Tips to Buying Designer Brands for Less

Some women have a perverse desire to spend $2,995 on a Jimmy Choo handbag that they’ll carry for one season. For everyone else, there are myriad ways to save money on clothes and accessories by the hottest designers. Persistent shoppers find abundant bargains online for everything from hiking boots to little black dresses.

If you do your homework, you can dress much better and for far less by shopping online. There are bargains to be had for every budget, taste, and lifestyle.

Sale Seasons

40 percent of men buy diamond rings and pop the big question between February and November. They could save hundreds of dollars by waiting until midsummer when everyone else has already married or called the whole thing off.

If you’re on a budget, when you buy is more important than where. Online retailers stick to the traditional fashion calendar and discount items accordingly.

Here are some general guidelines for the best times to buy certain goods:

Coats, Boots, and Other Winter Wear

By New Year’s Day, retailers are sick to death of winter clothing, footwear, and pajamas. Look for the best deals during December and January.

Summer Clothing, Sandals, and Swimsuits

If you can cultivate a little patience, retailers have some tantalizingly competitive sales at the end of May. Wait until August, and you could save 40 to 70 percent on that adorable bikini.

Handbags

Bargains on handbags are rare, but the best way to get a discount is to purchase a seasonal or unusual color. You won’t save much on a classic black purse, but something in mustard or pale pink could be a steal.

Jeans

Jeans are most affordable in September. This probably harks back to the days when they were merely back-to-school necessities for teenage boys.

Almost everything goes on sale before peak holidays and in overlapping seasons. Shopping well after a change of seasons could result in savings of 50 to 75 percent, but selections are much more limited.

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How Much Cheaper Is It?

Handbags, sunglasses, and other items that people use year-round might be discounted only 10 or 15 percent.

Discounts on clothing range anywhere from 10 to 80 percent, but the average is somewhere between 30 and 60 percent. The more recently a style debuted, the more you’re likely to pay for it.

Bridge lines, which are special designer collections created for mid- to low-priced retailers, are also worth a look. Just bear in mind that the designer is not involved in their manufacturing, so the garments might be lower quality.

What Brands/Selection to Expect Online

The best websites have dozens of categories featuring hundreds of designers. From Fendi to Valentino to Louis Vuitton, online offerings are surprisingly diverse.

That Prada purse you’ve had your eye on, though, may be there one day and gone the next. It’s best to enroll on each site and request email alerts to sales on your favorite designers or pieces.

Best Websites for Buying Online

Bluefly

This site is famous for outrageous bargains. It features an impressive selection of several hundred well-known brands — like Burberry, Celine, and Gucci — at up to 80 percent off.

Bluefly almost always deducts a percentage from first purchases. After that, you may come across additional, limited-time savings such as $20 off any purchase of at least $100. There are pop-up sales and designer giveaways on samples, so pay attention to your inbox for alerts.

One of Bluefly’s greatest benefits is the ability to make monthly payments on any one item in your cart that costs $250 or more. They also offer vintage and preowned items. Unfortunately, most customer complaints pertain to slow shipping or shipping of the wrong item.

Gilt

Gilt touts itself as a site for shopping and lifestyle, and that is certainly true. After you’ve filled your cart with highest-tier designer jeans, purses, and wristwatches, you can browse for discounted tickets to The Nutcracker or great deals on HelloFresh meal delivery.

Check out the selection by searching one of several categories like designers, featured items, or best-sellers. Not all sites cater to men and kids, but Gilt offers fashions for both. The Gilt selection rotates, so it pays to check in often for savings of up to 70 percent.

Shoppers aren’t crazy about the free-shipping-for-one-hour-only policy since it encourages impulsive buying.

Bag, Borrow or Steal/Rent the Runway

No matter how much you save on a Vera Wang gown, you may not have enough black-tie occasions to wear it. You may not give a hoot about a Gucci purse until the eve of your 20-year high school reunion. If you find yourself in a similar situation, one of these two websites could save the day.

These sites allow you to rent clothing or handbags by the event, the month, or on a rotating basis. Pay $159 per month on Rent the Runway, for example, and you can keep four items at a time until you’re ready to swap them out. There are more than 450 designers to choose from for casual, business, and formal attire. Any garment that you reserve comes with a backup size at no charge. The price you pay also includes the garment’s return shipping and dry cleaning.

Quality and authenticity are guaranteed on both sites. Rent the Runway even offers same-day delivery, which would come in awfully handy for a last-minute invitation to the Oscars. You may also rent to own new items or purchase gently used pieces. You can even consign or sell outright clothes and purses that you’ve grown tired of.

The biggest downside to renting, of course, is walking away empty-handed after plunking down $80 to $350 for a one-use cocktail dress.

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