How to be a broke college student (or anybody) and still dress fabulously.

Fendi Spring 2011

I’m obsessed with clothing, fashion and general sartorial goodness. I started following fashion blogs years ago, and have been subscribing to Elle, Harpers Bazaar, and getting my hands on Vogue for years…literally, years.

Of course, perusing through any of these magazines makes us feel poor and generally pretty shitty. We can’t afford this season’s gorgeous $2,000 Burberry trench coat or that amazing pair of Marc Jacobs flats that everybody wants. However, it is possible to get what you want. I’m not saying that it’s possible to snag a Bottega Veneta woven leather masterpiece in a shoddy charity shop, but you can get investment pieces and pretty things while still not breaking the bank.

First, INVEST.

Spend good money on good things. Quality over quantity. Sure, you can go into Forever 21 and find that amazing cute bandeau skirt for $15, and have it be out of commission a year later…or, you can spend $50 on a classic, well fitted skirt that will last you for years. Those pleather boots in Macy’s on sale for $45, or that $150 pair of leather boots from Anne Klein? The leather boots will last you if you weatherproof them, get them re-soled when they need to be, and as long as you don’t go mountain climbing or hang out in acid rain all the time- you get what I’m saying? Get a leather bag, preferably brown or black, that will hold all your random stuff and take care of it. A good jacket, a nice pair of jeans- I’m not saying go out and get them all at once, just slowly build a good, basic wardrobe of well made things.


No matter where you live there is a boutique in town that probably has something pretty. Some amazing dress that is $90 and you can’t bear to splurge on. You’d rather have things like food and the heating bill paid- yay priorities! Be smart, though. That dress isn’t out of reach! Sales happen regularly and often- you just have to be there at the right time. This isn’t about luck, people! This is about you wanting something and getting it for way cheaper when it’s on sale because you worked, you watched, and you kept track of the lovely object of your desire.

Keep your eyes open.


I’m not religious but I do find myself regularly almost worshipping the thrift stores in town. Whether it’s Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Good Samaritan, your local thrift store(s) are bursting with opportunity. Don’t give me this “Oh, thrift stores are dirty” excuse, either. Here’s a list of things I’ve found in thrift stores that are badass:

Dooney & Bourke All Weather Leather Satchel – $25

J. Crew silk crepe evening dress – $10

Ankle length silk skirt – $2

Vintage accordion pleated midi skirt- $5

Blue and purple 90’s velvet dress – $2

Bill Blass sweaters – $2 (menswear is the best)

Enzo Angiolini leather loafers – $4

Seriously, they’re a treasure trove. Sure, some of them are bound to smell funny or have a stain or a hole- that’s why washer detergent and a sewing kit are going to be handy. Don’t exclude the menswear section, either. I’ve made plenty of XXL sweaters into dresses with a belt and some funky tights!


Something that is timeless is originality. Have fun when you get dressed! Try out combinations, don’t be afraid to have fun. Try a cut-off shirt with a high-waisted skirt, or mix those mustard yellow tights with a green dress. Don’t be afraid to mess with proportions- a bulky top with skinny jeans, or voluminous skirts with button down shirts. If people give you funny looks, it’s because they’re probably bummed out that they weren’t as adventurous or creative with their outfits.


Borrowing clothing from friends and family should be commonplace. If your sister has an amazing LBD that fits you, go for it. Ask grandma if she has any old clothes she doesn’t want- your grandmother might have been a babe in fitted cardigans and capris, and those things never go out of style. Raid your mother’s closet, too. You’d be surprised. That dress she wore in the 80’s might be perfect without those ginormous shoulder pads!

Warning, though: be nice to the things you borrow. Don’t wear your friend’s new silk dress to the club or something ridiculous. Wash/dry clean the things you borrow. I borrowed  my friend’s Betsey Johnson prom dress and dry cleaned it- cheapest prom ever! Many a friendship have been sullied by badly borrowing friends, so be careful.


I’m not talking Savile Row tailors for those suits that cost more than my tuition. I’m talking about the little lady in town who probably works out of her home and will hem a dress for $7. Find her, and be friends. Best friends. When you thrift that huge cotton dress that’s too long, commiserate and make that dress work. It will be cheap, and you will look amazing. Hem that silk dress that goes below your knees. Crop your pants, etc…well fitted things look expensive, even if they aren’t.


I’m kind of out of bullets, and sort of out of time.

Seriously, though, dressing yourself should be fun and exciting. Be yourself and be wonderful. Give the world the best part of you and show your personality through your wardrobe!


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