August 29, 2012

How To Not Look Cheap


Leather handbag, leather shoes, cotton jeans with designer wash. // Inexpensive top. (original post)


One of the many reasons I started a fashion blog was to combat the belief that in order to be on a budget, you have to dress "cheap." My friends, I am here to tell you that there is a huge difference in dressing cheap, and dressing on a budget*. Here's how to spend the same amount of money, but make sure you never cross into cheap territory:

1. Shop brand names. You can find name brands for less at stores like DSW, Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack and thrift stores, that are higher quality than inexpensive brands at Target or Payless, but often cost the same. An occasional shoe from Payless is okay (more on that later), but for the most part, I recommend aiming for brand-names at a discount for the same price.

2. Shop quality materials. Did you know that Forever 21 sells 100% silk garments? Same with MJR Sales. You just have to look for it. I'm also a huge fan of real leather and I prefer jeans with more cotton and less Spandex (American Eagle can be a good spot for this), and not all polyester is created equal. In other words, choose wisely no matter what store you are shopping, and only go for genuine materials, or a great look-alike.

3. Mix high and low. At this point you might be saying "I don't have the budget to dress in high-end materials all the time!" Which is okay. Because it is all about a mix of high and low. A silk dress and leather shoes looks fine with an H&M necklace, but a polyester dress, leatherette shoes and an H&M necklace? Really hard to pull off without looking cheap! Mix in higher quality pieces with your lower quality pieces when you get dressed.

4. Diversify your shopping. How you are able to create high-low outfits is by diversifying what stores you shop at. Instead of only shopping stores with questionable quality you should also shop for brands with better quality so you can mix them together. Hunt the sales at Banana, thrift stores or discount stores like TJ Maxx, paying close attention to quality. (Read this post to learn how to save money at Banana and similar stores.)
Silk top. leather handbag, leather shoes. // Inexpensive pants. (original post)
5. Avoid the junior's section. I go into detail about the pros and cons of the junior's section in this post, but buyer beware - the prices are lower, but so is the quality. I would again recommend diversifying where you shop and getting a mix of both junior's and ladies clothing. Don't solely shop junior's if you are 21 or older.

6. Invest in work attire. If you work in an office, the one area of your closet you should be most concerned about is your work clothes (save the disposable fashion for weekends!). I made the mistake of buying tons of collared shirts from H&M right out of college. I spent the first year of work looking cheap, which was silly because I could've spent the same amount for sale shirts that were higher quality at Express (my Express collared shirts are 6 years old and still look great). Insist on higher quality for your work attire. (I also recommend quality handbags and shoes as good pieces to invest in.)

7. Purge worn out items. Jewelry that is tarnished, shoes that are majorly scuffed, shirts that are showing wear and tear - retire them to be worn as pajamas, but be sure to purge them from your daily rotation as soon as you can find a suitable replacement.

8. Fit is key. Last but not least is fit. You can pull of a cheap dress if the fit is phenomenal (tailoring might be a good idea in this case). You can also make an expensive dress look cheap if the fit is not right. So pay close attention to fit, and you will be on your way to looking fab on a budget in no time.

9. Go for longevity. Items that are higher quality and you can wear for years ultimately cost less, because you don't have to pay to replace them over and over again.

What are your tips for shopping on a budget, without looking like you are on a budget?
Silk top, leather shoes, expensive necklace. // Inexpensive shorts, handbag. (original post)

*Please note: these tips are in no way meant to judge others and how cheap they may or may not be dressing. (I'm not cool with that, see #9 in my About section.) They are merely tips to use for yourself, if you determine that you would like to change your own personal style. I struggled with finding quality clothes on a shoestring budget when I graduated from college and these are tips that I wish someone would have shared with me. I hope you enjoy! :-)

Tips for each category:

  1. Handbags - If you only have enough money to invest in one area of your closet, I would suggest one quality handbag for daytime. You will wear it every single day, it is technically work attire since you carry it to/from the office, and lesser quality bags are really easy to spot. I don't invest in clutches, however, since I use them less often, and a smaller size is harder to spot bad quality.
  2. Shoes - Shoes are important to your comfort and the health of your body, so this would definitely be another important place to invest. I recommend DSW, Marshalls, MJR Sales, Ross, Nordstrom Rack for quality shoes for less.
  3. Belts - My favorite spot for leather belts is H&M (they are less than $20), followed closely by Gap. If it is a skinny belt, then leather is not a concern (again, because it is smaller).
  4. Jewelry - I personally like a mix of high and low jewelry. The high jewelry is good for classic pieces, and the low is great for adding some fun to your closet. Your signature jewelry like a watch, rings, or bracelets that you wear every single day are generally more important to splurge on than big, statement pieces (unless it is for your wedding or another big occasion). 
  5. Jeans - Colored jeans are hard to determine what brand they are, so I buy them everywhere, often from the juniors department. Blue denim is much easier to detect quality. Designer denim from discount stores like Filene's Basement is the best option if you can find it, but use a discerning eye at places like Gap or American Eagle and you can often find really amazing washes that look designer there as well (see my first photo up top for an example).
  6. Blazers - My closet is a half and half mix of quality and inexpensive blazers. The classics like black and navy are high quality and I paid a lot for them. The trendy ones like neon pink and striped, I got at stores like H&M and F21. Fit is the most important thing with blazers though - just make sure it fits you perfect and it will look more expensive than it really is. 
  7. Tops - My tops are probably a 70/30 mix. 70% are inexpensive (and fairly trendy), while 30% are pure silk and classics that I plan to hold onto forever. I rotate the trendy pieces and don't mind that they are lower quality, especially when paired with designer denim and a leather bag.

