The Thrift Shopping Cheat Sheet: Living a designer lifestyle on a Walmart budget

It’s a hard life when your heart’s says Chanel but your head says you’ve got to eat.

But New York truly is a magical place. Let me play fairy godmother as I introduce you to some of the city’s best spots for picking up designer goodies on the cheap.

tumblr_lypgfhxis91qfno3aA quick Google search will immediately direct you to Century 21, arguably New York’s best known designer outlet. Here’s the reality- you don’t want to go there. Sure, have a browse if you’ve got half a day to kill, but the long lines and only slightly better than average deals make this one seriously overrated shopping destination.

Here’s where to check out instead-

Nordstrom The Rack
60 E 14th St

photo 1

Best for: shoes, shoes and more shoes

This is probably C21’s closest relative, yet there’s something significantly more inviting about The Rack. For those who aren’t US natives (i.e. me), Nordstrom is a large department store stocking designer wares, and when their stuff goes out of season this is where it ends up.

Expect staple pieces from brands such as Calvin Klein, Burberry Brit, Ted Baker… and when these already discounted brands end up on the sale rack, you’ll find even better bargains- a BCBG skirt for $20 anyone?

However, the real attraction to this place are the rows and rows of shoes. Heels by the likes of Michael Kors and Stuart Wietzman are easily spotted, but be prepared to rummage and who knows what big names you’ll find?

Cadillac’s Castle
333 E 9th St

photo 3

Best for: bargain work dresses

Tucked away on boutique-filled 9th St, this is a gem of a find. Racks of colour-coordinated clothes are filled with surprisingly high-end labels. There’s lots of Diane Von Furstenberg dresses waiting to be snapped up, with other brands such as Isse Myake and Miu Miu up for grabs too.

Best of all, the prices are beyond reasonable. $75 for an immaculate Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress? Yes please! There’s a decent selection of shoes, too, although prepare to cry when those delightful Dolce and Gabbana floral sandals are three sizes too small. Sob!

Gypsy Nation Vintage
Willamsburg Artists and Fleas, weekends

photoBest for: Quirky vintage and designer handbags

This flea market stall in Williamsburg is an excellent choice for vintage pieces, designer or not. With styles dating back to the early 1900s, you’ll stumble across some seriously unique finds.

And nestled among the quirky dresses and sequins are some amazing designer handbags. They certainly aren’t giving them away, but the prices are still excellent for quality, genuine Louis Vuitton and other big labels. Oh, and their vintage accessories are pretty special, too.

Tokio 7

83 E 7th St

photo 2Best for: finding the LBD of your dreams

Arguably one of the biggest second-hand designer stores in New York, there’s quite a selection of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories,  some of it new. However, some of the items are noticeably used, and might need a trip to the tailors or dry-cleaners before you get the most out of them.

One of the great things about this place is there is actual changing rooms, none of his fooshty curtain in the corner nonsense. It might take a while to sift through everything (seeing as it lacks any sort of order) but with this range of stock, you might just snap up a miracle find.

Tokyo 7 is famous for its supply of Louboutins, and with Chanel and Prada frequently making an appearance,  it’s definitely worth exploring.

Buffalo Exchange

332 E 11th St

photo 4Best for: that ‘I can’t believe I found (insert designer) moment

While not strictly a designer consignment store, there are more than a few big labels to be found here. Think All Saints, Michael Kors, lashings of Juicy Couture. ..

Yet some of the real treats are the non-designer items. New or nearly-new Zara, H&M and other brands can be picked up from around  $10. Exciting times.

This is a large store, but it’s also very busy. You might have to squeeze your way through other shoppers to grab those Stella McCartney heels before anyone else does.

My top tip? Head down to the East Village for streets and streets lined with quirky boutiques, vintage and thrift stores.

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