Shopping for New Clothing and Brand-Name Values in New York City on 34th Street
>> Celebrities, like Lindsay Lohan, whose images always appear fresh in magazines, often change their clothing multiple times throughout the day, especially during the periods when PR photos are snapped.
Likewise, popular shopping magazines, like Lucky Magazine, encourage readers to expand their wardrobes by including as many pieces as possible, matched or not.
Lucky, celeb magazines, and Ms. Lohan all embrace fashion as an ever-involving, innovative, dress-up experience. Old-fashioned "investment dressing," which was based on a few expensive pieces, is out. Besides, with the exception of jeans, today's clothing often does not hold up to repeated wearing and cleaning, making lower prices a determining factor for what is, or is not, purchased.
All that said, the fashion trend for today is "wear and toss." If you wear a great outfit three or more times, you are in a rut.
Brand Name Fashion, Factory Outlets, and Competitive Pricing in New York City
Factory outlets reduce the price of clothing by eliminating middlemen and warehoused inventory. By controlling the supply, outlet stores can easily stop the production of unpopular items, while revving up the production of things that fly off the shelves.
In today's fashion world, a retail factory outlet is either one in which the clothing labels and the store's name are the same, or else, the merchandise and the store are owned by the same corporation. At one time, factory outlets (which represented firms that produced the diverse brands seen in department stores) had lower prices than department stores. Today, factory outlets and department stores are very often, one and the same.
Let's start with Macy's.
You might think of Macy's as being a department store. It is, but it is also a factory outlet. Let me explain. Macy's, through Federated Department Stores, manufactures products labeled with any one of 13 brand names. In 2006, for example, Macy's sold its own women's clothing lines through the following brands:
|Alfant (women) +
American Rag (teens) +
Charter Club (women) +
I.N.C. (women and men) +
Style&Co. (women, plus budget bedding and bath products)
Other Macy's/Federated brands include:
|Club Room (men) +
ML - Material London (men) +
Hotel Collection (high-quality linen) +
First Impressions (babies and infants) +
Greendog (toddler and children's clothing) +
The Cellar (household accessories and tableware) +
Tools of the Trade (cookware)
Although single-label factory outlets, such as H&M, are being introduced as budget stores throughout the country, the physically closer these outlets are to Macy's, the more vigorous the pricing competition is.
It is this proximity to Macy's flagship store that is the why you should visit the shopping district on 34th Street, between Macy's on Broadway and the Empire State Building on 5th Avenue. Here you'll find, in addition to Macy's, many women's single label shops, including H&M, Forever 21, Gap, Zara, Ann Taylor LOFT, Banana Republic, and Lane Bryant.
You will also find a huge Daffy's (an overstock seller), Strawberry (a popular off-price store), numerous small, specialty shops, and a nearby Conways (dirt-cheap).
To get an idea about the area's competitive nature, compare the clothing prices at Forever 21, The Gap, and Macy's. Go to their respective websites (linked below), search for "sweaters," and come to your own conclusion. Your most probable reaction will be, "wow!"
Forever 21 is hard to spot, despite the big green letters that spell its name. It is on the second floor, over The Gap, on the corner of Broadway and 34th Street, diagonally across from Macy's, but its small front door is on 34th Street proper, away from the corner. If you are unfamiliar with the store, it's possible you'd just ignore it.
Note that H&M does not provide an online catalog, but its prices are similar to those of Forever 21. In fairness to Macy's, its everyday low prices and its sales are not featured on the Web, however, you better believe that it noticed the competition, and, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, consumers are noticing Macy's, much to the detriment of stand-alone retailers.
Sizes - Small is Plentiful and Inexpensive
American sizes 6 through 10 are available at all price-points and are most commonly found on sale tables. You'd think that by now, American retailers would have caught on to the fact that average sizes are not small, but no. Want to save big money on clothing? Diet. Diet. Diet.
Sizes 12 through 16 grow increasingly harder to find. Macy's provides the best selection, especially for 14 though 16. (If you are in this size-range and find something that fits, buy it immediately because you'll never find it on sale.)
If you are a plus size, you'll be exceptionally pleased with Macy's reasonably priced, very fashionable selections, as well as those at Lane Bryant, which is down the block. (How nice to have these two stores so closely located.)
Always look up and about when walking on 34th Street toward 5th Avenue to see fantastic views of the Empire State Building.
Wear then toss? What is the price of fashion?
Most of today's fabrics simply do not hold up. Acrylic and polyester quickly pill. Velcro fasteners destroy fabrics, as everyone who's ever worn a sweater under a casual jacket knows. Most knits are made with skimpy yarn. And, well, I could go on . . .
. . . but given that even the most stunning attire can be destroyed at a moment's notice, the wear and toss trend makes a lot of sense. Keeping up with the "Lohan" (who probably receives her clothing for free due to her promotional value), means acquiring a theatrical wardrobe; one that looks greater than its cost.
If your budget is really tight, do search for undamaged clothing at resale shops, but be warned. Many resale shops sell clothing at prices that are higher than new. If the clothing at Goodwill, for example, costs more than what you see at Forever 21, consider changing your shopping habits.
Naturally, merchants on 34th Street are well aware of how long clothing lasts, how much you need to remain stylish, and how much you are willing to pay to meet your needs. If you must buy a lot of new clothing, you might as well do it where the global merchants are all trying to crush the shop next door. Of course, when one of those shops is a sharp "factory outlet" like Macy's, which competes with variety, comprehensive sales, every-day-low-prices, and a stunning atmosphere, you are in luck!
What to do on 34th Street between Broadway and 5th Avenue besides shop?
What I love about this area is that there is so much to see. On nice days, consider sipping coffee outside in the attractively appointed Harold Square Park, immediately in front of Macy's.
Also, as you walk along 34th Street, heading east, make a point of periodically looking up to see the Empire State Building from various viewpoints. Despite its height, it is easy to miss!
For a very pleasant, affordable, and iconic dining experience, have burgers and New York-brewed beer at Hartland Brewery, which is in the base of the Empire State Building at its 34th Street and 5th Avenue corner.
For an even more authentic experience, go around the block to 33rd Street and stop for lunch or dinner at the 1940's pub, Jack Demsey's (36 W. 33rd Street).
Article and photos by Karen Little. First published on 12/20/2006. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.