Reader Request: Retail Specialties


Several of you have e-mailed me with similar requests, but Galena popped this one into the suggestion box:

… posts similar to “insomniac sale picks” where you post different stores/websites you can find wardrobe staples or pieces you find yourself reaching for often (for example, a yellow cardigan, or good places to get colored belts, etc) – links to the specific pieces would be ideal, but even saying “this store is generally good for this sort of thing” would be a great narrowing-down for your readers. Speaking as someone with limited income, I would also LOVE to see posts on where you can get mid-quality but affordable pieces, or links included for cheaper options when you do posts similar to what I describe above (for instance, many of the “ISP” links are out of my price range, even on sale).

I’ve highlighted many of these vendors before, but am more than happy to round up my favorite resources for classics and basics into a single post! Please take a look at my reasoning for each retailer, as my criteria may be quite different from yours.


Karen Kane: My top choice for all skinny denim. The only vendor who makes jeans that stay skinny and don’t sag after hours of wear, but are also high-rise and comfortable. Plus sizes available in many denim styles.

Lee: My top choice for non-skinny denim, as Lee’s skinnies aren’t as skinny as I’d like. Either that or the skinny fits are lower in the rise than I prefer. Lees are affordable, wash beautifully, and feel great. Lee stocks petite and plus sizes.

Talbots: I wore my Talbots jeans a lot more in the past, but still recommend the brand to many clients and friends. The denim itself is durable and the jeans are well made, plus they come in a variety of rises and cuts. Get ’em in petite, tall, plus, and petite plus sizes.

Tees and tanks

Nordstrom: Specifically Amber Sun. I stocked up on this brand’s v-neck boyfriend tees – with my beloved shirttail hem – last spring, and have been a devotee ever since. They’re ribbed, opaque, wash well, and skim the body without clinging.

Gap: Many of my thrifted tees are Gap, and I’ve bought new ones, too. However quality varies from style to style, so use a discerning eye. All Gap tees are not made alike. I look for thicker cotton, rib knits when I can find them, v-necklines, and shirttail hems. Petite and tall sizes available.

Old Navy: Gobs of my tanks – both thrifted and new – hail from Old Navy and they’ve held up beautifully. Old Navy online stocks plus and petite sizes.

Bella Brand: American Apparel quality and style without the horrifying ads. Tees and tanks run loooong and slightly small, so beware.

Blazers and button-fronts

Banana Republic: Mostly because I thrift this brand so frequently. Many of my thrifted blazers and button-front shirts are originally from BR.

Express: Ditto. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever bough a new blazer or shirt from Express, but I’ve thrifted gobs of both!

Pants and leggings

Gap: I don’t own a basic black dress pant right now, but have purchased skinnies, crops, and cords from Gap and loved them to bits.

Karen Kane: Some of my favorite pairs of basic pants hail from this brand. They have nice high rises but modern cuts and styling. Also cannot say enough about how amazing Karen Kane jeggings are.

Old Navy: Most of my non-miscellaneous (picked up at local boutiques, gifted, etc.) leggings are from ON. They last about three years before sagging horribly, which isn’t bad especially for the price.

Hue: Their cotton leggings can pill a wee bit, but I’ve got a metallic pair that has been worn about 50 times and still look brand new.


eShakti: With a caveat. I always love eShakti’s designs and do wear their dresses to death, but anything I order in twill or brushed cotton typically needs tailoring in the bust. And I’ve heard similar complaints from friends. Even when we use the customization features, things can get wonky. But the knits are more forgiving, and the dresses are always well made. They come in great colors – lots of useful solids – and designs that are cute and fun, but basic enough to be the foundation upon which outfits are built. And they stock sizes 0 – 36W in every style.

Karen Kane:  For real, people. I have several dresses that I’ve worn year-round for going on three years and they’re still looking great. Again, most dresses are basic enough to layer beautifully, but cut so well they’ll stand on their own, too.

Land’s End: From cotton shirt dresses to ponte sheaths, my LE dresses have endured years of washing and wearing. Prices are great, quality is good, and they have frequent sales. Watch those size charts, though, as things run a bit big. Overall, a fabulous vendor for size diversity, though, with standard, plus, petite, petite plus, tall plus, and tall sizes available.


Banana Republic: Another vendor from whom I buy both new and used. Their merino sweaters are particularly fantastic, but I’ve bought cotton, cashmere, and blends there, too. Solid knits that hold up over years of wear.

J.Crew Factory: Main line J.Crew wanders into my sweater collection fairly often, but almost always in the form of thrift as the prices make me blanch. Factory is more reasonable, and the quality is decent if not stellar.


