Dress to the Nines (For Less)

Tuesday, 4 January 2011 | Tags: , , , , ,

It's a good time to be a clotheshorse. The market is saturated, making it easier to find stylish clothes and designer knockoffs. To keep your closet au courant and your wallet intact, heed this advice and remember, at some time or another just about everything goes on sale.

1. Avoid paying retail

This is especially true if you shop at chain stores like Banana Republic or department stores like Nordstrom where absolutely everything goes on sale. Believe us, we’ve tested this theory! At the start of every season we hit all the chain stores and make a list or take digital pictures of items we want, and then we track them. Whether you can wait for the sale price or if they’ll still have your size in stock are the main considerations for paying full price or waiting it out. But don’t forget to try Commandment #1: Negotiate!

Tip: Find out whether the store offers sale adjustments. This means if youpay full price for something that goes on sale a week later you get arefund or credit for the discounted amount. 

2. Hit the discount stores

You CAN shop at places like Wal-Mart or Target and still be stylish. Blend discount items with other designer pieces (like a bargain camisole with your favorite designer suit).

Discount and off-price stores mark down designer clothing by about 30% to start with, and go down from there. The best merchandise moves quickly though – these places are a hub for smart shoppers, so you’ll definitely want to find out when new shipments arrive. Befriend the sales clerks!

3. Get on the sample sale circuit

Sample sales are a great way to get designer items for less. (These are garments and accessories that have been used to showcase a designer’s new line). Local retailers and designers offer low low prices on a selection of sample sizes – which tend to be on the small side.

To get onto the sample sale circuit, inquire with any independently owned clothing store or a local designer. Once you get on one list, you’ll find you quickly get invited to lots of private sales. Much like designer warehouses, the best buys at these events get snapped up very quickly. Arrive promptly on the first day but not too early; most sample sellers have a strict ‘no early birds’ policy.

4. Browse the web

Online shopping is a great way to nab hard-to-find and vintage items (especially handbags). The eBay auction site is a good place to start. But before buying, check ratings of individual sellers, learn how to spot a fake (see below) and keep in mind that most bidding happens in the final minutes of an auction.

We like to check online stores to compare prices and watch for sales. And of course, we recommend shopping from sites where you can return the merchandise if it doesn’t fit properly, since buying clothes sight-unseen can be tricky unless you’re familiar with the line. And don’t forget to include shipping, handling and currency conversion (if buying from outside the country) in your budget.

5. Spot the real McCoy

Can you tell the difference between a Kate Spade and a Kate Splade? The problem with shopping at discount, second-hand stores and online is that you’re oftentimes weeding through lots of fakes.

A fake is something that is designed to copy a designer brand, whereas a knockoff is designed to merely look similar. Of course if you’re not a purist a knockoff is a great way to save money and stay stylish. But producing fake merchandise is an infringement of copyright laws and therefore illegal.

Whether it’s a fake or a knockoff, here’s what to look for:

  • Labels: Are they sewn or glued on? Glue is a sure sign it isn’t the real deal.

  • Logos: Examine them closely. Is the name of the brand spelled correctly? Sometimes a knockoff will be slightly different. (i.e. “Carter” instead of “Cartier”)

  • Lining: A true designer handbag is lined, often with leather.

6. Accessorize

A new pair of earrings, belt or scarf can be a great way to update your wardrobe for just a few dollars. Accessories are one easy area to go cheap and still look like a million bucks. The key is to buy simple pieces, with few details.

7. The seven-day rule

Remember our seven-day rule to curb impulse buying. If you see something you just have to have – but don’t really need – walk away. If it’s still on your mind a week later, you were meant to be together.

8. Investment items vs. disposable duds

There is so much selection out there today at so many price points, you can literally buy a pair of jeans for $25 dollars and a pair for $500. So when should you spend more and when should you spend less? We think it’s worth investing in a business suit in a neutral color like black; boots; a winter coat made of wool; jeans that make you look and feel like a million bucks; and one basic handbag for day.

9. It’s a Style Safari out there

We’ve found that if you’re prepared to hunt around, you can find quality T-shirts, sweaters, undergarments and fun eveningwear without breaking the bank. Be patient, curb your impulses, and get on the sale circuit. You know how fun it is to shop, and it’s even more fun if you can stretch your dollars (and then you can also shop some more!) 


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