Top 20 Best Stores for Fashion on a Budget

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The 20 best affordable clothing websites and cheap clothing stores you need to know about

At some point in your life as a stylish college girl, you’ll face an important choice: buying clothes, or buying books? Since books are non-negotiable in college, if you want to maximize your (few) leftover dollars, you need to know where to shop.

There are tons of discount clothing stores out there, but which ones are worth shopping at, and which aren’t? Some cheap shopping sites are fabulous, but many are just cheap! There are tons of affordable clothing retailers with low prices and stylish clothes… you just need to know which ones to shop.

If you have champagne taste on a beer budget, dollar store clothing is not gonna cut it. You need to shop at the right places.

{RELATED POST: Top 10 Best Online Boutiques for Unique & Affordable Finds}

To help you out, here’s the official College Fashion love list of the top 20 best stores for fashion on a college budget. Visit these affordable clothing stores, shop right, and no one will know that your outfit didn’t cost a fortune!

20. Lulus

Screenshot of Lulus website

California brand Lulus actually began as a vintage store called LuLu*s Fashion Lounge.

Known for their affordable, slightly boho-styled clothing, Lulus is a great place to shop if you are looking to add trendy yet relaxed pieces to your wardrobe without breaking the bank.

In addition to their collection of everyday clothes — which encompasses everything from basic bodysuits to swimwear — the brand also has an event-wear line of dresses for weddings and formals. As well, they sell jewelry, bags, shoes, scarves, and beauty products.

Note: Lulus is great for swimwear, but it’s not our favorite swimwear store! See our list of the best stores for cheap bathing suits for our faves.

19. J.Crew Factory

Screenshot of image from J.Crew Factory Canada website

If you long for the fun, preppy-with-a-twist look of J.Crew, but can’t justify paying their prices, head over to J.Crew Factory, J.Crew’s equally-chic, yet more affordable, line.

While J.Crew Factory’s prices don’t always fall under the category of cheap, per se, they are definitely amazing for what you’re getting, especially when it comes to workwear staples like blazers and trousers.

The best part of J.Crew Factory is that they sometimes release items that look identical to the ones sold at J.Crew, only at a much lower price! They tend to wait until a later season to do so, and only do this with certain pieces, so you’ll have to be patient.

Like J.Crew, J.Crew Factory sells shoes, bags, accessories, pajamas, and jewelry in addition to clothing. They sell swimsuits as well, although their selection is much smaller than J.Crew’s.

Finally, the brand offers “special sizes,” which encompass petite, tall, sizes 18-20 clothing, and sizes 5 and 11 shoes. However, these collections are different and/or much smaller than their “mainstream” collection, so if you fall into any of those categories, it’s probably a good idea to look elsewhere.

Want more places to buy workwear? Check out our list of the best places to buy work clothes.

18. Kohl’s

As a Canadian, I have never set foot in a Kohl’s store before. (Cue gasps!) However, I have browsed their extensive website enough to know that they offer tons of budget-friendly options by way of clothes, shoes, bags, accessories, swimwear, and beauty products.

While some of their things are aimed at an older audience, there are still plenty of trendy, youthful options to choose from.

The best part about Kohl’s is that they offer a wide range of sizes, from plus-sized to petite to juniors, so you’re bound to find something regardless of what size you are!

Their beauty section is also quite impressive, so I’d recommend checking it out if you’re looking to update your look without dropping too much cash.

17. eBay and Etsy

I chose to group eBay and Etsy together because they are similar in that both are places where individuals, rather than brands, sell items directly to the consumer.

The main difference between the two is that Etsy tends to focus more on selling unique handmade or vintage items, whereas eBay’s focus is geared more towards the re-selling of used (or new) items.

One very important thing to keep in mind–especially when it comes to Ebay — is that you need to make sure that the seller from whom you are ordering is reliable and safe.

I’m not going to lie, I did have a negative experience recently in which I thought I was ordering a bracelet from a certain brand, but was sent a knock-off instead. I was definitely surprised, as the seller seemed to have very positive reviews. Thankfully, it was a relatively inexpensive purchase, but still–be extremely careful!

As far as Etsy goes, I have only had positive experiences so far. Nonetheless, I recommend being as cautious as possible, particularly when buying vintage items. This is because there’s more room for exaggeration and/or lying than with handmade items.

Lastly, don’t be shy to message sellers with your questions. Based on my own experience, they are always happy to offer help!

These stores sell everything, including costumes! Read our guide to the best places to buy Halloween costumes to learn more.

16. Francesca’s

Best budget fashion stores: Francesca's (screenshot of Francescas website)

Francesca’s sells cute and pretty boutique-style clothing, jewelry, and accessories at cheap prices. In addition, they have a lovely selection of home and beauty products.

With its relaxed and feminine aesthetic, Francesca’s almost reminds me of a less-expensive Anthropologie.

