By Kelli B. Grant
Designers are betting that the economy has improved enough to support new jeans priced at $200, $300 — or more. Savvy shoppers, however, can easily save 50% on those same pairs.
Much of the high price tag on so-called premium denim comes from higher costs of manufacturing in the U.S. rather than abroad, according to a report in today’s Wall Street Journal. There’s also the allure of signature cuts or details, like elaborate shading that slims and elongates legs, and a hefty dose of brand reputation. “People are getting hung up on the hype,” says Kathryn Finney, the founder of TheBudgetFashionista.com. “It’s ridiculous to spend $300 on a pair of jeans.”
For the latest trends at cut-rate prices, shoppers’ best bet is to try discount stores like T.J. Maxx, Filene’s Basement or Marshalls, which often get overstock from designers and department stores, Finney says. On a recent trip to T.J. Maxx, a $120 pair of Michael Kors jeans was just $40. Selection can vary week to week, so sign up for store sale e-mails to stay on top of recent shipments and markdowns. If you’d prefer to buy directly from the department store or brand, load up on discounted gift cards from sites like PlasticJungle.com, GiftCardRescue.com or CardPool.com. There, Lucky Brand jeans cards sell for a 20% discount, Barneys New York, are 10% off and Macy’s card sell for 8% less than face value.
Online sample sale sites like Gilt Groupe, RueLaLa and Editors’ Closet routinely offer sales of 50% off overstock from a particular designer, but you’ll need to act fast, says Michelle Madhok, the founder of sale-tracking site SheFinds.com. Sales often last just 24 hours, and coveted items can sell out within minutes. Members get advance notice of approaching sales, so use that time to hit the store and try on what you hope to buy. Designer jeans often have unusual sizes, and most sale sites have limited return policies. “I’ve ordered jeans online I couldn’t even get my leg into, they were so skinny,” Madhok says.
Even better deals can be had at consignment shops and online auction sites if you’re OK with styles from previous seasons. On eBay, starting bids for pairs of Joe’s Jeans $158 “The Honey” jeans are as low as $0.99, with buy-it-now prices of as little as $25. Just make sure to check the seller’s location and reputation, Madhok warns. Premium denim is becoming a popular product to counterfeit, especially in China. Outlet malls sometimes have good deals too, she says, but there you’ll have to contend with outlet-only lines that are full price. Don’t count on finding great deals.
While you’re shopping, it’s worth asking yourself if you need premium denim at all. As the WSJ notes, jeans that cost more than $50 account for just 1% of the $13.8 billion jeans market. Finney and Madhok says there are plenty of less expensive brands that offer great quality, from J. Crew ($78 and up) to Wal-Mart’s Faded Glory Line ($8 and up).
Pay Dirt readers, what’s the most you’ve ever spent on jeans?