Accessory challenge: Teens turn $100 into great back-to-school fashions
Trib Total Media put out a call for fashion-savvy high-school girls to show how to accessorize basic jeans and a white T-shirt. We chose Quinn Smith, Dominique Servati and Mary Hursen from the pool of entrants, gave each $100, and let them showcase their styles.
QUINN SMITH, 14, freshman at Indiana High School
Quinn Smith of White Township really knows how to pull together a fashionable look.
And she doesn't have to spend a lot of money to show off her sense of style.
She created six looks for $100. Quinn perused thrift stores, K-mart, a consignment boutique and a woman's shop.
“She is a creative kid, always has been,” says her mother, Katrina. “She just knows what looks good and isn't afraid to wear something different.”
“With this assignment, I wanted to get the most bang for my buck,” Quinn says. “Shoes are a great base for an outfit.”
Her choices: a pair of red shoes and leopard-print slip-ons, each under $18. She added bright handbags, unusual hats and printed scarves, never spending more than a few dollars for each.
Shopping is all about doing your homework before you shop so you are knowledgeable of the trends, Quinn says. You don't have to always follow what's hot, she says. And, you don't have to wear designer clothes.
“If something looks good, it looks good,” says Quinn, a fan of the book “Fierce Style: How to Be Your Most Fabulous Self” by Christian Siriano.
“I say don't be afraid to be bold. Why blend in when you can stand out?”
Quinn Smith's tips
Start with basic accessories: Gold hoop earrings never go out of style (just don't go over the top with size). A cute pair of black heels makes any look chic and elegant. And a belt with a large metal buckle and any color leather will complete almost any look.
Know your colors and cuts: It doesn't do you any good if you have the cutest dress in town and it does nothing whatsoever to flatter you.
Take care of your feet: When buying shoes, try them on in front of a full-length mirror to make sure they don't make your legs look stumpy or twiggy. Know how to walk in them and make sure there's no gap between your heel and the back of the shoe.
Don't be afraid of thrift stores: Some of the coolest and most original clothes come out of thrift shops.
DOMINIQUE SERVATI, 16, junior at Bishop Canevin High School
Dominique Servati of Robinson has had a passion for fashion since she was 9 years old, directing runway shows in her home with childhood friend Adrieanna Sciarrino. The two girls would scour Dominique's house for outfits to model as well as draw clothing designs they would like to wear one day.
“I miss those fashion shows,” says Dominique's mom, Beth. “One of the girls would do commentary while the other would walk the runway, and then vice versa. My daughter has always enjoyed fashion.”
Dominique says to build her outfit, she considered her favorite stores, American Eagle — where she works and was recently promoted to stylist — Aeropostale, Journeys, Forever 21, Nordstrom and Macy's, but also looked elsewhere.
“I really try to stay up on the trends, and if something is way too hipster for me, then I won't go in that direction,” she says. “I usually start with solid colors and accessorize from there.”
For this assignment, she chose a sleeveless jean jacket, Toms shoes and gold earrings, necklace and bracelet.
“She knows what looks good together,” her mother says. “And she does her research, so when she has money in hand, she knows where to go.”
Dominique will do a walk-through of several stores ahead of time. She uses her fashion sense to help give style to the high-school uniform she wears every day, and she is more than happy when she gets a chance to wear jeans.
“I plan my outfit the night before, down to the shoes and accessories, because I am so excited I get to wear something other than the uniform,” she says.
Dominique Servati's tips
Go for accessories: I buy lots of accessories that work with a variety of outfits. By doing this, I can mix and match accessories for tons of outfits.
Scarves are must-haves: Something like a light-blue scarf can match easily with my jeans and white T-shirt, but could also work with some leggings and a cozy sweater.
Try lots of stores: Don't just go to one store. Shop at all kinds — from thrift shops to high-end boutiques.
MARY HURSEN, 16, junior at North Hills High School
When Mary Hursen sets foot in a store, she heads straight to the sale rack.
“I love, love, love a good sale,” the Ross resident says. “My No. 1 rule is to start at the sale rack.”
Once she started shopping for this assignment, her original ideas changed. She opted for a cardigan instead of a blazer and topped it off with a shirt/jacket combination. She added a scarf her grandmother, Hermina Zaharko of McKees Rocks, made for her and a pair of riding boots she owns.
“Fashion has always been important to me,” Mary says. “But being a high-school student — with simple jobs such as dog walking and babysitting — I can't buy a lot of expensive clothes. That is why the sale rack has become my best friend.”
Mary says she learned the value of a dollar from her parents, Tom and Martha.
“She also knows how to combine a sale with a coupon,” her mother says. “And we've taught her to break down the cost of an item based on how many hours of dog walking she will have to do to pay for it.”
It's important to research clothing and accessories online to see what is available, but Mary prefers to shop at a brick-and-mortar store so she can feel the fabrics and try on items.
Mary says she keeps up with fashion through www.polyvore.com, where members create image collages. “I love it because you can see how people style things together,” she says.
As for fashion rules, Mary doesn't adhere to any. She says it's best to wear what you like and what looks good on you. And, while having designer clothing and accessories is nice, it might not always be worth the price.
The best time to get great deals is at the end of season, she says, and buying from a consignment store provides an opportunity to find something vintage, which most likely will be unique and a good price.
“It's always fun seeing what kind of outfit you can create and make it your own,” she says.
Mary Hursen's tips
Sale rack, sale rack, sale rack: Start here and work your way up.
Is that label really worth it?: How many of us actually notice the label of brand on a person's clothing? Instead of getting something really expensive, why not check another store to see if you can find something like it that is a little cheaper?
Hit the more expensive stores first: If a desirable item is over budget, hit the cheaper stores later to see if you still really want that specific item.
Make sure you can pair it with something you already own: I can't always afford to buy an entire outfit, so I have to make sure that whatever I am buying goes with something that is already in my wardrobe.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7889.