156 comments:

  1. CoffeebeansandbobbypinsAugust 29, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    Great tips J, I completely agree with mixing higher and lower priced items. Those tend to be my fav looks anyway!
    http://coffeebeansandbobbypins.blogspot.com/

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  2. these are great tips, i am constantly mixing high and low items to create my own  "expensive" looking outfits. 

    www.modernsuburbanites.blogspot.com

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  3. http://goo.gl/RHhCK

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  4. Good charity shops (I think you call them thrift stores in the US) can be treasure troves. You can try things on and check there are no stains/holes. I have found items that have clearly not been worn much, if at all. Clothes that have come from charity shops are effectively being recycled, which is 'eco' and my philanthropic needs are being met too. If you need inspiration, there are some great blogs about thrifting for clothes such as this one which I have read many times: 
    http://applesandpencilskirts.blogspot.co.uk/

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  5. I couldn't agree more. This is how I shop.  I have to say I am a bit of a jeans snob, but I get amazing deals. I just recently went to Nordstrom rack where I purchased jeans that are over $200 for around $30 bucks and pair them with cute tops from Old Navy, forever 21 etc.  The funniest thing is I get the most compliments when I wear the lower end brands. I also invest in good quality bags and shoes.  I think you and I would make awesome shopping buddies :) 

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  6. You forgot to mention thrifting!! It has been the one thing that keeps me looking great and saving HEAPS of money; you have to dig, but often times the clothes you can find are big brand names, 100% silk items, and also pieces that have never been worn (still have the tags on them).
    Otherwise I completely agree with mixing high end and low end pieces. It's a great way to save money while still looking (and feeling!) great :)http://thriftthick.blogspot.com

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  7. I'm actually surprised this has never come up on your blog, but I am an AVID thrifter. In big cities I often find very expensive namebrand denim (7 for All Mankind, Citizens of Humanity, True Religion) for less than cheap jeans at Kohl's.

    If you don't like the "digging" aspect of thrifting, there are plenty of resale shops such as Buffalo Exchange or Rethreads (many many small businesses depending on where you live, too!) will pay for gently used namebrands, and charge a bit more for them than a traditional thrift store, but the price tag is still hundreds(!!) less than buying the namebrand on sale at stores such as Off Saks.

    That's my expensive look on a budget in a nutshell.  Sometimes I even buy namebrands at the lowly thrift stores and resell to the shops and MAKE money on jeans I've worn for years!

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  8. TJ Maxx and Marshall's for handbags and shoes! I also love thrift stores. I bought a Calvin Klein 100% merino wool sweater a few years ago for less than $20 and that same sweater was $70 at the outlet mall so I know I got an awesome deal. Just recently scored an adorable dress in an Ikat print for only $7! I know some people think used clothes are gross but you can also find brand new items with tags still on like a dark green silk top I bought a few years ago for next to nothing.

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  9. Hey J,
    what about fleemarkets? At least here in germany we have really stylish and interessting fleemarkets where a lot of fashion victims sell high end fashion for much lower prices.... I totally agree on the quality shoe and purse thing... yet this year for the first time a bought very inexpansive flats in all kind of colours and they look great.

    I think not looking cheap is somewhat an attitude as well. If you have style, if you make sure your hair and skin are in great condition, you somehow can wear a lot of things without looking cheap.

    Sandra 

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    1. good point...having hair and make up done appropriately makes a big difference too.

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  10. I do a similar thing with my wardrobe, and of course, I thrift. I can honestly say that I get more compliments on thrifted items than on most of my department store finds. This year I've been at the thrift store a lot. I've scored some doozies. Michael Kors leather pumps, a chambray shirt that I wear constantly, a silk cocktail dress that dresses down and up easily, a Free People shirt that can be worn different ways, a denim sundress, a maxi dress, and some of the nicest high quality leather belts that are absolutely gorgeous. And for gifts, I ask for token high end items that I've researched and know to be good purchases. On any given day I'm dressed everything from Tiffany's to TJ Maxx, Target and goodwill. Throw in the occasional budget friendly trip to Antropologie (you get a 15% off coupon for your birthday month!), and after a while you have a solid wardrobe, with good staples, and trendy finds to keep you looking good, and NOT cheap.

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  11. I agree with this post completely! I am an avid bargain hunter but it took me a long time to learn the difference between a bargain and a good deal. It's not always best to buy cheap quality, but it's also not always best to be a label snob, either--an expensive brand doesn't always mean it will look best on you! I like to mix things up, and I would rather invest in long-lasting staples than trendy throwaway pieces, which I think make more sense coming from somewhere like Forever or H&M.

    A lot of people have mentioned thrifting/consignment, which I love as well, but I can understand why it might not have a place on J's blog--a lot of us come here for inspiration and we want to know where we can buy the same look. It's a lot harder to do that with a one-off thrifted find.

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  12. COMPLETELY agree.  I have always said that you should spend money on classic, non-trendy pieces that you can wear for years (like neutral leather pumps, leather purses, oxford shirts, basic jeans, neutral blazers, cardigans) and you get the trendy items on the cheap, so that when they're out of style you don't feel bad donating them.  

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  13. Cassie, the same rules apply no matter where you shop! :-) You can easily thrift and only buy Old Navy stuff or juniors items, but you should diversify and look for quality no matter what store it is.

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  14. Sarah, I have another post coming up soon about trends and when to invest/when to pass. It can be hard to classify a "trend" - some might think a military jacket is a good investment piece (I would) but others might see it as a passing trend! :-)

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  15. I totally agree! It is a balance. And I would love to thrift but unfortunately I don't live in a city that has good thrifting. 

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  16. Great post J, a simple way to keeping your clothes looking great for a long time even the inexpensive ones is to dry clean them.  For example I dry clean all my pencil skirts even the ones from Forever 21 without lining.  Find a $1.99 dry cleaning place or simply use coupons.
    Dayi

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  17. Sandra, I think fleamarkets might be quite a bit different here in the U.S.! I went to one in London and they had some great vintage (used) clothing, but here in Florida they are mostly antiques and definitely not a hot spot for fashion. 

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  18. Rose, thrifting has come up many time - I'm not a fan in general, and here in Orlando especially, the thrifting is not good so I hardly ever shop those stores anymore. If you live in a city with good thrifting though, I would definitely take advantage!

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  19. adore this post. thanks for being a light at the end of the tunnel in a largely terribly dressed population of twenty somethings... though maybe that's just my area of the world! love your tips and i could benefit from them myself. storing it in my mental file cabinet!
    kw, http://www.ladiesinnavy.com

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  20. BBFF, the same rules apply no matter where you shop! :-) You can easily thrift and only buy Old Navy stuff or juniors items, but you should diversify and look for quality no matter what store it is.

