Holiday Dress Shopping on an Athlete’s Budget

Whether it’s been on the calendar for months and snuck up on you, or a last-minute invite landed on your desk, holiday party season is officially amongst us. With it’s sparkly and mistletoed entrance we wave farewell to Fall Race Season, kicking and screaming through memories of PRs, tears, and D-tags, and allow winter festivities to take hold.

If you’re like me, maybe you remedied the closing of a chapter with a spring race registration binge. Or the short days and subsequent Vitamin D deficiency drove you to stockpiling your favorite trainers “just in case” they get discontinued next year? Or, in a fit of desperation for one more race bib you paid the premium race-day fee for that silly Turkey Trot you swore you’d never do. While these things likely provided an instant endurance junkie fix and will undoubtedly keep the kindling burning during the winter, they’ve left your wallet a bit bare. And unfortunately, the dress code for your company holiday party is not “activewear approved.”

Worry not, fellow “I’d so rather drop this cash on a new brakeset or year-supply of GU than a dress I’ll wear once and throw under the pile of retired racing flats in my closet” sweat addicts. I’ve got a solution that will not only keep your future race planning fund safe, but will also keep you away from the holiday mall madness crowd. Thrift shops. (refraining from a stale Mackelmore pun)

Before you run away with visions of fashion rejects and a slight odor of mothballs, hear me out. Sure you’ll need a little more time and patience treasure hunting at the donation center stores (think Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc) than a run-of-the-mill big store trip, but consignments and buy-sell-trades (Buffalo Exchange, Plato’s closet) keep a more procured and neat selection, with still reasonable prices. Bonus: trade in last year’s party dress? And sure, snotty Anne from Accounting might realize the “new-to-you” shoes are “so last season”, but squeezing that extra tune-up race into the budget will be so worth it. Plus your odds of showing up in the same thing as someone else are significantly decreased. You definitely don’t want to give Accounting Anne that ammunition. After three stops and about two hours, my Mission Inexpensive Holiday Outfit came out a winner. The additional time and patience investment was worth it for this dress-up-or-down outfit that I actually might wear again. Not to mention my spring race budget is still completely in-tact.

One-shoulder dress (Rachel Roy via Crossroads Trading Co) $19.98
Tan blazer (F21 via Goodwill) $9.99
Gold strappy sandals (Charles David via Goodwill) $12.99

$42.96 Total.
My tips for a successful anti-mall budget shopping trip:
1) Google or Yelp “[your county] thrift stores/resale clothing.”
2) Map the address – risking a trip to Skidrow is not worth a discounted dress.
3) Have an idea what you’re looking for. These typically unorganized shops can be overwhelming if you’re just browsing. Say “sleeveless dress”, “sparkly sweater”, ‘black pants” and stick to the plan.
4) Always check items for blemishes, rips, or defects before leaving as most stores have strict, if any, return policies. Keeping in mind you are buying used, but you shouldn’t sacrifice wearability.
5) Launder apparel, replace shoe insoles or at the very least take them down to your local bowling alley for a good de-funk spraying.

Written by: Sarah Boone