Kirstie Clements: In praise of discount stores and the savvy shopper’s eye for style

You'll need to choose with care, but the discount stores do offer some gems.

You'll need to choose with care, but the discount stores do offer some gems. Photo: Kmart

A New Daily reader contacted me last month mentioning the tightening of everyone’s budgets, and asking how I felt about shopping at discount stores like Big W or Kmart – and labels such KMart’s in-house label, Anko.

I have never thought that style equates to price tags. But what you do need when you go into one of these vast stores is to have an eye like that of a fashion editor.

There is no point in buying things you don’t need because they are low-cost or purchasing one in every colour. You have to evaluate each item for what it is, check the integrity of the fabric and the make, and ensure you get the size right.

Here are some quick pointers for navigating the discount chains.

1. Lingerie

This is kind of a no-brainer because their ability to produce in bulk means that you get great quality for the cost (I love the black boy-leg seamless knickers that come in a three pack).

Look for items that have a higher content of cotton, viscose or bamboo rather than 100 per cent polyester, and make sure briefs don’t have thick bands around the waist and legs (these can look nasty under more clingy skirts and trousers).

2.  Swimwear

Given that they’re dressing a large percentage of Australian women, these stores’ sizing is fairly reliable and their swimsuits have all the requisite underwire, tummy control and strap adjustments that makes our lives easier.

Prints can look cheap, so maybe opt for a solid colour one-piece maillot, or retro two-piece – for example the bra top and high-waisted pant I spotted the other day in a lovely bright blue. There was also a cute pale blue gingham one-piece, but I think I should have been looking at that when I was in my 20s.

3. Denim

This is literally one facet of fashion that never requires a designer price tag. Whether it’s a faded denim jacket, shirt, cut-off shorts, boyfriend jeans or a jeans skirt, it is only about the fit.

If you don’t like anything in the women’s department, try the men’s. If you love one particular style, but it doesn’t quite fit, buy the size up and have it altered.

The late, great Tina Turner was known for looking fabulous in her Levi 501s, and I know for a fact that she had a seamstress on hand to alter them to suit her figure.

4. Footwear

Am I going to buy an evening shoe at Kmart? Probably not, although having said that, I was out with a friend recently and I asked her where she got her black pointy suede slingback heels? She said Target, and she looked fabulous.

But for the health sandal, croc, platform thong, plimsoll, Birkenstock, pool-slide look, discount stores are exactly where we should be shopping. Unless we just want to throw away an extra 300 bucks for nothing, because your slide has a designer logo on it.

5. T-shirts and singlets, especially white

These are wardrobe items that we plough through, so it doesn’t make sense to pay top dollar. Kmart has a wonderful range of sustainable cotton basics perfect for the hot months to come.

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