One of my favorite things about Francesca’s is their way of interpreting trends in a way that is more subtle and wearable than some other wallet-friendly retailers.

Furthermore, the quality of the merchandise appears to be pretty good for the price.

Therefore, if you are looking for fashion-forward and girly pieces, you should most definitely check it out!

Need to accessorize your look on a budget? Here’s our guide to the best places to buy cheap accessories.

15. Modcloth

ModCloth is known for their adorable and quirky indie and retro-inspired pieces, so if you’re in the market for a dress with a fun print or a pin-up-style swimsuit, this is the place for you!

In addition to clothing and accessories, ModCloth sells unique shoes, accessories, and gifts (which mostly fall under the home decor category).

Though most of the items sold on ModCloth are affordable, they do offer some more expensive pieces as well. Even so, their prices are cheaper than what you might pay for a similar item at a department store.

One of the best things about ModCloth is that they have an extensive selection of plus-sized clothing! Furthermore, like many of the other retailers mentioned in this article, they also offer petite and tall sizes.

Though most of the items that I have seen from ModCloth appear to be good quality, there are some discrepancies, so be careful, and always read reviews and look at customer photos before buying.

14. Express

Best affordable fashion and clothing stores: Express (screenshot of Express website)

Express is known for their stylish pieces and workwear staples–particularly its famous Editor Pant, which comes in different cuts and colors.

Just about everything is under $100, with most items in the $40-$80 range. So, their items might cost you a bit more than your typical Forever 21 or H&M finds, but the difference in quality is there.

Also, they are known for offering up to 50% off quite often — always wait for the sales with Express!

In addition to clothing, Express sells shoes, accessories, jewelry, swimwear, and activewear; they also have an athleisure line called One Eleven.

Finally, Express carries petite sizes, which, according to the retailer, are meant for women 5’4″ and under.

13. Nordstrom Rack

If you’re looking for a wide selection of fashion-forward and more sophisticated pieces, then Nordstrom Rack is the place for you! The majority of their clothing rings in at $50 or less, and most of their items are well made.

Nordstrom Rack carries plus-size and petite clothing, as well as shoes, bags, jewelry, accessories, intimates, swimwear, items for the home, and gifts.

They also carry some items by department store designers at lower prices; however, it is worth noting that some brands produce items specifically for outlet stores that were never sold in full-price department stores at all. This isn’t necessarily the case at Nordstrom Rack, but it’s worth remembering when shopping at any outlet.

So, if you’re looking for bargains on department store items, it’s a good idea to do your research first to make sure you’re actually getting what you’re looking for.

12. Topshop

Best stores for fashion on a budget: Topshop (screenshot of Topshop website)

Topshop is the ultimate destination for It Girls on a budget, and caters to a variety of aesthetics, from feminine to sporty to boho–and beyond.

In addition to clothing, Topshop stocks shoes, bags, accessories, and a fun selection of beauty products, all of which fit in with their cool, model-off-duty vibe. They also offer tall and petite sizes.

In terms of quality, Topshop can be a bit inconsistent. While not necessarily the cheapest retailer on this list, Topshop’s prices correspond well with what you get — fashion-forward, designer-looking pieces for less.

Furthermore, their products seem to sell out rather quickly, so if there’s something that you’ve been eyeing, it’s probably a good idea to snap it up sooner rather than later.

Topshop carries both men’s and women’s styles, but if you’re looking for something gender neutral, see our list of the best unisex clothing stores.

11. Online and In-Person Thrift/Second-Hand Stores

If you’re a seasoned bargain hunter, you’ve probably hit up brick-and-mortar thrift/second-hand stores such as Goodwill or Buffalo Exchange at some point in your life. Thrifting is awesome and we love it here at CF!

However, due to the increasing popularity of online shopping, online retailers including Poshmark,, and ThredUp have have brought the thrifting experience to the digital world.

For the most part, these online thrift/second-hand shops make it easier to find what you’re looking for, as they allow you to avoid the trademark thrift store clutter. But if you’re someone who lives for “the hunt,” I’d recommend visiting a local thrift shop in person.

Love thrifting? See our guide to the best online thrift stores.

10. Zara

Best cheap shopping sites: Zara

I’m going to tell you a secret: Zara is my budget fashion weakness. Every time I go into a Zara store or browse through their online selection, I can’t help but admire the cool, on-trend clothes that look like they belong on the cover of a magazine.

As with any affordable clothing store, some Zara pieces are poor quality. However I’ve found most Zara clothes hold up well for years.

One thing to note: Zara carries extremely trendy (and sometimes crazy) styles, so it’s important that you go in with a sense of what you like to get the best value for your money.

I also love Zara’s more discreet, but still awesome, selection of basics: Think sophisticated trench coats, classic skinny jeans, and chic ballet flats.

