Why It’s Important to Know What You Want

Every once in a while I am reminded of just how incredibly helpful and liberating it is to know exactly what works for me, stylistically. How much time, effort, money and energy I save every year by simply knowing what looks good. The other day I had a shopping experience that made me appreciate this all over again.

This season, I’m all about coral. I recently resolved to find the perfect coral lipstick. For someone with my coloring, finding a browned red or metallic lip color is incredibly easy, but when it comes to lighter colors, things get tricky. The coral / peach has to be neutral to warm, not too light, not too bright, with a touch of both red and brown. The formula has to be metallic or glossy. This is pretty specific and also not so easy to find. But, at least I knew what I wanted! I marched to the closest Sephora and, having only thirty minutes to spend, decided to ask a sales associate for help (something I very rarely do these days). I thought, she knows the stock. She can at least narrow things down for me. What can I say? I’m an optimist. Below is our exchange.

Me:  Hi! I wonder if you can help me. I’m looking for a coral / peach lipstick. I want something that is not too light or bright, with a touch of red / brown and in a non-matte formula.

SA, brightly and with no signs of comprehension:  OK!

She proceeds to grab a couple of lipsticks that I know immediately will not work on me.

Me:  This one is too light for my coloring. And the other one is too orange.

SA, optimistically:  I think they’ll both work great! Try them!

Me:  I will try them but I promise you, they won’t work.

I see the light in the SA’s eyes dim a bit as she realizes that I’m one of “those” customers. We try the lipsticks. The first one makes me look like a corpse. The second makes me look deranged.

SA, slightly baffled by the evidence before her:  Hmm….

Me:  Yeah. But, if you can find me something in… (describe the color I need yet again), I think that might work better.

SA, wearily:  Ok, let me go look.

She returns several minutes later with a new haul which, to her credit, includes a color that I spot immediately as “the one”.

Me:  Yes! This one. This is it. It’s perfect.

SA, emboldened:  Ok, but let’s try the other ones, too!

Me, internally:  SIGH

I try “the one”. It looks great. I love it. The SA is cautiously optimistic. She begs me to try another color – I can see clearly that it’s too bright but, in a fit of benevolence, I humor her and try it on. It’s not horrible but it’s not great.

SA, happy:  This one is fantastic on you!

Me:  It’s a nice color but it’s a bit bright for me.

SA:  But I wear bright colors all the time! They look great!

Me, internally:  Yes, but you are 15 years old and have skin like liquid honey.

SA, continuing earnestly and looking me squarely in the eye:  And you are NOT old!

Me, internally:  FACEPALM.  To SA:  Thank you. But it’s just not right for my style. However, I will take this Dior one! I really appreciate your help with it.

SA brings me my coveted lipstick and we part company.

As you can see, even knowing exactly what you want can’t prevent you from never having a challenging shopping experience. But, it’s not about not encountering challenges – it’s about knowing how to handle them. The following tips are helpful to keep in mind:

  • Know what you want. Know how to ask for it: firmly, clearly and politely.
  • Be prepared for resistance, attempts at persuasion and other sales tactics. Don’t get swayed. Politely keep pushing that party line.
  • If you have a color palette of your best colors, bring it with you. Sometimes showing is easier than telling (I didn’t have my own palette on the day which may have complicated things).
  • Try not to get upset or frustrated. Don’t argue with the sales person. They may not have your knowledge of color and style, mind boggling as this fact may be, considering it’s in their job description. Often they will project what looks good on them onto their customers. A sense of humor helps a lot here.
  • If it seems like they have experience and good taste, keep an ear out for helpful tips.  You never know what you can learn.
  • Always remember that no one knows you better than you do.

As I said before, knowing what you want and how to ask for it isn’t ironclad insurance against shopping aggravation, but it’s as good as you can get in real life. It’s also a great opportunity to affirm your faith in yourself and in your own taste and judgement.

PS.  When I came home I found that the lipstick, Rouge Dior in Rare Amber, was a dead on match to my palette.


6 responses to “Why It’s Important to Know What You Want

  1. Great post! Thanks Valeria! Though knowing your colors, even if you had a color analysis, is not as easy, it takes experience. I was keeping my color palette with me at all times for the whole year and only now feel a bit better shopping without it. But cosmetics are still the area of “brain freeze” for me. So, yes, know what you want and stand for it or even better, have a friend/professional shopper who can help you if you can not do it alone. 🙂

  2. Yes, I think a year is a good length of time after the initial color analysis to learn to recognize your colors even without a palette. Still, it’s a good idea to always have your palette with you. As for the cosmetics colors, switching them on a white tissue paper or the back of your hand is a good way to gauge the colors.

  3. Pingback: Why Do Women Wear Makeup? An Anti-Sephora Rant and Makeup-Related Existential Crisis « Cultivating Style·

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