Yesterday I had some time to abuse in Scottsdale, which meant that I decided to go into every store in the mall until I found the object of my longtime desire: a vest. Vests are difficult to find: they have to be the right style (not a cold weather vest, not too business attire a vest, and not a "sexy" vest like you might find sometimes at Guess), they have to fit right (if it's too loose, it won't look right, and I'm small, so this proves difficult), and of course they have to be in your price range.
I went into Guess, Macy's, Dillard's, Gap, Aeropostale, American Eagle, Forever 21, H&M, Charlotte Russe, and a few others whose names I have forgotten and all I found were one or two sleeveless jean jackets. I was about to give up when I saw one more, a store I'd never been in. It didn't look interesting, but it still looked like a possibility, so I dragged myself in. Quickly, I found one vest style: but it wasn't quite right and had big metal buttons I didn't like. There was one more, a basic black one: but it was a size medium and there were no others in sight. But, aha, then I saw it: a dark blue, 100% linen, fairly basic vest in size small (incidentally, if they'd had an extra small, that probably would have been better, but this one works). Then I got the mall high.
It's always nice to buy something you like, but to specifically go into two dozen stores looking for one item and finally finding the only one in the whole mall is extremely rewarding.
And it teaches you something about stores and style. Even with spending only a short time in each store, there were some I wanted to run right out of (Charlotte Russe, I'm talking about you) and others where you wish you were buying more (I've been eyeing all the colorful pants at Gap . . . and let's not even talk about Anthropologie, which I visited just for the experience of it). Some look your style; some don't--though they may still have pieces you can use. Take the store, Love Culture, where I got my vest. I can't even remember what most of their clothes looked like, but I found something I wanted there (they also had, by the way, some perfectly priced short nylon & spandex shorts for wearing under skirts).
It's all about letting the stores tailor to you, not tailoring yourself to the stores. Let the search be part of the fun.