How Shopping on a Budget Changed My Style

Upon arriving in New York and joining Man Repeller last March, I developed an unfamiliar trepidation around getting dressed. In San Francisco, I was considered “a fashion person” for wearing high-waist pants and ironic bandanas. Back then, I enjoyed a sort of big-fish-small-pond reputation for having style. In New York though, everything flipped. Suddenly, I was a goldfish in the Atlantic Ocean.

Nothing I wore felt fashiony enough. I’d don a new pair of pants the same day someone said they were over, or pitch a style story that had already been done. My intuition about what I liked began to dull. Had it really been so linked to how others perceived me? It was a humbling thought. I began to wonder if I could still consider myself a fashion person. At my most dramatic moments, I felt like I’d lost a part of myself. In my less dramatic ones, I realized it was small potatoes, but I still had to get dressed.

In my previous life, I might have attempted to throw money at the problem. I was always shopping to fill a hole or boost my spirits. Newer, “better” clothes were always within reach. But my exciting, drastic career change had been a financial sacrifice, and I had no choice but to be more resourceful and judicious with my money. That is to say, shop as little as possible. Ideally, not at all.

I soon realized that if I had $30 to spend on clothes in a month, there were only a couple options: Buy something brand-new, trendy and mass-produced, or something older, many-times worn and of higher quality. When I was younger, I felt more comfortable with the former. I found the curated shopping experience of, say, Zara far more appealing than that of a jam-packed thrift store. But subscribing to the fast-fashion track means shopping a lot. And even if I could afford to do that, which I couldn’t and can’t, those clothes were no longer speaking to me in the same way.

Most thrift store offerings, in my eyes, fall in one of two camps: cliché feminine stuff, like frilly dresses from the ‘70s, or cliché boyish stuff, like graphic T-shirts from the ‘80s. True or not, it’s how my brain maps it when I walk in. And soon I noticed my consistent, natural inclination towards the men’s side. Oversize denim jackets, slouchy ripped jeans, baggy cotton tees, old Adidas track jackets. Little by little, my closet began to resemble what I imagine my dad’s did 40 years ago. What surprised me was how much I loved it. How like myself it made me feel.

It’d be dishonest to leave out that my job affords me some swag, and that the occasional free sweatshirt or pair of sneakers is hugely helpful in both rounding out my closet and fulfilling the obnoxious little capitalist within me that wants NEW STUFF. But I’m still surprised, and a little proud, whenever I realize that I haven’t bought something new in over a year. More surprising than that, though, is how shopping thrift did more for unearthing my true style than shopping fast trends ever did. Having fewer, older, often baggier things, means playing with shapes and being more creative than wearing something pre-imagined off the rack. It’s fun.

I’m still figuring it out. There’s still a part of me that feels left out when I see breath-taking outfits, artfully pieced together with designer clothes I could never afford nor find on a junky thrift store rack, but I’m slowly finding solace in the comfortable style identity I’ve carved out for myself. Even if photographers aren’t chasing me down the street come fashion week, it’s nice to not feel like I’m dressing up in anyone else’s idea of cool beyond my own.

Photos by Edith Young.

Get more Fashion ?
  • It’s all a process, I find questioning my style the most come summer and I see girls wearing cute printed dresses. I always think I could, but I never do and just end up flushing €€ down the toilet.

    • same with cute feminine heeled sandals!

      • I’m on a hunt for those right now at the thrift stores in my city. I refuse to pay more than $20 for them.

    • Mae

      Same. On a hot day I’ll put on a dress but just before I leave I’ll change into pants.

  • I feel the sameeeee way. I used to spend way too much of my (already small) pay check on the prettiest, or most elaborately detailed dress, top or accessory. What color is on trend right now? Ooh, sequins. I also felt a pressure to dress a certain way 5-7 years ago that is completely different from how I view getting dressed now. I still find myself attracted to those things, but now I find a pair of old cut up jeans, a big sweater and Rimmel red lipstick sexy. Sometimes I get down on myself and think I’m being lazy, but I feel more confident when I’m comfortable and I think that shines through.

    • I too can sometimes be so hard on myself for thinking I’m lazy! But whenever I put anything on that’s other than pants of some sort and a tee it just feels innately wrong. Same with foundation & co!

      • I agree. I actually plan on dedicating a small chunk of funds to some basic tees from H&M and Zara and will likely rotate them throughout the next 2 months. If I could wear distressed denim to work, that would be my uniform.

    • Cristina

      I relate to both of you, I’ve really been embracing a more natural makeup look lately. It’s easier, and I feel prettier when I’ve just got a little bit one. I feel more attractive when I have a full face on, but.. pretty is for me, attractiveness is for pleasing other people. I’ve already landed my fish in the sea who loves me with even no makeup. I don’t know why I’m afraid to totally convert and get rid of something makeup items I haven’t used in years, downsize my makeup bag. And sometimes, I wonder if I’m being lazy cause I’ve ditched harsh contouring and shading eye shadows… ayiyiyiyyy being a woman is tough!

