There has been a lot of talk about the economy lately and the forecast isn't looking too good which means it's time to start looking at ways to tighten the budget and cut back on the things you don't absolutely need. Though the thought about going without might seem grim at luxury designer brand clothing and accessories first, there is a silver lining when it comes to shopping. Just because you have less to spend on fashion doesn't mean you have to stop trying completely, following is a list of tips that help the budget fashionista in all of us keep looking fabulous.
I thought starting off with the most obvious wardrobe item was a good way to kick off the list especially since a lot of us have already started thinking of spring wear, plus shopping for clothing on a budget is often the easiest. Although no one likes to worry about the economy, one positive result is retailers know that consumers are holding onto their money tighter than before, so they are more willing to hold sales and make higher decreases to entice consumers to spend. Here's a great way to take advantage of dropping prices but still come out with the stuff you want:
Be a savvy sale shopper: I already mentioned how you might notice more sales and promotions from retailers in an effort to boast slow profits, so as a savvy shopper it pays off to know when your favorite store is holding a 'secret sale' (join a mailing list or befriend the sales staff to become a VIP), end-of-season sales (household names like Banana Republic and Macy's hold seasonal sales where items are 40% off), watch for the buy-one-get-one-half off type of coupon sales because you can buy the non-sale item you've been eyeing and get another item half off.
Shop online: Even the most experienced shopper can find it daunting to keep up with the sale schedule at their favorite stores which is why shopping online has become so popular. Gone were the days where you weren't sure of your size or if something looked good, most online shops allow for easy returns. But it's better to know the types of clothes you look good so you won't have to mail back a bunch of returns. The best part about shopping online is that often times you can find the same brands at cheaper prices because an online retailer doesn't have to pay for retail space. If you don't believe me, I found Rachel Pally dresses at 50% off at DesignersLA.com or check out ShopBop and click on the 70% off sale section (you'll be amazed at what you see). Plus if you sign up for your favorite e-tailers email list, you'll get even more savings with sale announcements and coupon codes sent right to your inbox. What's easier than that?
Invest in classics: Though sale shopping can result in a ton of savings, to really save money try not to buy something you won't end up wearing just because it is on sale. Sure a designer label pink suede skirt at 80% off is a great deal but if it's hot outside or pink suede isn't in style when the weather cools, you've wasted money that could have been used toward something you'll wear again and again. Trends are always fun but invest in a couple of classics that can take you through an entire season. I'm thinking white wide-leg pants and a yellow dress but you can pick your favorite spring staples.
Vintage: If the thought of secondhand shops scares you than you haven't been shopping at the right vintage store. Vintage can be ultra-hip and you'll be surprised to see what you find in the right vintage store. Make sure to find one that offers items in good condition and reasonable prices (some are actually expensive) and go hunting for shift dresses, capris and 50's style blouses that have been seen in all the fashion magazines. Plus there are even some great online vintage shops (JillsConsignment and LuxuryVintage) that carry amazing stuff in awesome condition.
Handbags and Accessories
It doesn't matter if there are tough times or not, fashionistas are constantly on the lookout for bargains on designer handbags. The good thing is that a good designer handbag has a much longer run than designer clothing because if you invest in the right designer purse or designer jewelry you can wear it for many months as opposed to changing up your clothes due to trends and weather conditions. And even though designer "it" bags cost more than ever, the average designer label handbag costs $2k, I've done my homework and found ways to score a hot designer bag, designer jewelry or accessory from Prada, Gucci, Tod's, Chloe, Anya Hindmarch, Marc Jacobs, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, Burberry, and even Chanel at up to 70% off retail. Don't believe me, see for yourself:
Shop online: As with shopping for clothing, shopping online for designer accessories can really pay off. Unlike clothes, you don't have to worry about how an item will fit because most reputable sites will list the exact measurements and provides photos from all angles so you can see exactly what you're getting. Since online retailers don't have as much overhead as say a big department store (it's hard to find a designer handbag in a small boutique), they are able to offer substantially more savings for the exact same purse. I recently picked up an authentic Chanel handbag at for 50% off retail at eFashionHouse.com and the selection is endless. Based on my budget (and a little bit of principal) I would never pay full price for a designer handbag because I know if I wait for the "it" bag craze to die down, I'll visit my favorite site and get the bag 40% off. You can also shop for brand new designer jewelry from Chanel, Gucci and others at more than 60% off.