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  21. Dayi, I totally agree that keeping clothes out of the washer/dryer makes them last longer. I hand wash a ton of my stuff, but I also find dry cleaning to be really harsh so I use Dryel (at home dry cleaning). It's my secret weapon! ;-)

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  22. pretty little thingsAugust 29, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    these are great tips!! I'm all about mixing high and low end pieces on my blog because while I do love designer pieces and looking nice, it doesn't always fit my budget. With the right mix of pieces you can have a totally awesome and original outfit! xo

    http://allthingsprettyandlittle.blogspot.com/

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  23. Love your blog, great tips. I totally agree with you. Quality is everything. Like yourself I have shopped at H and M but I would rather buy less items and get better quality. I'll have to check out your suggestions re. Banana Republic.

    Agi:)

    vodkainfusedlemonade.wordpress.com

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  24. I didn't realize that New York and Company and Kohls were considered cheap while Express was better quality. *confused*

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  25. I would definitely consider Express higher quality, but any store can have a dud. Express has duds, Kohl's probably has gems (I've only ever bought trendy weekend items at that store). I wouldn't recommend shopping 100% at either one though, since neither has silk or leather. I would mix in genuine handbags and shoes from TJ Maxx or the like!

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  26. I agree about looking at the fabric make-up of an item, especially as we go into fall. During summer, its a little easier to wear "cheaper" fabrics - linen, etc. But, I have noticed NY and Co. having a lot of sweaters made from 100% acrylic... NO! Lol. I love buying work clothes from higher end places, and trendy pieces and accessories from other places. For example, people won't know if you spent under $10 dollars or $60 dollars for a scarf usually...

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  27. I avoid the lastest trends like the plague.  Usually, those are the more expensive items.  I try to shop for unique and universal pieces that can withstand the years, so I can just build onto my wardrobe (like the skirt I'm wearing today - it's almost 11 years old and is still getting compliments).  I shop clearance racks, online and discount stores and almost always with a coupon or a store promotion! 

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  28. Love this post! I also reccomend splurging on items you use more often. For example, jeans, bags, shoes, or jewelry you wear daily. I use my Michael Kors purse every day and find it worth the splurge. Trendier or seasonal items, such as my printed maxi dress, I got for a bargain because I knew I'd only wear it around 5 times this summer. But I totally agree, mixing it up is the way to go!

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  29. I would love for you to maybe do a post on how you make your clothes last longer! Such as, which detergents to use, which items should be hung out to dry, or which items to turn inside out, etc. Also possibly how to clean leather items, like boots. Thanks!

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  30. I do love higher end items, but sometimes even with the sales it's not always affordable.  My way around that is to thrift the brand name pieces from Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, etc.  It's amazing at what you can find while thrifting for good quality pieces.  Heather

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  31. I have to say, Payless shoes has really stepped up there quality in the last few years. I especially love the Dexter brand. I have 2 pairs of wedges and 2 flats from them and LOVE them. Honestly, the most comfy shoes I've ever owned. They are well over a year old and still look great!

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  32. Have to agree- Express clothes never last for me :(

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  33. I have to say I completely disagree about your Target comment. I think it doesn't really matter how much an item cost...if styled right, you can make any item look like a million bucks whether it came from a thrift store, Target, or Bergdorf's.

    -Sharon
    The Tiny Heart

    Enter
    my jewelry giveaway!

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  34. What are your tips for accessorizing on a budget? I can't justify spending $138 on a necklace. Even at half off it would stillbe too much for me.

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  35. I think there is a misunderstanding because I completely agree with you - if you style a Target piece with higger-end pieces then that can be a million dollar look! What i'm saying is that head-to-toe Target is way harder to pull off quality-wise.

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  36. Really appreciate the BR blog. I was just getting ready to hit the outlet store to boost up my work attire. Now I am going to hit the sales at BR instead. I am shocked that some of the outlet clothing is actullay made by a different company

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  37. It's definitely not about what store you shop at Heather, it's about what you are buying there! You can get your higher quality items at MJR Sales, TJ Maxx, or thrift stores. If they are genuine materials, it's all the same. :-)

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  38. I totally agree Jess! I need to do a what to spend on/what to splurge on post soon! Shoes are important because they affect your health and comfort, handbags are a huge key to not looking cheap, and I also spend more on the jewelry I wear daily.

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  39. Love that! I feel the same way- love finding name brand sales and making the most of my shopping budget. I always check out my favorite store's websites and facebook page before I shop- a lot of times they will let you in on sales or have printable coupons you can use. Thanks for the tips. Check us out at www.dreamboatfashion.blogspot.com 

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  40. RachelJ SuburbanStyleChallengeAugust 29, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    EXCELLENT advice!  I shared this on my Facebook page, with my fans, because you're totally spot on.  Thanks for posting!

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  41. I might need a shopping assistant but I NEVER find anything good at Marshalls, TJMaxx, those types of stores.  I only find good handbags there, and even then it feels like not very often.  I feel like alot of the clothes fit funny (maybe it's my body shape, size? I am a larger size and pear shaped.  I shop alot at Ann Taylor Loft for better fit for that reason).  And I might not have an eye for it, but I feel like I always find the cheap looking/feeling items.  Any tips for eyeing the right stuff at these places? 

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    1. totally agree...i need to hear a strategy for tj maxx etc because i go in and just think it looks messy and disorganized. and i feel like i only find "reject" items...poor fit or quality...

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  42. Great points! Really enjoy your outfits!

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  43. This is knowledgeable advise! Thank you so much for sharing your insight! I am a huge shopper at TJ Maxx and try to buy inexpensive pieces but also high end items too! I went to Ross  the other day and purchased Sam Edelman heels for only $39.00! Thanks J!

    Xo http://shesaidhesaid-fashion.blogspot.com/

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  44. I get what you're getting at...I mean, there's a lot of clothes out there that look "cheap". Plus, lower quality clothes fall apart faster. So if you invest in great pieces, you can mix the more trendy "cheap" pieces in.


