Shopping for Clothes in NYC: Designer Bargains

Shopping for Clothes in NYC: Designer Bargains

Something really weird happens when people get to New York City. Suddenly they become painfully aware of things that they never noticed before.

Like tags and labels.

If you weren’t a narcissist before you moved to New York, you’ll definitely become one when you get here. Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Prada – the streets here are like a catwalk. If you want to call yourself a New Yorker, your first step should be to dress like one. Dressing well doesn’t need to be expensive. Start off with the basics – H&M, Uniqlo and Necessary Clothing are solid stores to start – and then layer on the designer stuff. (No one cares about your $35 skirt when you’re wearing a pair of Fendi boots).

Below are a couple of tips for dressing stylishly without breaking the bank.

Shop Sample Sales

Sample sales are used by retail businesses (usually in the fashion industry) to get rid of excess merchandise.

Merchandise is sold at a fraction of its retail value and is used to draw in new clients for the designer or manufacturer.

The problem with sample sales is that they are usually poorly advertised so finding them can be difficult.

Most sample sales are found through fliers or billboard notices and by strolling through the Garment District (34th Street to 40th Street, between 5th and 9th Ave). But you can also check out the following websites for listings:

  • Top Button ( – Click on “Sample Sales” under the categories tab for a list of current sales.
  • NYMag ( – Sign up for their “Fashion Alert Featuring the Cut” newsletter at for sample sale listings and other fashion news.
  • Time Out New York Shopping ( – Scroll down for a list of sample sales happening this week in New York City.
  • The Stylish City Blog ( – Keeps an updated list of Sample Sales in New York City.
  • Clothing Line ( – The clothing line hosts a number of sample sales a year from its West 36th Street location. Visit their website for a list of upcoming events.

Head to an outlet mall

An outlet mall is a group of shops that sell clothing for discounted prices.

The nearest outlet mall to New York City is Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets ( which hosts a number of high-end stores including Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Guess and many others.

Since most outlet malls, including Woodbury Commons, are located outside of big cities, going to an outlet mall is pretty much a whole day event, so make sure you’re planning on buying enough to make the trip worth it.

That said, getting to Woodbury Commons from New York City is pretty easy. You can either take the Gray Line bus or the Metro-North Railroad. The website above will give more detailed directions for public transportation.

Fake it ’til you make it

Okay here’s the deal. Even at highly discounted rates, designer clothing can still be expensive. If you can’t afford it but still want something with a high-end logo, head to Canal Street in Chinatown.

All along the street, there are stores with fake designer purses, watches, and other goods. The quality of these is usually awful, but if stroll the streets a little bit and don’t look like an underground policeman, you’ll start to hear people whispering “Coach, Louis Vuitton, Rolex” as you pass.

If you’re interested, nod your head and they’ll lead you to some underground warehouse where you can peruse their selection of AAA quality fake goods (the stuff they can’t keep on store racks because it’s so similar to the original).

Go Downtown

Like really far downtown, after 9/11, a lot of the businesses in the Financial District moved to Midtown, leaving tons of vacant real estate. Discount clothes stores jumped on these real estate bargains, making the Financial District one of the best areas for bargain clothes shopping.

In the area north of Wall Street (around Nassau St), there are a number of cheap dress, suit and shoe stores with high-end merchandise inside. In any of the small stores there, you can also find basics like pantyhose ($.99), socks (2 pairs for $1) and even makeup and hair supplies for dirt cheap prices.

While you’re downtown, also be sure to check out Century 21, a massive multi-level department store where you can paw through the racks for designer goods at unbeatable prices.

Find a good tailor

If you find something you love at a really great price, buy it.

As long as it isn’t way too small, you can take it to a tailor and have them alter it for you.

My go-to tailor is Lai’s Royal Tailoring ( in Little Italy. They’re best for high-end items.

Simple alterations like hemming can be done elsewhere for less and there are a million cheap, gifted tailors in New York City.

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