- Many of the clothing and accessories at Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Gap have been longtime favourites for shoppers.
- We spoke with shoppers and former employees to find out which items are the best and worst at each store.
- Here are 27 products to buy and 14 to consider skipping at Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Gap.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Regular shoppers at these stores may already know what to buy and what to pass on, while new customers may be more compelled to go on a shopping spree.
If you’re not utilising the 40% discount that all three stores regularly issue out, your shopping cart total can quickly add up with more impulse purchases than necessities.
We spoke with former employees from the three stores, along with die-hard customers, fashion bloggers, and retail analysts, for their take on what to buy and skip on at Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Gap.
Buy at Banana Republic: Madison 12-hour pump
Image and branding consultant Sheila A. Anderson said she thinks women’s shoes at Banana Republic should be in the spotlight more often. This is especially true of the Madison 12-Hour Pump, which lives up to its name.
“This classic pump comes in a range of colours and are so comfortable you can wear them for 12 hours a day or more,” Anderson said.
Skip at Banana Republic: Anything made of silk blend
Former Banana Republic employee Amanda Magnanelli is aware of how pretty sweaters made of silk blend look and feel in the store. However, she cautions against making this item an impulse buy.
Manganelli, who worked at Banana Republic for three years, says the combination of poor material and high price points equal a bad purchase.
“These sweaters usually need to be hand-washed and are prone to pilling. Within months, they look worn out,” Manganelli said.
Still want a Banana Republic sweater? Switch to another fabric, like cashmere, merino wool, or cotton, Magnanelli told Business Insider.
Buy at Banana Republic: Dress shirts
Buy not one, but several Banana Republic women’s dress shirts each season to keep wardrobes fresh.
“Banana Republic does a great job of creating on-trend items that are classic enough to carry over into next season.” Manganelli told Business Insider.
Skip at Banana Republic: Jewellery
Banana Republic’s sparkly necklaces and bracelets might be better left on the store’s shelf. Lifestyle blogger Catherine O’Connell, who previously worked at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, said that some pieces of Banana Republic jewellery may be poorly constructed and unable to last from one season to the next.
“Take a close look at the jewellery before purchasing, as their return policy is very strict,” O’Connell told Business Insider.
Still dreaming of pretty baubles? O’Connell suggests making the purchase when it goes on sale.
Buy at Banana Republic: Petite blazer
Why buy a blazer from Banana Republic when there’s cheaper competition from retailers like Zara and H&M? It’s all in the attention to fit and length, said Magnanelli.
“A well-constructed blazer is hard to find,” Magnanelli said. “Banana Republic consistently provides well-fitting blazers that are beautiful quality.”
The women’s petite blazers at Banana Republic are worth the investment.
“These blazers are narrow in the shoulders and shorter in length, making a great fit for petite frames,” Magnanelli told Business Insider.
Buy at Banana Republic: Sheath dress
While not as comfortable as the Banana Republic shift dresses, Sweeney said she likes the level of professionalism this mid-length dress gives its wearer.
“Add a belt to give it some shape, and it’s the perfect way to mix comfort with office-friendly style,” Sweeney said.
Buy at Banana Republic: Gloves
Shoppers love Banana Republic’s leather gloves for women for their durability and warmth – two key qualities for cold-weather attire.
Skip at Banana Republic: Heritage Collection
Banana Republic’s Heritage Collection can be traced back to 2014, when The New York Times headed to Banana Republic to recap the retailer’s take on emulating haute couture collections with its own stylish capsules.
Collections like The Tokyo Collection still exist at Banana Republic for men and women. However, Heritage seems to only be available for men only. O’Connell says Heritage is usually omitted from the sales rack, too.
“The prices can be higher than what you can find for similar styles at other retail or online vendors,” O’Connell said.
Buy at Banana Republic: Standard-fit non-iron shirt
In 2015, GQ magazine profiled the efforts by Banana Republic and its designers working to redesign and tailor menswear at the retailer. Several former employees of the company praised the Banana Republic menswear line in interviews with Business Insider, and spoke highly of its elevated style and great-quality materials used in pieces from suits to shirts.
