shoppingSpring is officially here in this part of the world, which in Florida really means it’s now summer: The heat is spiking, the humidity is climbing and the mosquitoes are readying the troops to siphon as much blood as they can get from my arms and legs. I’ve been getting more mobile as I recover from spinal surgery and so have been anticipating needing a few new hot-weather additions to my wardrobe for when I get back out into the world, which has me doing some window shopping online.

This made me think about the which cycle days are best for clothes shopping. In my view, they’re the middle of Week 1 through the middle of Week 2–Day 4 to Day 10 in your monthly cycle.

Why? On these days, your estrogen has risen enough to make you confident, patient, energetic and flexible–key for withstanding the harsh fluorescent light and horrible funhouse mirrors they put inside dressing rooms, dealing with throngs of unruly fellow shoppers fighting their way through the sales racks and having the stamina to try on outfit after outfit until you find the perfect collection to fill out your closet.

Rising estrogen on these days has also helped you shed any excess fluid your body was holding onto from your premenstrual water retention days, plus any premenstrual constipation you experienced should be long gone by now. So, you’re feeling more confident about what you see in the mirror and are getting a more realistic idea of how clothes fit on you.

Best of all, this hormone helps boost your mood, which makes hunting down just the right skirt, dress, shorts, pants and tops more fun.

Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go clothes shopping on other days in your cycle. However, you should be aware of the potential hormonal pitfalls that can come on these cycle days–and how to deal with them. Here’s what to watch out for:

Day 1 to Day 3: Your heaviest period days

I’ve tried to go clothes shopping on these cycle days–and I almost always regretted it. Here’s why: If you’ve got menstrual cramps, then all those complicated Cirque du Soleil-like maneuvers you’ve got to pull trying to climb into skinny jeans or strappy dresses isn’t going to help the stabby pain going on in your uterus right now. At some point, you might wish you’d had the foresight to stash a Midol smoothie in your purse.

And, if you think you can make it through all 22 outfits you snuck past the 5-garment limit sign, forget it. I don’t know about you, but trying on clothes is like a mini-workout for me. It’s exhausting. And, low estrogen combined with low iron from menstruation on these early period days are a double-whammy to your energy reserves, which can make you want to abandon the last 10 dresses you crammed onto the tiny dressing room hook and just curl up for a nap in the corner till the saleslady comes and forces you out.

Have to go clothes shopping on these cycle days? Then use a favorite cramp remedy before you head out, pump up your energy with a healthy meal, nap or caffeine, and resolve to limit yourself to trying on only those outfits that you really like so you don’t peter out too quickly.
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Day 11 to ovulation: Your “what was I thinking?” days

Estrogen is peaking on these days in your cycle, which makes your confidence and optimism peak, too. Off the bat, you might think this is a good combination to bring with you to a clothing store. But, I’d like you to take a moment to think back to all those bad clothing purchases you made in the past. Like, reeealllly bad. The pleather miniskirt. The pink leopard-print bikini. The day-glo socks. Chances are, you were brimming with a lot of confidence and optimism on those shopping trips, too, which made everything you tried on seem like the perfect look and fit. This is the same effect high estrogen will have on you on these cycle days.

Not only that, high estrogen may give you the sudden urge to change your look and buy the kind of clothes you’ve never worn in your life–but, suddenly, you convinced yourself you’d look pretty darned rad in now. I have a whole collection of decorative leggings and long shirts that haven’t seen the light of day since one regrettable peaking-estrogen shopping splurge.

Heads up: This high hormone is also making you more prone to splashing out on expensive stuff. Like I’ve-got-my-own-private-jet expensive. Designer labels and jewel-encrusted items you’d normally steer clear of in other days of your cycle seem absolutely irresistible today. Researchers believe the reason we spend more on luxury goods during this phase of our cycle is because peaking estrogen pushes us to boost our power and beauty as a way to ward off potential romantic rivals when we’re most fertile. Unfortunately, no one told our hormones just how pricey it is to fulfill this primitive biological drive.

