I love leather and am so glad that leather clothing has come back en vogue this season. Leather is surprisingly versatile and this year designers have been getting creative with it, using it for detailing and in unusual silhouettes.
While leather clothing is a classic wardrobe addition (I have leather skirts and trousers that are over a decade old and still very stylish and on-trend), they can be pretty pricey. It is possible to add the leather trend to your wardrobe without spending an arm and a leg. Go Faux. I don’t agree with purchasing imposter perfumes or fake designer handbags, but I do believe in faux when dealing with fur and leather. It’s better for the wallet, and better for the conscience. Sometimes, faux leather (AKA “pleather”) can LOOK fake–puffy like a marshmallow, weird glazed finish…but sometimes brands do it right. Faux leather works well in small doses such as detail on a dress, waistband on a skirt. It’s also great for a really trendy piece like a skirt or biker jacket that you don’t think you will be rocking season after season. Forever 21 had a cognac faux leather skirt that was as gorgeous as its price tag — at less than $23 it can’t be beat. Pair with a crisp white shirt and tasseled heeled loafers for a great work-to-drinks ensemble.
Go eBay. This past week I wore a buttery soft leather skirt from Ann Taylor and I only paid $14.99 for it. Last winter I rocked a leather mini from LOFT and paid 60% less than I would have in the store. I did this thanks to eBay.
Last year, I saw a skirt in the store that I loved, I tried it on to know the proper size, and then I stalked it on eBay. I set up alerts when pieces that fit my keywords showed up, and used eSnipe to try to get the item at the lowest bid possible.
My current leather skirt was so cheap because while it is from Ann Taylor, based upon the label it is probably a decade old. If you don’t care about the latest and greatest (and really, how different will a leather pencil skirt, blazer, or biker jacket change from year to year), you can often find gently used pieces for pennies on the dollar thanks to eBay. Be sure to use a seller with a high rating, actually read the reviews for their previous sales, and if you have questions, ask them before bidding.
Go thrifting. One of my favorite piece in college was a hip-length tailored leather coat in camel distressed leather. It was elegant, unusual, and only cost me $9.00 at my nearby thrift store. As they say, one man’s trash is another’s treasure!
Your local cobbler or dry cleaner can often clean and perform minor repairs on thrifted leathers that aren’t in the most stellar condition. Small stains can often be removed with a simple moisturizing hand wash–create a lather on a damp white rag, gently rub the leather, wipe with a different damp white cloth, and then use a dry white cloth to polish to a shine. Use a leather conditioner (found on Amazon and at leather goods stores) to restore the finish of the leather and protect against further damage.
Go classic. As mentioned above, classic leather pieces don’t change that much from season to season. If you don’t care about brand, you can find classic silhouettes for less. I have found great pieces at Newport News, Spiegel, Wilson’s Leather and Express for a fraction of the price of similar pieces at department stores. Steer clear of unusual colors, silhouettes or embellishments — these will more quickly look dated (and extra details make a piece look cheaper, not more luxe). Also look at the quality of the leather–soft buttery lambskin or vintage-looking tumbled leather will be more timeless than unusual glazes and tougher leathers.
Care for what you have. Once you purchase leather, care for it to ensure its longevity. Store pieces in breathable canvas bags to prevent dust and damage, use a leather conditioner to clean and keep the material supple, and store on sturdy hangers that can handle the weight of the garment.
Alison Gary has over ten years experience as a personal shopper, stylist, and visual merchandiser. Her blog Wardrobe Oxygen provides fashion advice to all women, regardless of age, size, budget, or lifestyle. She is a full-time working mother, blogger, wife, and frugal fashionista located in the Washington D.C. area.