Sometimes in life, you just have to duck around with your purse placed strategically over your face.
For example, you might feign like you're going to the Fresh Market for some gourmet green olives, then do a swift ground roll into a nearby store called $5 Fashions. Yes, you want to spend $5 on clothes. No, you don't want everyone to know.
I first encountered $5 Fashions in the winter of 2008 while heading to Burlington Coat Factory in the Countryside area. On the way in, I noticed a mannequin next door wearing a poncho and leg warmers, positioned near a sign that said "EVERYTHING IS $5."
I proceeded with healthy fear. Was this for real? What kind of bargain vortex of terror would I find? But it was brightly lit and clean, and everything was new for $5 indeed. The merchandise ranged from odd message tees with bad grammar to name-brand items from Forever 21.
I left with two jackets, a top and a satin skirt for a total of $20. The jackets both fell apart pretty quickly in the wash, and the skirt had no waistband and kept falling, so I gave it to charity. I still have the top, dark teal and made of indestructible polyester that must have sold its soul to live forever.
It felt like playing craps, gambling $5 and seeing if it would implode. On future trips, I picked up some necklaces, a blue tee embroidered with sparrows and snappy 1950s-style house dress printed with red cherries. I liked it so much and feared it would fall apart at the seams or shrink into one tiny dried fruit. But it held up. I still get compliments on it.
How do they do such sorcery? A clerk once told me they buy direct from manufacturers and avoid other costs. I've called, visited and left business cards asking for more information, but have never gotten clearer answer on the business model.
If you're going to shop here, the trick is to be discerning. Don't expect Michael Kors quality. Many things will be thin or irregular, but if you search you might find a gem. On a recent trip, I spotted pastel satin pumps on "sale" (hah) for $2.99 and tank tops with blinged-out Playboy bunnies, plus walls of sandals, purses, plus-sized clothes and kids' clothes.
Whatever they're doing is working. $5 Fashions has 10 stores now, from Largo to Temple Terrace to Port Richey and Bradenton. Visit 5dollarfashions.com for the full list of stores and hours. Then proceed with purse on head. Or, put on your poncho and leg warmers and walk in proudly. That's up to you.