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.

Notes on a Post-It 004

It is said that writing is like a muscle – the more you work it, the better it becomes. Right now, around this 8th anniversary of having a URL that allows me to type-scream into the ether, that muscle has atrophied quite a bit.

I have a folder full of drafts that are going absolutely nowhere and a few lists of inchoate ideas. As much as I try to get back on the wagon and just write, it feels too forced and difficult. I’m not sure if this means I should push through it or step back, or, with the general and localized craziness of life bearing down on all sides, if I should ‘clear the decks’ a bit. A chaotic mind is no place for anything of coherence or much substance to be born…then again, I’m not saving the world with anything here so I may be overthinking.

Below are some of those ideas I mentioned earlier. One day I’ll get to them. Maybe.


Kitten Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeels. She walked in the club like nobody’s business…
  • I don’t understand why kitten heels and late 80’s pumps are a thing again
  • When did capsule wardrobes become better vehicles at selling things than regular blogging?
  • Champagne tastes and beer budgets aren’t mutually exclusive (or, can I make blogging about clothes and personal finance a thing? Is that even a thing?)
  • What does one do when (the perceptions of one’s) life and wardrobe don’t quite match? Alternate title: I’m a mom and I still wear crop tops with shorts…problem?
  • How to reconcile Buddhist principles with clothes shopping
  • I’m sorry I abandoned you, P333. Let’s be friends forever?  So I can remember that I’m not supposed to be shopping? Especially as a coping mechanism?  Ok cool.
  • “Make do and mend” is kind of my jam right now
  • Instagram naked yoga girls saved my sanity




The Method

sweater from a thrift shop / RAG & BONE jeans / MODE COLLECTIVE shoes

Something old, something new, something “thrifted,” and… selfie because I can’t be bothered with proper outfit documentation. Love me anyway? What I lack in photography I make up with meaningless banter about clothes!

For instance, all three of the above “somethings” could apply to these shoes. Patience, usually the most effective weapon against complete irresponsibility, paid off once again when I found these lovely triple strap stunners for $40 – down from their original retail at $250 some seasons ago.

*insert squee*

Now, the story here usually goes that I was looking for a particular thing for forever, stalking it for months/years and then I finally find it. Not so this time. I learned of these perusing the blog Harper & Harley a few weeks ago and they stuck in my craw; beautiful lines, nice heel, probably really painful to actually wear. I was intrigued. As always, intrigue soon led to fixation, so I poked around the internet until I found them on eBay (there are a few more still listed if anyone else is interested). Since I’m trying to make better decisions and not let impulsiveness rule me, I let them sit for a couple of weeks while debating the merits of ownership. Below, a sampling of my inner monologue:

“Ooh, made in Spain by artisans! That sounds much better than a sweatshop.”

“Yeah, but they’re going to hurt.”

“These are going to look amazing with jeans. And a big sweater on top? Or a t-shirt? Those faux Jesse Kamm sailor pants I made from those pants from Buffalo Exchange? ALL OF THE THINGS.”

“You see how thin those straps are? BRUH. SAUSAGE. TOES.”

“Her feet don’t look that pained.”

“She’s sitting in nearly all the photos where she has on these shoes.”



“They’re $40.”

“I mean….you could just get them and if they hurt, resell them.”

“Yes. Yes I could.”

“And you have been wearing the same pair of “event shoes” since like…2012.”


“F- it. Just buy the shoes.”

I mean, it isn’t so much a conversation as a string of thoughts that consider separate arguments, but never mind all that.

The point is I copped them and they don’t hurt as much as anticipated. And they do look amazing with jeans and a big sweater. And it’s always worth waiting a few weeks, months, or years to buy something because you’ll usually be able to find it at a reasonable price and you’ll be able to better gauge whether or not something is an impulse buy or something you truly want to have. A little distance can do wonders for your wallet and general clutter levels.

Ok that was three points, but you get what I mean.







