When I was in the 10th grade, I made an Odd-Couple type of friend.  She shopped exclusively designer and aspired to be the first female president.  Once, we compared the cost of our outfits.

Hers:  easily over $1000.  Between her Prada and Victoria's Secret accessories, her $80 jeans, and $100 sunglasses, she was rocking a month's salary (for me, at least).

Mine:  $5.  I wear free and thrift clothing, nearly exclusively.  Yes, I buy new underwear.  Other than that, my motto is:  why buy new when thrift is so awesome?
My top 3 reasons to shop for used and free clothing:
  1. WAY CHEAP.  As in, <10% of the cost of new clothing.
  2. Buying used keeps new products from entering the consumer cycle, saving valuable raw resources and a lot of human labor.
  3. Shopping thrift / digging through free-bins is like a treasure hunt!  So fun!  It can also be a zen-like practice in openness to the moment and letting go of your expectations.

A lot of people think that being fashionable has to cost a lot of money.  Well, chalk it up to my over-inflated ego, but I disagree.  I think I look pretty darn good, and for how much money?  Let's find out. 

My 'casual' look - or, what I just happened to be wearing today.

Shirt:  Free, from a clothing swap.
Undershirt: $1.50 at Goodwill.
Jeans:  $3.25 at Goodwill.
Belt: $0.50 at Goodwill.
Socks:  Free, gifted.

Total:  $5.25


My 'elegant' look - what I would wear to go tango dancing... ooh la la!

(Yes, I would wear heels with this - but we'll ignore that for argument's sake)

Cowl-neck Shirt: Free, gifted.
Undershirt: $1.50, from Goodwill.
Pinstripe Pants: $4.00, from Goodwill.

Total:  $5.50


My cute, 'summer-chic' look - or, what I would wear on a date to a river-side festival. 

(Judging by its effect on the lovely Emma, this outfit will get all the ladies...)

Striped Halter Top: Free, gifted.
Ruffled Blouse: $1.99 at Goodwill.
Flared Pencil Skirt: $3.50 at Goodwill.

Total: $5.49


My 'summer night' look - a favorite for hot summer evenings spent on rooftops, preferably with a tequila cocktail and someone highly attractive.

Halter-Dress: Free, gifted.
Layered Skirt: Free, clothing swap.
Underwear: $3.25, Target

Total: $3.25
(I had to include the underwear, just to make it cost something!)


My 'early-70's hippie' look - or what I wear when I want to channel my mother, bake homemade bread and then play acoustic guitar.

Ruched Tank: Free, gifted.
Bell-bottom Jeans: Free, gifted.
Belt: $0.50, from Goodwill.
Sweater Dress: $3.99, from Goodwill.

Total:  $4.49

Convinced yet?  I thought so!

My top tips for a rockin' & incredibly cheap wardrobe:
  • Find out when your local thrift store has their big sale.  The Goodwill near my house has 50%-off sales every other weekend, so I got on their e-mail list to get sale alerts.  This is beyond awesome.
  • Go to clothing swaps!  I've had luck with befriending like-minded folks, as they often throw "naked lady parties" (aka clothing swaps) at co-ops and other hip places.  If you don't know anyone who wants to host a clothing swap, organize your own!  It gives people an excuse to get all giddy about other people's free goodies.
  • Have lots of female roommates.  This tip is mostly a joke, but a great deal of my awesome clothes have come from my roommates' closets.  In fact, as I wrote this, one roommate popped in to ask if I'd had a chance to try on any of the tank tops she's getting rid of.  Score!
  • Learn basic sewing skills.  If something used isn't quite right, you can alter it to fit your body and sense of style.
  • Develop your own sense of style.  It takes a little creativity to create your own style, but it's worth it.  If you feel comfortable and attractive in an outfit, your look will rock - whether or not it's "in fashion".  In fact, I recommend not paying attention to what's in style, because it may not suit you.  Dress like yourself - not anyone else.
Have you scored any awesome, cheap outfits lately?  Got any more tips for frugal fashion? 
And hey, take a second - how much did your current outfit cost?  Please share!

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3/17/2012 05:28:13 pm

For the budget concerned, I also recommend learning your color palette and sticking within that area - it allows you to mix and match more easily so you can get more out of your wardrobe. I have 2 jeans, 1 pair of slacks, 1 skirt, a few cardigans, and a small handful of blouses that I mix and match.

My current outfit cost about $20. The pajama pants were free with a Target coupon & post-Christmas sale from a few years ago ($10/3 pajama pants I think) and the socks were free (gift). The t-shirt was the pricey part, it's a top that declares "Only Kale Can Save Us Now" from Herbivore. Next to my sneakers and my wedding dress, this is the most expensive item in my closet. It was my gift to myself for getting all A's last semester at school!

3/17/2012 10:13:27 pm

Yes! Understanding your color palette is super helpful - apparently I'm a 'soft autumn'...
For those interested, I found this color analyzer last year: http://www.prettyyourworld.com/analyzeyourself.html

9/30/2013 07:35:33 pm

Dress like yourself - not anyone else.


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