It doesn't really require much style savvy or sartorial dexterity to walk into Barneys and emerge bearing an amazing outfit. If you really want to see if a self-proclaimed fashion pro is worth his/her salt, take 'em to the discount shops.
To really flex our bargain-hunting muscles, three of our editors headed over to Marshall's, T.J. Maxx, and Strawberry to see if they could put together two head-to-toe looks in one go… for under $50 each. We succeeded and failed in relative degrees, but we'll say this: Shopping with such a time and resource crunch was a blast. Click through to judge for yourself — how'd we do?
Connie Wang, global editor — T.J.Maxx
"Most days, I'll be able to look down and say that the majority of the clothing I have on was dirt cheap... but finding a head-to-outfit under $50 in one place at one time is definitely a challenge. At T.J. Maxx, I found tons of awesome pieces, but unfortunately, putting them together would have put me at way past $50. Obviously, I failed this particular challenge by ringing in at $51.97 (without shoes, either), but I feel alright about going two dollars over because this is an outfit I would wear all the time. With the gossamer plaid, the textured herringbone, and the retro sunglasses, I was not-so-subtly channeling Dries Van Noten's last show."
"If you're on a strict budget, the Junior's department is definitely a great place to start. Though the size run isn't extensive, you will find much trendier pieces with a much smaller price tag than in women's department (basically, check Junior's first for colored jeans, printed tops, sequined skirts, and graphic sweaters). Though all the pieces aren't of the greatest quality, I will be wearing the life out of 'em for the season (or two — fingers crossed!) that they last."
Annie Georgia Greenberg, NY editor — Strawberry
"This is my take on a black-and-white ensemble, à la everything at this past Fashion Week. I'm normally not one to show so much skin, but at the right place and time, I'd totally rock it — especially the top half of the outfit, which was a total steal. And, okay, I may have gone almost $5 over, but let's just pretend I borrowed it from the other outfit, shall we? P.S. Total coincidence that Willow and I came up with such similar looks — I think we were both inspired by the BK Nets. Great minds...."
"I like this outfit because it fits neatly into my wheelhouse — except it only cost me about $42. I got a little creative as the chambray shirt underneath the sweater was actually an untied Daisy Duke crop-top type of deal (but that can be our little secret). Plus, I'm really into the of-the-moment shade on those neoprene(ish) pants — if the fit was a little more flattering, I'd definitely have bought them for real."
Willow Lindley, fashion and beauty assistant — Marshall's
"My struggle with Marshalls was the lack of accessories, but I found some creative ways to pump up a basic jeans-and-sweater look by sneaking into the boys' section for this on-trend baseball cap."
"I like this outfit because it's essentially a bunch of great separates that would be solid additions to anyone's closet (also, obviously on trend considering Annie and I ended up as accidental twins – go Nets?). The challenge with this outfit, however, was to find the right top to go with the skirt, which was awesome, but a bit expensive. So, I went for a basic white T-shirt that came in a pack of four. It worked well with the outfit, and it's easily covered by the varsity jacket — in case I need to go somewhere that requires a bit more polished look."