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Fashion on the Farm: How Being Broke Can Work in your Favor

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Greetings, fellow fashionistas! As we all know, fashion can get pretty pricey. That cute pair of shoes you see on display at your local Nordstrom’s could easily go for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. As I was casually flipping through the pages of my most recent edition of “Teen Vogue,” I came across a pair of super cute, bright-orange Furstenberg pants. The pattern was funky, and the model looked amazing in them (of course), so I glanced towards the bottom of the page to catch the price. That was when I saw it. These super cute, bright-orange Furstenberg pants were being sold to the tune of $375.

That, to me, is a joke. No matter how beautiful or high quality or trendy or cool these pants are, they are literally just pants. All that money could be put to much better use, like at the Cheesecake Factory or the newly opened CREAM in downtown Palo Alto (yummm). Now, I’m not one to tell people what they can and can’t spend their money on, so if someone wanted to purchase those Furstenberg pants (and I’m sure they’re selling faster than fried butter at the Texas State Fair), they are perfectly welcome to, but these days, fashion, especially street-style fashion, doesn’t have to be so expensive. In fact, thanks to stores like Goodwill, Savers, Salvation Army and Plato’s Closet, it can be rather inexpensive. Thrift stores aren’t just for squares anymore; Macklemore’s smash hit “Thrift Shop” made thrifting THE thing to do. Hipsters and fashionistas alike (even Taylor Swift does it! That means it has to be cool) have been foregoing the racks of Dillard’s and Macy’s in search of killer finds and designer brands for a fraction of the price. In the wonderful world of thrift shopping, it pays to be poor.

But be warned. The prices are so discounted that it can be easy to overbuy and end up with useless clothes and trinkets that you will never end up using. Don’t worry, there’s a method to this madness. Here are some rules to live by when you’re on the hunt in a thrift shop.

  1. Know what you want. If you don’t have a general list of the clothing items you might need, the racks and racks of super cheap clothes will surely overwhelm you. Stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army receive clothes by the boatload, so just “browsing” in a thrift store is next to impossible; there is just too much stuff. Go into stores like these with blinders on. Have a list of items you need before you enter the store, so that the cheap prices don’t influence you to spend money on something you’ll never use. This will help you have a much more pleasant shopping experience. That being said, don’t expect to find what you’re looking for instantly. This leads to my next point.

  2. Be prepared to spend a significant amount of time at the thrift store. In true thrift shop fashion, most stores carry dozens and dozens of racks of clothes, each organized by clothing type. Most of that stuff, however, you don’t want. The gems take time to find. Those Jimmy Choos that are 90 percent off retail price? That North Face jacket that’s so cheap it’s basically free? They aren’t going to jump at you as soon as your foot steps through the door. If you want the good stuff, you have to work for it. It seems like more of a hassle than it’s worth, but think of it as a scavenger hunt. The thrill of finding an item that you know is a true bargain is definitely worth the work it takes to find it.

  3. Designers aren’t everything. While I did say that the gems are hard to find, don’t equate gems with name brands. Just because the tag says BCBG or J. Crew doesn’t mean you need it, or even want it. The name does not make the clothing; you make the clothing. If it looks good on you, who cares what the brand is? If it doesn’t, don’t buy it just because of what you read on the tag. I guarantee you that people on the street won’t see, or even care, what name you’re wearing; they’ll simply see how you look in it. Obviously look for good-quality material, but don’t assume that name brands are always high quality, because that is definitely not always the case.

  4. Take the time to understand the layout of the store. Each thrift store is different, and they all like to organize their stores in different ways. Some like to organize by color, some by size. Generally though, thrift shops will split the store into different departments (i.e. women’s clothing, men’s clothing, shoes, accessories, etc.). From there, the different departments will have clothing separated by types, including short-sleeved shirts, long-sleeved shirts, jeans, shorts, etc. Definitely take the time to figure this out. Otherwise you’ll be wandering around aimlessly for hours trying to find what you need. (Tragically, I know this from personal experience.)

Thrift shopping can sometimes feel like a headache. The stores can be unorganized, the clothes can be unimpressive and the prices might not be as low as what you expected. However, when you rock a pair of trendy oxfords that you bought second-hand for $3, you’ll feel even more confident knowing that these beautiful shoes didn’t cost a fortune, and you and your bank account can still look good. I’ve saved the most important rule for last: Don’t forget to have fun! Have you seen Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” video (who hasn’t, am I right)? Those people know how to thrift shop like pros. Take some advice from them and have fun with the experience. Dress in all pink (except for your gator shoes, those are green); wear your grandpa’s hand- me-downs. The whole point of a thrift shopping is to save money and find steals; what could be more fun than that? Have fun “poppin’ tags,” fellow fashionistas!

Contact Keya Teklu at kteklu ‘at’ stanford.edu.