Saturday, March 6, 2010

Style, on a budget

As much as I love shopping (those who know me will fervently attest to this), I'm still frequently shocked by the prices of most items in the store. Conversations with a few different friends over the past weeks had me thinking...even for a shopaholic, how much is style really worth?

It feels utterly ridiculous to pay $200 for, say, a basic top, and for those women not in possession of a large trust fund (translation: almost everyone), looking stylish on a reasonable budget can be a difficult feat.

Note: I said difficult, but not impossible!

Below, I'll list my tips and tricks for scoring the best finds, on a non-Bill Gates/Warren Buffet budget. What are yours?



With the economy in free fall, retailers are desperate to score as many consumer dollars as possible, and clearance sales are now virtually a daily event for designers. From online 'flash' sales through sites such as Gilt Groupe, Rue Lala, Haute Look and ideeli, to in-person sample sales and clearance bonanzas (check sites such as Racked for daily listings of all the sample sales happening in your area), it's easy to score designer duds for a whopping 70 to 80% off retail price.

In my opinion, unless you can easily afford it, you should NEVER, EVER pay full retail for designer items. NEVER. If you do a little digging into consumer pricing and market research, you'll find out that retailers' practice is to mark up their items anywhere from 5X to up to 10X their original value. TEN TIMES. That means that silk top you paid 200 of your hard-earned dollars for actually cost about 20 bucks to manufacture in some factory. Think about it.


Would you rather have five pairs of jeans you feel only so-so about, or two pairs that you absolutely love and wear every single day? For me, it's a no brainer: two pairs I love, all the way. I already know from experience that if I don't really like something, it will sit moldering in my closet, unused, whereas that one item I love will get worn to pieces for years. It's worth it to wait, save up, and treat yourself to one or two items that you really like, rather than buying a constant array of things that you don't, just because they're cheap.


In a culture addicted to instant gratification, this tip is a hard sell. However, it's probably one of the most valuable when it comes to getting the best deals. Be willing to wait before you buy -- don't get pressured into snapping items up because everyone around you is, or because you're lured by the thrill of an immediate purchase. By waiting and doing some research, you can often find amazing deals. More importantly, once a season comes to a close and an item is no longer hot off the shelves, retailers will dramatically lower prices in order to clear out remaining stock and make way for the new 'hot' item of the day. Case in point -- I scored an amazing pair of Pour La Victoire Janise flats for $49 at a Sacco clearance sale (going on at Sacco sales now). The same flats originally sold for $200.

That's it: My top three tips for being a stylish AND smart shopper, learned through hard-worn experience, and a once scary credit card balance. You CAN save money, reduce your debt, AND not be reduced to clothes-shopping at the 99 cents store, if you're willing to try.

You work hard for your money! You should be able to hang onto it, and look gorgeous and on-trend at the same time.

Pictured above: Fallon Jewelry Crystal Ball Drop earrings, on sale at Shopbop for $54.60.

*Photo courtesy of ShopBop

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