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How to Build a Quality Wardrobe from Stores like Forever 21 & H&M


We’ve all probably spent our fair share of money at cheaper retailers. It’s just so hard to resist when you’re perusing Forever 21 or and everything seems to be within your budget. But then those ripped jeans you got for a steal rip in the wrong kinds of places and you’re not so shocked that the price was so low. You can still create a quality wardrobe with some pieces from these budget-friendly stores; you just have to know how to shop.                                                                               

1. Stock up on going-out tops

Let’s be real — there is no need to spend excessive amounts of money on a name-brand crop top for going out. First of all, they’re normally tiny, i.e. not enough fabric to be worth that much moolah. Second, if you live in a normal college town, chances are by the end of the semester that shirt will have seen too much beer spillage and drunk late-night pizza stains to be considered “nice” by any means. For those slinky little tops, stick with stores like H&M and Forever 21, where you can buy them without worrying about the party hazards that are sure to ensue.

Forever 21 Crepe Lace-Up Top, $12.90

H&M V-neck Camisole, $24.99

2. Look for layering pieces

Layering never seems to go out of style. It’s cute and keeps us warm, but the outfits seem to involve like, ten pieces so it can be expensive. Normally a well-layered ensemble involves one or two main statement pieces, like a cute oversize cardigan or edgy leather jacket. Under these elements though, you have to (or at least should) wear something else. For t-shirts, tanks and bralettes that form the base layer of your ensemble, look at places like H&M, Target and Express. You’re barely going to see them after piling on the layers, so no worries getting some basics on the cheap.

Target A New Day Tank, $8

Express One Eleven Lightly Lined Seamless Bralette, $19.90

Related: What Everyone Will Be Wearing This Fall, According to the Top Searched Fashion Pieces

3. Shop around for starter business wear staples

If I’m looking for a job or working an unpaid internship, what makes you think I can afford to buy a high-end work outfit? With blazers and pants sometimes getting something personally tailored or higher-end might pay off, but as a millennial entering the workforce you might not have the 200+ bucks it takes to buy a work outfit at Banana Republic or a department store. Express offers an incredible selection of workwear basics for way less, especially if you watch the sales. You can create a head-to-toe look there, or just buy the pieces that fit you well. With the money you save you can buy a pair of biz heels that don’t make you want to scream in pain.

Express High Waisted Side Zipper Midi Pencil Skirt, $69.90

Express Slim Fit Long Sleeve Essential Shirt, $39.90

4. Buy oversized tops for what they’re worth

The oversize trend has really been taking off lately, which is fine by me because now when I’m bloated, no one’s the wiser. But honestly, if you’re spending insane amounts of money on huge t-shirts and hoodies, you should check yourself. Check yourself again if you’re buying tees or sweatshirts with holes in them for excessive amounts of cash too. I mean if you’ve got the funds, great—Urban Outfitters appreciates your business. But if you’re really just trying to be comfy and embrace this trend while you can, Etsy has great vintage pieces for low prices and of course Forever 21 has an overwhelming amount of options, even some with those *trendy* holes. UNIQLO also has a sick artist series and the Target men’s section has a lot to offer too. And the H&M and Justin Bieber collection? Oh, heck yeah.

Stadium Merch X H&M Printed Hooded Shirt, $34.99


UNIQLO SPRZ NY Poetry Graphic T-Shirt, $14.90

Related: 10 Athleisure Pieces Perfect for Staying Cute & Cozy This Fall

5. Find your way to the Target shoe aisle

I used to work at Target, and literally all of the trendy shoes are nearly identical to more expensive Steve Madden pairs. Me and my coworkers used to theorize that Target hired the same designer or something, because it’s uncanny. That being said, for shoes that you’re not planning on wearing the sh** out of, Target’s will do just fine. They look like they’re designer for a fraction of the price and give you a reason to go to Target (not that we ever really need one).

Target Merona Margo Pearl Slide Sandals, $24.99

Target Mossimo Reese Nylon Slip On Sneakers, $24.99

6. Buy all the simple dresses you want

For special occasions, spending the extra money will be worth it. But for summer dresses, simple t-shirt silhouettes or plain dresses for under jackets or sweaters you can probably find a perfectly suitable version at H&M, Express, GAP or Target.

H&M T-Shirt Dress, $14.99

Forever 21 Open-Shoulder Sweater Dress, $15.90

7. Accessorize without worry

Spending a lot of money on small pieces of jewelry or accessories just seems nonsensical to me. I highly doubt that a high-end designer plaid scarf and a plaid scarf from Target are all that different, especially to other people. And as far as jewelry you only wear once a month, what’s the point in making sure its 24K gold? The exception would probably be handbags, which are an investment in your well-being honestly, or earrings, because I’ll pay good money so that my ears don’t itch.

Forever 21 Layered Chain Necklace Set, $7.90

H&M scarf, $12.99

Maybe your whole wardrobe shouldn’t be made up of steals and deals from lower-cost stores, but with a college budget your whole wardrobe certainly can’t be all killer designer pieces either. Forever 21 and H&M have their time and place, and if you shop there wisely, you can have a wardrobe full of great options without having to take out a student loan.

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