Pricewatch: Clothes that won’t make you feel the pinch

The recession has given rise to a burgeoning range of second-hand designer shops, online discount sites and sample sales

Laura Byrnes and Aideen McHenry of Ruby Ruby secondhand designer clothes shop in Dublin. Photograph: Frank Miller

Laura Byrnes and Aideen McHenry of Ruby Ruby secondhand designer clothes shop in Dublin. Photograph: Frank Miller

Mon, Jun 3, 2013, 01:00

With the recession biting even deeper into our take-home pay, how’s the fashionista meant to stay looking good without forking out eye-watering amounts for clothes?

A number of avenues are worth exploring. Several writers are doing the hard work at finding bargains so you don’t have to. Anne Marie Boyhan of whatshewears.ie gives tips on how to get the latest looks for less. She suggests that, to save money, consumers should build a core wardrobe of good black blazer, pencil skirt, white shirt and coat. If the latest trend appeals, like neon for this summer, she suggests buying an accessory such as a neon bag or belt to add to this.

Boyhan believes that if you want really good designer stuff it’s worth saving for the sales. She’ll visit stores pre-Christmas in order to try on clothes so that when the sales start she knows exactly what she wants. One of her best buys was a Marc by Marc Jacobs bag in BT reduced from €600 to €350. Mind you, she did have to contend with the maddening crowd rushing through the high-end retailer’s doors on December 26th.

Sinead Van Kampen of thesavvy shopper.ie will also keep you up to speed with the reductions she’s spotted, such as 50 per cent off Jimmy Choo shoes or sample sales coming up by designers such as Sian Jacobs and Pauric Sweeney.

Samplesale.ie has regular sales at wholesale prices with brands such as Hoss Intropia and Otto Dame. Websites worth taking a look at are theoutnet.com, with up to 85 per cent off pieces by over 200 designers, including Stella McCartney, Marni, Alexander Wang and Nicholas Kirkwood. There’s also dress-for-less.ie, which has 60 per cent off many labels like Dolce & Gabbana or Day Birger Et Mikkelson. The Asos.com site is easy to navigate and has up to 70 per cent off everything in its outlet sections for men and women.

If you’re concerned about fast fashion – and given the terrible news from Bangladesh last month, many of us are – there is quite a number of fair-trade labels now, such as peopletree.co.uk (includes designs by Orla Kiely), braintreeclothing.com, and pantstopoverty.com, featuring some Meyer men’s trousers among other offerings.

Bridal dresses are notoriously pricey with an average cost of €1,800, according to Victoria Fradgley, of memoriesbridal boutique.com, which has more than 850 dresses, new and pre-loved, between Dublin and Cork. “There’s definitely a market out there for bargains if you want one,” says Fradgley. Their stores aim to sell at 50 per cent of the recommended retail price at an average of €700/€800. Mind you, that doesn’t make them cheap.

Weddingsonline.ie held its first designer bridal sample sale in April and hopes to repeat it. This pop-up wedding fair had discounts of up to 70 per cent, like an Intuzuri dress which originally cost €1,800 but which was selling for €400. Other sources of pre-loved dresses are beloved.ie which has a well laid-out website of dresses including those by Vera Wang; and smartbrides.ie in Portlaoise, which sells designer bridal samples discounted by up to 75 per cent, from €300-€700.

Charities such as Oxfam and Barnardo’s have dedicated bridal shops. Oxfam has more than 200 dresses, 90 per cent of which are new, ranging from €50 to €400. One Stephanie Allin dress at €325, says manager Anne L’Hénoret, causes women to “scream when they see it, then when they get into it, they cry”. (Sadly, it’s only a size eight.) There are also sets of bridesmaids’ dresses in a range of colours, from €15 to €40, veils from short to full-length, tiaras, and new shoes from €15 to €25.

Barnardo’s also offer appointments with bridal experts in Dún Laoghaire and Carlow with all new dresses starting at €250, and a full range of accessories.

There are many swop shops where you can sell some of your fashion faux pas or “gently worn” designer items (and some high-street labels) and buy something else to revamp your wardrobe, such as Siopaella in Dublin (siopella.com).

Rail sales are a new version of these, at which anyone can rent a rail for a day and make some room (and cash) out of a “heaving” wardrobe.

Edel Browne of fashionistaevents ireland.com runs a monthly pop-up shop in the Madison Nightclub in Dublin, where sellers hire a table for €50 to sell 25 items at 50 per cent of what they paid for them.

“You’re a happy camper when you walk out the door with a nice designer bag or label which you’ve got for half-price,” says Browne.

Kilkenny-born Blanaid Hennessy of the Shutterbug vintage shop in that city has run several “kilo sales” where you pay €20 per kilo for all sorts of clothes, from sequin tops to leather skirts, sourced on buying trips from LA to Thailand. The last one had no fewer than 65 rails, and another is planned for Dublin later this year. Find Shutterbug on Facebook.

The route from South Great George’s Street to Upper Camden Street in Dublin has been dubbed the “Golden Mile” so good is it for secondhand shops – although many also have new items, complete with tags. Aungier Street’s WaWa shop, for instance, had a new Zara top priced €40 on its tag but selling for €10 last week. Sinead Van Kampen recommends dropping in regularly, as finds can be “a lot of luck”, and shopping midweek, as the shops are very busy on a Saturday.

Oxfam on South Great George’s Street currently has a stock of more than 100 full-length evening dresses, suitable for debs, reduced from €40 to €20 (or €12.50 if mid-length). It also holds designer sales every two months with labels including Donna Karen, Ralph Lauren, Von Furstenburg, Balenciaga, Louise Kennedy and Armani.

In the charity sector prices and quality can vary quite a bit. Some are a complete jumble of colours and condition while others, such as the new St Vincent de Paul shop in Bray, Co Wicklow, is well laid out. It offers great value for men and women with all trousers and skirts at €2 each (including Zara Woman, Topshop, River Island) and tops for a few euro more. At prices like these, you could dress for a tenner.

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