Confessions of a Bottom-Feeder: Predatory Online Shopping for the Poor 101


Oct 12, 2006
This is Inspired by the high-mid-low end thread, the perusal of which revealed to me that there might be a need for a few words about just what the "low end" really is.

You may not need this information yet, but as transitions in the larger economy empower an increasing number of us to develop our own new strategies to address new challenges and changes, even the highest of enders might want to file it away for the day when paying $695 for a sweater presents a conflict with the interests of one's mortgage lender.

If, like me, you're already poor, don't take one look at the websites mentioned here and howl.

I certainly do not consider $30 or $40 a garment to be either affordable or acceptable. Just as we have to do anywhere offline, there is going to be some work involved if you want to find the bargains. When I visit these websites, I immediately click "Clearance," and even there, you have to work.

Blair, for example, is famous for its immense and astounding selection of bad polyester grandma clothes, but here and there, you will find some perfectly acceptable basic pieces that are both inexpensive and serviceable. And you are quite likely to find them sent to Clearance fairly quickly, since they are not what the store does best, not what most seekers of bad polyester grandmawear go to Blair to get.

And there is the occasional Treasure. Although the silk noile pants, for instance, got mixed reviews from the customers, mine have held up so well that I wonder if a less than consistent fabric lot might be involved. There could also be a question of expectations, people not understanding, for instance, while it may sometimes resemble raw silk, silk noile is not really silk, but essentially trash that accumulates during the making of silk.

I got them intending to use them as lounge pants, figuring, and correctly so, that they would be a very light weight of silk noile, and thus would be comfortable year round. And they are indeed light as a feather. They instantly became my favorite lounging pants, so to me, that counts as a Treasure.

Chadwicks is similar to Blair in many respects, including the emphasis on bad polyester grandmawear, but I think of it as the Internet Home of Cheap Twinsets, which is something of a misnomer, because even in clearance, Chadwicks' twinsets can set you back as much as $20-$25. But that's still cheaper than anywhere else, and the twinset is a favorite of poor people everywhere because of its mix n' match abilities. Buy two, and you have bought 6 possible top halves of looks. Do the math.

LaRedoute (a child of the same parent company as Chadwick's and several other stores) is virtually grandmawear-free, and it is in France, so that may give it some small amount of je ne se quois for people who are new to both bottom-feeding and clicking through pages of grandmawear just to find a basic knit top.

My main beefs with LaRedoute is that things take longer to get to clearance there, and while you don't have to wade through grandmawear, there is considerably less merchandise made of cotton, and in its place a lot more rayon, and nylon as well. I have no idea why this is, but I have to pass on a lot of LaRedoute stuff that I like the look of because I live in a warm climate, and rayon is just not as cool as cotton.

My other complaint is size. LaRedoute sizing runs small, and stops at what they call "XL" or "18-20," and more often than not, "L" or "14-16." and I can assure you that especially after a visit to the dryer, it is the smallest 18-20 that you will ever see in this life. So lady lump owners beware. No matter how slender you are, order the XL, and be prepared to step over it laid flat on a towel to dry. My best LaRedoute treasure is a big pearl gray fluffchunker of a wool and angora sweater with giant buttons, that in milder climates will serve happily as outerwear, and in a surprising departure from the LaRedoute sizing philosophy, even the "L" is L enough to accomodate a couple of t-shirts and a pullover underneath. And $12.99 is not a bad price for winter outerwear.

The high-mid-low thread did contain a couple of mentions of Forever21, but since we are on the subject of stingy sizing, this is the perfect place to mention it. Unless you are very small, especially in the bosom area, don't even bother with their clothing, which, while not grandmawear, is almost exclusively polyester. Forever21's idea of XL, which almost nothing comes in anyway, is something like a 34 bust. Or maybe it's 36 or something, but you get the idea.

But while the clothes may be for the smallest of the small with a high polyester tolerance, the bling is a different story. I have gotten some very respectable faux bling from Forever21 for next to nothing, including some basic rhinestone pieces with stones actually made of glass, as opposed to the sad little blobs of acrylic I have seen in the big box stores for several times Forever21 clearance prices.

