In Partnership With
A Passionate Defense of Shopping in Stores

In partnership with MANGO

You know how, when you do something you haven’t done in a really long time — like eating an entire ice cream sundae after temporarily giving up sweets, or scrolling through Instagram after a digital detox, or smelling your mom’s neck after weeks apart — and it somehow feels better than it did before?

That’s how I feel about shopping in stores ever since visiting the new MANGO location in Soho to style and shoot three looks with clothes from their fall collection for Man Repeller. I arrived early to settle in, and it took me all of two seconds before I started browsing the racks. Being able to actually touch the clothes, to run my thumb down the seam of a blue velvet blazer, to brush my cheek against the collar of a mohair jacket, to grab a pair of corduroy pants by the waist and stretch them gently between my fingers, felt like such a special treat — almost indulgent. I realized I hadn’t shopped in an actual store in months.

Mango puffed sleeves striped dress, Mango contrasting knit sweater over shoulders and Mango pinstripe oversize blazer styled with Ambush sunglasses, Charlotte Olympia shoes and Happy Socks socks

Another unexpected delight came courtesy of all the outfit ideas that suddenly started popping up in my brain like fresh kernels while I was standing in front of the clothes. Even though I had already looked at most of the current collection online, there was something about physically interacting with it that made me rethink everything I had planned for the shoot.

I started improvising as soon as the model arrived — adding a belt, removing a coat, draping a sweater like the one I saw artfully arranged on a mannequin. It was as if I was standing in the middle of an expansive closet with limitless options and combinations to experiment with (which is essentially what a really good store is, now that I think about it).

Mango buttoned corduroy jacket, Mango striped rib sweater, Mango high-waist corduroy trousers and Mango aviator sunglasses styled with Sonia Boyajian necklace, Darner socks and Marco De Vincenzo shoes

My friends and I went back a few days later. I had told them about this new thing called “a store” and they were intrigued. We emerged two hours and four shopping bags later. I couldn’t help but compare the social enjoyment of the experience to the relatively solitary pursuit of perusing clothes online. I know I will continue to shop online out of laziness (because who doesn’t love eyeballing shoes from the comfort of bed?), but I’m also inclined to make retail shopping a more regular thing.

People have been saying retail is dead or dying for years, but I disagree. It’s not dying, it’s evolving. Case in point: MANGO is rolling out a new in-store technology in fitting room mirrors wherein customers can scan the barcode of a particular item they’re trying on and request a different size on the spot. I tested it out myself and essentially felt like I was shopping on Mars in 2040.

Speaking of different sizes, it was deeply comforting to have the option of trying on multiple sizes at once without worrying about stuff like credit card limits or return shipping. There was a particular blouse that I tried on in a bigger-than-my-usual size on a whim, and I realized the extra inches around my shoulder made it hang just slightly better on my frame. I never would have ordered that size if I were shopping online.

My friends poked their heads out from their respective curtains to affirm my choice, which is another point in favor of retail shopping: the fitting room Greek chorus. Sometimes it’s a chorus of friends, other times it’s perfect strangers, but there is almost always someone who will look over at you while you’re examining a dress or a skirt or a pair of pants in the hallway mirror and nod their head in approval, or ask if you saw that it also comes in burgundy.

Frankly the only thing that would have improved the experience is a bottle of wine, and maybe a cheeseboard, but that’s what pockets are for, right?

Photos by Edith Young.

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  • Meemaw

    I strongly resent shopping online. Get off my lawn.

  • Abby

    Stores FTW. If I can’t try it on, I’m not interested and the fact that I like to buy on super sale/final sale doesn’t help.

  • Hayley

    Mango appears to have come a long way since the late 90’s/early aughts…but then again, haven’t we all?

  • Allison Russo

    MR is the only outlet who does collabs/sponsored posts right

    • Harling Ross

      i’m really really really really glad you think so!

