We Tried Shopping For Outfits That Cost Less Than $100, & Here's What We Learned

Here's my situation: I love having new stuff for my wardrobe (who doesn’t?!) but I feel like I never have time to shop. When I do shop, my goal is to be as efficient as possible. What this usually means is that I grab items by the armful for about 10 minutes, bring everything up to the register, and experience severe sticker shock. That's why for hasty people like me, there’s nothing better than shopping at an outlet store.

At an outlet, I actually get a little thrill every time something rings up for half of the listed price — like I’m really getting away with something. (Hey, I get my kicks where I can.) I'm able to get all of my staples, some on-trend pieces, and some experimental looks without putting too much strain on my wallet. In other words, I've made an art out of shopping well, and I'm ready to share it with other people.

And so, in partnership with Express Factory Outlet, I took my colleagues Arielle, Johanna, and Emily on a challenge: to each find a complete outfit for under $100.* Here's how it turned out.

*Spoiler alert: This wasn’t hard at all, we all came in well under $100, and they looked super-duper cute.

This post is sponsored by the Express Factory Outlet.

First Impressions

We are half-expecting to see off-season stuff and leftovers from the summer. Instead, we’re hit with a full wall of sequined holiday-ready shirts, sweaters, dresses, and skirts. Beyond that we spot another section with ready-to-wear work sets, and beyond that a floor-to-ceiling wall of denim.

Conclusion: Grab everything in sight.

Price Check

We thought that the “less than $100” rule would guide us in our purchases, but we soon realize that we have too many options. Johanna is deciding among three outfits and is wondering if she should get one more, or two more, or just everything in the store.

Conclusion: Ignore the sale signs. Everything is on sale. Abandon all of your plans, because it’s time to pick out a whole new wardrobe.

Outfit #1: Arielle

Featured: Flannel Shirts, Skinny Jeans, and Blanket Scarf; all from Express Factory Outlet.

Arielle quickly snaps up a super-soft flannel and a pair of black skinny jeans. (It was almost too easy.) With a decent amount of money to spare, she's able to spring for a blanket scarf, which would be part of our office uniform if there were one. We affectionately call them "blarfs," and I humbly suggest that everyone buy one immediately.

Conclusion: Whether your workplace is casual or buttoned-up, an outlet is a great place to mix and match separates. Here, Arielle is totally nailing our office dress code. (Which is: all blarfs, all day.)

Outfit #2: Johanna

Featured: Tunic Sweater, Faux-Leather Leggings, Necklace; all from Express Factory Outlet

Johanna spots this tunic sweater as soon as we enter the store. She debates between pairing it with faux-leather leggings or jeans, and then realizes that if she gets both she'll still spend less than $100. Alas, one can only wear one pair of pants. “I guess I should pick out some accessories?” she says. She throws in a delicate rose-gold necklace and an impossible-to-resist pair of earmuffs.

Conclusion: Sweaters can be an investment at full price, but at $20-$30 a pop, you can really stock up on multiple options (and ways to wear them).

Outfit #3: Emily

Featured: Skirt, Chambray Shirt, Necklace; all from Express Factory Outlet

Emily made a beeline for this flouncy skirt, which is perfectly in line with her vintage-inflected style. (Also, the girl can really wear a pattern.) Here, she pairs the skirt with classic chambray for a look that says, “I’m fun but also a professional!”

Conclusion: Shopping at a discount is great if you want to test out a riskier piece. The best part? You won’t have to wear it all the time to feel like you got your money’s worth.

The Final Checkout

When we get to the register, we all try to guess at the bill, but we all end up overestimating by quite a bit.

Conclusion: We are in a magical land where nothing is as it seems.

Where does that leave us? Well, we got a lot of deals! We also made a friend at the register, who says he makes custom hair accessories. You guys, anything can happen at an outlet store, especially and including getting a cute new wardrobe.