder of For The Love Of, a lifestyle blog dedicated to approachable, modern living. She writes about style, her love of DIY, and living a healthier life through wholesome, nutritious cooking. She is also a regular contributor at Babble. Get in touch: Facebook, Twitter You can find Andrea on Instagram @andreavhowe and @gwynethmademedoit

  • Kimberly says:

    This is so helpful! I feel absolutely ridiculous even walking into Forever 21 (I’m in my early 30s) because of the music & the aforementioned trendy clothes up front. I have a colleague who wears a ton of F21 clothes (she’s in her 20s) and she chooses a lot of neutrals & always looks put-together. (and I feel like i could wear most of them without looking like I’m trying too hard!) Now I know to look beyond the neons and hot pants and head to the back!

  • Erika @ rouge & whimsy says:

    I honestly feel like forever 21 is thrift shopping sometimes! Gotta hunt for the good stuff:)

  • Andrea Andrea says:

    haha, yes, Erika, it is totally like thrift shopping sometimes! takes a lot of patience :)

  • Kristen says:

    Love this post. I am so excited to go shop now. Forever 21 is my ideal because of its low prices but is always so hard for me to shop at. As cheesy as it sounds, I feel so much better equipped to go in there now haha

  • Shelly says:

    I’m sorry but I am TOTALLY going to buy and rock that Kid n’ Play tee!!! I LOVED them back in the day! I wouldn’t say I’m always appropriate though. :)

  • amber says:

    this should have been done years ago.
    I love F21 and usually go when I need a cute top or dress “really quick” but I have a 30minute rule, two lap rule. I cannot spend more than 30 minutes in the store and do more than 2 laps around or else I get overwhelmed & then irritated.
    It always cracks me up when I see the young girls trying on the same outfits I wore (and now cringe at) in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
    But I’ve also found its a great place to shop for my daughter for some inexpensive on trend pieces that she will love and I don’t have to spend a ton of dough on!
    good post!

  • Alison says:

    The few times I’ve gone to Forever 21, I walk in, wander aimlessly around, and walk right back out. I’ve seen some really cute things from there…on other people. But it’s totally overwhelming to me. I’m definitely going to give it one more try, keeping these tips in mind! Thanks :)

  • heather j says:

    Great post Andrea! I usually get overwhelmed in F21 but know that there are goodies to be found so I get frustrated. I think a trip is in order (without the kids). Thanks for the info.

  • Nicole says:

    Totally agree with all of this! Great post. I buy very little from F21. I did recently by 2 pairs of great ankle/crop slim pants that I’m loving. I’m not sure they’ll hold up well after washing and I’m considering dry cleaning them. I also got a nice tribal print top that will probably be a “this summer only top”…I didn’t pay much for it and by next year I might be over it. And the printed tee’s ugh…I always shy away from those. They do have great accessories though!

  • Very well written and informative post. You had me cracking up with some of your comments. F21 is definitely a challenging place to shop…I only go in when I have time to dedicate. They do have some gems when you really hone in on personal style choices. I think it is easy to lose your style identity in places like that! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Virginia says:

    We don’t even have a forever 21 here, but I think this has some great advice that we can take to many stores! Thanks Andrea!

  • barb c says:

    I am totally cracking up at this post and completely agree! They just re-did our F21 and I went in with my 11 year-old who desperately wants to shop there but is still a bit too small, and I walked out with a few great items. She was all like, “mom, this is MY store, you can’t shop here”, and I told her there’s a reason it’s called “Forever 21″, not “Someday 21″!!!

  • Jen Moller says:

    Very cute article!!!! You are one talented woman! And I never knew about “love 21″… gonna check it out now! Thanks!

  • Kimberly says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this post! I really like shopping at F21 because I do feel like I can buy more for less or try out some trendier items, like you said. But I do have trouble feeling like I’m buying “mom-appropriate” items unless I spend FOREVER in the store. These are great tips!

  • Andrea Andrea says:

    I’m so happy with the response from this post! Glad to see that my trip going undercover and taking incognito pictures was worth it!

  • Simone says:

    I took my 65 year old mom shopping at forever21 on mothers day (I am 38!)She loved it! She got two tops and a tunic all chiffon and a poly blend grey drape jacket that looked TDF on her! She could not believe it! It was fun, and yes, Forever21 can have something for everyone as long as you know how to shop! Great tips you have here.

  • Sarah says:

    I loved this post! Thanks for the tips – I’m 30 years old and usually too scared to venture inside Forever 21 :)

  • Bromeliad says:

    Great post. Last time I went into Forever 21 I had a small breakdown. So much stuff. So much noise. So totally random.

  • Pia says:

    Great tips. I’ve bought quite a few things at F21 but agree you really need time and have to hunt. There are some more subtle pieces, and like a fellow commenter I too brought my mom In there and she is 70!
    Thanks for sharing!

  • ANNE says:

    Just discovered this post…. i love it! I shop at Forever 21 regularly and usually find something I love, but you’re right, it can take forever to dig out the gems. Your tips are really helpful!

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