      • Same here! I’m still working on an easier/more effortless brow routine (seems so simple, but for me it hasn’t been) and thinner foundation, or spot concealing. I also like to use lipstick as blush just to pop some color on. It is both easier and prettier actually, you’re right. I have never used eyeshadow, which is kind of a plus, but that doesn’t stop me from watching video after video of different variations of a smokey eye on Instagram and YouTube.

        • Cristina

          LOLLLLL omg that rabbit hole that is YouTube beauty videos.
          So, I have gone through so many brow products to find something that fills in but isn’t an Instagram brow, like me but better. Honestly, Glossier Boy Brow is life changing and I will use it for the rest of my life.
          Have you ever tried Bite Beauty Multisticks? You can get them at Sephora, and they are made for lips/cheeks/eyes. It’s a cream to powder formula and I’m OBSESSED. I have Almond, and it’s so pigmented, two little dabs is all I need for my cheeks. AND they are all natural, food grade ingredients that you can literally eat if you wanted too. Totally love them.

          • Honestly, I have somehow, someway manifested this comment to me, because the other day I was on Bite Beauty’s website, and was just looking at the multi sticks! Now I just have to pick one up. They’re Canadian too, and make a lot of their stuff downtown here in Toronto, not far from where I live. Thanks doll 🙂 UGH. Boy Brow. I want this! They don’t ship over to Canada! I’ve been waiting forever, and I don’t have any trips to New York planned in the near future.

          • the key is just not watching these consumerist-centred ‘this is all the stuff that’s coming out this week and you have to buy it all’ videos… but it’s so fucking addictive!

          • Cristina

            Seriously! We’re bombarded it by it everyday, from TV to magazines to Instagram! Along with consumerism, those things are soooo influential. Like if you DON’T do you makeup like this or dress like this you just aren’t worth anything. If I had a dollar for every time I had hair envy…. Lord. My hair doesn’t do anything. I wanted to do barrel curls soooo baddddd or mermaid waves and bought everything that promised to achieve that desired effect. Nope, stick straight here. This year I finally decided to embrace it. This is my hair. And straight hair will be “in” again anyway haha!

          • Yay! I’m so glad I kept reading on and found this thread!
            In the last few years I’ve been slowly selling off 3/4’s of my closet, stopped getting my hair done at the salon and really simplified my whole beauty routine. Really just embracing what nature has given me and making peace with it 😂
            As for consumerism, I still like to watch the haul videos and watch my fav bloggers, I just know that I don’t want to emulate them. I’d rather work with what I’ve got and save my money for travel! ❤

          • Lindsey

            YES TO BOY BROW! I can’t see myself switching back to pencil at all.

      • I don’t even know why I buy them in the first place! I guess I have a very large variety of female friends (and watch too many ‘beauty gurus’ on yt) and hear about things and out of curiosity and intrigue buy products that I know I won’t really use. Also, it really depends on my mental state, sometimes I’m so happy and accepting of what my face is doing, sometimes I go on a mad rage and by 5 foundations…

  • Anne Dyer

    Same! When I became a stay at home mom I went from shopping for my job (a buyer) to curating my “mom look” (I seriously had a hospital look when I gave birth) to simply realizing I feel awesome in sweats, a tee and sneakers. Super liberating.

  • Piter

    Haley, do you have any thrift store recs? I used to thrift a lot in CT, but I’ve been struggling to find stores in NYC that carry my size and aren’t over priced.

    • Piter

      (I’m a size 12/14 btw)

    • Alexis Thomolaris

      Yes, share your secrets!

    • Jac

      my #1 thrift store rec for ny is to go to the fancy rich people neighborhood ones — the quality of their stuff is generally leagues above what you’d expect. there’s a goodwill on w 72nd (i’m pretty sure) that is one of my fave thrift stores ever

    • Josie Pesce

      the beacon’s closet in greenpoint is a treasure trove! also the L train vintage stores (there’s one on 13th and 1st, 7th and ave A, and a few more locations in brooklyn– haven’t been myself but have heart great things about one called Urban Jungle in bushwick)

  • Aydan

    totally agree with the move towards thrift! I made this decision on account for the fact that I don’t want to have things in my closet for just in case, but rather have a closet of things I love to wear! and doing a bit of thrifting and then splurging on the higher priced stuff makes for the perfect balance!

  • G De Siena


  • My mom had us thrifting from day one since a) it was really the only way we could dress the family on my parents’ graduate student budgets and b) it’s just better for the planet. Because this was the only option, really, it stuck with me and I still rarely spend more than $10 on a single clothing item (shoes being the exception). Last week I spent just that on a pair of trousers and it still felt like defeat! So, yes, these strict financial parameters necessarily modify one’s closet, but I don’t find this modification limiting, if that makes sense. Rather, it’s a nice exercise in resourcefulness, and an opening-up of what might be an otherwise narrow conception of your personal style. Not to mention there’s merit in the rush of The Search, in saving a buck or hundreds, in resting slightly easier about your carbon footprint whilst still being able to frolic in a dress made of the most resilient ruffles!

