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How To Dress Like A Million Bucks. For $31 Dollars

A couple of weeks ago I made a very trendy fashion haul.

I went to Target. Someone in Target’s top management is wearing smartypants and sources goods that speak to most everyone. Their tees, in my experience, are top notch, albeit with a somewhat abbreviated lifespan.

My haul cost all of $31. My family fortune, as I have said, is fading. My desire to turn myself out well, is not.


Merona gray and black striped Ultimate Tee, $13. Cowl-neck Mossimo Drapey tee, $10 (this exact version not online).

A marinière. Some 70s style. I am telling you, we wore the heck out of cowl-necks in the 70s. How else to balance the long skirts and boots? And if I want to call that a marinière, don’t break my heart. It’s much less baggy than it looks. Check it against the real thing here.

The third overwhelmingly fashionable item I bought was a new navy tee. For $8. What am I talking about? Jeans and a navy shirt count as minimalist, monochromatic dressing. Jeans are navy. They are.

Add pearls, and a pair of non-trivial black flats, and you’re quite presentable. A triple-strand may seem a little much for an $8 tee. Impunity, my friends, impunity. And recently I’ve been wearing the heck out of my 80s vintage mabe pearls. Those big buttons look good for the first time in years. Mine came from my sister, but you can find others at Beladora, here.

Alternatively, gold is always a good accessory for navy.

The watch doesn’t have to be a Rolex. Frankly, it’d be a better outfit were this a vintage man’s timepiece of a lesser-known brand. Or a Russian ladies’ watch with Soviet implications. The earrings are from Chinatown, small discs with a dragon engraved, noteworthy for the tell-tale coloration of 24K gold. Again, gold-plated would look just fine. Square, for example, but simple. The point is to enrich a blue monochromatic outfit with fairly subtle variations across the yellow spectrum – yellow-brown, red-brown, gold, bronze.

You will note signs of fraying above. The Manolos’ heel and the watch strap’s #1 loop are both in need of repair. This Sturdy Gal approach to classic dressing requires spending almost nothing on what you’ll wear for only a season. Conversely, one spends a reasonable amount on that which should last several years, i.e. blue jeans, and invests a fair amount of time and money to maintain what’s worn for decades.

I wear my shoes for 10 years, sometimes. Rubber half-soles, and heels, are our friends.

The Sturdy Gal approach also requires us to have faith. So we won’t be buying Jean-Paul Gaultier’s version of the marinière. It’s not necessary.

Last week I walked up a hill in San Francisco, in jeans, pearls, Ferragamo Varinas, the striped tee I will persist in calling marinière, and a James Perse peacoat. A street person asked me if I designed clothes. I said no. “You dress well,” he replied. I took it as a compliment, even though I knew he was angling for a donation. Which I gave. I suppose you could say I felt like a million dollars.

No compensation has been taken, yet, for any of these recommendations. However, a relationship with Beladora, vintage jewelery extraordinaire, is in the works.

48 Responses

  1. my mom ADORES the merona t-shirts and always scoops up a handful while she's in target. the neck isn't particularly flattering on me, so i'm holding out hope they'll make a lovely scoopneck version pour moi!

  2. I was looking for a polo to go with Lilly pants…the merona tuquoise was the only one I could find that perfectly matched!

    I keep clothes for ever – I have a coat from 1984! Oh and a lacoste from the same year – I wore it in August – it felt cosy and familiar!

  3. Jeans and a navy t is my favourite everyday wear, and my watch is a tan croc strapped tank, I love those shaded together. I'm trying to adopt some sturdy gal principles of buying clothes that will last.

  4. I too am a big fan of Target for basics like t-shirts, shorts, etc. One of my wardrobe basics, is a white cotton button down shirt by Merona, purchased at Target. I wear it about once a week.
    Also like you, I mix my basics wardrobe staples, white button down, jeans, ballet flats, cashmere sweater, with a good vintage watch and classic jewelry, pearls or gold curb chain. Certainly not on the cutting edge of fashion, but the look works for me.

  5. I don't know of anyone who doesn't love Target. And, I love this post! What a lot of wit, style & philosophy all proven even more correct with your pics. xx's

  6. Thank you for the endorsement of gold-colored jewelry. I have been mystified for several years by the popularity of silver/white gold; I just don't like it at all.

    My preferred style of dress these days is a simple t-shirt layered with a more interesting blouse (left unbuttoned for the most part), jeans and unassuming flats. Is the the official Sturdy Girl uniform? (Tell me it is, even if it isn't; I love the idea I might be fashionable.)

