Contrary to popular opinion, you were not born to shop. If you are a woman who loves clothes and fashion (c’est moi) this may be debatable. However, most of us have to curb our enthusiasm for adornment lest we wreak havoc on our cash flow and personal net worth.
Over the years, I’ve developed a few strategies that allow me to indulge my fashion passion and still manage to stay current on credit card bills, invest and save money. It’s all about stretching those dollars to stay within budget. You do have a clothing budget, don’t you?
Here are my top five strategies for smarter clothes shopping:
(I like to support the local economy, so most of the retail establishments mentioned below are in the San Francisco Bay Area. But most metropolitan areas will have similar venues—you just have to go out and find them!).
Strategy #1: Take a cue from chic French women and maintain a small but high quality wardrobe. Artfully use accessories to create different looks.
How? Find designers and shops that suit your fashion sensibility. Patronize these places—buy less, but buy what you love. As an added bonus, if you become a loyal customer, you’ll be invited to special sales and sample sales. My personal favorites:
FIT: www.fitclothing.net. FIT is a small clothing boutique in the Rockridge district in Oakland. Joyce Gardner, the owner, carefully curates her stock to satisfy her local clientele. She carries selected labels such as Schmacher, Cop Copine, Yoshi Kondo, Diane Von Furstenberg, Three Dot, Velvet by Graham and Spencer, and Pete. She packs a lot of style in a small space and her employees are adept at pulling looks together. She holds special sales and gives first dibs to her best customers.
Catherine Jane: http://catherinejane.net. Catherine Jane is a San Francisco designer who has an eye for gorgeous fabric and fit. She creates wonderfully feminine clothing with her own unique flare that will flatter your figure. Tip: Her sample sales are full of outrageous bargains.
The reward for buying high quality, timeless fashion is longer wear and thus less money spent over time.
Strategy #2: Find consignment shops whose buyers are very picky and who echo your style sensibility.
Yes, these are pre-owned and pre-worn garments. If you don’t have a problem with that, it’s a great way to add pieces to your wardrobe at good prices. Here’s how consignment shops work: Women bring in their current, gently worn and seasonal items and the store buyer selects which pieces work for her store. Then she splits the sale price with the seller, usually 50/50 or 60/40. Prices are generally 1/4 of retail prices.
My personal favorite consignment shop is Mirabel (3251 Lakeshore Ave, Oakland). This store is full of fashion gems. You will find labels such as Marc Jacobs, Burning Torch, Velvet by Graham and Spencer, Diane Von Furstenberg, Prada and Missoni as well as a carefully edited selection of Banana Republic, J. Crew and H&M. Occasionally there will be truly great finds (like an Isabel Marant leather jacket I found recently).
Added bonus: If you don’t want to buy, you can always sell clothing that is gathering dust in your closet.
Strategy #3: Find a fashion stylist to audit your closet and help you shop.
If you love clothes but hate to shop or feel like you make a lot of expensive buying mistakes, hiring a personal stylist may be the perfect solution. She can save you both time and money and you’ll look great with minimal effort.
Great Find: Urban Darling. www.urbandarling.com
Stylist: Lisa Deane. www.urbandarling.com/stylists/lisa-deane/
For more tips on working with a stylist, check out my previous post, “Save Money By Shopping in Your Own Closet with a Wardrobe Stylist.”
Strategy #4: If you don’t like going to shops, bring the shop to you!
There are clothing lines that are sold only in private venues. If you host a party, not only do you get to invite all your friends, you receive 50% off your items depending on how much others buy. Personally, I like the CAbi (Carol Anderson By Invitation) line. And my favorite CAbi consultant is Erin Saul who lives in Oakland.
Great Find: CAbi. www.cabionline.com/
Strategy #5: Use the Internet to find sales on items you crave.
You see a gorgeous pair of shoes at Bloomingdale’s. You can’t afford them. Go home and do a Google search using the specific brand name, style and color. You may find that the shoes are on sale somewhere else. In addition, you can ask retailers to match prices if you find them lower on-line. Don’t be afraid to ask.
I think these five strategies will give you a good start on smart clothing shopping. But, if your closets are bulging and think you might have a shopping problem you may need another kind of help. Jill Chivers, a former shopaholic, has created the “My Year Without Clothes Shopping” program for people like you. Her program offers a fun and safe way to “break the cycle of unconscious and compulsive shopping” and to be more in control of your money. Check out her website: www.myyearwithoutclothesshopping.com
I would love to hear of any tips or strategies you have to be stylish without breaking the bank. Please share your thoughts!