9. Mango

Another store like Zara, Mango is one of the most underrated affordable fashion sites. Between their trendy (but not too trendy) pieces, good quality, and great prices, Mango is like a more sophisticated and grown-up version of Zara.

They carry clothing up to size 22, so if you can’t find your size at Zara (Zara’s clothes run small), Mango is your alternative.

In addition to their selection of cool clothes, they also carry cute jewelry and shoes, and have amazing handbags that could easily pass as designer.

Mango is the place to go if your style is more subtle, or if you’re looking for nice workwear or classic pieces that you’ll wear for years to come.

8. Baublebar

Best cheap shopping sites: Baublebar

As you may have noticed if you’ve been keeping up with my articles, I’m a huge fan of jewelry!

I love Baublebar for their cute and colorful aesthetic, as well as their playful takes on the latest jewelry trends. They also carry accessories, including bags, sunglasses, and scarves.

Unlike with other affordable stores like Forever 21, the jewelry from Baublebar is high quality and made to last.

Also, everything that they carry is ultra wearable, so you won’t run out of ways to style their pretty earrings, cool necklaces, lovely rings, and beautiful bracelets!

If you’re looking for jewelry on a budget, be sure to check out our list of the best jewelry brands online right now! 

7. Uniqlo

Uniqlo is my go-to store for practical-yet-stylish basics.

Style-wise, Uniqlo is a cross between H&M and Gap: Their pieces are functional enough to stand the test of time, while still being fashionable.

I recommend their fabulous HEATTECH line for the colder months, as well as their signature Ultra Light Down jackets. (I have one, and it keeps me so warm while feeling like nothing! I don’t know how they do it!)

Uniqlo also has high-quality sweaters, as well as feminine skirts and dresses in chic silhouettes.

In addition, they carry loungewear and intimates (although unfortunately, bra sizes and styles are limited), and have done unique collaborations with style icons like Inès de La Fressange and Carine Roitfeld, as well as Disney and Star Wars.

We love Uniqlo’s inexpensive intimates, but they aren’t the only option. Check out our list of the best places to buy affordable bras.

6. Torrid

Best stores for fashion on a budget: Cheap shopping sites. Plus size fashion retailer Torrid is the best for inexpensive plus size clothes.

No list of affordable clothing stores would be complete without mention of plus-sized fashion store Torrid.

They carry everything: clothes, intimates, loungewear, activewear, swimwear, and accessories. And unlike some plus-sized stores, their pieces are stylish and fashion-forward, rather than frumpy.

While I personally don’t have experience shopping at plus size stores, whenever I have seen the topic come up, Torrid is frequently mentioned. Customers have lots of positive things to say about them, especially when it comes to their bras, which come in a variety of sizes.

I also love that Torrid encourages all women to be proud of how they look, and not to hide behind ill-fitting garments.

Want more plus size store recommendations? See our list of the best plus size clothing sites.

5. H&M

Ah, Hennes & Mauritz – in my mind, a true fashion paradise. H&M truly has something for everyone, including stylish plus-sized pieces.

Whether you’re looking to buy a trendy item to wear for the current season, or a classic piece that will last you years, H&M is a great place to start. They have EVERYTHING you might want – from cute tops and fabulous dresses to statement jewelry, scarves, and even shoes.

While H&M’s quality is more variable than Zara’s, for example, if you shop wisely, you’re almost almost guaranteed to find what you’re looking for in sturdy fabrics and streamlined silhouettes.

One of the best parts about H&M is that they frequently do collaborations with high-end designers such as Alexander Wang and Kenzo, and celebrities such as the Weeknd and Nicki Minaj.

4. Old Navy

Best cheap shopping sites and clothing websites on a budget: Old Navy has amazing affordable clothing for women and men

Old Navy is one of those classic stores that just never gets old! From their sweet dresses to their flattering jeans, Old Navy is a reliable standby that should be on every college girl’s list. Not to mention that they’re always doing great sales, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a great deal on whatever you end up buying.

Old Navy carries petite, plus, and tall sizes, which is awesome.

Personally, my favorite things at Old Navy are their flip flops, (all priced under $11 rn) and their cozy pajama bottoms, which come in tons of cute prints.

They also have an activewear line, which is definitely worth a look if you exercise a lot or just love the athleisure style vibe.

If you’re looking for more places to buy activewear, be sure to check out our list of the best stores for cheap workout clothes.


While ASOS carries clothing, shoes, and accessories at a wide range of price points, their selection of affordable clothing stands out as one of the best online (or anywhere, for that matter)!

While most ASOS pieces are on the trendy and sometimes edgy side, they also carry options that are classic and mature-looking (but not boring or matronly).

In addition, ASOS has a fabulous selection of formalwear that proves that getting dressed up for a special event doesn’t have to cost a lot. They even carry cute and inexpensive swimwear.

