Eddie Bauer cotton chino slacks
Retail $49.50 Outlet $35 Outlet savings: 29 percent The winner: Retail
Both pairs, manufactured in the Dominican Republic, were well made. But the full-price pants had a stiff “buckram” lining in the waistband (for shape retention), bias binding on the crotch and fly seams (to prevent fraying), and two small coin/key pockets. The retail pants also felt smoother, and their fabric looked more densely woven.
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|Classic Oxford Outlet Version ||Classic Oxford Retail Version || |
Polo Ralph Lauren classic oxford shirt
Retail $76.50 Outlet $40 Outlet savings: 48 percent The winner: Tie
These shirts, made in China, have similar fabric and construction, plackets and placket finish, and buttons. The only notable difference is the yellow fabric backing on the outlet shirt’s collar. “It’s a higher-end finish that adds a nice touch,” our expert says.
Polo Ralph Lauren crew-neck T-shirt
Retail $22.50 Outlet $15 Outlet savings: 33 percent The winner: Tie
Both are classic T-shirts made in China. They’re similar in thickness, with reinforced taped seams at the neck, overlocked stitching, and the same logo. The only obvious difference: The outlet shirt has a sewn-in label at the neck; the retail shirt has the words printed inside.
Guess low-rise denim jeans
Retail $89 Outlet $50 Outlet savings: 44 percent The winner: Retail
The retail women’s jeans, made in Mexico, are 98 percent cotton; the outlet version, from China, 62 percent cotton. “To a denim purist, denim means the look and wearability of cotton,” our expert said. The retail jeans also have 2 percent spandex, more rivets, a zipper that locks in the up and down positions (vs. only on down for the outlet pants), sturdier seams, and bar tacks for added strength on the rear pockets. With 38 percent polyester, the outlet jeans ought to wear better. But polyester isn’t true elastic as is spandex, so the material in the rear end and knees could eventually sag.
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|Lucky Straight-Leg Outlet Version ||Lucky Straight-Leg Retail Version || |
Lucky straight-leg denim jeans
Retail $100 Outlet $39.50 Outlet savings: 61 percent The winner: Tie
The outlet jeans are 100 percent cotton; the retail version is 98 percent cotton and 2 percent spandex, which will help the jeans hold their shape a bit better. They have many similarities: the same bar tacks, yoke, pockets, belt loops, pocket rivets, and a zipper that locks in only the down position. The pricier jeans have “Lucky You” alongside the zipper on its outside (visible if you pull down the zipper), and “Lucky Me” on the inside. The outlet jeans have only “Lucky You.” The full-price pair has intentional holes in the fabric—time consuming to produce and resulting in more expensive jeans that might not wear as well.
Tommy Hilfiger fleece sweat pants
Retail $37.12 Outlet $21 Outlet savings: 43 percent The winner: Retail
Our expert had no trouble picking out the more expensive women’s pants. The full-price sweats, made of cotton, polyester, and spandex, had rear pockets (missing on the all-cotton outlet version), bar tacks on the front pockets for durability, back-waist darts for a better fit, and a colorful ribbon on the interior waistband. Both were made in China.
Coach water-buffalo-leather ID wallet
Retail $128 Outlet $39 Outlet savings: N/A The winner: Retail
The full-price wallet, made in India, has details that will probably help it last longer: a fabric lining and flat stitched leather edges around the perimeter. The outlet wallet, made in China, has small flaps of leather folded over, held down with an adhesive, and stitched in place. Over time, its edge could become dog-eared. Although both are made of water-buffalo leather, the full-price wallet feels more supple. (Prices cannot be compared directly to each other because the retail wallet was sold with a full-size wallet.)
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|Gap Boxers Outlet Version ||Gap Boxers Retail Version || |
Gap cotton boxer shorts
Retail $10 Outlet $5 Outlet savings: 50 percent The winner: Outlet
The outlet boxers, made in Indonesia, have bar tacks, denser and neater stitching, and nicer shaping in the leg due to an extra piece of sewn-in fabric. Stitching on the retail boxers, made in China, is sloppy, with hanging threads on the seams.
Gap cotton-knit polo shirt
Retail $17.70 Outlet $15 Outlet savings: 15 percent The winner: Outlet
A photo finish. The full-price shirt, made in Bangladesh, has two plastic buttons (vs. three metal ones on the outlet), and the placket base is sewn in a rectangular pattern, which our expert thought was less sturdy than the reinforced X-shaped pattern on the outlet version. The outlet shirt, made in Malaysia, is slightly thinner. The neck and collar are reinforced with woven tape (for added strength). The preshrunk material is less likely to shrink over time. A plus in the pricier shirt: knit seam tape to reinforce the shoulders and collar.
Gap crew cotton T-shirt (two-pack)
Retail $24.50 Outlet $11.69 Outlet savings: 52 percent The winner: Tie
The outlet version, from Indonesia, is a classic type. The retail version, from India, is more stylish. The outlet shirt has seam tape to reinforce the neck and shoulders; the other doesn’t, so it is more apt to stretch. But it’s also more form fitting because of the 5 percent spandex. The neck is narrower and decorative, like that of a stylish T-shirt.
Brooks Brothers ribbed calf-high dress socks
Retail $18 Outlet $7.20 Outlet savings: 60 percent The winner: Retail
A decisive win for the pricier Italian-made hosiery, which is 78 percent cotton, 20 percent nylon, and 2 percent Lycra, because it has a flat toe seam. The outlet socks, made in China of 80 percent cotton and 20 percent nylon, have a raised seam, which could cause irritation if the sock bunches up.
Brooks Brothers wool gabardine dress slacks
Retail $148 Outlet $93.60 Outlet savings: 37 percent The winner: Retail
The full-price pants, made in Egypt, have more details and neater sewing that over time will make a difference: denser stitching on the waistband and around the button holes, for example. They also have two more belt loops. The bar tacks on the outlet slacks, from Thailand, created a pucker.
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|Brooks Brothers tie Outlet Version ||Brooks Brothers tie Retail Version || |
Brooks Brothers tie
Retail $58.50 Outlet $44.55 Outlet savings: 24 percent The winner: Outlet
Although they have a similar lining and inner-facing, the American-made “of imported fabric” outlet version is pure silk; the retail version, made in the U.S. of fabric woven in England, is 52 percent silk and 48 percent cotton. “Pure silk drapes better and is more supple,” our expert said.
Copyright © 2006-2011 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.