The Furious Closet: NYC Winter Fashion on a Budget

tim gunn
Papa Gunn says: Your sweat pant wear concerns me.

So yes, maybe I’m writing this while wearing pajama pants featuring sock monkeys in Santa hats and an over-sized L Word t-shirt I won at a bar 3 years ago, but sometimes I do like to look cute and presentable and I don’t have a lot of money to do so.  Living in New York City can make a girl feel especially self-conscious when it seems like everyone is dressing like the Gossip Girls or Anna Wintour, and your own budget is more along the lines of $20 for a sweater.  Here are my tips for NYC winter fashion for the girl who has everything (except a job or spare cash).

cherry earrings
Fun earrings I found on etsy. In case you still need to get me a Christmas present.

My first tip for looking cute and unique is to pair unique jewelry or accessories with your typical wardrobe.  In NYC there are a number of handmade craft fairs throughout the holiday season.  You can find some unique pieces at reasonable prices and since vendors want to actually sell things, you can guarantee that what you’re seeing is fashionable and on trend.  If you’re not in a major city (or even if you are), etsy is always a great source for unique jewelry and accessories.

According to my fashion bible (Project Runway), classics are on trend this winter.  This includes camel, black and grey and “menswear” style.  If you find something you really like, this may be the time to invest in a pricier, higher quality item.  Keeping in mind that, by my standards “pricier” would include this tweed jacket from Gap for $89.50.  I’m not talking $1,000 coats scarves here. Although I am finding the $400 pea coat by Lauren Moffett to be very tempting…

tweed peacoat
Classic Tweed Jacket - $90 at Gap


Camel pea coat
$400 Wool Coat that I really want

that vein, I am not above shopping at Old Navy (they are having a sweater BoGo sale right now, FYI) or Target.  In fact, I would prefer it.  That’s probably my number one tip for looking cute on a budget.  And that’s pretty much based on: I live in NYC and I shop at Old Navy, so it’s probably the fashionable NYC thing to do.

A few weeks ago I bought two skirts at Old Navy for less than $10 each on sale, two sweaters at Old Navy for less than $25 each and two pairs of sweater tights at Target for $6 each.  Since I have been on a more limited income, I’ve been really into mix and match clothing.  That may be a given for some people, but when I had more money I was less inclined to make sure that what I had could work with a variety of different pieces I already owned.

And finally, I just recently discovered Polyvore and am finding it to be infinitely helpful for browsing outfit ideas.  They have a “looks for less” section which I enjoy.  Looks for Less in magazines typically include something like a $300 skirt, which, yes is “less” than their $700 “splurge” skirt, but I’m never going to be able to afford either.  Polyvore is also fun for putting together fantasy outfits for when you don’t have to be on a budget anymore.

Oh, and before I get it in the comments – you can also check out fashion discount sites like Rue La La, Gilt, and HauteLook.  I don’t shop there because they stress me out, but if you’re more suited to that kind of thing…well, let me know how!

I leave you with something I saw on Oprah 15 years ago that has always stuck with me: Clothes were meant to be bought on sale. Never pay retail.

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