Top 10 Best Stores for Fashion on a Budget

Zephyr - Editor in Chief
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At some point in your life as a stylish college girl, you'll face an important choice: buying clothes, or buying books? Since books are non-negotiable in college, if you want to maximize your (few) leftover dollars, you need to know where to shop.

There are tons of discount clothing stores out there, but which ones are worth shopping at, and which aren't? Some discount stores are fabulous, but most are really just cheap! There are tons of stores, like Forever 21, that have low prices and cute stuff... you just need to know which ones to visit.

If you have champagne taste on a beer budget, dollar store clothing is not gonna cut it. You need to shop at the right places.

To help you out, here's the official College Fashion love list of the top 10 best stores for fashion on a college budget . Visit these stores, shop right, and no one will know that your outfit didn't cost a fortune!

10. Wet Seal

Wet Seal

Coming in at number 10 on the list is discount fast-fashion retailer Wet Seal.

It's a staple of every mall in America, and a great place to shop for trendy tops to wear to parties, blingy jewelry, and cute accessories. It's like the less-chic, trashy club frequenting cousin of Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe.

To combat the tackiness and find the great pieces when you shop at Wet Seal, you need to develop a good "taste level" (as they say on Project Runway), the fashion know how to separate chic & adorable from tacky & awful. The pieces are all mixed together in this store, so it's important that you know the difference between what's trashy and what's not.

9. Urban Behavior

Urban Behavior Store front

Urban Behavior makes it to number 9 because while I haven't shopped there, my little sister loves the store and recommended it to me. She's fabulous and dresses really well, so I'm betting they must have some good stuff in there!

If you've never heard of it, Urban Behavior is basically another Wet Seal, except less focused on clubwear, and with more casual basics.

When you visit an Urban Behavior store, you'll find simple tees in a rainbow of colors, preppy jackets, and trendy denim, all at prices well below what you'd pay at Abercrombie, J. Crew, or the GAP. What's not to love?

8. GoJane

Stores like Forever 21: GoJane

GoJane is my favorite online store to buy dirt cheap sunglasses, jewelry, and designer knockoff shoes from.

If you haven't checked their website out yet, you don't know what you're missing!

A quick word of warning: just because their accessories rock, that doesn't mean their clothes do too! While GoJane carries a large selection of dresses, tops, and more, they just aren't as stylish or cute as they could be. Some are just trashy and gross.

The moral of this story: buy the sunglasses, jewelry, and cheap shoes! But skip (most of) their clothes.

7. TJ Maxx / Marshall's

TJ Maxx store logo

Photo by ztil301

To start off, let me say that I know they aren't the same store, but they're owned by the same people and are very similar.

Okay, if you've ever stumbled into a T.J. Maxx and picked up a pair of Seven For All Mankind jeans for half price, then you know why the store made this list!

In case you don't know, T.J. Maxx and Marshall's are chain stores that sell name-brand clothes, shoes, and even furnishings at low, low prices. It's kind of like a treasure hunt whenever you go to one - you never know what you might find!

Check either store out if you're looking for some real designer names at slashed prices!

6. DSW

DSW Shoes

All the shoes you could ever want, most of them at great prices. What's not amazing about DSW?

If you have a shoe problem like I do, I'm sure you understand my love for this store. Hundreds and hundreds of incredible shoes all in one massive space!! So. Much. Fun.

Since DSW stands for Designer Shoe Warehouse, I have to comment on the prices: some are great, others are not so cheap. But as opposed to stores like Payless (which rock, don't get me wrong), DSW has a wider selection and more cute options. That's why it's on the list!

5. Charlotte Russe

Charlotte Russe store front

It's my favorite discount store for girly dresses and trendy pieces, as well as the occasional accessory. Yes, I love me some Charlotte Russe.

In comparison to the other discount stores like Forever 21 and Wet Seal, Charlotte Russe isn't a whole lot different. Still, I have a certain affection for the store that I just can't explain.

Maybe it's all in my head, but I think Charlotte Russe is just classier than those other stores. With nicer pieces than Wet Seal, yet fewer designer knockoffs than Forever 21, it's a nice middle ground in the budget fashion world.

Very rarely do I see something at Charlotte Russe that I wouldn't wear in a million years, and that's really why I love it so much.

4. Forever 21

Forever 21 Store front

Inventor of the designer knockoff, and the ultimate source for "fast fashion", Forever 21 is one of the most popular discount clothing stores in America!

I shop at Forever 21 with two purposes in mind - to find trendy pieces that I might only wear a few times, and to buy the occasional designer knockoff.

Just like its cousin Wet Seal, Forever 21 does sometimes have some trashy, cheaply made clothing in stock. When you shop there, remember to keep yourself in check, look for quality fabrics, and don't buy anything you wouldn't think of getting at twice the price.

3. Vintage / Thrift Stores

Thrift store shopping for vintage clothes

Photo by paulo delacruz

What budget fashion shopping list would be complete without a nod to vintage stores? They are the best place to find one of a kind pieces, fashion treasures, and unexpected style.. all at extremely low prices.

Thrift stores only made it to number three on the list, however, because shopping there can be dangerous to your wallet if you don't know what you're doing.

Some vintage stores simply sell nice designer clothes that are old - and the prices reflect that. While those are fabulous places to shop, you're not going to get much on a college budget. You want the real thrift stores.

When you shop at the real thrift stores, you need to be careful with your money. Know how to separate the amazing finds from the "I'm just buying this because it's cheap" stuff. Don't end up with a bunch of 80's tee shirts that you never wear, just because they were too cheap to pass up!

Vintage and thrift stores are amazing, and you should definitely shop at them if you can. Just be mindful of what you're spending your money on, and make sure to get things you love.

2. Target

Target Fabuless spring fashion advertisement

You probably knew that Target would make the list. That's because it's the worst kept secret of stylish women on budgets everywhere.

If you haven't shopped at Target, you haven't lived!

While they are technically one of the huge discount megastores, Target is miles apart from Wal Mart or KMart when it comes to fashion!

The clothes at Target are way more stylish than you'd think - they often do collaborations with designers like Rogan, Erin Fetherston, and Isaac Mizrahi. Also, their new GO International line is fabulous, with $20 dresses that look like they cost $100.

Even if you don't have a Target in your area, don't worry - everything is available online, and ready to ship to your door. Just another reason to love them!

1. H&M

H&M inside

Ah, Hennes & Mauritz - in my mind, a true fashion paradise.

Right now, I bet at least a quarter of my wardrobe is from H&M, and I'm proud of that fact!

Whether you're looking to buy a trendy item to wear for the current season, or a classic piece that will last you years, H&M is a great place to start. They have EVERYTHING you might want - from cute tops and fabulous dresses to sparkly bangles, scarves, and even shoes!

The best thing about the store is that their pieces are truly stylish - they carry things that look like they could have been on a runway, not the empire-waist lycra tops you'd find at other budget fashion stores.

Bonus style points for H&M: They do amazing collaborations with celebrities and fashion designers - noteworthy collections include Madonna for H&M, and Roberto Cavalli for H&M!

One drawback: online shopping isn't available in the US, but hopefully it will be soon. If you don't have on of their stores near where you live, enlist a few stylish girlfriends & make the trip to check one out! It's well worth your time, I promise.

Your Thoughts?

Now that you know my top ten places to shop on the cheap, I want to see your lists! Which stores are your favorites, and what are your fave things to buy there?

Leave a comment & tell me your top ten budget stores!