Style Inspiration: Meet Tess Bender, Dressed Head to Toe for $12

Tess tells us how to scout stellar steals at our local thrift shops

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By Christina Pippin

Local Shopping & Fashion Blogger

Today's Style Inspiration is Tess Bender of Ohio. I spotted Tess in downtown Oak Park in a motley, summery ensemble: a cool A-line mini, a bright cotton tee, and borrowed-from-the-boys wing tip brogues. I found out Tess was dressed from head to toe in thrift shop finds (all items purchased for $12!).

This savvy shopper encourages us to shop at our local thrift shops, be patient while exploring the racks, and wear your finds with bravado. Tess tells us how to look great and save money.

Your style: Spontaneous, eclectic, fresh!

Favorite fashion era: I am drawn to Victorian inspired lace dresses, the femininity of the 1950s, 90s grunge and the bold colors of the 80s.  Above all I absolutely love the ease of T-shirts and jeans which span many fashion eras. 

Fashion icons: I don't know that I follow any celebrity's or fashion icon's style.  I tend to just pick and choose what I like from each celebrity, but I do love Emma Watson's and Emma Stone's style choices (see photo gallery). Nicki Minaj has the craziest clothes and hair, but she rocks her look every time.  I admire how she doesn't care what the critics say about her style, she just wears what she wants and feels good in.  Grace Kelly's impeccable...everything is impossible not to love.  Her beauty, style, and poise are inspirational.

Greatest fashion indulgence:
Shoes and jeans.  You can never have too many of either.  I love my shoes, even if they don't always love me back. I find that my body type is fickle when it comes to good fitting jeans so when a pair works I buy them immediately.

Favorite places to shop: 99% of my clothing comes from Goodwill, Salvation Army, and other thrift stores.  My best advice for finding clothes at a thrift store is to look through every single rack and to go to the thrift stores often.  You may have to look through racks and racks of clothing until you find that perfect top or spectacular dress, but don't get discouraged!  Since new clothes come in all the time you need to go thrifting at least once every other week.  Going once a week is even better.

Fashion advice: Don't be afraid to try on something that looks dated and out of style because it often looks great on. Thrifting allows you to try on stuff that is out of your comfort zone because the store holds clothing from every fashion era.  Even if you buy something and end up not liking it when you try it on at home there's no reason to sweat it.  You only paid 5 dollars for it anyway.  You very rarely spend more than five dollars on an individual garment at Goodwill.  Where I live I am lucky that my Goodwill is often stocked with clothing that still has the price tag on them.  By the way the shoes, t-shirt, and skirt that I’m wearing in this photograph all came from Goodwill and cost about 12 dollars.

The one item every woman should own: Every woman should have a pair of red shoes.  They convey confidence, femininity, passion, and fun.  I have red heels, red booties, red flats, and red boots and I love them all.

Oak Park and Forest Park have an amazing selection of thrift shops and antique stores. I just found a Zara tweed blazer for fall at The Brown Elephant for $18 and a Theory blazer for work at Fashions Anew for pennies. Oh, and a like-new pair of nude, studded pumps at Trends for $15! Read about your thrifting options here:

The Economy Shop

The Brown Elephant

2nd Chance Shop

Kreneks Antiques


Forest Park Emporium 

Stop back next week for more Style Inspiration or for a Friday Fabulous Find! Until then, I’ll see you around town and in the shops!

Reader Comments

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Christina Pippin from  

Posted: August 1st, 2011 9:40 AM

@Smith-The Duality of Humanity print is indeed a Fairey tee. Many came to know Fairey's work in 2008 with his Barack Obama HOPE posters. Good eye!

Smith from Chicago  

Posted: July 30th, 2011 8:45 AM

Is that a Shepherd Fairey Obey tee? This girl knows her art too!

OP Rez from Oak Park  

Posted: July 29th, 2011 12:00 PM

She's a cutie!

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