I once had a girl accidentally hurl an entire glass of pinot noir at my white linen shirt and then say, “Oh my god. Your night is fucked!* I’m so sorry! I hope that’s like……….J. Crew or something.” #truestory
Because if my shirt wasn’t Chanel I would naturally love it less? In her klutzy, elitist, word-vomit-filled world, a J. Crew shirt was viewed as disposable, but many less deluded people view a $98 camisole or a $110 blouse as a splurge. In fact, several of my very favorite shirts are made of Baird McNutt Irish linen imported by J. Crew, and while the retailer is generally not my style, I appreciate the quality of these shirts and think they’re well worth the price. For me, high-quality simply means non-fast-fashion items made with a little extra love. It means natural fiber sweaters instead of polyester/acrylic blends. It means silk blouses instead of rayon (which is made from trees, if you weren’t aware). It means soft leather shoes instead of plastic. It doesn’t mean Prada, Saint Laurent, or Celine.
I have to say all this, because what follows might lead one to believe otherwise. Okay, you may continue…
I have to admit that, when hung together, much of my clothing would make me look like a massive slave to the higher end labels, and while I do have a soft spot for luxury brand name items, there is a method to my madness. As a rule, I only buy clothing at massive discounts, and as I’ve gotten older, more crotchety, and less interested in battling crowds and dressing rooms at bricks-and-mortar retail locations, I’ve become a pretty savvy online shopper.
80% off!!! Sure, $700 is a lot of money, but warm, natural fiber coats aren’t cheap, and this one ticks all of the boxes for me. Stella McCartney is a cruelty-free brand, which I love. Plus it’s well-made, well-known and fairly classic, which means — this is the important part — future consignment will be no problem at all. As much as I love to support the boutique brands, when binging on investment pieces I always choose prominent labels. I hate having useless clothing hanging around, and being able to sell/consign an expensive item when I’m done with it is a game changer.
I’m not a Kardashian. I can’t get away with having that many skeletons in my closet.
So the big admission and entire point of this post is this:
While my closet is a who’s who of big-name designer brands, they almost exclusively come from luxury department store clearance sales (Barneys Warehouse anyone!?!). I check my spam folder frequently, and when an email from a favorite retailer pops up, that’s my cue. I’ve procured a lot of amazing items from these sales. Often times my purchases are staples, but just as often they’re really fun items with price tags that – at 80% off — are finally justifiable.
I would never pay $200 for a scarf with rainbow tassels. But rainbows and tassels were trending for spring, so when I found this scarf marked down to $30 I was all over it. It ended up being a great way to accent an otherwise super boring outfit (but big thumbs up for “athleisure,” which I find equal parts ridiculous and glorious).
I mentioned Barneys Warehouse, but it isn’t my only source for amazing deals. I follow a few other retailers religiously. The trick is getting to know which stores speak to your personal style, and also offer frequent and nearly inconceivable discounts.
This is where most people get tripped up. The big catch when a $3500 coat is marked at 80% off is that it is usually final sale, and only available for purchase online. Buzz kill. No trying on. No do-overs. This means I generally don’t buy pants or shoes unless I know the brand well enough to know my size and that its products are consistent. Outerwear, dresses, jewelry, bags, and anything that has a little bit of flexibility in sizing are fair game.
So if you’re one of those people who shops at H&M or Zara because budgeting is as important as fashion to you, do the environment a favor and start shopping the sales at the luxury department stores instead. It’s really quite easy to procure some quality staples at a fraction of their MSRP, and to give yourself the option of reselling them when you’re done. With a little patience and some savvy strategizing, you can fill your closet with beautiful, stylish items without breaking the bank, topping up the landfills, or exploiting the people and ecosystems of foreign countries.
Everyone has skeletons in their closet. They might as well be worth something, right?
*Another true story: When I was a 15 I had a massive crush on Will Smith (shhhh), and I once read an interview in which he stated that educated people don’t need to swear to make their points. I’ve heard it from many other wise folks since then, but Big Willie’s version stuck with me, and I think of it often. I do try not to swear, so apologies for the F-bomb, but we’re all adults here and it’s a fucking quote.