1 Zara twist neck turtleneck sweater | $59 at Zara
2 Zara slim leggings | $25
3 H&M Long Cardigan | $29 at H&M
4 Vintage Wash grey skinny jeans | $88 at Need supply co (made in the US)
5 Vans patent leather slip-ons | $60 at Need Supply (love these!!!!)
6 Women’s perfect fit long sleeve tee | $14.99 at Target
I got an email from a reader (hi Christine!) last week asking if I could suggest a (much) less expensive way to achieve “my style.” I’ve mentioned before that I have trouble most of the time pin-pointing what my style actually IS, but Christine referred to it as “easy, drapey, comfy” – which sounds good to me, so that’s what I’m going with!
First, if you need a refresher on my current budget, the post is here, and explains a little about how I buy what I buy and wear what I wear. I’ve always had a taste for the expensive, but I also grew up shopping at Loehmann’s, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s and the sale rack at Macy’s and Jacobson’s. Now, I hardly ever pay full price for anything if I can help it, but I’m also liable to get myself in trouble when I shop sales exclusively, or use coupon codes as an excuse to buy more than I need. But I’m working on that.
In general, my shopping philosophy is that I try to purchase meaningful pieces, that are the best quality I can afford, made in the US as often as possible, and from smaller brands/companies when possible (and yes, smaller includes James Perse, and does not generally include the Gap, Zara, etc – so I try to keep purchases from those companies to a minumum). It’s VERY important to me for most of my clothing to be “made in the USA,” or as sustainably as possible, which is why I generally stick to James Perse, Splendid, Everlane, and American premium denim brands. I also like cotton. The overall brand/company is also crucial to consider, which is why even though Everlane doesn’t produce EVERYTHING in the US, I appreciate their transparency, corporate culture, and vision and know that they aim for the highest standards in everything they do, so I will purchase from them anyway.
I do think you can find minimal, chic, comfortable & drapey clothing almost anywhere, and usually for much less than $100. And sometimes for that price, you’ll find pieces that are made in the US. Most stores have frequent coupon codes and discounts anymore (especially at the end of the year!), so always search for those before shopping too (or just go to Grechen’s Codes). On sale, even James Perse gets down to 50-60% off…which can be much less than $100.
Here are some steps I’d suggest you start with when trying to build a chic, comfortable, wardrobe on a modest budget:
- Identify the shapes and types of items you are looking for, what pieces do you need to add to your wardrobe this season? What shapes are you drawn to? Use Pinterest or your own blog to keep track of images you find inspiring
- Shop online or in stores for any items you’re looking for. Don’t restrict yourself to lower budget sites or brands right, now, just identify the pieces you love, whatever the price, and bookmark them or save them to Pinterest for easier sale stalking.
- Seek out lower budget alternatives from shops and/or brands you know you like and feel good about buying from. Or try to wait and buy the items you really love on sale, or with a coupon code. Look for last season’s designer versions on Yoox.com or eBay.
A note on quality:
Whenever I’m looking for cheaper alternatives I try to stick with mostly cotton (which is hard, because most cheaper sweaters are acrylic) and really inspect the garment for details which might cause it to not hold up well to wearing and washing over time (look at seams, how they’re finished, hems, fabrication, etc.). Also, I’ve found that even the cheapest pieces will last longer if you don’t dry them. (although any polyester blend will pill – no matter how expensive – whether you dry it or not, and that’s VERY annoying…)
Where to shop
Everlane | start here. You can get great tees, silk blouses, shirts, sweatshirts, etc., for much less than you’d expect (well under $100), the quality/company is very impressive (see my Everlane reviews) and most cotton items are made in the US. Pretty soon, I think you’ll be able to purchase your entire wardrobe here (they’re launching pants in 2015)
Need Supply Co. | They have a great range of prices, stocking only “minimal” pieces + some denim that’s under $100 AND made in the US. win/win!
Target | they have a section now that’s full of good slouchy basics & I recently bought these C9 pants and wear them quite a bit, although mostly at home, but I’m not averse to wearing them out.
