Fashion Savvy Shopping

by Diana Pemberton-Sikes

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Are you in a shopping rut? Do you go to the same stores all the time, never considering other options? If so, you could be spending more money than you need to---or missing out on some great services and deals. Whether you're easy to fit or hard to clothe, you can do yourself a tremendous favor by breaking out of your regular shopping habits and learning all of your options.

Now a lot of women I know have status issues with their clothes. They'll only buy from a certain department store or wear certain labels. I understand that. But I also know that there are many ways to have the look and name you want without paying department store prices. All you need to do is know your options.

Consider these:

Department stores and women's specialty stores are at the top of the shopping food chain for selection and amenities. You get a nice dressing room, and usually an attentive salesperson, but understand that you're paying a premium price for these niceties.

There are bargains to be had, however. To take advantage, plan your shopping around promotions and sales. Get on their mailing lists or get a department store charge card to get advance notice of such events.

On the night before the sale, visit the store to "scope it out." You can sometimes buy at the special price then, but if not, use the time to find what you want and try it on in the "calm before the storm." Come back first thing in the morning to get the bargain price.

Discount stores offer everyday low prices on jeans, T-shirts, sneakers, casual socks and pantyhose. You can also find inexpensive clothes and accessories, too, but you obviously won't find your investment pieces here.

Off-price retailers like Marshall's, Loehmans, TJ Maxx, and others, offers investment pieces, sometimes at considerable savings. These are typically stock overruns or seconds (irregular sizing, imperfect stitching), but they're perfectly wearable and very budget friendly. Because the inventory turns over quickly, check back often for frequent bargains.

Resale shops can be a source of incredible bargains. Frequent the shops run by women's charitable groups and those in upper class neighborhoods. I've found many amazing bargains this way, many of them never worn. Because it's strictly a "hit or miss" inventory, though, you have to buy it when you see it, or it's gone. Just make sure it's on your needs list and don't get carried away by the price.

Catalogs and cable-TV shopping channels are also great sources for quality clothes. They're quick and convenient, and you can often order online. Read or listen to the descriptions carefully and know from the get-go that it may not fit. Always know the refund policy. It's usually generous, but know it, just the same. Can't determine your size? Order two different sizes and return the one that doesn't fit.

Personalized trunk shows are another option to consider. Doncaster and other quality apparel companies have company representatives who can come into your home and help you with your wardrobe needs. You choose the style you want from their catalog and customize it with your preferred color and choice of fabric. The advantage is selection, customization, personal attention, and fit. The downside? It's pricey, like shopping retail at your favorite department store. Still, if you're hard to fit, this could be a viable option for you.
To find a representative near you:

Sewing is the best way to get the best fit at the best price. If you're a competent seamstress, you already know this. If you're "all thumbs" at the sewing machine, like I am, consider having someone make clothes for you. This is not as expensive as it may sound. Yes, you're going to pay for the labor, but you're also going to get an exceptional fit. But if you're tall, short, thin, heavy or otherwise hard to fit, this could be the most economical way to go. Why buy and have it altered when you can have it custom made?

Personal Shoppers If you hate to shop or are just too strapped for time to look for the best bargains, consider engaging a personal shopper. Many better department and specialty stores offer this as a service. Just call in your list and they'll pull the clothes for you. All you do is stop in, try them on, make your selection, and pull out your credit card.

Free-lance personal shoppers do the same thing for a fee, but they aren't limited by one's store's selection.

There are many avenues available to you, as you can see, so DO take advantage of them, particularly if you're hard to fit. Know your shopping options. It can save you're a lot of time AND a ton of money.

Need some other ideas for looking great and saving money on clothes? Download a copy of "Wardrobe Magic" to see just how easy looking great can be,

Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and editor of "Fashion Savvy", a monthly online newsletter dedicated to helping women achieve more success through dress. You can visit her online at

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