Inspiration: Catalog Looks on a Budget

20 Sep

I don’t know about you, but I love relaxing with a catalog or magazine and a big mug of tea.  As calm as this sounds, I admit the exercise usually devolves into exclamations about the retailer charging “eighty dollars? I COULD KNIT THAT MYSELF!” or pairing the most ridiculous outfits that people don’t wear in real life, ever.  Knowing this doesn’t hurt the opportunity for me, if anything it enhances the journey toward dressing myself without a fancy no-limit American Express card or a batty personal stylist.  Let’s talk about how I take a catalog look that won’t work quite right for me and transform it!

1. Find a picture that you like because you’d actually wear it.  Make sure that you don’t just wish you had the models arms/stomach/cheekbones.  Don’t get attracted to thick knit wool sweaters when you don’t wear wool.  One such photo that caught my eye recently was this sweet look from the Sept 2012 Anthropologie catalog:

(Photo clipped from the digital Sept 12 Anthropologie catalog.)

2. Decide which parts of the photo attracted you.  This can be ANYTHING from the photo.  For instance, maybe you see the great blue skirt and decide that you want to search for a bottom in that color.  I fell in love with the outfit as a whole and these three details specifically: a lace skirt, a patterned blouse and a belt over said blouse.

3. At this point, I think one of the biggest detours that derails the average shopper is trying to find the EXACT outfit.  Inspiration doesn’t have to mean copying the style piece for piece!  Notice in my choice details that I wanted to find a “patterned blouse”.  Not a floral print, neutral colored button down.  (Although that would be ok, too!)  Sometimes you’ll definitely be looking for a really similar piece, but the image can really inspire a lot of different likes and ideas.

With these items in mind, come up with a similar look that suits you.  I decided on this:

Forever 21 Pintucked Pleated Floral Top, H&M Lace Skirt,  Forever 21 Cutout Hearts Waist Belt

I think these three pieces together would result in an outfit that is more “me” than the original, but incorporates my three inspiration ideas.

4. Marvel at your financial savvy.  The three items in the original photo cost $364.  My inspired-by look costs (DRUMROLL, PLEASE) $53.55.


I created another example of the same technique for this photo from the same catalog:

Sadly, the similar pea coat that I had selected was sold out and I couldn’t show you the whole outfit.  BUT!  For THIS photo, my inspiration was a fancy sheath dress under a cozy, short pea coat.  And I found a REALLY GREAT fancy dress that IS still available and wanted to share just in case.

The Suzi Chin Kaleidoscope Shift Dress.  It can be yours for THIRTY ONE DOLLARS AND NINETEEN CENTS.  I love it and hope you pair it with a pea coat and extra fabulous boots.

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