My no-nonsense shopping day with Karen, 59

I shadowed Karen, a special ed teacher, (also, my mother) on a recent shopping trip to one of her favorite haunts–Nordstrom Rack. I was there not so much as an adviser, but more as a fly on the wall.

It’s always helpful to see how someone shops when left to their own devices–with no one there to bounce opinions off of. I wanted to get in the mind of Karen on the hunt for the perfect something.

This is a woman who knows her body well, and after a lot of practice–and some daughterly guidance–has come to know exactly what clothes look and feel good on her. I was hoping a little guided walk-through could help some readers with any shopping hang-ups they may deal with.

There was nothing in particular she was looking for that day, except a bargain. Karen is a self-proclaimed sucker for a steal. She said it’s the number one thing she looks for when shopping. And within five minutes, we found this…

A Hanna & Gracie pencil skirt for 60% off. This got us going into the whole skirt issue. She pointed out that she looks for well-tailored with a little bit of edge. The muted tweed was spiffed up by a cool zipper and black ribbon. She also noted the perfect length–always at or just below the knee.

Karen’s new favorite brand when it comes to skirts and pants is Atelier. It’s a lower-priced line that can be found at Nordstrom stores, but oddly enough not on their site. As far as I can tell.

Again with this skirt–tailored with a bit of edge.

Next we moved on to basic shirts, where she singled out two tees specifically for their necklines. The white long-sleeved tee boasted a deep scoop, while the putty one had an intriguing twisted V neck. These cuts show off just enough skin to elongate the neck, without dipping too low into unwanted cleave zone.

Blazers, according to both Karen and me, are one of the most important staples a woman could own. We happened upon this punchy one from Tahari, which, again, filled two of her requirements: well-tailored with edge. See the trend developing here?

Karen looks for blazers that fall a little longer, with a subtle flare at the hem. I couldn’t agree with her more. This creates the appearance of a waist, while not pulling at the hips. A straight or boxy cut can make a body look square.

“You can never have too many white shirts.”

I swear I didn’t pay her to say that, although I have been hawking this advice for what seems like an eternity. Karen zeroed in on a classic white button-down from Tahari, pointing out its longer length and looser fit. The second one (from Laundry by Shelli Segal) was a bit trendier, but she liked the neck and the length.

We covered shoes as well, but that’s posted in an update to my suggestions for attractive flat shoes. Check it out for Karen’s personal pics!

Oh and that zip skirt came out to a whopping 9 bucks. Gotta love the Rack.

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