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Originally, outlet and factory stores sold items that either didn’t sell in regular retail stores or that had slight manufacturing defects that prevented them from being sold in stores in the first place. Now, a large percentage of outlet merchandise is made specifically for factory stores (i.e. things that have/will never be sold in retail stores). This can either be bad or good, depending upon how you look at it.

The first step is differentiating made-for-outlet (MFO) items from retail items. This pencil skirt is off-season from retail stores…

…and this one is MFO. The color of the labels might be the same or different, but look closely at the label itself: outlet stores like J Crew and Banana Republic usually add small diamonds under the store name on MFO merchandise.

Although the fabric is a bit thinner on these factory seersucker and chino (pictured below) shorts, I think the fit is spot on.

Side note: I bought the scarf I’m wearing in these two shorts pics. Love the light pink!

The outlet take on the Natasha top is made of polyester, while the retail version is silk.

The retail version of this schoolboy blazer (check it out here) is 98% wool, 2% spandex. Also, the “Special Value” tag is a big clue that the item is MFO.

At the end of the day, I view MFO pieces as a brand’s low-end diffusion line. The quality and materials won’t be identical to that of retail items – the same way Armani Exchange is not on par with Armani Collezioni – but great clothing and great deals can be found. Just takes a little research and a lot of digging 🙂 I think the keys are knowing how factory items stack up to retail, paying close attention to the fit, and not overpaying just to get a certain name brand.

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