5 Editors + $50 = 5 Outfits You Have To See

42 comments

There's nothing that separates hardcore shoppers from their lukewarm counterparts quite like the florescent-lit aisles of a thrift shop. Plenty of people would take one look at the piles of polyester and hit the revolving doors, but there's a special breed of bargain-hunter who only gets more excited at the possibilities that lay therein. The kind that knows that among the ill-fitting button-ups; ribbed, oatmeal-colored mall-brand cardigans; and stained muumuus there's some fashion to be found. Sure, you've got to dig until your arms ache, and be prepared to face the occasional mystery sticky spot, but it's all worth it as soon as you end up with that lace gown, an authentic baseball jacket, or a conversation piece you know no one else will have. And then, you pay practically nothing for it.

Our fashion team took a little road trip to Long Island to hit up our favorite thrift store and see what we could find there in one hour and under $50. Though we're pretty thrifty already, this was our cheapest challenge yet, and we still each came in way under marker. Mind-blowing $2.99 finds and our secrets to the scavenge, just ahead.

CheapChallenge_conniePhotographed by Erin Yamagata.


Connie Wang, style director

"Boutiques are nice, and department stores are fun, but if there is a retailer that's my version of a happy place, it's a big, empty, clean thrift shop. The one we hit in Long Island was massive — two whole floors of discounted goodness (but an R29 secret — die-hard thrifters will understand our unwillingness to divulge!) — but we didn't have much time to really comb through each and every item, like I usually like to do. So, with efficiency in mind, I only hit the sections I normally strike gold in: skirts, pants, and button-downs.

"I struck out in the skirt department, but I found pair after pair of baggy, '90s-style mom jeans so perfectly cut, I had to grab a shopping cart to hold all my finds. This particular stovepipe pair is from Gap, and meant to sit high on the waist and fit someone way taller than me. However, on me, it's low-slung and slouchy (like I like it!), and I can cuff the hems to try out this style. The button-up is a no-name brand, but it's crisp and well-made (the blue stripes are woven into the fabric, and not just printed on — that's quality!). All I needed was a little accessories action; luck came in the way of a Kenzo-esque leopard print 'tablet bag' and a leopard-print belt. What came of everything else in that shopping cart? Well...most of it came home with me, and my total at the register was still under $50."
CheapChallenge_anniePhotographed by Erin Yamagata.
Annie Georgia Greenberg, senior style editor

"My heart truly skipped a beat when I saw this skirt. Not only is it the perfect '90s color and shape, but it's also the perfect '90s label (Jessica McClintock, RIP!). I knew I needed something to balance out its fanciness, and I scoured the little boys' section for a T-shirt. It wasn't until Connie presented me with this shark shirt of my dreams, however, that I knew I had found it. I owe this all to her. She found the graphic number in that same section and it sits perfectly at the waist of the skirt. The bag, which I spotted at checkout, is dainty and practical and I've actually worn it several times since purchasing. Bonus: It was only $1.99. Not pictured: The economy-size trash bag full of other scores I made that day."
CheapChallenge_ginaPhotographed by Erin Yamagata.


Gina Marinelli, associate fashion features editor

"After picking over the endless rows of racks, I almost gave up on finding one complete outfit. But, that's definitely not to say I was empty-handed. I found an amazing, bright, colorful maxi-skirt; a pretty (but way too big) summer dress that needs serious tailoring; and a Dior men's pajama top that I plan to use as a sleep shirt. But, at the eleventh hour, I spotted these awesome aloha-print pants and the perfect top-handle bag. I snapped up a cropped, polka-dot button-down for a bit of print mixing and voila. My entire score rang up under $30. That's crazy (floral) pants!"
CheapChallenge_leeannPhotographed by Erin Yamagata.


Leeann Duggan, style features editor

"I admit, this thrift store was not the goldmine of wackadoo, rich-old-lady designer gold I'd been led to believe. I'd envisioned piles of moldering YSL blazers, high-waisted pants, and 'I picked this up on holiday in Marrakesh' jewelry. Instead, it was more like your typical, mall-brands-of-yesteryear-filled shop, with an extremely worthy workwear section (blazer game was strong), and some high-quality gems nestled amongst the elastic-waist skirts and frowsy 80s-lady blouses.

"I tried SO hard to make some trendier pieces work (I tried on every basketball jersey and baggy, chalk-striped men's trouser in the joint before realizing that maybe the XXL thing does more favors for a model than for my curvy frame). But, in the end, I landed on this Zara tuxedo blazer, an American Apparel bodysuit (hygienic lining still attached, thanks very much), and wrap skirt, whose label I didn't recognize, but that had a pleasing amount of heft to it.

"I'm a vintage snob through and through, so I admit that coming away with obviously not-very-vintage Zara and American Apparel was not nearly as exciting for me as finding genuine vintage would have been. But, since I can't bring myself to walk into either of these stores in NYC (so crowded, so fluorescent), I was amped to find them in my preferred shopping environs, and at a super-deep discount to boot. In the end, I'm happy, because a) I landed me some lovely layering pieces, b) I actually bought something colorful for the first time in years, and c) because this outfit makes me feel like an '80s gallerist in Soho. For $40 (if you don't count my own bag and socks, that is). Success!"
CheapChallenge_rachelPhotographed by Erin Yamagata.


Rachel Besser, fashion assistant

"As ashamed as I am to admit it, this was my first time seriously thrifting. Annie, Connie, Gina, and Leeann all walked into the store like seasoned pros, darted to their preferred sections, and started digging. Meanwhile, feeling like quite the rookie, I found myself entirely overwhelmed, pacing back and forth, admiring each editor's gusto and game face, and occasionally touching a garment. Finally, AGG said, 'go start with the dresses,' and I was saved. For all you newbie thrifters out there, as simple as it is, the key is to just start somewhere. So, I peeled through the dresses and found my first gem of the shopping trip.

"Then, feeling pretty confident, I headed over to the men's jersey section where I found my favorite piece — the AP Chem jersey. I love the loose fit of my pants, and the longline cut of my blazer, but this outfit is really about the jersey. The front is epic, but the back (not pictured) might be better. It reads "Fb," an element that does not exist on the periodic table, complete with protons, neutrons, and electrons. Did this AP Chem class discover a new element that I am now wearing on my back? Is Fb the first and last initial of a kid who was in the most fabulous AP Chem class that ever existed? Both of those questions have so many follow-up questions, but whatever the answer is, this jersey is the nerdiest, most amazing thing I've ever gotten. I ended up finding a lot of fantastic pieces, but my AP Chem jersey was the winner."