“Looks for Less”: A Cautionary Tale
Let’s be honest: all of us savvy shoppers aren’t scouring our cities for bargain deals because we love itchy synthetics and crooked seams. Or because we love the sport of racing other espresso-crazed women to the last pair of AG jeans marked down at The Rack. We do it because we’re committed to looking like a million bucks—even though we know we’ll never see that much in our bank accounts.
We don’t skip to the “look for less” pages of our magazines because we’re not interested in the perfectly-pleated, dry-clean only, oh-so-soft designer pieces. We do it because copying Victoria Beckham’s wardrobe would cost us six months’ rent (on a diet of Lucky Charms). And while I’m being perfectly honest (and somewhat winey) let me say this: it’s just downright depressing that we have to work this hard to copy our dream wardrobe with less-than-satisfying substitutes.
And it’s just not our fashion horizons that the sun keeps setting on. It’s our home décor too. Sure, finding vintage, hand-painted tea cups at a quaint Maryland antique store seems like a great find. But not when you take them home and put them on the used vinyl kitchen table you bought on Craig’s List. All of a sudden the teacups aren’t vintage—they’re just old. And while you’re thinking about it, you never should have painted your walls bright blue to match Carrie Bradshaw’s trendy Manhattan apartment. It’s just not as glamorous when you live in a first-floor studio apartment in Kansas…and you used a hue that eerily resembles your college colours.
So obviously “looks for less” are pretty useless if you don’t have a few nicer pieces to pair with them. It’s the difference between this: “I just thought this vintage scarf from the thrift store…I really think it will compliment my Dooney and Bourke bag” and this: “I found these great bangles—all ten for 25 cents! And I still have enough money left to buy five Cup-o-Noodles for my lunches this week!”
There’s a very obvious difference between these statements.
And don’t get me wrong—I don’t think you have to buy shopping carts full of designer outfits to look good either (Shopping carts? Do they use those at Burberry, or is that just a Target thing?). But not every store we walk into has to be decorated with red and yellow clearance signs, either. There has to be variety in our wardrobes. So here are a few tips to get you started on your next shopping excursion:
- Look through a celebrity’s garbage. Over time they’ve accumulated lots of free clothes and not enough time to wear it all. Of course, you would have to be okay with eventually trading in that $200 dollar romper for an orange state-funded jumpsuit. So perhaps this is ill advised.
- If their garbage isn’t accessible (or orange isn’t in this year), just follow the news to see what they’re shopping for. When your favourite celebrity picks up that Spring Collection Coach purse, you march right over and pick up the matching key-chain. Your Superstore skirt will look much more sophisticated the second you pull out your house keys.
- Give up something else you typically pay for in the name of fashion. Do you really need to have someone come fix your air-conditioning unit? Be hard-core and tough it out for the summer (disclaimer: not recommended if you live in Phoenix).
But seriously, get out there and pair those clever finds with some of your more polished and sophisticated looks from home. Vintage is in. But don’t do yourself a disservice by turning shabby-chic into just shabby. Your discount, sunflower-yellow belt will look much better with a carefully tailored A-line dress than one that is half the cost and balloons out at the waist from poor stitching (Big Bird, anyone?). Bottom line: it’s about making smart choices and not imprisoning yourself only in cheap finds. And as an added benefit of paying more for that dress, it won’t unravel as you walk down the street like its cheaper counterpart might. This isn’t Hansel and Gretel—you don’t need to leave a trail to find your way home.
Now get out there and shop until your heart’s content, because all of us women deserve to feel like the princesses we are. And most importantly, remember this: no matter how much you love the finer things in life, you are beautiful no matter what you wear. Or, as the old adage goes: it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
After all, you wouldn’t buy that Hermes purse if it didn’t have a gorgeous silk lining, right?