Our editorial staff took the $20 thrift challenge. Here’s what happened.

We challenged our editorial staff to build their summer vacation wardrobe using only $20 at a local thrift store. See what they’ll be packing in their summer suitcases with a little help from Andrew Jackson.

Kiley’s channeling luau vibes in her Denver backyard all summer

I had been researching great things about Hawaii for another project, so Island Time was on my mind when I hit Goodwill in Parker, Colorado. I looked at a few fun tropical-patterned pieces, but ultimately decided on this chambray sundress with floral buttons. It’s got just the right touch of vacation vibe and would be perfect for sightseeing, lounging at the beach bar, or grabbing a bite to eat at Cheeseburger Waikiki (Cheeseburger Island Style, please!).

You won’t need long sleeves in Honolulu, but in case of chilly air conditioning, I grabbed this lightweight pink cardi that I can toss in my floral straw bag for when I need it.

Sadly, I don’t have an upcoming Hawaii trip planned, but I’ll toss on my $15.09 vacay outfit, light the tiki torches in my backyard, sip a Longboard Lager, and enjoy an island-style Colorado summer night.

Wardrobe total: $15.09

Tomek injects Euro-cool into his Austin-themed summer threads

I’m a roadtripper, so my summer calendar is mostly packed with staycations at nearby Austin points of interest. This light-colored short-sleeve Western-style shirt with “pearl” snaps is paired with black corduroy shorts whose pattern seemed invisible at first glance. They’re any-time-of-the-day wear. In the morning, I’ll pair this look with sandals. And I’ll leave a few shirt buttons open, creating more of a beachy look and feel, perfect for going to meet a friend for coffee.

In the evening, I can button the shirt all the way up, and swap my sandals for a pair of boat shoes. And I’ll feel totally comfortable grabbing dinner at any of the fancy restaurants around town. (If I choose to.)

Wardrobe total: $20

Cadien’s barbecue game is gonna be strong this year

’Merica! I’m wrapping myself in the flag this beach season, y’all.

My red, white, blue, starred, and striped maxi lounger frock costs $19.99 at Crystal Beach, Texas’ own Latitude 29.2 Surf Shop. It’s the boutique pride of Bolivar Peninsula, a rebounding Hurricane Ike-ravaged community and world-renowned birding paradise located just a ferry ride across Galveston Bay. The store’s aisles run almost the length of the peninsula’s coastline and are teeming with Hawaiian shirts, board shorts, worn message tees, flip flops, crazy “beach bum” hats … I think you get the idea.

My gal’s 95% polyester, 5% spandex, and 100% awesome. I plan on wearing this beaut on her own or as a topper to really just about everything through Labor Day. You know my July 4th game is gonna be strong, and when I head to Seattle later this summer to cool off, I’m taking my flair with me.

Wardrobe total: $19.99

Travis translates his hipster vibe to the beaches of Costa Rica

Lately my tastes have been more minimal and understated. For my upcoming trip to Costa Rica though, I wanted something more festive. I set off in search of a tacky tropical shirt that was loose fitting and perfect for the beach. It’s been well documented that I have a #palmfrond obsession, so secretly I was hoping to luck into something with that print. I was prepared to be ironic, but I was actually surprised that I loved the pattern of this silk shirt. It’s flowy and airy, perfect for feeling the breeze on a hot day at the beach. The wide cut is also perfect for styling in different ways. I can leave it open for maximum tanning potential or button it all the way to the collar with rolled sleeves for a hipster night out at the tiki bars. Paired with slim-fitting navy shorts, the outfit remains on-trend and tailored. Don’t make the mistake of choosing loose-fitting shorts or you’ll fall into dad-style territory.

Score some extra chic points by filling out this look with a straw fedora, huaraches, and beaded bracelets.

I’ll definitely be sporting this outfit on the beaches of Costa Rica. Or maybe a night out at the bars this weekend. Vacation is just a state of mind.

Wardrobe total: $15

Lisa hacks the $20 challenge to build an entire wardrobe

After years making indie films and scalable content, I pride myself on being able to stretch a buck with style. I was able to create a modular, day-to-evening wardrobe to cover my two-week roadtrip through Appalachia.

I started with highly versatile pieces such as basic dresses in dark neutrals like chocolate and navy. These can be worn day or night and can be dressed up or down with the addition of a simple accessory like this nifty braided belt I found. I wanted to add a bright pop of color, so I found a fun striped blouse and bathing suit bottoms, both in shocking pink. (Pro Tip: when thrifting for bathing suits, look for a solid neutral on top, and then swap out the bottoms for pattern and color or make it feel like a different suit each day.) Once I had the foundational pieces, I grabbed a couple of neutral accessories like the wide-brimmed hat and these beaded white sandals.

In the end, I can fit an entire 2 weeks worth of clothes into a small school backpack and look great on a Smoky mountaintop or out by the lake.

Wardrobe total: $20.50

San Sebastian’s boardwalk will be MJ’s summer runway

I’m heading to Spain later this summer to cruise around its killer beaches and get my surf on. I really wanted something casual and perfect to wear while I strut around San Sebastian’s famous boardwalk.

I think this classic white T-shirt is a natural to go with these comfortable blue-and-white pin-stripe shorts during the day. And I also found an awesome long-sleeve denim button-up shirt to layer over my tee when the weather gets a little more chill. Paired with fly white sneakers, you know the boardwalk fashion’s gonna be on point.

I’ll be able to rock this look during the day while I stroll around and take photos like a good tourist … and then when night falls, it still works as a solid ensemble for dinner and drinks.

Wardrobe total: $18

Caroline and her petite midi are ready for any fête in Philly

I’ll be heading to Philadelphia this summer to hop from baby shower to baby birthday party to evening dinner and drinks. I needed something that would be appropriate amid masses of young moms and diaper cakes, yet would look trendy enough for an evening out in downtown Philly.

My goal? A chic dress. But as a petite woman, it’s rare that I come upon dresses that fit great off the rack. (I generally head to a tailor or use my sewing machine if I just need to shorten a hem.) I was, however, pleasantly surprised to find a cute vertically striped Old Navy midi dress that fits well, no tailoring or amateur sewing required. And it cost just five bucks! Thanks to a smocked back panel and adjustable straps—a must for petite ladies—the dress accommodates my smaller frame. I paired it with a lightweight cotton sleeveless sweater in a neutral sand (when at the mercy of fickle Mid-Atlantic weather, layers are a must), and a matching bead necklace that ties the two pieces together.

Wardrobe total: $17.23


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