Old Navy beats American Apparel at its own game

American Apparel has taken some heat over the past few years for its scandalous ad campaigns and the allegedly-pervy tendencies of founder Dov Charney, the man behind them. Yet the chain continues to experience a Starbucks-like manifest destiny, popping up in every corner of the country.

The reason? American Apparel exceeds at churning out irresistible basics, the kind of items that you squint at on the hanger, thinking: What's the big deal? It's just a plain blue t-shirt. Then you take a chance and take it home -- and that unassuming top somehow becomes the MVP of your wardrobe.

Which is a good thing, since the downside of shopping at American Apparel is that the stuff is always about $20 more than you expect it to be. (The company practices fair trade, which is great -- but it doesn't change the fact that sometimes you just can't spend $28 on a pair of leggings.)

Enter Old Navy. From the looks of the current offerings -- I'm just home from its Herald Square store in NYC -- the mega-chain is out to beat American Apparel's signature hipster basics this spring. And it's doing it -- you guessed it -- for less. Below, some side by side comparisons that could save you a lot of money.

American Apparel's stretch twill skinnies will run you $73. Old Navy jeans are my all-time favorite, but they haven't ever been able to really compete with AA's slim-cut modern jeans -- until, virtually, today. The store is rolling out a new 'jean legging' fit called the Rockstar (it's so new, it's not even on the website yet). But as the proud owner of two new pairs, I can tell you -- call off the search for your next slim-fit. These are only $34.50.

We talked the other day about how stripe-crazy retail is collectively going for spring. But stripes are a mainstay at American Apparel. If you love their cute tunic ($41) and their racerback tank ($16), good news. You can get virtually the same pair of tops at Old Navy for up to a combined $42 less. ON's lookalike tunics are $10-$15, their tanks $5-$10.

I almost feel bad writing this -- that's how seriously American Apparel takes tank tops like this basic number ($17) -- but this style ($12.50) just out at Old Navy is the most fashionable, flattering day-to-night tank I have ever tried on.


Chambray is so easy to wear -- which is what makes this henley dress ($62) from American Apparel so tempting. Old Navy to the rescue -- their identical style goes for just $26.50.
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