Search online outlets
Many brands now sell excess stock via their own digital outlets. For example, Rixo, famed for its patterned dresses, has an archive section on its site where you can buy previous season’s styles for up to 50% off.
The Outnet sells previous-season styles that haven’t sold on Net-a-Porter, and it’s where the Guardian’s fashion and lifestyle editor, Morwenna Ferrier, says you can find designer clothes for “an absolute steal”. She says: “Victoria Beckham’s dwindling profits mean a lot of her pieces end up there. I got a lovely blue silk shirt for a fifth of RRP [recommended retail price].”
The high street shoe brands Schuh and Office sell heavily discounted shoes that are end of line, ex-display or with a few scuffs, including children’s school shoes, at sites Schuh Imperfects and Offcuts by Office.
Bookmark items you love, then wait for them to be in a sale
“I always buy a designer winter coat in the summer sales,” Monikh Dale, a stylist and the founder of Monikh.com, says.
“I note when it comes out, and if possible I will ‘favourite’ the item online or within the shopping site. Two seasons later when the sales start, I’ll hopefully have it waiting for me with at least 50% off. It’s a gamble if you really love it, as this doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it feels so good.”
You could use a price-tracker app, while Google Shopping lets you monitor price drops.
If you need something more urgently, at least leave it in your online basket overnight. You will often find you are emailed by the brand offering you a discount code to complete your purchase.
Sign up to retailers’ newsletters
You need to have willpower not to be drawn into spending more by the regular marketing emails you will get but subscribers are usually alerted to a brand’s sales, often 24 hours in advance, which means you get first dibs on the best discounts, and the largest choice of sizes.
You will almost always get a sign-up discount bonus, too – perhaps 10% or 15% – for your first purchase.
Search secondhand first
If you have a specific item in mind, always see if you can buy it secondhand before you pay full or sale price.
For fashion online, Ferrier says it is a good idea to start with eBay and Vestiaire Collective.
“Some brands sell for more on eBay, and vice versa. Slightly older, more high street-in-price labels, such as Toast, Cos or Arket, cost less on Vestiaire because people are after luxury on the latter. You can get designer bargains for less on eBay.”
One tip for getting the best deals: search over the weekend, when bored sellers list things on a Sunday night. Try out spelling mistakes. “I once got something great by Paul Smith on eBay because someone had spelled his name wrong,” Ferrier says.
“Try not to buy from overseas as they whack on a lot of charges, plus it’s harder to spot a fake, and if you’re a rookie, start with Vestiaire, as they do the vetting for you.
“I also go into fancy shops – Liberty, Selfridges – make a note of the new or lesser-known concessions, and then search on eBay. I just got a dress by Farm Rio for £30. It was probably £300 new.”
Buy your favourite stylists’ or influencers’ hand-me-downs
Many stylists and fashion influencers who are given clothes sell their barely worn wardrobes online. You can even get hold of Harry Styles’s archive pieces after his stylist, Harry Lambert, said he was listing them on Depop.
Alex Stedman of the Frugality recycles her old clothes on eBay for charity – mainly items that no longer fit her post-maternity.
“It’s worth finding out if your favourite influencers offer something similar. There are so many great sites for shopping secondhand these days [such as] Vinted and Depop, and I love shopping in more styled stores like Shelter in King’s Cross and Crisis in Finsbury Park, in London.
“I also love the thrill of a car boot sale – prices are much lower than in vintage and charity shops, and it’s a real social occasion. They don’t all start at five in the morning. My favourite, Battersea Boot, is a goldmine for fashion and home.”
Rent for special occasions
If you are after something special for an event, wedding or big work presentation, you will save a lot by renting, and you will usually get to wear something you might not normally be able to afford. Stedman says: “You can also ‘follow’ and ‘like’ rentees whose style and size is similar to your own, which helps if you’re not sure how the item might look or fit.”
Try sites such as Hurr, My Wardrobe HQ and By Rotation.