Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chic on the Cheap

International credit crunch alone, I find it hard to afford clothes at the best of times. Myself and every other student/young person/anyone whose wage isn’t a million bucks. Without disposable cash floating around, it can be very difficult to find a decent outfit, let alone flirt with current trends and be fashion forward. I’ve managed to discover a way, and all it takes is a bit of creativity.

It is easy to get stuck in the rut of being a fashion follower - and don’t go using low income as an excuse - keeping ahead in the fashion game just requires planning. The great thing about living in little old NZ is that the rest of the world have their seasons, and therefore their fashion seasons, before us; which means that we have the gift of observing trends before they hit our shores.

The first thing to do at the beginning of each New Zealand season is decide which trends you like. Log onto and check out the latest catwalk looks, flick through pages of UK Vogue and dribble to your hearts content, dog earring pages where you love an item or a complete look. A word of warning before I go on, a chic on the cheap girl does not set her sights on the latest Alaïa scallop-edged belt out of Vogue and hope to find an exact copy. Scrap all notions of that. A chic on the cheap girl observes the scallop-edged theme, and finds an affordable belt that has a similar feel or style. And don’t think you have to stop there – if you like the look, why not channel it into other items of your wardrobe? Look out for bags, shoes, and jewellery that incorporate this trend.

Get together an idea about the way you want your wardrobe to look this season. This does not mean take note of every trend that exists today and try to emulate it – you’ll only end up back in your fashion follower shoes. Take a note out of the book of Yves Saint Laurent, and keep in mind that “Fashions fade, style is eternal”. This means staying true to yourself and your own personal style, and being realistic about trends that will not suit your body shape or lifestyle.

Once you have a feeling for what you like, you begin the hunt. This is the fun part. Get inventive with your places of purchase, because it is unlikely that you will find the garments from your wish list on the main street. You’re still a good six weeks ahead of the chain stores, baby. The internet is a blessing. Try eBay,, and Check out second hand designer boutiques, small Asian import shops, and don’t underestimate the Salvation Army. Fashion works in cycles, and the modest charity shop is a potential fashion gold-mine.

And now I am opening up my closet to you, dear reader, in the hope that you too can be chic on the cheap. Here’s how I do it (just don’t tell everyone).

I divide my new season wish-list into a few categories to help with my purchasing. Firstly there are those items that I call my investment pieces. These often require a bit of saving to afford but stay staples of my wardrobe many seasons running. Things that fall into this category are jeans, boots, bags, coats, and statement jewellery pieces like my beloved Karen Walker pendants, Dyrberg/Kern watch, and Dita sunglasses. These are not the kind of thing I need to, nor can afford to buy each and every season, but pick them up as I need them, often taking advantage of end of season sales.

Next are the fashionable staples for my new-season wardrobe. These are the items that are likely to last two seasons – maybe three in the trend stakes. I don’t spend a lot on these items, in terms of cost-per-wear it’s not worth it. This summer my key purchases were a girly floral dress, a cuffed sleeve white T-shirt, a jumpsuit, and a high-waist bell shaped skirt. The dress was about $120 from Wild Pair (as they import a lot from overseas, they do well with staying on top of current trends), the tee was $100 from NZ designer Scintilla, jumpsuit a mere $25 from an Asian import store down a back alley that I couldn’t tell you the name of. And the skirt I picked up for around $NZ50 from eBay.

Finally in my clothing break-down are the items that I know won’t last more than one season, but are too cute to pass up. For me these were the washed out light blue boyfriend shorts (à la Alexander Wang), chunky metal bracelets, a tough black waist-cinching belt with metal hardware, and a black ankle boot. I hit the Salvation Army first, and found myself a pair of sufficiently baggy light blue denim shorts for $3, which I took to with coarse sandpaper to vintage them up. At the same shop I hauled out the black belt, a steal at $2.50, and a perfect way to toughen up my girly floral dress. The bracelets were around $10 from equip (I snuck inside in disguise – one of the few shops where at 22 you feel old), and the boots were a delightful discovery at No.1 Shoe Warehouse.

So there you have it – my wardrobe for summer, and all for the affordable price of around $330. All it took was a bit of planning, creativity, and legwork. Now hop to it. And wink at me if you spot me on the street.

Style inspiration:

Shops to try:
Wild Pair
No.1 show warehouse
Local designers
Second hand/vintage boutiques
Salvation Army or similar charity shops
Small Asian import stores

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