Ten Things About… Getting Great Deals on Clothes

Here’s our confession/boast: almost everything we own was bought on sale. Our favorite Iisli sweater jacket? Tried it on at Bergdorf’s when it cost $430, snapped it up at a winter sale a few months later for $150; then loved it so much that we bought another one on HauteLook for $125. We’ve gotten pants from Banana Republic for $6.99 and worn them a lot. We once snagged an entire ball gown at an outlet store for $20 and wore it to our firm’s black-tie gala. Alas, most of these amazing takes came from the days when we shopped the stores really regularly — since then, we’ve had to adjust our shopping habits for a life where a) we’re usually, you know, working when the stores are open and b) it’s harder to set aside time on the weekend to shop.  (Pictured:  “Closing Down” Sale 2, originally uploaded to Flickr by johnthurm.)

(A caveat before we start our tips — in our  minds there is a difference from buying good clothing at reduced prices, and buying cheap clothing.   Personally, we have serious ethical issues with shopping at stores that specialize in knock-offs.  (Hat tip to Counterfeit Chic, who covers the issue regularly.))

1.  The next time you’re actually out and about shopping, do a little legwork — learn your size in the brands you ogle online.  Are you a 7 or 7.5 in Cole Haan pumps?  Are you a size 8 or 10 in Tory Burch?  If you figure this out it’ll be much easier to snap up sales when you see them, whether they’re at online discounters like RueLaLa or department stores.

2.  Use online tools to help keep you aware of discounts.  We try to point you to a big sale if we see one, but a lot of the best deals (60% off) fall in the “lucky sizes” realm, when very limited sizes are left.  Particularly if you fall on either end of the “regular” clothing spectrum — an XS, a size 14 — then you should set up sale alerts because there are tons of great tools.  We love ShopItToMe, and we’ve heard good things about Savvy Circle as well.  ShopStyle can also be handy if you’re watching a particular brand of bags or shoes.

3.  Don’t pay for shipping more than you have to.  When we shop online, we haaate paying for shipping — it’s our number one pet peeve.  If there’s a minimum for free shipping ($75 or $200 are frequent numbers) then we will almost always try to fill our carts with at least that amount.  Bloomingdales had great sales recently and, the bag we wanted — a Treesje bag marked from $600ish to $180ish — would not have gotten us free shipping.  So we also bought a pair of Ralph Lauren shorts marked to $8 (we never wear shorts, but we always pack them on vacations, so the price worked well) and a Kooba bag (also marked to the $190 realm) that we were curious about.  We wound up returning the Kooba bag, but the Treesje bag and shorts were great deals, and we still got the free shipping.

4. Look for coupons before you checkout.  We almost always check RetailMeNot before purchasing anything online; we also get a lot of e-mails directly from stores, which frequently come with coupon codes.

5. Shop off season. That Treesje bag we mentioned?  White patent leather — it arrived the weekend after Labor Day, meaning we won’t get to wear it for nearly a year.  That’s ok, though — when Memorial Day rolls around we’ll be salivating for it.

6.  Know the returns policy. Particularly if you’re filling your shopping cart in order to get free shipping, you need to  be sure you know how long you have to return items.  Some stores are very friendly — for example, we bought a ton of white dresses from Nordstrom’s, on sale, when we got engaged — different sizes, different brands, etc. — probably spending about $400 on four or five dresses.  Nine months later, when it was time to get dressed for the rehearsal dinner, we tried on the dresses and wore the one that fit the best; we returned the rest without hassle. (Just to clarify — we don’t recommend you stretch it out to 9 months on a regular basis. Rather, just know the returns policy so you aren’t surprised if it’s a 30-day policy and you thought you had 60 days.)

7.  Be flexible on the sizes. While in #1 we advise you to know your size, we also advise you to be a bit flexible on size when you’re ordering online.  A lot of great sales happen on clothes that have the wrong tag.  So if you see a size 8 and you’re a size 6, if the deal is right (and returns won’t be a hassle), give it a try.  (We would not necessarily advise this for shoes, though.)

8. Know what you wear regularly. Our weekend uniform tends to be black t-shirts and jeans, so we frequently check around for black t-shirts on the site that look worthwhile to us.

