I do most of my shopping the same afternoons that I am out running errands or grocery shopping. I just usually make a point to stop by Kohl's, Target, Ross, (whatever is in the area) or a thrift store just before I run the particular errand, or shop for groceries. Sometimes I go to the Super Target where I can get both some clothes shopping and grocery shopping done. I shop at the mall maybe once or twice a month at most when I'm looking for something particular.
She also asked: "Do you bring the baby along?"
Yes! I can do this, though, because I am blessed with having a very mild mannered son! Since he was only a couple of months old till now (he will be two in a month or so), he has always shopped well with me. For Christmas last year he shopped with me for 8 hours and was fine! As long as I keep snacks on hand, let him walk around and not stay in his stroller the entire time, as well as allow him to stop at the play area at the mall (if we are there), he really does well when he goes shopping with me.
And she asked: "How often are you actually out in stores looking?"
As I said before, I go to the mall maybe once or twice a month at the most! I thrift maybe once every other month. I go to stores like Target and Kohl's sometimes as much as once a week, but I try to keep it to every other week. While I am actually in the store, I am a very fast shopper. I usually know immediately if an item is going to work for me or not, so it doesn't take me long. For instance, when I was at the thrift store to find my latest find (the red wrap dress), it took me all of two minutes of browsing the rack before I found it. It took me that long because the rack was huge and the dresses were only organized by color, not size. What takes time is the time spent in the changing room trying things on! Even still, I was at the thrift store for less than 15 minutes.
And here are the last of her questions: "1.) I have a wedding coming up in early October in Ohio and would like to get something new to wear. Wedding is at 4 and reception is at 6. However, I don't want to spend much money because I'd rather spend my limited budget on something I can wear on a more regular basis. Any suggestions on some good stores to start looking?"
1) You might consider pulling something from your closet and just changing it up a bit. Try adding a belt. Hem it shorter. Add a fabulous cardigan.
For where to shop try anywhere, just head straight for the clearance racks. Just know what you are looking for. If you are really trying to be budget conscious and you find something that is not perfect, but is only $5, figure out a way to make it work (maybe the right shoe would make it gorgeous, or maybe if you add a lacey cami underneath it will be just perfect).
I always recommend a dress instead of separates. Most Moms have few chances of getting to wear dresses, too, so take advantage of the opportunity! The most versatile of dresses is going to be made of a seasonless fabric without a lot of shine, and be a solid color. Pick a color that suits you best, but stay away from black if you can since it is becoming such a popular bridesmaid color, and it is more fun to stray away from something so classic as a little black dress. Also stay away from any of J.Crew's dresses (even though they have the greatest options, and even if they are on super clearance!) since J.Crew is now outfitting so many bridal parties (you don't want to end up matching a bridesmaid!).
If there is a Goodwill or local thrift store in your area, try browsing their racks first. Again, look for a solid color, seasonless fabric, a fitted waist, and a-line skirt. Don't worry about the length, you can always hem it!
As for store options, I'm a Target lover, so try there. Since so many people shop at Target, you will need to really personalize the dress, though, just in case someone else is wearing the same dress! Try this simple red frock by Isaac Mizrahi, add a belt or even ribbon (at the waist), a fine guage knit cardigan, and opaque tights. The dress below only costs $39.99. Be sure to hem all A-line dresses to your knee cap. That is the most flattering length for anybody!
A jersey dress is another great option. Jersey fabric is usually very forgiving as long as it has just the right amount of clingyness and drape. This one by Anthropologie is $118.00 (you might consider spending more if you find something like this since you will be able to wear the dress over and over again), It has a very nice classic sillhouette and you could really dress it down with boots and a sweater if you wanted to, and of course, dress it up for the wedding with some silver heels (or if you're brave try orange or yellow).
2.) Do you hem your dresses by hand or with a sewing machine? I would love to learn how to hem. I am 5'3" so some things don't fit me quite right."
2) I always hand sew my hems. I cut off the excess fabric (after measuring, of course), then I iron the twice folded edge, and hand stitch a blind stitch. It's quick and easy. Here is a great little tutorial for those who like to use a machine.
Hope that answers your questions. If not, let me know!