    • Julie

      so true. As a content strategist for an ad agency, it’s such a fine line between obvious “advertorial” and honest to goodness creative editorial partnerships. Now, just need to get my clients to understand that…

  • Ki

    AGREEEEEEE. I shopped in store yesterday for the first time in forever, and I was so inspired in a way I haven’t been in months of scrolling. Also, hurrah for not having to remember to return the stuff you didn’t want. Am I the only one who has a pile of unworn items I forgot to return within 30 days?

    • Harling Ross

      eek the 30 day rule has definitely gotten me in trouble before

  • Obligatory “would LOVE to shop in stores, if only they went up to a 20+” comment here! Mango’s plus-size line Violeta is actually rad as hell, but it’s a pain in the ass to have to order stuff to try it on and then ship it back if it doesn’t. I’d absolutely shop there more if I could try it on in a brick&mortar!

  • Miss Crystal

    I worked in corporate retail when THE CHANGE started and it was heartbreaking to see so many stores switch to online only. I love online shopping and it’s become 97% of my shopping in recent years, but I remember how exciting a day at the mall was back in the 90s for my teenybopper self (especially when everyone dressed like the Spice Girls!)

    • Harling Ross

      you must be reading amelia’s mind (mall story coming in hot on friday)

    • pamb

      I work in retail now. I don’t understand why your heart broke about stores going online only when you say 97% of your shopping is done online. Don’t you see the conflict there?

      • Miss Crystal

        Now it is but back then there were more brick and mortar stores in which to actually shop. The malls near me are essentially just Apple stores and a food court. There are still department stores but I’m talking mainly about those young women, fast fashion type stores that I miss.

  • Cordelia

    I would love to be able to shop for clothes online as I live a distance away from any decent shops but I like to feel the quality of the fabrics and try them on as every store has different sizes (even within the store itself). I will only do it if I’ve tried on a different colour in the right size or if I already have an item but want a different colour. I also don’t have the time or energy to deal with the postal system. It’s traditional and boring of me, I guess…

  • Senka

    I still only shop in stores. I do check out online sites just to see what they offer and what’s in stock, but ultimately I’ll go and feel the garment, try it on and decide do I really like it. I know it’s a little bit limiting, but I am managing. If I really wanted something badly, I’d order online, but not necessarily from the stores that are just a small walk away from where I work/live. There’s fun in both trying it on, chosing and sharing experience with others.

  • pamb

    Please, for the love of God, continue to shop in stores. I work in retail, and see people everyday come in, browse, ask me questions and then tell me “I’ll buy it online, thanks!” No, thank YOU, because I’m on commission and technically lost money but OK.

    But I also have customers come in and when I don’t have the exact color/size they need, when I tell them “I can have it shipped to you from another store” tell me “no, I need it tonight/tomorrow”. See, what happens is: when you stop shopping in a store, the company stops sending the store so much merchandise. Then when you need something right away, it’s no longer available in store, because you told the company you’d rather by online.

    So do both. Shop in store when you can, and online for things your store may not carry, or basics you don’t want to have to drag home.

  • Jay

    Ouff tough one… hardly go to real retail store shopping anymore, I admit. Simply cause I dont have the time. And we have tricky closing times here in Germany that dont really work with my full time job.

    However, whenever I do… it is really actually great. And even cooler when on a Wednesday morning, no other customers and you’re with a bunch of friends at an empty Zara… and you just totally reinvent yourself.

    Buying no necessity. But just for the fun of “dressing up!”

    Feel like once a month taking a random weekday off and treat you and your girls to such a dressing (and maybe shopping spree) would be such a good idea…

    The more as you are so right, Harling, you find ways to wear things you’d never do when buying online…

    Like I actually got baggy pants. And love them. Feel sooo muck like sza… whoa….

  • Jay

    OMG – I just found the perfect pair of pants on MANGO – and it totally fits into the red and pink thing…

    Get those ones: They fit perfectly!!!!;26,326.pants26,326;Pitillo