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The dilemma: You need want a few quick, trendy pieces to liven up your wardrobe, but you don't want to spend a month's mortgage payment on it. You think, I'll just run to the mall and hit up Forever 21, only to be instantly scared off by the first mannequin in a sheer belly shirt. Pause, take a breath and go back in. There's actually plenty for ladies over 21—you just have to be smart about what to look for. Here are our five best tips.

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Shop in the Right Section

When you enter the store, put your blinders on and make your way toward the back (or upstairs) of the store. Look for the collection labeled "Contemporary." It's made with slightly higher-grade fabrics and cut in more forgiving silhouettes. Or just know that the more age-appropriate pieces may be deeper in, not by the door.

Get the look: Forever 21 jacket ($31)

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Pay Attention to Fabrics and Fit

Whatever you end up buying, make sure you do a "see-through" check. Hold the item above your head to see if light shines through the fabric. If it does, that means so will your panty lines. Also, we tend to buy a size larger in Forever 21 pieces, knowing that over time (and machine washes) the hemlines might creep up.

Get the look: Forever 21 pants ($20)

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Try on Everything (and We Mean Everything)

We know: That fitting-room line is a beast. But beware: Forever 21 doesn't offer cash refunds, just store credit for returns. So make sure your purchases are solid before you hit the cash register. A rolling tab leads to poor impulse decisions.

Get the look: Forever 21 sweater ($60)

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Stick to the Trends and Avoid the Basics

To dress like a lady, invest (elsewhere) in wardrobe foundations that will flatter your curves and last for years. To dress like a fashionista, experiment with Forever 21 statement pieces that you can donate next season when you're tired of them.

Get the look: Forever 21 pants ($23)

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Shop Often and Don't Get Discouraged

Listen: You won't strike gold every time. These types of stores turn over merchandise quickly, so while today might have been a bust, try again in a week. Chances are they'll have a whole new shipment of classy, off-the-shoulder tops. And you won't be making rash decisions like an actual 21-year-old.

Get the look: Forever 21 blouse ($45)

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