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Ballin' On a Budget: Leopard Print Jeans

Hi, I'm Lesley. I make under $35,000 a year, don’t have rich parents and am a size 12- 14.

You’d probably never guess from those three statements that I work at a successful fashion PR company in New York City.

Of course, working in the fashion industry is awesome. (I mean, it’s like playing dress up all day long). However, when it’s your job to dress the part—and paying one month's rent on the latest Proenza bag may leave you homeless, and only being able to fit one leg into a sample size means no freebies—you have to get creative.

Living in New York and having access to lots of designer sales helps. But getting to a NYC sample sale isn't easy for most women. (And even if you can, the few larger-sized pieces get snatched up pretty quickly.)

Not to mention that discounted designer clothes aren't necessarily affordable. When something that was $1,000 has been discounted to $600, you can, try and justify the purchase with, “I’m saving $400!” This will not, unfortunately, prevent you from eating ramen from a package for dinner every night while avoiding phone calls from Con-Ed about that late payment.

I have, over the years, developed a few tricks to help me stay in-fashion and out-of-debt.

Recently I found myself cruising the web, and wondering how I was going to incorporate the latest round of animal-print-everything into my wardrobe. I’m a Leo, so animal print is my black. When I saw all the amazing leopard skinny jeans popping up, I knew I must own a pair.

The problem, I quickly realized, was finding some that were going to fit me AND my budget. Jeans are tricky. On the one hand, a good fit is so important, and cheap ones are often baggy in the strangest places, and tight in all the wrong ones. (Really, who has knees that fat?). On the other hand, while I was already fantasizing about the 101 outfits I could create with these, I had long-term doubts. Is leopard denim something I’ll want to wear next year, or even next month? It’s one thing to drop bank on a classic piece, but trends that come and go are risky.

When I’m after something specific, it’s to the Google. My search came up with some stellar pairs, but all at prices that made my heart palpitate. Roberto Cavalli? Well that’s just silly. Current Elliot’s Stiletto Leopard Print jeans are the perfect color, shape, and are that great kind of skinny that looks painted on. $270. J Brand? A nice grey in an aggressive print. Amazing. And only $380! Next page.

I started to give up. Feline-inspired denim was just not in my future. I’d have to go the safe route and get a scarf, or a bag, or something.

Then one weekend, on my bi-weekly sojourn to Target for all those really exciting needs in life like deodorant and dish washing soap, I was on my way to the register when a girl next to me held something up and squawked to a friend “Who would ever wear this?”

The “this” in question was a pair of tan leopard print jeans.

I sidled up to the rack, and, once the girls were done laughing, grabbed a pair to investigate myself.

These are good I thought, touching the fabric (they felt like real jeans) and observing the cut; no knee sag. The pair I was holding was an 8. I held my breath as I flipped through the hangers. Will they have my size? A 10, a 12…come on come on… A 15! I went to the dressing room clinging to them like they might disappear. And they fit. Good taper, just long enough to cuff. And the price tag was the most exciting part of all: $22.99.

I ignored the raised eyebrow my cashier gave me at the bold choice, and left feeling elated.

On the street reality, it really hit me. What was I doing? Animal print jeans? I mean, who am I, Carrie Bradshaw? A Las Vegas show girl? Could I really pull something like this off?

Well, I sucked it up, put them on with a charcoal grey sweater and some bright berry lips, and went into work.

It was a “where did you get those???” day. Which in fashion speak means people think they’re something fancy. When you can fool the elites for under $30, you have success.

Vanilla Stars Juniors Leopard Print Skinny Denim (pictured above). Sizes 1-17 available at Target.

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ballin on a budget