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  • Shopping secrets to bargain hunt your way to top style…

    Money-saving insider tips for shopping on a budget

    Dear Sharon:I want to look like a model but I don’t have the moo-la! I need great ways for finding trendsetting clothes without spending a lot of money. Please, can you help me? —Style Saver (San Antonio, TX)

    Dear Style Saver: Never forget that great style is all in the mix, not in the price tag! Where you purchase your clothes and how much they cost you is irrelevant to the final outcome. Just because you spend a fortune on an outfit, does not guarantee a look that’s right for you.

    Ironically, most of the models and ôin the businessö fashionistas who are wearing the cutting-edge clothes that you crave didn’t necessarily walk into a big store and buy them off the rack- they probably got them either at a discounted cost or as a gift right from the source!
    There are so many different ways to shop and none no better than another- each appeals to a different type of customer.


    Some of us love to idle through designer look books and pre-order all that they desire for the upcoming season to fill their closets with the latest and the greatest. Wow, what a fantastic way to shop, if you can or if that’s your thing.

    Then, there are those of us who would rather hang by their cuticles rather than set foot in any store other than a major department store where they buy what they need based on the selection in front of them. And, basta, that’s it for the shopping season! Oh what a bore that would be for the rest of us who love the lure of the hunt rather than the simplicity of convenience.

    The more adventurous shopper finds that bargain hunting opens your eyes to the unexpected, the unconventional, and, maybe with a little luck, that one extra-special piece that you didn’t even know you would covet until you laid eyes on it. For the more eclectic consumer, shopping away from the main stream offers one-of-a-kind finds and super cute accents that make a wardrobe unique, personal, and the process more interesting. Caveat emptor: never bargain hunt when you are starved for style, you’ll only pick a fashion lemon. A bargain is only worth something if it is meaningful to you, not because of the amazing price.

    Getting more fashion for less is a concept that has finally reached it’s time to soar. Vertis reports in its Customer Focus« 2004: Discount Store Study that 34 percent of Generation X (ages 28-39) women shop at discount stores for their fashion purchases and 15 percent of women with household incomes of $100,000 or more shop discount stores for their fashion items.

    While the cognoscenti scour primo discount stores (like NY icons Loehmann’s, Daffy’s and, Century 21) and sample sales are prevalent in and around big cities, it’s the oddball way of shopping that’s more accessible to almost anyone anywhere.

    Since everyone can use some funky insights to save some money, here’s the FocusOnStyle
    Bargain Hunting Guideto help you make the most of what you’ve got without spending a fortune:

    – Go to the source– That’s where designers get inspired- Armani-like sailor pants from the Army & Navy store, slinky charmeuse camisoles and gowns from thelingerie department, trendy skinny black jeans from its classic rock n roll source, like Trash & Vaudeville on St. Marks Place or any other alternative punk rocker boutique.

    – Downsize– Love the look of a skinny, lean Helmut Lang or Christian Dior suit, try the boys department. Just add girly stilettos.

    – See the show, get the clothes– Fashion runway shows are now broadcasted to the public almost instantly. See what the designers are showing for next season and find fashion-forward, similar items onsale racks now.

    – Upscale consignment shops– Many designers pay models and the crew in clothes instead of money. The in-season booty ends in cool consignment shops in the cities where designers have showrooms.
    These shops are also great for evening dresses and stand-out outfits that some woman can only wear once. Online resale shops are a fab resource for finding gently worn vintage Hermes Kelly and Birkin bags and Chanel classics.

    – Shop online discounters-They are sometimes able to buy only a fewor a single item from big name closeouts so many times they get better prices than brick and mortar stores. See our Bargain Mall for ideas.

    – Souvenir shop– What’s mundane and inexpensive on its home turf is totally cool and unusual some place else. Example- Ubiquitous Western shirts out in the wild west are Gucci cowboy hunky hot or quirky Emo style in the city. Never underestimate the fit of a man’s booty in cowboy cut Wranglers– on the ranch or off!

    There’s so much Mexican white macramÚ that everything in Mexico looks fresh for spring. Designer black clothes on the sale rack in warm places like Dallas are an unbelievable find for urbanites! Donning vintage ski clothes in most upscale ski resorts is just not done, but totally happening in big cities- hit the thrift shops when you’re not on the slopes.

    – Thrift shops– Why shop what everyone else is wearing when you can have a selection that spans a lifetime? Best time to find a large inventory is after the holidays, spring cleaning and, the end of the season. Wealthy areas and socially popular causes get better merchandise. Top fashion finds: anything mod, trench coats, Eighties ruching, vintage Chanel and Adolfo tweedy jackets, thirties movie star silk charmeuse gowns, seventieshigh-waist jeans and denim skirts a la Chloe.

    – Charity shopping events and bazaars– Volunteers scour some of the best spots to hit up for donations and the prices tend to be cheaper than many second-hand shops- plus, proceeds help a cause.

    – Pawn shopsA fun source to find vintage jewels (how very Prada looking), crocodile or alligator handbags and, oddball items.

    – eBay-Just about everything and anything turns up on eBay! one day. Add your wish list item to a ôMy Favorite Searchö and they’ll email you when a similar item shows up for auction, you can even watch the price without bidding

    – The needle in a haystack– The surplus lot at an auction is always a steal. For instance, discovering fine jewelry off to the side at ostensibly a carpet and furniture auction. Or, finding some vintage couturein an estate auction. How about an odd handbag that the upholsterer also makes that turns up next to the pillows in a furniture store?

    – Shop your own closet– If you’re not the best about spring cleaning, you probably have a slew of things buried in your closet that you forgot you even owned. See what you can rework into your existing wardrobe or tweak with simple tailoring to look fresh. If your mom or older relative is a clothes horse, you probably have your own vintage shop right in the family.

    – Film and Television set sales– When the show or movie wraps, all the props are up for grabs. If you don’t have an insider friend to tell you when and where, there are web sites that cater to leftover props.

    – Set yourself up as a little business– Buy closeouts and keep the favorites for yourself as the best form of advertising and self-promotion. Sell the rest on eBay!

    – Shop wholesale like a small boutique– Purchase multiples of the same items to pass along to friends and family (a common trick for shopping at some childrenswear showrooms for women with very large families) or have home shopping parties to take the orders.

    -Dumpster Shopping– A great way to find cool furniture for free. Find out the day that the sanitation department picks up furniture in trendy and upscale areas (SoHo and Park Avenue are NY favorites) and cruise by the night before. Absolutely not recommended for anything that you need to dig out or involves getting dirty, just the stuff in plain view! A great way to fill up a starter apartment.

    –January 26, 2004

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