MintStyle

MintStyle with Rachel Weingarten: Shopping? There’s an App for That

Woman Using Barcode Reader Through Smart Phone

My wonderful editor passed along a shopping app resource recently that got me thinking about how much the way we shop has changed in the last decade or so.

But before I delve into the new generation of shopping apps, here is an extremely abbreviated history of ready to wear fashion, which paved the way for modern shopping habits.

If you go way back, a considerable amount of time after fig leaves were fashionable but before the invention of the Cotton Gin, our ancestor’s ancestors were using bits of bones as needles and dubious animal byproducts as thread to sew the earliest garments.

As centuries passed, people (usually women) wove for themselves and their families and then sewed clothing one piece at a time. Mass production of cotton sped up the process and ushered in the modern era of clothing manufacturing. By the Civil War era some basic pre-produced clothing was available in stores.

According to fashion legend, 1937 was the beginning of the concept of a commercial fashion standard. The U.S. Department of Agriculture began a survey of women’s body measurements, which culminated the idea of standard clothing sizes for women sometime in the late ‘50s.

It’s been said though, that sizing varied back then, depending on the designer and even the fabric of the garments. If you have ever tried on vintage clothing, you may have noticed that the sizing is significantly different than current standards.

In fact, many designers continue to attempt to appeal to women’s vanity and dress sizing can still vary greatly – a concept known as “vanity sizing.”

Despite the sizing inconsistencies of early mass-produced clothing, it was still becoming easier to shop for clothing. Know your size, know what looks great on you– lather, rinse, repeat.

Which is why, my fashion forward friends, it’s easier than ever to shop these days. If you have a basic knowledge of what works for you, shopping is as easy as scanning and clicking your way to a better wardrobe.

Which leads us to the new crop of shopping apps that make shopping for clothing even more dummy-proof.

In no particular order:

PickN’Tell

PickN’Tell offers coupons and savings along with a twist: the app allows you to snap pics of yourself in your potential new outfits and share with friends. (Best for frugal fashionistas that are fond of social networking.)

RetailMeNot

Leading coupon website RetailMeNot recently launched their iPhone app which allows you to use their best features — coupons and discount codes — from your mobile. (Best for iPhone users to find and organize online and in-store coupons.)

Clipix

Clipix is a part bookmarking, part alert tool. For instance, if you see a look you love, you can clip elements and then use the system’s patented price drop alert that notifies when your fashion crush goes on sale. (Best for Pinterest or Polyvore addicts inclined to shop and share.)

Catalogue Spree and Coffee Table

Remember when receiving catalogues was still fun and novel? Catalogue Spree and Coffee Table both help you to organize your favorite items from hundreds of catalogues and brands including Nordstrom, Chico’s, and West Elm. (Best for non-Luddites nostalgic for those giant Sears catalogues.)

RedPlum Social Savings

The RedPlum Social Savingsapp isn’t a traditional app — it’s available through Facebook. Using this app, you can instantly share deals and steals with 962 of your closest friends, family and middle school besties. (Best for people who are tired of looking at pictures of kittens.)

HipSwap

HipSwap touts itself as being a highly visual mobile and web marketplace for unique new and used goods. I was most impressed with the notion of HipSwap Saturdays where you can arrange for pick up of unwanted goods from HipSwap users, which are then delivered to Goodwill free of charge. (Best for those who have outgrown eBay or are still sweet on Etsy.)

Swirl

Swirl takes the notion that 90% of people still shop at retail stores (as opposed to the 10% who shop online) and has created a multi-faceted (and pretty) app available free at the iTunes store. (Best for brick and mortar loyalists with a soupcon of tech.)

Eyeona

Eyeona is a website and app for iPhone and Android that alerts shoppers to price adjustments on items recently purchased. Upload a picture of your receipt and you’ll get an alert when that item goes on sale. (Best for those prone to buyer’s remorse.)

Discount Calculator

Discount Calculator is a free shopping app for Blackberry that helps you to calculate the price after a discount is taken on an item. (Thumb) type in the original price and the discount amount and voila — the discounted price appears. (Best for people who still can’t calculate tips.)

Finally, Some Age-Old Advice

There’s an old Yiddish proverb (loosely translated to)‘An ox for a groshen’ that I’ve heard thousands of times over the years from my mother. I’ll spare you the details, but the crux of it is that no matter how much of a bargain it seems to be, if it’s out of your price range — it isn’t a bargain.

In other words, even the best discount or shopping apps won’t help if they inspire you to overspend.

Rachel Weingarten has been known to shop until she drops. She’s a style expert, marketing strategist & personal brand consultant for CEOs, politicians and celebrities and the creator of MintStyle. Rachel is the award-winning author of Career and Corporate Cool®  and Hello Gorgeous! Beauty Products in America ‘40s-‘60s, and a regularly featured expert on TV shows including Good Morning America and The Today Show. Visit her online at http://racheletc.com or on Twitter @rachelcw Write to her at mintstylerachel@gmail.com with your burning style questions.