Filed under: Trends

Holiday Shopping… On A Shoestring Budget!

imageWho knew that the tanking economy would actually be a boon to holiday shoppers? Well, sort of. Due to the sharp drop in consumer spending, big name department stores across the country have been forced to unload excess inventory. As a result, a bonanza of mind-blowing clothing and accessory bargains can now be found both in-store and online. As a case in point, off-price retailers like Loehmann’s, DSW and Off 5th (Saks Fifth Avenue’s designer outlet) are currently offering coveted designer merch for up to 75% off retail!

This is just but one of several ways to score a red-haute holiday wardrobe on a shoestring budget. From cracking online discount codes to comparison-shopping sleuthing and haggling to hosting a “swap shop,” here are some sure-fire insider tips for tweaking your look, without putting pressure on your purse. Read more after the Jump!

imageHost A Swap Shop

Is your wardrobe in need of a minor modification or a major makeover? Either way, a “swap shop” may be just the ticket. This ingenious girls-only shopping soirée allows you to acquire coveted clothes while leaving your wallet at home. Plus, it’s a great way to meet other clotheshorses and swap war stories from the women’s front. Think you’re prepared to wave good-bye to your garb? Read these top tips for hosting a successful swap:

Swapping 101:

• First, send out an e-vite, the easiest way to get a gaggle of girls together Just make sure you give people enough time to clean out their closets and pack up the goods.

• When guests arrive, dump all the clothing into a central pile, making it easy to rummage through. Trade treasures for items of equal value. To avoid catfights, have each guest pick a number out of a hat (like a holiday party grab bag) giving first dibs to the person
      with the lowest number.

• Clothing and accessories should be gently used. Any garments with holes or stains are taboo. Launder or dry clean items before bringing them to the swap.

• Donate unwanted items to charity. Many organizations such as Housing Works and The Salvation Army offer free pickup services. Soles4souls.org will gladly accept gently worn shoes.

imageBarter for Brand New Clothing Bargains!

With today’s shaky economy, unsold designer goods are piling up in retailers’ stockrooms like never before. And since major department stores and independent boutiques are so desperate to sell stock before the arrival of next season’s shipments, sales are no surprise. Less well-known, however, is the fact that major retailers are willing to reduce prices on brand new clothing items and accessories, so long as you ask. Simply approach a store manager about the particular item in question, attempt to negotiate on the price, and they’ll likely shave off anywhere from 10% up to 30%. Sounds crazy, but in this depressed economy, it can’t hurt to ask.

Think you have the chutzpah to haggle in a major chain store? Better read these expert barter tips:

•  Politely ask the store manager if they can reduce the price of a garment when you get to the cash. If they refuse to offer the discount, either pay full price or walk away.

•  Shop around! If you know that another retailer offers the same clothing item at a cheaper price, politely mention this to the store manager, as they might be willing to match it.

•  Deals are often left to the discretion of salespeople. If you’re denied once, it doesn’t hurt to find a different salesperson or store manager and ask again.

Take Advantage of Online Discount Codes

imageBelieve it or not, but you don’t have to pay full price for designer clothes or accessories, thanks to discount codes lurking around in cyberspace. Have you ever noticed that little blank discount box that appears on just about every online retailer’s checkout page? Well, there is a quick n’ easy way of tracking down those mysterious promo codes. Crack ‘em fast with these full-proof online shopping tricks:

• “Google” the name of the store you’re inquiring about along with the words “promotion” or “discount code”. This is guaranteed to generate multiple promo codes for that particular e-tailer. Alternatively, there are also a number of sites that might help you track down discount codes, including:

Reesycakes.com: equips shoppers with the tools they need to make savvy purchasing decisions, such as discount codes for major online retailers and printable in-store coupons.

