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Budget Meets Chic: The Cutest & Most Affordable Fall Must-Haves

Unfortunately, forgoing textbooks for a great pair of Frye boots, while a tempting decision, can be considered irresponsible. But how can you afford a new wardrobe after dropping all of your hard-earned summer cash on terrifyingly large textbooks? We believe Smokey Robinson and the Miracles said it best: you better shop around. But we know you’re busy attempting to read those arm-toning texts, so we’ve taken some time to do the research for you.

Taking inspiration from some of the favorite trends of the season and some appreciated advice from Martin Watt, CITY magazine’s suave market editor, we picked seven pieces that will keep you chic, confident, and with just enough cash to afford that coffee on the way to class.

The Floral Dress—Ultra feminine, retro pieces have sashayed their way back onto today’s runway (and onto a number of fashionistas’ backs). From Marc Jacobs’s puffy floral dresses at Louis Vuitton, to the sheer, sexy florals at Prada, floral dresses are back and not limited to warm weather. This version from Forever 21—just a tad cheaper than its Prada counterpart—is a perfect transitional piece and will look just as chic layered with a heavy sweater and thick tights.

$19.80 at Forever 21

Chic Coat—According to Martin, “a really great coat can make any outfit 10 times better. Choose something minimal, simple, classic; something that can be transferred from season to season.” Stay on trend with a long, camel-colored coat and incorporate your personal style “with a belt from your closet or a brooch,” suggests Martin. This red coat may not be camel-colored, but it will add a nice pop of color against the dull grays of winter.

$50.00 at UrbanMinx

Dark Boots—What item is more appropriate for fall than boots? Pick out a classic pair in a solid color and you’ll look chic no matter if you rock them with a tee shirt and jeans or the aforementioned floral dress. Martin adds, “boots are versatile and chic…perfect for running around campus in.”  These boots from Tilly’s are the perfect accompaniment to any fall or winter ensemble. I’m ordering a pair as soon as I finish this piece!

$40.00 at Tilly’s

Gray Sweatshirt— Yes, you read that correctly; I am suggesting a gray sweatshirt. This wardrobe staple may inspire images of the pink cheeks and sweaty skin that are so appropriately sported while at the gym, but not this season. Go back to basics and sport your hoodie with a chunky necklace, printed skirt, or fitted blazer. I’d like to make clear that this is not to be paired with other sweats; glam it up! This sweater from Urban Outfitters is super soft, classic, and will last long enough to justify the cost.

$38.00 at Urban Outfitters

Neutral Nail Polish—Inexplicably, I always feel über-confident and feminine when sporting a fresh coat of polish. And for those of us who are beyond broke, this is where the wardrobe makeover truly becomes affordable. We’re loving Chanel’s new line of khaki polish, but for $40.00 a bottle, it’s a little hard to validate. Instead, opt for Revlon’s new color, “Suede.” The color palette is just as fresh and the cost difference will save you enough for that new necklace.

$3.99 at CVS

Mini-cross body bag—“A cool bag for school is the way to go,” Martin recommends. Liberate yourself this school year by downsizing your everyday satchel. Your psyche and stressed out shoulders will appreciate a bag just big enough for all your needs. This turn lock cross-body bag from New York & Company is absolutely adorable and versatile; you can wear it to class or out with the girls. With a price tag to match its size, this is hard to pass up.

$9.99 at New York and Company

Bold Accessories—Accessories are the “one place to really express yourself,” says Martin. Try a bold necklace layered over heavy knits or just a plain tee to add some flair and creativity to any ensemble. We like this one from Urban Outfitters.

$28.00 at Urban Outfitters

Now with your wardrobe in check, you no longer have an excuse to avoid studying for that midterm (or approaching that cute potential study buddy!).


Martin Watt / market editor for CITY

Rebekah Meiser is a senior studying Magazine Journalism at Ohio University, with a split specialization in Italian and Art History. Like many Italians, she is obnoxiously proud of her heritage and fully embraces it by consuming embarrassing amounts of pasta, bread and cheese. She currently owes a scary amount of money to the government, but continues to masochistically check Net-a-Porter and Urban Outfitters online for beautiful items that she lusts but cannot afford. Rebekah goes to school in the middle of some of the best cornfields in Ohio. Although she finds the location less than ideal, she has become an avid star-gazer thanks to the unpolluted sky. A true lover of fashion, her friends make fun of her for playing dress up as often as she does, but she’s not one to be discouraged. Rebekah also loves to run (read: alternate between jogging and walking), read fashion blogs, bake, and read magazines (of which she owns a forest-worth). She hopes to live and work in New York City after she graduates in the spring.