Memorial Day Deals

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The sales are out there today. If you don’t want to hit the stores, shop online. Here are some deals for you.

You are probably aware that the Nordstrom Half-yearly is taking place now. Check out my Style by Karen Facebook page  to see some of my picks with photos and descriptions.

Ulta: 20% off one item Code: 6426. Ends 6-4

Macy’s: 15% off. Ends 5-30

Online Shoes: 20% off $80 order. Code 1Sun. Ends 5-30 (some restrictions apply)

Gap: Save an additional 30%. Code: Gapsave Ends 5-30

Be sure and check out these affiliate links on my Home Page.

Happy Shopping!

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What’s Your Splurge?

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Happy New Year! I hope your holidays were wonderful. Wishing you and your family all the best in 2011.

I’m back to blogging and have many ideas to share with you the next few weeks and months.

If you’re like me, you may have fashion items you’re willing to splurge on and other areas where you want to cut corners. Of course the word splurge means something different to all of us. My goal is not to pay full price. I rarely like to pay over $100 for one single item. I think it’s good to have your own personal bench mark dependant on your own budget. I believe it helps keep you on track when shopping. Here are my benchmarks–the numbers below indicate the HIGHEST amount I’m willing to pay for an item

Clothing items: $100

Coats: $150

Shoes: $175

Boots: $250

Handbags: $200

As you can see, my splurge would be shoes and handbags. Comfort and style are priorities to me and many times this means I have to pay more. I’m also a firm believer that shoes/boots can “make” an outfit. I’ve seen way too many women splurge on some items and then buy shoes that are not well made, or crafted with man made materials. It cheapens a nice outfit so quickly. There are plenty of non-leather shoes out there that look fantastic. You have to be choosy.

I’m very partial to real leather when it comes to my feet. It gives, it breathes, and as one of my clients pointed out, it keeps your feet warmer in the winter.

And a quick note about handbags: I have purchased too many inexpensive purses over the years that fall apart. I don’t need to spend $500, but I do want quality materials that last.

Before the holidays I was a guest blogger for Barking Dogs Shoes. I would like to share a post from this blog that definitely struck a chord with me. It’s the perfect example of cutting corners in one area to spend a little more someplace else.

So I’d love to hear from you. What’s your splurge? Where do you like to cut corners? Do you have a “weakness” when it comes to a particular category?

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Holiday Dresssing on a Budget

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For many women the idea of formal wear conjures up dollar signs in their eyes. I wanted this post to show that there is way to put on the glitz without breaking the bank.

For ten consecutive years my husband’s company hosted a formal Christmas party. During that same time period I earned 5 incentive trips and attended conventions with formal nights and leadership events affiliated with my job. We have also took 4 cruises in that same ten years. What was worn to a party one year was worn to another event several years later. I learned how to Dress to the Nines on a budget and I loved every minute of it. I thought it would be fun to share some of the photos over the years. They are not the greatest professional shots. The close up poses don’t show the full length dresses/outfits, and the full length poses don’t show the jewelry. You’re just getting a fraction of the photos–most aren’t digital and scanning is time consuming. I cringe a little at some of these, but in order for me to explain the good deals and recycling from event to event, you have to see it. Hope you get a good laugh from the change in styles–clothing, hair and even jewelry!

Here are my tips:

1. If you have a formal company event every year, hit the stores in January. Many times I found my dress for the following year on the clearance rack 50-75% off. I remember walking out of Macy’s one time with a dress for 19.99! I rarely paid over $50. Don’t forget consignment stores!

The last photo of the red dress is the only one I paid full price for because they implemented a color scheme last minute when I had the perfect dress from a Christmas party months earlier. We felt like color coordinated high school students going to the prom!

2. Pants are a great option and just as dressy. While it’s difficult to see, I’m wearing the same pair of palazzo pants purchased half price at my CABI party in a couple of photos above. When looking through all the pictures, I think I wore those for 5 different events and they’re still in my closet. It’s easy to change the top, and that is what makes the statement (along with the shoes) Speaking of shoes, I bought that pair shown at Ann Taylor Loft one year and wore them many times. No, they were not at all comfortable–a ONE HOUR shoe at best, but they looked good!

3. Purchase jewelry with lots of sparkle. I would go much with much bolder styles today, but what I had worked for what was in at the time. I still have many of the pieces and loan them out to friends. And then there were the small handbags that most of the time didn’t make the photo. I used to love finding unique ones. Sam Moon was a great source when visiting Dallas. I also recall finding one at a kiosk in the mall.

4. Formal styles are classic. I kept the red top and dress and could pull those out today and wear them (provided they fit!) Several years ago I sold everything on E-bay and consignment shops. My husband changed jobs, we weren’t going on trips. It seemed senseless to store all that formal wear.

