Outlet Stores:Deal or No Deal?

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I remember my first trip to some outlet stores many years ago. I went in with high expectations for some “killer” deals. I was disappointed. Over the years I would say my experience at outlet stores has been a mixed bag. I have found some amazing deals. Others just mediocre. Some don’t really appear to be a deal at all.

A number of years ago a large group of outlet stores opened south of Portland. There are so many stores to choose from than the typical outlets. Some would call these “high end” outlet stores. It is nearly an hour away so I don’t get there often.

I try to hit the Cabi Outlet when they have their season end sales. I’ve walked out of that store with things for under $20 a piece. This summer I didn’t need a thing from Cabi, but was quite pleased with the Ann Taylor clearance rack.

Instead of all of the examples coming from me, it’s over to you. I would love to know what you think of outlet stores. Share your experiences. I believe it’s a topic almost everyone has an opinion on. Deal or no deal?

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Eddie Bauer Store Review

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The Birthday Weekend Celebration continued in Whistler. We had such fun catching up and reminiscing about years past. In addition to talking, eating and laughing, what do girls do when they get together? We shop!

Whistler is a beautiful place, and you may remember the home of many 2010 Olympic events.

It rained both days we were there, but that didn’t stop us from hitting the village. The Eddie Bauer store is one of the largest I’ve ever been in. I used to be a big Eddie Bauer fan. However, I haven’t purchased there in years. It happens that way sometimes. We find a store that works for a while and then for whatever reason we stop shopping it. I can’t put my finger on why. Perhaps my personal style and my lifestyle dictated that change. I would also say our smaller EB mall stores didn’t exactly have the choice. I will shop it online.

This past year I worked with a client who is very partial to Eddie Bauer because of the soft, cotton fabrics. At that time I really encouraged her to branch out (as I do every client who buys from the same store-not just EB) and try stores she had never been in. It is very easy to get in a shopping “rut” and purchase your clothes from 1-2 stores because it’s comfortable and familiar. Soon your wardrobe reflects that. You have four of the same T-shirt in different colors from the same store. Sound like your closet?

My client Kris will laugh when she sees the next photo because I’m pretty sure the last time we met she had this coat! I commented on it at the time. She was very proud that she had chosen it without me and received many compliments. I have to say she did well.

It’s not surprising that I was drawn to another coat! My friend Leslie tried it on first and I followed suit. Kathi tried the coral color. I couldn’t decide which one I liked better. It is a must have in our NW weather. I just wished it had a hood.

The coat was on sale and then we received another 25% off. It was less than $70! (Unfortunately I don’t see it on the site.)

Leslie and I both chose green! (something that never would have happened in High School)

It was a casual weekend with little makeup. Our hair styles (mine) didn’t do well in the rain, but I think we’re still looking FAB at 50!

The Eddie Bauer site is full of great deals especially for a Memorial Day sale. I remember now how frequent those sales are. The embellished tees are one of my favorite ways to add just a little life and interest to a casual outfit. Beats a boring tee any day of the week. If you don’t like bling, ruffles, or flowers, think layers as shown in the second photo.

They carry styles from Born and Clarks. You know how much I like these brands for their cushioned footbeds.

They also feature Miraclesuit and this will be one of the few places you get this spendy (but amazing) brand on sale. Watch the site for sales.

Overall, the Eddie Bauer look is probably a little too casual for my personal taste. However, this trip reminded me to give it another chance. It is a very practical, stylish option for many women. I think the quality is great for the money. I encourage you to check it out.

How about you? Is Eddie Bauer in your Top 5 stores to shop?

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H & M Store Review

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I see H & M in the magazines all the time. I’ve always wanted to check it out. Finally this past November, H & M came to Downtown Portland just 25 minutes away. Rumor had it that it was so crazy busy before Christmas that I decided to stay away. It took an impromptu trip to Seattle in February (2.5 hour drive) to get me to H & M. Go figure!

I love to shop in Downtown Seattle. I can sum up H & M pretty quickly. I think there are many great, stylish and contemporary choices if you are a smaller size. I can be anywhere from a size Small to Large. Overall I carry the majority of my weight in my torso; in many brands I’m a Large.

