The Budget Babe | Affordable Fashion & Style Blog

Shopping Tips for the Forever 21 Virgin

I'm often asked to comment on the quality of the merchandise at Forever 21, an incredibly popular albeit controversial fast-fashion giant. I'm a big fan, in case you haven't noticed, and I definitely think Forever 21 has its place in the market—and in your wardrobe.

If you're new to the phenomenon that is Forever 21, here are a couple things to consider:

  • Shop in person if possible. This way you can try things on and judge the fit and quality firsthand.

  • Be prepared to dig. For a budget shopper who's used to thrifting, etc, this shouldn't be a problem - rather, it's an adventure! But yeah, their stuff can be hit or miss, so you need to dig around for those diamonds in the rough.

  • Forever 21 has great accessories and trendy items that let you "test" new styles without making a big investment. You will have so much fun, because for the price, you can afford to take some style risks.

  • Sizes are targeted towards teens. A major drawback for some but that's how it goes.

  • Quality: Is it amazing? No. But it's good, and with proper care, it will hold up. And consider this: Many other stores these days are selling the same types of garments which are sewn in the same kinds of factories, except they're marking their prices up well beyond those found at Forever 21. Remember: Just because something costs a lot these days, doesn't mean it's good quality and vice versa.

  • Check back often. Forever 21 stores get new merchandise just about every day. Sometimes I don't see anything I like, other days I want everything in sight.

  • Don't be turned off by the name. I always see women of all ages shopping at the Forever 21 on State Street in downtown Chicago, for example. Besides, a budget babe must always be willing to shop anywhere and everywhere for a great deal!

I stopped shopping there because I could never find things that fit me. Perhaps I'll go back and try again, or at least take a risk on some accessories.
#1 RubiaLala (Homepage) on 2008-04-26 09:14 (Reply)
They have a HUGE selection of accessories online, too, especially costume jewelry, that you should check out. Good luck!
#1.1 The Budget Babe on 2008-04-27 08:42 (Reply)
I really love forever 21. Sometimes it can be frustrating to find things that are sized correctly (don't assume just because you have a small in one pair of pants the shorts in small will fit, for example)- but for the most part I have been really pleased with all of my purchases. Shopping there really is an adventure! And I definitely recommend buying your basics there, t-shirts, tank tops, etc. these things can't be beat in price, and honestly they wear just as well as some guess t-shirts I've bought- I'd much rather buy them for 5 bucks though! I'm glad forever 21 is around, its fun and as long as you know what you're getting its a great time.
#2 Peaches on 2008-04-26 11:38 (Reply)
You're right about buying your basics at F21, thanks for mentioning it :-)
#2.1 The Budget Babe on 2008-04-27 08:40 (Reply)
I don't know what I'd do without this place! I love going on weekly trips there, spending an hour and coming out with 4 or 5 great things that don't look like something a 16 year old would wear (im 26). Though I experience the same thing--sometimes I'll go in and see NOTHING at all worth buying, and other times I have such difficulty deciding which 6 items I'll take to the dressing room first!
#3 taylor (Homepage) on 2008-04-26 13:37 (Reply)
I, too, would be utterly lost without F21 :-)
#3.1 The Budget Babe on 2008-04-27 08:41 (Reply)
Sizes are targeted towards teens. A major drawback for some but that's how it goes.

“that’s how it goes” that grown women built like grown women should force themselves to squeeze into clothes not constructed for their size? So they can dress inappropriate for their age? Eww. I am not that desperate to look good.

Besides, a budget babe must always be willing to shop anywhere and everywhere for a great deal!

No she mustn’t. If that was true, I’d buy all my clothes at Wal Mart. Forever 21 sells knockoffs of the real stuff I can get at Filene’s or TJ Maxx (or the outlet malls) for just a little more, but usually, get this, in woman's sizes, and without the embarassment of admitting I shopped at a store aimed at teenage girls. So other grownups aren't laughing at me behind my back as I try to pretend I'm not careening towards thirty.

There is a point when you're skimping so much you're defeating the purpose of doing something in the first place.

Why not haunt your local second hand shops? They are often full of expensive, brand name wardrobe staples for under $7, especially if you're willing to travel a little to a wealthy neighborhood (I've found Chanel, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Nine West, Talbots, Kenneth Cole, and Neiman Marcus at Goodwill).
Why not use Ebay? (I've found Betsey Johnson, Ferragamo, and Via Spiga there)

Why not just wait for a sale at a good store?

I'm sorry but the Forever21 worship that goes on, on so many budget fashionista blogs is driving me nuts.
#4 babydraco (Homepage) on 2008-04-28 18:12 (Reply)
>> “that’s how it goes” that grown women built like grown women should force themselves to squeeze into clothes not constructed for their size? So they can dress inappropriate for their age? Eww. I am not that desperate to look good.