  7. Love how you mix high and low. And that striped tee has inspired a trip to Target.
    p.s. I love the term "non-trivial black flats".

  8. I'll have to check out Target's tees during my next replacement round. I'm in total agreement with you about the rubber soles and heels…a MUST. My favorite pairs of shoes get a new life after a trip to the shoe repair guy. You've chosen well here, and for $31 you won't have to think twice about tossing them once they've worn out.

  9. hi lpc,

    i recently did a fall fashion post on just this subject. basically mixing style and not spending a fortune. i love your mix here. i guess you have me off to target again to see what is brewing there. love the watch with t and flats. perfect in my eyes. i wear an old mens watch everyday so i love that too. right on, lpc, right on.


  10. I love Tar-jay! I get all of my basics there. I bought my jeans there last year and I love them. And all my plain white t-shirts are from Target because they are a normal thickness instead of the super tissue thing junk that Jcrew sells.

  11. It's amazing some of the nice, inexpensive finds you can score at Target. I got a great argyle cardigan the other day that will be perfect paired with a white T-shirt. And the kids' clothes are pretty darn cute for fall. Love you accessory suggestions – nothing like a set of pearls to make a classic statement.

  12. How long lasting are the Target tees? How well do they hold their shape? I know nothing of your local brands, but surely we have similar ones here in Finland too. For me answers to those questions are of importance. I have done too many foolish purchases, still do, so I feel extra careful now. I don´t like the idea of buying something with the attitude of wearing it a couple of times, and then throwing it away. I do, however approve the idea of dressing something simple up, as I now find it interesting to dress something of greater value, down.
    A famous brand does not always equal high quality, nor does brandlessness mean bad quality. Be it what it may, I only hope we won´t choke with too much stuff.

  13. Target's basics are more than fine, as many here can attest. I had a funny thought: if you reversed your outfit–Target peacoat, Target shoes, Target watch, etc with a designer tee shirt would the panhandler have admired the outfit?

    Our moms were right: it's the shoes and coat and accessories that count.

  14. I absolutley love a lady in a T-Shirt and Jeans…when done right…as you show here. Well done !

  15. Belle – Tell your mom I said she's a smart woman:). I think I saw scoopneck online.

    Princess – Your polo sounds great. I have a coat that's from 1979 – but I live in California so I haven't given it much wear.

    Tabitha – I love tank watches.

    Belle – Well, the cutting edge of fashion is a little sharp, IMO.

    Splenderosa – Thank you! And to top if off, Dayton-Hudson (as they used to be called, is a conscientious corporation.

    Jan – I'm allergic to silver. So I'm happy to help evangelize gold:). Now, I'd say if you up the blouse just a bit to a casual blazer, and up the flat a little to non-trivial, you're good to go:). You certainly might be fashionable…

  16. Yes, marinière! Having visited Brittany twice, each time with a close girl friend, we brought several Armor Lux shirts back home. If I go there a third time, I will come back with another marinière. I remember one bed and breakfast where the old lady had black/white photos on the wall. Two little girls, wearing shorts and the heavy wool knit mariniere with the buttons on one shoulder.
    The hair straw-blonde and even though the picture was black/white we could tell the girls had a tan only grandchildren from fishermen get during summer. They were standing next to a wooden boat. The moment I looked at those two girls in their marinières I knew we from the countryside will never equal their style. This was authentic. Something any Marc O'Polo ad tries to simulate. I don't know if you know Marc O'Polo?
    I read about Target on various blogs. Seems to be a good place.

  17. La Belette _ Thank you. Non-trivial is a term I have borrowed from my software architect and mathematician friends:).

    Muffy – Well thank you my dear! I loved your recent travel posts.

    S. – *secret twin handshake* :).

    Genuine Lustre – I sure smiled big as heck.

    Gigi – Hello! Thank you so much.

    Deja – Exactly. These become rags without guilt.

  18. Ms. Givens – I am so happy to have your endorsement. You are a wise shopper.

    Janet – Yes, I saw that post. It's so interesting that many of us, even with an interest in style, focus much of our attention on getting the basics right.

    Susan – :-)

    Preppy Pink – I let the tissue tee trends wash right on me, I admit.

    JMW – I saw those argyles. They were very cute. And, sometimes you just have to take the pearl train.

    Mette – These tees last maybe a year. Eventually they lose their shape, and get stained. But they work really well while they are newish.

  19. Frugal – You are absolutely right. I think I could have gotten away with a Target trench coat. After all, the Perse peacoat is made of sweatie material). But the shoes, above all, make an impact if they are good caliber materials, design, and fit.

