top: Banana Republic Factory Store // boyfriend sweater: Banana Republic Factory Store // sunglasses: Raley's // straw fedora: Target
Alright, so here's the stich. I follow a ton of fashion blogs on my Bloglovin' account, and it's starting to irk me how MUCH money some of these people spend on clothes. Yeah, you better look dang cute if you are wearing head-to-toe Marc Jacobs with Tori Burch flats. But my sister's husband put it best this weekend...we were sitting around discussing some fashion bloggers (we are a house full of girls, what can you expect?!) and he said, "it's not style if you're taking it off a mannequin." You'd think we were all in the presense of the Dali Lama when he said it. We even called my mom in so she could hear and agree. If you have money to spend on clothes and can buy things straight from the store windows, that rocks for you and yours. Sometimes it's nice to see how the other half lives. That's why I continue to follow these blogs and read Vogue. Those clothes are pieces of art that are to be admired, not purchased.
So here I am, telling the world my secrets as far as designer shopping is concerned. I wear name brands. I love nice clothes. But I refuse to pay retail. I even refuse to pay the factory store prices. I shop CLEARANCE at the OUTLET mall. That's my secret. And years of working in retail have taught me some of the "tricks of the trade" if you will, and it's totally changed my outlook on shopping. I've been on the other end of retail and I know the way things work. I hope I can open some doors for you as far as your thinking and the things to look out for while shopping. That way I can save you years of folding clothes and help you save a pretty penny along the way.
Step one: Find the outlet mall
Outlet malls are a beautiful thing. Find one near you. If it's close, you're lucky. If it's a bit of a drive, plan a day trip and drive out for a shopping day. Just GET YOURSELF TO THE OUTLET MALL. (I'm sorry, I don't meant to yell. But this is some critical shopping info!)
Step two: Map your route BEFORE you get to the mall
Malls in general are big and overwhelming. Almost every mall has an online map with a list of stores in the mall. Print these out and highlight the stores you know you want to check out when you get there. This sounds like a lot of work but it saves you a ton of time once you get to the mall. You will know the best side of the mall to park, you will know which way to walk, and it will eliminate a lot of aimless wandering.
Step three: Once you know what stores you want to hit, look online and makes some calls
Stores will sometimes post their coupons on the mall website or keep extra coupons behind the counter for people who call ahead asking for them. Stores want to keep their customers happy, so if they're expecting you they might keep one behind the register. Write down the name of the person you talked to when you called and find them when you get to the store. A personal connection with the associate will help you get the best deals possible. Just don't be fake, no one likes a phony. Look online for printable coupons or download a coupon app. If there are stores that you go to on a regular basis, sign up for their email lists to get updates on upcoming sales. Banana Republic and Ann Taylor are both great email lists to be on, neither of which send an overload of emails and they often include coupons in their emails. For the little ones, Carters/Oshgosh and Gymboree are the best email lists to be on for the same reasons. Carters almost always has a 20% off coupon for the people on their email list to use.
Step four: Be careful to not be tricked by marketing ploys
This is a hard one. Some stores will run "everything 50% off sales" periodically. These usually mean that new product is going to be rolled out soon and everything is going to get marked to clearance or sent to an outlet store once the sale is over. Some stores will actually mark things that were previously on sale back up for these promotions. For example, if something was running at 75% off earlier in the week, the product will be marked back up to 50% off for the sale in hopes of getting extra sales before the product is marked down and sent to clearance or the outlet once the sale is over. Now, if it's an outlet store running an "everything 50% off" type sale, it's a different story. If this is the case, you need to call ahead and see if the sale includes their clearance. These are where I have found some of my best clearance finds. The top and boyfriend cardigan I am wearing in the picture are both from the Banana Republic Factory Store. They were both clearance items that I bought during a storewide "everything an additional 50% off" sale. The boyfriend cardigan was regularly $59.99, on clearance for $24.99, and on an additional 50% off sale for $12.50. The top was originally $39.99, on sale for $20.00, and on an additional 50% off sale for $10.00. Cha-ching.
Step five: Look for deals where you might not normally think to look
The sunglasses I am wearing in the picture are from Raley's. That's right, the grocery store. I have found some of my favorite pairs of sunglasses at drug stores and gas stations. Keep an open mind and swing by the accessories isle when you are out grocery shopping. I find lots of cheap accessories in the most random places this way.
Step six: Know what looks good on you, but keep an open mind
The thing about clearance is they are usually the things that didn't sell. This doesn't mean that these are bad products, it usually means that they don't look as cute on the hanger as they do on your body. My mom refers to this as having a "vision". Some things just look terrible on the hanger, but you can't judge a shirt by its weird shape on a hanger. Go out on a limb and try things on that you wouldn't usually try on. I found a peplum top at the Gap Outlet for about $3 this way. I just tried in on and it turned out to be one of my favorite shirts. I also tried an embellished top on at the Banana Republic Factory Store that looked boring and frumpy on the hanger, but it fit just right and would be really easy to dress up or dress down. This one I got for a whopping $1.50 with an extra 50% off clearance sale. Holy moly. Trying different clothes on is the way to broaden your style and find some really unique pieces for really awesome prices.
Step seven: Be patient
Clearance shopping takes some time and some getting used to. It's really easy to walk into a store and feel intimidated by the clearance section. It's usually not as kept up as the rest of the store, it's usually not in season, and it usually isn't very well lit. This is often on purpose. The people running the store would rather have you buy from the front of the store where you will be spending more money and increasing their sales. This is especially true for commission-based stores. Also, when trying things on, not everything is going to fit and not everything is going to look amazing on everyone. Know that it takes some time and trips back to the fitting room before you are going to be finished. But I guarantee that it's worth it to paw through the mess and spend some extra time in the fitting room to find something really special. Your bank account will thank you.
...and no one needs to know you didn't spend retail on your clothes. I sure as heck won't tell. Promise.