Shopping on a Budget
With NY Fashion Week just wrapping up and the weather quickly transitioning to fall (though we still have a little bit of summer left to technically squeeze out) I found myself thinking about sprucing up my wardrobe and gearing up for the season ahead. Unfortunately for my closet, my bank account was not really feeling the same vibe. But the itch to shop was strong, and so, inspired by a few of the budget friendly instagrammers I follow, I decided to try and do a budget friendly shopping spree.
Budget friendly shopping is something that most people can achieve with a little flexibility, but when it comes to clothes the one thing you can’t be flexible about is the size you need (unless you get it tailored which at that point why were you shopping on a budget in the first place?!?). Plus size fashion that doesn’t make you look like a real housewife of the prairie is hard to find. It’s gotten a little easier in recent times and I give major kudos to the brands and designers pushing that forward, however, just because it’s available does not mean it’s affordable.
And so, my challenge began. I visited a handful of stores and found varying degrees of success in finding budget friendly plus size fashion on a budget. These are my findings:
TJ Maxx: This store had a small selection of larger sizes but if you’re looking for designer labels it was definitely one of the most abundant selections I found. I walked away with 2 shirts! Together they totaled $36.98 which typically wouldn’t even get you 1 flimsy blouse at Torrid (one of my past go-to stores).
o Lauren by Ralph Lauren long sleeve shirt 2X $19.99 (originally $45)
o Rose + Olive sweat shirt with lace detail 2X $16.99
Marshalls: I had very low expectations going in to this experience. I knew people who swore by Marshalls, but I figured, at my size, I wouldn’t find much and would just be disappointed. Boy was I wrong! There was a mix of brands and a whole rack in my size range. I spent $73.96 and walked away with 5 awesome pieces.
o Tommy Hilfiger Sport long sleeve T-shirt 2X $16.99
o Jeanne Pierre 100% Cotton sweater 2X $16.99
o Jeanne Pierre 100% Cotton Cowl neck sweater with pockets 3X $19.99
o Verve ami After Dark duster 3X $19.99 (originally $68)
o Bagatelle faux leather jacket 3X $39.99 (sold for $99 at Nordstrom)
Nordstrom Rack: I was also pleasantly surprised by what I found here. There were multiple racks dedicated to my size, as well as dedicated racks for specific looks or designers that also contained sizes I could wear. Obviously, this store skewed toward more high-end fare but the discounts were still significant and I bought three great pieces that I felt I would get use out of for a total of $97.91.
o Wit + Wisdom Faux Fur Drape Front Vest XL $44.97 (originally $88)
o Susina Striped Boucle Sweater 3X $32.97
o DR2 by Daniel Rainn T-Shirt Blouse with Elke 2X $19.97
Walmart: Finally, I couldn’t attempt a discount spree without visiting the motherload and I would say they ranked second to only Marshalls due to Marshalls mix of high end and regular brands whereas Walmart was more limited (it should be noted many more brands are available on their website but I was basing my impressions off of in store visits). I brought home 5 pieces that cost me $63.71.
o Time and Tru Mid Rise Stretch Jegging with pockets XXL (20); I fit in the 16/18 however they were skin tight and I wanted a little wiggle room $12.86
o Time and Tru Semi Fitted Sleeveless Peplum Top XXL (20) $9.00
o Time and Tru Black and White Stripe Jumpsuit XXL (20) $16.94
o Terra & Sky Fine Gauge Cardigan in Ochre Harvet 2X $14.97
o Time and Tru Relaxed Fit Boatneck Top XXL (20) $9.94
There were a few disappointments:
o Burlington Coat Factory: I understand the inherent nature of the store is hit or miss but with no clearly defined plus size section I was sifting through rack after rack and literally left the store not having tried on 1 item. I love it for coats and purses but I would leave this off the list when clothes shopping in the future.