For men starting, or Marie Kondo-ing, their work wardrobe, add Banana Republic’s standard-fit non-iron shirt to your shopping cart. These button-up shirts are a wardrobe staple that won’t break your budget. Shoppers of all ages can easily take this look to a corporate meeting or to dress down after work.
“The classic lines and quality fabric ensures longevity with these shirts,” Anderson said.
Skip at Banana Republic: Belts
Belts for men at Banana Republic are priced up to $US59.50 for a single belt. Chris Navalta is a longtime shopper at the store and loves the store so much that he even worked there for discounts. However, he said he draws the line when it comes to its belts, as they tend to be overpriced.
Buy at Banana Republic: Luxury-touch polo
A menswear classic never goes out of style. Dave Bowden, founder of menswear fashion blog Irreverent Gent, told Business Insider that Banana Republic’s luxury touch polo shirts are a must-have for stylish guys.
What sets these shirts apart from regular polos? It’s all in the material.
“While nearly every other menswear store offers some version of a basic polo, this polo is made of luxury-touch cotton. It’s both softer and more stylish than the vast majority of cotton-poly blend polos on the market,” Bowden said.
Skip at Banana Republic: Suits for men
They may be stylish, but Bowden recommends leaving Banana Republic men’s suits on the rack.
“You can often find a better-made suit at the same price point elsewhere,” Bowden told Business Insider. He recommends dapper dudes look into custom-made options at retailers like Indochino.
Skip at Banana Republic: Wedding guest dresses
Alexandra Howell is an Assistant Professor of Fashion Merchandising and Design at Meredith College. Unless you enjoy buyer’s remorse, Howell advises against spending extra money on wedding guest dresses.
Howell says the purchase as one to avoid because of its single-use.
“The price and style won’t withstand seasonal change.” Howell told Business Insider.
Buy at Old Navy: High-rise elevate compression leggings
Public relations account supervisor Rachel Cooper swears her “undying love” for Old Navy women’s high-rise elevate compression leggings. At under $US30 a pair, these leggings come in a wide variety of fun patterns and are frequently on sale, making them even more affordable than other competing legging retailers like lululemon.
Compression leggings are great for all sorts of athletic activities including yoga and running.
“They last forever and fit like a glove,” Cooper said.
Buy at Old Navy: Sports bras
Lucy Silag, who works in publishing in New York City, is a die-hard Old Navy shopper. When Silag joined a half-marathon training group in 2014, she went on a $US200 Old Navy shopping spree to outfit herself for five runs each week. Silag picked up compression leggings, tank tops, and sports bras.
Old Navy’s sports bras emphasise finding your fit. Their three bra types include light, medium, and high, suitable for a range of activities including Pilates, spin class, and running.
Five years later, Silag said she still has, and wears, all of these pieces including her sports bra and has found each holds up remarkably well for the price point.
Skip at Old Navy: Jewellery
In addition to working at Banana Republic for three years, Magnanelli has been an Old Navy shopper for more than 10 years. Jewellery purchases, she says, are largely impulse buys.
“It’s more likely you’ll buy it, put it away, and then throw it out a few months later,” Magnanelli told Business Insider.
Buy at Old Navy: Maxi dresses
This summer, Magnanelli recommends saying yes to Old Navy maxi dresses. Available in plus-size and regular fits, women’s maxi dresses are all currently under $US50 at Old Navy and perfect for running around with the kids or dressing up for a night out.
“They’re made of excellent quality,” Magnanelli said, “The maxi dresses are so comfortable, you’ll feel like you’re wearing pajamas.”
Buy at Old Navy: Workout apparel
Don’t miss out on men’s activewear from Old Navy. Bowden advises getting T-shirts and shorts here instead of Gap because they cost 40% less. His one complaint is that the colours and patterns come in mostly basic blues, blacks, and grays. However, Bowden says with workout clothes, it’s less about looking fashion-forward and more about getting the job done.
Skip at Old Navy: Flip-flops
Joe Murphy, an interior design specialist and Old Navy shopper, has never understood the hype over Old Navy’s flip-flops.
“They’re not comfortable or built to last. Pick up a pair at another retailer,” Murphy told Business Insider.
