I love shopping. I love it way more than I should. As soon as I started earning my own money in middle school babysitting I think I loved it even more because I had the freedom to buy things that I wanted other than just the "basics" that my mom was willing to buy. Whenever my dad came to town, we'd hit the mall where I had even more freedom to get things that I may not have been able to get otherwise.
I must explain that I grew up in a "cheap" family. We weren't poor my any means, but I think "sale savvy" would be a very appropriate way to describe how I was brought up. I think I owe most of it to my aunt and grandpa. They taught me to love a good sale and that coupons are my best friend. It is a VERY VERY rare occasion for me to pay full price for anything I wear.
I wanted to kick off Fashion Week by telling you about my favorite places to get clothing. I really haven't changed the primary stores I shop at since starting my career as a teacher. The things that I purchase at my favorite stores are different now that I look mostly for work wear and less for casual wear. A lot of my favorites I've been shopping at since middle school!
Here's a rundown of my favorite spots, why I like them, and what I like to get there.
American Eagle - This has been my top store since about 7th grade and is a prime example of how I can use trendy casual clothes as school appropriate work wear. I used to live in their graphic tees and hoodies and I still love those items, but I buy them a lot less often. One of my favorite reasons to love AE is their sales. Their AE Rewards card is just a scan card where you rack up points for your purchases and then get a coupon every three months. I typically get 30 or 40% off every three months and do a big trip there with that coupon. I also get smaller coupons and discounts AE is my current favorite for jeans, but I've also had decent success with some of their dress pants (khakis, trousers, etc.). They've also been carrying some nice blazers and button-downs this season. AE is a great place for layering clothes. What may look slightly inappropriate for a teacher by itself can be layered very easily to make a nice work outfit. I also LOVE their jewelry... It's cheap (sometimes as cheap as 3 for $10!) and the quality is usually pretty decent. Finally, I have come to enjoy their shoes quite a bit. I've got several pairs of clogs that are comfy, stylish, and warm for winter as well as some super cute ballet flats.
Gap - Gap and I go through phases together, but I'd say overall a very large quantity of my work wardrobe comes from there. Gap is another amazing place for sales and coupons if you know how to get them. Their store card gives $10 back for every $100 you spend, but they frequently run promos for double and triple points, so you can get the $10 without actually spending $100 many times. Now, I will admit that this season Gap has greatly disappointed me. I've always loved their sweaters for fall and winter, but this year's collection is blah and very boxy fitting. Gap also used to be a great place for work pants for me and then they redesigned their collections and they don't fit me as well as they did before. That's the way it goes, though. I'm holding out for more color and better fits in the spring. I will share my great find from last weekend, though. I got a black and white print maxi dress, originally $98, marked down several times with an additional 40% off sale items... I paid $7.48. Can't beat that!
Banana Republic / Banana Republic Factory - BR is one of those store I could never afford to shop at until I had a "grown up job." Plus, most of their clothing was dressier than I went for anyway. Now that I am a seasoned Banana shopper, though, I know how to totally work their sales and coupons and get some amazing steals on some really nice clothing. The quality of the clothing is really good and I love getting not only basics, but also trendy clothing there as well. BR is one of my favorite places for dresses and I love that they carry most in petite online since I am very borderline on petite and regular sizes. My absolute favorite work pants right now are some stretchy black pants from the Banana Factory Store (outlet). They have some amazing deals as well, but unfortunately the closest one is about 2 1/2 hours away. BR is one place I am will to spend a little more (but always with a coupon or discount) for the quality and nice looking clothing that fits well. BR also has a 10 or 15% off discount for teachers, but it can't be combined with other discounts so I usually don't take advantage of it because the other discounts save me more money.
Express - Express is wonderful for the fact that I am never without a coupon to there and that they are filled with great work clothes. What always makes me laugh is that I am pretty much the exact opposite shape and height of the models in their ads, but yet the majority of their clothing fits me really well. I have a great collection of their tanks and cardigans that I mix and match for layering. Express is where my interview suit came from and is also another wonderful place for work pants. I'm also willing to pay a little extra for some of their dress clothes (mostly pants) because of the quality and the fact that their pants last for years! I still have some that I bought there in college that still look nice!
Target - I love Target! If I had to shop at only one store, I'd choose Target. I've worn Target clothes pretty much from birth and I think for the price their quality is quite good. I'm most fond of their Mossimo brand clothes and shoes, but I do have quite a few Xhilaration (juniors) and Merona items as well. A few of my favorite pairs of jeans have actually been from Target and have fit and lasted just as well as more expensive brands. I love that Target carries a mix of trendy items and basics. The majority of my shoe collection is from there, too. I have a small addiction with buying their ballet flats when they go on $12 sales.
Limited - We used to have several Limited stores in town, then they closed right when I got to the age of wanting to shop there so I only go to go there when I was out of town. They just put one back in one of our malls over the summer though and I'm so glad to have it back! I've already purchased a few great cardigans and sweaters for the cooler months and got a few summer items on amazing clearances at the end of the season. Limited is always running some good promo which is wonderful since I said I really don't pay full price for anything. They've got some great basics as well as seasonal items that you can mix and match.
I don't feel like I can give these stores the complete thumbs up because I don't shop them frequently because I don't have one locally. I do some online shopping, but I try to only do that through stores where I really know the sizing quite well. Otherwise the nearest of most of these is 2 1/2 hours away so I only make it to them when I'm on vacation or a weekend getaway to visit friends a few times a year.
Loft / Loft Outlet - Oh how I love Loft! I discovered Loft a few years ago after I fell in love with an outfit in a magazine ad. I went to Colorado shortly after and found a Loft store and pretty much bought the whole outfit from the ad! Loft is the perfect mix of trend and class. They're also great at having good sales and promos. Their Loft Loves Teachers discount and promos are also an added bonus. I've got some great knit dresses, work pants, and tons of cute tops from Loft. I hit up the Times Square location last spring when I was in NYC and hit the mother of all sales! The only thing I don't love about Loft is that there isn't one in the city I live in. One day, hopefully, they'll realize I could keep them in business.
J. Crew - I previously hadn't paid much attention to J. Crew (since we don't have one in town), but I went there with a friend when we were on vacation last January. I don't know why I'd ignored that store up to that point! I don't have a lot from there (no pants, just tops and a dress), but I love their style and they can have some amazing sales! I get so excited when I get my new catalog in the mail each month. My favorite buys this fall were some sweaters and cardigans in rich fall colors. I'm hoping to make another visit there within the next month or so and get some more great sweaters and some cute scarves. Last but not least, J. Crew offers a 15% discount to teachers!
H & M - Okay, I will admit I've technically only been to H & M twice when I was in NY (White Plains and then down in the city), but I picked up some great finds when I was there. H & M is great for anyone that wants to get trends on a budget. They also have tons of great basics and some really cute accessories. I picked up 2 sweaters, a cardigan, dress, long sleeve tee, 6 pairs of earrings, and a necklace there for a grand total just under $80. Unfortunately they don't sell online yet (that's coming in 2012), but they're opening a new store a few hours away so I can hit it up on my next weekend getaway!
New York & Company - This is another store I go through phases with... I only make it there a few times a year and it's very hit or miss for me. Sometimes I want everything in the store and sometimes I could pass on everything I see. Overall, I think it's a good place for work clothes at a reasonable price. I've picked some some nice sweaters and pants there before. They typically have a good selection of different lengths in their work pants which is really nice for those of us that aren't quite average.
Well, there you have it! What are your favorite stores for teacher clothes? How do you mix you everyday clothes with your professional wardrobe?