I loved walking in the store and seeing all the great colors. They do a wonderful job of merchandising. I immediately wanted to try on so many things. But when I did, I soon realized that things were not going to fit me well. I also was a little concerned about the quality and construction of many of the garments—especially some of the sweaters. The short trench coat was great—just didn’t fit well or flatter my body type. I really needed the largest size they had and even then that was a stretch. Yikes!

So is H & M an option? Absolutely! I would definitely check it out. And I will go back.

I’ve shared my philosophy about cost per wear. Now let’s talk about WHERE to put your money.

Overall, I love to get quality, expensive pieces for much less. But sometimes there is a time to skimp. I definitely think you can get by for less quality with layering pieces and contemporary styles that you might not want to last for 3-4 years. If you’re the type of person who gets sick of your clothes quickly, or simply loves trends, then by all means spend less on each piece.

Where do I cut the corners? Layering pieces and accessories. I put my money into nicer jackets, sweaters and coats because this is what gives that first impression. I want an excellent fit and unique combination. I do not buy high end jeans. I have one pair and they were on sale. I love them—just don’t want to put my money there. On the other hand, if you have a really hard time finding flattering jeans that fit, this is where you want to put your money. Again—a great fit makes an awesome first impression.

H & M is an affordable way to get some current trends without paying a fortune!

After I decided I wasn’t going to spend my money there, we went to check out the men’s section. My 16 year old is quite particular about his clothes. He found some great things that were different and of course affordable. The jury is still out on the quality because some things have shrunk. But then again he’s learning to do his laundry and what should go in the dryer and what stays out.

Check out H & M if you have one nearby and let me know what you think.

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Store Review: The Nordstrom Rack

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The featured store this month is The Nordstrom Rack. I have to say, hands down, I find the best deals here over any other discount store. I’ve taught many clients how to shop the Rack. (yes, there is an art to it!)

 It wasn’t that many years ago when I was overwhelmed by this store. I walked in and everything was messy. I had to dig and often really didn’t know what I was digging for.

When I started my stylist business, I knew I would have clients on a budget. I “forced” myself to learn to shop the Rack, and I have not been disappointed. I like quality clothes. There is certainly a time/place for inexpensive brands of less quality. But after shrinking, pilling, stretching and ripped seams, I would rather buy the quality at a discount price than buy at a store known for their low regular prices.

Recently I trained two new stylists. I offer them ongoing support which means occasional get togethers to bounce ideas back and forth. And besides talking, what do stylists do when we get together? We SHOP!

Sometimes we shop for ourselves, and sometimes we shop for our clients. My VIP clients love it when I’m out and about and run across something I think will work for them. I buy it, show to them and if they don’t like it, I’ll return it. Did you know you can return Rack purchases at any Nordstrom store?

The day that Leigh Anne, Kat and I hit The Rack, they were having a “red tag” sale. This meant an extra percentage off already low prices. Kat was not a regular Rack shopper and I think I’ve converted her!


Leigh Anne had to leave earlier, so I didn’t get a photo of a top she bought for her daughter and a very cute cardigan I found for her. I’m pretty sure she walked out of there paying under $25.

 Here are a couple recent RED TAG favorites.

After writing my post on COATS a while back, I was on the hunt for a red one. This shade was perfect and not too bright. It was over $300 and the extra 40% off brought it down to $83. Later, I found this Tory Burch dress. It was normally $350, marked down to $129. The extra 60% off brought it down to $53! I simply threw some pearls on for the photo, but I can’t wait to style this one–so much potential here!

My best advice for shopping The Rack: Grab a cart, and move your way through each clothing rounder slowly. If you shop the regular Nordstrom stores, take note of brand names you like and that fit you well. Some rounders are marked by brand name and some by the department. For example, Individualist, Savvy and t.b.d are higher priced departments. I start there. Narrative and Point of View are departments that are pretty affordable at regular price so you will see items on the racks for 14.97!  The extra discount rounders are found in the back of the store. The denim is displayed separately by brand name.

Don’t let the ACCESSORIES overwhelm you. You may want to skip this section on the first trip and pick another time to shop belts, jewelry, scarves and handbags! Make sure you bring clothes from your closet along to coordinate. Choose wisely. It’s easy to get caught up in the low prices and buy on the impulse.