9. Consider buying multiples. If you see a deal on something that you already know and love, consider buying multiples, either in the same color or a different one.  We already mentioned our Iisli sweater, but we’ve done this a number of times — jeans, shoes, t-shirts, even bags.

10.  Understand that some things just don’t go on sale, while others might be able to be negotiated if you’re buying in person.  For example, we’ve never seen a classic Louis Vuitton bag on sale, and proudly bought ours at the store for full price.  On the other hand, they say that jewelry can be negotiated — for example, if you’re buying a good watch (Cartier, Rolex, etc.) from a reputable store it’s not uncommon for the sales person to give you a 15% discount.

Readers, what are your best tips for getting steals online?  Any victory stories you’d like to share? Also:  if you like this story, please consider “Digging” it: Digg!

Weekly Round-up

Liking these posts? Follow Corporette on Twitter — this is the edited version of what we’re reading! (We also Tweet if we hear about a good sale.)

- The NYT proclaims the return of the interview suit.  (To which we ask: did it ever really go away?) [NYT] (We’ve attached one of our favorite interview suits of all time, the suit Christina Applegate wore in the movie, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. Alas, we cannot find the scene where she rips apart her mother’s closet to find a suit (her character is 17 pretending to be 29), but we’ve posted a video below that might bring back some memories.)

- Some young workers are rebelling against traditional corporate attire and attempting to “express their inner soul” through their clothes (rather than their willingness to tow the line).  [WSJ]

- The Annual “Women to Watch” issue just came out from the Wall Street Journal, and the WSJ Law Blog offers their thoughts as well. [WSJ via WSJ Law Blog]

- Five easily drinkable wines for under $12 — for Thanksgiving or, you know, Thursday. [The Simple Dollar]

- Forbes offers its advice on ways to dine well during the downturn. [Forbes]

- Finally: new(ish) blog Sweet Hot Justice offers advice on when you have to donate to your client’s charity.  [Sweet Hot Justice]

Ten Things About… Dressing Professionally if You’re Busty

A lot of times for our TPS reports, people will note that they couldn’t get away with that, as they’re too well-endowed to wear a certain dress.  It’s one of the sad facts of clothes that most “professional” outfits seem to be intended for women shaped more like Jackie rather than Marilyn (or Betty rather than Joan, in today’s parlance).  But well-endowed women have to dress professionally also!  Below, some tips… Please chime in and let us know if you have any others.

1. Know your bra size. If the girls are multiplying throughout the day (and your bra is giving you the dreaded quadra-boob effect) then your cup size is too small.  Alternatively, if your straps are digging into your shoulders, your band size is probably too big.  Take our advice — go and get fitted at a reputable place like Nordstrom’s.  (The absolute best place to get fitted, in our experience?  Department stores in London –  they have the best range of sizes and the most knowledgeable fitters.)  You may find that you’re a 30F instead of a 34D. [Read more...]

10 Things About … Interviewing

We realize interview week is over at some schools; for others they’re still to come. Still, callbacks will be going on well into September and October, so we thought we’d share some advice on interviewing. Photo at left by SOCIALisBETTER, courtesy of Flickr.

Interview Prep…

1. Make sure your resume is up to date and without typos. We recommend putting the “date printed” on your resume — it can just be a field in your footer. This is especially helpful when you make changes to your resume, or if you interview with firms multiple years. [Read more...]

10 Things: About the Art Of Saying Goodbye*

how-to-end-internship-on-great-terms*The Pat Benatar song is actually “About the Art of Letting Go,” not saying good bye, but so it goes.

As the summer dwindles for summer classes of future MBAs and JDs, we thought we’d give some advice on how to say goodbye (and hello).

While you’re still working there…

1. Give people a head’s up that your last day is approaching — do your best to set up lunch, coffee, whatever. Until you’ve accepted your offer there is still very much an air of “let’s make the summers happy,” so now would be a good time to approach that Big Wig and see if you can set something up. (Hint: If you’re trying to organize something with the CEO or Executive Partner you may want to try to get a few other summers on board — it’ll be less awkward for you and it’ll be seen as more time-efficient for the Big Wig.)

