Fashion Week is both an escape from the recession and a reminder of it: it’s somehow exciting to see designers roll out the Bergdorf bait as though there are still people who can afford $8,000 dresses. Wait, there are still people who can afford them—just not anyone we know. (That’s the reminder part.)
But as we all know around here, fabulosity can still be within reach even if your dress budget is just $8. This we confirmed during a boutique crawl of Williamsburg—yes, on Fashion’s Night Out—where we asked some glammy gals for their advice on staying chic in tough times.
Sofia Hedstrӧm, 28, fashion correspondent (above)
At Bird’s carnival-themed event, we spot a vision in crème—from her blonde hair to her platinum boots—Sofia is the eye-catching type, as subtle yet sparkling as her flapperesque sequined sweater-dress under a monochrome jacket. A fashion correspondent and Williamsburg transplant from Sweden, Sofia devotes her time to chasing the latest trends—even though she hasn’t been shopping in over a year. “I only buy what I’m going to want to wear in 10 years,” she says, “it’s all about the commitment you’re making to a piece.” [Never settle—strange how fashion and dating advice echo each other.] Sofia is proof of the long-lasting happiness that can come from a good match—just look at how many sequins have fallen off her sexy beige number, $15 at a thrift store.
Jessica Soga, 24, stylist
At Charlie and Sam‘s free wine and cheese table, we overheard someone recommending Duane Reade as a place to shop. “After a few wears, they turn out the same,” we heard, referring to the futility of expensive stockings vs. the drugstore alternative. Intrigued, we turned to find Jessica, who impressed us with her simple, classic style—especially her ivory top trimmed with full-length fringe. “Sale. Sale. Necklace at a yard sale. Sale,” says the 24-year-old fashion and photography stylist, gesturing to her outfit, piece by piece.
She lauds the economic downturn as a boon for bargain-minded shoppers. “Everywhere is trying to get rid of stuff,” she says, describing the neighborhood as a haven of clearances and going-out-of-business sales. When Otte closed its Brooklyn branch, she scored a $600 vest from super-hot Alexander Wang—for 80 bucks.
Caroline Geys, 29, painter
Dipping her brush into her paints as we talk, Caroline was wearing a selectively daring palette: cyan stockings with a fire-engine-red belt on her filmy black dress. The Miami girl arrived in Brooklyn only for the evening, which she spent putting her designs on tights, the rainbow-colored pile of finished pieces slowly growing. She buys them all from welovecolors, a 12-employee company that offers simple styles in every hue. “They’ve really hit on the formula for color,” she says, “and tights are only $12.”
Another thriftorian, Caroline says her belt wasn’t necessarily her best find ($2). That was a pair of knee-high, black pleather boots for $5. Long-lasting shoes are a staple, but Caroline will scrimp on anything from mascara to dresses, but not her food (it’s organic).
Adrienne Pratt, 26, fashion assistant
We enter the last shop of the night [Jumelle], and find ourselves in a gallery where many people wore simple pieces with little else. Adrienne wove through the crowd in a studded vest, two Oxford tops with skinny jeans and heels. We should have guessed that she worked there. She’s the assistant—not a high-roller—so she knows mixing up a few choice pieces is the key to a seemingly endless wardrobe.
“If you love everything you’ve got,” she says, “it’s so much easier to match.” She recommends adding a steady rotation of Hanes white crewneck T-shirts as a low-investment must-have. “They’re all you need,” she says, before launching into an excited rave, listing almost every outfit as a potential beneficiary for a simple, white T- under fancy tops or throw-on sweaters, whether it’s the sole shirt or just an element.
Joanna Baum, 35, designer
We found Joanna at her show at the Bedford Avenue incarnation of Sir, Jessica’s boutique that’s been sparkling on Atlantic Avenue since 2002. She’s a Brooklyn classic—as is the dress she’s wearing. Joanna stresses timelessness, favoring style that transcend trends. At a half-dozen stores on both coasts, she sells seasonal collections and along with perennials like her simple silk dresses that ooze glamour, for less than $500 (if only we had the cash…).
Jessica had yards of glittering advice for us: strings of rhinestones, chains, and beads. Paired with a versatile dress, she sees necklaces as this season’s go-to: drape them, knot them, layer them. The cheapest item in her own outfit was her neckwear, mostly just lengths of rhinestones she picked up for $10 at a jewelry supply store and threw on. “I wanted to make something out of it, I just didn’t have time.” Proof you don’t have to be excessively crafty to be stylish—even if you can crank a Singer like Joanna.