Can You Thrift an Entire Outfit for $25?
Ready, set, go! We hustled into the aisles of the Savers thrift store on South Lamar in Austin, looking for pieces to fit the disparate styles of two of our team members. Meggie, our fashion editor, was looking for colorful pants or anything yellow to complement what she calls her “thoughtfully careless” style — but she was open to anything that serendipity brought her way. Our creative intern, Victoria, was looking for items that would fit into her “simple and comfy with some flare” wardrobe as a student at the University of Texas where she studies advertising.
The Selva Beat team had come to Savers to partner with them for a special fashion challenge: find two head-to-toe outfits for $25 or less. We are passionate about thrifting as both an eco-friendly and affordable way to avoid the persistent problems of the traditional fashion industry. And like swearing off bottomless mimosas after overindulging at brunch, many of us stop shopping for clothes cold turkey after learning about all of the waste and exploitation that goes into making them.
That was certainly the case for Victoria. She explained, “After learning about ethical fashion, I just stopped shopping for about two years. I got hand-me-downs from my mom and used what I had.” But once she started needing items again, Victoria wasn’t sure where to begin or even what her style was anymore. As a student, she also had limited funds. Fortunately, Savers offers a lot of discounts for shoppers on a budget. When you sign up for their Super Savers Club, you’ll score rewards and exclusive member discounts; filling out their surveys will earn you more discounts; you receive 30% off after you donate six bags of items; and each week a different color tag is marked down in-store (this week was silver tags).
We continued to roll through the aisles, piling our cart full of interesting tops and colorful bottoms. A veteran thrifter, Meggie pulled items quickly and with confidence. Her original vision of a vivid outfit quickly faded when she fell hard for a silver blouse with delicate ruffles at the neck and sleeves. She recalls, “I knew I had to make it work because I loved it so.” Victoria, on the other hand, was drawn to a sparkling pink sleeveless turtleneck. Still unsure about her style identity, we cycled through a number of slacks together and unanimously landed on a pair of cherry-red pants.
Thrifting can help solidify your style in a way that shopping off-the-rack never can. Instead of being told what to wear, you can figure out what really fits your lifestyle and body sans trends. In her work as a stylist, Meggie knows thrifting is the best way to flex your creative skills and find something unique for a shoot. She advises, “Know what you want and what you are looking for, and familiarize yourself with stores so you know what they tend to have.” The store manager, Tony Chiaverini imparted this pro tip to us: by 4pm Tuesday through Saturday, his store has added 5-6,000 new items to the floor, making it the best time to shop. Managers are eager to make their stores successful, so don’t be afraid to ask them for this kind of insider information.
Our cart was now outrageously full. Meggie and Victoria culled their piles down to manageable sizes and headed into the dressing rooms. Their first few outfits were misses — not devastatingly so, but we knew they weren’t The Outfit. There can be a learning curve when you first start shopping secondhand but it’s worthwhile to persevere. Victoria confessed that, at first, it was really stressful to go thrifting: “I didn't know to go in with a vision to find what you want.” Then Meggie helped guide her and over time she felt more comfortable looking through the racks. Our editor-in-chief, Magdalena, wisely remarked that “When you're thrifting, there’s often a hump where you don't know if you're going to find anything but if you push through you usually find something that will work.” And after pushing through, both Meggie and Victoria found the pieces they definitely wanted to own. But would they fit their $25 budget?
Meggie settled on the satiny silver ruffle top ($7.99) under a paisley teddy romper ($5.99). She searched the store until she found a red belt ($1.99) and pair of mules in brocade ($6.99) to complete her demure-meets-daring outfit. Finally, she added some delicate blue drop earrings ($1.99). Final total = $24.95
Victoria chose a sleeveless sparkly pink turtleneck ($5.99) and bright red pants ($2.49). She rounded out her colorful ensemble with white dangly earrings ($1.99) and yellow socks ($1.49) grounded by white high heeled sandals ($11.99). Final total = $23.95
Each of their outfits represent different ends of the fashion spectrum. Meggie’s ensemble hovers at the high end of creativity but the jewel tones are muted. Victoria's picks create a classic silhouette in bold modern colors (a la her style icon, Solange). By changing up either the color or silhouette, these pieces would encompass a lot of style preferences. Even if you don’t know your preferences, thrifting allows for experimentation and is a killer way to exercise your developing style. Instead of dropping $100 at an unsustainable fast fashion retailer, spend $25 on unique, higher quality pieces you won’t see over and over on everyone else. Whether you’re a veteran thrifter like Meggie or a novice like Victoria, you can pull together an outfit that reflects both your style and budget.
Find your local Savers store here and get all the juicy sustainability details in their “State of Reuse Report” here.
Photography by Mika Locklear with editing by Magdalena Antuña.