Festive clothes don't have to cost a bundle. You'd be surprised.
I saw the sweater on the rack, a Calvin Klein sequined number in pristine condition, and knew it was the start of something good: namely, my holiday get-up. I was going for a look that could carry me from the opening chord of "The Nutcracker" to the last note of "Auld Lang Syne." I wanted it to announce holiday cheer (and to mask the fact it was cheap).
I have been buying secondhand clothing for six months now, based on a challenge I set for myself to stop buying new, unused clothing for a year, and I am surprisingly delighted with the quality of my finds -- and my growing, inexpensive wardrobe. But when invitations to holiday parties arrived in my mailbox, I felt the pang of desire. I longed for a sassy jacket from J. Jill, a cute dress from Macy's, the assured assistance of a sales clerk at Nordstrom.
For a while, it seemed that all I wanted for Christmas was a return to the mall. But really, who wants to go to a mall in December?
Instead of going shopping, I read my e-mails. After I first wrote about my yearlong rejection of retail, readers sent almost 200 notes of passionate support -- and, more importantly, suggestions on where to shop.
It was the inspiration and guidance I needed. I hit the secondhand stores and, along with them, pay dirt. I found a $29 lace- and silk-adorned sweater at Rodeo Drive and a sleek Michael Kors dress at Turn Style for $16. So what did I finally choose? A sweater and pinstriped black pants that together cost a mere $33. I picked up the sweater at Turn Style for $11, and the pants at Second Debut for $22. I'll add black pumps and a camisole from my closet and be ready to celebrate (with enough money left over to buy hostess gifts).
Now here's a gift for you: A list of the best secondhand stores in the Twin Cities. I haven't visited them all yet, so the list is based on the volume of e-mails in which the shops were mentioned and the nice things said about them: "professional displays," "quality items," "great deals!"
Maybe the list will inspire you, too. I made my resolution in May, but New Year's Day is right around the corner.