Lastly, ASOS has petite, plus-sized, and tall lines, and even carries wide-fit shoes, so you’re sure to find something that you like, no matter your body type!

2. Target

Best places to buy affordable clothing: Target

You probably knew that Target would make the list. That’s because it’s the worst kept secret of stylish women on budgets everywhere.

I love how Target makes fashion fun and doesn’t skimp on style, unlike many large discount stores. Moreover, regardless of what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it — and more!

Target carries tons of plus-sized items, so you can look great no matter what size you wear.

Lastly, like some of the other stores on this list, they have done collaborations with well-known brands such as Victoria Beckham, Marimekko, and Lilly Pulitzer.

Even if you don’t have a Target in your area, don’t worry – everything is available online, and ready to ship to your door. Just another reason to love them!

1. Forever 21

You didn’t think that I was going to make a post about affordable fashion and leave out Forever 21, did you?! With its ultra-trendy aesthetic and even lower prices, Forever 21 is the ultimate fast-fashion destination and one of the most popular discount clothing stores in America!

In my experience, Forever 21’s sizes run small (although they do have a plus-size line). Also, browse with caution, as some of their fabrics can be cheap. Another downside is that Forever 21’s return policy isn’t the greatest; they only accept exchanges, so you have to be sure about your purchases.

On a more positive note, if you shop wisely and with care, you’re very likely to find something you love, as they cater to a variety of different aesthetics, from boho to sporty to preppy and beyond.

Another tip: If you want your clothes to look more expensive, stick with simpler (read: less trendy and more classic) colors and styles; I’ve had luck with my Forever 21 purchases by shopping this way.

Finally, I have to say that I am a big fan of Forever 21’s adorable fabric tote bags and shoes that come in a variety of trendy styles and colors.

We’re also huge fans of F21’s budget-friendly selection of sunglasses. See our guide to the best cheap sunglasses to learn more!

Your Thoughts?

So there you have it; our list of the best affordable fashion retailers for college girls on a budget! (Note: You can also get a discount at many of these stores just for being a college student! See our list of student discounts for all the details.)

Now that you know my top twenty best cheap shopping sites, I want to see your lists! Which stores are your favorites, and what are your fave things to buy there?

Leave a comment & tell me your top budget stores!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2008; it was completely revamped in 2018 to reflect the clothing websites we love today.

87 thoughts on “Top 20 Best Stores for Fashion on a Budget”

  1. Wow, a few of the places I agree on, some…not so much. I’m a college student AND a young mom, so I’m on a double budget, lol!

    My list and how I feel about stores u listed:

    1. I agree with TARGET. Target is awesome and they’ve really come a long way over the years! I’m not the smallest girl in the world (blame my baby hips!) but I’m in that weird gray area that tends to be forgotten, and my size varies greatly by whoever is making it, not helped by other weird proportions of mine (short, large breasted…) Target makes me happy with the extended sizes they have in juniors and also really nice women’s clothing that makes me look cute and trendy, but still not outrageously dressed since I am a mother.

    2. TJ MAXX I like, but don’t love. They are half and half with me. If I need to go somewhere nice and dress up, I can rely on them to have better workwear/event wear than another place I have on my list that is similar. I tend to like browsing their designer purses, sometimes their shoes, and if I need a coat or jacket, I like going there as well, but I don’t go too often because they just never seem to have enough clothing!

    3. Charlotte Russe use to have awesome clothes, but I think they’ve slid a bit down hill with me. I don’t tend to go often because the clothes come across to me as too “14-18” ish. I’m 23, so I don’t want to wear a bunch of random floral skater dresses and tees with awkward messages on them! It even bothers me when I see women who are in their 30’s shopping there. I use to love their shoes…I haven’t been able to find a pair I like there in ages.

    4. Forever 21’s sizing is just weird to me. I also find it to be a bit too big and intimidating. I like browsing their jewelry from time to time, but you won’t catch me buying too many clothes. When I buy clothes, I DO want them to last, maybe even transition seasons with me. Forever 21’s items are just what they say they are: Fast Fashion. Not worth it even if it is cheap to me…

    I do like H&M, but there isn’t one in my area (shocking…we are in a mid-sized city). They don’t ship to me so I can’t really take full advantage of them. DSW I’ve gone in once and found their shoes to be a bit on the pricier side. I once bought a pair of Not Rated Flats from there, but I haven’t gone back in a bit though if I think about it I might.

    1. Ross- There is something about Ross being somewhat disorganized that makes the hunt fun. I like finding that one dress nobody saw because it wasn’t so organized. Seeing as people tend to be my size around where I live, I frequently find my size completely missing when I’m looking at a dress I really like, and then I have to cry because I won’t get it. Ross doesn’t have their garments organized because they tend to have 1-4 of a given dress, meaning there isn’t really a way to organize it. They do have it organized by garment though (dresses, tops, maternity, shoes, etc.) that’s organized enough for me! I can come out of there having only spent 100 dollars and have 8 new outfits, 200 dollars and I have a new wardrobe! When I can find tops for 6.99 and dresses for under 10, I’m in heaven, especially when they look like they are worth more than that. Just bought a Nine West bag there yesterday that was marked down from 90 to 20.

