always be flamin'

as i've told ya'll before, i do a city chic column for uic's paper the chicago flame. it's an awesome paper, based out of the west loop, surrounded by culture, and run by some really fabulous, passionate individuals.

i've a new article up, and i'd love for you to check it out and do a bit of commenting!

Student Style 101: Making the grade with your wardrobe without breaking the bank

Amanda Aldinger

Issue date: 8/24/09 Section: City Chic
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Be the first in line to score this Rodarte for Target dress, coming December 20.
Media Credit: fashionologie.com
Be the first in line to score this Rodarte for Target dress, coming December 20.

Let's be honest. I'd like to say that the impact of my mother curling my bangs and dressing me up in her favorite dresses on the first day of school has left me as I approach age 24, but, alas, it has not. As I near my first week of grad school, I would be lying if I said that I haven't been thinking about or planning my 17th "first day of school" outfit. And for all of you who are willing (or unwilling) to admit the same, we can all concede that although the importance of the first day look still exists, as we get older, the effort behind it shifts from one of impression to expression.

Fashion and style need not be limited by cost, but as the seasons change, and the excitement of summerwear fades, the financial burden of books and other back-to-school costs build, and the task of updating your wardrobe for the new school year seems daunting, to say the least. If not fiscally impossible. But don't worry loves, that's where I come in. Add these tips to your back-to-school checklist and you'll be the chicest student in class (with a pretty penny leftover for the weekends!).

Thrift stores: Chicago is a shopaholic's dream, and I'm not talking about Michigan Avenue either. In our city of hidden gems, be it Unique Thrift, the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or the endless discounted goldmines scattered amongst the J.Crews and H&Ms of the shopping world, thrifting is the stuff dreams are made of. I have a weekly date with my local Unique Thrift on half-price Mondays, where I've scored an excess of gold jewelry, a Gucci-inspired 70s top, black men's vest, and oh-so-retro black and white tailored dress for a grand total of $7.00. Mix and matching your own look for the price of a Chipotle burrito? Honest to god, it makes you never want to shop retail again.

Diffusion lines: There are some serious benefits to recession chic…and the front-runners of this budget-friendly style movement are diffusion lines. Diffusion lines are designed by high fashion designers for the masses, and are carried by favorites like Target, Urban Outfitters, and H&M. Whether it's Alexander McQueen for Target, Anna Sui for Anthropologie, Steven Alan for Urban, or Comme des Garçonne for H&M, these lines are our opportunity to acquire high fashion concepts with low end price tags, and they look just as fabulous as their runway counterparts.

The Sale Rack: I know…"tell me something I don't know." But I'm serious here, folks. I live and breathe high fashion and 90% of my wardrobe consists of leftovers from that weird rack at Forever21 hidden deep in the back of the store. That creepy fur vest for $15 dollars? Buy it. Love that dress, but hate the attached belt? Get it anyway. These are the pieces that you get for nothing, cut and craft to make your own, and then accessorize with your basics to create a look that no one can replicate. Fashion is passion, baby. I have proudly displayed so many of my new purchases to friends, only to be greeted with a chorus of "what were you thinking?" But once I've made it my own and paired it with some of my personal signatures, the critiques die and the compliments roll in, leaving them to wish they'd given that awkward leopard print a chance, too.

Final Grade: Fashion does not have to be expensive. You can have exquisite personal style on whatever budget you choose, it just requires a commitment to retail exploration, and to making your purchases your own. It's a new school year, and style is class…there's no reason you shouldn't have an A+.

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