Like most J.Crew fans, I am addicted to their modern preppy girly vibe but not so much their prices. Unless I absolutely must have something that I know will sell out fast, I often have to wait for one of their great sales or pick up the Factory version, or do some eBay stalking, to save some bucks. Another option is to recreate the look using dups from other retailers. Nowadays, the trends set by J.Crew are duplicated by the likes of Forever 21, H&M, Target, Gap, Old Navy, etc., almost immediately after they come out. This is both good and bad depending on which end of the consumer spectrum you belong.
Obviously, the quality of duplicated items have levels of degradation depending on the retailer. Gap can have better quality than say, Old Navy or Forever 21, which is why I try to purchase only trendy items from these cheaper brands. For classic or staple items, I’m willing to spend more. That being said, lately I’m finding better options out there, enticing me to purchase even staple items at a bargain. The key here is value – value for your money. A shirt that cost $30 at JC Penney vs. one snagged at $20 from J.Crew may have better value if in the end, the J.Crew shirt won’t get any wear.
Case and point: the outfit you see above. I love the chambray/white jeans look for the summer. I can be accused of wearing it too much in fact…it’s just so darn quintessentially summer and can also transition from Spring or into Fall. But I don’t want to spend $200+ (original price) to put the original J.Crew look together, nor do I want to wait for a sale. So what to do? Pick up pieces from various other less expensive retailers. As you can see from the “look for less” outfit, the combination only cost me about $104 complete with shoes and crossbody bag. What kind of value did I get for my money? Loads. I am so in love with the Joe Fresh white jeans (read more here). For a long time now, I’ve been looking for skinny white jeans that had a similar fit to the J.Crew Minnie…the Joe Fresh jeans are perfect! I’ve been wearing it quite a bit already since the weather shift. (I’m considering getting a second pair in case I ruin this one or they discontinue the style.) The chambray popover from Forever 21 is another one that’s been heavy in my rotation already this Spring. Same goes for the crossbody and espadrilles. So if value is calcuated at “cost per wear”, then I’m getting my money’s worth.
Now don’t get me wrong – I know some of the retailers I mentioned can sometimes have lesser quality merchandise, some have questionable foreign labor practices, and fashion more suited to the teeny bopper set. Everyone has their own set of standards. For me, I look for:
1. Material – I’m not a fan of synthetic material but a blend is ok
2. Maintenance – I don’t mind dry clean only clothes as long as the quality is there
3. Finishing – I check the seams for quality and I also check the symetry
4. Age Suitability – I’m 46…I’m not buying a cut off shirt that has a mustache on it
5. Fit – consistency in sizing and fit can be tough nowadays, presumably because retailers don’t always use the same pattern makers or sewing shops which means trying on things is a MUST especially at stores where exchanges/returns are difficult at best.
Bottomline, isn’t it fun to find similar items you’ve been coveting at a cheaper price? The shopper’s high…right? The items included in the look for less are all still available in store or online (some on sale by now) so check them out or other looks you’d like to find. You can make it a game or a challenge like I do sometimes.