The Way We Shop Now
Where I look: "Until recently, I only shopped at high-end retailers online because I was too intimidated to walk into the stores. No matter where you make your purchases, the key is to shop during sales. With all the designers doing lower-priced lines, it's much harder to tell the difference between high and low end these days."
Impulse buys: "I regularly bring coupons on my shopping trips, but if I really love something, I just buy it. I'm not the type of person who thinks for weeks about whether to buy an item. Life is too short."
Where I put my money: "I try to follow a budget, which increased significantly this year when I got promoted. Half of my wardrobe comes from midtier stores like Ann Taylor and Macy's, 30 percent is from discount stores such as Marshall's, and 20 percent is from high-end places like Neiman Marcus or Saks. I'll splurge on a few key pieces like a suit, handbag, or shoes, yet I like to keep my purchases to less than $300 per item. What I consider serious money may be a drop in the bucket to someone else. I'm coveting a Missoni sweater and a Fendi bag right now but haven't crossed that price threshold yet. Maybe when I reach another major milestone…"
Making up for lost time: "I live to shop. When I was growing up with four siblings, there wasn't a lot of money for clothes. Now that I can afford what I like, I go for it. Sometimes I get upset because I want the latest bags and shoes, but the prices for luxury brands keep going higher and higher. I like to have what's new; the problem is there's always something new."
Overspending: "Ten years ago, I was $13,000 in debt. I used to hide new purchases in the dryer because I knew my husband would never look in there. Eventually, he took away my credit cards, but I would tell store cashiers I'd accidentally left mine at home, and they would look up my account number. My husband helped bail me out, and I've become a lot more responsible: I put aside $100 every week for the things I want to buy."
Building a wardrobe: "When I was just getting started in the business world, I had a rule for clothing purchases: nothing over $20. I didn't have top-notch labels, but I made sure the pieces worked well together, could last a while, and would blend in with the more expensive items I wanted to buy after I started earning money."
The thrill of the chase: "I consider myself an elite bargain hunter. The clearance aisle is my friend, and I instinctively know when to swing by my favorite stores to find recently marked-down goodies. There's nothing like the challenge of finding a better price to make me want to be out shopping."
Making it work: "In high school, the pressure to fit in was intense. My clothes came from the Salvation Army and yard sales, and I mixed them with pieces from discount retailers. Surprisingly, I was named best dressed in my class. I learned that you don't have to spend a lot to look like you do. It's all in how you put it together."
Democratic design: "My clients would be amazed to know how little I spend on clothes. Some of my favorite stores are H&M, Target, and Forever 21. It's shocking how many items could pass for authentic Diane von Furstenberg or Rebecca Taylor. That's not to say I don't buy high-end pieces—I've just never paid full price for them."
The zen of shopping: "I enjoy browsing alone because it's peaceful and I can take my time. I'm concentrating on what I really want instead of who needs a diaper change or a doctor's appointment. When I'm with my two young boys, I get distracted; with friends, I sometimes buy things that match their taste more than mine."
Getting older: "I'm much more careful to choose items that I'm completely happy with. Especially with shoes, I've found that you get what you pay for—I want to be comfortable at the end of the day, not limping. I try to take into account the age-appropriateness of what I wear. So many current trends are better suited to teenagers."
Financing: "I balance my checkbook, make sure all my bills are paid and the children have what they need. Then I see what's left for shopping. I try to pay with cash and save credit cards for emergencies."
Mixing high and low: "I'm not a snob about where I shop. I've got classic Prada sandals, but I get more compliments on my trendy Payless wedges. If someone likes my $10 shoes, I smile and say 'thank you' rather than reveal how inexpensive they were. Their loss, my bargain."
Strategy: "When I see something that looks like I'd want to live in it for a season, I buy it and then shop around that one piece of clothing. I've learned to take the time to try everything on, because no garment is right for everybody. I also tend to do better under pressure, like buying an outfit two days before I need to wear it."
Fashion fetish: "My family would be the first to tell you that I'm obsessed with pocketbooks. I indulge in a new one each season. Men love hot cars; I love a hot bag."