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Good fashion on a budget

Written by Mr. WellCultured, Wednesday, December 10th, 2008 in Q&As

I need to get some good fashion on a budget. I live in a area without many stores. I may go travel to get some new stuff, what stores should I go to?

Unfortunately, I’ve lived in places like you have described, so allow me to help out where I can.

If you have the opportunity, try to build up your “core clothing” at stores like The Gap, H&M, J.Crew, and the like. These stores, while generally bland, provide basic clothing (t-shirts, button-downs, the like) that you can build off of. These stores also swap out inventory incredibly fast around this season, so you can find certain styles from last season for incredibly cheap. The nice thing about the aforementioned stores (more The Gap and J.Crew than H&M) is that their clothes are made to hold up for quite some time if you keep care of them- making them worth more than the average crap you find at various other stores.

When it comes to getting more expensive things (suits, coats, shoes), I recommend shopping around if at all possible, even online. For shoes, Zappos.com, an online shoe outlet, is virtually perfect for finding a good pair of shoes- and with a nice return policy, you can use (read: abuse) them until you find a pair you like. For coats and suits, it is generally best to try them on first- but if you know your sizes extremely well, check outlet websites like Overstock.com, which occasionally carry nice and well-made brands. When you are out shopping and if you can afford doing so, try coats/shoes on but do not buy them- go online and comparison shop. 9 times out of 10, you will find better prices.

When you do go shopping, no matter how much you spend, be paranoid about the quality of the clothes you buy. Stores like Old Navy may be cheap, but the quality (and the fit) of the clothes, frankly, suck. The same applies to Aeropostale. As well, to make the most of your money, avoid too-trendy clothing like Hollister or Abercrombie and Fitch- those styles tend to last only 6 months at most before becoming tired (or falling apart, as the aforementioned companies suck just as bad as Old Navy at making good quality clothing).

If you are smart, you will wait until one or two weeks after Christmas. Watch how fast prices drop.

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5 Responses to Good fashion on a budget

  1. AndYouWillKnowUs says:

    JC Penney has some decent clothes most of the time. Their relatively cheap and pretty good quality. If you’re a smaller framed person then it can be hard to find good clothes there- but that seems to be true just about anywhere as I havne’t found any wellfitting shirts and most pants are either too long or too wide. I’ve even shopped in the kid’s sections before.

  2. pi4arctan1guy says:

    I suggest trying thrift stores or used clothing stores. They are very hit and miss, but I’ve found great deals just by checking back every few weeks.

    When I started building my wardrobe, I started from scratch. I went from peg leg jeans and stained t-shirts to suits, blazer/jeans/nice shirt combos, classy sweaters, and dress pants. At first, I found myself buying some of my shirts and pants at retail stores in the local mall. Thrift stores just didn’t have enough stock to get me the bare minimum wardrobe I needed. I would pay $20 for shirts I could have had for $3 if they had been in thrift stores. I bought a couple $12 ties at a department store that could have been had at thrift stores for $1-$5. Basically, I paid more just so that I could get my wardrobe up to a bare minimum quickly.

    After a couple months, my wardrobe was complete. I had a few items that I would still keep an eye out for, such as 3-piece suits, nice ties, sweaters, hats, jewelry, and polo shirts. These were non-critical, though. I could take my time getting them as they appeared in thrift stores. Over the past year or so, I have done just that.

    There are some items that are almost impossible to buy in thrift stores. I wouldn’t, for example, buy my briefs in a thrift store. I have a hard time thrift storing good pants that fit me, too. Most items, however, will eventually turn up in thrift stores if I check back with enough stores frequently enough. I have about ten thrift stores in my area that I check about once per month.

    At this point, my wardrobe is so complete that I only buy clothing that fits really well. Often, I find replacements for old articles for a fraction of what I paid for the originals. Suits that fit well can cost as little as $15. Shirts of all kinds can be had for less than $5.

    tl;dr: At first, you will probably have to use thrift stores, department stores, and used clothing stores to build your wardrobe. As you fill out your basic wardrobe, though, you can stop using department stores and even used clothing stores for the most part. Eventually, you will get to a point where you can do all of your clothes shopping at thrift stores and pay next to nothing for really wonderful articles of clothing.

  3. AndYouWillKnowUs says:

    The only problem I can see with thriftstores is getting the right fit. Chances are if its hard to find well-fitting clothes in normal stores then its going to be (maybe slightly less) hard to find them at a thriftstore.
    But yeah, you can find some great things that aren’t even particularly worn looking at thriftstores, especially if you’re in the large+ sizes.

  4. pi4arctan1guy says:

    I agree that thrift stores are hard for finding stuff that fits. That’s why you can’t build a wardrobe from scratch using only thrift stores.

  5. anonymous says:

    I’ve been through this experience, so here is what I would do: avoid H&M, J. Crew, etc. because there clothes really don’t hold up, especially if washed.

    The first step is to get really familiar with your sizing- know everything about yourself- the length of your arms, your chest measurements, how long your inseam should be, etc. Second step is to figure out a ‘look’ for yourself…this is just sort of a general idea of what you want your clothes to convey, and it will help you decide exactly what items your going to start looking for.

    For example, I decided I wanted to go with a sort of hipster/british thing, so I knew I wanted skinny jeans, v-neck t-shirts, nice wool sweaters, trench-coat, ray bans, etc. and knew that I did not want hoodies, slacks, shutter-shades, etc.

    Third step is to start looking at clothes- on the internet, at malls, thrift stores, etc. Try lots of stuff on so you can develop an idea of what really looks good on you, which stores and brands generally fit you well, and which ones don’t. Also, try a range of stuff in terms of price- get familiar with how nice clothes feel, as well as mall brands. This is important so you can make good decisions later, and quickly assess the quality of apparel.

    Certain basics- t-shirts, underwear, jeans- you should figure out an easily available brand that fits you well and just stock up. For me its American Apparel t’s and Cheap Monday jeans- once you figure this out you’ll have a good base.

    Fourth step, after you have a really solid idea of what clothes you want, of how various things fit you, your sizing, etc. start shopping. I found that a combination of thrift stores, vintage stores and eBay was the best method to acquire a really excellent warddrobe. Clothing made in the past (before the 90’s) is generally of much higher quality than current clothes, and is also much cheaper- you can get designer pieces from 20 years ago in excellent condition for what you would pay for a sweater at nordstroms. Do this for coats, sweaters and anything other than basics, and you’ll end up with a really unique, high quality warddrobe.

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