Fashion on a Dime – or Even a Penny

Chances are if you’re in college, or just trying to make this month’s rent, you’re on a shoestring budget so tight that you can’t even afford the shoes.

If this is you, but you still find yourself gazing longingly at the clothes hanging in Nordstrom, then you’ve come to the right place.

If you’re willing to put a little time into the process, you can satisfy the designer clothing craving on a dime. Okay, or maybe a few dollars, but cut me some slack, the value of a the dollar is dropping.

Below you’ll find a few tips from a fashion-obsessed starving college student. Take it, leave it, but leave more fashion-forward.

Step #1

Garage sales.

A foreword: I have constantly encountered the opinion that buying clothes from garage sales is gross. “Ew,” say the skeptics, “I don’t want to buy old clothes from dead people.” Well, if you’ve ever been to a garage sale, usually the very alive owner of the clothes is there in front of you, letting you know that they’re only selling their cool stripey maxi-skirt because it doesn’t fit them anymore. Still, some people can’t be persuaded otherwise from their anti-garage sale opinions – oh well, more deals for us.

A good rule of rummaging is to shop in the right places; the nicer the area of the garage sale, unsurprisingly, the more likely it is that they’re going to have nice clothes. I recommend either setting out at around 7 AM if you’re an early riser, so you can get to the good stuff before it’s gone, or later in the morning around 11, when sellers are tired and practically giving stuff away. A few of my favorite finds: a $2 Dolce and Gabbana black jacket with tags still on it, Jeffrey Campbell heels that were given to me because I got there as they were packing up, a $1 floral Free People dress, and other similar steals.

A note on thrift stores – I’m not the hugest fan. Many times, people take their stuff to thrift stores after they’re done with their garage sales. So you’re getting the premium selection of clothes that absolutely no one wanted. They are also usually on the pricier range of the used clothes spectrum, sometimes because the store has a standard pricing points they use or, depending on the store, have to pay their employees. But if you just can’t resist the urge to make like a hipster and browse through the wares of your local store, go on a Saturday – some locations have “$5 stuff a bag” days on the first Saturday of every month.

Step #2 (If you’re not satisfied after Step #1.)

Trading Companies.

When you hit up those garage sales, it might be that you come across, for example, a pair of 7 for All Mankind Jeans that are oh-s0-frustratingly not in your size. If they’re cheap, buy them anyway (in the range of $1-$5). Then head on down to a store that buys clothes. Your jeans might net you 30 dollars, depending on where you sell and what their policies are. Then you can go ahead and shop the store and find a similar pair in your own size. The result? A pair of nice designer jeans for less than it would cost you for a gallon of gas. If you play your cards – er, clothes -right, you can even make money on the deal, and still get a new addition to your wardrobe.

Crossroads Trading Company is fantastic for this, and for whatever retail price they’re going to sell the clothes for, they’ll give you 50% in store credit or 35% in cash. I also like Buffalo Exchange, but I find them to be more pricey than Crossroads. Plato’s Closet also buys clothes, and tends to take in more than both of the above stores, just for a little lower value. If you can’t find one of these stores near you, there’s always the local consignment shop – usually I don’t find anything I want to buy there in exchange for what I sold, but at least can make some money from the clothes hanging in my closet.

Step #3 (If you don’t feel like turning your car into a travelling clothes boutique)

If you want to stay put right where you are but still turn your clothes into cash or trade them for others, online closets have been cropping  up all over the world wide web. My current favorite is Tradesy, where you can catalog any clothes you’d like to sell and add them to your online closet with pictures. Then you can shop other people’s closets and trade them out for your own, or just buy the clothes. Swapstyle and Swapdom also offer the same service.

Happy shopping, trading, thrifting and beyond.



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