Bargains Next Door

With discounters like Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, Filene’s Basement, Loehmann’s, and DSW throughout Washington, why drive an hour to an outlet mall?

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Some high-end brands rarely sell to discount chains: You won’t find a Burberry raincoat, for example, in Filene’s. (Although you might find it on the sale rack at Nordstrom.) Manufacturers’ outlets are more likely to offer matching pieces in a range of sizes and clothing in better condition.

But if you just want to stock up on wardrobe basics or if you relish uncovering an unexpected steal, these off-price stores may be better bets than outlets:

Annie Sez, anniesez.com. A national chain with one local branch, in Rockville (12268-F Rockville Pike; 301-816-2100), Annie Sez is best for reasonably priced day and evening dresses by Michael by Michael Kors, Elie Tahari, Kay Unger New York, and other familiar labels.

DSW, dsw.com. A discounter with a clear focus—shoes. There are well-priced handbags and socks, but the real deals are shoes for men and women, from sneakers and snow boots to wingtips and satin pumps. There are six stores in the area, but the Bethesda branch (10400 Old Georgetown Rd.; 301-897-0360) is the biggest—and has the best selection of well-heeled labels such as Stuart Weitzman, Cole Haan, Prada, and Taryn Rose.

Filene’s Basement, filenesbasement.com. Men and women get equal attention in Filene’s—there are terrific buys on top-label ties, men’s suits, coats, and dress shirts. For women, there are frequent shipments of designer jeans, overstock from Barneys and Bloomies, and underthings by Wacoal, Natori, and Lilyette. This can be handbag heaven—with labels like Prada, Coach, and Fendi. This fall, Filene’s is bringing in a lot of Italian couture—including Missonis and clothes by a Milanese designer whose name cannot be mentioned. One tip: The Filene’s in the Shops at National Place is less known and often less picked over.

Loehmann’s, loehmanns.com. Fashionistas head straight for the Back Room and its designer fare, from Donna Karan to Marc Jacobs to Diane von Furstenberg. The Rockville store has the biggest Back Room and is known for eveningwear, although sometimes it looks like sequin city. The coat selection in all stores is impressive, and it’s always worth checking the dress racks. You’ll find handbags and shoes you don’t see elsewhere and a huge juniors department. Men are clearly an afterthought here, but there are good sweaters. The Loehmann’s Web site, smartbargains.com, has even deeper discounts.

Marshalls, marshallsonline.com. Everything from children’s shoes to women’s workout clothes to sheets. Marshalls and its sibling, T.J. Maxx—same parent company—require a lot of digging. But the savings can be major. Marshalls has a good men’s department—particularly for casualwear. The shoe departments in several stores have been upgraded. There are also good handbags, interesting home accessories, and frequent clearance sales. Check whatsin.marshallsonline.com for inside information on new merchandise.

Syms, syms.com. The Rockville and Falls Church stores have great selections of tuxedos and evening gowns as well as dress-up clothes for kids. Wide size ranges offer more choices than at other discounters, although Syms tends to be geared toward the sedate set.

T.J. Maxx, tjmaxx.com. Two of the local stores, in Vienna and in Alexandria on Jefferson Davis Highway, have “runway” departments with high-end labels like Alice + Olivia and Catherine Malandrino. The selection is small, but you can snag an incredible deal. T.J. Maxx is good for dresses, casual handbags, and silver and gemstone jewelry. As at Marshalls, there are usually clearance racks packed with dirt-cheap tops, pants, and skirts. Get online updates on new stock at whatsin.tjmaxx.com.

This article appears in the August 2008 issue of Washingtonian magazine. To see more articles in this issue, click here.

 

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