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Staying Chic On The Cheap


And now, assuming that paying down that mortgage leaves you anything at all to work with, we have some advice on how to stay in fashion, and out of debt. Yes, you can be fly on a dime - thank goodness! Trend analyst and fashion blogger Najwa Moses lives and shops in the fashion mecca of New York City. Now you can go broke trying to keep up with the fashion trends, but Najwa says you don't have to. She's here with tips on how to keep your wallet thick, and your wardrobe fat. Najwa, welcome back.

NAJWA MOSES: Thank you, Michel. Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: First of all, tell these people what you have on.


MOSES: And this is pretty tame. I actually have on a vintage t-shirt that I got actually from the Salvation Army. It was seven bucks. It's like a boys t-shirt. A vintage denim vest that was another, like, 13 bucks. Then I have on these candy-colored, neon-green, patent-leather platforms from Payless, from Alice + Olivia.

MARTIN: A color of green that you have not seen unless you were alive in the '70s.


MOSES: I love them.


MOSES: And they were 40 bucks.

MARTIN: So what's the message here of your on-the-cheek, fabulously fly ensemble? What's the message here?

MOSES: The message is, is that you don't have to have a lot of money to have a lot of style. You know, you can do everything from vintage finding to refurbishing items. One of the things I like to tell people all the time is something like what I call remix and recycle. Basically remixing, you can take old jeans and cut them up - make them into chokers, make them into purses, make them into earrings. A great book I like to refer people to is something by a group of designers called Sisters of Harlem, and it's "25 Ways to Transform your Denim Jeans."

MARTIN: See, when you say you - I do not know how to sew, I have no creativity. I'm not going to be doing this.

MOSES: Absolutely. The book is so easy. A lot of things you can actually - it's just a simple stitch, or you can actually use glue. Anyone can do it. A child can do it. It's a lot of fun.

MARTIN: Talk to me about thrift shops and things of that sort, like the Salvation Army or AMVETS. You know, a lot of people grew up not wanting to go to thrift shops, because they felt like it made them feel poor.

MOSES: Right...

MARTIN: You know, you have a lot of kids who will tell you stories of how their clothes all came from a thrift shop.

MOSES: Right...

MARTIN: And a lot of people might find it hard to believe that in fact, you know, thrift shop shopping can be quite chic, and you can get some great finds.

MOSES: Oh you totally can. Absolutely. It's all about thrift shopping. You know, one of my favorite places to shop of course is the Salvation Army. What I like to do when I thrift shop, I do a lot of little pieces. I understand that sometimes people feel that, you know, they've worn the hand me down their whole life, they don't necessarily want to do thrift shopping, but it's a great place to get a tie. It's a great place to get a pair of sunglasses, jewelry, broaches - so there's so many little pieces that you can rack up for like 50 bucks, and walk out with like 10 or 15 pieces. And another alternative also is cleaning up older people's garages or their closets. You strike the deal, hey, I'm going to clean out your garage for free. If I find some great stuff, at least give me a chance to keep it. A great way to give back, it's eco-friendly and trust me, every major fashionista has quite a bit of things in their closet that's vintage.

MARTIN: What about consignment shops?

MOSES: Consignment shops are great as well. You know, what I have found with consignment shops is sometimes with people like me who - when you spend some money on some of your clothing and you go in, don't always expect to get a big return. You know, so - I always have people come in with that shock value. It's like, hey, I just gave you 2,000 dollars worth of clothing, and I know you're going to sell it for 4,000, and I'm only walking out with like a 500 dollar gift certificate. But it's a great way to get rid of pieces. A lot of consignment shops, whatever they have leftover at the end of the season they'll give it out to shelters.

MARTIN: But I guess what I'm asking is are you getting good bargains at consignment?

MOSES: I think you're getting good bargains in terms of when you buy, yes. It depends on the shop and depends on what they specialize in. Different consignment shops cater to different audiences, like, there's consignment shops in, like, Park Slope in Brooklyn or Williamsburg, and it's more of a hipster, so you're going to get a lot of things that you would see, like, Agnes Dean the supermodel wear, you know, people who are a little bit more funky, more cutting edge. As opposed to a consignment shop in maybe a more upward or upscale neighborhood, you know, maybe they have more business suits. It's all about the neighborhood in which that consignment shop is, because that's the people bringing it in, and also they're going to cater to that area.

MARTIN: What if you don't have a lot of time? I mean that's the other thing when you think about, you know, finding a bargain. The things you're describing to me seem to involve a lot of culling, and I don't have a lot of time to shop.

MOSES: That's true. That's a really good point. One of the ways that I say you can cut a lot of your time in half is by the web. Everything from going on eBay, you know, you see an item, you kind of look through it, you spend 10 minutes a day, you can bargain on it, you can come back and check in a couple hours and see if it's still there. A couple great websites I love that always give you the look for less - thebudgetfashionista.com, shefinds.com, stilletojungle.com. They will show you what the celebrity is wearing, and here's where you can get it immediately for less.

