What You Should Always (Or Never) Buy At Forever21

Navigating Forever 21 as an adult who can no longer get away with flower crowns can be a truly tricky thing. Using it for good instead of evil, and understanding what is "savvily thrifty", and what is "tragically immature-looking," can be near-impossible. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking certain clothes at Forever 21 are perfectly acceptable purchases to make when, in reality, they fall squarely into the "under no circumstances" category. There's just so much stuff there, and it all costs $12, how is anyone to supposed to know where the line is?

Well, this is how you know: I made you a guide. And here are 7 things any reasonable adult must never buy at Forever 21 – and the 3 things that you must only buy there.

What You Must Never Buy:

1. Insane Statement Jewelry

Forever 21's Jewelry

There is something almost comforting about how consistently insane Forever 21's statement jewelry is. It is always missing the mark of being adult life-worthy in new and interesting ways. And, beyond this, you know that, like all the other statement jewelry that came before it, it's very likely going to stain your skin green and might not last as long as one might want jewelry to last.

No grown woman wears Forever 21 statement jewelry, except for things like costumes or theme parties. There are simply better places to get it.

2. "Leather" Jackets

Forever 21 Leather Jackets

I'm no snob when it comes to outerwear. One of my most prized jackets is vintage, acquired for a few bucks at a thrift store. But that jacket at least once held some sort of value. Forever 21 valiantly tries to make functional pieces of outerwear that are stylish and durable, and still only charge $18 for them. I applaud their efforts, but is damn near impossible. And no leather product – real or faux – should cost that little if you're looking to add it to an adult wardrobe. If you're 16 and think this looks dope, go for it. But you have to accept that it's time to let go of uber cheap, extra-faux leather goods at some point.

3. Flimsy Skater Skirts

These always seem like such a good idea, until you realize that they somehow manage to be unflattering and clingy on all but a very specific kind of (usually really young) body, even though they are in a theoretically flattering cut. They never end up working out, even though you see them and are like, "Hey, a skirt that costs eight dollars – I would be insane not to buy it!" Resist the urge to be cheap on this one, because it is probably not worth it.

4. Experimental Jeans

Forever 21 Jeans

If you want to buy your standard-issue skinny jeans/jeggings/whatever at Forever 21 because they are stretchy and fit well enough and get used up quickly anyway, more power to you. They have their flaws, but they are still a relatively functional pair of skinny jeans at the low, low price of $15 or whatever.

The real trouble comes when you start dabbling in Forever 21's deeply questionable collection of "statement" jeans, which usually come in some variety of acid washed, shredded, studded, and boyfriend-cut. This, in case you didn't know, is a supremely tragic combination for adults. Like all F21 jeans, they convey that "I read that these were trendy in a magazine and thus bought myself a pair" vibe that no one is going for. The only girls who can wear these are Tumblr famous "models" which, not-so-incidentally, is something else you should probably know well enough to outgrow when the time comes.

5. The "Sexy Baby" Romper

Forever 21 Romper

Nothing says "24-year-old barista at a fair-trade coffee shop who is weirdly bitchy towards customers" quite like the Forever 21 sexy baby romper.

6. The "Internet Culture Trash Compactor" Sweatshirts

One of the things that Forever 21 undeniably specializes in is sweatshirts emblazoned with things you would find on some tragic #brand Twitter's feed. It's all half-hearted internet jokes, donuts, pizza, and misused memes (or things misspelled in other languages.) Even on the occasion that these tops are actually cute – and I admit that this donut sweatshirt could be worse – you don't want to be recognized as someone who is wearing a graphic tee that is undeniably geared towards hateful 13-year-olds who love Vine stars. You just don't.

7. Patterned Leggings That F21 Encourages You To Wear As Pants

No. No, no, no, no, no. No. The problem here is that these should only be worn when bumming around your house, but the prints and patterns F21 picks just scream, "I dare you to wear me in public." You are too old to do that, but not mature enough to resist the temptation to do it. This is the "Buy No Print Leggings" age no-go zone.

What You Must Always Buy:

1. The "I'm Trying To Get Some D, Have Some Fun, And Throw This Away" Dress

Sometimes you are just trying to go out, enjoy a nice-looking dress that makes you look sexy and feel uncomplicated, and maybe spill some drinks on yourself while dancing without having to care. And nowhere on the planet is better for this sort of dress than Forever 21. It's the single-use dress for all of your "I just broke up and I don't give a fuck" needs.

2. Tights, tights, tights

You're going to wear them out in a week. You're going to catch them on your subway seat and get runs in them. You're going to experiment with a million different kinds of patterns and then hate them the next day. You might as well only pay $5 for them.

3. All things basic

Ultimately, the smartest thing you can do with your money at Forever 21 is stock up on everything that is going to be layered under something else, worn to bed, worn to the gym, or replaced every few months. In a word: basics. All t-shirts, tank tops, leggings, and the like should be bought here, or somewhere comparable. Because if you are one of those people who spends $40 on a plain black tank from Anthropologie (or, God forbid, American Apparel), you are a fool, and deserve to be separated from your money.

Images: Forever 21(12)