    However, A bridal shop owner once explained to me the way to tell cheap from better quality items. She said the cheaper dresses were over embellished with cheap sequins or other embellishments. She showed me how the better quality dresses were simpler in design and less embellished. This stuck with me especially since I cannot afford the luxury of shopping mall prices like Express, LOFT and Limited. So. I've learned to be discerning about the items that I purchase and how they are constructed.

    I do disagree that Payless and Target (or whatever discount options) all worn together is cheap looking...have you seen Penny Chic (
    http://www.pennychic.com/ )? I guess I think that not looking cheap has more to do with how you put it all together based on more expensive looks than the brands you buy. Granted, yes, when a discerning fashion eye looks at me - they are going to know I'm cheap. 

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  45. This is a great post. I love your How-To's posts! Keep up the great content :)

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  46. Very true...I made the same mistake right out of college...even though I was shopping at cheaper stores like H&M, I ended up spending twice as much because the clothes were not good quality to last even a year.  Lesson learned, I am now an avid shopper of Ann Taylor's additional 40% off sale-sales...great quality and I paid more for a cheaply made blazer at F21 than I did for a well made quality blazer on sale at Ann Taylor.

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  47. Madison, you are not alone because the strong points at Marshalls/TJ Maxx are without a doubt their handbags and shoes! Some have "The Runway" section which carry designer jeans, etc. but only a select few stores. The juniors section is all lower quality, and the women's section is mostly polyester too. I mostly just stick to shoes/handbags there, or if I get a cheap item then I mix it with nicer items from other stores. :-) 

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  48. love these looks!

    http://forallthatjas.blogspot.com/ 

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  49. Alissa, I totally agree. A t-shirt at F21 doesn't necessarily look cheap, but a sequin top from there is going to be harder to pull off. 

    Also - I think that photography methods can make things look better than they might look in real life. ;-) And some 'cheapness" matters more in real life - such as the fact that leather shoes are way more comfortable than leatherette.

    Really no matter how you spend a $100 budget though, to someone with a million dollars you will probably look cheap. And then to a billionaire they will look cheap. So it's definitely silly to get to caught up in what other people think. Hopefully these tips will help someone who wants to "up" their look for a promotion or such though!

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  50. One of my fave discount shopping locales is Nordstrom Rack. It is way better than TJs or Ross, etc. If you're lucky enough to have one of those where you live, run don't walk. I ALWAYS find good quality branded items at very good prices, esp on clothing - jeans, trendy tops, dresses, you name it!

    And IMO the best thrift stores are Goodwill. I have gotten some major steals there, like a Burning Torch silk handkerchief skirt for $15, unused Bass loafers for $5, etc.

    If you can scout out a good designer consignment store in your city, frequent it. We are lucky enough to have a couple good ones where I have also walked away with awesome bargains!

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  51. Great post! Thanks for all those tips. I used to be a "clearance rack only" kind of girl, but now I've switched to a "buy only what i absolutely love" kind of girl because even if it costs three times the price, I'll get five times the wear out of it because I like it more, it fits better, and it's better quality. I also like to buy solid-colored clothing most often because I can keep those for a while and switch out less expensive accessories (like print scarves) to freshen it up.

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  52. J, I so agree with you on this and this is the way I shop, but I am a very petite female (5' and 100 lbs.), so shopping the Junior Department is a must for me as not a lot of retailers (except for Ann Taylor, Loft, F21, Express, and H&M) carry a size that fits me correctly.  I WISH I could shop those discount stores, but they never have my size!! I typically have to buy the real deal at the real price. If you have any suggestions for me I would love to hear them. I follow your blog religiously - LOVE IT!

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  53. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Such awesome words of wisdom :)

    Check out my new post...Kickboxing Kiss My A$$ @  http://hellonheelshon.com/

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  54.  I on the other hand find good jeans (DKNY, Joe's, etc..) great dresses (Calvin Klein, BCBG) and lots of good stuff at TJ's.  I think you just have to be committed to really looking and go often.  The sad part I find though is that a lot of times even the "good stuff" comes apart/wears out sooner than it should, but at least I'm glad I didn't pay full price

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  55. I definitely don't say this anywhere in this post?

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  56. I've had my Express black blazer and several collared shirts for going on 8 years, and they look great! All three stores (Kohls, Ny&Co and Express) do not carry genuine materials though, so I wouldn't recommend shopping 100% at any of them.

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  57. Regional differences play a huge part. When I was in Boston they had amazing stuff, in metro Orlando I never see brand names unless it is the shoe or handbag section. (In Palm Beach, FL they have brand names though!) 

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  58.  love love love that striped top! so doesnt look "cheap"

    www.glitzyblues.com

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  59. I totally agree with you J, the quality of the fabric is all important. I should have been more specific in my comment here and said that thrifting for good quality is my tip for looking good on a budget...x

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  60. Check inside the tag....most clothes are made in china. No surprise there. You still have to be careful even the higher end stores quality is not as great as you think.

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  61. the striped blouse from the limited, i tried to love it i really did, i even had a 40% off coupon but after trying it on I was just swimming in the shirt. it is really flattering on you but unfortunately not on me

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  62. Thanks for this post! As a SAHM of 3 I'm am finally at that point where I want to look like a grown up and not like I just left my dorm room!

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  63. excellent advices!!!! thank you! <3

    Natalia, http://my-crazy-idea.blogspot.com/

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  64. Do you have any recommendations on where to get clothes made out of natural fabrics? I'm assuming when you say "genuine" you mean leather, cotton, etc. I can't wear polyester and even the Gaps/Expresses seem to have many clothes made in synthetic materials nowadays. Also, I can't speak for any of the other items at Ross/Marshalls but I know that the sneakers are not the same quality that you would get in the brand name store. I bought a pair of New Balance at a low-end store but they wore out in about a month. And it was confirmed to me from a professional running store that they're lower quality for those cheaper stores. Just an FYI for you and your readers!

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  65. I totally agree taking extra care when laundering things.  I find that even the cheaper stuff lasts a lot longer when I hand wash it or use the delicate cycle with cold water and then hang dry it. :)

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  66. I think it it also a game of patience.  It's definitely easier to go into a cheaper store and buy an entire outfit at once, whereas buying luxe pieces at a discount is trickier and more of a time investment.  You might only find one piece that fits your body and your pricepoint per sale.  A closet full of quality items doesn't happen overnight, but is well worth it.

