Shop Smart and Dress One of a Kind

By Whitley Adkins Hamlin

Shop Smart and Dress One of a Kind

As the Granddaughter and Great Granddaughter of style-setting department store clothing buyers from a bygone era, I was exposed to, and learned about, well made clothes from a very early age. I played dress up in clothes that were decades older than me at the time, and to this day I still play dress up in those very clothes. The garments have all stood the test of time and wear. We all know everything was made better then. There are a few things out there still well made today, but generally speaking, the cost reflects ten-fold. For this reason, and a love affair with these vintage garments, I’ve held on to every piece that was ever passed down to me. Not only has this practice expanded my wardrobe repertoire, but it has allowed me to save money along the way. Holding on to items passed down is my favorite way to shop smart and dress one of a kind. Not only is no money spent, but the garments and accessories have so much more meaning.

Likewise, shopping estate sales is a great way to collect unique items while saving your pennies. The best way to find out about these sales is still the old fashioned way of opening up your weekend newspaper. I recently came into possession of about 15 garments that I am going to guess date back to the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. I am not certain, but there is a chance a couple of the items could have dated to the late 1940s. What I am certain of is the quality of the garments. Fashion is cyclical, so everything good comes back around every couple of decades anyway, but the well made stuff is timeless.

Just like pining over the pages of a meticulously-styled fashion magazine photo shoot, consignment shopping is another favorite pastime of mine. I very rarely pay full price for clothing, and so naturally, in that same vein, I have found some of my most favorite pieces consignment shopping. One of my treasured pieces is a grey herringbone-patterned Armani dress with a flutter hem skirt and sailor tie neckline. It came from one of my favorite boutiques in Charlotte, Summerbird, a high end consignment store dedicated to not merging onto the path of mainstream but rather staying true to the owner’s keen eye of procuring only the most unique, well made items by some of today’s most cutting edge designers.

Vintage clothing shopping is another favorite pastime, if not my most favorite. Most of the well made garments like those you can find at estate sales do cost more. That doesn’t mean, however, you can’t find interesting pieces at accessible prices that possess the originality of garments decades old. Even if you pay $50 for a dress you wear three times, twice or even once, you will turn heads wearing something that no one else has, leaving your mark (albeit borrowed from the past) totally ahead of the trend. There are also thousands to millions of vendors today setting up their own shops online. Try a quick Google search in your own town, or start with to shop directly from designers, makers and sellers from around the world.

Thrifting is the ultimate way to create on a dime. This includes shopping stores like Goodwill Industries, Value Village and even your local Junior League Warehouse. Such stores are often the last stop prior to an item being tossed for good, so while you may have to do a little more digging for fewer quality items, with a fervent eye, you will be able to lovingly curate your one of a kind closet over time.

Last but not least, the smartest time of the year to shop is right at the end of a season. Designers are most eager to roll out their latest creations every six months, and in order to sell them, retailers must make room for the new inventory. Sizes are not always guaranteed, but the very best prices for the most current designs are. So whether you thrift, vintage or estate shop, or you hedge your bets by spending less on the current trends, there’s always one of a kind fashion and fun found when you choose to shop smart.

About this writer

  • Whitley Adkins Hamlin is a wardrobe stylist specializing in personal, editorial and commercial work, and the author of the fashion blog, the Queen City Style ( The grand daughter and great granddaughter of wardrobe stylists, Whitley has been exposed to, and collected, one of a kind wardrobe pieces since she was a young girl. As a result, Whitley both learned and taught herself the art of cultivating one of a kind looks she passes on to her clients. In her free time, Whitley is an avid runner who loves spending time with her husband and two young boys, cooking and entertaining and redecorating her house until there is nothing left to redecorate (which is never, ha!).

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