Today's Everyday Fashion: Myths of Outlet Shopping

Inspiration: J.Crew

Inspiration: J.Crew

Camel blazer, distressed jeans and leopard pumps

I tweeted this article "The Myth of the Maxxinista" about a month ago and wanted to share it here, too. It's a myth I've talked about often on the blog. The article states that 85% of merchandise in outlets is made specifically for the outlets - meaning, you aren't getting a discount or markdown on regular brand name items, but rather a lower-quality item made to sell at a lower price. Banana Republic, Gap, J.Crew outlets are a few examples. Even TJ Maxx and stores like Nordstrom Rack or Saks Off Fifth do it, although at those stores you'll find brand name discounts mixed in, too. 

What does this mean for us bargain hunters? I don't think it means boycotting the outlets, but rather it means being careful shoppers. When we shop we often experience brand name blindness. When we see brands we associate with quality like J.Crew, we instantly assume "this is a great item!" outlet or not. Or the opposite - we write off stores like H&M or the outlets altogether, because "that place is so cheap, yuck!" We experience brand-blindness based on advertising, prices, peer reviews, or a singular personal experience. I think instead of focusing on the brand so much though, we should commit to putting on our blinders a little and evaluating each individual piece of clothing. Forget the brand for a moment and ask, "How does the fabric feel? What is the construction like?" (See this DailyWorth article on "How to Identify Quality Clothing" for more ways to evaluate.) I've had non-outlet J.Crew items completely fall apart after one wear. And I've purchased 100% leather items at H&M that lasted a decade. Brand equity only goes so far in my book. You probably wouldn't like a bad song just because your favorite artist sings it, and you shouldn't be willing to buy every top just because it comes from your favorite clothing brand, outlet or not. 

Which brings me to today's outfit. I recently ordered this camel blazer from J.Crew Factory using a coupon code. I'm looking for a camel blazer I'll wear and love for many years, so part of me hesitated to buy a staple piece like this from an outlet. Just because it's J.Crew brand, I'm not going to assume it's high quality. At the same time, just because it's from the outlet, I'm not going to assume it's *not* quality. Instead I'm going to evaluate the blazer with little thought about the brand, in either direction. Overall I really like the fit and fabric, but the buttons seem a little loose. Aesthetics play a role as well, and evaluating whether I'll actually wear it is important to me. I may opt for a slightly lower quality item at times, because I like the overall look more and wouldn't want a higher quality item that would just sit in my closet. I'm planning to do an in-person comparison of the quality and aesthetics of the Banana Republic blazer below before making a final decision (if I track down a coupon I should be able to get the Banana version for a similar price).

What brands are you most loyal to or stay away from? Or what stores have surprised you - either by finding quality in a lower-end store, or items from a trusted brand that didn't hold up to your expectations? 

Blazer: J.Crew Factory, $83
Sweater: H&M, old (similar, similar)
Jeans: American Eagle, $33 (similarsimilarsimilarsimilarsimilar)
Shoes: Banana Republic, $60 (similar, similar, similar, similar)
Purse: Emma Fox c/o Ross, $60 (similarsimilar)
Approx. dates: Sweater is 8 years ago. Jeans are 4 years ago. Purse and shoes are 2 years ago. Blazer is new. 

Camel blazers and coats