Op shops, discount department stores, online or vintage. There are plenty of ways to dress with style on the cheap. Meet the bloggers who are living the mantra ‘looks for less’ and find out how they do it.
DISCOUNT BUYS: Shauna Miller
When Shauna Miller left university with dreams of a job at Vogue, she walked out of New York University right into a recession.
Jobs in publicity, real estate and childcare followed, until about 12 months ago when she decided to take matters into her own hands.
Moving back in with her parents after six years on her own, she launched pennychic.com, a website devoted to finding cheaper alternatives to the latest trends in fashion; swapping the likes of Prada and Giorgio Armani for discount retailer Walmart.
“We’ve been fed by magazines for so long that you have to spend this much to get this high fashion look and I don’t think that’s the case any more,” she says.
The outfits she puts together from this unlikely destination cost from $US20 to $US70 including shoes, bags and accessories. Her readers range from age 15 to 60 and include a lot of mothers on a budget as well as people who love the idea of “tricking the system”.
“People really love the idea of telling their girlfriends ‘I got this for $2′,” she says.
over the last few years discount department stores like Kmart, Target and Big W have been investing more money in the design component of their clothing ranges. Kmart now employs 23 designers, up from the six it employed two years ago. Big W has collaborated with Peter Morrissey on a line and Target had women scrambling for pieces from its lines with Stella McCartney and Josh Goot.
one of the benefits Miller sees to these stores is the large range of clothing, shoes and accessories available. Fashion these days isn’t just about buying a label and wearing it, it’s about curation and styling, she says.
“At the end of the day people just want something that looks cool now,” she says.
“It’s great if you can buy those investment pieces but if you’re really trying to keep up with the trends and style outfits, wear colour and this and that, you are going to buy something that lasts in terms of trends … a year at most.
“It makes sense to buy cheap rather than expensive in my opinion.”
And how much does she normally spend on an outfit? between $100 to $200, the bulk of this going towards her shoes.
as she says: “Every girl has their weakness.”
Shauna Miller’s trend for less tip for spring/summer: Colour blocking
“You can go anywhere and they will sell a solid colour T-shirt or a solid colour skirt. It is basically very simple, it doesn’t need to match.”
OP SHOPS: Amelia de Bie
Motherhood is what inspired Amelia de Bie to start up a blog devoted to the exploration of Melbourne’s op shops.
“…babies grow out of things really quickly,” she says. “A neighbour had bought lots of stuff for her children at the op shop so I followed her example. once I got there I found that there was stuff for me, for the house, to read, for my husband, everything really.”
Most of her wardrobe is second hand, in fact, it’s the exception rather than the rule to buy clothing new for herself or her children. some of the treasures she has found over the years include designer pieces from Akira Isogawa, Sonia Rykel, Yves Saint Laurent and Mandarina Duck. Plus some one-off vintage pieces like the black wool three-quarter sleeve jacket she bought for $1 about 20 years ago in Torquay and still wears today.
The trick to unearthing hidden gems is to go often.
“To go often you really need to enjoy pawing through the racks,” she says.
an open mind is also essential. Rather than op shopping in search of a particular piece, go in search of the quality items and then decide if they’ll suit you.
“I like to look for colour or pattern, feel the texture of the fabric, then look at what the piece actually is,” she says.
“One of the keys to op shopping for me is to accept what you find there.”
Amelia de Bie’s op shop tip for spring/summer: Think ahead
“[Buy] winter clothes for next year before everyone else starts looking for them.”
VINTAGE, ONLINE & MORE: Phoebe Montague
Going into an actual physical store is often the last resort for Phoebe Montague, who blogs her daily outfit choices on her Lady Melbourne website. Except for vintage stores and op shops that is.
“I would rarely step into a chain store these days,” she says.
“Say I want a new [second hand or vintage] dress the first port of call is Etsy, if I can’t find it there I’ll go to eBay then ASOS for a new version or some other Australian outlet stores, then [if no luck] I’ll go into a physical store.
“Second hand online, new online and then a shop [is the order].”
She’s been blogging since 2007, sharing her do-it-yourself approach and love of all things ladylike with other keen shoppers and fashionistas. Right from the start she found the posts on outfits put together from pieces found in op shops, on Etsy or that she made herself really resonated with her readership (mostly women aged 18 to 35).
“I can’t afford to dress head to toe in Chanel but I can afford a pair of [Chanel] sunglasses that I’ll wear with a $6 dress from Vinnies and a pair of midrange heels,” she says.
Accessories are where she spends a good portion of her budget – shoes, bags and jewellery – as these are the things that can update a second hand or vintage look.
“The term that gets bandied around a lot is ‘nanna chic’, she says.
“If you dress in that head-to-toe way, if you’re a young woman you can end up looking a lot older than you are.
“Wear the vintage dress but update it with modern accessories.”
but true vintage isn’t always a path to affordability. Retro bargains can often be found at op shops but for true vintage gems, particularly those which have been handmade, a trip to a specialist vintage store or sites like Etsy and eBay is required. And a hefty price tag is often attached.
“If you want a 1950s sequined cocktail dress in mint condition it can cost $500 and that shocks people,” she says. “You will have something that no one will have, and that’s the value really. I consider it value for money.”
Her advice for buying vintage – choose natural fibres like wool, cotton and linen and be prepared to have the clothes altered. Body shapes have changed over the years.
Phoebe Montague’s vintage tip for spring/summer: step back in time.
“I think colour blocking is easy. particularly with vintage you can find clothes in one block colour…you can go onto Etsy and search for a ‘red silk tank ’80s’ and find something that rivals what you’ve just seen on the catwalk.”
– Sydney Morning Herald