    2. Kohls- I like them, but I don’t consider them cheap. I don’t usually go for things for myself either. I typically find myself there when I am looking for clothes for my daughter who is 3. Even still though, they tend to charge more money for the same brands (carters, osh kosh, etc.) than the other stores do, so I usually find myself upset I bought her a seat of pj’s there that were discounted EVERYWHERE else, even the manufacturer’s main website! I don’t usually find items I like enough to buy there but find myself trying to keep give them chances.

    Other stores I like: Goodwill (shoot me!) and other thrift stores, Belk (it’s a southern store…), Dillards occasionally. I use to swear by JC Penny, but they really messed up. Lost my loyalty.

  2. I liked your blog for several reasons. The fact that you included 2nd hand stores was great. Who could live without TJ Maxx and Marshalls those are two stores you go to before online. Nothing wrong with online, but nothing is more frustrating and disappointing than shopping for hours even days and it shows up and is not at all what you expected. If you don’t mind waiting 6 weeks for delivery Lovelywholesale is a direct wholesaler without a minimum, never seen lower prices anywhere. Thank you

  3. I don’t recommend shopping Target AT ALL. The clothes are cheap, but they’re cheap for a reason. Buy one of their fitted t-shirts and it will look old, stretched out and baggy after a few wearings. So then you go and buy another one, and that’s how they make money.

    You’re better off getting something that is more expensive, but well made.

  4. Thanks for this amazing post. I normally shop: Target (price return of the items is okay – Remember you are paying cheap). For an alternative in finding cheap discounted jewelry and accessories I shop which is not on the list.

  5. Basically if you want to return something at Forever 21 you have to sell your soul. I only buy from there if I can’t find anything anywhere else.
    I love Target and Old Navy, and definitely Marshall’s and thrift stores. I’m going to be on a small budget for the next several years if I want to pay off loans, so these places are my favorites.

  6. I absolutely adore your list! I’ve been waiting to see a list of budget-friendly noteworthy shopping places instead of websites (even though I love the Coupons Weekly you do) since you can see the fabric and it’s easier to return.

    My Top Ten (no particular order)

    1. Old Navy–you can find some real gems
    2. Kohl’s–it’s really diverse in style there, so I know I’ll find something I like
    3. Dillard’s–when it’s on sale, you know it’s good quality and they
    4. Gordman’s
    5. T.J. Maax
    6. Outlet stores
    7. Marshall’s–I love the dresses there.

    I go to a couple of international trips once every five years, so I do some shopping there. Most of it’s much cheaper there. (I just pack nothing, and get a lot of stuff.)

    I don’t have a H&M, Forever 21 or Vanity (very cute accessories) where I live, so sometimes when I go visit a friend who does have those stores, I hit up those places. I love them all, and they’re definitely on my Top Ten list.

    I also like Talbot’s Outlet Stores and Shoe Carnival.

  7. I love all these stores, especially Charlotte Russe. Although a few items I’ve gotten there seem to be have been poorly made… They ripped only after a few wears (and I know you they’re not meant to last years, but it was still disappointing).

    I disagree with what you said about go jane. I’ve bought a lot of clothes from there, and have been happy with almost all of them. The pieces I hated were easy to return though, because they have an awesome return policy. It’s just like what you said about Wet Seal, you need to have a good eye for cute vs. tacky.

  8. Great list! I might have to check out GoJane. I’ve never heard about it.

    I’m also a big fan of deparment store clearance racks. You can find some great stuff for incredibly cheap, but it takes a lot of effort. I have a really cute sweater that I scored for $1.50 (in the summer).

  9. I’m so glad C. Russe made the list. I <3 their layering camis! I bought a back-to-school top there and I’m more excited to wear that then my new Lucky jeans! <3 <3 <3

  10. Target= AMAZING. So happy it made this list.
    The other one that I LOVE is a consignment-like chain called Plato’s Closet. They deal strictly with gently used teen and young adult clothes, and have really rigid rules as far as what they take (LOTS of current A&F, Forever 21, AE, etc.). So I definitely love them! You can look to see if you have one near you at their website,

  11. I would be interested to hear your opinion on the top ten online stores. Some of the stores you have mentioned are no where near my small town.


    Ahem. However, my closest one just closed and I am DEVASTATED. Where else am I going to get my 5 to 10 dollar dresses?!

    H&M never did anything much for me. I found much of their things fit strangely. It may be just me.

