Creating fashionable looks at affordable prices

A one-on-one with affordable style expert Ashley Ellis Carter

Tamara Torres—
"I love black and white combinations of polka dots and stripes. The goal is for you to feel good in what you are wearing. If you are afraid of patterns, then have a pop of color instead," said Ashley Ellis Carter. (Tamara Torres for FabEllis)

GREENSBORO  —— Ashley Ellis Carter knows being fashionable can also be affordable. With a knack for trends, thrifting and styling, Carter created the lifestyle brand and blog FabEllis in 2010, and has been helping women feel fabulous ever since. We sat down with Carter to discuss those insider secrets to bargain hunting, thrifting and creating an affordable style.

NSJ: When did you discover creating a stylish wardrobe can be affordable?

AEC: Growing up in the small town of Mt. Olive, I was always reading magazines and seeing how people were putting together fashionable wardrobes in bigger cities. It was my mother and me growing up and we didn’t have the money to purchase expenses pieces. I wanted to find a way to create those looks at a cheaper price. Today, I’m encouraging women to live and look fabulous on an affordable budget.

NSJ: How do you define affordable style?

AEC: Affordable style for me means that my entire outfit is under $100 and I don’t spend more than $40 on one particular piece of clothing. I recently bought a jacket at a thrift store for $2.25 and a shirt for $1.75. I’m the type of person that loves 50 percent off days at the thrift store.

NSJ: What are your best tips and tricks for shopping in a thrift store?

AEC: Before walking in a thrift store, know your size and measurements, and be open-minded. Materials can make pieces stretch to a larger size than expected or seem smaller than the size they are labeled. Mondays are a good day for thrifting. Over the weekend, a lot of people will have donated clothing and several stores such a Goodwill offer discounts on Mondays.

NSJ: What are the best pieces to find while thrifting?

AEC: Blazers, skirts and jackets. Everyone should have a denim jacket in their closet as those never go out of style. You can find great, quality denim jackets at thrift stores.

NSJ: What price ranges can shoppers expect to find?

AEC: Price ranges depend upon where you live in North Carolina. In Greensboro, we have the Value Village where prices start at $2.50. Goodwill has a set price of $3.99 to $4.99. Genuine leather and suede pieces range from $12 to $13. Consignment stores will be considerably higher.

NSJ: What pieces of clothing should every wardrobe have?

AEC: White T-shirts, good quality jeans, a blazer and great dress. I had at least 10 white T-shirts growing up and my mother would always ask me, “Why so many?” White T-shirts can go with anything. Target often sells them two for $15. Good quality jeans — Levi’s — can be found at a thrift store. A black blazer is a staple of every wardrobe, and a great dress, a fit and flare or shirt dress, can be dressed up or down for any occasion.

NSJ: How about shoes and accessories?

AEC: A good pair of boots. Open-toed boots you can wear year-round with the addition of tights for the winter. A classic pair of diamond studs and a statement necklace will complete your outfit. I’m adamant about wearing a watch, so I’d tell you to find a good watch. Have a tote bag and clutch you love. The tote bag is perfect for work and travel, while the clutch is ideal for a girls’ night or a date night.

NSJ: Any color combinations you suggest? AEC: Neutrals — tan, brown and black — go well together. Mixing prints can be done. I love black and white combinations of polka dots and stripes. The goal is for you to feel good in what you are wearing. If you are afraid of patterns, then have a pop of color instead. NSJ: What are your favorite tricks for bargain hunting?

AEC: I love my “Retail Me Not” App on my phone. It’s strictly an application for coupons and clothing stores. No matter where you are, the application will help you find stores near you with available shopping coupons. I would also tell you to ask the associates in stores if there are specials, discounts or coupons you could benefit from. Of course, if you find a piece you love, that’s a classic and looks good on you, then go for it. It’s okay to treat yourself.” NSJ: Any last words of wisdom for women?

AEC: I want women to know they can look fabulous on a budget. There a plenty of apps, coupons and store discounts than can be applied in thrift stores or department stores. Stores carry plus-size clothing sections. Everyone can go shopping, thrifting and bargain hunting.

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