Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Hundred Dollar Challenge

Valerie says:

Jean has entrusted me with tonight's post.  Hahahahahahahahahaha. Like my mom trusting me to behave with my boyfriend. (It's okay - I'll entrust her with the next Wednesday post. Hahahahahahahahaha!)

We get our ideas for posts from the oddest places. This weekend, we went to visit a favorite shop - a real New York institution - where the owner deliberately cuts all identifying tags out of her wonderful  stock, and puts prices on almost nothing, forcing customers to ask the price on every single thing they're interested in. I asked the price of an item I really liked, and nearly gasped when I heard the answer. The owner pointed out that it was worth every penny, and while I'd never dispute that fact there was, I said sheepishly, the matter of The Budget. You don't look like a woman on a budget, she replied.

Well, that's the whole point, isn't it?  Not to look like a woman on a budget, while being exactly that.

The other day, I wore this outfit to work (minus the hat in the opening photo), and one of my coworkers complimented me on my shirt.  Readers, you know how difficult it is to graciously accept a compliment.  We always have to say something self-deprecating, right?  So instead of saying 'thank you', I said 'thrift shop'.  And then I realized everything I was wearing was second hand, bought at bargain prices.  Probably under $100, I thought.

Between the above two conversations, the kernel of a post was born. We've done this before, but it bears doing again.  You don't have to spend a lot of money to look good. You DO have to be willing to wear someone else's cast-offs, but as Americans rethink their throwaway habits in these lean times (lean for the 99%, that is), wearing cast-offs has been reframed as recycling.

Here's the lowdown:

The costume earrings were $20 at a flea market.  They're so much fun.  The outers are round, matte and rubbery; the centers are lustrous, hard and pointed, so there's a great contrast concentrated in a small design.

The shirt was purchased just a few weeks ago, also for $20.  The giraffe-y print caught my eye right away.  The outer is silk, it's fully lined (in polyester) and, as was pointed out to me by a fellow customer the day I bought it, the hem is finished, so I have the option of wearing it tucked in or leaving it out.  In the top photo, with the suspenders, it's in; in the next photo, sans suspenders, it's out.

The suspenders, braided leather with horn buttons, were bought at an Issey Miyake sample sale while I was still in Japan.  I'm pretty sure they were Y2,000, which, it's probably safe to say, means under $25.  And that was more than twenty years ago, so you can see I'm not the throwaway type.

The black linen button front skirt (with side pockets!!!) is by Ellen Tracy.  Also a thrift shop find, and I've been wearing it since before the change of the millennium.  I think it's reasonable to say this also cost around $20, even if I can't get my hands on the receipt.  If I were a corporation, I would list it on my income tax as a deduction, noting its depreciation over the past 15+ years.

The shoes, Isabel Toledo for Payless, were $22 at a resale shop.  We're not counting the stockings or undies or glasses, right?  Or the hat.  (All of which were nevertheless completely affordable, 'cause I'm a woman on a budget.)

So: earrings, suspenders, shirt, skirt and shoes all total around $100.  If you don't like suspenders or earrings, $60.

And since I had a hat for the with-suspenders-look, here's another hat for the sans-suspenders-look.

Do I hear you saying 'hey, these pictures could be a bit sharper'?  Yeah, well, that's what happens when you hit the timer on your camera, focus on a wall, and then run to your designated spot. Tellin' you. Gotta have an intern. Preferably one that lives in the same building, and never needs to sleep.


  1. I need an intern too. Coffee, pls! You look fab and so not like a woman on a budget. xo.

  2. I don't stay in stores like that one for long. They annoy me.
    I never would have guessed your outfit was mostly thrifted. You have an eye for the good stuff so I suppose that was a great compliment from the shop keeper!

  3. I love everything about this look! As a die-hard thrifter - I really prefer the labels stay in the clothes, because then I know when I look at the size if it will fit me or not, considering the difference in sizes throughout women's clothing lines.

  4. Well done....and you don't need an intern!!!!!


  5. Stunning! I'm in total agreement that money does not equal style, and you have an abundance of that. Plus an amazing "eye." And a glorious sense of humor!

  6. Love the orange top! I host a fashion link up every week and would love you to stop by and add a link if you get a chance :)