The Good, The Bad, and The Cheapy: Navigating the "cheapy" stores.
Fashion-wise, these places don't have much of a serious rep. And who are we kidding? They're not really aiming for it. One difference between these and the heavyweights are that they have a target age range. And to be honest, the heavyweights have the latest trends in better designs, and sometimes better materials, a heavier pricetag (although more reasonable than designer), and are less tacky. They're for people who are true fashion connoisseurs, and although they might not be caught dead walking into stores like the aforementioned, the following shops are deemed acceptable:
if we want to talk serious fast fashion-wise (like fast food-wise), the spectrum is typically like this:
Topshop > H&M > Forever 21
then the less serious fast fashion-wise 13 to 22 spectrum:
Wet Seal > everything else.
Wet Seal is in a strange position...it's hard to see if it tries to compete with the heavyweights, or tries to blend in with the teen shops. On their website, it says their target customer age is 13 to 19 years old. So I guess that confirms they're not trying to get the serious ones likes us.
However, I was seriously confused by this last week, when I-- who also normally does not step into teen stores other than Delia's-- happened to step into a Wet seal cause my friend wanted to check it out, and I saw something I found very very savory. [and to be honest, Delia's has better quality...plus screen tee staples and cute socks, hello? Not to mention it's not really trend-based like cheapy teen stores.]
To be honest, I was apprehensive. I mean I know sometimes you can find a really nice print or if you dig around, a good item, in those cheapy teen stores but normally it's just...cheap. Looks cheap, feels cheap-- cheap. If I say I like cheap things, I'm only talking price-wise, but I still like things that will last me [that day I emerged from Bloomingdales with a Michael Stars long white top, Charlotte Ronson black, white, and lime leopard cardigan, and a Free People tank for $41 total; 50% off clearance, + 10% off with Bloomie's new cardholder, + 15% extra with cardholder].
Wet Seal is a small store-- dimension-wise. So it didn't take me long to go through the whole thing while waiting for my friend. I didn't expect to like anything, but right when I walked in, as I said, something caught my eye. Like, really caught my eye.
So you know how many different type of gladiators are out there now right? Gladiator-style sandals have been pretty popular for a while, like more than a year. I never really bought into the trend since they all look kind of the same and ho-hum and they don't really catch my attention though they're sleek and a nice staple. Since with my limited cash fund I tend to buy things that resonate with me aka pop out at me- which accounts for the unfortunate lack of staples like layering tees and such.
So There, right at the entrance of the store, were an army of neon lime green gladiators against a backdrop of gold and black ones. Come on! What did you expect me to do?! I hadn't heard of anyone doing a neon gladiator ever. The design itself was very redeemable too-- a zipper in the back and slim adjustable buckles. They certainly drew my gaze, but I didn't return to the front of the store till afterwards because they had been burning a hole in my brain. It was strange to me that they would put it right at the front of the store, since not that many people in their target group (not really serious fashion consumers) would probably purchase neon green gladiator sandals and at the most would pick up the gold gladiators [teens are just attracted to shiny things. I know since I've been there].
Of course, most of the store was filled with your typical tacky [tacky can be a noun]. Not to mention bad prints and obviously sickly-looking polyester [I don't mind polyester to be honest, but not if it has that sick-looking sheen]. But out of these I found 2 tops I really liked, although one was a small and it didn't fit me right [and I have a small bust] so I didn't end up getting that. [it's available online in all sizes, $10...I just liked the print!]
Then there was this XL tree top, and though it's a little loose, I really liked the print on it, and since it was elastic, it didn't fit that badly. And you guys know I'm not humongous or anything from my outfit photos, so sizing is very strange in these stores... anyway I got that [happened to be 100% cotton]. It was $10. [online it's $17.50] I mean...that's the danger of going into these stores, really. Because the things on sale are so dangerously priced you might walk out with things you don't need or too many things.
The truth is you should never discount these sort of shops [no pun intended]. Yes, 90% of the time they may be tacky and filled with nothing of consequence. But the other 10% of the time you can find some gems or at least a likeable design for 10 bucks. I mean you might not want to go out of your way to go into these stores, but if you find yourself in one, the way to weed through it all is simple:
7 Rules of Navigating "Cheapy" Stores
1. Don't buy anything you don't like, even if it's cheap. On a 1-10 scale of likeness, it HAS to be at least a 6. Or else you just won't wear it. When you go to typical non-cheapy stores, you got to at least have an 7 on that scale.