The BEST suggestion I have: When you see something unique that you love and the price is right, pick it up–especially things like jewelry and bags. When you find that flattering dress on the sale rack-BUY IT.

My husband and I celebrate our anniversary the end of this month. Perhaps it’s time to break out that red dress again even if Portland is the “casual capital” of the country when it somes to dressing for dinner. I’m anxious to hear if any of you have holiday events planned that call for a little dressing up. I would love to hear.

Next week: Reports from Target, Kohl’s and JC Penney.

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Cyber Monday

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Congratulations to our winner Kathy, Comment #1 chosen by Kathy and I will attend the special Nordstrom shopping party on Wednesday.

Today is Cyber Monday. I have to laugh because 5 years ago I remember Black Friday as simply “The Day after Thanksgiving”. Certainly Cyber Monday was not in our vocabulary either.

If you missed Black Friday, many stores will continue to offer online specials all day. Shop from home and avoid the hassle.

Go to to check out it out. Many stores offer 20 or 25% off your purchase plus Free Shipping.

Some Highlights: $25 off purchase of $100 or more. Free shipping both ways. 40% off entire purchase! 20% off plus Free tote shipping and special Cyber Monday specials on the home page. Specials all day. Many are short term so check the site throughout the day. Discount based on purchase and specials all day.

Happy Cyber Shopping! Did you find a killer deal?

Coming this month on Style by Karen… holiday dressing, Stella & Dot jewelry giveaway, more on the color gray. Stay tuned!

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Fab & Frugal under $50

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Dress it Up, Dress it Down

Dress it Up, Dress it Down by stylebykaren featuring a military hat 

$29 -
Abercrombie & fitch tops »


Ribbed V-neck Long Sleeve Tee
$32 -
V neck t shirt »





Fringe Medium Handbag
$28 -
Forever21 shoulder bags »




Flat Chain Loops
$25 -
TopShop earrings »




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Discount Stores

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I realize that many of you reading may not be a fan of discount stores like Ross, Marshalls, TJ Maxx and the Nordstrom Rack. When you walk into stores like this does your head spin?

It is easy to become overwhelmed. Many clients I work with do not know where to start. I want women to get the most clothes for their money so I highly recommend learning how to shop here. It just takes a little practice and persistence. Check back frequently; you may not always hit it right. I remember years ago being frustrated at shopping The Rack. I just never found a thing. One year I was looking for a Christmas gift for a friend. She really needed clothes and I wanted to stretch my dollars. I found a couple of things, but it took forever. Oh, have I come a long way since then!

Shopping a discount store is much like learning to shop clearance sales. Be careful or you will end up with things that you don’t wear and really were not such a good deal after all.

I have my best luck at the Nordstrom Rack. In fact, there really isn’t a time I go in now and don’t find something. Unfortunately my budget does not allow me to purchase all things I find! I have also had great finds from TJ Maxx over the years but admittedly for some reason am out of the habit of going there. My hair stylist finds great handbags at TJ Maxx. I have not shopped Ross in some time but in addition to clothing, I have found decorative items for my home. Marshalls is more convenient than it was previously; I’ve been a fan for years. My greatest LBD of all time came from there. My sister called describing a dress she found at Marshalls in another state. I went to my store and there was the dress in my size for 29.99. You just gotta love that!

Here are a few tips that have helped me:

1. Know your brands for fit. Scan the various departments at Nordstrom looking for things you like. Take note of brand/section. The Rack’s rounders are often divided by department or brand name.

2. Check out the front of the store displays first. You will often find the most recent arrivals. You can also get on a list from The Rack to learn when new shipments are coming.

3. Get a cart and fill it up. Take 2 different sizes if you are unsure of fit. Try on jackets, sweaters in front of a mirror in the middle of the store if you don’t feel too conspicuous. This way you’ll have less to take into the dressing rooms.

4. Bring a friend or your stylist! (I honestly believe in years to come more people will have personal stylists to give advice) Here is why another person helps. Typically you can only take 10 items into a dressing room. If your cart is full and you have to leave it outside the dressing rooms, be sure and ask for a sign so someone else does not take it. Once you have tried on 10 things, you need another person to return the 10 and grab another 10 to take into the room. You are not going to get dressing room attention like stores and boutiques. There is no one running to grab you another size. That’s why it’s a discount store.

5. If you don’t feel like dealing with trying on clothes, be sure and check out ALL DEPARTMENTS. You will save big on handbags, jewelry and other accessories, lingerie, hosiery. If my feet were not such a problem, I would also be saving a bundle on SHOES!!

6. Know your return policies. Most are 30 days for full credit, but read your receipt carefully and keep a special envelope in your handbag for receipts if you shop frequently.

