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

2016 Update: check out our latest workwear style tips for busty women

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

Interviewing Tips | Corporette

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.

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.) [Read more…]

10 Things to Know About: Wearing Button-Down Shirts

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Someone was telling us recently that they didn’t wear button-down shirts, didn’t even know how to wear ’em. So, here ya go…

1. If you’re going for the crisp cotton look, go for non-iron. Brooks Brothers makes a great fitted non-iron shirt. Thomas Pink (very high end, typically thought of as a man’s store) makes amazing button-down shirts for women, also, with interesting prints and a lovely fit.

2. Collars and jackets: Collars should stay on the inside of the jacket, not splayed open on the outside.

3. If you have a white shirt, try not to put it in the dryer in order to avoid yellowing. Actually, in our experience the iron-free shirts look best when hung dry. (Just pull them taut, a bit, when they’re wet and you’re hanging on the hanger — it always seems to help the fabric figure out where to go.)

4. If you’ve got a French cuff shirt, do not bother with those tiny knots you can buy at places for $10 — you’re wasting your money and time, because they take forever to put in. Instead, make an investment in a good pair of cufflinks — Thomas Pink has great ones; Nordstrom also has some beautiful ones right now.

5. Tucking: If you’re wearing a fitted, button-down shirt (such as the ones from Pink) you can experiment with how it looks untucked. The key is that it can’t be too long — it should hit mid-hip, and no matter what should not be longer than your suit jacket. Silky shirts should always be tucked.

6. If you want a very clean tucked-in look, there are some stores that make leotard-like button-down shirts. See, for example, Victoria’s Secret or Donna Karan.

7. Non-traditional style idea: Wear a short-sleeved button-down shirt beneath a vest or even a t-shirt. (We’ve given up trying to wear anything but silky button-downs beneath full-sleeve sweaters — the static cling gets us every time.)

8. Non-traditional style idea, Part 2: Wear a camisole/tank top underneath the button-down shirt, tuck in the shirt, and only button it up halfway, so people can see the camisole beneath. See Allison Janey in West Wing.

9. Gaping: If your shirt is gaping, this could mean a few things. A) You need a larger size, and should take it to a tailor to get it to fit you the way you want it to. B) You need to wear a camisole beneath it, so when you turn to the side people don’t get a view of your bra. C) You can experiment with Hollywood Tape and so forth to keep it from gaping — we’ve found the camisole is just easier.

10. Beneath the slightly sheer white shirt: Wear a bra that matches your skin tone, and a white camisole, no matter how convinced you are that no one can see through it. We’ve tried the nude camisole, and trust us: white just looks better.