How To Score High-End Feminine Clothes On A Budget

Do you have a love for high-end clothes but lack the high-end budget to go with it? Never fear, the wardrobe of your dreams is still possible.

By Hana Tilksew3 min read
Pexels/ Gökhan Baytekin

If you’re a fashion girl who appreciates luxury and craftsmanship, chances are you have your eyes on a few high-end labels. But luxury and craftsmanship aren’t cheap, and who’s willing to spend thousands of dollars on a single shopping trip in this economy? Not financially literate Evie girls, that’s for sure.

If you grew up obsessed with clothes like I did, then you probably dreamed of dressing like the women in fashion magazines. But unlike the editors at Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar, most of us can’t just call up designers and ask for free samples, so I had to figure out other ways to make my fashion dreams come true. Fortunately, my closet has had several successes: I’ve managed to score Self-Portrait dresses for under $300 (these typically retail for around $700), Stuart Weitzman shoes for $100 (retail value averages at $500), and lots of other pieces for up to 70% off their original price. Though a lot of it comes down to luck, there are still specific shopping habits you can adopt to make sure you get the best deal for the best clothes.

Shop from Third-Party Retailers with Loyalty Programs 

Ulta Beauty or Starbucks fanatics are used to saving money over time through reward points they accumulate from each purchase. But did you know you can do the same with high-end fashion? While designers themselves are typically stingy with discounts, there are a number of third-party shopping sites and apps that allow you to create an account where you can receive points for each purchase you make. My personal favorites are The Outnet, Moda Operandi, and Net-A-Porter. These points eventually add up and turn into site credit that you can use to save on future orders.

Since these platforms carry hundreds of labels instead of just one, they also put their items on sale more often than designers so they can clear any surplus inventory in their warehouses. And if you’re a new customer, they tend to offer 10%-15% discounts to anyone who hasn't created a loyalty account with them before.

Understand the Fashion Season Cycle To Anticipate End-of-Season Sales

Scoring good deals can be about timing more than anything. If you understand the fashion calendar, you can predict when you’ll get the best prices possible. But what exactly is the fashion calendar?

There are four seasons that luxury fashion labels design for: Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter, Resort/Cruise, and Pre-fall. As the season that corresponds with a clothing collection ends, brands and retailers will put their inventory on sale to make room for the next season’s shipments. For example, when summer comes to a close from late July through August, most Spring/Summer styles will be marked down so that stores can put Fall/Winter designs on the shelves as soon as September arrives. And the closer we get to the next season, the more dramatic the discount on the previous season’s clothes will be.

To demonstrate, this Badgley Mischka dress that originally retailed for $650 is currently available for $195, and this $475 Helmut Lang denim jacket is currently available for $143. These items are discounted so heavily because they debuted last season and will soon be replaced by next season’s designs, which will also be discounted when the season after that rolls around. Although wearing “last season’s clothes” is a jibe thrown at celebrities by salacious tabloids, there’s no shame in it. After all, the truest test of style is whether or not your clothes are timeless enough that someone couldn’t tell what season they were produced for just by looking at you.

Look Up Influencer Reviews/Collabs for Discount Codes

True prestige brands typically don’t collaborate with influencers, but younger high-street labels like Reformation or House of CB will. Since brands reach out to influencers with the hope of boosting sales, they’ll often give the influencers their own discount code to further incentivize their followers to buy something. Searching a brand’s name on TikTok, YouTube, or anywhere else that content creators do fashion hauls and reviews can help you find videos with a discount code tagged in the description.

Shop Secondhand – but Wisely

Luxury resellers work hard, but counterfeit merchants work harder. So how can you make sure that your secondhand designer item is actually designer? Firstly, make sure you’re buying pre-loved garments or accessories from reputable places. If a store or website doesn’t have a rigorous authentication process for every product they sell, steer clear. Instead, find a platform like TheRealReal, which has its experts thoroughly inspect each item they receive and reject anything that has even the slightest chance of being counterfeit.

Once you’re sure that the item you’re looking to buy is actually real, look next at its condition. Any reseller worth their salt will tag items based on how pristine or damaged they are. The closer to new an item looks and feels, the less the discount applied will be. If a piece is in “Excellent” condition or better, you can probably justify only getting a slight discount for it. But if it’s simply “Good” or worse? The discount should be huge, or else you’re getting ripped off. 

Something else to consider to avoid being scammed is an item’s composition. For a high-quality fabric that will last you years, like silk or wool, it might be worth it to pay a little more. But if you’re being resold someone’s old synthetic blends? Pinch every penny possible.

Check Out Designer Outlets

When a high-end store simply can’t get rid of something in its inventory, no matter how dramatic the discount, the item gets shipped off to an outlet. Unfortunately, like much of the fashion industry, outlets have become shadier than ever these days. Some have been accused of selling lower quality products made specifically for the outlet. Like with reseller sites, you should always tread with caution. 

My personal favorite outlet is Saks OFF 5TH, which I trust because I recognize the brands and pieces it sells as formerly being stocked at its parent store, Saks Fifth Avenue. It also has a clearance category within its already discounted inventory, so the opportunities to save are endless.

Closing Thoughts

As the global cost of living climbs, it’s more difficult to justify an indulgent clothing purchase than it used to be. But just because the world is looking bleak, that doesn’t mean your clothes have to. When everything else looks hopeless, sometimes a beautiful outfit is enough to make it feel like the sun is shining again. If you’re willing to learn some shopping savvy, there are plenty of ways to be both fashionable and frugal.

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