Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to Snag Designer Clothes for Less

As I grow in maturity age, I recognize that value doesn't necessarily mean cheap. The cheapest food in the grocery store has no nutrition. The cheapest flights include 14 hours of travel and multiple layovers. The cheapest clothes last only a single season. Sister Annie wrote about the theory of Cost Per Wear Shopping a few months back to address this exact issue. (She is literally my sister, not a nun.)

Yet when it comes to clothing, I still experience extreme sticker shock for designer labels. I just. can't. pay. that. much. Not complaining, just explaining. I am stuck between the lasting value of nice clothes, and the short term value of cash flow and savings.

Middle ground? Snag designer clothing for discounted prices. I say "snag" because it does involve some chance, spontaneity, and planning. Here are 5 tips for snagging designer clothes at affordable prices :
  1. Get in Touch with the label. This always works best at the end of a season and with smaller labels. Just shoot an email to their contact address. Ask if there are any sales starting soon, if they are having any shows, and mention specific items you have noticed. Be complimentary, open, and friendly. Help them want to help you! The goal is to get insider tips and directions to their outlet avenues. For my rehearsal dinner, I had my eye on a summery $450 Lauren Moffatt dress. I emailed, and Lauren herself wrote back that a sample sale was on the books for the following week. She sold me the sample dress for $150!
  2. Utilize flash sale sites. Flash sale sites are a great way to find hit or miss designer clothes as great prices...often 30-60% off retail. It does take some effort, as you have to sign up for (free) accounts and sift through all of the items offered. If you are online shopping comfortable, this is a great fit for you. My favorites are,, I scored a French Connection sheath dress for $27 on
  3. Facebook your favorite labels. Facebook is the perfect way to interface with your brands. When you "like" a label, you will be kept abreast of sales, shows, and new designs. Often brands will provide special information and perks to their Facebook community. In addition, you can interact with actual people at the brand. Ask questions, establish communication, be a brand proponent. Sometimes you'll be personally rewarded! You can read sister Annie's (the non-nun) David Aubrey success story here.
  4. Attend trunk shows or sample sales. The picture above is an outfit I scored at an Althea Harper event just right up the road in Cincinnati. The skirt and top were both about 70% off the estimated retail. I've gotten so much use out of these two pieces, together and separately. Local boutiques and publications will have information about this type of event. (You can see the skirt on the runway here.)
  5. Shop at designer discount stores. This category includes TJMaxx, Marshalls, and Nordstrom Rack.Though shopping this way is very hit or miss, these stores regularly have items from Lucky, 7 for all Mankind, True Religion, Tommy, BCBG, etc. I buy all of my denim in this category. Prices are easily 30-50% off.
All that being said, please know that a very limited amount of my clothing is actually designer labels. I try to be selective and purposeful about which items are in need of high-quality status. Almost all of my shirts, accessories, tanks, utility clothes, swim suits, etc. are inexpensive brands like Target or H&M. There is logic for both categories in my life!

Happy smart shopping! If you snag anything great, I'd love to hear about it!

Here's just one more Althea Harper shot for the road :)

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