The teens we interviewed agreed: The biggest mistake you can make when getting ready for school is looking like you tried too hard. Back-to-school style should be effortless and, in a recession, it should be cheap. Here are a few tips and starting points.
• Don't fear "used." Consignment shops offer gently worn items in styles that don't look like Grandma's knitting. Find name brands like Gap, Express, Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch and Bebe for a slice of the original price at Plato's Closet (Carrollwood, South Tampa, Palm Harbor, Largo, Brandon), and Off the Rack (Largo). While you're there, trade in your old, clean clothes for cash.
• Thrift stores are full of cool stuff, and you can even call some of it "vintage.'' Instead of paying $30 at the mall for a distressed T-shirt that only looks like it was born in the '80s, pick up the real thing at the Salvation Army or Goodwill. A new Goodwill superstore just opened at 3365 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. When people ask where it's from, tell them — you'll sound hip and ironic.
• Check off-price retailers such as TJ Maxx and Ross for school staples. You can find new backpacks and sneakers for half the price of what you find at the mall.
• Tax free week is DOA this year, but you wouldn't know it at JCPenney. Get a discount equal to the sales tax through Monday.
• Need uniform pieces? Sears is knocking 40 percent off Dockers khakis and white polos for kids through Aug. 15.
• At Payless, certain shoe styles are 40 percent off through Aug. 18. Train your eye to scour Payless shelves for discount tags sticking off boxes. In Florida, we can wear discounted summer stuff all year. And for $7, who cares if neon orange wedges go with only one outfit?
• Now at American Eagle, get up to $15 off jeans, some already appearing well-worn, so you get the look without the extra effort of thrift-store shopping.
Stephanie Hayes, Times staff writer