It's good to be back.

We’ve been in Phase 2 for a while now. So long, in fact, that nobody really seems to care about Washington’s coronavirus reopening phases anymore (remember when the June 19 change was everything?). But in reality, we’re pretty beholden to the rules those phases outline—they determine how many people can enter a store at once and inform that mandatorily conspicuous signage at the front of every complying shop. In short: Phase 2 is in charge of your shopping spree.

Even so, every store interprets the sometimes vague instructions a little differently. Aritzia at University Village, for example, requires customers to sanitize their hands before entering (so you’re free to touch the loungewear); Sephora only offers samples by request and keeps a strict eye on its limited capacity with a socially distanced line out the door. Nordstrom put up plexiglass partitions at the register.

You know what you have to do: Make sure your hands are clean, wear a mask, and keep your distance. But beyond those basic measures, here are some things you should know about shopping right now.

Can I Try On Clothes?

Yes, you are allowed to try on clothes under Washington’s Phase 2 guidance. That doesn’t mean every store allows it. The logistics of disinfecting the dressing room after every use and removing the clothes in question from the floor for at least 24 hours, both required by the state, can make it a difficult lift, especially at smaller shops. Ask before you invade the fitting room. 

How Can You Socially Distance in a Boutique?

In a small retail space, socially distancing can be difficult, especially if someone won’t stop browsing that rack you’ve got your eye on. All shops have capacity limits they must follow—currently, 30 percent of total building capacity, ranging by shop from just a few customers to hundreds of them—which makes the prospect a bit easier. But be prepared to show a little patience, especially as you and other shoppers get lost in the map of floor arrows: Retailers are required, a bit vaguely, to “arrange the flow of customers to eliminate choke points and reduce crowding.” Much like the floor arrows at the grocery store, some of these arrangements can be kind of a pain to follow. Plan accordingly; want to try on those jeans? Take them with you now, so you don’t have to circle back.

What Are My Payment Options?

If you’re still paying with cash in the year of our lord 2020, be sure to have a credit card on hand. Lots of shops aren’t accepting cash right now in an effort to minimize contact (how many times have you awkwardly touched hands with a cashier while handing them a $20?). Even better? Download a payment app on your phone—Apple Pay and Google Pay are among the most common—and ask or check online to see if the shop accepts it. You’re more likely to get a yes at chains like Sephora, but the technology is becoming more common in these minimal-contact times. The future is so sanitary.

How Can I Support Local without Shopping IRL?

Not quite ready to hit the shops? You don’t have to turn to Amazon. Check to see if the stores you love have an online shop. Many have created one by now, or are at least selling items on Instagram or Etsy (check there, too). Curbside pickup is a low-contact and now-common option that saves on shipping costs and provides the instant gratification of a shopping trip—some shops ask you to make a note requesting curbside pickup during checkout, while others offer local pickup as a shipping option (if it’s not clear how to arrange it, just call). If crowds are keeping you away from shops, opt for a boutique like Glasswing, which is open by appointment only, or Clementines, that provides virtual appointments. 

If All Else Fails, Call Ahead

Got questions about the fitting room experience? Can’t shop online, but have an idea of what you want? Call and ask. That’s the cool thing about shopping local, especially in times that are uncertain for everyone: Neighbors are usually pretty willing to help.

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