    Shoe Carnival is another goodie. Especially when they have sales, oh my! I got a 7 dollar pair of real suede boots, in GRAY!

    I’ve also gotta say though, if you have a Steve and Barry’s near you, and it’s well-stocked with Bitten, then go!!! I love SJP’s line and the quality is pretty good and it fits perfectly!

    I also love New York and Company for when they have sales, because they have really nice work clothes that you’re going to need!

  13. aw old navy should definitely be on this list. Urban behavior is in Canada. Sad =( I’ll never see one. it’s weird that you guys are saying charlotte russe is classy because here it’s really trashy and cheap looking.

  14. Definitely agree with H&M. That place has such great clothing – sure, they have some expensive items at times. But really, every time I go there there are a lot of really amazing items on sale.

  15. AHH anything bu H&M!!!

    Perhaps it’s because I live in Las Vegas and everything is expensive here but this store is NOT budget friendly.
    The clothes and the prices do not match up here. I’ve seen the listing on the website and it makes me really upset. Plus, their sizes are not always the most flattering for girls.

    I would add Old Navy to the list…. I loves it when I need some quick clothes for a decent price. Oh…and I loves ROSS too! πŸ™‚

  16. Interesting list, to be honest, I haven’t shopped at many of these stores. I suppose I’m not very trendy anyhow…

    My favorites are Abercrombie and Hollister, since I find some great deals on very cute things that actually fit me right. It’s hard to find clothing in other stores that have the right fit for me.

    Most of my casual basics come from American Eagle, another great place for deals… But I suppose these three stores make me a total prep. πŸ™‚ But at least I’m not breaking the bank with any of them! (Unfortunately, I’m still afraid to buy anything off of Banana Republic sales racks… I need courage for that store.)

    The one who said Dillard’s sales racks I have to agree with. That store is great, just not the full price stuff. (They have some killer mark downs on designer clothing sometimes.)

    Personally, though, I don’t like Old Navy… I find most of their stuff to feel ‘cheap’ to me. (Both not fitting right, feeling like it’s cheaply made and then stretching out rather fast and then totally not fitting right.)

  17. Well, i can definitely agree with target :), they have such nice work clothes and would prefer to shop there for those kind of things. Oh and the tops as well are pretty too :D, since in from outside the US, i haven’t really heard of the other shops that you have mentioned….

  18. Kohls and Old Navy used to be my favorites, but in the past year every time I’ve walked into one of them I’ve just walked right back out.

    I COMPLETELY agree with Target and H&M. H&M is way more popular in Europe than in America, and I have no idea why. It is so fashionable and so cheap. My favorite by far! Good choice!

  19. Thrift stores for the WIN. There’s a wonderful one across town from my parents’…it’s in a mediocre area and it kind of smells funny, but I have, for example, a pair of Blue Cult jeans that still had the tags on them that I got for about 15 bucks. A couple of microfiber Kate Spade bags, neither of which were more than a ten spot. Need I say more?

    I would add Steve & Barry’s to the list. They went bankrupt, apparently, which I both didn’t understand (their clothes are awesome), and did (they are INCREDIBLY cheap). I mourned the closure of the Racine store…but there’s one not too far away, I just need to get out to Schaumburg! They’re a great shop for basics, I don’t think anything in the store is more than 20 bucks, and they’ve got the SJP Bitten line, Dear by Amanda Bynes, and a few other named lines. Whee!

  20. Alexa – Yay, I’m not the only one loving Charlotte Russe. And oh, I didn’t know about Forever 21’s return policy – what’s so bad about it?

    Shar – Ooh, I forgot about Kohl’s! They have some really great stuff. You’re so lucky to travel out of the country that often, I wish I did that!

    Katte – Ah, I know. H&M=love

    P – You’ve got to check Urban Behavior out, I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews. I don’t know what Ross is though… care to explain?

  21. This is my kind of list! I would probably add Urban Outfitters, just don’t pay full price. I couldn’t live without Forever 21 , Target and H&M. I’d love to hear your top 10 for shoes, specifically, too πŸ™‚

  22. I love charlotte russe and I totally agree with you on thinking it’s more classy than the other stores. I alos love target and h&m. I refuse to shop at forever 21 because their return policy is terrible.

  23. Wow, never heard of Urban Behavior, I’ll have to check that out online. And I fell in love with H&M when I visited New York. It’s so depressing they don’t have stores near me.

    I agree with the Urban Outfitters comment. The one in my area always has a huge sale area which I’ve had a lot of success with.

    I also love Buckle when they have sales…though admittedly I give in more than I should and dish out for Ed Hardy and Lucky jeans more than I should. TJ Max/Marshall’s is a great alternative πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the list!

  24. Love the list! I’ve never actually heard of Urban Behavior so, I’ll keep my eyes open for that. Target & H&M are also by far my two favorite places.

