Discount Designer Style Tips- Life secrets for looking great on the cheap(er)

Honestly, this is one of my favorite posts… 

Some kid’s went to summer camp, I went shopping at discount stores (ok, some trips too)!  I consider myself lucky to have had a mother who from a very early age instilled in me the virtues of looking the best you can with any budget and who taught me how to seek out the best deals. I never (like to) pay full price for anything if there is a saving alternative!

For this week’s continuing reprise of some of my greatest evergreen material leading up to the 15th anniversary year of FocusOnStyle online, I want to spend this week’s review looking back at how you can get the best deals on great fashion. 

Don’t forget to tell me what your discount shopping tips are in the comments at the end. Read on & revisit. S.H.


Top Ten Budget Fashion Stylist Tips for Living Fashionably Large on a Lean Budget

Dear Sharon: The poor economy is hitting close to my home and I’m afraid to go out spend a lot on clothing this fall. I really feel the need to cut back or save on non-essential items but don’t want to sacrifice my wardrobe unnecessarily. How can I continue to look good when my savings account is on a leash? –Rich Pinch (Greenville, DE)

Dear Rich Pinch:
I loooooove a good bargain and swear the biggest calorie burning rush comes from the immense jubilation and satisfaction one feels from scoring big time savings on something fabulous! That said, I do buy at retail, but nothing beats a bargain and that’s in my blood.

While most kids went to summer camp, I spend my happiest childhood days combing the racks of Loehmann’s, the big mama of all designer discount stores with my mother. Yes, my dad sometimes came too; he not so patiently sat on the bench in the front with our French poodle. I actually believe that I was secretly happy to be a chubby kid because the larger size got me to fit into designer clothing like Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren at an earlier age. There were no designer names in kid’s clothes then, or at least not ones that my parents could afford.

Now Loehmann’s was not the organized discount store that it is today. It was a cavernous space in Brooklyn with a mumble-jumble of racks that were supposed to in some sort of order but never were. Sizing and brands, let alone styles were wishful thinking and that’s what you had to do: Think fast. Because if you didn’t hone in and grab what you wanted an arm would come from the other side of the rack and snatch it out right from under you. And damn it, those clothes were not returnable so you had to pretty sure about something before you bought it.


Chic On The Cheap Budget Fashion Tips:

In this very crazy way, I learned about good seaming, how to instantly recognize quality, and what a designer label looks like when it is cut out and only a few threads remain. In an unending highway of hangers, I could pick out the better clothes, just from a few eye-catching details. It’s spoiled me because to this day, I still have issues wearing anything that is not made well and do occasionally gag at paying full retail for it. My husband thinks my favorite word is sale, but I think it’s more like 70% off wholesale! That motto has helped us fill a floor-through loft with some rather astonishing home decor too. I guess I was a recessionista long before it became a buzz word!

Living in NY is great because you can supplement your discount store finds with designer sample sales. If you get there early, you may be lucky enough to find the one-of-a kind samples that never made it to production, otherwise you and every other sample sale fashionista will be sporting the same big name fuchsia pants that you nabbed at a sample sale ouch! As a stylist, I was lucky enough to sometimes put a dib on showroom sample that they would hold to sell to me before the real sample sale began. But most of us don’t have the luxury to find chic on the cheap like I have or don’t have the patience to shop that way- I find the open-endedness of it exhilarating. But we all want to wear the best clothes that we can without having our savings taken to the cleaners. Start to think like a stylist and rethink how you shop.

Look Better for Less: Since we are all suffering in our financial pockets lately, let me share life secrets to look great on the cheap. And, sometimes you don’t even have to buy anything new at all! Read on…

Top Ten Stylist Tips for Living Fashionably Large on a Lean Budget:

1. Think Like A European – Particularly, the French. They have small closets and big style. One of the secrets of French chic is buying the best you can afford in both quality and figure flattering fit and wearing the hell out of it! Europeans don’t go mad with a closet full of trends that last a fashion minute. They have a tendency to glom on to one or two unanimous trends and update their wardrobe with that look for each season. When they but their core wardrobe pieces, tailoring comes first.