Goodys is a useful little store. Actually, some of the brick and mortar versions are big and semi-fancy, but the website is simple, easy to navigate, and there are always plenty of markdowns, including a brand called Mountain Lake, very nice tops, at least the ones I got, and if LaRedoute and Forever21 run small, Mountain Lake runs so large that in some things, I actually take a small - and it is still not tight in the bust!

Some of their brick and mortar stores are large and semi-fancy, and do not have the kind of bargains the website does, though the ones I have seen do have a large selection of what I guess you would call mid-range conservative career wear. Polyester with pretentions, not unlike the store itself.

But who cares when they have unannounced sales like buy 3 items and get free shipping - and there are plenty of $5 items - or 25% off anything in the store.

Kohls and Boscovs are a couple more of what I guess you could call low end with delusions of being considered as close to mid-end as JC Penney's. Still, their sales and clearance prices have netted me some pretty impressive basics, including twinsets as low or lower than Chadwicks, some pretty tone-on-tone embroidered knit tops, and now and then, some real surprises, the most recent one a sleeveless black cotton jersey shell from Kohl's that fits me perfectly and I can tell just by the hand of the fabric, and examining the inside seams, it will outlast me. I just happened to visit the website on the day they were having a one-day sale, and had just about all the knit tops priced between $4 and $7.

Bealls might not be as well-known as some others, but they maintain a well-stocked clearance rack, and on which the intrepid poor person can find simple basics at affordable prices. The brand of cotton top I like best from there is called Bay Studio, and if you catch them on the right day, you can get your favorite color in 3 different necklines, including "sweetheart," which is my personal favorite. Flattering and a nice frame for a wide range of bling.

Continued in Reply 1


Oct 12, 2006
I have not really touched on the Jeans Question as pertains to any of these stores, but almost all of them will have at least some Lee and some Levi products, and sometimes those will be marked down to $10.99 and that is when you will want to leap. The topic of jeans is a sensitive one, and interestingly, although fit should be the primary consideration of anybody shopping for jeans, the dream aspect of the old cream versus dream song seems to pump its volume up when it comes to jeans, even to the ears of the poor and the affluent but practical sectors. Which is a shame, because Lee, my preferred brand, is one of the few jeans that address the issue of short women outside the circle of booty ownership, the much-maligned and seldom understood Buttless Petite class, and the Levi company started the whole thing, and over the years, it's quite possible that they have learned a thing or two about fit.

Both make a dazzling array of styles and models, and frankly, if you complain that you can't find jeans that fit, but you have not given both Lee and Levi a fair shake in a fitting room somewhere, then I regret to inform you that you are no predatory shopper, you have no future as a bottom-feeder, and you may as well make your peace with your overpriced and crotchwrong Sevens.

Another site that you might not be familiar with, but should be, is the Dharma Trading Company. The bulk of the clothing they sell is white, though for the last couple of years they have added some black items. Their real target consumers are fabric artists - people who dye, paint, and otherwise embellish clothing, but when you have a need for white or black, not a lot of time to shop around, and not a lot of money to shop with, you can't beat Dharma Trading.

And if you happen to be a fabric artist, I don't think any store has a wider selection of everything you could possibly need or want in order to obey your Muse. As an added bonus, for those who will see it as such, DTC is especially down with ethical practices. They got their start as a little "hippie" store back in the day, and despite their growth, they have held on to their values. And yes, you can find clothing made of organic cotton and hemp there at a lower price than you will find it elsewhere. You just have to dye it yourself if you don't want it in white. Should you be struck by a really potent bolt of do-it-yourself, you will also find (white) fabric, by the yard or the bolt - white, natural fabrics, in more flavors than you probably even knew existed, and at prices that will make your local fabric store cringe, when you compare Dharma's price to what the local lady said it would cost to "special order" you some real, 100% authentic genuine cotton lawn. Or voile. Or gauze - or - just go there.

If you have actually read all of this, you will have noticed a definite recurring "basics" theme. That's because, for the benefit of those new to bottom-feeding, basics are what one buys when one shops. Bottom-feeders cannot afford to buy anything else, we do not have money to throw away on trends. If we wish, as Stacy and ******* say, to "participate in a trend," we do so by making it an accent, something that we add to our basics. Something really really cheap. Even cheaper than our basics.

