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.