Get great clothes on a budget

HOUSTON There's a new trend when it comes to achieving the designer look. Don't head to a high-end boutique. Instead, head to the discount store!

In this tough economic market, discount stores like Target and JC Penney have found a way to turn out the latest looks almost immediately after they hit the runway -- clothes that look so good, it takes an expert to tell the difference between designer and discount.

Stevie Bingham knows every new trend that hits the market. She owns Bella Boutique, a high end Houston clothing store, and even she is amazed at what discount stores like Target are putting on their shelves.

For instance, Juicy Couture is famous for their two-piece terry track suits. A quick search on the Internet reveals that the suit normally retails for $216. But at Target, the exact same look for can be found for $37.98.

Also, this season's "it" item is a long printed dress in a jersey knit fabric. The designer dress costs $220, but you can get the same look at Target for $19.99. At JC, you can find a similar dress for $60.

A colorful metallic striped bikini by designer Vanessa Manillo compares with one almost exactly like the one that was recently seen on several celebrities. The designer price is $169. The Target price is $29.98.

Want an expensive-looking swimsuit cover-up for vacation? A yellow "designer" one costs $88, but there is a similar look at for $17.99.

What about jewelry? Designer silver cuffs start at $125 each. At Target, you can get two for $16.

Of course, the quality if not always the same, but if it's something you wear for only one season, it may be worth it.

"Trends come and go, and if you don't want to spend a lot of money on an 'it; trend, buy something a little less expensive," Bingham said.

So whether you know it or not, chances are that inexpensive dress you bought at the discount store may just be the latest trend hot off the runway.

Because the retail industry has become so competitive, the discount stores are only going to get faster when it comes to turning out hot new trends.

Plus, many industry insiders say the quality control at the discount stores is often just as tough, if not tougher, than the high-end stores and boutiques.

And, here are some more comparisons:

Designer v. Discount

Spanx by Sara Blakely Camisole - $44 Assets by Sara Blakely available at Target - $20

Spanx by Sara Blakely Panty Hose - $28 Assets by Sara Blakely available at Target - $10

Hanky Panky panties - $18 a pair Maidenform Lace Panties available at Kohl's - $3 a pair

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