DKNY (Donna Karan). Donna Karan calls DKNY the “pizza to the (Donna Karan) Collection’s caviar.” While we don’t relish thinking of our wardrobe as filled with the fashion equivalent of anchovies, we don’t mind entirely if it means access to hip, urban clothing at prices we can afford (and we never quite got the appeal of the whole fish egg thing anyway). The fact of it is, of course, that the upper end of DKNY is STILL out of the budget realm as we define it (meaning that $125 for a cotton stretch shirt—cotton!—is akin to a criminal act) but on sale, the line offers cute quality designer pieces at prices we can actually stomach. (DKNY is also one of the latest linesto opt out of a Fall 09 Fashion Week show at Bryant Park: read more at WWD.com )

Dana Buchman. Dana Buchman is in transition mode, budget fashionably speaking, moving from it’s home next to traditional American lines like Ellen Tracy to a new partnership with Kohl’s, set to launch in Spring of 09 (and we’re totally hoping it raises the bar from Simply Vera’s ho-hum showing). What’s interesting about that, however, is it seems that Kohl’s will henceforth be the ONLY place you’ll find Buchman apparel, which previously also included a high-end line sold at places like Neiman’s and Dillard’s, meaning the Buchman appears to be the designer most fully invested (on many many levels) in the whole budget fashion game.

Nicole Miller. JCPenney’s is not what we’d call a fashion mecca (though it is pretty darn affordable) but if you know what lines to look for, it’s worth a stop. Take Nicole Miller—the designer has long featured a collection at the mid-level retailer, including separates and handbags. We like that Miller brings her bold patterns to her JCP line, but wish for more of the fab dresses she is known for in her high end collections.