Food for Thought

As Emily Bell has written: “Social media hasn’t just swallowed journalism, it has swallowed everything. It has swallowed political campaigns, banking systems, personal histories, the leisure industry, retail, even government and security.”


Bell, the director of the Tow Centre for Digital Journalism at Columbia University – and a board member of the Scott Trust, which owns the Guardian – has outlined the seismic impact of social media for journalism. “Our news ecosystem has changed more dramatically in the past five years,” she wrote in March, “than perhaps at any time in the past 500.” The future of publishing is being put into the “hands of the few, who now control the destiny of the many”. News publishers have lost control over the distribution of their journalism, which for many readers is now “filtered through algorithms and platforms which are opaque and unpredictable”. This means that social media companies have become overwhelmingly powerful in determining what we read – and enormously profitable from the monetisation of other people’s work. As Bell notes: “There is a far greater concentration of power in this respect than there has ever been in the past.”

The increasing prevalence of this approach suggests that we are in the midst of a fundamental change in the values of journalism – a consumerist shift. Instead of strengthening social bonds, or creating an informed public, or the idea of news as a civic good, a democratic necessity, it creates gangs, which spread instant falsehoods that fit their views, reinforcing each other’s beliefs, driving each other deeper into shared opinions, rather than established facts.


From Katharine Viner’s article  “How Technology Disrupted the Truth” in The Guardian.  Probably one of the  most important things I’ve read in a long time.


Sale Time (or How to not go crazy during Sale Season)

Acne Star boots

photo via Harper & Harley

It’s sale season on the internet. This is always a trying time, full of angst, open tabs, and reflection on my life and its overall purpose. I once wrote in my “About” section that I live[d] to shop. Terrible. It’s still thrilling to take part in the dance of add-to-cart-oooh-my-card-info-is-saved-place-order, so I’m not sure I’ve overcome my demons.

I’m pretty sure I haven’t actually.

I have, however, learned to quiet them and stay out of their way for the most part; only battling them once the urge REALLY strikes. Oddly enough [sarcasm], I feel those urges most during sale season on the internet. What is a click-happy, reformed binge spender to do???

While I don’t have any surefire answers, I can tell you that the best lines of defense are the following;

  • budget for these moments (boring, but it works)
  • have a plan or idea of what  you generally need want (I keep a list on my phone)
  • don’t settle for things that aren’t quite right even if they are on sale (this takes constant reminding. CONSTANT. REMINDING.)
  • don’t make any high impact purchases of items you only learned about in the last week (more constant reminding)
  • if you find a grail-level item on sale, buy it

That’s it.  Five guidelines to keep the damage as minimal as possible and buyer’s remorse levels low.  You could keep the damage to non-existent by closing the tabs and ignoring all of it, but where is the fun in that? Nowhere. That’s where.

Sales n Stuff:


A roundup of indie boutiques via Garmentory

West End Select Shop (my favorite Portland boutique , also via Garmentory)

The Outnet (extra 30% off)

Barney’s Warehouse

Nasty Gal (extra 40% off)


Nordstrom Annual Sale (starts in July…but, you know…start looking now…for budgeting purposes)


Now, since I add an anecdote to nearly everything, I’ll tell you what led to this whole post to begin with.  I was minding my own business, reading through my feed on Feedly (mistake #1) when I caught wind of the sale at Shopbop (which is sort of a perpetual thing, no?). Anyway, I went to check it out (mistake #2) when right on the first page were the Acne Star boots. If you’ve been around this blog long enough, you’ll recall my knack for finding seasons-past Acne at a generous discount. Anyway, I see the boots and freak out because they’re half off and within acceptable splurge range for the brand, quality and style. Twenty one seconds later (because I’ve gotten really quick at thinking through all of these things), I completed my order and am now awaiting their arrival with hopes that they don’t truly run one size smaller. If they are, back they go.  Because we don’t settle even if things are on sale, right? Right. 

ETA: Verdict? They don’t run small, they run narrow…but I seem to have had success stretching them a bit with a pair of thick socks. HUZZAH!