You may shudder slightly as you saunter past those rockin' trend dens of style geared for teen girls. But Forever 21 can easily be turned into Forever 41 if you know what you're doing.
Timing is everything. Never, under any circumstances, enter one of the these stores on a weekend. Ever. Doing so may result in permanent damage to your precious brain cells. For best results, go Monday-Thursday at 10 a.m. or directly after work. You want as little teenage angst present as possible.
Take a cheat sheet. As you enter the land of make-believe, you'll want to have your wits about you. Prepare by creating a "style file"-a folder full of trendy and appropriate ensembles ripped from the pages of your favorite style mags. Make a list of what you have and the trendy pieces you'll need to work the specific look. Remember, these are not key Kobe beef wardrobe pieces you're after. You're here for the cheap marshmallow fluff that you may not wear next season. Don't confuse the two.
Spend some time in the fitting rooms. Clothing in these boutiques is mass produced, and what you see on the hanger is not always what you get once placed on a body that has given birth. You can find some amazing deals on great stuff. In fact, I found one of my favorite pairs of jeans at such a shop, but trying-on is non-negotiable. Plus, the fitting-room chatter is priceless.
Never ask for help from the sales twinkies. The girls they hire to work the floor are there to give advice to 12-year-olds. They don't know what to do with us grown-ups. Plus it's just awkward interrupting their texting to ask for a bigger size of jeggings. It's important to know what you're looking for, to be confident and to work your plan.
Never ask your daughter how you look. Like ever. Turn to a trusted girlfriend to give you advice on your new duds-and always keep your receipts.
Meredith Sinclair is a freelance writer and blogger living with three quirky guys on Chicago's North Shore.
See more of Meredith's stories here.