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The Best Clothes To Give As Gifts

On a Christmas morning many years ago, with paper flying and treasurers mounting, my then-16-year-old sister opened a box, looked inside, wrinkled her nose, and said something that would haunt her for the rest of her life:


Everyone went silent.

My oldest sister and I exchanged worried glances as Mother stopped what she was doing to stare at daughter #2. “What’s ‘eww?'” Mother asked suspiciously.

Mary pulled the offending piece out of the box and held it up by the shoulders. It was a form-fitting butter yellow cotton sweater with an oversized crocheted collar and cuffs, a popular choice for Victorian-loving fashion followers of the time, the late 1970’s.

But Mary didn’t like it. And in that whiny, pitchy, just-slap-me-now tone perfected by generations of teenage girls, she dropped any pretense of manners on that blessed morning to make her feelings known. “Eww!” she repeated, more emphatically.

My mother, who had bought the present, was completely offended. She pulled the sweater from Mary’s grasp and claimed it as her own from that day forward.

But that wasn’t all of it.

To further demonstrate her outrage, Mother never bought Mary another gift of clothing as long as she lived. While LeAnn and I received clothes for birthdays and Christmas almost every year, daughter #2 was shut out completely. Nixed. Persona non grata, as far as clothing went.

And in a house where clothing was a favorite topic, it was one of the hardest lessons Mary ever learned.

If you’ve ever had a similar experience, you know how easily things can go awry. The “perfect gift” you looked high and low for and spent a ton of money on was greeted with little or no enthusiasm. Or someone gave you something that was so “not you,” you just can’t imagine what he or she was thinking.

Sound familiar?

But how can you get around these inevitable mistakes?

By understanding that people’s tastes do differ. If you embrace this notion and begin your quest with your RECIPIENT’s taste in mind, you’re more likely to pick a winner. If you assume the recipient will automatically defer to YOUR preferences, your present could end up as closet clutter or become endlessly re-gifted.

So why waste your money? Stack the odds in your favor and spend your hard-earned money on something he or she is more likely to love and wear.

Here’s how:

  1. Avoid Hard-To-Fit ClothesThis includes form-fitting pieces like pants, skirts, blouses, shoes, etc. Unless you know your recipient’s exact measurements, buying form-fitting clothes is like rolling the dice. Odds are, it could fit.Chances are, it won’t.
  2. Avoid Personal StuffUnless you know the recipient EXTREMELY well, don’t buy her sleepwear, underwear, or lingerie. Anyone who’s age 12 or older generally has a preference for such things, and unless you’re privy to this information, your gift will probably just sit in a drawer. Your money is best spent elsewhere.
  3. Opt For Quality Every Day ItemsIf you want the most for your money, buy quality items that your recipient is likely to use everyday. Look for worn out items you can replace, or splurge on useful things that she’d love to have but wouldn’t buy for herself, like a beautiful cardigan sweater, comfy loungewear, patterned tights or trouser socks, or even a classic jacket (pea coat, barn coat, or dress coat). Make it a simple style in her favorite color so she can dress it up or dress it down however she wants.
  4. Spring For AccessoriesQuality accessories are almost always welcome because they can add variety without getting too personal. Gloves, tote bags, scarves, and lapel pins are all popular choices, so long as you keep them simple and in a color she can mix-and-match.
  5. Give A Gift CertificateCompletely overwhelmed by your choices or afraid to make a huge mistake?Then opt for a gift certificate instead. It can be from one of her favorite clothing shops, one of yours, or even someplace online. You can even make the fun of the season last by offering to go shopping with her to help her spend the certificate.

Whatever you do, DO choose items that your recipient will like, need, and use. Don’t try to impose your taste on others-even if you think they have no taste–and always include a way to return the item if it doesn’t suit.

Finally, don’t be offended if they don’t like what you got them, even if they’re as tacky about it as my sister was on that long-ago Christmas morning. Mistakes happen and misjudgments occur. So what? Don’t let it ruin your holiday. Just because they don’t like the gift doesn’t mean they don’t like you. Simply offer to exchange it. That’s what you’d do if it was the wrong size. Just think of this as the “wrong” item.

Giving the gift of clothes can be fun and rewarding, but you MUST keep the recipient’s tastes in mind in order to ensure an enthusiastic response. If you try to “set them straight” by imposing your tastes on them, you could wind up with an item that’s never worn at best or one that becomes a bone of contention at worst.

So don’t waste your money that way. Instead, find useful, luxurious items they’ll love and use every day that make them think of you every time they wear them. It’s the most satisfying gift to give – or to receive, for that matter.

About Diana Pemberton-Sikes

Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of Wardrobe Magic, an ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. Visit her online at Fashion For Real Women. Need some tips and tricks? Pick up a copy of Wardrobe Magic. Visit her site for more information.


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