Is it possible to stay fashion forward without spending the mortgage money? Of course! You just have to start seeing more red. Clearance tags! I hit the sale isle, rack, or bin most places I go...especially for the jewelry! The way I see it is all of the clearance stuff was hot once. There's a good chance it will either be hot again or I can revamp it.
Clothes are tough though. You cannot buy just because it's on sale. You need to be sure the items fit in your waredrobe. Now some t-shirts can be an exception. T-shirts are t-shirts when it comes to the ones I workout in, hang around the house in, and sleep in. I can always use a few new ones because it's an item that doesn't last me long. After numerous trips outside to garden, clean the car, clean the house, or sweat through a workout they have done their duty. They aren't an amazing find for me. Why would I spend a considerable amount of money on them? It makes more sense for me to snag a buggy full of them when Target discounts them to a couple dollars and change. A t-shirt bulk buy and a new blouse, dress, pair of pants or jeans, or skirt are completely different shopping adventures. Those key items are as important to shop for discounted as if you are shopping current season's Versace. Don't waste your money on a pile of crap. Shop like it's money worked hard for that's to be well spent. Come on it's a recession...damn!
Now some places are worth diving in the heap, but some aren't. My major two that will always have me perusing their sale sections are The Gap and Old Navy. Everything in those stores goes on sale eventually. I'm not big on Banana Republic, but it could be the same. (Disclaimer: I think Banana Republic has beautiful clothing, but it doesn't fit really my life, currently. I think The Gap really defines my personal style, but Old Navy typically has such fun pieces and discounted basics.) The other major draw to these stores is that you have 14 days to get a price adjustment after you buy any item. So you can get any item on sale for around half off, typically within about 30 days of first seeing it in the store, then hold your receipt and go back on your next shopping trip, and get even more money back to invest in your new, tried on and perfectly fitting, items.
Another of the best finds at higher end discount stores is jewelry, second only to clothes. So often people don't consider purchasing jewelry at Target, Wal-Mart, KMart, etc. Because of this, great pieces of jewelry end up quickly going to the clearance section. I love this. Often I want to buy an odd piece of jewlery to match that one particular outfit to go to that one particular event to impress everyone in that one particular crowd. I can't always run to the local jeweler, but I can run to a discount store (Target's my fav!). I can buy a pair of $2 earrings and a $3 necklace without feeling bad. I can figure out how to wear it with other things later, revamp it, or store it away for the next outing. And just like Glad storage, if I lose it I can get over it. So go ahead future party girl and do all the stupid stuff you want because if you come home missing an earring oh well. Toss the other, or better yet break it up into something better. Then wear it to the next shindig as a brooch, pendant, or charm!
I think these rules apply across many a discount retailers shopping sections. For instance, it's the same thing with household decorating items. I like to accessorize my place with the same creativity as I accessorize an outfit, but $40 for a pillow is not my thing. Instead I avoid the temptation of the full price isles and hit the clearance section. I end up with beautiful half priced, or more off, pillows, towels, sheets, and bed and bath odds and ends. All of this without feeling like I missed out on something or impulse buying.
It's even a good idea to start in the sale section. You'll probably finish in the same place.