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How Forever 21 Works (Plus 6 Tips for Shopping There!)


Forever 21 Store Front
Photo Credit

Let’s be honest, it’s tough to walk out of Forever 21 without something in hand. Since Forever 21 has appealing styles at even more appealing prices, we don’t feel guilty snagging that top or buying that bracelet. However, the inner workings of Forever 21 can definitely be somewhat of a mystery.

Below, I’ll tell you all about how Forever 21 works and give you some must-know tips and tricks for shopping at F21:

How does Forever 21 work?

Forever 21 is a fast-fashion retailer, meaning it provides the most recent runway trends at a much cheaper price than the designer originals. So how does Forever 21 make its money?

One theory, as explained by Business Insider, is that fast-fashion retailers like Forever 21 make their money two ways: cheap labor and cheap designs. The base of this theory is that Forever 21 can sell its merchandise cheaply because it makes the manufacturing process inexpensive. Forever 21 is often the subject of criticism for its controversial labor conditions, as well as being frequently accused of copying designs.

For a more in-depth discussion of Forever 21’s labor practices and why they may not be something you want to support, be sure to read our post on labor exploitation by fast-fashion retailers.

Another theory explained by NPR is that fast fashion chains like Forever 21 make money due to the large volume of merchandise they produce. Forever 21 has the resources to produce mass amounts of their products and then sell them all at an affordable cost. This results in Forever 21 selling the most current trends, constantly changing its inventory, and still maintaining dirt-cheap prices.

Forever 21 racks
Photo Credit

Unfortunately, the dirt-cheap prices and methods of obtaining them mean that the quality of clothing at Forever 21 often takes a hit… as most of us who shop there already know. However, if you still want a cheap piece of clothing regardless, there are ways to get the most for your money at Forever 21 if you’re willing to do a little work! Here are six tips and tricks for shopping at this fast-fashion retailer:

6 Tips for Finding the Best Quality at Forever 21

1. Look at the seams.

This tip is important, because seams are very telling about the quality of an item. Take the two sides of the seam and gently pull them apart. If the two sides of the seam appear to come apart relatively easily, the thread starts to come undone, or you feel that with a little bit more energy you could rip the item in half, it’s not made well and won’t hold up for long.

2. Check if it’s see-through in multiple ways.

Although see-through tops are a huge trend, we can all agree that there are some items we don’t want to be transparent. First, check if your item is see-through by putting your hand inside and seeing if your hand is still visible. Next, examine the item in one of the big mirrors and hold it up so that light is hitting it.

After that, try it on and use the space in the middle of the dressing room area to walk up and down. Forever 21 clothing is often very thin and can be see-through even if it’s not supposed to be. If you want to be sure you’re not exposing any skin, play it safe and buy something with a lining or plan on wearing something underneath.

3. Check the labels to find diamonds in the rough.

The care label contains very useful information, and yet many people forget to look at it or don’t know what they’re looking for. The first thing to check on a label is the materials. Natural fibers like cotton and linen have better reputations than synthetic fibers like polyester when it comes to quality and durability.

Though you’ll probably never find a cashmere sweater or real leather jacket at Forever 21, keep your eyes open for some great wool, linen, and silk blends. Most of the clothing at Forever 21 is made of artificial fibers and poly-cotton blends, so if you find a piece in another fabric, you’ve probably stumbled across a gem.

4. Learn how to care for your clothing.

Also on the label is the washing, cleaning, and care information for the article. It’s important to read and understand this part of the label because a large factor in how long your item will last depends on how well you’re taking care of it. You could also try washing all of your Forever 21 clothing together on a gentle cycle. (For more, see our laundry tips for fast-fashion clothes.)

5. Look for Love 21 items.

I have found that the better-quality items at Forever 21 are often the Love 21 items. Love 21 is their contemporary line that targets a slightly older shopper than the regular Forever 21 brand. Since Love 21 is geared towards a more mature audience, the clothing runs slightly larger, is more modest, and is often better quality.

6. Realize that you get what you pay for.

At the end of the day, you get what you pay for at Forever 21. It may not be the destination for high-quality, long-lasting clothing but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shop there if you love the clothes.


For more on this subject, see our post on tips and tricks for shopping online at Forever 21, where we share our favorite ONLINE shopping tips to get the most for your money.

Now we want to hear from you. What do you think? Do you have your own tips for shopping at Forever 21? Leave us your thoughts in the comment section!

Posted on on July 4, 2013 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , ,

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28 Responses to “How Forever 21 Works (Plus 6 Tips for Shopping There!)”

  1. 1
    July 4th, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    I’ve actually found 3 really nice real leather (2 are suede and one is lamb leather!) biker-style jackets form f21! And the best part is they were all on sale for around $30-50!
    So definitely keep an eye out for the gems! Forever21 has some nice (and affordable) stuff. Personally my tip is to just look through the racks and when you see something you like, check the quality/material first and stay away from “hand wash only”.

