Bargain Hunters' Delight

Lynn Yaeger

Even in flush times, why would you want to spend most of your paycheck on clothes? And in days like these, well, a fashionable alternative to high-priced designer duds is an absolute imperative. Some hop on the bus to Woodbury Common Premium Outlets (one hour from Port Authority Bus Terminal) to comb the Prada and Fendi outlets for bargains; others wait for the biannual Barneys New York warehouse sale (fantastic on the last day, but—and we speak from personal experience—a minefield of potential mistakes); still others troll sample sales. But the truth is, there's no need to mark your calendar or travel afar—the City is full of venues where you can enjoy a stylish bang for your abbreviated bucks.

Joyce Leslie
While the hoochie-mama getups in the window might make you think the clientele wants to look like Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler, inside this vast emporium there are plenty of far less racy alternatives. A shrunken cotton pointelle cardigan is positively demure; a pair of bejeweled silver thong sandals is dying to go to the Hamptons; and a white halter dress with a swingy pleated skirt owes a definite debt to Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch. The best news of all: none of these items are priced over $25.

Forever 21
This chain specializing in cheap, fun clothes is expanding with wild rapidity—it's even set to take over the huge space in Times Square that until recently was occupied by the Virgin Megastore. The trends of the minute are instantly translated into fast fashion: a recent visit turned up a chiffon peasant blouse in mauve plaid and a pink-piped leopard bikini with top and bottom sold separately—just like at higher-end stores. One drawback: no one seems to work here, so if you see something that you love in the window or on a mannequin, it may prove impossible to track down.

Century 21
This world-famous department store's flagship in downtown Manhattan—along with its branch in Brooklyn—is justly renowned for its selection of hot labels: you'll find everyone from Gaultier and Galliano to Prada and Pucci. Still, a skirt reduced from $2,000 to $500 may not be exactly what you meant by "discount." If that's the case, repair to the non-designer departments, where there are many sharp offerings for way under $100. (Note: If you can't bear the cramped horse-stall-like fitting rooms, why not just take everything home and try it on in the privacy of your own boudoir? It's all backed by a generous 30-day money-back refund policy.)

Marc by Marc Jacobs Accessories
Thought authentic Marc Jacobs accessories were way out of your financial reach? The veritable geniuses behind the brand have designated their 385 Bleecker Street shop as the repository of all things Marc Jacobs and supercheap: $19 leopard-print backpacks; $12 metal spike rings; $5 pink-and-black striped fingerless gloves; $5 faux-snake key loops in metallic brights. During Christmastime, the line of shoppers craving hip stocking stuffers rivals the cupcake queue at Magnolia Bakery, just down the block.

Vintage Dealers at the Antiques Garage
Every weekend, stylists, models, designers and other fashion-obsessed New Yorkers head to this antiques and collectibles market in Chelsea. Antiques Garage is both a classic flea market (two levels of merchandise featuring everything from oak armoires to linen handkerchiefs to moldy old copies of Vogue) and typically home to at least a dozen top-notch vintage-clothing dealers—some offer carefully curated selections, while others' displays are little more than trash bags stuffed with castoffs. Look at everything—there's no telling what you'll find. Just be sure you check the condition and try it on (just pull it over your clothes!) before you buy.

This famous low-priced, high-style store, renowned for collaborations with superstars like Kate Moss, brings a new blast of shopping vigor to lower Broadway, a street already well-regarded for its discount-shopping possibilities (it boasts two branches of H&M). When you're through at Topshop, why not sail across the street to Pearl River Mart, the Chinese emporium, where you can pick up a pair of embroidered satin slippers for $14.50?