How to get expensive clothes for cheap: an autobiography


Considering my list of unresolved post ideas, the one that most resonates with me is having “champagne taste and a beer budget,” or rather, a mutual want for both nice clothes and a well-padded bank account. I like to think I’ve cultivated decent taste in clothing (read: a certain degree of label-whoredom) over the years. I’ve definitely cultivated an aversion to credit card debt that may be even stronger. In the land of blogs – and I mean those that aren’t routinely traded clothing by brands for publicity – these two often represent opposite ends of the spectrum. For me? Myself? Personally? It’s a challenge to find pieces that I like without paying retail price for them.

Here’s the part where I’m supposed to say “AND YOU CAN TOO! Keep scrolling to learn how!”

THE ROW sunglasses

I know we all love “listicles” and quick “how-to’s” (don’t worry, it’s coming), so I want to state up-front that all of this depends on a combination of luck, actively hunting, and good timing. Also, as anyone who has read this blog for any period of time knows, you may (read: will probably) have to wait a good long while for what you want to appear. As long as your expectations are kept in check, you too can indulge your perceived need for the finer things and actively fund a savings account. Keep scrolling to learn how!

1 // Make peace with the fact that your personal style will not always reflect what’s trendy.

This is the first and most important thing. Why? Because if you don’t have a clearly defined sense of how you like to look, you will be throwing away money. Additionally, if you are one who likes to try all of the new things every season because you don’t have a clearly defined sense of how you like to look, you will be throwing away money. DON’T THROW AWAY MONEY. A better use of your time is to go through some exercises at Into Mind and figure out your look.

Mine? I like to call it “tomboy that finally grew up and likes good shoes.”

 If you feel you just HAVE to spend money on figuring this all out, I suggest buying the Stylebook app. It’s great for helping to spot trends and patterns in what you wear and forces you to come to terms with everything you own. It’s my third most used app after Pokemon Go and Snapchat.

2 // Embrace secondhand garments

Although the stigma around this seems to have lessened in the last few years, if you’re trying to buy designer clothes on the cheap, you’ll have to eliminate if from your mind completely. In my experience, most people sell things they barely have worn (if they’ve worn them at all) trying to recoup money to assuage their buyer’s remorse. Your mission is to help them with that process. See? You’re not taking advantage of someone so much as helping to heal them. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Seriously though, if it’s in good condition and you have access to a washing machine, who cares if you aren’t the first owner? Certainly not you. And unless you go telling the world that you’re wearing a whole lot of used goods, no one is going to care or judge you for it. And if they do? Tell them to worry about their eyebrows before worrying about you. Works like a charm.

HELMUT LANG blazer / 3.1 PHILLIP LIM tank / DIESEL shorts / WOMAN by COMMON PROJECTS sandals

3 // Get familiar with the non-eBay shop options

It’s probably the largest and most popular option (consider that 3 of the 5 things I’m wearing came from there), but it isn’t the only one. Others I’ve had luck on are the apps Depop (where I got the shoes) and Poshmark (where I got the sunglasses. If you sign up with code HVSQU we both get $5). There’s also Vestitaire Collective and The Real Real. If you’re more of an “I have to try this on first” kind of person, find your local resale shop (Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads, Wasteland, random consignment store) and make friends with the workers there. Then, of course, there is the trusty ol’ Goodwill or Salvation Army. Much rarer to find things in these places, but it does happen! I found a Chanel blouse in a St. Vincent de Paul for $5 once. I promptly sold it on eBay because WTF am I going to do with a blouse?

If you can’t get past the pre-owned thing, there’s always The Outnet, Barney’s Warehouse, Off Fifth, Nordstrom Rack, 6pm, and Yoox.  But get past it.

4 // Learn some basic sewing skills

This is another important one. If you have some working knowledge of how garments are constructed and how to fix them, you’ll be able to better suss out when something is salvageable (and when you can haggle a price further down with someone who probably doesn’t). Case in point, I recently bought a pair of Helmut Lang leather leggings (similar to these) from a girl at a yard sale. They were in great condition, but she’d marked them down to $25 because there was a hole in the leg. If you heard “hole” and “leather” and automatically thought “I’ll pass,” I don’t blame you. However, that hole happened to be a break in the stitching on an inner seam. I repaired them in under five minutes. Soooooooo, yeah. Get to youtube, check out a library book or visit the Colette blog. A little know-how will pay off tremendously.

5 // Budget

It’s old advice. It’s tired advice. But it’s sound advice that will keep you out of debt if you stick to it. Set aside some money every paycheck for clothes if you like to buy clothes. It’s simple and you can buy things nearly guilt-free once you properly acknowledge that buying things is important for you. And yes, you can do that. Really. It’s fine. We all have things on which we like to spend money, so we should well prepare ourselves to do so without having to rely on available credit to do it.

So that’s my take. I’m sure none of it was new or revolutionary, but I liked writing it and here we are.

Oh!  And if you’re like me and curious about how much this particular outfit cost since I’m yelling “DESIGNER FOR CHEAP,” I saved about $1,553 overall based on what I remember of the original retail prices (approximately $1,930 sans tax). All these individual pieces were bought over the course of a couple years.

Thank you for reading.