Salegrab.com scours the web for the hottest sales so you don’t have to. Simply sign-up for a free account, then search for all your favorite designer brands by category (clothing, shoes, handbags, jewelry, and home and garden) and you’ll instantly see the current sale price! Plus, you can even sort by sale, saving, price, votes and new, making salegrab.com that much easier (and fun!) to navigate. Make sure to tag your “grabs” (those tiny green squares beneath each item) to access all your favorite picks within the central “MyGrab” page. Happy hunting!

NearbyNow.com offers a fun new way for shoppers’ to find products or sales at your local mall, and even pick up the merchandise the same day from the Internet or phone before venturing outside. On the site, type in your state, click on the nearest mall, then enter the product you’re looking for. Find something you like at a price you love? Check to see if it’s in-stock. Once you register, you can even receive coupons sent straight to your cell, so you can walk right into a store and take advantage of special deals. This saves you money and time.

CurrentCodes.com: lists coupon codes for hundreds of well-known online stores such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Victoria’s Secret, Ann Taylor and Armani Exchange.

CouponCowgirl.com: a sassy, social shopping site that compiles the best online deals, bargains and coupon codes to use towards your favorite products and brands.

Just keep in mind that online discount codes constantly change, so you have to keep scouring the web to get the best deal.

imageComparison Shopping is Key

The best way to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck is to visit comparison-shopping sites such as ShopStyle.com and Glimpse.com before you buy. These sites enable you to search for just about any designer item by name and will instantly tell you how much that particular item costs along with a list of major e-tailers that carry it. This will save you from making costly impulse purchases. Plus, when you haggle at your favorite department store, you can mention you saw those butt-firming Seven jeans for $30 cheaper online and they’ll likely match the price.

image

Look Out for Online Discounts & Luxury “Flash Sale” Sites!

Bargains on runway styles can now be found throughout the country’s major department stores, independent boutiques, online retailers and outlets. Markdowns of fall and winter clothes and accessories are already in full swing! Case in point: discount e-tailers like Bluefly.com are offering current season designer stock with prices reduced as much as 75% off! So rather than wait til’ January to score Theory’s coveted patent leather peep-toe booties at the store (currently $495), Bluefly.com is selling the stunners for $222.99 – that’s more than half off! Even “Flash Sale” sample sites such as Ideeli.com are unloading unsold designer bags from Lanvin and Bulga for half the price. However, due to the time-sensitive nature of flash sales (36 hours or less), you have to act fast to score the stash. Come winter, even Net-A-Porter.com, the cutting-edge designer e-boutique, will be selling leftover luxury goods on their soon-to-be launched discount site, theOutnet.com.

imageAnother must for frugal fashionistas is ShopItToMe.com – a trusty (and free!) virtual shopper that alerts you (via email) when stores put your favorite designer clothing brands on sale in your size.

Lookout for Layaway!
Believe it or not, but layaways, a payment practice that became popular during the Great Depression but dissipated due to the prevalence of credit cards, is suddenly back in fashion thanks to the credit crunch. So the next time you’re at your favorite department store and find yourself drooling over that Diane von Furstenberg sequined vest, it’s worth asking the sales associate if you can put a down payment on the piece (typically 20% of the cost) and bring it home once you’ve paid it off. Just make sure you can cough up the cash before the pre-determined purchase date (typically eight weeks) or you’ll likely be stuck with a store credit.

With a little moxie and some groundwork, it won’t be long ‘til you become a bonafide bargainista. Some final words of wisdom: as with any e-tailer, make sure to check return policies and shipping fees before you buy. Happy shopping!

How do you plan to save money this holiday? Share your shopping strategies with the Fashion Junkie community!

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The New Black… Friday

imageThanks to the crumbling economy and my dwindling bank account, I’ve restricted my clothing intake to mere window-shopping (oh what fun!). During one of my recent browsing-only excursions at Saks Fifth Avenue, I was dumbfounded upon discovering dozens of “Pre-Sale” racks filled with unsold discounted designer duds on the sales floor, something unheard of at the beginning of November! Sales of this magnitude typically don’t start until after Thanksgiving (a.k.a. Black Friday). This prompts the question: how are retailers responding to such quick and major shifts in consumer buyer behavior in times of such economic uncertainty and volatility?

