Let’s face it, when you think about Minnesota and the Twin Cities, it’s not likely that terms such as fashion and style make the list. We’re a people known for flannel-lined khakis, basic T’s, Tevas, and a general disinterest in dressing up. But there are some of us who dare to dress differently. It is to those people that I speak today.
Hipsters, Trendy, weird, uptowners, scene kids, superficial: Call them what you like. No matter how you feel about fashion, there’s one thing on which I hope we can all agree: People in Minnesota have limited clothing resources. Therefore, anyone who masters the art of the hunt–the person who is able to make a big city wardrobe out of little city resources–deserves a little laud.
Because shopping with a limited budget in the Twin Cities poses unique challenges, I’ve decided to share my top 10 shopping tips.
1. Don’t pay attention to size.
When you do a lot of thrift and discount shopping, and when you’re also interested in slightly less common looks, it pays off to ignore the size of a garment. A lot of my most cherished items may be labeled a size larger or smaller than my actual size. Especially when shopping at places like TJ Maxx, it may be the case that some really stellar pieces have been going unpurchased because their size is misleading. I once scored a pair of Chloe leather sandals from Opitz because they were allegedly size 6.5, which was a lie.
2. Never write it off until you’ve tried it on.
Admittedly, there are many clothing items that smack you in the face with a kind of sad, pathetic distastefulness that only the mainstream clothing industry can muster (the bright pink, jersey halter top with embellishments, etc). What you shouldn’t write off is different. I’m talking about the interestingly cut T-shirt, the layered dress that takes a little special attention to sort out correctly (but then turns out to be amazing), the billowy blouse that looks like clown school alone, but magnifique belted.
3. If if makes your body look good, all rules are null and void.
Even though I’m sitting here at my desk sweating through the 95 degree weather to write a list of fashion rules, if I could only relay one, it would be this. I’d say that “wear whatever makes your body look good” is as close to a style mantra as I’m capable of offering you, lovely readers. The truth is, if a girl or guy has found a way to make their body look great in some crazy, a$$-backward concoction of clothing items, then they’ve automatically exculpated any previous fashion laws involving these items. Just look at this amazing woman from thesartorialist.com! In fashion, as at the Chinese buffet, never limit yourself.
4. Choose cotton, wool, or silk, only.
Basically, it’s an immediate giveaway that the clothing you’re wearing is cheap or crappy if it’s made out of 100% plastic. Unfortunately, this also happens to be about 80% of the clothing sold in Minnesota. I always gravitate toward items that are cotton, wool (merino, cashmere, etc), silk, or so persuasively similar to one of these fabrics that you can’t easily tell by touch that they’re fake.
5. Never buy a dress or top with elastic bunching in the back.
No matter how cute the front is, how adorable the cut is, how awesome the print is, or where the dress if from, DO NOT BUY IT.
6. Don’t be afraid to go home empty handed.
People always guffaw at me when I tell them that a new pair of sandals I’m rocking are from Goodwill or the Salvation army. You always find the best stuff, my friend Anna exclaimed once. The truth is, I’ve got no better sifting skills than anyone else. My secret? Shop often and buy less. And I’d like to remind Anna of the AMAZING Frye boots she scored way back when–Anna, part of me is still hoping to make an equal find every time I walk into the Stillwater Goodwill.
7. Is the item habitual?
Half the time I shop, I pick up items and try them on simply because they fit within my fashion status quo. Before you purchase metallic purse #13 or floral print dress #80, ask yourself the following question: Does this clothing piece represent my style future or my style past? Most often, you’ll find that the latter is true. Com’on, Minnesotans–take a CHANCE!
8. Know when to splurge.
Knowing when to drop some serious cash (by this, sadly, I mean anything above $75) is as dependent on your financial situation as it is on the trying, half-muffled Minnesota fashion stars aligning. Let’s face it, when you live in Minnesota and you can’t afford to shop full price Nordstrom or Saks, your fashion departments are little more than dream-squashing pits of mediocrity, brimming with unoriginal, overpriced swatches of tacky printed plastic that all look the same. Therefore, when you finally stumble upon a piece of bona-fide magic–the Ferragamo boots on super, super sale (for the equivalent of all your winter utility bills), or the Leifsdottir sandals with rich leather and little black cotton ties–you simply must invest, because you know you’re never going to see something nearly as wonderful, and as near your spending limit, ever again.
9. Imagination begets a successful purchase.
If you’re on the fence about something, ask yourself if you can imagine a scenario (in your REAL LIFE) where you would actually wear it. If you’re struggling to imagine the item in the next week, or for a previously established special event, forget it.
10. Don’t settle.
If you’re dead set on a maxi dress, but all that seems to be on the rack this season (and the last 3 summers!) has been complete Charlotte-Russe-level trash, hold out! I’ve been looking for a replacement pair of equestrian-style boots since I returned from studying abroad in 2007. But it’s ok, because I would rather be wearing no equestrian style boots at all, than a pair that do a disservice to the rest of my body. If you can’t find something ideal to your taste and standard, wait it out, or get more creative in your search. Nothing’s worse than a fashion case of I guess this’ll do.