  2. 2
    July 4th, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Honestly, I’ve mostly given up shopping at Forever 21. I’ll still stop by when I’m at the mall to scan the store, but most of the clothes look so horrendously tacky and visibly cheap, not to mention they cut most of their clothes very boxy which does not flatter an hourglass figure. The amount of time that it takes to sort through their piles of clothing to find the tiny percentage of pieces in the store that *might* actually be decent isn’t worth the effort.

    Most of the clothes I have purchased there fell apart after a handful of wears, and I don’t wash my clothes unless necessary. I’m really into quality and being trendy isn’t my top priority, so I’d rather pay $50 for a shirt that will last me a long time than $10 for a poorly made, ill-fitting, see-through one.

    I can see how people who prioritize being trendy or are on a really tight budget (though IMO in the long run you’re better off getting quality) could appreciate F21, but it’s just not for me.

  3. 3
    July 4th, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    I have definitely found some really great clothes at Forever 21. Two more things I would add are: ALWAYS check the sale section first. When you do that, check to see if there are multiples of that item you want, because sometimes, they have different prices on them. Lastly, many of their clothing sizes run differently depending on the piece.
    Great article!

  4. 4
    July 4th, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    I definitely think that forever 21 clothes are not the best quality, but i have bought specific items that i still have well-conserved (it depends on how much you take care of them) but let’s be realistic, fashion changes everyday so it is not worth it to buy expensive fashion pieces if they’re not going to be trendy next season. If you really want to be fashionable forever 21 is the best option. I believe that basic always-in pieces are worth buying at some quality brand store, but fashionable pieces such as tribal or floral pants that won’t be trendy next summer… i’d think it twice…

    Great article though, im not from the us and im taking a trip to NY next month so this is really helpful, im definitely shopping at f21.

  5. 5
    July 4th, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Wow, what a great article!! I love Forever 21 and you can definitely find some great deals on great clothing items! This article had great tips for my next shopping trip to the mall :)

  6. 6
    July 4th, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    I work at Forever 21 and another way to make sure you get great deals on cute stuff is to ask the sales people. I have to memorize the floor plan and the sections, and yes every store is divided into sections based on style. So if you find something you like but want something similar, I am sure I can find it for you..just ask! Also keep in mind that every F21 gets different stock and not everything that is online is also in the stores, but please don’t be afraid to ask! :]

  7. 7
    July 4th, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    This article will be checked confinuously on my next trip to Forever21. This is so helpful since on a college budget I can’t afford to shop many other places.

  8. 8
    July 4th, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    I used to work at a Forever 21. I’d like to add a few more tips. ALWAYS try your items on because of the strict exchange only policy (you cannot get your money back). A lot of items in Forever 21 get blended, meaning that there’s only one or two left of an item and are attempted to “blend” with other items, so go through racks carefully and keep an eye open. I would also like to emphasis that the clothes at Forever 21 are made cheaply; be wary of the item if it seems like it will fall apart after one wearing and always pay attention to how the label says it should be washed. The best part of Forever 21 and the like stores is the ability to try new fashions at a low price, so when you go, don’t be afraid to try on something new.

  9. 9
    July 4th, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    What I love at F21 are the accessories. I’ve got two sets of three pairs of earrings and a necklace. Those 3-pairs earrings set are always situated at the cashier section. And they go with everything in my closet.

  10. 10
    July 4th, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    What a helpful post! I’ll definitely keep these things in mind, as I love Forever 21. Will you be doing more posts along these lines?

  11. 11
    July 5th, 2013 at 4:03 am

    Thank you so much for writing this post! I do a great deal of shopping at Forever 21, but I’ve never understood why everything is so cheap. Armed with the knowledge from this article, I feel like I’ll be able to get more bang for my buck in there. Thanks again!

  12. 12
    July 5th, 2013 at 4:20 am

    I totally agree with caring for clothes! Their clothes can last years if you know how to take good care of them. Basic sewing skills go a long way too.

  13. 13
    July 5th, 2013 at 10:20 am

    I love Forever21 and can’t wait for them to open in the Netherlands!!

  14. 14
    July 5th, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    When it comes to F21, online shopping is the way to go, in my opinion! Much better sales, much more variety, no hassle of long lines etc etc. Look out for their free shipping codes and sales- usually the best ones are around Christmas time. I have gotten cardigans for $5, tops for $6 or $7, dresses for $5, jewelry for 99 cents, and the list goes on! When i’m getting items for that cheap, it doesn’t matter to me how long it will last, but maybe that’s just me (although some of their nicer tops/sweaters have lasted me at least 2 years).

  15. 15
    July 5th, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    I really would recommend the seam test everywhere you shop, regardless of the brand name. You may feel like because you’re paying more, you’ll be getting better quality. Trying to invest in an expensive peice only to have it unravel is very disappointing.

    Do you have any tips on how to shop for sturdy, well-made denim?

