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Tiina’s Got Style

Staying effortlessly chic, on a budget, in NYC.

Guest contributor, Tiina Treasure, is back. We originally shared the story of how she and her husband, Danny, bought their first home in New York City. Last month, Tiina gave us a peek into the ups and downs of home renovation and decorating (which they managed to do without exploding their budget!). And now she’s back. This time, Tiina’s got style on the brain …

Black Is the New Camouflage

New Yorkers come in all different shapes and sizes. Colors? Not so much. The trope is true, New Yorkers wear a lot of black. We’re obsessed with looking effortlessly chic in a city where maximum effort is mandatory and our chicness? Well, it has to endure endless, crowded, filthy subway platforms with ease.

Whether you’re a native New Yorker (does such a thing even exist?), or just visiting for a weekend, here are some tips I’ve found to stay stylish in the Big Apple on a budget. Or, at the very least, not stick out too much.

City Living Is Hard on Clothes

Where else, but in New York City, is stepping in a puddle of bleach something that could actually happen, well, ever? (Unfortunately, I wasn’t exactly going for an acid-washed look that day.) This leads us to my first tip: spend money on clothing when it really matters and skimp when it doesn’t. Budgeting 101.

Take shoes, for example. When everyday’s a Disneyworld walk-a-thon, it helps to have shoes that you don’t mind sacrificing to whatever the city throws at them. Including bleach. And, yes, that means I’m guilty of owning several pairs of cheap and cheerful shoes from Old Navy.

But while fast fashion can seem like the answer, remember that it’s called “fast” for a reason. A lot of times, these pieces have the life expectancy of the common fruit fly (not good for the budget!). So, when I’m feeling tempted by H&M or Forever 21, I head to the nearest boutique thrift store, instead …

The Magical World of Previously Vetted Clothing

In New York City we have Beacon’s Closet, nationally there’s Buffalo Exchange and Plato’s Closet, and online there are ThredUp, PoshMark, and The RealReal, among many others. These stores sell lightly-worn clothing and focus on modern styles, rather than retro trends that would be more appropriate for an 80s-themed roller rink party.

I head to these stores when I’m hankering for a quick fashion fix. (Try and tell me that you’re not guilty of the same from time to time!) Used clothing stores allow me to indulge in some retail therapy—shopping the latest trends and brand names—but at a price-point that works with my budget.

Price tags, aside, there’s a hidden bonus to buying used clothing: these garments have already been “vetted” by their previous owners. There’s no need to worry that your new Zara top won’t last through the first wash—because it already has! And there’s nothing worse than buying something new, only to have it disintegrate the first time you put it on. Right?

So, that’s Tip 2: Save cash (and avoid buyer’s remorse!) by shopping for quality clothing that has already proven it can stand the test of time.

And if second-hand shopping isn’t your scene? I implore you to give it a try, if only for shoes and bags. I’ve quenched my neverending thirst for full-grain leather goods—at pleather prices—and I’ve got several vintage Coach bags to prove it.

Sometimes “New” Is Your Best Option

As much as I love thrifting for discounted treasures, even I will admit that some things are best purchased new. I tend to spend more money on my “workhorse” clothing—winter boots, outerwear, jeans, basic tops and underwear—because these items will really take a beating.

… which leads us to Tip 3: If you’re going to pay a bit more, choose pieces that will endure (in terms of sturdiness and style). For example:

Denim & Delayed Discounts

Recently, I’ve become a little obsessed with the non-skinny jeans trend. Finally my calves can breathe! I ended up purchasing this pair from Madewell at full price. (I might be thifty, but I’m still human.) And, even with a 128 dollar price tag, if you break down the cost per wear, we’re talking pennies.

Still, just because I’ve got a receipt, it doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on a discount. Madewell offers 7-day price adjustments, so I always set a calendar reminder to double check the price on the last day! I also take advantage of their denim recycling program that gives you 20 dollars off a new pair. The more you know!

Evergreen Style & Karmic Boosts

For shirts, I buy a lot of basics from Everlane which has great textiles, classic shapes, and the karmic bonus of knowing your money isn’t being poured into a sweat shop. I purchased a black slink tank (41 dollars) from them, a few years ago, and it transitions seamlessly from work to play. That top has more than earned it’s place in my closet.

Everlane also has a special sale section called “Choose What You Pay” which is exactly what it says. Plus they’re open about production costs and markup which, for someone on a budget, makes me feel better about spending my hard-earned cash! I only wish that other retailers were as transparent.

Don’t Lose Money in the Wash

Finally, a word on post-purchase costs. Natural fibers (like cotton, wool, linen and silk) tend to last a long time, but require special care. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to pay up to eight dollars to have a blouse dry-cleaned—especially not at the frequency required by a hot New York City summer. My vintage deals steals would transform into spendy decisions in no time!

To circumvent this problem, I handwash my delicates. I did some research and decided to buy Eucalan. One bottle lasts for months, and I can clean these items in the comfort of my home while blasting Beyonce. It’s a win-win. Plus, now I can buy all of the cashmere without being terrified of eating a meatball sub.

… I just have to watch out for those puddles of bleach.

Want More Tiina?

If you liked this story, you can read more about Tiina and her husband, Danny, over at Layers and Layers of Paint.

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Tiina’s Got Style