On a recent trip to Target, I pushed my cart over to the little boys' section, where I sometimes find cute button-downs, and two racks filled with mismatched suit jackets and slacks caught my eye. I love shrunken preppy blazers, and if you happen to be the right size, boys' jackets are an inexpensive shortcut to the look.
What's the right size? Admittedly, you have to be small -- between sizes 2 and 6, generally, and not too wide at the shoulders. But if that describes you, or a teen girl in the family, it's worth flipping through the boys' blazers on a sale rack or at places such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army (though a recent check of used clothing spots turned up surprisingly sparse offerings). Boys' pieces at Brooks Brothers or Ralph Lauren are still more than $200 -- not the bargain you might expect.
Slipping on a boys' size 10, or XL, from the Target selection, I immediately felt a rush of Hogwarts meets "School Ties" chic, and the jacket was just $34.99. The sleeves are a little short, and they'd definitely be short on a taller woman, but I planned to roll or push them up. The only things missing were the burnished gold buttons.
At a downtown fabric store that has bins of old buttons (the Perial Co., at 908 S. Maple), I sorted through the piles to find university-esque styles. Not all of them matched, but that would be part of my new jacket's charm. I replaced the two blue plastic buttons on the front and the two on each cuff, and the six new ones cost just $3.
I got the shrunken, prep school look I've been wanting, and the total price -- less than $40 -- added just a touch of Harry Potter magic.