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  67. Totally agree Jasmine! It takes a little patience and faith that the right item will eventually make its way to your closet.

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  68. Great tips, J! I was pleased to "check off" all of them on your list because I follow the same concepts. I usually go with the 30/70 rule, 30% of the whole look can be cheap, and 70% - better quality, fit, and usually brand name.
    I sew myself so I can tailor practically anything to get a more flattering fit. After reading the book "Overdressed: the shockingly high cost of fast fashion" by E. Kline I found myself walking past fast fashion stores (like Forever 21) and appreciating great quality at Ann Taylor and BR. Completely agree that you don't have to spend a lot to look good!

    www.facebook.com/shoppingdiet  

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  69. I am VERY excited to see this post - I tend toward classic (sometimes boring) pieces because I'm always scared I will buy a trendy piece at the back end of the curve, and it will be out of style the first time I wear it!  Thanks for all you do J - you are awesome.

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  70. Love this! It's totally possible to look "expensive" on a budget!

    www.lilysaysgo.com

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  71. These are all such great tips! I tend to save the cheaper items for trendier stuff so I don't mind when it falls apart after a few wears! But that's not to say that I don't have great pieces from cheap stores that I've loved! I think you're so right though- it's all about the mix!

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  72. good advice.... but sounds like it is "alienating" some of us.... not cool. Show more examples of the same look "cheap vs. not cheap" side by side, for comparison.

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  73. This is a fantastic post with some really good advice!  Thank you! 

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  74. These are great tips, J! I've definitely learned my lesson about this over the past few years. When I see some of the cheap things in my closet I look at them and wish I would've invested in fewer but higher quality pieces. It would've cost the same amount! Luckily I never skimp on bags, so I have some really nice ones (yay!). Also, I love perusing online shops like Ruelala, Hautelook, Ideeli, Gilt, etc. to find designer labels at extremely discounted prices!

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  75. Another reason to buy higher quality garments at lower prices is that these pieces will last longer. If you only buy cheap, low quality clothing you will have to keep replacing it much sooner than you would have to replace something of a nicer quality, thus spending a lot of unnecessary money. Solution: buy high quality clothing the first time and it will last you longer and you'll get your money's worth.

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  76. I'm totally confused. How is this alienating? 

    And cheap vs. not cheap is the comparison I'm showing with these photos - each outfit contains cheap materials and not cheap materials. But the total for each outfit is still inexpensive - $75 (minus the purse), $170 (entire look), and $140 (entire look), respectively.

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  77. Yes, I love this Holly! I talk about this in my style seminars. Don't buy it if you aren't obsessed, even if it is only $5.

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  78. AWESOME! I own a consignment shop and preach your words all day long! We frequently refer our customers to your blog and facebook posts and use them as examples of how to look great with quality items but not spend a fortune! ( we even use your posts as inspiration for our mannequins!)

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  79. Shut the front door! I love it Tina. Thank you so much for referring me to your customers, I really appreciate that and glad you enjoyed the post.

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  80. Great advise!  Thank you so much.  I truly enjoy reading your blog and seeing your fashion.  You are an inspiration!

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  81. All great tips that I live by too - couldn't agree more about hunting down sale items in better stores (I only really started doing this in the last couple of years but I see a big difference).  My only other tip to add is that when everyone is asking what to get you for your birthday/xmas - tell them you would love some vouchers!
    ♥ ThankFifi

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  82. ThirdGradeRockStarAugust 29, 2012 at 8:11 PM

    I totally agree with your suggestions!  I'm a huge fan of Banana and their sales, in fact, I was just in today checking out their 40% off deal.  I also agree that fit is a huge factor...  My favorite and best fitting work pants are from Target and the Banana Republic Factory store.  They're much more flattering than some of my more expensive pants and therefore look more pulled together.  Keep up the great blogging, J!

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  83. What a great post!!  I am obsessive about leather shoes and handbags.  (Just scored a new handbag today  from TJ Maxx.)  And thanks so much for steering us toward MJR Sales.  Most days when I check there, I am disappointed.  But today I found leather boots which retailed at $179 for $18, which included shipping!!  Another website had sold them "at a discount" for $149, but they had extensive reader comments which helped me buy with more confidence. 
    Slooke

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  84. LOVED the post!! I have been battling this for years and I'm excited to use your tips so I no longer look cheaply dressed.

    I also wanted to ask if you have any secrets for how to properly care for your clothes to keep them looking nice. If it's not too much trouble I'd love to see a post about this topic. I am totally ignorant about how to launder without ruining certain items. And to be honest, I think I shy away from certain clothes because I'm not sure how to wash them. Or I don't want to spend the money on expensive clothes for fear I may mess them up in the wash. It also seems that although I wash my clothes in cold water and dry on low in the dryer I still get shrinkage of most cotton clothing... any tips?

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  85. Love the post! thanks for all those great tips!  by the way love the outfits that you create! is always an inspiration! keep doing such a great job ! =)

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  86. I'm not really sure who you think you are to tell people that wearing all target or all F21 outifts equals cheap. You are not qualified to be a personal stylist. I only read your blog to see what ridiuclous hideous colour combination you'll post next. And I think it's sad that you refuse to get a REAL job.

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  87. This is a really excellent post! Such great tips and tricks ...thank you so much for sharing!

    http://www.twoboroughs.blogspot.com

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  88. I can assure you that I would never tell someone that wearing all Target or F21 makes you cheap. I just recommend mixing those items with higher-quality items.

    As for what I do for a living, it sounds like you have some incorrect info. I'm not a personal stylist.

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  89. Thanks for the post idea Stacey, I will consider it! :-)

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  90. I love this rule Tanya and I will check out that book!

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  91. HappinessatmidlifeAugust 29, 2012 at 10:57 PM

    I agree 100%...but there are certain things that I just won't got for bargain - shoes & handbags. Shoes for the obvious - comfort! 

    Finding a good tailor is so key - you can make a ok fitting item to a custom made item for you!

    Alice
    www.happinessatmidlife.com

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  92. Susie, juniors pants fit me way better, so I usually try to mix them with nicer tops and definitely leather shoes. Have you tried petites at department stores like Macy's? I've heard that they have a huge selection as well!