    Old Navy, like Shar said, is good for basics. Sometimes I peek into Ross and some stores like JCPenney is great especially when you look through the sale rack!

  25. -For me Forever 21 is the best for cheap trendy pieces! If there was an H&M around here it would be my #1 as well,.
    -I’m also a huge fan of tj maxx, my mom & i would shop and bond there because they carry clothing we both like.
    -I would say topping my list would be thrift/vintage stores just because I really like wearing clothes that no one else is. It’s just a great place to find unique pieces


  26. I agree with some other commenters that you need to add “thrift stores” as maybe a number 11 for those who can find good ones. But I strongly recommend college girls, like myself try Ebay. I have purchases tons of incredible stuff on ebay, and I pay the same prices for special items that I would pay for stuff at forever21. Plus, I never see other girls wearing the same dress I have on.

  27. I’m ALL about Urban Behaviour and F21 (and of course thrifting!)
    SO wish we had Wet Seal and especially Target in Canada πŸ™‚

  28. Great list, I would definitely agree on TJ Maxx and DSW. The only issue I have with Charlotte Russe is that their clothes do not last long because the quality isn’t the greatest. If you’re strictly going by price then it is affordable but the material isn’t usually the best.


  29. I agree with alot of these stores, but would add kohls and Ross to the list.

    dirt cheap stuff designer bags, clothes, shoes, and dorm stuff ! Downside is you have to really dig to find the goodies (not organized) and they can be really crowded. Not all stuff=good quality

    Not bad quality stuff, large acessory selection. Look for the $10 card they send in the mail a few times a year!

    Small selection, mostly lounge-wear. Small sizes (may be good or bad), but they often have big sales.

    Forever 21:
    Always one of my fav. stores for years, with some gripes. Have worked & shopped there.They have A HUGE variety of clothes and accesories, and you can always depend on them to stay up on the latest trends. The downside: Really inconvenient return policy (either way they keep your money) and most of their stuff go bad after a few washes. I call it “seasonal quality”. b/c I buy alot of stuff there but also end up donating/throwing away alot of it after a few months. Their prices have also gone up the past few years, but still affordable. They dont really have sales either.

    I have a hard time finding clothes for job interviews, the office, etc but this store carries really cute, affordable workplace outfits in the smaller sizes. However, their fabrics aren’t really comfy to wear, and the quality is not always good….and in my opinion, their prices are affordable but not cheap.

    One of my fav stores, but not really for clothing. They seem to have alot of the bigger sizes available more than small ones. In my opinion, their pieces are comfy, affordable, and generic. They update the looks, but don’t always emphasize on trend. I can always recognize when seomeone wears something from there, not that its necessarily a bad thing. My preference is just that I want to be the only one in a room with that outfit!

    Anyways these are just my opinion. I shop at these places alot so just wanted to give some input πŸ˜€

  30. Anyone hear about Buffalo Exchange?
    You can sell/buy/trade used and new clothes. I got some barely used rock and republic jeans for 30 dollars! They have a lot of other designer clothing and shoes, too. It also depends which ones you go to. I try to go to the stores in more affluent areas because there’s more stuff!

    I really don’t like Old Navy at all. The pants and shirts fit very strangely on me. I did get a great deal on a wool coat ($30) last year when their coats were 50% off. I will definitely be waiting for their sale on coats.

    TARGET is my favorite! I drop by often and peek into the clearance racks, which offer great deals. Lots of cute stuff for cheaper than cheap! I’m talking $3 shirts. I also go to many different stores in my area to see which ones are usually full of clearance items. Usually, it’s the stores in more affluent areas and overall less foot traffic are the best. Same goes for Ross, Marshalls, TJMaxx. I know this sounds weird, but I am in love with their maternity wear! Too bad there’s not going to be any babies for a handful of years. I am not into a lot of the GO designer things, I would rather just find it reduced at Loehmann’s or Off Sak’s 5th Avenue Outlets.

    OFF Sak’s is a great place to go to for evening dresses! Reduced ZacPosen, Badgley Mischka, Nicole Miller…I wish I knew about this store for prom otherwise I wouldn’t have gone to Windsor.

  31. I love TJ Maxx and Marshall’s. I actually was addicted for a while and would go to a different store each day to see what I could find, it really is like treasure hunting. I used to work at TJ Maxx my freshman year of college, but I didn’t even realize how awesome it was until like a year ago. I think I like Marshall’s better though, I usually find better stuff.

  32. Ladies, please please put your money towards good retail. it doesn’t matter which one is whether wetseal or someone but not forever 21…there is a reason there stuff is cheap. read it here yourself..

    they are running sweat shops in our towns….

    and this is how they get there designs. I am a clothing designer and i work really hard to create something that goes on shelves for people to like and wear. its painful as this work is labor of love and only love or reward in this job is seeing your consumer feel good and appreciating your efforts….

    please consider when you purchase at forever21 next time. I would go with wetseal over these two but even they aren’t my top choice…

  33. This is a great list! I’m also a big Baublebar fan though my mom and I have both found that some pieces we’ve bought from them break quickly. But some of their pieces are still go-tos for me, ah well. The one store I would add would be Express–especially for quality jackets!