Lucky for you, I recently attended the Fashion Group International’s seasonal Prêt-a-Porter event in New York, where I witnessed a panel of leading fashion influencers (Barneys’ Simon Doonan to Vogue’s Sally Singer) banter about a host of these related topics. I don’t know about you, but as an avid shopper, I’m dying to know what tricks retailers have up their sleeves for luring customers in during what’s arguably the most dismal holiday season since the Great Depression. So before you plan your next shopping jaunt, do yourself a favor and arm yourself with these newfangled retail strategies. Read more after the Jump!

imageShopping Will Be More Fun. To boost business, retailers such as Barneys New York are looking for non-traditional ways to further engage the customer. Rather than pressure people to buy, they’re focusing on interactive in-store events that encourage shoppers to let loose and have fun. So in celebration of Woodstock’s upcoming 40th anniversary, Barneys is pushing their “Have A Hippie Holiday” ad campaign. Picture decked out window displays filled with boho-inspired fashions, psychedelic peace signs and corresponding sidewalk events that are expected to lure you into the shop. Peace out!

Less Equals More. Clothing collections are being scaled back and carefully edited to prevent overstock. The benefit for shoppers: a wider variety of clothing will be sold at more attainable price points.

imageShow Your True Colors. Retailers’ are encouraging customers to bring individuality back into their wardrobes. Since so many people are unemployed and don’t have an office to go to, now’s the time to experiment with clothes and push the envelope. Referred to as “intuitive dressing,” retailers are pushing a mix of unexpected patterns, colors and prints to excite customers and ultimately provoke a much-needed emotional uplift. As Barneys’ Simon Doonan remarked: “When times are tough, we have to look more fabulous and glam than usual to lift spirits.” So don’t be shy… dust off that gold lamé zebra-print dress and celebrate life!

We’re Shopping In Our Closets. Much to the dismay of retailers, consumers, including yours truly, have been rediscovering staples from their very own wardrobes. Consequently, retailers now have to work harder to offer clothes that make the customer feel truly special as well as complement existing items in their closets.

imageLipstick Sales are Surging. During times of economic uncertainty, women inevitably load up on affordable luxuries as a substitute for more expensive items like Nicholas Kirkwood shoes (his purple platforms are killer!) and Chloé handbags. As a result, there’s been a 40% surge in lipstick sales, also known as the “Lipstick Effect,” a phrase coined by Leonard Lauder, who saw a huge jump in Estée Lauder lipstick sales after September 11th. Not surprisingly, retailers predict that red lipstick will continue to be a big trend for spring.

Quality Control is Key. Rather than throw money away on multiple, lower-cost items (Hello, H&M!), retailers suggest splurging on a few investment pieces such as a coat, blazer or little black dress. That way you’ll have quality pieces with a much longer shelf life. 

Contemporary is Cool. Due to the tanking economy, a proliferation of hipper, more contemporary clothing lines have infiltrated the market. Rising stars in this rapidly-growing category include 3.1 Phillip Lim, Rag & Bone (my personal fave), Hunter Dixon, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Vince and Theory, all of which offer catwalk-worthy designs at more attainable price points than their upscale counterparts.

Comparison Shopping is Catching On. The best way to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck is to visit comparison-shopping sites such as ShopStyle.com and Glimpse.com before you buy. These sites enable you to search for just about any designer item by name and will instantly tell you how much that particular item costs along with a list of major e-tailers that carry it. This will save you from making costly impulse purchases. Plus, when you haggle at your favorite department store, you can mention you saw those butt-firming Seven jeans for $30 cheaper online and they’ll likely match the price.

imageLayaway is Making a Comeback. Believe it or not, but layaways, a payment practice that became popular during the Great Depression but dissipated due to the prevalence of credit cards, is suddenly back in fashion thanks to the credit crunch. So the next time you’re at your favorite store and find yourself drooling over that Diane von Furstenberg sequined vest, it’s worth asking the sales associate if you can put a down payment on the piece (typically 20% of the cost) and bring it home once you’ve paid it off. Just make sure you can cough up the cash before the pre-determined purchase date (typically eight weeks) or you’ll likely be stuck with a store credit.

