Back to School 2010: Decorating & Dressing on a Student Budget 

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If you need a new look for school, go ahead: Pull out your major credit card and head for Abercrombie & Fitch or American Eagle in any local mall. Or better yet, find a charming eclectic boutique such as Haroon’s, Peach or Q Clothing.

But, let’s face it: Sometimes, all you want is cheap, comfy and casual. Vintage and retro, it seems, never go out of style—in other words: You want recycled threads! Salt Lake City has just the places that make shopping for second-hand clothing almost a religous experience. Here’s a sampling:

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Pib’s Exchange (2144 S. Highland Drive, 801-484-7996) sets a tradition for cheap vintage clothes and everything costumes. Sexy thigh boots and hot shoes in nearly every adult size makes it a great spot for strippers, drag queens and anyone else wanting to add pizzazz to their feet. However, the rule of thumb with thrift stores is the clothes tends to be donated by those who shop there, so the women’s sizes usually don’t go above a medium, while men’s sizes are more diverse. Savvy shoppers will find plenty of fashionable choices at Walmart prices.

Our Store (358 S. 300 East, 801-819-7884, YourThriftAlternative.org) is a recent alternative addition to the downtown scene and is easily recognized by the giant rainbow flags lining the entrance and sidewalk. Operated by volunteers, Our Store features weekly specials to help benefit the People With AIDS Coalition of Utah, headquartered in the store. Shoes, bottoms and shirts run about $5 each for both men and women in a range of sizes. The used-book collection and costume jewelry are also worth digging through.

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Retro Rose (207 E. Broadway, 801-364-7979) is a kitschy stop on the thrift-store tour, not so much for clothing—although some super cute shoes can be found—but for the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s memorabilia that fills every square inch of space: Colorful glassware, kitchen accessories, wall art, throw pillows and rhinestone-studded everything—all organized by color. If you’re looking to spruce on a budget or simply want to liven up your life, check out Retro Rose.

Decades Vintage Clothing (627 S. State, 801-537-1357) is the place to go for all things of the past. Sequins, rhinestones, tweed—classic looks for classic people. Fedoras, gowns, bomber jackets, and the original skinny jeans are all available in a fun and charming atmosphere.

Deseret Industries has been a staple of the college scene for years. Its warehouses litter the landscape in nearly every college city in Utah, and while you can find extremely cheap outfits, costume pieces and books for next to nothing, the real attraction for students is the furniture. An apartment can be furnished with a couch and a recliner for about $100, and the result will be an eclectic but comfortable apartment. Be forewarned: The “DI” stresses its “as-is” clause, so if the 32-inch TV you bought for $15 turns out to be the dimensional portal to the land of perpetual Wednesdays, you can’t return it. 

Next: Back to School 2010: Discovering Uncanny Utah

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