  • Nicole

    I really like this! In high school, I started to buy most of my clothes from the local Goodwill or thrift store, both to save money but also to find clothes that fit me well and felt right to my style. It’s always a treasure hunt, and I end up with really different cuts and patterns. It also makes me feel good to know that I’m cutting down on waste.

  • Haley, here’s a challenge for you: ask a … tooth fairy, Santa Claus, birthday well-wishers or similar to give you a sewing machine. They can get a really good one for 100-150 $ these days (I know because I own one).
    Next, learn sewing by using up every bit of clothes you don’t intend to wear anymore. Ask your friends for bits and pieces they don’t need. Enjoy. Also, read the manual, of course. They are not really time-consuming but quite useful.
    In the end, your thrift shopping range will include pieces that need some alteration but will be perfect afterwards. The reason to do that is to add even more creativity and thus happiness in the sartorial area (no need to learn sewing from the scratch). It makes for many happy moments, thinking about possible changes to a garment, planning them, trying to imagine the result, doing it, styling it … 🙂

    • Haley Fox

      Totally agree with this! Since learning to sew it has changed how I see clothes. Now they’re about potential for the ways I could modify them rather than just as they are

    • Senka

      I always wanted a sewing machine, like ever since I know about clothes and sewing, I wanted to try making or altering things on my own. my mom always discouraged me, fearing (knowing me well) that I’d never do anything else if I had it. Now I’m thinking of getting it, just to have it for alterations, and to simply enjoy having it and playing with it.

      • You know, I usually don’t tell people I have one and use it, in real life – I tend to keep quiet about it (because I am not interested in such discussions and don’t perform well when having to defend my creativity lust). That way, I am free to discover what it will do for me without having to consider other people’s opinions. Also, I can carry out as many “trials and errors” as I wish, without having to show results to anyone. And when I decide to really wear something I have changed, I just do and pretend everything is as it should be.
        (I was allowed to play with my Granny’s sewing machine as a child, as much as I wished. It was a sturdy Singer and you had to move the big pedal to sew real fast – no electricity was used in the process 🙂

        • Senka

          I think we had my grandma’s singer and a desk for it in the basement somewhere. Yet my parents never bothered fixing it. I agree with keeping it private definitely. Less “opinions” about it.

    • Meg S

      In addition to your challenge, my local community college offers sewing classes. I think they’re one or two days long, but you’re making things by the time the class is over. I don’t think they’re very expensive either, so maybe other community colleges offer similar classes.

      • I attended 2, in Germany. They were great fun! There was even this guy who had bought a house with his wife and they suddenly needed many, many drapes. So he had a talk with his wife and they agreed it is he who should learn to sew … it worked.

      • chouette

        Mood Fabric in New York (not sure about LA) does free classes if you buy the supplies from them.

    • Bo

      YES WORD BLESS UP SISTER I’ve been doing this since I was 14. Sometimes I even buy clothes from thrift stores just for the fabric!

      • Rosie

        “yes word bless up sister” is the best affirmation i’ve ever heard

    • Jac

      ooohhhh i used to use my mom’s sewing machine when i was in high school to alter my own clothes and had totally forgotten about that as an option (now I just hand-sew rips/new buttons when things get damaged) ….. do you have any specific machine/brand recommendations?

      • No, I don’t… got mine after having read what other amazon customers had to say about it. 🙂

  • Marie Gleichauf

    Thrift or bust! My mom opened my eyes to resale as soon as I recognized I loved clothes and it’s allowed me to constantly update and recycle my wardrobe ever since. I love that it makes my closet more unique and personal and also doesn’t bankrupt me. I literally don’t remember the last full priced retail item I bought. Loved this piece

  • thank you for this little snippet into what it’s like to try to roll with the heavyweights! You have a killer voice.

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    Omg “ironic bandanas”, tell me why this part had me dying…lolol too real

    Anyway for what it’s worth, I think your new style suits you amazingly well. And I would never have guessed most of it is thrifted! Everything just *fits* together and looks super intentional. I mention this because I have the exact opposite experience when thrifting…I usually leave after an hour or so, dejected, or buy something super weird just to say I did, like a xmas sweater or ugly dad flannel.

    Anyway u know what would be cool? A MR guide to thrifting. I know there’s a bunch online, but one written with the “man repeller” ethos in mind would be so great. Teach me, Thrift Gawds!!

  • Harling Ross

    Can you teach me how to knot a t-shirt with the impeccable finesse of a chic sailor

  • brightasyellow4

    Yes! Thank you for this article!

  • Cristina

    Well this is refreshing! I just assume all of you are rolling in dough buying brand new designer clothes, cause that’s what it’s curated to look like I guess! High five for slowwwly weaning from fast fashion, I am trying the same. It’s sad that thrift stores in the Midwest are NOT the gems of NYC… I might be able to find some old scrubs? Keds? Some kind of beer logo shirt? Lol. But I just continue to buy less. Luckily, I don’t have the pressure of being photographed for work, or tons of social events so I stop and think how many times would I really wear something?! I recently read an article about how millennials are “ruining” entire business industry’s. Fast fashion being one of them, which really just filled me with hope about the direction society is going. Maybe my kids will grow up wanting less and understanding quality over quantity. I was always the one that got ONE paid of Dr. Martens with my back to school money, and my sister got like ten outfits she would find on sale lol.

