Stephanie Montes

I Still Shop At Forever 21 & I'm a Full-Blown Adult (Sorry, Not Sorry)

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I'm in my twenties, but I'm not even close to being 21 anymore. I'm a wife and a working professional with a real career. I'm a grown-ass woman with responsibilities and I still shop at Forever 21. And you know what, I'm not even a little ashamed about it.

In college, I was broke and bought everything from the fast-fashion giant we all know and love. Though Forever 21 is constantly under investigation for their factory working conditions, I was a scrappy college kid. I wore everything from trendy dresses to faux leather boots, and even piled on the accessories (though I had to take these off every time I showered). Again, I had no money, but you know what, I always got compliments! When people asked me where I shopped and I had no problem responding "Forever 21." Back then, it wasn't uncommon to hear, "so do I" from my fellow classmates. We were all in the same boat of wearing cheap clothes and eating Hot Pockets for lunch (this is one area I haven't revisited). After I graduated, my style evolved and I finally began making money. This is when I started investing in fashion.

I ordered designer dresses on Net-A-Porter and bought expensive shoes at Saks, but I still had a few good finds in my closet from Forever 21. This is when my love for the art of high-low dressing truly began. Even now, you can find me in a $40 dress and Christian Louboutin heels on any given day. I still get compliments on my outfits, but it's no longer cool to respond "it's from Forever 21." I used to feel embarrassed, but I always owned it. I've even almost always been hit with that "yaassss, girl," which made me feel better about it. Then, my husband (of all people) compared my fashion approach to that of Cardi B's (queen), and while watching her describe her same high-low approach, all I could think was "yaassss, queen!"

Designer clothes, as much as I love them, don't fit me all that well. I'm smaller at the waist and bigger at the hips and thighs. I'm not exactly sample size, so it's almost impossible for me to find an item that fits everywhere. One of my favorite designer pieces is the classic Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress because it's adjustable. When it comes to this particular wrap style, size is almost irrelevant. I can cinch it at the waist as needed and the stretchy fabric falls flawlessly without being too tight on my bottom half. But this is exactly why this particular piece has stood the test of time — it's magic.

All other designer options need altering, and I'm usually less than enthused about spending money to make an already-expensive item look perfect. Pants bubble at the back of my waistband, dresses are way too long (I'm nowhere near super-model height), and tops tend look like they're always about to pop open at the bust area. When an item is really good, I make it work, but lately I spend the majority of my designer dollars on shoes and accessories.

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I don't know for sure if I have the Kardashians to thank for the resurgence of curves as fashionable, but I'm guessing yes. And with young girls everywhere embracing Kylie Jenner-like curves, it only made sense for Forever 21 to cater to their target demographic of young, social-media savvy millenials. With that, came silhouettes that complemented smaller waists and fuller bottoms, AKA me. Unlike the hundreds of designer pieces I tried on that didn't fit all that right, Forever 21 options fit me everywhere. The dress below required zero alterations and was a hit at a semi-fancy dinner I attended that night.

STEPHANIE MONTES

Pants are my favorite thing to buy at the affordable store. I don't get that bubbling at the waist band and they're almost always the perfect length. My entire life, I struggled to find great jeans, but lately my denim collection is being taken over by those from Forever 21. Two of my favorite pairs can be found below (the cropped boyfriend jean and black high-waisted skinnys).

However, I know what you're thinking. I'm constantly asked, "don't your clothes fall apart after you wash them once?" Truth be told, I've had designer pieces fall apart after their first wash too (the ones that are supposed to be machine washable, of course). Honestly, I can't remember the last time I saw a Forever 21 item completely disintegrate in the washer.

I feel like this was an issue when I was in high school, but they've really stepped up their quality since. Plus, there's a good lesson to be learned about being good to your clothes when doing your laundry (no matter how cheap or expensive they are). Always separate by color to avoid bleeding, wash on cold to avoid shrinking, and hang dry your clothes to avoid fading.

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Honestly, the hardest part is finding clothes that are age appropriate, but this is can be the case anywhere and really can come down to a question of taste. I don't wear Coachella-style rompers year-round, I don't wear sequin-covered dresses with cut-outs (anymore), and you won't find me in faux fur that looks too synthetic. I've gotten pretty good at finding pieces that look a bit more elevated. And besides, if it fits perfectly and is paired with a more expensive piece, suddenly my $40 Forever 21 purchase doesn't look so cheap afterall. Plus, if I can make a super affordable outfit look like a million bucks, what is there to be embarassed about?

Right, Cardi B?