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Casual Indie Style on a Budget

Vintage stores are a great source for low-price indie looks.
Vintage stores are a great source for low-price indie looks.
Alija/Agency Collection/Getty Images

The look can defy definition -- vintage, bohemian and modern all at once. And that's just the tip of it. Matching or not, nerdy or not, carefree, creative, sometimes weird and occasionally cute, the "indie" style is pretty much anything you want it to be if what you want is not what most consider mainstream.

The word "indie" once had nothing to do with clothing and shoes and hair styles. Back in the '20s, it described independently owned film companies, and later it came to apply to independently produced music, as well. The jump to fashion and general outlook is fairly recent, and the indie culture today reflects an interest in all things not mass-produced. It's about hand-made, vintage, one-of-a-kind and small batches. In theory, no two indies look alike.

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Of course, as happens with most things cool and different, "indie" has gone mainstream.

Bad news for hardcore devotees, perhaps, but good news for those who want the look without searching far and wide and paying non-mass-produced prices. For those who want indie-casual without a lot of effort or expense, the options are limited only by imagination.

Thrift stores stock plenty of indie gems, too.
Thrift stores stock plenty of indie gems, too.
©iStockphoto.com/Maytals

Indie is everywhere now. You see it in countless variations on skinny jeans, vintage shoes and buttoned V-neck cardigans, or the 1950s day dress, choppy bangs and cutie-pie barrettes ala Zooey Deschanel. Anyone can dress indie.

As with any style, you can spend a lot or a little. Indie lends itself particularly well to the latter, since it relies so much on mixing old and new and often loves appearing well-worn. So that's probably the first place to look for cheap indie duds: stores that carry actual old stuff.

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Vintage stores, plain-old thrift stores, and Web sites like eBay and Etsy are treasure troves of indie components. Type "indie" into a search box and you'll get more results than you know what to do with, many of which are used and priced low. Be careful, though, because along with trend-status come poser pieces capitalizing on the keyword. (We're not sure the eBay-listed men's tan wool suit jacket qualifies, even if it is used.)

Now, if you're up for going on foot, you can see and feel for yourself to determine indie potential. Vintage stores are pretty much indie stores. You can walk in and pick a few random pieces -- a T-shirt, mini skirt, high-tops, hair accessory -- and you're done. But stores that brand themselves "vintage" tend to charge more for their wares than stores that brand themselves "used."

Like thrift stores. You'll have to spend a lot more time combing through rack and racks of '80s blazers, mom jeans and work boots (hmm... indie outfit?), but you'll spend less on the needles in the haystack you uncover. And the search can be a huge part of the fun.

Not everyone is down with the used route, though (especially when it comes to shoes), and luckily, even on a budget you can get yourself some brand-new indie duds -- even, gasp, at the mall.

OK, so you're not going to find a lot of hand-made, vintage, one-of-a-kind or small-batch clothing at the mall. What you will find, though, are clearance racks, lots and lots of clearance racks, of indie-style stuff.

So shamelessly troll the consumer zones and pick up some graphic tees, skinny jeans and oxfords from the sale area at the mid-range stores, and from any area in the low-price ones.

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You'll also score big at online specialty stores that label themselves "indie" (just search Google) and on eBay, where sellers offer new merchandise for well below retail. Some eBay stores will even customize the clothing they offer, which ups the indie factor significantly.

Hand-made, though, is the Holy Grail, and while you certainly will find independently created clothing on auction sites, you'll find a whole lot more of it at crafter/artist marketplaces like Etsy. Aspiring fashion designers, along with simply creative folks who are handy with a sewing machine, sell truly "indie" pieces there every day, and in droves. Of the nearly 20,000 "indie" results on Etsy, about a third are handmade. It's indie heaven. And while hand-made doesn't always (or even often) mean inexpensive, you can still find some great stuff with lower price tags and a lot more character than at retail stores.

Or, you can sit back, put your feet up, read an obscure novel and let time do the job for you. Trends change in less time than it takes to squeeze into a pair of skinny jeans, so if you're looking at a seriously slim fashion budget, don't sweat it: What you're wearing at this very moment might be "indie" in a couple of weeks.

For more on the indie movement and general fashion and style, check out the links on the next page.

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More Great Links

Sources

  • Indie. Dictionary.com. (May 7, 2012) http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/indie
  • Indie Lookbook Spring 2012. Style.com. (May 7, 2012) http://www.style.com/community/lookbooks/view/mylookbook1631096?iphoto=0
  • Indie Style Through Fashion and Design. Best Indie. (May 7, 2012) http://www.bestindie.co/what-is-indie/indie-style-and-design/
  • Nicoll, Lydia. "Indie? Emo? Goth? A Scene Style Primer." Life123. (May 7, 2012) http://www.life123.com/beauty/fashion/emo/indie-emo-goth-a-scene-style-primer.shtml

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