Today’s news:

Fashion on a Shoestring

First of a two-part series

Anyone with a fashion sense knows how to stay in style without breaking the bank. For Queens fashionistas and their male counterparts, dressing au courant may be more about attitude than anything else, especially during these tough economic times when buying clothing for less is a real challenge.

If you’re job hunting, looking professional and sporting a nice suit may help you ace that job interview, but what do you do when money’s tight? For starters, staying positive is key, but there are times when we can all use a helping hand.

So, what are savvy Queens shoppers doing to weather the storm? “Sales, deals and bargains” seems to be their mantra. For great fashion finds, Queens offers oodles of budget-shopping options: Fox’s on Austin Street. in Forest Hills is chock-full of hot designer items at reasonable prices; Marshalls, in Rego Park and Jamaica, is known for its huge selection of affordable, trendy clothing and accessories; Fashion for Less (NY), on Hillside Avenue in Hollis, is dedicated to providing the latest styles for the lowest prices, while also offering a full line of medical uniforms.

Our borough is becoming a fashion destination, and there’s a diversity of talented designers here with “no platform to shine on,” says Laurelton fashion designer Delali Haligah, creator of Osun Designs — one-of-a-kind Art-to-Wear that draws on the African experience. She believes that Queens fashion is moving in a new direction, especially with Queens Fashion Week, which she launched in 2010. It’s an eclectic series of runway shows and networking events that shine a spotlight on the fashionable lifestyle available in our own backyard.

“Major people are starting to take notice that we are a force to be contended with,” says Haligah. “For me, that’s what Queens style is all about.”

The Spring/Summer Fashion Week show in February at York College Performing Arts Center in Jamaica was a big hit. Osun was featured in The New York Times, the New York Daily News, and on NY1.

Sometimes, the trick to saving money is to get creative and start thinking out-of-the-box — and thrifting is another option. No longer considered taboo, foraging in thrift shops for fashion surprises has become a shopping culture of sorts, and buying good secondhand, recycled clothing is a smart dress-for-less solution.

These creative fashionistas reveal their secrets for achieving style on a shoestring:

Former Astoria diva Patrice J. Williams’ website, Looking Fly on a Dime (lookingflyonadime.com), is a one-stop advice destination for ladies who want to look up-to-the-minute without dropping a ton of cash. It showcases her thrift finds and offers tips on how to get the most out of thrifting.

“It’s for the girl who has champagne taste on a Kool-Aid budget,” she says. “I’ve been an avid ‘thrifter’ for almost 10 years, and realized I had a knack for finding treasures for just a few pennies — Chanel shoes for $5, a Theory jacket for $1, vintage dresses for less than five bucks. After discovering a great piece, I go online to find out its approximate value, and when I realize I purchased an item for a fraction of its original cost, I get super excited.”

The savvy 28-year-old, now living in New Jersey, started her blog a year-and-a-half ago after being laid off from her job as an office assistant. “My need to save cash really kicked in when I moved to New York City in 2007,” says Williams. At one point, she even started a recession-proof challenge, Thrifty Threads 365 — only buying thrift items for an entire year. Nine months into it, she has saved hundreds of dollars and scored some amazing pieces.

One of Williams’ secret shopping haunts for incredible bargains is in Long Island City — the Goodwill Outlet on Van Dam Street, but come prepared to dig in large bins.

“Clothing is priced at $1.69 per pound, so you can walk out with an entire outfit (shoes included) for less than $10. I’ve never left this place empty-handed,” she says.

Housing Works, based in Brooklyn, has its $20 all-you-can-stuff sale at a warehouse in Long Island City. For $20, whatever you can fit into a large paper bag, is yours!

The thrifty diva suggests “if you like a certain store, sign up for their e-mail list. They usually send out discounts around your birthday, and alert you to new store openings in your area, which also have major savings during grand openings. And, a few times a year, why not have clothing swaps with friends, and turn it into a party? Everybody brings a bag of clothing and accessories, a drink or dish. Whatever clothes haven’t been swapped can be dropped off at your local thrift store.”

Vintage couture anyone?

Super-stylish Manhattanite, Sammy Davis — of no relation to the iconic crooner — is all about, “making vintage modern for the contemporary woman.”

She’s the guru behind a unique website (sammydvintage.com) that focuses on retro/vintage fashion looks and where to find them. The bubbly 25-year-old’s helpful Web series on YouTube, shows ladies how to put together an entire chic outfit from Goodwill stores, like the one in Long Island City.

“In department stores, similar items would cost three to five times higher,” says Davis, who gets lots of compliments on her snazzy pieces from friends who turn to her for creative dressing advice.

“The ‘70s and ‘80s are back this season, and there’s a lot out there to choose from— you can find amazing stuff at vintage stores,” she says. “Back then, clothes were mostly made in the USA, not China, and were high-quality — made to last, sometimes even handmade. If you’re lucky, you can even find high-end couture treasures.”

Fashion isn’t just about trends — it also has to do with empowerment.

Part Two will include information about organizations whose goals are to empower and give hope to folks who are unemployed and struggling financially—first, by providing clothing for interviews and afterwards by offering an entire range of services. Everybody deserves stylish clothing and a second chance in life.

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