    • kay

      eBay is the best (or etsy but its more expensive) for thrifting if you live in a fashion desert or even if you live in ny. all of my favorite stuff is from eBay and prob half of my clothes and shoes total.

      • Cristina

        I’ll have to check that out, thanks! I’m one of “those” girls that wears totally different sizes in almost every article of clothing and every brand, so online ordering is tough for me! I really need to learn to sew so I can mend and alter stuff myself. I got the cooking gene, but missed the sewing one haha

      • Cristina

        Sooo… thank you. I’ve now gone down a rabbit hole searching for wooden platform sandals. I’ve got a pair of vintage Isabel Marant’s, Free People and Frye pair sitting in my cart LOL. (obvs, not buying all three but the options, awesome!!!)

        • gracesface

          i’m also surveying poshmark. it’s VERY tempting.

          • Cristina

            I tried that for a while, but man, people really charge an arm and leg for their items. I mean, it’s really ridiculous, especially given some of the conditions.

          • gracesface

            Yea I just can’t seem to pull the trigger. I am such an in-person shopper. I hate having to return stuff that I bought online.

          • Jac

            I think poshmark can work if you’re a) willing to wait for a specific item or b) flexible on the brand/style of an item — I browsed the white jeans for a few weeks and finally wound up with a pair of 3×1 fringe ones that were only $10!!! I always look up the item/brand on my own to see reviews on other sites re sizing etc to help before buying anything

          • LEM

            Whenever I sell on Poshmark I charge the bare minimum for my stuff since it’s basically my last ditch effort at making a little cash before I donate it. I am often shocked at how much people want for their USED stuff.

  • cici

    My mom and I were both very big fans of weekly thrifting. We donated and we bought. One day I came home very exited to have purchased a really awesome pair of army green pants at Salvation Army, which I paid a whole crisp $1 for (this was many many years ago) . Excitedly I showed my mom the purchase. She started laughing hysterically because I brought home a pair of her old pants which she donated just a week previous. She told me I could have just given her the $1. 🙂

    • chouette

      Ahahah I bought my mom’s best friend’s vintage LL Bean shirt in high school! I was wearing it around the house and she goes… is that LL Bean…? Did you get it… AT THE BETTY? That’s my old shirt!!

      • That’s great. I don’t feel so alone anymore. 🙂

    • Jem

      At least the money went to a good cause 🙂

    • Shevaun

      This happened to me as well! I bought an old men’s cardigan from Value Village a few years ago then donated it again before I moved. When we went to visit my mother in law she had bought it for $3 haha I was like “Fuck I should have just given it to you!”

    • lillian c.

      I bought my boyfriend’s mom’s old dress years ago, swear there’s probably a picture of her wearing it.

    • Mabley Wiggletwitch

      I bought back my own things.

  • Fiorella

    Thx so much Haley, I just spent 20 minutes stalking my way back into your instagram feed trying to trace down your style in SF

    • Fiorella

      Also, I made sure not to “accidentally” like any 85-week-old picture. So creepy, who does that?

      • Haley Nahman

        I would have been honored

  • Can’t get over these photos, Edith!!!

  • literarity

    on a similar topic, i would LOVE to see a MR story or series about thrifting for office wear. not “i work in fashion” office wear… the stuff the rest of us drones have to cobble together

    • kay

      this is my second post about eBay but i love it so much- there are endless designer office separates on eBay. silk shirts, suit pants, blazers. work appropriate dresses. one way to find them is to search a brand that does office wear like theory or donna karan, I’ve even found channel.

      • gracesface

        not ebay but we have a store here called style encore – i think it’s in the plato’s closet family — and they offer a TON of workwear. highly recommend.

        I’m just sitting here scrolling Poshmark. The buy it now using Paypal is soooooo tempting!!

      • kay

        pffffhahaha just realized i wrote channel instead of chanel, i prob can’t even blame autocorrect. fashion pls forgive me.

      • chouette

        Seconding the ebay train but I’m a vintage Jil Sander / Armani suit girl myself. I got a Jil Sander suit from the 90s for $12.50!!!!

      • anonymousanemones

        OHHH silk shirt hunt starting now. thank you! I’ve been trying to save up to do a big tradlands or everlane order and that means it’s not happening for a long while (USD – CAD conversions are not helping).

    • learnin lady

      Yes!!! UPVOTE UPVOTE. I need this article to happen!

    • I had to build a business causal winter wardrobe in NYC with $40 a month to work with. It CAN be done.

    • Jac

      I LOVE THIS. I’m particularly fond of the fancier thrift stores (buffalo exchange, plato’s closet, poshmark) for finding more office-appropriate secondhand clothes

      • Jac

        suggestions given with a spoonful of salt tho given the availability of well-fitting and nicer thrifted clothes is MUCH EASIER for straight- vs plus-size people, would be cool to see an article specifically on that too

    • Cristina

      I would help write this article! Pretty much everything I wear is thrifted and work in tech and law/policy.

