Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Fifteen-Dollar Fall Style Challenge: My Try

NYFW and Vogue Magazine's famed September issue have me longing for a good outfit. But it's Sunday and I'm sitting at the dining table eating gluten-free crackers with last night's tomato bisque soup. My current state of dress includes distressed denim (ripped jeans) and a gray tank, no makeup, freshly washed and air-dried hair. I look like the very farthest thing from Bella Hadid you'd ever hope to see.
“I feel the need for a good outfit,” I text a friend with whom I have mall-shopping plans the next day.
She responds quickly: “We should hit Plato's Closet or Goodwill and see if you can come up with a budget outfit for the blog.”
Because I believe anything is possible, I blithely sign on to the deal, suggesting a $15 limit and a bevvy of rules: My purchase has to include more than one piece, has to be something I will actually wear, and has to imitate Autumn 2016 trends. Shouldn't be too hard, right? I spent much of my girlhood and high-school years scouring the thrift stores locally for the best deals. I knew which had the cleanest dressing rooms, which received donations from the most fashion-forward local residents, and how to work the system for the best deals. That's rights: deals on deals. But it has been years since I've frequented thrift stores. What if I can't find what I like? What if I find all the right requirements but nothing in my size? As reality clamps down I start hoping for a miracle. Some vintage Chanel an ignorant Salvation Army employee has labeled for $3? But then, since when does Chanel make dresses for size-twelve women? Ironically, I'm back to thinking about NYFW and how Christian Siriano and others are show-casing body diversity on the runway. Still, I'm hopeful I can pull something together tomorrow. Come on, thrifting. Don't fail me now.

10:40 AM – I get to the mall and weave my way through Macy's to the food court, sampling a perfectly awful perfume along the way. Come on, Estee Lauder, what's your deal? While my friend shops for jeans, I scour the 70% off sale racks at JC Penney's, Dillards, Macy's, New York & Co. But let's be honest: how am I going to put together more than one piece at these prices, discounted as they are? We enjoy lunch together and part. I'm now on my own.

2:30 PM – It is now time to enter the wonderful and cluttered world of Salvation Army. Sometimes you find treasures. Sometimes you find terrors. There is literally no telling what the day's catch will bring. Today, I head straight for the blazers. It's like a game of “bluff” - will it be shapeless old lady suit coats or that elusive, perfect black blazer? Today, thank heavens, some office woman roughly my size must have donated the contents of her closet. I find several blazers and try them on in front of a mirror. The problem is that all of them fit as if I actually had a choice in the matter. I'm especially fond of a sleek, shapely black Tahari blazer coming in at $7. A black blazer? That's playing it too safe for this challenge. So though I do purchase the Tahari for my personal closet, it doesn't make the cut for my $15 outfit. What does keep catching my eye is a loud green and tan plaid with a snake-skin gloss superimposed over the print. Why on earth do I keep looking at it? It's ugly isn't it? But I know why: it's daring, it's autumnal, it's British, and it looks like I tore it straight off a model after Gucci's latest campaign. But how are you going to coordinate with an astonishing plaid blazer? My brain supplies another helpful and audacious suggestion:


Something sleeveless and feminine – the needed component to bring this thing together. Accordingly, I search through the wilted, faded, worn-out tank tops until I find a flowing, sheer yellow blouse. Like a peasant blouse without the sleeves. Definitely on-trend and...would it coordinate with my blazer? Not brave enough to try it yet. I pick up a vintage, white button-down blouse and a brown silk halter-top to try first, then stuff myself into a tiny dressing room. The white button-down and the brown-silk look good with the blazer but they take themselves too seriously and bring the plaid from a Gucci nod down to an Irish washer-woman. I pull on the yellow blouse and reluctantly shrug into the plaid blazer. When I'm brave enough to look in the mirror, I feel like letting out a war-whoop. Instead, I text a victory photo to my friend and scuttle off to the register. Happily, the blazer and blouse ring up for the half-price discount which means I spend a grand total of $4.50 on the clothing pieces to this outfit.

 I like how they look with the distressed denim I have on so I decide to spend the rest on accessories to further draw in current style-influences and bring the look together. At a local consignment shop I hit the jewelry racks and quickly bring on-stage a statement ring, a pair of retro-looking earrings, and a butterfly necklace that reminds me of those hair-clips every girly-girl wore in the 90's. Put together, the look is autumn glam; loud but composed, colorful, but collected. I've spent $15.65 and feel the need for a cheesecake-sponsored victory lap. The world of thrifting didn't let me down. Salvation Army still ministers to a depleted wallet. And there is such a thing as finding unique pieces at a price the most dedicated penny-pincher would commend.


  1. Look at you, being such a cool model. 🙌🏻
    I LOVE the jacket - plaid is this season's neutral after all! And while its more adventurous in pattern, those earthy tones are time-and-again. I think you'll find you wear it much more than you expect...;)

    I really want to do this, but I can't decide if it's for a snappy reason, like the fact that I love a good challenge, or simply because I need an excuse to go shopping. Lol. XD



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