No doubt about it. Style does have its price. Sometimes as much as $2, the cost of a pair of brightly patterned espadrilles from Woolworth.
Some people think it takes a pack of bloodhounds to find a bargain today, but real fashion hunters know it's a matter of imagination, determination--and a comfortable pair of walking shoes.
The sale racks in better department and specialty stores are some of their happy hunting grounds. But that's just the beginning. Buying well on a shoestring
--out of necessity or just for fun--also means an eye for goods in stores with "everyday low prices."
Model Tammy Aguirre has favorite places all over the world where she shops for specific items, including Italy and France for lingerie. She also buys "useful pieces" at Mervyn's: "I get really nice sweaters, shirts, shorts and leggings in the junior department. And I love to shop in the men's department. I think it's fun to wear a big, baggy suit or men's boxer shorts."
Lynn Phillips, who was wearing an oversize Benetton sweater and white trousers from Casual Corner as she spoke, is primarily a Bullock's and Robinson's shopper. But the South African-born model also finds favorite items, such as earrings and tank tops, at Target Stores.
To make sure a bargain really is a bargain, Phillips rules out garments that have loose threads and seams that aren't straight. She often teams an economy-priced garment with "good accessories. They bring it out and make all the difference."
The words seem pure Gloria Swanson. Wally Cedar, special events director of the Regency Club, says he worked with the late star for a number of years when she had a clothing line called Forever Young. "She always used to say, 'If you have the right shoes and the right handbag, you can get away with anything.'
"There was a wonderful discount store in Palm Springs where everyone would go in the '70s," he recalls. "You'd see people like Truman Capote rummaging through the racks, and Ms. Swanson would be right there, going up and down the aisles. She always mixed everything. That's how she invented the concept of scatter pins."
Community activist Marjorie Fasman is known for her inventions: centerpieces made from junkyard bits and pieces. She applies the same offbeat imagination to her own wardrobe, using one rule in particular: "I never buy dresses, only separates and mix them up. I hit the sales and feel lucky if I find a jacket that has lost its skirt."
Breaking out of her creative mode once, Fasman wore a tailored navy blue suit inherited from her mother. "Everything matched," she remembers.
She's been buying men's undershirts for years, finds hats at the Farmer's Market, jeans jackets at Sears, cotton panties at Thrifty and laments the loss of the old Woolworth on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills: "You could always find wonderful things there, like a crazy scarf."
In the past, she has made needlepoint ribbons and medals for an inexpensive jeans jacket, then written the name of her daughter all over with pieces of stenciled silk. For a dinner given by the L.A. Conservancy, she covered the front of a $10 denim blouse with bugle beads and repeated the design on the back in white ink, so it looked like an architect's rendering. And her "anti-war statement" is a $7 camouflage jacket from an Army-Navy store, to which she has added elaborate beading.
European women have their own ways of handling a bargain. Claude Deloffre, Los Angeles editor of Paris-based City Magazine and a free-lance stylist, says she browses until a print or fabric catches her attention, then she checks out the shape of the garment.
"It's a challenge," she explains. "You test yourself, your own taste and sense of fun. In Europe, a lot of people do that. I always like to go to the cheaper department stores in Paris, like Prisunic or Monoprix, or to La Samaritaine, which is famous for its workers' clothes. You can buy a painter's jacket, made for centuries out of 100% cotton, and mix it with an Azzedine Alaia dress or an Hermes scarf, if you can afford them."
Among her favorite bargain buys are men's shirts, "especially white ones. I might add a bow tie or a bolo tie, and I love suspenders."
The goal of her personal dress code: "Interesting, stylish, never outlandish. I don't care about looking expensive. Although I wouldn't mind having on something expensive: shoes, a scarf or maybe makeup. Some little touch, even though I'm the only one who knows it's there."