MARTIN: Najwa, just to be fair, for the male fashionista, fashionisto.

MOSES: Right. There you go.

MARTIN: Who also wants some fashion budget tips, do you have any?

MOSES: Well, there's a couple of places. Men's Warehouse. Actually I'll be honest I've never stepped a foot inside, but I've seen their ads and I've seen that you can get, like, a whole suit for 149 dollars with Italian labels. And the GAP. GAP is still a great place to kind of get your basics, and a couple of fun shirts. H&M is a great, you know, if you're talking about kind of a younger hip male, H&M is a great way to get clothing for men. American Apparel, you can get a lot of basic pants and very bright colors. The cuts are a little bit smaller, a little bit tighter, a little bit, quote, unquote, sexier, so...

MARTIN: So you might have to go up a size in American Apparel...

MOSES: Yeah. You might have to go up a size at American Apparel...

MARTIN: But you're looking for your t-shirts, your jerseys, your basics.

MOSES: Yeah.

MARTIN: You know, a lot of men feel that they kind of miss out on the budget fashion. That men's clothes - that less-expensive men's clothes just don't look as good as less-expensive women's clothes. Do you think that that's true?

MOSES: I think - you know what? Yes. You know, there's always the saying that women can go out and buy a whole outfit for 50 bucks, but men will spend 50 bucks on one item. It'll be interesting to see who comes out with the line for men that does do a little cheaper.

MARTIN: So your basic message, Najwa, is there's no shame in that budget game.

MOSES: We love a deal. We love the product as much as we love a deal. It's really not about paying retail if we can help it at all.

MARTIN: You also mentioned earlier, recycling and reusing, as it is more environmentally conscious to give something another life.

MOSES: Yeah. And it's also a lot of fun. A couple of things that I, you know, I suggest that people can do to make it really a lot of fun, you can either do what's called a swap party or a shopping party, and I'll explain what those are. Swap party - get together your favorite friends, everyone comes in the door with, like, a bag of gently used goods. What you want to keep in mind is you want to make sure that you do cross sizing. So you don't want to invite everyone who's a size two, and then have one girl who's a size 14, and she can't get everything. You know, you want to kind of cross size. You know, open a bottle of wine or whatever you like, play some music, and what's old to you is new to someone else and vice versa. You've had fun, you've played with your friends, and you have a new wardrobe for free.

MARTIN: You know, a lot of women do that for maternity clothes. In fact, at my old office we had the biggest maternity swap meet going. I think it lasted for I don't know, years...

MOSES: Oh that's fabulous.

MARTIN: I think - I think I had a particular fly set of suede maternity pants...


MOSES: Oh that's awesome...

MARTIN: That I know...

MOSES: What color were they? Where they...

MARTIN: Camel.

MOSES: Oh see, that's great...

MARTIN: I know that they had a second life so...

MOSES: See...

MARTIN: So, Najwa, I'm a little afraid to ask, but, you know, because I am intrepid reporter.


MARTIN: I am going to ask the tough questions, even if they're directed at myself. How do I look?

MOSES: You look actually well. I like the denim...


MARTIN: Did you say actually?

MOSES: Well, no, not actually, but you have on a denim - she has on a denim blazer. I would have loved to have seen a little bit more color. You love the earth tones. I would have loved to see that in a in a hot pink or - she has a, you know, a cream tank on. And thing is you work in radio, so I think you can probably get away with more...


MOSES: And I'm loving your hair. It is very curly and healthy...

MARTIN: For radio, do you hear that?

MOSES: So I, you know, I do like this. You know, definitely have some fun, you know, with your accessories. You kind of have some classic - you have the classic watch on and, you know, of course you're married, which is always the best accessory


MOSES: You know, but definitely you want to have some fun. Stay away from your browns. Try to go more to your colors. I bet your whole - is your whole wardrobe brown?

MARTIN: Have you been talking to my mother?



MOSES: I promise.


MARTIN: Go home. Go home. Go home.


MARTIN: Najwa Moses is the creator of the Styleaholics fashion and lifestyle website. Thank you, sort of.

MOSES: Thank you, Michel. Thank you, Tell Me More. Always a pleasure.


MARTIN: To see a picture of our fashionista and her hot-neon platform shoes, you can go to the Tell Me More web page, and no, we did not take a picture of my outfit. And while you're at it click on our blog and tell us your tips for a bargain shopping.

On Monday, Tell Me More begins Cheapskate Week, a series of stories about how we are all finding ways to cope with these tough economic times, so tell us more about how you're making ends meet. To tell us more and to find out what other listeners have to say, go to our blog at npr.org/tellmemore. You can also call our comment line, (202)842-3522.

And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.