How to H&M

Our style expert provides tips for surviving a visit to Southcenter Mall's H&M, the newest effort to help Northwesterners find fashion.
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Our style expert provides tips for surviving a visit to Southcenter Mall's H&M, the newest effort to help Northwesterners find fashion.

H&M is a Swedish-based retail chain that's finally landed here in the Northwest. Founded in 1947, the store specializes in affordable, fashion-forward trends. Now, I know the term "trendy" may make those of us over 35 years old run for the hills (or worse, Eddie Bauer), but don't write off H&M yet. They carry styles in grown-up sizes (versus Junior sizes), and are available up to an XL or size 16. For an example of what you might find at the store, I bought three cardigans, one sweater vest, a knit skirt, two hair accessories, and two knit wraps — all for about $150. Not bad at all.

As for H&M's merchandise for men: "meh." Lots of jackets and trousers may be great for young guns, but older chaps might be better off buying Chaps at Nordstroms, if you can afford it. Do, however, search H&M for shirts and sweaters. They have some interesting cuts and colors — and if they fit well — your next look might be an understated Euro-cool.

If you feel like taking the trip to H&M's new Southcenter location, here are some tips to make the most of your shopping experience:

1) Visit early (H&M is located in the newly built south section of the mall)

I can't stress enough how crowded this joint gets. The best time to visit is on a weekday at 10 a.m. Then, you might actually be able to get into a dressing room and see the merchandise. I went on a Sunday afternoon and could barely move. As for trying on clothes? Forget it. The wait time for the dressing rooms and check out was more than 40 minutes. When I returned around 10 a.m. on a Friday morning, however, it was a different store. I could actually see the merchandise, shop, and try on clothes at leisure.

2) Stick to the second floor

The first floor has mostly casual stuff for young hipsters (who, ironically, don't have hips), but the good stuff for the grown-ups is on the more sophisticated second floor.

3) Load up on knits

Light knits are one of my favorite Northwest wardrobe staples. They can be appropriate for casual, business, or dressy occasions. They are comfy and can be layered for different looks. Plus, the breadth of styles was impressive. For example, I saw four different kinds of charcoal-grey cardigans.

4) You are your own salesperson

You will not be able to rely on the sales staff to help you find sizes or colors. I found a teal sweater I liked, but none of the four salespeople I asked were able to tell me which other colors it came in or where to find more. Don't forget to grab all the sizes you may need either, as the staff won't help you retrieve other sizes once you are in the dressing room.

5) Look up

There were some items high up on display that I ended up buying. Had I not spent some time looking up, I might have left the store feeling down.

6) Shop hair accessories and scarves, but skip shoes and bags

H&M has some good prices on basic hair accessories. Their scarves aren't plentiful, but plenty are nice. Skip the cheesy, faux-leather handbags, shoes, and cheapo jewelry. If you are in the market for an inexpensive purse, Target has some beautiful faux-leather varieties this season.

7) If overwhelmed, buy first, try later

The store also has a fair return policy. You must bring a receipt, but the staff will let you return garments up to 30 days after date of purchase for a full refund.

8) Try something trendy in a basic color

H&M is a great place to find new styles you've seen in the magazines but made you worry that an item would look better in the magazine than on you. But come on, that's why they invented black and grey — to make the trendy look sophisticated.


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