For several years now, I’ve had a motto of sorts that I should not generally pay full price for clothing. With gazillions of stores (most of which have sales), loads of discounts stores, and countless online coupon and cash back sites, the shopping world offers endless options for new clothing and accessories. I believe that I can create a complete and stylish wardrobe relying only on things that are less than full price. [Disclaimer: I have paid full price for something on occasion, but those instances are few and far between.]My favorite method of curation: the thrift store (but we’ll get to that next week). For now, I have compiled a few of my methods for ensuring I save a few dollars each time I decide to add to my wardrobe.
As a general consideration, patience pays – literally. I commit to building my professional wardrobe over time, browsing on occasion at discount stores when I have time, waiting for coupons to arrive in my inbox or mailbox when I had a specific purchase in mind already, and generally not committing to too many items in one shopping trip for fear of becoming a bit reckless. I have found that waiting until the right opportunity arises can save me boatloads of money. For example, I have been interested in redefining my blazer collection lately and discovered a lovely white blazer last fall. I browsed the internet for a while and kept my eyes open when shopping for something along these lines but nothing showed up at the right price. Several months later, I received a discount code for 35% off one item (including clearance items) at Neiman Marcus Last Call. I thought this was worth a peek at their website and, excitedly, I found a $248 white blazer nearly identical to the one I envisioned that I purchased for $59 (plus I used a code for free shipping). I knew I wanted a high quality blazer that would last in my closet and waiting until the right time (with a coupon and when bright white was a bit out of season so it lay dormant in a clearance section), I saved a good chunk of change relative to impulsively buying it when I first added it to my wishlist.
Email Subscriber: I hate having an inbox overloaded with retail offer emails, but I have selected a couple of my favorite go-to professional stores and signed up for their email offers. Often times, I modify my preferences to receive monthly or weekly emails, as many retailers default to daily or multiple-per-week email blasts. I delete nearly all of the emails; I would be broke if I purchased each time I received a ‘great deal’. However, the emails provide a great way to find out when items go on sale to snag something on my “want/need” list. Sometimes, I even receive special promotions offered only to email subscribers. For certain stores, I wait to buy something only until I have a coupon or discount. Many times, this can save as much as 30 – 40% off regular prices.
Go Chic or Go Home: As an alternative to subscribing to emails to some of your favorite professional style stores, Go Chic or Go Home offers an application on your personal profile page that provides a feed of recent coupons from selected retailers, including some of my favorites for the office like Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, and JCrew. You’ll need to sign up and request membership to the site (which is free) but it’s super simple. And not only does your personal home page provide you with a feed of discount opportunities that doesn’t flood your inbox (among so many other newsworthy updates), the site primarily provides a great resource for a bazillion ways to remix anything you could possibly find in your closet inspired by regular, real-life people (i.e. fun yet practical looks that can be replicated or used as inspiration) all of whom upload their favorite outfit photos for your viewing pleasure.
Discount Stores: I frequently visit Nordstrom Rack, Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, DSW or similar discount stores. Items tend to be from a prior season, though I intend to wear all my clothes through multiple fashion seasons so this does not bother me at all. I stop in to these stores periodically (and buy something less than half of the time) in search of great investment pieces. For example, I purchased several Tahari dresses (purple, blue, and pink) and my Kate Spade dress from Marshall’s over the last year and half and love the high quality material and structure.
Cash Back Sites: If I have something particular in mind, I often head to my computer to buy the item online. When shopping online, I always search for a coupon code and/or start at a cash back site like Shop At Home or Ebates to get a few percent in cash back on something I planned to purchase anyway.
Corporate Accounts: This certainly won’t apply to everyone, but especially for those who work in larger corporations, consider if your company has a corporate account that may provide discounts at some of the more traditional retailers. Through my husband’s former employer, for example, we received 20% discounts on purchases from Jos. A Bank and Brooks Brothers. I won’t be buying anything at Jos. A Bank for myself, obviously, but Brooks Brothers has a very fantastic (though somewhat expensive) women’s line. Often times, there may be caveats to the discounts, like they only apply to full priced items, but it’s certainly worth investigating if one of your favorite shops where you already spend your hard earned money is on the list.
Regardless of the store or discount, always remember the popular rule that something new should work with at least a few things already in your closet. If a new item doesn’t work with anything one already owns, that piece will likely spend a lot of time hanging out on a hanger and collecting closet dust. Additionally, it probably lives outside the buyer’s typical style genre and strays from the “go with what works” mantra I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It’s certainly ok to buy a new, trendy piece or something slightly out of the comfort zone once in a while, but it’s probably not the place to make a fashion investment in something expensive. The thrift store or the clearance rack at Target may be the best place to try a new trend.
On that note, be wary of collecting a closet full of trendy or unique items none of which work together. I’ve been down that road, and it’s not fun to compile an outfit from miscellaneous, unmatchable misfits. In fact, such a situation led to a memorable moment in my continued style journey where I found myself staring in a full-length mirror in the bathroom at my office amazed at how terribly clashing my color combination turned out that day. The mirror moment began a brief period of wearing only black with pops of color, something I have since outgrown and overcome. But surely I hope others can avoid the same embarrassing realization.
Know What You Own: To assist my shopping decisions while out on the town, I invested a bit of time in cataloging my entire closet. First it helped to assess and declutter the clothes in my closet. Then, over the course of a couple months (thank you maternity leave), I cataloged all my clothes on an app on my phone and it’s been worthwhile as a reference tool. I use Stylebook (and know that Go Chic or Go Home is another great option) so while out “window” shopping, I can scan the items already in my closet and ensure it works with plenty of other items I already love and wear.