Shopping for Clothes on a Budget

Pass the wine Sharon DeWitt
Shopping on a budget is more of an art than a science. Also, a bit of luck doesn't hurt. There are some rules to go by. For our community, the easiest shopping times of the year are right before Halloween and right before Christmas, at lease as far as mental comfort goes. The typical transgender shopper thinks that the sales clerk will not "suspect" him around Halloween, thinking instead that the shopper is buying for a costume party. What the clerk probably is thinking is "only three hours till I get off work." During the Christmas season, the tg will give the impression that he is shopping for his wife. "Uh, yeah, she's the same size as me, maybe I should try this on to see if it will fit her," he may say, wondering if the clerk buys that.

The above may be the best times of the year as far as thinking you're getting away with something, but definitely not for prices. The best day of the year to get the best discount on current merchandise is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving, prices are higher until February, which is a great month for winter clearance items. By April, winter items have hit rock bottom, but don't expect to find much of a selection. Late August is good for summer items. By October, pickings of summer clearance items are slim.

Clearance, last chance

Love those flowers Sharon I like checking out the clearance racks year round.  If I am there at the right time, many items can be found for 80% off or more. Most formals eventually hit the clearance racks, but it's the luck of the draw as to whether the right size will be there and how long it will stay. They usually start off at 1/3rd off then 50%, 60% ,and so on, up to 90%. The longer they are there, the deeper the discount. I have several $200+ dresses that I paid $20 or less for. If you see a dress you cannot resist, best grab it, because it may not be there next week. Sometimes it is better to pay $50-75 and get what looks great, than end up with nothing.

two dollars at Mayor's BallThe majority of winter stock usually hits the clearance rack in January and continues through April. Summer sales start in July and continue through October. I have a few favorite stores in St Louis, Kohls, Macy's and Dillards among them. I try to breeze through a clearance rack at one of the stores every couple of weeks, at the very least. If I see several outfits that I like, but the prices aren't right, I make a mental note of it and go back in a couple weeks to see it they have been reduced. Watch the ads at Macy's because they have had a coupon in the past for an extra 15% off the clearance. Sometimes items are cheaper than at a second hand stores.  I have purchased several dresses at Debs for less than $5. They keep marking down the prices every few days. One of my favorites was just $2.

Shoes on clearance are even easier to shop for. Payless has the larger sizes that many tg's shop for. They stock their clearance shoes right within regular stock (by size), but they're well marked as clearance items, so it's into the store to size 10 for me and a quick breeze down the row. Other shoe stores usually have a separate section for clearance shoes. Just look for your size. Nordstroms? has a wide variety of sizes and very fashionable shoes. If you're going to wear heels several times a month, going to dance in them, and/or wear them for 8 or 10 hours at a stretch, beware of how they fit or suffer the consequences.

Shopping in drab

Nice dress from Macy's When shopping in drab, some stores will let you use the dressing rooms, some will not. Of course, you can always take items to the men's dressing room. Forget Sym's, their dressing rooms are communal. I have trouble with getting the right fit when shopping in drab; no hip pads, and with some dresses it is difficult to determine where the breast forms will be and whether they will show. Is the dress floor length, and will it be floor length with heels? Shopping en fem is always easier to get the right fit. Whether you try the item on or not, most all stores take returns even on clearance items, so if you get it home and it doesn't fit, take it back. Burlington was an exception; they only did exchanges, and some items, not even that. I think they may have changed their policy in recent years. I tend to have trouble with taking things back and wondering what the returns clerk might think or ask. I would rather shop en fem. Go figure!

Second-hand stores

Words to remember when it comes to second hand stores: Buyer beware!

For those who are not up on current fashions, it is easy to pick up something 15 years out of date that wasn't even in fashion then.  However, fashionable retro is in. And if it's not fashionable and just going to be worn around the house, anyway, and you like the look, then who cares?

Yes, I did, and still occasionally do, shop at second-hand stores. It really pays to shop en fem here because you can't go by sizes. Sizing guidelines change over the years. Items may have shrunk. Whatever, you just have to try things on. While you're there, watch out for the three dreaded words: "dry clean only." I like to wash everything that I buy, new or used. Does "dry clean only" really mean dry clean only? Not always. What is the item made of? What if any ornamentation is on the garment? Many dry clean items go through the wash with a breeze. Some have to be carefully hand washed. In other words, it's a crapshoot. But don't let that dissuade you, as much can be found.

The three dreaded fabrics are rayon, silk, and wool. All three can look great when new. Usually with these three, expect shrinkage if you wash them. Metallic threads can also be a problem as they tend to shrink and lose their luster. Some acetate (prom dresses!) wrinkles and is most difficult if not imposible to iron or steam smooth again. With all of the above, if the garment says "dry clean only," shrinkage will occur in 3 out of 4 times if you wash them. How much of a bargain is that? That said, bargains can be found at second-hand stores if you can find the right item, the right size, and the right material. 

Keeping all this in mind, you can see why the tg who is less concerned with keeping his secret will find better deals, more often, in more places.

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