2. Go in with the following mindset: It's true we all have prejudices against cheapy, tacky stores and that they're not worth the time. But go in thinking about the end product and not about the store's stigma-- "If I saw this in a place I typically shop at, would I buy it?"
3. Having said that, keep in mind that, to be honest, it's really about the end product and not about the store. You're not shopping for the store, you're shopping for the product. People who get this rule down pat have the courage to go into Hot Topic and "specialty" stores.
4. Don't buy anything that OBVIOUSLY looks "cheap". As in cheap material [sickly sheen. coarse cotton], and bad construction. And that feels cheap [aka, it doesn't feel good on your skin...like denim that's too stiff. some types of polyester... because then you also won't enjoy wearing it]. Anything that looks like it's starting to do some pilling. And there is a DIFFERENCE between things that look fun and things that look cheap. I'm all for fun. And sometimes when the item is just supposed to look kind of silly and slightly tacky, that's Okay.
5. Watch the pocket. You should typically keep these stores last on your hit list if you can, because it's only for when you have extra time and maybe some extra bucks. They shouldn't be your first priority...it's just basic sense. Like that day I started off at one end of the mall-- Bloomingdales-- because that was my priority. If I started off at the other end of the mall, I probably would've ran out of my allotted money before I reached Bloomies.
6. This brings me to, if you're low on cash in these cheapy stores, only buy won't you will regret having not bought.
7. Double Check for any flaws. You might not find it at first, so you better check that sucker and find a piece without flaws if there are multiple copies of the same item. The first pair of gladiators I tried on didn't have the best workmanship and was missing one of those holes for the buckle.
I never thought that at the end of the day, I would be in crouching down on the ground in front of Wetseal, trying to find a good pair of neon green gladiators, and then retreating to the corner and sitting my buttocks down to try them on. And to my immense surprise, they were actually pretty comfortable [although I might eventually put in small adhesive dr. scholl pads or something]. I was debating and debating on whether I should get them -- could I really spare another $20?-- until my friend finally found me in the corner and said, "You know you'll regret not getting them". Why does that never work when I tell her the same thing? So that day I walked out with my $10 tree-print smocked top, $20 neon green gladiators, and 2 pairs of thin knit legwarmers for $1 [buy 1 get 1].
Shop time! Here are some pictoral examples, taken from the wetseal.com site on how to navigate through cheapy stores. Feel free to pass this on to your friends who shop primarily at cheapy stores so they know what people will obviously notice that looks "cheap" and what they won't. It's true we like affordable things and things with style, but don't let that cloud judgement and actual style sense. Even though we all have different styles, the one thing that no one likes to look, is tacky and cheap. Might be a harsh word for that buddy of yours, but you're just looking out for her.
Good and Bad Examples
Wacky. in a good way.
TACKY. in a bad bad way.
Fun, the right way
[I love those tie-dye tanks]
Not Fun. Wrong Way.
Nice items that Could become Staples.
SCREEN TEES ARE NOT EXEMPT from Rules
Surprisingly elegant. At least it looks that way!
Cheapy - in a reasonable way - Shoes
Lastly, my style of neon green gladiator shoes are NOT the style of the pink ones in the picture. Only the style above is sold online. For the ones I purchased I think you would need to go to the storefront. The label on the shoe is "bucco".
And just cause I prefer faux leather over real leather, doesn't mean I'm a cheapy girl! Like everyone else, I like good construction, design, and comfort...
btw, I had been so mesmerized by these neon gladiator shoes, that all of last week I was wearing them around my house. Up and down the stairs. Back and forth in my room. For hours. Honestly infatuated... and I have never enjoyed wearing shoes so much indoors and have only taken the occasional few steps in high heels in my room.
Anyway, wait for the next post (a few days)...all outfit photos with my new neon investment!
Another hint: bright flowers.
By the way, want to meet "Skinny Bitch" author Rory Freedman (I'm sure some of you have heard of this book) and help out animals...and just happen to be near Arlington, Virginia on July 19th-21st? Check out and learn more at http://www.takingactionforanimals.org