Style, darlings, is an art. Like all arts, it must often be accomplished on a limited budget. If a girl lacks the resources to indulge her every sartorial whim, she must scrutinize her closet all the more fiercely, honing her aesthetic with uncompromising rigor. The blandly adequate will not suffice; only the superlative will do.
That is why the aspiring style artist must invest a bit of time in the clearance department of Anthropologie, or another store entirely out of your price range. It is very important that you not purchase anything there, unless it is marked down to $19.95 or below. You need merely try on at least ten items and ask some searching questions of your reflection. Questions such as “If this were the only sweater I owned, would I a) kill myself, b) fly standby to Kathmandu, or c) write a culinary memoir?”
Once you can answer b) and c) items with laser-like focus, you exit Anthropologie, stand on the corner of 18th and Walnut, and look around for Grace.
Grace goes to Guatemala several times a year. She returns bearing a cartload of unique garments and accessories, which she purveys on this corner at a fraction of Anthropologie prices. She is your Secret Weapon of the style closet.
When shopping with Grace, one seeks signature garments that may do double and triple duty, as layers and stand-alones, dressed up or dressed down, accessorized or bare. She sells skirts which double as dresses, and dresses which double as sweaters. Thus an item from Grace may carry you through two or three seasons for several consecutive years without becoming stale.
Once you have obtained your signature pieces, it is a simple matter to fill in the holes by rummaging around at the likes of Daffy’s, Second Time Around and Circle Thrift. The advantages of these places are twofold: you may obtain high-quality items at radically reduced prices, and it will be impossible for wannabes to duplicate your look. Any item you score will be the only one available.
This is why it is so crucial to understand your own aesthetic character before going shopping. You must have an instinctive feel for the hues, fabrics, shapes and patterns that evoke your inner photojournalist. When approaching the motley racks, be ruthless. Pass up everything that does not speak to your highest self.
You may then encounter a rose-colored, merino-and-cashmere hoodie by J. Crew for $4, which complements your pleated silk skirt as well as your olive cargo pants. You may discover a one-of-a-kind Free People gathered cardigan for $20, which will earn envious remarks for the next decade. You may obtain a chocolate-brown zippered pullover that looks as though it had been tailored for you, or a flared-sleeve oatmeal cable cardigan that exudes expensive nonchalance.
But chance favors the prepared mind. Go forth, and seek in grace.
2233 Frankford Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19125
Hours: Mon to Sat 9am-7pm; Sun 11am-5pm
1700 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-5120
Hours: Mon to Tues, Thurs to Sat 10am-7pm; Wed 10am-8pm; Sun 12pm-6pm
Grace’s Market Day
18th and Walnut
Philadelphia, PA 19103
daylight and decent weather
Second Time Around
1728 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-5118
Hours: Mon to Sat 11am-8pm; Sun 12pm-6pm
1801 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Hours: Mon to Sat 10am-8pm; Sun 11am-6pm
Stephanie Lee Jackson is a lapsed artist, blogger and owner of Practical Bodywork in Philadelphia. You can find her archives at http://stephart.com, and her thriving massage practice at http://practicalbodywork.com.