    Mary Anne – Hello there. Thank you so much.

    Main Line – Yes, I've noticed that this is the kind of outfit that often winds up on men's obsession lists. The white button front with jeans and pearls even more. Thank you for your kind words.

  20. Nice Tees from Target, I find Tees do not last long no matter how much they cost…and you have upped the ante with quality accessories….I would expect nothing less from you Lisa!

    BTW your watch does look like my ESQ watch.

    How sweet a comment from a street person…
    one who obviously recognizes quality…
    I wonder what life event caused their downfall

    You've got some great shoes to wear walking around SF…
    love the quilted MB flats…

  21. Target (en francais) is a great place for simple staples (albeit short lived). I do like to wander their aisles…and have enjoyed the maternity wear.

  22. Love the outfits…I must get to Target!
    Living on Martha's Vineyard for a while must have been wonderful. Carly Simon has been one of my favorite singers and always dreamed about going there. Meg Ryan lives on is such a private place (and no crime…dont tell anyone : )

  23. We don't have Target here, but I do stock up on tees from The Gap. And my favourite outfits incorporate the old and the new — more and more lately, I'll realize that I'm wearing something I've had for six or seven years (or more for jewelry) in combination with something I bought in the last year. Not sure why that pleases me so much, but it does — perhaps because it suggests that I do have a more consistent sense of what pleases me than I'd realized. Still waiting for a street person to compliment me — that's high praise!

  24. I'm starting to think that we dress very similarly on most days :) I do love my black chanel flats, they never let me down while tee shirts come and go!


  25. I am a Sturdy Gal and I dress like that (no Target here, so T-shirts are Vineyard Vines, Lands End, or LL Bean).
    I love the non-trivial shoes. I used to live in Belgian shoes but multiple foot surgeries have left me unable to wear anything except supportive "comfort shoes." Are Dansko clogs acceptable with these outfits, or do I have to surrender my Sturdy Gal card?

  26. YOU are such a smarty-pants!
    OMG those look like the tags that the MR. found in my closet and said…"Been shopping I see!" My daughter said she could feel my eyebrows raising…from the other room. Who the hell cares, I love Target and RIGHT NOW they have the PERFECT long sleeved T's.
    The women who have the most style are the smartest shoppers in my book. My mom was and is to this day the best dresser in the whole wide world. So there ya go!

  27. Tickled – Thank you! I've enjoyed your series of photos from back when.

    Carole – They taught you well then:).

    Preppy 101 – Thank you! They really have managed to make Target shopping fun.

    Hostess – Thank you ma'am. It was interesting, the homeless guy, commenting on my clothing. I've never had that happen before, and I wonder what his background was.

    CDS – En Francais, bien sur:). They have Liz Lange maternity wear now, I was noticing.

    Lori – You have enough going on…

  28. Caroline, I think Danskos were invented by a Sturdy Girl!

    I do love Target ~sigh~ Magic 8 Ball sees a visit in the near future.

    My other go-to for trends is H&M – the clothes last as long as the trends (although sometimes you luck out……..).

  29. Jennifer – My father had his house there – but it was more for extended vacations than full-time living. I think living there year round would be wonderful, especially for artists and writers.

    Mater – Yes, it's as though our style becomes a book of us, in a way, a continued narrative. Wait, what is that word in paintings, for layers?

    Sewing – I would be thoroughly honored.

    MaryJo – Ha, our shoes are so faithful:).

    Caroline – Dansko clogs are certainly Sturdy. I confess to owning some Naturalizers that I wear when the weather makes good shoes a bad idea. I will have to go and review the Dansko offerings. Thanks for the good idea.

    Lisa – So funny. I almost feel like Target shopping doesn't even count. Like calories consumed on vacation.

  30. I love that I can go shopping at Target & just slip the bills into supermarket column.

  31. "…spending almost nothing on what you'll wear for only a season. Conversely, one spends a reasonable amount on that which should last several years…"

    I absolutely subscribe to this. Absolutely.

  32. LOVE the things you bought (full disclosure: I had the cowl neck in hand before seeing how late I was for an appointment, and still want to go back for it), and the way you assembled the pieces. Classic Miss LPC. Like you. :)

  33. without a doubt, you and MoMo took the same course in dressing like a mil for a fraction… splurge on the forever stuff, cheapies on stuff that will wear out by spring!


  34. It takes years to become stylistically mature and I think you are.It's a relief to read posts like this.One doesn't need to overspend or shop non-stop to look good.

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