Zara | I love Zara and although I did get rid of most of my Zara pieces that were looking worn, I have one cardigan that I wear frequently that’s held up nicely. It’s hit or miss, honestly, but if you seek out the higher quality items and take care of them, you should
COS | I don’t own anything from COS yet, but I love the simplicity. Prices are generally on par with Zara or higher though.
H&M | I’ve banned myself from shopping there anymore, because I tend to buy based on price, and not on need, but I have had some things from H&M that I have really loved and that seemed to last. Again, you just have to be picky about what you buy from there, and take care of each piece.
LOFT | I’ve sort of been intrigued by their new Lou & Grey line, but every time I look at it, I come away un-impressed. Like they’re trying to hard maybe? I don’t know, it’s worth another look though, I do like some of the styles online.
Uniqlo | I’ve never been able to find anything at Uniqlo that fit me very well, or that I HAD to have, but I do appreciate some of the more simple, classic items
More ideas for what/where to shop:
Do you have other suggestions for your favorite under $100 or under $50 pieces? Where to do you have the best luck shopping for affordable fashion?
Jessica @ Beautify My Life says
That Zara sweater needs to get in my closet immediately! With leggings and the new French Sole loafers I just got…I think that one outfit could be my entire winter wardrobe.
In terms of other places to shop, I think people forget that Nordstrom carries some really reasonably-priced (at least IMO) lines like Hinge, Bobeau and Halogen, but I’ve found plenty of great pieces there for under $100. Quality varies, but I think you can find a good middle ground (not designer-level, but not H&M/Old Navy either).
Jessica @ Beautify My Life´s last blog post ..Sneak peek at baby girl’s wardrobe
I completely agree with you on cotton (or would expand that to stick with natural fibers as much as possible) and not drying. Almost all my clothes get laid out flat or line dried. Everything except socks!
This is a great post! I have noticed this issue, that most drapey or architectural pieces with interesting details are expensive. For me, the issue is not finding quality at a lower price point (which is usually possible) but rather finding comparable items with the right details of interesting folds, stitching, texture, etc. Brands like Zara often get some of those details but then the quality/materials are not good. I will love how something looks on someone else or in a photo and then when I see it and touch it in person I end up very disappointed. I look forward to looking at all these suggestions above once I get home tonight. 🙂
Grechen Reiter says
YES. This is the same for me. i fall in love with the details, which sometimes you can’t find on cheaper pieces. the drape, the hem, pockets, zippers, etc….those are the things i look for when shopping zara, H&M, etc. and don’t find very often.
Grechen Reiter says
isn’t that sweater good?? it’s basically a dupe of a HOPE sweater I love, although not quite as amazing…but still pretty good. my only problem with it is that i think it would just be too long on me, and overwhelm my short, stocky little frame 😉
totally agree with you on nordstrom – i guess i was including nordstrom and other department stores, etc., in the places you can find things at all price points. i’m always impressed by some of their private label stuff.
Fatima Mahmood says
Those metallic Vans are just my favourite! Did you see Zara’s metallic shoe trend in the summer- I have an amazing pair of flip flops – I’m making November my cut off point to put them back in the closet.
This is perfect! some of these sites I’ve already looked at and the others are definitely on par with what I have been searching for. I’ve tried some really inexpensive items from some places . Then I come to find I ended up with three pair of pants that weren’t exactly right, when what I really could’ve done is gone with one pair I really love. I’m trying to stick with this idea….although I grew up on hand me downs and thrift stores, so my mentality runs a little toward “its good enough, for now” . I want to get to “this is what I am really looking for to fill the gap” . Thanks for posting this Grechen!
oh, and I checked out the target site for c9 and the item I fell in love with…..out of stock……story of my life.
Grechen Reiter says
that seems to happen a lot with target stuff. i wonder if they just don’t produce as much of the “cool” stuff 😉
if you really want it, maybe it’s worth calling around to stores?
they only sell this particular style online…..
When I shop in actual “brick and mortar” stores, I tend to choose independent boutiques, where I can find some amazing deals on high-quality, small quantity garments. It pays to scope out the end of season sales. So long as I don’t purchase just for the sake of purchasing!
Great description of Grechen’s wardrobe, Christine!