  16. 16
    July 5th, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    For ladies who are plus size, I would suggest shopping online for Forever 21. In my area we have at least 3 different Forever 21 stores (I work at one). The store that I work at is the only one that carries the plus size section and it is minuscule compared to the straight sizes. If you don’t like what you order online (or it doesn’t fit, etc.) you can always return it to a Forever 21 store if you don’t want to bother with the hassle of shipping. Yes, you will receive store credit, but you will be able to use it online. Hope that helps!

  17. 17
    July 6th, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    It seems a little messed up that nobody noticed the part about cheap labor and terrible working conditions, and everyone jumped straight to, “I’ll keep these tips in mind next time I shop there!”

  18. 18
    July 7th, 2013 at 12:18 am

    I am a current employee for Forever21 (and have been for 4 years) and I think that this article is GREAT! My main suggestion for buying items from Forever21 (or any fast-fashion chain period) is to THOROUGHLY inspect clothing before you buy it. There are too many times when I see customers come in and make impulse buys or not trying on clothes because they’re too lazy and get upset when it can’t be returned for a refund.

    Also, be nice to the people who work there. If you’re kind, they’re more likely to do you favors (like call other stores to hold an item for you or let you return items past their exchange date =) )

  19. 19
    July 7th, 2013 at 6:51 am

    Whenever I see something I love I buy it right then and there. Several times i’ve come back for an item and it was nowhere to be found. Missed out on some good deals

  20. 20
    July 13th, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    I actually love F21 jeans, I got a few pairs when they were on sale for $10 and they’ve lasted a few years. They’re quite stretchy so they fit well but they do tend to lose their shape after a few hours of wear.

  21. 21
    July 25th, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I look at forever 21 clothing for inspiration for altering and sewing my own clothing or cheap stuff i pick up at thrift stores. But of course I use other sites for inspiration too. ;) A simple tip that I use myself IF I do buy clothing at forever 21 is to buy it a size bigger because lots of stuff there shrinks easily and quickly. That’s all.

  22. 22
    February 27th, 2014 at 11:31 am

    I like to shop at forever 21 since its a lot cheaper than other stores and it has more taste of fashion trends than the other stores. My clothes from forever 21 are in good condition till now just keep in my how the proper washing is and be careful on how to wear it. find your real size to avoid noticeable seams :)

  23. 23
    March 21st, 2014 at 2:15 am

    I work at Forever 21, and another great tip is to always inspect your clothes for dirt, deodorant, rips, missing buttons, etc. Often times, we are told to put things back on the sales floor that shouldn’t be, due to not wanting to lose out on money.
    My tip is don’t shop here unless necessary. If you can afford a better quality store that doesn’t exploit its workers (both factory and store workers), shop there. It hurts my heart to see people fall into this company’s foul play.

  24. 24
    April 11th, 2014 at 4:53 am

    Forever 21 the Netherlands is ready for you!! And im forever 28 and excited…

  25. 25
  26. 26
    June 10th, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Thanks for linking that, Kathy! They make a great point in their article – I agree that our discussion of Forever 21’s labor practices should have been longer and featured more prominently. Here’s a link to a long post we did on the subject a few years back that should have been included in this post: Fashionably Informed: Exploitation of Labor by Popular Clothing Retailers. I’ll update this post with a link to it now.

  27. 27
    October 30th, 2014 at 2:44 am

    Also a few more tips;
    -chiffon type material or polyester silk wanna-be type blouses are great buys, they look dressy, never get pilling, and can be easily hand washed and air dried to lengthen their life.
    -also absolutely check for any issues thoroughly beforehand. I have tried things on even, then when I go to wear the item a month later, discovered huge randomly placed extremely noticeable holes, that made me wonder how I could have ever missed such a thing.
    -even if you think you only fit into one particular size, always look at items, something a size smaller/bigger could be made differently and actually fit when you otherwise would not think it would.
    -when buying jewelry, wait for sale!
    -make sure things have prong settings, and kind of smack things around to see if stones fall out, and check for flimsiness. Better to have it happen before you buy it in store, and wind up stuck with crap.
    -stay away from combo fabrics, like say a polyester type blousy top with say ribbed sweatshirt type trim. That looks super cheap to the rest of us, and will to you too eventually.
    -HUNT HUNT HUNT. like another person said, often time there is only one item left in any given size, so lots of treasures can be burried in overcrowded racks with other items of the same color, so search really good.
    -when i go shopping i expect to shop for however long it takes, to search the entire store top to bottom. Do not take kids with you to go here, and just be in hunt mode. I take a crap ton of clothes in the fitting room with me, like a good 20 at least per visit and only end up with 5 but you never know what will fit, and how it will look. A maybe before trying on may become and wow gotta have it after, and vice versa.
    I personally have not had anything fall apart on me, and I think I have a pretty good judge of how well something is made to last before buying it, which probably explains why nothing has fallen apart on me.

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