‘Just lie when they ask what it costs’

by Peter Frost

For college students with internships and jobs requiring formal clothes, finding fashionable, professional and, most of all, affordable clothing is important — but not always easy.
It’s almost impossible to find stylish Polo, Armani, Perry Ellis, DKNY and Todd Oldham clothing in a retail store that fits a student’s meager budget.
But John Wog, 20, a University student, has found a way to dress well and still keep money in his pocket: shopping for used and discounted clothes.
“They are not just ugly clothes either,” said Wog, explaining why some of his clothes cost less. “The clothes are still really nice, they’re pretty much just out of season.”
Fashion Avenue, a consignment store in Edina, sells secondhand clothing, as well as clothing that has been discounted by manufacturers.
The store has brand-name fitted dress shirts for under $20, new-looking $100 ties for $18, brand-new $500 suits for $256, and women’s suits that retail at more than $700 for $140.
Gretchen Weisman, the owner of Fashion Avenue and a former senior buyer for Dayton’s, said she marks her clothes down 75 percent from their retail prices.
Fashion Avenue stocks its shelves with clothes brought in by customers. Once items sell, the profit is split between the store and the seller. Unlike many used clothing stores, Weisman keeps an eye out for what’s fashionable, not just inexpensive.
“Many of our clients are young people who go through clothing quickly. They like to keep up with the hottest trends, and in turn they end up selling relatively new things at our store,” Weisman said.
The stereotype that all secondhand clothing is ugly, outdated, who-wore-that-before-me junk doesn’t ring true with Fashion Avenue and other consignment stores such as the Pink Closet in Minneapolis and Elite Repeat in St. Paul. They have several brands that register on the high-end of fashion — all marked 50 to 75 percent off department store prices.
Another mark-down mecca is Off 5th, the Saks Fifth Avenue outlet store downtown in Gaviidae Common.
Nearly every high-society brand is available there — enough to make any intern the best-dressed, worst-paid person in the office.
Everything in the store is priced 25 to 75 percent off the marked price, with $120 Polo sweaters selling for under $50, $100 Valentino shirts selling for $40 and various suits and dresses valued at more than $700 selling for about $400.
When finding these almost basement prices, one might think something is wrong with the clothing. But Jordan, an Off 5th employee who goes by one name, quelled all doubters.
“The clothing is not flawed in any way. Almost all the clothes started in the main store, it’s just off-season or merchandise that Saks bought too much of,” he said. “These are top-of-the-line brands, and all of our stuff is new.”
Besides suits and formal wear, casual clothing can be found at low-cost shopping venues like Goodwill and Savers, as well as stylish, younger stores like Ragstock.
The latter offers a wide variety of vintage apparel, along with an assortment of T-shirts and flannels. A shopper is almost guaranteed to find a pair of old, comfy Levi’s for less than $20.
At Savers on Lake Street it’s possible to walk out of the store with 10 shirts without spending more than seven bucks. But finding those 10 shirts might take an hour, with all the heaps of clothes to sift through.
Savers’ merchandise includes women’s blouses and old-school jackets in equally overwhelming quantities.
Goodwill’s stock rotates about twice a day, so things aren’t always easy to find. The deals, however, are often worth the searching.