Suit yourself

Designer work gear at affordable prices

Armani suits for 50% off retail? Yes, discriminating shoppers can find bargains on designer clothes. Locating good deals may take some searching around, says Melanie Farkas, president of the Bargain Hotline, a site which offers information about sales in the New York City area via e-mail subscription. But in most major cities there are stores that specialize in selling high-end fashions at discount prices, such as Today’s Man (212-923-0200) throughout New York City and the Men’s Wearhouse (www.menswearhouse.com), with units in 40 cities.

Call your favorite designer stores and ask when they have their major sales, advises Farkas. Brooks Brothers (800-274-1816), for example, has an after-Christmas sale with major markdowns at its several stores countrywide. Calvin Klein stores in New York (212-292-9000) and Dallas (214-951-0599) feature clothes at 70% off during their seasonal sales. Both men and women can save on fashions at Barney’s New York’s (800-777-0087) twice yearly warehouse sales at various sites around the country. Georgio Armani (312-427-6264) in Chicago discounts clothes by 60% during its fall-winter and spring-summer sales. Crowds always gather for the sales at Fred Segals (213-651-4129) in Beverly Hills to get deep discounts on designer clothes.

Don’t count out outlets, where you can save 25% to 75%. Shop around the holidays for the best deals. Among the largest outlet centers are The Cooper Building in L.A.; Manufacturers Marketplace in Woodbury, Minnesota; Factory Outlet Village, Osage Beach, Missouri; Factory Stores of America in Las Vegas; the Big Mill Outlet in Reading, Pennsylvania; and the Outlets at the Cove in Secaucus, New Jersey. Outlet Bound (www.outletbound.com) lists 14,000 factory outlet stores nationwide. The Factory Outlet Guide (Viking/Penguin, $8) by Sue Goldstein and The Joy of Outlet Shopping by Dawn Frankfurt (800-344-6397, $6.95) are good resources.

Bargain Hotline (www.bargainhot line.com) e-mails you about sales for $40 a year or $4 for a specific week. Or you can get info over the phone by calling 540-0123 from area codes 212, 914, 516, or 718 for $1.95 for the first minute and 75 cents for each additional minute. The Sales and Bargains Report (212-982-9300)-best known as the S&B Report-is a subscription-based, New York area sample sale newsletter ($49 a year). And you’ll find sales around the country at www.styleshop.com.

Many sample sales are cash only and some showrooms only have one or two sales a year. There are usually no dressing rooms (as with some warehouse sales), so wear a bodysuit or something easy to slip on and off. Carefully check before you buy because often there are no returns or exchanges. Heed this advice for hassle-free bargain browsing and-happy shopping!

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