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Black Friday: A survival guide

By Holly E. Thomas
Monday, November 22, 2010; 3:04 PM

What to wear

If your Black Friday plans involve getting stylish steals for yourself, dress for comfort and ease. That way you don't spend all your time buttoning and rebuttoning, lacing and unlacing.

Opt for an oversized tunic, a cozy sweater or a simple tee and loose cardigan. Pair your top layers with knit leggings, slim (but not tight) jeans or comfortable tailored trousers. Finish the look with the most crucial part of your getup: comfortable shoes. Whether you opt for a riding boot, a classic driving loafer or a chic ballet flat, make sure your shoes offer support. If you're not sure you can spend all day in them, slip an extra pair of flats in your bag.

Where to go

Several area shopping outlets will open for Black Friday shopping at midnight, including Tysons Corner Center, Potomac Mills and Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets.

For early birds who prefer a daylight start, Westfield Montgomery Mall will open at 6 a.m., and the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City will start hopping an hour earlier, at 5 a.m.

If you're more concerned with avoiding crowds than scoring the Ultimate Deal, stick with small shops in your neighborhood. Bethesda Row's Ginger boutique opens at 9 a.m. and will offer sliding discounts: From 9 to 10 a.m., save 40 percent on the entire store, sans jewelry; from 1o to 11, a.m., save 30 percent; from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., save 20 percent.

In Old Town Alexandria's Boutique District, six local shops will open at 6 a.m.: the Shoe Hive, Fibre Space, Diva, Bloomers, Bellacara, La Cuisine and Red Barn Mercantile.

Other area stores have joined the effort as well, offering a 10 percent discount to customers with a receipt for a Black Friday purchase from a participating store. Details here.

What to buy (and not to buy)

Any successful shopping mission starts with a list, and Black Friday is no different. To make the most of the busiest shopping day of the year, make a distinction between the items you're hoping to buy and the items you'll consider if you happen to spot a deal. If you stick with your list, you won't get caught up in a frenzy of shoppers vying for a leather jacket when what you actually need or want is a new pair of boots.

Approach the day with a specific budget. Allow yourself a bit of fiscal leeway in case you find that aforementioned Ultimate Deal, but if you have a history of maxing out your credit card - or of making impulse buys - try a cash-only shopping trip.

For clothing, shoes and accessories, use Black Friday as your opportunity to buy for the current season. Look for soft sweaters and cardigans, cocktail and day dresses, blazers, tops and blouses.

If you generally have a tough time finding pants and jeans that fit, don't waste your time and energy trying on a million pairs unless they're the only items you're hoping to buy. Shoes, bags and accessories are easy pieces to try on, making them ideal Black Friday scoops.

Two rules to live by: Spend a bit more on high-quality, well-made pieces (think suits, blazers and cocktail dresses) that will fit seamlessly into your existing wardrobe. Pay less for trendy items, such as skinny cargo pants or fur-trimmed booties, and for pieces that you won't wear often.

When to go home

If you find that you're asking yourself, "How can I wear this?" or "Surely someone would look good in this, right?" it's time to put down whatever you're holding and walk away. Or at least give yourself a few minutes, away from the crowds and craziness, to decide whether it's a wise purchase.

Make sure to take regular breaks to eat and hydrate, because shopping when you're tired, irritable and hungry is exactly what it sounds like - no fun. If you've purchased all or most of the items you set out to find, take a breather or simply call it a day. Wandering from store to store looking for more deals is a surefire way to spend money you might not consider spending if it weren't Black Friday.

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