And watch out if a peppy salesperson happens to zero in on you while you’re casing the name-brand rack or jewelry display: Your high hormones make you more easily excited and swept up by an enthusiastic sales pitch, zapping any resistance you may have managed to muster.

Have to go clothes shopping on these cycle days? Then bring a friend. Optimally one who’s not in her Week 2 like you. This way, you can have someone give you a reality check about those faux alligator boots and pigeon-print shorts and who’ll grab the credit cards out of your hands when you’re tempted to buy a diamond tiara.
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Week 3: Your bloaty days

This week starts the day after ovulation and lasts 8 days–and thanks to progesterone, you’re likely retaining more water and having more constipation as each Week 3 day goes by. The result is that you could be convinced nothing fits right, which can make shopping for that perfect dress or pair of jeans about as fun as a root canal.

Another thing to keep in mind on these days: Rising progesterone is putting you in a cautious mindset and is making you prefer being in the background rather than hog the spotlight, so your clothing choices might reflect that. For instance, you may opt for subdued colors, a looser fit and outfits that cover you from head to toe rather than brighter, tighter, skin-baring ensembles.

Have to go clothes shopping on these cycle days? Then keep in mind that any extra bulges are likely the result of progesterone water retention and/or constipation, which are temporary, so give yourself a pass–and remember that’s what slimwear is for. Progesterone is known for being a sedating hormone that tires you out, so like your early period days you may want to limit yourself to trying on only those items you really like so you don’t use up your short supply of pep. Finally, consider bringing a snack with you that’s easy to eat, like a granola bar, since progesterone makes some women more sensitive to blood sugar drops between meals, which can trigger the hunger crankies out of the blue.
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Week 4: Your nothing fits right, nothing looks right, the world must be annihilated days

Ah, your Week 4–the premenstrual week. What could possibly go wrong by heading to a crowded, brightly-lit, loud, smelly clothing store on a day when plunging estrogen is sapping your mood, confidence, patience, energy and willpower? Let us count the ways….

First, thanks to a steep drop in mood and confidence as your estrogen level nosedives off a cliff, everything you try on sucks. It fits wrong, looks wrong, smells wrong, you name it, it’s wrong. All of a sudden, the clothing racks seem full of items created by a team of misogynistic males who have no idea what a real female body looks like or what a flattering design is. They need to be hunted down and annihilated immediately.

Second, as your patience sinks like a stone due to dropping estrogen, the other shoppers who are in the store with you suck. They shop wrong, walk wrong, smell wrong, you name it, they’re wrong. They’ve all clearly pre-planned their trip to the store together with the sole aim of ruining your shopping outing. They need to be hunted down and annihilated immediately.

Third, your energy is on the downswing as estrogen dwindles. You may not be as foggy and sapped as you were in your Week 3 when sedating progesterone was high. But, you’re probably not turning cartwheels in the aisles right now, either. As a result, you may wonder why the store layout forces you to walk three-quarters of a mile from the clothing racks to the dressing room, then another half a mile to the checkout counter. Clearly whoever designed this store sucks. They have their floor plan wrong, the dressing room placements wrong, the checkout stands wrong, you name it, they’re wrong. And they must be hunted down and annihilated immediately.

Finally, your willpower is at its weakest point all cycle long due to estrogen crumbling beneath you. As a result, despite hating the clothes, the shoppers and everything about the store, you still end up buying five full shopping bags worth of stuff. Not necessarily clothing–because it all sucks. But, you may get a bracelet, earrings, scarf and one of every little impulse-purchase item the manager has craftily assembled next to the cash register.

Have to go clothes shopping on these cycle days? Then choose stores that aren’t as annoying, for instance, they don’t have loud music blaring, you don’t have to race past a stinky perfume counter and they’re small, so the walks from the racks to the dressing room to the register don’t make you feel like you’ve just competed in a track meet. Also, shop during off-hours when the crowds are thinnest. Since the risk of overspending is high on these days, bring only the amount of cash you’re willing to part with or decide on a credit card limit before heading out to the store. Or at least keep receipts in case returns are called for.

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[Photo: Roderick Eime]

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