12 Ways to Get Great Clothes at a Deep Discount

You can build a wardrobe of high-quality clothes with designer flair without paying full price. Check out the latest ways to get the look without the expense.

It was probably somewhere around child No. 3 that I stopped caring. Jeans and pullover tops turned into my comfy daily uniform.

When my husband commented one day that I was dressing like an 80-year-old – a valid point since most of my clothes at that time were gifts from my elderly mom and aunt – I decided I had taken the casual look a little too far.

Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that clothes tend to fall into two categories: cheap in every sense of the word and shockingly expensive.

Following are some strategies that will make you look like a million bucks without scorching your budget.

1. Buy used … really

Before you turn up your nose at thrift shops and garage sales, know there are plenty of nearly new items just waiting to be snatched up for a fraction of the retail price. My local thrift store practically gives away its clothes, and there are some nice brand-name items to be found for those willing to search the racks.

2. Go to consignment stores — in person or online

If you’d rather not go on the thrift store treasure hunt, find a consignment shop catering to your clothing style. You can save even more by taking your unwanted clothes to the consignment shop and selling them there.

And now, as with most everything, there are online versions of consignment stores where you can get a vast array of choices and offload your past treasures. The RealReal, for instance, specializes in “authenticated” luxury goods. It’s not cheap, but it’s also far from full price on these designer items. Harper’s Bazaar ranks other fashion consignment sites along these lines, and explains how each one works. Swap.com, by contrast, is a consignment site with more mainstream and affordable clothing, as well as sporting goods, kids clothes, maternity items and so on.

3. Check out Craigslist

If you’re in the market for some high-end accessories or accents at a somewhat more reasonable prices, check out Craigslist offerings in your area. A quick search of the “clothing+acc” listings of the site in my area for instance, turns up several handsome designer bags for sale — including a Kate Spade New York handbag ($100), a Dooney & Bourke “hobo” style leather bag ($175), and a Coach Signature “wristlet” with sales tags still attached ($65) — as well as Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses ($40), a men’s wool sweater from Barney’s New York ($100), to name a few items. A friend of mine recently purchased a beautiful Filson wool coat off of Craigslist — paying $75 for the used (but virtually indestructible) item, which goes for more than $400 new.

4. Hold out for the sale

If you don’t want to go the used-clothes route, at least do yourself a favor and never buy retail. Some of the high-end designer boutiques won’t run traditional sales. However, virtually all the mainstream clothing stores do and many regularly discount products by up to 50 percent off.

Certain items tend to go on sale during specific months. Or, if you can hold out until the holiday shopping season, you can often find retailers that discount their entire stock by up to 50 percent.

5. Buy out of season

Even better than buying on sale is buying clearance items out of season. Summer clearance usually hits its peak around July as stores try to make way for fall fashions. October is when to look for the start of fall markdowns, while January can be prime time to pick up winter items. By April, many spring outfits will be moved to the clearance racks.

Clearance pricing is often progressive. Stores may start by dropping the prices 20 or 30 percent and slowly increasing the discount until it hits 70 percent or more. For the best selection, you’ll want to shop the clearance sales early. But if you’re not too particular or if you wear a less popular size that doesn’t sell as fast, wait until the end of the sale to save the most money.

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  • Ted

    Shop at JCPenney. They practically give away clothes! They’ve usually got $10 off $25 coupons online and I get $10 off $10 coupons quite often. Combine that with everything always 50% off (I know it’s a little manipulated) and the racks and racks up to 80% off (I did see some $9 pocket T’s marked up to $14 less 80% to $2.79, but that’s still a 69% markdown off $9) and you come out pretty well. Last weekend, I bought 7 pocket T’s and 1 long sleeve no pocket T for 25.52, less $10 off $10, less $10 coupon from $100 spent in December, for $5.97, including tax. That’s 75 cents per shirt. Even without the $100 December purchase, it would have been just $16.80 or $2.40 per shirt. Amazing.

  • Nancy

    An important aspect of saving money on clothing is knowing exactly what you want and sticking to your plan. Start by defining your style: what color palette, fabrication, design lines, texture, patterns form your style? I stay with color tones (as opposed to hues, tints, or shades); soft lightweight fabrics; flowing, rounded design lines; small even textures; blended patterns. Since doing this, everything in my closet mixes and matches. Go through your closet and see what you have. Sell or give away what you don’t wear and that doesn’t fit your plan. Make a list of wardrobe staples you need for your lifestyle. Take the list and color chart with you whenever shopping–yard sales, thrift shops, department stores. Pass up anything that’s not on your list. Buy only what you love.

  • Sally Schrock

    I hardly ever buy clothes at retail anymore. My favorite haunts are the local thrift stores where I’ve gotten almost free clothing–and eBay’s a great place too. I bought a practically new pair of New Balance shoes ($140 retail) for just $30 on eBay, and they are a PERFECT fit! Don’t limit yourself to thrift stores or Craigslist; go to eBay as well. A lot of the thrift stores here have special discounts on certain days of the week, so be sure to do your shopping then to save even more $$. I honestly can’t remember the last time I bought any clothing in a traditional big box store, and don’t miss those days at all.

  • Sherrie Ludwig

    I have great luck at a local designer consignment shop, just yesterday I got a pair of Nine West leather clogs, and two pair of jeans at a total of $40! And, I am a 16tall, not a skinny sample size.

  • Cynt

    But what do you suggest for us full figured gals? I wear a Roaman’s & FullBeauty 24 dresses?

    • Sadly, if your size is nonstandard in any way – plus, petite, or tall – you’re not likely to find a lot to fit you at the thrift shops. But you can still shop sales and use blogs to find deals. Check out some that are aimed at “curvy” women.

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