The Boy on a Budget

The Conundrum of Being Broke and Stylistically Conscious

I’ve been a long-time silent partner here at The Clothesline, helping with the intricacies of WordPress and various other minor duties behind the scenes. Recently I was asked to lend a male perspective to the site, so I’m coming out of my cage to lend a hand.

Merona suit from Target. (We don’t talk about those days.)

As a recent college graduate who has yet to find steady employment, I’m faced with the challenging task of maintaining a wardrobe that belies my financial instability. Thrift stores and antique malls are options, but finding clothes that are 1) in good taste and 2) fit me can be challenging — especially for someone of my slender (read: bony) build.

In my younger and more vulnerable years, when my idea of a well-fitting suit was based upon early episodes of The X-Files, I did my suit shopping at Target. I landed myself some decently constructed suits, but of course none of them actually fit me. (And I never bothered even trying to get them tailored.) When I finally wised up and realized (among other things) that I was a 36 instead of a 38, I was faced with a problem: Target doesn’t sell 36s.

Enter H&M.

H&M slim-fit navy blazer
& matching trousers.

Like Target, H&M offers suit separates for about $90 per two-piece suit, depending on the cut and material. The main draw for me is that some of them actually fit me. I was first introduced to the company about two years ago, when I wandered into one of their stores and came out with a decently fitting black suit. I wear the jacket on a semi-daily basis, and it still holds up for dressy occasions when I trot out the trousers. The pants started to unravel around the fly a year ago, but some elementary sewing fixed that.

Black, however, is a color best suited to funerals and federal agents. For professional occasions, navy and grey seem to be the most enduring colors, and since conservative style choices tend to land jobs, I’m sticking with H&M for additional suits until I can afford to move on to pricier (and more adventurous) options.

Seersucker Run

J. Ferrar windowpane jacket.

My biggest gripe with H&M’s suits is the low arm-hole placement. It’s not awful, but it’s not great either. A slightly higher-tier solution is JCPenney‘s J. Ferrar line of suits and jackets. While I don’t yet own any of their suits, I have a slim-fit jacket from last year’s collection. It’s my favorite jacket, and it has the best off-the-rack fit of any I’ve owned. Button placement is a bit high, but the construction and fit more than make up for it at that price. (It was about $100 if I remember correctly.) I’d love to give some of their two- and three-piece suits a try, but for now, for financial reasons, I’ll be sticking to H&M. (Although wearing a suit with boots that cost nearly 50% more than the suit is a weird feeling.)