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Go Figure: Want a bargain? Check out the kids department (for yourself)

Making alterations

I once complimented a woman on a Ralph Lauren sweater - the kind that go for several hundred dollars - and learned that she’d gotten it for a surprisingly low price, even though it hadn’t been marked down. How? She’d found the sweater in the boys department.

It wasn’t a fluke. Boys and girls departments can produce some big savings when you’re shopping for sweaters, jackets and fleeces that are loose-fitting rather than body-hugging. North Face, for instance, charges $140 for its Oso women’s fleece - and $99 for the kids’ version of the same style. If you check the North Face size charts, you’ll find that the measurements for a women’s Small and a girl’s X-Large are pretty similar.

The size charts at L.L. Bean and Lands’ End, too, show considerable crossover between child and adult sizes. Both retailers offer many of the same styles for kids and grown-ups, at big price differentials.

So … while large kids’ sizes don’t always correspond to small adult sizes, it’s worth taking out a tape measure - or making a detour to the kids department - to check before you shell out top dollar. And if you find something that’s almost the right fit - but not quite - you can enlist a seamstress or tailor to make some strategic nips and tucks. I’m always surprised at how reasonable alterations are.

Women shopping for basics like shirts and sweaters might want to check out the men’s department, too. Classic unisex styles are often cheaper there than in the women’s department. Go figure.

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