Luxe for Less: 5 Ways to Snag Designer Clothes on the Cheap

Friday, September 06, 2013

Think that designer fashion and frugal living are mutually exclusive? They don’t have to be, trust me.

You can get real deal designer clothes – none of that “steal the look” bs – without ever paying full price. I’ve mastered the art. I never, ever pay full price. And now I’m going to share my tactics with you. Here are my top tips for snagging luxe fashions for a whole lot less:

Women Window Shopping

1. Shop Seasonal Sales

Fashion may be a religion to us, but to a retailer is just a matter of dollars and cents. At the end of each season the stuff that hasn’t sold must be cleared out to make room for new items that will sell at full price. That includes the designer clothing.

Take advantage of this situation by smartly shopping end-of-season sales for your next year’s classics. No one will ever know that you bought that cashmere sweater on a sweltering July afternoon, or that your chic silk sundress was snagged during a snowstorm. Big department stores like Saks, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus are known for particularly deep discounts on seasonal goods.

Tip: Resist the urge to buy a super trendy item off-season. It will likely be yesterday’s news by the time you are able to wear it.

2. Get to Know Local Off-Price Retailers

Brick-and-mortar off-price retailers – think Loehmann’s, Marshalls, and T.J. Maxx – often have some of the best deals on designer merchandise. But, not all locations are created equal. It all depends on the location and average clientele tastes.

Scout out all of the locations near you, including multiple locations of the same retailer, so you get to know which labels head to which stores. Then, once you’re set on a location, ask a friendly-looking sales associate when they get their new stuff.

Tip: The best Loehmann’s in the Bay Area is Sunnyvale, not San Francisco. If you pop in after work on Thursday you’ll find spanking new Rag&Bone, Helmut Lang, and Vince year-round.

3. Selectively Hit Online Sample Sales

Online sample sales are a mixed bag, in my opinion. It is possible to score designer finds for pennies on the dollar. It is also very easy to overpay, particularly when you add in the crazy high shipping costs for most online sample sales.

Get on the mailing lists for the major online samples sales (we have all of the invites rounded up for you in one convenient place), so you always know which sales are happening and at what time. Then, set an alarm on your phone or computer to remind you to login when your favorite brands are on sale.

Tip: To ensure you are getting the best price, after you put the sample sale item in your bag do a quick Google Shopping search for the item by name. Most of the major retailers are include in Google Shopping, so you’ll be able to see their sale price and compare. And don’t forget that some retailers, like Nordstrom and Shopbop, offer free shipping all the time – you can end up paying less on those sites than the sample sale sites due to the shipping alone.

4. Regularly Browse Online Outlets

Online outlets don’t get nearly the level of praise they deserve. The sale prices are outstanding, they are constantly restocking, and you know the pieces came right from the high end store.

My favorites include The Outnet (Net-a-Porter’s outlet), Last Call (the Neiman Marcus Outlet), and Barney’s Warehouse. Last Call is particularly good for offering markdowns on top of the sale price, so you regularly end up paying less than half the retail price.

Tip: If you are searching for something in particular, it pays to check the online outlet stores daily. Most get new items every morning.

5. Try Online Second-Hand Shops

Online second-hand shops are gaining popularity, and for good reason. Think of them like eBay meets your local thrift store. But, unlike eBay or thrifting, you know that an expert team has fully inspected the item to ensure authenticity, cleanliness, and proper size identification. For me, it’s the only acceptable option for previously worn clothing.

My favorites include Bag, Borrow, or Steal for designer handbags, The Real Real for luxury designers and upscale contemporary, and Twice for casual contemporary (although you do have to wade through a fair amount of mall brand castoffs).

Tip: Never buy second-hand shoes. No discount is worth an infection. Eww.

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Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Cadillac Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Cadillac Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles.