Style + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle: A Straight $75

Last week, I received this email from a reader:

You’re an idiot. You think an unpaid intern has $75 to spend on one dress or one outfit?  You don’t have style.  You just have money.  If you only had $75 per outfit, you’d be naked as a jaybird.

Ticked Off

We’ll see about that.

This outfit is inspired by my favorite high-end designer Chris Benz and his scrumptious Marilyn Dress.  To save money, I hit up Etsy for some high-quality Internet thrift/vintage.  Because, yes ticked off, you can be stylish in any price point.

Princess Cut CZ Stud (Payless Jewelry, $6)

Retro Wiggle Dress (Etsy, $20)

Royal Blue Belt (Etsy, $16)

Suedette Pumps (Forever21, $19)

One stylish outfit, grand total: $61.  If you add in shipping, I’d probably be a little closer to $80, but that’s pretty close.  And I’m actually thinking about buying the dress and having my tailor to take a whack at making it V-neck like the Chris Benz dress. 

I wonder what that would cost…



  1. Rachel says:

    I think that my biggest criticism of this blog is that sometimes I think the price points of affordable are a little off. For example, I cannot fathom spending $70 on a pair of flats. That being said, I’m not going to write a nasty letter because of it. I’ll take Belle’s suggestions and try to find a comparable pair at a cheaper price point.

    June 22, 2010/Reply
  2. Katy says:

    Just because a certain item is placed up on the blog does not mean that if you fall under the category of “intern” you are mandated to buy it.
    As we know, Belle takes the time to find similar styles of a particular item on various price tiers. Even if you can’t afford any of the three, you can use the blog as a fashion-reference-point and try to find a similarly-styled item elsewhere.
    Truly, no good deed goes unpunished. Geez.

    June 22, 2010/Reply
  3. Lauren says:

    I really don’t understand the bitchiness behind the email. As a former unpaid intern, I take the label to imply both a lower price point and perhaps a different take on a certain style or piece that Belle might post as inspiration. That’s what this blog is all about to me, inspiration and ideas on fashion for a specific field of work in an area of the country that doesn’t get too much fashion catering to it (though I think much of the advice/styles are useful for more than just D.C. public/political jobs). I think that the posts and price ranges on this blog are much more reasonable than when similar pieces run in most fashion magazines.

    June 22, 2010/Reply
  4. DCGal says:

    Belle certainly doesn’t deserve to be called an idiot – and it fact, she does post plenty of items (from Forever 21 and the like) that even interns can afford.

    June 22, 2010/Reply
  5. Ana says:

    the e-mail is ridiculous, as an intern, even if I can’t afford some of the things you put on there (a lot of them actually), they serve as inspiration. A color, a cut, a mix…of course i would like to see things that i can go buy immediately from the blog to the website, but that can’t be the case all the time and many times better deals are usually found in person. I am sooo thankful for this blog and have you thought about doing a regular outfit under $75 section? that would be awesome too.

    June 22, 2010/Reply
  6. Sarah says:

    Superb, crisp ending to a superb, crisp post. Bravo.

    June 22, 2010/Reply
  7. nicole says:

    something to always remember is that once you buy a piece, especially in this case with the black pumps, the earrings, the LBD, you don’t have to buy them again. you can use them for all kinds of outfits. it’s all about mixing and matching staple pieces with inexpensive accent pieces. buy some funky big earings and cute pair of flops and were it out for drinks later. or now that you have the shoes, belt and earings, go somewhere like Target, Forever 21, H&M and find a cute little print dress for $20-30 and poof you have a new outfit with a completely different look?! so now you have 2 outfits for around $100 (ie. less than $50 a piece).

    apparently this reader hasn’t noticed the often (albeit not always) re-occurring theme of wearing a basic item with other options… as politely as one can say it (and other have clearly done this already), think for yourself.

    ps. i don’t know if this has every crossed anyone else’s mind, but if everything on this blog was click and buy, lots of people & interns would be getting their great sense of style from exactly the same place. i don’t actually live in DC but if i did i would be hesitant to buy directly from a popular city blog. you never know when you might run into someone else who enjoys good reading. i’d rather find a similar piece and insert my own sense of style with it.

    thank you belle for the creativity and starting points.

    June 22, 2010/Reply
  8. anon says:

    funny! /ridiculous. i think some of the price points are high, but that’s to be expected… i always thought that the “member” category should be relabeled for “lobbyists,” though, as most members aren’t all that loaded and most of them couldn’t or wouldn’t attempt many of the (fabulous) outfits you post!

    June 22, 2010/Reply
  9. KLo says:

    What Nicole said.

    June 22, 2010/Reply
  10. Sarah says:

    Ditto about Nicole as well

    June 22, 2010/Reply
  11. Suburban Sweetheart says:

    While I certainly agree that unpaid interns – & even paid professionals – aren’t always able or willing to drop $70 on some of the things you post, I appreciate the thought that goes into them & into finding lower priced replicas of even MORE expensive items. Just like a magazine but, you know, cheaper – even when I can’t afford them.

    June 22, 2010/Reply
  12. Alejandra says:

    Perfect post to fire back with. This is about sensible, smart, affordable shopping. Not being a total cheap ass.

    June 23, 2010/Reply
  13. T says:

    I think what the original email does not get is while something like those 20 dollar pumps from Forever21 are a good buy in the moment, they are going to fall apart after 2-3 wears. I am an unemployed college graduate right now, so I definitely do not have a lot of money, but still would spend a little extra for something I can wear more than two times.

    June 23, 2010/Reply
  14. Jill says:

    I think T makes a good point. Quality/durability matters. Also, a higher price is not always indicative of higher quality. Have seen a lot of Tory Burch flats on Capitol Hill, and they’re expensive but appear not to be better made than a standard Nine West pair (thin plastic sole, for example). I looked at them at Nordstrom. I don’t have any so can’t vouch for durability. But I’ve had less expensive — Bandolino, for example — shoes that have worn really well.

    June 23, 2010/Reply
  15. GingerR says:

    I don’t know. I’m the mother of an intern so I’m paying.
    Hopefully some of these things will segue into a post-graduation wardrobe.

    She doesn’t have to have a large closet full of things to wear to work but I’m game for funding some things.

    As I see it a lot of being an intern is getting the tenor and swing of where you’ll work down. I want my kid to look like she belongs there!

    June 25, 2010/Reply
  16. Belle says:

    Ginger- For more info on how to dress and act when you’re an intern try these two posts:

    June 25, 2010/Reply