o Bloomingdale Outlet: I thought they would have been on par with Nordstrom rack but there was no evidence of plus sizes to be found anywhere. I looked at every rack to see if any of the designer specific displays had bigger sizes mixed in, there was not one item offered in what I would consider an extended size. Needless to say, I left empty handed.
o Old Navy: I love Old Navy. Most of jeans are from Old Navy, I have several great pieces I wear over and over again from Old Navy but this season it seems most of what Old Navy had to offer in store skewed smaller than usual. I’m not sure if this was a fluke at my store (which is usually very size inclusive) or a trait of the new line as a whole but nevertheless it was disheartening to walk out of one of my usual faves empty handed.
o H&M + Charlotte Russe: I actually had high hopes for these stores. I follow them both on Instagram for their plus size lines and really love what I see and was excited to try some of the pieces on to see how they fit me. Unfortunately, neither carried their lines in store. I’m hesitant to shop these online due to fit fears and so now I think I’ll probably never dabble in them since there’s no way to try before buying.
All told, I spent $272.56 on 15 pieces which would buy a lot less at other plus size outposts (such as Eloquii, Torrid or The Loft’s new plus size line) while matching, if not surpassing in quality. Of course, there were places I didn’t get to but wanted to but I was thrilled with the turnout of my mission.
One of the best parts of this adventure was discovering some new brands that I wasn’t previously familiar with. Jeanne Pierre, which made 2 of my favorite finds, actually has an entire section of their website dedicated to extended sizes and why they offer them (http://jeannepierre.com/brand/extended-sizes/). And, though I found my pieces at Marshalls, in doing some research I also found great pieces on Walmart’s website (though the availability and sizing was more limited). DR2 also seems to be available at Walmart however the pieces available appear to be very different than those I found via Nordstrom rack and those at Nordstrom rack appeared to be more in line with what was currently being displayed on the designer’s website. Susina on the other hand was also available via Walmart’s website but both the price and style seemed on par with what I found at Nordstrom Rack. Though I should note the actual items available seemed to vary.
As I shopped, I had falls trends top of my mind and am really happy with my finds in that regard! My biggest win was the Wit + Wisdom Faux Fur vest that I got at Nordstrom Rack for $44.97. It was originally priced at $88, so already it’s a steep discount. However, the look is being pegged as one of the big trends for fall and similar pieces are popping up all over. For reference, I did a little Googling and came across this iteration of the look from Jason Wu. Sure, it’s got snap closure and a ribbon belt but it’s priced at $1,495. I’ll take my non-closing faux fur version at 3% of the price any day.
Another great find was the Bagatelle faux leather jacket from Marshalls for $39.99. Leather is also being pointed to as a big trend for the coming season so I see myself getting a lot of use out of it. I also did a little digging and found this very jacket for sale on Nordstrom’s website for $79.
Some other trends on the horizon that I was able to check off were duster length sweaters with the Verve ami sweater from Marshalls, and the ruching/ruffle look with my peplum top from Walmart. While trends are great, style is what matters and classic looks always resonant more deeply with me than looks of the moment. So, while I’m not a fan of neon or animal print (other forthcoming trends) I made sure to stock up on versatile sweaters, long sleeve tees and great layering pieces.
And, of course, this piece wouldn’t be honest without noting what I had trouble finding. I was on the look out for great black pants (a basic I am sorely in need of) and something sparkly that I could nail the iridescent trend with (though I’m sure this could be found at Forever 21, I just ran out of time). Everywhere we went sold black pants, but I am tall (5’8”) and have thicker thighs so I need to make sure pants a) don’t show my ankles and b) have enough substance that they’ll last more than 2 or 3 wears. It’s harder than it sounds. The few that were long enough either felt flimsy like holes would creep up after limited use or felt like luxurious leggings that I would love to do yoga in but were too tight to wear as work pants. I settled for spending higher and ordered 2 pairs from Eloquii, I will try them on, keep the winner and send back the lesser of the two. As for the iridescent trend, I’m not going to spend on a trend when I know what’s possible now. I’m going to give it some time and see what shows up in my new favorite stores!