By Karla Bowsher
When I last went clothing shopping, it helped me bring home two pairs of shorts, four pairs of shoes, and nine tops – most of which were name-brand – for less than $300. If I had paid retail price for everything, it would have cost me about $550.
Here are a few tips for maintaining a brand-name wardrobe on a thrift store budget:
1) Plan ahead. I plan mall trips with the same level of detail that I plot out road trips. Most savvy shoppers know to check the Internet for coupons before leaving the house, but don’t forget to also visit the websites of the stores you plan to visit and even nearby stores that you aren’t planning to buy from. This is the best way to find out about the latest sales right from the source.
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2) Think outfits. To get the most use out of new clothes, think in terms of outfits instead of single articles of clothing when you shop. Don’t worry: This doesn’t mean you have to purchase an entire outfit every time you buy an article of clothing. It just means that before you buy a new article, you should think about the ones you already own or that you intend to also buy that day. In other words, make sure the new article can be paired with pieces you already own or that you don’t mind buying, too. No matter how cheap it may be, a red blouse is useless unless you already own bottoms that it would match or unless you don’t mind spending further money to be able to wear the blouse.
3) Keep a “want” list. No item of clothing is ever really a need. Sure, you might want some new tops, but it’s not like you own zero shirts and therefore must go shopping for tops today. So for all the items you want but don’t urgently need, make a list.
4) Know where the designers hide. If you’re really hung up on designer labels, learn where to find them for less money than any mall store sells them for. Take Burlington Coat Factory, for example. I can’t stand their stores, but I will browse their handbag section – I know of nowhere else that sells bags by names like Nine West and Guess for less money.
And these days, some designers are exclusive to certain lower-end department stores. In 2008, Dana Buchman gave up designing ultra expensive pieces that you would only find in stores like Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman Marcus in order to make pieces that still reflect her style but are affordable – and only Kohl’s carries them. Vera Wang even designs a line for the retailer.
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