  • DarthVadersCats

    Oh buddy, I’m not sure I’ve related more to an MR article ever. I wish I had more thrift shops around me (I know of only one and it’s the dadstyle kind, score!) and that last sentence really got me.

  • Diane

    My income just got cut in half, so I am trying to figure out how to be more judicious in my purchasing choices. This has inspired me to pull out my sewing machine and try to alter some stuff that I don’t wear because of fit. Who knows, maybe I will progress to making something simple (a gingham slip dress?). The thing about sewing is you get really choosy about fabrics and dressmaker details, and then cannot find that kind of quality and workmanship in new clothing (unless it is very high end).

    • Meg S

      Check your local community college – mine offers inexpensive 1 or 2 day sewing classes.

  • Babs

    Girl, good on you for not buying new for a year! Sustainability queen!

    On a broader note, I love the transparency of this piece. I listened to the monocycle about personal essays, and you nailed it with this one. Understanding how you approach fashion within the context of MR, the fashion industry, your salary, etc. is very helpful. Sometimes coming on this site inspires some confusion — “Wait, they’re writers? How do they afford this shiz?” — so I appreciate the honesty/vulnerability!

  • Jessica

    This is gold.

  • Paola

    your articles make me think we would be good friends if we met in real life

  • Nikka Duarte

    I absolutely love this. I’ve been thrifting since I was ten, it has been a huge contribution to my personal style. Also that denim jacket in the third pic is a dream.
    Shameless marketing right here: I sell vintage and it’s pretty cool !
    ok bye

  • Catie

    what is the challenge in dressing like an american apparel hipster on a budget

  • learnin lady

    I love love this concept. As someone who is constantly riddled with anxiety over shopping ethically/non-fast fashion, your dedication is inspiring in every sense of the word! Go Haley, you’re an all-star in so many ways!

    However, as someone who works in an office that requires me to wear business attire– how would you suggest integrating interesting pieces? I know you guys have written some articles about ~hip~ office wear but I’m nervous it’s still not financial services sector appropriate.

    I’m NYC based so any tips would be helpful (places to go, people to barter with, etc.). I would love to challenge myself to shop ethically/thrift for a year or (idealistically) forever!

    • Sleepyhead

      Yes! I agree. I have to look professional, but still want to feel cool and current.

    • Cristina

      Ooo an MR challenge! We can all partake and share our stories!

    • Jac

      housing works, goldwater are great ny thrift stores with nicer stuff (and some higher prices), buffalo exchange and plato’s closet are good bc they’re more curated

  • Sleepyhead

    Thanks so much for writing this! I feel like I used to read a lot more about cool clothing from affordable places on MR. These days if you click on a Manstagram to see tags of where an outfit came from it’s like, “Welp, maybe in my next life.” It’s really hard to throw together interesting, flattering outfits on a budget and not fall into the fast fashion trap. It can make you feel left out and that, without proper funds, you dont enjoy the privilege of being able to express yourself through fashion. After a few style evolutions I’ve settled into a more tweaked version of a “girl next door” kind of look that I’d never have expected I’d feel so good in. Like you wrote, it’s nice to work with bigger volumes and play with shape. I get most of my stuff from consignment. Good for the bank account and good for the planet!

  • Cristina

    Had to come back and add that i LOVEEEE these types of articles that spark such discussion!

  • Shelby Bushman

    Loved this piece! So incredibly relatable especially for a fresh out of college broke human such as myself. I find myself getting more excited about finding an awesome piece at a thrift store even though my carts online overflow with expensive and over priced pieces that i can’t help but hate myself that i can’t afford. Thanks Haley, excited to read more of your pieces!

  • Ariel

    This year my resolution was to only buy secondhand clothes and this article captures my feelings on it exactly. For me, it’s definitely the most relatable MR fashion article in a while.
    Only exception on the secondhand rule is shoes (and my prom jumpsuit), but I’m trying to find brands that are more sustainable/transparent about their materials, like Veja sneakers. More sustainable good fashion pls!!

    • Nadine, who has written for MR a few times, is constantly writing about sustainable fashion brands. It’s really inspiring and a good source for being introduced to new brands –>

  • Anna

    So glad you wrote this! I try to only buy clothes with the money I get from reselling and it’s the best. Also, have come to love shopping on EBay and postmark!

    • Sleepyhead

      Reselling and using that credit to purchase more from a consignment shop is a great way to keeping your closet in check.

  • Melissa

    Sooo where are the best thrift shops in NY?

    • chouette

      East Village! No Relation is da best, although they’re actually part of a chain of 7-ish stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn, most of which are awesome. They buy from pickers and curate well so they always have the stuff you actually want, vintage tees, Levi’s, ACTUAL vintage dresses, and it’s CHEAP.

  • Chelsea Adilia Rojas

    Haley- thank you. This piece has come at a great time.