What’s your take on the shifting retail landscape? Would you consider layaway? Would you sacrifice quality for quantity? Perhaps you’ve curtailed your holiday shopping altogether? Don’t be shy… share your thoughts with the Fashion Junkie community!

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Fast Lady Fashions: Flop or Fabulous?

imageNow that all the hoopla surrounding the election has subsided, I thought it only fitting that I comment on the next geo-political newsworthy subject: Michelle Obama’s much talked about fashion sense… or lack of it, depending on your partisan beliefs.

The general consensus is that the First Lady-elect will usher in a much-needed shot of style to the White House. Finally… no more boxy tweed blazers and dowdy pantsuits! Judging by the red-and-black confetti-print dress that Mrs. Obama introduced on election night in Chicago, fresh off the catwalk from Narciso Rodriguez’s Spring ’09 collection, she’ll clearly be the most refined First Lady to have entered the White House in the last decade (sorry, Hillary!). In fact, she might even be channeling a little Jackie Kennedy. C’mon… don’t tell me you haven’t noticed the pretty strands of pearls, ‘60’s-inspired shifts and sleek, shoulder-length flip?

imageBut I digress… back to that dress!  I think it was apropos for Mrs. Obama to don a dress by a well-regarded, but not-so-mainstream, American designer on election night. Plus, it flattered her toned figure and the bold red hue was a perfect power statement.

While I’m not particularly fond of scoop necks, I like how this style revealed a hint of skin without screaming sex kitten (a plunging V-neck like the original runway version pictured here would have been inappropriate). Those corset-like bands of black intersecting at the waist were a bit of an eyesore, but at least they cinched it in and broke up the speckled paint. No matter how cold the temps were in the Windy City that night, Mrs. Obama should have nixed the cropped black cardigan, which threw off the proportions of the dress altogether.

For not having a stylist, at least not yet, Mrs. Obama has certainly gained my vote… at least in the dress department! Michelle, if you happen to be reading this, I have something in mind for the inaugural ball.

In case you overlooked Michelle Obama during the campaign trail, here are some of her sartorial highlights and my take on them.

Her wardrobe is down-to-earth. The First Lady-elect mixes frugal finds from places like J. Crew and H&M along with designer threads by Narciso and Thakoon. She also favors custom-made frocks by Chicago-based designer, Maria Pinto.

imageDuring her recent TV appearance on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno, she donned this modest J. Crew cardigan ($90), tank ($100) and skirt ($148). Pretty fab, don’t you think?

imageFor The View, she wore this smashing White House/Black Market shift – a steal at only $148!

She frequently accessorizes with ultra-wide belts (the ultimate waist-cincher) and over-sized brooches – the best way to spice-up an outfit.

• She favors prints and bold colors like purple, turquoise and red – the ultimate power shade.

She’s sassy. For example, did you notice how the Obamas wore color-coordinated red and black outfits on election night? So chic!

Since we live in a democracy, I’d love for you to cast your vote for Michelle Obama’s Narciso Rodriguez dress. Was it a fashion statement or a fashion faux pas?

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Hairy Times

imageNot that I need a reminder to know that we’re in the midst of what promises to be a long and deep recession, but thanks to an unsolicited phone call I received the other day from Garren New York – one of the city’s poshest hair salons, the country’s economic crisis just became that much more evident.

