Monday, November 13, 2006

H&M: Shopping review

Numerous readers have requested that I blog from time to time on my shopping adventures, so here goes:

H&M has finally opened in Los Angeles.

To those of you on the East coast, who have gotten accustomed to a) picking out H&M items on passers-by while thinking, "I know YOUR secret," and/or b) enjoying the sweet sensation when some ostensible fashion snob assumes you bought that blouse at Gucci and NOT H&M, this is NOT news. Sure, I've been augmenting my wardrobe with nuggets from the Manhattan and Boston H&Ms for I guess I can easily be found out.

But what I want to focus on is the nitty-gritty. The rest of you can worry about whether the knockoffs are accurate enough to wear to, say Beverly Hills, or whether you ought to keep them in, say, Santa Monica, where people are a little less snobby about these things. What I want to discuss are....tactics.

OK, so I went to the store the day it opened. Turned out not to be a big deal, whether due to luck or my innate hunter-gatherer shopping instincts, I don't know. The line at 3 p.m. was not too bad, stretching across the front of the store from door to door. I estimated I'd be waiting half an hour, but hadn't counted on the fact that the guards let lots of people in at the same time. Total wait: ten minutes.

Inside, there was a fair amount of pandemonium, but not so crazy that I couldn't assume Zen shopping mode and focus only on the merchandise. I immediately got a wrap dress for 9.90, opening day special--Diane von Furstenberg wouldn't be fooled, but I'll be sure and wear Etro or something else pricey the next time she and Barry pop by for tapas. It wasn't too difficult to negotiate the rest of the store. The women's clothing is at either end -- regular stuff, including the feature pieces by Viktor & Rolf, to the left as you enter, the teenier trendier stuff to the right, with the men's department in the middle. In the back of the store is a smallish children's department.

This store, compared to Pasadena, is much better stocked, bigger, and easier to negotiate. The downside is NO lingerie department, which is sad because H&M has great bra/panty combos that are glam, fit decently if not perfectly, AND cost about $20 in toto. I wondered if the V&R "boutique" might become a lingerie department at some point.

So what do I recommend at H&M? You can always, always find an inexpensive, decently fitted t-shirt in a range of colors. My experience is that they last for a few seasons, a real plus for schmattas. Likewise a cardigan, with Lurex thread or not. The jewelry is cheap and fun, although in London last fall I bought beads that fell apart immediately upon contact. Not a place to make a major investment, although it'd be difficult to do that. The pants fit in capricious ways, so not my favorite. I've found cute and funky dresses there on occasion, that no one would suspect came from H&M.

Other advice: Buy it and try it on at home. The try-on line is endless, and the return policy is a decent 30 days (contrast that with Forever 21's policy). And, please, use the cash register against the wall in the trend department. On Thursday and again on Saturday afternoon, this was the absolutely shortest line.

Can't comment on the men's department...too focused on my own needs. Next time...

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