Buy at Old Navy: Pajamas
When’s the best time to snag PJs? Jeneault says to shop during the holiday season for extra discounts. Sometimes Old Navy will even offer matching pajamas for the whole family during the holidays, making the purchase a good present.
Skip at Old Navy: Blouses
Pass on women’s blouses from Old Navy, Jeneault said.
“I feel like they’re better at the basics than fancier items,” Jeneault told Business Insider.
Buy at Old Navy: Straight leg jeans
Regardless of what gender you’re shopping for, the denim selection at Old Navy can’t be beat when it comes to price and fit. Denim sizes go up to size 20 in women and size 30 for plus-size in a wide variety of washes.
Old Navy shopper Claire Shaner said she swears by Old Navy’s straight leg jeans for women.
“Almost any other jeans I try on fall at my shins or can’t get over my hips. These jeans work with my body type because they offer curvy and tall options,” Shaner said.
If you’re looking to reel in even more deals, Shaner recommends swinging by Old Navy’s clearance rack. A quick browse could land you seriously great sales since the items there have been returned and are heavily discounted. Shaner said she snagged a pair of jeans from clearance once that were $US0.97.
Buy at Old Navy: Straight ultimate built-in flex khakis
More than 1,900 reviews at Old Navy have given the men’s straight ultimate built-in flex khakis an average 4.7 out of 5 stars.
That’s great for the classic work pant, which comes in a wide variety of colours and fits (regular, big, and tall) for men looking to build their work wardrobes.
Buy at Old Navy: Women’s relaxed lightweight fly-away performance top
Retail analyst Meaghan Brophy regularly wears the long-sleeved workout tops at Old Navy – even when she’s not working out. The relaxed lightweight fly-away performance top is a good example of a comfy top ideal for working out or lounging around.
Comfort aside, Brophy said she finds the appeal is in the sizing.
“These tops, and styles, are available in petite sizes,” Brophy said. “As someone who is 5-foot, this is super important for me as a shopper.”
Buy at Old Navy: Socks
As a basic accessory staple, Old Navy’s socks are available for all genders and come in a wide variety of styles and colours. They’re also made of cotton, ensuring they will hold up well after the purchase.
Skip at Old Navy: Suits for women
Planning to pick up your next job interview ensemble at Old Navy? You’re better off heading to Banana Republic instead, said personal stylist Neepa Sikdar.
As a former merchandising buyer with 13 years of retail experience, Sikar says that most of the work clothes at Old Navy are made with flimsy material. She also told Business Insider that the fit for suits tends to be off.
Buy at Old Navy: Jumpsuits
Anderson puts a vote of confidence in favour for Old Navy’s jersey tie-belt cap-sleeve jumpsuit because it enables the wearer to look put-together all day long.
“This jumpsuit takes you from morning errands to an afternoon work meeting to a night out with friends all in one day,” Anderson said, “Its fit is flattering to all shapes and sizes. It’s also made of super-soft rayon jersey fabric. This allows for better ease in movement while holding its shape.”
Skip at Old Navy: Anything made of polyester
While we’re on the topic of fabric, personal stylist and fashion blogger Vanessa Valiente says to avoid buying clothes made out of polyester. This applies to apparel at Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Gap.
“The polyester garments that come out of these stores looks very cheap,” Valiente told Business Insider. “When in doubt, check the tag and walk away.”
Buy at Old Navy: Functional drawstring poplin shorts
Routinely on sale but priced for no more than $US13 a pair, the poplin shorts are winners with Carey. This is thanks to the material’s quality and fit, the latter of which is no easy feat when you have a growing kiddo on your hands.
“These have been through so many washes, and the quality always holds up. They always seem to fit my son perfectly,” Carey told Business Insider.
Buy at Gap: Fitted Oxford shirt
The women’s fitted Oxford shirt is a go-to purchase for avid Gap shopper Kristine Thorndyke. Generally retailing at nearly $US50, the button-down top occasionally goes on sale. However, it’s the quality and fit that makes the blouse worth spending extra bucks.
“I have a blue button-down that still looks amazing after six years of wear,” Thorndyke said.
Thorndyke’s love for Gap’s fitted Oxford shirt makes it her one splurge outside of online retailers and storefronts like TJ Maxx.
