PhD Chic: Tips for keeping on trend, on the cheap

Hello readers!  I have been pretty good with posting pics of the daily outfits, but I haven’t been very good at dishing any style advice. And since I’m pretty gutted that modcloth.com didn’t choose me as a winner in their Year of Dresses contest (you can see the winners here.  Does it make me a bad loser if I actually didn’t care for the winning video at all?  And what’s with both Modcloth chosen winners living in NY?  *sigh*)… I want to give you some tips for looking Modish, but on the cheap.

Admittedly, I spend a lot on clothes (I’m addicted to modcloth.  But I need to save money and I vow that since they passed up my awesome entry that they shall not get any more of my money!!).  This is where my time in NZ has probably irrevocably changed me forever.  I will quite happily drop amounts of money on items of apparel now that I never would have done if I had stayed in the USA.  Part of it might be an age thing, but the other part of me just accepts that sometimes you have to pay for something if you really want it.  Particularly if that something is shoes, and especially if they are quality shoes.

I am happy to spend a lot more on shoes than other items because shoes are an investment.  I don’t buy cheap shoes.  I simply cannot abide by ill-fitting, Polyurethane (fake leather), cheap shoes.  I walk over an hour getting to and from Uni every day.  Beautiful, durable, comfortable shoes are a must.  Yes, I have spent $400NZD on a pair of boots.  But they are leather.  Black.  Flat.  I’ve had them for 4 years now.  I’ve even paid $60 to have them re-soled.  They still look great, and I still get compliments on them.  That is an investment.

But right, back to keeping on trend, on the cheap.  The first thing is to identify the trend.  Stripes are quite popular at the moment, also polka dots.  So identify your trend, whether it’s a color, types of fabrics, print, style, etc.

Once you’ve found your trend, you can now look for it on the cheap!  This is where trademe is a genius (like NZ’s version of ebay, but I suspect it’s easier to use).  Admittedly, if you’re thrifting in stores, you know it’s much more hit and miss, particularly if you are looking for something specific (which I find almost never works in thrift stores or op-shops – admittedly if you are using these venues, many times it’s better to have an open mind.  But at least this way you know what you are on the look-out for!).

For example, “mint” is the it colour as identified by modcloth.  So maybe I want to add a mint coloured item to my wardrobe?  I try searching mint on trademe…  brings up a lot of hits.  I then realize that many kiwis describe items as being “in mint condition”.  I research the term “mint green” and find I have much better luck.

For example, this dress is going for $5:

There is also this top for $15 ($15 is pretty much the upper limit of what I will spend on trademe – it has to be a really remarkable and unique item for me to spend more):

I find that I have the best luck with things thrifting items like skirts, and also accessories such as belts and scarves.  One thing to keep in mind with trademe is that colours may vary from your screen, and of course you have to pay for shipping.  And things may not always fit or be exactly as you expected when they arrive. But for me, it’s still one of the easiest ways to shop (as stores here in NZ are really only open 9-5 which is when I want to be in working on my PhD) – I would say 75-80% of the things I have purchased on trademe have been awesome.

Just beware of getting into a bidding war with someone else – this will drive the price up on an item that may likely pop up again (ok – there has only 1 time I regretted letting a trade go.  A green tooled leather vintage handbag.  This was when I first started getting into trademe and I’ve always regretted not trying harder to outbid the other bidder since I have never seen its equal!).

Another great way to get stuff for cheap is a clothing swap. These have been around for years but they are still fabulous. Just make sure you are swapping with friends who are the same size as you!

What are your fave cheap shopping tips?

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