Shop With the Pro: What Not to Buy at Summer Sales!

By Alisa Neely

Right now the sales at department stores and other retail spots are hot, hot, and hot—but you don’t want to get burned. Here are some tips on how to whip through those sale racks with an eye toward the very best bargains.

Please, Be Realistic. The first thing to remember: it’s only a good deal if you actually wear it. So even if that cute jumper is marked down to $20 from $100.00, you’re wasting money if you buy it to hang in your closet. To help ground yourself in reality amidst the excitement of a sale, consider whether you would you have bought the item at full price if money weren’t an issue? If you would have taken a pass on the jumper at $100 (if you had the hundred lying around) then it is probably not worth buying on sale either. Don’t let the importance of fit or wear-ability go out the window just because the markdowns are deep, either.

Avoid the Trend Trap. Tip number two is to focus on pieces that are season-less. Think thin knit cardigans, tees that you can layer, jeans, dresses that you can throw a blazer over or pair with boots to take you into the fall. Look for summer shoes that can translate into fall, like a patent leather peep toe that can be worn with an opaque tight.

Think of timeless pieces that will be around for more than a season. Trench coats are always a staple as are white button down shirts, pencil skirts, a great fitting pair of white pants (the quest for these is endless so if you see them and they are on sale consider it good Karma and snap them up.)

No Gladiator Sandals. No Monokinis. It can also be a great time to get things like swimsuits and cover-ups for next year but use caution, pieces that are too Summer ‘08 might look stale next season. Stick to solid color swimsuits and embroidered tunics, which always feel right at the beach. Steer clear of things like the monokini that may not have the legs to take you to next summer. It was the year of the flat sandal and that style will stick for next year but go for a more traditional style like a thong vs. the gladiator. It had such a strong showing this year that it will take a few seasons for the fashion fickle to love it again.

Pay Full Price Instead? Above all remember that those so-so sale items have the potential to add up to one great new piece for fall; so think about how much use you’ll get out of a piece. Sometimes it’s better to pass on four $20 items you may not wear and wait for that one $100 piece you’ll wear every week.

Alisa Neely is an award-winning stylist and owner of personal shopping company Scout.

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