Thrifty with $50: Fashion on a budget

Dressing on a shoestring budget?

Recently I was asked by Atlanta's Creative Loafing newspaper to come up with a fashionable outfit that was under $50.00 and only included one personal item. I was pretty excited about the challenge, but a lot of people I spoke to seemed to think $50 wouldn't go very far… It ended up being hard at first, but with a plan and some patience - I was able to put together a  fun outfit with very little spending! I thought I'd break down the cost of the outfit and share some shopping tips with you guys on how I did it…

Want to see the photos and read the rest?? Click the read more link! πŸ™‚

Here is what I came up with…

Photo by Jason Travis

  • Bow headband 
    $4.25 – Claire's (new) 
  • Jersey Motorcycle Jacket
    $9.99 – Body Central (new)
  • Polka dot dress by Forever 21
    $10.00 – Rag-o-Rama (used)
  • Tulle and satin skirt by unknown brand
    $10.00 – Rag-o-Rama (used)
  • Velvet heart necklace 
    $8.50 - Claire's (new)
  • Wand & Tiara set
    $1.49 – Target (new – used to make star accessories)
  • Blue bow accessory
    DIY – was on the waistband of the skirt and I removed it to put on an alligator clip

Total cost: $44.23

How I did it

– Make a Plan
Before I went shopping, I drafted out an idea of what sort of look I was going to go for. I was really excited about the project and wanted to make sure whatever I picked out would be something I could rewear in many different ways and I'd enjoy a lot.

After pulling a few images I've saved from tumblr and looking at items I've had on my wish list, I came to the conclusion I wanted something with bows, polkadots, a soft motorcycle jacket and a fluffy skirt. I first looked around online to see if any inexpensive stores I was familiar with were selling items like these… and if so, how much they cost. It gave me a feeling for what the different outfit pieces would be priced at and how far my money would go. I ended up deciding to focus mostly on a bow, jacket and tights if possible – and if I better items along the way I'd adjust my plan. I decided shoes were going to probably be too pricey, so I chose to make my boots the one personal item I was allowed. This amount of planning isn't for everyone, but it works well for me and keeps me from being tempted to buy things I didn't originally want. I printed out the above pictures and carried them with me while I shopped. 

– Think outside of your shopping comfort zone
My first thought was to hit up some local consignment shops that were cool and Forever21… I only had luck at one consignment shop though! And Forever 21 completely failed me. Disappointed, I ended up browsing the mall for a bit after going to F21, determined to make the trip worth my time. There were a ton of chain stores I had never heard of in this mall – and hesitantly I went in a few even though they didn't look promising…one of these was Body Central. A lot of stuff in there was not what I was looking for or kinda cheapy looking… Right when I was about to give up, I peaked at the clearance section and there was the jersey motorcycle jacket! Kinda shocked me since I almost didn't go in the store – what luck!! I passed by Claire's Accessories on the way back to my car and figured, "Why not" after having luck at the other store – and that turned out to be a really nice surprise too! I don't go to malls much anymore, so I wasn't familiar with what Claire's carries these days. I was excited to discover they had tons of cute bows and brightly colored necklaces that went with the look I was going for. If I had never let myself go outside of my shopping comfort zone, I wouldn't have found the final pieces for the outfit! 

– Keep track of your spending
Inexpensive items can really get me into trouble… It is easy to feel like you are spending very little when sometimes you are actually purchasing more than you normally would due to a low price. To keep this in check, write down an idea of how much you are willing to dedicate to accessories, main items, if you want shoes, stockings, etc… it will give you an idea of how much you can buy and how to stay within your limits while bargain shopping. I did this on my above print outs, and kept notes of how much money I spent on each purchase. It really helped me strategize my spending better so I wouldn't accidentally buy items I didn't need.

– Have fun and try a little DIY
Crafting is not only fun but can really enhance your outfits inexpensively with a little reconstructing and imagination. Become friends with your local craft store, try to learn how to hand sew or use a sewing machine, look up tutorials on trimming, dying, or altering clothes… All of these things can be great tools for making creative outfits. 

An issue I ran into while shopping was that I wanted bows and star accessories, but didn't have the extra cash in my budget to purchase them from Claire's. To fix this, I bought the above wand and tiara set for a $1.49, removed the stars from it and hot glued them to alligator clips. I did the same thing with a little blue bow that came attached to my skirt's waistband! These modifications were very easy and fast to do, and gave my outfit a more completed look.


I think what I love most about the outfit pieces I bought is that they are very interchangeable. I've already worn the jacket with at least 5 different outfits, worn the dress alone as an outfit, mixed the accessories with other outfits to spice them up, and layered the blue skirt under dresses to give them a pop of color. Talk about getting your money's worth! With a little planning and knowing your personal style, you can purchase flexible items that will really enhance your wardrobe.


A few questions from Creative Loafing

What are your thrifting/bargain-hunting tips?

Make a plan before you go shopping on what types of items you'd like to purchase. Be flexible with your time β€” finding good items can sometimes take a lot of searching! Try out new stores when possible and always go through the sale rack. If a shop has an online store, sometimes you can browse that to get an idea of what is in stock at the moment.

What's your favorite vintage/thrift piece?

A neon-green, furry, zebra-print mini skirt by Betsey Johnson. I think it was made in the early '90s based on the high-waist cut.

Best place to score vintage in Atlanta?

Psycho Sisters is always my first go-to.

What is your style philosophy?

I only wear things that make me feel amazing and really happy. I like my clothing to be girly, cute and look like it jumped out of a cartoon. Bright colors, unique textures and bold designs are my favorite. If what I'm wearing is fun and brings a smile to my face (or others'), I know I've picked a good outfit for the day.

How has Atlanta influenced your personal style?

I think living downtown has allowed me to become more daring with my style. People are pretty laid-back and open-minded around here, and I feel comfortable knowing I won't be bothered if I'm wearing something out of the ordinary. I also enjoy people-watching around downtown to pick up ideas on new ways to style old items.

What do you like about wearing vintage clothes?

I love having a unique piece of clothing that you can't get anywhere else! It makes me feel like it's more personal to my own style.

What single article of clothing could you not live without?

Probably my slouchy motorcycle boots. I wear them all year round β€” they look great with just about anything and are wide enough to wear stockings or leg warmers inside for good warmth when needed.


Hope you guys enjoyed this post! Do you have any tips for shopping on a budget, or favorite stores for good deals? Share them in the comments – I'd love to hear! πŸ™‚

To see the full online article and other Atlanta outfits, go to creative loafing's website.

9 thoughts on “Thrifty with $50: Fashion on a budget

  1. Janna Lynn says:

    Awesome post…very inspiring and you did an amazing job! πŸ™‚ I adore your style and will be very much looking for any input as I design and sew some clothing pieces! πŸ™‚ I really liked the way you broke down and re-used that tiara set, so cute!! Take Care..Hearts, Janna Lynn


  2. Shelby says:

    Hey, San! I really love your style so much. It’s really made me start adding a little something to my outfits everyday. I can’t dress very cutely because it’s so cold and snowy now where I live 😦 But I was wondering where you got your motorcycle boots? I love their look, but I can’t find a good style like that anywhere!


  3. Sanasaurus says:

    Oh man, I know what you mean on the cold… it really makes it hard to stay motivated (and warm!) when dressing in cutesy style. The motorcycle boots are by Steve Madden – I think they are knock offs of Frye boots. The style is Frencchh or something, its spelled with extra letters. They dont make it anymore, but I bet you could find a similar look. Search for slouch motorcycle boots!


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