“Look at this dress!” I screeched at my mother as she walked into my bedroom. “Do you know how many hours of cherry picking and baby-sitting it took to pay for this dress? Now look at it. It looks terrible after just the first washing!”
My mother calmly picked up the dress and looked at the label.
“Dry clean only,” she read as she looked up at me sympathetically.
“Oh,” I sighed slowly. “I didn’t even look at the washing instructions. I wouldn’t have bought it if I had known it wasn’t washable.”
I sat down on the bed despondently.
“It’s just one dress,” my mother said as she put her arm around me.
“But that’s the problem,” I answered. “it’s not just the dress. There are those shoes I got on sale even though I knew they were a little too short. They were such a great buy. I can’t stand to wear them now because of all the blisters I’ve gotten from them. Then there are those beautiful blue velvet pants. I haven’t got anything to wear them with. Even my new blouse is out now. I saw it for a fraction of the price I paid for it at the department store yesterday. I worked all summer long cherry picking, baby-sitting, housecleaning, and selling my crocheted hot pads door to door just to buy a few new clothes to start school with and now I can’t wear any of them.”
“Well, chalk it up to experience. You’ll know better next time,” my mother said cheerfully as she walked out the bedroom door.
That’s what got me started on the road to a budget-minded shopping guide. Even though I still make mistakes buying clothes, I learned a few dos and don’ts the hard way.
Now be honest. Go to your closet and throw open the doors.
Are there more than one or two mistakes? Learn from those mistakes and use them as ammunition when you step into another store.
Learn to read the labels. A few dry-clean-only clothes are plenty in a wardrobe. The real money savers are clothes that can be washed at home. I’ve found that cotton or wool combined with polyester, dacron, or sturdy synthetics seem to wash and wear better and longer than other fabrics.
Take a good look. I worked as a clothing inspector at a clothing manufacturer’s. I found that any piece of clothing can be inspected easily and closely in only a few seconds. Things to look for are: wide seams and hems; matching patterns or plaids; details such as snaps, hooks, or covered buttons; reinforced collars; extra buttons; and lining. Just take the garment and turn it inside out and look. Ask yourself if it will last through washing after washing.
Ask yourself this question: Can I wear this garment with at least two other things I already have? If you can’t, then don’t buy it. What good is that flashy red sweater if you haven’t anything to wear it with? Neutral shades like beige can be worn with almost anything.
Buy only if you really like it. If you shop with a friend or sister or mother, it’s often easy to buy something because they like it and not because you like it. But remember, you have to wear it.
Don’t be intimidated. Fancy stores often have fancy prices. Remember you are doing the store a favor by shopping there. Don’t let overbearing sales people pressure you into buying anything. You’re not shopping to make a salesman happy. I remember buying a dress at an exclusive dress shop once just to prove to the sales girl that I had some money and had the right to shop in the store. Don’t let that happen to you.
SALE: Beware! Too many of us think the word sale means getting a bargain. Don’t be fooled. Many stores use particularly enticing ads. Often when you get to the store, they are “all sold out.” If they don’t have the sales item you came to buy, walk out of the store. If you stay and buy something else, you are reinforcing the use of these tactics. Some sales are simply a way of getting rid of cheap items. Look at the item. It isn’t a good buy if it’s junk, not at any price. Don’t buy anything that doesn’t fit well, no matter what, unless the store can do alterations for free. You probably won’t lose those five pounds even with those new pants for incentive. Some sales are legitimate. Learn to tell the difference.
Best times to buy. If you want the best selection, then shop in February and March for spring clothes and in August and September for fall clothes. But the best time to buy clothes, price wise, is often after the holidays have passed. So think ahead.
Unlikely departments. Sometimes boy’s or men’s departments carry those jeans or shirts or jackets you shop for but for much less. Often men’s and boy’s clothing is made better and will last longer too. Often the large sizes in the children’s department or the teen department will offer you the same style for less money also.
Shop at home. Did you forget that those large department stores you frequent have catalogues? You may find a better buy here, and you won’t be tempted to buy things you don’t need just because of the terrific way they are displayed. Catalogue buying is often the best way to buy basics like underwear.
Unlikely places. Many clothing manufacturers have a factory outlet store for seconds and surplus clothing. A flawed garment, no matter how minor the flaw, cannot be sold for the full price, even if the flaw is not detectable to the average eye. “Seconds” have been firsts on my shopping list if the flaw didn’t affect the quality of the garment. Being one of eight daughters, I quickly learned to frequent the local Church-owned Deseret Industries. Sometimes it takes time to find what you want in a thrift store, but the time is worth the lower price you pay. Try makeovers from the not-quite-in-style clothes you find in these thrift stores. A little hemming, cutting, belting, and scarving can do wonders. Thrift stores often offer great savings.