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SHOP TALK : Quite a Gap Between Goods at Old Navy and Wares at the Mall : Moving upscale in stores inspired by the same chain makes for interesting shopping.


We've been dedicated Gap shoppers for many years now. So it was with much anticipation and excitement that we arrived at the newest Gap hybrid, the Old Navy Clothing Co. at 2141 North Rose Ave. in Oxnard. But we are also feeling somewhat confused, and we want to know: What is the difference between shopping Old Navy, the Gap and the Gap Outlet?

For starters, Old Navy is a huge, warehouse-like store filled with merchandise that looks a lot like the Gap's gear did years ago. Before it started getting really trendy, that is. Old Navy is also definitely lower in price than the regular Gap. Materials are less expensive, too. While mostly cotton, plenty of polyester is used here. The designs are on the whole more conservative and basic: A sort of Army-Navy surplus store with a more discerning customer in mind.

Perhaps the most unique feature at Old Navy is the ladies' large-size line. This line isn't the best-looking collection, but we admired a very attractive rust-and-brown print rayon jumper, quite reasonably priced at $38. A long skirt in the same fabric is $26. Long-sleeved T-shirts to match are $16. Ribbed sweater vests were marked at $16.99 from $28. For a more casual look, we liked the riding-style leggings at $24 and the flannel shirts at $26.

The men's line consists of very basic fall clothing. Corduroy trousers in forest green, brown and tan are $28. Cotton pullover sweaters in burgundy, navy and a tweedy brown are $24. Pocket T's are priced at $7 here (compared to the Gap's $10.50). Plaid flannel boxers are $7.50 at Old Navy ($12.50 at the Gap). Both are 100% cotton.

Old Navy, like the Gap, produces each line of clothing with many color-coordinated accessories. Putting separates together in either store is a cinch.

The children's line at Old Navy is great for school or camp. A denim dress is priced at $18. At Gap Kids, a similar dress would be twice the price. Adorable painted overalls are $26. Flower-print leggings are $3.99 from $11. Tights are $2.50. (At close inspection, we doubt these tights would last more than one wearing.) We grabbed a corduroy backpack with heart appliques priced at $9.99 from $15. This will make a great gift.

For women, we liked the indigo or natural-colored denim overalls at $34. Again, these are usually priced at twice as much at the regular Gap. We also liked the wool berets from Canada ($10) and crocheted scrunchies (at $3.50 and $4.50).

If you hurry, you may find a few of the grand opening specials left. Water bottles are $1, baseballs are $2, a tote bag is $6 and a kid's T-shirt is $4. All come with the very appealing "Old Navy" insignia. Look for the gym bag too, at $5.

Next we turned our attention to the Gap Outlet store in the Oxnard Factory Outlet. This is just three minutes away from the Old Navy store. We did see a clear difference between these stores. As expected, the Gap Outlet is filled with bits and pieces of many different season's lines. We saw many, many orange sweat shirts at $3.99. (What a deal if you like orange!) More sweat shirts are $9.99. We noticed, too, that they contain a lot more cotton than do the sweats at the Old Navy. And we have to admit that we like the dyed colors better here, too.

Some deals to look for at the outlet are men's heavy denim shirts in a blue-and-white railroad stripe ($12.99 from $38) and irregular short-sleeve, white-ribbed T-shirts at $7.99 from $14.50 For kids, jeans are $12.99 and cotton turtlenecks are $7.99.

The prices at the Gap Outlet are quite similar to the prices at the Old Navy. The Old Navy store has the advantage of well-organized merchandise with the complete line available. At the Gap Outlet, you'll have to put your outfits together on your own.

Later, we stopped at the Gap Kids and the Gap stores in the Oaks Mall in Thousand Oaks. We were struck by how far upscale we had traveled.

Gap Kids had just put out on the floor its holiday line. Adorable black velvet jeans with white flowers for girls are $24. A denim jacket with a black velvet collar is $44. Velvet skirts are $24 and a suede skirt is $38. At the back of the store we found the sales racks full of great bargains.

After all our looking, we still prefer to shop at the Gap. With its higher-quality merchandise and frequent sales, we figure we'll do better for our dollar here. Still, there are times of the year when the sales racks disappear or you need to fill a child's duffel bag for camp. And that's when the Old Navy Clothing Co. makes good sense.

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