Lifestyles of the Destitute and Obscure

dazzling and interesting on a shoestring

How the destitute shop thrify and look boutiquey!

I am a HUGE fan of the Urban Outfitters/Anthropologie/ Free People triumvirate, and follow all the latest releases like a strung-out fashion junkie.  It is probably an addiction of the type that could never be satisfied, regardless of the size of my closet or my bank account.  And so, like any good addict who needs her fix, I get creative.  It’s much better for my wallet and my sense of ingenuity; money can make us lazy and boring, I feel.

Here are a couple of ideas on how to get this stuff (or something just like it) into your wardrobe without being lazy, boring or loaded.

  • Get a job there, but not if you honestly expect to take home much of your paycheck.  They want you to wear their clothes, so the discount is deep and the peer pressure is close to the boiling point.  I have a two and a half year career as a sales associate to thank for a couple pairs of linen pants, a velvet coat, and a few cocktail dresses.  Who cares if the only place I’ve got to wear it to is the playground?  These things are stunning.
  • Stalk the sale rack like you’re a Great White and that dress is a surfboard.  For this reason, I love the ‘wishlist’ option on websites.  I just load my favorite things into my wishlist, and then check back every week or so to see what went on sale.  Then if I feel that I can’t live another moment without it, I go to the store and try to track it down in my size.  That way you avoid shipping costs, too, unless of course, it costs over $20 in gas just to get to your nearest retail location.  Then, by all means, ship away.  Or better yet, make a note of the item and its FINAL sale price and check eBay a few weeks later.  Don’t pay more than the item’s final price, though.  Otherwise, you may have tapped into somebody’s idea of a business.  More on the eBay strategy to come—I swear.
  • Be aware, too, of each store’s return policy.  I cannot properly shop with a preschooler in tow, and because I live in one of the nation’s (okay, the WORLD’S) wealthiest areas, despite having a barely livable household income, I have an Anthropologie right around the corner.  So I stock up on the things I might want to purchase, in a couple of sizes, lay it all on the credit card and take them home and play fashion show with my husband.  It keeps him happy, too.  WARNING: Don’t bring home anything you can’t afford to fall in love with.  And please, NOTE:  Keep things neat and orderly, folded and with the tags on and the proper receipt handy when returning.  Sales associates know they’re gonna be doing returns as part of their job, but it’s a bit of a hassle, so be kind. FURTHERMORE: Don’t let that fat purchase sit on your credit card through an entire billing cycle (even if you return it, the store won’t give you back that big chunk of interest back) and MAKE SURE you can return it for cash, NOT store credit.
  • Learn to hunt through a thrift store like you are a lioness and the store is the Serengeti.  You need to be picky, but not too picky.  Think of what you’re looking for and then focus on a few points.  For example: you’re not going to find any Anthro clothes at St. Vincent DePaul (unless a miracle takes place) however, you may find a skirt in a similar pattern and texture.  It will look just as cool, be far more unique, and cost you a whole lot less.  Now, watch and learn.

What we have here is a lovely, fuzzy pink-striped sweater with a great neckline and form-fit.  The exact colors and neckline are not so important; we want the same general theme, not the exact same thing.  That’s being too narrow-minded for a girl with a budget.

Here is the purchase I made for about $4 at a by-the-pound thrift store.

This is an actual unique vintage number.  Free People has a category called ‘Vintage Loves’ in which someone else does the hunting for you (a job, I must confess that I covet with a hearty fraction of my soul) and then charges you in the neighborhood of a $200 to take it off their talented hands.

The key elements to this maxi-skirt are three-fold: that it be long and fairly full (A-line or circle skirt; not tight) that it be velvet or velour (a lovely polyester imitation of velvet that only adds to its vintage-ness) and that the coloring be dark.  The color is not critical, but if it were bright, it would verge on something else entirely—which might also be okay.

Here’s a similar skirt I culled from the same thrift store and paid way less than $200 for.  It, too, is velvet-y and black, but with a wider variety of colors.  It goes great with black military-style boots as well as ballet flats and pairs nicely with a long, fitted cardigan in winter and nothing but a tank top in spring.

So, sally forth intrepid shopper, armed with your cash (most thrift stores don’t take plastic) and your new thrifty know-how and see what you can come up with.  If I have a readership, especially an adventurous one, let me know what you’ve dug up.  I’m always inspired by inspiration.


One response to “How the destitute shop thrify and look boutiquey!

  1. Ames April 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Yeah!! I’m a big fan of getting a deal…. I’ve paid a PENNY for a shirt at Macy’s once.

    I also use shopping sites like ebates and swagbucks to get even more deals.

    I just found a very anthro style blouse/tank at the local thrift store for under $10. Score!

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