  34. Great article, and so helpful…I had visited Charlotte Russe in New England, was thrilled to find one not far from my home in PA…and you were right on time about the Wet Seal accessories!

  35. I was excited to hear a store name I’ve never heard of…Urban Behavior…too bad it’s like H&M and doesn’t sell online.

  36. This is my List:
    1.) American Eagle *When stuff is on sale, its pretty decent*
    2.) Rue21
    3.) Wet Seal
    4.) Target
    5.) Belk
    6.) Any thrift shop
    7.) Aeropostale
    8.) D.e.b * idk if many people know what this shop is but its really girly and cheap*
    9.) LuLu*s (AMAZING Online STORE)
    10.) Forever21

  37. My top 10 places to shop are Forever 21, Wet Seal, H &M, Nordstrom Rack, Charlotte Russe, Target, Old Navy, Macy’s, Claire’s for nail polish and accessories, and some boutiques.

  38. I wanted to add that H&M now has a shoe line from Jimmy Choo!!!! Yep, you heard right-the motherload of high-end shoe companies collaborated with H&M and they sell for as low as $60!!! Which is amazing, compared to his normal prices of $500+.

  39. How about Plato’s Closet. You can get some nice clothes there. It may be a little out of season but you can find current and trendy pieces too. Example: A forever 21 dress that was for 10 bucks. didnt fit me, but went to the store and found one very similar. The clothes are used tho or new.

  40. Thanks! This list really helped a lot I wanted to try new places not on a college budget (not in college) but I will DEFINITLY check some of these stores out but I already love T.J max it has amazing clothing πŸ™‚

  41. Just a hint about thrift shops. If you can find one in your area, shop in hospital auxiliary and junior league shops. Their clothes may be a bit too mature looking – not trendy enough – for college age shoppers, but once you hit 35 plus these places can’t be beat. i frequently find clothes that I know cost $75 or more selling for under $10 or $15.

    Goodwill and PTA shops in affluent neighborhoods are great places to find bargains. My sister-in-law wore a knock-down-drop-dead silk dress to a family wedding recently. Everyone was commenting on how gorgeous it was. I asked her later where she got it. Her answer: Goodwill for $5.00!!!!!

  42. Have you checked out Chicastic? They have great affordable fashion accessories including handbags, clutches, jewelry, hats and more. The prices are great and the inventory is stocked with so much variety!

  43. Love this list! I also really love Humble Chic πŸ™‚ Their styles are perfect for me plus I can call them for free style help. I always feel a bit awkward when asking a sales associate for style help.

  44. Hi, first of all just wanted to say I really enjoy your site! It’s so beneficial. I recently just moved to New Zealand as an international student and often came here seeking for fashion related advice haha. I do have a question though, upon your recommendation, I checked out GoJane and I know you specifically mentioned not to purchase their clothings. Does this include bikinis or monokinis as well? Cuz I saw a really cute one onsite πŸ™‚

  45. i love forever 21 and there clothes are so cute i love this store on my list top 1 store favvvvvvvvoriteeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  46. I wish H&M was more consistent with their sizing. You can get an armful of clothes that are all labeled the same size and one will be huge and the other you can’t get over your head. Until they figure that out, I won’t be shopping there.

  47. I love H&M unfortunatly the closest one is two hours away. Forever 21 is great too! I don’t like going into charlotte russe (though I will order from their website) maybe it is just the one here but the music is so loud you can hear from the lower level of the mall.

  48. For Jewelry I really Like CaliJoules and The Vamoose. CaliJoules is a newer store so they do not have hundreds of products. The Vamoose sells handmade stuff which makes it that much better. For clothes I live for NastyGal, though it can be really expensive. I usually buy my shoes at Urban Outfitters or Dolce Vita.

  49. Also, Nordstrom’s Rack! You can find great designer pieces for a great price!! I got a D&G Mens Watch for $75, Great Calvin Klein dress $17! Also great for ladies with larger feet they have great sales especially for for size 10-13. Loehmann’s is a great place, high end, TJ Maxx prices.

  50. Great list! But I wouldn’t call Forever21 “the inventor of the designer knockoff”. That would probably be Zara which was founded 9 years earlier than Forever21 with the purpose of creating cheaper clothes based on higher-end designs. Too bad Zara’s prices are much, much higher than Forever21…

    You could also add “outlet malls” to your list for those of us lucky enough to have one close. The prices at outlets are ridiculously low! I recently got a $400+ Coach purse for only $95!


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