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  93. I will add that to my list, thanks Jess!

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  94. You meant "watch" instead of "wash" on the picture description?!

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  95. Great tips, btw!! I check your blog on a daily basis because I consider you have pretty good knowledge of what you're talking about...regardless if you have a title or not!

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  96. Cassandra WestfallAugust 29, 2012 at 11:21 PM

    Thanks for your tips, J!  I completely agree that fit is key.  Next is fabric. 

    I avoid buying sweaters made out of fabrics that pill too heavily (I've seen them at all price points) and stick to wool and cotton blends mostly.  Sweater shavers are also useful to help keep sweaters looking newer and more expensive.

    I think the key is to look at fabric and construction no matter where you are shopping.  Some pricier retailers sometimes turn out low quality items, and I have found some very high-quality pieces at Target (including silk tops).

    The kind of closures a jacket has can affect how expensive it looks.  Luckily, that's a quick and inexpensive fix if you really like an item but think it has cheap looking buttons or snaps.

    I also agree about hitting up sales.  With the economy right now, a lot of pricier retailers have really been slashing their prices significantly.

    Coupons are always readily available on-line through a quick google search for even more savings.

    When my kids were babies, I bought them tons of Gymboree, Baby Gap, and other pricier brands off Ebay.  Sometimes used, sometimes new, and always a great bargain.  The re-sale rate for those clothes was also much higher than items from Target or lower-priced retailers, even when the clothes had stains.

    I think the same can be said for adult clothing.  I buy brands I know and trust (with sizing I know) off of eBay, and I've gotten some really great bargains.

    I've been very inspired by your down-to-earth approach to style. 

    I've recently started pursuing a life-long dream to work in fashion/style by starting with my own blog based on the premise that great style is for EVERYBODY.  My focus is on fit and shopping for curvy petites (since that's my body type), but I hope my blog will appeal to readers of all sizes, shapes, and budgets.

    Please check it out at:  http://stylecassentials.blogspot.com/

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  97. Haha, no I'm talking about the dark wash of the jeans! :-)

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  98. I agre you do have to go often, I work at tjmaxx and sometimes when I shop other stores I don't take the time to search. I've found tons of awesome things at tjmaxx, but the difference being that I'm there 3+ times a week, so I see the merchandise constantly. As for the brand names wearing out I would say in general clothing is made cheaper, as J was saying the fabric counts, a CK dress made of polyester is hardly better quality than a no name dress of the same, you'll like just see a better fit, more vibrant colors/ better patterns in the name brand. 

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  99. I just love your blog!! I can't wait to check it in the morning to get inspired. You are so fresh, down to earth and REAL. Don't change a thing and thank you for always being so honest and forth right, hard qualities to find in the 'fashion' world. 

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  100. so where do i shop if im 4'11 and 92 lb? I can't really find anything my size that it's not in the junior section or in cheaper stores.

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  101. Christine, have you tried the petite sections at Banana, Ann Taylor or Macy's? You could also try having some things tailored (if you don't already do that). 

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  102. I'd like to comment on #7 "jewelry that is tarnished":  I am a jewelry designer.  For metals, whether sterling silver or silver plated, the "tarnish" is OXIDATION, as in oxygen from the air.  If you keep your pieces sealed in a ziplock bag, the oxidation is slowed down greatly.  Also, I cringe when I see pretty jewelry displayed hanging from hooks.  Looks great, but the weight of the piece pulls down on the material that the beads are strung on.  I use stainless steel wire to string my beaded pieces, but it will  stretch as will even the "fishing line" that cheaper pieces are strung on, leaving gaps between the beads.  That's my tip!

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  103. I also loved that book and have been shopping that way for a while now, even before reading the book.  I tend to only buy a couple of pieces of clothing a year and purchase from places that manufacture closer to where I live, ie not China, which is in line with my beliefs of supporting smaller businesses/companies that look after the "little people".   I have less clothes, but way better quality clothes.  It's funny, shop the opposite of how J shops, but I enjoy reading her blog for ideas.

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  104. How do you recommend storing jewelry?  Separate zip loc baggies?  Seems like that could get really bulky.  I have most of my necklaces hanging so they don't get tangled.  Do you have any tips about storing pieces in a way that is convenient, doesn't result in tangling, and preserves their quality?  Thanks for the tip!

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  105. Love this! I guess I already do most of these things subconsciously, my favorite stores are H&M, Target, Gap, Old Navy and J. Crew so I've got a pretty even mix going haha. Another tip is to not wash your clothes as often (unless theyre dirty or smelly of course) and when you do, hang them out to dry if you don't want them to shrink. Also, when I'm at, say Old Navy, I like to look for pieces that are similar to things I might see in J. Crew or have little details that make them look better quality.

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  106. Great post! Such great tips!!!

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  107. J- I find Ann Taylor (not LOFT, which I love for "fun" pieces) to be great for high-quality pieces... Mostly basics, but sometimes trendier stuff. The thing I love about both Ann Taylor and LOFT is that they mark stuff down until it's practically free. Eventually, everything goes on final sale for $4.88- $19.88 (prices ending in .88 mean final sale) and they often do an extra 30-50% off sale. So, if I see something I like, I pin it or bookmark it then check back until it's going for those prices. I've bought $150 pieces for $15, but they still look like $150 pieces (great tailoring, no synthetics, etc.).

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  108. I definitely shop thrift stores.  I have found lots of name brand clothes for dirt cheap.  Right now I'm wearing a super cute pair of Lucky jeans that I got for only $5 and they're like new. I've found so much cashmere you wouldn't believe.  But for my size 10 feet, I have a harder time finding quality shoes, so that is an area I need to splurge.  Also, check out garage sales in upper class neighborhoods. I found a beautiful cognac leather Kate Spade handbag for $20...it was like new.  

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  109. I have exactly the same issue, it can get very frustrating. I've been having good luck in the Petite section of Ann Taylor LOFT lately, with both fit and sale prices. I have a terrible time finding shoes too. Good Luck!

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  110. J, do you think that the outlets (Banana, J. Crew, Loft) have the same quality of clothes?

