The $Hi-Lo$ Effect

The Hi-Lo trend (dollars not hem lines) that cropped up during the recession felt like a relief from the usual throng of season-specific items and IT items that were always set to break the bank. While the transition from four seasons (really 6 when you consider resort and ski wear) to 2 (sort-of) seems to be a new rule rather than an exception, the Hi-Lo has been steadily gaining on the high. Really Hi-Lo was a bit unrealistic to begin with – is having only a single hundred-dollar item in an outfit really thrifty…?
Those of us who are determined to get the look have to really work at it.
The tricky thing about getting the perfect hi-lo is getting your hands on some of that high. We’ve all read the magazine features where a darling fashion editor spends her budget of close to five grand on a single season, leaving a measly $500 for the intern to dish out, which we then convert into the $50 we’ve budgeted for ourselves. Is is still high-low if it’s mostly from the dollar store? Whatever happened to mid-range? Is this fashion’s new dirty word? Worse than, dare we whisper, cheap?!

The Closet Confidential tag recently had every fashionista peering guiltily into her closet and wondering

where she had gone wrong. What was your biggest waste of money? How about your first splurge? And that oldest item… why do I feel guilty for not owning anything older than five years?!

If your closet is the road map of your life, it certainty has its ups and downs, from that first shopping spree when you discover fashion, to the style purge/hoodie binge that is college, back up to a chic and sensible wardrobe of your fledgling career days. If this is my wardrobe’s pinnacle moment, where’s my Channel 2.55? Can I at lease get a little piece of the Pheobe Philo Celine action?

Well those highfalutin dreams may be a little off but we can still rock the label love on the lower tiers of the wastrel bracket. I’ve been managing a serious vintage addiction lately (that’s hipster for expensive thrift shopping) and there are some serious finds out there if you know how to look. Which brings us to here, 5 ways to get high… to get your closet high… to still pay rent and have a nice wardrobe (BTW happy 4/20)!

1. Decide your price point before you buy. Jumping from $5 t-shirts from H&M to $50 pre-owned Helmut Lang leaves a bruise on your wallet, even if said $50 shirt started at $225. The thing about vintage shopping is you really never know what you’re going to find. From last season’s Zac Posen pleated dress to Versace’s animal friends button down circa 1995 it is difficult to predict what you’ll see and it is imperative that you make a quick buying decision. The easiest scale for translation is to look at the price, if you can’t afford it then you can’t buy it. At the end of the day a t-shirt is just a t-shirt. It’s also important to judge the label and the quality of the item. My Zac Posen dress was $140 and is both a wonderfully made dress and from a designer I love. It was more than I was hoping to spend that day, however I had budgeted some money for a dress for an upcoming event. (Don’t forget to budget for dry cleaning and alterations.) The ultimate high item is the piece cut so well that someone doesn’t need to see the label to turn green with envy.

2. Jewelry counts. I recently read a 30 before 30 list that was blessedly free from the usual “go skydiving even if you hate roller coasters” BS; this post suggested buying a piece of jewelry that you would actually pass down to your children. This seems like a nice little way to look forward while still spending a bit on yourself today. Large stones can really change an outfit and the transition from costume to legit jewelry can have a massive impact on your outfit. A timeless piece will avoid all fads while still speaking to you on an emotional level. That kind of gravitas will add a high to any outfit.

3. Leave the cheapies for the basics. Those dollar store socks are one thing, but work button downs with holes or stains? Look for high-end cuts in mid-range stores and outlets. Large outlets like Saks off the 5th can be a great place for work-wear highs, and work-wear is the part of your wardrobe where the majority of the funds should be going anyway. Ideally, you wear it more and it can actually help get you ahead. Express is a good resource for high-end cuts and their fabric is usually descent but if it feels weird in the dressing room stay away.

4. Don’t fall prey to high-price but low-end. Oh all those beautiful and drapey jersey knit tee, the whimsical muscle tanks with witty sayings,  the amazing sequined loafers with leather tassels. Sigh. There are a lot of designers with really low quality standards and that Sunday splurge will be a slightly frayed regret by Wednesday. (Vintage shopping side-note: stores like Saks have their own set of rules regarding quality. Anything with a Saks tag will be well-made.)

5. Find the next big thing. Well-made pieces in fun and experimental designs tend to crop up around the senior shows of wannabe designers. Attend shows for locals designers and artisans and keep up with them. You may have just found the next big thing and if you haven’t your hand-made snake-skin bucket bag is still a one of a kind.


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