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Q I need to have two suits for work and I only have one. I know you're going to say I should save up to buy a good suit, but I can't afford one right now. Can people really tell the difference between my buying a used suit and still wearing one I bought a couple of years ago?

A You seem to think I am opposed to buying anything other than a fine suit from a fine men's clothing store. This is definitely not true.

Lucky for you and for every man, men's clothing styles do not change very often. The suit you bought a couple of years ago and one that you find in a used-clothing shop are both still perfectly suitable for wearing today. No one can really tell the difference. Now, all you need is to find one that fits you well at a good price, and you will be set with your two basic suits.

I was recently looking at brochures/catalogs from two top-of-the-line men's specialty shops, one from each coast. Their prices for dress clothes and for business-casual clothes were outrageous: Sports coats and suits at $2,295 and $2,695, topcoats at $3,595; sport shirts and dress shirts at $275; ties at $175, dress trousers at $365 to $495; silk pocket squares at $95; scarves at $495; shoes from $400 to $690 and a few up to $1,495; and belts from $145 to $350.

Certainly, most of them were good looking, and for men who can afford to buy them, why not? But the clothes were not head-turners that would make you say, "I would give my eye teeth to own that!" Pretty much the same looks could be created for a tiny fraction of those prices by shopping judiciously at retail stores or off-price locations.

Your best bets for bargain shopping are: in fine stores at end-of-season sales (many are in progress at this time of year); at better discount stores; at thrift shops, gently-used clothing stores and tag sales/garage sales; and in your father's closet.

But to do so successfully, you must be willing to spend some extra time. It definitely helps to become knowledgeable about good clothes: Train your eye to recognize top-of-the-line store labels, name brands and quality items when you find them in less prestigious and offbeat locations. I recently found in a nearby church's thrift shop Brooks Brothers shirts for $3 and designer ties for $2.

It also helps to understand which clothes need to fit you correctly and which clothes fit anyone. Some accessories, such as ties, pocket squares, scarves, cuff links and tie clasps work for everyone. Many other items that are sized Small, Medium, Large and Extra-Large (rather than in exact sizes) can be a near-fit without sacrificing anything. These include sweaters, vests, sport shirts and some belts. Exact-size garments, too, are often available at drastically reduced prices when you shop wisely and get lucky. If you pay only $15-$20 for a used $800-$1,500 suit, adding $30-$75 worth of quality tailoring can well be worth it.

Even when you buy clothes that need to fit precisely at a good (translate: expensive) store, many of the others that don't have to fit exactly can be bought for next to nothing. So, if you save a bundle by buying some flexible items at bargain prices, you have freed up your pocketbook to spend more on those that you want to fit or that you simply have to have.

An important note: Color is free. Clothes that you spent very little on, but that are beautifully color-coordinated, can look as good as -- and often even better than -- very expensive clothes that you just haphazardly put together. Sharpen your skills and discover the joy of the hunt!

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High Profile on 03/04/2018

Print Headline: Second suit can be had without spending a mint

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