A new dress in the (paper) bag

Money Savin’ Mama isn’t necessarily known for her fashion sense. But she sure has fashion cents. Check out the outfit I’ll be wearing to a formal dinner during homecoming at my Alma mater, the University of North Dakota, this weekend.

New sparkly dress and shoes

The shoes are, if I may say, fabulous. And the price was pretty fabulous, too, at 80 percent off. I paid $14 for them at JCPenney.

Hiiiiiigh heels

But the dress was the real steal. Because it literally cost me spare change. I bought it during the last bag sale at the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Thrift Store in south Fargo.

Twice a year, each of the four area Boys Ranch stores holds a bag sale, on four consecutive Saturdays (usually in January/February and July/August). Customers fill a grocery-size paper bag with all the clothes and shoes that will fit and pay only $4 per bag. It’s a great way to buy lots of kids’ clothes for cheap, because kids’ clothes don’t take up much space in the bag. But it’s also worth picking up a few things for yourself, for what ends up being pennies (OK, dimes) per item.

Here’s why: The racks often contains brand new clothing items, most recently seen in Target stores. I’ve actually gotten items there that I’ve later seen still at a Target.

Sure, there are also lots of great gently used items on the racks, too, that are worth stuffing in your brown bag. But the new items are more likely to be in excellent condition and in fashion. Plus, well, they’re new.

How can you tell if it’s a new item? There are generally two clues. First, there will be several of the same shirt or pants or pair of shoes, which isn’t usually the case with used items. Second, you can tell by the tag. It will feature the name of a common Target brand (Merona, Mossimo and Liz Lange maternity are a few examples) with a black marker line through it. I’m not 100 percent certain why they do this, but I’m guessing it’s so people can’t return the donated clothing to the original store.

Black marker line through Target brand

If an item doesn’t end up fitting right, or I decide later isn’t my style, I re-donate it. But that’s usually the exception. I just counted no fewer than 12 bag sale finds in my closet that I wear on a regular basis. I’ve also found a few polo shirts for my husband, and lots of clothes for my kids, including winter coats.

A warning: Bag Sale Day is not for the faint of heart. The crowds are a bit overwhelming, especially when the store first opens at 9 a.m. It’s considerably less busy in the afternoon, but the inventory is smaller. For those who choose not to brown bag it, each store prices all its clothes and shoes at 50 percent off the week leading up to its bag sale.

Either way it makes good fashion sense, and cents.

2 thoughts on “A new dress in the (paper) bag

  1. Great post. I have found several items at thrift stores with the original tags still on them. Also, by shopping the bag sales, I have been able to pick out items to donate to the womens shelter. Another place to consider is Heirlooms, especially for formal dresses and business suits. They also have sales at the end of each season, which finally is $1 per item. I got an evening dress one year for $1.

    The way I think about it is that I am able to update my wardrobe more often for less than I normally could and don’t worry as much about staining or ruining an item than if I would have paid retail for it.

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