Broke-Ass Style: 99 Cents Store Treasures That Will Transform You Into a Pop Diva

Last weekend, I spent my Halloween dressed as Selena (a costume which– thanks to procrastination and an extremely ill-timed thunder/snowstorm– turned out looking more like an alcoholic 90s-goth-chola in snow boots, but whatevs).  I’ve always had a special place in my kinky-cop-hat-and-bustier-wearing heart for that quick-stepping ranchera, and would probably sport her glitter, bedazzled bra-tops, and polyester flare pants everyday if they were seasonally appropriate and wouldn’t get me fired from my job.  But it’s not just Miss Quintanilla-Perez (RIP) who inspires some sartorial sass in me– it’s all those mid-to-late 90s divas– from Mariah Carey to the chicks from TLC.  Shrunken baby tees, body wave perms, and that special combo of beige lipstick with dark lip liner all sing to my soul, but generally aren’t appropriate for real life.  Thus, I’ve had to find more subtle– and cheap!– ways to assert my major diva-tude.  Through this search, I’ve discovered that 99 cents stores are where diva transformations happen.  They’re chemical-smelling, mass produced treasure troves of sparkles, velvet, and flashy accessories, all for the price of the change at the bottom of your purse.  Tacky treasures for the dollarless diva wannabe!

Accessories and jewelry from 99 cents stores often seem like they are relics from 1995– which is perfect considering that was a prime year for ethnically diverse, gorgeous and talented female musical performers.  From my personal fave Selena to close runner-up Moesha (I mean, Brandy), no diva from the last few years of the 20th century would be caught dead without giant gold hoop earrings.  Lucky for you, pretty much every 99 cents store I’ve been to stocks up on “gold” (note the use of quotation marks) versions of these styles.  They might turn your ears green, but at least you’ll look hot!

Gold hoops are the foundation upon which to build your 90s pop diva identity.  And as with other things, size matters in the hoops department.  The size of the hoop measures the size of the diva-tude, so I suggest you opt for the ones that graze your shoulders and constantly get caught on your sweater.  Yes, giant gold hoops do get caught on things, and yes, it’s like the most painful thing ever– but what’s the diva life without living on the edge a little, ya know?

Another 99 cents store jewelry staple is the faux neck-tattoo choker. These babies are an ultimate bargain– a 3-for-1 deal that includes a matching bracelet and ring.  Twelve year old me had a few of these in neon colors that I liked to wear with my collection of butterfly clips, but I’d recommend basic black for a badass look. To take it one step further, break out the faux bindi a la Gwen Stefani circa No Doubt (you know, if you’re into cultural appropriation)– they often sell stick-on earrings at the 99 cents store, too.

For me, 90s divas weren’t just muscial performers, but those fierce ladies on the 1996 USA Olympics Gymnastics team.  I channel my inner Dominique Moceanu by breaking out my velvet scrunchies, all purchased with pride for less than a dollar.  In my dreams, I wear my scrunchie with a matching velvet bodysuit. In reality, it adds a little quirk to my work-appropriate skirt and sweater.

Not having tattoos might be the new having tattoos, but sometimes I just get the urge to display my inner slutty-ness to the world via temporary butterfly tramp stamp.  An homage to my girl Mimi, I buy temporary tattoos at the 99 and decorate my upper butt to add pizazz to mundane household tasks like cleaning the bathroom.  What, you expect me to step out in public like that?  Are you crazy?  I’m a lady in the streets, and a ho in my homestead.

However, the most essential component to any diva transformation can’t be found at the 99 cents store.  In fact, in can’t be purchased at all.  I’m talking about an attitude, ladies.  More than your hoop earrings, more than your tramp stamp, nothing demonstrates extreme diva-ness like a perfect pout, some sass, and fierce talent.  Divas love themselves, and they think everyone else should, too.  Broke-ass divas should try this same life philosophy– poor, proud, and loving it!

For less than $5, you can drape yourself in the tacky accessories of the divas of yester-century.  Sure, you might look a little hoodrat in 2011, but in my opinion that’s a good thing.  Next time you’re at your Admin Assistant job, doing data entry in Express clearance rack officewear, flash your annoying cube mate a bit of gold hoop to show them the diva that lies beneath– they’ll never send you passive aggressive, “urgent” emails again.

Photo credit: Selena Pages, That’s My Jam, Fashionista, Last Doll Standing, News OK, Big Ass Hair, Selena Forever

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About the author

Carrie Laven - Pretty Penniless

Carrie Laven is a natural-born storyteller from California, but she lives in New York now. She likes dogs, nail art, and Mexican food, but mostly she likes scoring sweet deals at thrift stores. She tends to have a flair for the dramatic.