Savvy Shopping: Preppy Dress For Less

Do you frequently walk into J. Crew and wish you could buy everything in sight? I’m not saying that I’ve walked in, fallen in love with a clothing item, and immediately wanted to cry when I looked at the price tag, but I’m not saying that I haven’t either (OK, we’ve all been there). If you love classic style clothing but need to shop on a budget, don’t fret; there are many ways to dress for less in your favorite preppy looks with some savvy shopping.

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Shop the Sales

This is no secret, but the best way to get expensive clothing items for less is to shop the sales. Take advantage of off-season sales when stores have an additional percentage off their already reduced merchandise. I once got a cardigan at J. Crew for $13 with this strategy. If you are a student, take advantage of student discounts; many stores offer 10 percent off with a student I.D. Another option is outlet malls or factory stores, where most items are less expensive than main store finds. Many outlet malls have flyers in newspapers with coupons good for an additional 20 percent off of any item in the store several times a year. These generally work for sale items, too, and those savings add up very quickly.

If you prefer online shopping, there are lots of ways to save. The website Rue La La is a great way to get discounted designer clothing. They run boutique sales that last several days (or until stock runs out) and change frequently. The best part: you pay a one time shipping fee of $10 and then get free shipping on additional orders you place for the next thirty days. If you play your cards right, you can save a lot on many nice staples that will last a long time. Last week, I snagged a Lilly Pulitzer dress that had been $198 for $40 including shipping, and a phone case for half-off as well.

The key here is knowing which sales are truly sales and which you’re better off skipping, but a gut check (or your wallet) will help guide you here. Since online shopping requires a little more self control than in person shopping does, the best advice I can give is to “visit” it a few times before you pay for your cart to make sure you truly want it and that it isn’t just an impulse buy before you place your order.

Find your style icon and copy her look (for much less) 

 Blair Waldorf Style

The thing about preppy clothing is that most items don’t go out of style since they are basic, classic pieces. The benefit to this is twofold. First, it means that the items you splurge on will last a long time and stay fashionable, making them worth the investment. But second, it means that there are a variety of stores that will have similar looks that are much more affordable. The easiest way to do this is to identify which pieces in each look you want (or need) and then find them for cheaper elsewhere. Many stores will sell their own version of what’s popular and some cost much less for equally nice quality. For example, last winter, Old Navy had quilted vests that looked almost identical to the popular J. Crew version, but I paid $20 for mine versus the $80 I would’ve paid for the real deal, and no one could tell the difference. An acquaintance that saw me wearing it was shocked to hear it came from Old Navy and that I paid so little.

Especially for basic items like V-necked tees, the brand really doesn’t matter; if it’s decent quality why pay more? They all look the same. Stock up on basic items during off seasons to save the most. My closet has a whole section of plain long and short sleeved tees, and I didn’t pay more than $5 for any of them since I got them off-season at my outlet mall. If this sounds too good to be true, see for yourself the next time you shop, because you’d be surprised at the deals you can find with a little hunting (and waiting).

Prep for Less

If you absolutely must have name brand items, try stores like Marshalls or T. J. Maxx. They often have brands like Polo Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors, and I’ve even found Kate Spade. Since most of the items are from the previous season (but still stylish) you can get them for half of what you would pay at their original retail stores, so if you want to make the investment on a nice handbag or want a specific brand, you can save money here, too.

Wherever you decide to shop, check the sale section and don’t forget your coupons! At the end of the day, the best way to save is to ask yourself, “Do I need this?” before you get to the register, since it’s easy to be tempted by bargains and wind up with things you like but won’t actually wear. But with a little planning and some smart shopping, it’s easy to find classic, preppy clothing for less, and you can often get deals on your favorite brands too!

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