Discontinued Shoes and Clothing: How to Find Replacements

Isn’t it always the way? You find a favorite shirt, pair of pants or even shoes, and when it’s time to buy new, you find that the company no longer makes that item.

This has happened to me so many times, and it’s so frustrating. For example, back in 2020, I bought new bras online. I found one from Wacoal that I loved and wore it until it was stretched beyond belief. So I logged in and searched Nordstrom (where I’d bought it originally) for the same bra, and Wacoal had discontinued it.

Why discontinuations are especially hard for me

One of the reasons that these kinds of discontinuations hit me hard is that I wear a special size bra. In other words, I’m not your typical 34B and can just find any bra off the rack. Back in the day I had to travel over an hour to a specialty lingerie store to find bras that would fit.

Another reason I take it personally when a brand stops making something I love? I also have hard to fit feet. Thanks, mom and dad, for those genes.

My feet are a double wide width. Do you know how hard it is to find extra wide shoes for women that are fashionable and comfortable? Nearly impossible.

Again, back in the day, when I moved to a new place, one of the first things I would seek out was a store that stocked shoes for what is called “hard to fit feet.” Usually, these were the same stores where Catholic school students would get their approved footwear. Why the intersection of parochial school and my double wide feet? Who knows.

Finally, something that’s frustrating that has nothing to do with foot size or width is when shoe companies update a shoe model. This has happened to me twice lately.

Both Brooks and Hoka took the shoe model I loved and “improved” them. In the process, it appears they changed the last (that’s the form companies use to make shoes) and, well, the new fangled version no longer fits like the old one did.

How to find replacements

So, enough about me. Chances are you ended up here because you’re in the same boat. You have a favorite pair of shoes or jeans or some other kind of clothing. And you went to buy another pair or something new, maybe in a new color or pattern, and you discovered the store or brand no longer stocks that.

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I’m sure you’ve done what I’ve done in the past — searched online for newer models that could replace the old one. And probably like me you’ve discovered that doesn’t always work. Frustrating, I know.

So, I wanted to share some tips I’ve tried over the years. Sometimes they work; sometimes they don’t. But at least it’s worth trying.

Visit an outlet or factory store

Many brands with a retail presence send their overstocks to their outlets around the country. True, many outlets will stock clothing or shoes made especially for the outlet (versus things that couldn’t be sold in full-priced stores). However, on occasion you might find a factory store where you could possibly find the item you’re looking for.

For example, while Nordstrom Rack isn’t an outlet or factory store per se, it is where you can find clothing and accessories that did not sell in Nordstrom department stores. Or items that customers returned and Nordstrom did not put back on the racks.

With my hard-to-fit feet, I’m always scanning the shoe section at Nordstrom Rack for brands who may not make the double-wide shoes I need anymore. For a long time I had good luck finding Munro shoes this way. Then, Munro changed their last (why can’t lasts last?) and now they don’t fit my feet.

Also, I checked Nordstrom Rack for that Wacoal bra I bought in 2020 and which Nordstrom no longer carries. No luck there.

Find a salvage store

Not familiar with what salvage stores are? It is one of the final stops for merchandise that doesn’t sell in regular stores or even outlet stores. Or, they have damaged items that are still good enough to sell. Think like the dent and scratch area of a furniture or appliance store.

Salvage store owners usually buy large quantities of items at auction and that’s how they get their inventory. To shop these, you have to go back on a regular basis because that inventory changes on a nearly daily basis. You never know what you’ll find.

When I lived in Pennsylvania, Ollies (good stuff cheap) was the salvage store I would visit. Now we frequent Marden’s in Maine. Another store that buys closeouts from retailers near me is Ocean State Job Lot.

But back to Marden’s: believe it or not, it was at Marden’s that, in 2023, I found that discontinued Wacoal bra style that I’d first purchased in 2020. Best of all? It was $14.99. You know I paid way more than that for it at Nordstrom.

Use info on clothing labels to search online

This is a trick I’ve used in the past. Locate the RN label and/or the style code label in a garment and then use that to search online. However, with all the Google search updates going on, I’m not sure it will work as well as it once did. Maybe ask an AI tool to find it for you. I use Koala Writer and Koala Chat.

Anyway, what is an RN? Here is how the FTC describes it:

“RN stands for Registered Identification Number. It is a number issued by the FTC to U.S. businesses that manufacture, import, distribute, or sell products covered by the Textile, Wool, and Fur Acts. Businesses can use this number on product labels instead of the company name.”

Now, the RN tells you the brand. However, the style code gives you the exact info that could allow you to find the item online. With both pieces of information, you’re more likely to narrow your search and find what you want. This trick has worked for me in the past.

For example, I have a pair of NYDJ jeans that I love and I can’t find them anymore. So I took a picture of the label inside the pants, near where the materials and care instructions tags are.

label inside nydj jeans to search for style number
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Then, I took the information from that tag, the Style Number info, and plugged it into Bing. And voila, it brought up the exact jeans plus where I could buy them. Score!

using style code tag to find replacement pants
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Find replacement shoes using tag inside

Like clothing, shoes also have information on labels that can help you track down replacement pairs. In sneakers they’re usually on the tongue. On boots, they make be on the side of the boot’s interior. With dress shoes, you may find that info stamped on the inside near the heel.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had as much luck searching this way. I just tried it with a pair of Cobb Hill military-style boots that I’ve owned for years. Cobb Hill, now owned by Rockport, doesn’t make them anymore.

label inside cobb hill boot trying to find replacement
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

I used the information from the label above. Sadly, it did not bring me to any shoes, even when I added in the brand name. With these boots, which have seen better days, I’ll probably bring them to a cobbler who can restore these shoes, with new soles and everything, so they can look close to new again.

After not having any luck with my boots, I tried this search hack with my favorite pair of Brooks Levitate 2 sneakers. I bought them years ago, and then Brooks decided to discontinue them in favor of their newfangled Levitate 3. Well, the threes don’t fit my hard-to-fit feet as well as the twos did.

Here’s the label from inside my sneaker.

label inside brooks levitat sneaker
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Then I plugged it into Google and was successful! There were at least two pairs on eBay. I’ve also found them on Amazon.

search results for brooks levitate sneakers

Look on sites where people resell things

You’ll notice that the top search results were for eBay. That’s another great place to search for anything that’s discontinued.

Also, Poshmark. I’ve been able to find lots of things at great, affordable prices on Poshmark. I’m also a Poshmark seller and if you haven’t signed up for Poshmark yet, you can use my code SUDDENLYFRUGAL on Poshmark. You’ll get $5 off your first purchase.

Try Google Lens

Not familiar with Google Lens? It lets you take a picture of something, like a shoe, and then it searches the Internet for a match or something that looks similar.

With something like jeans or a non-descript sweater, it probably wouldn’t be helpful. However, when I used Google Lens to look for my beloved Cobb Hill combat boots, it did find ones that look almost identical and, ironically, on Poshmark. Sadly, though, I struck out.

Final thoughts on finding replacements for discontinued shoes and clothing

I hope you found my tips helpful. If you have additional ones to share, please let me know. Of course, if after publishing this article I come up with additional hacks for finding these items, I’ll be sure to update this information.

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2 Comments

  1. This is great, Thanks! I also set an alert on eBay, and have found things on ThreadUp.
    (In both cases used, which I’m fine with but understand might not be for everyone.)