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  111. ...But Target and F21 IS cheap. Might not look cheap, but it definitely doesn't last or hold up well in the wash.... 

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  112. i love this post! this is what i always try to tell my friends. It makes me cringe when everything is fake (leather, polyester, knockoff ect) I always say one good piece offsets the fun cheap pieces from F21 or Target!! Totally agree with you! who says you can't buy designer at a discount, :)

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  113.  You run a very interesting blog :) I follow you and see me I'll be nice :) kisseshttp://miumo.blogspot.com/2012_08_01_archive.html

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  114. Such good tips! I totally agree with #1; my favorite way to find brand names at a discount is through sites like Bluefly and the flash sale sites. Belle & Clive has had some great stuff recently--perhaps not surprising since they are a sister site to Bluefly. And of course there's Rue La La and Gilt.

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  115. Although I'm not sure whether or not this is  t.r.u.e., J., I once read somewhere that in shopping............ for a really personally-*important*  OR  for a really work-*important* Public Occasion............ but not in the $$-high-end clothing stores............ one of the best "colors" to buy is often (but not always!!)............ black............ because even a LESS-expensive piece in BLACK often can............ *s.t.i.l.l.*  look up-scale and quite nice!!   

    So then----(for months afterwards!!)----I  u.n.w.i.t.t.i.n.g.l.y.  found myself trying to casually//inconspicuously LOOK at every woman who walked past me............ wearing *any* piece of black clothing............ and thinking to myself, "Now, is that really, REALLY true about black??!!"    (Haha!!)    (It might also possibly be true about any "almost-black color," e.g., like a very deep eggplant purple or a very deep navy blue, too, although that's only what my~~wildly unscientific//unsophisticated!!~~On-The-Street "Research" shows, haha!!)


    Anyway, J., that's my Tip For Shopping On A Budget, Without Looking Like You're On A Budget!!

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  116. Love this tip Rosanna! Black is certainly easier to pull off in an inexpensive material than white, or a really bright color that attracts a lot of attention. Thanks for sharing!

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  117. Small bags work well.  You can find them at craft stores like Hobby Lobby, or in the craft section at big box stores.  It doesn't hurt to put more than one piece in a bag.  I have a large freestanding jewelry box (lots of jewelry, not surprising) so the bags don't make for a pretty display, but they are key to pretty, untarnished jewelry.  Of course fine quality gold doesn't oxidize, but gold plated can dark, tho not as soon as silver.

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  118. Have you ever actually worn outfits from F21 or Target? I've bought a few pairs of shoes from target, the sole came unattached after two wears. The buttons on stuff from F21 come off after 1 wash and all the threads get unraveled. Stuff from J. Crew and Banana is better quality than this. It's not really a judgment that J is making as much as a statement.

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  119. トリーバーチは多くの人のすごく愛しているモノです。全体から見て、すごくファッション性が自ら人の前に現れてくれます。好きですから、多くの時に、アメリカへ行ってみたい気持ちがたっぷりあります。でも、このブランド品は高品質で、高級感がいっぱいあるから、価格はそんなに高くありませんが、でも、私の力ではなかなか高くなります。ですから、今の私は頑張って、ちゃんとお金を貯金して、お金が適度に至ってはトリーバーチ 財布を購入することになります。

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  120. i agree with almost everything, but i strongly disagree with the real leather part. 
    fake leather doesn't have to look like pleather, today you can find vegan clothes and shoes that don't look cheap and don't involve animals suffering (apart from the humans that have to pay ;).
    a great example of lovely high-end looking vegan shoes: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.278523572159874.79313.125430324135867&type=3

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  121. LOVE the last outfit with the shorts and blouse & great tips (although I do agree with Moran, just need to look for the good faux stuff!)

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  122. That's how the first lady dressed too.

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  123. Thanks Moran, this is an excellent point! I usually try to include vegan options when I link to leather bags, because I know not everyone loves it as much as I do, and that's totally cool with me. :-) Thanks for sharing your source for vegan shoes!

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  124. Kim, the dirty little secret of outlet shopping is that those clothes are made specifically for the outlet stores, and are a lot lower quality! They can be great if you are on a tight budget, or looking for some inexpensive items, but as with any store, check the label and choose your materials wisely. :-)

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  125. Thank you! And I totally agree that Old Navy sometimes has J.Crew knock-offs! If it is a trendy item, I'd rather just get the cheaper version.

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  126. I went to update this post and pretty much added another article along these lines. Check it out and let me know what you think!

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  127. Love this post - great tips!  I recommended it on my blog post today and on my facebook page.
    Thanks!coverupchic.blogspot.ca

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  128. I definately do not agree with outlet stores being lower quality.  Have you ever been to Banana Republic or J Crew outlet stores?  I buy a ton of clothes from these outlet stores and have never had a problem with the quality of items I purchased there.  As for price, clothes from these outlet stores cost more than the clothes you purchase from H & M, MJR Sales, or Marshall's/TJ Maxx.  I find those stores that you constantly buy clothes from are lower quality than many outlet stores.

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  129. I think you misunderstood - I was stating a fact that outlet clothes are made by a different company. There is a common misconception that outlet clothes are from the actual store, but they are made specifically for the outlet, with different materials. Doesn't mean you shouldn't buy them. And when I say lower quality I'm talking about compared to the regular stores themselves - Banana Republic carries all silk and leather, whereas the Banana outlet does not. J.Crew carries silk and leather, whereas the J.Crew outlet does not. 

    In regards to the other stores, TJ Maxx and MJR Sales are my hot spots because all my MJR Sales tops are 100% silk, and I buy leather purses at TJ Maxx. I'm not able to find those materials at the outlets. 

    H&M is a different kind of store, definitely lower quality, but I shop there for a totally different reason! They are the first retailer to put out new trends! :-) So if I want a mirror print, they are literally the only ones carrying it for the first year, and I love trying out new trends so I head there for trendy low-price pieces to mix with my nicer pieces.

