Friday, September 24, 2010

How I Shop

As a fashion lover, I shop pretty frequently. I have a (usually) small budget for shopping. My plan of attack could be described as "guerrilla shopping". I hit many stores first with a brief scan of inventory and then if nothing has even caught my eye, I may go in-depth to comb through sales racks, crowded thrift store racks or clearance bins. I thought I'd share my method for getting the biggest bang for my buck.

Thrift stores - I've bought everything from target tees with tags still on to J Crew, Anthropologie, even H&M (*note: a store Tennessee doesn't have). I usually don't leave a thrift store having spent over $20. Normally I spend around $4-8 on small trips. My current thrift stores available aren't the best I've ever known. I have one goodwill and the occasional rummage sale. But in the past I have gone thrifting in places like Gulf Shores, AL, Lexington, KY, and closer to Nashville, TN. Thrifting on vacation can be rather thrilling.

Similar to a thrift store, I want to also mention Rugged Warehouse, Marti and Liz and Essex. All three are places that older pieces that didn't originally sell or overstock get sent. Sometimes there's damaged items, there's always random sizing. The only real difference is all the clothing here is new, except in the case of Marti and Liz which is lightly used. But I treat these places a lot like thrift stores. They're often dirty and disordered. You have to rummage, check for defects, and try on for fit. But like thrift stores, the odd gem can pop up.

Sales and Clearance Racks - I'll be the first to tell you that shopping off-season can be a god-send. Stores, even expensive ones, will slash prices right and left to get rid of old stock. I used to hit NY&Co clearance racks frequently for extremely cheap buttondowns, camis or trousers. All of which will never really go "out of style" since they are basics. I adore the fit of clothing at Ann Taylor Loft but their regular prices are vastly more than I'd ever spend. I've literally gotten jeans from there for $3 and $6. Being a unique size isn't always a burden. It can actually sway things in your favor.

Trying out new stores (mostly online for me: F21,Charlotte Russe, and All Saints for example) can be tricky. Especially if you're ever unsure about fit or quality. I have taken advantage numerous times on end-of-season sales to snatch pieces I've lusted after since I first saw "look books". The key is to attempt to research the brand/specific piece and know their return policy. I've found both F21 and Charlotte Russe to be more difficult than my recent experience with All Saints. Both CR and F21 charge me taxes and shipping, bringing "low" prices up drastically. All Saints was free shipping and no taxes (or you could view it as being "included" in the price).

I like my prices up front, so companies like All Saints and SockDreams are more likely to get my business. I also know I can trust their businesses to take returns if needed and they both have good quality control from what I've been able to experience. Watch the return policies though if you are buying from a sale or clearance rack. It can be great finding something you need, but awful if you get it home and it doesn't fit or is damaged and you can't return it.

Etsy/Ebay/Amazon - I've made 3 purchases through ebay so far. I've gotten surprisingly lucky. Each time I researched the brand, how specific sizings ran, how the Euro size ran. I sent the sellers questions. Double checked through the feedback for any consistent problems with a seller. Reviewed photos closely to determine authenticity (reading up on the Brand, especially if it's one known for knock-offs) and made a very careful judgment about the purchases. Like purchasing from a real store, read the sellers return policy. I try to determine that I will absolutely NOT need to return before purchasing, but that's not always a possibility.

Fluevog ebay finds
Amazon also has deals through sellers or Amazon Warehouse Deals. All of which can be hit or miss, but I've gotten two pairs of great shoes at slashed prices. Doesn't hurt to check.

Etsy is a new one for me. I've ordered from personal shops where people construct the items they sell. This has usually proved to be a wonderful experience. It costs more, but you often get high quality, individually tailored pieces. As for the vintage aspect of etsy, I've had some hits and misses, but overall seller's disclose any issues and often provide good information with fit. Making sure you know how measurement compare to both your body and your regular clothing measurements is important when shopping online, but more so when you aren't working on a "standardized" measuring system.

Shopping my own closet - Taking a page out of Sal and Kasmira's book, I try to consider re-purposing or DIYing out of my own closet. The button down I have was a shirt dress that I cut the sleeves off of and then cut the length from. It was bought for a super low price and turned out to be a bad fit, but after my "alterations" I've worn it many different ways. I've turned tunics into regular tops, removed sleeves, and fixed hems. Sometimes it takes a tailor, but it's a fun thing to actually change the one thing about a piece that you always wanted different. Or take an old favorite and breathe new life into it. 

I've also begun sewing, tailoring many of my own pieces to increase fit or completely create new pieces and accessories. Feel free to check out my Sew Sunday projects to see. There are projects of various skill levels - give it a shot.

Special pieces - I have a very few choice things in my closet that I've paid an expensive full price for. These are special to me pieces that I buy for quality, uniqueness and downright love. Most people opt to spend on new tech gadgets like smartphones or ipads, but I've probably spent less on my "special" pieces than D has on his gaming systems. Even my Miz Mooz boots, my most expensive purchase ever, I got on sale, had an e-coupon for, and managed get free shipping.

Goggles4u and ZenniOptical - Recent trials that my husband and I have used.  We're both glasses wearers and neither of us have insurance any more. Getting an eye exam done at walmart and ordering from these two companies is how we're keeping ourselves not only visually intact, but stylishly as well. The downside being the wait times and not knowing if things will be perfect for your face, but if you have the need - these places are legit. If you're very concerned, pay with paypal and keep a close eye on your deadlines for filing a dispute. We haven't needed to so far, though there are some complaints out there.

If you made through all that, thank you for reading! If you have any alternative hints or tips to shopping, I'd love to hear them. Do you have anything unique to your area that you use to shop? Do you lament your lack of certain stores or availability? Are you an online shopper?


  1. Fab post! I'm a similar shopper. But I commend you on rummaging through thrift shops and discount retailers. Usually I don't have the patience. I need a little more order than that. But I do scour sale racks at Macys, Target and Loft regularly. I love eBay for shoes? And I do savor the those special pieces. I also commend you for keeping on budget. I'm terrible at that one.:0)

  2. Its always interesting to hear what other people do. I definitely like to hit clearance and off season sales too. I also do a lot of online shopping, and really love stores (like Zappos and Torrid) which let you keep stuff in your shopping cart for a long time, which lets me price watch. I usually wait until prices are right and try to make a big enough order to get free shipping. For brands I know well, I'm more fearless about sizing and ordering online. I also like stores that let you do in store returns for online orders (Target does this). Er, this is getting long. I hope you have a great weekend and thank you so much for your comments today!! :)

  3. Wow, you have a smaller closet space than I do, yet you manage to look like you have an endless wardrobe...the sign of a creative, stylish dresser :)

    Cool shopping tips too. I like to shop sales and sometimes online. I really don't have the time or patience for thrifting so I leave it to people who are much better at it, like you!

  4. Thanks for the great tips Megan...its always interesting to see how other bloggers shop....:)

    Happy Weekend!!
    Statements in Fashion

  5. These are great tips. I tend to hit thrift stores first, then Ross, sometimes Charlotte Russe and Forever 21 but I should really do online for those two because being IN the stores is very overwhelming (not to mention irritating) to me in my old age. ;)

    My problem is that if I have a $20 budget, I'll look for two $10 dresses instead of just buying a nicer pair of shoes for $20. I can't wrap my mine around spending the entire budget on one single item. I have to get over that. It's the reason I don't have very many "nice" things.


Thanks for reading. Got something to say? I'd love to hear it!