2. Assess if you’d like to offer any of your time during your final year in school – law firms in particular have been known to quietly use 3Ls if there is too much work. If you’d like to commit your time during your last full year of freedom, offer it up during lunch or coffee.

3. Make sure people in your summer class are organizing a thank-you present for your secretaries, as well as the recruiting office — flowers are nice, spa packages are better. If no one is, spearhead the effort yourself. If you had a very active summer, follow up with a hand-written thank-you note to the recruiting office. Why? It’s the gracious thing to do. (And no one likes working with an ingrate.)

4. On your last day, try to do a personal drop-by to say goodbye to the people you enjoyed working with the most. If anything comes up in the conversation, be sure to follow up on it. Exchange e-mail addresses if possible — if there was a mid-level at the company you especially liked you may want to make sure you get his or her personal e-mail address, on the off chance they leave before you return.

5. Be judicious about social networking sites. It’s fine to use Facebook or MySpace to connect with the other students you summered with. If you want to, it’s not inappropriate to use LinkedIn to connect, either. However, do not request to become “Linked In” with superiors at the company, unless you’d also ask them to recommend you to a future employer — it’s more serious than a casual link, and no one has really had time to assess the other person’s work. (See our updated LinkedIn tips here.) Requesting to become linked to an mid-level or senior person you had lunch once or twice with, or wrote a memo for, is really not acceptable. Similarly, be wise about your Facebook or MySpace page — if you’re going to connect with future work associates, take your cue from them. If they don’t have drunken bikini shots of themselves on there, you might want to think twice before putting those on your own page. (Although, really, we’re hoping you removed those pictures before you started the interview process.)

During the long absence…

6. Stay in touch with people you liked! Ask for advice, give them a general update on your life if you got to personally know someone well. This can pay off professionally: if you worked at a law firm this summer and got to know a first- or second-year associate very well, by the time you get back they’ll be a mid-level associate with (hopefully) good work to pass along.

7. Use Google Alerts to stay “up” on projects you worked on during the summer. Did the deal ever happen? Did the case ever settle? Did the product ever launch? Send an e-mail when you see an article on point to the bosses who supervised you. Also use the service to stay up on other company news and gossip. This way, if the firm wins a huge judgment, or the company posts huge profits you can congratulate the people you knew at the company (as well as being aware if layoffs happen or the stock price plummets). Finally, you may also want to use Google Alerts for any newsmakers in your firm — it never hurts to e-mail the BigWig and say, “Ah, saw your op-ed in last week’s WSJ. I learned a lot, and thought you’d be interested to read ____ as well.”

8. Don’t speak ill of your experience around campus. Remember, this is the company you’ll be working for; it will appear on your resume — you don’t want to contribute to a bad opinion of it, if one exists (and you certainly don’t want to create one).

As you prepare to come back for the start of work…

9. Send a personal e-mail to the people you worked with to let them know you’re coming back – even if everyone in your class is starting on the same date. The onus of getting back in touch falls to the person with the least seniority — which is you. Let them know you’ll be coming back soon; depending on the person you’re e-mailing you may want to ask if they have any good projects if they can hold them for your start date, or you may want to ask if there are any projects at the company you should avoid like the plague.

10. Whatever you do, during every part of this process, avoid e-mailing everyone at the company or law firm. You may have seen people who had worked at the company for years send around a mass e-mail saying good bye — THIS IS NOT YOU. DO NOT DO THIS. All you will do is make yourself seem self-important and lacking in discrimination.

Liked this story? You may also want to check out our Corporette 101 features (advice for women just starting out in the business world), The Hunt (where we review some options in the market for basics), our What to Wear To… advice, or maybe check out some of our polls. Oh, or also our 10 Things columns…

Pictured at top:  How do you say goodbye with a picture, originally uploaded to Flickr by 23am.com.

10 Things About… Trying to Diet While Working a Corporate Gig

Amazingly, everyone we know right now is either trying to get their eating under control (the Fourth of July was apparently a very happy one for everyone!) or outright diet. This can seem like a nearly impossible task if you’ve got cocktail parties, catered dinners, and three-course lunches on a daily basis — especially since so many diet programs require you to cook (or at least eat specific foods that can take a ton of time to prepare). What’s a working girl to do? Here are our tips…

[Read more...]