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April 28, 2017

8 Tips for Making a Statement on a Budget

You know when you need the perfect little thing to make an outfit? And maybe you go to the mall — or online, like the kids are doing these days — and look at a million different accessories, but nothing really does it for you. So you try on your outfit again — maybe a wide-legged white jumpsuit that you’re super excited about, but don’t actually have anywhere to wear. But it doesn’t look quite right, because it still needs…something.

You won’t find that something in a regular store, because whatever you see will have been mass-produced and you never know who else will have it. And nothing’s worse* than showing up to a party where someone else is wearing your statement piece, because what kind of statement is that? “I’m unoriginal.” “Everything I wear is derivative.” “I got this thing today out of desperation, and so did that person over there.” It’s time to make a better statement.

The best statements are original and, thanks to the internet, anyone can buy anything in the world, so the only way to be original is to make it yourself or buy vintage.


And even vintage has become homogenized in some places, because it’s “curated” by the experts. Down with vintage and up with thrift, I say. (I also say please, please stop using the word curate in reference to anything other than a museum. I’m not the only person who feels this way, so you’ll be doing a ton of people a favor if you stop. And I’ve used it before, so don’t feel bad or anything. Just know that the “curate” moment has passed and pick up another buzzword. Now, back to your regularly scheduled program.)

Every time you go to Goodwill, take a few minutes to sort through the costume jewelry, the scarves, or any other accessories that catch your eye (minaudière, anyone?). You’ll always find something old you can wear in a new way. And if it’s old enough, no one will know where you got it.


A few tips:

  1. Try it on.

    If a bracelet is too tight, or a necklace too heavy, you’ll never want to wear it. I’m a big believer in partying and you can’t party if you aren’t comfortable.

  2. Pick your era.

    You don’t have to stick to your era exclusively, but knowing your style can help you make strategic picks. I love a good seventies style piece, like the necklace pictured above (that I got for $2!), something that makes me feel like going to the disco with Pam and Bobby Ewing or taking a cruise on the Love Boat. Are the fifties your jam? You can never have too many scarves to tie around your neck or wear as a headband.

  3. Clean your new-to-you goods carefully.

    Costume jewelry can chip or fade fast, so use mild soap and water, or just a dry cloth. And don’t soak it, because that could damage it further. As for those pretty scarves, before you wash them, try hanging them in the bathroom for a few days to let them steam clean. That can remove any lingering odors. If it doesn’t, you can try mild soap, but you run the risk of colors bleeding or fading.

  4. Look for clip-on earrings.

    Yes, this tip is super specific, but if you don’t have pierced ears, you may find a better selection in thrift stores. And if your ears are pierced? Clip-ons make excellent shoe clips and are a great way to dress up a plain pair.

  5. Take a risk.

    When you can find statement pieces for as little as a dollar, why not pick up a few and see which ones stick? It’s time to experiment. The worst thing that can happen is someone will snap a picture and post it. You’ll see it in your social media feed and realize you looked a little silly. Detag that shot and move on.

  6. Be generous.

    If you choose something you end up not wearing, don’t hoard. Give it to a friend or take it back to Goodwill and donate it.

  7. Wear it again.

    If you do manage to settle on something perfect, make it a personal statement and wear it with everything.

  8. And when you get bored? Go back and start from scratch.

    Spending less gives you the freedom to change your mind and your style, whenever you like.

Have you ever scored a great statement at Goodwill? What’s your strategy and what’s your style?

* That’s a lie. There are obviously far worse things, like wearing your too tight pants to work and being uncomfortable all day, but it’s just a thing people say.