Wait for end-of-season sales: All of the major department stores mark designer handbags off toward the end of the season an although it's nice to carry a bag as soon as the season starts, if you can hold out, you can find what you're looking for. But if you plan to wait for these sales, make sure you are the first to know because inventory goes fast and is usually sold out the day a sale starts (if you miss the boat, visit the discount designer handbag web sites who sell authentic bags at a discounts year round).
Out with the old, in with the new: If you are as much of a handbag lover as I am than you probably have a couple of designer handbags lying around that you haven't used in a while which means you can afford to get rid of them. If you sell these unused accessories on eBay or to a consignment shop, you can have some extra money to spend on the designer handbag you really want. Try it out, it won't hurt as much as you think.
Vintage: More than even clothes, vintage designer handbags, jewelry and accessories (wallets, scarves, etc.) can not only save you money but even outlast many of the trendier bags. Sites like LuxuryVintage sell authentic Chanel handbags in amazing condition (little to no wear) for as low as $400 and since Chanel handbags are timeless, this is a small price to pay for a bag you can wear for years to come.
Don't be a snob: In addition to the luxury leaders like Marc Jacobs and Prada, the handbag heyday has allowed for smaller labels like Elaine Turner, Tano and Pietro Alessandro to make a name for themselves. Often made from the same high end materials as couture fashion houses, it's easier than ever to score an ultra-soft trendy handbag, like the Elaine Turner Paige Python Frame Bag or the Alex Tote, for a fraction of the cost of an expensive designer label.
Cheap Chic: We usually don't like any handbags that fall into the $15-$40 range but we have to say that lines like Melie Bianco and Murval are quickly making us change our mind. We wouldn't recommend spending your money on a bunch of cheap, poorly made handbags but if you want the look of the moment handbag, than Melie Bianco will probably have it. Visit DesignersLA.com and be amazed at how Melie Bianco manages to make such stylish and gorgeous handbags at such unbelievable prices.
There is not a lot of advice we have on shoes because we think that most savvy shoppers (who are women at least) have this category covered but we'll include a couple of pointers just in case you need a refresher:
Invest in a good pair: Shoes are quickly becoming like designer handbags in the fact that they are wildly expensive and there are now a ton of "must-have" styles. Christian Louboutin is the leader of the pack, followed closely by Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blanik but finding a pair of these beauties at a discount can be pretty tricky but not unheard of. If must have another pair of shoes (to add to the 30 you already have), than try to invest in as much shoe as you can afford. Maybe we walk a lot but we've found that investing in a good pair of shoes (leather upper and leather sole) can take us a long way.
Online: There are a ton of online sites selling only footwear and it's sometimes hard to go through them all but the one good thing about so many choices is that there is more competition which means that price points will be lower. We haven't found a ton of online luxury designer brand clothing and accessories sites that we like to shop at for shoes because we tend to shop for more high end brands (goes back to that investment thinking) and there aren't a lot of sites that sell expensive shoes but one place I have found luck at saving money is eBay (yes, eBay). I would never purchase a designer handbag from eBay because there is no way to guarantee that you are actually getting an authentic designer handbag but shoes are less likely to be knocked off. But be prepared to search often because the selection is limited however you can find some amazing deals (brand new Lanvin flats for $200 or Prada heels for $100). So brush up on your bidding war skills because wining a pair of Manola Blanik Mary Janes is harder than actually walking in them.
Sales: Like clothes and designer accessories, the best and easiest way to save money is to know when your favorite shoe store is having a sale, but the early bird gets the worm in shoes sales because if there is one thing women have in common its shoes.
So although a slow economy can be a huge drain on your wallet, just remember that looking good doesn't have to suffer a recession as well. Become an experienced (and smart) shopper and you'll ride out tough times with the shirt on your back.