My own best recent example involves skinny scarves. I live in a climate that precludes scarf-wearing except in winter, but I obtained a splendid little wardrobe-ette of those furry faux maribou-inspired skinny scarves at the dollar store. Identical to the ones the fancy mall store was selling for $30 a pop. And they do an excellent job of keeping one's neck warm.

When I decided it was time to jump on the ubiquitous little rhinestone circle necklace bandwagon, I found mine at Sally's of all places - at $3.99, I got one in gold and silver (tone) and a few others to give as gifts.

Speaking of gifts, you may have noticed that people tend to present you with trends. Your old friend from college is not likely to choose a beige cotton cardigan when your birthday rolls around, but she can be counted on to come through with something on the current "What's Hot" list, like a crochet shrug that looks awful on you and goes straight into the regifting closet anyway.

A key element to successful predatory bottom-feeding is frequent visits to the websites of all the retailers, so you won't miss out on those incredible pop sales. It's very successful marketing, but for it to be as successful for you the buyer, it is necessary to assume an attitude not unlike one does (or at least one should) when playing games of chance - quit while you're ahead.

It is always tempting to buy something simply because you have seen it somewhere else for $60 and here it is for $6, or because you can't resist the idea of free shipping, but if you don't really need it, if it is not something that you are going to be thinking about for days, even weeks, if it is unlikely to fit you, look good on you, and play so nicely with your current closet inhabitants that the very sight of it causes you to assemble at least 3 ensembles of which it would be a key part - if in other words, it is not something that either you or your clothes need, then don't buy it. There will be another sale, and there will be things in clearance that you do need, so save your money for that day. In fact, there might be a fabulous sale right now at another store!

In fact, there might be one at a bottom-feeding trough that I don't know about, I've only named a few from my personal regular rotation list.

I hope you will tell me, and anybody else who reads this, about your favorites!
Sep 23, 2006
I like this thread. I sometimes shop at goody's, kohl's, and forever 21. Some of my favorite stores are in the low end category because you can get great deals on the clothes. However, I also try to mix the highend with the low end to have great diversity. I don't discriminate stores as long as it is something I like. I love TJ Maxx, Rainbow, dot's, Marshall's, Ross, kmart, and target. THose are some of my top favorite discount stores. I love finding great deals and that diamond in the rough at discount stores.

I also like to shop high end stores sometimes too. I like to mix and match my closest though with great pieces. I tend to spend more on my accessories than clothes. But I also love a great bargain too.

This is a great thread shimmapuff. Now I have some new stores to look at online. Thanks!


Mar 10, 2006
I am a fan of Chadwicks. Sometimes they run specials like spend $90, get $30 off. I was able to purchase two pairs of pants, three shirts and a belt. All in all, I think I spent $70 with shipping.


Oct 12, 2006
I like LaRedoute...affordable 100% cotton button down shirts.

Thanks for pointing that out, I don't buy those for myself, so I completely forgot about them!

And thanks to all who read through the whole thing, if you clicked the links, some of you will have more money to spend on purses.

Kohls had a pretty extensive BOGO on tops yesterday, it was still going on this morning, and as we speak, Beall's has 15% off everything until midnight Eastern.

mr. couturier

Sep 7, 2006
I enjoy shopping at vintage and thrift stores a lot, or scrounging on ebay. At various stores, I repeatedly find stylish, good quality pieces for under $15!

For me, putting stores into the "High, Mid, Low" categories is not as easy as price. One particularly irritating experience involved a pair of pants, which I had bought for about $40 (they where the only khakis that I could find that fit me well, too!). After one wash, the areas right below the seams on the legs began to deteriate!

Thanks for the thread, Shimmapuff!


Jul 3, 2007
Shimma, thank you so much for the link to Dharma Trading Co. Very inspiring! Every now and then I play with the idea of learning silk painting but I am now obsessed with the thought of Sun Painting. I have visions of sun painted napkins, table cloths, pillows, sarongs, scarves...I can't wait!