The holiday season is the shopping season. Christmas and Hanukah obligatory gift needs aside, the shopping season is a year-round activity for fashion-obsessed hunters and gatherers. Niki Hurrle, a member of the improv troupe IndyProv (performing Wednesdays in January at Canary Café), looks and shops smart. Seen dining at Café Trevi, she layered a $6.99 vintage look T-shirt from Value City over a Pitaya green T-shirt and paired it with Dollhouse jeans from Ayres. If you are the above, and only if you’ve finished your holiday shopping for everyone on your list, you may read on about bargain shopping for yourself. You still need money to do this and you need even more time to go through racks of clothes. Don’t forget to allot yourself driving time because to get to the best bargain spots means skirting the city. It takes about 25 minutes from downtown to drive east on Washington Street to the second floor clearance room at Ayres, Washington Square Mall. It’s packed full of last season’s first quality merchandise (97 percent for women) by the likes of Hearts of Palm, Izod, Ralph Lauren, Bandolino and typical Ayres fare like their house brand Valerie Stevens. During my visit I spied tons of tank tops, T-shirts and basic bottoms. On the racks were also a handful of boucle jackets (from a 100 percent acrylic Ideology number to a silk and wool Jones New York) and oodles of cotton print A-line summer skirts that will still be in next summer. Clothes are neatly arranged by “small,” “medium,” “large” and “women’s” sizes; however, at this Ayres clearance room small means size 6. Did I mention that most everything is only $7.98? Their infamous coupons are also redeemable for an extra discount, too. Isn’t Ayres just a discount store that pretends to be a department store anyway? Because so few stores offer anything in the way of resort wear, this looked to be a good source for winter getaway staples with bathing suits (Janzen, etc.) at 75 percent off. Remember that a bargain is only a bargain if it is something you would have bought at full price, if it fits and if you are going to wear it. Try on everything you are tempted by and eliminate anything that’s not right. Think of your wardrobe instead of buying odds and ends of separates. You’re officially a smart shopper if you can say no to something priced so low. If you go, visit the new Marshall’s just west of the mall. Discount stores located away from downtown and the Northside have more upscale merchandise because they aren’t as picked over. Being the rare non-fan of DSW that I am, I don’t believe in skimping on or bargain hunting for shoes whatsoever. If you save money on wardrobe basics (and can resist a low priced item), you’ll have room for the big splurge shoes … and handbag. Never skimp on the handbag.

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