Soon you too can become an expert discount store shopper. Make it fun and I guarantee you will be bragging to your friends and family about how much you’ve saved. One of my best stories: I helped a client find $1400 worth of clothes for $475. In this day and age we need our dollars to go further. Check out the discount stores and let me know how you do.

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Here We Go Again Giveaway

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I’ve consigned my clothes for 20 years. Until recently I’ve never purchased a thing at a consignment store. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I was always in a hurry to drop off clothes. A quick glance through the racks told me that they were full of some of the same styles I was bringing into the store. I’ve been content to be a consignor; I love picking up that check. Writing this blog has caused me to venture out and explore. In a previous post I encouraged you to get out of your shopping rut and try different stores. I’ve done the same thing the last months and it has been fun!

If you’ve never consigned your clothes, this article may give you a different perspective. When I work with a client in the closet editing phase we form three piles: Consign, Donate, Throw Out. Although all stores are different, I feel I have a pretty good eye on what is consign-able, and I try to guide a new consignor in that direction. Why Consign? It’s smart , it’s green and will stretch your clothing dollars. Spend a few minutes on the Internet researching stores in your area. There may be a little trial/error. Here are a few tips if you are new to consignment.

1. Before visiting a store, make a few phone calls or visit websites. I like to know if the staff stays current and visits departments stores/boutiques frequently. It’s also important to know if the store’s clientele will be a match for your clothing. Find out about their typical customer (age & profession) You want your clothes to sell! I’ve consigned at two different stores over the years but one is a better fit for my clothes, another for my kids’ clothes.

2. Carefully examine your items for stains, tears and holes. A little TLC goes a long way in presentation. Take the time to press the garment and remove excess “pilling” with a sweater shaver. Generally 2 years old is a good rule of thumb. I typically wear my clothes 3-4 years and still am able to consign many pieces because they are classic pieces in good condition.

3. If your items are turned down, do not take it personally! Politely ask why the items were not taken; this will help for future visits. Many times the store owner is using past sales as a guide. Remember she is trying to move the clothes. Full racks do not help her turn a profit. Almost always my clothes are accepted. I know what they are looking for and my items sell. Soon you too can be an expert consignor! Check out this site for some great tips. I only scratched the surface!

I visited Here We Go Again at their two Portland locations and found great clothing at both stores. It seemed like their consignors were bringing in items that I would buy in the store today. The detailed website has everything you need to know about consigning there! Upon visiting the Broadway store, I met Chris, the owner. It didn’t take long to learn that she is passionate about consignment, a smart, experienced businesswoman and I’m excited to give Here We Go Again a Style by Karen stamp of approval!  Chris is generously donating TWO $25 gift certificates–one at each location. Yes, that means two winners!

You can also find them on Facebook. When you “like” you’ll receive feeds on recent items that have come in. Take a virtual step inside HGWA:


Now take a peek at my finds! View #1 Brown wrap/shrug to go over sleeveless dresses and tops: $35. View#2 Paige cropped jeans: $60 This is one of my favorite brands that would sell for $150+ in the stores. View #3 Blue sleeveless top with ruching: $25. The day I shopped, I received a promo for 20% off my highest item. What a deal!

What do you think? Are you a regular consignor and/or frequent local shops? If not, will you give it a try? If this article comes to your e-mail, click on the title and it will take you to my site. Click on comments at the top right corner of the post. It will say “share your thoughts” until someone comments. A comment of any length enters you in the drawing which will take place on Saturday, May 8th 9 am PST.

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Savvy Shoe Shopping: Part 4

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I hope you like the new look at Style by Karen. My blog designer has been busy. I now have a virtual service. You may have noticed the comment box is missing.  Click on “share your thoughts” and it will show at the end of the article. If you are a new subscriber, thanks for your interest and for sharing my blog with a friend.

I’ll close my series on shoes with tips to help you become a savvy shoe shopper.

I mentioned that I often pay full price for shoes because my feet are hard to fit. Since all of you are not in the same situation, I highly recommend shopping stores that carry name brands and high quality shoes for less. You will have good luck at the Nordstrom Rack and DSW. You may also want to check out Marshalls, Ross and TJ Maxx. Target or Payless shoes may even have options.

Watch department stores sales, and use the coupons to your advantage. Macy’s is particularly generous with coupons, and I have saved a bunch when combining a coupon with an item already on sale. If you are card holder at Macy’s the coupons arrive in your mailbox based on card use. Kohl’s is also generous to their card holders and you receive special discounts one time a month. A 30% off month provides healthy savings.