  • I highly recommend thrifting belts, as you can get them for SO cheap. My non-thrifted belts are typically artisan made or hail from Amazon.
  • I highly recommend thrifting scarves for the same reason. The only scarf brand I’d recommend by name is Desigual because they do the absolute best prints.
  • You can see my recommendations for tights brands right here.
  • Most of my jewelry comes from Etsy.
  • I won’t even tackle shoes because I spend big on my shoes and generally feel that cheap shoes aren’t the best use of money. I will give some quick shout-outs to my current roster of favorite brands, though: Clarks, ECCO, Frye, Kork-Ease. None are bargains, all are eBay-able, and all four brands are as comfortable as they are gorgeous.

And here is the world’s biggest caveat: I have thrifted things from ALL of these categories that get worn as hard or harder than the items I’ve bought new. Virtually all classic, basic items can be found at your local thrift stores, and I encourage you to start there, if you can.

Do you buy your basics from any of these resources? Others to share?

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Originally posted 2014-02-06 06:26:11.

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21 Responses to “Reader Request: Retail Specialties”

  1. Sarah

    I also like Loft for pants. Their “Zoe” cut seems to fit me perfectly. great sales, too.

  2. Jane

    Thank you so much for this break-down; it’s hard to find the quality stuff yet in a modest price range. Another great post!

  3. Galena

    This list is great, thank you so much!

    I buy almost all of my button-front tops from New York & Co because they have a bit of ruching to keep the shirt fitting flatteringly in the midsection and not have extra fabric gaping in the back, and they have generous room in the bust so the buttons don’t gape. That last bit is practically a sartorial miracle, in my opinion. Most other button-fronts I try on are way too boxy in the midsection if I get them big enough to button closed in the bust without pulling or gaping.

  4. Aging fashionista

    What a great topic. Good chance to share our experiences. I am especially interested in sizing, as different brands fit different bodies in various ways.
    . I used to love Banana blazers and dresses but their quality has been iffy and their sizing is very inconsistent in recent years. And many of their sweaters pill.

    I too have had good luck with Loft for pants amd other items. Great sales.

    • Angela

      I agree, Banana Republic’s quality seems to be much poorer in the past couple of years. They also have a TERRIBLE return policy. I bought a dress that had tiny holes in the front and back that I couldn’t see in the dressing room (due to the horrible lighting, which is another complaint I have) and they refused to take it back even though it was unworn, tags on – even for store credit. After that, I swore I would never shop there again.

  5. Courtney

    Target Mossimo micro-ribbed layering tanks! They’re thin enough to drape well as an undershirt but thick enough to wear on their own as a summer shirt without showing too many lumps and bumps. No built in bra, no spaghetti straps, and the scoop neck doesn’t show too much of the girls. At the end of the season they usually go on sale for $5, and I snatch them up by the handfuls. They last a while too, I have a few that I’m going to throw out soon that I’ve had for >5 years.

  6. Aya in Couturgatory

    I always wear Express’s best-loved bra camis. They’re stretchy and hug the body, but are thick fabric so you don’t have that irritating unflattering jersey cling to every lump and curve.

    I always need coverage with my tank tops and the shelf bra, while useless for coverage, is great for holding up two bra pads or a bandeau/strapless bralette.

    Also, your line about American Apparel’s “horrifying ads” made me laugh. Glad I’m not the only one!

  7. Laura

    This is AWESOME, thank you! Glad to hear the BR sweaters I got this winter will hold up! 😀

    Weird pick, maybe, but my Kirkland Signature camis look as good as the day I bought them 3+ years ago. I have thrifted Loft jeans and they held up great as well, at least until they didn’t fit anymore.

    • Angela

      I have Kirkland camis bought years ago too. Even the black one looks like new. It hasn’t faded a bit!

  8. Kim

    My staple retailers are all about where I can get nice items and never pay full price! I like BR for pants, blazer, silk blouses and the occasional dress. Sign up for the email spam and you will never need to pay full price for anything there. Some of my best finds have been in store off the clearance rack. If you have a Banana Republic Factory store close by, I love the dresses, knits and occasional suit.

    For shoes, I like Nine West and Naturalizer. Keep an eye out for the sales. I picked up snake print pumps at Naturalizer in store during their mid-January clearance for $30. Both can have size inconsistencies, but don’t be afraid of returns or trying on things in store before you buy.

  9. Heidi

    I would recommend Naturalizer and Aerosoles for comfortable shoes.Naturlizer are generally cuter.If you get on their mailing list they hit you with discounts and coupons pretty routinely and the shoes hold up quite well.Naturalizer also carries many of their shoes in wide widths and boots in wide calf. I have to say also like Clarks,not as cheap,but really good quality, and Bass for fun stuff.Again, if you get on their mailing lists you can get sutff when it’s super marked down for reasonable prices.
    Heidi in L.A.