    I’ve always considered myself apparel-obsessed and style-conscious but have been trying really hard to stick to a budget and not fall for fast-fashion traps. I definitely understand the “left- out” feeling, especially after a good Instagram scroll. Any shopping I do is now almost exclusively on Etsy, save for an America Apparel spree during their major going out- of- business sale for some basic tees and an awesome pair of overalls. It’s a pity to think of all the money I wasted in college at Forever 21 or Zara when the pieces I’ve scored from vintage etsy sites are of markedly better quality, are better for the planet, and feel so much more ME.

    I haven’t really added to my closet too much lately as I’m moving to New York from Seattle next month (!!!) and anticipate the change in location might have a bit of an influence on my sartorial choices. Not to mention severely limited closet space.

    I’ll still be on a major budget … (grad student life)… therefore I’ll be gladly accepting recs for best NYC second hand shops- if anyone feels keen on sharing.


    • kay

      there are vintage store tours which i totally did when i first moved here and it was the best!!!!! plus the woman leading it gave me so much general advice about new york. i made the same move a few years ago and maybe you’ll have a different experience but i gotta mention the food was (and still sort of is) the hardest thing for me. the average ny restaurant just isn’t like the average seattle restaurant and i cook a lot more now. but keep a lookout for the coco helado carts yuuuuummmm. sorry for the non-clothes segue!!! good luck on your move!!!!!

      • Chelsea Adilia Rojas

        Thank you so much for the tips. A vintage store tour sounds like one of the best possible ways to get to know a new city! I’ll surely miss my local Seattle haunts but I’m looking forward to all the variety the ny food scene has to offer. Although I do hope to end up with a fully functioning kitchen! Thank you for the luck wish – I’ll be needing it!

  • Maria

    I love this! I feel totally identified! I started buying thrift clothes when I was a broke teenager and now even though I visit Zara more often than before, I still LOVE thrift shops, I get so excited when I discover something unique thats been hanging there for god knows how long!

  • This article speaks to me! I’m love thrifted/vintage pieces and mixing them into a contemporary wardrobe. Secondhand/vintage doesn’t have to be costume-y or sad, stretched out Old Navy sweaters and that you can absolutely wear secondhand in a really easy way. Thank you for this!

  • Sheila T.

    I love your style because you always look so comfortable and your outfits seem to really suit you. Plus I LOVE monochrome and you rock it!

  • chouette

    Sorry for hijacking all your comments I just love this article! When I shop too much and don’t budget I wind up acquiring more things than I can form a strong relationship with, and it leaves me worse off than if I just stuck to my old favorites.

  • Natalia Lara

    I seriously appreciate and relate so much to this post. First, I’ve always had a thing for thrifting and anything vintage and while it is more time consuming than buying off the rack, there is so much more joy when you find that one gem — it’s truly like finding lost treasure! I’ve purchased brand new Christian Louboutin strapoy sandals with gold chain fringe and fuschia suede heels; a white jersey knit body con dress with a tulip midi skirt by Versus by Vercace to DIE for that is an instant classic, a Givenchy shell top I found when I was 12 before I could even pronounce it… and so many more. So yes, honestly it is often tempting to splurge on the latest RTW or couture item but I find so much more gratification when I find that unique piece that no one else will have. And it’s so true that shopping on a budget forces you to think hard about what and when to buy — you end up curating a much more deliberate wardrobe this way — truly defining your style.

    Lastly, for office friendly buys, I suggest looking through the skirts section, where you tend to find much classic and versatile pieces like pencil skirts, midi or circle skirts. Even some mini skirts can work if they’re not to schoolgirl-ish.
    Another great section is the blazer, sports coats, which are often higher quality and can be tailored to fit. I tend to stay away from the dresses section unless I’m looking for that standout piece; I recently purchased an 80’s silk number which after a few tweaks went from 80s mother of the bride to sexy cocktail hour! Just need a little creativity and a good tailor!

  • Meg S

    Thredup is my jam. I don’t have time for actual thrifting, but I can certainly online thrift. You can plug in your sizes and it will pull things for you, shoes included. Things range from some wear to new with tags. I have plans to send them things I don’t want, but I have yet to fill the bags I had them send.

  • Bo

    GREAT HUSTLE Haley. My mother always used to drag us kids op shopping (Australian terminology for thrift shopping (it’s short for “opportunity shopping”!!!!)) and I mostly despised it. Nowadays, in the scary world of saving money for a house deposit, I have deleted all of my online shopping accounts, even my beloved TheRealReal, I go to op shops more than regular shops and haven’t bought anything new in months! Except yesterday when I dropped $250 on a pair of Oliver Peoples glasses but that’s allowed because they’re a health necessity, I’ll wear them every day forever so the cost per wear will essentially drop into the minuses, the quality is incredible and just between you and me I like having one teeny tiny thing in common with Patrick Bateman. I do love the work and craftsmanship that goes into high fashion though, and am always composing absurd $10,000 outfits on Polyvore that would make even Leandra’s hair curl, publishing them, and then wandering back to the reality of my dad’s old moleskin jeans and my unashamedly large collection of men’s half-zip sweaters. Also it’s funny that you say you sometimes feel a bit left out of the fashion world because I sometimes feel like I’m part of a secret club of wearers of pre-loved middle-aged men’s clothes, where only the most sustainable and unwasteful style mavens are granted admission. Welcome.

