Nothing fills my heart with joy like finding a buried Marc Jacobs dress, in my size, at 80% off (sorry kids, you’re number two on mommy’s joy list, well, top ten at least). There are great online options but sometimes a girl just want to go pet the clothes. Outlet locations are great for finding a fashion Unicorn.
But be warned that most of that shit is a horse with a broomstick glued to its head. Outlets and “factory” stores are more often than not stocked with cheaper versions of their legit parent store.
So should you just keep driving past that outlet mall? Not necessarily. There are treasures if you’ve got a little time to dig and know what to avoid.
BE WARNED. Gap, J.Crew, Banana Republic, Coach, and many other mall staples have outlet/ factory stores that carry clothes specifically made for the outlet. The reason they’re less expensive is clear if you stop to look closely. A real J.Crew suit is wool, fully lined, and well tailored. The factory version is a poly-blend, not lined, and isn’t going to fit as well. That doesn’t mean you can’t get the cheap version, but don’t fool yourself. It’s cheap and it probably looks cheap. There can be irregular seams, dropped hems, etc due to a lack of quality control.
The outlets also play the fun “fake price” game, where the shirt is “valued at” $98 but your’s for only $34. You think you’re getting a deal right? Nerp. That shitty rayon blouse isn’t worth $34. You’re better off waiting for a sale at the real store and getting something that’s better quality (and probably about the same price).
If you see a cheap ass factory thing and you like it, that’s fine. Just be aware of what it is, and what it isn’t.
BRING SOME COFFEE. Put on some high-waisted Spanx, heels, and get to Neiman Marcus Last Call when it opens. Off Fifth Saks Fifth Ave will also do but it goes a little junior… Your mission is to identify the “outlet mall” shit, push it aside, and find the past-season Dior heels. That Hello Kitty shirt was never at a Neiman Marcus and it’s terrible.
Look for signs like “direct from store.” You can also tell if it’s legit if there are only a few of them. If there are 20 of the same dress, it was made for the outlet. If there’s one single item that looks like it’s from a past season, that might be the real thing. Because you’re dealing with random remnants, your size will not be available most of the time. But, do you hear the hoofbeats? That’s a Unicorn aka a size 8 Dolce & Gabbana wool and silk pencil skirt that was $2300 but is now…. $185. I am not fucking kidding you.
You have to dig and will strike out on most visits but it will pay off eventually.