I never suggested anything of the sort. If a store doesn't carry your size, you certainly should not shop there. I was merely informing readers that F21 doesn't carry an extensive line of sizes, ie., Women's, Plus Size, Petite, Tall, Maternity, etc.

Which isn't to say that plenty of women over the age of 21 can't shop there (because a name like Forever 21 actually implies shoppers BEYOND that age would still embrace a youthful attitude - if you haven't even hit 21, how can be that age forever...?)

I wonder what you consider inappropriate for one's age. I think that depends on the individual. My personal style is actually pretty conservative in the sense that I do not like to show a lot of skin, and I like to be comfortable, and yet I'm able to find precisely this at Forever 21. Go figure.

In terms of shopping anywhere with pride, I am trying to convey the point that you shouldn't care about what other people say about you. I'm sorry you worry about others "laughing behind your back," but get this: There are still people who will laugh at you for shopping at all the other stores you mentioned. I say, who cares?

"Careening towards thirty"? Ouch. You say that as if 30 is practically the grave! You don't have to throw in the towel and trade cute clothes for a gunny sack just because you turn 30. Yeesh.

Finally, I wholeheartedly support shopping at Filene's, Goodwill, etc. but what an exhilarating feeling it is when a person with an AVERAGE budget can simply walk into a store and buy whatever she wants, without having to wade through mounds of clothing, much of which may still be out of her price range or just plain ugly and outdated, without having to wait for a sale, etc.

Clearly you have never experienced this bliss that Forever 21 provides for so many girls who love fashion but can't yet afford it.
#4.1 The Budget Babe on 2008-04-29 10:35 (Reply)
First off, nobody is twisting your arm to go to Forever 21- last time I checked fashionista blogs attract ALOT of people, the whole point is that a new post every day will appeal to a different group everyday. Saying thats how it goes means that its NOT for everybody, I don't remember being told to squeeze into anything...

Which brings me to my next point, not all grown women have "grown women" bodies, and its offensive to say that anyone not in their teens that shops there is desperate. Am I supposed to go and have all my clothes tailored because I don't have a large chest and hips? I'll shop where ever the clothes fit, regardless of my age, and I encourage you to do the same. I'm not squeezing into anything, and I don't look inappropriate for my age. Adult women come in different shapes and sizes and those that think your femininity is interlocked with the size of your bra need a reality check.

There is no way you are going to be able to find the current fashions in a TJ Maxx or Marshalls for the same price or less you'd pay at forever 21- that is just a blatant lie. Not to mention even if there is one Dolce and Gabbana skirt stuffed in with the racks and racks of Baby Phat and Apple Bottom jeans, its been dragged around on the floor for 2 years, is covered in shoe print marks and still priced at $70. Have you not noticed the brands they carry at those stores are also mostly juniors? And outlet malls? I'm not going to buy into the marked up and then "slashed" prices that still end up being the original price on reject clothes that didn't make it into the real stores.

Why not haunt your local second hand shops? Why not travel to wealthy neighborhoods to find good stuff? Do you hear yourself? You'd rather admit to your friends that you travel to what you see as wealthy neighborhoods to sift through the piles of unwanted used clothing to find the one thing you deem as worthy and fashionable? Thats less embarrassing then going to forever 21?

"wow I just love your shirt! where'd you get it?"
"Oh, I found this great place, its meant for the homeless and poor of society, but what do they know about fashion? You can buy up all the brand names and leave all the crap for them, for just a fraction of the price!"

To be honest, I have absolutely no problem with all the suggestions you made, and I shop at those places myself. My point is this, why make comments that insult the preferences of other people? There is always a downside to the stores you choose. Regardless of what others may think, I'm not going to spend my time sifting through racks at marshalls, or goodwill to find a plain white t-shirt I can buy at forever 21 for $5.

And why do so many blogs love forever 21? because they allow us to play with fashion and try out the latest styles without having to sell our souls to afford them. My staples come from Bloomingdales, but for some here today gone tomorrow fun, you'll find me, and my other adult women friends, at Forever 21.
#4.2 Peaches on 2008-04-29 10:55 (Reply)
Thanks for these tips. Twice now I've tried to shop at my local Forever 21 and I've been intimidated to the point of walking out. I'm not sure what the typical Forever 21 looks like, but the one at my mall is huge open floor plan with two stories, jam packed with racks and racks of clothing. Its like a mini department store in there and I find the task of hunting out something worth buying in there rather daunting.

