Since the majority of our readers are men, there's likely a good number of guys this month combing the site for deals to buy for the special ladies in their life. If you, male reader, want to make sure your efforts aren't in vain, there are a few guidelines you should keep in mind. (And ladies, while the pointers in this feature may seem like old news, please feel free to contribute to the cause in the comments section below.)
We've detailed some basic shopping advice for a few different categories, but before you move to buy, think about what she might want or need. A great way to do this, without outright asking, is to listen carefully to what she complains about. Sounds like fun, right? It's actually a crafty way to figure out what will make her say "How did you know?" come Christmas. Does the clasp on her necklace keep breaking? Do her favorite flats have a hole in them? Surprise her with shiny new replacements. Then, once you've decided on what type of gift you'd like to get, use these rules of thumb to guide your purchase.
Jewelry: Do Your Research
Even though it's not the best time of the year to be buying jewelry, you may feel compelled to purchase such an adornment because it's special and fitting for the season. Here are some tips on how to pick the perfect piece of jewelry she'll wear for seasons to come.
First, observe the jewelry she wears the most often. If she sports a string of pearls or a simple silver pendant, she'll probably like classic styles. (Think of something Tiffany-esque.) Jewelry that looks antique or aged often suggests an interest in vintage or heirloom styles, while big bold items might mean she'd like something chunky like a cuff bracelet. Ornate jewelry (like chandelier earrings or rhinestone-encrusted baubles) might indicate that she'd prefer something more adventurous. If you're completely lost at translating her choices, bring your observations to a jewelry specialist. If all else fails, a tasteful pendant necklace is a fairly safe option.
Stores to shop at: In addition to the numerous daily-deal jewelry sites we list on dealnews, we recommend visiting a department store, J.Crew, Etsy, Shopbop, Piperlime, or Banana Republic for reasonably-priced, yet beautiful, options.
Handbags: Go Classic
A handbag is a necessary, daily accessory for most women, and many women don't like to switch out their bags very often. Therefore, it's advisable to play it safe in terms of style; the lady in your life will likely appreciate you choosing something classic that works for most occasions. Look for natural leathers (or neutral fabrics) and an uncluttered aesthetic. Avoid slouchy bags without structure, unless that's a style she already has and likes.
Pay attention to size too; it's sometimes difficult to discern how big a bag actually is if you're viewing it online. Some purses are so hulking, they might as well be overnight bags, while others are so petite that they barely hold the essentials. Seek out product images that show the bag against the body, and be sure to check its measurements. As a rule of thumb, an everyday bag should be wide enough to fit a magazine without rolling it.
Brands to look for:
Mid-range — Steve Madden, Nine West, Jessica Simpson, LeSportsac, Hobo International
Luxury — Dooney & Bourke, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Coach, Hayden Harnett, Frye, Botkier, Longchamp
Clothes: Pay Attention to Size
There are few things more disappointing than receiving a new article of clothing and realizing it's too small. And unfortunately, women's sizes can be tricky to figure out. Shoppers have to deal with vanity sizing from different stores, inconsistent standards across brands, and the fact that women can be drastically different sizes for different articles of clothing. Don't assume that a size small shirt, for example, means she'd also wear a small skirt. If you're hesitant, it's best to opt for items that have leeway; there's room for error with a wrap dress or sweater, for example, whereas a structured jacket or dress shirt should have a tailored fit. When possible, buy something that can be exchanged for a different size.
Brands to look for:
Mid-range — It's best to check what labels are the most numerous in her closet.
Luxury — Marc Jacobs, Theory, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Nanette Lepore, Diane von Furstenberg, DKNY, BCBGMAXAZRIA, Alice + Olivia
Shoes: Tread Carefully
Heels are hard enough for women to buy without trying on, so we can only imagine the mess someone who's never worn them might make of it. Flats are a safe buy, both in terms of style and fit. To get the correct size, be sure to check her dress shoes, not her sandals or sneakers. Check a few different pairs, too, to see if the sizing varies depending on the brand.
If she already has a reliable pair of neutral ballet flats, consider going for something more bold and fun; if she favors a particular color, look for a solid shoe in that hue, and don't be afraid of patent leather. Another way to change it up is a tasteful charm on the toe.
Brands to look for:
Mid-range — Steve Madden, ALDO, Nine West, Jessica Simpson, Chinese Laundry, Sam Edelman
Luxury — Tory Burch, Stuart Weitzman, Belle by Sigerson Morrison, Cole Haan, Loeffler Randall