Reader Mail: Where to Shop in NYC – Part 1

where to shop in nyc 3Today’s reader mail is a question for where to shop in New York City…

I am about to spend a week in New York City (June 19-26th, in fact) and I’d like to do a little shopping for work clothes while I’m there. Normally I stock up on casual clothes at H&M, but their work attire is too cheaply made for my office. Do you have a recommendation or two for stores in the Gap/Banana Republic/Limited/Express price range, that I couldn’t shop at in any city in the US?

Ah, a leisurely day of shopping in NYC — what fun!  Given your price range and your goals, we’d recommend a few different stretches, depending on your time and energy.  First up, we’ll talk about the area we’ll call Lower Fifth AvenuePhoto:  Flatiron Building, originally uploaded to Flickr by sunsurfr. (The Flatiron Building is at 23d and 5th.  It’s beautiful, but not really noteworthy as a shopping destination in and of itself.)  (Read parts II (where to shop in SoHo) and III (other shopping in NYC), also!)

Depending on where you’re coming from, you’ll want to start either at 22d and 5th Avenue and work your way south (along Fifth) or at 15th and 5th, and work your way north.  Destination points for a good selection of work clothes, in your price range,  include: Club Monaco, BCBG/Max Azria, United Colors of Bennetton, White House | Black Market,  and Zara.  (Last we checked those stores weren’t available in every Midwestern mall.)  You’ll also pass Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, J.Crew, Express, Gap, and Anthropologie (and sometimes the stores in New York do carry more pieces than stores elsewhere, so it’s worth a stop in if you’ve got a favorite).  For lower-priced shoes check out Aldo and Kenneth Cole; for our money we’d detour slightly off Fifth Avenue onto 17th street, though, and head to Sacco Shoes — slightly more expensive but much better made and more comfortable.

Other shopping, for casual or going-out wear includes:  Eileen Fisher, A/X Exchange, H&M, Juicy Couture, and bebe.

If they’re having a sale, or if you’re in the market to ogle some great bags, stop in Searle and Intermix — you can get lucky here, but in general their audience is the very small woman who goes out a lot and has no budgetary restraints.  There’s also a Kate Spade store and a stand-alone Coach store along these stretches — pricy, but fun to check out.

After doing this stretch of Fifth Avenue, evaluate your energy.  Still good?  Head west to Loehman’s (16th and 7th).  Not so much?  There are a ton of restaurants nearby on Park Avenue South between 18th and 26th, or between 5th and 6th avenues (try 18th or 19th street).  If you’re in the mood for comfort food to eat in the park, the venerable Shake Shack is nearby.


  1. You have to go to Century 21. Go during the day on a weekday if possible — it can become quite insane at peak times. It is as hit or miss as all great discount stores, but if you get lucky, you can get extraordinary prices on designer goods. My favorite departments are shoes and bags, because I find the clothes shopping environment too chaotic — but I know a lot of people who feel differently.

    For fun going out clothes, I’d wander the streets of SoHo and NOlita. While there certainly has been a lot of mallification (particularly in SoHo), there are still enough boutiques that reflect a more individual sensibility. Just wander and see whose having sales.

  2. Check out Uniqlo. It is a Japanese chain but its one US location is in Soho. The clothes may be a bit funky for work, but there are some real finds! I love their skinny jeans (and they alter pants for free!)

  3. According to J.Crewaholics –
    J.Crew opened an accessory store in New York City yesterday. The new accessory store is actually apart of the store that is currently on Prince Street in Lower Manhattan. The mens section has been moved from this location allowing for more accessories! See the article from WWD below.
    (Above is the accessories catalog from Fall 2008.)
    Here is the address for the J.Crew location:
    99 Prince St
    New York, NY 10012
    (212) 966-2739

  4. I second the Century 21 and Uniqlo. Third floor at Century (if you go midweek, mornings are best) will give you Theory, Nanette, etc at Banana prices. While you are there also check out their intimates and work out clothes (both on 2.) I find their shoe department to be a tad overpriced for the sad state of some of the shoes in there.

    In the basement of Uniqlo (on Broadway in Soho) they their “basic” pieces that is more like what they sell in Japan. My friend swears by their suits but I can’t vouch for the quality myself. (No ones suits are as flattering as Theory’s on me!)

    I’d also check out a website such as Racked or DailyCandy to see if there are any good sample sales going on while you are here. Steer clear of the ones put on by the big sample sale “houses” and save your pennies for the actual designers sample sales. Selection, prices, and service will all be better!

  5. THANK YOU for answering my question — in parts, no less, and I look forward to part 2! Thanks also for the reader comments… keep them coming! And even for stores I can find in the Midwest, I may still stop in to take advantage of the no sales tax in NYC…

  6. I agree with Uniqlo, and I think Top Shop has just opened on the same block.

    SSS Sample Sale at 261 West 36th Street is also worth a stop, but only if you’re between sizes 2-6.

    Daffy’s at Times Square has some great prices on suits – I nailed a Calvin Klein suit for $60 last time I was there.

    And my favorite place to shop in NYC is Cosmetic Market at 9 East 39th Street. Not work clothes, but cheap cheap cheap makeup.

  7. Some “seconds” of recommendations from a fellow business trip shopper — my finds from my most last two NY work trips:

    (1) Century 21 (they open before 8:00 am during the week, so you can go before work!) — $450 basic patent leather Marc Jacobs pumps for $199, a $950 Rachel Roy sheath dress for $200, a $750 Marc Jacobs black pencil skirt for $100, a $1295 Pucci sundress for $225 and $350 Pucci scarf for $65.

    (2) Find sample sales on Racked NY —- Current season $600 silk LBD for $175, $249 Julie Haus silk blouse for $60

  8. Cynthia Steffe sale is going on through June 19:

    Jackets, dresses, pants and more priced from about $10 to $50.

    550 Seventh Ave between 39th and 40th Sts, tenth floor (212-403-6200).

  9. Go to Daffy’s! There is one on lower 5th avenue (I think); one in Soho on Broadway near Broome (and the downtown Bloomingdales); and my favorite one is on East 57th street off of Park Avenue.

    I would second the Century 21 recomendation but if you know anyone in NY who has a car, make them drive you to the Long Island location — it is much nicer, cleaner, emptier and saner. The experience is worth it. Also, check out teh Filene’s Basement on 14th St and union sq. It is not like the Filene’s Basements in other locations — the clothes are actually nice and you have Armani jackets marked down to $249 on occasion. (One caveat, the store has been in bankruptcy protection flux so the shelves were a bit emptier than usual last time I checked). But there is a huge DSW in the same building — where you can find tons of work shoes!

  10. I love this post and the comments, even as a new yorker of 2 years! I’ve never made it to Daffy’s, so that’s now on my to-do list for this weekend.

    I love Century 21 (wearing a $20 skirt from Century 21 right now — orig. $109!). Check for coupons online before you go, too. Sometimes there are 20% discounts!

  11. Skip the mall chain stores. Don’t waste your time.
    Century 21.
    Barney’s Co-op.
    Check out sales at Saks and Faconnable.
    NY’s H&M stores usually have bigger and better selections than other locations, so if you’re into cheap & disposable, H&M is worth a trip as well.

  12. Anonymous :

    I agree with all of the posts. Skip the mall stores! Century 21 and sample sales all the way.