Oh, and did I mention SHOES?

Only TEN items are allowed in the dressing room. If you have a full cart, ask for a sign to put in the cart so no one takes your precious finds while you are in the dressing room. If you are going to try on many clothes, it is best to shop The Rack with a friend OR a personal stylist! I run clothes back and forth for the client and help with the choices. I help save time, money and energy!

My husband and boys have found some great things as well. I’m fortunate. We have THREE stores to choose from in the area. Overall, The Nordstrom RACK gets a 5 star rating from my family. Join the mailing list so you’ll be notified of new arrivals and extra special sales.

I’m curious to know–do you shop The Rack? I’d love to take a poll and find out how many of you reading shop here or feel overwhelmed and avoid it. I know you’re out there reading. Let’s get the comments rolling!

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It’s a New Talbots!

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Congratulations to Dawn, comment #10 the winner of the fun Brighton umbrella from ACCENTUATE! Accentuate is a small women’s boutique located in Camas, Washington. I work there part-time. If you live in the area, I’d love to have you visit the store. If you would still like one, please CONTACT me. The umbrellas sells for $25 and there are a few left. Whether you are local or long distance we can make arrangements. Someone also e-mailed me about the gloves:

These are ECHO also from Accentuate. They sell for $35 and we have them in black or teal. Again, go to the Contact tab on my home page and I can help you. We have a few pairs left, but I can also direct you to another source.

Today I’m continuing my ongoing series on stores. Last month I featured the GAP and now I’m switching gears to Talbots.

About ten years ago I was an avid Talbots shopper. I loved visiting Dallas because Talbots stores were EVERYWHERE and each one was different. They had killer season end sales. My sister and I were known to do some ”damage” at Talbots.

Talbots has always been known for a classic style. Blouses, suits and staples were always available here. I didn’t really wear those type of clothes. For me it was great fitting pants or a fun sweater that was unique. We don’t have as many Talbots stores in our area, so clothes purchased in Dallas were always a little different and I liked that.

But over the years, my style evolved and it took a different turn. Talbot’s style turned too. I found that I was not drawn at all to their clothes. Their style seemed to be for a much older woman. Now admittedly I’ve aged in ten years, but I try to look 10 years younger, not 10 years older!

I stayed on their mailing list. Many times I thumbed through their catalog and it hit the recycling bin. I almost felt bad that I had lost my allegiance to Talbots. A store that had once had so much to offer was no longer an option for me personally.

But lately, I have found myself looking more intently at the Talbots catalog. In addition to just the clothes, there were many ideas on how to style outfits. I found the combinations and ways they used accessories to be quite interesting. I like looking at the catalog better than online. I am still not overly thrilled with our local store, but I have learned that each store is different so check out the Talbots near you.

 A friend who has an extensive background in retail informed me that Talbot’s had recently done a complete overhaul. New buyers and stylists. They are trying to change their look and it shows! A great store carries styles that cross a wide variety of age groups. I haven’t purchased a thing yet–I may consider it if they keep improving.

The price point is definitely higher. If it doesn’t fit your budget, you’ll be on the sale page. There is nothing wrong with that–their clearance deals are amazing. Before I share some photos, I wanted to direct you to a section called “pearls of widsom“  Q&A, videos and lots of tips are under this tab. Mary Alice Stephenson, a renowned stylist is now a style advisor for Talbots. She includes some tips in every catalog. Here are a couple from one issue that will sound just a bit familiar if you’re a regular Style by Karen reader: 1. Put a belt on it 2. Liven it up 3. Don’t match-mix!

Below are some photos. I tried to choose things that you wouldn’t normally associate with Talbots. A couple of months ago I posted pictures on my FB Fan page and readers could guess what store. I believe I fooled some people with the various stores I chose. The second photo is a casual, comfortable skirt for just $49!

Check out their jackets–now in 3 categories: Grace, Jackie and Kate


Statement Jewelry!

I’m curious to know your view on Talbots. There is something to be said for a store that carries classic pieces that you know will always be there. I am working with a client right now who cannot find a decent white blouse anywhere. I know that Talbots will come through for us. I also love how they are mixing it up a little. What do you think? Will you check out the new Talbots?

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