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  130. No, I have not misunderstood you, I just think you should not state to your many readers that outlet stores sell lower quality items. To me, outlet stores make clothing and other items more accessible to a broader market of shoppers. I shop at all the stores you name as selling higher quality as well at their outlet stores, and guess what....pretty much all of the clothes are made of the same material.  I cannot believe you say that outlet stores do not have leather items...how about Adidas, Coach, or J Crew?  In fact, J Crew factory stores has silk and leather items in stock…..factory leather envelope clutch, factory stripe silk double pocket blouse (very similar to the Limited one you wear), and factory silk two-pocket blouse.  Soooo, to tell your readers that outlet stores carry clothes of lower-quality materials is not at all accurate.

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  131. I use a lot of coupons/coupon codes. I also shop around. Sites like Amazon will say something is marked down but many times it is not! Also, lots of the little online boutiques that have popped up lately jack up their prices. I do buy a good many of my clothes at Target and Old Navy because I live in a small town with very very few choices, especially basics. My biggest money saver is learning to sew. I can hem/alter my own clothes as well as mend my more expensive pieces to make them last longer.

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  132. Christian Louboutin Sale over the past twenty years brainchild, reproducing brand logo design theme. Master of art, architecture, art and design 's favourite, and his lifelong fascination with the showgirls, exotic love, as well as the opponent process appreciation, are deeply influenced his design
    http://www.cheaplouboutinsshoe.com

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  133. The whole point of outlets is that they sell lower quality materials - why else would the prices be lower? There are some great benefits to outlet shopping like I listed above though. It's a great place to pick up the same DESIGN you see at J.Crew for less, for example. Such as the bubble necklace they had at both the store and outlets recently. Totally different size, quality, etc. at the outlet but I would recommend the outlet for that necklace for sure.

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  134. Hi J, 
    First, I want to say I'm a huge fan of your blog. I love the idea of making fashion accessible. I usually agree with a lot of your ideas, but I think you might want to check into your opinions of outlets. Many of them make clothes specifically for outlets, but some (particularly White House/Black Market) have small boutique-like stores and send things from retail to their outlet stores as soon as they start to mark them on sale to make room in their retail stores. Another store that does a similar thing is Coach. They don't have a clearance section in retail stores, but send sale items to be sold at outlet stores/online outlet (but some things are outlet exclusive-gotta do your research) Just like you talk about being patient and waiting for things to go on sale, you can also find treasures like these at outlet stores. That's not to say that places like Gap, Banana, Loft, etc. don't make things specifically for the outlet stores, but you can also find sale items from retail at the outlet at the end of the season/off-season if you know what to look for. :)

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  135. Thank you! And I totally agree with you. Outlets can be a great strategy for saving money! Neiman Marcus Last Call, for example, works just like TJ Maxx and they sell genuine designer jeans and purses for a steal. When I advised a reader below in the comments that items are made for outlets and not the same quality, I was talking specifically about retailers Banana, Gap, J.Crew and LOFT. Unfortunately not a lot of people know that about those stores, so that's why I pointed it out. It is definitely not my opinion that you shouldn't shop there though! Just like thrift stores, TJ Maxx, MJR Sales - you gotta be smart and look at labels and buy materials with caution. Doesn't matter where you shop, the tips work anywhere! :-)

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  136. This is a wonderful post -- I am always trying to find ways to ensure that I don't look cheap! The only thing I have a really hard time with is no only shopping in Juniors. I am barely over the 21 mark and would love to be able to shop outside of Juniors but I have a hard time finding clothes that fit. I'm not extremely short but I am very tiny -- but maybe I'll venture yet again out Juniors.

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  137. Thanks Dany! I totally understand where you are coming from on this, and I think some juniors is totally okay (and even necessary in your case!). I would try the petite section at stores like LOFT and Banana. Also Google "petite blog" - there are some good ones that talk about how to find clothes that fit a very small frame. Good luck!

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  138. I'm stuck in Juniors when it comes to pants -- for some reason, I can't find a women's jean that works on me -- so I look for jeans and trousers that mimic the styles I see in Women's.  I favor plain, classic styles anyway; I find that sticking to what's classic keeps me from looking like a trend victim, as well as disguising my low budget. Price per wear has been one of those concepts that's helped tremendously.

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  139. Just try Googling "banana republic outlet lower quality" and you'll see tons of articles about how poor the quality is at the BR outlet compared to regular BR stores. It's fairly well known but not widely so. Coach outlets are also notorious for selling bags that yes, are leather, but are a lower quality leather and made more haphazardly than what is in a Coach retail store. There are some outlet stores that are really good but BR, Coach, and Ann Taylor Loft are notoriously bad.

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  140. I'm really excited to see how you manage a budget and balance the expensive/inexpensive aspect during the winter months. I started following your blog recently, and I am loving your style and how realistic you are. I just moved from Cali to the much cooler east coast and am trying to choose my winter wear with function, style, and budget all in mind.
    You're doing a great thing!

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  141. I just discovered this thread, happily.  What a lot of great ideas!  I also shop vintage to find one-of-a-kind pieces that are higher quality at lower prices.  The other budget tool I use is simply buying less.  I would rather have five high quality items than have 15 cheap ones....and I'm willing to pay three times as much to get them. 

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  142. I disagree with the tips on real leather and silk. You don't need real leather to look expensive. There are a lot of vega eather bags that are really great quality and more well-made than real leather bags. All polyester is not created equal. You can find amazingly well-made polyester shirts. You can lookfabulous and expensive without supporting cruelty to animal.

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  143. Really amazing post. About how to wear cheap clothes but looks awesome.

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  144. I love
    this article. Always looking for great clothes on a budget! Another store that
    I like is Hypnotized
    Of Boston
    . I have gotten a few cute dresses from this store! They
    have great sales that they publish exclusively to their Facebook fans!

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  145. I love this article. Always looking for great clothes on a budget! Another store that I like is Hypnotized
    Of Boston
    . I have gotten a few cute dresses from this store! They have great sales that they publish exclusively to their Facebook fans! The dresses start st $9.99.

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  146. I favor plain, classic styles anyway women blouse.Thanks for sharing!

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  147. I have a harder time finding quality air max 95 2013 shoes, so that is an area I need to splurge.

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  148. I enjoy your tips and find appropriate. I truly believe that fashion accessories can always transform your attire to not look so cheap. Can I share your link w/ my readers?

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