Finding Fashionable Low Prices at New York's Forever21
>> While my teen years left a lot to be desired, 21 was a pretty good time. So a store named "Forever21" is right up my alley.
Thankfully, Forever21 is not a bar where you can regret one too many tequila shots, reminiscent of that first year of legal libations. It is a women's and men's clothing store with trendy and classic collections at affordable prices.
You might be thinking that a store with such a youthful name would be teeming with tank tops and short shorts. Although Forever21 does have its share of teen-wear, it is overflowing with options for those of us who are actually parents.
But first, when you step in the door, the sensory overload is significant. Before you can shop, you need to get past the preponderance of primary colors that you last saw in a box of Crayolas. The more muted colors, and browns and blacks for New Yorkers like me who like to blend in, are located around the perimeters of the store. The center, however, heaves with every color in the rainbow (which is exactly what dark dressers like me need to add some pop).
The photo at the top of this article is of Forever21's smaller store, which is easily seen at Union Square. The larger location on the busy intersection of 34th Street and Broadway (across from Macy's flagship), however, is hard to spot. Skinny, green, construction-paper letters spell out its name on second-floor windows, but its first-floor door is almost hidden from view on 34th Street, just past the Gap.
The Basics - mix and match
The "basics" sections offer wardrobe staples, which is great because, for me, it's all about the mix and match. Basics, like the "basic spaghetti top," "ribbed turtleneck," and "basic tunic," can be combined with a selection from "outerwear," like the "Jackie Career Jacket," for work, or the "skinny corduroy pant" for casual wear. The collection extends to stuff in denim, shoes, accessories, jewelry, intimates, and more.
It is important to note that Forever21 carries a wider assortment of trendy options than in most stores, but the classic pieces are there and mix beautifully with some very modern items. Leggings, for instance, the most recent fashion frenzy, are easily combined with an oversized sweater for the faint of heart, or a fitted jacket for the bolder shopper. It is the ideal store for vacation wear (they are already showing spring), especially if your clothes need to be baby-proof (wear and wash and wash).
Forever21 is not the place to look for business wear if your office climate is conservative. Suits at these low prices are more readily found at H&M, Zara (during sales), and at Ann Taylor Loft, where the colors are muted (think "variations on black") and safer options are offered. It is, however, worth getting elbow deep at Forever21 to find more interesting styles to take a chance on, if only for casual Fridays.
In terms of style, Forever21 can be considered vintage, but only as far back as the 70s or 80s. For resale shoppers who enjoy thrift stores, Forever21 offers brand new items that accentuate a true vintage wardrobe, especially in terms of jewelry (big beads, thick chains, and baubles) and shoes (platform–heeled, patent leather pumps, and go-go boots). And, in the best vintage tradition, prices are really low!
Finding things at the right price
I decided to put Forever21 to a formidable price test.
I needed a dress for a wedding. And, oh yeah, I am four months pregnant; am just small enough that maternity clothes swim on me, and large enough that my own formal wear bursts at its seams. Naturally, I did not want to spend a fortune.
After trying on several empire waist dresses that hit me way too short, I found a black (of course), satin-and-lace cocktail dress that ended mid-calf. Size, Large. $32. Cheap enough to browse Forever21's hefty accessories section without guilt, and to take the dress in a bit where needed.
The men's collection, known as "Twenty One Mens," is a bit sportier and trendier than the women's collection. It does offer a wide variety of casual and dress wear, but the pieces are generally fitted with a distinctly youthful effect. There are, however, great basics that men of all ages can integrate into their existing wardrobe, as well as fun, accent items, like bold ties and graphic print T-shirts. (Plan to shop for your man by yourself because, unless he is a shopping enthusiast, he will run when faced with the crowds and the lines.)
Finding your size
Forever21 is not the place to shop with a stroller (as is my desire) because, despite the ample space between the racks, the racks themselves require two hands, lots of patience, and a fair amount of energy for sorting. Clothing is organized according to color or style, not by size. Which leads me to the dressing room. You will need to try on your selections, and, yes, the lines are long, but, thankfully, they move fast.
Forever21's Union Square location is spread out over two floors, but the overall ambiance is pretty tight, with a thrift store feel to it. The shop is squeezed between the ultra-popular Whole Foods and the discounter, Filene's Basement, with Shoemania at the corner. (Think about the convenience: a whole outfit, plus dinner, can easily be purchased in just a few hours!)
The Herald Square location, on the other hand, is significantly larger, easier to navigate, and, often, less crowded; it also offers children's clothing. Given that Macy's, every mega-fashion chain store in the nation, Daffy's, Strawberry's, and Conway's (the ultimate bargain basement) are nearby, browsing in the neighborhood makes price comparison easy.
The bottom line
The beauty of Forever21, beyond the wide variety of options, is (ahem!) price. A hundred dollars will buy several pieces or outfits, and it is difficult to find anything, even a coat, for over $60. The quality of the clothing does vary, but generally, it's the same quality you see all over.
Of course, you don't need to be a 21-year-old to select fresh, new clothing, but you need stamina to keep up with the store's pace (or, perhaps, "willpower," so you don't try to buy everything in sight). Happy shopping!
Forever21 is located in Manhattan at:
50 West 34th Street
New York, NY 10001
Union Square South
49 East 14th Street
New York, NY 10003
Article by Amy Kotulski. Photos by Amy, Amy's husband, and Karen Little. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.