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Cheaper But Chic

Wouldn't it be nice to purchase an outfit without having to look at the price tag? Unfortunately, most of us can't afford this luxury. We may have to search and search to find the quality and look we want without taking out a second mortgage.

Stores such as J. Crew, Banana Republic, and The Gap offer a wide selection of today's look. Each season, the image gap between the designers and the large-volume stores narrows.

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If you want quality, the look, and you'd rather not spend a bundle, the key is to shop around. Carefully sifting through the racks can ring up a number of great finds.

Take Banana Republic, for example. The clothes are no longer cheap, but their quality and style play in the consumer's favor. The store offers fabulous two-pleat trousers that easily rival the designer comparison from Emporio Armani. At $128, it's not exactly cheap, but the pants give the consumer everything the Armani counterpart has, including the "Made in Italy" label. The one subtle difference, however, is that the fabric is slightly heavier and stiffer than the Armani.

Above all else, it's OK to mix and match. Rarely is a mainstream sport coat going to rival a designer's. But a plain white T-shirt and jeans are the same wherever you go. These items can be bought for less, and when put with the designer coat, the outfit looks chic.

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