  10. Veronica

    I like Levi’s for jeans, I prefer the higher rises to help keep the pooch in. I also hate muffin toppin’ I get the Mossimo tanks from Target to layer, and have rarely been without one on this whole fall/winter. I prefer to thrift all my stuff if possible, since I really like name brands. 🙂 I have thrifted most of my skirts. WHBM has great dresses, especially since they’re so cheap in January, usually 50% or more off.:)

  11. Shaye

    Thanks to blogs like yours, I thrift almost everything now! The only thing I buy new are shoes and pants, because good classic shoes are a good investment, and the Old Navy Diva Skinny Ankle Pant is made to fit me. I want All The Colors. Plus the occasional Anthro splurge, when something I really want is on sale. Everything else is thrifted! Or vintage, which I will pay top dollar for if necessary, but of course buying vintage is not like buying new retail.

  12. Anne

    Just an observation the request was about things for someone with a limited income, Karen Kane, banana republic even factory and J crew factory are not for people with a limited income. I feel like many of your options are not .hitting that mark unless they are thrifted and I am not in an area where this type of clothing is available at thrift stores.

    • Chris

      Check out eBay. I am not a good thrift shopper – I hate pawing through racks of stuff and I’m tall, so the selection is limited – but I buy a lot of my pants and suits on eBay. The trick to buying on eBay is to know what brands/styles fit you and what size works. For example, BR pants in long lengths in my size crop up on a regular basis on eBay for very reasonable prices. I’ve even returned items that I’ve purchased on eBay but that strictly depends on the seller’s policies. Know what you like and it can be a successful experience. Good luck!

    • Sally

      Fair point, Anne. But the request was also for my personal recommendations for resources, and these are the vendors I trust most for these specific items. Most are mid-market not budget, so I’ll think about another post that focuses on lower price points. But my hesitation is that I just can’t recommend Target clothes as strongly as I can Karen Kane. They’re cheaper, yes, and cute … but they’re just not made as well. (And KK is made in the USA, which is part of the reason the duds are spendy.) And you’ll never see me endorsing Wal-Mart or Forever 21. I will buy the occasional piece from H&M or Shop Ruche but honestly can’t get behind fast fashion in a big way. I’d rather see people thrifting, eBaying, and swapping.

      Lee jeans are never more than $50. Bella tees are around $18 and last far longer than fast-fashion tees. Land’s End has amazing sales, and has them frequently. So does Old Navy. So there are some lower-cost options in here.

      Finally, you likely saw this post already, but since it explores shopping expectations (and since you might not have seen it!) here’s a link: I can definitely find cheaper stuff, but I’m less comfortable recommending it because it’s cheapness means it is almost guaranteed to be of lower quality. I appreciate the input and I’ll cook up a post that includes budget recommendations, but will have to think of how to frame it!

  13. LIz

    Mossimo regular tees from Target are a good deal, too. They hold up well and are cheap, especially if you buy them on sale.
    An interesting and inexpensive place for scarves is Simply Zeena, a site catering to women who want to dress fashionably yet very modestly for their Muslim faith.
    The site has quite a selection of silk scarves intended to be used as hijab. (They also have polyester.) The prints are fashionable, the colors are great, and the prices for large (approx. 3′ by 3′) silk twill scarves with hand-rolled edges run about $22 to $26 dollars.
    (I found this site, BTW, through a post Sally did on harem pants that were modeled by the author of the blog ModHijabi. Thank you, Sally, for opening me up to a whole new perspective on fashion!)

  14. LIz

    Another thought–you probably know this, so my apologies if I’m repeating what you know, but you can join and get a percentage of your item’s purchase price as a cash rebate when you buy online through them.
    Not all online retailers work with Ebates, but enough of them do to make it worthwhile to join.
    You can also use retailers’ promo codes or other coupons when you shop through Ebates. In best cases, I’ve gotten free shipping &/or other discounts plus a rebate. That’s been particularly nice when I’ve bought an expensive item, like a coat, on sale.

  15. Emily Stowe

    I love and Cato stores for trendier pieces in my (low) budget, and I supplement with basics like leggings and camis from Target, Walmart, Deb, etc. Any time I want to buy something online, I always check for a coupon code first!

  16. SJ

    Just a note that eShakti has not been good for me shipping to Canada. Rates sound reasonable but I had problems with both customs and their shipping affiliate and I was completely unable to reach anyone in customer service about it. The store sounds great but was not a good international choice.