Why I Love F21

F21

It's widely known among my inner circle that I'm a longtime devotee of Forever 21.  I cannot count the times I've received compliments on outfits or accessories from F21. I also cannot count the times someone is shocked when I respond where I've picked up what I'm wearing.  I'm such an ardent fan of the cheap chic mega chain, I even hit up fancy F21s on vacation.  They carry the "high end" F21 lines that KOP doesn't - how can I resist?

Are most of the clothes poorly made and highly flammable?  Yes.  Do I necessarily care?  No.  I'm not exactly hitting the place up for investment pieces.  After all, who expects high quality from incredibly low prices?  F21 is so cheap someone on welfare could score an entire new wardrobe there and have cash leftover for Mrs. Field's and a fountain DC.

Yes, the chain allegedly steals looks from designers, but let's leave that debate for the Adventures in Copyright series over at Fashionista.  Disregarding the moral dilemma of knocking off designs, it should be noted that the company's ability to "interpret" and mass produce designer looks six weeks after they're seen on the runway is what's so alluring.  Most women can't afford runway pieces, and F21 is a way to participate in new trends without going broke.

HCG's F21 Survival Tips:

1. Despite what you may think, there's no age limit at F21. Yes, I know it can be uncomfortable for women of a certain age to find themselves walking around the mall with the bright yellow bag (I'll admit I'm guilty of stuffing it in another shopping bag, too.  I don't need the hassle of being judged while I shop).  If you're over 30 and feel strange shopping among tweens buying thongs and sparkly lip gloss, ask your extroverted far-from-shy younger sister to go with you.  Don't have a younger sis who fits the bill?  I'll go with you (not so vague reference to Tara Pazinski).

2. Don't be retarded when it comes to the return policy. Know that you'll never get your money back. And don't embarrass yourself by making a scene at the register about it.  I've seen a lot of mothers do this after their unsuspecting young daughters make questionable purchases.  The chicks who work there could not care less.

When it comes to jewelry and accessories, know it's all final sale (translation: you can't even return the crap for store credit).  Same goes for clothing returns even with a receipt after 21 days.  On the rare occasions this happened to me, I gave the stuff to the Goodwill.

3. Shopping here requires more effort than most other stores. Be aware of that going into it.  If you have your toddler with you or are suffering from a splitting headache, save F21 for another day (unless you're desperate - then just step it up and get your kid some candy from Mr. Bulky).  Also, don't expect to hit the jackpot every time you shop here.  Sometimes it's best to walk away empty handed.

4. Stay away from super trendy pieces. I'm not talking about little jean shorts or a high waisted tulip skirt.  I mean satin rompers or harem pants.  I know it's tempting because no one wants to throw down serious money on short lived items, but these types of pieces from F21 generally scream cheap.

5. Feel the material of whatever you intend to buy. If it's really scratchy and you think you may get a rash from it, leave it on the rack.  You don't want someone to compliment your ensemble only to touch you and recoil at the feeling of your sweater.

6. If you think it looks cheap, it probably does. This tip is in line with the old adage "If you have to ask someone if your outfit looks slutty, it probably does."  Even if the piece fits and looks cute from afar, don't let the price tag suck you into buying it.

7. Wear F21 with your nicer stuff. Have an awesome bag or nice pair of shoes?  You'll feel less self conscious about the F21 stuff you're wearing if you pair it with higher quality pieces.

8. Don't expect a long shelf life from the accessories. The jewelry will tarnish, guaranteed.  It's disappointing, I know, but for $3.80 you really can't expect much.