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Clothes shopping in the 'discount decade'

Dress Better for Less, by Vicki Audette. Deephaven, Minn.: Meadowbrook Press. The 1980s will be known as the ''discount decade.'' So says Vicki Audette, who has written a practical book that provides over 1,000 tips for buying top-quality fashions at bargain prices.

Ms. Audette has done her homework well, drawing on more than 20 years of experience in bargain hunting.

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There's something for everyone in this informative book -- whether a career woman dressing for success, a classic preppy, a parent clothing growing children , or a homemaker looking for fashionable, casual clothes.

The starting point, she says, is to appraise the clothes in your closet and decide which items are wearable and which should be sold or donated to charity. This is followed by a shopping list to be filled out. The list is designed to add necessary wardrobe items to what you're keeping.

Ms. Audette next explains how to shop in department stores, discount chain stores, bargain basements, factory warehouses, and designer stores.

The chapter on secondhand clothes is great. Having managed a thrift shop, Vicki Audette knows whereof she speaks. She once conducted a year-long experiment buying only secondhand clothes. The total cost of her wardrobe that year was $49.25. One complete outfit, bought at a garage sale, cost her $1.50.

Also included in the book: a sale year calendar, a national mail-order directory of bargain-clothes sellers in key United States cities, and even a designer code list. This is used at designer discount stores to identify fashions when labels have been removed. These numbers are usually located on the hang tag. (I've tucked this into my wallet.)

''Dress Better For Less'' is the type of book that can be put away and brought out later to read again and again.

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