Thrift Shop Style Inspiration For The Broke, College Kid

Story by Caroline Cook Photos by Kristen Hubby

Do you have champagne taste on a beer budget? Well, that’s the ache an average college fashionista experiences when flipping through the September issue — or any issue, really — of her favorite magazine.

While designer runway looks aren’t exactly a feasible purchase for most students, thrift and consignment stores are a great way to get the look without emptying your bank account.

With this in mind, I went on a journey to two stores, Uptown Cheapskate and Savers, and picked out the best low-budget looks for college students this fall.

Uptown Cheapskate is a treasure trove, to say the least. It describes itself as an upscale resale store, carrying both current and vintage styles. But beware. You may find yourself overwhelmed by its vast collection of clothes and accessories (and how you want it all).

Modeled by

Cobalt blue emerges as one of this season’s Pantone color trends. Matched with a fuchsia sweater, it serves as a reminder that the transition into fall doesn’t necessarily mean a transition into dark clothing. Bright colors combined with texture — such as this mohair top and corduroy skirt — compensate for the impending change in the weather, while providing a subtle color-block effect. The Mary Jane heels bring an element of understated sweetness and sophistication to the look that allows the clothing to remain the center of attention.

sweater dress

Modeled by Erin Kuykendall

On a slightly bolder note, this dress is a nod to this season’s display of zany and abstract style of prints reminiscent of the 1960s. Embrace bright colors head-on with a complimentary accessory to match. If you need to ease your way in, try a fun shoe, like this pointed heel that compliments the colors of entire outfit.

Tartan skirt/black heels + handbag

If bright colors aren’t your thing, here is a fresh alternative. The tartan pattern paired with a faux leather vest complement the classic length of the skirt. Matching a dainty handbag with a simple pump adds a touch of femininity to a darker look. Also, investing in staple pieces that can easily be mixed and matched is essential to maximizing your wardrobe on a small budget.

Savers has multiple locations across the country, and for this reason many consider it a generic thrift store (unlike its more vintage counterparts). While it may require more patience and creativity than a consignment store, hidden gems are waiting to be found within its clothing racks.


savers/sports luxe

The sporty-meets-chic trend easily transitions into Fall. You can create this look by throwing a jacket over a dress, or pairing a basic T-shirt with a preppy skirt. While some may not dare to wear socks with heels, a classic sneaker can be substituted for this look. Don’t be afraid to pair traditional, practical items, such as a baseball cap or a black athletic top with dressy pieces. Not only does it upgrade an everyday look with a unique spin, but it also allows you to re-evaluate pieces within your current wardrobe that have long been ignored.

Although thrift and consignment stores may not be glamorous in the traditional sense, they certainly are proof that money cannot purchase style. Thrifting incites a sense of adventure that full-priced retail simply cannot provide. Sure, retail chains are convenient, but isn’t everything better when you work for it?

You cannot develop a personal style by blindly following a trend, you have to customize and make it work for your personality. All you need is a little patience, creativity and a willingness to experiment.

After all, isn’t that what being a fashionista is all about?