POSTED ON JULY 25, 2007:
This is the time to determine your needs versus your wants.
Sarah Jessica Parker, one of my personal favorite modern fashion icons, has recently started her own clothing line, Bitten, where items from t-shirts to jeans and sweaters do not exceed the price of $20. Sadly, the closest proximity we Tulsans have to it is a road trip to Oklahoma City or Enid to visit Steve and Barry's, but we do have the brand's slogan to consider when we shop here in Tulsa: Fashion is not a luxury.
Looking current and keeping up with the Jones' is expensive, but it shouldn't have to be. While Tulsa's options for shopping have expanded outside the walls of the two malls in recent years, we still don't have the fantastically cheap retailers like an H&M or Forever 21 that provide the looks of the moment at insanely low prices. But that does not mean that we can't shop by SJP's motto. Brace yourself. It's time for the sale.
Shopping is many things: therapy, addiction, hobby, but when it comes to the sale, it's similar to a skill, perhaps even an art. Forget the idea of battling another girl for something; it's an internal battle trying to determine if you should purchase an item upon first glance at full price or impatiently wait for it to be reduced. So here are a few ideas to ponder as you make your way through a store.
Check the amount of inventory they have on the floor in your size at that moment. Boutiques or high-end stores will often get only one size run of a particular item. This low amount is intended to keep the item unique and prevent everyone around you from having one, but because of this, there is generally only one or two in your size. Sorry, but you must buy those pieces now.
Also consider purchasing it if you have a strong connection to the item: it looks really good on you and you know you'll wear it a dozen times between now and whenever it may go on sale. This is the time to determine your needs versus your wants.
I sometimes confuse these things myself in that I always believe I need what I want, but I hear that's not actually the case. If you need the item for an upcoming event, there's no point in waiting for the sale; if you want the item just to have it, hold off on buying just yet. It might go on sale, which makes it even better buy.
Off to the other end of the spectrum, when to wait and save. The best places to wait for a sale are the chain retail stores. These big-name places with locations scattered everywhere will often get an item in several times and will get handfuls of a variety of sizes. They also get in new items more frequently and because of this sheer bulk of quantity, there is the need to make things move faster. For you, this translates into markdowns sooner and often with plenty of your size.
Sales also depend on the type of item. Standard items that a store carries throughout the year will generally not go on clearance. Items like jeans, dress pants or basics like solid colored t-shirts may only go on sale sporadically during promotional times, so it will rarely affect a price.
If an item is seasonal, it is also best to strike while the iron is hot. If you need a swimsuit or a winter coat during its actual season, it's best to pay full price. If you wait until these types of items are on sale, you'll have to wait until next summer or winter to actually wear them.
Your wait doesn't have to include visiting the store over and over, continually returning to the store each week to see if the price has finally come down. A girl can easily do her own research from home. Stores, whether locally owned or conglomerate chains, have web sites, but more importantly they will often send e-mails regarding sales. Plus you can simply check to see if a certain item's price has been reduced.
While I understand the logic behind ordering items online, I believe that when it comes to purchasing clothing, it's stores all the way. This way you can clarify colors or patterns, touch the fabric and actually try the item on to ensure that it fits properly. But if you saw the item previously in the store and know first hand how perfect it is for you, have FedEx do the work for you.
Whether purchased in the store or through the web, always remember to save receipts. Often stores have a period of time in which you can have previously purchased items price adjusted. This just means that if you bought it today and it goes on sale tomorrow, that you can still get the sale price.
Just because an item is clearanced at a low price does not mean you have to buy it. There is a general rule when it comes to cost efficiency in shopping: if the item is expensive, but will be worn/used frequently, the usage downplays the cost. So if you buy a pair of jeans for $200, and wear them 100 times, then you're getting your money's worth. That is less so with sale items. Just because a top is $10, if you're only going to wear it once, it might not be worth the buy.
What you should really scan the stores for are designer items at reduced prices. I have to admit that I am a sucker for an outlandishly priced designer item. The more expensive, the more exclusive and fabulous it feels and my urge to own it intensifies. The objects of my affection are usually shoes and purses with great labels and even greater prices, and these go on sale like nothing else does.
If you've always dreamed of walking around in your own Manolos or swinging a Marc Jacobs purse over your shoulder it is possible. Luxury goods, like anything else, have a high mark-up value, but when it comes to moving things out for the next season, prices can be cut by as much as 50 percent.
SJP is right about fashion not being a luxury, but you should always feel luxurious. Whether you pay full price or the reduced amount for your outfit, you should always look like a million bucks.
Editor's Note: We goofed. Last week's photographs of vintage clothing shoppers were taken at Deco to Disco, 1508 E. 15th Street, and all of the clothes worn by our models were donated for the shoot by the store. We are terribly sorry for forgetting to mention this last week and want to say thanks again to Deco to Disco!
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