The Fashionisto is in: clothes shopping on a student budget

Grant Tillery

While browsing through people’s closets on websites like the Coveteur and the Selby is an inspirational and aspirational activity, it can be disheartening for broke, style-minded students.  It’s a humbling reminder that 80 percent of the clothing I’d like in my wardrobe is unattainable at my current income level (unless I ate nothing but ramen), and that building one on a college budget takes creativity and a keen eye.  These seven tips are a primer to create a closet that is not only the envy of all your friends (and enemies), but makes you feel good every time you put together an outfit.

1. Uniqlo – For affordable style basics, Uniqlo has you covered.  Almost everything (including formalwear) on their website runs under $100, and the clothes are surprisingly durable given the prices.  The standard fits are also slimmer, since Uniqlo doesn’t adapt their dimensions to the American market.  Think of it as GAP for the sartorially inclined.

2. Student discounts – Though traversing the Mall of America is a soul-sucking experience, certain retailers offer substantial student discounts that help stylish jawns come within reach.  J. Crew’s 15% discount is particularly nice, especially during sale time, but it can’t be beaten by Club Monaco’s 20% rate.  Caution: these discounts are only available in store — it’s surprising they haven’t made their way online yet.  

3. Know when (and where) to spend – Let’s face it: it’s fun to spend. Having several statement pieces in a wardrobe is key to anchor any outfit.  While the Twin Cities was ground zero for designer brands until recently, menswear meccas like BlackBlue and boutiques like Arrow roused us from our stylistic doldrums.  These — and others — retailers sell pieces easily found in New York, but unavailable in the Midwest outside Chicago – it’s prudent to have a pair of APC jeans to balance out a $30 Uniqlo oxford or Anthropologie top, or a chunky-knit S.N.S. Herning sweater to throw on during the dead of winter.

4. Consider vintage — While rummaging through piles of wonky clothes to find buried treasures is taxing, it’s worth it.  You’ll inevitably come away with something no one else has, and with a little tailoring (see #5), it can achieve a slim, flattering silhouette that’s ubiquitous among new garments.

5. Get a tailor — This is a suggestion I should take myself.  Good tailors are inexpensive luxuries, and can make a J. Crew or Suitsupply suit look like it was made by Savile Row bespoke bastion Anderson & Sheppard (minus fabric discrepancies).  They'll do wonders on your everyday garb, too.

6. eBay — Unless you’re eyeing the latest Supreme gear (which may or may not be counterfeit depending on the price), eBay is a beacon of hope for procuring designer labels at a fraction of their full price.  I still rue the time I let a Thom Browne dress shirt slip away from me at $50 (retail: $300-$350), but hopefully your bidding game is diligent enough that you won’t make a similar mistake.

7. Online-only retailers — Websites like Everlane sell their wares at a fraction of retail price because they eliminate the middleman.  While these e-retailers aren’t trend obsessed, they sell classic basics that never go out of style.  And timelessness is the mark of true style.