2. Free Fashion – Who doesn’t love a freebie? And when it’s lurking in your closet, it’s even better! Rethink what you own. Rework what you have for refreshed style! If you splurge for a good piece on sale, its quality will far outlast its fashionableness. If that same piece looks amazing on you, although getting a bit dated, tuck it away until it comes back in style. So many so-called fashion experts tell you to toss what you don’t wear, but if you have the space indulge yourself the luxury of storage. That’s a great thing about getting older, you have your own vintage shop right in your closet! Simply tweak its combination on its second fashion go-round.

3. Tszuj it Up – As a stylist, I spent a good part of 15 years of work on photoshoots making ok, if not mediocre, clothing appear so amazing that you had to have it. The secret? Tszuj it up! Each individual element on its own may be less than stellar but put together in a certain way and the result is phenomenal! Learn to turn up a collar, roll a cuff, add the unexpected to make what you wear unique and distinct. Also know when to take it back a notch.

4. Ahead of the Curve, Lead Don’t Follow – The obsession of following every celebrity trend is dizzying. By the time a trend gets saturated in popularity because a pseudo reality star wore it while getting a cup of Starbucks with a throng of paps perched curbside cameras at the ready, that trend is double-snap ovaaah! You can still wear it, but not for long. Learn to acquire the knack to be a season or so ahead of the pack. Think about what you see next season’s fashion shows and get inspired to meld its nuance into your wardrobe now.

5. Quality Snob – Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s chic. Every designer worth their altruistic weight in gold has a very cheap chic limited edition line these days. Some are ok for what they are. Others are poorly made garbage. Wear it a couple of times if you must, mix it with something nicer, and get the nuance of the trend. If it honestly is so shoddy, and some are, ditch it and wait to buy something better that isn’t doing you a favor with its modified designer label.

6. Open Eyes, Open Mind– Everything stylish is not necessarily where you would expect it. Move out of your department comfort zone. Menswear, the junior department, yes that cheapie store sometimes, a flea market, thrift store, or a non-fashion store with a few odd clothing pieces are all alternatives ways to discover stylish clothing in a spot that’s least expected.

7. Don’t Skimp on the Details – Little things whack a major wallop when it comes to style! Learn the 12 steps to style! You may think you have the knack to take in the waist on a pair of pants, but a good tailor will do a far better job at finding the right fit. There is nothing worse than cheap buttons and poorly sewn zippers to class-down an outfit. Change the buttons to gussy up poor quality, but a bad zipper is a bad zipper, forget it. A good watch, classy scarf, well-made coat, not to mention some shoes and a bag are items that make a not so pricey outfit look elegant.

8. High/Low, Never All From the Same Place– The clone wars can infiltrate your wardrobe too. Wearing an outfit straight off the runway as it was shown is rather dull and unimaginative. Wearing any designer from head to toe isn’t that great either. The same is true for wearing an entire outfit of budget clothes it just looks cheap. By all means, wear the cheapie chic but add that one sick piece from a top designer to rich up your look. Personal style is all in the mix! A favorite pair of pants of mine are from the H&M $10 sales, but the Hermes (sample sale) scarf keeps them guessing about the price tag. You can add a thrift shop find cashmere sweater too.

9. Color and Print – I’m all for adding crazy color and bold prints to your wardrobe, but don’t make it a staple that you wear like wild just one-way. Otherwise, they’ll be snickering, here she comes in that darn fake Pucci dress that she wears every other day. Use obvious pieces as wardrobe accents not go-to wardrobe staples. Remember, natural fibers hold color better than man-made ones, unless it’s sports clothing.

10. Become a Fashion Stalker– If there’s something you want but can’t afford, stalk it! See if you can find a less expensive version. Look for store sales. Watch for coupons. Comparison shop. Become as motivated to hunt it down as a deranged ex-girlfriend with a mission.

SHOP: Online Sample Sales & Deals

What are your secrets for budget fashion chic on the cheap tips? Please share and comment below…

Original Published Date- October 25, 2008


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