One of the salon’s receptionists cold-called me the other day to gleefully inform me that a time slot with the “shear genius” himself (a.k.a. Garren) had magically opened up. The funny part: I never asked to be put on a waiting list (yes, they have one) in the first place! And even if I had, that would have been well over a year ago. I’m no Suze Orman, but I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that even the most affluent of New Yorkers are doing a bit of belt-tightening in these troubled times.

Call me frugal, but even during a healthy economy, I wouldn’t even consider blowing $700 of my hard-earned cash on a pricey designer haircut. Just to put things into perspective, since I need to trim my chin-length Shirley Temple curls at least every eight weeks to maintain its shape (read: frizz grows out in width rather than length), that would mean an annual maintenance of $4,200 on haircuts alone, not to mention tax and tip (eek!). No wonder Garren’s regular clients have names like Kidman and Blanchett.

Just what does a $700 Garren haircut buy you, you ask? According to the fine print in the services section on the salon’s website, you’re entitled to a relaxing scalp massage, shampoo and conditioning treatment in shiatsu chairs by Takara Belmont as well as choice of complimentary cappuccino, espresso, tea, or Garren’s own New York-branded bottled water. So I ask you, dear reader, who is the real offender here… is it Garren for having the gall to charge $700 for a haircut or the well-deserving diva who agrees to pay it?

I’m curious… would you spend that much cash on a designer coif? Don’t hold back… share your thoughts with the rest of the Fashion Junkie community!

 

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Recession Obsession

imageBlame it on the current economic crisis or Suze Orman on-the-brain, but I’ve finally decided to smarten-up and tighten the purse strings. That’s right. Aside from no longer blowing my hard-earned cash on impulse clothing purchases at ShopBop.com (read: $475 sequin encrusted Pedro Garcia pumps), I’ve also put the kibosh on weekly manicures and Sally Hershberger designer haircuts (well, at least as of yesterday). Perhaps the biggest benefit to have come out of the collapsed economy: I’ve rediscovered staples from my very own wardrobe!

Much to my husband’s delight, I recently resurrected a few neglected items such as a bronze Andy The Ann blouse, which hasn’t seen the light of day since he bought it for me back in ’04. Other wearable and surprisingly stylish pieces I’ve pulled out from the crypt include a double-breasted tweed blazer (thank G-d the borrowed-from-the-boys look is back!), a pleated Club Monaco skirt that I scored whilst working at the company’s Toronto-based headquarters back in ’99, black Acne stovepipes that I haven’t been able to squeeze into since my honeymoon (an added bonus of no longer dining out), an ‘80’s-inspired acid-washed jean jacket that I completely forgot I owned and a faded chocolate brown wool Mackage coat that I miraculously spruced up by throwing on a patent leather belt. Now if only I can somehow reclaim that fitted hounds-toothed vest I graciously donated to Goodwill out of duress.

Don’t ditch those clothing cast-offs just yet! Get the most mileage out of your existing wardrobe by following these expert Fashion Junkie tips:

Raid your boyfriend’s closet! Over-sized items like a black vest, boxy blazer and the classic white button down shirt look beyond stylish when paired with skinny jeans and even short skirts.

• Add life to any lackluster coat by throwing it on with a cinched patent leather belt.

• Transform a dull jacket into dazzling by sewing on some of granny’s glitzy antique buttons. Plastic is so passé.

Befriend your tailor! Simple alterations such as shortening a skirt hem will make a world of difference.

• Modernize any dated ensemble by throwing on vintage accessories such as chunky jewelry or a print neck scarf.

• Punch up a faded frock in a flash by tie-dying it. As noted above, acid-washed denim is back… hint, hint!

• Instantly update your look by layering unexpected fabrics. For example, pair a chiffon floral dress with opaque tights and a fitted ¾ length belted cardigan. Add a pair of chunky cowboy boots and you’re good to go!

I’m curious to know how the current economy has made you rethink your wardrobe. Don’t be shy… share your tips and tricks with the Fashion Junkie community.

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