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Looking Good in a Recession

Nancy Trejos

Spring is here and some of you might be in need of some new outfits. And because we are in a recession, Dolce &Gabbana is probably out of your range. It’s definitely out of mine (actually it always has been. Alas...)

However, I’ve learned from some of my girlfriends that it is possible to have great style without going broke. I recently sat them down and made them explain to me how they do it.

Christina is a 30-something federal employee who always stands out at parties for her colorful dresses, exotic jewelry and original handbags and shoes.

“You can get fabulous things, eclectic things, collector’s items and it doesn’t have to cost a ton,” she said.

She prefers vintage clothing stores and consignment shops. You can find high-end items there for a fraction of their original cost, and often, they are barely used. Once you’ve scouted out some great shops in your area, get to know the owners and employees so they will let you know when a shipment of goodies arrives, Christina advised.

My co-worker and buddy Annie is a big proponent of thrift stores, which many people think require more digging through merchandise than consignment shops. But in recent years, Annie has concluded that the products have improved. Her biggest coup was a $1,300 Alexander McQueen blazer that cost her $39.

Christina and Annie have been shopping this way for a long time. But because of the recession, consignment and thrift stores are even more in vogue now. When the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops surveyed its members in late 2008, it found that September and October sales were up an average of 35 percent from the previous year.

Other tips from my friends and trend experts:

Don’t snub stores that have a reputation for inexpensive merchandise such as Forever 21 and H&M. Don’t, however, wear Forever 21 alone. "You mix things. If you have an H&M dress with lots of color, pair it with expensive jewelry or a handbag,” Christina said.

Don’t snub the “Marts”. Laura Yoder, 33, owner and creator of trend advice Web site 24-7 Style, has found good pieces at K-Mart and Wal-Mart. “People are so concerned with labels and brands, that they aren't realizing great items can be found for less at the ‘Marts,’ as I call them -- K-Mart and Wal-Mart. These stores are really working on bringing consumers affordable fashion.”

Try discount stores. Target, Marshall’s and Filene’s Basement have some classy pieces.

Shop online. Annie is a big fan of eBay, with one caveat: Don’t turn to it for designer items unless you really know the brand because you could end up with knockoffs. Better to try or Also try Google’s Froogle shopping search engine. Type in the product you are looking for and Google will find where it is being sold and sort it by price.

Never be afraid to negotiate. I have friends who bought items at a store only to find it on sale just weeks later. They returned to the retailer and asked for that discount. The retailer was willing to do it as long as they had the receipt. Always know your store’s return policy, and keep your receipts for at least 30 days.

By Nancy Trejos  |  April 22, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Bargains , Nancy Trejos  
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Recessionistas can also shop "invite only" online sample sales - tips at

Posted by: purplechacha | April 28, 2009 8:01 PM | Report abuse

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