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words and styling: Merin Guthrie and Emma Fisher (aka Pleatherette)
photos: Shauna Alexander

So when Svetlana asks you to bare your deep dark secret (shopping obsessions) for the service of the greater BYT readership, you comply. That’s what we thought, anyways, when Svetlana made us an offer we couldn’t refuse: resurrect the famed (and oft missed) $40 challenge.  WITH A MAKEOVER TWIST.


  • Ashley, associate at a real estate private equity firm. A ball of energy.
  • Ally, real estate agent, DC voting rights activist, and arts advocate. General woman about town


  • $40 = one outfit
  • Ashley is throwing her annual mardi gras-themed Super Bowl  bash. She has her eye on something that screams hostess with the mostest and btw I’m a Saints fan and I don’t condone this game all while visually manifesting her rambunctious personality.
  • Ally’s been doing some advocacy for DC statehood recently (fuck yeah she has), and is searching for the perfect Hill outfit for lobbying that maintains some edge. Something that says red state and blue period in the same sentence.



Some people (we see you Alexa Chung) thrift for sport, coloring our view of perception of it. But, quite frankly, for a girl on a budget, it’s literally the best thing since sliced bread. And we’ve been there. The whole ‘how am I going to pay for the twelve weddings I have to go to this year and then have something left over to pay for a dress to the weddings. Why do people get married anyways? Can I not go? Am I a horrible friend for even thinking that paying my rent is more important than some trumped up kegger with a bride? Why am I such a bad person?’ meltdown. Yeah, that one.


When: February Edition

Our lovely ladies (more on how you can play this game later) Ashley and Ally, beyond sharing that oh-so-common mixed use real estate background, need an outfit. So we did what anyone would… hot tail it up to Value Village with BYT’s resident photog in tow.


Which leads us to…

  • Tip 1: when going thrifting, bring friends. Preferably two stylists and a photographer. Kidding. But not really. There’s a lot of territory to cover and you’ll need second and third opinions as all of that time spent touching smarmy poly blends wears down your judgment.
  • Tip 2: choose an anchor garment – something you can build the entire look around. For Ally, this is a power suit. For Ashley, a party dress.
  • Tip 3: wear some basics that you can throw things on top of with ease. The aisle is your dressing room.


And we’re off. The greatest thing about a jumbo sized thrift is the variety. Hot items can be in and out in days, so you never know what you’re going to find. And like they say, one person’s trash is another’s treasure. Maybe you love pink.


Maybe not so much


And VV always surprises. After significant trash talk about past shoe experiences, we struck gold in the shoe section.





Then there are the finds that really go above and beyond.


They key is to maintain focus and not get sidetracked when blindsided by fabulousness.


Anyhoo, what looks promising on the rack – like the amaahzing tweed suit that Ally found – can be found lacking in execution


And what looks like the typical ‘this is why people say DC has no style’ case of the borings on the hanger can come to life on the right person and with the right accessories


In the case of Ashley’s gem-crusted bolero, some things just glitter.


Until you strike gold.


Once we had an anchor, it was really just a matter of striking the right balance with accessories.


And be sure not to miss the jewelry section. But keep it till last, as you can easily blow your whole budget on baubles (take our word for it).

Beware – you will be tempted to take it a bridge too far.


For us, this was entirely linked to head wear.


We know – it was a great hat. But some film is best left on the cutting room floor. And so we happily bagged up our carefully edited purchases and went merrily on our way to some badly-needed caffeine. Both ladies clocked in at well within their $40 limit, with Ashley spending a mere $5 on her glamourpuss hostess gown, but nearly $15 on the deco-meets-Studio 54 ear bling. Ally’s suit and shoes were her big ticket items, but with her blouse and scarf each coming in under $4, she has cash to spare.

Oh. What’s that you say? Where are the full glamour shots? Keep scrolling, my dears.

But before you head over there, behold: your Value Village moment of zen.


AFTER THE FACT: What Did the Ladies Think-



The Experience

  • Value Village was far, far away and very, very big. It was so big in fact, that it was two stores, Unique Thrift AND Value Village. So much stuff! So much!! It was flirting with being overwhelming. I usually like little boutiques.
  • $40 was totally covered getting a cute outfit at Value Village. $40 is also what it would cost of a Zipcar to get out to Value Village.
  • At the end I was sleepy and satisfied with my AMAZING OUTFITS!!!
  • I would tell anyone going toreally take a full day and look at stuff AND don’t be tired. Also check to be sure everything has its buttons.


My Items

  • I spent the most onmy dress suit.
  • I think I got the best deal onmy lace up shoes
  • My favorite find wasthe shoes and dress I bought for #BONUSROUND!!
  • I had to sneak inthe shoes and dress I bought for #BONUSROUND!!


The Outfit

  • I first wore my outfit the next day
  • I felt like FU*K Yeah!!
  • My friends thoughtFU*K Yeah!!
  • I will wear my outfit all the time

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Parting Thought

  • All in all, it was AWESOME




The Experience

  • Value Village wasan amazing experience!  I was not sure what I was walking into, however I left with a great outfit, a piece of furniture, and an amazing bolero.  Value Village was very organized into different sections and the store clerks were very helpful (more so than boutiques in the city!)
  • $40 wasplenty!! If you go into the store with an open mind and not on a time budget, then $40 dollars is more than enough to leave with an outfit fit for the office, Saturday brunch, or a black tie affair.

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  • At the end it was one of the most fun days that I have had in a very long while!  I completely enjoyed my day.  I even left with a piece of furniture for a friend’s new home.  I will be going back!
  • I would tell anyone going to go in with an open mind and a couple of hours to spend!  Also, the dressing rooms are tight (or nonexistent) so be creative.  I used a large skirt as a cover-up/dressing room!   And Value Village is also a great place to Christmas Shop for the person who has it all.  The jewelry was fabulous and they have a great selection of vintage videos and sports equipment!  Who doesn’t want their own personal bowling ball?


My Items

  • I spent the most on my fabulous earrings at $14.  They look great with any outfit!


  • I think I got the best value on my dress at $10.  I can’t wait to wear it to upcoming weddings!
  • My favorite find was the dress!  It is perfect for any party from Golden Globes theme night to Mardi Gras party to a Casino Night!
  • I had to sneak inand buy a piece of furniture for my friend!  All it needs is a new coat of paint and door knobs, plus it was only $50. You can’t beat that for a new bar!


The Outfit

  • I first wore my outfitto a Mardi Gras-themed Super Bowl Party that I was hosting with a group of friends.  I’m originally from Louisiana and this year Super Bowl fell in the middle of Carnival! Who doesn’t like celebrating two parties at once?  And of course I was hoping that the Saints would be in the Super Bowl too!
  • I felt Fabulous!  I received lots of compliments and I can’t wait to wear it to my friend’s wedding this summer.  It was a great fit and the white leather belt with gold clasp really made the dress pop.


  • My friends thoughtit was a fabulous find and can’t wait to borrow!
  • I will wear my outfit to weddings and casino nights plus any LSU/Saints football games!  We tend to dress up for football games in the South, especially SEC Football.


Parting Thought

  • All in all, it wasone of the best Sundays I’ve had in a while!  I had a fun time and am looking forward to my next trip to Value Village!


HOW TO BE A PART OF THE NEXT CHALLENGE: well, for starters-leave us a comment telling us WHY YOU’D LIKE A $40 MAKE-OVER. And we can take it from there.