Monday, July 02, 2007

Saying "Goodbye" to Discounted Designer Fashions

Fashion magazines are always glorifying outfits that successfully combine high and low pieces. Pairing designer with discount supposedly ensures that you're spending money on pieces that will last a long time, without wasting money on trends that go in and out of style with the season. I find myself nodding in total agreement as I read article after article praising this fashion philosophy. It makes perfect sense, both from a financial and stylistic standpoint. Problem is, every time I try it, I fail miserably.

Because I can't afford full-priced designer clothes, I'm drawn to the sale racks of upscale department stores and discount designer sites like Bluefly, where you can view page after page of beautiful clothes, shoes and accessories massively discounted. Browsing the site, I'll come across a fabulous dress, handbag or top that's marked down 50%, from a brand I thought I'd never be able to afford, and it happens to come in exactly my size. "It's fate!" I exclaim. Even discounted, the item is usually more expensive that what I'd pay, but I tell myself that I'm getting a great deal on a high-quality item that I'll wear to death, thereby justifying the price. I click, I pay, it's mine.

But when that item arrives and I've worn it for a day, my previous excitement is often lost. It never looks as good as it did in the picture, and I find myself making excuses for imperfect fit or coloration. And the thought of spending outside my tight budget leaves me with a guilty feeling in my stomach, as I consider what else that money could've been spent on.

I don't know if it's biological or socially ingrained, but it seems that most women gain an incredible amount of satisfaction from scoring a major bargain. We get swept up in feeling like we've uncovered something secret and hidden, and the sense of accomplishment that accompanies privately knowing that you got something for next to nothing (although there's nothing private about bragging to all your friends that you scored a pair of Jimmy Choo's for $90). There's also something to be said about the power of branding that affects even the most jaded consumer when she finds a luxury brand on sale.

As this happens, we stop considering the factors that normally guide our purchases, like staying within our budget, making sure the clothes fit and flatter our bodies and ensuring that we're getting the most for our money.

I'm sure that there are saavy shoppers who have conditioned themselves to not be affected by the lure of a brand name and the siren's call of "final sale." Unfortunately, I'm not there yet, so I'm giving up on discounted designer items. I've got too many barely-worn clothes and accessories hanging in my closet that I can't bring myself to give away because I still feel a sense of accomplishment for scoring a deal, but also a lot of guilt for spending outside of my means on something I never wore. For now, I'm sticking to designer collections for Target and H&M for my designer fix, and I think my under-filled wallet and over-stuffed closet will thank me.


Anonymous said...

Did you hear about the recent Supreme Court decision? I heard it on NPR just the other day--the ruling was on whether manufacturers could set prices for their products, below which retailers cannnot sell them. It was presented as an antitrust case, but the Court ruled that companies could in fact set prices. So we may not have as many discount options for long.

Anne said...

Have you ever tried taking any of those pieces to a tailor? If it's a screaming deal and you can't return it you might as well try and make it work.

Kori said...

I feel exactly the same. I always spend way more than I normally would because something is such a good bargain, but end up feeling guilty and owning something not all that great.

ambika said...

I think I learned my lesson re: internet shopping in general. I HAVE to try to things on, whether a knit top, jeans, or shoes, to know that they'll fit me. Yes, even shoes (given my wide feet, if a shoe runs too narrow, I have to return them.) The rare times I give in are when something is incredibly cheap (as opposed to designer), so I won't regret it too much if it's not perfect.

Otherwise, I stick with the Rack for my more expensive stuff.

Teresa said...

This is why I love Zappos - free returns and exchanges if the shoes don't fit properly. And Zappos is almost never the cheapest option but they've always been very good at honoring the 10% off the lowest price you can find. I got an extra $80 of a pair of boots after finding them at Famous Footwear and calling Zappos.

My only "designer" thing I own is an Escada suit. It is bright orange but I love it. (I'm wearing the skirt today with a $9 Ann Taylor Loft jersey top, $30 sandals from a market in London, $3 earrings from Big Lots of all places, and a $32 fossil bag - I apparently do the budget mixing!) It was marked down to $150 in a consignment store, new with tags. I'm pretty neurotic about quality and I honestly don't see much different between this $3000+ suit and my Ann Taylor $300 suits.

theovereducatedvalet said...

I'm the same way about a bargain. Sometimes it seems like I'm looking more at the price tag than at the usefulness and fit of the piece itself, because if it's under, say, $30, and is remotely flattering, I'll buy it. That's how I ended up with a number of ill-fitting, overly trendy dresses this summer. Sure, they were cheap, but they look it too.

My most recent designer purchase gone awry is a Huge Boss beige linen tank dress. It was $700, on sale for $65, so I bit. Thing is, I have a rule against linen. In any form. Under any circumstances. No exceptions, ever. Well, I wore the dress once. It creased the nanosecond I sat down and I spent the rest of the evening feeling frumpy and aggravated by my rumpledness. Hello, consignment store.

Meg said...

(Meg from

I just read your post. Looks like we both have discount shopping on the brain today (see my post Can't Afford to NOT Be Picky - Looking Great on a Budget).

I agree that it's easy to get swept away by bargains.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree.

I've tried to stop my craving for online shopping just because i've found that things online are not what they are when they arrive (fitting/color, ect).

I also find that i'm more prone to buy something with a SALE SALE SALE super-reduced tag on it, just to find out when i'm home that it does not work for me.

As I get older (yet my budget gets tigher, thanks college), I try to shop when I need to, for specific things in mind, and really ask myself when trying something on- does this fit correctly, or do I just like it for the price and the time?