Like any other kind of shopping, a checklist will help to keep you on target.

Have you seen the movie “The Blind Side”? It’s the story of Leigh Anne Tuohy, a wealthy woman who becomes a legal guardian to a young man from the projects who goes by the moniker ‘Big Mike’. It’s based on a true story and if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a viewing. There is a scene in the movie where Leigh Anne takes Mike to a shop to find some new clothes—a Big and Tall store because Mike is… well, big and tall. She says to him: “Well, one thing I know about shopping is that if you don’t absolutely love it in the store, you won’t wear it. The store is, where you like it best. So before you choose something, think of yourself wearing it and say to yourself: Is this me?” Good advice.

When you’re going clothes shopping, it’s best if you go with a goal in mind. Why? Because otherwise, the distractions are many and the rabbit holes are everywhere. If you’re out shopping for a new dress for a special event, stay focused. Don’t go into the Apple store to have a ‘quick peek’ at the new rose gold phone. Don’t run into the Coach store, to see ‘what’s new’.

Now that you’ve found a dress that you really love, it’s time to go through the checklist:

Is it comfortable?

If you feel awkward in it, you won’t wear it and if you do, you’ll be tugging on it or generally look how you feel. The first and most important factor in saying ‘yes to the dress’ is whether you feel comfortable in it or not. If you feel good in it, your confidence will shine through and like as not, people won’t even notice what you’re wearing: they’ll only see you.

Is it right for the occasion?

If you’re buying for a specific event, you need to be sure of the dress code. A floor length gown at a beach themed fundraiser might not be the best choice. If you’re not buying for a specific occasion, think about what kinds of events you generally attend and if it would be suitable for at least some of them. Remember that a classic cut or design is always a great choice, rather than the ‘latest fashion’ that you won’t wear again a year from now.

Is it right for your body type?

Yes, you might love the body-hugging wrap dress you just picked up off the rack but if you are rail thin, it will only make you look thinner, and not in a good way. You want the dress to flatter your figure. To this end, you must always, always, always try it on. It’s tempting to avoid the change rooms and their ubiquitous awful lighting but regrets are almost sure to follow if you don’t bravely step into the horrible light and put on the dress. What looks good hanging on a rack or on a mannequin may not work for you at all. Pay attention to cuts and styles that work best for your body type. Finally, if the fit isn’t quite right but you still love it, consider whether it could be altered and whether it would be worth it to have that done.

Can you afford it?

Yes, that pesky budget comes into play here but if you don’t want to regret your purchase in a few days, when the ‘excitement’ has worn off, it’s best to have a budget and stick to it. If your choice is a little pricier than what you would normally spend, consider whether it’s money well spent. Classic pieces are always worth a little more but can be mixed and matched with other pieces for years to come, whereas the latest trend might be heading for the back of your closet in no time.

Is it enhancing your current wardrobe or is it a one-off piece? This goes back to budget, but ultimately, buying new clothes should be an exercise in adding to your existing wardrobe in a way that complements pieces you already have rather than adding mismatched and uncoordinated pieces that you will never be able to wear together.

Do you really need it or is this retail therapy? It’s tempting after an epic let down or just a bad week to visit your local retail happy place and find something to soothe those frayed nerves. Ultimately, though, if it’s a choice being made in haste to make you feel better, it will feel like that box of cookie dough that you shouldn’t have eaten the other night. You’ll wish you’d skipped it. And remember, just because something is on sale doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to buy it.

Shopping for a new look can be a lot of fun, so don’t leave yourself open to buyers remorse. Bring the checklist. You’ll be glad you did.