  • jackie

    What are your favorite thrift shops in SF?

  • Mun

    Beautiful 🙂

  • Maggie Lanham

    Thrifting is my passion, so I feel this so hard. Trends change every other week, so why not just take yourself out of the fast lane and into the slow fashion lane where things are cheap, unique and easily personalized. I don’t currently live in a place with any clothing stores (let alone thrifts) and I dream constantly (as in, last night was the most recent) of thrift store aisles and the thrill of the hunt. I can’t wait to get back to reality and my beloved Salvation Armys, Goodwills, and no-name places with piles of things in the middle of the floor. Good for you, Haley! You & thrifting rule!

    • Jac

      I also recently moved from a thrift utopia to a smaller town without many good options, and I’ve been getting really into poshmark and ebay for second-hand shopping. If there’s a specific item (I have been lusting over black korkease platforms for like 3 years, but i don’t buy leather new) and finally looked online and found a hardly used pair for like 80% off. poshmark (and probably other similar apps) also let you search by item type, color and size so if you have a general idea for a hole in your closet you can see lots of options, like a perfectly tailored thrift store. I recently got a pair of white 3×1 fringe-hem white jeans for like $10 absentmindedly browsing for white pants and they are so unbelievably perfect

  • Laura

    Great article. I’m discovering that perhaps I feel more comfortable in a similar style you describe here. I would love to see more look book type pictures of your wardrobe. Since you’ve only been in New York since March, I would love to see a series where you cover how your style evolves for the next year. Show us your San Fran style and contrast that with how NY is influencing that style.

  • Suzan

    Haley! Thank you for this piece, it’s great to have such an insight in a fashion writer’s thinking on their wardrobe! Like some other commenters mentioned, I too appreciate the transparency. And I too have been trying to work within a budget, but more importantly, I’m trying to live more consciously by – amongst other things – rejecting fast fashion and embracing thrifting. I find physical thrift shops super difficult to handle though, so overwhelming (and often… the smell!). I do really love to comb through Etsy, it’s easier when you can set the parameters for yourself already before browsing.

    I love that this article resonates so much with the readers, judging by the amount of comments! I really do hope MR will pick up the topic of vintage/thrifting/fashion budgets/sustainability/etc. even more because of it.

  • Sabrina King

    Last year I made a change for the better , since then I have to find a way to still keep my personal style and contribute to my private shopping (addiction) . Lol !! So I have been going to the goodwill where they have special color tagged items for $1 depending on the color for that week. There I find most of my Zara specials. I piece those items with buffalo exchange pieces and my outfits turn out pretty cute. I live in Houston, Texas so I keep my Califonia style going !!! Hehe

  • Merrynell

    Same, Haley. I’ve gotten used to shopping vintage and thrifted. Baggy everything does allow for a more playful wardrobe. I’ve also found my uniform store: Everlane, where I get my “new stuff” from. I know my size and fit with them so shopping online is a great experience. Can’t remember the last time I went into an actual store to shop or browse.

  • Sophie Roane

    I love this! Like most of the gals and guys floating around the ManRepeller site, I try to stay stylish but often get stressed when I can’t find the money or time to keep up with trends and am baffled how others seem to do it. Thanks for the reminder that there are other “fashion people” out there that this feel this way. Keep it real, MR.

  • “pre-imagined” is the BEST way to describe the thing you were describing! Have never been able to put my finger on exactly why I don’t enjoy wearing things from the store the way you’re suppose to wear them, this is a real weight off my mind.

  • Paula Rodio

    I have only but a few thrifted pieces in my closet and they are for sure my favorites! Love your style girl.

  • Josie Pesce

    yes yes yes and yes thrifting changed my life. i swear i get bored with my wardrobe every couple of weeks, but i don’t even have it in me to actually rid myself of the massive garbage bag of clothes that’s been in the corner of my room for months because who knows, i might actually NEED that pink glitter versace top sometime very very soon (one of my best finds, 13th street beacon’s closet).

    since i’ve been buying almost exclusively secondhand i don’t feel like a (total) hoarder because it’s sustainable for both the world and my wallet. it’s also just way more fun. you just don’t get that same rush picking up one of 40 blouses from zara, no matter how perfectly it fits.

  • Lyndsay

    Thrifting finds can be exponentially better if you shop out of season. I scored an unworn Jaeger coat ($500) for $60 last summer. That baby saw me through the winter and is being lovingly stored until October hits.

    • Haley Nahman

      why is it so hard to buy a coat in the winter….

  • Julia

    I’m in the same boat right now–moved to new york, started a new job, need to cut spending…I used to do it a few years ago just for fun but then stopped because of the time commitment. One thing I realized though, is that my favorite pieces in my closet are from a thrift store!

  • love love love this story

  • Jem

    This was a great article! After I watched the documentary ‘The True Cost’ fast fashion put a sour taste in my mouth. The quality from those stores is often flimsy. Plus those stores are bad for the environment & the humans who produce the clothes.
    Thrift stores can help the environment & your creativity muscle. I just found an authentic vintage Gucci purse for $6 & a Dolce & G. denim jacket for $30. Talk about style score!

