I'll just go ahead and admit that I am not one for "hard shopping." "Hard shopping" is what I call any kind of shopping where you have to dig through things to find what you need/want. This can mean shopping from clearance racks, Goodwill, consignment stores or Ross. I know there are great deals to be had, but 85% of the time, I don't have the energy to wade through the crap to find them. As horrible as it may sound, I would much rather pay more and get things from a nice orderly rack where I can find my size easily, see a corresponding piece beside of it, and leave happy.
However, I do go to TJ Maxx every couple of weeks. It is right beside of our Target, so a lot of the time, I will go to Target, load up on toothpaste and laundry detergent, grab a drink at Starbucks (grande nonfat latte, extra hot!), and then walk down to TJ Maxx. I don't always find something. In fact, most of the time, I don't. But I enjoy my time there. And when I strike it big, honey, I strike it GINORMOUSLY LARGE (more on that in a bit).
The thing about shopping at TJ's though (and becoming a certified, card-carrying Maxxinista) is that you have to have a plan. Go in alone, and you're just asking to leave with a knock-off purse, a mixing bowl, and a stroller. Here are my tips for how to get in and get out with what you want/need:
1. Scout your store and see what their high points are. I have always had great luck with dresses and shoes at my TJ Maxx. Now, these go in and out--sometimes they will have one rack of dresses, sometimes they will have 20 racks. But they always seem to have good quality here, and a nice range of sizes. Shoes are the same. Some stores get great shoes, some get the shoes that God forgot. My mom swears that her TJ Maxx in Memphis doesn't get good dresses, but she can find cheap namebrand work out gear there. Another friend of mine finds cheap, namebrand bras at hers. You will probably need to go in a couple of times to just see what seems to be stocked the best and where the best range of sizes are.
2. Once you know what the high points are, go in the store and only look at those items. It is easy to get sidetracked in a store like this. Last time I was there, I saw some cute black Michael Kors pants near the front, paired with a fly-away cardigan and a silky shell. At first I thought, BULLS EYE. But then I looked at the pants, and realized they were a silhouette that wouldn't flatter me. And the shirt and cardigan were not from a namebrand that I knew of and looked to be made of polyester. Time to move on. I went on to the dresses, and found exactly what I needed. Had I not had a plan, I might have been tempted by the other stuff, to try it on and force it to work because of the good price. However, I knew what I was after, so I kept my eyes on the prize. EYES ON THE PRIZE, PEOPLE. EYES ON THE PRIZE.
3. Know the name brands you can expect and that you like and do not settle for anything less. TJ Maxx (and other stores of its ilk) sell lots of brands. A lot are great--the same brands you might find in Macy's or Nordstrom. A lot are not. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find those brands anywhere but a TJ Maxx. For instance, I know when I go in that I am looking for Calvin Klein (I like their simple cuts and lines) and Maggy London/London Times (these just fit and flatter a woman's--ANY woman's--body) dresses. If I see something is cute but not one of these namebrands, I'm likely to take a pass. Why? Isn't that elitist? Yes, probably. But I like to spend my money on things I'm pretty sure will not fall apart in the wash or expose my left boob if I move to the side. Shoes are the same--I have personally bought Enzo Angiolini's and BCBGeneration's at TJ Maxx, and those are pretty much what I look for. If I'm not aware of the brand, it is not going home with me. Basically I look for the same brands I would look for, were I in a higher end store.
4. Try everything on. My TJ Maxx has a plethora of fitting rooms, so there's no excuse. They are not exactly posh, but you can fit a stroller in there if you need to (believe me, I know). If you want to buy it, you must try it on. Why, you wonder? Well, if it made it to TJ Maxx, there might be some intrinsic flaw in its design. It could be that it just fits funny for some unknown reason. Case in point: found this great Calvin Klein dress there a couple of months ago and was super jazzed to try it on. I put it on and the area around the self belt was lumpy. I don't know why. And it didn't look like it would simply iron out. I couldn't justify buying a dress (although the length and neckline were perfection) if it was going to make me look like I had tumors on my side. So back it went. Know this: for every winner you find, there is an equal and opposite loser. So plan accordingly.
5. Don't get sidetracked with the price. Yes, things are going to be cheaper, and there is going to be a tag that says "Originally $119. TJ Maxx price: $30!!!" If it's ugly, it doesn't matter if they give it to you with $5 strapped to the back of it. It's still ugly. Don't buy it.
So now that you know my rules, here is how I became the most awesome Maxxinista EVER. I have been stalking LBD's on the internet since I took the Google Boutiques style quiz and found out that I was basically born to wear them. I have developed lists of them--work appropriate, wedding appropriate, funeral appropriate, daughter throws handful of spaghetti at you appropriate. I had found a Maggy London on nordstrom.com that was perfect and planned to purchase it with birthday cash. Because I am anal in this way, I will only spend money on something like this actually with the earmarked cash. So no buying it and then paying myself back. Weird, I know. My mom says it is the accountant in me. ANYWAY, I waited and longed and did all the kinds of things that women used to do when their husband is off fighting a gorgon or something. And then I got the check, deposited it, and....the dress had sold out. I was heartbroken. The gorgon killed my husband! Woe is me!
So I stepped into TJ Maxx and found the most gorgeous London Times LBD. It is satiny, and seems to be the most like this, although I cannot find the exact match on the internet. And the fit...AMAZING (which is not something I could guarantee had I ordered online). I was so amazed to find the dress. And the price? Thirty freakin' dollars. Ya'll I have spent that much in a Walgreens just on stuff on a whim because I am bored! And this for a very nice, well-fitting LBD. I was amazed. So I bought it and a pair of BCBGeneration red patent peep toe heels (like here) for $40. So, for $70, I am outfitted in Valentine style, ready to break some hearts (well, maybe not really). The best part? This morning, Matt literally did a double take at me while I was making the kids lunches. I'm pretty sure I haven't seen that look on his face since the first time we went to the prom together. Especially funnily, the dress has an exposed zipper in the back, and he looked at it and said, "Um, that thing works doesn't it?" When I answered in the affirmative, he replied, "Well, I'm going to be thinking of that all day."
So, thanks TJ Maxx for making me look hot today for cheap! And thanks for turning my husband into a stammering, adolescent-esque mess!