Of course, I’m loath to spend too much money on stuff I don’t wear much the rest of the year. Well, that and it hurts my frugal heart to spend much on clothes these days.
No greater evidence of this can be found than last year’s grumbling at paying $40 for a pair of trousers. Trousers that looked great and were Michael-friggin-Kors and retailed for $110. But dammit nothing should be $40 at Marshall’s!
But I digress.
Of course, the go-to frugal suggestion is to haunt your local thrift, secondhand and/or consignment stores. In case you’re not sure of the difference:
- Thrift stores are generally non-profit and tend to have the lowest prices. They also take anything and everything in wearable condition, so there will be a lot of shudder-worthy stuff.
- Secondhand stores buy clothes from people. This means a more discerning eye has been cast over the fashions, but the prices will be a little bit higher because they have to make a profit over the price they paid.
- Consignment stores are where people sell clothes through the store, and the store gets a percentage of the price. These tend to be higher-end labels, but they come with higher prices. Still a good deal compared to retail, but it starts to meet/exceed Marshall’s-esque prices, which makes me wary.
I did have some very good luck at thrift stores a couple of years ago. But usually I walk away empty-handed. It’s generally pretty difficult to find much that flatters my build (short-waisted, a few extra pounds and a chest that makes a lot of shirts too tight — and chest pockets very unfortunate). Also, with Arizona’s large population of older people, the thrift stores here have a lot of fashion for women in a very different age bracket.
I have a bit more success in secondhand stores. I inevitably find a lot more items that I like. Then it’s just a matter of whether they actually fit.
The one or two times I poked around consignment stores… Well, I was spoiled by thrift/secondhand store pricing. The prices there tend to be similar to (or more than) places like Marshall’s, and at that point I’d rather get clothes that haven’t been worn.
This is my go-to when I need new tops.
It’s a great repository of good deals — as long as you don’t mind hunting. Some of the stuff is truly hideous. Others show designers’ recent obsession with zippers. (Whyyyyy????) Or they have patterns that I like but also make me go cross-eyed. (It’s a strange dichotomy. And a dizzying one.)
But some of the fashions are lovely. Granted, not all of the “lovely” stuff flatters my frame, but people with other body types would rock the styles.
And despite my build, I’ve had good luck there. For my second FinCon, I found two shirts for just under $20. Last year’s deals were less impressive, but I still I got two nice sets of pants and a dressy, button-up shirt for about $75 before tax.
If you’re not convenient to a Marshall’s, go to Ross or TJ Maxx. I took Nadine to Ross last week. She’s now a size 10 — yay her — and most of her tops don’t fit her properly. She came away with two nice tops — one Anne Klein — for about $35. Again, yay her.
Macy’s clearance rack
I had to pick up something from Sephora (yay, Christmas gift cards!) yesterday, so while I was in the mall anyway I popped my head into Macy’s.
Alas, the sales on regular stuff were, as usual, unconvincing.
That’s not to say you can’t get a good deal on non-clearance items. But you have to watch the store like a hawk. Since Macy’s has sales just about every weekend, the discounts are rarely all that impressive. Yes, 20% off is lovely — but not when the original price is $60-70.
Instead, you have to wait until they have one of their “additional” offers. As in, the style is already 30% or even 40% off, and the sale subtracts an additional 20%. Even then, the prices are more acceptable than amazing; but sometimes you luck out.
The real value comes from Macy’s clearance racks. Which is how yesterday I got a shirt and a sports bra for $22 after tax. The sports bra is awesome because it’s supportive and because I don’t have many that really fit well. The shirt is awesome because it actually follows my curves. That made Tim happy; he’s been complaining that most of my shirts really don’t flatter my figure.*
I’ve found quite a few good deals on the clearance rack over the years, so it’s usually worth checking out. Even if you have to paw through many things that… well… there’s a reason they haven’t sold.
Outlet malls are great — up to a point.
The problem is that you’re usually shopping outlet prices on designer styles. Prices that, in Marshall’s, would infuriate me seem a lot more reasonable when I’m in the store’s outlet. It takes a lot to convince me to pay $30 for a shirt in most locations, but at the outlet mall the price seems inexplicably like a far better deal.
I think it’s just that places like Marshall’s have some ridiculously cheap prices, which keep you more in line with your normal values. When you’re at an outlet mall, $25-30 is the low end (by and large). So it seems like a good deal.
That said, they can offer some great prices. Tim loves Ecko jeans, and up until recently there was an Ecko outlet in Tempe. Almost every pair was $20 or less — a huge cumulative savings given Tim’s weight fluctuations over the last six years.
He was a 36 when we moved down here, and since then he’s gone down to a 34, 32 and, for about a year, a too-skinny 30. Each time his size changed, we had to go out and buy him some jeans. Each time, we bought four or five pairs. (He needs various colors because he’s got a compulsive matching tic.) Then summer would hit, and we’d have to go back and get him several jean shorts too.
Old Navy outlet prices aren’t usually that different from normal sales. But Gap outlets have decent markdowns. I’ve gotten $20 pants there on a few occasions, and Gap’s clothes last longer than Old Navy’s.
I also have found nice shirts for $15-20, which I consider an acceptable price whether I’m at outlets, Marshall’s or a (nice) secondhand store. So there are bargains to be had. You just need to keep asking yourself whether you’d be satisfied with the price in other, cheap-clothes-store settings.
Old Navy (jeans)
I’ve accepted that Old Navy isn’t the place to get tops — even if they had stuff that worked on me anymore. The items get holes within a year or two. So while I’m still wearing a bunch of tops from there, they’re designated “can’t go out in public with this but darn it’s comfy to lounge in.”
But when you want a good deal on jeans, this is the place to go. Assuming you’re not one of those aberrant women who can actually routinely find flattering jeans/pants in thrift stores. If you are, well… I’m sorry but we can’t be friends. Women’s pants and I always disagree about the placement (and size) of my waist; so I’m pettily envious of women who actually find and fit in secondhand jeans.
Old Navy has a few different cuts, so you’re pretty likely to find a style you like. For me, that’s the Diva cut. It’s low-rise — which on me means about mid-rise for normal women — and has the option of boot cut and allows for a real woman’s thighs. Which is to say “slightly pudgy but come on, fashion industry, they’re not that bad” thighs.
And to me, denim is denim is denim. I know some people swear by higher-end jeans. And if those are the only and/or best styles for you, well godspeed.
For the rest of you, Old Navy has comfortable jeans and amazing sales. I generally get mine for $15-25. One of the pairs I got is three years old and still going strong. Granted, I don’t wear jeans quite as often as most people. I tend to go for scrubby stuff (or nothing!) around the house.
But they do still get worn, and appear to have many years left in them… barring too much more weight loss.
* That’s because I’m around 30 lbs lighter than when I bought most of them. And I really don’t want to invest in clothes until I see where my weight settles long-term.