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Taking inspiration from Vogue.co.uk's recent challenge of buying 'a whole new look for £200 or less', I had the somewhat harder task of finding a whole new look for £30 from York City centre. I kicked off with the best place to find bargains - the charity shops. Prospective bargain hunters should be aware, charity shopping is tiring; you have to leaf through swathes of nylon, crimplene, and horrific 80s prom dresses before you find the hidden treasures. When you do find a gem it's likely to come at a very purse-pleasing price: in my case a gold, lurex knit at £2.99. The uniqueness of charity shop finds is another benefit. For this challenge that was an added bonus, as it meant that I could build my look around one statement item, so the new pieces I bought from high street shops could be relatively simple and low cost. In H&M, therefore, all I needed to complement my leopard-print tee was a simple black body-con skirt (£3.99).
To complete the outfit, I was on the hunt for shoes. Unlike most other items it's rare to find nice pairs in charity shops. Moreover, shoes are notoriously expensive. I personally love Office for a classic brogue/boot but on a student budget (and for this challenge) it is a no-go. TK Maxx proved a winner for Robbie but the ladies' section didn't have a particularly broad range. The next stop was a place I normally avoid: Shoe Zone. Admittedly, you're not going to find beautiful Italian leather but I stumbled upon a really lovely pair of black lace-up wedges. The suede-effect finish means they don't look tacky, and at £16.99 they were under budget.
Finally, I purchased some thick tights from M&S (£3.50), as autumnal York in bare legs would be a seriously unappealing prospect! I would have loved to accessorize this outfit with jewellery but couldn't do so without breaking the budget. Regardless, it is clearly possible to create a stylish look from the city's shops on a student budget. Indeed, if I hadn't bought the shoes, the outfit would have cost only £10.50 - what a bargain!
Embarking on this commercial adventure, I was filled with a heady optimism and sense of adventure that fills fashion-loving freshers on their first ramble around the city's notorious shopping scene. Although sale-season might have rendered this an easy feat, 20% off in Urban Outfitters equates to approximately two pounds off each item, thus leading me to the infamous charity shop district of Goodramgate, home of CabaretD paraphernalia.
The first floor of the Sue Ryder shop holds a treasure trove of carefully curated vintage/retro items at such affordable prices that they blinded me from this outrageously-printed polyester shirt. At £6, and with the aftertaste of charitable-goodness, who could complain? Next, I was warmly welcomed by TK Maxx, cooing me in with promises of up to 60% off. I was not disappointed. I always consider TK Maxx as synonymous with struggling brands like McKenzie or Pierre Cardin, so to find a pair of Classic Superga plimsolls with a knee-trembling £25 reduction left me regretting the £40 that I once shelled out.
The final component of my look, regular-fit H&M jeans, pushed me £5 over budget. Thanks to H&M's sustainability policy and their drive to inhibit the impact of fast fashion, any purchase made is (I feel) always justified. In this case, my inability to stick to the £30 quota ought to be pardoned.
My look? Probably 'school teacher of questionable integrity'! My thrifting proved somewhat lacking: I blew my budget and failed to create the fresh ensemble I had hoped for...
Of this thrift fashion face-off, Florence was the deserved victor and proved her Herculean shopping credentials. Robbie was left to recite the old-school mantra of "if at first you don't succeed, try again." Let's see how much of his student budget he'll blow by Christmas.