The woes of adapting to a new season never seem to end when you're short on savings and want everything that shows up on the runways. It's tough to update a wardrobe without spending a ton, especially in this city. The key is prioritizing: decide what's worth splurging on, what you're going to skip (you don't need to sport EVERY trend--you'll look maniacal), and what's trendy but not worth a large price tag. Easier said than done? Here's a guide to some of the season's biggest looks from easily-accessible retailers, all under $50 (with a few exceptions).
Polka Dots They were on the runways at Marc Jacobs, Gucci, Stella McCartney and so many more; Cruella De Vil's favorite print is blowing up in a big way and, luckily, is fairly easy to come by. For a cheap, easy option, Old Navy has an $18 elbow-length tee and TopShop did a cute cap sleeve. Wanna pair dots with the suit style that’s going on? These sheer romantic sleeves would be perfect with a pencil skirt, and Volcom has a cool contrasting-cuff button-down. If you're a printed pants kinda person, these ASOS jersey pants look super comfy and have a tapered ankle and fitted waist, so the slight drop crotch won't look too baggy. The best thing I found (it's already in my cart) is actually from Forever21 and spans three trends in one; it’s a sheer, spotted maxi skirt and at only $23 is your best buy for sure.
Fur and Animal Print Honestly, when isn’t leopard print in style? It seems every fall the magazines herald the print like it's brand new. The truth is, a little leopard goes a long way for a long time and everyone should own a few key pieces.
I fell in love with this surprisingly affordable Zara maxi skirt (hello, two trends in one!). I will also shout the merits of this Old Navy cardigan, which comes in 3 prints, since I have a similar sweater and wear it to death; pair it with a pencil skirt and heels for a little 40s suited glamour.
I was dying for something in python but obviously could not afford Fendi; I settled for these round-toe wedges (secret: the blue is full price, but there are two other colors on sale!). Consider pairing with a contrasting color cross-body bag for a pop of color. As for fur, I’m going to toot the thrift store horn again. You can find amazing, full-length fur coats at Goodwill for sometimes as little as $40 (and since Goodwill is corporate they won’t be bug-ridden). If you don’t want to go full out, this vest from H&M will tide you over well. Belt it over a maxi dress and pair with a floppy felt hat and printed clutch for a winterized 70s look.
This uber-trend is carrying over from spring to fall, and there’s an easy way to do it without buying a tri-color dress that’s going to be passé in a few months. Solid color skirts and tops tied together with a contrasting belt make for a hundred mix-n-match opportunities. I highly recommend Zara as their basics hold up well after multiple wears; see either this neutral-tone midi or their primary-colored mini. As for tees, you can always go the American Apparel route, though H&M usually has cheaper jersey items in less androgynous cuts. For belts, troll vintage and thrift stores for a cumberbund (seriously, they’re awesome) or a brightly colored silk scarf. If you want to ground your look a bit, there’s always a classic black belt, which are in abundance at Goodwill. Splurge: Say what you will, but Jessica Simpson makes a damn comfortable heel. I have yet to have a problem with any of her heels, no matter the height. So these crazy cool sandals (envision paired with black tights and socks) just might be worth the money.
Maxi Like the economy, hemlines have taken a plunge (too soon?). It’s one of the easiest looks and despite perceived height restrictions, anyone can pull it off with the right shoe and proportion on top (I’m 5’3” and have been wearing them all summer. If I can, you can). I recommend investing in a solid black version (try Gap) and having a printed one or two on hand, like this tropical floral, a good summer-to-fall transition piece, or this geometric tribal print one in the season’s two big colors, red and black.
For dresses, Old Navy has a ¾ -sleeve shirtdress in either black or army green that’s fantastically versatile. If you want a tiny splurge, the pattern on this multi-colored tribal-print is awesome and the tank style is perfect for fall layering.
Suiting Menswear has been going strong for a few seasons but this fall we're seeing less of the slouchy pant suits and more of the ladylike skirt-and-jacket sets. A blush-tone blazer or pale leather bag is a great way to dip your toes without going full matchy-matchy, though if that is your thing H&M, a long time staple for affordable professional separates, has a great beige plaid jacket and pant set. Tweed jackets come in abundance in men's sections of thrift stores the world over--a tailor can easily adapt inseams as long as the shoulders aren't too oversized-- and sometimes you can get lucky in the little boy's section. For shoes, you can't go wrong with Bass's sale section. The titan of loafers makes shoes that are almost seasonless, meaning just because it's discounted doesn't mean it's out of style.