Patrice J. Williams is an affordable-style expert and the creator of the popular fashion blog, Looking Fly on a Dime. In New York City, where the streets are garbed in $1,000 Alaïa and adorned with $3,000 Ferragamo, Patrice’s gift for thrifting makes her a one-of-a-kind fashionista. Her style sense is just as fierce as the city’s best dressed, but it doesn’t cost her nearly as much. BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the stylish beauty to get the scoop on how we too can keep our je ne sais quoi without breaking the bank.
BlackEnterprise.com: What’s the best fashion find you’ve ever gotten while thrifting?
Patrice J. Williams: I’ve been thrift shopping for over 10 years, so I have a ton of best finds, or as I like to call them, thrift store scores. But one of my top pieces has to be a $2 Dsquared parka I bought from a Salvation Army coat sale. I wore it for a season and then sold it on eBay for $600. Outerwear can be expensive, but I was able to find a designer coat for less than a cup of coffee and I even made money off of it after I was done wearing it.
BlackEnterprise.com: Right now you’re doing a 365 day challenge where you can only purchase clothes from thrift stores. How much have you spent so far?
Williams: I started my “Thrifty Threads 365” challenge on January 1, 2014, and to date I’ve spent just $148. Each month I have a $50 thrift shopping budget, but I’ve never exceeded that. Some months I spend less than $15. It’s not that I don’t shop, I’m just strategic about what I choose to buy and I have to be really discerning, especially with a tight budget that includes clothes, accessories, shoes and outerwear. The only new stuff I’ve purchased throughout the year is undergarments. I came up with Thrifty Threads 365 because I wanted to show and prove that anyone can find on-season, trendy and even classic pieces at the thrift store. For someone on a budget or who just wants a more unique style, thrifting is a perfect option and a nice departure from the typical department stores or fast fashion.
BlackEnterprise.com: Can business professionals with a more conservative dress code find any thrift goodies? If so, what kinds of items should they look for?
Williams: Even for someone with a more conservative look or lifestyle, thrift stores have a ton of options. I always suggest seeking out classic garments first. Items like pencil skirts, silk blouses and sheath dresses are great for women, and men will have no problem finding button downs, trousers and suit jackets. Because these are classics and everyone has them, many people donate them to secondhand shops—and these aren’t tattered garments. I’ve seen clothes with the tags still attached, other clothes that look new, and some pieces that just need a button or two replaced. Once people stop seeing thrift shops as a home for unwanted goods, they’ll realize they’re full of affordable fashion options.
BlackEnterprise.com: What are some of the financial benefits to thrifting?
Williams: The financial benefit of thrifting is simple: you save a ton of money while maintaining or developing your personal sense of style. I started thrift shopping when I worked at a fashion magazine and my salary was less than $30,000. I wasn’t blowing my check on the must-have Louboutins or Tory Burch flats just so I could fit in with co-workers. I would take $10 and head to the Salvation Army and find a pair of vintage boots that were one-of-a-kind and that I still get tons of wear out of. Though I’ve spent less than $150 this year on clothes, you would never know it. My closet includes designer, vintage, and statement items. I don’t believe in having to give up everything you love (in my case, clothes) just because your budget is limited. Also, saving money on a material possession like clothing frees up more money for savings and experiences like travel. Fashion is great and we all want to look our best, but what’s the point of splurging on your closet if your passport has no stamps or your 401(k) is nonexistent?
BlackEnterprise.com: Share a few simple tips that will help us get the most bang for our buck.
Williams: Thrifting is great but I totally understand that it can be intimidating if you don’t know where to start. That’s why I wrote the book, Looking Fly on a Dime: How to Find Fabulous Fashion at Any Thrift Shop & Make the Cheap Look Chic. I break thrift shopping down into three phases: how to prepare before your visit, strategies while you shop, and how to style your clothes. My top tips include:
1. I always suggest finding great foundation pieces at a thrift shop. These are items like shift dresses, button-down shirts, trench coats, etc. Use these as the base for your wardrobe and pair them with any trendy garments or accessories. The trends may change, but you’ll always have these foundational pieces to work with. These pieces will get heavy rotation in your closet, so the cost-per-wear ratio is amazing.
2. To really maximize your budget, shop at your local thrift store on sale days. Some people don’t realize thrift shops have sales, but they do! Some items are half off on select days and stores like Goodwill and Savers even have rewards cards, so you earn discounts as you shop. This helps you get savings on top of already discounted prices.
3. While you never know what the inventory will be at a thrift shop, it’s best to have a loose idea of what you’re looking for. When clothes are so cheap, it’s easy to just buy any and everything, but that defeats the point of saving cash. You just end up wasting money by hoarding clothes you’ll never wear. Instead, a general list can give you some direction as you shop. All savvy shoppers enter a store with a game plan.
You can keep up with Patrice’s thrift store finds and get her new book on her blog, Looking Fly on a Dime.