  • nikilips

    The thrill of the find is the best part IMO! My mom about died when she found out how much I paid for this purse!

    • Haley Nahman

      that’s so good!

    • I love that basket so much and it’s in such good condition. Congrats.

  • Julie

    Thank you for this! It’s an important reminder that looking fashionable and being on a budget are not mutually exclusive. I’m on a 100% thrift and consignment diet and I’ve found it to make me more creative and daring with my outfits!

  • Jeanine Valente

    So refreshing for you to talk about the financial limits of your job. Often times, the perception of jobs in the fashion industry appear to be so extravagant. Sometimes they are, but most of the time they are perks like you mentioned.

    • Haley Nahman


  • Katie N.

    I would just like to say that while I love a good thrift, I usually think of it as a kind of not put together look. My limitations more than that of the clothes. But when I saw you at camp I thought to myself, “damn this girls outfits are pieced together so perfectly, it’s art.” There was this jacket you were wearing the whole time that was just amazing and if that was thrift I am thoroughly impressed

    • Haley Nahman

      omg thank you so much! that beige jacket is thrift, from the guy’s section! was an SF find

  • Margaret McKever

    love this!

  • anonymousanemones

    Yesyesyesyes this article is SO good Haley! I love your writing.

    To add to the ethical/green/etc conversation… when I do buy new, I’m trying to buy really gorgeous, well-made, and Melissa Lee’s directory is now my go-to resource: Total game changer.

  • Your style is the coolest, seriously!! @haley_nahman:disqus

    Meg @

  • Jasmine King


  • Rheanonn Perez

    i also haven’t shopped fast fashion in about a year & it feels gr8. now i only buy thrift items or the occasional investment piece, therefore i love all of my clothes & i feel like every dollar (or couple hundred dollars 😩) is well spent. yayyy for thrifting!!

  • I hope this being the most shared post of the week brings attention to the very talented Man Repeller writers that a lot of women who frequent this site can’t relate to the extremely upscale topics written about. I vote more articles like this.

  • Amelia

    Haley!!! Recommendations of thrift stores in lower manhattan/brooklyn?!

  • Marquia Jones

    This is such a perfect and candid article! I find myself in the middle of this spectrum, and fashion plight.

  • Kristie

    yo just making sure it’s known they wrote about you and this article on the German version of Refinery29. sehr cool!

  • deee_cue

    Haley, I always liked your aesthetic but thought your clothes fit your body too well to be thrifting purchases. How do you find things that fit you so well– tailoring or sheer perseverance?

  • Néo Bourgeois — Montecito

    ‘trepidation’ I think that’s a good word that captures the schmatta business and its cornucopia of choice. Would be nice to press a button and have an outfit appear, that totally captures your mood and occupational leanings.

  • emme

    Such a perfect piece Haley! Love how real this is.

  • My parents still can’t understand why I opt for baggy Levis over a trendy Zara slim fit. When I dress down and by down, I mean low-crotch pants down, I feel more like me than a skinny jean ever could make me feel.

  • olga

    I’m a broke af teen and thrifting is like a life-saver. Also, old clothes fullfiles me way more than anything from fast-selling stores¨!

  • Palak Jain

    i love the transparency of this piece, also youre doing great work for the environment , also hate to be this person but it would make my day if you checked out my fashion blog at

  • Pitcheyani


    We have all at least once wished to own extravagant products or at least look like we do. Well, there is a solution ladies. This solution is one to all your Boogie look cravings.

    I understand you are not alone, I am not usually the person to spend a lot of money on clothes, shoes, and accessories, but once in a while, I like to look put together with my own personal style turning heads around.

    Well, ladies, today is your lucky day because I am going to give you “NOT BOOGIE JUST UNIQUE ON A BUDGET”. I will be feeding you with vital information on the must haves if you want to look put together in your own personal style.
    see more at

  • Emily Neikam

    Can you recommend any thrift stores in NYC? I just moved here and have had a bit of trouble finding “the” spot.

  • Lenam Mahj

    Thank you for your honesty! I don’t mean to sound bitter, but I am a surgeon and still could not afford to buy the wardrobes that the Manrepller, Glossier editors are sporting. Please, more honesty in the Money Diariers regarding clothing bought vs gifted

  • Denisetastic

    I try to get as much as possible second hand because I love clothes but I hate both the environmental impact of fast fashion and the capitalist pressure to buy buy buy – but to get off my high horse! I lost a lot of weight in the last year and have had to completely rebuild my wardrobe and I have found that thrift shopping is where I find the pieces that shoot me through with that spark, that make me feel that the sweater/dress/scarf is expressing ME. I don’t get that as often from mass produced clothes. I think it’s a combo of the joy of finding a treasure and the fact that there’s just so many different things going on in a thrift store than in your go to fast fashion stores. I now find myself rounding out my second hand stuff with new stuff and I am loving it. Also MR should pay its staff enough money to live the MR lifestyle JUST SAYING!!!

  • Erica Kan

    Sending <3 from SF.