Online shoe stores are going to offer a wide range of choice in sizes, widths, color and styles. You may catch a sale if you watch frequently, especially towards the end of the season.  I’ve already mentioned Zappos and Nordstrom as my favorites. There are many more. If you find a brand/style name you like and use my search technique, there will be more online stores than I can begin to name. Do your research and comparison shopping. I find the reviews helpful. You may even find E-bay is an option. Read carefully about shipping charges and return shipping. I have ordered from Zappos and had it the next day. SERIOUSLY. Returns are as easy as click/print  for a FREE return label.  Leave it at the UPS store—no waiting in line. I can wear the shoes from both of these stores to check out the comfort and fit and return with no questions asked. With my feet, this is a bonus!

Are prices higher for this service? I have not found it to be significant, and there is no sales tax with out of state orders. I have free shipping at Nordstrom (also comes with $200 orders) and I return to the store as it is very convenient. They will do FREE exchanges and the return label is $6 which is quite reasonable (typical of many online stores).Weigh out convenience, time, gas prices and make your choice.

One BIG advantage of online shopping is that little SEARCH box. At Zappos you can type in Narrow or Wide Widths, and even Boots: Wide Calf. I often hear from women who say they cannot zip up boots- it isn’t so with Zappos!  Enjoy shopping  and let me know how you do!

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Clearance Sales

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‘Tis the season… The holidays have come and gone and now it is January and time for sales. I’m a big fan of clearance sales. Over the years, I have found some incredible bargains. These sales are not for the “faint of heart” shopper. Sometimes you have to dig, “fight” other shoppers and play the coupon game. Call me crazy, but I love it!  Check out my additional services. I can help save you money and you’ll learn techniques for future shopping.

If you venture out on your own, strive for wise choices. The following tips should help you think carefully before being enticed by the price!

Karen’s Top 5 Questions to Ask Before a Sale Purchase:

1. Make sure you absolutely LOVE it. Will you rip the tag off and wear this right away? If you don’t love it it the store, you won’t love it at home. Many women buy things just because it is a bargain. It is NOT a bargain even at $10 if it sits in your closet unworn.

2. Do you have things at home that coordinate with the item you’re buying? Are you willing to invest in things later that will match? If not, do NOT buy.

3. Do you NEED the item and does it fill a gap in your wardrobe? If it’s just another top/sweater that is similar to what you have, leave it on the rack. (this is often why women have six almost identical black sweaters)

4.  Is it a flattering color and style? Does it hide flaws? Not the perfect fit–leave it. Do NOT purchase something that  may look great later. This is a gamble, and most of the time we lose. Buy for the body you have now!

5. Will I wear this next month, next season, next year? True bargains are tested by how much wear it will provide in the future.

Other Tips:

-If the store offers coupons make sure you have the best deal. It can be 15% off the sale price and a day later 20%. Retailers switch signs with different sales and offers so watch closely. Shop towards the end of the week.

-Keep your receipts/tags and ask the store’s policy on price adjustments. If you have find it for less next week, they may adjust your price. Each policy is different so ask and keep track. I save a lot using this technique. If I find something else at another store, it goes back.

-If you replaced worn items with something a new, similar item, make sure you weed out the old pieces.

Happy Shopping! If you are a subscriber and this comes to your e-mail, you can save time when making a comment by clicking on the TITLE of  the article. It’s a link and will take you directly to my site. Would love to hear if you find any unforgettable bargains out there.

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The Steamer

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I’ve wanted a garment steamer for years. I’m not a seamstress. I don’t own a clothing store. I don’t sell a clothing line. It was hard to justify this purchase. I’ve priced the smaller hand steamers, but they just don’t seem the same.  Several weeks ago my husband called from Costco to ask if I wanted a “professional” steamer for 39.99! The answer: An obvious YES!

It sat in the box for a couple of weeks and I recently gave it a try. The water canister is easy to fill. It requires distilled water but we used regular to try it out.  Then you simply hang your garment on the hook and move the wand over the garment. It is extremley hot, so be careful not to put your hand behind the garment to hold it steady. It takes a little practice at first.  This was a GREAT purchase! Some of you may wonder why in the world one would want another appliance taking up space. I have a fairly large laundry room( bigger than my closet) so it sits in the corner nicely. I believe I will save on ironing time; steaming is supposedly better for your clothing in the long run. I have many jackets that are difficult to iron and steaming does a much better job. It works perfectly on silk and similar fabrics that would require the dry cleaners.   The ad claims to remove wrinkles 5 times faster and I believe it. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m quite pleased with my new steamer.

The good news is that if you are a Costco member, you will see the ad below in the most recent edition of the Costco Connection with a $5 coupon! I’m sure you need the actual coupon; I simply scanned it so you would know what to look for.

Unfortunatley, for those of you who do not live near a Costco, it does not appear to be at I did a little searching for this brand and something similar appears to be available from other sources for around $50-60.  If you’re the type of person who likes to read product reviews, that is all there too when you Google this steamer. I don’t believe it’s necessarily the best on the market, but for the price, it’s a winner! Let me know if you take up steaming!


image 22-12-2009

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