Meanwhile my younger sister – author of this fantastic blog – has, as you can see, a very hip, edgy, bohemian vibe a la Sienna Miller or Nicole Richie.
For me, it’s always been the Classics. The Hepburns, both Audrey and Kate. Jackie O. Grace Kelly. Coco Chanel. Give me pearls and pencil skirts and a-line dresses and cardigans galore! Bows, polka dots, and skinny capri pants rule my closet.
If I could afford it, I would probably never shop anywhere other than Kate Spade and JCrew. But yikes – have you seen their prices?? So how do I dress myself with ladylike flair as a gal of limited means?
Here’s where we talk about one of the most important words in this post: Sale.
Can you remember the last time you bought something full price? I cannot. In fact, it has been so long since I felt justified in purchasing a Brand New item, that I’ve been hemming and hawing over this dress for months now. I have a job. I can afford it, more or less. It’s for a Friend’s Wedding that I am Officiating. I have the Bride’s Approval (xoxo, C!) so what is holding me back?? It’s not on sale. And on sale is the only way I know how to shop. Well, On Sale paired with Thrift Stores and Buffalo Exchange, which amount to essentially the same thing.
Here’s a prime example: I am obsessed with these pants. Obsessed. They look great, they’re comfy, and I can ride my bike in them. Exhibit A:
But I can only buy them when they go on sale. In my size. Because $88+ for pants sounds crazy to me. I live on an artist’s salary, people. So at the moment I have two pair, though I must confess, that Vibrant Flame color is begging to be #3…. (Go on Sale, Vibrant Flame Minnie Pants!)
My denim Minnie Pants are the perfect base for Ladylike Casual, and my knit Minnie Pants are perfect for workplace attire. If only they went on sale more often.
When shopping on a budget it’s also key to scour thrift stores and shop at Buffalo Exchange, if you’re lucky enough to have one where you live. Scouring is key. You have to hunt for the gems, so don’t head out to shop expecting instant gratification. Some of my favorite items from such excursions include:
Not a single item featured above cost me more than $30.
Another key word in fancy dress for less: Borrow. Let’s zoom in on those Ah-mazing heels featured in the first photo of me:
These are not mine. These belong to my friend Amelia, who also dresses like a lady but has longer purse strings. Luckily she is also kind and generous, so I get to borrow these shoes.
There are some items though that just remain elusive, in spite of the aforementioned tactics. For example, I’ve yet to find a black, structured, ladylike bag that I can afford, even on sale. I love this bag and this bag, but even on sale they’re too much, and I have found nothing comparable in my price range.
This leads us to, last but not least, a handy little phrase: Save to Invest.
It might seem insane because you are so thrifty, but I promise that if you find something that you Love that is of Very High Quality, it can be worth it to pinch those pennies until you can afford it. Odds are good that if you properly care for such items, they will be with you Forever.
Case in point: When I ended up going to Paris on my way to study abroad in Spain, I couldn’t stop dreaming of Shoes. Shoes in Paris. So I made a point of including a Shoe Budget as I saved up for my trip. In the end I had about $300 to spend on shoes. Which yes, is totally F*ing bananas. But I may never go back to Paris, because I’m too busy paying off the student loans I took out to study abroad in the first place, so there I was living in the moment. And the end result?
These were not on sale, and they were not cheap. But I’ve had them for five years now, I’ve worn them a ton, and they look as great as the day that I bought them. They’re also the only stilettos I own, because they’re the most comfortable stilettos on the planet.
To sum up, think of your quest for affordable lady clothes as your own personal battleship: The SSBS. Save. Scour thrift stores. Borrow. Save to invest.
*Yes, it’s real, vintage rabbit fur. And I love it. A bunny may have been killed 60 years ago to make it, but I still love it.