“These cotton shirts have high-quality stitching and can easily be dressed up or down,” Thorndyke told Business Insider. “I have worn this shirt in a casual interview and during the day while sightseeing on vacation.”
Buy at Gap: Mid-rise classic straight jeans
Did you know Gap started because founders Donald and Doris F. Fisher could not find jeans that fit either of them? Fifty years later, Gap is still one of the best places to buy jeans.
Available in regular and petite sizes, Gap’s women’s mid rise classic straight jeans are made from premium stretch denim that customer reviews describe as great fit, comfortable, and even cool. What’s cooler is that they’re also made with Gap’s Washwell program, a water-saving wash method that has saved millions of litres of water since 2016.
Retailers like Madewell, Howell said, also offer premium denim products, but at nearly double Gap’s price tag. H&M and Forever 21 also have competitively priced denim products, but the jeans are made of lower-quality fabric.
“The price and quality of Gap’s jeans are what set them apart from others in the same category,” Howell said.
Buy at Gap: Straight jeans with GapFlex
Vinnie from New York says it all in his Gap review: “These are hands down the best jeans I’ve ever put on. They fit perfectly, look amazing, and the stretch is awesome. I may never take them off again.”
It’s a five-star review so good, Gap added it into the product details for its men’s straight jeans with GapFlex – Gap’s stretch technology. If it utilises GapFlex, the garment will be extra flexible and comfortable to move with your body.
Skip at Gap: Dresses
For over 10 years, Magnanelli has been a devoted Gap shopper. But she draws the line at Gap’s dress selection, saying there’s not much return on investment.
“These dresses are around $US70 each, and dresses of similar quality with more style can be found at other retailers,” Magnanelli said.
Buy at Gap: Jeggings
Jeggings are “jean leggings,” in case you didn’t already know. Valiente said Gap’s jeggings for women have a special place in her heart as one of her favourite purchases. Made with distressed details, it’s also hard to differentiate the jeggings from jeans.
“If you cannot afford higher-end denim, this is seriously what I recommend instead,” Valiente told Business Insider.
Skip at Gap: T-shirts
Gap has a wide variety of tees for shoppers to choose from, but there’s no need for adults to go on a somewhat-pricey T-shirt shopping spree. Howell said she often finds that her Gap T-shirts have been stretched out and disfigured after just a few wears and washes.
Buy at Gap: Leather biker jacket
At nearly $US500 before any sale prices, Gap’s Leather biker jacket for men is definitely a major wardrobe investment. Is it worth the price? Absolutely, Bowden says.
According to Bowden, this is actually a more reasonable price point for leather jackets than what you’d find at most retailers – even at Gap’s sister store, Banana Republic.
“BR will sell similar-looking stylish jackets, but they will cost 20% more,” Bowden said.
Why the extra cost? Bowden told Business Insider it’s because the store’s parent company prefers to position Banana Republic as the “premium brand” over Gap.
Buy at Gap: Anything from Gap Kids
Kids are dressing cuter and cooler every day with the apparel at Gap Kids, from lace-up booties to dinosaur briefs to slim jeans. Parents of budding fashion-forward tots can combine shirts with cute designs with leggings to quickly build a child’s wardrobe.
Magnanelli said that through her experience shopping at Gap Kids the apparel is consistently the best on the market in terms of price, quality, and adorableness.
Buy: Anything from Baby Gap
While we’re talking kids clothing, don’t forget about Baby Gap for one-pieces and hoodies for babies. Here, parents really get a chance to tailor how they dress their newborns. Clothing options are available by age and by the pound.
Skip at Gap: Sweaters
For adults, that is. There may be a plethora of new sweaters to choose each season, but they struggle to maintain their shelf life.
“These tend to shrink,” Sikdar said.
Buy at Gap: Chinos
With only four styles left on Gap’s website, women’s chinos are selling out fast this summer – and for good reason. Magnanelli says it’s thanks to the pants fitting exceptionally well across all body types that shoppers keep coming back every season.
Buy at all three stores: Things that are 40% off
Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Gap each frequently rotate promotions for 40% off their clothing and accessories. These sales occur multiple times throughout the year, and often during the holiday season or over long three-day weekends. Sign up for their email newsletter mailing lists to stay in the loop and cash in on the deals.
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