Chic at Every Price

To attend school in a beach city like Santa Monica - a city alive with the shopping, film and model industries and extending its long, well-manicured fingers over the hills of Hollywood and out across Los Angeles - is to feel that one is competing for a starring role on a movie set, with clothing as the weapon of choice.

However, possessing this well-dressed and impeccably polished appearance certainly varies in importance to individual Santa Monica College students, since most relinquish their financial priority to common demands of the college life, including classes, apartment, food, gas, and, of course, the killer expensive textbooks. It's no surprise, therefore, that most of us have little desire to spend $100 on scant material only because the tag flaunts a name brand. Finding economical ways to look neat, sleek and chic consequently becomes increasingly vital to the full-time student, whether the reasons be professional or social.

"I think there's a lot to be said for mixing and matching," said SMC fashion student Carl Somers, who intends to say it all. The young man carefully describes his recent purchases which, aside from a couple of Club Monaco sweaters and a pair of Steve Madden shoes, all come from much less expensive vintage stores nearby as well as some gold finds at the Goodwill on Santa Monica Blvd. and Fourth St.

According to Somers, mixing the sweaters around with a casual t-shirt, jeans, and a good pair of sunglasses keeps his outfits interesting and refreshed. "And the same goes for girls. You can buy some leggings in various colors to refresh your black dress and keep yourself feeling new without spending a lot more money."

His sister, a student at the nearby high school, not only agrees that mixing is a simple trick to keep money in the bank, but also adds that a woman with at least a pair of quality shoes that don't "fall apart after two weeks of breaking her back," as well as a nice bag can really have people "convinced that her clothes are more expensive than they actually are."

Aside from specific techniques to improve an outfit and save money, there are also many recommended stores in and surrounding Santa Monica, which reportedly possess clothing that equals if not surpasses the appeal of J.Crew and Gucci.

For example, the saying that "one man's trash is another man's treasure" certainly holds true at Wasteland as well as The Crossroads Trading Co., which both reside in the same area of downtown Santa Monica and have received positive online reviews regarding the affordable and used vintage items sold at each store.

In addition, a popular vintage store on Melrose, called Jet Rag, redeems its generally overpriced vintage with its dollar sale every Sunday: an event for which the employees haul out a variety of dresses, pants, sweaters, shirts, belts and scarves into the parking lot, and play hip Latin funk and oldies music while costumers dig through the piles. It makes for a fun experience with friends, and as the name clearly implies, every item is sold for one dollar. It's no wonder the lot is full of college students every Sunday.

The life of the full-time student, of course, does not often permit one to spend time traveling and shopping. Sepi Shokri, a well-dressed SMC student with a daring, flaming, red afro, recommended the popular eBay store called Hippo Gorilla Giraffe, "Their clothing is inexpensive, cute, and practical. I've gotten compliments on literally every piece I've worn of theirs. And it's all can't find it anywhere else." Hippo Gorilla Giraffe, which possesses nearly all positive online reviews of their reliability and style, sells fashionable vintage clothing and accessories for women. Combined with the ease of bidding on eBay, the store makes for a smooth transaction and rare bargain for many students.

It seems that the best way for one to stay fashionable while saving money is to refrain from buying on impulse while searching for the best prices. "Marshalls will often have the exact same item found at Macy's but for a cheaper price," said Neda Momeni, a student in the midst of transferring to UCLA, "and I won't buy an item if it does nothing for me."

Somers concurred with Momeni's sentiment, advising his fellow students, "If you don't love it, don't purchase it. School is what will get you places anyway, not your clothes."