I'll have to give it another go and use the "thrifting" mentality.
#5 Adiel (Homepage) on 2008-04-30 13:04 (Reply)
I have to throw in my two cents about "careening towards thirty" -- I'm almost 33 and am proud to say my fabulosity increases with every year ;-)

The thing I love about F21 is that an old crone like me can find something (I just bought a black jersey tunic with puffy satin cap sleeves), a 23-year-old friend can buy a hot pink floral explosion sundress, and we both walk out of there with purchases that fit our styles and our budgets.
#6 cathy (Homepage) on 2008-05-13 12:01 (Reply)
I'm glad you posted this. I'm tired of reading about the bad quality at Forever 21. There is bad quality at any store. I've gotten some things at F21 and still have them several years later and that is with many, many wears and washings. It just depends on what you get. I've seen clothing that is pratically ripped at so called better departments stores like jeans with zippers that don't work and buttons that are look like they willl fall off after you wear it once because they are not on the item very tightly.

The sizes are not that small and like someone else mentioned not every teen girl grows into a larger, different body. I wear anything from an x-small to a large in tops depending on where I shop. Forever 21 stuff seems to run kind of big, especially around the armpits and shoulders (but that could just be the pieces I tried on today). I'm not a size 0 but I still can wear smalls there because I'm petite and the larger sizes end up making the shirt longer than I like.

Very little clothing sold today is not made in a sweatshop. I try to be very ethical in this regard but it is near impossible and I don't have the talent or desire to make my own clothes.

I also don't think that all their clothes are all trendy. I was in the store today and like half the store was full of basic sweaters that went up to your neck and could easily be worn with a tank top underneath and maybe even to work if your workplace's dress code isn't super business-like.
#7 s on 2008-10-22 21:31 (Reply)
I think the best way to shop there is working there! Just kidding!

I use to work there, so it was so easy to shop! I knew where everything was and when the new items came in!

Now that I don't work there..

My tip is to make friends with an employee!

So now i bring photos of what I want and they find it for me. or they show me things that haven't been put out yet:)
#8 Ally on 2009-01-03 20:40 (Reply)
I feel that F21 offers a lot of bargain options and is a great way to experiment without the financial commitment.

With that say, I wouldn't buy long term key pieces. Regardless of the price, quality cannot be ignored. If it feels cheap, looks cheap, then it is cheap and you are better off buying a quality item and paying a little more than constantly rebuying it because it wears out withing two washes.

And last, NOTHING is a substitute for fit. Although all ages may shop at F21, not all ages fit in F21. FIT is more important than quality or price. If it doesn't fit, then it isn't worth buying (even if it's $4.80).
#9 Yeni on 2009-07-31 18:28 (Reply)
"Just because something costs a lot these days, doesn't mean it's good quality and vice versa." Best line. Even if something is designer and costs 1000 bucks, it isn't worth it if the $25 discount is better quality.

Or in the words of my grandmother (who is a stylish, budget shopper herself)"When you can't afford full price, shop the better stores, but shop the sales rack." Best fashion advice I've ever gotten.
#10 Chantal on 2009-08-09 21:52 (Reply)
I never leave comments on blogs (maybe I am shy:), but I just could could not resist it here.
I had to defend Forever 21!
Women come in different sizes and can also have a SMALL frame.
I am 28, I work as a newspaper reporter in a casual business office and get a ton of my clothes at Forever 21!
I have a number of reasons. At 5 ft tall, I have a small frame and just can't seem to find a good fit of pants, skirts and other bottoms anywhere else. I have tried The Limited, Bannana Repubublic, The Loft and NY and Co. and have found pants that fit in lenght, but gape all around my butt! I tried Old Navy, JC Penney and the likes and ended up with the same results.
I've never had a problem with jeans - I just get them at the juniors sections.
But I can't wear jeans at work! My constant unsuccessful search for basic black pants was very depressing until I discovered Charlotte Russe, H&M and Forever 21 (I am Bulgarian and have lived in the US for 6 years, so it took a while).
What a relief! I could finally go to work without looking like I've borrowed my work clothes from somebody. My stuff is finally appropiate in size! And I can afford it, without worrying that I am eating into my rent payment.
So please, don't bash Forever 21! There has got to be a place where smaller women can shop for cute clothes at an affordable price.
And as for the age limit - that's ridiculous. I bought my mom, who will be 50 this year a pair of jeans at Charlotte Russe and she loves them!!
#11 maggie on 2009-08-12 22:48 (Reply)
so i bought a pair of tights yesterday, today i thought that i would try them on to see how they would look with what i had bought them for only to find a hole in them and yes i took the tags off to try them on so yes i cant take them back i might have well just throwm $10 in the trash thanks forever 21 your return policy is horriable and the only reason they have that policy is because they know that their clothes are crap and they cant back them up or they would go out of business
#12 j miller (Homepage) on 2009-10-07 13:46 (Reply)
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